The Cable

Never Mind the Guns, Half of Syria's 'Non-Lethal' Aid Is Stuck on U.S. Shelves

Lost in last week's news that the Obama administration would begin to provide direct military aid to the Syrian opposition was the fact that about half of the non-lethal aid promised months ago has still not arrived.

That's raised some question as to how long it will take any new military aid to reach the fractured country.

Administration officials acknowledge that only some of the aid promised the Syrian opposition this spring has arrived in the country. They cite Congressional notifications, the need to vet recipients on the other end, and the more mundane necessity to obtain and then ship the supplies they plan to send as the hold up.

Gear like vehicles, medical supplies, communications equipment and night vision goggles - all key to helping to give the Syrian military opposition the upper hand once again - are all part of the assistance plan.

The State Deparment is working with the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Syrian Military Coalition on the aid but that there isn't any specific timeline, a spokesman for State told FP. "The process can take from several weeks to several months," he said.

"We want to establish channels that any assistance we deploy is done so in a manner that reaches those in need and is done so in accordance with our assistance regulations."

Approximately $127 million of aid is in the process of being delivered. Another $123 million, announced by Secretary of State John Kerry April 20 in Istanbul, is still undergoing Congressional notification processes, the spokesman said. State has already coordinated the shipment of 202,000 Meals, Ready to Eat, 529 medical kits and three tons of medical supplies that all fall under a $10 million contribution Kerry also announced in April.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Tony Cordesman acknowledged that shipping aid to the military opposition is difficult to begin with. The supply chain can be problematic, the end user may not be trustworthy and transiting material into a country amid a civil war can cause delay. And, logistics people all have "hoarding tendencies," he said.

"Pick any of the above, or any combination of the above, and all of that can happen," he said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday was asked if Syrian Opposition Leader Gen. Salim Idris will become the focal point for all military and humanitarian aid. Psaki said a lot of the aid is contributed through the coordinating body that Syrian Opposition Coalition. "That's where it's gone," Psaki said. "Now, the next tranche of aid, the $123 million that's been in the process of being notified to Congress, part of that will go to the [Syrian Military Council] directly," she said. "The size of how much will go to the SMC directly is part of what's being discussed with Congress."

Last week, Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Adviser for Communications, said aid to the Syrian opposition includes increased support to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, "but it also includes the provision of assistance to the Supreme Military Council in Syria," he told reporters. "And so we are focused right now on strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC and helping to coordinate the provision of the assistance to the SMC by the United States and other partners and allies." 

Cordesman said the idea of "non-lethal aid," like night vision goggles, for example, give the military opposition a capability to kill that they don't otherwise possess - so the term "non-lethal aid" is, to him, an oxymoron.

"If you're having problems with lethal non-lethal aid, just imagine the kinds of problems you're going to have with lethal-lethal aid," Cordesman said.

The Cable

Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence

The State Department investigator who accused colleagues last week of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, and having sex with minors says that Foggy Bottom is now engaged in an "intimidation" campaign to stop her.

Last week's leaks by Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator, shined a light on alleged wrongdoing by U.S. officials around the globe. But her attorney Cary Schulman tells The Cable that Fedenisn has paid a steep price: "They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself."

Fedenisn's life changed dramatically last Monday after she handed over documents and statements to CBS News alleging that senior State Department officials "influenced, manipulated, or simply called off" several investigations into misconduct. The suppression of investigations was noted in an early draft of an Inspector General report, but softened in the final version.

Erich Hart, general counsel to the Inspector General, did not reply to a request for comment. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week that "we hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly." She also announced that the department would request additional review by outside law enforcement officers on OIG inspection processes.

After the CBS News made inquiries to the State Department about the charges, Schulman says investigators from the State Department's Inspector General promptly arrived at Fedenisn's door. "They talked to both kids and never identified themselves," he said. "First the older brother and then younger daughter, a minor, asking for their mom's place of work and cell phone number ... They camped out for four to five hours."

Schulman says the purpose of the visit was to get Fedenisn to sign a document admitting that she stole State Department materials, such as the memos leaked to CBS. Schulman says it was crucial that she didn't sign the document because her separation agreement with the State Department includes a provision allowing disclosures of misconduct. Furthermore, none of the materials were classified.

Schulman charged that sending law enforcement officers to pressure her into signing an agreement was heavy handed. "Why not simply mail it, courier it, send it Federal Express or deliver it by any other normal means by which one delivers a demand letter? Why send two federal law enforcement agents?" he asked. He also said that officials from the Inpsector General's Office told him they'd be having a "no kidding get together with the DOJ," implying to him that they would push criminal charges if his client didn't cooperate.

In discussing the chain of events with Kel McClanahan, a D.C. attorney who has represented several agency whistleblowers, McClanahan said the case smacked of intimidation.

"This type of intimidation technique is all too common when an agency wants something from you that it is not entirely confident it can get without your cooperation, and more often than not people who don't know any better fall for it," he told The Cable. "Regardless of what you may think of Fedenisn's motives, she worked for these guys for years and she knows their playbook ... I would have been shocked if she did anything except promptly hire a lawyer and call their bluff."

Update: In an email to The Cable, Doug Welty, Congressional & Public Affairs Officer at the State Department's Office of Inspector General, sends the following message:

Highly sensitive, internal documents that contained personal information and unsubstantiated allegations were improperly removed from OIG custody and subsequently released to unauthorized individuals.

OIG wants to emphasize the sensitive nature of OIG inspection information, particularly when it pertains to individuals and may be incomplete or contain unverified, raw data.

·         OIG did not authorize any such release. As soon as OIG learned that documents were improperly removed and released, OIG took appropriate steps to remediate potential damage.

·         OIG sought to retrieve the documents and information, and put the person who leaked them on notice not to distribute them further, nor distribute additional documents or information, in accordance with the standard "Separation Statement" presented to all employees when leaving Department employ and signed by Ms. Fedenisn in December, 2012.

·         OIG's efforts to retrieve the internal documents and information were done in an effort to protect the sensitive information contained therein and to prevent harm to potential investigations or administrative disciplinary adjudications, as well as harm to private individuals named in the documents, and their due process and privacy rights.