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National Security Archive announces Rosemary Award

By Al Kamen
Friday, March 12, 2010; A16

And now, the winner of the National Security Archive's Sixth Annual Rosemary Award, named for President Richard M. Nixon's secretary, Rose Mary Woods, whose unlikely stretch allegedly erased 18 1/2 minutes of a Watergate tape.

The award this year goes to the Federal Chief Information Officers Council, the top officials in charge of $71 billion in IT purchases, who have "never addressed the failure of the government to save its e-mail electronically," the archives said in announcing the winner.

The council was set up in 1996, so this is really a lifetime achievement -- or lack thereof -- award. The nonprofit archive noted that a 2008 survey by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and OpenTheGovernment.org found that no federal agency required an electronic record-keeping system. Thus an investigation of former Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee over the "torture memos" found that most of Yoo's had been deleted and couldn't be recovered.

There's no good news on this front, the archive concluded, save maybe at the White House, where a system has been installed that preserves "even the president's own BlackBerry messages."

Better watch yourself when you write to him.

Pieces of the prize

Five months after getting word he won the $1.4 million Nobel Prize, President Obama announced Thursday he will dole out the cash to 10 charities. The largest recipient ($250,000) is Fisher House, one of the charities we selected three months ago as a winner in the Loop Nobel Charities Contest. Fisher House, which serves families of wounded soldiers being treated at major military and Veterans Administration facilities, was suggested by Brian Scott of Colorado Springs.

Proof is in the doughnuts

Attention, Supreme Court clerk hopefuls. If Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. offers you a doughnut, take it, our colleague Bob Barnes suggests.

In that recent chat with University of Alabama law students that has caused such a dust-up, Roberts was also asked what he looks for in clerks.

"I like people with a fair amount of self-confidence, who are going to be comfortable with expressing their views and defending those views without, you know, wilting," he said.

He developed a little self-confidence experiment once, he said, apparently when he was still an appellate judge. All the interviews were on one day, so he brought in a dozen powdered-sugar and glazed Krispy Kremes, and instructed his secretary to tell the applicants to help themselves.

"I figured anybody who had enough self-confidence to pick up a doughnut that's glazed or with powdered sugar would be the sort of person I was interested in," Roberts said. "I even remember saying, 'Anybody who has a doughnut, I'll hire.' "

Alas, at the end of the day, the doughnuts were untouched. "So I had to go back and look at their résumés," he said.

Opa!

Who says folks at the White House don't have a sense of humor?

A colleague wrote the press office this week for information about Greece's financial crisis. He asked if White House econ czar Larry Summers or David Lipton, National Security Council international economic affairs chief, might be available to chat about Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's request for "tougher oversight and regulation of hedge funds and people investing in credit default swaps."

An aide wrote back six hours later, apologizing for the delay and saying that the National Economic Council had just gotten back to the office and had declined the request. Besides, Papandreou is "really here for Greek Independence Day."

Of course he was. Party on!

Sense -- and sensibility

Talk about thin-skinned. Chief State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was obliged to apologize this week for a jocular comment he made about Libyan leader Moammar "Pan Am Flight 103" Gaddafi. This came after Libya warned of retaliation against U.S. businesses for the perceived insult.

Crowley had responded Feb. 26 to a reporter's question about Gaddafi's call for "jihad" against the Swiss for banning new minarets in that country. Crowley said then that it reminded him of Gaddafi's speech at the United Nations in September, "with lots of papers flying all over the place, not necessarily a lot of sense." A most diplomatic characterization, it would seem to anyone who saw the endless "speech."

Though we had thought it impossible to insult Gaddafi, the Libyans were most offended, making threats, demanding an apology. State Department officials were said to have been worried it might mean Gaddafi would not take a call from Hillary Rodham Clinton this week to talk about various matters. Really? Moammar Gaddafi would not take a call from the secretary of state? Who does he think he is? Kim Jong Il?

After all, it's not as though Crowley called it a deranged rant. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67vSQN3Ga1s&feature =related.

A serving of criticism

Being a diplomat is trickier than ever these days. Even a simple lunch can spark a kerfuffle. For example, Liliana Ayalde, a career official at the Agency for International Development who is in her second year as ambassador to Paraguay, recently invited a cross section of Paraguayan politicians for lunch at the embassy with a visiting delegation of U.S. military brass.

Next thing you know, the local media are blasting her for putting at risk the "already difficult" relations between Asuncion and Washington. Then the country's defense minister, Luis Bareiro Spaini, sent Ayalde a blistering letter questioning her diplomatic credentials and saying she committed a "rookie error" by inviting politicos of "irreconcilable" opinions to sit together and chat about the issues with her and the generals, according to an Associate Press wire in Spanish.

Interior Minister Rafael Filizzola walked things back Monday, telling reporters that Bareiro's note represented his own views, not the government's. A top Paraguayan official conveyed that message to Ayalde.

But former vice president Julio César Franco (no relation to the All-Star Cleveland Indians/Texas Rangers/Chiba Lotte infielder of the same name) wasn't buying any of it. "Who's going to believe that a key cabinet member is going to write such an insulting note on his own?"

Franco said Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo should have disciplined Bareiro.

Ayalde shrugged off the matter. After all, it was just a lunch. And besides, we hear the puchero was too salty.

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