Senate Confirmations: Bitter, Kim, Young, Symington, Donovan

Posted: 1:38 am ET

 

The U.S. Senate confirmed the following ambassador nominations on Wednesday, September 28. Five nominations included in SFRC’s business meeting on September 27 did not make it to the full Senate vote (see bottom list).  About 17 other ambassador nominations and FS lists are currently pending in committee and do not have scheduled hearings as of this writing.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Executive Calendar #728
Rena Bitter – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Executive Calendar #729
Sung Y. Kim – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of the Philippines

Executive Calendar #730
Andrew Robert Young – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to Burkina Faso

Executive Calendar #731
W. Stuart Symington – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Executive Calendar #732
Joseph R. Donovan Jr. – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Indonesia

 

UNITED NATIONS

Executive Calendar #733
Christopher Coons – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

Executive Calendar #734
Ronald H. Johnson – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

 

Waiting for full Senate vote:

The following nomination and FS lists were in the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but appear not to make it through the full Senate vote. Note that the hyperlinked lists are those posted in the Senate’s Executive Calendar.

Ms. Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Malaysia

Jorge A. Abudei, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1704), as amended — (PN1704-2)

John Robert Adams, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1705) – (PN1705)

Jennisa Paredes, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1643), as amended — (PN1643-2)

Diana Isabel Acosta, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1642), as amended — (PN1642-2)

 

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Obama’s Career Ambassadorship Appointments: Highest on Record at 70.8% #ThanksObama

Posted: 1:09 am ET

 

According to @Philip Arsenault who has done a lot of good work using presidential records to track the ambassadorial appointees going back to FDR, President Obama appointed to-date the highest number of career diplomats as ambassadors at 70.8%, and the lowest number of non-career political appointees at 29.2%.

The political ambassadorships during Obama’s two terms amount to 29.2% of his total appointments, which is lower than President Carter, previously the lowest on record at 30.8%.

AFSA’s ambassadorship tracker has different numbers but we’ve stopped using the group’s ambassador statistics since 2015.  See our write up on AFSA’s Ambassador Statistics here and why we find its data problematic.

 

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Congress Overturns Obama Veto of 9/11 Bill –There Goes Our Billion Dollar US Embassy in Baghdad #JASTA

Posted: 3:19 pm ET

Congress has overturned President Obama’s veto of S.2040 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Here is a quick sumary of the bill:

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

This bill amends the federal judicial code to narrow the scope of foreign sovereign immunity by authorizing U.S. courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, death, or damages that occur inside the United States as a result of a tort, including an act of terrorism, committed anywhere by a foreign state or official.

It amends the federal criminal code to permit civil claims against a foreign state or official for injuries, death, or damages from an act of international terrorism. Additionally, the bill authorizes federal courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over and impose liability on a person who commits, or aids, abets, or conspires to commit, an act of international terrorism against a U.S. national.

Of course, sovereign immunity does not just apply to other countries like Saudi Arabia, it is also afforded the United States in other countries.  A senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Vox that “If you breach a state’s sovereign immunity, then the argument against your own sovereign immunity being breached is weaker.” Also:

As one hypothetical example, the Iraqi government could pass a law allowing its citizens to sue the US government for damages they suffered during the Iraq war. And if the US lost the lawsuit in the Iraqi courts, Gartenstein-Ross explained, the Iraqi government would legally be able to seize US assets in the country to pay the victims.

There goes our billion dollar embassy in Baghdad. Not to mention diplomatic posts in over 280 locations and 662 military overseas bases in 38 foreign countries.

Click here (PDF) for a good read on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act from the Federal Judicial Center.

And now this:

We could not locate the Congressional Research Service’s paper on JASTA but here is one on the specific claims against Saudi Arabia defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) that you might find useful.

 

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Obama Nominates Career Diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis — First Ambassador to Cuba Since 1960

Posted: 1:12 pm ET

 

On September 27, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years:

President Obama said, “Today, I am proud to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years. Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries. There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests in Cuba than Jeff.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Jeff has extensive experience in Cuba and Latin America.  He has served as our Chief of Mission in Havana since August 2014, and was posted to Havana twice before.  Jeff is already working with Cuba on issues that advance U.S. national interests, such as law enforcement, counternarcotics, environmental protection, combatting trafficking in persons, expanding commercial and agricultural opportunities, and cooperation in science and health.  He engages broadly with the Cuban people and expresses the United States’ strong support for universal values and human rights in Cuba.  Jeff also has extensive experience working with the United Nations.  During his most recent service at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations he served for three years as Ambassador, Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs.  Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government.  He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador.  If confirmed by the Senate, I know Jeff will build on the changes he helped bring about to better support the Cuban people and advance America’s interests.

The WH released the following bio of the nominee:

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, a position he has held since 2015.  He served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba from 2014 to 2015.  Prior to that, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Ambassador and Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from 2011 to 2014.  Prior to that posting, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Ambassador DeLaurentis was previously Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Since beginning his State Department career in 1991, Ambassador DeLaurentis has served in a number of overseas posts, including twice before in Havana, first as consular officer from 1991 to 1993, then as Political-Economic Section Chief from 1999 to 2002.  He also served as Political Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, and Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.  In Washington, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Director of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council, and as an International Relations Officer in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.  Prior to entering the Foreign Service, he held a senior staff position at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Ambassador DeLaurentis received a B.S. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and an M.A. from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

According to history.state.gov, the United States remained in Cuba as an occupying power following the defeat of Spain in 1898, until the Republic of Cuba was formally installed on May 19, 1902. On May 20, 1902, the United States relinquished its occupation authority over Cuba, but claimed a continuing right to intervene in Cuba.  Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba. He served until December 2, 1905.

Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador. He served until May 28, 1927.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

On September 1, 1977, the United States established an Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy.  On July 20, 2015, the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations when both countries elevated their respective Interests Sections to Embassy status. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to the date for these actions in an exchange of letters dated June 30, 2015.

Between 1977 to 2015, 14 principal officers served at the Interest Section in Havana, including Ambassador DeLaurentis whose position was elevated to Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on July 20, 2015 when diplomatic relations were restored.

The last Senate-confirmed ambassador prior to the break in diplomatic relations was Philip Wilson Bonsal (1903–1995). He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from March 3, 1959–October 28, 1960.   Daniel McCoy Braddock (1906–1980) served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim until January 1961.

So if/when the Senate considers Ambassador DeLaurentis’ nomination, it will be the first time that they’ll do so since 1960.

 

Notable reactions, some with consequences to the confirmation of this nomination in the U.S. Senate.

 

Related Posts:

Stupefied: How the best and the brightest learn to switch off their brains at the office door

Posted: 11:57 am ET

 

André Spicer is professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, where he specialises in political dynamics, organisational culture and employee identity. His latest book, together with Mats Alvesson, is The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work (2016). The following is an excerpt from his piece Stupefied on how organisations enshrine collective stupidity and how employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door.  The article was originally published in Aeon [http://aeon.co].

Organisations hire smart people, but then positively encourage them not to use their intelligence. Asking difficult questions or thinking in greater depth is seen as a dangerous waste. Talented employees quickly learn to use their significant intellectual gifts only in the most narrow and myopic ways.

Those who learn how to switch off their brains are rewarded. By avoiding thinking too much, they are able to focus on getting things done. Escaping the kind of uncomfortable questions that thinking brings to light also allows employees to side-step conflict with co-workers. By toeing the corporate line, thoughtless employees get seen as ‘leadership material’ and promoted. Smart people quickly learn that getting ahead means switching off their brains as soon as they step into the office.

Sounds familiar?  For those interested in further reading, the author co-published a study on a A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations with Mats Alvesson in the Journal of Management Studies in 2012.  The abstract is here; the full article is available for a fee here.

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Clinton v. Trump: Debate Reactions From Around the World, See Who’s Laughing Now

Posted: 3:51 am ET

Here’s a bonus:

And see? The Canadians are just making fun of us now, America. Register to vote today.

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@StateDept Terminates Evacuation Orders For U.S. Mission Turkey

Posted: 1:51 am ET

 

On September 23, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Turkey urging American citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel in the country. The notice also informs the public of the termination of the evacuation orders for family members of USG employees posted in Turkey:

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the  country. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the September 23, 2016 decision to end the authorization for the voluntary departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, which was made following the July 15, 2016 attempted coup. In addition, effective September 24, 2016, the Department of State is ending the ordered departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. government civilians in Izmir. The Department of State will authorize employed adult dependents (21 year or older) of employees to return to Adana.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time. The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing State of Emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Turkey. Delays securing consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, continue.

Just a couple of days  prior to the Travel Warning, the US Embassy in Ankara issued a security message saying that there were reports of a police investigation into a terror cell in Gaziantep.  The information suggests the terrorists are possibly targeting shopping centers, Starbucks, Big Chef Restaurants and or other businesses catering to Western customers.   U.S. citizens in Gaziantep are advised to exercise caution when patronizing these sorts of businesses and to avoid them if possible.

 

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US Mission Canada’s Principal Officers Display #MenInBlack Sunglasses, Thumbs as Neuralyzers

Posted: 1:35 am ET

 

 

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America’s Declaration of Independence was pro-immigrant

Posted: 12:22 am EST

America’s Declaration of Independence was pro-immigrant
by Steven Pincus

Steven Pincus is professor of history at Yale University. His latest book is 1688: The First Modern Revolution (2011). He lives in New Haven, Connecticut. This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull, 1819. Courtesy Wikimedia

The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull, 1819. Courtesy Wikimedia

In 1776, American Patriots faced problems of crushing sovereign debt, vituperative debates about immigration, and questions about the role of foreign trade. They responded by founding a government committed to open borders and free trade. The Declaration of Independence, the country’s charter document, outlined the new republic’s fundamental economic principles, ones that Americans would be wise to remember, because they are now under threat.

Americans have long held their country’s founding document sacred. John Quincy Adams, America’s sixth president, asserted on 4 July 1821 that ‘never, never for a moment have the great principles, consecrated by the Declaration of this day, been renounced or abandoned’. In 1861, Abraham Lincoln announced that: ‘I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.’ Even this year’s Republican Platform committee agrees that the Declaration ‘sets forth the fundamental precepts of American Government’. The Declaration committed that government to reversing the oppressive policies advanced by the British monarch George III and his government. In particular, they called for the free movement of peoples and goods.

In Britain, the ministers who came to power in the 1760s and ’70s overwhelmingly believed, as do many European and North American politicians, that the only option in the face of sovereign debt is to pursue austerity measures. Like many politicians today, they were also happy to shift the tax burden onto those who had the least political capacity to object. In the 18th century, this meant taxing the under-represented manufacturing districts of England and, above all, taxing the unrepresented North Americans. Today, this often means regressive taxation: taking less from those with more.

Patriots on both sides of the Atlantic who opposed the British governments of the 1760s and ’70s did not deny that heavy national debts could be oppressive, but they insisted that the dynamic interplay of producers and consumers was the key to generating economic growth. Unlike their ministerial opponents, they believed that the best way to pay down that debt was for the government to stimulate the economy. They pointed out that the colonies represented the most dynamic sector of Britain’s imperial economy. The more the colonies grew in population and wealth, the more British manufactured goods they would consume. Since these goods were indirectly taxed, the more the Americans bought, the more they helped to lower the government’s debt. Consumption in the colonies was thus ‘the source of immense revenues to the parent state’, as the founding father Alexander Hamilton put it in 1774.

When Americans declared independence in 1776, they set forth to pursue new, independent economic policies of free trade and free immigration. The Committee of Five, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, who drew up the Declaration of Independence, condemned George III for ‘cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world’. The British government had long erected tariff and non-tariff barriers to American trade with the French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and South America. By doing so, they deprived Americans both of a vital outlet for their products and of access to hard currency. This was why Franklin had, in 1775, called for Britain to ‘give us the same Privileges of Trade as Scotland received at the Union [of 1707], and allow us a free Commerce with all the rest of the World’. This was why Jefferson called on the British imperial government not ‘to exclude us from going to other markets’. Freedom of commerce, admittedly one that was accompanied by state support for the development of new industries, is foundational to the United States.

The founders’ commitment to free trade stands in stark contrast with Donald Trump’s recent declaration for American ‘economic independence’. Trump insists that his economic programme echoes the wishes of the founding fathers, who ‘understood trade’. In fact, Trump’s economic principles are the reverse of those advocated by the authors of the Declaration. Like the British government of the 1760s, against which the Patriots defined themselves, Trump focuses narrowly on America’s role as a ‘dominant producer’. He is right to say that the founders encouraged manufacturing. But they did so by simultaneously supporting government subsidies for new American manufactures and advocating free trade agreements, such as the Model Treaty adopted by Congress in 1776 that sought to establish bilateral free trade. This was a far cry from Trump’s call for new ‘tariffs’.

The Declaration also condemned George III for his restrictions on immigration. Well-designed states, patriots believed, should promote immigration. This was why they denounced George III for endeavouring to ‘prevent the population of these states’. George III, the American Patriots pointed out, had reversed generations of imperial policy by ‘refusing to pass’ laws ‘to encourage … migrations hither’. Patriots, by contrast, welcomed new immigrants. They knew that British support for the immigration of Germans, Italians, Scottish Highlanders, Jews and the Irish had done a great deal to stimulate the development of British America in the 18th century. State-subsidised immigrants populated the new colony of Georgia in the 1730s. Immigrants brought with them new skills to enhance production, and they immediately proved to be good consumers. ‘The new settlers to America,’ Franklin maintained, created ‘a growing demand for our merchandise, to the greater employment of our manufacturers’.

Nothing could be further from the animating spirit of America’s charter document than closing the country’s borders. Restrictions on immigration more closely resemble British imperial policies that spurred American revolt and independence.

The Declaration of Independence was much more than a proclamation of separation from the Mother Country. It provided the blueprint, the ‘fundamental precepts’, for a new government. Americans broke away from the British Empire in the 1770s, in part, because they rejected restrictions on trade and immigration.Aeon counter – do not remove

Steven Pincus

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief

Posted: 2:02 am ET
Updated: Sept 24, 4:08 pm PST | This piece was edited to use the more neutral word “report” instead of “allegation.” The guide on reporting sexual violence is teaching us that the use of the word “allegation” reinforces the disbelief that a crime actually occurred.

 

Last month, we received an anonymous allegation report of sexual assaults in the Foreign Service. It is alleged We were told that DS and MED “hide” the assaults “under pretense” that it is “the victim’s wish to keep it a secret.”

No specific case was cited only that there were incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We were also asked if we know what is the reporting process for sexual assault in the Foreign Service.

We told our correspondent that we will look into the reporting process because we actually had no idea. We were then warned: “On the off chance you get a response, it will probably be something along the lines of, “any victim of crime under chief of mission authority should report to their RSO; the Department takes such allegations extremely seriously.” 

 

Looking at public records

We started looking at publicly available records. We found one assault in 2009 which is only publicly available becase the case became an EEOC case (see Sexual Assault at a State Dept-Leased Apartment: If This Isn’t Abysmal Failure, What Is It?). In 2011, there was the case of a former CIA station chief to Algeria who received 65 months in jail for sexual assault on embassy property. In 2012, there was a case of an FS couple accused of slavery and rape of a housekeeper, In 2013, there was an FS specialist who was sentenced to 5 years in prison; the case was about the sex abuse of an adopted child. Also in 2013, CBS News reported on  several allegations including one about a regional security officer (RSO) in Lebanon who “engaged in sexual assaults” of the local guards.  A subsequent OIG investigation indicates that the alleged sexual misconduct of this security official spanned 10 years and 7 posts.

These are cases that we’ve written in this blog after they’ve become public.

We’ve poured over the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH) and have reached out to the State Department and other contacts within its orbit to help us find the specific guidance for the reporting process on sexual assault. We have not been successful. For the record, it is not/not 3 FAM 1525, not 3 FAM 4428, not 3 FAM 1800 and not 7 FAM 1940.

 

Questions for the State Department

We sent some questions to the State Department, the blue italics below is the response from an agency’s spokesperson.

We asked: How does the State Department/Diplomatic Security handle sexual assault among members of the Foreign Service community overseas? The only thing I can find in the FAM is sexual assault relating to private American citizens, and services via the Consular Section.  

–What is the reporting process if the victim/perpetrator is under chief of mission authority?

–What is the reporting process if the alleged perpetrator is from the Regional Security Office or a senior Foreign Service official who oversees the RSO?

–Where is the FAM/FAH guidance for sexual assault?

The State Department response: “The State Department/Diplomatic Security handles sexual assault among members of the foreign service community overseas by adhering to Department guidelines. These guidelines are made available to all members of the foreign service community in Department cables and in the FAM. The Department guidelines outlined in these documents address the contingencies included in your questions.”

No specific cables were cited.  However, the FAM cited by the State Department in its response above is 1 FAM 260, specifically, 1 FAM 262.4-5 which only notes that the Office of Special Investigation (DS/DO/OSI) within Diplomatic Security is tasked with investigating extraterritorial criminal investigations including assault, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. Go ahead and read it.  It does not/does not include nor describe the reporting process.

We asked: If a sexual assault occurs overseas to an employee/family member of USG employees, who are the officials informed about the incident?

–How is the information transmitted? Telegram, telephone, email?

–Is the communication done via secure or encrypted channels?

In response to the above question, a State Department’s spokesman said: “The reporting process calls for the regional security officer to contact the State Department’s Office of Special Investigations. This office is outside the regional security officer’s chain of command.”

The response is only partly responsive and only names the RSO and DS/OSI.  Even if DS/OSI is outside the RSO’s chain of command, this tells us that an alleged victim overseas has to go through post’s Regional Security Office; the RSO in that office must then contact DS/OSI located in Washington, D.C. for an investigation to be initiated.

You probably can already guess our next question.

What if the perpetrator is from the security office or the Front Office who oversees the RSO? How would that work? Also both the RSO overseas and DS/OSI back in DC are part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. When we made these follow-up questions, the State Department simply repeated its original response:  “The reporting process calls for the regional security officer to contact the State Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI). This office is outside the regional security officer’s chain of command.  On your question on the Fam (sic): Sexual assault is a crime investigated by the Office of Special Investigations as outlined in 1 FAM 262.4-5.”

This is a disturbing response particularly in light of a previous CBS News report alleging that a regional security officer sexually assaulted local guards under his supervision and was accused of similar assaults in Baghdad, Khartoum and Monrovia. Okay, never mind CBS News, but the OIG investigation indicates that the same security officer’s alleged sexual misconduct spanned 10 years and 7 posts.  How many local guards were assaulted within those 10 years and in those 7 posts?  Perhaps it doesn’t or didn’t matter because it happened so long ago. Or it is because the alleged victims were non-U.S. citizens?

The other part of the question on how reports are transmitted is equally important. Are they sent via unclassified email? The perpetrator could be easily tipped off, and that potentially places the safety of the victim in jeopardy.

The third question we asked is a twofer. We wanted to know the statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service, specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003. The second part of our question is overall statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service worldwide, during the last 10 years. Note that we are not asking for names. We’re asking for numbers. We’re only asking for an accounting of sexual assault reports reported allegations since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the present, and the worldwide number of allegations reports spanning over 280 overseas posts in the last 10 years. Surely those are available?

This is the State Department’s official response:

“The Office of Special Investigations receives and catalogues allegations and complaints. Allegations are neither categorized by location nor by alleged offense.”

Wh–aat? We actually fell off the darn chair when we read the above response.  If the allegations and complaints are not catalogued by location or alleged offense, how would the State Department  know if there is a trend, or a red flag they should be aware of?

Wouldn’t this constitute willful ignorance?

In our follow-up question, we asked who is responsible for the care and support of a Foreign Service victim? This is the response from a State Department spokesperson:

“The Department takes seriously the safety and well-being of its employees and their family members. The post health unit, Employee Consultation Services and the Regional psychiatrist are all available to assist a victim of sexual assault. MED would also assist if, for example, a medical evacuation to a third country or the United States is required. 

Generally MED does not provide direct clinical services in the States but has extensive resources to provide referrals for ongoing treatment.

Additionally, the Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program (VRAP) is available to provide advocacy services so the individual understands the judicial process and has support lines, plus resources applicable to the person’s goals to rebuild and heal.”

 

In a follow-on response, the State Department cites the Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program (VRAP). We had to dig around the net to see what is VRAP.  According to the State Department’s outline on divorce:

VRAP was created in November 2010 by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) “to empower those who have been victimized by crimes that are under DS investigation. A representative of this office also sits on the Department’s Family Advocacy Committee (chaired by the Director of MED/MHS), based in Washington DC. The VRAP is committed to assisting aggrieved individuals in overcoming difficulties that result from victimization by providing resources to deal with the realities that follow traumatic experiences and an understanding of the judicial processes surrounding criminal offenses. Contact VRAP at vrap@state.gov.”

Okay, but.  All that still does not give us a clear idea on the procedure for reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service, does it? And most of the info is not even codified in the FAM or the FAH.

What happens in the space between “calling the RSO” and VRAP “empowering” those victimized by crimes — remains a black hole. It is not clear what kind of support or advocacy services and resources are provided to victims of sexual assault. We’ve asked; we haven’t heard anything back.

Since we could not find any guidance from the State Department, we went and look at what the reporting procedure is like at USAID, the Department of Defense, and Peace Corps.  As of this writing, we’ve received an acknowledgment from USAID but have not received an answer to our inquiry. Below is a quick summary for DOD and the Peace Corps:

 

DOD Sexual Assault Reporting Guidance

You may or may not know this but the Department of Defense actually has a separate website for sexual assault which makes it clear that sexual assault is a crime. Defined “as intentional sexual contact,” sexual assault is characterized by “use of force, threats, intimidation or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent.” It explains that sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact) or attempts to commits these acts. It also notes the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Its website is not just an explainer, it also provides information for assault victims:

If I am sexually assaulted, what should I do?
First, get to a safe place. If you are in need of urgent medical attention, call 911. If you are not injured, you still need medical assistance to protect your health. The medical treatment facility (MTF) offers you a safe and caring environment. To protect evidence, it is important that you do not shower, brush your teeth, put on make-up, eat, drink, or change your clothes until advised to do so. You or the MTF may report the crime to law enforcement, criminal investigation agencies, or to your chain of command. If you feel uncomfortable reporting the crime, consider calling a confidential counseling resource available to you.

Reporting Options: 
Restricted | Sexual assault victims who want to confidentially disclose a sexual assault without triggering an official investigation can contact a SARC/SHARP Specialist, VA/SHARP Specialist, or a healthcare provider. By filing a restricted report with a SARC/SHARP Specialist, VA/SHARP Specialist, or a healthcare provider, a victim can disclose the sexual assault without triggering an official investigation AND receive medical treatment, advocacy services, legal assistance, and counseling.

Unrestricted | This option is for victims of sexual assault who desire medical treatment, counseling, legal assistance, SARC/SHARP Specialist and VA/SHARP Specialist assistance, and an official investigation of the crime. When selecting unrestricted reporting, you may report the incident to the SARC/SHARP Specialist or VA/SHARP Specialist, request healthcare providers to notify law enforcement, contact law enforcement yourself, or use current reporting channels, e.g., chain of command. Upon notification of a reported sexual assault, the SARC/SHARP Specialist will immediately assign a VA/SHARP Specialist. You will also be advised of your right to access to legal assistance that is separate from prosecution resources. At the victim’s discretion/request, the healthcare provider shall conduct a sexual assault forensic examination (SAFE), which may include the collection of evidence. Details regarding the incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know.


Peace Corps Sexual Assault Reporting Guidance

The Peace Corps says it provides “sexual assault risk-reduction and response training to both Volunteers and staff. Volunteers worldwide learn risk-reduction strategies such as bystander intervention training, and each post has two sexual assault response liaisons trained to directly assist Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault throughout the in-country response process.” It also provides around the clock, anonymous sexual assault hotline accessible to Volunteers by phone, text, or online chat that is staffed by external crisis counselors at pcsaveshelpline.org.

In addition, it provides volunteers who experience sexual assault the option to report the incident as restricted or as standard reporting. This is similar to DOD’s:

Restricted reporting limits the number of staff members with access to information about an assault to only those involved in providing support services requested by the Volunteer. This gives Volunteers access to critical support services while protecting their privacy and confidentiality, and allows the Peace Corps to provide support services to Volunteers who otherwise may not seek support.

Standard reporting provides Volunteers with the same support services along with the opportunity to initiate an official investigation, while maintaining confidentiality.

There’s no 911 in the Foreign Service

For Foreign Service employees and family members assigned overseas, there is no 911 to call. You get in trouble overseas, you call the security office of the embassy. If you are in a small post, you may have to deal with another officer who is assigned collateral duty as post security officer.  Post may or may not have a health unit or a regional medical officer. If there is a health unit, it may or may not be equipped or trained with gathering forensic evidence.  Above all, if you’re overseas as part of the Foreign Service, you are under chief of mission authority. What you do, what you say, where you live — basically, your life 24/7 is governed by federal regulations and the decision of the Front Office.

 

So to the question — if I am sexually assaulted, what should I do?

The State Department says that the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and associated Foreign Affairs Handbooks (FAHs) are a single, comprehensive, and authoritative source for the Department’s organization structures, policies, and procedures that govern the operations of the State Department, the Foreign Service and, when applicable, other federal agencies. The FAM (generally policy) and the FAHs (generally procedures) together convey codified information to Department staff and contractors so they can carry out their responsibilities in accordance with statutory, executive and Department mandates.

Every time the FAM is updated, a Change Transmittal documents it.  All transmittals includes the following reminder: Officers are reminded that Department-issued materials not codified in the Foreign Affairs Manual or its supplemental Foreign Affairs Handbook series generally have no regulatory validity (see 2 FAM 1115.2).

Since there is no FAM or FAH specifically addressing sexual assault, we end up with a pretty uncomfortable question: Is the State Department saying that sexual assault does not happen in the Foreign Service — that’s why there’s no regs covering it?

If it’s not that, then — what is the reason sexual assault procedure is absent from its single, comprehensive, and authoritative source of policies, and procedures?

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