Ambassador Nominees Get OK
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the appointments Wednesday of seven ambassadors whose nominations had been held up because of they had amassed scores of what one senator described as minor violations of security rules.
The State Department acknowledged that the career foreign service officers had committed some 100 infractions of security rules such as leaving a document unattended in a secured area.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said the behavior was ``sloppy″ but that the infractions ``were minor.″ He compared holding up the nominations to someone taking away a person’s drivers license because of some parking tickets.
The nominations must still go before the full Senate.
``I’m a little disappointed,″ said Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., after the committee action. Grams had put a hold on the nominations last spring.
He said the delay focused on the security issue and ``will send a clear signal″ to the State Department which has had a number of embarrassing incidents involving security problems including the disappearance last winter of a laptop computer containing classified information.
``If I was somebody with bad security habits at the State Department, I wouldn’t take any comfort from this,″ said committee spokesman Marc Thiessen. He said committee members have made clear security will be a key issue in evaluating future foreign service employees.
Grams said he dropped his hold on the nominations after the State Department agreed to tighten its disciplinary procedures involving security infraction.
The committee’s action came only days after the revelation that Martin Indyk, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, had been stripped of his security clearance because he allegedly mishandled classified work-related material, taking some home and working on an unclassified laptop computer while traveling. State Department officials have said there was no indication any intelligence information was compromised by Indyk.
Meanwhile, the State Department has asked that Senate consideration of the nomination of Ronald Neuman as ambassador to Bahrain be temporarily put on hold. Neuman, Indyk’s former deputy in the department’s Near East Bureau, has been suspended from his job without pay in connection with an inquiry into his handling of classified materials.
The department has acknowledged that five other employees have been suspended this year for security breaches.
Nominees approved Wednesday were listed on the committee agenda as Brian Dean Curran of Florida for ambassador to Haiti, Rust Macpherson Deming of Maryland to Tunisia, Howard Franklin Jeter of South Carolina to Nigeria, Ronald D. Godard of Texas to Guyana, Douglas Alan Hartwick of Washington to Laos, Lawrence George Rossin of California to Croatia and Michael J. Senko of Washington to Marshall Islands and Kiribati.
On the Net: State Department: http://www.state.gov