USAID: That time when an employee wrote to Rajiv Shah and said, “Do us a favor and quit…” #ClintonEmails

Posted: 12:42 am EDT
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The email addressed to then USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah was sent in October 2010 by a USAID employee. It was shared by Dr. Shah with senior USAID and State Department officials and forwarded to HRC by Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills.  Dr. Shah was USAID Administrator from January 7, 2010 to February 19, 2015. He was succeeded by Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator in December 2015.

Shah writes that he was “somewhat amazed” that somebody actually sent such a letter to him and says that he “really believe our overall narrative lacks credibility and do believe the qddr will need be a key document in terms of trying to win over the building.”

He also writes that, “For everyone one (sic) of these totally crazy emails/people there are 100 moderate people that we need to win over – and they are watching with skepticism right now.”

HRC’s response is to first “do a background check on who she is,”  referring to the USAID employee.  She calls the email “a typical DC bureaucratic rant,” and says it reminds her of “some of the town hall questioners I’ve had.”  

The email below from a USAID employee whose name is redacted is pretty brutal, calling the then administrator of less than a year, “a patsie,” and “a puppet” while urging the USAID boss to “quit with at least some dignity…”

We have not been able to find a trail on what if ever was USAID or State’s response.  Mills writes to HRC that she wants “to be helpful and creative in thinking through a response.”  This document is part of the latest Clinton email dump.

 

 

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Burn Bag: US Embassy Madrid’s Wise Use of Taxpayer Funded Employee Time?

Via Burn Bag:

“Last year and the year before, Embassy Madrid hosted the biggest (or one of the biggest) July 4th celebration with roughly 4,000 guests.  Plans for this year call for a bigger celebration.  Wise use of taxpayer funded employee time?”

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Email of the Day: Rejection Letter For Chief of Mission Aspirant

Posted: 12:05 am EDT
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An individual whose name is redacted wrote an April 2012 email to State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills saying “Disappointingly EAP was unable to nominate me for a COM position ….” and that he was “running out of option.”   Mills forward the email to HRC saying she advised the individual “given his interest in Slovenia and Iceland to meet w/ Phil.” Phil is most probably Philip Gordon who served as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) from 2009-13.

The rejection letter/email that the aspiring ambassador received came from Joseph Yun who was then Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP) and currently U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia. The email is part of the latest Clinton email dump.

 

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Visa Fraudster With 25 Fraudulent H-1B Visa Petitions Gets 3 Years Probation and $400,000 Forfeiture

Posted: 12:01 am EDT
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Via state.gov/ds:

OAKLAND, Calif. – A federal judge has sentenced a British man to three years of probation and the forfeiture of $400,000 for his role in a visa-fraud scheme, announced Special Agent In-Charge David Zebley of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) San Francisco Field Office.

Madhu Santhanam, 41, was sentenced on January 7, 2016, by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California following Santhanam’s guilty plea to a count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

In his December 10, 2014, plea agreement, Santhanam, owner of Maan Systems of Union City, California, admitted that he had submitted at least 25 fraudulent I-129 petitions between September 2009 and June 2013. Employers must submit these documents to obtain H-1B visas for highly skilled immigrant applicants seeking to work in the United States.

In many of his fraudulent I-129 applications, Santhanam falsely indicated that the applicants would be working at his company or placed at Fortune 500 companies, but instead he placed the workers at unapproved worksites. As part of his plea agreement, Santhanam paid a forfeiture judgment totaling $400,000.

The successful prosecution was the result of an investigation led by the DSS special agent assigned to the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), an interagency investigative body overseen by the Homeland Security Investigations Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

So no jail time, only probation, and he forfeited $400K to USG, which is about $16K per fraudulent H1-B visa petition. A high risk, high return enterprise.

When the guilty plea was announced in December 2014, DOJ says that the maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to commit visa fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1546, is a maximum term of 5 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and 3 years of supervised release.

Wow! All that work for the feds, and over 12 months after the guilty plea, and not a single day in jail. What does it take before fraud like this gets taken seriously enough that we actually put people in jail?

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Coalition of Civil Rights Groups Seek State/OIG Investigation Into US Embassy Yemen’s Passport Revocations

Posted: 1:01 am EDT
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The Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus and  Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) Project of CUNY School of Law have submitted Stranded Abroad: Americans Stripped of Their Passports in Yemen to the State Department Office of Inspector General requesting that the OIG investigate the State Department and U.S. Embassy Yemen “for confiscating and revoking U.S. passports contrary to regulations, policies, and guidelines.” 

The groups alleged confiscation and revocation without notice, failure to provide direct return passports upon confiscation, collateral attacks on citizenship/proxy denaturalization, coercive interrogations and inadequate investigations prior to passport revocation.  The complaint named seven officials who were then assigned to the US Embassy Yemen and at the State Department who the groups say are aware of the pattern of revocation and “likely to have information that can assist the OIG’s investigation.” The complaint says that the  “inclusion of their names in this report is not intended to imply that they have engaged in any wrongdoing.” (see appendices)

The letter  (PDF) addressed to IG Steve Linick was sent by civil rights and civil liberties groups that include the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee,  American Civil Liberties Union, Arab American Institute, Arab Resource & Organizing Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Center for Constitutional Rights, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility at CUNY Law School, Muslim Advocates, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

 

 

Read the 44-page complaint below:

 

A related note, we must have missed this one, Al Jazeera did a piece on this back in January 2014 (See Yemeni-Americans cry foul over passport revocations). Below is an excerpt from that piece with an unnamed State Department official:

State Department official familiar with the issue — and who spoke on condition of anonymity — told Al Jazeera that a majority of the passport revocations in Sana’a follow a similar pattern. “Virtually all of the statements say that the individual naturalized under a false identity,” he said. “They appear to be involuntary.”

According to the official, an internal investigation determined that the statements those revocations were based on were obtained under “confrontational” circumstances, with individuals alone in an interview room with an investigative officer and an interpreter who, the official said, treated their subjects “aggressively.”

“We’re talking about an inherently coercive and intimidating environment, without any independent supervision of the interrogator and his translator,” said the official.

A sample of the alleged involuntary statement is included in the complaint (see Appendix B). If the voluntary statements in these revocation cases are anything like those exhibited in Mosed Shaye Omar v. John Kerry, et.al. this would be a great mess.

Back in November, following the federal court decision in Omar v. Kerry ordering the State Department to return the passport improperly revoked by the State Department, we asked State/OIG about this trend and we were told that the OIG does not have “anything on this issue on which it can comment.” It was suggested that we check with Consular Affairs. And of course, we have previously asked the bureau about this, but we do not really expect them to address this in terms of oversight.

The court documents in the Omar case suggest that Consular Affairs is revoking U.S. passports contrary to the rules in the Foreign Affairs Manual. But this is not the only case. If all similar cases have the same threshold as the Omar case, it is deeply troubling not only because the revocation appears not to follow State Department’s written guidance, State also never seek to denaturalized the plaintiff.  Which basically leaves the plaintiff still a citizen of this country  but unable to travel anywhere.

We have been troubled by this practice but particularly by the allegations of coercion. We have had a difficult time understanding why Yemeni-Americans would incriminate themselves voluntarily and admit to something that obviously is detrimental not only to their welfare but also their future.  That defies human nature.

And no, we don’t believe that Consular Affairs is the right entity to review its own practices when it comes to these allegations. We’re hoping that State/OIG will look into this as part of its oversight responsibility of the State Department.

 

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There are over 24,000 diplomats working for @StateDept?

Posted: 5:24 pm EDT
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“There are over 24,000 diplomats working for the State Department in the U.S. and around the world. Of that number some are diplomats and some are civil servants serving mostly domestically.”

— Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, director of the Foreign Service Institute. As the Chief Learning Officer for the U.S. government’s foreign affairs community, she is focused on preparing America’s diplomats for the challenges of tomorrow. Born and raised in Clearwater Florida, her State Department career has taken her to Egypt, Germany, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Bulgaria. (Via Parade).

Note: The Parade article was updated sometime after January 24 to say, “There are over 24,000 Americans working for the State Department in the U.S. and around the world.”  The Wayback Machine dated January 24 has the original line that says, “There are over 24,000 diplomats working for the State Department in the U.S. and around the world.”

 

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It Took Awhile But Here It Is — Going After @StateDept OIG Steve Linick With Fake Sleeper Cells

Posted: 2:24 pm EDT
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Politico reported on January 25 about the State Dept. watchdog tied to earlier Clinton probe.   Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), described by Politico as a Clinton ally questioned the impartiality of the State Department IG’s office. He was specifically targeting OIG Steve Linick’s senior advisor, David Seide, who according to Representative Israel: “You have a guy who used his former position to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into Mrs. Clinton that amounted to nothing, who then continues that work in the State Department. That has fingerprints on it that are just too visible and just lead to all sorts of questions.”

Excerpt below from Politico:

A lawyer overseeing investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email practices has a history of tangling with the former first lady’s political operation: He was a federal prosecutor involved in a probe that led, a decade ago, to the unsuccessful prosecution of a top Clinton fundraising aide.

David Seide — now the acting senior adviser to the State Department inspector general — gathered evidence that surfaced in the case against David Rosen, the national finance director of Clinton’s 2000 Senate bid.
[…]
While Rosen’s trial was a stinging defeat for the government, after Rosen’s acquittal, the committee that arranged the 2000 gala paid a $35,000 civil penalty to the Federal Election Commission and agreed to amend the relevant campaign finance reports to acknowledge more than $721,000 in unreported spending. Such large in-kind donations to a campaign-linked fundraiser were legal at the time, but they were made illegal by the so-called soft-money ban in the McCain-Feingold law passed in 2002.
[…]
Seide appears to have close ties to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and to DiSanto. When Linick gave up his position as IG at the Federal Housing Finance Agency to join State in 2013, Seide and DiSanto followed him to the new agency.

However, Seide’s résumé doesn’t suggest an anti-Clinton vendetta. After leaving government, he spent a year as an in-house counsel at Morgan Stanley before joining Wilmer Hale, a Washington law firm that has employed many prominent Democrats and former Clinton administration officials.

In 2002, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as McCain-Feingold. The legislation made changes to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to limit the use of “soft money.”

Representative Steve Israel voted in favor of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.  So he was for McCain-Feingold before he was against McCain-Feingold?  Here’s the funny thing.  According to Politico, Doug Welty, the State OIG spox said that Mr. Seide was involved in the prosecution of a case in which a Clinton donor was charged with stock fraud, but not the Rosen case.

Chill out! Those prosecutors, they all look the same, hey?

In November last year, senior Democrats also alleged a “fishy connection” between the release of Huma Abedin-related  information and Senator Grassley’s former top investigator, Emilia DiSanto, who is now the deputy inspector general at the State Department. The NYT notes that “Ms. DiSanto worked for Mr. Grassley for years; she joined the inspector general’s office in late 2013, around the time the inquiry into Ms. Abedin began.”

Ms. DiSanto, in an email, responded angrily to questions about whether there was a connection between her and the information that Mr. Grassley had received.

“Any claim that I have communicated with Senator Grassley about State Department nominations is an outright lie,” she wrote. “There is nothing ‘fishy’ about the fact that I once worked for Senator Grassley about five years ago. Indeed, it is quite common for employees of the legislative branch to join the executive branch to continue their public service.”

Senator Grassley’s inquiry originally started with the Special Government Employee (SGE) arrangement involving Human Abedin in August 2013 (see The Other Benghazi Four: Lengthy Administrative Circus Ended Today; Another Circus Heats Up). Senator Grassley said in his letter to Secretary Kerry that he made inquiries on June 13, 2013 and August 15, 2013 regarding the State Department’s use of Special Government Employee (SGE). We’re not complaining, by the way, that Senator Grassley is looking into this issue. We’d like to know how other State Department employees can get permission to hold three other jobs concurrent with their federal jobs.  Some friends have mortgages, others have kids in college, car payments, student debts, etc…. so an additional job or two would be really helpful.

In any case, Emilia DiSanto was appointed Acting Deputy IG on October 1, 2013 to succeeded Harold Geisel, the Deputy IG who served as OIG boss for the last five years while the State Department did not have a Senate-confirmed Inspector General.  Ms. DiSanto was with the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office for two years prior to her move to the State Department.

In 2004, during her work at the Senate Finance Committee, Ms. DiSanto reportedly met with Food and Drug Administration whistleblowers about their concerns that widely used antidepressants were linked to suicidal behavior among teens. According to the WSJ, the scientists told Ms. DiSanto that they believed the agency and companies were ignoring or suppressing that information. Shortly thereafter the senator held the first major congressional hearing on a drug safety issue in years.  They later turned their attention to “medical devices, specialty hospitals, the antibiotic Ketek, ghostwritten medical papers, the FDA’s criminal division, its drug division, its veterinary division and, most notably, the diabetes drug Avandia.” See more here (PDF).

In late 2005, she survived an attack by a man who repeatedly struck her with with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat. Reports say no evidence points to DiSanto’s work on the Finance Committee as the cause for the attack, but sources say there are a number of clues that suggest it could be since the assailant “was trying to hide his identity, wearing a hood and black gloves. He also did not make any demands before attacking the 49-year-old staffer. A working assumption among investigators is that he was waiting for her to arrive home.” She reportedly returned to work a week after her attack, and continued to work at the Senate until 2011 when she left and moved to FHFA/OIG.

David Seide was appointed Counselor to the Inspector General on October 18, 2013.  Previously, he served for almost three years as Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Federal Housing Finance Agency.  His title was later changed to Acting Senior Adviser to the Inspector General at the State Department.

Both Ms. DiSanto and Mr. Seide worked with Mr. Linick when he was inspector general at Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). We should note that they worked with the RMBS Working Group and the New York Attorney General’s Office in support of the investigation and prosecution of RMBS fraud cases. In November 2013, when all three have already moved to the State Department, their old office, FHFA/OIG with the Justice Department and other state and federal entities secured a record $13 billion global settlement with JPMorgan for misleading investors about securities containing toxic mortgages.  They did the jobs they were supposed to do there.

Now they’re doing the jobs they’re supposed to be doing at the State Department.

And some politician is trying to convinced us that they are at fault for doing their jobs by peddling “all sorts of questions” and citing  “fingerprints.”

Mr. Seide is one of the two team leaders and 10 OIG staffers who looked into the Department of State’s FOIA Processes for Requests Involving the Office of the Secretary (PDF).  Is the good congressman from New York also digging up the backgrounds of the 10 OIG staffers involved in that project? That is, by the way, a distressing report to read but nobody asked how come no one had ever done this review before? What happened to the OIG during the Clinton tenure? What’s that? There was no Senate confirmed IG during that entire tenure?

Too bad, there was no IG with major brass balls before now to look under the rugs.

We do think that the real target of these allegations of bias is Mr. Linick. Because, hey … if his closest aides are political sleeper cells, who somehow manage to lay low in the bureaucracy and a decade later they turned the screws at their first opportunities, then by golly, he must be, too!  And if you can smear the messengers badly enough, then, of course, all those reports his office issued and will issue in the future can simply be ignored or dismissed as partisan.

This is predictable babble and the good congressman from New York and friends must now find a vomitorium so they can throw up all this crap.

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USG Creates New National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) After OPM Data Breach

Posted: 12:16 am EDT
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Last week, OPM announced a series of changes to modernize and strengthen the way it conduct background investigations for Federal employees and contractors and protect sensitive data. The new bureau will be housed at OPM but will have DOD IT security and operation. It also absorbs OPM’s Federal Investigative Services (FIS).  It is described as a new government wide-service provider. It is not clear how this will affect agencies like the State Department who conducted their own separate background investigations in the past.

Below is an excerpt from the OPM announcement:

These changes include the establishment of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), which will absorb the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) existing Federal Investigative Services (FIS), and be headquartered in Washington, D.C. This new government-wide service provider for background investigations will be housed within the OPM. Its mission will be to provide effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government. Unlike the previous structure, the Department of Defense will assume the responsibility for the design, development, security, and operation of the background investigations IT systems for the NBIB.

Today’s announcement comes after an interagency 90-Day Suitability and Security review commenced last year in light of increasing cybersecurity threats, including the compromise of information housed at OPM, to re-examine reforms to the Federal background investigations process, assess additional enhancements to further secure information networks and systems, and determine improvements that could be made to the way the Government conducts background investigations for suitability, security and credentialing.

This review was conducted by the interagency Performance Accountability Council (PAC), which is chaired by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and comprised of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in their respective roles as Security and Suitability Executive Agents of the PAC, and the Departments of Defense (DOD), the Treasury, Homeland Security, State, Justice, Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and others. It also included consultation with outside experts.

We are proud of the collaborative effort of the interagency team that helped identify these critical reforms. And we are committed to protecting the security of not only our systems and data, but also the Personally Identifiable Information of the people we entrust with protecting our national security.

We also want to thank the men and women of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services for the work they do every day to provide quality background investigations to agencies across Government.

The Administration will establish a transition team that will develop a plan to stand up NBIB and migrate the existing functions of the current Federal Investigative Service to the NBIB, and to make sure that agencies continue to get the investigative services they need during the transition.

For more information about today’s announcement please go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/22/way-forward-federal-background-investigations.

 

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