‘Atmosphere of secrecy’ pervades State Dept. office, audit finds

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In a separate development last week, scandalous headlines filled the news when an unrelated internal OIG memo became public. The memo outlined a variety cases in which high-ranking department officials under Mrs. Clinton had been accused of quashing internal investigations into accusations of sexual assault, drug dealing, solicitation of prostitutes and minors, and other improper activity by American diplomatic personnel overseas.

The memo, is believed to have been based on anonymous complaints from rank-and-file agents in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security that arose during a 2012 OIG review of the bureau, prompted a harsh reaction at Foggy Bottom, where officials described the complaints as “unsubstantiated.”

A spokesman for the inspector general's office has called the memo a “preliminary” document that triggered investigations into suspected criminal activity and claims that earlier probes were blocked by State Department higher-ups. Outside law enforcement specialists have been called in to conduct the investigations.

The OIG report released Thursday, meanwhile, asserts that a “pervasive perception of cronyism exists” in the Bureau of International Information Programs.

The report asserts that the bureau “uses many contractors (43 percent of employees) but does not manage its contracts well” and that “this deficiency constitutes a potential vulnerability for the department.”

Buying Facebook fans

The OIG report outlines how the bureau spent roughly $630,000 on two campaigns aimed at increasing the number of “fans” on English-language Facebook pages tied to the State Department.

The campaigns succeeded in growing the number of fans to more than 2 million for each page, according to the report, which notes that advertising also helped increase interest in the foreign language Facebook pages tied to the department — with some of the pages garnering as many as 450,000 fans as of March 2013.

Implementation of the advertising campaign have drawn criticism, however, from within the Bureau of International Information Programs.

“Many in the bureau criticize the advertising campaigns as ‘buying fans’ who may have once clicked on an ad or ‘liked’ a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further,” the OIG report says. “Defenders of advertising point to the difficulty of finding a page on Facebook with a general search and the need to use ads to increase visibility.”

The report notes that the bureau’s leadership subsequently “shifted the focus away from increasing total fan numbers and toward engagement, as measured by ‘likes,’ shares, and comments,” but asserts that “engagement is a means, not an end.”

“The bureau could reduce spending and increase strategic impact by focusing its advertising not on raising overall fan numbers or general engagement statistics but on accomplishing specific PD goals,” the OIG report states.

The report also calls on the bureau to “adopt a social media strategy that clarifies the primary goals and public diplomacy priorities of its social media sites.”

Among a host of other recommendations, the report calls on the bureau to “implement a comprehensive plan for outreach to the rest of the Department of State and key foreign affairs agencies.”

The OIG also calls for a more intensive audit to examine all of the bureau’s “front office staff travel for the calendar years of 2011 and 2012,” and for a reorganization in how the bureau oversees contracts with private vendors.

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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