SFRC Bullies Diplomats Up For Promotion to Self-Certify They Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime

Posted: 12:45 pm EDT

 

The question is why? Why is the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) demanding that our diplomats self-certify that they have not committed a felony within the last seven years? The form says “disclosure of this information is voluntary.” But also that “failure to provide the information requested may result in delay or exclusion of your name on a Foreign Service nomination list.”

Career members of the Foreign Service must be promoted into the Senior Foreign Service by appointment of the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. This self-certification is reportedly also required for employees who are up for commissioning and tenuring at the Foreign Relations committee.

So basically in bullying our diplomats into signing this witless self-certification, the SFRC will be able to provide better advice to President Obama?

How?


All Diplomats Must Hold and Keep Top Secret Clearances

The American diplomatic profession requires the issuance of a security clearance. All Foreign Service officers must hold and keep an active Top Secret security clearance.

The personnel security background investigation begins after an individual has been given a conditional offer of employment and has completed the appropriate security questionnaire, usually a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, and other required forms.  Once the security package is received by the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability, it is reviewed for completeness. National agency record checks and scanned fingerprint checks are then conducted. A case manager will direct the background investigation to cover key events and contacts from the individual’s past and present history.   Once the investigators have completed a report, highly trained security clearance adjudicators will weigh the results against existing adjudicative guidelines for security clearances. A critical step in the background investigation is the face-to-face interview the individual will have with a DS investigator. This interview usually occurs within a few weeks of an individual submitting a complete security clearance package. Security clearances are subject to periodic reinvestigation every 5 years for TS clearance, and every 10 years for a Secret clearance.

When there is derogatory information, even based on preliminary facts from a DS criminal investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) counterintelligence or other law enforcement investigation, or an Inspector General investigation, the security clearance is suspended.  Personnel whose security clearances have been suspended may not be placed on temporary duty status at diplomatic facilities abroad and may not be retained in positions requiring a security clearance until the investigation is resolved.

The names of those with pending investigations are automatically removed from the promotion list.  It goes without saying …. oops, maybe it does need saying — diplomats who have pled guilty or convicted of a crime will not be able to hold a security clearance, much less have his/her name included in the promotion list.

Let’s give you an example — Michael Sestak, an FSO who pled guilty in a visa fraud-bribery case. He is currently sitting in jail. He’ll be sentenced in April.  When he comes out of prison, he will not/not have a job to return to at the State Department. Does anyone at the SFRC really think that somebody like Mr. Sestak can slip through federal employment again, get on the promotion list and somehow make it through the most deliberative body in Congress. No? So why would anyone in the Senate think that this self-certification is anything but idiotic?

 

8,042 Diplomats Targeted

On March 2012, fcw.com cited 2,102,269 as the total number of executive branch employees.  Of those, however, only 1,877,990 are full-time, permanent employees. These numbers reportedly do not include uniformed military personnel, or data on the Postal Service and excludes legislative and judicial branch employees.

Out of the 2.1 million employees, the State Department has  a total of 71,782 employees which includes 47,110 Foreign Service National (FSN) employees; 10,871 Civil Service (CS) employees and 13,801 (FS) Foreign Service employees as of December 2014 (see stats here-pdf.)

Of the total 13,801 Foreign Service employees, 8,042 are considered “Generalists” and 5,759 are “Specialists.”  The “Specialists which include DS agents, and HR, IT professionals are not subject to Senate confirmation.  The “Generalists” are the Foreign Service Officers  whose tenure and promotion are subject to confirmation by the United States Senate.

The Senate majority in the Foreign Relations Committee appears to be targeting only Foreign Service officers.  They, and they alone have been asked to self-certify that they have not been “convicted of or pled guilty of any crime” in the last seven years. As far as we are aware, this requirement does not extend to nominees who are political appointees.

What makes career diplomats special, pray tell?


The White House Knows About This? You Gotta be Kidding.

This self-certification form which is not available at OPM.gov and does not include an official form number says that “The information collected and maintained in this form will be used as part of the vetting process for Foreign Service Lists submitted to the White House for eventual nomination to the Senate.”

An informed source told us that this self-certification had been negotiated between a representative of AFSA, a staffer at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the State Department.

No, there were no photos.

Apparently, there also was no White House representative involved, although you might missed that when reading the unclassified State Department 14 STATE 98420 cable dated Aug 12, 2014, which says in part:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) now requires additional vetting before it considers nominees for confirmation in all of the above-mentioned categories. Effective immediately all employees in those categories who have been nominated on or after April 1, 2014 must file a self-certification form certifying that they have not been convicted of a crime or pled guilty in any court over the past seven years, regardless of whether the record in the case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken from the court record. HR will notify those employees who are up for commissioning, tenure and SFS promotion that they must submit the form, available at:  [Note: we redacted sbu link] and which must be submitted to HR-PasSelfCertificat@state.gov.
Please note: failure to submit the form will mean that HR will not/not forward your name to the White House for nomination to the Senate. There is no waiver of the SFRC requirement. For those individuals who are unable to make the certification, and wish to provide information relevant to any conviction or guilty plea in the last seven years, they may report the information in the space provided on the form. Further investigation may be made on the basis of any additional information provided. The Department may then be required to provide this information to the SFRC.

 

AFSA and the State Department must realized that this is a meaningless and coersive made-up document, but both rolled over and played dead.  No other nominees of any agency of the U.S. government are obliged to sign such a certificate, which is essentially, again, meaningless in the context of a profession in which an active security clearance is a prerequisite to the performance of a job.

This is spectacular and unprecedented.

Well, not unprecedented if you count Senator McCarthy’s witch hunt and lavender scare in the 1950s.


Why roll over and play dead?

The SFRC can hold up ambassadorial nominations, senior State Dept level nominations (undersecretaries/assistant secretaries), and decide who to put first on the hearings list and who to put last (see Happy Easter Greeting: SFRC Left Town With 19 Ambassadorial Nominations Still Stuck on Glue!).  The simple act of holding up large numbers of nominees rather than passing them through at a reasonable pace wreaks havoc on State’s budget, assignments process, and people’s lives. (see Is the U.S. Senate Gonna Wreck, Wreck, Wreck, the Upcoming Bidding Season in the Foreign Service?)  Salaries, promotions, transfers, offices, authorities are money. Ambassadors who do not go to posts on time have big time resource implications in addition to political implications. People who do not have the legal authority to do their jobs (is a consular officer’s notarial legal if he/she did not receive Senate confirmation?) operate in a legal limbo presumably implying risks of all kinds.

So —

Self_certification

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Why not ‘just do it’ like Nike? It’s already done but it’s a horrible precedent, what’s next?

This is already being done. Folks have already signed this self-certifying documents and have submitted them as a requirement to their nominations.  They don’t really have a choice, do they? But where does it end?

It doesn’t.

We’ve learned that the SFRC gets information  on names recommended for promotion from the State Department “following vetting” and also directly from the OIG, including information that reportedly goes back decades.

That’s right, going back decades.

If an FSO or any employee is charged with a crime, the employee defends himself/herself in court, and if charged with an administrative matter, the employee defends himself/herself in an HR process. That’s how it works.

One SFRC staffer is now reportedly “negotiating” to gain access to OIG investigative data under the guise of allowing the Senate panel to better advise President Obama concerning the qualifications of Foreign Service Officer candidates. But what the SFRC is now “negotiating” with State and AFSA would be access to raw OIG and Diplomatic Security reports containing derogatory information without any of an employee’s mitigating, exculpatory or defensive evidence information. You okay with that?

What is Senator Corker’s SFRC going to ask for next, your diplomatic liver?

The White House seems asleep at the wheel on this. Today, it’s the State Department, tomorrow, it could be any agency in the Federal Government.

Hey, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is doing it, what’s the rest of the Senate going to ask for next?

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Insider Quote: Petty Little Beaver Plays Dirty in Humans of the Foreign Service

Posted: 6:53 am PDT

 

“You are not in the Senior Foreign Service, and you never will be in the Senior Foreign Service, because somebody has told the Senate all about you!” 

— petty little beaver (who never left high school but now representing the United States of America) to person who refused to give job endorsement

 

Related post:

The Odd Story of “Vetting/Scrubbing” the Tenure/Promotion of 1,800 Foreign Service Employees in the U.S. Senate

 

374 Foreign Service Promotions Confirmed as Senate Rushed Out For Easter Break

Posted: 2:17 am EDT

 

After another lengthy wait, the U.S. Senate finally confirmed the promotion of 374 Foreign Service officers on March 27, 2015.  The Senate is now adjourned until April 13, 2015 where the wait for several more ambassadorial and regular FS nominees will presumably continue with no end in sight.

2015-03-27 PN69 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Joyce A. Barr, and ending Nancy E. McEldowney, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.  The following-named Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the Department of State for promotion within the Senior Foreign Service to the class indicated: Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Career Minister:

Joyce A. Barr

Robert F. Godec Jr.

Patricia M. Haslach

Paul Wayne Jones

Scot Alan Marciel

Nancy E. McEldowney

 

2015-03-27 PN70 Foreign Service/USAID

Nominations beginning Karen L. Freeman, and ending Monica Stein-Olson, which 5 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN71-1 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Jeffrey N. Bakken, and ending Ellen Marie Zehr, which 37 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN72-1 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Gregory Adams, and ending Todd R. Ziccarelli, which 177 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN230-1 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Alexious Butler, and ending Naida Zecevic Bean, which 143 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.

2015-03-27 PN231 Foreign Service

Nominations beginning Adam Michael Branson, and ending Marc C. Gilkey, which 6 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on February 26, 2015.

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Related posts:

 

LGBT Ambassadors: We’ve Come This Far But … Still Pale and Male

Posted: 2:04 am EDT

 

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The following is an excerpt from Life After Jerusalem, a blog by  a lesbian American Indian Foreign Service officer:

None of the stories I have seen on the event (such as this one in the Washington Post and this one in the Washington Blade), which I am the first to admit is a wonderful thing and evidence of how far we have come, mentioned this absence. Which I take as evidence of how far we have to go.
[…]
When the Department recently appointed an LGBT envoy, which to its credit is a career FSO (as is only one of the out gay Ambassadors), it appointed another white man. I was told at the time that there just aren’t any lesbians or people of color who rank highly enough to be considered. And that seems to be true. I can find no lesbian or out person of color who has made it to the ranks of Senior Foreign Service.

Of course, rank didn’t stop the Department during Secretary Rice’s tenure from appointing several men to the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) who were only FS 02s in rank (for reference, FS 02 is the Foreign Service equivalent of a Lt. Colonel. Senior Foreign Service is the equivalent of a general. The highest ranking out lesbians that I know of in the Department are FS 01s, or Colonels, higher ranking than those men who were made DASes). And those men did not return to their mid-level positions afterward. In fact, two became Ambassadors, another an Assistant Secretary.

So really, the Department could appoint a career lesbian or out person of color if it really wanted to.

Read in full at Life After Jerusalem.

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Burn Bag: Where taking “open door” seriously can ruin corridor reputation … oh woe!

Posted: 2:19  am EDT

 

When management at your post in crisis tells you they have an open door and want to know how people are feeling, then tells you your (widely shared) concern is insignificant and you are ruining your corridor reputation by bringing it up.

 

 

Former FSO Joan Wadelton With Truthout Goes to Court Over FOIA Case

Posted: 1:0808 am EDT

 

We didn’t know this but former FSO Joan Wadelton was joined by non-profit organization, Truthout in her FOIA lawsuit (pdf) against the State Department. Her formal complaint includes the following:

Over the past decade, Wadelton has collected evidence demonstrating that the type of treatment she received from HR was not unique to her, but instead was the product of a systematic manipulation of the selection board promotion process by a circle of current and former high-level HR managers to advantage themselves and their allies and to disadvantage those they did not favor.

See more here.

Since this is a FOIA case, the Clinton emails made their first walk-in part. We expect that these emails will be cited in many more cases in the court system before too long.

Via Politico:

The saga stemming from revelations about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account as secretary of state made its way into a federal courtroom in Washington Wednesday afternoon in an ex-foreign service officer’s lawsuit for records related to her dismissal.

The discussion of the State Department’s email issues—including a disclosure last week that the agency did not automatically archive the email of many top officials until February of this year—came at a hearing on a Freedom of Information Act suit filed by former State employee Joan Wadelton.
[…]

“The State Department has proposed filing a motion for summary judgment in August 2015, stating it requires nearly six months to compile a Vaughn index for approximately 450 documents. The Court is not convinced, without a further and clearer showing of necessity, that six months is needed to complete this task,” wrote Chutkan, an Obama appointee. She ordered the government to offer a written explanation by March 30 of why that many months are needed.

Wadelton’s complaints about favoritism and irregular employment practices at State have been covered by various diplomacy-related blogs and news outlets, including here at the Atlantic.

The Vaughn Index is an itemized index, correlating each withholding with a specific FOIA exemption and a justification for that justification. This document is prepared by the agency, in this case, the State Department, to justify any FOIA withholdings made.

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Related posts:

Joan Wadelton: Time To Fix The State Department (via WhirledView)

Joan Wadelton’s Appeal Makes it to FSGB 2011 Annual Report to Congress (diplopundit.net)

Joan Wadelton’s Case: That’s One Messy Promotion Scorecard, Next Up – It’s GAO Time! (diplopundit.net)

GAO Examines Foreign Service Promotion Process — Strengthened But Documentation Gaps Remain) (diplopundit.net)

U.S. District Court for the Court of the District of Columbia | Wadelton v. State Department, 4/25/13 (pdf)

Wadelton Case | The FOIA Project

WADELTON et al v. DEPARTMENT OF STATE | Complaint 4/1/2013 (pdf)

 

Only 1 in 6 Employees Believe State Dept Senior Leadership Understands FS Work/Life Challenges

Posted: 3:01  am EDT

 

Via afsa.org:

In 2014, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) commissioned a third-party survey to better understand members’ views of AFSA as a professional association and union, as well as their opinions on AFSA’s advocacy and labor management priorities.  Of the nearly 3,500 responses, 1,600 came from active-duty State members who responded to State-specific questions.

The infographics made available by AFSA (pdf) notes that 40% agree or strongly agree that slowing promotion rates, limited career advancement, or a lack of professional development opportunities is causing them to consider leaving the Foreign Service. It also notes the membership opinion on quality of work and life issues as well as security issues.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.59.40 AM

 

We are still hunting down a copy of the full membership survey.  We should note that AFSA is the professional association and labor union of the United States Foreign Service with more than 16,345 dues-paying members. According to its 2014 annual report, it has 10,664 members who are in active-duty with the State Department and 3,717 members who are retired employees. Looks like 15% of the active service members and 51% of retired members participated in this survey.

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State Department Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken Meets With Junior Diplomats

Posted: 12:26 am EDT

In London

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken meets with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in London, United Kingdom, on March 4, 2015. To the left of the Deputy Secretary is Embassy London’s Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Dibble. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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In Paris

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken speaks with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, on March 2, 2015. Also pictured to the left of the Deputy Secretary is Embassy Paris Deputy Chief of Mission Uzra Zeya. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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In Seoul

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Mark Lippert, and Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim meet with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on February 9, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

16482520712_17cd1e2288_z

 

In Beijing

 

In Foggy Bottom

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AFSA Announces Candidates for 2015-2017 Governing Board

Posted: 2:59 am EDT
Updated: 9:49 am PDT

 

The AFSA Committee on Elections recently announced its approval of the following candidates for positions on the ballot for the AFSA Governing Board for the 2015-2017 term. It looks like the current president, Robert  Silverman is not running for reelection but the current State VP Matthew Asada is running for the top spot.  Mr. AFSA, Tex Harris, a tireless advocate for the professional interests of FSOs who previously served as AFSA president and established the “Tex Harris Award” for creative dissent by a Foreign Service specialist is also running for the top spot.  The third candidate is Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, former ambassador to Panama, and current Dean of the Leadership and Management School of the Foreign Service Institute.

There are two candidates for the State VP position.  Bill Haugh and former Ambassador Charles Ford are running unopposed for Secretary and Treasurer respectively.  Former Ambassadors Tom Boyatt and Charles Ray, and current GB member Larry Cohen are running for the Retiree VP position.  Three of the four candidates running as retiree representatives (4 slots) are also former ambassadors.  There are a few more familiar names among the candidates, we hope to have a follow-up post when their statements are available next month.

All regular voting members of AFSA will receive, by email or mail, a ballot and the special election edition of AFSA News on or about April 15, 2015. AFSA is pleased to offer those members for whom we have a valid email address the opportunity to vote online.  Completed ballots must be received by 8:00 a.m. June 4, 2015 in order to be counted. The new AFSA Governing Board will take office on July 15, 2015.

 

2015 Candidates

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

President (1)

Matthew K. Asada (** Future Forward AFSA slate)
Tex Harris
Barbara Stephenson (*Strong Diplomacy slate)

Secretary (1)

Bill Haugh *

Treasurer (1)

Charles A. Ford *

State VP (1)

Angie Bryan *
Kit Junge

USAID VP (1)

Sharon Wayne

FCS VP (1)

Steve Morrison

Retiree VP (1)

Tom Boyatt
Larry Cohen
Charles A. Ray **

State Representative (11)

Brynn C. Bennett **
Lawrence Casselle *
Ronnie S. Catipon
John Dinkelman *
Eric Geelan *
Josh Glazeroff *
Margaret Hawthorne *
Steven M. Jones
Pat Kabra **
Philip G. Laidlaw *
Neeru Lal **
Ronita Macklin **
Steve McCain **
Homeyra Mokhtarzada **
Doug Morrow
Peter Neisuler *
Erin O’Connor *
Leah M. Pease *
Dan Spokojny **
Sam Thielman *
Tricia Wingerter *
Joel Wisner **

USAID Representative (2)

Jeff Cochrane
Lorraine Sherman

FCS Representative (1)

William Kutson

Retiree Representative (4)

Patricia Butenis *
Dean Haas *
Alphonse F. La Porta *
John Limbert

* Member of the Strong Diplomacy slate
** Member of the Future Forward AFSA slate

 Election details via afsa.org:

AFSA members are encouraged to visit the AFSA website to participate in an online discussion forum with candidates. The discussion forum is named the “AFSA Community.” Candidates and/or members may post questions or comments to this forum and respond to members’ questions at http://community.afsa.org/. All members must log in to participate and have personal email addresses stored on their profile. (Note: government email addresses will not be accepted on the AFSA Community site.)

Additionally, Town Hall meetings have been set up as follows:

  • USAID: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 25th, in the LPA/IC Conference Room M-17, located on the Mezzanine Level of the Ronald Reagan Building.
  • FSI (active duty only): 12:00 p.m. Monday, March 30th, in the Kennan conference room at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, (FSI) 4000 Arlington Boulevard (also known as Route 50), Arlington, Virginia 22204.
  • State: 12:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 7th, in the Loy Henderson Auditorium at Main State.
  • Retirees: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 8th, in the first floor conference room at the AFSA HQ building, 2101 E Street, NW, Washington DC 20037.

These events will be taped and available on the AFSA YouTube channel. The candidates’ statements will also be posted on the AFSA website on April 1, 2015. Go to http://www.afsa.org/afsa_elections.aspx to view.

If you have not already done so, please ensure AFSA has your current address on record. To update your address information, send an email to member@afsa.org.

IMPORTANT:
If you do not receive your ballot by May 6, 2015, please contact election@afsa.org and provide your full name, work location, current address, and telephone number.

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Inspection Report on US Embassy Eritrea Now Classified? Plus State/OIG FY2015 Inspection Schedule

Posted: 1:19 am EDT

 

State/OIG has posted its schedule of FY2015 inspections.  Something we can look forward to reading, although it will probably take months before these reports will be available online.  Unless, of course, these reports are designated “classified” like the inspection report on the U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea (pdf). Some OIG reports have classified annexes. This is the first one we’ve seen in recent memory where the entire report has been designated classified.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22

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According to history.state.gov, the United States recognized the Republic of Eritrea on April 27, 1993, when the American consulate at Asmara informed Eritrean authorities of this decision on the same date Eritrea declared its independence. Eritrea previously had been under Ethiopian sovereignty. Diplomatic relations were established on June 11, 1993, when the American consulate at Asmara was raised to Embassy status with Joseph P. O’Neill as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.

There currently is no U.S. Ambassador to Eritrea; the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires is Louis Mazel,  career Foreign Service Officer who arrived in Eritrea to take up his posting as Charge d’Affaires on July 10, 2014.

*

The upcoming inspection schedule via Office of Inspector General Work Plan 2015:

Fall Cycle: October–November 2014 

Post inspections of Astana and Dushanbe, including BBG operations

Post inspections of Riga and Tallinn

Post inspections of Antananarivo and Port Louis

Inspection of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR)

Inspection of BBG operations in Kabul

Compliance Follow-up Review of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO)

Winter Cycle: February–March 2015

Post inspection of Amman

Post inspection of Tokyo and constituent posts

Post inspections of Muscat and Tunis, including BBG operations

Inspection of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

Compliance Follow-up Review of the Accountability Review Board Process

Spring Cycle: May–June 2015

Inspection of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO)

Inspection of the Office of Management Policy, Rightsizing and Innovation (M/PRI)

Inspection of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, International Programs Directorate (DS/IP)

Inspection of the Bureau of Information Resource Management, Vendor Management Office (IRM/OPS/VMO)

Inspection of the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR)

Inspection of the Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS)

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