Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Foreign Affairs Day and Plaque Ceremony

The AFSA Memorial Plaque Ceremony is held on Foreign Affairs Day to honor Foreign Service personnel who have lost their lives while serving their country overseas in the line of duty or under heroic or other inspirational circumstances. This year, the ceremony will be held on Friday, May 1 at 10:25 a.m., in the C St. lobby of the State Department in front of the west plaque.

Secretary Hillary Clinton is scheduled to preside over this year's ceremony. She will read a message from President Obama and pay her respects to the families of the employees whose names will be added to the plaque, bringing the total to 231.

Brian Adkins was a first-tour State Department Foreign Service Officer who was killed on January 31, 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he was serving as a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy. Brian was a graduate of George Washington University, where he completed both his undergraduate and graduate studies. He graduated summa cum laude from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2005. He joined the State Department after receiving his masters degree in 2007 and was assigned to Ethiopia. Mr. Adkins would have turned 26 on Feb. 2, 2009, the day that friends received word of his death. He was a native of Columbus, Ohio and is survived by his parents, John and Christine Adkins, his sister Tiffany and his brother Michael, as well as his maternal and paternal grandparents.

Felix Russell Engdahl (July 28, 1907-May 14, 1942), better known during his life as Russ Engdahl, joined the Foreign Service on December 16, 1930. After serving as Vice Consul in Port-au-Prince and Calcutta, Engdahl was assigned to Shanghai in October 1935. He was promoted to Consul and, in late 1941, traveled to Hong Kong on courier duty. He was captured by the Japanese not long after the fall of Hong Kong in late December 1941, along with several other members of the Foreign Service and sent to the Stanley Internment Camp. Engdahl died in the camp on May 14, 1942, a few months before all Americans in the camp were repatriated. His death was accidental, caused by a fall down some stairs while in the prison.

Thomas Waldron (May 21, 1814-September 8, 1844) was appointed as the first U.S. Consul to Hong Kong on July 21, 1843. This was a recess appointment and he was later confirmed by the Senate on May 17, 1844. He arrived in Hong Kong in early February 1844. He traveled to Macau on an official visit in September 1844 where he died of cholera. He is buried in the Old Protestant Cemetery in Macau.

Edmund Roberts (July 29, 1784-June 12, 1836) was appointed as Special Agent on January 26, 1832. President Jackson tasked him to negotiate commercial treaties with Muscat, Siam and Cochin China. Later in 1832, he was also asked to negotiate a treaty with Japan. In 1832, Roberts negotiated treaties between the United States and Siam and Muscat. In March 1835, Roberts left the United States on a mission to Cochin China, Siam and Japan. While in Siam, Roberts contracted dysentery and died in Macau on his way to Japan. He is buried in the Old Protestant Cemetery in Macau.

The solemn ceremony offers us an opportunity to remember and honor our fallen colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and to remind us of the extremely dangerous and difficult conditions that our Foreign Service personnel face today in many parts of the world. Our deepest sympathies and heartfelt gratitude go out to all their loved ones.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give the keynote address in the Dean Acheson Auditorium to the over 500 retirees who will be attending this year's Foreign Affairs Day, prior to the Plaque Ceremony.

Following the conclusion of Foreign Affairs Day at 3:00 p.m., everyone is invited to attend AFSAs FAD Reception, from 3-5 p.m. at the newly renovated AFSA headquarters, 2101 E Street NW. The AFSA Scholarship winners will be announced during the reception

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Advocate: Congressional Leaders Mull Partial DOMA Repeal

This would certainly make things easier for LGBT Foreign Service families.

Congressional Leaders Mull Partial DOMA Repeal

Some Congressional members are considering repealing part of the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.

By Kerry Eleveld

Discussions around repealing a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages have heated up in the wake of recent legal challenges filed and the addition of two new states legalizing same-sex marriage.

Legislative aides familiar with the discussions say a handful of congressional leaders have been hashing out the details of the legislation, which would accomplish two goals: repeal section 3 of DOMA as it relates to the federal government's ability to confer some 1,100 federal benefits on same-sex partners; and provide a way for same-sex couples living in states that do not allow them to marry legally to access the same federal benefits afforded to heterosexual spouses.

The most immediate benefits of passing such a bill would go to legally married gay couples -- those who have married or will marry in Connecticut or Massachusetts, those who married in California while it was legal (pending the state supreme court decision over the validity of those marriages), and those soon to marry in Iowa and Vermont. Same-sex couples in New York, which recognizes legal marriages performed outside of the state, would also be among the first beneficiaries.

But Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said legislators are also intent on making federal benefits available to same-sex couples living outside those six states. "People are coalescing around the idea of a 50-state solution by recognizing unions that are recognized in at least one state,” he said. “There’s a growing consensus around that."

By all accounts, the bill will not disrupt section 2 of DOMA, which gives individual states the ability to determine what type of unions they deem legal. "It still protects federalism -- states are still able to make their own decision about what state benefits to offer," Anders added.

According to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, legislators involved in the planning include senators Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold, and Chuck Schumer, and representatives Tammy Baldwin, Barney Frank, Jerrold Nadler, and Jared Polis.

Legislators declined to discuss specifics due to the fact that they are trying to reconcile different approaches in order to introduce matching bills in the House and the Senate.

"With the landscape changing so quickly, we want to make sure congressional leaders, advocates, and litigators are all in the same place," said Amy Rutkin, Representative Nadler's chief of staff.

The basic question surrounding the bill is which same-sex unions to recognize and how to make those unions portable in a way that will allow the federal government to provide benefits to gay partners regardless of whether they live in Alabama or Massachusetts.

According to those familiar with the discussions, some have advocated for only recognizing marriages while others have shown an interest in including civil unions and strong domestic partnerships too.

"The idea is to recognize a relationship or marriage that is recognized by a state," Anders explained. So if a couple is legally recognized in any state, he added, "you would be entitled to the federal benefits and protections and liabilities of marriage."

But the Human Rights Campaign’s Joe Solmonese said he is less concerned about the exact form the legislation takes at the moment than he is in getting "something on the burner."

"I think the House and Senate version wouldn't have to be one in the same, there can be differences," he said. "But once you get legislation introduced in both, you've got the educational vehicle and the organizing principle for the community to really get to work on."

Sources declined to discuss the exact timing of when such a bill might be introduced, but they generally agreed it would be before the end of the year and probably within the next several months.

While President Obama supports full repeal of DOMA, Solmonese said it was difficult to gauge whether this legislation would be prioritized by the White House because the Administration has not provided such information to the HRC.

"We have had weekly conversations with the White House about the agenda for our community, but we haven't gotten the priority list from the White House," he said.

Anders explained that the two key disparate groups legislators are keeping in mind are those couples who are the most mobile and those who are the least. For instance, they want to cover couples who live in Massachusetts or Iowa and marry but then choose to move to another state for a job or to care for a family member or to retire.

"But there are also lots of people who are living in the state they were born in," Anders said, "and it doesn't seem that people should be locked out of federal protections simply because they can't move and may not have the resources or mobility to do so."

Another option some have suggested is creating a set of criteria, or a federal trigger, that would qualify a couple for federal benefits regardless of whether they are legally unioned in any particular state. While this would provide a way to debate federal benefits outside of the emotion surrounding marriage, Anders said the option has not been under serious consideration and was losing steam fast now that there is a greater proliferation of states extending full marriage rights to same-sex couples, which essentially makes marriage regionally accessible to more people.

The Government Accountability Office reported in 2004 that a total of 1,138 federal benefits are associated with marital status; people generally cite issues like Social Security survivor benefits, federal health benefits, and equal tax treatment as major concerns. A same-sex partner cannot, for instance, collect the Social Security payments of a deceased partner. Partners of federal employees are not eligible for inclusion on their health insurance. In terms of taxation, same-sex partners cannot file joint tax returns; insurance benefits offered to same-sex partners by employers is taxed as extra income rather than being deducted from pre-tax dollars; and while married spouses can transfer an unlimited amount of money to each other without being taxed, anyone else is limited to transfers of up to $12,000 annually.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Still Waiting

By my count, President Obama's 100th day is about April 30, and Secretary Clinton's will be soon after. LGBT Foreign Service families were promised that their issues would be "fast tracked" on several occassions since then.

We are still waiting.

Summer transfer season is upon us. LGBT Foreign Service families will soon, unless the Secretary acts, be forced to once again pay the cost of expensive flights to post for the non-employee partner. And they will pay that price so that their family can serve the country while the non-employee partner is once again forced to live the life of discrimination that is the life of Members of Household.

For all my friends facing this, I hope change comes soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ethiopian man confesses to the murder U.S. official

Ethiopian man confesses to the murder U.S. official

An Ethiopian man has pleaded guilty to the murder of 2007 alumnus Brian Adkins, a Foreign Service officer found dead in his Ethiopia home this February, according to Adkins' family.

State Department officials told family members that a man named "Sammy" had admitted to beating Adkins to death with a baseball bat in the Ohio native's African home. Sammy, a local man whose full name was not available, had met Adkins through mutual friends who frequently played video games at the house.

At a preliminary hearing on March 27, Sammy pleaded guilty to second degree murder and stealing Adkins' possessions, said Dan Adkins, Brian's father, in an interview. Dan Adkins added that prosecutors are seeking to convict the man of first degree murder, which could result in the death penalty.

Court proceedings are happening in the African country's capital city, Addis Ababa, because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Ethiopia. State Department officials did not return requests for comment.

Family members wrote in an e-mail to Brian's friends and acquaintances that Sammy stayed overnight at the house after he and Adkins played video games late into the night. The house was adjacent to a series of Foreign Service Officers' homes, and the compound was watched over by a guard and surrounded by concrete walls and razor wire, Dan Adkins said.

Sammy and Adkins began arguing the next morning and Sammy later told investigators he was afraid that the loud noises would alert the guard. He said he tried to quiet Adkins using a baseball bat, which was usually kept by the door for protection, and repeatedly hit him in the head and face as Adkins fell to the ground. The cause of the argument is unknown.

"I really need some closure on what caused the argument," Dan Adkins said.

A funeral director in Cleveland later told Dan Adkins that the body was so damaged it could not possibly be restored for an open-casket funeral.

Upon fleeing Adkins' house, Sammy took some of the 25-year-old's belongings, which included a cell phone, a laptop computer and a camera. He left his own cell phone at the house, which investigators used as their primary lead in the case. Sammy was later apprehended in a village six hours from Adkins' home with the belongings.

"So, in all, our son was killed for a few lousy bucks for his belongings on the street of Addis Ababa," the family's e-mail said. "What a terrible waste of a man, son, brother and a true friend to many."

The family learned about the details of the case after State Department officials visited them at their home in late February. They have also been communicating with the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto. The State Department told them they did not consider the murder to be connected with terrorism or political opposition to the Ethiopian government.

Adkins earned two degrees from GW - a bachelor's degree from in 2005 and a master's degree in 2007. While in Foggy Bottom he was active in the GW Knights of Columbus and the Newman Catholic Center.

On Friday, May 1, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to preside over a ceremony honoring Adkins and three other Foreign Service officers who have died on duty. The four officers' names will be inscribed on a memorial plaque in the State Department's main lobby at their building adjacent to campus.

Adkins was in his first year of duty in the country, performing consular work including helping Americans in distress and handling visas and passports. He was scheduled to travel to Rwanda for several weeks on the day of his death to work in the U.S. Embassy there, Dan Adkins said.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Foreign Policy: Feltman to head NEA

This today from Foreign Policy. I had hoped this would happen and happy that it has. Every interaction I have had with Ambassador Feltman has been positive and I would be happy to work for him.

State Mideast news: Feltman to head NEA, Mitchell deputies

As expected, President Barack Obama today announced his intent to nominate Jeffrey Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of State's Near Eastern affairs bureau and a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, to be the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

Feltman, a career Foreign Service officer, assumed his current position as the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Near Eastern Affairs in February 2008, a White House press release said. Since the December retirement of David Welch, he has also served as acting assistant secretary of the bureau. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1986, Feltman has served in Beirut, Irbil, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Budapest, Tunis, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Last month, Feltman went with the NSC's Dan Shapiro to Damascus for meetings with Syrian foreign ministry officials.

Sources told The Cable that Frederick Hof is expected to get into place at the State Department as the deputy to U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell next week. Hof is not expected to travel with Mitchell on his trip to the region later next week. (The NSC's Shapiro is expected to travel with Mitchell). Their itinerary is expected to include meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, as well as other stops. Mitchell is not expected to go to Damascus at this time, a Washington think tank Iran hand said.

Mitchell has been spending much of the past two weeks on the Hill, a Washington Middle East hand said. He noted that the State Department declared Mitchell's forthcoming trip to the region Monday about the same time as Obama strongly re-asserted his administration's commitment to the two state solution in speeches in Turkey, following remarks disparaging the validity of the Annapolis peace process by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

"I think Barack Obama's statement in Turkey, followed hours later by the announcement of Mitchell's trip," is no coincidence, the Washington Middle East expert said. "They didn't have to announce it at the same time. It was a pointed rejoinder" to Netanyahu's failure to distance himself from Lieberman's remarks, he said.

Meantime, multiple sources said that NSC chief of staff Mara Rudman was likely to go work for Mitchell, either as a deputy or as his chief of staff. She didn't respond to a query. Also expected to possibly be sent to Jerusalem for Mitchell at the end of the summer is principal deputy assistant secretary of state for the NEA bureau David Hale. Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who has been in charge of efforts to build the capacity of the Palestinian security forces, has reportedly been asked by Mitchell to stay on for another two years.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Obama appoints gay man interim ambassador to India

Obama appoints gay man interim ambassador to India

Peter Burleigh, a seasoned foreign service officer with deep expertise in South Asian affairs, will serve as America’s top diplomat in India until a permanent ambassador is named, according to reports in the Indian press.

In a 2008 profile of Burleigh in the South Florida Blade, the former acting ambassador to the United Nations said he had sometimes had to hide his sexual orientation during his more than 30-year career as diplomat:

“Up until the 1980s, it was dangerous [to be out] because you couldn’t do foreign work without security clearance,” Burleigh said. “By 1990, it was no longer a problem if you were out.”

Burleigh said he was open about his sexuality within the State Department once the policy changed. He kept his private life to himself, however, when he was assigned to foreign countries where homophobic attitudes prevailed in the culture.

The Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute’s Presidential Appointments Project is championing several openly gay candidates for ambassadorial nominations as President Obama pulls together his diplomatic team. For information on the Presidential Appointments Project, go here.


According to Al Kamen this morning in the Washington Post, five top State Department officials were confirmed this past week: Richard Verma as Assistant Secretary legislative affairs (L), Esther Brimmer as Assistant Secretary for international organization affairs (IO), Rose Gottemoeller as Assistant Secretary verification and compliance (VCI), Melanne Verveer as ambassador at large for global women's issues, and Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry as ambassador to Afghanistan.

WP: Diplomatic Efforts Get Tech Support

From this morning's Washington Post:

Diplomatic Efforts Get Tech Support

Alec Ross arrives today at the State Department, armed with a new set of diplomatic tools including Facebook, text messaging and YouTube.

Ross is a senior adviser on innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton -- a role created for the 37-year-old nonprofit leader, who quickly rose within the Obama campaign, helping to craft tech policy under top technology adviser Julius Genachowski.

His new job will blend technology with diplomacy in an attempt to help solve some of the globe's most vexing problems on health care, poverty, human rights and ethnic conflicts. And it is emblematic of the expansive approach the administration has taken to the role of technology in advancing its domestic and global agendas.

"Secretary Clinton believes technology is a powerful tool to address the priorities of the State Department, including promoting human rights and vibrant democracies, fostering development and enhancing the impact of smart power," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood. "Alec's track record of successfully using technology for development initiatives around the world made him an ideal candidate for this job."

Projects could include the use of cellphone text messaging as a way to reach isolated communities to warn people of natural disaster or remind patients to take medication. Social networking sites could bring together youth in warring tribes to communicate and organize cultural exchanges. Software could be used to help ensure aid is delivered by creating supply-chain systems.

Ross will work for the chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, Wood said.

"I don't believe tech is an end into itself to solve problems," Ross said, "but it can be a critical part of the solution."

Critics have their doubts about whether concrete solutions can be achieved through technology, however. Economists have questioned, for example, whether stimulus funds for health-care information technology and broadband Internet will substantially boost employment.

But friends and colleagues who worked on the Obama campaign and transition say Ross has what it takes to pull it off: business savvy and the ability to bring large, disparate groups together.

In 2000, he co-founded the nonprofit group One Economy, which uses technology to help low-income communities, and built it into a multimillion-dollar organization with donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Cisco, Yahoo and AT&T.

"Alec has an extraordinary entrepreneurial skill set," said Blair Levin, a telecom analyst who led Obama's tech policy group along with Genachowski during the transition. "Through partnership with all kinds of different players, he sees opportunities that others don't and makes connections that others don't that will be critical in this new job."

Ross is an unlikely Washington operator. He commutes to the District from Baltimore, where he settled more than 10 years ago as a Teach for America volunteer working at a middle school on the city's economically troubled west side. He grew up near Charleston, W.Va., where unemployment was ever rising. He named the first of his three children Colton, a play on "coal town," as a "shout-out" to his roots, he said.

"Living in Baltimore keeps me planted in reality," he said.

Ross has no formal training in technology. And unlike most of Washington's tech policy leaders, he wasn't groomed at the Federal Communications Commission or through the FCC Bar Association.

Yet he was charged with managing hundreds of policy advisers brought together to develop the president's tech and innovation plan. In that role, he assigned duties to high-tech titans such as Google chief executive Eric E. Schmidt, academics including Stanford law professor Larry Lessig, nonprofit leaders and investors.

Friday, April 03, 2009

HRC Press Release: Berry Confirmed

I received this press release from the Human Rights Campaign:

Human Rights Campaign Statement on Confirmation of John Berry as Director of the Office of Personnel Management

HRC President Joe Solmonese: “John Berry has an exemplary record of leadership in both the public and private sector.”

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights group, today praised the confirmation of John Berry as Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Berry, who previously served as director of the National Zoological Park, is the highest ranking, openly gay man to be appointed in the Obama administration.

“As the human resource agency for the federal government, OPM is responsible for implementing the Administration’s personnel policies. John Berry has an exemplary record of leadership in both the public and private sector. As Director of OPM we fully expect that he will apply federal employment policies fairly and equitably to all employees, including LBGT workers,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

At his confirmation hearing, Berry emphasized the need for the federal government to adopt policies which make it competitive with the private sector. Although the federal government has historically been a leader in providing strong employee benefits, it now lags behind the private sector because its lesbian and gay employees cannot take advantage of the high-quality family health insurance program and other benefits. By contrast, most Fortune 500 companies now reward their gay and lesbian workers equally for their equal contributions.

Before his time at the National Zoological Park, Berry was executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the nation’s wildlife resources. Prior to joining the Wildlife Foundation, Berry served as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Interior Department for three years.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

They also note that shortly after the House and Senate return from recess April 20, the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act will re-introduced.

Washington Blade: Obama asked to appoint gays to ambassador posts

From today's Washington Blade:

Obama asked to appoint gays to ambassador posts
LGBT appointments group says gays are among list of contenders

The Obama administration may be considering as many as three openly gay candidates for nomination as a U.S. ambassador to a foreign country, according to an official with the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute.

George Walker, the institute’s vice president of leadership initiatives, said his organization’s Presidential Appointments Project is calling on the administration to consider appointing qualified, openly LGBT candidates for a wide range of government jobs, including ambassadorial positions.

“I hear there’s a few applicants and they’re all political,” Walker said in discussing possible LGBT ambassadorial appointments. “I can’t disclose any names and I don’t know where they stand.”

Walker was referring to the approximately 30 percent of ambassadorial appointments that traditionally go to people who are not career U.S. Foreign Service officers. Often referred to as “non-career” or “political” appointments, people who fall into this category often are longtime political allies of the president or major party donors.

Only two out gays have served as a U.S. ambassador. President Bill Clinton appointed San Francisco philanthropist and Democratic Party activist James Hormel as ambassador to Luxemburg. President George W. Bush appointed career Foreign Service Officer Michael Guest as ambassador to Romania.

At the time they were nominated, gay activists and independent political observers described Hormel and Guest as highly qualified for the positions. Hormel, an attorney and successful businessman, had served in a United Nations-related position prior to his nomination and was said to be knowledgeable in foreign affairs.

Guest had a distinguished career as a Foreign Service officer in a number of countries in Europe and other locations at the time of his nomination.

Guest, who was an active Obama supporter during last year’s presidential campaign, said this week that he is not interested in an administration position of any kind at this time.

State Department spokesperson Noel Clay said the State Department always defers to the White House about media inquires related to ambassadorial nominations. White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said the White House never comments on administration appointments until they are officially announced.

Records posted on the White House web site and information available from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which approves nominations for ambassador posts, show that Obama has submitted nominations for five ambassadors. Among them are ambassadors to the United Nations, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ireland, plus the Ambassador At-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

None of those appointments went to an LGBT person, according to activists familiar with the appointment process.

Sources familiar with the administration have said a flurry of ambassadorial nominations are expected to be issued by the White House within the next several weeks and one or more LGBT appointees could be picked.

Hormel and Guest were subjected to some criticism because of their sexual orientation. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) denounced Hormel as a representative of homosexual “special interests” and took steps to block his nomination in the Senate. Clinton eventually took the unusual step of using his authority to appoint Hormel as ambassador when Congress was in recess.

The Senate approved Guest’s nomination after his sexual orientation did not surface in his confirmation hearing or at the time the full Senate voted to approve him. However, Guest came under attack from one or two conservative groups in Romania, which made an issue of his sexual orientation.

The Romanian government ignored the attacks and praised his work in advancing U.S. efforts to help the country’s economic development programs. The Washington Times reported in 2003 that Guest’s sexual orientation might have prompted the Bush White House to cut short his tenure as Romanian ambassador. But Guest and the State Department, which praised Guest’s accomplishments, insisted he had completed his scheduled two-year term as ambassador and was slated for a new assignment.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mountainrunner: Isolated Overseas: Diplomatic Security Creates Challenges for American Public Diplomacy

Mountainrunner's guest blogger Mitchell Polman wrote a piece yesterday on challenges for Public Diplomacy:

Isolated Overseas: Diplomatic Security Creates Challenges for American Public Diplomacy

When Congress voted to abolish the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in 1999, America's public image abroad suffered a significant blow. This decision - inspired by the desire to shrink government and the predominant belief that USIA was an ineffective bureaucracy - closed many USIA-run American libraries and cultural centers around the world that were helping to promote better understanding of American culture and society. These gathering places - located in embassy buildings or in libraries and cultural buildings of host countries - were an important tool for U.S. public diplomacy. They organized English language classes, discussions about American society and politics, films, and other cultural events. Local residents had safe and accessible places to read American books and periodicals, find out about educational exchanges, take U.S. college entrance and language exams, and interact with American citizens.

But beyond the loss of a special department devoted to public diplomacy, America's international image and outreach have been hurt by changes in diplomatic security standards following embassy bombings in the 1990s and the tragic events of September 11. New security requirements, designed to keep our diplomats and their families safe, often put American cultural resources out of sight and out of reach for foreign citizens with a healthy interest in American affairs. As a result, we are losing what legendary journalist and one-time USIA director Edward R. Murrow called "the last three feet" in our country's "communication chain."

You can read the entire piece here.