As far as we know, no one starts a job at the State Department without a security clearance. Diplomatic spouses working security escort or mailroom jobs are not even allowed to start work without a security clearance or an interim clearance.
So when NBC News Investigation reported that a senior political appointee at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations — a deputy assistant secretary (she’s one of the top three senior bureau officials) made false claims and exaggerations, we were wondering what this means to the thoroughness of the background investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security? Were the adjudicators aware of these issues prior to the issuance of the clearance? If not, why not? If yes, well, what in guacamole’s name happened here?
A senior Trump administration official has embellished her résumé with misleading claims about her professional background — even creating a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it — raising questions about her qualifications to hold a top position at the State Department.
An NBC News investigation found that Mina Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, has inflated her educational achievements and exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit’s work.
Whatever her qualifications, Chang had a key connection in the Trump administration. Brian Bulatao, a top figure in the State Department and longtime friend of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, attended a fundraiser for her nonprofit in Dallas and once donated $5,500 to her charity, according to a former colleague of Chang’s.
As of this writing, her biography is still up on state.gov. Her Twitter account appears to have disappeared but her Instagram account is still online. Back in July 2019, she was also rumored to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, a report that was officially denied by US Embassy Manila.
The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS headed by Director Todd J. Brown), an office which resides under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (headed by Michael T. Evanoff), under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Management (headed by Brian Bulatao), conducts personnel security background investigations for the Department of State and other federal agencies. After determining the candidate’s national security eligibility, DSS contacts the appropriate hiring authority.
According to Diplomatic Security, the national security eligibility determinations take into account a person’s:
- Unquestionable loyalty to the U.S.
The organization she once served as CEO, Linking The World, has now posted a lengthy message on its website primarily defending its former CEO. It claims that “Mina has undergone 4 independent agency reviews, including the FBI, and ultimately garnered both Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances.”
Item #8 says:
Mina obtained her position at the State Department on her own merit, at no time was Brian Bulatao part of her nomination / recruitment / review process. An auction bid from 2015, is a despicable example of correlation with no foundation. Anyone who reads her online articles would know that she has both supported and been critical of the current administration.
Career diplomat George Kent who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in the European and Eurasian Bureau and testified on Wednesday at the Impeachment Hearings — now, he obtained his position as a DAS at the State Department on his own merit.
A political appointee gets a job through a political connection. Ms. Chang is a political appointee; are we to understand that she got her job on her own merit by knocking on Foggy Bottom’s door? Or did she apply through USAjobs.gov? Should be interesting to know how she got to Foggy Bottom.
According to Linking the World, Ms. Chang’s nomination was also “not withdrawn by the Administration of anyone other than herself.”
“Mina’s nomination was not withdrawn by the Administration, or anyone other than herself. Simply, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been rather busy with other activities and all nominees were subject to extensive delays. Mina loves her position at State and decided to withdraw herself from the process to focus on stabilization operations. Again, anyone who reviewed her recent past, with work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia, would know that this decision makes absolute sense.
This is, of course, contrary to reporting and public records that indicate the nomination was withdrawn by the President. Ms. Chang was nominated in 2018 to be Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Jonathan Nicholas Stivers (see PN2528). On January 03, 2019 the nomination was “Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.” The renomination was received by the Senate on January 16, 2019 (see PN115). On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Senate “Received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President.”
Deputy assistant secretaries do not require Senate confirmations. Appointments are typically not publicly announced.
So, now we’re left wondering if this case is an exception, or if there are any more cases like this in Foggy Bottom?
New: An NBC News investigation found that senior State political appointee Mina Chang has inflated her educational achievements — claiming, falsely, to be a Harvard grad — and exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit's work. https://t.co/rbb9ozWG5i via @dandeluce @strickdc
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) November 12, 2019
Unclear how Chang got on to Trump Admin radar but top State Dept official Brian Bulatao and lifelong friend to @SecPompeo gave $5,500 to Mina Chang's Dallas non-profit back in 2016 according to a former employee. https://t.co/IYSY7uHN2X
— Laura Strickler (@strickdc) November 12, 2019
“Chang’s nomination to a more senior role, which would have required Senate confirmation, was withdrawn on Sept. 9 without public explanation, after Senate Foreign Relations asked her for more documents and details about her nonprofit organization and her work experience.”
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) November 12, 2019
— Dallas Observer (@Dallas_Observer) November 13, 2019
Seems like that might have been a red flag…
— Scott R. Anderson (@S_R_Anders) November 12, 2019
— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) November 12, 2019
U.S. denies Mina Chang is next ambassador to Philippines https://t.co/3UNrMBZHNB
— Mara Cepeda (@maracepeda) July 10, 2019