Concerned Foreign Service Officers: Photos Are an ‘Ugly Manifestation’ of State Dept. Contractor Culture

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Thursday, September 03, 2009 at 9:43 am

In response to the new revelations about security contractor ArmorGroup’s persistent physical and sexual harassment while guarding the U.S. embassy in Kabul, the dissenting diplomatic organization known as the Concerned Foreign Service Officers has released this blistering statement. It walks up to the water’s edge of calling State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security — which oversees the security contractors — corrupt:

Concerned Foreign Service Officers has for years lamented that the internal corporate culture of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security promotes the concept that all things are allowable in defense of the nation’s security, and that employees who perform illegal acts in the name of security will be protected. The directors of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s security infrastructure promote an all-for-one team mentality which encourages agents to view themselves as being above the law. Complaints of improprieties in investigations and other activities are routinely ignored. Internal oversight is a joke and external oversight is blocked. The ugly photos currently making the news are a particularly ugly manifestation of that culture.

It would be easy for the State Department to dismiss the actions portrayed in those photos as the aberrant acts of a small group of contractors, who (apparently routinely) performed such acts beyond the knowledge of the Department. CFSO believes however that such aberrations do not occur when organizations promote a culture of accountability. Large-scale improprieties occur only when perpetrators feel secure that their actions will be either tolerated or ignored. Leadership in accountability must come from the top.

Concerned Foreign Service Officers hopes that the search for explanations for the events at the American Embassy in Kabul will not stop at the front lines, but will also target the culture in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security that allowed these activities to occur, and those directors of State’s security infrastructure who promote that culture. After Blackwater, Laptopgate and this, it is time for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to replace its post-9/11 cult of anything goes with a true culture of accountability.

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You can draw a straight line from these twisted photos to the homoerotic themes of the Abu Ghraib photos. Yeah, privatize the military, what a brilliant idea.


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