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USA Offers Up to $5 Million #Reward For Information on Joel Shrum Murder in #Yemen

Posted: 2:47 am ET

 

On March 15, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program, the FBI announced a reward of up to $5 million for information on the murder of U.S. citizen Joel Wesley Shrum in Ta’izz, Yemen in 2012. The RFJ announcement notes that at the time of his death, Shrum worked at the International Training and Development Center as an administrator and English teacher. He was living in Yemen with his wife and two young children. Below is the FBI announcement:

The FBI Washington Field Office, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program, announced today a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of any individual who committed, conspired to commit, or aided or abetted in the commission of, the murder of U.S. citizen Joel Wesley Shrum.

On March 18, 2012, Joel Wesley Shrum, 29, was driving to his place of employment in Ta’izz, Yemen when two gunmen armed with AK-47s approached Shrum’s vehicle on a motorcycle and fired on the vehicle. Shrum was pronounced dead on the scene. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the murder. The U.S. State Department designated AQAP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2010. At the time of his death, Shrum worked at the International Training and Development Center as an administrator and English teacher. He was living in Yemen with his wife and two young children.

Individuals with information concerning the shooting of Joel Shrum are asked to contact the FBI or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate or submit a tip on the FBI’s website by visiting tips.fbi.gov. Tips can remain confidential. Additional information regarding Joel Shrum, including a seeking information poster with his picture, is available on the FBI’s website at http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info or on the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program website at www.rewardsforjustice.net.

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New Zealand Asks US Embassy Wellington Staffer to Leave

Posted: 03:14 am ET

 

New Zealand news media reported over the weekend that a U.S. diplomat was involved in an incident in Lower Hutt, one of the four cities of the Wellington metro area.  It is not know what happened during the incident, only that the diplomat was reportedly “left with a broken nose and a black eye.” According to NZHerald,  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) asked the US Embassy on Monday to waive the staffer’s diplomatic immunity so police could investigate the incident.  “The United States Government has today declined to waive the diplomat’s immunity,” the spokesman said. “Therefore, MFAT has asked the United States to withdraw the staff member in question from New Zealand.”  Some news reports have identified the diplomat but we have been unable to confirm the name or the status of the individual. US Embassy Wellington has not responded to our inquiry to-date.

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Operation Island Express II Nets Two Document Suppliers in Puerto Rican Identity Trafficking Scheme

Posted: 1:14 am ET

 

On March 14, 2017, USDOJ announced that two identity document suppliers were sentenced to prison for their role in trafficking the identities of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and corresponding identity documents:

Francisco Matos-Beltre, 43, a Dominican national who became a U.S. citizen in 2013, formerly of Philadelphia, was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison and three years’ supervised release. Isaias Beltre-Matos, 46, a Dominican national and legal permanent resident formerly of Providence, Rhode Island, was sentenced to serve 51 months in prison and three years’ supervised release. Both defendants were sentenced before U.S. District Judge Juan M. Perez-Gimenez of the District of Puerto Rico. Beltre-Matos pleaded guilty on Aug. 10, 2016, to conspiracy to commit identification fraud and commit human smuggling for financial gain. Matos-Beltre pleaded guilty on Sept. 14, 2016, to conspiracy to commit identification fraud and commit human smuggling for financial gain.

According to admissions made in connection with the pleas, identity document runners located in the Savarona area of Caguas, Puerto Rico, obtained Puerto Rican identities and corresponding identity documents. Other conspirators, identified as identity document suppliers and brokers, located in various cities throughout the United States allegedly solicited customers for the sale of social security cards and corresponding Puerto Rico birth certificates for prices ranging from $400 to $1,200 per set. The defendants also admitted that the conspirators used the U.S. mail to complete their illicit transactions.

According to the pleas, Beltre-Matos admitted that he sold identity documents to customers, who generally obtained the identity documents to assume the identity of Puerto Rican U.S. citizens and to obtain additional identification documents, such as legitimate state driver’s licenses. Some customers obtained the documents to commit financial fraud and attempted to obtain a U.S. passport, according to the plea agreement. Matos-Beltre also admitted to being a document supplier and that he bought and transferred identity documents belonging to real people to document brokers. Matos-Beltre admitted that he knew his customers would fraudulently use the documents that he provided.

Diplomatic Security special agents record evidence seized during a training exercise to execute a search warrant in suburban Washington, D.C., July 21, 2009. U.S. Department of State Photo.

USDOJ also announced the contact info for potential victims:

Potential victims and the public may obtain information about the case at: www.justice.gov/criminal/vns/caseup/beltrerj.html. Anyone who believes their identity may have been compromised in relation to this investigation may contact the ICE toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) and its online tip form at www.ice.gov/tipline. Anyone who may have information about particular crimes in this case should also report it to the ICE tip line or website.

Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of identity theft, or wants information about preventing identity theft, may obtain helpful information and complaint forms on various government websites including the Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Website, www.ftc.gov/idtheft. Additional resources regarding identity theft can be found at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/pubs/ID_theft/idtheft.htmlwww.ssa.gov/pubs/10064.htmlwww.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber/identity_theft; and www.irs.gov/privacy/article/0,,id=186436,00.html.

USDOJ credits the Chicago offices of ICE-HSI, USPIS, DSS and IRS-CI for leading the investigation, dubbed Operation Island Express II.  Also cited are HSI San Juan and the DSS Resident Office in Puerto Rico, the HSI Assistant Attaché office in the Dominican Republic and International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2).  Trial Attorneys Marianne Shelvey of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Frank Rangoussis of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section prosecuted the case, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Puerto Rico was cited for providing assistance.

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Diplomatic Security Agent With 17-Year Service Resigns Over Trump

Posted: 12:36 am ET

 

According to Government Executive more than one in four federal workers, or 28 percent, will definitely or possibly consider leaving their jobs after Jan. 20 when Trump is sworn into office and becomes leader of the executive branch, according to a new Government Business Council/GovExec.com poll. Sixty-five percent of feds say they will not consider ending their federal service.

Fear that the Trump Administration will trample on the Constitution and damage the political and moral fabric of our nation apparently prompted one Diplomatic Security agent to resign. There are approximately 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents. The State Department estimates that security officers will have the largest number of attrition for Foreign Service Specialist from FY2016-2020.

The letter below is by Supervisory DSS Agent TJ Lunardi, a career member of the Foreign Service who until last week was posted overseas.  In a note to friends he shared his resignation letter with, Mr. Lunardi writes that he is sharing it in the hope that friends “might understand and respect” his choice, even if they “do not agree or support it”.  Further, he writes, “the letter makes clear that, for me, this is not a question of politics or party, but one of personal adherence to the values I hold most dear”.  We understand that this resignation letter was submitted to the State Department on January 19, 2017. A blog pal shared with us the letter which has been shared internally within the department.  We’ve reached out to Mr. Lunardi who confirmed his authorship and expressed no objection with the publication of the letter in this blog.  Mr. Lunardi’s resignation was effective on March 4, 2017.

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

With deep regret, I must resign from my position as a Supervisory Special Agent of the Diplomatic Security Service.  I cannot in good conscience serve in the Department of State under the incoming President, a man I believe to be a threat to our constitutional order.

For the last 17 years – the entirety of my professional life – I have been proud to work for the American people as a member of the Foreign Service.  Without hesitation, I have done so under Presidents of both parties.  Whether in Baghdad or Berlin, Washington or now in Kyiv, it has been an honor to carry the Diplomatic Security badge, a symbol of the special trust and confidence reposed in me by our fellow citizens to enforce our laws and defend our country’s values and interests.  I love this Department, which has been my home, and the extraordinary men and women in it, so many of whom have become like family.

But I take nothing more seriously than my oath to support and defend the Constitution, to bear it true faith and allegiance, to well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office.  Throughout my career, these obligations have guided my every action in service of our country.  They are what compel me now to resign.

As an American, it is an article of my political faith that our Constitution binds the government and its leaders – and by extension all of us in public service – to guarantee certain unalienable rights:  freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, due process, and equal protection of the laws, among others.  In his words and his deeds, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he little understands and less respects these tenets of our civic creed.  He has threatened the independent media.  He has called for the imposition of religious tests and the commission of war crimes.  He has incited hatred and violence.  He has mocked and bullied the most vulnerable among us.  He has empowered racists and emboldened bigots.  He has made open league with a despot who seeks to harm our national interests.  He disregards and distorts the truth for no other apparent purpose than to maintain his followers in a frenzy of confusion and anger.  These are not the acts of a liberal democratic leader.  They point the way to authoritarianism, the slippery path to tyranny.

I have thus concluded that defending the Constitution and performing the duties of my office in an Executive Branch under Mr. Trump are incompatible.  An honest adherence to my oath dictates that I withhold support from such a man and from the administration he will head.  For me this is not a career choice, not something I would desire under normal circumstances.  It is among the most difficult and painful decisions of my life.  Nonetheless, it is a moral and ethical necessity in the face of someone I judge to be so clearly inimical to the values I have sworn to protect.

Some may counter that the threat posed by Mr. Trump calls for people of conscience to remain in the Department, to blunt his excesses, to resist his agenda.  This may be a legitimate course for others, but I fear I lack the capacity for such a compromise.  Tyranny encroaches when met with silence, and the graveyard of failed democracies is littered with the epitaphs of those who believed collaboration could moderate the evil of authoritarianism.  Knowing these lessons, I cannot allow tacit accommodation of Mr. Trump’s administration to make me complicit in his assault on our Republic.

It is my fervent hope I will be proven wrong, that Mr. Trump will govern wisely, lawfully, and with respect for the Constitution – all of it, and not simply the parts convenient to his purposes.  Unless and until he does, however, my place is with those who will oppose him, not those charged to carry out his policies.  My oath, my honor, and my conscience demand nothing less of me, even if my heart wishes it could be otherwise.

Traveling the world with the Foreign Service, I have been blessed with the opportunity to reflect on how the fragile nation bequeathed by our Founders has grown to become a beacon of hope and progress, a bulwark against despotism.  I am convinced it is the decency of our citizens, and their willingness to put our ideals ahead of their wants, that has made this country both great and fundamentally good.  On the battlefields of Bunker Hill and Bastogne, in the jail cells of Occoquan, on Pettus Bridge and Christopher Street – ordinary citizens have written our extraordinary story through sacrifice and an unwavering faith in our constitutional principles.

The survival of our grand experiment in democracy once again depends on such acts of courage.  And so I close with a citizen’s request to my friends and colleagues who remain in the Department:  Remember and keep always before you the belief in our shared values which inspired you to serve the American people.  Whenever you can, rise above the all-consuming daily bureaucratic scrum so that its rigors do not distract from an incremental acceptance of the morally unacceptable.  Should the decisive moment come, hear and heed the call of conscience.

Through whatever trials lie ahead, I pray Providence will preserve the people and the Constitution of the United States.

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Mexico Arrests Suspect, Reportedly a US Citizen, in Shooting of US Diplomat in Guadalajara

Posted: 3:34 pm PT
Updated: 4:30 pm PT

 

Mexico’s Fiscalía General del Estado de Jalisco announced today that the suspect on Friday’s attack of a U.S. consular official from USCG Guadalajara had been arrested (see American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico). According to the state attorney general on Twitter, the suspect was handed over to Mexico’s federal attorney general’s office .

Secretary Kerry released the following statement on January 8:

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to thank the Government of Mexico for their swift and decisive arrest of a suspect in the heinous attack against our Foreign Service Officer colleague in Guadalajara, Mexico. The safety and security of U.S. citizens and our diplomatic staff overseas are among our highest priorities. My thoughts and prayers remain with this officer and his family during this difficult time. I wish him a speedy recovery.

The Guardian’s latest reporting on this incident cites a source within the Guadalajara police force who spoke on condition of anonymity, and identified the suspect as Zafar Zia, a 31-year-old American citizen (AmCit) of Indian origin.

The source said Zia was captured in a joint operation by the FBI, DEA and Jalisco state officials in Guadalajara’s affluent Providencia neighbourhood early on Sunday morning. The suspect had a .380 caliber pistol tucked into his waistband when he was arrested. The authorities also seized a Honda Accord with California license plates, a wig and sunglasses that may match those seen in footage of the shooting, and 16 ziplock bags containing 336 grams of a substance believed to be marijuana.

US Mission Mexico has declined to provide further information to the media about the shooting and declined to identify the employee or his position at the consulate general; information that is already widely reported in U.S. and Mexican media.

A separate news report says that the suspect had moved to Guadalajara in November 2016 from Phoenix and had been residing in the city since. The report also says that “the apparent motive for the attempted murder appears to have been a disagreement over an undisclosed visa process.” A local report confirms that the suspect has been residing in a farm in Colonia Prados Providencia for about two months. All the rooms on site were reportedly rented by students.

Consular officials have been screamed at, and spit on by rejected visa applicants, and there are obviously some very unhappy visa applicants but if this is true, this would be the first time since 2010 where an armed attack is tied to a visa office (see Three from US Consulate General Ciudad Juárez Dies in Drive-By Shooting). There was a time when all that separate a visa officer from a visa applicant is an open counter.  Easy to grab and physically attack a visa official or employee. We kind of recall that the hard line interview windows started going up in the early 80’s. Our go-to pal for this stuff told us that there were certainly incidents of client aggression and assaults in both visa and citizen services sections but believed that the interview window upgrade was just part of the larger hardline standard (i.e., putting forced-entry and ballistic protection between public areas and the general work area).

The U.S. Government has spent millions upgrading embassy security and beefing up security protection inside consular offices but this attack shows how vulnerable our people are overseas even when they are just going about the ordinary routines of daily life (going to a gym, using an ATM machine, driving a car, etc).  The latest GAO report on diplomatic security points out that the worst attacks against our diplomatic personnel actually occurs while they are in transit (see GAO Reviews @StateDept’s Efforts to Protect U.S. Diplomatic Personnel in Transit).

In any case, if true that the suspect is a U.S. citizen, a couple of thoughts: one, he would not have a need for a U.S. visa, unless it is for a fiancee/spouse or other family members of foreign origin.  We probably will hear more about this in the coming days. Two, as a U.S. citizen arrested in a foreign country, a U.S. consular officer assigned at the American Citizen Services branch in USCG Guadalajara would have to visit the suspect in jail; as U.S. consular officers do worldwide to ensure the fair and humane treatment for U.S. citizens imprisoned overseas.

We should note that the U.S. and Mexico has an extradition treaty that allows for the transfer of suspected or convicted criminals from one to country to the other. So this case might yet end up in a U.S. court. Latest update from AFP says that the suspect will be deproted deported back to the United States to face further legal action.

 

Meanwhile, USMission Mexico has released a Security Message urging precautions following the shooting in Guadalajara.

Related posts:

Employees of U.S. Consulate General Monterrey (a non-danger post) face credible security threat in Mexico Apr 2016
USCG Monterrey: USG Personnel Banned From Driving Between Post-U.S. Border, Also Extortions Up by 24%
US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock on Road to Monterrey
New Mexico Travel Warning: “Authorized Departure” remains in place for Mexico’s northern border cities, Monterrey to go partially unaccompanied with no minor dependents
US ConGen Monterrey in Mexico Goes Unaccompanied
US Consulate General Monterrey personnel urged to keep kids at home following American School Shootout
Danger Danger, Bang Bang — State Department Eyes Changes in Danger Pay
New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status
Republicans got mad, mad, mad about danger pay, local guards, violence; calls for closures of consulates in Mexico
Snapshot: The State Department’s Danger Pay Locations (as of February 2015)
Mexican Border Consular Posts Get 15% Danger Pay
Where dangerous conditions are not/not created equal …
State Dept’s New High Threat Posts Are Not All Danger Posts

Senate Bill to Slash Embassy Security Funds in Half Until US Embassy Jerusalem Officially Opens

Posted: 2:22 am ET
Updated: Jan 12, 4:55 PM PT

 

Apparently, a viral image created by the group called the Other 98 with three Republican senators who once blasted lax embassy security in Benghazi, Libya made the social media rounds recently and readers asked @PolitiFact to check it out. “The image includes pictures of three Republican senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada and Marco Rubio of Florida — along with the caption, “The same 3 senators who have spent the last 3 years s——- themselves over ‘Benghazi!’ just introduced a bill to reduce embassy security by 50 percent.” PolitiFact judged the meme “mostly false” but this blogpost was accused of being a “fake news’. We’ve re-read our reporting on this issue and there’s nothing that we feel needs a correction. For those who are new in this blog, you can read our post below, and you can also read the similar points made by PolitiFact here.    

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On January 3,  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)  announced that he, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, “legislation that would fulfill America’s commitment to Israel to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.‎”

Excerpt from Heller’s announcement:

“My support for Israel is unwavering.  From my very first days as a United States Senator, I have prioritized the strengthening of the important relationship shared between Israel and the United States. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act. For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.  It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While Administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure. My legislation is a testament to that.

The announcement quotes Senator Marco Rubio: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs. It’s time for Congress and the President-Elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”

It also says that Heller’s bill “withholds certain State Department funds until that relocation is complete.”

That is some understatement.  The bill does not withhold just any State Department funds but embassy security funds.

This is a similar bill Senator Heller had introduced in the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congress. The version of the bill introduced but died in the 114th Congress includes the provision to restrict State Department funding in FY2015, FY2016, and FY2017 and the following language:

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2015 for ``Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” may be obligated until the Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

The current bill, S.11, which had been read twice and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes the elimination of the waiver and similar language on funding restriction but targets a specific State Department funding — not funds for the “Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” but for “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance.” The bill further includes restrictions for all security, construction, and maintenance funding worldwide for FY2018 and FY2019 except for the embassy in Tel Aviv until its relocation.

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2017 under the heading  “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance” may be obligated until the  Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

Just so we’re clear, three American senators including those who were screaming #BENGHAZI for the last several years have put forward a bill that would freeze half the State Department funding on embassy security until the new secretary of state reports to Congress that the US Embassy in Jerusalem has “officially opened.”

Writing for FP, Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington writes:

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue between Israelis and Palestinians, as the outbreak of the Second Intifada and other repeated instances in which it has served as a uniquely potent flash point have illustrated. Jerusalem brings together religious, nationalistic, symbolic, and ethnic sensibilities in a singularly powerful and dangerous mix. […] Along with other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the leading Gulf Arab states would almost certainly feel it necessary to practically demonstrate their objections to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy by finding some means of reasserting Palestinian, and even broader Christian and Muslim, claims on Jerusalem — and the most likely fallout would be a curtailment of security cooperation with Israel on matters concerning Iran’s nefarious activities in the Middle East. Adding such an additional layer of tension between Israel and the Arab states would be an enormous gift to Tehran and its regional alliance.

Since officially opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem could not happen overnight, this bill with its restrictions on embassy security funding would put all American diplomats and family members overseas at greater risks. At a time when embassy security could be most crucial, only 50 percent of appropriated State Department  embassy security, construction, and maintenance funds may be obligated.

Get that?

So with only half the embassy security funds obligated, what happens to our 275 posts overseas? Half gets the funds and the other half doesn’t? Reduced funding across the board? Do these good senators realized that the unfunded parts could get Americans killed? They don’t know? How could they not know? That leaves us with two troubling guesses — that they know but don’t care, or that they know this bill won’t go anywhere but its worth squeezing the juice, anyway.

Oops, is that our jaded slip showing?

We should point out that similar bills were introduced previously by Senator Heller, and they all died in committee. This bill, however, now has the support of  Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The two need no special introductions.

 

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Political Violence Against Americans in 2015: Highest in Near East Asia, Lowest in the Western Hemisphere

Posted: 1:55 am ET

 

The Political Violence Against Americans publication is produced annually by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Directorate of Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) to provide a comprehensive picture of the spectrum of politically motivated threats and violence that American citizens and interests encounter worldwide. This report includes incidents of violence involving U.S. citizens and facilities with the exception of incidents against American military personnel serving in combat positions.

Of the 61 incidents that involved U.S. citizens and interests, 19 are believed to have resulted from intentionally targeting Americans while 42 are incidents where Americans or American interests were not targeted due to nationality.

The highest targets occurred in Near East Asia (NEA), followed by Africa (AF), and South Central Asia (SCA). In NEA, the most number of attacks were directed at private U.S. entities; in AF, the most number of attacks were directed at U.S. Government (USG) entities while in SCA, they were directed at the U.S. military.  The top three most common types of attack are 1) “armed attacks” followed by 2) “stray round,” and 3) “bomb” tied with “attack with vehicle.”

The region with the lowest number of attacks is the Western Hemisphere (WHA) with one incident of vandalism directed at the USG. The second region with the lowest number of attacks is East Asia Pacific (EAP) with three incidents (attempted murder, bomb, violent demonstration) all directed at the USG.

Via state.gov/ds

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Conservative Group Blasts Tillerson Pick, Wants Pro-LGBT “Activists” in @StateDept “Ferreted Out” (Updated)

Posted: 1:52 am ET
Updated: 9:32 am PT
Update: 12/20, 12:47 pm PT (click here for comment during DPB)

 

We just blogged that House Democrats called on the State Department to resist potential Trump political witch-hunts). And what do you know?  On December 15, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council issued the following statement, excerpt:

The Obama administration has not only sent openly gay ambassadors into countries that are culturally opposed to homosexuality, they’ve used foreign aid to force nations opposed to homosexuality to change their laws to provide special protections for such behavior. And even flown the rainbow flag at U.S. embassies around the world! Equally, the Obama State Department under Hillary Clinton also promoted abortion, declaring reproductive healthcare a basic human right.
[…]
…. I have raised concerns about the nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. I certainly don’t see Tillerson cut from the same cloth as Clinton or Kerry, but he doesn’t have to be for these anti-life, liberal social policies to continue. He must have the courage to stop the promotion of this anti-family, anti-life agenda, which is very much a question mark given that he capitulated to activists pushing to liberalize the Boy Scouts’ policy on homosexuality when he was at the helm of the organization.

The incoming administration needs to make clear that these liberal policies will be reversed and the “activists” within the State Department promoting them will be ferreted out and will be replaced by conservatives who will ensure the State Department focuses on true international human rights like religious liberty which is under unprecedented assault.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Family Research Council (FRC) is an anti-LGBT extreme group that bills itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,” but that “its real specialty is defaming gays and lesbians.” SPLC has also published an extremist profile of Perkins here.

Updated:  According to HuffPo, Trump’s transition team released a statement expressing strong opposition to the Family Research Council’s appeal.  “President-elect Trump campaigned on a message of unity in order to bring all Americans together. To think that discrimination of any kind will be condoned or tolerated in a Trump Administration is simply absurd,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said.

This is worrisome because “ferreting out” LGBT “activists” can easily expand to the purging of LGBT employees.  Trump has a “complicated track record on LGTBQ issues” but given the people in his orbit, it is important to remember that in 1953, under the guise of national security, President Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450 which expanded the grounds for dismissal to cover homosexuality. Under the guise of seeking “true international human rights” or something else, this could easily go from worrisome to alarming.

There’s a dark history of employee purges in the federal government, most especially at the State Department.  The National Archives notes that beginning in the late 1940s and continuing through the 1960s, thousands of gay employees were fired or forced to resign from the federal workforce because of their sexuality. Dubbed the Lavender Scare, this wave of repression was also bound up with anti-Communism and fueled by the power of congressional investigation.

According to the State Department, on February 28, 1950, in testimony before the subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Deputy Under Secretary for Administration John Peurifoy noted that 91 employees in the “shady category” had been dismissed since January 1, 1947. “When pressed to define this category, Peurifoy alluded to “moral weakness.” He seemed too hesitant to offer specifics, and the number of dismissals was too large for the matter to be easily dropped. Senator Styles Bridges (R-NH) pressed Peurifoy further, and the Deputy Under Secretary finally admitted that the category referred to homosexuals.”

Stay aware. Stay engage.

President Obama appointed gay ambassadors to Australia, Dominican Republic, Denmark, OSCE, Spain, and Vietnam. To say that these missions are in countries “culturally opposed to homosexuality” is false.  Among the six missions, only one has faced blatant, persistent bigotry and discrimination in his host country; that’s Ambassador Wally Brewster who is accredited to the Dominican Republic (see Pres. Obama’s Personal Representative Faces Anti-Gay Bigotry in the Dominican Republic.

The charge that pro-LGBT policies were advanced by LGBT “activists” in the State Department is simply ignorant of how the agency works. Advancing the rights of LGBT persons around the world is an Obama Administration policy. Career employees are required to support and defend it, as well as all other policies of the administration whether they agree with it or not (see On the Prospect of Mass Resignations: A Veteran FSO Cautions Against Rash Decisions).

The Foreign Service Act and appropriate personnel regulations require commitments from candidates for appointment to the Foreign Service to commit to three (3) conditions of employment — availability for worldwide assignment, willingness to accept out-of-function assignments, and observance of Foreign Service discipline with respect to public support of established United States policy.  “In the official performance of their duties as representatives of the United States Government, Foreign Service members may be called upon to support and defend policies with which they may not be personally in full agreement. On such occasions, normal standards of Foreign Service discipline will apply. Ample opportunity is provided within official channels for discussion and dissent with respect to the development and conduct of United States Foreign policy.” (See DS4146). Also see Joseph Cassidy’s Twelve Tips For Surviving Life In The New Foggy Bottom.

More clips below:

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FBI Agents Hung A Noose Over an African American DS Agent’s Workspace Twice, FBI Called It “Pranks”

Posted: 1:20 am ET

 

This is a hostile environment harassment case originally filed in 2009 with the final EEOC decision issued in July 22, 2014. It involves an African-American Diplomatic Security Agent and FBI Agents assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Tampa, Florida. The allegations include the hanging of a noose (twice) over the wall separating the DS Agent’s cubicle and adjacent workspace, and racially motivated comments  and use of the “n-word” against then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Previous to the 2014 final decision, the EEOC on the July 26, 2013 appeal writes:

“[W]e determined that Complainant’s claim involved an allegation of hostile work environment that occurred during the course of Complainant’s detail to the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).  We found that the Agency, as Complainant’s employer, and the FBI could potentially be liable for the alleged hostile work environment.  Our previous decision determined that while the Agency issued a decision concluding that there was no basis for holding it liable for the alleged hostile work environment, the FBI failed to issue an independent final decision or join in the State Department’s final decision.  In that regard, the previous decision vacated the Agency’s decision and joined the FBI as a party to the case.  The complaint was remanded to both agencies for further processing and they were ordered to issue a joint final decision addressing the issue of their respective liability for the discriminatory hostile work environment.  The record indicates that despite the Order, the agencies issued two separate decisions addressing their positions.”

According to the EEOC, the State Department’s September 30, 2013 final decision, determined that the DS Agent-complainant was “subjected to hostile working conditions which occurred on FBI premises by FBI personnel” and, therefore, it was not liable for the conduct of FBI employees.  Moreover, the State Department contended that its “management officials took prompt action to protect Complaint from the harassing behavior of the FBI employees.”  The Agency also emphasized in its decision that Complainant did not claim that any Agency official from the Department of State took any adverse or retaliatory action against him.  The State Department concluded that there was no basis for imputing liability to the Agency.

In its July 22, 2014 final decision, the EEOC affirmed the State Department’s decision saying, “Based on a thorough review of the record and the contentions on appeal, including those not specifically addressed herein, we AFFIRM the final agency decision.”

Here are the facts from the EEOC case file:

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as a Special Agent at the Agency’s Diplomatic Security Section facility in Miami, Florida.

On October 26, 2009, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against him on the bases of race (African-American) and reprisal for prior protected EEO activity under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when he was subjected to a hostile work environment from 2008 to July 2009 characterized by, but not limited to, threatening, offensive and hostile acts, derogatory comments and racially inflammatory statements.

The evidence gathered during the investigation2 of this matter indicates that, in September 2007, Complainant began an assignment with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) based in Tampa, Florida.  Complainant was the only State Department employee on the JTTF, which was mostly comprised of other special agents employed by the FBI. Complainant was assigned to a 15-member JTTF squad that worked in an office with opened, modular cubicles.

There is little dispute between Complainant and both agencies over the facts of this case.  The parties agree that in the spring of 2008, a noose was hung over the dividing wall of Complainant’s cubicle.  According to Complainant, at the time, he did not consider the presence of the noose to be a personal attack, but as an African American believed the action was highly offensive. When Complainant discovered that a particular FBI agent (Agent F) (white male) was responsible for hanging the noose, Complainant spoke to him about it and Mr. F apologized for the incident and took the noose down.  Complainant did not complain to any Agency or FBI official about this incident at the time, as he believed that the matter had been handled after he spoke directly to Agent F about it.

However, in the fall of 2008, conversations in the office about the upcoming presidential election began to get “heated” and specific comments were made by Agent F and two other named individuals, Agent O and Air Marshall B (both white males), that Complainant perceived as racially motivated against then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.  According Complainant, these individuals made offensive remarks such as “we can’t let some Muslim motherfucker take office” and “when I see someone with an Obama bumper sticker I speed up to see who the fuck is driving the car.”  He also said the named individuals commented that they “should put Obama bumper stickers on [their] car and go raise some hell.”  According to Complainant, such inflammatory statements were not made about the white presidential candidate. Complainant also alleged that the “n-word” was used in referring to candidate Obama. Initially, Complainant indicates that he tried not take these comments personally and to remain calm.  However, he contends that, later, the comments began to affect his working environment negatively and made him feel uncomfortable because the individuals making the statements were the same individuals that Complainant had to rely on to perform his job and for his personal safety.  Complainant asserts that he began to perceive hatred from his co-workers against African-Americans based on these comments.  He began to wonder how his co-workers felt about him.

In October 2008, another noose was hung over the cubicle adjacent to his cubicle. A Halloween mask was placed in the noose to resemble a hanging. According to Complainant, he observed the other agents laughing about the noose.  After this second noose incident, Complainant reported the conduct to his first and second line supervisors at the Agency (State) and to the individual who supervised the FBI Agents on the JTTF.  According to statements from Complainant’s supervisors at the State Department, the FBI management assured them that the matter would be investigated by the FBI’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and that the responsible FBI agents would be assigned to other squads and away from Complainant.

Complainant was interviewed by the FBI OIG in November 2008 while the FBI agents were interviewed in February 2009. The record further indicates that Complainant’s supervisors at the State Department asked for, but never received, a copy of the OIG report of investigation.3  According to Complainant, although FBI officials advised his State Department supervisor that the offending agents would be moved to new assignments to remedy the situation, the FBI JTTF supervisory officials failed to enforce the reassignment and did not take the action necessary to relocate the agents involved.  These facts were verified by the supervisors at State.

In the FBI’s supplemental investigation, the FBI Supervisory Special Agents (SSAs) and the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) averred that as soon as they were informed about the second noose incident, they requested an investigation from the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.  However, the FBI’s OIG opted to conduct the investigation.  The SAC also said that he directed that the three FBI agents involved in the incidents be immediately moved to work areas away from Complainant. However, the evidence shows that only the junior agent was immediately moved, and while the other two eventually moved, the SSAs and SAC all concede that the two agents were often in Complainant’s work area because they needed access to investigative materials housed there. The SAC further stated that, after the OIG investigation was completed; all three agents were eventually subjected to disciplinary action.

According to Complainant, the work environment became worse for him after he reported the second noose incident and the matters were being investigated.  Specifically, Complainant contends that no one spoke to him and that two of the agents who were supposed to be relocated objected to the move and remained in his work area. He indicates that the FBI agents often mocked him. Complainant asserts that he felt alienated from his co-workers and could not perform the job he was assigned to do because his peers would not interact with him.  Complainant asserts that one of the offending agents was moved only two desks away from him and that the reassignment was not an effective remedy to stop the harassing conduct.  Complainant’s supervisor at State was informed by Complainant of the deteriorating situation, and conducted a site visit himself and confirmed from his own observations that the situation was hostile for Complainant.

On January 4, 2009, Complainant’s supervisor at the State Department, frustrated because FBI management did not appear to be taking appropriate action to remedy the situation, told Complainant to pack his things, leave the JTTF office and work on taskforce duties from home. Complainant did so, believing this was the only thing his supervisor at the State Department could do to protect him from the hostile work environment in the office in the absence of any corrective intervention by the FBI.  However, Complainant felt that he was being punished by having to leave the office while the offending agents were still in the office performing their jobs. Complainant contends that the hostile work environment did not end until his assignment was changed in July 2009.

In its September 30, 2013 final decision, the Agency determined that Complainant was subjected to hostile working conditions which occurred on FBI premises by FBI personnel and, therefore, it was not liable for the conduct of FBI employees.  Moreover, the Agency contends that its management officials took prompt action to protect Complaint from the harassing behavior of the FBI employees.  In addition, the Agency emphasizes in its decision that Complainant does not claim that any Agency official from the Department of State took any adverse or retaliatory action against him.  Therefore, the Agency concluded that there was no basis for imputing liability to the Agency.

Excerpt below from the EEOC’s analysis and findings:

To establish a claim of hostile environment harassment, Complainant must show that: (1) he belongs to a statutorily protected class; (2) he was subjected to harassment in the form of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct involving the protected class; (3) the harassment complained of was based on his statutorily protected class; (4) the harassment affected a term or condition of employment and/or had the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the work environment and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment; and (5) there is a basis for imputing liability. […] The harasser’s conduct should be evaluated from the objective viewpoint of a reasonable person in the victim’s circumstances. Enforcement Guidance at 6.

FBI claims the two “noose” incidents were mere pranks

In applying this standard, we find that the evidence of record supports Complainant’s claim of two “noose” incidents, as well as a working environment where Complainant was subjected to derogatory comments and racially inflammatory statements occurring from the spring of 2008 to July 2009.  The FBI, however, has argued in its separate September 30, 2013 decision that the offending FBI agents were not motivated by Complainant’s race when, in two separate incidents, they hung a noose in Complainant’s work area.  The FBI claims that the incidents were mere pranks directed at another employee and not at Complainant based on his race.  The FBI also determined that the remarks by agents concerning the 2008 presidential election and candidate Barack Obama were not racially motivated.  The FBI argues that the agents merely expressed their opposition to a particular political candidate and that their comments were not a result of any animus toward Complainant’s protected class.

We disagree with the FBI’s position. In limited circumstances, the Commission has held that certain events, by themselves, may support a finding of discrimination under Title VII. See Juergensen v. Dep’t of Commerce, EEOC Appeal No. 0120073331 (Oct. 5, 2007) (a hangman’s noose is “a highly charged and powerful symbol in the history of this country, calling up painful memories of the lynching of thousands of African Americans”);  Brooks v. Department of the Navy, EEOC Request No. 05950484 (June 25, 1996).  Moreover, the record is clear that derogatory and racially inflammatory language, including the use of a highly charged racial epithet (the n-word), was openly used by the FBI agents in Complainant’s presence.  Moreover, the fact that the remark was not specifically directed toward complainant is not dispositive.  See Barber, Eley, Powell and Johnson v. Department of the Navy, EEOC Requests Nos. 05A50657, 05A50771, 05A50972, 05A50973 (March 16, 2006).  Therefore, we find that the evidence of record supports a finding that Complainant was subjected to a racially hostile work environment while serving on the FBI task force in 2008 and 2009.

Agency’s liability

In considering the Agency’s liability for this discriminatory hostile work environment, we note that an Agency is liable for harassment by a co-worker or other non-supervisor when it “knows or should have known of the conduct, unless the Agency can show that it took immediate and appropriate corrective action.” See 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(d). Whether the Agency’s action is appropriate depends upon “the severity and persistence of the harassment and the effectiveness of any initial remedial steps.” Taylor v. Dep’t of the Air Force, EEOC Appeal No. 05920194 (July 8, 1992).  The appropriateness of the Agency’s conduct in response to harassment depends upon “the particular facts of the case-the severity and persistence of the harassment, and the effectiveness of any initial remedial steps.” Owens v. Dep’t of Transp., EEOC Appeal No. 05940824 (Sept. 5, 1996).  Appropriate corrective action is a response that is reasonably calculated to stop the harassment.

FBI failed to advise the State Department of investigation results

The record establishes that when Complainant informed his State Department management of the hostile work environment to which he was being subjected, Agency officials immediately contacted Complainant’s FBI supervisors and were advised that the offending agents would be assigned to other teams.  Because of the unique circumstances involved in this matter, the Agency had no authority over the FBI agents and did not initiate an investigation because the matter occurred on FBI premises.  The Agency also indicates that although the FBI conducted an investigation, the FBI failed to advise the Agency of its results.  The record further indicates that Complainant’s State Department supervisor met with Complainant and advised him of the FBI’s plan to remove the offending agents and asked if Complainant wanted to take further action.  Complainant elected not to pursue any further action initially, believing that the FBI’s promised intervention into the matter would end the hostile work environment.  When Agency management later learned from Complainant that his work environment had not, in fact, improved, and that he was being alienated at the FBI offices, Complainant’s supervisor decided to have Complainant work from home in an attempt to eliminate Complainant’s exposure to the hostile work environment that the FBI had failed to end.

FBI failed to end hostile environment

The record reflects numerous emails sent between various members of Complainant’s management team at the Department of State in their efforts to support Complainant.  These emails support the affidavits of State Department officials and Complainant himself, that they initially thought that the FBI’s response to the alleged harassment was adequate.  However, when State Department management learned that the FBI had failed to end the hostile environment, it became disillusioned with the FBI’s efforts and removed Complainant from the workplace in order to protect him from further harassment. Complainant testified that he believed the Agency did everything it could to support him.

Diplomatic Security Agent-Complainant was removed from workplace

We find that when the State Department management learned of the harassment, it took prompt action by immediately contacting Complainant’s FBI supervisors in an attempt to address Complainant’s concerns and end the hostile environment.  However, because the hostile environment was created by FBI employees at an FBI location, Complainant’s supervisors had no direct authority to remedy the situation.  Instead, the Agency was forced to rely on their FBI counterparts in management to address Complainant’s concerns.  The record reflects that Agency officials kept in constant contact with Complainant during the course of the FBI’s investigation into Complainant’s allegations and, to the best of its ability, the Agency followed up on the progress of the FBI investigation.  The record further indicates that once the Agency learned that the FBI’s investigation did not alleviate the hostile environment to which Complainant was being subjected, the Agency removed Complainant from the environment and permitted him to work from home until his assignment with the FBI was terminated.  The Department of State admits that Complainant was subjected to a hostile work environment while working at the FBI.  However, record evidence shows that State Department management took prompt and immediate action to report Complainant’s claims to FBI officials and, when the FBI failed to remedy the situation, removed Complainant from the FBI work site in order to prevent further exposure to the hostile work environment.  Accordingly, we find that there is no basis for imputing liability to the Department of State for the discriminatory hostile work environment in this case.

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Trump’s Team Checking on How to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem. And Havoc That Follows?

Posted: 12:45 pm PT

 

In November, we blogged about the potential move of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (see Will the US Embassy Move From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?). There were two related ongoing construction work at USG properties in Israel — a $50M renovation at US Embassy Tel Aviv, and ongoing work of undetermined cost at a consular annex for US Consulate General Jerusalem. Last month, we learned that both projects were put on hold the day after the election.

On December 12, Dana Weiss from Israel’s Channel2News tweeted, “Trump’s team already checking where and how to move embassy to Jerusalem. Among options Diplomat hotel . This week Israeli Foreign | Started to check availability as the hotel houses elderly. Was told not possible until 2020. Security sources are anxious the move | Would backlash and question the Arab response.”

In June 2014, YNet reported that the U.S. Government holds the option of purchasing land in the Arnona neighborhood, where the consulate is located. This land reportedly includes the Diplomat hotel that currently serves the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

A US administration official said that “Under the terms of its commercial lease agreement, the USG has the option to purchase the property we currently occupy in Arnona and acquire our landlord’s remaining leasehold interests in the adjacent property, which is the site of the Diplomat Hotel.

“The USG has exercised that option and intends to continue using the site as the Consular Annex of the US Consulate General, where we have provided American citizen services and visa services since 2010. Under the terms of the USG’s lease, once the option is exercised, the landlord is required to provide the USG vacant possession of the adjacent property, likely, in 2016.”

The actual move should it happen, requires the involvement of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) which directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security tasks with securing personnel and overseas facilities.

On the potential backlash for this move, Uri Savir, former diplomat and Israeli Chief Negotiator of the Oslo Accords wrote in AlMonitor that Cairo greeted Donald Trump’s election positively and that the Egyptian ambassador to Washington was in contact with president-elect Donald Trump. Egypt is reportedly looking at improved relations with Washington under a President Trump but one topic that was discreetly raised by the Egyptians is the potential move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “Cairo cannot commit to an improved relationship if the US Embassy to Israel is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Given the sentiments in Egyptian public opinion toward the Palestinians and the city, which is holy to Islam, Cairo considers this issue as a red line.”

A senior PLO official talking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity explained that “for the Palestinians, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is a “casus belli” (a provocation of war), thus they are planning a series of measures in case this will indeed take place. Ramallah is coordinating these measures with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the Arab League. The official cited five measures: abolishing of the Oslo Accord (and all elements of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians); severing diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel and also between Jordan and Israel; canceling the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a relevant document; calling upon the international community to sever diplomatic ties with Israel; and planning an armed Al-Quds intifada.”

Mr. Savir concludes“it is clear that such a move would create havoc in the Arab world.”

Read more:

 

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