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)

 

@StateDept Cites 10 Cases Where Employees Were Placed on Admin Leave, See #10

Posted: 12:41 ET

 

3 FAM 3464 defines “Excuse Absence” (commonly known as administrative leave) as absence from duty administratively authorized or approved by the leave-approving officer and does not result in a charge in leave of any kind or in loss of basic salary. 3 FAM 3464.102 also provides for Conduct-Related Excused Absence “Excused absence may be directed in rare circumstances and when authorized as provided by 3 FAH-1 H-3461.2 when an investigation, inquiry, or disciplinary action regarding the employee’s conduct is pending, has been requested, or will be requested within 2 workdays, and the continued presence of the employee in the workplace may pose a threat to the employee or to others, or may result in loss of, or damage to, U.S. Government property, or may otherwise jeopardize legitimate U.S. Government interests.”

According to grievance records, during the discovery phase of FSGB No. 2015-029, the State Department provided grievant with a spread sheet identifying 10 cases in which employees were placed on administrative leave pursuant to 3 FAM 3464.1.-2.

Via FSGB:  We quote the stated reasons for the administrative leave as follows (with numbering added):

  • 1) Ongoing investigation. Employee admitted to taking extra passport applications from courier beyond allowed quota. . . . (3 separate cases);
  • 2) Arrest based on violation of protective order;
  • 3) Allegations of misconduct and alcohol consumption while at US Embassy;
  • 4) Employee’s clearance suspended – reasons unknown. Employee failed to meet DS for compelled interview;
  • 5) By letter dated 11/14/13, PSS notified her of suspension of clearance. . . . ;
  • 6) Security Clearance suspended by DS. . . . ;
  • 7) DS investigating employee fraud/impersonating supervisor to obtain federal housing benefits;
  • 8) Arrested on child pornography charges. (no indication employee used USG equipment);
  • 9) Incident resulting in death of Ambassador and others. Admin leave while office evaluates appropriate action (3 separate cases);
  • 10) Employee investigated based on allegations of the rape of 2 women.

Grievant lacks any basis for asserting that the AL granted in these other cases did not serve USG “interests.” Those interests are broad, going far beyond the obvious trauma and safety issues as to other employees. Realistically, all 10 cases (based on the brief descriptions given in the record) invoked some type of governmental interest that was rather self-evident, e.g., stopping an employee from impersonating a supervisor or investigating the actual suspension of someone’s security clearance.21 The bottom line is that the Department’s decisions to grant AL to other persons who were subject to various investigations is not even pertinent to the grievant, [REDACTED].

The FSGB finds that “administrative leave is not an entitlement that would provide the grievant with certain safeguards, but is instead a prerogative administered by management to meet the needs of the Service.”

#

 

Sexual Assault Related posts:

 

Administrative Leave: A Prerogative to Meet the Needs of the Service, Not/Not an Entitlement

Posted: 12:37  pm RT

 

Unlike the MSPB, the Foreign Service Grievance Board does not identify its precedential decisions but the case below on administrative leave is worth noting whether this is precedent setting or not. In this case, FSGB says that administrative leave is 1) not an entitlement, 2) that it is a prerogative administered by management to meet the needs of the Service, 3) and that Department was not obligated to provide grievant with an explanation for its decision to deny admin leave.

Via FSGB:

Grievant is a Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent who became involved in an altercation with a local civilian while off duty during a temporary duty (TDY) assignment in Honolulu. This incident resulted in the discharge of his service weapon and the death of the civilian. The State of Hawaii brought criminal charges against grievant, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to represent him, finding that the incident was not the consequence of an official act or performance of his official duties.

For unspecified reasons, the Department placed grievant on administrative leave twice: first, in the aftermath of the shooting, when he was under judicial order not to leave Honolulu, and second, during the pendency of his first trial in 2013 (which resulted in a hung jury). Facing a second trial in 2014, grievant asked the Department to place him on administrative leave again. The Department ultimately denied this latter request and upheld its decision in an agency-level grievance.

Grievant acknowledged that under regulation (3 FAM 3464) the Department has discretionary authority to grant or deny administrative leave. He argued that although the Department is not compelled to grant his request, the weight of both equity and precedent suggest that it should do so. He asserted that the circumstances under which the Department earlier took the initiative to place him on administrative leave are substantially the same as those for which he later requested administrative leave (i.e., for his second trial) and arise from the same incident. He contended that if the Department is to “change” its decision regarding whether to grant him administrative leave, it must provide him an explanation of why it did so.

As the instant appeal does not concern discipline, grievant bears the burden of demonstrating that his grievance is meritorious. We found that grievant had failed to demonstrate that the Department had any obligation to approve his request for administrative leave or that it had violated any law or regulation in not doing so. Finally, we found that the facts of this case do not establish that the Department “changed” its decision; rather, the various decisions it made regarding whether to place grievant on administrative leave were separate, independent decisions. The Board concluded that the Department was not obligated to provide grievant with an explanation for its decision to deny AL. The appeal was denied in its entirety.

Read in full below:

 

Related posts:

 

FBI to Veteran Diplomat Robin Raphel: “Do you know any foreigners?” #criminalizingdiplomacy

Posted: 1:29  pm ET

 

We’ve posted previously about Ambassador Robin Raphel in this blog. See Case Against Veteran Diplomat Robin Raphel Ends Without Charges, Who’s Gonna Say Sorry?. Also below:

Today, the Wall Street Journal runs an extensive account of what happened and why this case is a concerning one for American diplomats:

The NSA regularly swept up Pakistani communications “to, from or about” senior U.S. officials working in the country. Some American officials would appear in Pakistani intercepts as often as once a week. What Raphel didn’t realize was that her desire to engage with foreign officials, the very skill set her supervisors encouraged, had put a target on her back.

The FBI didn’t have a clear picture of where Raphel fit on the State Department organizational chart. She was a political adviser with the rank of ambassador but she wasn’t a key policy maker anymore. She seemed to have informal contacts with everyone who mattered in Islamabad—more, even, than the sitting ambassador and the CIA station chief.

[…]
State Department officials said that when they spoke to the FBI agents, they had the feeling they were explaining the basics of how diplomats worked.

At times, Raphel’s colleagues pushed back—warning the FBI that their investigation risked “criminalizing diplomacy,” according to a former official who was briefed on the interviews.

In one interview, the agents asked James Dobbins, who served as SRAP from 2013 to 2014, whether it was OK for Raphel to talk to a Pakistani source about information that wasn’t restricted at the time, but would later be deemed classified.

“If somebody tells you something in one conversation, you might write that up and it becomes classified,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean the next time you see them that you can’t talk about what you’d already talked about.”

[…]

Over the past two years, diplomats in Pakistan and the U.S. have scaled back contacts, according to officials in both countries. U.S. diplomats say they are afraid of what the NSA and the FBI might hear about them.

“What happened to Raphel could happen to any of us,” said Ryan Crocker, one of the State Department’s most highly decorated career ambassadors. Given the empowerment of law enforcement after 9/11 and the U.S.’s growing reliance on signals intelligence in place of diplomatic reporting, he said, “we will know less and we will be less secure.”

“Look what happened to the one person who was out talking to people,” said Dan Feldman, Raphel’s former boss at State. “Does that not become a cautionary tale?”

[…]

Diplomatic Security had yet to restore her security clearance. Some of her friends at the State Department said they believed the FBI opposed the idea.

Kerry and Raphel stood close together for only a couple of minutes. On the sidelines of the noisy gathering, Kerry leaned over and whispered into Raphel’s ear: “I am sorry about what has happened to you.”

Read in full below:

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US Embassy Accra’s “Operation Spartan Vanguard” Shuts Down Fake U.S. Embassy in Ghana

Posted: 12:23 am ET

 

Via state.gov/DS

In Accra, Ghana, there was a building that flew an American flag outside every Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, 7:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Inside hung a photo of President Barack Obama, and signs indicated that you were in the U.S. Embassy in Ghana. However, you were not. This embassy was a sham.

It was not operated by the United States government, but by figures from both Ghanaian and Turkish organized crime rings and a Ghanaian attorney practicing immigration and criminal law. The “consular officers” were Turkish citizens who spoke English and Dutch.

For about a decade it operated unhindered; the criminals running the operation were able to pay off corrupt officials to look the other way, as well as obtain legitimate blank documents to be doctored.

This past summer the assistant regional security officer investigator (ARSO-I) at the real U.S. Embassy in Accra, in cooperation with the Ghana Police Force, Ghana Detectives Bureau, and other international partners, shut down this fake embassy.

This investigation is a small part of the broader “Operation Spartan Vanguard” initiative. “Operation Spartan Vanguard” was developed by Diplomatic Security agents in the Regional Security Office (RSO) at U.S. Embassy Ghana in order to address trafficking and fraud plaguing the U.S. Embassy and the region.

During the course of another fraud investigation in “Operation Spartan Vanguard” an informant tipped off the ARSO-I about the fake U.S. embassy, as well as a fake Netherlands embassy operating in Accra.

After receiving the tip, the ARSO-I, who is the point person in the RSO shop for “Operation Spartan Vanguard” investigations, verified the information with partners within the Ghanaian Police Force. The ARSO-I then created an international task force composed of the aforementioned Ghana Police Force, as well as the Ghana Detective Bureau, Ghana SWAT, and officials from the Canadian Embassy to investigate further.

The investigation identified the main architects of the criminal operation, and two satellite locations (a dress shop and an apartment building) used for operations. The fake embassy did not accept walk-in visa appointments; instead, they drove to the most remote parts of West Africa to find customers. They would shuttle the customers to Accra, and rent them a room at a hotel nearby. The Ghanaian organized crime ring would shuttle the victims to and from the fake embassies. Locating the document vendor within the group led investigators to uncover the satellite locations and key players.

The sham embassy advertised their services through flyers and billboards to cultivate customers from Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, and Togo. Some of the services the embassy provided for these customers included issuance of fraudulently obtained, legitimate U.S. visas, counterfeit visas, false identification documents (including bank records, education records, birth certificates, and others) for a cost of $6,000.

The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana. (U.S. Department of State photo)

The exterior of the fake embassy in Accra, Ghana. (U.S. Department of State photo)

Exterior of the legitimate U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana (U.S. Department of State photo)

Exterior of the legitimate U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana (U.S. Department of State photo)

Read in full here: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/263916.htm.

#

Sexual Assault in the Foreign Service — What To Do?

Posted: 1:24 am ET
Updated: 9:25 am PT to clarify that we requested to connect with top @StateDept officials via Twitter and have not heard back.

We’ve previously blogged that 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). There were cables released by Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations in 2015 and 2016, but so far, we have been unable to retrieve copies of those unclassified cables.

We recently received a Burn Bag from an FSO who wrote – “Sexual Assault in the FS – What to do?” The FSO said she/he was raped by somebody who is also in the Service.

We will have a follow-up post on sexual assault in the Foreign Service and will attempt as best we can to address additional issues. We hope that this FSO would consider reporting this crime. Previous to this Burn Bag, we’ve received a separate sexual assault report from another anonymous FSO. That victim told us that this nightmare will not go away, and the sooner it is reported, the better.

We are concerned about the FSO’s safety and possible retaliation by the offender. With some help from an FS assault victim, we put together some suggestions/resources to consider. We hope assault victims/assault survivors would feel free to consider or ignore the following based on their personal circumstances.

Safety First

Put your safety first. This may mean choosing delayed reporting after you are in a safe place. Some questions to consider in planning ahead: Does your living arrangement expose you to threat of continued violence? Do you need to go on an emergency shelter or request an alternative housing option? If you share the same post, office, bureau, or training location and you feel unsafe, what can you do to get help? Where can you go? Who can you call?

Call 911 

Or since the assault occurred in a domestic location, go to the Arlington Country Police/DC Police or the nearest police station where the crime occurred as soon as possible and file a report

Go to any medical facility if possible to preserve physical evidence

Rape is a crime; it is not an HR issue.

Tell someone, if you can get over the shock

Call the Hotline

Call the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 1-800-656-HOPE, to be routed to a rape crisis center near you. RAINN also offers a live chat at: https://hotline.rainn.org/online/terms-of-service.jsp

Call the National Center for Victims of Crime Victim Service Helpline, 1-800-FYI-CALL or 1-800-211-7996 (TTY/TDD). The National Center for Victims of Crime has a number of resources available to assist victims of crime. The National Help Line, VictimConnect, provides help for victims of any crime nationwide, and can be reached by phone at 1–855-4VICTIM (1-855-484-2846) or by online chat.

Write It Down

The Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI), a best practice in law enforcement interviews with survivors. “Write it Down” prompts survivors to recall sensory details about When, Where, What and Who, as opposed to asking chronological questions, since after a trauma, memories may be disordered, fragmented or out of sequence.

Congressional Help

California Representative Jackie Spieir has a hotline and has worked on military rape and sexual assault. Her office can be reached at 202-225-3531 or through https://speier.house.gov/contact/website-problem. If you call, ask to speak with the   legislative director regarding a sexual assault issue in the federal government. Alternatively, you may call and ask for the email address of the legislative director, and the people answering the phone will provide the email address (office’s standard policy). Jackie’s office said that they will keep your identity anonymous unless you explicitly give the congressional office permission to make inquiries on your behalf.

Related items via RAINN:

We do not want to make this harder than it already is, but we hope that the FSO who sent us the Burn Bag will report the crime and identify the perpetrator so he can be brought to justice and kept from harming others.  We also hope that the FSO emails us back, we do not want her to feel alone.

For the record, we’ve reached out to three senior State Department officials via Twitter to connect with us. We wanted to clarify the murky reporting process and concerns over confidentiality. We have received no response as of this writing. State and DS are aware that we have been looking for the DS/OSI cables that reportedly provides guidance for sexual assaults.

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Related post:

Another Note About the Burn Bag–There’s No Easy Way of Doing This, Is There?

 

 

Disclaimer:

Please know that the above information is provided as general information that is intended, but not guaranteed, to be correct and up-to-date. For instance, the hotlines are taken from an online search, we have not used them nor can we verify their effectiveness. The information is also not presented as a source of legal advice. If you need legal advice upon which you intend to rely in the course of your legal affairs, please  consult a competent, independent attorney. This blog does not assume any responsibility for actions or non-actions taken by people who have visited this site, and no one shall be entitled to a claim for detrimental reliance on any information provided or expressed here. Thanks.

 

Taliban Attacks German Consulate, Building Previously Abandoned by USG For Being “Too Dangerous”

Posted: 2:04 am ET

In December 2009, the US Embassy in Kabul announced that Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, signed a new agreement under which the United States would lease an historic 1930’s hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif for use as the new U.S. Consulate. At that time, the United States has agreed to invest approximately $26 million to renovate the Mazar Hotel facility so that it may be used as an office building and housing for consulate employees (see US Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif Moving Forward and DIY Home Renovation Opportunity in Mazar-e-Sharif.

After signing a 10-year lease and spending eventually more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials were reported to have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous according to WaPo in May 2012. The WaPo report cited an internal memo written by Martin Kelly, then acting management counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul saying that the facility was far from ideal from the start:

The compound, which housed a hotel when the Americans took it on, shared a wall with local shopkeepers. The space between the outer perimeter wall and buildings inside — a distance known as “setback” in war zone construction — was not up to U.S. diplomatic standards set by the State Department’s Overseas Security Policy Board. The complex was surrounded by several tall buildings from which an attack could easily be launched.[…] Responding effectively to an emergency at the consulate would be next to impossible, Kelly noted, because the facility does not have space for a Black Hawk helicopter to land. It would take a military emergency response team 11 / 2 to 2 hours to reach the site “under good conditions,” he said.”

Also this:

In December (2011), embassy officials began exploring alternative short-term sites for their diplomatic staff in northern Afghanistan. A Western diplomat familiar with the situation said the United States has sought, so far in vain, to persuade the German and Swedish governments to sublet it. The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, said European diplomats have found the prospect laughable.”

Read more US Consulate Mazar-e-Sharif: $80 Million and Wishful Thinking Down the Drain, and Not a Brake Too Soon.

In June 2013, the German Consulate opened at the old Mazar Hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Last Thursday, a suicide bomber rammed a truck into the German Consulate in Mazar, killing at least six civilians and wounding 120.  The Telegraph reported that Afghan special forces have cordoned off the consulate, previously well-known as Mazar Hotel, as helicopters flew over the site and ambulances with wailing sirens rushed to the area after the explosion. On November 12, the US Embassy in Kabul announced that it will be closed for routine services on Sunday, November 13 as a temporary precautionary measure.

We don’t as yet know if this property with a 10-year USG leased was sublet by the German Government or purchased by the Germans from its owners. We will update if we know more. There were local casualties but there were no reported casualties for German consulate workers. We understand that this was a reasonably secure building after all the fit-out and upgrade work was done prior to the USG suspending the project in 2012 but that the site is hemmed in by other structures and too close to high-traffic venues like the Blue Mosque. Then Ambassador Ryan Crocker decided that the location was too risky when he arrived in Afghanistan and so the USG abandoned this building.

Diplomatic Security Highlights History, and More in 100th Anniversary Video

Posted: 12:22 am ET

 

We’ve previously blogged about diversity and harassment issues at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (See Dear @JohnKerry: One of Your Foggy Bottom Folks Is Asking — Is This Diversity?POTUS Issues Memo Promoting Diversity and Inclusion, and @StateDept Sounds Like Baghdad BobPDAS Miller Issues Sexual Harassment Message to Diplomatic Security Employees, What’s Missing?).

DS recently released a video celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Diplomatic Security Service.  The original investigative office was called the Bureau of Secret Intelligence. Later, the organization evolved into the Office of the Chief Special Agent, then the Office of Security (SY), then became the Diplomatic Security Service. Click here to view the newly released “DSS Then & Now – The First Century of the Diplomatic Security Service” photo history book (PDF).

The video below includes the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and  Director of the Diplomatic Security Service Bill MillerVictor Dikeos, former Director of Security (1974-1978), and the following DS employees in order of their appearance: Wendy Bashnan, Special Agent in Charge; Steven Antoine, Asst Special Agent in Charge; Mark Baker, Special Agent; Shane Morris, Diplomatic Courier; Kendall Beels, Special Agent; and Luis Matus, Deputy Regional Director, High Threat Program.

The DS video featured nine former and current employees including two female DS agents and one female DS courier.  DS has previously used Agent Bashnan in another PR brochure, A Global Force: Agent Profile.  Shane Morris was the Diplomatic Courier of the Year for 2011. Kendall Beels was one of the two DS agents who shut down a massive U.S. visa fraud ring operating in the tri-state area of New York City and was awarded the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation (FLEF) Investigators of the Year Award in 2006.

1916 – 2016

By the way, A Global Force: Agent Profile brochure says that “For women who choose Diplomatic Security as a career, there are no limits to how far you can go.”  Also that “Diversity is one of the greatest strengths of Diplomatic Security.”  

Folks who want to rate this in Pinocchios are welcome to do so in the comment space.

 

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US Embassy Kenya’s Threat Designation Downgraded Just as ISIS Claims Stabbing Attack

Posted: 1:15 am ET

 

There was a shooting incident outside the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya on October 27 after a knife-wielding assailant attacked an armed Kenyan police officer guarding an entrance to the embassy.  This is one more reminder that local law enforcement employed by host countries and local embassy guards are in the front line of protecting our missions overseas.  The US Embassy said that no Embassy personnel were involved and no U.S. citizens are known to have been affected by this incident.  The Embassy closed to the public on October 28 for routine consular services but emergency consular services for U.S. citizens remained available.  In its Security Message to U.S. citizens, Embassy Nairobi writes, “We are grateful for the ongoing protection provided by the Kenyan police. We are cooperating with Kenyan authorities on the investigation of the incident on Thursday, October 27 and refer all questions about the investigation to them. We will be open to the public for normal operations on Monday, October 31, 2016.”

 

A quick look at the State Department’s Office of Allowances website indicates that Kenya had zero danger pay in September 2013, when the Westgate mall attack occurred. The website indicates that Kenya has been designated as a 15% danger differential post since June 29, 2014  until October 30, 2016 when the latest data is available online.

However, we understand that Embassy Nairobi has recently been downgraded in threat designation for terrorism which eliminates danger pay. We were reminded that it took 9 months after the Westgate Shopping Mall Attack before any danger pay differential kicked in for U.S. Embassy Nairobi; and this happened while reportedly about a third of the country including several neighborhoods in Nairobi remain red no-go zones for employees posted in Kenya.  The allowances website does not reflect the downgraded status as of yet so we’ll have to wait and see what happens to the mid-November update.

The sad reality is these attacks could happen anywhere.  There were 1,475 attacks in 2016 alone involving 12,897 fatalities around the world.

 

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GAO Reviews @StateDept’s Efforts to Protect U.S. Diplomatic Personnel in Transit

Posted: 2:34 am ET

 

According tot he GAO, many of the worst attacks on U.S. diplomatic personnel—including 10 of the 19 attacks that prompted State to convene ARBs—occurred while victims were in transit.  It recently released its report on the State Department’s efforts to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel in transit overseas. See Diplomatic Security: State Should Enhance Its Management of Transportation-Related Risks to Overseas U.S. Personnel (GAO-17-124).  For this report, GAO evaluated the extent to which State, with regard to transportation security at overseas posts, has (1) established policies, guidance, and monitoring; (2) provided personnel with training; and (3) communicated time- sensitive information.

Summary:

The Department of State (State) has established policies related to transportation security for overseas U.S. personnel, but gaps exist in guidance and monitoring. GAO reviewed 26 posts and found that all 26 had issued transportation security and travel notification policies. However, policies at 22 of the 26 posts lacked elements required by State, due in part to fragmented implementation guidance on what such policies should include. State also lacks a clear armored vehicle policy for overseas posts and procedures for monitoring if posts are assessing their armored vehicle needs at least annually as required by State. These gaps limit State’s ability to ensure that posts develop clear policies that are consistent with State’s requirements and that vehicle needs for secure transit are met.

While State provides several types of training related to overseas transportation security, weaknesses exist in post-specific refresher training. Regional security officers (RSO) receive required training related to transportation security in special agent courses, and nonsecurity staff reported receiving relevant training before departing for posts—including on topics such as defensive driving and the importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s security—as well as new arrival briefings at posts. At most of the 9 posts GAO visited, however, staff had difficulty remembering key details covered in new arrival briefings or described the one-time briefings as inadequate. State’s requirements for providing refresher briefings are unclear, potentially putting staff at greater risk.

State uses various systems at overseas posts to communicate time-sensitive information related to transportation security, but several factors hinder its efforts. RSOs and other post officials are responsible for communicating threat information to post personnel. However, at 4 of the 9 posts it visited, GAO learned of instances in which staff did not receive important threat information in a timely manner for various reasons. In one case, this resulted in an embassy vehicle being attacked with rocks and seriously damaged while traveling through a prohibited area. In addition, while all 9 of the posts GAO visited require that personnel notify the RSO before traveling to certain locations, personnel at more than half of the 9 posts said they were unaware of these requirements or had difficulty accessing required travel notification systems.

State.gov Emails

We should note that family members who do not work for our embassies and consulates do not have state.gov emails. And by the way, they are the ones  who are driving around in their host countries — from homes to schools, to groceries, to playdates, etc — in their private vehicles with diplomatic plates. Excerpt from the GAO report:

RSOs at the nine posts we visited told us they communicated transportation-related threat information to post personnel through various methods, such as post-issued radios, personal and official e-mail, text messages to work and personal mobile phones, and phone trees. However, we learned of instances at four of the nine posts in which personnel did not receive important threat information in a timely manner.  For instance, at one of the posts we visited, the RSO sent a security notice restricting travel along a specific road and warning that recent violent protests in the area had resulted in injuries and even death, but because the notice was sent exclusively to state.gov e-mail addresses, some non-State personnel at the post did not receive it at the e-mail address they regularly used and were unaware of the restriction. The personnel subsequently traveled through the restricted area, resulting in an embassy vehicle being attacked with rocks while on unauthorized travel through the area. While no one was hurt, the vehicle’s front windshield was smashed. The RSO told us that to avoid similar situations in the future, he would add the personnel’s regularly used e-mail addresses to his distribution list for security notices. At another post, focus group participants stated that they did not receive any information from the RSO or other post officials about the security-related closure of a U.S. consulate in the same country and instead learned about the closure from media sources. Participants in focus groups at two other posts stated that threat information is often either obsolete by the time they receive it or may not reach staff in time for them to avoid the potential threats.

OpenNet Accounts

Personnel at more than half of the nine posts we visited cited difficulty using travel notification systems or were unaware or unsure of their post’s travel notification requirements. While three of the nine posts we visited permit personnel to use e-mail or other means to inform the RSO of their travel plans, the remaining six posts require personnel to complete an official travel notification form that is only accessible through a State information system called OpenNet. However, according to officials responsible for managing State’s information resources, including OpenNet, not all post personnel have OpenNet accounts. Specifically, all State personnel at overseas posts have OpenNet accounts, but some non-State agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, typically only have a limited number of OpenNet account holders at each post; some smaller agencies, such as the Peace Corps, usually have none. One focus group participant from a non-State agency told us that because she does not have an OpenNet account, her ability to submit travel notifications as required depends on whether or not she is able to find one of the few individuals at the post from her agency that does have an OpenNet account. Similarly, the travel notification policy for another post requires that post personnel use an OpenNet-based travel notification system even though the policy explicitly acknowledges that not all post personnel have OpenNet accounts.

Armored Vehicles and the EAC

The FAH establishes a minimum requirement for the number of armored vehicles at each post. The FAH also states that post Emergency Action Committees (EAC) must meet at least annually to discuss post armored vehicle programs and requirements.21 According to the FAM, it is important that EACs provide information on posts’ armored vehicle requirements to ensure there is sufficient time to budget for the costs of such vehicles, including the extra costs associated with armoring them.22

We found that DS may not be meeting the first of these FAH requirements, and EACs are not meeting the second requirement at every post. With respect to the first requirement, DS officials initially explained that under the FAH, every embassy and consulate is required to have a certain number of armored vehicles, but we found that not every consulate met this requirement as of May 2016. These potential deficiencies exist in part because DS has not instituted effective monitoring procedures to ensure that every embassy or consulate is in compliance with the FAH’s armored vehicle policy.

The GAO recommend that the Secretary of State direct Diplomatic Security to take the following eight actions:

  1. Create consolidated guidance for RSOs that specifies required elements to include in post travel notification and transportation security policies. For example, as part of its current effort to develop standard templates for certain security directives, DS could develop templates for transportation security and travel notification policies that specify the elements required in all security directives as recommended by the February 2005 Iraq ARB as well as the standard transportation-related elements that DS requires in such policies.
  2. Create more comprehensive guidance for DS reviewers to use when evaluating posts’ transportation security and travel notification policies. For example, the checklist DS reviewers currently use could be modified to stipulate that reviewers should check all security directives for DS-required elements recommended by the February 2005 Iraq ARB. The checklist could also provide guidance on how to take the presence or absence of these required elements into account when assigning a score to a given policy.
  3. Clarify whether or not the FAH’s armored vehicle policy for overseas posts is that every post must have sufficient armored vehicles, and if DS determines that the policy does not apply to all posts, articulate the conditions under which it does not apply.
  4. Develop monitoring procedures to ensure that all posts comply with the FAH’s armored vehicle policy for overseas posts once the policy is clarified.
  1. Implement a mechanism, in coordination with other relevant State offices, to ensure that EACs discuss their posts’ armored vehicle needs at least once each year.
  2. Clarify existing guidance on refresher training, such as by delineating how often refresher training should be provided at posts facing different types and levels of threats, which personnel should receive refresher training, and how the completion of refresher training should be documented.
  3. Improve guidance for RSOs, in coordination with other relevant State offices and non-State agencies as appropriate, on how to promote timely communication of threat information to post personnel and timely receipt of such information by post personnel.
  4. Take steps, in coordination with other relevant State offices and non- State agencies as appropriate, to make travel notification systems easily accessible to post personnel who are required to submit such notifications, including both State and non-State personnel.

The GAO report notes that the State Department concurred with all its recommendations except one.  State did not concur with the sixth recommendation to clarify guidance on refresher training. In its response, State described a number of efforts that RSOs take to keep post personnel informed, such as sending security messages via e-mails and text messages, and therefore State did not believe additional formal training was necessary.  The GAO acknowledge the efforts but writes:

Nevertheless, participants in 10 of our 13 focus groups either had difficulty recalling certain security policies and requirements or described their security briefings as inadequate. Participants noted that this was, in part, because it can be challenging to remember the content of new arrival security briefings while they are simultaneously managing the process of moving and adjusting to a new post and because of the one-time nature of new arrival briefings. DS headquarters officials stated that most violations of post travel policies are due to personnel forgetting the information conveyed in the new arrival briefings.

This is the third in a series of GAO reports on diplomatic security. For GAO’s previous work on security at residences, schools, and other soft targets, see GAO-15-700 (http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-700) and for the review of security at embassies and consulates, see GAO-14-655 (http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-655).

 

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