Saturday, May 15, 2010

Who "disappeared" Kolbi of "A Daring Adventure" into thin air?

In October 2009, I wrote about the disappearance of Madam le Consul. Now, barely seven months later, another Foreign Service blogger and her blog have disappeared. And just as suddenly.

I wonder if Kolbi and her blog have "decided to spend more time with the family." Yeah, right; that must be it. And I'll buy THAT when you give me that bridge to nowhere.

Kolbi of A Daring Adventure is not available to answer questions at this time. She's not returning emails; I doubt if she'd be available even for Oprah.

My first tip came from NDS asking if it was just him or if Kolbi's blog had suddenly vanished. So I checked. Nada. Twitter and FB. Yok. Very interesting. I know I did not imagine her existence. I read her post just the day before. So between Thursday and Friday, the blog (and the blogger) disappeared into thin air. Not a technical glitch, unless Typepad, Twitter and FB are in cahoots now or were pulled down by evil hackers at the same time. Oh, but I can access all my accounts there except in Typepad where I no longer have one. So. Definitely. Not a technical glitch. It's like she was never here, except that you can still find her in the cache files. 

A former blogger who was similarly pushed into the deep end of the freezer only has this to say, "Tigers are known omnivores - they even eat durian -  and FS spouses."                

Certainly not a comforting thought.  The big mystery is what happened to Kolbi and her blog? If she can blog or do FB or Twitter, don't you think she'd have said something already? It's not like we're behind the great firewall. I simply do not buy it that she walked away on her own into thin air. So you can call the following speculations, all you want... It may be that you may never find out what happened to her; until the memoirs of disappeared bloggers come out in 2075. So--

#1. Did Kolbi pull down her own blog?

This is always a possibility. The Hegemonist -- remember, he went packing in June last year and never came back?  If you click on "A Daring Adventure" it looks like Kolbi just went underground and you need a password. But here's the deal with Typepad, it also behaves like that when a blog is deleted.  Kolbi sent out a call for the weekly roundup this past Wednesday. She posted that Oakwood thingy this past Thursday. If she just went underground, why would she do that without a heads up to her online friends and readers? And she's not answering emails. If she did this voluntarily without an ax over her head or her husband's -- why would she do a weekly call up on Wednesday, then decide to shut down the blog two days later? Like MLC, Kolbi was big on doing the right thing, she would not close shop without a proper goodbye. Do you really think Kolbi just woke up on a Friday and decided it's time to pack up online and go? And PUFF, went just like that?  

#2. Was Kolbi (and her blog) abducted by Martians?

Okay, we’ve considered this, as we always do whenever an FS blog disappears and makes everyone jumpy. But -- hey, Kolbi just got to WashDC from Texas.  Why would the Martians wait until she get to WDC to abduct her?  Also, I cannot imagine that she’d be scared silly or easily, not even by aliens from space. Nope, it's not like her to just go quietly into the night with those space guys with funny ears. I could actually imagine her screaming so loud it would reach the 7th Floor of Foggy Bottom. But no screams. Why? 

#3. Is Kolbi in an undisclosed location?

The last thing we all know for sure -- Kolbi drove from Texas to DC, got to DC and checked into Oakwood. Yea, the place that's not a hotel. And she blogged about it. And then sometime after that she somehow disappeared online. Yep, GONE.  Just like that.  Did Kolbi go off to Tora-Bora like we suspected with MLC when she disappeared?  I doubt very much if Kolbi did that; the internet connection is iffy there, could not do the weekly roundup from inside those caves. Besides, she was supposed to go on language training then off to China.  Again, if she has decided on her own to disappear for a while, she would have left a note. She’s a diplomat's wife and a teacher to her kids; of course, she knows it's impolite to leave without a word! And she would not do this for no real reason. 

#4. Did Diplomatic Security catch up with Kolbi?

And told her to zip it? Well, there is always that possibility. But see, DS is busy doing the civilian surge in Afghanistan right now and also the surge in Iraq due to the military draw down there. Are you telling me that somebody in that bureau is busy spending its limited resources hunting down Kolbi's blog and shutting it down? I can’t. Um, actually ---- maybe I can.

Oh. My. God!

What if they were after her blog cell and will soon be knocking on everyone's blog that Kolbi ever mentioned in her weekly blog round up? Did you think about that, huh? If true, I'd like the OIG, GAO and Congress to investigate if bloggers were ever mirandized before they are placed inside those deep blue freezers. I would also like the Supremes to decide if employees are culpable for their spouses/partners brains, mouths and independent opinions.   

#5. Did the X Affairs Bureau shut down Kolbi?

Did the good folks at the X Affairs Bureau issue a cease-and-desist order to gag Kolbi? But how could they do that?  First, besides being an independent blogger Kolbi is a stay at home mom who homeschools her kids. The magic word is "independent." She does not work for the State Department. Second, she's only considered an "eligible family member" because her husband works over there. Whatever she's eligible for, she could not visit the big house without a security escort. Third, she does not work for the Secretary of State or anyone in the lower floors. She is, in fact, one of the 10,000 diplomatic spouses/partners who follow their employee spouses on assignments overseas but are not officially employed by the US Government. Four, she does not work for the State Department. Get it?

So how can anyone just shut her down? It's beyond comprehension, right?

Overseas -- if a spouse drink too much ouzo and do not quit when told, the chief of mission can ship the employee and the spouse back to the US until she cleans up.  It's called involuntary curtailment. You don't have to like it, you normally don't have a say about it. They put you on the plane and off you go. Your stuff eventually follows and find you wherever they park you.   

So here, a most important question presents itself.  Obviously, spouses like Kolbi cannot be fired. So how do you control spouses like her so she walks the fine white line or make spouses stop blogging or doing whatever it is that displeases the minor gods and the heavens. Well, let's see. You can go ahead and tell the spouse directly to stop whatever she's doing that you do not like.  Of course, like any American, she and others like her would simply ask if you're trying to infringe on their first amendment rights. And, of course, you're not trying to do that, right? --- so they tell you off and you back off. You'd think of firing the spouse but since she actually receives no salary from you, that would not really work out either. But, surely there must be something you can do. .... right? For instance -- the big office can haul the employee-spouse and threaten his EER, the basis for climbing the ladder in the Service. I'm not saying that's what happened with Kolbi, of course; only that they can do that. Or can they?

Um, wait - isn't there's something called the Spouse Directive from 1972? This one says spouses are their own persons and employees cannot be rated on the basis of their spouses' behavior, mission contributions and place cards and tea talents. Ugh! Right! It simply means -- the EER cannot say so and so should not be promoted because his wife is opinionated or because she cross swords with the Ambassador's wife.  Holy mother of goat! I miss the good old days! It would have been so easy to say "shut your wife up or I'll write it up in your EER." Did I say I miss the good old days. I really do. Life is so much easier then.

Short of putting the employee-spouse before the firing squad -- um, no guns, don't worry. Oh, what am I saying? --  Only one state now allows the firing squad! I mean really what else can be done?  Um, I supposed you could opt for a silent firing squad -- calmer, quieter and best of all, invisible bullets. Yep, no marks, not even bruises. Here's what you do to somebody with a male spouse -- you bring in the employee and tell her "dudette, if your husband doesn't shut up from yakking out there, your career will be in serious jeopardy." The employee goes home and tells her husband. Since husband loves the employee, he himself pulls off his own disappearance online, without a trace, without goodbyes, unable to explain anything, muzzled for good. No blood, no bullets, no mess.  And hey! Just as good as the good old days.

The WH says (h/t NDS) that "bloggers find themselves imprisoned in nations around the world." I supposed one can actually be imprisoned in jails without bars. And no one would even know about it.  Not even the White House. Cuuuz, a thing like this would be considered an internal thingy.

So -- be careful out there ...this is dangerous bizness.

On a related note -- this is probably a good time to check around your blog. Feel free to ignore, of course.

  • Get a disclaimer.
  • Scrub identifying information.  Be vague about your exact location, city, area where you live in your host country.

  • Read the regulations at least once. Maybe twice. Know what you're getting into.  
  • Be careful with pictures.  Not just your pictures but also of your employee spouse, family members, and FS friends. Your house, your pets, your shoes, etc. that can all obviously identify you and who you work for.  In the US, you are just like everyone else, I mean more or less. Overseas, you are the American or the spouse of a diplomat and can easily be identified. Most posts only has 1-2 RSOs, one Management Officer, one HRO, etc -- so if you mention where you are, or where your spouse works, anyone with enough online savvy can easily look it up. Social engineering is also alive and well. If it works for identity thieves, it can also work for all the bad guys who are after a scalp or two.
That said, I offer one last thing to think about -- base on a prior related experience.

Even when we want to help, and support the missing blogger -- the simple act of helping (by writing about it) and offering support (by looking, searching, emailing about it) can sometimes have negative personal repercussions.

So here is a moral dilemma, of which I have no answer. How can you help when the very act of helping makes life more difficult to those you are trying to help?  



Connie said...

Ooh! I hope Oakwood didn't eat them?! Where are you?!?

Rob Pugh said...

Okay, educate me... As a 'trailing spouse' who blogs, given your advice to 'scrub ID info,' how can simply being identified as a member of the embassy/mission possibly be a security risk?

[It's fairly obvious, to the layman - i.e. me - that wherever we are, we don't actually blend...]

Particularly given in the region/country I'm going to, where it's explicitly advised to make it known when you encounter difficulty that you ARE a member/associated with the diplomatic corps in order to avoid problems.

Forgive the psuedo-combative tone which I'm sure comes across, but given the whole kerfuffle re: A Daring Adventure [and absent the actual *facts* of what happened] the idea that as someone who isn't employed by the DOS being 'advised' to nix my blogging is eliciting the 'go fuck yourself' reaction.

I hope to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies, but still...

lindsay said...

oy vay! (that's all I can really think to say after reading all that)

EvaLSeraphim said...

Not to give the The Powers That Be any ideas if this isn't how it went down, but I could totally see something as follows:

{Scene: K's husband in class. Discussion on how to keep embassy personnel safe when overseas}

And now we turn to blogs. Let's say I'm Joe Terrorist with a desire to hit US targets or personnel. Using Google, let's look for "foreign service blogs." Ah, here's one, number eight on the list and it refers to a "round up." A veritable gold mine of information. The blog does most of the work for us. Looking at the blog we see that the writer's husband is DS.

They are staying at Oakwood. They used to live in Houston. The writer's name is Kolbi. That's a great unusual name. They own the home in Houston. Let's do a public records search for "Kolbi" and "Houston." Oh look, we found her old address. Let's see if they put in a forwarding card at the Post Office. They did! They now reside in the [whatever city] Oakwood. Excellent. We also know from the blog what kind of car they drive. Let's stake out the place and take the wife and kids hostage.

Kolbi's husband goes home, tells her, she is sufficiently freaked, takes the blog down, and contacts all the search engines she can think of to scrub the cached versions too.

I'm not saying that's how it happened (truly, I have no idea and no connection to State), but if I wanted to discourage something without having any real power or authority to do so, that's what I would do. Fear can be an amazing motivator.

I am terribly sad she's gone. I enjoyed the blog a great deal. I love her sense of humor and how genuine she is. Of course, her genuineness came through in the details, and those may be the very things that were her undoing. {Sigh.}

Jesmoi said...

Another FS blog I read, Diplotette, has stopped updating. I wonder if the Tigers "ate" her too or if she's just been busy...

Rob Pugh said...

@EvaLSeraphim - see, that's exactly the same kind of thing I thought as well.

Having worked in both government [military] and contract [corporate] security, that strikes me as exactly the kind of fear-mongering, low probability, movie-plot-threat, worst case scenario, inanity that they like to spin.

Again, no facts in the matter and only assumptions, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were something like that...

CLG said...

I'm not in the FS, but an avid reader nonetheless. Here is my 2 cents on the matter, for what it's worth. It may very well be the State Dept. being all oogie boogie cease and desist. But, it may also very well be the powers that be known as Oakwood that leaned on her. There is a current lawsuit involving a lady in FL and a resident of TN stemming from a scathing review left on Trip Advisor of her beach property. Maybe because of ADA's reaction to the reception Oakwood gave her and her family, and her calling out said employee by name ruffled some feathers. I could be wrong, but it probably isn't out of the realm of possibility.

hannah said...

It's Friday, time for the weekly State Department Blog RoundUp - and you're on it!

Here is the link:

(If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me at stateroundup2.0 {at}