Peace Corps Assault Victims in Need of Ongoing Therapy Not a Good Fit For Peace Corps Service?

Posted: 2:50 am EDT


The Peace Corps was apparently notified mid last week about CBS This Morning’s broadcast on the sexual assaults on Peace Corps volunteers. Below via Peace Corps Worldwide:

The general feeling within in the agency–based on questions asked–is that the segment will focus on what has gone wrong overseas and CBS will not balance its reporting with the positive changed that have taken place for women since the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 took effect. The reporting will also focus on the failures of  some CDs in country to protect their Volunteers.


The Daily Beast’s Tim Mak has more:  Whistleblower: Peace Corps Ignored and Then Blamed Sexual Assault Victims

Following the sexual assault of a Peace Corps volunteer in 2014, Peace Corps clinical psychologist Dr. Kris Morris issued behind-the-scenes “guidelines.” The message: Volunteers who continue to need help following a sexual assault are not Peace Corps material.

“Demonstration of a need for ongoing therapy is an indication that she is not a good fit for Peace Corps Service,” Morris wrote in a September 2014 email. Morris also said that a “maximum of 4-6 sessions” of counseling abroad would be permitted for the victim once she returned to her post following a medical


Of related note, the Peace Corps OIG has been battling access to records with its own agency:

Peace Corps OIG’s access issues stem from a sensitive and important subject: the Peace Corps’ handling of volunteer reports of sexual assault. OIG’s push for access is about fulfilling its collective responsibility to ensure that Congress, the Peace Corps, and OIG does everything possible to ensure volunteers – who sacrifice so much when serving in remote corners of the world – receive the services they need and the response they deserve from the agency when they are victims of a sexual assault.

The agency’s basis for the denial of information is a legal opinion by the former Peace Corps general counsel that the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 overrides the IG’s right of access under the IG Act. OIG’s access issue has led to three congressional hearings, extensive press coverage, a hold being placed on the nomination of the Director, and, ultimately, the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the agency and OIG, which resulted in access to more, but not all, of the information.


It is not a coincidence that on the same day that these reports dropped, Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet also penned A journey of reform on the agency’s blog. How much of a culture change has occurred if volunteers who continue to need help following a sexual assault are considered not Peace Corps material?

Together, we have achieved extraordinary progress, seeing nothing short of a culture change that reflects our dedication to Volunteers and our commitment to a response that is victim–centered and consistent with our nation’s best practice. Our record of agency reform reflects that progress.

And because it’s 2015, there’s this:



Related items:



Saudi Arabia Gave Some Serious Bling to Federal Officials, the Most Expensive to the Spouses

Posted: 2:29 pm EDT

Remember that scene in Kevin Costner’s No Way Out where the protagonist was searching computer records for evidence that the Secretary of Defense gave the dead girlfriend a government-registered gift he received from the Moroccan foreign minister? It’s this list.

The State Department has released its 2014 list of Gifts to Federal Employees from Foreign Government Sources Reported to Employing Agencies. The annual compilation includes reports of both tangible gifts and gifts of travel or travel expenses of more than minimal value, as defined by the statute. Also included are gifts received in previous years including one gift in 1985, one gift in 1995, one gift in 1997, one gift in 2001, two gifts in 2009, one gift in 2010, six gifts in 2011, five gifts in 2012, forty-nine gifts in 2013, and one gift with an unknown date. The announcement in the Federal Register says that “these latter gifts are being reported in 2014 as the Office of the Chief of Protocol, Department of State, did not receive the relevant information to include them in earlier reports.”

Among the gifts just reported in the latest list are two that came from His Majesty Qaboos bin Said bin al Said, Sultan of Oman. One was a “Framed 18k gold military-style medals” given to David Dunford, then the US Ambassador to Oman. The gift was received on 6/21/1995 with an estimated value of $8,500.00. The report notes in the disposition that it is “Pending transfer to General Services Administration.” Another gift from the Sultan of Oman went to John B. Craig, also a US Ambassador to Oman. It is a “Framed military-style medals on a yellow background. Rec’d – 9/26/2001 Est. Value – $8,500.00. It is also “Pending transfer to General Services Administration.”

Note that these gifts are accepted on behalf of the United States and are disposed by the General Services Administration. These gifts are typically accepted because its “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to the donor and U.S. Government.”  If the recipient desires to retain the gift for personal use, he/she would have to purchase it at the estimated market value from the U.S. Government through the General Services Administration and  it is so noted on the list.

For instance, the Minister of Interior of the Kingdom of Bahrain gave US Embassy Bahrain DCM Stephanie T. Williams some pearl earrings in January 2013 with an estimated value of $1,000. The 2014 report listed the disposition of this gift as “Purchased by the recipient from General Services Administration.”

The Minister of Defense of the Republic of Yemen gave  Thomas Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, a “Traditional sword with belt; Rec’d – 3/31/2014; Est. Value – $580.00. The gift is marked “Purchased by recipient from General Services Administration.”

According to the list, the most expensive gifts from Foreign Government Sources in 2014 came from Saudi Arabia.

Some of the gifts Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al- Saud, the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave to Federal employees, including President Obama and family members, Secretary and Mrs. Kerry and other members of the executive branch are below. These gifts are marked for disposition by the National Archives and Records Administration or the General Services Administration.

President Obama:

48” gold-plated brass replica of the Makkah Clock Tower on marble base; Est. Value – $57,000.00

White gold men’s wristwatch with leather band; Est. Value – $67,000.00

First Lady and First Daughters:

Diamond and emerald jewelry set including necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet Rec’d – 1/14/2014; Est. Value – $560,000.00

Diamond and pearl jewelry set including necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet Rec’d – 4/15/2014; Est. Value – $570,000.00

(For daughters) Diamond and emerald jewelry set including earrings, necklace, ring, brooch, and wristwatch. Diamond and ruby jewelry set including earrings, necklace, ring, brooch, and wristwatch Rec’d – 1/14/2014; Est. Value – $80,000.00

Secretary Kerry:

Palm tree statue encrusted with various gemstones. Rolex men’s Yacht Master II watch; Rec’d –1/5/2014; Est. Value – $36,900.00

Large gold and silver desert scene with palm trees and a camel caravan; Rec’d – 6/27/2014; Est. Value – $34,000.00

(Mrs. Kerry) Emerald and diamond jewelry set containing a ring, earrings, bracelet, and necklace; Rec’d – 1/5/2014; Est. Value – $780,000.00

(Mrs. Kerry) Sapphire and diamond 18k white gold jewelry set containing earrings and a ring; Rec’d – 6/27/2014; Est. Value – $84,000.00

(Mrs. Kerry) Bvlgari ladies’ watch with a black satin band and a mother of pearl face; Rec’d –9/11/2014; Est. Value – $71,000.00

John O. Brennan, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency received a Decorative Rug on 5/31/2014 with  an estimated value of $7,500.00. The source of the gift is publicly undeclared per 5 U.S.C. 7342(f)(4). The rug has been “retained for official use in the Director’s office.”

An Agency employee received a Chopard Mille Miglia men’s watch valued at $5,600.00 from a publicly undeclared source. That has also been “retained for official use.”

Among other notable gifts from foreign sources:

The Attorney General of the State of Qatar gave Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States, a “Cartier platinum bracelet engraved with “Jeh Charles Johnson” on the interior and an exterior engraved decoration in circles with a line through each circle center.” It’s estimated value is $15,700.00; Disposition – Currently stored in NAC05-01-111-F.”

The Attorney General of the State of Qatar gave Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, a “Rug with case. Gold and silver ship depicting United States and the State of Qatar flags in case. Cartier bracelet with engraving. The gifts estimated value is $24,150.00.”Disposition – Accepted on behalf of the Department of Justice and forwarded to JMD/Property.”

The Attorney General of the State of Qatar also gave Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham each a “Silk rug; Rec’d – 5/13/2014; Est. Value – $4,000.00; Disposition – Deposited with the Secretary of the Senate.”

Paul Biya, the President of the Republic of Cameroon gave Linda Thomas- Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of the State for Africa,  a “3” commemorative gold coin. Framed bronze art depicting a mother and child; Est. Value – $15,245.00 Disposition – Coin pending transfer to General Services Administration. Artwork retained for official use.”

Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha of Brunei Darussalam have Mrs. Sangeeta Shields, the wife of US Ambassador of the United States to Brunei Darussalam Daniel L. Shields III, a “Sari purple and gold material. Heart shaped pendant. Floral brooch; Est. Value – $13,225.00 Disposition – Pending transfer to General Services Administration.”

His Royal Highness Prince Robert Louis François Marie of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg gave the US Embassy Luxembourg “Six bottles of 2009 Château Haut Brion wine; Rec’d –1/7/2014; Est. Value – $3,600.00. The entry is marked “Disposition – Perishable items handled pursuant to the guidelines set forth by General Services Administration.”

His Majesty Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan gave Senator John McCain a           “Rotisserie grill. Prime rib beef; Rec’d – 12/30/2014; Est. Value – $650.00; Disposition – Deposited with the Secretary of the Senate. Perishable items handled pursuant to guidelines set forth by General Services Administration

Also His Royal Highness Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge gave President Obama his own portrait with an estimated value of $888.00 — a “Framed, matted, and signed photographic portrait of Prince William.”

Here is the complete list:


Burn Bag: If Pfizer becomes Irish Pfizer, will @StateDept kick it out of OSAC?

Via Burn Bag:

“If Pfizer becomes Irish to lower its taxes, will the State Department kick Pfizer out of Diplomatic Security’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)?  Let Irish Pfizer contact the nearest Irish Embassy in case there’s a problem.”

Via Gifdumpster/Tumblr

Via Gifdumpster/Tumblr

Note: The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) was created in 1985 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the U.S. Department of State.  The office is led by an Executive Council of private sector organizations and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, under the U.S. Department of State.  News report says that Pfizer, an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation headquartered in New York City, with its research headquarters in Groton, Connecticut, will shift its global headquarters to Ireland, for tax purposes, following a deal to merge with smaller Dublin-based rival Allergan in a transaction that is expected to close next year.  If the move is successful, Pfizer’s global profits will potentially be liable for tax at 12.5% rate in Ireland instead of the 35% in the United States.


American Embassies and Consulates Around the World Celebrate Thanksgiving Day

Posted: 2:35 pm EDT


 🍗 Happy Thanksgiving Day everyone!   Thank you for your continued support this year. I am grateful for your making this blog a part of your day. To our champions, I am here because you were there for me. I am grateful for your unending encouragement. Thank you all for making this year possible!

Below is a round-up of Thanksgiving Day celebrations around the Foreign Service. Giving thanks to the men and women representing America at our diplomatic missions around the world. They have in the past, served meals at community centers, served meals to local embassy and consulate staffers, hosted Peace Corps volunteers away from their homes, and more than a few have cooked/brought meals to Americans incarcerated overseas during the Thanksgiving holidays.  — D


US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

Ambassador Mark Gilbert and staff hosted the traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Downtown Community Ministry in Wellington.


US Consulate General Mumbai


US Embassy Madrid, Spain


US Embassy Panama, Panama


US Embassy Singapore

Ambassador Kirk Wagar with embassy staffers served dinner to more than a hundred elderly guests at the AWWA Senior Community Home in the city.


US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic


US Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia

American diplomats served typical Thanksgiving dishes to their media colleagues in Jakarta.


US Embassy Berlin, Germany

US Embassy Muscat, Oman

Screen Shot


US Embassy Ankara, Turkey

DCM and Mrs. Larry Mandel served the traditional Thanksgiving meal to embassy employees at the cafeteria in Ankara.


US Consulate General Istanbul, Turkey

Consul General Chuck Hunter and American colleagues cooked and served a Thanksgiving luncheon to the staff at the Consulate cafeteria in Istanbul.

U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

Ambassador Glyn T. Davies hosted 41 Peace Corps volunteers for Thanksgiving.  Bravo!




Related posts:

Ninety-Five Years Ago, We Tried to Export American Thanksgiving Day Around The World

Thanksgiving Day 2012: Foreign Service Roundup

Thanksgiving Day 2011: Foreign Service Roundup

Thanksgiving Roundup: Around the Foreign Service

@StateDept Issues Worldwide Travel Alert on Top of Worldwide Caution, Message Fatigue Next?

Posted: 2:03 am EDT


On November 23rd, the State Department issued a Worldwide Travel Alert:

Here is part of the Worldwide Caution it issued in July:

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. In August 2014, the United States and regional partners commenced military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. In response to the airstrikes, ISIL called on supporters to attack foreigners wherever they are. Authorities believe there is an increased likelihood of reprisal attacks against U.S., Western and coalition partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.

What’s the difference between a Worldwide Alert and Worldwide Caution?

Alerts are time-bound, true, usually 90 days or less, and expire automatically at the end of the prescribed period unless extended by the Department. Worldwide Caution is updated at least every six months.

The Fear Department is on it:

Here’s more:


The Worldwide Travel Alerts and Worldwide Caution are parts of the State Department’s Consular Information Program (CIP). Below from the FAM:

The CIP “is not mandated by statute, but several statutes are relevant to the Department’s performance of this function: Section 505 of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 requires the Secretary to notify Congress whenever the Department issues a Travel Warning because of a terrorist threat or other security concern (22 U.S.C. 2656e). Section 321(f) of the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990, Public Law 101-604 (49 U.S.C. 44905), prohibits the notification of a civil aviation threat to “only selective potential travelers unless such threat applies only to them.” See 7 FAM 052, No Double Standard Policy. See also 22 CFR 71.1, 22 U.S.C. 2671 (b)(2)(A), 22 U.S.C. 4802, and 22 U.S.C. 211a.”

Information provided is based on our best objective assessment of conditions in a given country, as reported by posts as well as other Department bureaus, media, and other foreign and U.S. government sources. The decision to issue a Travel Alert, Travel Warning, or a Security or Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens for an individual country is based on the overall assessment of the safety/security situation there. By necessity, this analysis must be undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations. Accordingly, posts must not allow extraneous concerns to color the decision of whether to issue information regarding safety or security conditions in a country, nor how that information is to be presented.

Who is responsible for the issuance of the travel information program?

Within the State Department, that would be the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele T. Bond who is responsible for supervising and managing the travel information program.  But the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services has primary day-to-day supervisory responsibility for the program. That’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Overseas Citizens Services Karen L. Christensen.

Within OCS, Michelle Bernier-Toth, the Managing Director in the Directorate of Overseas Citizens Services (CA/OCS) is responsible for the day-to-day management and issuance of travel information, including coordinating the preparation of all Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, Travel Warnings, Worldwide Cautions, Messages, and Fact Sheets before their release.

Here are a few things to know about the Travel Alerts:

  • If a threat evaluated as credible, specific, and non-counterable is aimed at a broad group (e.g., U.S. citizens/nationals and/or U.S. interests generally), the Department will authorize the relevant post(s) to issue a Message, and may also issue or update a Travel Alert, Travel Warning, or Worldwide Caution.
  • The Department issues Travel Alerts to disseminate information about short-term conditions, generally within a particular country, that pose imminent risks to the security of U.S. citizens/nationals. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations/violence, and high profile events such as an international conference or regional sports event are examples of conditions that might generate a Travel Alert.
  • Travel Alerts are issued for a specific period, usually 90 days or less, and expire automatically at the end of the prescribed period unless extended by the Department. If conditions warrant, the Department may cancel a Travel Alert before the end of the prescribed period via All Diplomatic and Consular Posts (ALDAC) cable and press release.

According to regs, CA/OCS reviews the Worldwide Caution continually and updates it at least every six months to ensure the most current general and regional safety and security information is shared with the U.S. citizen public.

The State Department admitted that it’s not offering a different advice from what it has been been saying for over 10 years in Worldwide Caution.  And folks have certainly wondered if the threats evaluated in this current Travel Alert are “credible, specific, and non-counterable” as directed by its rules book, or just one more CYA exercise; that is, if CA doesn’t issue a warning/alert and something happens, you already know where the fingers will be pointed, but …

The Worldwide Caution already cites the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. The Worldwide Alert says that “Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq.” That’s not a short-term condition. And yet, the alert is only good until February 24, 2016.  If the State Department issues an alert not based on credible and specific threats but simply on a belief that attacks could happen during a specific timeframe, how useful is that really?

The other concern, of course, is message fatigue. How long before folks stop taking this seriously?


Once More, @State Dept Strongly Recommends Against Travel to North Korea

Posted: 3:01 am EDT

The State Department has once more, issued a warning against travel to North Korea. Not sure this will dissuade folks intent on seeing the hermit kingdom.

The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK). This replaces the Travel Warning for North Korea of April 15, 2015, to reiterate and highlight the risk of arrest and long-term detention due to the DPRK’s inconsistent application of its criminal laws.

Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizens have been subject to arrest and long-term detention for actions that would not be cause for arrest in the United States or other countries.  North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally or intentionally crossed into DPRK territory without valid visas. The Department of State has received reports of DPRK authorities detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country.  North Korea has even detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours.  Do not assume that joining a group tour or using a tour guide will prevent North Korean authorities from detaining you or arresting you.  Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.

The Government of North Korea has detained, arrested, and imposed extremely heavy fines on persons who violated DPRK laws, such as entering the country illegally. Travelers to North Korea must enter the DPRK with a valid passport and valid DPRK visa.  Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and/or political activities (whether those activities took place inside or outside North Korea), unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population.

Read in full here.

There is no U.S. embassy or consulate in North Korea. In the case of a detention, arrest, or death of a U.S. citizen in North Korea, the United States can provide only limited consular services through our Protecting Power, the Embassy of Sweden.

Swedish Embassy  (U.S. Protecting Power in North Korea)
Munsu-Dong District
Pyongyang, DPRK
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 485 (reception)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 904, (850-2) 3817 907 (Deputy)
Telephone: (850-2) 3817 908, (850-2) 3817 905 (Ambassador)
Facsimile: (850-2) 3817 663


#BrusselsLockdown Response: Keep Calm and Tweet a Cat; Also No Consular Services on 11/23

Posted: 3:32 pm PDT


During an ongoing police operations in Belgium on Sunday, Brussels Police requested the public to observe radio silence on social media.  Crisis Center Belgium also asked the people to remain calm and to strictly follow all the instructions of the security forces.



The Belgians and Twitter responded by tweeting cat photos.  We recently lost our cat companion of 18 years, so don’t blame us too much if we get enamored with these cats.












Also on November 22, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels announced the closure of the Consular Section on Monday, November 23 as well as the continued elevated threat in the capital city and the rest of Belgium:

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels informs U.S. citizens that the current threat level remains at Level 4 (serious threat of imminent attack) for Brussels, and Level 3 (high) for the rest of the country.

All public schools in Brussels will be closed on Monday, November 23. The International School of Brussels, Brussels American School, and St. John’s International School will also be closed. For other schools please consult their administrations.

All Metro stations will be closed on Monday. Other public transportation options, like trams, are operating on a limited basis. Regional trains and airports are operating but authorities urge vigilance.

The Belgian government continues to caution citizens to avoid public places such as major pedestrian walkways and shopping centers. The Belgian government will again reassess the threat level on Monday. We will provide further information as available.

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section will be offering emergency services only. All scheduled appointments are cancelled. Information on rescheduling these appointments will be available on our website.

In this time of elevated threat, the U.S. Embassy in Brussels reminds U.S. citizens to exercise caution in public transportation systems, sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, shopping malls, and other tourist destinations. U.S. citizens are encouraged to monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.

Read in full here.





US Embassy Bamako Lifts Shelter in Place Advisory After Radisson Blu Hotel Attack in Mali

Posted: 2:40 pm EDT


The AP reports that armed men  stormed into the Radisson Blu Hotel in Mali’s capital Friday morning and seized 170 hostages.  The U.S. Embassy in Mali asked citizens to shelter in place amid reports of an “ongoing active shooter operation” at the hotel in Bamako.  Reports indicate that the hostages have been released but over two dozens people have reportedly been killed.

Mali Map from CIA World Fact Book

Mali Map from CIA World Fact Book

Just now, Embassy Bamako released the following update:

Malian authorities report the security incident at the Radisson Hotel has concluded.  The U.S. Embassy is lifting its recommendation for U.S. citizens to shelter in place.  However, the Embassy urges all U.S. citizens to minimize movement around Bamako and be vigilant of their surroundings.  Continue monitoring local media for updates and adhere to the instructions of local authorities.

Here’s what happened earlier:



Here’s some tricky part:


Snapshot: Ops Center, the State Department’s 911 Help Line

Posted: 3:09 am EDT


Below is a snapshot of the Ops Center extracted from State Mag:

In 1961, Ops started 24/7 operations as the Department’s communications and crisis management center. The Watch runs 3 shifts per day (24/7). It has 45 Watchstanders (34 Foreign Service, 11 Civil Service officers) CMS: 14 Person Team (5 FS, 9 CS officers). The Ops Center also includes a military advisor, two Diplomatic Security Watch liaison officers, a management officer, an innovation officer and a staff assistant.

On a typical day, officers facilitate communication between Department officers, posts overseas and interagency partners, track and alert Department officers and interagency partners on breaking developments, build four daily briefs for Seventh-floor leadership, distribute senior leaders’ briefing material in advance of high-level interagency meetings and manage and prepare posts for crises wherever they may occur.

Watch officers must be prepared to brief the Secretary, Department principals and other officials on current world events at a moment’s notice and do so succinctly and accurately. They also prepare written products for the Secretary and other Department principals, including breaking news alerts, daily overnight and afternoon briefs, and situation and spot reports on world events.
“It’s not surprising that when the fighting in Tripoli began in July 2014 and the embassy came under indirect fire, my first call was to the Ops Center,” said U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones, a former Watch officer and senior Watch officer. “We maintained an open line (literally) during our 19-hour trek across the desert, mountains and oases of western Libya into Tunis, until we arrived at the C-17 awaiting us at Gabès Air Force Base.”



Extracted file available as pdf to read/download here:



Why Are Court Cases Related to US Passports and Immigrant Visas in Yemen and Pakistan Sealed?

Posted: 2:51 am EDT


This past October, we blogged that the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the State Department to return the U.S. passport of Yemeni-American Mosed Shaye Omar which was revoked “based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013” (see Court orders @StateDept to return Yemeni-American’s improperly revoked U.S.passport).

While researching another court case, we discovered the Hasan v. State Department case. This is a case where the petitioner asked for judicial review of a US Embassy Yemen consular official’s decision of ineligibility for an immigrant visa on behalf of a minor child. Following the filing of this case and the closure of the US Embassy in Sanaa, the US Embassy in Cairo apparently became the post designated to handle visa applications from Yemen. US Embassy Cairo reviewed the prior ineligibility, reversed US Embassy Sana’a’s decision and issued the immigrant visa. The parties subsequently agreed to dismissed this case with prejudice at no cost to Mr. Hasan or the State Department.  Except for the court ruling stipulating the dismissal of the case, all other files related to this case are sealed in court.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 10.23.28 PM

1:15-cv-04312-GHW | Hasan v. U.S. Department of State et al.

A closer look at other cases filed in the New York District Court indicates several other court cases against the State Department, US Embassy Yemen, US Embassy Pakistan, Ambassador Matthew Tueller, Ambassador Richard Olson and related federal agencies have also been sealed.

We suspect that these are cases related either to U.S. passport revocations, non-issuance of U.S. passports or immigrant visas in Yemen and Pakistan.

Following the federal court decision ordering the State Department to return the passport improperly revoked by the State Department, we asked State/OIG about this trend and we’re told that the OIG does not have “anything on this issue on which it can comment.” It was suggested that we check with Consular Affairs. And of course, we have previously asked CA about this, but we do not really expect them to address this in terms of oversight.

The court documents in the Omar case suggest that Consular Affairs is revoking U.S. passports contrary to the rules in the Foreign Affairs Manual. But this is not the only case. If all similar cases have the same threshold as the Omar case, it is deeply troubling not only because the revocation appears not to follow State Department’s written guidance, State also never seek to denaturalized the plaintiff.  Which basically leaves the plaintiff still a citizen of this country  but unable to travel anywhere.

Which brings us to the question as to why these court files are sealed in court. It is possible that these cases all relate to minor children, could that be the reason for sealing the court records? Or is it something else?

Below are some of the cases we’ve located; all sealed unless noted otherwise:

1:15-cv-06425-NGG  | Abdu v. U.S. Department of State et al — filed on 11/10/2015. Defendants include Secretary Kerry  and US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller.

1:15-cv-05684-FB | Alzonkary et al v. Holder et al — filed on 10/02/2015. Defendants include Secretary Kerry, US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller and CA’s Michelle Bond.

1:15-cv-05587-JG | Mansour Fadhil et al (on behalf of minor children). Defendants include Secretary Kerry.

1:15-cv-06436-FM | Al Zokary v. United States Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller

1:15-cv-04312-GHW  | Hasan v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller. The case was dismissed in August 2015 with a stipulation that it be dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees to either party. All files except the Stipulation are sealed.

1:15-cv-01767-ILG  | Hasan et al v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson.

1:14-cv-07093-PAC | Issa et al v. Holder et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller.

1:14-cv-02584-ER | Alsaidi v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and Karen H. Sasahara in her official capacity as charge d’affaires ad interime of the U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.  The case was dismissed in 2014 with a stipulation that it be dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees to either party. All files remained sealed.

1:13-cv-06872-PKC  | Mohammad et al v. Beers et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry. The case was voluntarily dismissed in July 2014, all files remained sealed.

2:13-cv-04178-ADS  | Arif et al v. Kerry et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and Embassy Islamabad’s Ambassador Olson. The case was dismissed with prejudice in September 2013, with each party bearing its own costs, fees, including attorney’s fees, and disbursements. The files remained sealed.

One passport case from November 2013, 1:13-cv-08299-AJP Kassim v. Kerry is not sealed.  The case was dismissed in March 2014 with a court order for issuance of U.S. passport to plaintiff. “Within 30 days of the entry of this order, Plaintiff will submit to the Department of State a new un-executed but signed passport application (Form DS-11) with passport photos and a copy of the front and back of a valid government identification card. The Department of State will issue Plaintiff a U.S. passport book and a U.S. passport card within 30 days of receipt of Plaintiffs passport application and supporting documentation (described above in subsection 2(a)). This action is hereby withdrawn and dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees.”

One immigrant visa case from 2014, 1:14-cv-03748-KAM | Chaudhry et al v. Holder et al. is also not sealed. The defendants include Secretary Kerry and Embassy Islamabad’s Ambassador Olson. The case was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice in light of the State Department granting of an immigrant visa to Plaintiff.


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