Amnesty International Issues Travel Advisory For the United States of America

 

Here’s something we don’t see everyday but we may soon start seeing more and more. Amnesty International has issued a Travel Advisory for the United States of America. Uruguay has also issued a Travel Alert for the United States.
Below via:
The Amnesty International travel advisory for the country of the United States of America calls on people worldwide to exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA. This Travel Advisory is being issued in light of ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country.

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U.S. Embassy Nassau: Aging Facility, Staffing Gaps, Curtailments, Morale Issues, and More in Sunny Bahamas

 

In 2012, State/OIG did an inspection of the US Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas (see US Embassy Nassau: Where Absence Makes the Heart Not/Not Grow Fonder); State/OIG Nassau Report: What’s taking them so long?
The new inspection dated August 2019 reveals that the aging facility which was supposed to have been replaced in 2016 is still aging. The IG report now says that construction of a new chancery building is scheduled to begin in 2019 and be completed in 2021 on property purchased by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO).
The State Department announced on February 1, 2019 that it has awarded the Design-Build contract for the new U.S. Embassy in Nassau to Caddell Construction Co., LLC of Montgomery, Alabama. Ennead Architects of New York, New York is the design architect for the project and Integrus Architecture of Spokane, Washington is the architect of record.
The report notes that the embassy had been without a permanent, confirmed ambassador since November 2011, when the incumbent, a political appointee, resigned. Her replacement was never confirmed, and, at the time of the inspection, the current nominee had been awaiting confirmation since 2017.
In May 2017, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Doug Manchester to be his ambassador to the Bahamas. His nomination was cleared by the SFRC in the fall of 2017 but failed to make it to the full Senate. His nomination was resubmitted in January 2018 and again in January 2019. The SFRC has held hearings on June 20, 2019. According to congress.gov, this nomination remains pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

 

Below via State/OIG:
  • Embassy Nassau is located in an aging facility originally leased by the Department of State (Department) in 1973 and purchased outright in 1994. Construction of a new chancery building is scheduled to begin in 2019 and be completed in 2021 on property purchased by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO).
  • A related classified inspection report discusses the embassy’s security program and issues affecting the safety of mission personnel and facilities.
  • At the time of the inspection, the embassy had 143 authorized U.S. staff positions, 2 eligible family members, and 76 locally employed (LE) staff members. The embassy houses 11 different U.S. Government agencies and sub-agencies. Embassy Nassau also provides International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS)1 administrative and logistical support to U.S. Government agencies on Grand Bahama Island, Great Inagua Island, Andros Island, Great Exuma Island, and in Turks and Caicos.

Yay! Sections

  • The Chargé and, beginning in October 2018, the acting DCM carried out regular reviews of the Consular Section chief’s nonimmigrant visa adjudications, as required by 9 FAM 403.9-2d and 9 FAM 403.10-3d.
  • The Consular Section chief, who arrived in August 2017, demonstrated strong leadership in developing standard operating procedures, mentoring three First- and Second-Tour officers, and preparing for future hurricanes. OIG determined that the embassy’s consular programs generally complied with guidance in 7 FAM, 9 FAM, 7 FAH, applicable statutes, and other Department policies.
  • Embassy Nassau’s American citizen services workload consisted primarily of processing emergency passports. Nassau hosts up to six cruise ships from the United States per day with approximately 3,000 passengers each, the majority of whom are U.S. citizens. Passengers who missed their ships’ return to Florida contributed to the more than 400 emergency passports Embassy Nassau issued in FY 2018.
  • OIG determined that the Chargé and the acting DCM conducted their security responsibilities in accordance with 12 Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH)-1 H-721[…] Shortly after her arrival, the Chargé reviewed, revised, and reissued all security directives, including one to all personnel under chief of mission authority mandating participation in the weekly checks of the emergency and evacuation radio network. In addition, she emphasized to staff that she expected full participation in the radio checks. Participation rates increased from 20 percent in spring 2018 to almost 90 percent by October of that year.
  • The Chargé successfully oversaw the embassy’s First- and Second-Tour employee development program for five officers and specialists, as directed by 3 FAM 2242.4. Participants commented favorably on the Chargé’s involvement in the program.

Oh, Yow! Sections

Via reactiongifs.com

Lengthy Gaps in Key Leadership Positions Hampered Operations

Embassy Nassau faced significant operational challenges due to lengthy staffing gaps in three key leadership positions: ambassador, DCM, and management officer. The embassy had been without a permanent, confirmed ambassador since November 2011, when the incumbent, a political appointee, resigned. Her replacement was never confirmed, and, at the time of the inspection, the current nominee had been awaiting confirmation since 2017. As a result, three different long-term Chargés have led the embassy since 2011. The current Chargé arrived in March 2018. Additionally, because the embassy’s DCMs have served as Chargé, it has also had a series of acting DCMs. The current acting DCM arrived in June 2016 as the INL Director and assumed the collateral duties of acting DCM in June 2018. As a result, like previous acting DCMs, she shouldered two sets of responsibilities. Finally, due to a series of curtailments in the management officer position, from 2014 to September 2018, the management section had relied on nine temporary duty officers as well as support from the Florida Regional Center.

OIG found that the lack of consistent leadership in the ambassador, DCM, and management officer positions, combined with a series of section heads covering two positions at once for long periods of time, led to serious internal control deficiencies and morale issues, as detailed later in this report. The newly assigned Management Officer arrived in September 2018 and started addressing the embassy’s internal control deficiencies, lack of procedures, and outdated policies. However, the current Front Office structure continued to place undue burdens on both the Chargé and the acting DCM, making it impossible for them to perform all of their required functions.

Internal control deficiencies

During the inspection, OIG identified numerous internal control deficiencies and vulnerabilities in the Management and Information Management Sections. The lengthy staffing gaps in key leadership positions exacerbated many of these issues, particularly those detailed in the Resource Management section of this report.

Management Section operations and oversight suffered as a result of staffing gaps due to two previous curtailments in the management officer position. Since 2014, the embassy had relied on a succession of nine temporary-duty management officers. Additionally, from 2014 to 2018, both the embassy and the management support structure at the Florida Regional Center experienced high turnover of staff.

Embassy Nassau did not have internal controls in place to ensure maintenance and repair charges for its vehicle fleet were properly recorded and monitored, increasing the risk of fraud. OIG’s review of maintenance logs and procurement orders found that in FY 2017 and FY 2018, the embassy spent $244,533 on maintenance and repairs but did not keep records to document that the work was necessary or was actually completed.

INL’s $17.8 million foreign assistance with no formal evaluation

INL has supported Bahamian law enforcement since 1978, including committing $17.8 million in foreign assistance since 2010. […] INL Nassau lacked appropriate metrics to monitor progress for its four law enforcement and judicial assistance projects. Specifically, OIG found that project metrics had not been updated since at least 2014 and were outdated. Furthermore, INL Nassau did not formally evaluate project progress on a quarterly basis, as required by INL guidance.7 INL Nassau told OIG that it informally reported project progress on a quarterly basis but was unaware of the requirement to formally track and monitor project progress against established metrics. Without current metrics for its projects, the embassy cannot measure progress and performance against the embassy’s ICS goals and INL’s strategic planning objectives.

Intranet woes, and WHA the hey?

Embassy Nassau’s intranet network faced critical processing delays and frequent variations in processing speed due to internal IT infrastructure issues. The May 2017 Bureau of Diplomatic Security CSA report also identified this severe network performance deficiency and recommended that the embassy work with the Department and the Regional Information Management Center in Ft. Lauderdale to resolve the issue. In August 2017, a regional center network technician performed a limited service repair to the network infrastructure but did not complete all needed repairs. Embassy staff told OIG that despite repeated embassy requests, WHA had yet to provide the additional Regional Information Management Center technical support to complete the work.

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FSO Chuck Park: I can no longer justify being a part of Trump’s ‘Complacent State.’ #Resignation

 

 

 

I was 26, newly married and more than a little idealistic when I set off for my first diplomatic assignment almost a decade ago as a member of the 157th class of commissioned U.S. Foreign Service officers.
According to a certain type of right-leaning conspiracy theorist, that would make me part of “The Deep State” — a shadowy government within the government that puts its own interests above the expressed wishes of the electorate. Adherents to this theory believe that thousands of federal workers like me are plotting furiously to subvert the Trump administration at every turn. Many on the left, too, hope that such a resistance is secretly working to save the nation from the worst impulses of President Trump.
They have it all wrong. Your federal bureaucracy under this president? Call it “The Complacent State” instead.
Like many in my cohort, I came into the government inspired by a president who convinced me there was still some truth to the gospel of American exceptionalism. A child of immigrants from South Korea, I also felt a duty to the society that welcomed my parents and allowed me and my siblings to thrive.
Over three tours abroad, I worked to spread what I believed were American values: freedom, fairness and tolerance. But more and more I found myself in a defensive stance, struggling to explain to foreign peoples the blatant contradictions at home.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, I spoke of American openness and friendship at consulate events as my country carried out mass deportations and failed thousands of “dreamers.” I attended celebrations of Black History Month at our embassy in Lisbon as black communities in the United States demanded justice for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and the victims of the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. And in Vancouver, I touted the strength of the United States’ democracy at the consulate’s 2016 election-night party as a man who campaigned on racism, misogyny and wild conspiracy theories became president-elect.
Since then, I have seen Trump assert the moral equivalence of violent white nationalists and those who oppose them, denigrate immigrants from “s******e countries” and separate children from their parents at the border, only to place them in squalid detention centers.
But almost three years since his election, what I have not seen is organized resistance from within. To the contrary, two senior Foreign Service officers admonished me for risking my career when I signed an internal dissent cable against the ban on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017. Among my colleagues at the State Department, I have met neither the unsung hero nor the cunning villain of Deep State lore. If the resistance does exist, it should be clear by this point that it has failed.
Instead, I am part of the Complacent State.
The Complacent State sighs when the president blocks travel by Muslim immigrants; shakes its head when he defends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; averts its gaze from images of children in detention camps. Then it complies with orders.
Every day, we refuse visas based on administration priorities. We recite administration talking points on border security, immigration and trade. We plan travel itineraries, book meetings and literally hold doors open for the appointees who push Trump’s toxic agenda around the world.
So when I read a recent New York Times op-ed calling for the public shaming of the “midlevel functionaries who make the system run,” I squirmed in my seat. We rank-and-file, like the Justice Department lawyer who recently endured public scrutiny for defending the administration’s terrible treatment of detained children, don’t like to be called out. And when we are, we shrink behind a standard argument — that we are career officials serving nonpartisan institutions.
We should be named and shamed. But how should we respond? One thing I agree with the conspiracy theorists about: The Deep State, if it did exist, would be wrong. Ask to read the commission of any Foreign Service officer, and you’ll see that we are hired to serve “during the pleasure of the President of the United States.” That means we must serve this very partisan president.
Or else we should quit.
I’m ashamed of how long it took me to make this decision. My excuse might be disappointing, if familiar to many of my colleagues: I let career perks silence my conscience. I let free housing, the countdown to a pension and the prestige of representing a powerful nation overseas distract me from ideals that once seemed so clear to me. I can’t do that anymore.
My son, born in El Paso on the American side of that same Rio Grande where the bodies of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter were discovered, in the same city where 22 people were just killed by a gunman whose purported “manifesto” echoed the inflammatory language of our president, turned 7 this month. I can no longer justify to him, or to myself, my complicity in the actions of this administration. That’s why I choose to resign.

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(Note: This piece originally appeared on WaPo and was cross-posted on MSN in full here. Chuck Park’s resignation from the Foreign Service is reportedly effective Thursday. A Charles Park of DC was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by voice vote as a “Member of the Foreign Service to be Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America” on March 2, 2011, during the 112th Congress.  During the 114th Congress, a Charles Park of New York was confirmed by voice vote “For appointment as Foreign Service Officer of Class Four, Consular Officer and Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America” on May 23, 2015).

 

Related posts:

Dec 2018: Jim Mattis Quits in Protest Over Trump’s Chaos Strategery
Oct 2018: Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit
Feb 2018: Sam Bee’s Rescue Farm for Government Workers With Ex-FSO Elizabeth Shackelford
Jan 2018: U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley Resigns From the Foreign Service Over Trump Policies
Dec 2017: A Foreign Service Officer’s Parting Shot Gets Media Attention
June 2017: Top U.S. Diplomat in China David Rank Resigns Over #ParisAgreement Withdrawal
Mar 2017: Diplomatic Security Agent With 17-Year Service Resigns Over Trump
Nov 2016:Inauguration Day Countdown: Is the prospect of mass resignations a real thing?
Nov 2016: On the Prospect of Mass Resignations: A Veteran FSO Cautions Against Rash Decisions
Mar 2013:Ten Years Ago Today: FSO John Brown Quit the Foreign Service Over Iraq
Jan 2012: An FSO’s ‘Valedictory Dispatch’ — Realities of the Foreign Service
Apr 2009: Insider Quote: Why Didn’t You Quit?

Report: @StateDept Puts On Leave Staffer Who Allegedly Oversees Local Chapter of a White Nationalist Group

 

 

On August 7, the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Hatewatch program linked a staffer at the Bureau of Energy Resources (State/ENR) to a white nationalist organization in the Washington, D.C. area.  Hatewatch alleged in its report that this individual “oversaw the Washington, D.C.-area chapter of a white nationalist organization, hosted white nationalists at his home and published white nationalist propaganda online.”
We asked the State Department for a comment beyond what was already reported (that the agency is an “inclusive organization”). An agency spokesperson did confirm that this individual is employed by the agency as a foreign affairs officer assigned to the Bureau of Energy Resources. The Department further stated that it cannot comment on personnel issues but “is committed to providing an inclusive workplace.”
Reports indicate that the individual is a “foreign affairs officer“, a Civil Service position in the 0130 Foreign Affairs series. These positions are typically located in the DC area, and though may involved occasional travel, it is not a rotational position. Incumbents to these positions are normally required to “obtain and maintain a Top Secret security clearance” among other federal service requirements.
Barely 24 hours after the Hatewatch report broke, Politico, citing “two sources familiar with the situation” reported that the State Department has put the employee on leave following reports that “he has been an active member of a white supremacist group for more than five years.”
We’re waiting to see what the State Department will do with this case following the reported leave.  A 2017 article on federal employees’ rights notes that “At a minimum, before taking an adverse action like termination, an agency must issue a notice to the employee identifying the charge(s) against them. The employee has the right to see the evidence against them and the right to reply to the charge(s), as well as the right to have counsel represent them.”
Unlike political appointees who can be fired at anytime, career federal employees are generally afforded workplace protection. Recent media reports also show the fallout from recent high profile terminations. In one case, former Special Agent Peter Strzok firing resulted in a complaint alleging violations of Strzok’s First Amendment and due process rights, as well as a violation of the Privacy Act concerning the release of the text messages. Similarly, on August 8, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe also filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over his demotion and dismissal from the FBI. The complaint alleges that the Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray’s actions violated both McCabe’s First Amendment and due process rights.  See the common thread there? We expect both court cases will be lengthy and instructive.
As an aside, Mick “it’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker” Mulvaney has a grand new idea on how to get rid of federal employees; which should give people some pause whether they’re with Agriculture or anywhere else in the federal government.

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