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Another Note About the Burn Bag–There’s No Easy Way of Doing This, Is There?

Posted: 4:13 pm PT
Updated: 10:50 am PT
Updated 11/15, 12:36 am PT
Updated: 11/16 4:51 am ET

In August 2014, we updated our Burn Bag guidance:

Just a quick note on the Burn Bag — we’re not always able to publish the entries you send us, or as quickly as you may want.  The intent remains the same, it’s cheaper than therapy.  We’re still talking about the “I’m feeling blue, I want to scream” things that you can’t put on your blog, things that’s making you tear out your hair or stuff you can’t tell your friends here or at post because — admit it, you live in a very large fishbowl.  As a reminder, kindly check the guidelines for sending your Burn Bag entries here.

One of our regular readers, a former ambassador suggested that some of these Burn Bag entries ought to be submitted not to this blog but to the OIG Hotline. That, of course, is not/not up for us to decide but for the writers/senders of these Burn Bag entries.

In any case, we promised to remind you about the Hotline.

If you need to report waste, fraud or mismanagement, please contact the State Department Office of Inspector General Hotline.   If you need to, you may contact the Hotline via email: oighotline@state.gov or by calling 202-647-3320 or 800-409-9926 or using its online form. Note that it is no longer possible to submit a report using the hotline email. We were told that  the current system of reporting information to the Hotline via the OIG’s online submission form “actually provides more anonymity.” Note that if you are using OIG’s online form, the USG system will probably capture/log your IP address. If you want to preserve your anonymity, you need to use a VPN service or an IP anonymizer.

According to the State/OIG website, examples of allegations that should be reported to the OIG Hotline include misuse, embezzlement or theft of government property or funds; contract or procurement fraud; contractor misconduct; passport and visa malfeasance; fraud, waste and mismanagement of Department and BBG operations; employee misconduct, such as misuse of official position; bribes or unauthorized acceptance of gifts; conflicts of interest and other ethical violations; and defense trade control violations.  Please check out the rest on the OIG Hotline page here.

Today, we are adding an importation notation that folks who submit Burn Bag entries should be aware of.  If you are submitting an entry reporting malfeasance and criminal wrong doing, we strongly urge you to report to a law enforcement office or use the OIG Hotline here. This is not because we are unsympathetic, but because we want you to get the right help. Your blogger is not a lawyer nor a member of law enforcement, and feels inadequate to offer appropriate assistance.

If you are submitting an entry that report or alleged criminal wrong doing that we determine can have repercussions to the safety and well being of other individuals in the community — for example, a report of a sexual predator at post, bureau, or school — we reserve the right to provide that information to State/OIG. That office can then make a decision whether to pursue any investigation.

So never mind — we were told by State/OIG that its “Hotline is not the proper venue to report a rape.” And that the reporting “should be done immediately to the RSO at post or the local law enforcement authority. They are in the best position to offer help with such a crime.” 

What happens if the accused is an RSO?! As we’ve previously blogged here, there is no official guidance in the FAM on reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service (see The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief). We’ve been trying to locate the unclassified cables that were released by DS/OSI in 2015 and earlier this year on sexual assault reporting. We will have a separate post if we’re successful. 

I guess, we will not be forwarding Burn Bag entries to OIG even if the alleged conduct has potential repercussions for other people in the community, we will just publish them in this blog. 

For congressional assistance, California Representative Jackie Spieir has an anonymous hotline and has worked on military rape and sexual assault. Her office can be reached at 202-226-5294  or through https://speier.house.gov/contact/website-problem.

As always, comments are welcome here.

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