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FRINFORMSUM: 2/15/2011

February 15, 2011

"Keep the oil flowing, please."

The State Department Inspector General has released the lengthy report that prompted  Cynthia Stroum to resign her post last month as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.  In the report, working conditions at the U.S. embassy under Stroum are described as  “extremely difficult, unhappy, and uncertain” while Stroum’s management style is described as “aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating,” prompting several embassy employees to seek a transfer to Iraq or Afghanistan.  Stroum, whose comment to staff that the “President gave her the right to read any email messages that originated at Embassy Luxembourg…some interpreted…as a direct warning that she would have access to messages to OIG or other Department offices,” also elected to dispose of surplus funds by purchasing “$3,400 in wine and liquor,” personally selected an embassy chef from a cooking school in Switzerland, had employees screen “200 houses” for a potential new Ambassador’s residence, and had the embassy reimburse her for personal purchases against the instruction of the State Department.

The U.S. Air Force has retracted last week’s guidance on potential punitive measures for employees (and their families) who access WikiLeak’ed classified documents.  An Air Force spokesman acknowledged the memo had been disseminated, but claimed it “had not been coordinated with headquarters and had been withdrawn from the Air Force Materiel Command website.”  The memo had declared that Air Force employees and their families would be subject to prosecution under the Espionage Act if they viewed classified documents leaked by WikiLeaks.

A recently-declassified September 2002 memorandum from General Richard Myers, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to then Vice President Dick Cheney enclosing a report detailing the questionable quality of U.S. intelligence in late 2002 regarding Iraq’s WMD program.  The memo simply states “Take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD.  It is big.”  The attached report, penned by JCS Director of Intelligence Glen Shaffer, claims that U.S. intelligence ranges “from 0 percent to 75 percent knowledge on various aspects of their [Iraq's] program.”  It goes on to say that current assessments “rely heavily on analytical assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence.”

The document comes as part of a host of documents released alongside the publication of Rumsfeld’s memoirs aptly titled Known and Unknown.   The documents are available online as part of the so-called Rumsfeld Papers.

A federal appeals court ruled that the DOD and CIA are not required to disclose information regarding certain detainees held at Guantanamo Bay under the Freedom of Information Act, based on FOIA exemption 1 and 3.  The decision, rendered in ACLU v. Department of Defense, was responsive to ACLU efforts to obtain information and documentation regarding 14 “high value” detainees currently held at the facility.  Consistent with prior rulings, the court also maintained that classification concerns could not be negated by a government organization’s purported use of illegal methodology, such as disallowed interrogation techniques.

According to former Department of Justice official J. Christian Adams, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has been giving short shift to FOIA requests propounded by conservative groups, often delaying or failing to comply requests while similar (and on occasion identical) FOIA requests from liberal groups receive immediate and rapid attention.  Adams claims the treatment illustrates a “pattern of politicized compliance.”

A swath of previously classified documents have been released at the Eisenhower Presidential library.  The documents, including excerpts out of Eisenhower’s diary, address a wide variety of topics including U.S. efforts to prop up Shah Pahlavi in Iran, the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, and concerns regarding holding off Soviet expansion into the Middle East.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. N. Meagher permalink
    February 16, 2011 12:16 pm

    I suggest you get a copy of the letter of directives to all Chiefs of Missions from the White House – it states “All exectuvie branch agencies under your authority, and every element of your Mission, must keep you fully informed at all times of their current and planned activities. You have the right to see all communications to or from Mission elements, however transmitted, except those specifically exempted by law or Executive decision.” It is also suggested that all new Chiefs of Mission read a copy of this letter to their staff. I think you might have taken your statements out of context in your recent posting!!!

    • Seth Maddox permalink
      February 16, 2011 1:00 pm

      To clarify, as stated in the report, the embassy staff do operate under the expectation that their official electronic communication is not private. The Chief of Mission does have access to electronic communication, however that access is circumscribed by department regulations. To quote from the State Department Inspector General’s Report:

      “However, the FAM is equally clear that neither Department nor embassy management has limitless access to employees’ email accounts just by virtue of their positions. Department regulation 5 FAM 724 c. states that auditing of an employee’s network activity or workstation use, which includes but is not limited to electronic communication, Internet access, local disk files, and server files, may be performed only when there is suspicion that improper use of U.S. Government equipment has occurred. Even then, a supervisor must obtain the concurrence of a reviewing official; at an embassy, that official is the DCM. A supervisor must also explain why review of a subordinate’s emails is needed, and the DCM must approve, in writing, an audit of the employee’s email accounts.”

      It was the opinion of the Inspector General that the Ambassador’s remarks “in the psychological atmosphere of the embassy” were “interpreted…as a direct warning that she would have access to messages to OIG or other Department offices.” I don’t think the statement was taken out of context, but it was offered without much nuance or explanation. I will edit the post for clarity.

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