Via Politico: Mark Lenzi Accuses @StateDept’s Leadership, Diplomatic Security of Retaliation #HavanaSyndrome

 

Via Politico:

“One of those victims, current State Department official Mark Lenzi, sustained traumatic brain injuries while on assignment in Guangzhou, China, in late 2017, when he was working as a security engineering officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
[…]
Lenzi provided documents to POLITICO that detail his claims that State’s leadership has retaliated against him for speaking out publicly and for working with the members of Congress who have been investigating the matter.”
[…]
“On his first day as secretary of State, Secretary Blinken — who I know and have the utmost respect for — told the Department of State workforce that he ‘would not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers,’” Lenzi said. “However, under his tenure, retaliation against me by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Bureau for my whistleblowing activities with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and with Congress has actually increased.”
[…]
Since then, Lenzi says, the State Department has retaliated against him in a number of ways. Documents viewed by POLITICO show that the department most recently yanked his administrative leave last month — forcing him to use sick leave or leave-without-pay to participate in medical studies and attend therapy sessions — and has denied him access to his classified computer system, even though he retains his top-secret security clearance.
[..]
The federal agency that handles whistleblower claims previously found “a substantial likelihood of wrongdoing” in the case of Lenzi and his claims of retaliation, according to an April 2020 Office of Special Counsel memo. That retaliation probe is ongoing.

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@StateDept Updates Guidance For Recovery and Seizure of Passports 3 Years After OIG Review

 

 

In October 2018, State/OIG issued a Review of Allegations of Improper Passport Seizures at Embassy Sana’a, Yemen. The report indicates that the “Department did not follow relevant standards” and that ” officials did not comply fully with required procedures.”  OIG said that “Department also failed to comply with relevant standards when it ultimately revoked the passports in all but one of the cases OIG examined:

The Department does not have a central system to track passport confiscations or retentions. As a result, OIG could not determine the number of passport seizures that occurred at Embassy Sana’a from 2012 to 2014, and the total number remains uncertain. However, because one document provided by the Department contained a list of 31 names with dates on which the passports were taken, OIG focused on these cases.

There are two bases in Department regulations that govern its authority to take passports from U.S. citizens: “retention” and “confiscation.” Regardless of the authority by which the Department took the passports at issue here, the Department did not follow relevant standards. If the Department “retained” the passports, officials did not comply fully with required procedures. Furthermore, although the Department acknowledged that retentions are temporary measures, it held many of the passports in question for months (and in some cases, over a year), suggesting that the Department effectively confiscated these documents. Confiscation is permitted only after revocation or pursuant to an arrest. Revocation is the formal process by which the Department invalidates an individual’s passport. Neither an arrest nor revocation occurred before any of the passports were taken.

The Department also failed to comply with relevant standards when it ultimately revoked the passports in all but one of the cases OIG examined. Although the Department must notify the holders in writing of the reason for revocation and their right to appeal, OIG could not confirm that these notices were sent in every case. Even if notices were sent, the affected individuals remained uninformed about the status of their passports for lengthy periods (in one case, almost 2 years). OIG also identified instances where individuals contacted the Department with questions and received limited information or no response at all.

OIG also identified other concerns. First, the lack of a single legal authority within the Department led to significant difficulties in resolving key legal issues. Second, although the Department has updated its policies, issues remain unresolved, including conflicting interpretations of the Department’s authority to seize passports and uncertainty regarding eligibility for limited validity passports.

On October 20, 2021 — that’s right, three years later this month — the State Department/Diplomatic Security finally updated 12 FAM 220 of the Foreign Affairs Manual on the  recovery and seizure of U.S. passports. The notation on the change transmittal says “Updated as a result of the Office of the Inspector General report on Yemen Passport Seizures”.  The bold parts are highlighted in the FAM.

12 FAM 224.1-5  Recovery and Seizure of Passports
(CT:DS-368;   10-20-2021)
a. 22 CFR 51.7 (a) states that a passport at all times remains the property of the United States and must be returned to the U.S. Government upon demand.
b. CA/FPP or CA/PPT may request DS confiscate a passport that CA/PPT issued.  See 12 FAH-4 H-124.2.  The Department’s authorized representative (usually the case agent) is authorized to confiscate a revoked passport.  If the bearer refuses to do so, CA/PPT may invalidate the passport by notifying the bearer in writing of the invalidation (22 CFR 51.4).4
c.  Only CA/PPT/S/A may revoke U.S. passports.  DS agents may lawfully seize a U.S. passport pursuant to:
(1)  A search warrant;
(2)  An arrest warrant;
(3)  A lawful, warrantless seizure pursuant to a warrant exception when robable cause exists that the U.S. passport itself is evidence of a crime;
(4)  The express consent of the subject; or
(5)  A court order.
If CA intends to revoke the passport of a subject of a DS investigation, and DS has presented the case to DOJ for prosecution, the DS special agent must inform the prosecutor about the passport revocation.
d. All property acquired by DS will be collected and treated as though it were evidence to ensure proper handling until such determination is made.  Special agents may only acquire property in accordance with the law as it relates to searches and seizures, judicial forfeiture, and by voluntary delivery by the owner.  Occasionally, items may be seized or taken into custody for safekeeping (i.e., high value items, illegal drugs, firearms and weapons, etc.).  Special agents are not authorized to acquire property in any other manner other than by direction of CA to recover U.S. passports.
e. The procedural aspects of passport seizure by a DS special agent are contained in 12 FAH-4 H-120. That section contains important information as well as relevant timelines for notification to the Department of the seizure.
f.  For more information on passport revocations, see 8 FAM 804, Revocation.
g. DS may receive recovered U.S. passports from different sources, such as local law enforcement, local governments, airlines, and transportation centers.  To maintain the integrity of the U.S. passport as a secure travel document, CA/PPT makes every effort to account for the final disposition of all U.S. passports.  Therefore, DS should mail all found or recovered (not seized or confiscated) U.S. passports to CA/PPT at …

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Related item:

12 FAM 220 Investigations

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US Embassy Khartoum Issues Security Alert Following Coup in Sudan

 

 

CA Appointment Eligible Family Members Subject to Suitability Review Determination

 

The State Department made an administrative change to 3 FAM 8210 to add supplementary guidance on the Suitability and Security Clearance Determinations process in 3 FAM 8215.1. It now includes suitability determination requirement for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) working for Consular Affairs.
3 FAM 8215  Suitability and Security Clearance Determinations
3 FAM 8215.1  Suitability Determination
(CT:PER-1063;   09-14-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to Appointment Eligible Family Members Only)

a. In all cases, individuals to be appointed under a family member appointment will be subject to appropriate investigation to determine suitability for employment.
b. Except as noted in c. below, in the event that information is developed that raises a question of suitability for employment, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) will refer the case to the Personnel Review Panel (as established under 3 FAM 2150), which will make a suitability determination as to whether an individual may be appointed under a family member appointment.
c.  In all cases, individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program will be subject to a suitability determination by a Suitability Review Panel (SRP), as stipulated in 3 FAM 2215.1a.

3 FAM 2215.1  Suitability Review Panel
(CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(State Only)
(Applies to all Foreign Service applicants)

a. A Suitability Review Panel (SRP) makes suitability determinations for appointment of career candidates in the Foreign Service, for the reappointment of a career member to the Foreign Service, for the recall of a career member to the Foreign Service (except in cases where the recalled individual is also the subject of a Presidential or other political appointment), for Civil Service candidates converting to the Foreign Service and for limited non-career appointments to the Foreign Service.  A Suitability Review Panel does not make determinations for family member appointments, except for individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program.  A Suitability Review Panel will also review the candidacies of any current Foreign Service employee converting to another skill code if derogatory information arises prior to the candidate’s conversion.  Except as provided below, candidates, except those applying for a position with Diplomatic Security (DS), who have been found suitable for appointment by a SRP within the previous two years do not require a new suitability review.

b. After the medical examination clearance has been issued, and the background investigation, which is not more than three years old, is received, a candidate’s entire file (except the medical records) is reviewed and evaluated by a SRP to determine the candidate’s suitability for the Foreign Service under the standards set forth in 3 FAM 2215.  DS will re-submit applicants to the qualifications panel (3 FAM 2216.2-3) if they are found to have falsified information on their application or are found to have other disqualifying factors.

c.  Suitability Review Panels for the Department of State must consist of two or more assessors from the Board of Examiners, or, in the case of Diplomatic Security or Medical Specialist candidates, one of the assessors may be a subject matter expert appointed to the Suitability Review Panel (SRP) by the Director of GTM/TAC/BEX.  In the case of a candidate for appointment to the Senior Foreign Service, the SRP must consist of at least three Assessors who are career Senior Foreign Service Officers (FSO).  The majority of the officers on the Senior Foreign Service Officer SRP, including the panel chairperson, must be career Senior FSOs.

d. Candidates found suitable for appointment will have their names forwarded to the Office of the Registrar in the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM/TAC/REG).  Prior to appointment in the Foreign Service, the Department of State may, at its discretion, elect to review once again the candidate’s suitability for employment should information become available that the Suitability Review Panel had not previously had access to that raises questions about the Suitability Review Panel’s original suitability determination.

e. The candidacy of any candidate who is not found suitable for appointment by a Suitability Review Panel will be terminated and the candidate will be informed of the termination and the right to appeal in writing.  An unfavorable suitability determination for a Foreign Service candidacy, other than a candidacy for a Diplomatic Security position based solely on reasons found in 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15), terminates other pending Foreign Service candidacies.  An unfavorable suitability determination for a Diplomatic Security candidacy solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15) may not necessarily terminate other pending, non-DS Foreign Service candidacies.

f.  Candidates, other than candidates for Diplomatic Security positions whose candidacy was terminated solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15), not found suitable for appointment by a Suitability Review Panel are ineligible to apply for Foreign Service positions for a period of two years from the date of the unfavorable suitability determination.  Candidates for Diplomatic Security positions whose candidacy was terminated solely under 3 FAM 2215.2-6 (15) will remain eligible to apply for non-Diplomatic Security positions.

3 FAM 2215.2  Suitability Standards for Appointment to the Foreign Service
3 FAM 2215.2-1  Applicability
(CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(State/USAID)
(Applies to all Foreign Service Applicants)

This section applies to all applicants for employment in the Foreign Service.  This section does not apply to family member appointments, except for individuals to be appointed to positions under the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Members Program.  Standards of conduct for continued employment in the Foreign Service are found in 3 FAM 4130.

Read more: 3 FAM 2210 Appointments (CT:PER-1062;   09-14-2021)
(Office of Origin:  GTM/TAC)