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UN Security In Chaos, Henn Leaves A Former Pension Cashier in Charge as Car and C.V. Questions Mount

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 28 -- The head of security for the UN in New York, Bruno Henn, traveling overseas for a conference in the Middle East, has named as his interim replacement his own administrative officer, Gert Schmidt, who sources tell Inner City Press is not qualified to lead the protection of UN Headquarters. This despite the two reports on the bombing of UN premises in Algiers in December criticizing the UN for putting unqualified people in charge of security.

   The sources link Henn's transfer of responsibility to a "bureaucrat" who until recently worked not in security or law enforcement but as a Cashier in the UN Pension Fund to Henn's strategy to surmount questions recently raised about his resume and his personal use of a UN security vehicle to drive to and from his New Jersey home. Not unlike a rogue stock broker who can only hand over his trading positions to a trusted underling in order to not be found out, they say, Henn has put Schmidt in command. But does this serve the cause of UN security?

  The UN Department of Safety and Security is in chaos. After the first inquiry into the Algiers bombing, Chief David Veness announced his resignation. But with no replacement yet named, he is still in the post. His Deputy, Diana Pennacchio-Russler, had reportedly put in for retirement, but now sources say has thrown her hat in the ring to replace Veness. In this scenario, Henn wants a promotion to her post, from the D-1 to D-2 pay scale. The questions about his c.v. and the four year personal use of a UN vehicle are not helpful. But can Schmidt hold down the fort?

   Henn's defense to his use of the vehicle, which recently ended, was that then-Under Secretary General for Management Christopher Burnham approved it. But source tell Inner City Press that Burnham was not told the whole story, and that in any event, Henn used the car before getting any permission. And see below. Inner City Press asked at the October 28 noon briefing if there was any denial of Gert Schmidt being put in charge of security, or any read-out on the Chief Executives Board meeting of October 25 including on Security, but none has yet been provided.

Bruno Henn, at right, some years ago: DSS going to the dogs?

  Likewise, an incident in which two security officers were severely injured in a one-vehicle crash of a UN scooter has gone uninvestigated, sources say because under Henn's watch, insufficient training had been provided. Those injured are in the United States on G-4 visas tied to the UN employment, and so are not pushing for their rights. And so it goes in the UN.

Flashback to Inner City Press' October 23 footnote, updated:  UN Security held a town hall meeting on October 22 in the Dag Hammarskjold Library auditorium.

  While the Press was excluded from the meeting, subsequent interviews revealed that D-2 level director Moh'D Ali Bani Faris did most of the talking -- "incomprehensible," more than one officer pegged him -- while his D-1 association Bruno Henn said almost nothing. An officer remarked that in the audience was one Jeffrey Armstrong, formerly of the US Pentagon and now reportedly held down by Henn and friends in the name of bureaucratic rules for promotion that Henn himself did not follow. There is also a brewing issue of Henn's personal use of a UN car, on which the Spokesperson's office told Inner City Press:

"Hi Matthew -- I heard you'd been asking about whether Bruno Henn had recently returned the keys of a UN vehicle that had belonged to the SG's security detail; I just wanted you to know that the car that Mr Henn has been using is one that he was authorised to use, and that he routinely returns the keys to that vehicle when it is not in use by him. In other words, there's nothing unusual about him returning the keys last week, as he does at other times so that the vehicle can be serviced or employed for other uses."

  But Inner City Press' sources say that an inquiry has begun into the value of Henn's personal use of the car, whether rules were complied with and whether a waiver previously granted by the UN Department of Management was obtained on false pretenses. To these questions, too, we shall return.
  And now we have returned -- with more to follow.

  Watch this site, and this Oct. 2 debate, on UN, bailout, MDGs

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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