What’s the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape?

Sarah L. Cook, Georgia State University; Lilia M. Cortina, University of Michigan, and Mary P. Koss, University of Arizona

 

The terms “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” – and even “rape” – crop up daily in the news. We are likely to see these terms more as the #MeToo movement continues.

Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them. It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms.

But what does each term mean?

We are three scholars who have specialized in the scientific study of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment over several decades. Let’s start by defining each of these terms. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.

Sexual abuse

The term that has been in the news most recently with reference to sports doctor Larry Nassar’s trial is sexual abuse, a form of mistreating children. Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults.

All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.

Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act.

Rape

In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim.

When carefully examined, the FBI definition does not look like most people’s idea of rape – typically perpetrated by a stranger through force. The FBI definition says nothing about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and it says nothing about force. It does, however, say something about consent, or rather, the lack of it. Think about consent as your ability to make a decision about what happens to your body.

A perpetrator can compel a victim into a penetrative sex act in multiple ways. A perpetrator can ignore verbal resistance – like saying “no,” “stop” or “I don’t want to” – or overpower physical resistance by holding a person down so they cannot move. A person can penetrate a victim who is incapable of giving consent because he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated; or can threaten or use physical force or a weapon against a person. Essentially, these methods either ignore or remove the person’s ability to make an autonomous decision about what happens to their body. State laws vary in how they define removing or ignoring consent.

Perpetrators can’t defend against charges of rape by claiming they were drunk themselves or by saying they are married to the victim.

Sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault have been used interchangeably in coverage of events leading to the #MeToo movement, and this practice, though unintentional, is confusing. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.

Social and behavioral scientists often use the term “sexual violence.” This term is far more broad than sexual assault. It include acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts. It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior.

One is sexual coercion – legally termed “quid pro quo harassment” – referring to implicit or explicit attempts to make work conditions contingent upon sexual cooperation. The classic “sleep with me or you’re fired” scenario is a perfect example of sexual coercion. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.

A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior. Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing. To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. They must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to “create an abusive working environment,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unwanted sexual attention can include sexual assault and even rape. If an employer were to forcibly kiss and grope a receptionist without her consent, this would be an example of both unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault – both a civil offense and a crime.

Most sexual harassment, however, entails no sexual advance. This third and most common manifestation is gender harassment: conduct that disparages people based on gender, but implies no sexual interest. Gender harassment can include crude sexual terms and images, for example, degrading comments about bodies or sexual activities, graffiti calling women “cunts” or men “pussies.” More often than not, though, it is purely sexist, such as contemptuous remarks about women being ill-suited for leadership or men having no place in childcare. Such actions constitute “sexual” harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexuality.

Come-ons, put-downs: They’re both bad

In lay terms, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention are come-ons, whereas gender harassment is a put-down. Still, they are all forms of sexual harassment and can all violate law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Historically, social attitudes towards all these hostile actions have assumed a continuum of severity. Sexist graffiti and insults are offensive, but no big deal, right? Verbal sexual overtures cannot be as bad as physical ones. And, if there was no penetration, it can’t have been all that bad.

These assumptions do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, however. For example, researchers at the University of Melbourne analyzed data from 73,877 working women. They found that experiences of gender harassment, sexist discrimination and the like are more corrosive to work and well-being, compared to encounters with unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion.

We have tried to clarify terms that are now becoming household words. Of course, life is complicated. Abusive, assaulting or harassing behavior cannot always be neatly divided into one category or another – sometimes it belongs in more than one. Nevertheless, it is important to use terms in accurate ways to promote the public’s understanding. The Conversation

Finally, we take heed that society is in a period like no other and one we thought we would never see. People are reflecting on, and talking about, and considering and reconsidering their experiences and their behavior. Definitions, criminal and otherwise, change with social standards. This time next year, we may be writing a new column.

Sarah L. Cook, Professor & Associate Dean, Georgia State University; Lilia M. Cortina, Professor of Psychology, Women’s Studies, and Management & Organizations, University of Michigan, and Mary P. Koss, Regents’ Professor of Public Health, University of Arizona

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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In related news — harassment at the State Department affects not just FSOs, not just Foreign Service employees, but also Civil Service employees, and contractors (remember the Female Contractor at DS Training Center who was reportedly fired 3 hours after filing a harassment complaint?) Click here for our prior posts on sexual harassment, and here for our posts on sexual assaults and rape.

And, the long rumored FP piece is finally out.

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A Woman Reported to Diplomatic Security That She Was Raped and Stalked by a DS Agent, So What Happened?

Posted: 2:26 am ET
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We recently received information from an individual who asserted that she was raped and stalked by a supervisory Diplomatic Security agent assigned to one of Diplomatic Security’s eight field locations in the United States.  She said that was interviewed by Diplomatic Security’s  Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI) in November 2014. She also said that she provided a Victim Impact Statement to DS/OSI in December 2015. The investigation reportedly concluded in February 2016 with no disciplinary action. She informed us that during one telephonic conversations with a Supervisory Special Agent, she felt pressured to say that “I was pleased with the DoS handling of this case.” She presumed that the call was recorded and refused to say it.  She cited another case that was reported around the same time her case was investigated in 2014.  She believed that there were multiple police reports for the employee involving different women for similar complaints.

We’ve asked the Bureau of Diplomatic Security for comments about this case, and whether this was reported to the Office of Inspector General. To-date, we have not received an acknowledgment to our inquiry nor a response to our questions despite ample time to do so.

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On the subject of sexual assaults, on July 27, 2017, the State Department issued a new Foreign Affairs Manual subchapter 3 FAM 1750 on sexual assaults involving personnel and facilities in the United States. (For sexual assault involving chief-of-mission personnel and facilities outside of the United States see 3 FAM 1710).

3 FAM 1750:  “… The Department of State is determined to do all it can to prevent sexual assault from being committed by, or against, its personnel and it is committed to effectively and sensitively responding to personnel who have been sexually assaulted, ensuring that they are treated with care and respect.  The policies and procedures in this section define the Department’s goals of effectively preventing and addressing sexual assaults; the actions it will take in response to allegations of sexual assault; and the approach it will use in holding those Department personnel who commit sexual assault accountable for their actions.  The language used in this FAM, by necessity, must be technical, comport with and relate to relevant laws, and be administratively sound.  That said, the legal terminology, including the term “victim,” contained herein should not eclipse the compassion and urgency that underlie the Department’s commitment to this issue.”

The new regs notes that “sexual assaults that occur within the United States generally fall under the jurisdiction of the State or locality where the assault occurred.  Personnel who are victims of sexual assault are not under any obligation to report the assault to the Department.”

This new policy applies to:

(1)  All Department employees in the United States;

(2)  Persons under personal-services contracts (PSCs) or personal-services agreements (PSAs) in the United States;

(3)  Other individuals, such as third-party contractors, student volunteers (interns) and nonemployee fellows, and other personnel (e.g., subcontractors) in the United States who provide services to the State Department when the allegation involves conduct that occurs on duty, or is associated with the individual’s position within the Department; and

(4)  Any sexual assault that occurs at any Department facility within the United States.

The victims described above may also reach out to:

(a)  Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations (DS/DO/OSI) via telephone at 571-345-3146 or via email at DS-OSIDutyAgent@state.gov.  The DS/DO/OSI duty agents are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week;

(b)  Employee Consultation Services (ECS) by email:  MEDECS@state.gov or by telephone at 703-812-2257; and

(c)  A sexual-assault crisis center.

The regs says that “personnel who are victims of sexual assault are not/not under any obligation to report the assault to the Department.”  The Department, however, “strongly encourages” anyone who knows or suspects or is aware of a sexual assault covered by 3 FAM 1750 to immediately report allegations of sexual assault to:

(1)  DS/DO/OSI via email DS-OSIDutyAgent@state.gov or via phone through the DS Command Center at 571-345-3146; or

(2)  S/OCR or via phone at 202-647-9295 (WHY?)

(3)  MED personnel will not share protected health information except in accordance with the Notice of Privacy Practices or with the written consent of the patient.  Individuals may obtain a copy of the MED Notice of Privacy Practices from the health unit or MED intranet page.

(4) Except as required by law, non-MED personnel will only disclose information about sexual assaults to other Department officers and employees on a need-to-know basis, including to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in accordance with 22 U.S.C. 3929, and to other Federal and local agencies, in accordance with the Privacy Act.

3 FAM 1750 says that Department personnel detailed to another agency may reach out to the Washington, DC-based Bureau of Medical Services (MED) duty officer at 202-262-9013 or through the Operations Center at 202-647-1512 for medical guidance, and to DS/DO/OSI for law enforcement guidance.

A few thoughts on this:

#1.  We understand the caveats on information sharing with medical, and non-medical personnel included in this subchapter  but we don’t think this is enough to assuage the privacy concerns of victims.

#2. DOD has restricted (confidential) and unrestricted reporting for victims. That means the adult sexual assault victim can access healthcare, advocacy services, and legal services without triggering notification to command or law enforcement (restricted). Under Unrestricted Reporting, both the command and law enforcement are notified. Even then, fewer than 1 in 5 victims openly reported their sexual assault. 3,678 service members reported the incident to law enforcement, out of a total 20,000 survivors.

#3. S/OCR handles equal employment opportunity issues including sexual harassment, why should sexual assault victims report sexual assault or sexual assault allegations there? 3 FAM 1711.2 defines sexual assault as any type of sexual contact that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.It also says that sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment. Sexual assault is a crime, it cannot be resolved through mediation, grievance, or the EEO processes. Also does anyone know how many people at S/OCR are trained to actually handle sexual assault cases?

The U.S. Marines publication make the distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault here (PDF). It defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature. It defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact, characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, abuse of authority or when a victim cannot or does not consent.  And this one is important, “A current or previous dating relationship by itself or the manner of dress of the person involved with the accused in the sexual conduct at issue shall not constitute consent.”  

The U.S. Coast Guard says that the real distinction between sexual harassment and sexual assault is sexual harassment’s connection to the victim’s employment and/or work performance, which is why sexual harassment is a civil rights issue. It points out that sexual assault is a crime against another person. However, unlike sexual harassment, it has nothing to do with their employment and/or work performance, it is a criminal assault, of a sexual nature, against another person.

The State Department guidance does not/not make such distinctions.

#4.  States all address the crime of sexual assault, with some adding specific categories of victims, defenses, and penalties. See more here: http://statelaws.findlaw.com/criminal-laws/sexual-assault.html.

RAINN also has a search tool for independent sexual assault service providers, including National Sexual Assault Hotline affiliate organizations and other local providers here.

 

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Peace Corps OIG: 53% of Rapes Perpetrated on Volunteers Not Reported, See Why

Posted: 2:18 am ET
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The Inspector General for the Peace Corps released its final evaluation report of the Peace Corps’ Sexual Assault Risk Reduction and Response Program.  The report notes that there were 513 sexual assaults entered into the Peace Corps’ Consolidated Incident Reporting System between September 3, 2013 and September 29, 2015.

In 2014, Volunteers reported 251 sexual assaults and there were 241 sexual assaults in 2015. The assaults in 2015 included 52 rapes, 35 aggravated sexual assaults, and 154 non-aggravated sexual assaults.

The main findings are:

  • The Peace Corps largely complied with the requirements in the Kate Puzey Act.
  • Compared to our SARRR evaluation in 2013, the Peace Corps markedly improved how it supported Volunteers who had reported a sexual assault. However we found individual cases where the Peace Corps did not meet its standard to respond effectively and compassionately to victims of sexual assault, including a few instances of victim blaming and improperly sharing confidential details with staff.
  • Some applicants were either not aware of the crime and risks previous Volunteers had faced in their country of service or they did not understand the information that was provided to them.
  • The SARRR program did not fully utilize some staff with SARRR expertise. The SARRR program would also benefit from a risk reduction strategy that tailors training to the country of service, addresses the risks of sexual harassment, and identifies factors that make sites unsafe.
  • Finally, the SARRR training’s design and delivery may have detracted from Volunteer comprehension and learning.

The Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 (the Kate Puzey Act) required the Peace Corps to undertake a number of reforms, including providing sexual assault risk reduction and response (SARRR) training for Volunteers, developing a comprehensive SARRR policy, and training overseas staff on that policy. The Act directed the Peace Corps OIG to evaluate the effectiveness and implementation of the training and policy, and to review a statistically significant number of sexual assault cases.

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Stats on Rapes and Sexual Assaults

Peace Corps Volunteers and trainees reported 251 sexual assaults in 2014 and 241 sexual assaults in 2015. The assaults in 2015 included 52 rapes, 35 aggravated sexual assaults, and 154 non-aggravated sexual assaults.  Female Volunteers reported the majority of these sexual assaults (228 cases). Male Volunteers reported 13 sexual assaults including 1 rape, 6 aggravated sexual assaults, and 6 non-aggravated sexual assaults.

Starting in 2014, the Peace Corps began surveying Volunteers at the close of their service regarding crimes they had experienced and not reported to the agency. Survey results indicated that the proportion of Peace Corps victims who did not report one or more rapes or aggravated sexual assaults was similar to the proportion of Peace Corps victims who did not report other crimes: roughly 50 percent of crimes against Volunteers were not reported. This Peace Corps analysis indicated that 53 percent of rapes and 49 percent of aggravated sexual assaults were not reported. It also showed that 85 percent of surveyed respondents who experienced at least one non-aggravated sexual assault had not reported one or more of them to the Peace Corps.

Available Help and Agency Reporting

The evaluation found that the agency had provided contact information for: the Peace Corps Inspector General, a 24-hour sexual assault hotline for Volunteers, the Peace Corps Office of Victim Advocacy, and the Sexual Assault Response Liaison in the Volunteer’s country of service as required by the Act.
[…]
The Kate Puzey Act required the Peace Corps to create a system “for restricted and unrestricted reporting of sexual assault.” Volunteers may file either a “restricted” or a “standard” report, depending on which response services they would like the agency to provide. According to MS 243 Procedures, the restricted reporting option “allows Volunteers to request certain specific services without dissemination of personally identifying information about the Volunteer or the details of the sexual assault beyond those who are directly providing the services, and without automatically triggering an official investigative process.” The agency treats all reports as restricted until the Volunteer decides to choose a standard report, and a Volunteer may elect to convert his or her restricted report to standard at any time.

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Some Volunteers had not learned important information in the sexual assault risk reduction and response sessions, including the difference between restricted and standard reporting, the services available to a victim of a sexual assault, how to report a sexual assault incident, and the identity and role of Sexual Assault Response Liaisons at post. The training was insufficiently tailored to the country of service (as required by the Act), was not responsive to the needs of diverse Volunteers, and did not address the problem of sexual harassment. In addition, some staff delivered the training inconsistently due to poor training skills. Furthermore, the Peace Corps’ approach to assessing the Volunteer training was incomplete and did not provide a useful measure of training effectiveness.
[…]
[T]he agency often accommodated Volunteers’ requests to change sites for safety and security reasons, in some cases Volunteers were separated from the Peace Corps rather than relocated to another site. Volunteers we interviewed felt disenfranchised from the discussions regarding their safety and continued service.[…]We found that staff and Volunteers had a mistaken belief that they were limited to six or fewer counseling sessions after a sexual assault. As a result, some Peace Corps Medical Officers provided incorrect information about the availability of counseling. We concluded that some Volunteer sexual assault survivors could have been deterred from reporting their need for counseling.

Non-Reporting Analysis

The analysis summarized the primary reasons Volunteers had not reported their sexual assaults, which included: embarrassment, self-blame, not perceiving the sexual assault as a crime or serious event, and believing that there was nothing the Peace Corps could do about the assault. For non-aggravated sexual assaults—which were both the most frequently reported type of assault, as well as the most under reported—surveyed Volunteers had not reported them for three main reasons: they did not think the incidents were serious or threatening; they perceived the incident as commonplace in the environment where they served; and they did not believe there was anything the Peace Corps could do to address it.

Other reasons that surveyed Volunteers said they had not reported their sexual assaults included concerns about how Peace Corps staff might respond, such as blaming the victim for their assault, failing to respect the victim’s privacy and confidentiality, or simply not responding to the victim in a timely and supportive manner. Volunteers also indicated in their survey responses that they had not reported a sexual assault because they anticipated adverse consequences, such as being required to change their site, sent home, or punished for having violated a Peace Corps policy. These concerns were significantly more pronounced for rape victims and aggravated sexual assault victims than for non-aggravated sexual assault victims.

Among surveyed Volunteers who had not reported their assaults to the Peace Corps because they were concerned about how staff would respond to them or the potential adverse consequences of reporting, a relatively high percentage had served at a small number of posts. Two of the 54 posts in the survey constituted almost 25 percent of the Volunteers who did not report their assaults because of these concerns. Nine posts represented nearly 50 percent of the Volunteers who had not reported an assault for similar reasons.

 

The PC/OIG review includes interviews with 127 staff, 72 Volunteers, visits to 6 countries, and review of 138 sexual assault cases.  The report also includes 36 recommendations for the Peace Corps.

The report is a crucial reference as the State Department task force works on FAM guidance for sexual assault in the Foreign Service. NSVRC also notes that supporting survivors means assisting them with financial burdens as well as physical & emotional ones. Read here: 

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First Person: I am a ✂️ FSO who was ✂️ raped in ✂️… Continuing on has been ✂️ incredibly difficult…

Posted: 12:45 am ET
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Below is a redacted version of the Burn Bag we received. The red scissor indicates the parts of the Burn Bag that we purposely snipped (see explanation below):

I am a ✂️ FSO who was ✂️ raped, in  ✂️

It has been an extremely painful ….. ✂️

Continuing on has been an (sic) incredibly difficult.

To have to continue to go ✂️  with this threatening and frightening person still present and looming around, has been terrifying.

In addition to not feeling safe with this violent criminal down the hallway, I have been grappling in fear and lost about what to do.

Like the grim picture your recent article on sexual assault reporting paints, it’s been hard to gather information on what to do.

I’ve heard of two accounts of other FSOs who’ve been sexually assaulted and these violent criminals are still serving as diplomats, with no apparent justice served despite their efforts to address the issue through HR.

I have many specific questions. ✂️

Is there some place outside of the State Dept and other than the police where one can make a report?

✂️ [W]hat about when the assailant is of equal “rank,” particularly, also a FSO? I’ve heard that in these situations, although both the victim and perpetrator were both FSOs, that it tends to discount the crime overall because it’s “embarrassing” to the Department that a FSO would do this. In the end, the female FSO who was assaulted seems to get no real justice. ✂️

What about AFSA? Is there anyone we can talk to at AFSA who has past experiene or specializes in Sexual Adsault (sic) and Harrassment issues in the FS?

I know that this is sent anonymously and that I can’t get these answers directly.

So I hope that Diplopundit will consider an update to the Sexual Assault blog around the questions I’ve raised ✂️

You have at least one oerson (sic) here in the FS family suffering greatly who would appreciate any information or guidance. Thank you.

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Redacted Burn Bag – a Rare Exception

As we’ve previously written here, we received this Burn Bag submission regarding sexual assault in the Foreign Service. We have no way to contact the sender directly but we know that she reads this blog (90% of adult rape victims are female, so we will use the feminine pronoun in this blogpost). She wanted us to have the information for publication since she did send the information via Burn Bag. While we almost never redact/edit the Burn Bag submissions we post in this blog, we are making a rare exception here.  We are doing so because we have serious concerns that posting all details and locations contained in the Burn Bag submission could identify the victim/assault survivor or alert the perpetrator. While the Burn Bag is clearly intended for publication, we do not wish to place the victim/survivor in potential additional jeopardy, and that’s why this version is redacted.

We should note that this is the second anonymous FSO who reported to us their sexual assault while in the Foreign Service. A third employee who did not want us to use her name has also recently reached out to this blog about her assault while posted in a war zone. She shared  the fallout from her reporting and we will post that account separately.

 

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Consulate General St Petersburg: Two U.S. Diplomats Slipped “Date-Rape” Drug in Russia

Posted: 1:36 am ET
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The U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg is the largest of the three consulates general in Russia. It is the nearest to Moscow and is the site for many high-level bilateral and multilateral meetings. According to the 2013 OIG report on US Mission Russia, employees face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War. The mission employs 1,279 staff, including 301 U.S. direct-hire positions and 934 locally employed (LE) staff positions from 35 U.S. Government agencies (2013 OIG report).

Via RFE/RL:

Two U.S. officials traveling with diplomatic passports were drugged while attending a conference in Russia last year, and one of them was hospitalized, in what officials have concluded was part of a wider, escalating pattern of harassment of U.S. diplomats by Russia.

The incident at a hotel bar during a UN anticorruption conference in St. Petersburg in November 2015 caused concern in the U.S. State Department, which quietly protested to Moscow, according to a U.S. government official with direct knowledge of what occurred.

But it wasn’t until a dramatic event in June, when an accredited U.S. diplomat was tackled outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, that officials in Washington reexamined the November drugging and concluded they were part of a definite pattern.
[…]

The U.S. government official told RFE/RL that U.S. investigators concluded that the two Americans — a man and a woman — were slipped a so-called date rape drug, most likely at a bar in the St. Petersburg hotel where they were staying.

One of the Americans was incapacitated and brought to a Western medical clinic in the city for treatment, and to have blood and tissue samples taken in order to determine precisely what caused the sudden illness. However, while the person was at the clinic, the electricity suddenly went out and the staff was unable to obtain the necessary tissue samples, the official said.

The individual was then flown out of the country for further medical treatment, but by then it was too late to gather proper samples, the official said.

Because the U.S. officials in attendance at the conference were not top-level State or Justice officials, the State Department decided to take a quiet approach to the incident.A formal note of protest was lodged, the official said, but Russian authorities asked for evidence that the person had been drugged, and the Americans lacked samples.

Read in full below:

 

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Ex-State Dept Employee Settles Housekeeper’s Claim Over Slavery and Rape

Posted: 4:01  am EDT
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In September 2012, we blogged about the Linda and Russell Howard case (see Court Awards $3.3 Million Default Judgment Against State Dept Couple Accused of Slavery and Rape of Housekeeper). The Court’s opinion dated September 4, 2012 is here — Jane Doe v. Linda Howard, et.al, (pdf).

On March 5, 2015, Australia’s Herald Sun reported that the Howards who moved to Melbourne were chased through the local court by Jane Doe and that Australian Justice Jack Forrest upheld the US decision. “My opinion is that it would be an abuse of process … to permit Mrs Howard to claim that Jane Doe’s claim was fraudulent,” Justice Forrest said.  “Mrs Howard chose not to agitate her claim … and it was her choice to leave the (United States),” the Herald Sun quotes Judge Forrest.

At that time, the report indicated that Mrs Howard’s legal team was considering an appeal.

On September 6, 2015, Australia’s The Age reported the settlement of the case, and provided more details on how the plaintiff pursued this case in Australian court.   Read more here.

The Daily Mail also reported on this case here citing Justice Forrest saying that Linda Howard “could not argue the housekeeper’s claim was fraudulent after remaining silent on the matter for two years and not fighting it in US courts when she had the chance.”   

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Court Awards $3.3 Million Default Judgment Against State Dept Couple Accused of Slavery and Rape of Housekeeper

In 2011, Jane Doe, an Ethiopian national in her 30s filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against a State Department employee Linda Howard and her husband, Russell Howard, alleging involuntary servitude, forced labor and human trafficking in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).

The complaint also alleges the rape of Jane Doe by Russell Howard, reportedly an Australian national, and a dependent of employee Linda Howard.

According to the complaint, Linda Howard met and hired Jane Doe during her assignment at the US Embassy in Yemen. Jane Doe was paid $200 a month as a housekeeper and made no allegation of mistreatment while employed in Yemen.  In late 2008, Linda Howard was reportedly reassigned to the US Embassy in Tokyo.  Jane Doe agreed to move to Japan with Linda Howard to continue working as a housekeeper.  Their signed contract reportedly guaranteed $300 a month, time off each week, health insurance and a safe place to live and work.

Among the other allegations made by Jane Doe:

  • She was forced to work more than 80 hours a week for less than a dollar an hour; the exact amount was $0.88 an hour; the minimum hourly wage at the time of Jane Doe’s employment was $6.55 an hour.
  • She was raped and was forced to engaged in sexual acts with Russell Howard in the Howards’ Tokyo residence.
  • She was threatened with deportation from Japan by Mr. Howard
  • The complaint says that after five months Jane Doe fled the Howards’ home and found help at a shelter in Tokyo. The women’s shelter reported the abuse to the US Embassy in Tokyo. While at the shelter Jane Doe met with Diplomatic Security investigators. When the case was filed in October 2011, it includes the following item: “Upon information and belief, the State Department’s investigation is still pending.”
  • At the time the lawsuit was filed, she alleged that while Linda Howard was removed from her posting at the US Embassy in Tokyo, Mrs. Howard remains employed by the State Department.

Some nasty, nasty stuff on this one, read the original complaint here.

The Courthouse News Service which reported this case on September 6 says that Linda Howard is currently an IT manager with the State Department in Washington, D.C.’s citing her profile on the professional-networking website LinkedIn. The profile notes that Howard worked as a “manager” for the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo from 2008 to 2009. Before that, Howard worked for three years, from 2005 – 2008 as “Senior IT Manager, Acting Administrative Management Officer, Acting Human Resources Officer and alternate Financial Officer” at the Embassy in Yemen, according to the profile

The report from LexisNexis® Mealey’s™ Legal News says that when Russell Howard, who is from Australia, failed to respond to Jane Doe’s complaint, and Linda Howard’s answer to the complaint was stricken pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), Doe moved for default judgment, which Magistrate Judge Thomas Rawles Jones Jr. granted in an Aug. 7 report and recommendation.

… the judgment against Linda Howard was appropriate based on the four factors established in Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (269 F.3d 305, 348 [4th Cir. 2001]):  bad faith, amount of prejudice, need for deterrence and effectiveness of less drastic sanctions.
[…]
Linda Howard acted in bad faith by telling the court that she was unaware of any upcoming overseas job-related travel and then two weeks later retiring and leaving the country, the magistrate judge said.

“There is a great need to deter defendants from determining that the proper response to litigation is to leave the country and refuse to participate in the resolution of a dispute.  Finally, in light of Mrs. Howard’s flight from the country, it is clear that less drastic sanctions would not be effective.”

The Court awarded Jane Doe total damages in the amount of $3,306,468, broken down as follows.

  • $1,250,000 for compensatory emotional distress relating to forced sexual servitude

 

  • $44,500 in compensatory damages for forced labor and trafficking

 

  • $2,000,000 punitive damages “in light of the Howards’ intentional egregious and outrageous conduct”
  • $11,968 for back wages and liquidated award as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act damages under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)

The court documents relating to this case are available here to read (some documents listed need to be purchased before you can read them).  The Court’s opinion dated September 4, 2012 is here in pdf.

 

 

What happens when America’s ambassadors of hope and compassion return home as victims of rape and institutional neglect?

Madagascar Peace Corps volunteers, 2006Image via Wikipedia

Last year, Peace Corps volunteer, JBrown quit after serving seven months in Guatemala.  And since this is the 21st century, he blogged about his experience. He posted then that “the Peace Corps is a wonderful organization with the capability to enact change all over the globe, but it is also severely flawed.”  In this post, he wrote, “there is a dark side to the development organization with the cuddly name. […] In the end, it’s about people; Peace Corps administration interactions with Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Volunteer interactions with host communities are just two examples of important relationships that must form for a successful Peace Corps experience to ensue. When individuals are treated like numbers, problems arise. I am not just a number, which is kind of what I felt like during my time in the Peace Corps.”

Yesterday, May 11, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a full hearing on Peace Corps at 50. Click on the links below to read the testimonies. Be warned — some have graphic, disturbing contents; the most disturbing is the institution’s response. As this story was reported widely yesterday, the Peace Corps said it will revamp its training videos (oh, whiskey-tango-foxtrot!). CBS News says it has learned that just four days ago a Peace Corps volunteer reported a rape in West Africa.

    

Panel 1: Problems of Safety and Security

Panel 2: Assessment and Reform

Panel 3: A View from the Inspector General


From Ms. Clark, a PCV told that the local men are respectful, detailed a brutal 15-hour long rape and beating:

Weeks later, I realized that I had become pregnant with the child of my rapist. I
was terrified and disgusted. I returned to Kathmandu, where I saw a nurse who
confirmed my fears. She reported the pregnancy to the Peace Corps Medical Officer, who reported it to the Country Director and to Peace Corps’ headquarters in Washington, DC. The Peace Corps’ response was that I would need to choose immediately whether to terminate my pregnancy or terminate my service with the Peace Corps.
[…]
And the problem of sexual assault against Peace Corps Volunteers hasn’t
diminished since my service. Sadly, the three most recent years for which the Peace Corps has released statistics have seen the greatest number of assaults. The women trusting their lives to the Peace Corps every year cannot wait two more decades for the Peace Corps’ sexual assault policies to organically mature. The Peace Corps needs help, guidance, and greater accountability. 

From Karestan Chase Koenen, Ph.D., who joined the Peace Corps in 1991:

Purportedly in furtherance of making the Peace Corps safer for other volunteers, I was also sent to speak with a staff member of the Inspector General’s Office. This experience was a particular low in my mind. I went to her having been told that she was trying to learn more about the negative in-country experiences of female Peace Corps Volunteers, in order to improve our situation. It was clear from the beginning of the meeting, however, that her interest was in discrediting my story. When she asked why I was there, I told her I had been raped in Niger and had been sent to talk to her. I can still clearly remember how she responded. She said: “I am so sick of you girls going over there, drinking, dancing and flirting, and then, if a guy comes on to you, you say you have been raped when you have lead them on.”
[…]
The Peace Corps’ legal “assistance” was equally disappointing. When I decided I
wanted to prosecute my perpetrator—encouraged by two other female PCV’s who had been raped and had prosecuted—my statement was given to the police in Niger who apprehended and questioned P. He was released after questioning. After this, I spoke with the American in-country Peace Corps director about my case. I said I wanted to prosecute, and he responded: “It’s your word against his. He said you wanted to have sex and we believe him.” It was at that point that I decided I needed to give up on the Peace Corps and return home to New Jersey.

From Ms. Lois Puzey, Mother of Slain Peace Corps Volunteer Kate Puzey:

The Peace Corps was extremely reluctant to give us any information about the circumstances of Kate‘s death, or to even assist us in gathering the facts ourselves. They wouldn‘t honor our request to see the initial email that had started this nightmare; we had to retrieve it ourselves. All the information we learned came from Kate‘s friends among the Volunteers and villagers, and eventually representatives from the Justice Department. Ironically, Brian Ross from ABC 20/20 received much more information from the attorney defending Constant BIO then we—the victim‘s family— did from the organization we had entrusted with our daughter‘s safety.
[…]
No Peace Corps representative ever came personally to deliver the awful news of Kate’s death, even though we live less than an hour from the Atlanta regional office.
[…]

The majority of Kate’s effects arrived unaccompanied six months after her death; they were simply dropped in our driveway by a FedEx delivery truck without any condolences from the Peace Corps.
[…]
However, we still have some unanswered questions about the circumstances surrounding Kate‘s death, and we request that the Peace Corps be completely transparent with us. Moreover, we are also painfully aware that if we hadn’t reached out to Peace Corps, and if ABC 20/20 had not investigated, they would not have reached out to us. 

Excerpt from the OIG-Peace Corps testimony:

The Peace Corps, like other international development agencies, is constantly mitigating safety and security risks. With volunteers serving in 77 countries, the agency faces a range of challenges that affect volunteer safety and security including: political unrest, natural disasters,rising crime rates, terrorism threats, and the complexity of dealing with varying legal systems in foreign jurisdictions. Unlike most other international agencies, however, the Peace Corps also faces unique safety and security challenges that result from the fact that the majority of volunteers serve at the grass roots level in rural communities, often in remote areas far from the capital city and the Peace Corps office. They live and work with people of diverse cultural backgrounds and languages. In short, the model of volunteerism that makes Peace Corps such a compelling experience for its volunteers can at the same time make the agency’s efforts to ensure their safety a challenge.

Our audit report, issued in April of 2010, focused on the management and organization of the safety and security function at Peace Corps. Consistent with past reports, we found in 2010 that volunteers overwhelmingly state being satisfied with their level of safety and security and staff support. Moreover, we found that while Peace Corps maintains a much larger safety and security workforce than comparable international non-governmental organizations, safety and security staff at all levels lacked the experience and training needed to perform their jobs.

A large broom needed over there!

 
 
 
 

the slow move east: hannah draper, yer famous

Istanbul, TurkeyImage via Wikipedia
Istanbul-based FSO, hannah draper and FS blogger at the slow move east made an appearance in the Sunday issue of the Washington Post. Check this out:

FED FACES:
Sunday, February 20, 2011; 9:14 PM


Hannah Draper
Department of State | Political Officer | Istanbul

Best known for: As a 26-year-old foreign service officer on her second overseas assignment, Draper seeks to promote opportunities for Turkish women through U.S.-backed programs. These include a project to teach leadership and job skills to more than 2,550 girls in Istanbul and surrounding areas, and a program for Turkish journalism students and faculty at five universities to address gender issues in the media and ways to overcome gender-based violence.

Government service: After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in Islamic studies, Draper joined the State Department and completed a year-long tour in Saudi Arabia as a consular officer. She then spent nine months in Turkish language training before becoming a political officer for the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul.

Biggest challenge: Living overseas means spending large amounts of time away from family and friends in the United States and missing out on American pop culture and music. “When I returned from Saudi Arabia in 2009, my friends had to give me a crash course on the ‘Saturday Night Live’ skits I’d missed and everything about the 2008 election.”

Quote: “You can’t always point to one thing you did that changed the world. My job with the Foreign Service is my way of supporting American citizens and U.S. goals, both domestically and overseas, and it also happens to be an interesting, challenging and fun career.”

Send your nominations for Federal Faces to fedfaces@washingtonpost.com

Via WaPo | From the Partnership for Public Service


The bureaucracy needs some thinking brains and oh dear, these cables are naked as peeled grapes

When the TSA is not touching your junk, it is messing up US diplomatic relations. As if our diplomats do not have enough of a mess to deal with these days. 

Last week, Meera Shankar, India’s ambassador to the United States, was pulled aside and frisked at Mississippi’s Jackson-Evers International Airport after speaking at a conference at Mississippi State University. According to HuffPo, the sari-clad ambassador was boarding a flight to Baltimore when TSA officials took her to a VIP waiting room to receive a pat-down by a female TSA agent. Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger newspaper quoted airport witnesses who said Shankar was singled out for her dress.  Politico reported that India’s Foreign Minister on Thursday protested the Transportation Security Agency’s pat-down of India’s ambassador to the United States as “unacceptable,” and said he would lodge an official protest.

Reports indicate that despite showing her diplomatic credentials and not setting off any alarms, Amb. Shankar was chosen for a pat-down and it was suggested that this was for wearing a sari.

Via Laura Rozen of Politico:

“After a review of this passenger’s screening experience, we determined that the TSA officers followed proper procedure,” a spokesman for TSA told POLITICO in a statement Thursday. “Officers must use their professional discretion to determine if a particular item of clothing could hide a threat object.”

Oh gawd! Let’s stop for a minute here and think this through.

One – how many ambassadors or diplomats have tried to bomb a US plane? Um, zero.

Two – how many Indian ambassadors have tried to bomb a US plane? None.

Three – if TSA cannot or do not trust the blue bordered ID cards issued by the US State Department to diplomats, then whose documents do they trust?

Four – This is the Indian head of state’s personal representative to the United States. Just as Ambassador Roemer is President Obama’s personal representative to the Indian Government in New Delhi.  Ambassador Roemer has a pretty active travel schedule around India. Would we want him to be frisked every time he boards a plane simply because he wears a western attire over there?

Now, everyone in a muumuu must go through a pat down, even the pope. Sigh. 

See- what we’re really wondering is — given the high attrition rate over at DHS, how many TSA officers are even aware of this July 2007 memo on the screening of accredited diplomats or have any notion on what reciprocity is about.  We understand professional discretion, but that means nada without a thinking brain.

Moving on …

And because WikiLeaks is still leaking online — we cannot ignore how it’s impacting government employees all over the place.

Remember that news about the State Department barring its employees from reading WikiLeaks from their work computer? There is a good reason for it; it saves the IT guys from fumigating the offending unclassified computers with the ghost of classified past if viewed in said computers.

Then an alumnus working for State reportedly warned his university particulary college students considering careers with the Feds against reviewing classified information posted by the document-sharing Web site as it might jeopardized their career prospects  . So then, career counselors at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs urged students not to post links to the documents or make comments on social media Web sites, including Facebook or Twitter.

That made the news, too.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley subsequently debunked that warning saying it “does not represent a formal policy position.” According to WaPo, Crowley said in an email that “This sounds like an overly zealous employee.” That the focus is “advising current employees not to download classified documents to an unclassified network.” Also this “While we condemn what WikiLeaks has done, we cannot control what is done through private Internet accounts.”

Sounds good. Until the next day.

On December 6, Secrecy News reported that the Library of Congress confirmed that it had blocked access from all Library computers to the Wikileaks web site in order to prevent unauthorized downloading of classified records such as those in the large cache of diplomatic cables that Wikileaks began to publish on November 28.” 

The Congressional Research Service, a component of the Library was caught in that slick and sticky mess. 

Steve Aftergood of Secrecy News points out that this means “CRS researchers will be unable to access or to cite the leaked materials in their research reports to Congress.  Several current and former CRS analysts expressed perplexity and dismay about the move, and they said it could undermine the institution’s research activities.”Some quotes:

In fact, if CRS is “Congress’s brain,” then the new access restrictions could mean a partial lobotomy.

“I don’t know that you can make a credible argument that CRS reports are the gold standard of analytical reporting, as is often claimed, when its analysts are denied access to information that historians and public policy types call a treasure trove of data,” another former CRS employee said.

On December 8, Secrecy News did a follow-up post: “the Congressional Research Service asked Congress for guidance on whether and how it should make use of the leaked records that are being published by Wikileaks, noting that they could “shed important light” on topics of CRS interest. The CRS director writes: “Our challenge is how to balance the need to provide the best analysis possible to the Congress on current legislative issues against the legal imperative to protect classified national security information. This is especially a problem in light of the massive volume of recently released documents, which may shed important light on research and analysis done by the Service.”

Which makes us also wonder, who in Congress are allowed to read these leaked cables, anyway?

In any case, on December 12, it was DHS turn to complain:

“At DHS we are getting regular messages [warning not to access classified records from Wikileaks],” one Department of Homeland Security official told us in an email message. “It has even been suggested that if it is discovered that we have accessed a classified Wikileaks cable on our personal computers, that will be a security violation. So, my grandmother would be allowed to access the cables, but not me. This seems ludicrous.”
[…]
“Part of making informed judgments about what a foreign government or leader will do or think about something is based on an understanding and analysis of what information has gone into their own deliberative processes. If foreign government workers know about something in the Wikileaks documents, which clearly originated with the U.S., then they will certainly (and reasonably) assume that their US counterparts will know about it too, including the staffers. If we don’t, they will assume that we simply do not care, are too arrogant, stupid or negligent to find and read the material, or are so unimportant that we’ve been intentionally left out of the information loop. In any such instance, senior staff will be handicapped in their preparation and in their inter-governmental relationships,” the DHS official said.

Leaked email message here.

Read Steve Aftergood’s full post here.

What the OMB memo actually says:

“Except as authorized by their agencies and pursuant to agency procedures, federal employees or contractors shall not, while using computers or other devices (such as Blackberries or Smart Phones) that access the web on non-classified government systems, access documents that are marked classified (including classified documents publicly available on the WikiLeaks and other websites), as doing so risks that material still classified will be placed onto non-classified systems. This requirement applies to access that occurs either through agency or contractor computers, or through employees’ or contractors’ personally owned computers that access non-classified government systems. This requirement does not restrict employee or contractor access to non-classified, publicly available news reports (and other non-classified material) that may in turn discuss classified material, as distinguished from access to underlying documents that themselves are marked classified (including if the underlying classified documents are available on public websites or otherwise in the public domain).”

See, it does not restrict access to news reports, does it? 

So then — on Day 18 of WikiLeaks –the Air Force made the splash:

The NYT reports that the Air Force is barring its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of The New York Times and more than 25 other news organizations and blogs that have posted secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks, Air Force officials said Tuesday.

When Air Force personnel on the service’s computer network try to view the Web sites of The Times, the British newspaper The Guardian, the German magazine Der Spiegel, the Spanish newspaper El País and the French newspaper Le Monde, as well as other sites that posted full confidential cables, the screen says “Access Denied: Internet usage is logged and monitored,” according to an Air Force official whose access was blocked and who shared the screen warning with The Times. Violators are warned that they face punishment if they try to view classified material from unauthorized Web sites.
[…]
A Defense Department spokesman, Col. David Lapan, in an e-mail on Tuesday night sought to distance the department from the Air Force’s action to block access to the media Web sites: “This is not DoD-directed or DoD-wide.”

One for the Huh? News yes?

Our USAF personnel should now be prepared to just read each others palms for their newscasts?  Holy molly guacamole!

Now, we are considerably confused. The alleged leaker who is now in jail was an Army private. You’d think that of there is a military branch who might have one good reason to block these media sites, it would be the US Army. But the Air Force? And why do this now, when it has been leaking for almost three weeks? And since the way the drip is going, it looks like this will go on for a while —  does that mean USAF personnel will just have to forgo reading the news for the next weeks? months? years?    

Then WL belatedly hit the fan somewhere in C Street on December 15.  

Via Gawker:

“The memo, which went out to all employees in the State Department’s Consular Affairs-Passport division, makes abundantly clear what other stern government instructions about the cables have tended to leave ambiguous: The feds don’t just want to keep unclassified networks free of classified material, they want to keep unclassified minds clear too.”

(Image from Gawker)

The memo was signed by Barry Conway of CA/PPT/MD/S . Are you shocked that the memo was leaked to Gawker the very same day it was issued?  The Nov 16 memo from Diplomatic Security/SI is also published in Gawker here.

But really — why stop with the Passport Division? How about folks working in Visas and Overseas Citizens Services both here and abroad? Have they been assigned to work on projects related to “WikiLeaks documents”? No? So why should they be treated differently from passport folks? Oh, the Motorpool, definitely, include the Motorpool, too. Because. Why not? And the Foreign Service Institute, of course. Diplomats in language training obviously have lots of personal time when they’re not drilling tenses.    

I could imagine the State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley shaking his head saying,  “This is not DoS-directed or DoS-wide.” 

Harvard’s Jack Goldsmith in Seven Thoughts on Wikileaks writes:

“Whatever one thinks of what Assange is doing, the flailing U.S. government reaction has been self-defeating.  It cannot stop the publication of the documents that have already leaked out, and it should stop trying, for doing so makes the United States look very weak and gives the documents a greater significance than they deserve.  It is also weak and pointless to prevent U.S. officials from viewing the wikileaks documents that the rest of the world can easily see.  […] The best thing to do – I realize that this is politically impossible – would be to ignore Assange and fix the secrecy system so this does not happen again.

Fix the system, right, we have no argument with that.  And while somebody is at it, how come we have not seen heads roll from this SIPRENet snafu? Wherever the alleged leaker downloaded these cables, there was somebody responsible who was asleep at the ports.  Where is that responsible person overseeing the IT operation in that theater?

What bothers us most about this is the knee jerk reactions. Shut it down, shut it down fast — but the ass has left the barn; it ceased to matter whether you close it fast or faster.  Don’t look, don’t look — probably one of the most notorious game changing events this year, and we’re asking people to go walking with covered eyes while the rest of the world ogle these cables? 

We’ve also learned that just because they’re out in the Internets and in the public domain does not mean they’re actually in public domain and no longer classified. They still are restricted, need to know materials — until they are appropriately declassified in — oh, I don’t know — 2035 or thereafter.

And of course, just because the US Government is telling employees not to read the WikiLeaks cables does not mean that these “alleged” cables actually belong to the US Government.  The order not to read is not/not a confirmation or denial of ownership.  But don’t read the cables. 

Ahhgggg! I’m getting a headache of dinosaurian proportion here.

Look– I was eating grapes today.  I peel them sometimes, okay? And I thought — the cables are now naked as these peeled grapes.  The exocarps, er skins, peels, covers, are gone.

And US government employees are made to think and behave as if these are still grapes with skins on. 

Isn’t this  just a tad absurd? No?

But the whole world now knows and sees that these are naked grapes. We can see the seeds and the locules from everywhere! 

Is there a real purpose in perpetuating the cover of secrecy after its blown besides well, perpetuating it? Before long, the only people on earth who will be blissfully ignorant of these cables are US Government employees.  Tell me again that this is the best we can do for cybersecurity.

Related item:
State Department memo on the screening of accredited diplomats.