Diplomatic Security Investigating as Many as 130 Former/Current @StateDept Officials Over Clinton Emails

 

In May 2016, State/OIG released its report on Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements.
WaPo recently reported about the investigation of email records by some 130 current and former State Department during Secretary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State includes a quote from an unnamed senior State Department official denying this has anything to do with who sits in the White House.

“This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.”

Is this senior SDO anyone we know from Public Affairs?
Secretary Clinton left the State Department in 2013, over six years ago.  And the SDO said that This has nothing to do with who is in the White House?” 
Did the SDO say it with a straight face?
A side note, folks reading statements out of the State Department should be aware that the agency has ground rules for interviewing its officials. The ground rules are not new, but given the track record of this administration, it is worth taking a pause when they volunteer information.
SDO adds that “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.” And yet, the letter received by a former State Department employee was apparently received this past August, and begins with “Recently, the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security conducted a classification review of emails … (see letter below). What does “recently” actually means? What’s the timeline for this troubling project by Diplomatic Security? During Secretary Kerry’s tenure? At the beginning of Secretary Tillerson’s tenure? At the start of Mike Pompeo’s tenure? 
The WaPo report also includes an item about Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman who served as US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from August 2009 to June 2012, and went on to become Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs at the United Nations (2012-2018):

“I’d like to think that this is just routine, but something strange is going on,” said Jeffrey Feltman, a former assistant secretary for Near East Affairs. In early 2018 Feltman received a letter informing him that a half dozen of his messages included classified information. Then a few weeks ago he was found culpable for more than 50 emails that contained classified information.

“A couple of the emails cited by State as problems were sent after my May 2012 retirement, when I was already working for the United Nations,” he said.

Below is a link to a letter sent out by Diplomatic Security and posted on CNN’s website. CNN notes that “A former US official who left the State Department in 2012 received a letter in August informing him that dozens of his emails that had been sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were now being recategorized as classified.”
They’re doing retroactive classification and penalizing people for it.
They’re also asserting that a then UN official was  covered by US security classification?  Is this what a diplomatic squeegee looks like?
The letter published by CNN came from a little known office called “Program Applications Division” (APD) under Diplomatic Security’s Office of Information Security Programs. 
An earlier update of May 19, 2017 of 12 FAM 221.4 DS Personnel Authorized to Conduct Investigations notes:

Special agents of the Diplomatic Security Service, credentialed security specialists assigned to the Programs Application Division (DS/IS/APD), and credentialed special investigators assigned to the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) conduct investigations as authorized by statute or other authority. DS authorizes special agents in the field offices and RSOs abroad to open investigations and provides direction and guidance for conducting those investigations.”

Per 1 FAM 262.7-1(A), updated in September 2018, DS/IS/APD administers the Department’s information protection program. It also notes that it:

Administers the Department’s Security Incident Program and coordinates cases subject to disciplinary actions with the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER), the DS Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) regarding security clearance and special access concerns.”

A December 17, 2018 update of 12 FAM 558 marked Criminal Laws  say that Incidents involving intentional or grossly negligent release or mishandling of classified information may result in criminal penalties.  An illustrative list of criminal statutes establishing penalties of fine and imprisonment for the release of classified information is in 12 FAM Exhibit 558.”  

 

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Ex-StateDept GSO Steven H. Hassan Gets 40 Years For Sexual Abuse of Children and Child Pornography

 

 

On August 13, USDOJ announced that former State Department employee, Steven Hadley Hassan, 52, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for sexual abuse of minors, and the production and transportation of child pornography. Our sources identified Hassan as a General Services Officer (GSO), a Foreign Service specialist who joined the State Department in 2010. We could not verify at this time that “he was in the Specialist Orientation class in 2010″ or that he  only “served two overseas tours” or that he “was never tenured.”
The DOJ announcement only identified Hassan as having served in the Philippines and South Africa. In his guilty plea, Hassan admitted to the sexual abuse of Jane Doe 1 in government housing in those two locations  from October 2010 continuing until mid-2013.
Indictment: Abuse in USG Permanent Housing
Count 8 of the Superseding Indictment filed on October 11, 2018, notes that in or about July 2010 through no later than in or about June 2012, the defendant resided in the Philippines in connection with his work as a State Department employee. In or about October 2010, he moved into permanent housing located in Dasmarinas Village, Makati, Philippines, provided by the U.S. Government. In or about June 2012, defendant repeatedly sexually abused a minor, Jane Doe 1, in his permanent housing. 
The Stipulation of Facts in court records signed and agreed to by Hassan says that while stationed in the Philippines, Hassan also sexually abused two pre-pubescent minors who resided in Manila-Jane Doe 2 (born in October 2003) and Jane Doe 3 (born in September 1999), who are sisters, and Hassan produced images of the abuse. Further it states that both Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 met Hassan in 2010 when he offered them food from a local restaurant near where they lived. Thereafter, the Defendant transported Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 in his minivan to a local hotel and sexually abused them.[…] Hassan most recently sexually abused Jane Doe 2 in 2015 when he visited the Philippines for a brief trip.
Count 9 of the indictment notes that in or about July 2012 though no later than in or about July 2014, the defendant resided in South Africa as a State Department employee. He moved into permanent housing in Pretoria, South Africa, in a U.S. Government-provided housing. Thereafter through in or about September 2013, defendant repeatedly sexually abused  Jane Doe 1 in his permanent housing.
Work Background
Steven Hassan’s 18-page resume online indicates that he worked for the U.S. Navy from 1987-1993, and various military-related work from 1993 to 2007 in Guam, Everett (WA), Yokosuka, Japan, and Whidbey Island (WA). It also indicates that he worked as an Administrative Assistant for the State Department’s MED Bureau from 2007-2008 (FederalPay.org lists him under Miscellaneous Clerk and Assistant for the State Department in 2007). From 2008-2010, he worked for the National Cancer Institute (FederalPay.org lists him as working for the National Institutes of Health in 2008 and 2009). His online resume also identified himself as Assistant General Services Officer (GSO) at the US Embassy Manila in the Philippines from June 2010-June 2012, then Assistant GSO at the US Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa from July 2012-August 2014. 
The Stipulation of Facts includes the following detail: “Hassan eventually brought his Sony camera and the SD card within it back to the United States after his tours overseas were completed, some time after November 2015.”
Hassan’s online resume notes that he worked as a Senior GSO at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan from September 2014 -January 2016. Hassan’s brief visit to the Philippines in 2015, and the most recent abused of Jane Doe 2 alleged in the Stipulation of Facts appeared to have occurred while Hassan was assigned to the US Consulate General in Karachi. 
The last entry in Hassan’s online resume indicates that he worked as GSO at the “Near East Asia/Pacific Executive Office” at the State Department from “February 2016-present” but also lists as part of his duties and accomplishments updating “all EAP/GSO standard operation procedures.” We should point out for those unfamiliar with State Department bureaus that NEA and EAP are two different offices.
Arrest and Detention
According to the “Affidavit in Support of the Criminal Complaint and an Arrest Warrant” executed by a special agent from DHS/ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an FBI Task Force Officer in an undercover capacity accessed a publicly available peer-to-peer file sharing program known to law enforcement to be used by individuals with sexual interest in children from an Internet-connected computer on January 22, 2018. 
The undercover (UC) was “friends” with a user, and downloaded 24 folders from that user which contained approximately 2600 depictions of child pornography. The UC determined the IP address of the user, eventually served a subpoena to the ISP provider which returned the user name during the session as that belonging to Steven Hassan.
On March 27, 2018, a judge authorized a state search and seizure warrant of Hassan’s residence in Frederick, MD.
On April 13, a federal search and seizure warrant for Hassan’s residence was issued for evidence relating to possession with intent to distribute child pornography.
On June 8, 2018, Hassan was arrested at his residence in connection with a federal warrant and has been detained since that time.
On August 17, 2018, the State Department (through HR’s Office of Employee Relations, Work/Life Division) updated 3 FAM 1810 Family Advocacy Program (Child Abuse, Child Neglect, and Domestic Violence) of the Foreign Affairs Manual. Was this pure coincidence or did this case precipitate the update of the FAM? 
Plea and Sentencing
Under the plea agreement signed by Hassan on March 5, 2019, the penalties under the statute he was charged has a minimum  of 15 years, and a maximum of 30 years, with supervised release for life.
On August 12, 2019, United States Attorney Robert K. Hur wrote to the court informing the judge that “three of Defendant’s victims in the Philippines have informed the Government that (1) each is seeking restitution for harm suffered as a result of Defendant’s offense; and (2) each is willing to agree to restitution in the amount of $1,000 per person. The Government has informed Defendant’s counsel of the amount of restitution sought by each of the victims. Defendant does not object to it. Accordingly, the Government at sentencing tomorrow will ask the Court to include $1,000 in restitution to each of the three victims who have sought it in the Judgment and Commitment Order.” 
On August 13, 2019, U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm sentenced Steven Hadley Hassan, age 52,  to 40 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of  supervised release.
Questions
If not for the undercover officer who was able to access Hassan’s pornographic files online, we would not have known about his sexual abuse of Jane Doe 1 and other minors, or his production and transportation of child pornography, would we?
What medical and mental health assistance were made available to Jane Doe 1 whose abuse occurred in USG-provided housing?
We recognized that Hassan has been identified in court documents as a former State Department employee. But when exactly did Hassan become a former State Department employee – was he already a former employee before his arrest, or did he become a former employee following his arrest? We’ve sent the State Department several nagging questions about this case on Wednesday; to-date we have not heard anything back. 
And then there’s this: Diplomatic Security’s DSS conducts more than 38,000 personnel security actions each year for the Department of State and other federal agencies. What happened to this one? Also what about the Continuous Evaluation Program?  Diplomatic Security says on its website that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) implemented Continuous Evaluation (CE) program in December 2016 to ensure the federal government maintains a strong and trusted workforce.  CE applies to all Executive Branch personnel who require eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position. How did that work here?


Via USDOJ: Former Foreign Service Officer Sentenced to 40 Years in Federal Prison for Production and Transportation of Child Pornography
Sexually Abused at Least Five Minors While Stationed Overseas as a Foreign Service Officer

Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm today sentenced Steven Hadley Hassan, age 52, of Frederick, Maryland, to 40 years in federal prison, followed by lifetime supervised release, for sexually abusing minors to produce child pornography and transporting those images to the United States.  Judge Grimm also ordered that, upon his release from prison, Hassan must register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).  Hassan has been detained since his arrest on June 8, 2018.

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@StateDept’s “New Camp Sullivan” in Afghanistan Four Years On: A Lovely $103.2 Million Flat Dirt

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State/OIG’s Office of Evaluation and Special Projects has released its Evaluation of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Aegis Construction Contract at Camp Eggers in Afghanistan (PDF). Well, nothing good to read in this report, but the flat dirt is lovely, and makes us want to pull our hair out in  frustration. We bring you some GIFs to make us all feel better.

Camp Eggers Afghanistan, Photo by State/OIG

Things of note excerpted from the IG report:
The Department awarded Task Order 10 in July 2011 to Aegis (GardaWorld)  to provide and manage an armed and unarmed guard force known as the Kabul Embassy Security Force (KESF) for Embassy Kabul and other U.S. diplomatic facilities within Kabul, Afghanistan. On September 30, 2014, the Department modified Task Order 10 held by Aegis to allow for the renovation of Camp Eggers in its entirety and to erect a new facility known as the “New Camp Sullivan.” […]Modification 43 was issued to Aegis under a firm fixed price for the design-build of the Camp Eggers construction project. The task order modification was valued at about $173.2 million with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2016.
[…] An Aegis official told OIG he did not believe the company had undertaken any construction projects other than building a shooting range at Camp Sullivan. An OBO official noted that Aegis lacked the “institutional expertise” to build to OBO standards, and several Department officials told OIG that they had doubts about Aegis’s ability to carry out major construction work.

 

On January 10, 2014, AQM awarded a contract to the management consulting firm, Markon, on behalf of DS to perform professional engineering services.[..] Markon […] warned the Department in August 2014—a month before the task order was modified—that the project would not likely be finished on time or on budget. The Department nonetheless chose to move forward with this fundamentally unsuitable construction mechanism because of what it viewed as exigent need and a lack of alternatives.

 

Multiple Department officials, as well as an Aegis official, told OIG that they viewed the initial 18-month project timeline as unreasonable. An official from AQM expressed skepticism that such an extensive project could ever be completed so quickly in a construction environment as logistically complex as Afghanistan.[…]The renovation of Camp Eggers entailed extensive demolition and redevelopment, including [snip] the construction of new facilities. The “New Camp Sullivan” facility was intended to become a self-supporting, multi-use facility, which included life support for up to 900 personnel (expandable to house up to 1,500 personnel) all within a secure perimeter.

 

Aegis, through its subcontractor, CWI, purchased materials costing approximately $19.4 million for Camp Eggers. However, roughly 23 percent of these materials ($4.5 million) were obtained without submitting proper documentation or receiving proper Department approval.[…]The materials had to be stored due to numerous project delays, which prevented CWI from using the materials as they were delivered. The storage continued throughout the life of the contract until all of the materials were disposed of by May 2018. Over the life of the task order, the Department wasted about $22 million on materials that were never used and then paid to store them

 

Although Aegis continuously missed project milestones and failed to adhere to contract requirements, the Department still did not take meaningful corrective action against Aegis beyond issuing LOCs. As noted, these were primarily issued by DS. The Department also held a number of meetings with Aegis personnel to discuss the lack of progress made on the project, but no further corrective action was taken.

 

The Department reached a settlement with Aegis in March 2019 whereby the Department agreed to pay Aegis a total of $94.6 million. Based on this figure, in addition to three separate contracts with Markon Solutions, Incorporated for professional engineering and design review services, OIG identified a total of $103.2 million in questioned costs related to the Camp Eggers project.[…] the “New Camp Sullivan” remained flat dirt after more than four years of effort. The Department estimated that approximately 10 percent of the construction work was completed, and the 100 percent design—the final design—remained unfinished.

After the termination of the Camp Eggers project, the Department transferred materials stored in Kabul to fill other U.S. Government needs in the area. Regarding the materials in Dubai, Red Sea Housing Services Company FZE (Red Sea), the company with whom the Department ordered CHUs, reached a final termination settlement valued at about $2.5 million with Aegis and the Department under which Red Sea would keep all the materials and equipment they procured on behalf of the Department. The remaining materials in Sterling, VA were disposed of through the General Services Administration’s excess property program and some were scrapped.

Via reactiongif.com

 

OIG’s conclusion: [T]he Department’s sense of urgency, the selection of a non-construction contractor, the assignment of officials inexperienced in construction to oversee the project, and the failure to hold the contractor accountable for particular instances of poor performance led to the expenditure of more than $100 million without any discernible benefit to the Department or the people it intended to protect. OIG also notes that, more generally, this project illustrates many of the broader concerns that arise when the Department pursues construction projects in contingency or otherwise challenging environments. The Camp Eggers project again highlights the importance of making well-informed, thoughtful choices regarding the most appropriate contract vehicle; careful, consistent oversight; and development of a process for construction work in contingency zones that is sufficiently nimble to address urgent security needs but also considers the resources and capabilities of all relevant Department bureaus.

“UberEats With Guns”, Susan Pompeo, and Don’t Forget Sherman

 

The week that we left for a break, CNN reported on July 1st about a State Department whistleblower talking to congressional investigators and raising “multiple issues over a period of months, about special agents being asked to carry out some questionable tasks for the Pompeo family.”
Some of the reported allegations?
“An agent was asked to pick up Chinese food—without Pompeo in the car. The whistleblower said this led agents to complain that they are now serving as “UberEats with guns,” which has created a buzz within the department, according to multiple Democratic congressional aides who cited the whistleblower.”
[…]
“CNN has seen a document given to the committee aides by the whistleblower showing that in January, Diplomatic Security was asked by a person in Pompeo’s office to pick up his adult son [Nicholas] from Union Station in Washington and bring him to the family home.”
[…]
“On another occasion, the whistleblower told aides, a Diplomatic Security special agent was given the job of picking up the Pompeo family dog from a groomer.”
That would be this cute dog, Sherman Pompeo, previously introduced at the Extra Exclusive by belovedly despised former WH spox, Sean Spicy:

 

Pompeo’s Special Agent in Charge gave a statement, that is, a Diplomatic Security agent (them who are typically tight-lipped) gave a statement about his protectee/protectees without getting into the details of the allegations reported by CNN:
Lon Fairchild, the special agent in Charge of the Diplomatic Security Service, did not deny that the specific trips, such as the dog or the takeout food, were carried out by agents, but said in a statement, “I was head of Secretary Pompeo’s security detail since his first day on the job. At no point during my service did he or any member of his family ask me or any member of my team to act in any way that would be inconsistent with our professional obligation to protect the Secretary 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.”
And then there’s “Shocker”:
Furthermore, the whistleblower told aides that shortly after Susan Pompeo received her personal security detail, in July 2018 [Note: Pompeo assumed office at State on April 26, 2018], agents were verbally told not to use her callsign—which is “Shocker”—over the radios or publicly. The reason, according to one aide, citing the whistleblower, was that “they knew it wasn’t kosher.”
CNN has viewed an email from within the State Department confirming that she has an agent assigned to her, along with her callsign.
And more “Shocker”:
The aides said another whistleblower has come forward, who worked on the State Department’s executive seventh floor where the secretary of state and top aides are based—telling them that employees there have been told not to put information concerning Susan Pompeo into official emails, so that it would not be preserved in required recordkeeping.
[…]
The role Susan Pompeo has played within the State Department and when the secretary travels is another area of concern to congressional aides, Diplomatic Security officers and multiple sources within the State Department and the CIA, which Pompeo previously led. Several sources told CNN when Susan Pompeo accompanies the secretary on certain trips she has not only had a dedicated special agent to tend to her, but also a State Department staffer. They said that ahead of a recent trip to Kansas, during which she accompanied her husband, she had at times chaired meetings on trip logistics at the State Department, which raised eyebrows, including of senior State officials. One person familiar with the situation called it “the worst kept secret at State,” telling CNN. ”
[…]
[Secretary Pompeo] takes her on … trips, has separate meetings, requiring control officers, motor pool assets, security, and time. It was especially brazen during the shutdown when people were actually called into the embassy while furloughed. Just one more thing killing morale at the department.”
The Assistant Secretary  for Diplomatic Security, Michael Evanoff also issued a statement:
Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff said, “The Diplomatic Security Service has been protecting the spouse of the Secretary of State since the 1970s as the security threat dictates. We are a federal law enforcement agency, and this is an integral part of our core mission. Today the security threats against Secretary Pompeo and his family are unfortunately very real. The Diplomatic Security Service is proud to protect the Pompeo family from those who would harm the Secretary of State and the United States.”
The question now is who did not issue a statement of support?
We imagine Sherman Pompeo’s statement to CNN would be like this:

At no point during my service did I act in any way that would be inconsistent with my professional obligation to be the best, well groomed dog for Secretary Pompeo and his family 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

More on CNN:
The former senior Diplomatic Security official who asked not to be identified said that such a full-time detail for a spouse is unusual and would only be assigned once a formal process was followed, assessing the need for such security. They said that the risk investigation would be performed by Diplomatic Security’s Protective Intelligence and Investigations Division, in the Office of Threat and Intelligence Analysis. The former official told CNN this protocol has existed within Diplomatic Security for decades. And that in this person’s lengthy tenure at Diplomatic Security, no spouse was ever given a security detail for more than a short, specific period of time.
Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Wayne Tillerson (2017-2018) limited the number of press seats on his plane purportedly in his commitment to a smaller footprint. As far as we are aware, his wife was never on any of his trips.
John Kerry (2013-2017)  almost never traveled with his wife (we could find only one instance when Teresa Heinz went on a trip with JK).
Hillary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013) – her spouse, Bill already had his own security detail as ex-POTUS).
Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) did not have a spouse.
Colin Luther Powell (2001-2005) – we don’t recall Alma Powell prominently traveling around the globe with her husband during his tenure as Secretary of State.  It should be interesting to learn if the spouse of the 65th secretary of state (in office during the Iraq War) had her own security detail when Secretary Powell served from January 2001 – January 2005.  Secretary Powell, after all, was a retired four-star general in the United States Army, a former National Security Advisor (1987–1989), ex-Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and ex-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993) during Persian Gulf War prior to his appointment to Foggy Bottom.
On July 6th, the Washington Times also just so happened to come out with a Susan Pompeo interview about her “mission.”
Uh-oh. But that interview should have been timed to appear at the end of June, before “Shocker” and Sherman made the news.  Public Affairs people, we’re utterly disappointed; haven’t you learned anything?
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Two Days, Two Diplomatic Incidents: U.S. Embassy Brussels, U.S. Embassy Seoul

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Diplomatic Security Memorial: Ten U.S. Embassy Kabul Guards Killed in Truck Bomb #OTD #2017

 

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U.S. Embassy Honduras Cancels Routine Services For June 3-7 After Protesters Torch Access Gate

 

Protesters in Honduras set the access gate to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa on fire with tires doused with fuel according to Reuters. The report says that “the protesters chanted “American trash, American trash” outside the embassy, which was not being guarded at the time.”

CNN notes that “the fire was extinguished by mid-afternoon, and a State Department spokesperson later said no embassy personnel were injured in the incident.”

The U.S. Embassy was not being guarded at the time of the protest?

As of 1 am EST, we have not been able to find an official statement from Foggy Bottom. US Embassy Honduras CDA Heide Fulton did release a statement (see below) and announced the suspension of routine consular services for next week due to the fire damage.

USG Charges Two Individuals For Visa Fraud Conspiracy Involving the Moroccan Diplomatic Mission and Seven Domestic Workers

 

On March 13, SDNY announced that two individuals were charged for visa fraud conspiracy involving the Moroccan Consulate and Mission in New York. The complaint includes an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”), a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador. Footnote #5 in the complaint says that the USG anticipates that it will enter into a non-prosecutorial agreement with each of the seven domestic workers, all nationals of the Philippines). Footnote #6 notes that the DSS Special Agent is aware that as an ambassador accredited to the Moroccan Mission of the United Nations, CC-1 possesses full diplomatic immunity under Article V of the United Nations Agreement and Article (39)1)of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Via USDOJ/SDNY:

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Christian J. Schurman, Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (“DSS”) at the United States Department of State, announced today the arrest of MARIA LUISA ESTRELLA JAIDI (“JAIDI”), who was charged by complaint along with her brother, RAMON SINGSON ESTRELLA (“ESTRELLA”), for their involvement in a conspiracy to commit visa fraud, make materially false statements, and induce aliens to illegally come to, enter, and reside in the United States.  JAIDI was arrested today in Ancramdale, New York, and will be presented this afternoon in White Plains federal court before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison.  ESTRELLA remains at large.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated:  “As alleged, the defendants abused our nation’s process for admitting consular officials in order to bring domestic workers into this country for their own monetary gain and lifestyle.  On top of that, Maria Luisa Estrella Jaidi exploited these workers by not providing them the critical protections and benefits they would have been entitled to had they been properly brought to this country with the appropriate visas.  Today’s charges demonstrate that fraud and abuse of this type will not be tolerated.”

DSS Director Christian J. Schurman said:  “DSS demonstrated its commitment to protecting the integrity of U.S. travel documents and the rights of foreign nationals visiting the United States.  We will continue to pursue those who abuse domestic worker visas to manipulate and exploit their employees for personal gain.  DSS’s strong relationship with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”

According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed in White Plains federal court[1]:

From approximately 2006 up to 2016, JAIDI and ESTRELLA conspired with an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”) to fraudulently procure visas for at least seven Filipino domestic workers (the “Domestic Workers”).  CC-1 is a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador.  From approximately 1980 through approximately 2016, CC-1 and JAIDI were married.

In order to fraudulently obtain visas for the Domestic Workers, JAIDI and CC-1 caused the Domestic Workers to submit visa applications containing materially false statements and to submit fraudulent employment contracts in support of those visa applications.  ESTRELLA – who is JAIDI’s brother and who resides in the Philippines – helped recruit several of the Domestic Workers in the Philippines to work for JAIDI and CC-1 in the United States and instructed the Domestic Workers to make false statements in their visa applications and to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

In particular, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused five of the Domestic Workers to falsely state in their visa applications that they would be employed as secretaries, administrative assistants, or technicians at the Moroccan Mission or at the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Morocco in Manhattan.  In addition, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused each of the Domestic Workers to submit fraudulent employment contracts to the State Department in support of their visa applications.  The fraudulent employment contracts also overstated the Domestic Workers’ salaries, understated their hours, and falsely guaranteed benefits, including, among others, sick leave, dental insurance, and medical insurance.

Once the Domestic Workers arrived in the United States, JAIDI and CC-1 employed the workers as their personal drivers, domestic helpers, farmhands, and assistants at their residence in Bronxville, New York, as well as at their farm in Ancramdale, New York.  JAIDI and CC-1 paid the Domestic Workers significantly less than the minimum salary required by law and regularly compelled them to work far in excess of 40 hours per week.  In addition, JAIDI and CC-1 generally denied the Domestic Workers the benefits set forth in their employment contracts, compelled the Domestic Workers to work seven days a week, and required the Domestic Workers to surrender their passports.

Read in full: Two Charged In White Plains Federal Court For Visa Fraud Conspiracy Involving Moroccan Consulate And Mission In New York

Attachment(s):

What happens after pay period #26?

Posted: 1:26 am EST

The State Department issued a thin Furlough Guidance Handbook to employees on January 4. It notes that State Department employees funded with no-year or multi-year accounts received their paychecks for pay period #25 on Thursday, January 3, 2019. Foreign Service annuitants received their December annuity payments on January 2, 2019 (Note that pension is not funded by annual Congressional appropriations but is drawn from the Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Fund). The Guidance says that State will also be able to make payroll for these employees for pay period #26 (actual pay date is January 17). What happens beyond that seems to be a big question mark beyond the nugget that CGFS will be issuing some future guidance.

Should the lapse in appropriations continue past the end of pay period 26 (January 5, 2019), the Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) intends to process payroll for pay period 26 to meet the Department’s Thursday, January 17, 2019 official pay date, for those individuals (both direct-hire employees and LE staff) who are funded using no-year or multi-year accounts that have residual balances. CGFS will be preparing and issuing T&A guidance for bureaus and posts for reporting time during any periods of lapse for pay period 26 and any later pay periods. Furloughed, excepted, and intermittent excepted employees who are not funded would not receive another pay check until there is legislation to permit payment.

01/04/19DS-5113 Agency Notice of Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees
01/04/19SF-8 Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees Program

We should note that a January 7 update to AFSA members flagged down a different date, which is this Friday, January 11:

In order to meet normal deadlines for processing payroll in time to meet the next payday on January 17, AFSA understands that funds need to be appropriated by Friday, January 11. The bill that funds operations at State and USAID passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in June by a 31-0 vote, but that bill has not yet gone before the full Senate. 
[…]
If that does not happen by the end of the week, however, some members of the Foreign Service (including some members who have been required to report to work) may not receive a paycheck on January 17. As a first step to preparing for that difficult possibility, members are encouraged to read the new Furlough Handbook to review options for coping with the financial consequences of the partial government shutdown.

Consular Affairs

An update on our query about Consular Affairs funding — we’ve heard from a source that CA/EX recently sent a notice to consular sections informing folks that the bureau “anticipates” being able to continue paying its staff and providing consular services as long as the funding situation with partner bureaus/agencies allowed them to continue providing service that generates revenue. Here are a couple of dire scenarios that have a potential to impact thousands of working people and their families, and not just within the State Department. 

If partner agencies are not able to do their work due to the ongoing funding lapse, it could have a potential to derail consular services. Think DHS or  FBI.  Visa services require that applicant fingerprints, photo and personal data be sent to DHS for the purpose of checking the applicant’s fingerprint information against DHS databases and establishing a record within DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification (IDENT) system. Visa issuance data is then forwarded to DHS for use at US ports of entry to verify the validity of the visa. Visa services also require the  transmission of  applicant fingerprints and personal data to the FBI fingerprint system for the purpose of checking to determine if the person has a criminal record that would have an effect on visa eligibility. If DHS and FBI stop providing those clearances, embassies and consulates won’t be able to issue visas worldwide. And that would have a cascading impact on services, fees collected, and employees getting paid.  Also if/when visa issuances stop, there will be economic consequences for the tourism, travel and hospitality industries. What’s that going to do to the international travelers spending in the United States, or travel industry employment, both direct and indirect employment?

We should note that DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System or IDENT, is operated and maintained by OBIM (IDENT currently holds more than 200 million unique identities and processes more than 300,000 biometric transactions per day). OBIM resides in DHS’s Management Directorate. During the lapse in appropriations, the Directorate estimates 193 employees as the total number exempt/excepted employees to be retained out of a total of 1,777 employees. So they have people working over there but for how long? How long can people work with no pay?

Additionally, DOJ’s 2019 Contingency Plan says that “all FBI agents and support personnel in the field are considered excepted from furlough.” It also says that “At FBI headquarters, the excepted personnel will provide direction and investigative support to all field operations and excepted headquarters functions. This includes personnel in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which provides fingerprint identification services to criminal and national security investigations, and the Records Management Division, which provides name check services to criminal and national security investigations.”

Regarding partner bureaus — consular operations do not stand alone at overseas posts. They are not able to operate without security guards, typically locally hired security guards. Local guards are not under consular sections but under the purview of Regional Security Officers. They are funded under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security within the Worldwide Security Protection, an account that the State Department previously identified as “initially have [ing] available balances”. We don’t know how much available balances DS has, but when that account is depleted, there won’t be money to pay the local guards, and posts cannot just use comp time or issue IOUs. And if there are no local guards to provide this critical function, posts won’t be able to open their consular sections to the public. That will have a cascading effect on services provided, fees collected, employees getting paid, and beyond. 

Also below, the State Department furlough Q&A includes the following;

On jobs during furlough: May I look for a job during the furlough if that is required to apply for unemployment compensation in my state?

A. A furloughed employee may seek employment without advanced authorization and can provide to the unemployment office any evidence that he or she is in fact seeking employment. Some States require claimants be engaged in an active search for work to be eligible for unemployment compensation. Department employees are reminded that relevant ethics laws, rules, and regulations continue to apply to them while in furlough status, including restrictions on outside employment with non-federal entities. For example, Department employees employed by a non-Federal entity during the furlough may later be restricted from participating in their official capacity in matters that affect that entity. If you have specific questions about your potential employment, you can contact EthicsAttorneyMailbox@state.gov.

For presidential appointees and covered noncareer employees (e.g., both noncareer SES and SFS and certain Schedule C employees), there are certain restrictions on outside earned income. Employees who file a Public Financial Disclosure Report (OGE 278e) must also file a recusal notice at negotiationnotice@state.gov when negotiating outside employment.

If you have more specific questions not covered above, you can contact negotiationnotice@state.gov.

Injury while on furlough: If employees are injured while on furlough or LWOP, are they eligible for workers’ compensation?

A. No, workers’ compensation is paid to employees only if they are injured while performing their duties. Employees on furlough or LWOP are not in a duty status.

Can somebody please ask the State Department what happens to employees in war zones and high threat posts who may be injured during this shutdown?

Mental Health Resources:

MED’s Employee Consultation Services (ECS) office remains open with reduced staffing during the furlough. You can reach ECS at 703-812-2257 or email MEDECS@state.gov.FEDERAL

Medical Evacuation:

New medical evacuations and ongoing medevacs are considered excepted activities and will continue during the furlough.

Employee Health Benefits and Life Insurance: Will I still have coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program during the furlough?

A. Yes, the employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.

For Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), coverage continues for 12 consecutive months in a nonpay status without cost to the employee (5 CFR 870.508(a)) or to the agency (5 CFR 870.404(c)). Please note that premium payments are required if an enrolled employee in nonpay status is receiving workers’ compensation (5 CRF 870.508(a)).

 

US Embassy Kinshasa Remains Closed to the Public For Sixth Day Over Terror Threat #DRC

 

On December 2, the US Embassy Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that it will be closed to the public again due to a terrorist threat against USG facilities in the capital city. Below is part of the announcement:

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is working closely with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to address a terrorist threat against USG facilities in Kinshasa.  The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will be closed to the public on Monday, December 3.

 Actions to Take:

·        Maintain a heightened level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness.

·         Monitor local media for updates.

·         Keep a low profile and notify friends and family of your safety.

·         Review the country page  and remain alert for potentially dangerous situations.

US Embassy Kinshasha previously “received credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. Government facilities in Kinshasa” on November 24, 2018. It initially closed to the public with only minimal staffing on Monday, November 26, 2018.

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