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The case of Aurelia Fedenisn

We wrote here (John) and here (me) about a State Department scandal involving the United States Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman (among others). Gutman is a big Democratic donor who was appointed to his diplomatic post with a donor’s traditional qualifications. He was alleged to have patronized prostitutes including minors while at his post in Brussels. Gutman’s case was one of several said to have been investigated by the State Department Inspector General, but covered up on the intervention of the administration in a subsequent IG report.

The story was originally reported by CBS’s John Miller here and followed up by NBC here. The New York Post reported on the story in some detail in “Hillary’s sorry state of affairs.” As of the date of the New York Post article last month, Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy had ordered the investigation ceased, and Gutman remained in place, according to the IG memo cited by the Post.

The story came to light through former State Department IG senior investigator Aurelia Fedenisn. Despite denials from Gutman and Obama administration officials last month, Fedenisn apparently knew what she was talking about. “Out of the blue,” Salena Zito noted on Sunday, “in this administration’s typical fashion, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Denise Bauer as ambassador to Belgium.” The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper picked up word of Bauer’s nomination and noted it last month here.

Fedenisn, incidentally, has been the subject of serious harassment. Her attorney Corey Schulman, about whom more below, says that since Fedenisn blew the whistle, she has been subject to attempts at intimidation: “They had law-enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children, and attempt to incriminate herself.”

The story implicates not only Gutman, in the original wrongdoing, but also senior Obama administration officials, in the cover-up that Fedenisn decried. The story has nevertheless received virtually no attention, a fact that Zito attributed to scandal management and scandal exhaustion.

The replacement of Gutman by Bauer vindicates the reporting on the scandal, but it is not the last word in the story. The office of the Dallas law firm that represents Fedenisn has been the subject of an unusual burglary. Burglars took three computers and broke into a locked metal filing cabinet. Other items of value—silver bars, electronic and video equipment—were left untouched.

The burglary was reported by local Fox affiliate KDFW, whose report was picked up by John Hudson at Foreign Policy’s blog. Hudson includes a video of the KDFW story in his post. KDFW’s report carries footage from a security camera showing two people, a man and a woman, entering the office building in which the law firm, Schulman & Mathias, is located.

Peggy Noonan picks up the threads and comments today in her Wall Street Journal post “Whistleblowers.” She notes that Cary Schulman, Fedenisn’s lawyer, told The Cable: “It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation.” He said he thinks whoever broke in was “somebody looking for information and not money.” His most “high-profile case” is Fedenisn’s, and he couldn’t think of “any other case where someone would go to these threat lengths to get our information.” Noonan herself called Schulman to follow up:

Schulman told me the break-in was “odd—curious.” Adding to the strangeness, the burglars seem to have come not once but three separate times over the weekend of June 28-30. That’s “high risk behavior for a burglar,” he said. “I have never seen a commercial burglary where they come back multiple times.”

The burglars took three Apple computers, forced open a locked metal file cabinet, and took one credit card, leaving others behind.

The burglary has been reported to local police and the FBI.

Maybe it was just a third-rate if highly original burglary. Maybe it was related somehow to another case, though Schulman says he can’t think what that case might be.

Noonan has much more to say, all of it worth reading. Here she comments on the big silence:

Where is the media? How is it that nobody really seems to care about State Department whistleblower Aurelia Fedenisn and her quixotic quest to see that the U.S. government, or at least her little corner of it, is clean, upright and worthy of its citizens? After she went public, as her lawyer said, some investigators—too polite a word!—came to her house and tried to get her to admit she stole papers. (Just like Ellsberg!) What’s going on at the State Department? Exactly who tried to stop investigators, how high up did it go? The burglary may or may not be a scandal—but if it is, it’s a big one.

Surely there is a big scandal or two here even without the break-in, if only anyone were to tune in.

JOHN adds: This illustrates once again that our dominant media have become a palace guard whose principal purpose is not to unearth and report news of importance and interest to news consumers, but rather, to suppress inconvenient news so that it does not come to the attention of voters. And for this they want special constitutional protections?

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