Category Archives: Career Employees

State Dept Employee Shot to Death in His Car in Miami

– Domani Spero

Via Local10.com

Local news in Miami is reporting the death over the weekend of Deron Swain, a State Department employee assigned at the Miami Passport Office.  No one besides Local10 is reporting the death at this time.  Miami PD has yet to release a statement.

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Stephanie Kinney: Wither the Foreign Service? — Wham! Read Before You Go-Go

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– Domani Spero

On its home page, the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training shares a funny ha!ha! joke that the Foreign Service has undergone major reforms and tinkering over the past century so much that people often say that if you didn’t like the current system, just wait a few years and it would change.  One of the fascinating periods of change at the State Department occurred during the tenure of William Crocket, the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Administration from 1963-1967. He  was responsible for bringing Chris Argyris to write a report on the Foreign Service, now only available to read at the State Department library (anyone has a digital copy?).  He did T-groups, organizational development and such.  When Mr. Crockett retired in 1967 many of the programs he started were barely alive or already buried and forgotten.  He was never credited for some that still lives on.  He felt he was an outcast from the Foreign Service and left a disillusioned man. He tried to change the service, and it wasn’t quite ready for him (see pdf of oral history).

We recently just read ADST’s oral history interview with Stephanie Kinney.  We have previously quoted her in this blog in 2009 and are familiar with her ideas for change.  Ms. Kinney is a former Senior Foreign Service Officer, one of the first “tandem couples” (i.e., both are FSOs), and winner of the Department of State’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Harriman Award for her leadership role in creating the Department’s Family Liaison Office (FLO). She was interviewed by Charles Stuart Kennedy in 2010 for ADST.

Below is an excerpt from her 2010 interview.  Check out her full oral history interview here.

[T]he problem at the State Department, I believe, is its lack of institutional leadership and its lack of a single, unified and vibrant corporate cultures. Its culture is still fundamentally 20th century and divided between Foreign Service and Civil Service and the growing overlay of short-term, Schedule C [political appointees] leadership. There are people, pockets of people, working to change that, but it is an uphill battle.
[...]
The drafters of the 1980 Act did not believe in a generalist Foreign Service officer corps. Bill Backus and I argued about “generalists” versus “specialists” ad nauseam; he wanted to create a Foreign Service more like the Civil Service, of which he was a part. He and the other drafters wanted to tie the Foreign Service to the Civil Service and create an equivalency that has never existed because the two personnel systems and cultures are so different. They also created something called LCEs, Limited Career Extensions, which seriously corrupted the Senior Foreign Service through their abuse, and then created an infamous senior surplus, the cost of which was the gutting of a generation of largely 01, political officers in the mid 1990’s. [Note: An FS-01 is equivalent to a GS-15 and is the level before entering the Senior Foreign Service.]

So today what do we have at the State Department? The vast majority of our FSOs have less than five years experience. You have officers expecting to be promoted to 01 who have done only their obligatory consular tour, maybe a tour in their cone, and one or two others.

Another pattern is that many entry level officers now have to do two consular tours, then return to the Department for a desk job and then go to Iraq or Afghanistan, where they do ops with the military. They have never done the first lick of what you would call mainstream diplomacy. One wonders what the impact of this will be on the system?

Now this is not to say that what they have been doing is not a kind of diplomacy; it is and it is utterly essential to the 21st century. But their experience to date is not a kind of work that has prepared them to come back into the civilized world and maintain proper relations and perform with long standing successful states and cultures. These more established states—be they developed or “emerging” like the BRICs [Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, and China], all value tradition and diplomatic savoir faire more than we, and they far outstrip the value and importance of either Iraq or Afghanistan.
[...]
The people to whom you have referred as the high flying “staffers,” have taken no interest in their own institution, which is the base of their power and their work. It is the nature of a profession that it is involved in its own institutions. Otherwise, it is not a profession.

I could not sustain the assertion today that diplomacy is a profession at the Department of State. I think it can be. I think it should be. I am working to move it in that direction, but there is no evidence that the current culture and conditions and leadership are encouraging and helping the younger generation assume the responsibilities and take the measures needed to improve the situation….

But minus strong leadership that seeks to instill common ethics and standards and professional pride, there seems to be growing concern that what we are getting is a group of people for whom little matters beyond one’s own interests. If the Foreign Service culture is all about stepping on someone else to get to the next rung, it is not going to work. You are going to hang separately, because, in my view, that is how it has gotten us where we are.
[...]
When I came to State, there was no such thing as a Schedule C Assistant Secretary. Jimmy Carter took eight FSOs—well they were almost all FSOs under the age of 38 who had resigned over Vietnam, such as Dick Holbrook and Tony Lake—and he made them Assistant Secretaries. They were known as the Baby Eight. So when Ronald Reagan came in he said, “Oh, I will pocket those eight, and I also want a DAS in every bureau,” and so the Deputy Assistant Secretaries became politicized. Today it goes down to the Office Director level. (Note: see this graphic – pdf)
[...]
The politicization, along with Secretaries of State who also have no sense of responsibility for or interest in the Department as an institution, continues to sap the  institution of vitality. That in my view is one of the primary reasons that the institution has fallen on such hard times.

What’s remarkable is that Mr. Crockett in his oral history interview (pdf) conducted in 1990 said practically the  same thing:

“The absence of Secretarial interest in the operations of the Department and many of its functions is often pointed out as one of State’s major deficiencies. Most Secretaries, when faced with the choice of being part of the policy development process or managers of a Cabinet Department, opt for the first to the detriment, I believe, of the second. I am sure it is far more attractive to run around the world like Shultz did–involved in diplomatic activities–that staying at home managing a fairly large organization–certainly a complex one. State is unique among Cabinet Departments in that regard because a Secretary can get by without paying much attention to the management of his Department.”

What’s that they say about change — the more things change, the more they stay the same?

In related news, Secretary Kerry is on travel, this time to Seoul, Beijing, Jakarta, and Abu Dhabi, from February 13-18, 2014. On his first year as Secretary of State, he was on travel 152 days, to 39 countries, travelling 327,124 miles.  If he keep at this, he will break Secretary Clinton’s travel record.  He may also go down in the history books as the Secretary of State who was almost never home.

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Filed under Assistant Secretary, Career Employees, Foreign Service, FSOs, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Org Culture, Political Appointees, Realities of the FS, Reform, Staffing the FS, State Department

Kerry Swears-in Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary for Management, Good News for State/OIG — Wait, What?

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– Domani Spero

On January 30, 2014, Secretary Kerry sworn-in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. Ms. Higginbottom is the third appointee to this position. She was preceded by Jack Lew , now Treasury Secretary and Tom Nides  who is now back at Morgan Stanley.

Secretary Kerry Swears in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Heather Higginbottom as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Secretary Kerry Swears in Heather Higginbottom as Deputy Secretary of State
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry swears in Heather Higginbottom as the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Ssecretary Kerry made some remarks at her swearing-in ceremony (excerpt below):

Heather now is the first woman to hold the title of Deputy Secretary of State.  (Applause.)  That’s a statement in and of itself, as you have all just recognized, and it’s important.  But I want you to know that no one ever said to me about this job, “I’m so glad you found a woman.”  They have said to me, “I’m really glad you gave this job to Heather,” or “Heather is the right person for this job.”  And we are here because – I know many of you have worked with Heather either in her role on Capitol Hill or over at OMB.  Some of you worked on the campaign trail with her in 2004 and 2008, where she served in 2008 as President Obama’s Policy Director.  Many of you worked with her in the White House where she was serving as the Deputy Director for the Domestic Policy Council and then Deputy Director of OMB.

Ms. Higginbottom gave her own remarks (excerpt):

For me, balancing our presence in Asia, to making peace in Syria, to rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, to embracing our friends in this hemisphere, to the many crises we cannot begin to predict, the people at the State Department and USAID will confront tremendous challenges and opportunities in 2014 and beyond.  In this role, I’ll share in the global responsibility for U.S. foreign policy, but I’ll also seek to drive institutional reforms.
[...]
A top priority for my team will be working to ensure our posts and people are safe and secure.  We need our diplomats fully engaged wherever our vital national interests are at stake, and that means we must constantly improve the way we protect our people and our posts.  I’ll also work to ensure that we use taxpayer resources wisely and efficiently.  As you all know, America’s investment in diplomacy and development is critical to our global leadership, to our national security, and to our nation’s prosperity.  It’s one of the very best investments we can make for our country and it’s the right thing to do.

But we must do everything we can to increase the return on that investment.  That’s why I’ll focus on management reform and innovation.

Excellent!  There’s a small matter that folks might want to bring up to the new D/MR’s attention in terms of reform — a recent change on the Foreign Affairs Manual concerning State/OIG, updated just weeks after the nominee for OIG was announced:

1 FAM 053.2-2 Under Secretary for Management (M)
(CT:ORG-312; 07-17-2013)
The Under Secretary for Management (M) is the Secretary’s designated top management official responsible for audit and inspection follow-up and the Secretary’s designee for impasse resolution when Department officials do not agree with OIG recommendations for corrective action. See 1 FAM 056. 1, Impasse paragraph.

Look at this nice org chart for the DOD IG:

via DODIG.mil

via DODIG.mil

It’s not like the State Department does not have a Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, right?  And because we can’t keep this straight in our head, we have to wonder out loud, how is this delegated authority going to work if the IG had to review “M” and half the building that reports to “M”?  We asked, and we got an official response from State/OIG:

“Per the IG Act of 1978, as amended, and the FAM (1 FAM 052.1  Inspector General – (CT:ORG-312;   07-17-2013), the IG reports directly to the Secretary and Congress.  IG Steve Linick has access to the Secretary and meets regularly with the Deputy Secretaries and other high officials, as needed.”

Okay, but the State Department is the only federal Cabinet-level agency with two co-equal Deputy Secretaries. And yet, “M”, the office with the most number of boxes in the org chart among the under secretaries is the Secretary of State’s designated top management official responsible for OIG audit and inspection?

Let’s see how this works.

In late January, State/OIG posted its  Compliance Follow-up Audit of the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs’ Administration and Oversight of Funds Dedicated to Address Global Climate Change (AUD-ACF-14-16):

In 2012, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of OES’ administration and oversight of funds dedicated to address global climate change to be responsive to global developments and the priorities of the Department.

In March 2013, OIG closed eight of these recommendations (Nos. 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, and 15) after verifying evidence that OES had provided showing that final corrective actions had been completed. At that time, OIG considered the remaining 10 recommendations resolved, pending final action.

Following initial discussions with OES and A/OPE officials on the status of the open recommendations from AUD/CG-12-40, OIG expanded its original scope to include an assessment of the Department’s actions on all open recommendations from the report.

Consequently, OIG incorporated the intent of AUD/CG-12-40 Recommendation 18 into a new recommendation (No. 9) to the Under Secretary for Management (M) to assign authority and responsibility for the oversight, review, and approval of nonacquisition interagency agreements that will ensure compliance with applicable Federal regulations and Department policies governing them.

As of December 31, 2013, neither A/OPE nor M had responded to the IG’s draft report.

Well, okay there you go, and what happens then?

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According to history.state.gov, in 1957 the Department of State elevated the position of Chief of the Foreign Service Inspection Corps to that of Inspector General of the Foreign Service. Between 1957 and 1980, the Secretary of State designated incumbents, who held rank equivalent to an Assistant Secretary of State. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 (Oct 17, 1980; P.L. 96-465; 94 Stat. 2080) made the Inspector General a Presidential appointee, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, and changed the title to “Inspector General of the Department of State and the Foreign Service.”The two most recent OIG for State are  Clark Kent Ervin (2001-2003) and Howard J. Krongard (2005-2008). State did not have a Senate-confirmed OIG from 2009 to much of 2013.

We understand that during the Powell tenure at State, OIG reported to Secretary Powell through Deputy Secretary Armitage. We could not confirm this but it makes sense to us that the inspector general reports above the under secretary level. It demonstrates the importance the Secretary of State place on accountability — the IG reports directly to him through his Management and  Resources deputy; the only D/MR in the whole wide world.  What’s not to like about that?

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State Dept’s Employee Discrimination and Reprisal Statistics May Boggle Your Mind, Or Not

– Domani Spero

On May 15, 2002, then-President Bush signed into law the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act to increase federal agency accountability for acts of discrimination or reprisal against employees. This act requires that federal agencies post on their public Web sites certain summary statistical data relating to equal employment opportunity complaints filed against the respective agencies.  This data is updated quarterly.  The report ending on September 30, 2013 is posted below. This data is maintained and published by State/OCR and originally posted at state.gov here.

We should note that the Secretary of State has delegated both tasks of advancing diversity within the Department and ensuring equal opportunity to all employees to the Director of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), an office headed by   John M. Robinson since March 3, 2008.

The total final finding of discrimination from 2008 to-date at the State Department has been one case of reprisal in 2011 out of 133 complaints, one case on race in 2012 out of 133 complaints and one case based on sex discrimination out of 152 complaints in the current year. Three cases of discrimination in favor of the complainant (two with a hearing and one without a hearing) in the last six years?  Single digit finding for the plaintiffs is not unheard of, is it?

If you are an employee with a possible EEO case, this FY2013 statistics is not hopeful.

Number of complaints: 152

Top five (complaints by basis):
reprisal (75), race (50), sex (40), disability (40)
age (36), national origin (21)

Top five (complaints by issue):
harassment/non-sexual  (55)
evaluation/appraisal (25)
promotion/non-selection (21)
disciplinary action (20)
assignment of duties (19)

Total Final Agency Action Finding Discrimination: 1

The average number of days in investigation is 276.89 days, the average number of days in final action is 259.14. When hearing was not requested, the average number of days in final action is 319.50 days.  Take a look.

The State Department has 13,787 Foreign Service employees and 10,787 Civil Service employees working domestic and 275 overseas missions as of March 2013. The S/OCR data does not include a breakdown of cases by employee type.

Also we were curious how other agencies handle this No Fear Act statistical requirement.  We found the Department of Treasury quite more elaborate in its reporting than the State Department. For instance, in FY2012, Treasury closed 61 EEO complaints with monetary corrective actions, totaling $792,477 in back pay/front pay, lump sum payments, compensatory damages, or attorney’s fees and costs.  The monetary component in the State Department’s  report is not even discussed.  At one point we were following the litigation between  FSO Virginia Loo Farris and the State Department (See  Farris v. Clinton: Race/Gender Discrimination Case Going to Trial).  On March 12, 2009,  United States District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina granted the defendant’s (Clinton/State Department) renewed motion for summary judgment with respect to Virginia Loo Farris’ retaliation claims but denies it with respect to the her discrimination claims. In October 2010, the case was dismissed after a settlement was reached between Ms. Farris and the State Department. Details of the settlement were not released.

Anyway, check out the FY2012 report from the Treasury Department here, the year-end data for the five previous fiscal years for comparison purposes actually are quite informative and includes real numbers besides zeros and ones.  It also includes the number of judgement for plaintiff (2), number of  employees disciplined for discrimination, retaliation, harassment, or any other infraction under the cited law (33), analysis of the complaints, data on counseling and alternative dispute resolution. The State Department’s No Fear Act report is absolutely bare bones, although it’s not alone in doing so.

If State/OCR has submitted a separate report to Congress detailing more fully its handling of EEO complaints in the State Department, including monetary corrective actions, we would like to see that information available to the public.

 

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Related posts:

Snapshot: State Department’s Permanent Workforce Demographics

Snapshot: State Dept Discrimination and Reprisal Complaints FY2008-FY2013

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State/OIG Is Hiring! One Senior Investigative Counsel Wanted for Complex/Sensitive Allegations

– By Domani Spero

In early October, State IG Steve Linick was joined at the Inspector General Office by two former officials from FHFA-OIG; the office also had a partial make over of its top ranks.   See New Faces, Old Faces — State Dept’s Office of Inspector General Gets a Make-Over.  Now State/OIG has announced job openings for three other positions.

Criminal Investigator
OIG-2014-0008
GS-1811-12/13
Closes: November 24, 2013

Attorney Adviser- General (Senior Investigative Counsel)
OIG-2014-0006
GS-0905-15
Closes: December 11, 2013

Director (Congressional and Public Affairs)
OIG-2014-0007
GS-0301-15
Closes: December 12, 2013

Well, what are you waiting for?  Active links added for those interested in applying for those jobs.

The Attorney Adviser position caught our eyes.  According to usajobs.gov, this position is specifically responsible for the following (not full list, see job announcement here):

  • Receiving and reviewing allegations of misconduct involving senior DOS/BBG employees that may involve violations of law, DOS/BBG regulations, or applicable standards of conduct;
  • Undertaking investigations to pursue such allegations either alone or as part of an OIG team. Drafts public and non-public reports of investigative findings or conclusions;
  • Identifying significant violations of policies or procedures that become evident in the course of investigations, evaluations, and other special projects, and submitting recommendations for corrective action;
  • Personally handling matters assigned by the IG/DIG that involve sensitive, highly visible issues;

The job is a full-time permanent  GS-15 position with a salary range of $123,758.00 to $155,500.00/per annum.

In any case, we got curious about this so we asked the IG office, and here is what we’re told:

“While the Director, Congressional & Public Affairs is an established position that has recently become vacant, the Investigative Counsel is a new position for the State OIG. The IG envisions hiring an individual with legal and/or prosecutorial experience to enhance OIG’s ability to pursue civil and criminal penalties and to investigate complex and sensitive allegations of employee misconduct.

In addition, this individual would be assigned to conduct special reviews and projects for the OIG.  This approach has been used successfully at the Department of Justice OIG, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), and the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General.”

They do have complex and sensitive allegations to tackle over there.

Remember this past summer when there was a big kaboom in Foggy Bottom ? (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal.  The Cable’s John Hudson had an exclusive with Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence.  Some real serious allegations were made about cases that were reportedly ”influenced, manipulated, or simply called off” in the State Department.  State/OIG released a statement to CBS News here.

There were eight cases alleged in that memo.  None of those cases appeared on the OIG’s semi-annual report to Congress.  We’re still waiting for the results of the investigation.

State/OIG told us that “the eight cases to which you referred continue to be under review.”

A separate case involving allegations about the U.S. Consulate General in Naples did make it to the OIG semi-annual report ending March 31, 2013:

“On November 2, 2012, OIG received a request from Senator Rand Paul to investigate allegations of staff misconduct at the U.S. Consulate General in Naples, Italy. In its response, OIG noted that the complaints were referred to the appropriate offices in the Department and that the complainants were provided contact information for the offices to which the complaints were referred.”

State/OIG explained that the way its Office of Investigations (INV) works is that all incoming complaints and/or allegations are processed through the Hotline.  OIG INV then “assesses each incoming complaint and/or allegation individually to determine the most appropriate course of action based on the facts of the matter.”  This Naples case was referred out of the IG and is reportedly ongoing in the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights.   We have to say that this is a case that already got ugly but can get a whole lot uglier.

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Malian National Alhassane Ould Mohamed Indicted for 2000 Murder/Attempted Murder of US Embassy Niger Staffers

–By Domani Spero

On September 18, the USDOJ announced the indictment of Malian national, Alhassane Ould Mohamed for the alleged murder/attempted murder of U.S. Embassy Niamey’s personnel in Niger back in 2000. The individual allegedly killed DOD’s William Bultemeier, the Defense Attache System Operations Coordinator and wounded Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for U.S. Embassy Niger at the time.  Mr. Bultemeier was killed on the day he was scheduled to return to the United States.

Screen Shot 2013-09-21

(click on image for larger view)

Via USDOJ:

Malian National Indicted In Brooklyn Federal Court For Murder Of U.S. Diplomat | September 18, 2013

An indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging Alhassane Ould Mohamed, also known as “Cheibani,” a Malian citizen, with the murder and attempted murder of United States Embassy personnel stationed in Niamey, Niger in December 2000.   In addition, a reward of $20,000 was announced for information that leads to the defendant’s capture.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office; Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; and Greg Starr, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State.

According to the indictment, in the early morning hours of December 23, 2000, the defendant and a co-conspirator accosted a group of employees of the United States Embassy in Niger as they left a restaurant in Niamey, Niger.  Carrying a pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle, the two men approached Department of Defense official William Bultemeier as he was about to enter his car, a white sport-utility vehicle bearing diplomatic license plates clearly indicating that it belonged to the United States Embassy.  The defendant demanded that Mr. Bultemeier turn over the keys to the diplomatic vehicle and used the pistol to shoot Mr. Bultemeier.  Staff Sergeant Christopher McNeely, the Marine Detachment Commander for the United States Embassy in Niger at the time, ran to Mr. Bultemeier’s aid.  The defendant’s co-conspirator then fired his AK-47 at Mr. Bultemeier and Staff Sergeant McNeely, hitting them both.  After rifling through Mr. Bultemeier’s pockets to get the car keys, the defendant and his fellow assailant drove away in the United States Embassy vehicle.

Mr. Bultemeier died of the injuries inflicted by the gunshot wounds.  Staff Sergeant McNeely survived the shooting, and later retired from the Marine Corps as a Master Sergeant.

On September 13, 2013, a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York returned a sealed indictment charging the defendant with one count of murdering an internationally protected person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1116(a), and one count of attempting to murder an internationally protected person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1116(a).  The indictment was unsealed earlier today.

“U.S. diplomat William Bultemeier lost his life while representing his country overseas, and U.S. Marine Christopher McNeely was gravely wounded trying to protect him, all during the brazen armed carjacking allegedly perpetrated by the defendant and his confederate.  The sacrifice of Mr. Bultemeier and the courage of Staff Sergeant McNeely in service to their country will not be forgotten.  The United States will work ceaselessly to bring those who harm our diplomats and military personnel to justice,” stated United States Attorney Lynch.  Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the governments of Niger, Mali and Algeria for their substantial assistance and cooperation in connection with this investigation.  The FBI and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security are currently coordinating with foreign partners to apprehend the defendant.

“As alleged in the indictment, Mr. Bultemeier was representing the United States Government in Niger when he was callously murdered by the defendant.  U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant McNeely, who courageously attempted to come to Mr. Bultemeier’s aid, was seriously injured in the ambush.  An attack on U.S. Government personnel, whether domestically or abroad, is an attack on the United States. The perpetrator of these crimes should always be looking over his shoulders; it is only a matter of time before he is apprehended.  The FBI will continue working with its partners overseas to ensure that the defendant is captured and brought to justice,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos.

Lieutenant General Flynn expressed his deep gratitude for the long and dedicated service of the FBI, Department of Justice, and Department of State personnel involved in the effort to bring Mr. Bultemeier’s alleged murderers to justice.

“The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has been working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to locate, pursue, and apprehend Mohamed since his prison escape.  With agents in more than 270 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world, Diplomatic Security is uniquely positioned for this effort,” stated Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Starr.

The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Zainab Ahmad, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jennifer Levy of the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section and Trial Attorney Dan Stigall of the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The Defendant: ALHASSANE OULD MOHAMED | Age: 42

According to stripes.com Mohamed was arrested in Mali two days after the killing, citing U.S. authorities. He remained in custody there until he escaped in 2002.  In late 2009, Mohamed was arrested again in Mali in the killings of four Saudi Arabian nationals in northern Niger. He was sent back to Niger where he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to 20 years behind bars. He escaped from prison a second time in June.

Related items:

Unseald Indictiment Alhassane Mohamed 
Photograph of Victim-William Bultemeier 
DOJ/FBI Wanted Poster

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Filed under Americans Abroad, Career Employees, Defense Department, Diplomatic Attacks, Realities of the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

US Embassy Bogota: DEA Special Agent James “Terry” Watson Killed in Colombia

—By Domani Spero
On June 21, DEA announced the death of Special Agent James “Terry” Watson, who was murdered in “what appears to have been a robbery attempt” Thursday night in Bogota, Colombia. At the time of his death, Special Agent Watson was assigned to the DEA Cartagena, Colombia office and was on temporary duty in Bogota.

“We are all saddened by this devastating loss of a member of the DEA family,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Terry was a brave and talented DEA Special Agent who served our agency for 13 years. These are the worst days for anyone in law enforcement and we grieve Terry’s loss.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Terry’s wife and family, and we will forever carry his memory in our hearts.”

According to the DEA, Special Agent Watson had served in Honolulu, Hawaii and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Prior to his assignment in Bogota, he also served on three deployments to Afghanistan conducting dangerous counter-narcotics missions as a member of DEA’s FAST program.  Special Agent Watson previously worked for the U.S. Marshals Service and served in the United States Army.

NBC News reports that the U.S Ambassador to Colombia Peter Michael McKinley told Caracol Radio that this appeared to be a run-of-the-mill robbery gone wrong and it did not appear that the agent was targeted.  Special Agent Watson reportedly had been watching the NBA finals with friends in the city’s fashionable Parque de la 93 district and had jumped into a taxi after the game.

Local media described this incident as a “paseo millonario,” a term for an express kidnapping. Although the OSAC Crime and Security report did not use this term, it details this crime as follows:

A common trend in cases of taxi-related crime is when the victim has been riding alone and has hailed a taxi on the street. Usually, the taxi driver will stop abruptly to allow a counterpart to enter the vehicle. The two individuals will then rob the passenger and in some cases bring the passenger to as many ATMs as possible.

The latest Crime and Security report says that Bogotá is rated “High” for terrorism, residential crime, non-residential crime, and political violence.  Post is rated 20% for cost of living, 5% for hardship and 15% for danger.

According to the embassy’s security office, the most prevalent threat to Americans on a daily basis is street crime. The most common types of crime include, but are not limited to, muggings, assaults, general thefts, credit card fraud, and burglaries. Criminals are quick to resort to physical assault and commonly use knives and firearms in the commission of crimes.

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London Civil Service Excursion Tour Opens — Oh Wait, It’s Gone, Then It’s Back, Ah Forgetaboutit?

—By Domani Spero

As you may or may not know, Civil Service employees sometimes get opportunities to apply for hard-to-fill posts overseas.  These are called “excursion tours.”  These are positions overseas that do not get many Foreign Service bidders and are then opened to CS employees. Careers.state.gov calls these tours “invaluable as a way to experience the ups and downs of Foreign Service life.”

Generally, these are positions in hardship and danger posts or hard-to-fill posts.

We understand that an excursion tour “mysteriously opened” early this year for an assignment that starts this summer in London.  The position is not language designated. And the estimated arrival time in London is early July 2013.

There’s a reason why this is a mystery. London is not/not a danger post.  Despite Buzzfeed’s 31 Most Enraging Things About Living In London, the city is not/not a hardship post.  It is a mighty expensive place though. In fact, the State Department grants a 70% cost of living allowance (COLA) for employees living there.

Photo via diplomacy.state.gov

Photo via diplomacy.state.gov

Which begs the question, how come the EUR bureau and the US Embassy in London is unable to fill this position with an FSO?

Lack of FSO bidders.  For London. Go ahead and digest that thought.

Now, we heard that a zillion Civil Service officers jumped at the opportunity to go to London.  Understandable. And who can blame them?  Some folks “poured their hearts and soul” into applying for this job.

And just as mysteriously as it appeared, the job was pulled down. The job was later re-reposted as a different job announcement requiring submission of new applications. Apparently, some of those who were interviewed and made the cut following the first announcement did not make the cut in the second announcement.

La-la-dee-da ….sounds fiiiishhhhy!!!

We’ve been able to dig up the original and reposted job announcements and compare them (via http://www.textdiff.com).  Note:  The  strikethru below indicates deleted text that was in the original announcement no longer present in the reposted announcement  (original announcement dated January 16, 2013 with closing date of January 30, 2013).  The highlighted underlined text below indicates additional text that is new in the reposted announcement (reposted announcement dated February 26, 2013 with closing date of March 4, 2013).  The purported reason for the reposting was that “a portion of the announcement” was “dropped off” when this position was originally posted online.

OverseasREPOSTING Overseas Civil Service Development Program FOREIGN AFFAIRS OFFICER LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (GS-0130 – 14)
REPOSTING
Overseas Civil Service Development Program
FOREIGN AFFAIRS OFFICER
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
(GS-0130
 – 14)

The Director General is pleasedDue to announce that applications are nowa portion of the announcement beingaccepted fordropped off when this position was originally posted to USAJOBS, the following two-year position is being re-advertised. NOTE: You will need to reapply if you had applied when the position was initially announced. This will be a two-year assignment under the Overseas Development Program (ODP):

Position: Foreign Affairs Officer GS-0130-14

Location: Washington DC (overseas duty location: London, United Kingdom)

USA Jobs Vacancy Announcement # HRSC/ODP-2013-0004HRSC/ODP-2013-0007
Announcement closes on January 30,March 4, 2013

Program Summary: This position is a part of the Overseas Development Program (ODP) located in the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Career Development and Assignments, Mid-Level Division, Office of Overseas Civil Service Assignments.

The purpose of the ODP is to expand Civil Service Deployment opportunities. Selectees will participate in an informational program and any job related training. Once program requirements are met, the selectees will be placed on a limited Foreign Service non-career appointment (LNA) for a two-year overseas assignment. Upon completion of the overseas assignment at London, the selectee will be reassigned or detailed to a position in the Department unless they have chosen to apply for and been selected for a second overseas ODP assignment.

Job Summary:

Serves as a Political Officer responsible for a broad set of political-military issues, including the United States (US) – United Kingdom (UK) coordination on bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation issues. Serves as a part of a 5-member political/military team, which reports on bilateral US-UK political-military cooperation and matters related to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union’s (EU) European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), and other relevant multilateral fora. Serves as the Political Section’s lead action officer for coordinating US-UK and interagency Embassy approaches to top 21st century security challenges, including cyber security, civilian-military cooperation and stabilization activities, and non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament efforts. Leads Section support for the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues (S/CCI), the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), and the family bureaus that support the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security. This position is not language designated. Estimated time of arrival at post is early July 2013.

Eligibility: In order to be eligible for consideration for the ODP, an applicant must:

- Be a current Civil Service career employee of the Department of State with at least 3 years of service in a permanent Department position;

- Or a career Civil Service Department of State Employee serving on a FS LNA with a tenure code of 7 with no more than three months remaining on their present LNA.

- Have completed all probationary periods;

- Not be serving in another long-term development program;

- Be able to obtain the appropriate medical and security clearance for the post of assignment prior to receiving travel authorization;

- Sign a Mobility Agreement and a Continued Service Agreement; and

- Cannot serve beyond the mandatory 65 year old Foreign Service retirement age.

How to apply for consideration: All interested applicants should apply for consideration through USAJOBS at the vacancy announcement noted above. You can link to USAJOBS from the CS Abroad communities site under the Overseas Opportunities tab: http://cas.state.gov/csoverseas/

Please ensure all proper documentation is submitted in accordance with the vacancy announcement (e.g., performance appraisal, SF-50 indicating tenure, grade, step, salary, etc,).

Note: Education may only be substituted in accordance with the Office of Personnel Management (OM) Qualification Standards Handbook. Education must be accredited by an accrediting institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Please be advised that applicants that do not provide the proper documentation in accordance with the vacancy announcement will be determined to be disqualified.

NOTE: If your present grade is higher than the GS-14 level and you apply and are selected for this position, you will have to sign a Notice of Change to Lower Grade memo as the position is classified at the GS-14.

How is it possible that an FSO job in London does not have any bidders that post had to turn it into an excursion tour?

As an aside, do you know that US Embassy Port-Au-Spain in Haiti had 108 bidders for one RSO position? Seriously.

An FSO is a generalist and the RSO is a specialist but both are in the FS system.   If this specific London position were located in NEA , SCA or AF, we could understand it, but this one is tricky. After all, London is London. It is not/not a hard-to-fill post.

London in fact, according to the IG is considered a popular bid for officers completing duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, and it is not uncommon for the short list of qualified bidders for the highly sought London vacancies to contain only officers rotating out of these two countries.  On linked onward assignments, the OIG notes that the “gradual accretion of tied assignments in London’s staffing pattern has had the unintended impact of putting many positions in London out of reach for virtually all bidders, regardless of how qualified, except for returnees.”

So –

Just between us, was this GS-14 job (FS-02 equivalent) in London created for somebody in particular?  If it was, then clearly it had to be for somebody who is in the Civil Service or a CS on a Limited Non-Career Appointment (LNA). Is this for somebody already in London who does not want to leave?  And pray tell, who is the main official who engineered the creation of this job?

The  stated reason for the reposting of this job (something “dropped off”) is crap.  If the job requires a CS with at least 3 years experience, why mention the probationary period?  It looks like there’s one “dropped” item when comparing the two job announcement.  It’s the line that says “You can link to USAJOBS from the CS Abroad communities site under the Overseas Opportunities tab: http://cas.state.gov/csoverseas/.”  Curious thing, that “dropped off” item is in the middle of the announcement and did not occur elsewhere.  The announcement also says that the selectee who can only be a CS employee “cannot serve beyond the mandatory 65 year old Foreign Service.” As if your brain turns off when the birthday candle burns 65.  Contrary to the job reposting, CS applicants for hard-to-fill posts must be career employees with a tenure code of 21 (not 7 as in this London announcement) according to state.gov.  We take it, this specific London assignment is not considered a hard-to-fill post?  For examples of hard-to-fill positions announced in 2012, click here.

This is indeed one of those bureaucratic mysteries … though not an isolated mystery.

Pardon me?

Noooooo, it’s not so the job description can be rewritten to better fit a specific person, silly.  Absolutely not.  What a preposterous suggestion!

But hey, who pulled this off and how did the re-write come to be?  No, re-advertised because there were “too many applicants” is not a legitimate reason.

Call your friends in London about the job up for bid, and see what they tell you (pick one):

  1. don’t bother applying for the job
  2. don’t waste your time on this one
  3. forgetaboutit, selection already done
  4. all of the above

Now, it’s not that we don’t want CS employees to go on excursion tours to nicer places. We just don’t like jobs advertised for all but tailored for one.

P.S. Please send us the job creator’s email and phone number via Contactify; we’d love a job in France this summer.

 

Updated on June 17 @6:47 am:  So we’re told that  this is *not* a hard-to-fill position and is apparently part of a new program to promote civil service career development by providing opportunities for excursion tours.  This new program is under a new unit at State called the Overseas Civil Service Assignments (OCSA) located at HR/CDA/ML.  Since early this year, this has been headed by a new chief, Joann G. Alba at (202) 663-0461. “The purpose of this unit is to expand opportunities for Civil Service employees to serve overseas.  Tenured State Department Civil Service employees will be able to apply through USA Jobs for positions at selected posts overseas.   Selectees will be placed on Foreign Service Limited Non-career Appointments for the duration of their two year overseas tours.”  (Thanks J!)

London friends reportedly did say, “don’t bother.”

(?_?)

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Congress Seeks Details on Status of Four State Dept Employees ‘Fired’ Over Benghazi

— By Domani Spero

Express mail has been terribly busy between the Hill and Foggy Bottom. On May 28, the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena for “documents and communications referring or relating to the Benghazi talking points” from ten current and former State Department officials.

The very next day, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, along with 14 other Members of the Committee, also called on Secretary Kerry to detail what personnel actions the State Department has taken regarding the four Department employees who were cited by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for displaying “leadership and management deficiencies” that led to the grossly inadequate security at the diplomatic facility in Benghazi last year.

In December last year, State Spokesperson, Victoria Nuland said: “The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs….The Secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately. The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties. All four individuals have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

You might want to read WaPo’s The Fact Checker – Has anyone been ‘fired’ because of the Benghazi attacks?

Below is an excerpt of Mr. Royce’s letter to Secretary Kerry:

As part of our inquiry, Committee Members have repeatedly asked the State Department to explain the employment status of certain Department personnel who were cited by the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for displaying “leadership and management deficiencies” that led to the inadequate security in Benghazi.

Initial reports indicated that these officials were “relieved of their duties,” thus implying their employment had been terminated.  However, by all accounts, these individuals have instead been placed on administrative leave and may or may not be returning to work.  Moreover, at least one of these individuals has stated that he has still not been informed of why he was removed from his position within the Department, or been allowed to view the ARB’s conclusions with respect to his job performance.  The Department’s handling of these matters is of great concern to the Committee, other Members of Congress, and the public.

When appearing before the Committee on April 17, 2013, you testified that you would soon be weighing in on an “internal review and analysis” of the performance of these individuals with respect to their handling of security issues.  Now that over one month has passed since your testimony, and over a full five months have passed since the ARB issued its report, we expect an immediate update on this process, and confirmation as to whether the referenced personnel are still employed by the Department.

Additionally, if these officials are still employed but on administrative leave, please describe what steps the Department has taken to resolve the issue of their employment status.  Please also provide a detailed account of any action taken by these officials to challenge the findings of the ARB report, including their basis for doing so.  Lastly, if any of these individuals are no longer employed by the Department, please provide a detailed explanation of the circumstances leading to the termination of their employment.

The full text of the letter is here.

The “at least one of these individuals” referred to in the letter above is without a doubt, Raymond Maxwell who told The Daily Beast that “nobody from the State Department has ever told him why he was singled out for discipline and that he has never had access to the classified portion of the ARB report.”

So now Congress wants details on what the State Department did to Diplomatic Security Assistant Secretary Eric J. Boswell, PDAS Scott P Bultrowicz, DAS Charlene R. Lamb and  NEA DAS Raymond Maxwell.

Ahnd, so do we!!

Obviously since there was no leadership and management deficiencies at the top … well, we need to see what the bureaucracy actually does to officials below who are deemed deficient in leadership and management.

But — hey, do you know why this is taking so long?  Are they still researching the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) so they can break the um … administrative gridlock?  Or are they updating the FAM so they can have a citation to cite?

Waiting bored until somebody translates this bureaucratic puzzle into something understandable for Congress and the neighbors …

(-__-)

Update: On May 30, the State Department was specifically asked about this during the Daily Press Brief, and here is the official word from the podium:

QUESTION: Okay. You’re aware of this letter that Congressman – also Chairman – Royce has sent inquiring as to the status of the four individuals who the ARB singled out in their classified version. Do you have an answer to – well, one, have you responded to him, and two, can you – if you have or if you haven’t, can you give us any update on what those – on what their status is –

MS. PSAKI: Well, we just received the letter yesterday, so I’m not aware of a formal response at this time, although that is something that we do do in response to letters, of course. I have seen the content of the letter. There’s no real mystery here. We talk – we’ve talked about this. I have talked about this from the podium, so let me walk you through a couple of status issues. One is the Secretary is briefed regularly by his senior staff and is focused on not only continuing the ongoing cooperation with Congress, but on implementing the ARB recommendations and coming to a conclusion on the status of these four individuals. He has publicly made that clear that he considers – and that he’s considering a number of factors.

As we’ve talked about a little bit before, career Foreign Service employees are entitled to due process and legal protections under the Foreign Service Act with respect to any potential disciplinary action, and Secretary Kerry, as he said in his budget testimony, there are a set of rules and standards that govern personnel actions such as these, and any actions must be considered with a full understanding of options.

So in terms of what the status is, he continues to review with all those factors –

QUESTION: Okay. Still pending?

MS. PSAKI: — and will make a decision soon.

In short, still pending.

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Unsealed Indictment Charges Former USAID Official Marta Rita Velazquez with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage

Via USDOJ:

WASHINGTON—A one-count indictment was unsealed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia charging Marta Rita Velazquez, 55, with conspiracy to commit espionage, announced John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

The charges against Velazquez stem from, among other things, her alleged role in introducing Ana Belen Montes, now 55, to the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS) in 1984; in facilitating Montes’s recruitment by the CuIS; and in helping Montes later gain employment at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Montes served as an intelligence analyst at DIA from September 1985 until she was arrested for espionage by FBI agents on September 21, 2001. On March 19, 2002, Montes pleaded guilty in the District of Columbia to conspiracy to commit espionage on behalf of Cuba. Montes is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.

The indictment against Velazquez, who is also known as “Marta Rita Kviele” and as “Barbara,” was originally returned by a grand jury in the District of Columbia on February 5, 2004. It has remained under court seal until today. Velazquez has continuously remained outside the United States since 2002. She is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. If convicted of the charges against her, Velazquez faces a potential sentence of up to life in prison.

According to the indictment, Velazquez was born in Puerto Rico in 1957. She graduated from Princeton University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and Latin American studies. Velazquez later obtained a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1982 and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C., in 1984.

Velazquez later served as an attorney advisor at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and, in 1989, she joined the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a legal officer with responsibilities encompassing Central America. During her tenure at USAID, Velazquez held a top secret security clearance and was posted to the U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua and Guatemala. In June 2002, Velazquez resigned from USAID following press reports that Montes had pleaded guilty to espionage and was cooperating with the U.S. government. Velazquez has remained outside the United States since 2002.

The indictment alleges that, beginning in or about 1983, Velazquez conspired with others to transmit to the Cuban government and its agents documents and information relating to the U.S. national defense, with the intent that they would be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of the Cuban government.

As part of the conspiracy, Velazquez allegedly helped the CuIS spot, assess, and recruit U.S. citizens who occupied sensitive national security positions or had the potential of occupying such positions in the future to serve as Cuban agents. For example, the indictment alleges that, while Velazquez was a student with Montes at SAIS in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, Velazquez fostered a strong, personal friendship with Montes, with both sharing similar views of U.S. policies in Nicaragua at the time.

In December 1984, the indictment alleges, Velazquez introduced Montes in New York City to a Cuban intelligence officer who identified himself as an official of the Cuban Mission to the United States. The intelligence officer then recruited Montes. In 1985, after Montes’ recruitment, Velazquez personally accompanied Montes on a clandestine trip to Cuba for Montes to receive spy craft training from CuIS.

Later in 1985, Velazquez allegedly helped Montes obtain employment as an intelligence analyst at the DIA, where Montes had access to classified national defense information and served as an agent of the CuIS until her arrest in 2001. During her tenure at the DIA, Montes disclosed the identities of U.S. intelligence officers and provided other classified national defense information to the CuIS.

During this timeframe, Velazquez allegedly continued to serve the CuIS, receiving instructions from the CuIS through encrypted, high-frequency broadcasts from her handlers and through meetings with handlers outside the United States.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the DIA. It is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Clifford Rones of the Counterespionage Section in the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney G. Michael Harvey of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

The charges contained in an indictment are merely allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

According to WaPo,  Marta Rita Velazquez, a graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown University Law School, was indicted nearly a decade ago on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. Velazquez lives in Stockholm and is aware of the charges against her, the Justice Department said. But the extradition treaty between the United States and Sweden does not allow extradition for spying.

Sweden’s The Local reported that Marta Rita Velazquez is married to a Swedish foreign ministry official, Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Utrikesdepartementet) confirmed last week. The report pointed out that the DOJ statement made no mention of any request to Sweden for Ms. Velazquez’s  extradition.  Velazquez reportedly is also a Swedish citizen.  Citing Per Claréus, press secretary to Justice Minister Beatrice Ask, the report also says that  Sweden has not received any requests to extradite the woman to the US but that “if the US was to send an extradition request, it would be refused.”

– DS

 

 

 

 

 

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