Burn Bag: On security clearance … leave it alone or the process will become “more” problematic?

Via Burn Bag:

“We have many EFM clearances – and interim clearances were requested by HR and rejected by DS for all of them – which are still pending. The oldest one is 15 months, the next is 13 months, etc. etc. (we have many). These people will PCS [permanent change of station] and still not have their clearance completed. The only statements from DS – other than implying to leave them alone or the process will become “more” problematic are that USDH [U.S. direct hire] clearances are first in line. Some missions depend on EFMs.”

image via imgur

image via imgur

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Related post:
Asking about the security clearance logjam: “Seriously? I suggest we sent her to FLO…” Seriously, let’s not!

Asking about the security clearance logjam: “Seriously? I suggest we sent her to FLO…” Seriously, let’s not!

Posted: 12:46 am EDT

 

According to Diplomatic Security’s FAQ, the general time to process security clearance averages about 120 days. But the Department of State has apparently initiated a goal to render a security clearance decision in 90 days.   We have, however, heard complaints that eligible family members (EFMs) overseas waiting to start on jobs have been caught in a security clearance logjam with some waiting much longer than four months. We’ve also heard rumors that DS no longer issue an interim security clearance.

So we thought we’d ask the Diplomatic Security clearance people. We wanted clarification concerning interim clearances and the backlogs, what can post do to help minimize the backlogs and what can EFMs do if they have been waiting for months without a response.

We sent our inquiry to Grace Moe, the head of public affairs at the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). We did not get any response. Three days later, we sent a follow-up email to her deputy, and the group’s security clearance mailbox. Shortly, thereafter, an email popped up on my screen from the Security Specialist at DS’s Customer Service Center of the Office of Personnel Security/Suitability:

“Seriously? I suggest we sent her to FLO…”

Somebody suggesting they send Diplopundit to the FLO? Let’s not.    We’re not privy to the preceding conversation on that email trail.  But seriously, a straight forward  inquiry on security clearance should not be pushed over to the Family Liaison Office (FLO) just because it’s related to family members.

So we told DS that we sent the security clearance inquiry to them for a very good reason and that we would appreciate a response unless they want to decline comment.

The lad at the Customer Service Center wrote back with a lame response that they will answer, but he was not sure about our email because it ends with a .net. Apparently, we’re the only one left in the world who has not moved over to dot com.  And he asked if it would be possible to obtain a name from our office.

Whaaaat? The next thing you know, they’ll want a phone date.

We’re sorry to inform you but this Customer Service not only shovels inquiry elsewhere but it also cannot read and see contact names on emails. So days later, Customer Service is still waiting for us to provide them a name that’s already on the email we sent them.  That kind of redundant efficiency is amazing, but we hate to waste any more of our time playing this game.

So we asked a DS insider, who definitely should get double pay for doing the Customer Service’s job. But since the individual is not authorized to speak officially, try not to cite our source as your source when you deal with that DS office.

Anyway, we were told that it is not/not true that DS no longer issue interim clearances.  Apparently, what happens more frequently is that HR forgets to request an interim clearance when it makes the initial request. So you paperwork just goes into a big pile. And you wait, and wait, and wait.  So if you’re submitting your security paperwork, make sure you or your hiring office confirms with HR that they have requested an interim clearance.

We were going to confirm this with HR except that those folks appear to have an allergic reaction to our emails.

In any case, the logjam can also result from the FBI records checks. If the FBI has computer issues, that, apparently, can easily put tens of thousands of cases behind because without the results of the FBI check, “nothing can be done.” There’s nothing much you can do about that except pray that the FBI has no computer issues.

We also understand that the Office of Personnel Security/Stability or PSS is backed up because of a heavy case load. “Posts seem to be requesting clearances with reckless abandon.”  We were cited an example where an  eligible family member (EFM) works as a GSO housing coordinator. The EFM GSO coordinator has access to the same records as the local staff working at the General Services Office but he/she gets a security clearance.

The Bureau of Human Resources determines whether a Department of State position will require a security clearance, as well as the level required, based upon the duties and responsibilities of the position. So in this example, HR may determine that the EFM GSO housing coordinator needs a clearance because he/she knows where everybody lives – including people from other agencies.  Again, that same information is also accessible to the  Foreign Service Nationals working as locally employed staff at GSO and HR.

Not sure which EFM jobs do not require a security clearance.  We understand that HR routinely asks for it when hiring family members.  Of course, this practice can also clog up the process for everyone in the system.  Routinely getting a clearance is technically good because an EFM can take that security clearance to his/her next job.  The Department of State will revalidate a security clearance if (1) the individual has not been out of federal service for more than 2 years and (2) if the individual’s clearance is based on an appropriate and current personnel security clearance investigation.  So the next time an EFM gets a job in Burkina Faso or back in Foggy Bottom, the wait won’t be as long as the clearance only requires revalidation.

And there is something else. Spouses/partners with 52 weeks of creditable employment overseas get Executive Order Eligibility, which enables them to be appointed non-competitively to a career-conditional appointment in the Civil Service once they return to the U.S. A security clearance and executive order eligibility are certainly useful when life plunks you back in the capital city after years of being overseas.

There is no publicly available data on how many EFMs have security clearances. But we should note that EFMs with security clearance are not assured jobs at their next posts. And we look at this as potentially a wasted resource (see below). EFMs who want jobs start from scratch on their security package only when they are conditionally hired. So if there’s an influx of a large number of new EFMs requesting security clearance, that’s when you potentially will have a logjam.

Back in 2009, we blogged about this issue (some of the numbers below are no longer current):

We have approximately 2,000 out of 9,000 family members who are currently working in over 217 missions worldwide.  Majority if not all of them already have, at the minimum, a “Secret” level clearance. And yet, when they relocate to other posts, it is entirely possible that they won’t find work there. The average cost to process a SECRET clearance has been reported to run from several hundred dollars to $3,000, depending on individual factors. The average cost to process a TOP SECRET clearance is between $3,000 and about $15,000, depending on individual factors. Given that most FS folks spend majority of their lives overseas, the $3,000 for a Secret clearance process for EFMs would be way too low. But let’s assume that all the EFMs currently working only have a Secret level clearance – at $3,000 each that’s still 6Million USD right there. Even if only 500 of them lost their jobs due to regular reassignment, that’s 1.5M USD that’s not put to effective use.

So here’s the idea – why can’t we create an EFM Virtual Corps? The EFMs who are already in the system could be assigned a specialization based on prior work experience within the US Mission. When not employed at post, their names could be added to the EFM Virtual Corps, a resource for other posts who require virtual supplementary or temporary/ongoing support online. Their email and Intranet logon should be enabled to facilitate communication while they are on a float assignment and their reporting authority should be a straight line to a central coordinator at Main State and a dotted line to the Management Counselor at post.  I know, I know, somebody from HR probably have a ready list of reasons on why this can’t be done, but – how do we know if this works or not if we don’t try? The technology is already available, we just need organizational will and some, to make this work.

Here’s our related post on this topic: No Longer Grandma’s Foreign Service. You’re welcome to post this on the leadership site behind the State Department firewall. Hey, the somebodies already post our burn bag entries there, so why not this one?

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Keeping Up With the State Department Spox’s Explainer on the Clinton Separation Statement

Posted: 12:42 am EDT

 

The hunt for Secretary Clinton’s OF-109 Separation Statement was all over the news last week, although it seemed, oh, so much longer.  Fox News was searching for it. The Daily Caller found a whistleblower who alleged double standard.  Media Matters  called out the conservative media’s own double standard. Add the official spokesperson of the State Department and we got a free roller coaster ride plus coupons.

It looks like 12 FAM 564.4 is the relevant regulation um, excuse me, “recommendation” in the Foreign Affairs Manual. Waiting for the spox to clarify that although the briefing is mandatory, signing the separation statement is really optional and voluntary!

12 FAM 564.4 Termination
(TL:DS-88; 02-13-2003) (Uniform State, AID, OPIC, TDP)
a. A security debriefing will be conducted and a separation statement will be completed whenever an employee is terminating employment or is otherwise to be separated for a continuous period of 60 days or more. The debriefing is mandatory to ensure that separating personnel are aware of the requirement to return all classified material and of a continuing responsibility to safeguard their knowledge of any classified information. The separating employee must be advised of the applicable laws on the protection and disclosure of classified information (see 12 FAM 557 Exhibit 557.3) before signing Form OF-109, Separation Statement (see 12 FAM 564 Exhibit 564.4).

 

Via DPB, March 17, 2015 with State Department Spokesperson Jennifer Psaki:

QUESTION: So when you say – it is my understanding that all employees – and I think you even alluded to this when it first came up, that all employees were required to sign this document on completion of their government service. Is that not the case?

MS. PSAKI: Required is not the accurate term. It’s – we’re looking into how standard this is across the federal government and certainly at the State Department. But there’s no – we’re not aware of any penalty for not signing it.

QUESTION: Well, at the State Department, though, is it – it is common practice, though, is it not, for employees, at least employees below the rank of Secretary of State to sign such a thing – to sign such a document when they leave? Is it not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just don’t want to characterize how common practice it is. Certainly, I understand there’s been a focus on this form. We’ve answered the question on whether or not Secretary Clinton signed the form, and we’ll see if there’s more statistics we can provide about how common it is.

QUESTION: It’s your understanding, though, that not completing this form is not a violation of any rule or regulation?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not a violation of any rule, no.

QUESTION: And when you said that you have found no record of her two immediate – was it her two immediate predecessors?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

 

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Robin Raphel, Presumption of Innocence and Tin Can Phones for Pak Officials

— Domani Spero

 

Late on November 6, WaPo published the following Robin Raphel story:

Here is a link to the NYT story:

 

On November 7, an unnamed official cited by the Associated Press said the FBI investigation was related to access to classified materials:

 

NYT did a follow-up report over two weeks later reporting that an eavesdropping on a Pakistani official led to the Raphel inquiry:

 

A follow-up report from WaPo includes a statement from Amy Jeffress, Ambassador Raphel’s attorney (she is also the former chief of the National Security Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia).

“Ambassador Raphel is a highly respected career diplomat who has dedicated her life to serving the United States and its interests,” said Amy Jeffress, Raphel’s attorney and the former chief of the National Security Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. “She would never intentionally do anything to compromise those interests. She, and we as her counsel, are cooperating with the investigation, and we are confident that she will be cleared of any suspicion.”

What do we know about this case?  Below is a list of “known” items out there according to media reports:

  • The federal investigation reportedly is part of a counterintelligence probe.
  • Ambassador Raphel’s security clearances reportedly was withdrawn.
  • She reportedly was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire.
  • The FBI reportedly searched her Northwest Washington home, and her State Department office  also was examined and sealed.
  • Agents reportedly “discovered classified information” during a raid at her home.
  • In an intercepted conversation this year “a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat,” reportedly setting off the espionage investigation.
  • Apparently,Ambassador Raphel has not been told she is the target of an investigation, and she has not been questioned according to her spokesman.
  • Ambassador Raphel now has a lawyer.
  • Over two weeks after the original report surfaced, she has not been formally accused or charged with a crime. Since she has not been formally charged, she has no way to defend herself from allegations.

The Indian media has had a field day with this investigation, throwing in a bunch of name calling, and well, it looks like she is considered a national nemesis over there. The view from Pakistan (read this) is thoughtful and more wait and see.  We’re also now starting to see Raphel’s name being linked to Hillary Clinton; she has been described as a “close Clinton family friend,” a  “Hillary donor” and a “powerful Clinton ally.”

In any case, we understand from a source inside the building that the FBI would “never investigate” a State employee without coordinating with Diplomatic Security’s Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence. Apparently, there is an FBI liaison in DS/IC to assist with the sharing of case information but whatever role Diplomatic Security played in this case, the bureau is not advertising it.

We’ve compiled a list of the things we don’t know about this case and the questions we have:

  • According to WaPo, two U.S. officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments. Who are these officials and what are their motive for leaking a counter-intel probe to the news media?
  • The investigation reportedly is ongoing; does the media spotlight not jeopardize the investigation?
  • According to NYT, it is unclear exactly what the Pakistani official said in the intercepted conversation that led to this investigation. Apparently, it is also not/not clear “whether the conversation was by telephone, email or some other form of communication.” Does this mean all discrete discreet Pakistani officials in the U.S. now are limited to discussing their lunch menu and tourist opportunities in their host country to using tin can telephones for official subjects?
  • Who is the  Pakistani official? Was he/she aware that USG agents were eavesdropping? If he/she/they were not aware before of the eavesdropping, are they aware now?  We’re seriously perplexed, how is this helpful?
  • We understand that by the time a case like this goes overt, the government has  all the information it needs.  It is not not apparent if that is the case here. If we presume that the USG went overt because it has all the evidence it needs, how come there are no charges to-date?

One of our most sacred principles in the United States is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.   The government not only must charge an individual suspected of a crime, it also must prove,beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged. That has not happened here.

Despite what the Indian media says, and even if Pakistani officials in the U.S. now are using tin-can telephones to communicate, the current status of the Raphel case amount to allegations from unnamed officials, and an ongoing investigation.  That is far from clear evidence of guilt.

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Updated on 11/25/14 at 1546 PST to correct grammatical errors and for clarity. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DS Agent Charged With “Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct” Gets Three Days Suspension

— Domani Spero

Remember back in 2010 when HeraldNet reported that a federal agent was arrested for assault in the Snohomish County of Washington State? Quick recap:

“The man was arrested June 17 for investigation of second-degree assault. Deputies seized 15 guns from the home, including his duty weapon, according to a police affidavit filed in Everett District Court.

He told investigators that he is an agent with the U.S. Department of State in Seattle. His wife told authorities that he is a diplomatic security officer.”

See DS Agent Arrested After Wife Reports Assault.

The agent’s name was never publicly released.

But — there is a grievance case (names redacted, of course) that is identical in details and timing to the reported case.  A Motion to Exclude order by the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) on the grievance filed by an unnamed FS-03 Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Agent provides details about a 2010 disciplinary case for “notoriously disgraceful conduct.”  While we cannot say with certainty that this is the exact same case, the 2010 news report made mention that the  “woman complained of blurred vision and head pain” while the 2010 FSGB case mentions that the “Grievant’s wife complained of blurred vision and head pain.”The news report and the grievance case both notes that the incident happened on June 17, 2010 and that the wife was taken to a hospital (location not unidentified in the grievance records).

Below are details extracted from the redacted FSGB 2012-045  ROI dated June 30, 2010, publicly available via FSGB.gov

Grievant is a married DS Special Agent with two children, aged approximately [REDACTED]. On June 17, 2010, while he was assigned to the Diplomatic Security Field Office, grievant was involved in a violent altercation with his wife in his home while his children were at home.

Grievant’s wife called the police who, after interviewing both adults, arrested grievant and charged him with assault in the fourth degree. In a statement provided to the Sheriff’s Office immediately following the incident, grievant reported that he and his wife had had an argument over the contents of messages on his government issued cell phone. Grievant reported that his wife grabbed his phone and when he grabbed it back, she slapped him in the face. Grievant claimed that he stood up from a seated position on the bed in the master bedroom and stretched out his arm to prevent his wife from striking him again, which resulted in her falling backwards and hitting her head on the floor.

Immediately following the incident, grievant’s wife provided a sworn statement to the law enforcement responders in which she claimed that after she slapped grievant, he picked her up and “body slammed” her to the floor, then grabbed her head striking it against the floor four to five times. Grievant’s wife complained of blurred vision and head pain and was taken to the hospital. A CT scan of her head was taken that revealed a palm-sized “subarachnoid hemorrhage within the inter-hemispheric fissure and right cingulated sulcus,” which was described as a bleeding within the brain. Notes on her medical record indicated, “[H]ead slammed into floor repeatedly.” Grievant’s wife was transferred to a second hospital for further examination and evaluation by a neurologist. The neurologist ordered her hospitalized overnight for observation and assessed her condition as “traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage.”

In a follow up visit on June 19, the Sheriff’s Office took photographs of grievant’s wife, noting two bruises on the left side of her face, near her eye and cheek, that were approximately the size of a quarter. She then sought another CT scan to determine if her cheekbone was broken, but it was not.

As a result of the altercation with his wife, grievant was placed on limited duty status and was restricted from using his government-issued firearm and DS credentials. Grievant’s security clearance was suspended from September 10, 2010 until April 17, 2012. Reports of the incident appeared on a local television news program and three internet sites. In these media reports, grievant was identified as a DS Agent with the Department of State in [REDACTED]. The articles described the altercation and one mentioned the injuries sustained by grievant’s wife.

According to the Record of Proceeding (ROP), the grievant entered into an Order of Continuance of the assault charge that deferred all court proceedings arising from his arrest for twelve months on December 14, 2010.  On May 4, 2011, after grievant fully complied with the terms and conditions of the continuance order, the case against him was dismissed.

On December 19, 2011, the Director of Employee Relations proposed to suspend grievant for five days without pay and place a letter of suspension in his official performance file for two years or until review by two promotion boards. Grievant appealed this decision and on March 4, 2012, the Department upheld the charge of Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct, but reduced the suspension to three days.

The case is available on pdf file here.

Here is what 3 FAM 4139.14 says about Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct: “that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States. Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations, spousal abuse, neglect or abuse of children, manufacturing or distributing pornography, entering into debts the employee could not pay, or making use of one’s position or immunity to profit or to provide favor to another (see also 5 CFR 2635) or to create the impression of gaining or giving improper favor.”

It looks like the judgment of “notoriously disgraceful conduct” does not even require that one be publicly identified, just that the potential that the incident be widely known exist (note specific mention of media reports, one tv program and three Internet sites).

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

Via USDOJ:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

DS Agent David J. Rainsberger Pleads Guilty to Receiving Unlawful Gratuities, False Statements

Via USDOJ:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – David J. Rainsberger, 32, a law enforcement officer with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, pleaded guilty today to receiving unlawful gratuities while stationed at the U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, and making false statements to the United States government on a national security questionnaire required to maintain his security clearance.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Gregory B. Starr, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service for the U.S. Department of State, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee.

Rainsberger faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison on the gratuities charge and five years in prison on the false statements charge when he is sentenced on April 19, 2013.

According to court records, Rainsberger served as an assistant regional security officer for investigations at the U.S. embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, from 2009 to 2011.  While there, Rainsberger befriended a well-known Jamaican musician whose entry to the U.S. had been barred because of allegations of criminal conduct.  Rainsberger’s investigation of this individual resulted in the reinstatement of his visa, which allowed the individual to travel to the U.S. to take advantage of performance and recording opportunities.  On account of the assistance Rainsberger provided him with respect to his U.S. visa, the musician purchased for Rainsberger two luxury watches worth approximately $2,500.  In addition, Rainsberger received free admission to nightclubs, backstage access to concerts, and a birthday party hosted by the musician.

At the same time, Rainsberger, who was already married, became engaged to a Jamaican national and intentionally withheld disclosure of the relationship from the U.S. government on Office of Personnel Management Standard Form 86, a national security questionnaire that requires disclosure of close and continuing contact with foreign nationals.  Rainsberger also repeatedly accessed, without authority, Department of State visa and passport databases for personal purposes.

This case was investigated by the Diplomatic Security Service.  Assistant United States Attorneys Paul J. Nathanson and G. Zachary Terwilliger are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia athttp://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.

We could be wrong on this but we don’t think this guy is going to get the maximum prison time of seven years for $2500 watches, concert freebies and lying about his engagement while still married to somebody else.  But for sure, his career with Diplomatic Security is now over and he’s only 32.
sig4

 

 

 

 

USCG Guangzhou: Former Guard Pleads Guilty for Attempt to Sell Info to Chinese Intel Agency

This one gets an award for astounding stupidity like writing an “I’m ready to spy for you” offer to China’s Ministry of Security, except that he called it an um, “business arrangement.”  This dolt then delivered it to the MSS, that’s equivalent to personally delivering a spy offer to the CIA’s branch office.  But that’s not all. When the MSS declined to accept the letter,  this guy left his open letter in his apartment, believing that Chinese spies keeping tabs on foreigners in the city would find it. And presumably contact him to make a counter offer … just like in a bad movie.

Via USDOJ

Former U.S. Consulate Guard Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Communicate National Defense Information to China

Ryan Underwood, a former civilian guard at a U.S. Consulate compound under construction in China, pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia in connection with his efforts to sell for personal financial gain classified photographs, information and access related to the U.S. Consulate to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
[…]
Underwood, 32, a former resident of Indiana, was first charged in an indictment on Aug. 31, 2011, with two counts of making false statements and was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011.  On Sept. 21, 2011, he failed to appear at a scheduled status hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia.  The FBI later located Underwood in a hotel in Los Angeles and arrested him there on Sept. 24, 2011.  On Sept. 28, 2011, Underwood was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government, two counts of making false statements and one count of failing to appear in court pursuant to his conditions of release.  Sentencing for Underwood has been scheduled for Nov. 19, 2012.  He faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.
[…]
According to court documents, from November 2009 to August 2011, Underwood worked as a cleared American guard (CAG) at the construction site of a new U.S. Consulate compound in Guangzhou, China.  CAGs are American civilian security guards with Top Secret clearances who serve to prevent foreign governments from improperly obtaining sensitive or classified information from the U.S. Consulate.  Underwood received briefings on how to handle and protect classified information as well as briefings and instructions on security protocols for the U.S. Consulate, including the prohibition on photography in certain areas of the consulate.

Plan to Sell Information and Access for $3 Million to $5 Million

In February 2011, Underwood was asked by U.S. law enforcement to assist in a project at the consulate and he agreed.  In March 2011, Underwood lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market.  According to court documents, Underwood then devised a plan to use his assistance to U.S. law enforcement as a “cover” for making contact with the Chinese government.  According to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood intended to sell his information about and access to the U.S. Consulate to the Chinese MSS for $3 million to $5 million. If any U.S. personnel caught him, he planned to falsely claim he was assisting U.S. law enforcement.

As part of his plan, Underwood wrote a letter to the Chinese MSS, expressing his “interest in initiating a business arrangement with your offices” and stating, “I know I have information and skills that would be beneficial to your offices [sic] goals.  And I know your office can assist me in my financial endeavors.”  According to court documents, Underwood attempted to deliver this letter to the offices of the Chinese MSS in Guangzhou, but was turned away by a guard who declined to accept the letter.  Underwood then left the letter in the open in his apartment hoping that the Chinese MSS would find it, as he believed the MSS routinely conducted searches of apartments occupied by Americans.

In May 2011, Underwood secreted a camera into the U.S. Consulate compound and took photographs of a restricted building and its contents.  Many of these photographs depict areas or information classified at the Secret level.  Underwood also created a schematic that listed all security upgrades to the U.S. Consulate and drew a diagram of the surveillance camera locations at the consulate.  In addition, according to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood “mentally” constructed a plan in which the MSS could gain undetected access to a building at the U.S. Consulate to install listening devices or other technical penetrations.

According to court documents, the photographs Underwood took were reviewed by an expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security who had original classification authority for facilities, security and countermeasures at the U.S. Consulate.  The expert determined that many of the photographs contained images classified at the Secret level and that disclosure of such material could cause serious damage to the United States.

In early August 2011, Underwood was interviewed several times by FBI and Diplomatic Security agents, during which he admitted making efforts to contact the Chinese MSS, but falsely claimed that he took these actions to assist U.S. law enforcement.  On Aug. 19, 2011, Underwood was again interviewed by law enforcement agents and he admitted that he planned to sell photos, information and access to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to the Chinese MSS for his personal financial gain.

The U.S. government has found no evidence that Underwood succeeded in passing classified information concerning the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to anyone at the Chinese MSS.

A couple quick thoughts —

I would have like to nominate this guy for the Darwin Awards but he did not self-select himself out of the gene pool.

Of course, if he were astoundingly smarter who knows what type of access he would have granted to his would be “business partners” so I’m glad he wasn’t a bulb of smarts.

 

 

 

 

 

Insider Quote: U/S for Management Patrick Kennedy, In His Own Words

Patrick Kennedy, State’s Undersecretary for Management was interviewed in The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp and featured in Federal News Radio report on State to offer guidance to Secret Service overseas.  Some quotable quotes:

“State Department employees represent the United States abroad 24 hours a day […]. We advocate and represent for U.S. ideals and values, so we’re very clear no one should be involved in what we term as ‘notoriously disgraceful conduct.”

“Sex trafficking is just something that’s abhorrent to American values, and so our personnel, employees and chief of mission personnel, irrespective of their agency, are banned from this type of activity.”

“Our employees, because they have high level security clearances, we are very, very concerned about people potentially being blackmailed […]. We don’t believe that anyone should put themselves in any kind of compromising position in regards to their conduct abroad. Certainly, engaging in adultery is something that could potentially compromise you subject to blackmail and then potentially endanger the national security.”

“Since our regional security officers and our political officers are present in every embassy around the world where the Secret Service might be going as part of their mission, we’re making ourselves available to conduct briefings on individual situations in the country that they’re traveling to.”

Devastating Tsunami Hits Peter Van Buren, Security Clearance and Diplomatic PPT Swept Away in Foggy Waters

The diplomat of 23 years experience now has to use the Visitor’s Entrance of the U.S. State Department?  Well, that’s what it looks like.  Some folks are quite happy with that – to see Mr. Van Buren’s work bag inspected and Mr. Van Buren wanded every time he goes into the Big House.  I suspect that the somebodies rather that he does not show up, but so far, they have not yet figure out how to fire him. They’re pouring over the FAM on what regs to cite for that. I hate to think how much manhour-cost the taxpayers are expending just for this very important task.

The good news is, anonymous officials of the State Department can now tell their media contacts that Mr. Van Buren is officially under investigation. But don’t worry, the official spokesman will continue to say that this is an internal, personnel matter that he/she is unable to discuss publicly for privacy reasons. 

I can’t say for sure who in the Big House reads our blog. But somebody took our advice not to order a tsunami on the book launch of Peter Van Buren’s We Meant Well last September 27. It would have looked, you know, bad and vindictive. Well, they followed that advice until today.

On October 18, the ordered tsunami finally hit the cubicle of FSO Peter Van Buren. He was stripped of his security clearance. Well, stripped might be too strong a word. His Top Secret security clearance was officially “suspended” pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation. The suspension of security clearance is, of course, not formal revocation, nor does it indicate that a revocation is in the works.  It is an ongoing investigation, you see.

They also took away his diplomatic passport. Perhaps, they were afraid, he would run away and fly back to Iraq using his black passport. That must be it.

I can’t find anywhere in the FAM the regs governing the confiscation of a diplomatic passport. Regs must be behind the firewall.  The Bureau of Consular Affairs has a special issuance unit that does just the issuance of diplomatic and official passports. But it sounds like the “somebodies” at the State Department can also demand the surrender of the black passport at any time; need not even have to be officials of the Consular Bureau.

Well, anytime, they don’t want you to run away to Iraq. It’s for your own protection. 

So after 23 years, the veteran diplomat’s ability to handle protected information is now in question. 

It has nothing to do, of course, with writing a critical book about our reconstruction boondoggle in Iraq.

Yo guys, that sounds suspiciously lame, you realized that? 

…..You don’t care?

Well, tigers must eat meat ….