You’ve Seen the Boooooks, Now Get Ready For the Benghazi Movies!

Posted: 3:24  am EDT

 

We’ve stopped counting the number of Benghazi reports coming out of Congress a long time ago just as we’ve stopped counting the number of Benghazi books populating Amazon, B&N, Ebay,  and even Walmart. But now comes the movies. We’re starting the counting game again.  Maybe we’ll hire junior to do the reviews.

In September 2013, Deadline reported that Thunder Road had acquired The Embassy House to use as the basis for a feature movie. Oh, wait, that’s the book that was withdrawn by the publisher following the CBS News-Lara Logan blowup. But who knows? Maybe there will still be a movie called Not the Embassy House, because Benghazi, after all, was not an embassy. We have no intention of reading the book, but a retired FSO who wrote about it here has something shareable:

In an explanatory note, the author wrote that he used the terms “Embassy,” “Consulate” and “Diplomatic Mission” – replete with capital letters – interchangeably throughout. Moreover, wrote the author, “My understanding is that when the ambassador visits, it becomes the embassy.” Say what?

Noooooo ….

Did you just scream inside your head?  Yeah, me, too.  Anyway, the Hollywood Reporter said that HBO has optioned the book, Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi, with Jerry Weintraub on board to executive produce.  Under Fire is authored by former DSS Agent and Stratfor VP Fred Burton, and Samuel M. Katz.

In February 2015, Variety reported that Relativity Media has teamed with producer Dana Brunetti (produced Fifty Shades, Moneyball, Captain Phillips) for an untitled movie about two Americans who were killed during the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi.  According to the report, the studio “bought the life rights of CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, the fomer U.S. Navy SEALs who rescued 30 Americans in the attacks at the CIA Annex in Benghazi.”

This past March, Deadline reported that Alcon Entertainment has acquired rights to the spec script Zero Footprint which tells the story of the 18-month “off book” operation that ended with the fatal 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi. “The Alcon project is told through the eyes of the ex-Special Forces operator who undertook the mission — a real military hero — who must remain nameless for security reasons.”

So maybe 3-4 movies currently in the works.  Maybe more?  The first one that’ll hit the screen, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s nonfiction book.  Trailer below.  The movie by Michael Bay, known for directing big-budget action films like  Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Transformers was filmed in Malta and Morocco and is set to hit theaters in January 2016. 

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Related post

Near, far, wherever you are, Benghazi will go on and on … oh, but do you want to buy a Benghazi thong?

What if Congress grants the State Dept the Suspension Without Pay (SWOP) hammer?

Posted: 1:44  pm EDT

 

According to the Foreign Affairs Manual, the Act of August 26, 1950 (64 Stat. 476), codified at 5 U.S.C. 7532, “confers upon the Secretary of State the authority, in the Secretary’s absolute discretion, to suspend without pay any civilian officer or employee of the Department (including the Foreign Service of the United States) when deemed necessary in the interest of the national security (see 12 FAM 235.2).”

So when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the Fiscal Year 2016 Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act which contains a similar language on security clearance suspension without work and no pay for Foreign Service employees, we were wondering what’s up with that (see S.1635: DOS Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 – Security Clearance).

Section 610 (2)(c)(1) of S.1635 says that in order to promote the efficiency of the Service, the Secretary may suspend a member of the Service without pay when—

(A) the member’s security clearance is suspended; or

(B) there is reasonable cause to believe that the member has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed.

The new language indicates suspension without pay (SWOP) whenever the security clearance is suspended for whatever reason. Not just for national security reasons anymore, folks.

The most widely reported FSO with a suspended clearance in recent memory is Peter Van Buren whose TS clearance was suspended for about a year. Under this proposed bill, PVB would not have been assigned to a telework position or paid for the duration of his fight with the State Department. Which means he and others like him would have to quit and find a paying job or starve unless he/she has a savings account that can sustain the investigation for a year or years.

Any FS employee who might dissent or engage in whistleblowing activity, any perceived troublemaker for that matter, can be put on SWOP, and that would be it.  An FSO who experienced first hand the suspension of a security clearance put this in very stark terms:

In practical terms they can remove the employee instantly, without telling anyone why until much later, by which time the employee will have resigned unless they can afford to go for months or years without a salary. And once the employee has resigned, the case is closed, the former employee loses their clearance because they resigned, and with it any right to know the reasons for the suspension. If the employee quits, the Department does not have to justify itself to anyone, and if the Department doesn’t have to pay them, 99.9 percent will quit.

We want to look at the numbers of suspension and revocation, unfortunately, this is something that is not publicly available from Diplomatic Security.  A source speaking on background put the numbers very low at less than 30 suspensions a year and of those probably less than 5 are revocations. Another source long familiar with this issue guesstimate the number as closer to 70-80 suspension per year, and the number of revocations probably at15-20 per year. We are unable to verify these numbers independently.  The higher numbers may be due to greater hiring, as well as to the use of “Scattered Castles,” a computer database that lists all prior security clearance determinations by other agencies which may prompt a suspension and re-investigation of the clearance.  But even if we take the higher numbers of 80 suspensions, that is still a small number compared to the total FS workforce.

A source not authorized to speak on this subject told us that the bulk of security clearance suspensions and revocations involve personal behavior issues ranging from alleged sexual misconduct to alcohol abuse, to failure to report on time a relationship that should be reported. Very few security clearance cases involve a matter that is criminal, so very few result in prosecution.

The question then becomes why? Why would Congress want this? And just as important, why does the State Department support this?

The long history of this section of the bill reportedly dates back to Condoleezza Rice’s term at the State Department. It was allegedly intended to create parity between Foreign Service (FS) and Civil Service (CS) employees.

State can indeed put CS employees on SWOP as soon as clearance is suspended, but the rules also gives CS employees appeal rights to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). We understand that MSPB records and procedures are public and that it is specifically granted authority to review security clearance cases. The FS employees do not have the same protection with the Foreign Service Grievance Board. The final review adjudicative body, the Security Appeals Panel, not part of FSGB, allegedly does not even keep records of its deliberative process or set precedent for future cases. Currently, the rules on the FAM says: “If the individual is represented by counsel or other representative, the representative does not have a right to have access to or to review any material. However, to the extent authorized by the individual and the Department, the representative may review material that the individual has access to pursuant to subsection (b) above if he or she is properly cleared.”

The numbers of suspension/revocation are low but Congress doesn’t have to talk about the numbers. The members can talk about getting rid of bad apples in the government, which is always popular. In doing so, Congress can look tough on security, tough on the State Department and tough on keeping tabs on government money.

This is not a good idea. If only a quarter of all suspensions end in revocation, isn’t the USG throwing money and lives away? In addition to our concern that this could be use by the State Department to shut-up dissenters or potential whistleblowers, we also have the following concerns:

  • Costs in hiring/training

The USG has a lengthy hiring process for FS employees and typically trains them before sending them to posts overseas. The cost of that investment does not come cheap. Members of the FS also go through language training and spends most of their careers in overseas assignments.The length of time to replace/train/deploy an FS employee is significantly longer than the time to replace a CS employee.

  • FS family logistics

FS members overseas with suspended clearance are normally sent home to a desk job that does not require a clearance or their expertise. Not all FS members have houses to come home to in the WashDC area. They’ll have to pull kids out of schools, and move their entire household. What happens to them in DC if the employee is without work and without pay under this proposal? A suspension in this case would technically be a firing as the FS employee will be forced to find an alternate job that pays. So what happens when the case is resolved without a revocation, will the employee be able to come back? Since the investigation ends when the employee leaves, there is no win here for the employee.

  • Prime targets of hostile intel service

FS employees spends most of their career overseas. By virtue of their positions, they are prime targets of any hostile intel service. They can be subject of a security investigation though no fault of their own.  This is even more concerning with the OPM hack purportedly conducted by a foreign government.  If true that a foreign government now has the personal details of over 20 million security clearance holders, including those in the State Department who used OPM’s e-Qip system, how does one even protect oneself from the potential misuse of that information that can lead to a clearance suspension?

What can you do?

As we have posted earlier, the State Authorization bill was offered as an amendment when the NDAA was debated in the Senate in June but it was not voted on when the NDAA passed on June 18 (That would be H.R. 1735 which passed 215 (71-25)  We understand that both chambers are now starting the process to bring the bill to conference in order to resolve differences.  The State Authorization bill, we are told, will not be part of those discussions.  In order for this to move forward, it will either need to be brought to the floor as a stand alone vote or Corker/Cardin could try again to attach it to another piece of legislation. Given that this is the first authorization bill passed by the SFRC in 5 years, and made it through the committee with bi-partisan support, we suspect that this might not be the end of this bill.

We’re hoping that employees’ fundamental rights and due process do not become casualties particularly in gaining concessions from Congress on the overseas comparability pay (CP) fight. That would be a terrible bargain.  Educate your elected representative on the consequences of this section of the bill. See that AFSA is tracking this matter and talking to Congress.

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S.1635: DOS Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016 – Security Clearance

Posted: 6:17 pm EDT
Updated: 11:31 am PDT

Update: A source on the Hill alerted us that the State Authorization bill was offered as an amendment when the NDAA was debated in the Senate last month but it was not voted on and the NDAA passed on June 18 (That would be H.R. 1735 which passed 215 (71-25)  We understand that both chambers are now starting the process to bring the bill to conference in order to resolve differences.  The State Authorization bill, we are told, will not be part of those discussions.  In order for this to move forward, it will either need to be brought to the floor as a stand alone vote or Corker/Cardin could try again to attach it to another piece of legislation. Given that this is the first authorization bill passed by the SFRC in 5 years, and made it through the committee with bi-partisan support, we suspect that the this is not the end of this bill. We hope to write a follow-up post on the security clearance component of this legislation.
— DS

On June 9, 2015, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded the unanimous committee passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act. The SFRC statement says that it has been five years since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a State Department Authorization bill and 13 years since one was enacted into law.

“Our committee has a responsibility to ensure limited federal resources for the State Department are used in a cost-effective manner to advance U.S. interests,” said Corker. “This effort takes a modest but important step toward reestablishing oversight of the State Department through an annual authorization, which hasn’t been enacted into law since 2002. In addition to prioritizing security upgrades for U.S. personnel at high threat posts, the legislation lays the groundwork to streamline State Department operations and make them more effective.”

This State Department Authorization bill has been offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which currently is on the Senate floor. It is quite lengthy so we will chop this down in bite sizes.

Below is the part related to the suspension of security clearance. If this bill passes,  it means placing a member of the Foreign Service in a temporary status without duties and without pay once a determination to suspend clearance has been made. Diplomats with suspended clearances are typically given desk jobs or telecommuting work that require little or none of their expertise; looks like this bill changes that. The bill does not say what happens (does he/she gets back pay?) if the suspension of clearance does not result in revocation and the employee is reinstated. Or if suspended employees with no work/no pay will be allowed to take temporary jobs while waiting for the resolution of their suspended clearances.

Section 216. Security clearance suspensions

(a)Suspension

Section 610 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 4010) is amended—

(1)by striking the section heading and inserting the following:

610.Separation for cause; suspension

; and

(2)by adding at the end the following:

(c)

(1)In order to promote the efficiency of the Service, the Secretary may suspend a member of the Service without pay when—

(A)the member’s security clearance is suspended; or

(B)there is reasonable cause to believe that the member has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed.

(2)Any member of the Foreign Service for whom a suspension is proposed under this subsection shall be entitled to—

(A)written notice stating the specific reasons for the proposed suspension;

(B)a reasonable time to respond orally and in writing to the proposed suspension;

(C)representation by an attorney or other representative; and

(D)a final written decision, including the specific reasons for such decision, as soon as practicable.

(3)Any member suspended under this subsection may file a grievance in accordance with the procedures applicable to grievances under chapter 11.

(4)If a grievance is filed under paragraph (3)—

(A)the review by the Foreign Service Grievance Board shall be limited to a determination of whether the provisions of paragraphs (1) and (2) have been fulfilled; and

(B)the Board may not exercise the authority provided under section 1106(8).

(5)In this subsection:

(A)The term reasonable time means—

(i)with respect to a member of the Foreign Service assigned to duty in the United States, 15 days after receiving notice of the proposed suspension; and

(ii)with respect to a member of the Foreign Service assigned to duty outside the United States, 30 days after receiving notice of the proposed suspension.

(B)The terms suspend and suspension mean placing a member of the Foreign Service in a temporary status without duties and pay.

More here: Department of State Operations Authorization and Embassy Security Act, Fiscal Year 2016. This old article (pdf) on security clearance and knowing your rights might also be a useful to read.

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State Dept Suspends All Tarrant County (Texas) Passport Processing Authority

Posted: 12:50 am  PDT

 

 

The Star Telegram reports that the State Department has suspended all Tarrant County (Texas – Ft Worth’s county) acceptance agents’ authority to accept passport applications.

The Tarrant County district clerk’s office cannot process passport applications until an investigation into a “possible infraction” is completed by the U.S. State Department, County Administrator G.K. Maenius said Tuesday.

The district clerk’s office has not been able to accept applications since it was notified by the State Department of the investigation on June 25, Maenius said.

The clerk’s office has processed about 33,000 applications so far this year. As a registered agent of the State Department, the office has been handling passport applications since 1999, currently at six locations around the county.

One prospective passport applicant told the Star that she could not even pick up the paperwork for the passport application nor get any information about passports from one of the processing sites in the county.
Read more here.

The Tarrant County website posted the following information:

Screen Shot 2015-07-08

via Tarrant County, TX

NBCDFW.com says that the order comes amid a federal investigation into the use of fraudulent documents to obtain passports in Tarrant County and whether clerks followed proper procedures, according to a person familiar with the case.

Later on July 8, NBC5 reports that the Department of State confirmed it is investigating Tarrant County’s passport office and had ordered the county to stop taking passport applications but would say little else.

“We can confirm that all passport acceptance facilities in Tarrant County, Texas, have temporarily suspended accepting U.S. passport applications,” a State Department spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “As a review is ongoing, we cannot comment on further details.”

Last May, a Grand Jury in the Southern District of Texas indicted three women charged with nine counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with the alleged use of U.S. passport information from the Houston Passport Office. (See U.S. Passport Agency Contractor, Two Others Indicted for Alleged Use of Stolen Passport Information). That case is currently pending in the Southern District of Texas in Houston. Jury selection and trial in that case is set for October 13, 2015.

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US Embassy N’Djamena: Travel Restrictions and Security Review in Chad

Posted: 2:17 am  EDT

 

July 7 Security Message: Due to the bombings in N’Djamena on Monday, June 15, and Monday, June 29, U.S. Embassy staff is restricted from visiting public, open-air markets at any time, and may not attend or visit public events or venues not held at US government residences.

Photo by discovery.state.gov

US Embassy N’Djamena, Chad — image from discovery.state.gov

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No Comparator Case For DS Agent With PTSD — Failure to Follow Regs, Lack of Candor Charges Came 2 1⁄2 Years Late

Posted: 3:12 am  EDT

 

This is a case of a DS Agent charged with lack of candor and failure to follow regulations for incidents that took place in 2010 related to his PTSD.   The State Department issued a final decision to  suspend the agent for 12 days.  According to the ROI, the deciding official at the agency level grievance “also considered the mitigating factors and gave grievant credit for having no past formal disciplinary record and a satisfactory work history. The deciding official also noted grievant’s potential for rehabilitation, while recognizing that grievant clearly was embarrassed by his diagnosis of PTSD, and feared that he might be stigmatized by the label, or that he might even lose his job with the Department.”

A couple things striking about this case.  Following grievant’s military service in Iraq in 2006, he started having panic attacks and severe anxiety, for which he was prescribed several medications – none of which he says worked very well. His symptoms became worse over time. In 2009 he was diagnosed as having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The incidents that ultimately led to the two charges occurred in November 2010; yet the Department did not propose disciplinary action until April 24, 2013 – a span of 29 months. The ROI does not explain the delay.

Grievant reportedly denied during the interviews with that he had been diagnosed with PTSD, saying instead that he had been treated for anxiety and panic attacks. And yet, according to the ROI, grievant avers that “he discussed his PTSD diagnosis in considerable detail with the DS investigators, and authorized release of his medical records.”

Grievant admits he did not comply with Department regulations requiring him to report that he had been prescribed psychiatric medications, but claims he was unaware of the policy requiring him to do so. He claims that he was not alone in being unaware of this requirement, as many other DS officers to his knowledge were also unaware of the regulation.

Since grievant is a DS agent, the Department has also cited 12 FAM Exhibit 023 2.5, its Deadly Force and Firearms Policy (which we can no longer read online, as it’s now behind the firewall). 12 FAM Exhibit 023 section 2.5 12 FAH-9 H-030 appears specific to prescription medication.  The State Department showed, and the FSGB agreed that there are no similar cases that presented the same set of circumstances as in this grievant’s case.

The Board held that grievance be granted in part and denied in part. The Board remanded the case to the Department to consider an appropriate penalty in view of their decision not to sustain two specifications of one of the two charges.

Summary:

Grievant faces two charges – Lack of Candor and Failure to Follow Regulations – that were leveled against him because of statements he made during a Department investigation about incidents that took place while he was in the U.S. on leave in 2010. He is a Diplomatic Security Special Agent who was admitted to the hospital on two occasions (on consecutive days) after he drank alcohol heavily and took an unknown quantity of prescription medications after he became upset about the breakup of his engagement to be married. The investigation revealed discrepancies between the information grievant gave to investigators and that found in his medical records. Records show that grievant suffers from PTSD and that he had not reported this fact to the Department. The investigation report claims that grievant denied during interviews that he had ever been diagnosed with PTSD or that he was ever in a treatment program to address the condition. His records also show that he had been prescribed several psychiatric medications, and contained no evidence that grievant had reported to the Department either the PTSD diagnosis, or the prescription medicines which are required to be reported under the agency’s Deadly Force and Firearms policy. The Department’s final decision provided for a 12-day suspension without pay.

Grievant denies the majority of the specifications cited in the charges. He claims to have discussed his PTSD diagnosis in detail with the investigators and avers that he responded candidly to all of the questions posed to him during two DS interviews. He admits that he did not report the prescription medicines, but argues that he was unaware he needed to do so. Grievant also claims that the charges are untimely, having been brought after a very long delay – nearly 2 1⁄2 years after the incidents, and that the delay has prejudiced his ability to present his case. He claims to have been particularly disadvantaged in that he is unable to find witnesses who could corroborate his positions or shed light on the quantity of medications he took prior to the 2010 incidents. He also argues that the proposed penalty, in any case, is overly harsh in light of penalties the Department has imposed for like offenses. He requests that those charges/specifications the Department is unable to establish should be overturned, and the 12-day suspension should be mitigated.

Click on the image or the link below to read ROI in pdf file. The file is redacted and originally published online by the Foreign Service Grievance Board.

2014-020 - 04-29-2015 - B - Interim Decision_Redacted-2-02

FSGB Case 2014-020 – 04-29-2015 – B |DS Agent – PTSD Case                         (click image to read in pdf)

2014-020 – 04-29-2015 – B – Interim Decision_Redacted-2

The regs apparently say that “a DSS Special Agent who is taking prescription medication to notify his supervisor and submit a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable documentation of the prescription … to the Domestic Programs Division of the Office of Medical Services immediately after beginning the medication.” We don’t know what happens to DS agents who self report as required by regulations.  Are their USG-issued weapons removed? Are they subject to reassignment? Is there a perception that this is an embarrassment?

Given that many Diplomatic Security personnel have now done multiple tours to war zones and high threat posts, is this really an isolated case of not self-reporting both the PTSD diagnosis and the use of prescription medication?

We sent this individual to Iraq in 2006. He came back with unseen wounds. And here he is in 2015, still fighting his battle.   What can the State Department do to make employees with potential PTSD less fearful of being stigmatized in coming forward and acknowledging they need help? What can the Bureau of Diplomatic Security do more for its agents? How can this be made into a less lonely fight?

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Senators Perdue and Kaine Sponsor Improving Department of State Oversight Act of 2015

Posted: 12:27 am  EDT

 

Last month, Sen. Perdue, David [R-GA] and Sen. Kaine, Tim [D-VA] introduced S.1527 – Improving Department of State Oversight Act of 2015.  Read the full text of the bill here.  Here is a summary via CRS:

This bill grants competitive status for appointment to a position in the competitive service for which the employee is qualified to any employee of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) who was not terminated for cause, and who completes at least 12 months of service at any time before the termination of the SIGIR on October 5, 2013.

The Secretary of State shall certify to Congress that the Department of State has made reasonable efforts to ensure the integrity and independence of the Office of the Inspector General Information Technology systems.

Each Department entity under the Foreign Service Act of 1980 shall report within five business days to the Inspector General (IG) any allegations of:

  • program waste, fraud, or abuse;
  • criminal or serious misconduct on the part of a Department employee at the FS-1, GS-15, GM-15 level or higher;
  • criminal misconduct on the part of any Department employee; and
  • serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any individual who is authorized to carry a weapon, make arrests, or conduct searches (such as conduct that would constitute perjury or material dishonesty, warrant suspension as discipline for a first offense, or result in loss of law enforcement authority).

The IG may investigate such matters.

No Department entity with concurrent jurisdiction over such matters, including the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, may initiate an investigation without first reporting the allegations to the IG.

A Department entity that initiates an investigation of such a matter must fully cooperate with the IG, unless the IG authorizes an exception.

Temporary relaxation of such restrictions may occur in exigent circumstances.

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This bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations which will consider it before sending it to the Senate floor for consideration.  According to govtrack.us, there are 5,343 bills and resolutions currently before the United States Congress. Of those, only about 5% will become law. They must be enacted before the end of the 2015-2017 session (the “114th Congress”).

 

Burn Bag: Ding! Ding! Ding! This Is Your ‘More Than Just Stupid’ Warning!

Via Burn Bag:

“A director of a regional diplomatic courier office has openly expressed he does not want to hire “women of childbearing age”. He achieves this by carefully examining candidates’ resumes when hiring to fill an EFM position. BBag, can you stop this stupidity, considering it’s from an FS-1?”

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EFM – eligible family member
FS01 – the highest rank in the regular Foreign Service, last step before the Senior Foreign Service; equivalent to a full Colonel in the military

Why this is more than just stupid? SCOTUS:

The Supreme Court decides International Union, UAW v. Johnson Controls and addresses the issue of fetal hazards. In this case, the employer barred women of childbearing age from certain jobs due to potential harm that could occur to a fetus. The Court rules that the employer’s restriction against fertile women performing “dangerous jobs” constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII. The Court further rules that the employer’s fetal protection policy could be justified only if being able to bear children was a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for the job. The fact that the job posed risk to fertile women does not justify barring all fertile women from the position.

The Supreme Court in Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp. holds that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination means that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex plus other factors such as having school age children. In practical terms, EEOC’s policy forbids employers from using one hiring policy for women with small children and a different policy for males with children of a similar age.

In Gibson v. West, the Supreme Court endorses EEOC’s position that it has the legal authority to require that federal agencies pay compensatory damages when EEOC has ruled during the administrative process that the federal agency has unlawfully discriminated in violation of Title VII.

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Terrorist Attacks Rock France, Tunisia, Kuwait: Three Countries. Three Continents. All Soft Targets.

Posted: 4:41  pm EDT

 

Terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait today. At least 37 people including British, Belgian and German nationals were killed by gunmen at a beach resort in Tunisia, one person was reportedly decapitated in France at a US-owned factory, and at least 25 people were killed at a suicide bombing at a mosque in Kuwait. Three countries, three continents and  all soft targets.
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The US Embassy Paris released the following security message on 

The U.S. Embassy in Paris informs U.S. citizens that a terrorist attack took place at approximately 10 AM today at a U.S.-owned factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, Isere, France, southeast of Lyon, at a large industrial park. One person was killed and two others were reported injured. None of the deceased or injured was a U.S. citizen. The motivation for the attack is unknown, and one suspect is in French government custody.   The Government of France maintains a threat rating system, known locally as “Vigipirate,” similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory System. Following the January 2015 terrorist attacks, the Government of France raised the “Vigipirate” level and continues to evaluate its security posture on a regular basis. Up-to-date information is available on the “Vigipirate” website in French.

 

Under this system, the government routinely augments police with armed forces and increases visibility at airports, train and metro stations, and other high-profile locations such as schools, major tourist attractions, and government installations. Over the last few years, there have been arrests of suspected militant extremists allegedly involved in terrorist plots. French authorities have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions for terrorist attacks in Europe.

 

U.S. citizens in France are encouraged to remain vigilant. Immediately report unattended packages observed in public places, or any other suspicious activities, to French law enforcement authorities. French authorities are proactive and will respond immediately. If there is a security incident or suspicious package, do not linger in the area to observe.

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The  US Embassy in Tunis released the following  message:

The U.S. Embassy wishes to alert U.S. citizens to a terrorist attack in Tunisia around the Kantaoui area at the Imperial Riu Marhaba and Soviva hotels in Sousse.   The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Kantaoui area and surrounding vicinity. The U.S. Embassy reiterates our standing guidance that U.S. citizens in Tunisia should exercise caution when frequenting public venues that are visited by large numbers of foreigners, such as hotels, shopping centers, and tourist sites and restaurants.

U.S. citizens should also be alert to the possibility of kidnapping.  U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise caution and avoid areas where large gatherings may occur.  Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  U.S. citizens should monitor local events, report suspicious activity to the local police, and take appropriate steps to bolster their own security.

Travelers contemplating trips to the interior of the country should assess local conditions and routes when making travel plans.  In particular, all travel south of the designated military zone in the south must be coordinated in advance with Tunisian authorities.  Also, travel to either border should be avoided if possible given the periodic security incidents along the border regions.

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The US Embassy in Kuwait issued this: Explosion at Mosque in Al-Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait City – Security Notice for U.S. Citizens 2015

There has been an explosion at a mosque in the Al Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait.  There have been reports of deaths and injuries.  U.S. citizens should avoid the area.  Please stay current with media coverage of local and regional events. U.S. Mission personnel have been advised to continue to practice personal security awareness and we advise the U.S. citizen community to do the same.

The embassy also released a statement calling the explosion “a senseless terrorist attack on worshipers in the Al-Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque”, condemning the attack and says that “the United States stands ready to assist our friend and ally Kuwait in any way possible.”
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Below is the WH statement on the three attacks:

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Social Media Security Screening Is Here: OPM to Make Sole Source Award For Use in Background Investigation

Posted: 1:01 am  PDT

 

Last September, Mike Kelly, the Republican Representative for Pennsylvania’s 3rd congressional district introduced the Enhanced Security Clearance Act of 2014 (HR 5482) aimed at the implementation of enhanced personnel security programs which requires agency programs to “integrate information from government, publicly available, and commercial data sources, consumer reporting agencies, and social media.”

Mr. Kelly told ZDNet, “In particular, the bill will update government background checks to include an applicants’ publicly available electronic data including social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.” This bill was introduced on September 16, 2014, in a previous session of Congress, but was not enacted.

Well, the bill may have died but it was only a matter of time before social media content becomes part of the federal background investigation.

The Federal Investigative Services (OPM-FIS) provides investigative products and services for over 100 Federal agencies to use as the basis for suitability and security clearance determinations. OPM provides over 90% of the Government’s background investigations, conducting over two million investigations a year.

On June 17, the Office of Personnel Management, Federal Investigative Service (FIS), PIC Acquisitions Team, published a “Notice of Intent to Sole Source – PAEI Reports” to Social Intelligence, a company headquartered in California.  Social media content is now officially called Publicly Available Electronic Information (PAEI). If we’re reading this correctly, it looks like there already are pilot projects with the same company conducted with the U.S. Army, the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of State and the National Reconnaissance Office.

Below is the published notice via fedbiz:

It is the intention of the agency to award a firm-fixed price agreement to Social Intelligence for publicly available electronic information (PAEI) reports. This is not a solicitation for quotations, but rather a notice of the agency’s intent to make a sole source award to Social Intelligence.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Investigative Services (FIS) seeks to award a firm-fixed price agreement to Social Intelligence who will conduct searches of multiple sources of PAEI in an automated manner and provide complete, accurate, standardized reports to OPM-FIS when searches result in information pertinent to Subjects of Investigation.

OPM-FIS is participating in a set of pilot projects with other federal investigative service providers to evaluate the use of PAEI in the background investigative process. This acquisition will provide 400 PAEI reports over a period of approximately 6-9 months for a sample population of investigations to assess the OPM-FIS operational end-to-end process and relevancy to the investigation along with the effects of quality, costs and timeliness. The vendor must also provide high level training on how to review and analyze the PAEI reports and also provide customer and technical support 24×7 until 400 PAEI reports have been provided to OPM-FIS.

Social Intelligence is the only source that possesses knowledge and expertise obtained through participation in other high level government PAEI pilot projects, to include pilots with the U.S. Army, the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Department of State and the National Reconnaissance Office. Social Intelligence is the only one available whose product will result in a consistent and accurate comparative analysis between results of the OPM-FIS pilot and other government agencies’ pilots. This vendor’s personnel have experience with and have received training on the personnel security process and the thirteen adjudicative guidelines due to participation in previous government pilots. Such experience is required in order to appropriately identify issues containing relevant adjudicative information. Only data that meets the adjudicative guidelines will be collected and retained by OPM-FIS.

This vendor was deemed a consumer reporting agency (CRA) by the Federal Trade Commission, as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. As of January 2013, the vendor was the only social media background screening company designated as a CRA. This designation is important as the FTC has ruled that CRAs must take reasonable steps to ensure the maximum possible accuracy of the information reported from social media sites. All of the above make Social Intelligence a unique source that would provide the best solution with the least risk to the government for this pilot.

According to its website, Social Intelligence (http://www.socialintel.com) “provides social media data, tools, and reports to commercial and Government organizations. Headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., the company has developed a unique suite of products including employment background screenings, insurance claims investigations, corporate due diligence, and Government services. … Social Intelligence was created to provide companies and governmental organizations publicly available online information, while ensuring this data is used appropriately and legally.” It provides the following services:

  • Social Intelligence’s Social Monitoring & Evaluation solutions provide a powerful and cost-effective way to monitor and evaluate an individual’s ongoing online activity across the deep web.
  • Social Intelligence’s groundbreaking research into online identity science and its implications allows companies to confidently rely on social media and internet data. A fully automated capability, Social Intelligence’s proven, proprietary Identity Resolution algorithm identifies, matches, and scores aggregated publicly available online information, the first of multiple steps to solidify data veracity.

On it’s website, the company talks about “the opportunity at hand”  — apparently 64 million people are unscorable by traditional credit scores and 55% of millennials are willing to share their data in exchange for discounts.

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