@NewYorker: Vienna Is the New Havana Syndrome Hotspot

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Gracias — DS

 

Via New Yorker:
Since Joe Biden took office about two dozen U.S. intelligence officers, diplomats, and other government officials in Vienna have reported experiencing mysterious afflictions similar to the Havana Syndrome. U.S. officials say the number of possible new cases in the Austrian capital—long a nexus of U.S. and Russian espionage—is now greater than the number reported by officials in any city except for Havana itself, where the first cases were reported.
[…]
The first possible syndrome case in Vienna was reported a couple of months after Biden’s Inauguration. That case and subsequent ones were reported to officials in Washington soon after they occurred. But the Biden Administration decided not to announce the Vienna outbreak—officials were concerned that any public disclosure about the cases would hamper ongoing U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement investigations, which are still under way in Vienna. The Austrian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the cluster of cases.
CNN quotes a State Department spox:
“In coordination with our partners across the U.S. Government, we are vigorously investigating reports of possible unexplained health incidents (UHI) among the U.S. Embassy Vienna community or wherever they are reported,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Any employees who reported a possible UHI received immediate and appropriate attention and care.”
On May 25, 2021 U.S. government workers and their spouses who say they were injured by Havana Syndrome sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Brian McKeon (via NBC)

 

###

FSGB: After 15-Day Suspension, @StateDept Wants to Separate Employee For Same Misconduct

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Gracias — DS

 

 

Via FSGB Case No. 2021002
Held Grievant proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the 2019 Foreign Service  Selection Board (“FSSB”) committed procedural error in deciding to lowrank him and to refer  his Official Performance File (“OPF”) to a Performance Standards Board (“PSB”). The Foreign  Service Grievance Board (“Board”) rescinded the low ranking by the FSSB and its referral of  grievant’s file to the PSB. Accordingly, the Board rescinded the recommendation by the PSB to  separate grievant from the Foreign Service.
Case Summary Grievant argued that the 2019 FSSB gave undue consideration of a discipline  letter in his file and committed other procedural errors, in violation of its precepts, when it  determined that his performance was deficient and referred his OPF to the PSB. Grievant  contended that the PSB also violated its precepts by relying improperly on the discipline letter in reaching its decision to recommend that he be separated from the Service.

The Department of State (“Department”) posited that the FSSB properly considered grievant’s  OPF, including the discipline letter, and complied with all precepts when it assessed deficiencies  in grievant’s performance, issued a lowranking statement, and referred his OPF to the PSB. The agency also argued that the PSB also followed its precepts when it assessed grievant’s  performance failures, compared his file to those of 10 randomly selected colleagues of identical rank, and ultimately recommended that grievant be separated.


The Board held that grievant met his burden of proving that the 2019 FSSB committed procedural errors by lowranking him and referring his file to the PSB. Accordingly, the Board rescinded the lowranking and the referral as well as the subsequent PSB decision to recommend grievant for separation.

Excerpt from background of case:

REDACTED (“grievant”) is an FS01 officer who joined the Foreign Service of the Department of State (“Department,” “agency”) in 1998 and began a career with assignments primarily in Africa and Latin America. In July 2016, he was assigned as the Deputy Chief of  Mission (“DCM”) in the U.S. Embassy REDACTED (“embassy,” “post”).

On March 7, 2017, grievant does not dispute that he had multiple drinks at the embassy’s Marine House, followed by additional drinks at a local restaurant, after which, he returned on foot to his official diplomatic residence. On his way home, grievant was approached by a woman who asked if he wanted company. Grievant permitted the woman to accompany him to his residence where they continued drinking and she remained overnight. Grievant admitted that he initiated sexual contact with the woman and brought her to a bed in his guest room. There, he claims he fell asleep, but acknowledged that he did not recall all that happened. Early the next morning, the woman demanded money; grievant refused; and the woman began throwing things in the house. Grievant and the woman engaged in a physical altercation that was overheard by local embassy guards who responded to the scene. The woman was removed from the residence, taking with her grievant’s government-issued Blackberry. During her removal, the woman’s cell phone was damaged. She later returned with two local police officers and threatened to press charges against grievant. Grievant paid the woman $430 upon the advice of the Regional Security Officer (“RSO”) at post. The incident prompted grievant to be involuntarily curtailed from post in April 2017.

On June 9, 2019, Diplomatic Security (“DS”) completed a Report of Investigation (“ROT”) of the incident (“the embassy incident”), finding grounds for one specification on charges of Notoriously Disgraceful Conduct and Poor Judgment.’ During the DS investigation, grievant revealed for the first time that in 2015, he had been arrested REDACTED for driving under the influence (“DUT”). His failure to report this arrest within 72 hours, as required by 12 FAM 272, resulted in one specification of a third charge — Failure to Follow Policy.

Continue reading

Nominee: Former Senator Tom Udall to be Ambassador to New Zealand and to the Independent State of Samoa

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Gracias — DS

President Biden announced his intent to nominate former NM Democratic Senator Tom Udall to be the next Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. The WH released the following brief bio:

Tom Udall, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to New Zealand and to the Independent State of Samoa

Tom Udall has a long and distinguished career in public service.  He most recently served two terms as United States Senator from New Mexico (2009-2021) and served five terms as United States Representative from New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District (1999-2009).  While in office, Udall was a notable champion for the environment, for Native Americans, for government and election reform and for resolving international disputes peacefully, if possible.  Earlier in his career, Udall was elected twice as Attorney General of New Mexico (1991-1999) and also served as an Assistant United States Attorney.  His Senate Committee assignments included the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the Committee on Indian Affairs, the Committee on Rules and Administration, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the International Narcotics Control Caucus.  Udall has a B.A. degree from Prescott College, a Bachelor of Law from Cambridge University, and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico.

As pointed out elsewhere, there are now three former senators nominated for ambassadorships: Udall, Flake, and Salazar.
When confirmed, Senator Udall would succeed former Senator Scott P. Brown who served from 2017-2021. Since the 1960s, we could only identify three career diplomats appointed as chief of mission to New Zealand:

###

Biden Taps Former AZ Republican Senator Jeff Flake as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Gracias — DS

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake to be his Ambassador to Turkey. The WH released the following brief bio:

Jeff Lane Flake, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Turkey

Jeff L. Flake is currently a Distinguished Fellow at Arizona State University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership at Brigham Young University.  He also serves on the Senior Advisory Committee at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.  Flake was a Member of Congress for 18 years, representing Arizona in the U.S. Senate (2013-2019) and the U.S. House of Representatives (2001-2013), where he served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  A frequent public speaker, he is also a former contributor for CNN and CBS News.  Flake is a Director of Taylor Morrison, a home builder in Scottsdale, Arizona, and a former Executive Director of the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.  Early in his career, he was Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Namibia.  He speaks Afrikaans.  He earned a B.A. in International Relations, and an M.A. in Political Science, at Brigham Young University.  He is a recipient of the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage from the University Philosophical Society, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is reportedly  supporting “close Senate scrutiny of President Biden’s controversial nomination this week of former Arizona legislator Jeff Flake … Over the coming weeks, the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations will consider Flake’s nomination. The ANCA will be working in a bipartisan manner to ensure that Flake’s complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide is carefully scrutinized by members of this powerful committee.”
We can’t imagine the U.S. Senate not confirming one of its own or dragging this process long.  Senators have already offered statements of support and tweets of congratulations. This will be quick. It only took about a month for Max Baucus to be confirmed by the Senate for China in 2014; Yea-Nay Vote. 96 – 0. It took about five weeks for Scott Brown’s confirmation for New Zealand in 2017; Yea-Nay Vote. 94 – 4.  And about five weeks for Kay Bailey Hutchison to be confirmed for USNATO in 2017 (confirmed by voice vote). (See list of senators who served as ambassadors/or held diplomatic posts).
When confirmed, Senator Flake would succeed career diplomat David Satterfield who arrived in Ankara in 2019. The last non-career appointee sent to Turkey was Robert Strausz-Hupé (1903–2002). He served from 1981–1989 during the Reagan years. Before him, there was William Macomber Jr.; he served from May 16, 1973–June 15, 1977 during Nixon/Ford’s tenures.

###

Related posts:

 

Nominee: Retired FSO Lisa Carty to be U.S. Representative to @UNECOSOC; Alt Rep to UNGA

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Gracias — DS

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Lisa Carty to be Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador and Alternate Representative to the United Nations General Assembly. The WH released the following brief bio:

Lisa Carty, Nominee for Representative of the United States of America on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador and Alternate Representative to the United Nations General Assembly
Lisa A. Carty is Director for Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  She has worked for more than three decades in multilateral diplomacy, including on humanitarian, global health and development issues.  Carty has had leadership roles in both the public and non-profit sectors including twenty-five years as a diplomat with the U.S. Foreign Service with overseas assignments in Asia, the Middle East and Russia.  Her United Nations career has included work with the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, as well as positions with the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Carty helped lead the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program and was a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.   She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.  She speaks French.

 

###