@StateDept FAQ: Zika Virus Infections – Updated May 27, 2016

Posted: 11:48 pm ET
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The State Department issued a Zika Travel Alert: Updated Guidance and New Information for Employees and Family Members (PDF) back in February 2016.  There is additional info here on Zika Medical Evacuations and on the Zika page.  Below is the latest FAQ on zika virus infections updated last week by state.gov. Click the lower righthand arrow to maximize the viewing box.

 

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President Obama Makes Historic Visit to Hiroshima, Now For the Trillion Dollar Question

Posted: 11:45 pm ET
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#MemorialDay2016: “If you forget my death, then I died in vain.”

Posted:7:18 pm ET
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J. Kael Weston, the author of “The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan,” was a State Department official in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2010.  Newsweek writes that he spent more time in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other State Department officer, including two and a half years in the Iraqi hellhole of Fallujah. He wrote The Graves of the Marines I Lost for the New York Times. Excerpt below:

While in Iraq and Afghanistan, I witnessed military officers and enlisted soldiers, at all ranks, being held accountable for their decisions. I have yet to see that happen with Washington policy makers who, far removed from the battlefields, benefit from our collective amnesia about past military and foreign policy failures.

The commander in chief and the senior military brass should leave the manicured grounds of Arlington and visit some of those places where most of America’s war dead are buried: farm towns, immigrant neighborhoods and working-class suburbs. At a time when fewer and fewer of us have any real ties to the military, how better to remind the nation that our troops are not just faceless volunteers, but people who live next door?

Over the last four years, I have visited a dozen such cemeteries. One was in Newcastle, Wyo. (population 3,532, according to the last census), where Staff Sgt. Brian Bland was laid to rest on a hill overlooking an oil refinery and a Pizza Hut. His granite headstone is shaped like a mountain peak.

Outside Cherokee, Iowa (population 5,253), at the Galva Veterans Memorial, I stood at Cpl. Nathan Schubert’s grave, next to his father’s, surrounded by green cornfields and grain silos. Etched on his headstone are pine trees and pheasants in flight.

In Menard, Tex. (population 1,471), I located Capt. Paul Christopher Alaniz, buried alongside his mother. Colorful ceramic tiles adorned his grave’s concrete plot, hand painted by his wife and children with the words “Love” and “Papa, Happy Father’s Day” and “A classy tie for a classy guy.”

I visited each one because I was directly involved in the decision that led to their deaths.

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State/OIG Officially Releases Report aka @StateDept Email Crap When FAM is Optional

Posted: 12:58 pm ET
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State/OIG’s report on the Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements (ESP-16-03) leaked yesterday has now been officially released and posted at the oig.state.gov website (PDF).  The OIG makes eight recommendations and the State Department concurred with all of them. The report also makes clear that the State Department rules books were decorative only for some folks.

Upfront, the report makes clear where the requests for this evaluation came from, and that it covers the tenures of five secretaries of state – from Albright to Kerry:

As part of ongoing efforts to respond to requests from the current Secretary of State and several Members of Congress, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviewed records management requirements and policies regarding the use of non-Departmental communications systems. The scope of this evaluation covers the Office of the Secretary, specifically the tenures of Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.

State/OIG released its report to lawmakers on Wednesday.  The leaked copy of the report still includes the following notation, which, of course, did not dissuade lawmaker/s from leaking it to various media outlets:

This report is intended solely for the official use of the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any agency or organization receiving a copy directly from the Office of Inspector General. No secondary distribution may be made, in whole or in part, outside the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, by them or by other agencies or organizations, without prior authorization by the Inspector General. Public availability of the document will be determined by the Inspector General under the U.S. Code, 5 U.S.C. 552. Improper disclosure of this report may result in criminal, civil, or administrative penalties.

Here are a few interesting details:

HRC declined OIG’s request for an interview

OIG also interviewed dozens of former and current Department employees, including the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (D-MR); the Under Secretary for Management (M); the Assistant Secretary and other staff in the Bureau of Administration (A); and various staff in the Office of the Secretary and its Executive Secretariat (S/ES), the Office of the Legal Adviser (L), the Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM), and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). In conjunction with the interviews, OIG reviewed paper and electronic records and documents associated with these offices. OIG also consulted with NARA officials. Finally, OIG interviewed Secretary Kerry and former Secretaries Albright, Powell, and Rice. Through her counsel, Secretary Clinton declined OIG’s request for an interview.

HRC’s top staffers declined OIG requests for interviews

In addition to Secretary Clinton, eight former Department employees declined OIG requests for interviews: (1) the Chief of Staff to Secretary Powell (2002-05); (2) the Counselor and Chief of Staff to Secretary Clinton (2009-13); (3) the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy to Secretary Clinton (2009-11) and the Director of Policy Planning (2011-13); (4) the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations to Secretary Clinton (2009-13); (5) the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communication (2009-13); (6) the Director of the S/ES Office of Information Resources Management (2008-13); (7) a Special Advisor to the Deputy Chief Information Officer (2009-13) who provided technical support for Secretary Clinton’s personal email system; and (8) a Senior Advisor to the Department, who supervised responses to Congressional inquiries (2014-15). Two additional individuals did not respond to OIG interview requests: the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (2011-13) and an individual based in New York who provided technical support for Secretary Clinton’s personal email system but who was never employed by the Department.

State/IPS gets an “F” for records retention reviews during FIVE Secretaries’ terms.

The Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) is the component of the Bureau specifically tasked with issuing records guidance and overseeing records management efforts of the Department. Upon request, IPS reviews the records management practices of Department offices. The Acting Co-Director of IPS currently serves as the Agency Records Officer with program management responsibility for all records Department-wide throughout their life cycle (creation, acquisition, maintenance, use, and disposition). IPS has provided briefings, in conjunction with S/ES, to Office of the Secretary staff and has issued Department-wide notices and cables about records retention requirements, some of which included requirements to save email records, including records contained in personal emails. According to the FAM, the Agency Records Officer is “responsible for seeing that the Department and all of its component elements in the United States and abroad are in compliance with Federal records statutes and  regulations,” yet IPS has not reviewed Office of the Secretary records retention practices during the current or past four Secretaries’ terms.

NARA gets an “F” for failing to do records retention reviews for 25 years!

Although NARA is responsible for conducting inspections or surveys of agencies’ records and records management programs and practices, it last reviewed the Office of the Secretary’s records retention practices in 1991–a quarter century ago. Beginning in 2009, NARA has relied on annual records management self-assessments and periodic reports from the Department to gauge the need to conduct formal inspections. The Department’s last two self-assessments did not highlight any deficiencies.

FOIA Fun! No email accounts from Secretary Clinton’s staff were in retired material.

In April 2015, S/ES retired nine lots of electronic records containing approximately 16 gigabytes of data, consisting of emails, memoranda, travel records, and administrative documents from the tenures of former Secretaries Powell, Rice, and Clinton. However, the only email accounts included in this material were those of six of former Secretary Powell’s staff and two of former Secretary Rice’s staff. No email accounts from Secretary Clinton’s staff were in the retired material.

The audacity of rank: different rules books for different people

OIG identified many examples of staff using personal email accounts to conduct official business; however, OIG could only identify three cases where officials used non-Departmental systems on an exclusive basis for day-to-day operations. These include former Secretaries Powell and Clinton, as well as Jonathan Scott Gration, a former Ambassador to Kenya. Although the former Ambassador was not a member of the Office of the Secretary, the Department’s response to his actions demonstrates how such usage is normally handled when Department cybersecurity officials become aware of it.
[…]
[T]he Ambassador continued to use unauthorized systems to conduct official business. The Department subsequently initiated disciplinary proceedings against him for his failure to follow these directions and for several other infractions, but he resigned before any disciplinary measures were imposed.  OIG could find no other instances where the Department initiated disciplinary procedures against a senior official for using non-Departmental systems for day-to-day operations.

Dammit! No guidance or approval obtained

Throughout Secretary Clinton’s tenure, the FAM stated that normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized AIS, yet OIG found no evidence that the Secretary requested or obtained guidance or approval to conduct official business via a personal email account on her private server. According to the current CIO and Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, Secretary Clinton had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs. However, according to these officials, DS and IRM did not—and would not—approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business, because of the restrictions in the FAM and the security risks in doing so. […] OIG found no evidence that Secretary Clinton ever contacted IRM to request such a solution, despite the fact that emails exchanged on her personal account regularly contained information marked as SBU.

Top State Department officials “unaware” of scope of HRC’s email use

In addition to interviewing current and former officials in DS and IRM, OIG interviewed other senior Department officials with relevant knowledge who served under Secretary Clinton, including the Under Secretary for Management, who supervises both DS and IRM; current and former Executive Secretaries; and attorneys within the Office of the Legal Adviser. These officials all stated that they were not asked to approve or otherwise review the use of Secretary Clinton’s server and that they had no knowledge of approval or review by other Department staff. These officials also stated that they were unaware of the scope or extent of Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account, though many of them sent emails to the Secretary on this account.

Dammit! No reporting compliance for cybersecurity incidents

In another incident occurring on May 13, 2011, two of Secretary Clinton’s immediate staff discussed via email the Secretary’s concern that someone was “hacking into her email” after she received an email with a suspicious link. Several hours later, Secretary Clinton received an email from the personal account of then-Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs that also had a link to a suspect website. The next morning, Secretary Clinton replied to the email with the following message to the Under Secretary: “Is this really from you? I was worried about opening it!” Department policy requires employees to report cybersecurity incidents to IRM security officials when any improper cyber-security practice comes to their attention. 12 FAM 592.4 (January 10, 2007). Notification is required when a user suspects compromise of, among other things, a personally owned device containing personally identifiable information. 12 FAM 682.2-6 (August 4, 2008). However, OIG found no evidence that the Secretary or her staff reported these incidents to computer security personnel or anyone else within the Department.

Two staffers who got it right were told to just pretty please shut up

Two staff in S/ES-IRM reported to OIG that, in late 2010, they each discussed their concerns about Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account in separate meetings with the then-Director of S/ES-IRM. In one meeting, one staff member raised concerns that information sent and received on Secretary Clinton’s account could contain Federal records that needed to be preserved in order to satisfy Federal recordkeeping requirements. According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further. As previously noted, OIG found no evidence that staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser reviewed or approved Secretary Clinton’s personal system. According to the other S/ES-IRM staff member who raised concerns about the server, the Director stated that the mission of S/ES-IRM is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.

Note that Politico is reporting that “a 2012 directory lists John Bentel as the director of the office that handles information technology for the Office of the Secretary. Bentel no longer works for State and has refused to answer Congressional investigators’ questions on this matter.

GOP reps are falling over each other, trying to release their own statements.  And a democratic congressional rep has already released a statement accusing the IG of  a “hit job.” Man, this is the only “hit job” with extensive footnotes and appendices.

Proper respect goes to OIG Steve Linick and his team who did good work under challenging circumstances.

  • Jennifer L. Costello, Team Leader, Office of Evaluations and Special Projects
  • David Z. Seide, Team Leader, Office of Evaluations and Special Projects
  • Jeffrey McDermott, Office of Evaluations and Special Projects
  • Robert Lovely, Office of Evaluations and Special Projects
  • Michael Bosserdet, Office of Inspections
  • Brett Fegley, Office of Inspections
  • Kristene McMinn, Office of Inspections
  • Timothy Williams, Office of Inspections
  • Aaron Leonard, Office of Audits
  • Phillip Ropella, Office of Audits
  • Kelly Minghella, Office of Investigations
  • Eric Myers, Office of Investigations

Read the OIG report below:

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State/OIG’s Audit of Secretary of State’s “Damn Emails” Leaks Out — Spin Docs, Come Out Now!

Posted: 12:54 am ET
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State/OIG’s report on the  Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements is scheduled to be officially released on May 26, but some folks got hold of it a day earlier. On May 25, the State Department provided a background briefing (embargoed until the end of the telconf call) with two senior State Department officials “to walk through some of the report’s findings as well as recommendations.” See Briefing on the State Department Inspector General’s Report, Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements. Below are some of the coverage and reactions to the IG report:

Meanwhile, below are some reactions, expected or otherwise:

Also on teevee with Wolf; this guy’s earning his pay:

Oh, and this.

OMG! Representative Engel forgot the CAPS LOCK when he tweeted thisAlso since he’s accusing the Obama-appointed IG of a “hit job” he ought to be using not only ALL CAPS but also red font! But give him a D for effort, please.

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Judicial Actions Involving Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) Rulings in 2015

Posted: 12:15 am ET
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Below are three appeals of FSGB decisions that were filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia in 2015 and a few other cases currently pending in court. All extracted from the 2015 FSGB Annual Report:

  • In May, Paul Fritch appealed the Board’s decision in FSGB Case No. 2013-005. The circumstances of that case, as with two other appeals filed by Mr. Fritch with the Board, revolved around his transfer to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for seven years, and reemployment by the Department of State. Mr. Fritch’s district court appeal claims that the Department, affirmed by the Board decision, denied him benefits upon his return to which he was entitled by law, including promotion opportunities, housing expenses, lost contributions to his Thrift Savings Plan account, and position seniority. A decision is pending. (Also see  How many people should be put through a wringer before, oh you know …. and  Secondments to international organizations and promotions? Here comes the boo!).
  • In November, SharLyn Foo appealed the Board’s decision in FSGB Case No.2014-018, described above under financial cases resolved last year. The Board affirmed the Department’s denial of a waiver of repayment of annuity payments in excess of $300,000 deposited into Foo’s deceased mother’s account over more than a decade. A decision is pending.
  • Also in November, La Rufus Mitchell filed an appeal of the Board’s decision in FSGB Case No. 2014-003. Ms. Mitchell claims that the Department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act when it separated her for not having passed the timed running test required for Diplomatic Security Agents. The Board had upheld the Department’s decision. (See the case description under Separation cases, above, for greater detail.) A decision is pending.
  • Appeal to the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board (FSRLB) | In October, the Department of State filed an appeal to the FSRLB of the Board’s decision in the implementation dispute filed by AFSA in FSGB Case No. 2014-028. The FSGB found that the Department had violated negotiated Procedural Precepts when it failed to pay Meritorious Service Increases (MSIs) to members of the Foreign Service in 2013. The Department has alleged that the Board relied on erroneous facts and factual premises not in evidence, and disregarded the express terms of the collective bargaining agreement when it based its decision on past practice. (See Implementation Disputes, above, for greater detail.) Also see Burn Bag: @StateDept announces its disappointment … 👀 OMG! It’s nice to feel valued!

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FSGB 2015 Annual Report: Grievance Processing Reduction — From 41 Weeks to 34 Weeks

Posted: 12:08 am ET
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The Foreign Service Grievance Board has released its 2015 annual report. Excerpts below:

The FSGB, as the primary appeals tribunal for Foreign Service Officers, is in many cases the tribunal of last resort for a wide variety of disputes that arise in the context of employment in the Foreign Service. Although the Board’s decisions may be appealed to the Federal District Courts, such appeals are rare. Therefore, the Board holds sway over decisions that may not only adversely affect Foreign Service careers but that may be fatal to such careers.In its 2015 report, the FSGB says that it has “achieved significant progress in reducing the timelines from the inception of the appeal (or the filing of the grievance with the Board) to the issuance of the final decision. Taking into consideration certain anomalies (cases settled, withdrawn, etc.), the grievance processing time was reduced from an average of 41 weeks in 2014 to 34 weeks in 2015.”
[…]
The Board is constantly mindful that external trends and societal changes that affect the Foreign Service have a bearing on dispute resolution. In that regard, we have encouraged internal discussion and on occasion invited outside experts to make presentations on topics that we consider relevant to the Board’s core functions. For example, this past year the Board held a panel discussion on the impact of social media on diplomacy, including such issues as expectations of privacy and security of communications in a much more active cyber environment. We also invited four distinguished individuals to engage the Board in a wide-ranging discussion on disability and its impact on the Foreign Service. The discussion ranged from a report on what the Department of State is doing to provide accommodations for various employees who are disabled to the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. These issues, along with a myriad of other conditions caused by service in stressful, dangerous and unhealthy posts abroad, have significant impact on behavior and performance and are often addressed by evolving laws and regulations; they are therefore relevant to the overall mission of the Board. My expectation is that the Board will continue to encourage discussion of issues that influence Foreign Service careers, and that will enlarge the Board’s understanding of the growing complexities in the practice of diplomacy and the legal framework that surrounds it.

Some of the notable 2015 FSGB cases:

  • One complex case arose from the circumstances following the September 11, 2012, attack on an American diplomatic post in Benghazi. The reviewing officer of a senior DS Agent was placed on administrative leave during the last four months of the rating period. No communication was allowed between the rated employee and reviewer during that time. Additionally, the rated employee was subsequently responsible for implementing many changes in procedures that had been in place under the reviewer who was placed on leave. The employee assumed that the person acting in the original reviewer’s stead would provide the reviewing statement for his EER. However, the Department determined that his former reviewer would write the reviewing statement, since that officer had not been formally reassigned and was familiar with grievant’s performance during most of the rating period. Grievant claimed that this decision, along with the Department’s decision to assign no reviewer for his subsequent Interim EER, contrary to grievant’s expectations, disadvantaged him in the highly competitive promotion process at the senior levels. The Board found that although the Department had contravened the regulations regarding reviewing officers, grievant, who had been recommended for performance pay, had not demonstrated actionable harm, and the grievance was denied. FSGB Case No. 2015-022. (This case does not appear to be available at fsgb.gov).
  • A second grievance illustrated an issue involving informal counseling that occurs with some frequency in cases that end up at the Board. Grievant, an untenured officer, challenged several EERs and a low ranking on a number of grounds, among them that he had not previously been counseled on deficiencies identified in his EERs. After a thorough review of the record, including contradictory statements by the employee and raters, the Board found that, with one exception, grievant had been counseled, albeit informally, but not in writing on the official counseling form as provided by Department regulations. In accordance with Board precedent, the Board found that such informal counseling was acceptable, although not the best practice. FSGB Case No. 2013-046. (PDF)
  • The appeal with the largest sum at stake was filed by the daughter of a deceased Foreign Service Officer. The Department sought to collect over $300,000 in annuity payments that it had continued to deposit to the account of the deceased’s wife (the grievant’s mother) for over a decade after the mother’s death. The grievant alleged that her mother had told her that the payments would be continued, and that she should use them for the benefit of her minor nephew, whose father had also died. When the Department requested repayment, grievant asked for a waiver. The Department denied the application for waiver on the basis that it (the agency) was prohibited by regulation from waiving repayment of overpayments made to an estate. The Board affirmed the Department’s findings. The grievant has appealed the decision to district court. (See Judicial Actions Involving Board Rulings, below.) FSGB Case No. 2014-018. (PDF)
  • In a second, unusual, case, the grievant was a Department employee who had filed the first Foreign Service grievance in 1972. At that time, he was due to be separated as a result of expiration of time in class, and would have received no retirement benefits. The grievant protested that the separation was really due to policy differences with his superiors. During the proceedings, grievant was separated and hired into a Civil Service position. He ultimately won the grievance, but was never reinstated in accordance with the remedies granted. Grievant requested that the Board negotiate a revised annuity based on the original grievance decision. The Board found that the passage of over four decades since the original grievance made the new grievance untimely, and it dismissed the case. FSGB Case No. 2014-042. (Also see FSGB Recognizes Grievant’s “Enduring Dissatisfaction” With @StateDept’s 40 Year Old Grievance Case — Where’s the Medal?)
  • A third case involved both a two-and-a-half-year delay in proposing discipline and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an issue that has arisen with increasing frequency in grievances. The grievant was a DS Agent who allegedly suffered from PTSD following an earlier military deployment to Iraq. The Department charged that grievant failed to inform it about the PTSD during the hiring process, and that he was taking prescription medication without notifying DS as required by the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). The Board sustained both charges but did not sustain two of the specifications under one of the charges, and remanded to the Department to reconsider the penalty. The delay was not found to have harmed or prejudiced the grievant in this case. FSGB Case No. 2014-020 (PDF).
  • One case involving the appeal of an assignment was closed this year. Grievant had been an FS-02 officer for several years when he was voluntarily separated and transferred to an international organization. He remained at the international organization for seven years, where he held a senior position in his final years. Grievant contested his assignment to an FS-02 position when he returned to State. However, he had also filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) involving the same issues. Grievant withdrew his grievance appeal in order to pursue the OSC complaint. FSGB Case No. 2014-025. (Also see  How many people should be put through a wringer before, oh you know …. and  Secondments to international organizations and promotions? Here comes the boo!).

Some unresolved cases at the end of 2015:

  • Grievant, an untenured DS Agent who spoke fluent Chinese, applied for an upgraded security clearance pursuant to a pending assignment to China. In mid-2013 he was informed that his Top Secret clearance was being suspended based on issues surrounding his personal conduct and his foreign preference and influence. The Department also suspended his law enforcement duties and LEAP, assigning the Agent to unclassified duties. Although the Agent was recommended for tenure the same year, tenure was withheld pending resolution of the security issues, and he was low ranked. Grievant challenges these actions on procedural grounds. FSGB Case No. 2015-034.
  • USAID sought to suspend a Management Officer assigned to a conflict zone for negligent contracting actions that it alleged led to the costly collapse of a roof on a new USAID building. The collapse took place in 2009; discipline was proposed in early 2013. As of mid-2015, the agency had not yet issued a final decision on the discipline; however, it was withholding the grievant’s promotion, recommended in 2013, pending that decision. The grievant challenged the agency’s action as untimely and also claimed as a defense that his alleged negligence was due to his PTSD. The case appeared to be near an agreed resolution last year when a second investigation of the grievant halted negotiations between the parties. FSGB Case No. 2015-020.
  • An employee posted to South America with USAID stopped on his way home by a local bar/grocery store, where, he alleges, his drink was drugged by a young woman who joined him. He claims that he awoke the next morning in a strange place, feeling ill and disoriented, and found that $5,000 had been charged to his debit card. The grievant and his wife state that he continued to hallucinate and be paranoid for two days, supporting their conclusion that he had been drugged. He reported the incident to the RSO and was later recommended for separation for cause based on two charges: 1) Conduct Unbecoming, for having had commercial sex in violation of Department policy; and 2) Dishonesty, for having reported his credit cards stolen, when he still had them in his possession. FSGB Case No. 2015-048.  (This case does not appear to be available at fsgb.gov but a similar case is

    FSGB No. 2012-019 (PDF) which also involves a drugged IMO employee).

IMPLEMENTATION DISPUTES

During the past year the Board resolved two implementation disputes filed by AFSA.

  • The first involved the meaning of language in the 2013 Precepts governing the award of Meritorious Service Increases (MSIs). AFSA and the Department had for many years negotiated the Procedural Precepts concerning MSIs. The Precepts had historically called for awarding MSIs to all employees recommended by the Selection Boards, up to a set percentage of employees in each competitive class. Due to the sequester of funds government-wide in 2013, the negotiated language permitted withholding payment of the MSIs. When the sequester was lifted, the Department nevertheless continued to withhold payment of the awards. AFSA argued that refusal to pay at that point violated the terms of the Precepts to which they had agreed. The Board found in AFSA’s favor, based on the parties’ past practice. The Department has appealed this decision to the Foreign Service Labor Relations Board, which has not yet ruled. FSGB Case No. 2014-028. (PDF)
  • In the second implementation dispute, AFSA alleged that the Department had failed to hold negotiations and/or reach agreement with it on an Embassy London change in practice relating to the deductions Embassy London employees could make from the salaries of their own domestic employees when those employees were given room and board in embassy-provided housing. AFSA contended that the embassy’s unilateral change violated the FAM and the parties’ 1987 Framework Agreement. The Board found that the appeal was filed late and dismissed it for lack of timeliness. FSGB Case No. 2015-005. (PDF).

Read the full report below or read it online via fsgb.gov:

 

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Two Mexicans Extradited in the 2011 Murder and Attempted Murder of ICE Agents in Mexico

Posted: 12:03 am ET
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In 2011, we blogged about this case here:  US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock on Road to Monterrey$5 Million Reward for Information Re: Shootings of Two ICE Agents in Mexico and “Fast and Furious” gun killed ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico?

On May 16, 2016, USDOJ announced that two Mexican nationals have been extradited from Mexico to face charges for their alleged participation in the murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE Special Agent Victor Avila on Feb. 15, 2011, in Mexico.

The charges and extraditions were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia, Assistant Director Stephen E. Richardson of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division and Director Sarah R. Saldaña of ICE.

Jesus Ivan Quezada Piña, aka Loco, 28, and Alfredo Gaston Mendoza Hernandez, aka Camaron, aka Burger, 33, both of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, were charged on May 16, 2013, in a four-count indictment with murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an officer or employee of the United States; attempted murder of an internationally protected person; and using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.  The indictment was unsealed today when Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez made their initial appearances before Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia.  Quezada Piña and Mendoza Hernandez were ordered detained without bail.

Four defendants—Julian Zapata Espinoza, aka Piolin, 35; Ruben Dario Venegas Rivera, aka Catracho, 28; Jose Ismael Nava Villagran, aka Cacho, 33; and Francisco Carbajal Flores, aka Dalmata, 41—previously pleaded guilty to offenses based on their roles in the murder and attempted murder of the ICE agents.  As part of their guilty pleas, Espinoza, Rivera and Villagran admitted that they participated directly in the Feb. 15, 2011, ambush of the two special agents as part of a Los Zetas hit squad.  The fourth defendant, Flores, acknowledged assisting Zetas members after the attack.  A fifth defendant, Jose Emanuel Garcia Sota, aka Juan Manuel Maldonado Amezcua, aka Safado, 35, was extradited to the United States on Oct. 1, 2015, for his participation in this attack and is currently awaiting trial.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The FBI is investigating the case with substantial assistance from ICE, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Marshals Service.  The investigation was also coordinated with the assistance of the Government of Mexico.

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Obama in Vietnam: Arms Embargo, Human Rights, Peace Corps, and Anthony Bourdain

Posted: 4:53 pm ET
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Meanwhile, Secretary Kerry made an unannounced visit in downtown Hanoi .

 

Foggy Bottom Finally Delivers Guidance for Domestic or Overseas Obstetrical Medevac– What’s New?

Posted: 12:15 am ET
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Remember the January 2016 Burn Bag: Expectant Parents Still Waiting For Foggy Bottom to Deliver 2015 Pregnancy Cable? It’s May, and the Pregnancy Guide (PDF) finally came out!

“The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Human Resources’ Pregnancy Guide provides information to assist Foreign Service employees and family members with pregnancy-related questions and issues. The guide includes information on payment for medical expenses, types of leave, obtaining a diplomatic passport and visa for the child, allowances and per diem, and other topics related to an obstetrical medevac.”

The guide above is available directly from state.gov here.

According to the pregnancy guide above, its key source of information is 3 FAH-3 (Maternity, Surrogacy, and Adoption Handbook) and 16 FAM 300 (Medical Travel).  “Information was selected to address the specific issues related to a birth parent serving overseas on overseas or domestic obstetrical medieval.”  Also 16 FAM 315.2 for Delivery Outside the United States.

3 FAH-3  (Maternity, Surrogacy, and Adoption Handbook) reportedly has some superseding text issued by the Department in a Department Notice in June 2015 and this subchapter according to the online regs will be revised to reflect the new guidance  — FAH says refer to Department Notice 2015_06_099 for more information.

16 FAM 300 (Medical Travel) — as far as we could tell from the online regs — has not been updated since July 11, 2012.

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So okay, help us out here —  if there was a Department Notice back in June 2015 for 3 FAM-3, and 16 FAM 315.2  has not been updated since July 2012, where was the holdup with this new guidance? Or for that matter, can anyone tell what is new here?

 

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