The Cable

Ted Cruz Vows to Block All State Dept. Nominees

The long-festering problem of senior-level vacancies at the State Department is about to get worse. On Wednesday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz vowed to place a hold on all State Department nominations until Secretary of State John Kerry appoints an inspector general. The move could delay the confirmations of a string of high profile nominations including Samantha Power, appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Victoria Nuland, appointed to assistant secretary of state to European and Eurasian Affairs, and Danny Russel, appointed assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

In a statement, Cruz called President Obama's failure to nominate an Inspector General at the State Department "unacceptable."

"The position has been vacant for almost 2,000 days. This is a crucial oversight position and should be a priority for an agency facing substantial management challenges," said the Republican lawmaker. "Until the President acts, I have notified Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that I will place a hold on all State Department nominations."

The appointment of a permanent IG, tasked with finding and preventing government waste and corruption, has earned support from Democrats and Republicans, but Cruz is alone in vowing to hold up all nominations at State in order to force the appointment.

As evidence of a need for a permanent IG, Cruz ticked off a range of controversies facing the department, including the deadly attacks on U.S. officials in Benghazi last year, mismanagement of security contractors at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, and squandered taxpayer money designated for police training in Iraq.

Interestingly, Cruz did not highlight one of the most high-profile scandals facing the department -- one in which he himself has become a player. Allegations from former IG investigator Aurelia Fedenisn that senior State Department officials discouraged or called off internal investigations into misconduct such as soliciting sexual favors from minors and prostitutes, drug use and sexual assault.

Of all the lawmakers Fedenisn could've sought out to leak materials to, she chose Cruz, a freshman senator who hails from the same state as her Dallas-based lawyers, Damian Mathias and Cary Schulman. Fedenisn says she hired the lawyers after the State Department sent law enforcement officers to her house in an alleged effort to intimidate her into silence.

Earlier this month, a State Department official, speaking on background to the Washington Times, charged that if Fedenisn leaked her complaints to the press before Cruz, it discredits her claims of being a whistleblower. "What you have to look at is the timing," the official told the newspaper. "In order for her to officially become a whistleblower, she has to give the documents to a congressional authority first."

In fact, Fedenisn attorney Cary Schulman told The Cable that she did go to the press before Cruz, but disputed that the sequence events has any legal bearing on her status as a whistleblower.

In any case, though Cruz is the only lawmaker vowing to hold up every State Department nomination, he's not the only one upset about the lack of an IG.

This morning, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), the ranking member and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged the president to appoint an Inspector General. "We are witnessing the longest vacancy in the history of the Office of the Inspector General, which is tasked with preventing and detecting waste, fraud and abuse within both the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors," Royce said. "The time to nominate a qualified IG is long overdue." Weeks earlier, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, similarly urged the president to appoint an IG, saying they were "deeply concerned."

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. Update: At a press briefing, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Secretary Kerry and President Obama have "identified an excellent candidate" for IG and "look forward to making it public," but did not clarify when that might happen. Ventrell declined to directly criticize Cruz, but noted "we don't want holds placed on people." 

The Cable

Chris Stevens' Benghazi Diary Reveals His Brooding, Hopeful Final Days

The day before he returned to Benghazi after a nine-month absence, Chris Stevens was brooding. The U.S. ambassador to Libya had just finished reading The Troubled Man, the 10th and final novel in Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell's series about a sullen police detective named Kurt Wallander. Stevens was unnerved by the downward spiral of the 60-year-old investigator, who dives headlong into his work to distract him from the blank walls of his life closing in around him.

"He's divorced, lives alone with his dog, and slowly descends into Alzheimer's," Stevens wrote in his journal on Sept. 9, 2012. "I'm only 8 years away from 60 -- I need to avoid such an ending!"
Stevens hadn't been sleeping well. "The usual bundle of worries -- family, bachelorhood, embassy and work-related issues.… Too many things going on, everyone wants to bend my ear. Need to pull above the fray."

But then, at the end of a day beset by anxieties, Stevens wrote a hopeful note: "Benghazi and friends tomorrow -- something to look forward to."

Lost in the debate and warring conspiracy theories about the attack that took the life of Stevens and three others at the U.S. mission in Benghazi last September has been a fuller sense of the man at the center of the story. ("Chris never would have accepted was the idea that his death would be used for political purposes," his father wrote in an op-ed Wednesday.) Stevens's colleagues in the Foreign Service regarded him as one of the hardest-working and most thoughtful diplomats of his generation. "A rising star" in the annals of American diplomacy, said Wendy Chamberlin, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the president of the Middle East Institute. Joel Rubin, the director of policy and government affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, who met Stevens when Stevens served as a congressional fellow, recalled in a blog post that "he wasn't partisan; he worked across the aisle; he was professional and kind. And above all, he was friendly."

Until now, the testaments of Stevens's friends and colleagues have stood in for him. But his personal journal, portions of which were published this morning by the military website, reveal an unvarnished, touching self-portrait. Electronic copies of the seven-page document have been circulating in diplomatic and media circles since shortly after the attack on the Benghazi mission. At the request of Stevens's family, however, Foreign Policy and other publications declined to discuss the journal in detail. However, in the wake of the decision of SOFREP to publish the diary, Foreign Policy felt it important to focus attention on those parts of the now-public diary that offer new insights into the personal side of the diplomat who sacrificed so much in the course of doing a job he clearly loved. We note however, we cannot verify the contents of the diary. While Foreign Policy could not independently verify the document's authenticity, the diary entries closely match public accounts of events in Libya during September 2012.

In the diary, Stevens appears as a man in love with his globe-trotting existence and devoted to the people he met in some of the world's toughest neighborhoods, yet fearful that his chosen profession might preclude any semblance of a normal, settled-down life. But it was the work that kept Stevens going. The thought of returning to Libya's second-largest city, the tenuous cradle of a nascent, post-dictatorship democracy, buoyed Stevens's spirits. He had grown attached to Benghazi. "Much stronger emotional connection to this place -- the people but also the smaller town feel and the moist air and green and spacious compound."

Stevens was clear-eyed about the dangers that awaited him. "Security vacuum. Militias are power on the ground," he wrote on Sept. 6. "Dicey conditions, including car bombs, attacks on consulate, British embassy, and our own people. Islamist 'hit list' in Benghazi. Me targeted on a pro-Q [Qaeda? Qaddafi?] website (no more off-compound jogging)."

Yet Stevens was hopeful. A month earlier, Libya's transitional government had handed power to an elected national congress. Democracy was sprouting. "People want it. Leadership is largely honest and intelligent, if lacking in experience."

Before returning to the fray, Stevens had taken a European sojourn. First to Stockholm for a friend's wedding -- "white tie and tails," "boisterous dinner for 100 with 13 toasts, a few of which were clunkers. Dancing until 2 am." He visited with a pair of longtime Swedish friends, reconnected with another friend in town from Jerusalem, went running in the rain.

Then it was off to Vienna, for a brief two-day visit. He met up with friends for dinner, and the next day he visited a history museum and enjoyed a sunny lunch in the city's famous Naschmarkt, where he ate schnitzel and drank beer. Stevens spent the rest of the afternoon reading The Troubled Man in bed in his hotel room.

Stevens seemed as at home in the great cities of Europe as in the beleaguered streets of Benghazi, where he hit the ground running on Sept. 10. On his first day back, the ambassador met 20 local council members and the mayor at the El Fadeel Hotel. "They're an impressive and sincere group of professionals -- proud of their service on committees, all working as volunteers." They too had bent Stevens's ear. "There was a little sourness about why it had taken so long to get to Benghazi, and about ambassadors who came to talk but didn't do anything to follow up. But overall it was a positive meeting."

That night, he attended a dinner party with Adel Jalu, "hotelier and caterer extraordinaire" from an oasis city in the northeast, whom Stevens appears to have known from previous trips. The guests exchanged "some heated words" about the Muslim Brotherhood. There's no indication that Stevens did anything but listen, ever the diplomat.

The next day, Stevens met with an appellate court judge, a shipping company owner, a Turkish diplomat, and a political analyst. The journal offers no details of what was discussed. And Stevens's now jampacked schedule crowded out any gloomy musings about his life and loneliness. But the precariousness of his physical situation was never lost on him.

Stevens's final entry in his diary, dated Sept. 11, reads: "Never ending security threats…"

The compound was attacked later that night.