¡Llegué a México justo a tiempo para celebrar las fiestas patrias! Qué hermoso ver las calles adornarse de banderas verde, blanco y rojo. Estoy orgulloso de la conexión de mi familia con México, que data de siglos. ¡Viva México! pic.twitter.com/PeLboY7LGI
Honored to swear-in Ambassador Donald Lu as Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia. U.S. policy towards this dynamic and fast changing region will benefit from @State_SCA A/S Lu’s energy, creativity, and compassion. Welcome back to the Mothership, A/S Lu! pic.twitter.com/ogAkABBUiO
We are thrilled to see Ambassador Donald Lu sworn-in as our new Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs today, administered by @UnderSecStateP. We look forward to his leadership within the Bureau and the region. Welcome Assistant Secretary Lu! pic.twitter.com/ip6kg0ezKl
Proud to welcome Donald Lu as the Assistant Secretary for @State_SCA. Ambassador Lu has an extensive career in the foreign service and has shown deep commitment to U.S. diplomacy and foreign policy in South and Central Asia. He is well prepared to lead the bureau in its mission. pic.twitter.com/UE7z3eMPoK
The U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote two nominees for the State Department’s geographic bureau and one nominee for the functional bureau.
2021-09-13 PN551 Department of State | Donald Lu, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs (SCA).
2021-09-13 PN268 Department of State | Brian A. Nichols, of Rhode Island, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Western Hemisphere Affairs).
2021-09-13 PN273 Department of State | Brett M. Holmgren, of Minnesota, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Intelligence and Research).
The #Senate confirmed by voice vote: 1.Donald Lu to be Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs. 2.Brett M. Holmgren to be an Assistant Secretary of State, Intelligence & Research. 3.Brian A. Nichols to be an Assistant Secretary of State, Western Hemisphere Affairs.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal jury convicted a California woman and Russian-born man on Friday on charges of conspiracy and obtaining U.S. citizenship by fraud.
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Laura Gallagher, 32, a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State, and Andrey Kalugin, 36, originally of Russia, conspired together to obtain lawful permanent residence and U.S. citizenship for Kalugin through his marriage to Gallagher.
“The jury’s verdict holds these two defendants accountable for orchestrating a scheme to defraud the United States and obtain unlawful citizenship and passports,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Gallagher disregarded her responsibilities to the public as a federal government employee and licensed attorney when she engaged in this fraudulent scheme with Kalugin. Thanks to the dedication of the trial team and our partners at the State Department, these defendants have been brought to justice.”
Evidence presented at trial demonstrated that the defendants met in law school in 2013. Kalugin was in the United States on a student visa that was due to expire in July 2015. The defendants married in June 2015 and submitted applications for Kalugin to obtain his “green card.” The defendants moved from California to Virginia in March 2016, but split up soon thereafter. However, they continued with the immigration process.
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate allegations of crime related to naturalization fraud and to bring those who commit these crimes to justice,” said Jessica Moore, Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. “When a Department employee in a position of trust is alleged to have committed a federal felony involving naturalization fraud by exploiting their status, we vigorously investigate claims of corruption.”
Gallagher, who is also a California-licensed attorney, then prepared for Kalugin an application for 319(b) expeditious naturalization, which is a benefit available to spouses of citizens who are regularly stationed abroad for their employment. The defendants provided materially false responses in the application, including that Kalugin was still in a good-faith marriage and intended to reside with Gallagher abroad and return with her to the United States. Kalugin appeared for an interview on Feb. 5, 2018 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Fairfax, where he repeated the false statements to the adjudicating officer. After USCIS approved the application and he received his citizenship, Kalugin fraudulently obtained U.S. Diplomatic and tourist passports. Shortly thereafter, Gallagher filed for divorce.
Gallagher and Kalugin each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced on Feb. 4, 2022. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Kalugin additionally faces mandatory revocation of his U.S. citizenship. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Jessica Moore, Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, made the announcement after Senior U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis, III accepted the verdict.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Raizza K. Ty and Morris R. Parker, Jr. are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:21-cr-43.
Jury Convicts Foreign Service Officer and Former Spouse for Obtaining U.S. Citizenship by Fraud https://t.co/z9oBfof3xy
On September 9, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia preliminarily enjoined the Department of State from applying the November 2020 prioritization policy guidance to diversity visa (“DV”) 2021 applicants and ordered the Department to undertake good-faith efforts to expeditiously process DV applications (including derivative beneficiaries) by September 30, 2021. The court stated that the Department may not rely on the November 2020 prioritization guidance to “foreclose or prohibit embassy personnel, consular officers, or any administrative processing center (such as the KCC) from processing, reviewing, or adjudicating a 2021 diversity visa or derivative beneficiary application” and clarified that the order “does not affect the prioritization scheme as to any other visa category or in any other respect.” The court further explained the order “does not prevent any embassy personnel, consular officer, or administrative processing center from prioritizing the processing, adjudication, or issuance of visas based on resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or country conditions.”
In accordance with the order, the Department of State has instructed consular sections to make every effort within their discretion and subject to posts’ resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and country conditions to prioritize the scheduling and adjudication of additional DV-2021 cases by September 30, 2021. It is important to note that the court did not order the Department to “prioritize DV-2021 applications over other visa applications.” The court also did not order the Department to prioritize the adjudication of DV-2021 applications of plaintiffs who have sued the Department over the DV-2021 applications of non-plaintiffs. The court further said that posts do not have to “drop everything and process DV-2021 applications.”
In accordance with the requirements in the Immigration and Nationality Act and applicable regulations, DV cases will continue to be processed in rank order as required by law, and applicants must be documentarily qualified, have paid all requisite application fees, be able to obtain the required medical exam by a panel physician, and demonstrate that they are eligible for a visa before visa issuance. DV-2021 applicants may be issued a visa through the end of the fiscal year, on or before September 30, 2021.
If a consular section has the capacity to schedule your DV-2021 case, you will receive a notification by email to check the Entrant Status Check site. Many diversity visa processing posts are getting emails directly from diversity visa applicants. The Department has instructed posts to respond to those general inquiries about the September 9th Order and DV-2021 processing with the following message: We are aware of the court order dated September 9, 2021 from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia regarding the 2021 diversity visa (“DV”) program. In accordance with that order, post is making good-faith efforts to expeditiously process DV applications (including derivative beneficiaries) by September 30, 2021. We will continue to process DV cases in rank order as required by law, subject to our resource constraints, limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and country conditions. If post has the capacity to schedule your case, you will receive a notification by email to check the Entrant Status Check site.”
President Biden recently announced his intent to nominate Peter Hendrick Vrooman to be the next Ambassador to Mozambique. The WH released the following brief bio:
Peter Hendrick Vrooman, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Mozambique
Peter Hendrick Vrooman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda. Ambassador Vrooman recently served as the Chargé d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Prior to that he served as the spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi; Director for Iraq on the staff of the National Security Council in Washington, D.C.; and Deputy Political Counselor in Tel Aviv and at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. He also worked at the U.S. embassies in Baghdad, Beirut, and Djibouti, as well as the U.S. Liaison Office in Mogadishu, Somalia. In Washington, he was a Watch Officer in the Department of State’s Operations Center and the Desk Officer for Algeria in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. A native of New York, Ambassador Vrooman graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in Social Studies and earned an M.S. in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces, now known as the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he worked as the special assistant to the President of the American University in Cairo.
If confirmed, Ambassador Vrooman would succeed Ambassador Dennis Walter Hearne, a career diplomat who was served in Maputo since January 2019.
More clips about the unexplained health incidents (also known as Havana Syndrome) from BBC, an interview with retired CIA officer with PRI, and another case reported from the Canadian Foreign Service where “A high-ranking Canadian diplomat in Cuba was flown home for assessment this year after experiencing an attack consistent with Havana syndrome.”
“This is not Havana syndrome. It’s a misnomer,” argues Mr Zaid, whose clients were affected in many locations. “What’s been going on has been known by the United States government probably, based on evidence that I have seen, since the late 1960s.”
Since 2013, Mr Zaid has represented one employee of the US National Security Agency who believed they were damaged in 1996 in a location which remains classified.
Mr Zaid questions why the US government has been so unwilling to acknowledge a longer history. One possibility, he says, is because it might open a Pandora’s Box of incidents that have been ignored over the years. Another is because the US, too, has developed and perhaps even deployed microwaves itself and wants to keep it secret.
Retired CIA senior intelligence officer Marc Polymeropoulos (@Mpolymer) has been outspoken about Havana syndrome, having experienced many of the symptoms himself. He joins The World's Marco Werman to talk about what the US should be doing to address it. https://t.co/HzY93qjUjG
Agency Failed to Provide Legitimate, Nondiscriminatory Reason for Not Promoting Complainant.
Complainant, a Consular Section Chief at a U.S. Embassy, alleged, among other things, that the Agency discriminated against her on the basis of sex when it failed to promote her. The Commission found that Complainant established a prima facie case of sex discrimination, and the Agency failed to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action. Complainant was qualified for a promotion, as evidenced by her Employee Assessment Reviews, and responding management officials acknowledged that Complainant was eligible for the promotion. Moreover, Complainant asserted that the prior curtailments of her overseas assignments due to her high-risk pregnancy impacted the ranking she received in the promotion process. Therefore, Complainant had raised an inference that her sex was a factor in her non-selection for promotion. The Commission found that the Agency failed to overcome Complainant’s prima facie case because the evidence was not sufficient to provide a specific, clear, and individualized explanation as to why Complainant was not selected for promotion. While the Agency explained the general mechanics of the promotion process, it failed to provide an individualized explanation for Complainant’s specific situation. The Agency was ordered, among other things, to retroactively promote Complainant, with appropriate back pay and benefits, and investigate her claim for damages. Terrie M. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 2019002167 (Sept. 22, 2020).
In the instant complaint, Complainant has alleged that because she is a woman who got pregnant twice and had to curtail her assignments as a result, she was disadvantaged in the selection for promotion process. To prevail in a disparate treatment claim, Complainant must satisfy the three-part evidentiary scheme fashioned by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Complainant must initially establish a prima facie case by demonstrating that she was subjected to an adverse employment action under circumstances that would support an inference of discrimination. Furnco Constr. Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 576 (1978). Proof of a prima facie case will vary depending on the facts of the particular case. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802 n.13. The burden then shifts to the Agency to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions. Tex. Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981). To ultimately prevail, Complainant must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Agency’s explanation is pretextual. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 120 S. Ct. 2097 (2000); St. Mary’s Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 519 (1993). To establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination, a complainant must show that: (1) she is a member of a protected group; (2) she is qualified for her position; (3) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) the circumstances give rise to an inference of discrimination.
Based on record evidence, we find that Complainant has established a prima facie case of sex discrimination. First, Complainant belongs to a protected group as she is female. Complainant is also qualified for promotion to the FSO-03 position. HDR1 also acknowledged that Complainant was eligible for the promotion; and the evidence shows that Complainant was a high-performing FSO as demonstrated by her EARs. Moreover, Complainant has asserted that she believes her prior curtailments of her assignments overseas due to her high-risk pregnancy impacted the ranking she received in the promotion process. Therefore, Complainant has raised an inference that her sex was a factor in her non-selection for promotion.3Because Complainant established a prima facie case of sex discrimination, the Agency now has the burden of producing a legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for not selecting Complainant for promotion.
Here, DDHR1, corroborated by DDHR2, explained that Complainant was not selected for promotion because she had been mid-ranked by the Selection Board. To support this explanation, the record only includes the same generalized information about the rules governing the selection process that the Commission had previously found insufficient, and which resulted in the complaint being remanded for a supplemental investigation. The record does not include pertinent documentation reviewed by the Selection Board and information regarding comparators. Also missing from the record are comparative data related to Complainant’s protected class or affidavits from Selection Board members; and thestatement of the Agency’s reasons for mid-ranking Complainant that led to her consequent non-selection for promotion. Moreover, the supporting testimony provided by DDHR2 does not add relevance to the instant complaint because, as Complainant stated, DDHR2 had only been in her position since June 1, 2018, nearly four years after Complainant’s non-promotion incident. DDHR2 herself indicated that she had no personal knowledge about Complainant or her non-promotion. In fact, the extent of the Agency’s explanations for its actions is that promotion decisions are based only on the documentation in the candidates’ Official Performance Folder for the most recent five years and at grades FS-02 and above, on the security incident records. The two DDHRs also stated that PE staff does not have information related to, nor will they address, personal or assignment decisions of employees, and only from the material submitted by the employee to his/her eOPF could this information be known.
We find that the evidence presented by the Agency is not sufficient to provide a specific, clear, and individualized explanation as to why Complainant was not selected for promotion in 2014. The Agency explained the general mechanics of the promotion process but failed to provide an individualized explanation for Complainant’s specific situation. See, e.g., Koudry v. Dep’t of Educ., Request No. 0520100196 (Apr. 13, 2010) (discrimination found where agency merely explained the mechanics of selection process, provided list of candidates deemed best qualified, and summarized applications of selectee and complainant, but failed to provide statements from selecting officials explaining how complainant’s qualifications were evaluated compared to selectee’s qualifications). The record does not indicate how the Agency determined which 76 candidates were selected for promotion or why Complainant was not one of the 76. Merely indicating that the Selection Boards rely only on information in candidates’ eOPF for making promotion decisions is not enough. Moreover, we add that the record also does not identify how or why the 76 candidates selected for promotion in 2014 received their scores and rankings. Simply stating that candidates who are mid-ranked do not receive scores is inadequate.
Moreover, nothing in the record provides a basis for dispelling Complainant’s belief that the staff of HR/PE had access to her curtailment memo as well as access to her personnel files which contained information about her pregnancy and presumably communicated with post leadership about the curtailment. Neither did the Agency refute Complainant’s assertion that the Board may have been aware of her pregnancy because the panel works closely with HR on promotions; and that the Board was also aware of the gaps in her tours and the shortened lengths of her tours because that was reflected in her personnel and evaluation files. As the Agency never presented any testimony from the Board members who reviewed Complainant’s promotion materials, we are left with only Complainant’s unrebutted assertions.
We note DDHR2’s statements that the Board notes are only retained for one year after dismissal of the FSSB and, therefore, were no longer available. In that regard, because Complainant filed her EEO complaint within a year of her non-selection for promotion, those statements should have been made available to the Investigator, given there was an ongoing EEO complaint being processed on this selection. See EEOC regulations at 29 C.F.R. Section 1602.14 (requiring employers to retain “all personnel records relevant to the charge or action until final disposition”
ORDER (D0617) The Agency is ordered to take the following remedial actions: I.The Agency will promote Complainant to FS-03 retroactively to the date she would have been promoted in 2014 absent discrimination, within thirty (30) calendar of the date this decision is issued.5II.The Agency shall pay Complainant back pay with interest from the date in 2014 when Complainant would have started in the FS-03 position. The Agency shall determine the appropriate amount of back pay, with interest, and other benefits due Complainant, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.501, no later than sixty (60) calendar days after the date this decision was issued. The Agency will ensure that all tax consequences are taken into account. Complainant shall cooperate in the Agency’s efforts to compute the amount of back pay and benefits due and shall provide all relevant information requested by the Agency. If there is a dispute regarding the exact amount of back pay and/or benefits, the Agency shall issue a check to Complainant for theundisputed amount within sixty (60) calendar days of the date the Agency determines the amount it believes to be due. Complainant may petition for enforcement or clarification of the amount in dispute. The petition for clarification or enforcement must be filed with the Compliance Officer, at the address referenced in the statement entitled “Implementation of the Commission’s Decision.” III.The Agency will conduct and complete a supplemental investigation on the issue of Complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages and will afford her an opportunity to establish a causal relationship between the Agency’s discriminatory action and her pecuniary or non-pecuniary losses, if any. ….
The order is accompanied by a “Posting Order” which required the State Department to post the EEOC Notice signed by agency representative in DOS Washington, DC offices – in both hard copy and electronic format within 30 calendar days of the decision dated September 22, 2020, and to remain in place for 60 consecutive days in “conspicuous places”. Anyone saw this posting order anywhere in the obscure corners of the Intranet?
Having seen the State Department and the federal government negotiate on claims for damages like this, we would not be surprised if the negotiations for damages would run on not just for weeks, but months, even years. The goal is not really to find an agreement — the government has lawyers with limitless hours billable to Uncle Sam — the goal appears to be to negotiate up to the point where the complainant is exhausted that he/she would take whatever deal the government offers. Someday, somebody should calculate the costs when the government drag on these negotiations, as opposed to expeditious settlement when it is found to be in the wrong.
President Biden announced his intent to nominate former Ambassador John Bass to be the next Under Secretary of State for Management. The WH released the following brief bio:
John R. Bass, Nominee for Under Secretary of State for Management
John R. Bass, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, currently is a Senior Advisor at the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. He has served as Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, and Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia. Previously, Bass focused, among other things, on supporting U.S. government efforts to mobilize allies and marshal resources to combat terrorism and instability in Iraq, Syria and Southwest Asia. He served at seven U.S. Missions overseas including as Team Leader of Provincial Reconstruction Team – Baghdad at the American Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. In addition, he was the Executive Secretary of the State Department and held other senior leadership positions at the Department of State. Bass earned an A.B. Cum Laude from Syracuse University.
In 1992, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate for appointment as Foreign Service Officers of Class Four, Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America.
In 1998, he went to work for Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott (1994-2001) first as a special assistant for Europe and Eurasia and later as Talbott’s chief of staff in 2000 (presumably until Talbott’s departure from Foggy Bottom in 2001).
He served at the U.S. Embassy in Rome from 2002 to 2004.
From 2004 to 2005, Bass was a special advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney for Europe and Eurasia.
From 2005-2008, Bass was director of the State Department Operations Center during Condoleezza Rice’s tenure as secretary of state.
About 19 years after joining the Foreign Service, he was promoted into the Senior Foreign Service (SFS). In 2007, he was confirmed as a Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor.
He led the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) from 2008-2009.
President Obama nominated him as Ambassador to Georgia where he served from August 2009 to 2012.
In 2011, he was promoted within the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor
He served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of State and Executive Secretary from 2012–2014, partly during Clinton’s tenure (2009-2013), and during Kerry’s tenure (2013-2017).
He served as Obama’s Ambassador to Turkey from 2014-2017
As of this writing, his nomination (PN922 ) is pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
There is no/no other position in Foggy Bottom that has a more significant impact on the lives of employees and family members than the Under Secretary of State for Management. Now, we know that press clips say this appointment is part of the Biden’s administration’s “efforts to revive a demoralized diplomatic corps.” We’ve also heard some quarters argue that the nominee is a 7th floor denizen who has never served in the Bureau of Administration or any of the functional bureaus under M, etc. etc. Remains to be seen either way what impact he makes once he is in office; he will be facing not just morale issues but also a host of internal management challenges.
Some added perspective –Ambassador Bass is not the secretary of state’s BFF unlike his predecessor; one could consider that good news. Also, he’s been in the service for 33 years, so with few exceptions, he knows more than most people appointed as State/M. He won’t need six months getting to know the institution and learning all the acronyms! If confirmed, he would only be the third career diplomat appointed as Under Secretary for Management (the others being Ronald Ian Spiers who served as “M” from 1983–1989 and Patrick F. Kennedy who served from 2007–2017).
A valued partner and counterpart, he helped to advance American efforts to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan. He served me, the President, and America with excellence and integrity. My most sincere thanks.