From Oslo: Norwegians may now face the scary scenario of Donald Trump sending an ambassador

Posted: 3:37 am EDT

 

Agenda Magasin, an online magazine for political analysis and commentary based in Oslo recently published, “Congress, send Norway an ambassador” by Thor Steinhovden. Below is an excerpt:

Norway has never gone this long without an American ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo. Norwegians may now face the scary scenario of Donald Trump sending a representative, three years too late.
[…]
In September 2013 the American Ambassador to Norway, Barry White, completed his posting and left the country. 840 days later the United States has yet to send a replacement. That’s more than 120 weeks, or over two years and three months. Now, Norway risks having to wait until spring 2017. In other words, our closest ally will then have neglected to send a presidential representative for over three years.

The story behind this failure is complicated, but illustrates a political situation in the U.S. that is crippling the president’s ability to effectively carry out foreign policy. The story includes a failed nomination, “The Nuclear Option”, the P5+1 Iran deal, and not at least, the race for 2016.
[…]
For many Norwegians it probably seems both odd and incomprehensible that one of the world’s superpowers cannot manage such a simple task as to deploy an ambassador to a close ally like Norway. It becomes more incomprehensible when one considers the fact that the hold-up is not related to neither the candidate, nor the bilateral relationship.

If Donald Trump or Ted Cruz then occupy the White House, Norway may find itself welcoming a completely different character than Sam Heins. I believe most Norwegians agree with me that it is probably best for all of us if we avoid that scenario. It is time: Congress, send Norway an ambassador!

Read in full here.  A Norwegian-language version of this commentary is also available.

The article is a pretty good account of what happened to the nominations dating back to 2013 when the initial nominee melted down on C-SPAN.

We don’t know if the Heins nomination will  make it through the Senate, but even if it does get a full vote, and Mr. Heins gets to Oslo, this is an election year. There will be a new occupant in the White House come January 2017. All ambassadors –including Mr. Heins if he gets confirmed this year — resign their positions following a change in Administration. The resignations of career ambassadors are typically almost always refused, while those of political appointees are almost always accepted.  Which means, unless the nominations of political ambassadorships get confirmed soon, the window of opportunity is winding down. At some point, it becomes a waste of resources to pack and ship an ambassador designate’s household effects if he/she gets to serve as chief of mission for only a few months; that is, only to pack out again after the November 2016 elections.  Of course, it can be done, we just can’t recall an example, but would folks really subject themselves to such a relocation for a short-term ambassadorship? We’ll have to wait and see.

 

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Senator on Cruz hold over Norway nominee: 836 days since there was last a confirmed Ambassador to Norway

Posted: 1:01 am EDT

 

The Hill reports:

Sen. Ted Cruz blocked a Democratic push to approve a handful of State Department nominees on Wednesday, even though the Texas Republican is far from D.C., campaigning in New Hampshire. […]  Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), however, objected to each of the nominations, noting that he was doing so on behalf of Cruz. The presidential candidate has pledged to block State Department nominees over the Iran nuclear deal. Cardin called Cruz’s objections a “master class in needless partisan obstruction.”

Last month, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) took to the floor to urge for the confirmation of the nominees for Sweden and Norway, but spoke at length on behalf of Sam Heins, the nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway who hails from her state.

Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, I rise today to call on the Senate and all of my colleagues to allow us to move forward on the nomination of Sam Heins of Minnesota to be the U.S. Ambassador to Norway. The U.S. Ambassador for Sweden has also been held up. Coming from the State of Iowa, which I believe is over 10 percent Scandinavian–over 300,000 people–I think the Presiding Officer understands the importance of our country actually having Ambassadors to these incredibly important allies and nations.

It has now been 836 days since there was last a confirmed Ambassador to Norway, one of our most important European allies. Part of this situation was caused by a different nominee who has some issues with the committee and with other Senators. That person has now been replaced, and it has been 166 days since a new nominee went through the Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Heins was approved by a voice vote, without any controversy, as was the Ambassador to Sweden. I thank Senators Corker and Cardin and Senators McConnell and Reid for their help in trying to get this through.

Unfortunately, these nominations are now being held up by Senator Cruz. Based on my discussions with him, it is not because of the qualifications of these nominees; it is related to, I suppose, other issues. Yet, I note for those Scandinavians out there, Senator Cruz has allowed votes on Ambassadors to other countries. We have Ambassadors in France, in England, in nearly every European nation, but not these two Scandinavian countries.

Perhaps people don’t understand the importance of these nations because they just think these people wear sweaters all the time. I don’t know what they think of Norway and Sweden, but, in fact, Senator Cruz should understand that they are two of our best allies. Norway is one of our country’s strongest and most dependable allies.
[…]
I am focusing today on Norway. I will focus on Sweden in the future as I continue to give these speeches. I don’t think we can take these countries lightly just because it is cold there and darker in the winter. These are incredibly important allies and trading partners. They deserve to be treated like other European nations. They deserve to have an ambassador from the United States of America.

It is time to end this delay and do the work the Senate is supposed to do. Let’s move ahead and work to confirm these qualified nominees to represent us abroad. One is a country in Europe that just bought 22 fighter planes from Lockheed Martin. If they had bought 22 fighter planes from the Presiding Officer’s State, I believe the Presiding Officer would have looked at the fact that if it is a noncontroversial nominee to a country that invests in the United States of America, that is an ambassador we need to get confirmed, and we would get this done.

Read in full here (PDF) from the Congressional Record.

 

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It Took Awhile But Here It Is — Going After @StateDept OIG Steve Linick With Fake Sleeper Cells

Posted: 2:24 pm EDT

 

Politico reported on January 25 about the State Dept. watchdog tied to earlier Clinton probe.   Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), described by Politico as a Clinton ally questioned the impartiality of the State Department IG’s office. He was specifically targeting OIG Steve Linick’s senior advisor, David Seide, who according to Representative Israel: “You have a guy who used his former position to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into Mrs. Clinton that amounted to nothing, who then continues that work in the State Department. That has fingerprints on it that are just too visible and just lead to all sorts of questions.”

Excerpt below from Politico:

A lawyer overseeing investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices has a history of tangling with the former first lady’s political operation: He was a federal prosecutor involved in a probe that led, a decade ago, to the unsuccessful prosecution of a top Clinton fundraising aide.

David Seide — now the acting senior adviser to the State Department inspector general — gathered evidence that surfaced in the case against David Rosen, the national finance director of Clinton’s 2000 Senate bid.
[…]
While Rosen’s trial was a stinging defeat for the government, after Rosen’s acquittal, the committee that arranged the 2000 gala paid a $35,000 civil penalty to the Federal Election Commission and agreed to amend the relevant campaign finance reports to acknowledge more than $721,000 in unreported spending. Such large in-kind donations to a campaign-linked fundraiser were legal at the time, but they were made illegal by the so-called soft-money ban in the McCain-Feingold law passed in 2002.
[…]
Seide appears to have close ties to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and to DiSanto. When Linick gave up his position as IG at the Federal Housing Finance Agency to join State in 2013, Seide and DiSanto followed him to the new agency.

However, Seide’s résumé doesn’t suggest an anti-Clinton vendetta. After leaving government, he spent a year as an in-house counsel at Morgan Stanley before joining Wilmer Hale, a Washington law firm that has employed many prominent Democrats and former Clinton administration officials.

In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as McCain-Feingold. The legislation made changes to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to limit the use of “soft money.”

Representative Steve Israel voted in favor of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.  So he was for McCain-Feingold before he was against McCain-Feingold?  Here’s the funny thing.  According to Politico, Doug Welty, the State OIG spox said that Mr. Seide was involved in the prosecution of a case in which a Clinton donor was charged with stock fraud, but not the Rosen case.

Chill out! Those prosecutors, they all look the same, hey?

In November last year, senior Democrats also alleged a “fishy connection” between the release of Huma Abedin-related  information and Senator Grassley’s former top investigator, Emilia DiSanto, who is now the deputy inspector general at the State Department. The NYT notes that “Ms. DiSanto worked for Mr. Grassley for years; she joined the inspector general’s office in late 2013, around the time the inquiry into Ms. Abedin began.”

Ms. DiSanto, in an email, responded angrily to questions about whether there was a connection between her and the information that Mr. Grassley had received.

“Any claim that I have communicated with Senator Grassley about State Department nominations is an outright lie,” she wrote. “There is nothing ‘fishy’ about the fact that I once worked for Senator Grassley about five years ago. Indeed, it is quite common for employees of the legislative branch to join the executive branch to continue their public service.”

Senator Grassley’s inquiry originally started with the Special Government Employee (SGE) arrangement involving Human Abedin in August 2013 (see The Other Benghazi Four: Lengthy Administrative Circus Ended Today; Another Circus Heats Up). Senator Grassley said in his letter to Secretary Kerry that he made inquiries on June 13, 2013 and August 15, 2013 regarding the State Department’s use of Special Government Employee (SGE). We’re not complaining, by the way, that Senator Grassley is looking into this issue. We’d like to know how other State Department employees can get permission to hold three other jobs concurrent with their federal jobs.  Some friends have mortgages, others have kids in college, car payments, student debts, etc…. so an additional job or two would be really helpful.

In any case, Emilia DiSanto was appointed Acting Deputy IG on October 1, 2013 to succeeded Harold Geisel, the Deputy IG who served as OIG boss for the last five years while the State Department did not have a Senate-confirmed Inspector General.  Ms. DiSanto was with the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office for two years prior to her move to the State Department.

In 2004, during her work at the Senate Finance Committee, Ms. DiSanto reportedly met with Food and Drug Administration whistleblowers about their concerns that widely used antidepressants were linked to suicidal behavior among teens. According to the WSJ, the scientists told Ms. DiSanto that they believed the agency and companies were ignoring or suppressing that information. Shortly thereafter the senator held the first major congressional hearing on a drug safety issue in years.  They later turned their attention to “medical devices, specialty hospitals, the antibiotic Ketek, ghostwritten medical papers, the FDA’s criminal division, its drug division, its veterinary division and, most notably, the diabetes drug Avandia.” See more here (PDF).

In late 2005, she survived an attack by a man who repeatedly struck her with with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat. Reports say no evidence points to DiSanto’s work on the Finance Committee as the cause for the attack, but sources say there are a number of clues that suggest it could be since the assailant “was trying to hide his identity, wearing a hood and black gloves. He also did not make any demands before attacking the 49-year-old staffer. A working assumption among investigators is that he was waiting for her to arrive home.” She reportedly returned to work a week after her attack, and continued to work at the Senate until 2011 when she left and moved to FHFA/OIG.

David Seide was appointed Counselor to the Inspector General on October 18, 2013.  Previously, he served for almost three years as Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Federal Housing Finance Agency.  His title was later changed to Acting Senior Adviser to the Inspector General at the State Department.

Both Ms. DiSanto and Mr. Seide worked with Mr. Linick when he was inspector general at Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). We should note that they worked with the RMBS Working Group and the New York Attorney General’s Office in support of the investigation and prosecution of RMBS fraud cases. In November 2013, when all three have already moved to the State Department, their old office, FHFA/OIG with the Justice Department and other state and federal entities secured a record $13 billion global settlement with JPMorgan for misleading investors about securities containing toxic mortgages.  They did the jobs they were supposed to do there.

Now they’re doing the jobs they’re supposed to be doing at the State Department.

And some politician is trying to convinced us that they are at fault for doing their jobs by peddling “all sorts of questions” and citing  “fingerprints.”

Mr. Seide is one of the two team leaders and 10 OIG staffers who looked into the Department of State’s FOIA Processes for Requests Involving the Office of the Secretary (PDF).  Is the good congressman from New York also digging up the backgrounds of the 10 OIG staffers involved in that project? That is, by the way, a distressing report to read but nobody asked how come no one had ever done this review before? What happened to the OIG during the Clinton tenure? What’s that? There was no Senate confirmed IG during that entire tenure?

Too bad, there was no IG with major brass balls before now to look under the rugs.

We do think that the real target of these allegations of bias is Mr. Linick. Because, hey … if his closest aides are political sleeper cells, who somehow manage to lay low in the bureaucracy and a decade later they turned the screws at their first opportunities, then by golly, he must be, too!  And if you can smear the messengers badly enough, then, of course, all those reports his office issued and will issue in the future can simply be ignored or dismissed as partisan.

This is predictable babble and the good congressman from New York and friends must now find a vomitorium so they can throw up all this crap.

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Related items:

 

 

 

US Implements Visa Waiver Restrictions For Dual Nationals From Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria

Posted: 6:09 pm EDT

 

The ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016’’ which became Public Law No: 114-113 on December 18, 2015 includes a provision for “terrorist travel prevention and visa waiver program” officially called the ‘‘Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015’’.  The new law which affects dual nationals from WVP countries and Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria includes a waiver to be be exercised by the DHS secretary.  The new law also requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to the Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report on each instance in which the Secretary exercised the waiver authority during the previous year.

On January 21, the State Department announced the implementation of the changes to the Visa Waiver Program. Below is the announcement:

The United States today began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.

Beginning January 21, 2016, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked.

Under the new law, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:

  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
  • Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.

Again, whether ESTA applicants will receive a waiver will be determined on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the terms of the law. In addition, we will continue to explore whether and how the waivers can be used for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan.

Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States.

The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travelers will not be affected by the legislation.

An updated ESTA application with additional questions is scheduled to be released in late February 2016 to address exceptions for diplomatic- and military-related travel provided for in the Act.

Information on visa applications can be found at travel.state.gov.

Current ESTA holders are encouraged to check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP’s website at esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

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A couple days ago ….

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CRS: Former U.S. Hostages of Iran to be Eligible for Compensation

Posted: 12:29 am EDT

 

From CRS Legal Sidebar (PDF) via Secrecy News:

Screen Shot 2016-01-1

 

 

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@StateDept Gears Up For Counterterrorism Messaging in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa

Posted: 12:45 am EDT

 

Last year, the State Department told us that the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) remains a stand-alone office reporting to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R), and has expanded to include a new counter-ISIL cell to the Center’s operation.  Following the departure of Ambassador Alberto Fernandez, the State Department appointed Rashad Hussain as United States Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) in February 2015. Mr. Hussain previously served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Less than a year into his tenure as CSCC coordinator, Mr. Hussain left State to join the Department of Justice (see Another Coordinator Gone, What’s Next For the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications?).

Last week, the State Department announced the revamping of its counter-violent-extremist communications efforts (see @StateDept Announces Michael D. Lumpkin as Head of New Global Engagement Center).

A section of the ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016’’ which became Public Law No: 114-113 on December 18, 2015 includes the following items on countering foreign fighters and violent extremist organizations. It provides 1) funding to counter the flow of foreign fighters to countries in which violent extremists or violent extremist organizations operate including partnership with governments and multilateral organizations; and 2) reduction of public support for violent extremists or violent extremist organizations by addressing the specific drivers of radicalization through engagement and public messaging campaigns.

SEC . 7073.
(a) COUNTERING  FOREIGN  FIGHTERS AND  VIOLENT EXTREMIST  ORGANIZATIONS .—Funds appropriated under titles III and IV of this Act shall be made available for programs to—

(1) counter the flow of foreign fighters to countries in which violent extremists or violent extremist organizations operate, including those entities designated as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Public Law 82–814), including through programs with partner governments and multilateral organizations to—

(A) counter recruitment campaigns by such entities;
(B) detect and disrupt foreign fighter travel, particularly at points of origin;
(C) implement antiterrorism programs;
(D) secure borders, including points of infiltration and exfiltration by such entities;
(E) implement and establish criminal laws and policies to counter foreign fighters; and
(F) arrest, investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate terrorist suspects, facilitators, and financiers; and

(2) reduce public support for violent extremists or violent extremist organizations, including FTOs, by addressing the specific drivers of radicalization, including through such activities as—

(A) public messaging campaigns to damage their appeal;
(B) programs to engage communities and populations at risk of violent extremist radicalization and recruitment;
(C) counter-radicalization and de-radicalization activities for potential and former violent extremists and returning foreign fighters, including in prisons;
(D) law enforcement training programs; and
(E) capacity building for civil society organizations to combat radicalization in local communities.

Below is the State Department’s FY2016 request (PDF) which includes an Overseas Contingency Operations Request for International Information Programs (IIP) for $6 million. Here is part of the request and justification:

The Department faces unprecedented and unanticipated Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program requirements, including countering the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The FY 2016 OCO Request for IIP activities supports increased organizational capacity to expand counterterrorism messaging in the key languages of Arabic, Urdu, Somali and English during hours of peak activity in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.

  • Dedicated ISIL Content Group ($700,000): The request includes $700,000 for editorial content to produce and translate content specifically addressing ISIL. Resources will support production and translation of new content for Anti-ISIL efforts without sacrificing production on other enduring priorities.
  • U.S. Speakers Office ($400,000): The request includes $400,000 to dispatch U.S. speakers on short notice to engage key foreign audiences in specific target countries on emergent issues. IIP would partner closely with the relevant regional or functional bureau(s) to identify both the target countries and key audiences for each issue. In addition, IIP would leverage the expertise of these speakers through other types of programs, particularly virtual interactive discussions.
  • Digital “special forces” platform development team ($600,000): The request includes $600,000 to support formation of a team that has the capacity and ability to rapidly execute time-sensitive projects. This team of five, including one designer, two front-end developers, one back-end developer/engineer, and one production manager, would have the capacity to handle three to four concurrent projects.
  • Outreach Program ($750,000): The request includes $750,000 for outreach programs targeting non-governmental international partners in order to extend the reach of the Anti-ISIL campaign with a broader range of messages and messengers. Some of these would reach new audiences; others might have greater credibility with existing audiences. The Department currently lacks the capacity to perform the outreach necessary for such an effort. Funding would also support training to staff at posts in order to boost their capacity to conduct counter-messaging and outreach to foreign partners and contacts.
  • Digital Products ($1 million): The Department has several in-house audiovisual producers, but lacks the technical resources to produce original footage, complex animation, or mobile- phone/tablet applications. Extremist adversaries, including ISIL, exploit all of these techniques to garner recruits and support their operations. The request of $1.0 million supports augmentation of existing in-house production of mash-up videos and stand-alone banners with original films, animated clips and mobile apps. Because each of these genres would require significant up-front investment in production facilities and professional expertise, the funding will support commissioned products from proven leaders in the field.
  • Social Media Analytics ($650,000): Social media analytics can inform and shape content to make it relevant and engaging to target audiences. This new and evolving business practice can make the Department’s public diplomacy materials more effective and improve the Department’s ability to create policy content that is informed by data. The Department currently has access to only the most minimal tools for surveying and analyzing the social media environment. The Request includes $650,000 for a competitive suite of tools that would add value across the various platforms where the Department is active.
  • Liaisons ($600,000): The Department coordinates broadly across the interagency and with international partners. The request includes $600,000 for 3 dedicated positions (FTEs or equivalent), possibly in the form of reimbursable detailees, with the sole purpose of synchronizing and optimizing operations for maximum effect against the adversary.
  • Integrated Analysis ($1.3 million): The Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Integrated Analysis section (CSCC/IA) is currently minimally staffed by two Intelligence Community officers and two Department of State civil servants. The request includes $1.3 million to ensure CSCC work is informed by intelligence and coordinated with the work of the rest of the Interagency; measuring effectiveness; and managing research into emerging counter-radicalization and messaging trends and best practices. CSCC’s increased operational tempo related to the President’s 3-year plan against ISIL and the effort against violent extremism in general, necessitates additional personnel and resources. Three reimbursable detailee billets are needed to be filled by intelligence analysts from National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and Defense of National Intelligence Open Source Center, to ensure the highest-quality all-source intelligence support to CSCC planners and Digital Outreach Team operations. Additional funds are needed to research operations-applicable best practices and emerging technologies in the areas of counter-radicalization and target audience messaging.

 

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Snapshot: Number of “T” Visa Applications, FY2005-2014

Posted: 12:24 am EDT

 

Via DHS/OIG:

Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386). Among other provisions, the Act created the T nonimmigrant status (T visa) to provide temporary immigration benefits to foreign nationals and aliens who are victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons.  To be eligible for a T visa, victims must (a) be in the United States on account of trafficking; (b) face extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed; and (c) with two exceptions, comply with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the acts of trafficking.

USCIS data on trafficking victims were limited to foreign national victims who had applied for T or U nonimmigrant status. This included individuals who had entered the United States legally as visitors, temporary workers, or others without lawful status.8 According to USCIS data, fewer than 1,000 foreign national victims applied for T visas each year from 2005 to 2014. Figure 3 shows a steady increase in T visa applications for this timeframe. However, this number remains small in comparison with the estimated hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims in the United States, and is far below the 5,000 T visas that Congress sets aside for human trafficking victims every year.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11

As depicted in table 1, our analysis of USCIS data from October 1, 2005, through September 2, 2014, showed that 3 percent of T visa applicants were minors while 61 percent were between 30 and 49 years old. T visa applicants were evenly divided by marital status and almost equally divided in terms of gender. Further, 41 percent of T visa applicants were from three Asian countries. The Philippines had the highest number of applicants (20 percent), followed by Mexico with 16 percent. Most T visa applicants did not report the method by which they entered the United States, although 10 percent self- reported they had no lawful status at the time of application. While the information pertains only to those victims who applied for T visa status, it does shed some light on the characteristics of foreign national victims and their origins, and could be useful in identifying human trafficking activity.

 

Congress Authorizes Petition Fee Increases For Certain L-1 and H1B Visas Until Sept 30, 2025

Posted: 3:05 am EDT

 

A section of the ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016’’ which became Public Law No: 114-113 on December 18, 2015 includes an item on the temporary increase of “visa fee” for L-1 and H1B, as well as extensions.  The processing fee for petition based visa categories like L (Intracompany Transferees) and H (Temporary Workers/Employment or Trainees) visas is currently posted on travel.state.gov at $190.00. It looks like the bump in fees is really for the L-1 and H1B visa petition fees (with DHS) and not for the visa processing fees collected by the State Department.

The new law talks about the “combined filing fee and fraud prevention and detection fee” which are fees already collected by DHS.  Under Pub. L. 111-230, DHS/CIS charges $2,000  for H-1B petitioners that employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of their employees in the United States in H-1B, L-1A or L-1B nonimmigrant status. Under the same law, L1 petitioners are also charged $2250. Both provisions ended on October 1, 2014, but were extended through September 30, 2015 by Pub. L. 111-347. The temporary bump in the L1 and H1B petition fees under Public Law No: 114-113 that just passed will be good until September 30, 2025.

‘‘SEC. 411. 9-11 RESPONSE AND BIOMETRIC ENTRY-EXIT FEE.

‘‘(a) TEMPORARY L-1 VISA FEE INCREASE.—Notwithstanding section 281 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1351) or any other provision of law, during the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this section and ending on September 30, 2025, the combined filing fee and fraud prevention and detection fee required to be submitted with an application for admission as a nonimmigrant under section 101(a)(15)(L) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(L)), including an application for an extension of such status, shall be increased by $4,500 for applicants that employ 50 or more employees in the United States if more than 50 percent of the applicant’s employees are nonimmigrants admitted pursuant to subparagraph (H)(i)(b) or (L) of section 101(a)(15) of such Act.

‘‘(b) TEMPORARY H-1B VISA FEE INCREASE.—Notwithstanding section 281 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1351) or any other provision of law, during the period beginning on the date of the enactment of this section and ending on September 30, 2025, the combined filing fee and fraud prevention and detection fee required to be submitted with an application for admission as a nonimmigrant under section 101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b)), including an application for an extension of such status, shall be increased by $4,000 for applicants that employ 50 or more employees in the United States if more than 50 percent of the applicant’s employees are such nonimmigrants or nonimmigrants described in section 101(a)(15)(L) of such Act.

‘‘(c) 9-11 RESPONSE AND BIOMETRIC EXIT ACCOUNT.—‘‘(1) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is established in the general fund of the Treasury a separate account, which shall be known as the ‘9–11 Response and Biometric Exit Account’.

‘‘(2) DEPOSITS.—

‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—Subject to subparagraph  (B), of the amounts collected pursuant to the fee increases authorized under subsections (a) and (b)—

‘‘(i) 50 percent shall be deposited in the general fund of the Treasury; and

‘‘(ii) 50 percent shall be deposited as offsetting receipts into the 9–11 Response and Biometric Exit Account, and shall remain available until expended.

‘‘(B) TERMINATION OF DEPOSITS IN ACCOUNT.—After a total of $1,000,000,000 is deposited into the 9–11 Response and Biometric Exit Account under subparagraph (A)(ii), all amounts collected pursuant to the fee increases authorized under subsections (a) and (b) shall be deposited authorized under subsections (a) and (b) shall be deposited in the general fund of the Treasury.

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Senator Grassley Explains Hold on Thomas Shannon’s Nomination to be @StateDept’s #4

Posted: 2:21 am EDT

 

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has placed a hold on the nomination of Ambassador Thomas Shannon as Foggy Bottom’s next “P.” Below is an excerpt in the Congressional Record with Mr. Grassley explaining his hold (see Senator Grassley Lifts Hold on 20 Foreign Service Nominations, Places New Hold on “P”). He stated that he is not questioning the credentials of Ambassador Shannon in any way; just pushing the State Department to “respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner.”

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I intend to object to any unanimous  consent request at the present time relating to the nomination of  Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., of Virginia, a career member of the Senior  Foreign Service, class of Career Ambassador, to be an Under Secretary of State, Political Affairs.

I will object because the Department of State has still not responded  to almost a dozen investigative letters dating back to 2013. In  addition, on August 20, 2015, my staff met with Department officials in  an effort to prioritize material for production. The Department has failed to comply with its commitments, producing material late, failing  to provide all requested material, and even failing to provide material to the Senate Judiciary Committee contemporaneously with providing the same documents to Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, requestors. These are the same complaints that I raised on September 30, 2015, when I placed a hold on Brian James Egan of Maryland to be legal advisor of the Department of State. Apparently, the Department simply does not understand its obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner.

Two and a half years ago I began a broad inquiry into the government’s use of special government employee programs. I did not single out the State Department on this issue. To the contrary, I wrote to 16 different government agencies. Two and a half years have passed since I began my inquiry, and the State Department has still not produced the materials I have requested or certified they do not exist.

 In addition to the investigation of the Department’s special government employee program, I am also investigating the Department’s  compliance with the FOIA as it pertains to Secretary Clinton’s private server that was used to transit and store government information. The Minority Leader has questioned whether the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction extends to these matters. I would note that the special government employee designation is an exception to Federal criminal conflict-of-interest laws. Those laws are within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, as is FOIA.
[…]
As a further example of the Department’s continued intransigence, I requested all SF-312 “Classified Non-Disclosure Agreements” for Secretary Clinton, Ms. Huma Abedin, and Ms. Cheryl Mills on August 5, 2015. My staff met with Department personnel three times since that letter and participated in dozens of emails and phone calls in an effort to acquire these documents. In addition, after the Department complained that it had received too many requests from me, my staff produced a prioritized list of requests to assist the Department in producing responses. At number three on that list were the SF-312 forms, and at number one are the official emails of Mr. Pagliano. Notably, during conversations with my staff on the subject, Department personnel stated that they could not locate those forms with the exception of only page 2 of Ms. Abedin’s SF-312 exit form. On November 5, 2015, the Department produced SF-312 entrance forms for Secretary Clinton, Ms. Abedin, and Ms. Mills to a FOIA requestor but failed to provide the same to the Committee. Clearly, the documents exist.
[…]
The continued intransigence and lack of cooperation make it clear that the Department did not care enough about their Foreign Service  officer candidates to “get in gear” and begin to produce responses to  my oversight letters. Accordingly, I have released my hold on these officer candidates and have escalated to Mr. Shannon. The Department of State’s refusal to fully cooperate with my  investigations is unacceptable. As I have noted before on the floor of the Senate, the Department continues to promise results, but there has been very little or no follow-through. The Department’s good faith will be measured in documents delivered and witnesses provided.

My objection is not intended to question the credentials of Mr. Shannon in any way. However, the Department must recognize that it has an ongoing obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner.

Read the full entry in the Congressional Record here.

 

 

Related posts:

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@StateDept Nominations Forgotten by the Time Lords of Capitol Hill

Posted: 2:17 am EDT

 

The U.S. Senate went home for the holiday and will convene on January, 4th, 2016 at 12:00 noon for a pro forma session only, with no business to be conducted. The Senate stands adjourn until 2:00 pm on Monday, January 11th, 2016.

So we’re looking at the long list of nominees stuck both at the Executive Calendar and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the end of 2015. Some of these nominees are regular Foreign Service officers who have been waiting for confirmation for at least 24 months without action. So we sent an email to Rori Kramer, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional, Global and Functional Affairs at the Bureau of Legislative Affairs who “directs the policy-making and technical aspects of the Department’s relationship with Congress across the full range of regional, global, and functional interests of the Department of State.” 

We are  particularly interested in two things: 1) the regular FSO nominees whose names have been held at the SFRC for 2-3 years. These are not ambassador rank officials but regular FSOs. We’ve also notice that more and more, names are split from the main FS lists when they reach the SFRC; 2) we’re also looking at the high ranking nominees still waiting for confirmation.

Since the Senate composition will not change in 2016, we are curious what is the State Department’s plan to get these nominees through the Senate and into their posts in 2016? Are we looking at the next 12 months with very little movement on confirmations? What is the end game for regular FSOs whose names are held by the SFRC year after year with no vote in the Senate?

Ms. Kramer acknowledged our email but handed the inquiry off to some other State Department official who told us the following:

While the vast majority of our FSO ‎promotions have been approved, we are working for the promotion of all our waiting Foreign Service officers and nominees and will continue to do so until they are approved by the Senate.

Every foreign service promotion list that has been sent to the Senate has been approved. The State Department does not split the list in any way.

The lists, in fact, have been split in more than one occasion, below is the latest:

PN951-1 — 114th Congress (2015-2016) | STATE – Class of Career Minister (FE-CM); confirmed on 12/10/2015

PN951-2 — 114th Congress (2015-2016) STATE — Class of Career Minister (FE-CM); currently pending in the SFRC.

PN951 is obviously one promotion list until Ambassador Richard Olson‘s name was split from the list and held back at the SFRC. Ambassador Olson is currently the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP). He was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan.

As to having “Every foreign service promotion list that has been sent to the Senate has been approved,” we had to email back and asked if they realize that the following have not, in fact, been approved?

2015-11-19 PN953 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jennifer M. Adams, and ending Sunil Sebastian Xavier, which 37 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

2015-11-19 PN952 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Cheryl L. Anderson, and ending Melissa A. Williams, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

 

Below is a list of the pending nominations both on the Executive Calendar and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as of December 28, 2015.  Senate rules provide that “nominations neither confirmed nor rejected during the session at which they are made shall not be acted upon at any succeeding session without being again made to the Senate by the President…” In practice, such nominations have sometimes been returned to the President at the end of the first session and are always returned to the President at the end of the Congress. Nominations also may be returned automatically to the President at the beginning of a recess of more than 30 days (Senate Rule XXXI), but the rule providing for this return has often been waived (Via CRS – PDF). Senate.gov makes no indication at this time that these nominations have been returned to the President.

The most common way a nomination fails to be confirmed is through lack of action: either the committee never takes up the nomination or the Senate fails to consider it, despite committee action.

Folks, if staffers in the SFRC want to see records of FSOs all the way back to kindergarten, ought the State Department not put a warning on its careers.state.gov page? If an employee threw a punch in Kinder 1 and had been cleared of all charges, he/she better have records to show for it. Because just saying one had been cleared of any allegation or charge will not be enough.  If you or the principal’s office had shredded those reports per disposition of records regulation, well boo! on you! If the Iranians were able to reconstruct shredded cables at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the Senate folks probably thought anyone should be able to recreate any record all the way back to the Time Lords!

There’s something inherently unfair about this that we find disturbing. If this is the new normal in the confirmation process, not just with ambassador ranked nominations but with regular Foreign Service Officers, how is this supposed to end for nominees? What is the end game for FSOs promoted by a Selection Board but whose names have been pending in the SFRC for years? Will these nominations be resubmitted to the committee periodically … but until when? How does one bid for an onward assignment if he/she had been technically promoted but not confirmed by the Senate?

And what is Secretary Kerry, formerly of the Foreign Relations Committee, doing about this?

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Pending on the Executive Calendar, 114th Congress:

PN175 Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

PN49 Azita Raji, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Sweden.

PN87 Brian James Egan, of Maryland, to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State.

PN478 Samuel D. Heins, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.

PN45 Marisa Lago, of New York, to be a Deputy United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador.

PN477 John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

PN828 Barbara Lee, of California, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

PN829 Christopher H. Smith, of New Jersey, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

PN910 David McKean, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.

PN526 Roberta S. Jacobson, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Mexican States.

PN872 Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Under Secretary of State (Political Affairs).

 

Pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC):

AMBASSADORS

2015-12-18 PN1041 Department of State Adam H. Sterling, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Slovak Republic.

2015-11-09 PN934 Department of State Karen Brevard Stewart, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

2015-11-09 PN933 Department of State Robert Annan Riley III, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federated States of Micronesia.

2015-10-21 PN915 Department of State Scot Alan Marciel, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Union of Burma.

 

STATE DEPARTMENT

2015-10-08 PN909 Department of State Amos J. Hochstein, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Energy Resources).

2015-01-08 PN48 Department of State Jennifer Ann Haverkamp, of Indiana, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

 

FS LISTS – PROMOTIONS

2015-11-19 PN953 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Jennifer M. Adams, and ending Sunil Sebastian Xavier, which 37 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

2015-11-19 PN952 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Cheryl L. Anderson, and ending Melissa A. Williams, which 11 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

2015-11-19 PN951-2 Foreign Service Nomination for Richard Gustave Olson, Jr., which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

2015-01-13 PN72-6 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Eric N. Rumpf, and ending Daniel Menco Hirsch, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-01-13 PN71-2 Foreign Service Nominations beginning David J. Barth, and ending R. Douglass Arbuckle, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

 

FS LISTS – APPOINTMENTS

2015-09-10 PN830 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Christopher Alexander, and ending Tipten Troidl, which 28 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 10, 2015.

2015-06-10 PN573-2 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Jeffries Blunt de Graffenried, Jr., and ending Christopher Nairn Steel, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.

2015-05-07 PN464 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Eric Del Valle, and ending Ryan Truxton, which 7 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on May 7, 2015.

2015-02-26 PN230-2 Foreign Service Nominations beginning David Elliott Horton III, and ending Victoria L Mitchell, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.

 

USAID

2015-12-07 PN1005 United States Agency for International Development Marcela Escobari, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

 

STATE/INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION

2015-11-19 PN948 Asian Development Bank Swati A. Dandekar, of Iowa, to be United States Director of the Asian Development Bank, with the rank of Ambassador.

2015-10-05 PN895 Department of State Matthew John Matthews, of Oregon, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as United States Senior Official for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum

2015-09-16 PN844 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Catherine Ann Novelli, of Virginia, to be United States Alternate Governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

2015-09-10 PN827 United Nations Cassandra Q. Butts, of the District of Columbia, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Seventieth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

2015-08-05 PN771 International Atomic Energy Agency Laura S. H. Holgate, of Virginia, to be the Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the rank of Ambassador.

2015-08-05 PN770 United Nations Laura S. H. Holgate, of Virginia, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.

2015-07-08 PN628 Department of State Mari Carmen Aponte, of the District of Columbia, to be Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank of Ambassador.

2015-03-04 PN240 International Monetary Fund Mark Sobel, of Virginia, to be United States Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund for a term of two years.

2015-02-26 PN229 African Development Bank Marcia Denise Occomy, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years.

2015-02-26 PN228 Inter-American Development Bank Mileydi Guilarte, of the District of Columbia, to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank.

 

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