Recalling a Life Lost Too Soon in the Service of Her Country

Dear Ms. Sonenshine,

Like you, many of us never met Anne Smedinghoff, although we have the pleasure of working with her father Tom.  As is so often the case, when a tragedy occurs in a professional colleague’s personal life we have few ways of expressing our support and solidarity.  Your post below reminds us that our work, though far away from the world of diplomacy, also touches on why we are secure in the world and who helps create that security.

Our work involves how we are to be more secure online. In this work we have the benefit of Tom Smedinghoff’s legal experience and expertise. Tom’s work with the US State Department and the UN on issues of global identity management complements our more commercial and technical concerns. Tom’s commitment and values enriches and informs our work as it did Anne’s.

Thank you for your reminder to count our blessings. And the chance to add our thanks to yours to the Smedinghoff family.

Don Thibeau
The Open Identity Exchange
The OpenID Foundation

Tara Sonenshine Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2013, 1:10 AM

September is a season of beginnings. Kids start school. Parents head back to work. We tuck away summer memories, and make room for fall events.

But for one family, this September is a season of sadness mingled with pride as they remember a beautiful young diplomat who gave her life protecting ours.

Anne Smedinghoff would be turning 26 on Sept. 18 were it not for a bomb blast that took her life miles from home, in Afghanistan, in April.

Anne was raised in River Forest, Ill., by a joyful family in a close-knit community. Friends and colleagues describe Anne as spunky, smart, energetic, and adventurous. She loved hiking, mountain climbing, and backpacking.

After graduating from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, in 2009, Anne rode her bike 4,000 miles across America to raise money for cancer research. From her Facebook pages and the stories of friends and loved ones, she clearly loved traveling, meeting new people, and learning about the world.

Like so many young Americans, Anne wanted to serve her country. In 2010, she joined the foreign service – no easy feat. Many young people want to be diplomats; only a few pass the exam, get through the rigorous interview process, and complete the training required for a first-tour assignment overseas. Anne made it.

In August of that year she was sent to Venezuela. Fluent in Spanish, her first posting was at the consular window in Caracas, where she met and greeted citizens, her warm smile providing a welcoming and beckoning presence to those needing a visa to visit the United States.

What I have learned about foreign service officers is that they rarely stay put and are the first to volunteer for harder assignments.

So when Anne heard there was an opening in Afghanistan, she raised her hand. She was assigned to the public diplomacy office in the embassy in Kabul in 2011 – a difficult and dangerous job, but an ideal one for someone who loved being with people, fostering relationships with local youth, engaging with citizens to improve education, and building bridges between Afghanistan and America.

In Afghanistan, Anne had the opportunity to do what she loved most: work with people in a conflict zone. She helped Afghan girls find opportunity through embassy youth empowerment projects with Afghan schools and set up media interviews with Afghan press for visiting U.S. officials. She learned the art of public diplomacy – an often underappreciated diplomatic skill to connect with foreigners on a human level. She was the perfect public diplomat, ready to move beyond the embassy walls to mingle with locals, to create trust and individual relationships by funding local projects, to explain U.S. customs and share American stories, and to develop an atmosphere of goodwill abroad to enhance the peace and security at home.

In March 2012, Anne got the chance of a lifetime. The new U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, was going to Kabul. She was able to prepare his visit, coordinate the schedule, and meet her new boss as a member of the host delegation. Kerry later recalled Anne’s energy, enthusiasm, and warmth.

Just weeks after meeting Kerry, Anne traveled to Zabul province to deliver books to a school in the town of Qalot. As the convoy of American soldiers and civilians arrived, a suicide bomber approached. Witnesses describe a horrific blast, the shattering of glass and debris, and the cries for help.

Anne was among those killed outside the school, along with four other Americans – three soldiers and a civilian. Her body was flown to Dover Air Force Base. Draped in the U.S. flag, her casket was returned home to St. Luke’s Church in Forest Oak, Ill., where grieving family members, friends, and colleagues honored her.

Although we never met, I supervised all the public diplomacy officers around the world, of which Anne was one. Hence, when it came to her memorial service at the State Department, I was among those who gave the remarks.

We hear about casualties of war – about the injured and the dead – counted in the hundreds, even the thousands. These are staggering statistics. But behind these numbers are individual – often young lives, lost too soon in the line of duty.

This month, as we go about our busy lives, let’s pause for a moment on Wednesday. Let us count our blessings and remind ourselves why we are secure in the world and who helps create that security. And let us say thank you.

The Authority of the Neutral Judge

Anyone who has been to a Yankee game in the Bronx knows that the umpire’s best day is when the fans forget he’s on the field. In his mind, he only gets recognized after having made a mistake. One can’t help but see the parallel to the United States Supreme Court in light of the past week’s rulings on issues from same-sex marriage to health care. Chief Justice John Roberts sees himself in a similar situation to the umpire in his role on the Supreme Court.

In the Chief Justice’s mind, “umpires don’t make the rules, they help apply them. While the rules are made elsewhere the role of an umpire is critical. They help everybody play by the rules, but it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire.” [1]

In this way the role of the Supreme Court and the OIX registry are somewhat similar. The Open Identity Exchange registry is given multiple sets of rules and by publishing them for all to see makes enforcement possible. The Open Identity Exchange’s trust registry make enforcement possible in

three ways. First it exposes an organization’s compliance to a set of rules (whitelists, trust frameworks, etc.) to the judgement of its peers. None has a keener interest in a companies compliance than its competitors. The second enforcement dynamic is the powerful binding of an organization’s public self attestation to a set of legal claims and technical tests. The brand risk alone ensures a company thinks carefully before publicly declaring compliance. Lastly, the registry invites a crowd sourced scrutiny of claims of conformance. In this way Open Identity Exchange uses a minimal viable governance approach to support a diverse set of trust frameworks, whitelists, listing services, etc.

A general purpose registry like OIXnet, as a neutral third-party publisher of rule sets, is able to provide authoritative information to all stakeholders on behalf of a variety of registrants. It is as if the umpire has outlined the strike zone in neon tape for the entire stadium to see. It would be hard for batters to argue when all of the information is available for anyone to see. Each set of the business, legal and technical requirements of a trust framework registered at will be the neon tape for all to see. Through a “transparency drives trust” value proposition, “anyone, at anytime, anywhere, can see everything registered in the registry without charge.” [2]

Although Justice Roberts is right that, “nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire,” it would be hard to argue that it makes his role any less important. Although Open Identity Exchange will never develop its own trust frameworks, it would be hard to argue the role of the registry any less important

[1] Rosen, Jeffrey. “John Roberts, the Umpire in Chief.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 June 2015. Web. 29 June 2015.


First of a Kind/One of a Kind

At the OIX pre-discovery event in May, senior representatives from leading private and public sector organizations, many of them OIX members, collaborated on the first step of analyzing how they wanted to define open identity services in the UK. A federated approach to internet identity as the engine of a cross sector market model were favoured outcomes. The benefits of such an approach were seen in, increased customer acquisition and revenue, reduced fraud and compliance costs, all together in an improved customer experience. The OIX White paper written by Innovate Identity expands the outcomes of that day.

UK Members have asked OIX to accelerate the discovery project during the next two months with the purpose of articulating actionable plans for overall UK identity market standards across sector, and to share its findings in a OIX White paper that will inform discussions at OIX’s Economics of Identity II summit planned for November (date to be announced soon).

This increased pace and scope includes targeted industry engagement refined through a series of sector specific workshops surveys to capture industry feedback for analysis (see the white paper appendix for the survey questions). Innovate Identity working closely with OIX will drive the testing of user needs to anticipate stakeholder interests in federated identity ecosystems.

This project is the first of its kind and one of a kind in its scope, scale and ambition it may prove to be a significant step to a UK market where the public and private sector work together to create an open and trustworthy digital identity market

We hope you will participate, alongside our members – email to be involved in the project, attend the workshops and respond to the survey.

Don Thibeau

Using attribute exchange to gain customer trust and transform service delivery

The first principle of good on-line service design is to put the customer first. This can be quite straightforward when an organisation is in complete control of an online transaction. It becomes a lot more difficult when other organisations are involved. This is often the case in local government transactions where information about a customer’s entitlement or eligibility for a service is held by Government departments. The customer can then get lost in a difficult and time-consuming paper chase as they assemble the evidence they require to secure the service they need.

In those situations putting the customer first means finding a quick and efficient way of sharing eligibility and entitlement information on-line, in real time while the customer is filling out their on-line application form. And eliminating the paper chase isn’t only good for customers. It means local and central government can deliver services more efficiently and at lower cost.

The first challenge, then, is to develop effective, real-time data sharing mechanisms that allow eligibility and entitlement information to flow between organisations.

There is a problem, though. There have been a number of reports recently (see for example a recent report by the Digital Catapult) showing that the public do not trust organisations with their data and don’t know how that data is being used. This fear is fuelled by repeated stories of data breaches in both the private and public sectors.

So the second challenge is to share data in a way that customers understand, trust and are prepared to accept.

Warwickshire County Council has been working with The Government Digital Service and private sector partners (Verizon, Mydex andNorthgate Public Services) to deliver a number of Open Identity Exchange (OIX) sponsored projects that address these challenges head on. Last year we demonstrated that putting the customer in control of the data that is being shared in an online transaction can build trust and acceptance. The customers understood what data was being shared and why it was being shared. They were also delighted with the way the data sharing improved service delivery.

In our latest OIX project we have demonstrated that it is possible to build a technical solution that allows this data sharing happen for real. You can read about our findings in the white paper and technical paper on the OIXUK web site. We call the solution attribute exchange, and it has a number of key characteristics:

  • Data is shared online, in real-time so that complex transactions can be completed there and then
  • The customer is in control of the data that is shared and has to give consent before data is shared
  • We know it is the customer who has consented because they have used their highly assured UK Verify credentials to log in
  • Only the minimum data necessary to drive the transaction in hand is exchanged. In many cases the service provider only needs to get a yes/no answer back from the attribute provider. In our use case Warwickshire asked the DWP a simple yes/no question: “is this customer eligible for a Blue Badge?”
  • The solution meets the relevant privacy principles developed by the Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group for identity assurance
  • The solution is generic and standards based. It could be used for any service and any service provider/attribute provider pairing. It is applicable to the private and public sectors and could handle transactions that require a combination of private and public sector data

Attribute exchange can address the two challenges of providing online, real-time exchange of data in a way that customers trust, accept and welcome. The next challenge is to bring this solution to the market as a live service in order to deliver its transformative potential. This needs both the private and public sectors to participate. The private sector needs to provide the attribute exchange mechanisms. The public sector needs to embrace this opportunity to make life better for our customers while at the same time meeting demands for greater efficiency and lower costs.

There are signs that the private and public sectors are both prepared to step up to the mark. Watch this space.

Ian Litton. Warwickshire County Council