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With @StateDept Facing a 30% Funding Cut, 121 Generals Urge Congress to Fully Fund Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Posted: 1:49 pm  ET

 

So last night, an unnamed Senior Administration Official told reporters that Trump’s first budget will include $54 billion in additional funds to the Pentagon, and as much as 30% cut to the State Department budget (see@StateDept Budget Could Be Cut By As Much as 30% in Trump’s First Budget Proposal?). Additional reporting indicates that the administration will also seek an additional $30 billion in supplemental defense appropriations for the FY 2017 year.

Today, 121 retired U.S. generals and admirals urged Congress to fully fund U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid. They write:

The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way. As Secretary James Mattis said while Commander of U.S. Central Command, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.” The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism– lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.

We recognize that America’s strategic investments in diplomacy and development – like all of U.S. investments – must be effective and accountable. Significant reforms have been undertaken since 9/11, many of which have been embodied in recent legislation in Congress with strong bipartisan support – on human trafficking, the rights of women and girls, trade and energy in Africa, wildlife trafficking, water, food security, and transparency and accountability.

We urge you to ensure that resources for the International Affairs Budget keep pace with the growing global threats and opportunities we face. Now is not the time to retreat.

The letter is addressed to Congressional leaders Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer with courtesy copies to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.

Read the full letter below.

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Trump Travel Ban: Rudy Tells the “Whole Story”, Plus Reactions and Fall Out

Posted: 2:09 am ET

 

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of refugees to the United States for FY2017 for 120 days. The E.O also proclaimed the entry of certain aliens as “detrimental to the interests of the United States” and declared the suspension of their entry into the United States for 90 days.  The aliens referred to are from countries cited under Section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C.1187(a)(12) according to the executive order.  These are the same countries cited under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen.

We’ve seen folks on social media get confused about this. So let’s try this.  There are 38 countries designated as Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries; citizens or nationals of these 38 countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States without a visa. However, if either of the following is true, travelers will no longer be eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Instead, individuals in the following categories will have to apply for a visa using the regular appointment process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

The Trump EO banning entry and issuance of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for 90 days uses these same seven countries.  Note that citizens from these seven countries have not been banned from visa applications or entry to the United States previously. Citizens from 38 visa waiver countries who previously traveled to these seven Muslim-majority countries were not allowed to use the waiver and must submit for an interview with a consular officer at an embassy or consulate overseas.

Since it appears that DOD Secretary Mattis and DHS Secretary Kelly were out of the loop on this, would it be totally shocking if no input was asked from the State Department? No?  Interagency cooperation is just the White House now? On the day President Trump was preparing to sign this EO, our embassies and consular posts worldwide were still issuing visas;  all official, and valid but no longer acceptable at ports of entry as soon as the executive order took effect.

Here’s Rudddddddy with a backgrounder.

Reaction round-up below:

 

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23 Days to Inauguration: Kerry Delivers Middle East Peace Speech, Netanyahu Looks to Trump

Posted: 5:13 pm PT

 

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S.1635 ‘Department of State Authorities Act Fiscal Year 2017’ Marches to the Finish Line

Posted: 4:03 am ET

 

On December 5, the House passed S.1635, the authorization bill for the State Department that was previously passed by the Senate on April 28, 2016.  [On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, as amended Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 374-16].  The bill’s short title is now the ‘Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017’.  House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said that “the House has passed an authorization bill in each of the last six Congresses, but unfortunately, it has been nearly 15 years since this legislation was signed into law.” The version of the bill passed by the House is slightly different from the version passed by the Senate this past spring. Our understanding is that the Senate will now need to approve the House changes and when that is done, the bill will go to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

Some components of DOSAA17 that the SFRC approved on April 28, 2016 for FY2017 (see SFRC Approves the Department of State Authorization Act of 2017 #DOSAA17) have made it to approved House version of S.1635, including a 3-year pilot program that provides for a lateral entry into the Foreign Service. We blogged about this previously here, herehere and here.

Section 415 which covers Security Clearance Suspension also made it to this bill with one important difference — “In order to promote the efficiency of the Service, the Secretary may suspend a member of the Service when—(A) the member’s security clearance is suspended; or (B) there is reasonable cause to believe that the member has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed.” Written notice and appeals are provided for FS members but the suspension without pay language had been deleted. The bill notes that “suspend” and “suspension” means placing a member of the Foreign Service on temporary status without duties.  We blogged about this portion of the bill back in May (see @StateDept may soon get the ‘security clearance suspension without pay’ hammer, it’s a baaad idea).

Title IV—covers personnel and organizational issues including the following:

Section 401 directs the Secretary to establish and implement a prevailing wage rates goal for positions in the local compensation plan that is post-specific and “not less than the 50th percentile of the prevailing wage for comparable employment in the labor market surrounding each such post.”

Section 402 expands the Overseas Development Program from 20 positions to not fewer than 40 positions; within one year of the date of the enactment, it requires a cost/benefit analysis and allows the ODP expansion to more than 40 positions if the benefits outweigh the costs identified.

Section 403 requires that the promotion of any individual joining the Service on or after January 1, 2017, to the Senior Foreign Service shall be contingent upon such individual completing at least one tour in—‘‘(i) a global affairs bureau; or‘‘(ii) a global affairs position.

Section 405 provides for reemployment of annuitants and a waiver for annuity limitations if “there is exceptional difficulty in recruiting or retaining a qualified employee, or when a temporary emergency hiring need exists.”  That’s good news for retirees.

Section 409 provides, with exception, for non- career employees who have served for five consecutive years under a limited appointment under this section may be reappointed to a subsequent noncareer limited appointment if there is at least a one-year break in service before such new appointment. The Secretary may waive the one-year break requirement under paragraph (1) in cases of special need.’’ This is also good news for those who are on Limited Noncareer Appointments (LNAs).

Section 414 provides for Employee Assignment Restrictions. “The Secretary shall establish a right and process for employees to appeal any assignment restriction or preclusion.”

There are a couple of items that FS families would be interested in — this bill requires the Secretary, under Section 417, to submit to Congress 1) a report on workforce issues and challenges to career opportunities pertaining to tandem couples in the Foreign Service as well as couples with respect to which only one spouse is in the Foreign Service; 2) Section 714 includes an item for those with dependents who are on the autism spectrum:  “It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary should endeavor to ensure coverage and access, for dependents with ASD of overseas employees, to the therapies described in subsection (a), including through telehealth, computer software programs, or alternative means if appropriate providers are not accessible due to such employees’ placement overseas.”

Title I includes embassy security and personnel protection.

Section 103 provides for direct reporting — that the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security report directly to the Secretary, without being required to obtain the approval or concurrence of any other official of the Department, as threats and circumstances require.

Section 104 addresses Accountability Review Board recommendations related to unsatisfactory leadership.

Section 112 address local guard contracts abroad under diplomatic security program and allows for the awarding of contracts on the basis of best value as determined by a cost-technical tradeoff analysis.

Section 117 provides that “the Secretary to the extent practicable shall station key personnel for sustained periods of time at high risk, high threat posts in order to establish institutional knowledge and situational awareness that would allow for a fuller familiarization of the local political and security environment in which such posts are located.”

Section 121 provides security training for personnel assigned to high risk, high threat posts and Section 122 states the sense of Congress regarding language requirements for diplomatic security personnel assigned to high risk, high threat post.

The bill also requires the Department of State to submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report, in classified form, that contains a list of diplomatic and consular posts designated as high risk, high threat posts. Further, it mandates monthly security briefings on embassy security including security tripwires; in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, an evaluation of available United States military assets and operational plans to respond to such posts in extremis; and personnel staffing and rotation cycles at high risk, high threat posts, among other things.

Title II is a stand alone section that covers State/ OIG and USAID/OIG. It looks like Inspector General Steve Linick got almost all the congressional requests he made back in 2015 (see OIG Steve Linick Seeks Legislative Support For Kill Switch on State Dept “Investigating Itself”).

Sec. 201. provides for competitive hiring status for former employees of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Sec. 202. Annually for four year, the Secretary is required to submit a certification of independence of information technology systems of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors on files/systems managed by the State Department.

Sec. 203 provides for the protection of the integrity of internal investigations. It amends  Subsection (c) of section 209 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3929) by adding at the end the following new paragraph: ‘‘(6) REQUIRED REPORTING OF ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS AND INSPECTOR GENERAL AUTHORITY.— “(A) IN GENERAL.—The head of a bureau, post, or other office of the Department of State (in this paragraph referred to as a ‘Department entity’) shall submit to the Inspector General a report of any allegation of—“(i) Waste, fraud, or abuse in a Department program or operation; “(ii) criminal or serious misconduct on the part of a Department employee at the FS-1, GS-15, or GM-15 level or higher; “(iii) criminal misconduct on the part of a Department employee; and “(iV) serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any Department employee who is authorized to carry a Weapon, make arrests, or conduct searches, such as conduct that, if proved, would constitute perjury or material dishonesty, Warrant suspension as discipline for a first offense, or result in loss of law enforcement authority. “(B) DEADLINE.—The head of a Department entity shall submit to the Inspector General a report of an allegation described in subparagraph (A) not later than five business days after the date on which the head of such Department entity is made aware of such allegation.”

Section 206 imposes restrictions on USAID/OIG salaries to limit the payment of special differentials to USAID Foreign Service criminal investigators to levels at which the aggregate of basic pay and special differential for any pay period would equal, for such criminal investigators, the bi-weekly pay limitations on premium pay regularly placed on other criminal investigators within the Federal law enforcement community. “This provision shall be retroactive to January 1, 2013.”

Title III covers international organizations. Section 301 provides for oversight of and accountability for peacekeeper abuses. Section 307. provides for whistleblower protections for United Nations personnel.

Under Title V for Consular Authorities, the bill includes Section 502 which signifies Congressional interest on U.S. passports made in the United States.

Title VI calls for the establishment of the Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission including membership, powers, and staffing.

Title VII contains miscellaneous provisions including Section 713 that directs “The Secretary shall make every effort to recruit and retain individuals that have lived, worked, or studied in predominantly Muslim countries or communities, including individuals who have studied at an Islamic institution of higher learning.” Section 707 calls for a GAO report on Department critical telecommunications equipment or services obtained from suppliers closely linked to a leading cyber-threat actor.  Section 710 address the strategy requirement to combat terrorist use of social media. And Section 712 calls for the public availability of reports on nominees to be chiefs of mission. State/HR already posts publicly the nominees’ Certificates of Competency but this provision makes clear that the posting of these certificates on a public website is a requirement “Not later than seven days after submitting the report required under section 304(a)(4) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3944(a)(4)) to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, the President shall make the report available to the public, including by posting the  report on the website of the Department in a conspicuous manner and location.” 

List of contents (this version does not appear to be available at congress.gov at this time:

TITLE I—EMBASSY SECURITY AND PERSONNEL PROTECTION

Subtitle A—Review and Planning Requirements

Sec. 101. Designation of high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 102. Contingency plans for high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 103. Direct reporting.
Sec. 104. Accountability Review Board recommendations related to unsatisfactory leadership.

Subtitle B—Physical Security and Personnel Requirements

Sec. 111. Capital security cost sharing program.
Sec. 112. Local guard contracts abroad under diplomatic security program.
Sec. 113. Transfer authority.
Sec. 114. Security enhancements for soft targets.
Sec. 115. Exemption from certain procurement protest procedures for non-competitive contracting in emergency circumstances.
Sec. 116. Sense of Congress regarding minimum security standards for temporary United States diplomatic and consular posts.
Sec. 117. Assignment of personnel at high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 118. Annual report on embassy construction costs. Sec. 119. Embassy security, construction, and maintenance.

Subtitle C—Security Training

Sec. 121. Security training for personnel assigned to high risk, high threat posts.
Sec. 122. Sense of Congress regarding language requirements for diplomatic se- curity personnel assigned to high risk, high threat post.

Subtitle D—Expansion of the Marine Corps Security Guard Detachment Program

Sec. 131. Marine Corps Security Guard Program.

TITLE II—OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL OF THE DEPART- MENT OF STATE AND BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS

Sec. 201. Competitive hiring status for former employees of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
Sec. 202. Certification of independence of information technology systems of the Office of Inspector General of the Department of State and Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Sec. 203. Protecting the integrity of internal investigations.
Sec. 204. Report on Inspector General inspection and auditing of Foreign Service posts and bureaus and other offices of the Department. Sec. 205. Implementing GAO and OIG recommendations.
Sec. 206. Inspector General salary limitations.

TITLE III—INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

Sec. 301. Oversight of and accountability for peacekeeper abuses.
Sec. 302. Reimbursement of contributing countries.
Sec. 303. Withholding of assistance.
Sec. 304. United Nations peacekeeping assessment formula.
Sec. 305. Reimbursement or application of credits.
Sec. 306. Report on United States contributions to the United Nations relating to peacekeeping operations.
Sec. 307. Whistleblower protections for United Nations personnel.
Sec. 308. Encouraging employment of United States citizens at the United Nations.
Sec. 309. Statement of policy on Member State’s voting practices at the United Nations.
Sec. 310. Qualifications of the United Nations Secretary General.
Sec. 311. Policy regarding the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Sec. 312. Additional report on other United States contributions to the United Nations.
Sec. 313. Comparative report on peacekeeping operations.

TITLE IV—PERSONNEL AND ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES

Sec. 401. Locally—employed staff Wages.
Sec. 402. Expansion of civil service opportunities.
Sec. 403. Promotion to the Senior Foreign Service.
Sec. 404. Lateral entry into the Foreign Service.
Sec. 405. Reemployrnent of annuitants and Workforce rightsizing.
Sec. 406. Integration of foreign economic policy.
Sec. 407. Training support services.
Sec. 408. Special agents.
Sec. 409. Limited appointments in the Foreign Service.
Sec. 410. Report on diversity recruitment, employment, retention, and promotion.
Sec. 411. Market data for cost-of-living adjustments.
Sec. 412. Technical amendment to Federal Workforce Flexibility Act.
Sec. 413. Retention of mid- and senior-level professionals from traditionally under-represented minority groups.
Sec. 414. Employee assignment restrictions.
Sec. 415. Security clearance suspensions.
Sec. 416. Sense of Congress on the integration of policies related to the participation of Women in preventing and resolving conflicts.
Sec. 417. Foreign Service families workforce study.
Sec. 418. Special envoys, representatives, advisors, and coordinators of the Department.
Sec. 419. Combating anti-Semitism.

TITLE V—CONSULAR AUTHORITIES

Sec. 501. Codification of enhanced consular immunities.
Sec. 502. Passports made in the United States.

TITLE VI—WESTERN HEMISPHERE DRUG POLICY COMMISSION

Sec. 601. Establishment.
Sec. 602. Duties.
Sec. 603. Membership.
Sec. 604. Powers.
Sec. 605. Staff.
Sec. 606. Sunset.

TITLE VII—MISCELLANE OUS PROVISIONS

Sec. 701. Foreign relations exchange programs.
Sec. 702. United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.
Sec. 703. Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Sec. 704. Rewards for Justice.
Sec. 705. Extension of period for reimbursement of seized commercial fishermen.
Sec. 706. Expansion of the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program, the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program, and the Donald M. Payne International Development Fellowship Program.
Sec. 707. GAO report on Department critical telecommunications equipment or services obtained from suppliers closely linked to a leading cyber-threat actor.
Sec. 708. Implementation plan for information technology and knowledge management.
Sec. 709. Ransoms to foreign terrorist organizations.
Sec. 710. Strategy to combat terrorist use of social media.
Sec. 711. Report on Department information technology acquisition practices.
Sec. 712. Public availability of reports on nominees to be chiefs of mission.
Sec. 713. Recruitment and retention of individuals who have lived, worked, or studied in predominantly Muslim countries or communities.
Sec. 714. Sense of Congress regarding coverage of appropriate therapies for dependents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Sec. 715. Repeal of obsolete reports.
Sec. 716. Prohibition on additional funding.

(Roll no. 603). (text: CR H7160-7172)

 

A Sexual Assault Reporting Process Foreign Service Members Deserve: If Not Now, When? Attn: @JohnKerry #16days

Posted: 2:13 am ET
Updated: 11:47 am PT

 

For victims/survivors of sexual assault, please see Sexual Assault in the Foreign Service — What To Do?  Consider below as a follow-up post to The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief.

The following is provided for general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. Please do not consider the following legal advice as we are not lawyers; read the full necessary disclaimer below.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has the following sexual violence statistics:

  • On average, there are 288,820 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States
  • Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault
  • 90% of adult rape victims are female
  • 94% of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms during the two weeks following the rape.
  • 30% of women report PTSD symptoms 9 months after the rape.
  • 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide.
  • The majority of perpetrators are someone known to the victim. Approximately 3 out of 4 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim

Rape notification rates differ depending on whether the victim know the perpetrator — those who knew a perpetrator were often less likely to report the crime, according to RAINN. A report (PDF) published by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center says that many survivors experience great difficulty in disclosing a sexual assault, especially when the perpetrator is known to the victim. The study is focused on rural America where “the propensity to not report may be reinforced by informal social codes that dictate privacy and maintaining family reputation. Sexual assaults in rural areas are mostly hidden crimes, hidden both intentionally and unintentionally by characteristics of a close-knit culture or an isolated lifestyle.”  Rural communities like small towns as places where “everybody knows everybody.” Sounds familiar?

A victim will have little anonymity. It means she, or a friend or family member is likely to be acquainted with or related to the perpetrator and that she may reencounter the perpetrator, even on a regular basis. Furthermore, “the closer the relationship between victim and assailant, the less likely the woman is to report the crime” (Hunter, Burns-Smith, Walsh, 1996). Studies have quite consistently pointed to the importance of the victim-offender relationship in affecting the propensity to report (Pollard, 1995; Ruback, 1993, Ruback & Ménard, 2001). In rural areas, law enforcement is likely to be part of the social network (Sims, 1988; Weisheit, Wells & Falcone, 1994; Weisheit, Wells & Falcome, 1995). This compounds the problem of reporting non-stranger sexual assaults.

We need to point out that in the Foreign Service, particularly overseas, Diplomatic Security law enforcement –as in rural communities and small towns — is part of the social network.

We should also note that a 2002 study by Lisak-Miller indicates (PDF) that a majority of the undetected rapists were repeat rapists. The repeat rapists averaged 5.8 rapes each.

According to the Callisto Project, which provides survivors with a confidential and secure way to create a time-stamped record of an assault in American campuses less than 10% of survivors will ever report their assault. Survivors wait an average of 11 months to report their assault to authorities and up to 90% of assaults are committed by repeat perpetrators.  Callisto’s CEO Jess Ladd told us that someday she would like to make available their product within other institutions (including companies and agencies) and to have a free version that anyone can use to store what happened.  But Callisto is not there yet.


Foreign Service Victims’ Concerns

Among the concerns we’ve heard so far are: 1) lack of clear reporting process, 2) confidentiality, 3) sexual assault response training, 4) potential conflict/undue pressure on investigators/managers who may be friends, colleague, or subordinates of perpetrators, and 5) lack of sexual assault data.

As we’re written here previously DOD and Peace Corps provide restricted and unrestricted reporting for victims, but that does not appear to be the case in the Foreign Service.  The State Department has over 275 posts in about 180 countries. The agency’s Diplomatic Security has Regional Security Offices in most locations but not all.  The State Department has previously told this blog that Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations  “receives and catalogues allegations and complaints. Allegations are neither categorized by location nor by alleged offense.” Which begs the question, how will the State Department know if it has sexual predators living among its various communities particularly overseas if it does not track these types of offenses?

Due to the lack of clear reporting process — except “report to RSO” or “contact OSI,” victims (as well as this blog) have no way to independently assess what reporting entails. We don’t know what kind of confidentiality is afforded the victims. Among other concerns and questions:

  • When we asked an FS assault victim if there is any good option for reporting sexual assault, we were told bluntly, “There is no good option. That’s what the predator knows.” 
  • When a victim reports to RSO overseas, we know that the RSO is supposed to contact State/OSI, but who else has access to that information?   Embassy/post leadership? Which officials in the embassy hierarchy?  Will the local Health Unit be informed? The CLO? State/MED? DS Command Center?  And will reporting victims be informed in advanced who their information will be shared with and the specific reason for sharing their information?
  • Do DS/OSI investigators travel to the location of the assault to investigate? Time and evidence collection are of the essence in sexual assault reporting.  If yes, how quickly?  Is there a have rapid response team? What should the victim do while waiting for the arrival of DS/OSI investigators? Not shower? Not go to work?
  • In countries where sexual assault victims are jailed for “promiscuity”, what is the State Department’s policy and recommendation to someone assaulted in a place where requesting a rape kit means going to jail? Would the Department work with local authorities to actually protect the victim from prosecution while DS investigates or would they just allow an already traumatized victim to get PNG’d and force them to pack up and leave?
  • How will the victim’s report be transmitted to DS/OSI? Via unclassified email? Via fax? Via phone? In the case of emails, what restricts that information from being forwarded with a click of a mouse, or the record being compromised intentionally or unintentionally?
  • How are victims’ reporting records protected?  What are the consequences for an employee/s with access to the victim’s report who shares it with an unauthorized entity or individual? What if it is shared with a colleague, or a friends, or a family member?
  • What kind of training do RSOs get to enable them to assist sexual assault victims overseas? “Does every single RSO in the world know a designated medical facility to process a rape kit?” Or for that matter, do Health Units at overseas posts even have this information available?
  • Victims who report to RSO or DS/OSI would like to know if the officers receiving their sexual assault reports represent the victims’ interests or State Department interests?
  • What support is available to victims? What can victims expect after they report their assaults?  What consequences will their reporting have on their medical clearance and assignments? What kind of work accommodation will be extended to them, if needed? Who will be their effective has the responsibility to advocate for them if they need to file workers’ comp from the Department of Labor?
  • How are perpetrators — who are not strangers — handled by the State Department?  This is not a hypothetical question.  An OIG investigation indicates that one security officer’s alleged sexual misconduct spanned 10 years and 7 posts.  In that case, the Department never attempted to remove the RSO from Department work environments where the RSO could potentially harm other employees.  DS agents investigating the 2011 allegations reported to DS management, in October 2011, that they had gathered “overwhelming evidence” of the RSO’s culpability.  These agents encountered resistance from senior Department and DS managers as they continued to investigate the RSO’s suspected misconduct in 2011. The OIG found that the managers in question had personal relationships with the RSO.  Folks who work at the State Department should ask questions like who are these senior Department and DS managers who allowed this to happen for 10 years and 7 posts?  Do they have other friends that they have similarly protected? What happened to the victims at 7 posts? What support were available to them?  What responsibility does the State Department have for not removing that employee despite overwhelming evidence of culpability?


FOIA Diplomatic Security’s sexual assault cables?

As readers here know, there is no official guidance in the FAM on reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service (see The State Dept’s Sexual Assault Reporting Procedure Appears to Be a Black Hole of Grief). We’ve requested the unclassified cables that were released by DS/OSI in 2015 and earlier this year on sexual assault reporting (15 State 71370;  15 State 79760;  and 16 STATE 5647all reportedly available at DS/OSI intranet). Since the information is unclassified and it could be useful information, we thought we could save time and money by requesting these through regular channels without having to FOIA them. We appreciate the efforts of those who were trying to obtain these for us through regular channels; we understand some folks worked through the weekend to attend to this requests. Thanks, folks!  Late Monday, we got word from a State Department spokesperson:

“Our thanks for your patience while the Department reviewed the practice of releasing State Department internal cables to members of the public or media. At this stage, a decision has been made that we are unable to release cables in this manner.”

Unbelievable! But it is what it is.  We need, therefore, to FOIA these unclassified cables. Given State’s FOIA processing record, we don’t expect to see these cables until 1-2-3-4 years down the road. We might be dead of heartbreak by then.


State/OIG Hotline and Office of Special Counsel

State/OIG has reiterated to us that that their office takes allegations of rape and sexual harassment very seriously and repeated the response they provided us back in August here.  Note that we have already been told that cases like this should not be reported to the OIG Hotline.  Read more here: Another Note About the Burn Bag–There’s No Easy Way of Doing This, Is There?.  State/OIG told us that Department employees who believe they have been subjected to whistleblower retaliation may contact OIG or the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OIG can help the individual in understanding their rights and may investigate the retaliation, as well as alert the Department to any illegal reprisal.  State/OIG also said: “By no means do we want to discourage anyone from contacting our Hotline, but such a serious crime as a rape needs to be dealt with immediately and that’s why we recommend a call to local law enforcement.”

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US Mission New Zealand: USS Sampson Supports Kaikoura Earthquake Relief Efforts

Posted: 1:55  am ET

On November 13 we blogged that the US Embassy in Wellington issued an emergency message for New Zealand following a 7.8 earthquake and tsunami warning.  Citing New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, the USG said that there were 1,200 tourists in Kaikoura — a town of about 3,800 — when the earthquake struck. The tourist town has reportedly been completely cut off from the rest of the island due to landslides and flooding.

On November 15, the US Embassy’s updated message says to direct anyone with friends or family in Kaikoura to make their way to the Takahanga Marae Welfare Centre to register with the Red Cross to be on the evacuation list. On November 16, the amphibious sealift vessel HMNZS Canterbury evacuated around 450 people out of Kaikoura to Christchurch. The NZ Defence Force said that the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s 3 Squadron evacuated another 60 people and delivered two tonnes of aid to Kaikoura, bringing to about 660 the total number of people evacuated from the quake-damaged town.  Surveillance aircraft from the United States Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force also conducted surveys of quake-damaged areas, focusing particular attention on inland and railway routes.

Ships from Australia, Japan, Canada, Singapore including the the United States’ USS Sampson were already traveling to New Zealand to take part in the International Naval Review to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy. When the earthquake struck, the ships were diverted from the planned celebration to assist in humanitarian efforts.

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Happy 241st Birthday and Thank You @USMC! #HappyBirthdayMarines

Posted: 6:19 pm PT

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US Embassy Kuwait: Construction Vehicle as Weapon Targets U.S. Military Personnel

Posted: 4:12 am ET

 

On October 9, the US Embassy in Kuwait issued a Security Message to US Citizens in Kuwait about a failed terrorist attack against deployed U.S. troops:

U.S. Embassy Kuwait confirms that what at first appeared to be a routine traffic accident involving three deployed U.S. military personnel on a Kuwaiti highway on Thursday, October 6, was in fact an attempted terrorist attack.  An Egyptian national deliberately rammed a construction vehicle into a passenger vehicle containing the three U.S. personnel.  The Egyptian driver was incapacitated by the impact.  The three U.S. military personnel, who were uninjured, pulled the driver from his vehicle, which had caught fire.  The perpetrator was subsequently hospitalized and is in Kuwaiti custody.

We are not aware of specific, credible threats against private U.S. citizens in Kuwait at this time.  Nonetheless, this attack serves as a reminder to maintain a high level of vigilance, and the Embassy advises U.S. citizens to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings at all times.

Read in full here.

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Photo of the Day: New Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) Headquarters Open

Posted: 1:26 am ET

 

Via state.gov:

The dedication of the new Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) headquarters building marked the completion of the MCESG headquarters compound, where Marine and Department of State personnel screen and train U.S. Marines for duty as Marine Security Guards at U.S. diplomatic posts abroad. The building is based on a U.S. embassy design to help accustom the Marines working there to an embassy environment.

ARGO Systems, LLC Chief Operating Officer Jeff Johnson; Diplomatic Security Service Director Bill Miller; former commanding officer of Marine Security Guard (MSG) Battalion Col. William Rizzio (USMC Ret.); Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG)  commanding officer Col. Rollin D. Brewster; Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy; and Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey cut the ribbon at the dedication of the new Marine Corps Embassy Security Group headquarters building on August 12, 2016 in Quantico, Virginia. Rizzio was the initial planner of the MCESG headquarters project, and ARGO Systems designed and built the facility.  The dedication ceremony was attended by about 70 guests including Rocky Sickman, and Bill Gallegos who were Marine Security Guards (MSG) at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and were taken hostage when the embassy was overrun by militants in 1979. Both were retroactively presented with the MSG Ribbon.

 

On August 12, 2016, the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) and U.S. Department of State dedicated the new MCESG headquarters building (center background) and its memorial wall at the MCESG compound in Quantico, Virginia. The MCESG headquarters trains and deploys personnel for 175 Marine Security Guard detachments assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates in 147 countries, with the mission to protect U.S. diplomats and prevent compromise of national security information. (U.S. Department of State photo)

On August 12, 2016, the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group (MCESG) and U.S. Department of State dedicated the new MCESG headquarters building (center background) and its memorial wall at the MCESG compound in Quantico, Virginia. The MCESG headquarters trains and deploys personnel for 175 Marine Security Guard detachments assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates in 147 countries, with the mission to protect U.S. diplomats and prevent compromise of national security information. (U.S. Department of State photo)

#SouthSudan Presidential Guards Target American Diplomats in Juba

Posted: 3:22 am ET

 

On August 17, we blogged about South Sudan troops targeting Americans in the country. (see Americans Targeted in South Sudan, a Country That Gets $1.5B in American Humanitarian Aid). On July 8,2016, CNN citing State Department officials reported that shots were fired at U.S. embassy vehicles on July 7 and personnel at the embassy were briefly ordered to shelter in place after gunfire and explosions rocked the capital of Juba, including near the Presidential Palace. At that time, the official spox told CNN, “We do not believe our vehicles and personnel were specifically targeted and have no indication that the security forces were instructed to fire on our vehicles. However, we condemn this attack on U.S. embassy personnel.” 

The July 7 attack described in detail below preceded the assaults and rapes that occurred in the Terrain compound on July 11 but did not become front page news until mid-August. A State Department official told FP that “We do not believe our vehicles and personnel were specifically targeted.”  The report, however, notes that “the front windshields of the two armored SUVs held laminated cards emblazoned with the American flag. In plain sight were diplomatic license plates with the number 11, a well-known calling card in Juba that proclaims the world’s reigning superpower is passing through town.”

Via FP’s Colum Lynch:

State Department officials provided Foreign Policy with conflicting accounts of whether the department had conducted a formal investigation into the incident, with one official saying it hadn’t, and another saying it had carried out some form of investigation. But both officials said they have demanded South Sudan carry out an investigation and hold those responsible to account. The State Department has also downplayed the role of the South Sudanese in targeting U.S. diplomats, saying there was no way to know whether Kiir’s presidential guard knew who they were shooting at.

“We do not believe our vehicles and personnel were specifically targeted,” a State Department official told FP. “I think we can speak with certainty the people in the convoy did not identify themselves necessarily to the soldiers or say that it was an American convoy.”
[…]
Anxious that Juba was set to explode, Molly Phee, the U.S. ambassador to South Sudan, phoned Donegan [note: Jim Donegan, post’s DCM] and six other American diplomats at the restaurant and ordered them to cut short a farewell dinner for a colleague over beer and Indian food. The Americans’ two armored SUVs were passing by the palace when more than half a dozen presidential guards stationed at a checkpoint pulled them to the side of the road. Brandishing AK-47 assault rifles, they yelled at the Americans in a mix of Arabic and Dinka, South Sudan’s main indigenous language. At one point, the soldiers tried to force one of the car doors open, prompting the South Sudanese driver in the lead vehicle to floor it.

The second car followed as the guards opened fire from behind at both vehicles, forcing Donegan’s car to swerve into a parked car, which happened to be owned by a senior South Sudanese national security official. The trail car whizzed past, sideswiping Donegan’s vehicle as it barreled down the main thoroughfare before turning onto CPA Road — named after the U.S.-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement — and racing back to the U.S. Embassy. A second group of more than half a dozen South Sudanese troops, dressed in government military uniforms, unleashed a barrage of fire at the Americans. A third cluster of armed soldiers farther along the escape route sprayed the speeding American vehicles.

But Donegan’s vehicle had been badly crippled, temporarily stalling as South Sudanese soldiers fired into its tinted windows. The driver got the car restarted but could only hobble down the road, since two tires had blown out. They made the turn at CPA Road before coming to a second and final stop, fortunately out of sight of their would-be assailants. Donegan and his colleagues waited on the suddenly quiet road for 10 to 15 minutes, before the Marines arrived and brought them back to the embassy.

Read more below:

12 FAM 030 says that the Accountability Review Board process is “a mechanism to foster more effective security of U.S. missions and personnel abroad by ensuring a thorough and independent review of security-related incidents.”  This is a security-related incident but as far as we are aware, no ARB has been convened.  The FAM also says that “a Board will be convened for the express purpose of investigating only that incident or those incidents specified by the Secretary.”  No announcement has been made that indicates Secretary Kerry has asked for an investigation of this incident.

An OIG review from 2013 warned that the current facility in Juba puts embassy employees at risk.  Correct us if we’re wrong on this, but we think this is the same facility occupied by the embassy to-date.  Couple a deficient facility with a host country unable to control its troops and where presidential guards have now opened fire at embassy vehicles, and you’ve got a security nightmare in the making. If that’s not enough to give you pause, scroll through the comments on Embassy Juba’s Facebook page; you might learn something about how the United States is perceived in a country that it helped gain independence in 2011.

 

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