Bloomberg: Don’t forget that State had no independent IG under Hillary

posted at 2:01 pm on March 24, 2015 by Ed Morrissey

How did the State Department get away with so many failures during Hillary Clinton’s leadership? They ran a consulate in Benghazi with substandard security even for normal locations, let alone in the collapsed-state region of eastern Libya in 2011-12. Hillary herself and her closest aides didn’t use State Department e-mail systems despite both policy and legal requirements to do so. The entire agency didn’t archive its records properly under the Federal Records Act anyway, capturing less than 0.01% of all e-mails sent in 2011. Hillary also didn’t sign her exit paperwork, despite (again) being required to do so.

Only lately have these failures come to light. Why? As Bloomberg’s Arit John reminds readers, the Obama administration finally appointed an independent Inspector General in September 2013, after leaving the position in the hands of an acting IG who was statutorily ineligible for the office, thanks to his connections to State:

One of the many unanswered questions of the Hillary Clinton e-mail story has been: Whose job was it to raise and address concerns about her exclusive use of a private account? According to open government advocates, it would have been the agency’s permanent, independent Inspector General—someone nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate—if such a person had existed.

For five years, including all of Clinton’s time as secretary, the State Department’s Office of Inspector General never had a confirmed inspector. Instead, it was lead by acting inspector Harold W. Geisel, a former ambassador who was accused of being too cozy to agency leadership by transparency groups like the Project on Government Oversight. Throughout the first half of President Obama’s first term, the absence of a State Department Inspector General while internal scandals and Benghazi rocked the department drew bipartisan criticism. …

In a 2011 report, the Government Accountability Office called on the State Department to address concerns regarding it independence writing that “the appointment of management and Foreign Service officials to head the State OIG in an acting capacity for extended periods of time is not consistent with professional standards for independence.”

In other words, if you wanted to inspire confidence in whistleblowers and others that the State Department is being held accountable by an independent official, that official shouldn’t be a former State Department official.

By September 2013, several months after Clinton left State, the department finally had a permanent inspector, and the department recently released a report documenting how few e-mails the State Department has saved for government records. But the long-time gap, as well as the ones at other agencies, raise questions about what other problems aren’t being investigated.

John links to a June 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal that outlines the issues with having an interim IG from within the ranks at State:

Upon the departure of State’s IG Howard Krongard in 2008, Mr. Geisel was appointed deputy IG until, it was presumed at the time, a new IG could be named within the customary 210 days stipulated in the Vacancies Act. Mr. Geisel was not eligible to be the inspector general because of an explicit, congressionally mandated safeguard for IG independence that rules out “a career member of the Foreign Service” from ever being “appointed Inspector General of the Department of State.”

That is one reason why, as Mr. Geisel’s de facto “acting” IG role at State extended into late 2010, the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight complained about this apparent violation of law in a Nov. 18 letter to President Obama. The letter also noted the personal friendship between Mr. Geisel and State’s undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy, who was at the time “responsible for the people, resources facilities, technology, consular affairs, and security of the Department of State,” according to his official biography.

Mr. Kennedy’s long and close association with the person effectively responsible for inspecting and reviewing the department’s performance wasn’t the only troubling issue for many who knew and respected both men. As a group of “very concerned employees” of the State Department made clear in a letter released to Congress in January 2008—when Ambassador Geisel’s appointment as “acting IG” was rumored—the ambassador was so well known as a member of the State Department family that it did not sound like a good idea to have one of their own in charge of investigating, auditing and assessing them.

For those not keeping score, Patrick Kennedy was one of Hillary Clinton’s closest aides at State, and the person who managed the security issues at the consulate in Benghazi even as all the lights were flashing red in the city. The so-called Accountability Review Board that investigated Benghazi managed to completely avoid Kennedy in its probe, despite his key involvement in a waiver that required the signature of the Secretary of State. Geisel managed to stick around long enough as an “interim IG” to cover the period in which the ARB operated while avoiding Kennedy or any other political appointees at State.

Let’s not forget also that CBS News reported almost two years ago that people at State were interfering Geisel’s office on investigations, and Kennedy’s name came up here too:

CBS News’ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.” …

In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.

The State Department Inspector General’s memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who “routinely ditched … his protective security detai” and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”

Sources told CBS News that after the allegations surfaced, the ambassador was called to Washington, D.C. to meet with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, but was permitted to return to his post.

Only after Hillary Clinton left State did Barack Obama appoint an independent IG for the agency. By that time, of course, any hope of oversight was lost in a mass of corruption and cover-ups. The current IG has apparently attempted to review the Hillary years at State, but the only results so far show just that the Obama administration allowed Hillary to keep an easily manipulated IG in place despite getting public warnings about the risk it would have for transparency and effective oversight. One has to conclude that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama didn’t put much value into either of those goals — and one has to wonder why that might have been.


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Comments

“What difference, at this point, does it make?”

climbnjump on March 24, 2015 at 2:04 PM

Facts do not matter.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on March 24, 2015 at 2:08 PM

How did the State Department get away with so many failures during Hillary Clinton’s leadership?

Because willing suspension of disbelief. And corruption. But mostly corruption.

SpongePuppy on March 24, 2015 at 2:09 PM

Steve Linick

What up?

http://www.oig.state.gov/

APACHEWHOKNOWS on March 24, 2015 at 2:10 PM

But this stuff won’t happen when is elected President. /s

Oil Can on March 24, 2015 at 2:10 PM

Yet another example of why I think we should have the second place finisher in the presidential election run a “shadow presidency” with the official power to investigate and prosecute the sitting administration.

Count to 10 on March 24, 2015 at 2:16 PM

But this stuff won’t happen when is elected President. /s

Oil Can on March 24, 2015 at 2:10 PM

Most. Transparent. Administration. Evah.

“This stuff” can’t happen under a Republican president. The media does it’s job when a Republican is president.

Meremortal on March 24, 2015 at 2:17 PM

Mr. Geisel was appointed deputy IG until, it was presumed at the time, a new IG could be named within the customary 210 days stipulated in the Vacancies Act.

So the US Congress through oversight should have been aware that the vacancy was unfilled with the result

Mr. Geisel was not eligible to be the inspector general because of an explicit, congressionally mandated safeguard for IG independence that rules out “a career member of the Foreign Service” from ever being “appointed Inspector General of the Department of State.”

The problem extends to congress in condoning the unfilled vacancy or neglecting to recognize the vacancy.

dedomenologist on March 24, 2015 at 2:25 PM

I firmly believe that after Obama leaves office, congress should pass a law to destroy the few documents that are left of his administration so that we may forget that it ever even happened.

supersport667 on March 24, 2015 at 2:29 PM

That is one reason why, as Mr. Geisel’s de facto “acting” IG role at State extended into late 2010, the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight complained about this apparent violation of law in a Nov. 18 letter to President Obama.

Dear Liar’s response: “And . . . ?”

rbj on March 24, 2015 at 2:38 PM

I remember when we used to laugh at 3rd World and Soviet Bloc countries at how corrupt and lawless their governments were.

Browndog on March 24, 2015 at 2:47 PM

When an ‘independent’ IG is appointed by the President, that is part of the problem. The IG is not really independent.

Congress needs to establish a truly independent office of Inspectors General for performing those duties on executive branch departments and agencies. This office should be exclusively under congressional oversight, not under control of the executive branch in any way. One or more of the House/Senate committees can take care of appointing people.

It should not cost much more if any than the existing system, and it could actually operate as an independent entity and keep the government from doing as many bad things.

Staggering terms of appointees across election cycles would help reduce partisan influence.

There may be no way to escape partisan political influence if the IG functions in every way, but this would help to tamp it down.

s1im on March 24, 2015 at 2:49 PM

The problem extends to congress in condoning the unfilled vacancy or neglecting to recognize the vacancy.

dedomenologist on March 24, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Exactly what I was thinking.
None of these “mandatory” things ever seem to have a mechanism for alternatives to implementation, or punishment for failure to implement.
They have less force than EPA’s (illegal) regulation mongering.

They aren’t laws: they are just suggestions.

AesopFan on March 24, 2015 at 2:53 PM

Good times, Browndog. Good times.

freedomfirst on March 24, 2015 at 2:59 PM

Good times, Browndog.
Good times.

freedomfirst on March 24, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Serendipity strikes today.
Just happened to be re-reading some of Scott Card’s essays from some years back (2002!), and came on this segment, which could apply to State’s IG, Clinton’s emails, and Congress v. Obama on Iran:

The best thing about the book Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime is that the author, Eliot A. Cohen, is a member of the Defense Policy Board, giving advice to the Secretary of Defense.

Personally, I think no one should be allowed to run for President without having first read this book.

Too often, we believe the myth that the job of the civilian government in wartime is to provide the funding and the overall objective for the military, and then stand back and let the soldiers do their job.

Cohen’s point is the opposite — that democracies thrive best when brave and brilliant civilian leaders work closely with the military and never allow the generals and admirals to dictate strategy.


But there’s a local lesson here, too — about Pam Allen of the Guilford County school board.

Allen is, by all accounts, quite an extraordinary woman. As PTA president at Mendenhall, she was marvelous in her support of the school administration. She was and is an untiring public servant, and I’m sure she is baffled now by the hostility that she now faces from many in the community.

What did she do wrong?

It’s sadly simple.

She just couldn’t get out of the PTA mindset. The PTA president is a booster, making no decisions about school policy but doing her best to help the principal accomplish his goals.

But the school board has a radically different job. They are the bosses of all the administrators, staff, and faculty of all the schools in the county.

They not only set policy, but, like the great men depicted in Supreme Command, they must also make sure that the administrators are making good decisions and call them to account if they are not.

They must keep the administrators from interfering — as they always do — with actual education.

They must keep the schools from going after wacko educational fads and hold to methods that make sense and actually work.

Instead of exerting that kind of leadership, Allen unfortunately bowed to the “wisdom” of the “experts,” not realizing that there are no experts on education, only believers in various dogmas, and that people who rise to the top of a school administration are not experts on education, they are experts on rising within bureaucracies.


And that is why, despite Allen’s great talents and willing heart, she is probably going to be tossed off the board this fall in favor of someone who understands that in a democracy, civilians must control the experts and professionals so that they serve the people as a whole instead of their own closed community.

AesopFan on March 24, 2015 at 3:02 PM

Think of this as a palate cleanser:

Hillary Clinton seeks clean slate with press
Weeks after being dogged by accusations of secrecy, Hillary Clinton told journalists Monday that she wanted “a new relationship with the press.”

Speaking at a dinner in honor of veteran Washington Post correspondent Dan Balz, the all-but-certain presidential contender acknowledged that her “relationship with the press has been at times, shall we say, complicated.”

But Clinton said she was “all about new beginnings…. A new grandchild. A new hairstyle. A new email account. A new relationship with the press. No more secrecy, no more zone of privacy … After all what good did that do for me?”
http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/03/hillary-clinton-seeks-clean-slate-with-press-204457.html

“No more secrecy, no more zone of privacy”
Hahahaha!

Good times, good times.

DinaRehn on March 24, 2015 at 3:23 PM

Hillary Clinton seeks clean slate with press

When the press behaves like a rag, expect people to clean stuff with it.

Rix on March 24, 2015 at 4:03 PM

Reporters Give Hillary Standing Ovation

After She Takes No Questions…

At ‘Excellence in Journalism’ Event!

http://www.drudgereport.com

Schadenfreude on March 24, 2015 at 4:33 PM

If a Republican legislator were to begin conducting official business from a personal email account, how long do you think it would take for the Justice Department to begin a criminal investigation after hearing an allegation about it?

It would probably take less time that it took for me to compose this comment.

s1im on March 24, 2015 at 4:36 PM

And, Democrats say that Ted Cruz is not qualified to run as president. He may be stiff with people and rigid with his political beliefs, but golly, the man is not corrupt as these two. And, he is a lot smarter.

Techster64 on March 24, 2015 at 4:58 PM

Killary is seeking a clean slate with the press. Is this the same as a reset button which worked awfully well before.

Kissmygrits on March 24, 2015 at 5:21 PM

The problem extends to congress in condoning the unfilled vacancy or neglecting to recognize the vacancy.

dedomenologist on March 24, 2015 at 2:25 PM

What? Do you really think Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were concerned about that?

Hill60 on March 24, 2015 at 6:34 PM

“Mr. Fox, please allow me to show you to your new office. Why yes, yes it does look exactly like a hen house, doesn’t it?”

Oxymoron on March 24, 2015 at 6:41 PM

When an ‘independent’ IG is appointed by the President, that is part of the problem. The IG is not really independent.

Congress needs to establish a truly independent office of Inspectors General for performing those duties on executive branch departments and agencies. This office should be exclusively under congressional oversight, not under control of the executive branch in any way. One or more of the House/Senate committees can take care of appointing people.

It should not cost much more if any than the existing system, and it could actually operate as an independent entity and keep the government from doing as many bad things.

Staggering terms of appointees across election cycles would help reduce partisan influence.

There may be no way to escape partisan political influence if the IG functions in every way, but this would help to tamp it down.

s1im on March 24, 2015 at 2:49 PM

Theoretically, the role of the IG is to be the eyes and ears of the president, so he can hold the various departments accountable. So the IG doesn’t need to be independent of the president. It just needs to be independent of the agency it investigates.

Of course, that all assumes the president wants to hold the various departments accountable. As we’ve seen lately, that’s not always the case.

But your larger point is both true and vital. Congress needs something similar to the IG, with the ability to demand answers so that department heads and even the president himself can’t interfere. Unfortunately, only individual Congressmen seem to have the power to compel testimony, which probably contributes to the long, drawn-out Congressional investigation processes we see that never really seem to do any good.

There Goes the Neighborhood on March 24, 2015 at 11:38 PM