Another Concerned DS Agent Pens Response to Diplomatic Security’s Broadcast Message on Sexual Harassment

Posted: 3:42 am ET

 

We received the following via email from “Another Concerned DS Agent” in response to our post: PDAS Miller Issues Sexual Harassment Message to Diplomatic Security Employees, What’s Missing?:

After DSS* Director Bill Miller felt the need on Friday afternoon to defend the agency in a DS Broadcast message against your post titled, “Inbox: Female Diplomatic Security Agent Pens a Note on Sexual Harassment and Career Suicide”, I decided I had seen enough when it came to empty lip service within the department, and specifically DS.

Director Miller’s DS Broadcast reiterated Department policy and stated “as a law enforcement organization, we are held to the highest standard of ethical conduct.” While I commend Director Miller for sending these words, this is not something that actually happens on a day-to-day basis within both State, and specifically DS. Director Miller either doesn’t know what happens within his own bureau or turns a blind eye – like much of DS leadership. The anonymous female agent hit the nail on the head – complaining leads to career suicide!

Last year I watched as a colleague of mine blew the whistle on a hostile work environment and a bullying supervisor. Numerous previous supervisors of the bully supervisor were aware of the bullying actions (which included screaming at subordinate employees and threatening them with written reprimands) and none of them did anything about it – they just passed the problem on to the next guy. And when the highest ranking person in the office refused to deal with my colleague’s issue, it was elevated to the Office Director. When the Office Director refused to deal with the issue, it was elevated to the DAS level. And what was the DAS’ resolution? Reassigning the whistleblower! What kind of message does that send to employees?

I commend the anonymous female agent’s courage for speaking up, as whistleblower retaliation — for any offense, sexual or otherwise — is a real problem within the Department. And so long as OSI** is the only recourse we have (since State OIG refuses to investigate employee misconduct) employees are left without protection.

 

*DSS stands for Diplomatic Security Service.  OSI** stands for the Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations, apparently also known sometimes as Professional Responsibility (PR) or the Special Investigation Division (SID).  Within Diplomatic Security, it is the  primary office that investigates employee misconduct. A separate source informed us there is a concern out there about conflicts of interest. OSI reports internally to the bureau which results in something like this: State Dept Security Officer Alleged Sexual Misconduct: Spans 10 Years, 7 Posts. OSI employees also rotate/bid/lobby for future assignments like the rest of the Foreign Service. For more on this, read State/OIG on Diplomatic Security’s Special Investigations Division – The Missing Firewall.

As to the OIG — the OIG’s latest semi-annual report to the Congress indicates that 9% of the cases it closed between 10/1/2015–3/31/2016 were categorized as employee misconduct. So we know that State/OIG investigates employee misconduct. However, an overwhelming majority of cases it closed are related to contract and procurement fraud which constitutes 50% of the cases.  We don’t know what happens if somebody brings in an allegation of sexual harassment to the Inspector General, so we asked.

If somebody from DS complains to OIG about sexual harassment, what is the OIG’s response? Does it hand off the case to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) or back to Diplomatic Security (DS), or to the Director General/Human Resources (DGHR)?
We also wanted to know if there’s an instance when OIG would take on a sexual harassment complaint for further investigation? And if not, would it make a difference if there are multiple allegations?

 

Here is the OIG’s full response to our questions:

 

The OIG takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously. As a general matter, OIG refers allegations of sexual harassment, equal employment opportunity, and/or potential hostile work environment to the Department’s Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), consistent with the FAM. However if such matters appear systemic, then OIG may investigate. Indeed, in its report “Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security” (ESP-15-01) OIG examined the case of a Diplomatic Security manager with a long history of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations dating back 10 years.

Additionally, Department employees who believe they have been subjected to whistleblower retaliation may contact OIG or the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). OIG can help the individual in understanding their rights and may investigate the retaliation, as well as alert the Department to any illegal reprisal.

 

The Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) . Which can’t be bothered to answer a simple question. Ugh! The OIG’s Whistleblower Protection page is here.  Click here for the OIG Hotline.  The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is here.

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Related posts:

 

 

PDAS Miller Issues Sexual Harassment Message to Diplomatic Security Employees, What’s Missing?

Posted: 4:41 am ET
Updated: 7:52 pm PST (see comments)

 

Last week, we blogged about what happened at an Security Overseas Seminar and a couple of online comments at InHerSight.com (see A Joke That Wasn’t, and a State Department Dialogue That Is Long Overdue. Previously, we also posted about a controversial case State Dept Security Officer Alleged Sexual Misconduct: Spans 10 Years, 7 Posts.

We asked the State Department about specific training for agents and bureau personnel concerning sexual harassment. We were told the following by a State Department official on background on July 29.  We held off posting it for a follow-up post. We are posting it here now since it was cited by a DSS internal message last Friday.

The Department has a zero tolerance policy for any behavior that diminishes inclusiveness in the workplace. Working to ensure the safety and security of our personnel overseas, including from sexual assault, is one of the Department’s top priorities. 

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are serious issues that affect both men and women in the U.S. and abroad. Diplomatic Security is committed to preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, and condemns any comment that trivializes these activities or their impact on victims.

Diplomatic Security personnel are made aware of their responsibilities as law enforcement officers and federal employees from the beginning of their employment with the State Department. Agents receive recurring training on equal opportunity, prohibiting discriminatory practices, harassment in all its forms, and promotion of diversity and inclusiveness throughout their career.

During both the Basic Special Agent Course, Basic Regional Security Officer (RSO) and RSO In-Service courses, individuals from the DS Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program provide classes on responding to sexual assault.

On August 18, we posted an unsolicited item from our mailbox: Inbox: Female Diplomatic Security Agent Pens a Note on Sexual Harassment and Career Suicide.

Last Friday, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Bill Miller sent a message on sexual harassment to bureau employees.   The message reproduced below in its entirety was disseminated internally to DS personnel late Friday afternoon:

Diplomatic Security takes sexual harassment extremely seriously – not only as an issue in the State Department, but also especially within our Bureau. 

In our response to questions from Diplopundit on this issue July 27, we noted that we find unacceptable any behavior that threatens people’s well-being in the workplace, or in any way diminishes someone’s professional capacity. 

Sexual harassment is an attack on the values this organization seeks to protect every day.  It compromises our charge to protect the workplace rights and ensure a safe environment for all Department employees. 

As a law enforcement organization, we must hold ourselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct. As the leader of this organization, I hold every employee accountable to that standard and will not accept any less of them.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious issues that affect both men and women. We condemn any comment that seeks to trivialize these activities or their impact on victims. 

Diplomatic Security personnel are made aware of their responsibilities as law enforcement officers and federal employees from the beginning of their employment with the Department.  DS employees receive recurring training on equal employment opportunity guidelines, prohibiting discriminatory practices, harassment in all its forms, and promotion of diversity and inclusiveness throughout their career. 

During the Basic Special Agent Course, Basic Regional Security Officer (RSO) and RSO advanced courses, individuals from the DS Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program provide classes on responding to sexual assault.

I am disappointed and disturbed to hear that anyone in our organization would be concerned about being stigmatized for coming forward to report sexual harassment or sexual assault.  It is unacceptable that we have employees of any gender who may not feel comfortable reporting such activities.

Every organization can do better, and we will continue our efforts to make sure sexual harassment is addressed in any and all forms. 

DS personnel need to rely on each other, and have trust in each other, to succeed in our mission.

We are pleased to see PDAS Miller’s message to the troops.  In a good number of cases, bureaus do not even bother to respond.  That said,  there’s one thing missing here that we have to point out.  The internal message says that “Diplomatic Security takes sexual harassment extremely seriously” and that PDAS Miller is “disappointed and disturbed”  that anyone in the organization “would be concerned about being stigmatized for coming forward to report sexual harassment or sexual assault.”  And that “It is unacceptable that we have employees of any gender who may not feel comfortable reporting such activities.”  Butthat extreme seriousness is negated by the absence of solid actions that could help abate the stigma of reporting such conducts or help mitigate adverse career consequences.

If female agents/employees are not reporting harassment because they’re afraid that doing so would be career suicide, what should be done about it? Telling folks that “it is unacceptable” is not the answer.

Every organization can do better. We agree. We’d like to hear how before this becomes Palmerized.

 

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State/OIG Reviews @StateDept Policies and Controls Protecting PII and National Security Data

Posted: 2:03 am ET

 

State/OIG recently posted online its review of the State Department’s policies and controls protecting personally identifiable information (PII) data and national security data. Below is an excerpt:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016,1 Section 406, Federal Computer Security, requires the Inspector General of each covered agency to submit a report that contains a description of controls utilized by covered agencies to protect sensitive information maintained, processed, and transmitted by a covered system. Specifically, the Consolidated Appropriations Act requires a description of controls utilized by covered agencies to protect two types of data contained within covered systems: personally identifiable information (PII) data and national security data. Information related to national security data is covered in a classified annex to this information report.
[…]
Specifically, Williams Adley selected and reviewed 4 systems from a Department-provided listing of 216 systems (Electronic Medical Records System (eMED), Integrated Personnel Management System (IPMS), Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), and Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS)) that provide access to PII. In addition, Williams Adley reviewed 2 National Security Systems (NSS) from a Department-provided listing of 60 systems (Chief of Mission and Special Embassy Programs Database (NSDD 38), and Principal Officers Executive Management System (POEMS)).

This report describes the policies and controls used by the Department for five specific topics identified in the Act:

(1) logical access policies and practices;

The review found only two of the six systems reviewed (eMED and IPMS) had system-specific logical access control policies.

(2) logical access controls and multi-factor authentication used;

With respect to why logical access controls or multi-factor authentication are not being used, according to Department officials, two of the six systems (IPMS and one NSS) did not implement multi-factor authentication to govern system-level privileged user access because functional capabilities are not available. According to Department officials, IPMS is currently planning multi-factor implementation, while the one NSS is waiting for the Department to provide the functional capabilities necessary to implement multi-factor authentication to govern privileged user logical access.

(3) the reasons logical access controls or multi-factor authentication have not been used;

With respect to access and multi-factor authentication, Williams Adley found the Department has not fully implemented multi-factor authentication at the entity level; however, it had implemented other logical access compensating controls to govern privileged user access. Four of the six systems reviewed (eMED, CCD, CLASS, and one NSS) had either fully or partially implemented multi-factor authentication to government system-level privileged user logical access. The two systems that did not utilize multi-factor authentication to govern logical access of privileged users (IPMS and one NSS) relied on username and password combinations. Nevertheless, all six systems had some type of logical access controls in place.

(4) information security management practices used for covered systems;

With respect to information security management practices used for covered systems, Williams Adley found the Department uses a federated model to manage software inventory. In addition, the Department has implemented a defense-in-depth information system program. Further, the Department monitors network traffic, detects and responds to incidents, and scans for security compliance and vulnerabilities. However, the Department has only partially implemented a data loss prevention system and has not implemented digital rights management technology.

(5) policies and procedures that ensure information security management practices are effectively implemented by other entities such as contractors.

With respect to policies and procedures that ensure information security management practices are effectively implemented by other entities such as contractors, Williams Adley found the Department has a number of policies related to this topic. The relevant Department policies and procedures are established within the Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM).

The report notes that the Bureau of Information Resource Management, the Executive Secretariat’s Office of Information Resource Management, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, provided comments to a draft of the report. Because the comments were marked sensitive, the comments have been reprinted, in their entirety, in the classified annex of the report (AUD-IT- 16-45A).

The publicly available report is available here: https://oig.state.gov/system/files/aud-it-16-45.pdf

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By the Numbers: Diplomatic Security Hiring and Vetting — 2015

Posted: 3:55 am ET
Updated: Aug 17, 1:19 pm PST

The State Department confirmed to us that the total number of applicants is 10,000 not 10,0000 as indicated in the infographic below. 

Via State/DS

Click image for larger view — via State/DS

 

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A Joke That Wasn’t, and a State Department Dialogue That Is Long Overdue

Posted: 2:41 am ET

Apparently, there was a recent Sounding Board (SB) post about how “a DS agent made a rape joke in front of a whole class (60+) without thinking anything of the joke.”

It took us a while but we finally got the SB post dug up what was said during the Security Overseas Seminar (SOS), which is designed to meet the security awareness needs of U.S. Government personnel and their families going overseas.

An employee posted on the Secretary’s Sounding Board that she first attended the SOS seminar five years ago and felt that the “Sexual Assault  & Rape” session was “both incomplete and demeaning to sexual assault victims (who the instructor largely assumed were always female).” During her most recent attendance, she writes that she was “disappointed by the same message: there are ways to prevent sexual assault/rape, no mention of what the Regional Security Officer can/will do,” and “no mention of the Health Unit’s, etc. involvement.”

The majority of the course is said to be focused on what employees and family members can do to prevent sexual assault: institute the “buddy system,” avoid isolated areas, dress like a local, etc.  The employee asks what about the 84% of all reported sexual assault/rapes being committed by someone that the victim trusted, or women who were raped in an open and crowded area in Germany or “are we saying that women from cultures where they are required to cover from head to toe never get raped because they are entirely hidden?” The SB post says that the employee asked the instructor “why were we not discussing the main cause of sexual assault/rape: gender socialization, particularly focusing on male privilege and entitlement to women’s bodies?”   The instructor reportedly responded that “we cannot change an entire culture in an hour” to which the employee agreed but urge that “we nevertheless begin a dialogue on this topic.”

That’s not, of course, the end of this story.  The following is from the same SB writer sent to us by a Foggy Bottom nightingale:

“The next day, I overheard four people (3 men and 1 woman) exchanging pejorative comments about what I had said. One of the men (a DS [Diplomatic Security] agent who as RSO [regional security officer] will be a victim’s first recourse in the event of a crisis) exclaimed that he would like to “see how I do in Port Moresby.” Allow me to break down this hurtful comment: he wants to see how I do in a country where women can still be tortured to death on charges of witchcraft when a natural death occurs in the family; a country where the Australian health attach showed up at a diplomatic reception after abandoning her car when she was randomly targeted in a mob rush while driving. Because I wanted to begin a dialogue on male privilege, its effects on rape culture, and how I found “tips” on “sexual assault/rape prevention” to be a covert form of victim-shaming, this man, this Diplomatic Security agent, commented on how he wanted to see me, a woman, fare in a country that is known for its hight incidents of rape against ex-pat women. And this gentleman is my colleague, not an obnoxious drunk man at a local dive bar. When I turned around and asked if they wanted to discuss what I had said, one said he didn’t see the point, the other told me how my comment was inappropriate in an one-hour session. No further comments made. How is this dialogue not overdue? (Note: I am not seeking to shame or put-down my colleagues for saying what they assumed was far and away from my hearing range. This is more to highlight the amount of tension surrounding this topic.”

Hey — if one cannot talk about this topic in an SOS session, where are you supposed to discuss this?

We wrote to the Office of Civil Rights under Secretary Kerry’s office (S/OCR) asking what response it made (if any) to the Sounding Board post. That was, oh, weeks ago so we figure we’re not going to hear from S/OCR.

The nightingale also said that “any time a female coworker brings up EEO, rape culture, or feminism in general,” DS agents the employee worked with allegedly make comments like “Ugh, don’t work with her, she’ll EEO you.” or “She probably has a ton of files on men”.   Our correspondent told us that she could think of a number of situations “with bullying, harrasment, and such” that were all documented by supervisors but nothing was done about them.  Our writer also alleged that “a good portion joke about rape or sexual assault on a daily basis.”

Which is why we wanted to hear from the State Department office tasked as the main contact point for questions or concerns about sexual harassment and EEO matters.

But hey, nada. Yok.

What’s even more troubling is when we see these reviews for the State Department over at InHerSight.com:

“I, and a lot of other females, are considering leaving, or have left, because of the misogyny. Diplomatic Security is the absolute worst.” – See more at: https://www.inhersight.com/company/us-department-of-state#sthash.5rVrFJHX.dpuf

“Working in a predominately male field means tacky and disrespectful jokes regardless if the two females (who are of equal or higher grade) are in earshot or not. 50% of the men who work in this office are prior military folks who have a disrespectful attitude towards females and men without military experience. Despite being the “State Department” which is usually more liberal and tolerant, the Bureau that I work in is the exact opposite. It shows through upper management all the way down to the bullpen workers.” – See more at: https://www.inhersight.com/company/us-department-of-state#sthash.5rVrFJHX.dpuf

We asked the State Department about the gender composition of DSS agents in Diplomatic Security: 90.18% male and 9.82% female.  We also asked about the attrition rate by gender at the bureau. Below is what we’re officially told:

DS reports that they do not have information related to special agent attrition rate by gender. They do not keep those statistics, but note that the overall Special Agent attrition rate for 2015 was 3.66%.

The State Department’s DGHR should be able to run these numbers. That’s a very low attrition rate but — don’t you want to know who and why these employees are leaving?  If a bureau is overwhelmingly male, and if the entire attrition rate is, for instance, composed of all female employees, aren’t you going to wonder why?

But how would you know if you’re not even looking?

The InHerSight reviews are pretty broad but are troubling nonetheless. The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem.  Is there?

Who’s going to volunteer to look into this if we can’t even get S/OCR to respond to a public inquiry?

 

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IAmA Special Agent With Diplomatic Security AMA: Agent Gets on Reddit 3 Days Ago, Then Poof — It’s Gone!

Posted: 3:26 pm ET

But not really.

In February 2014, we posted about an anonymous Foreign Service officer who got on Reddit, the “front page of the Internet” and did an AMAA  (Ask Me Almost Anything) see IamA United States Diplomat: Anonymous FSO Gets on Reddit and He’s a Riot! Three days ago, a Diplomatic Security Service Agent got on Reddit and did an AMA (Ask Me Anything). The thread is not quite as popular as Anonymous FSO’s, nor as funny, but informative nonetheless though the discreetness maybe debatable. It includes Q&As about risks, donuts, Hillary Clinton, indirect fire, USSS, James Bond, training, the best/worst part of the job, and um…folks, “badge bunnies.” It does not look like anyone among the Reddit users tried to scare the DSS agent with the FAM but perhaps one doesn’t need scaring anymore given that the FAM is not regulations.

While we discovered that Anonymous FSO’s AMA disappeared from Reddit last year (Whoa! What happened to the Anonymous FSO on Reddit?), the DSS Agent’s AMA only lasted three days before it went poof!  A photo of the DSS badge, with a scrawled 6/30/16 and handle is still up on Imgur.

All answers to the questions posted on Reddit have now been deleted, as well. The permalinks are provided below but the links to the answers will direct to the deleted page. The DSS Agent is using the handle Not_in_Benghazi and his answers in the snippets below are highlighted in blue font. Here’s the deleted introduction from Reddit:

deleted intro from Reddit

deleted intro from Reddit

[–]mrdenver 2 points 4 hours ago

Last week I was supposed to go to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for a business trip. I been to Riyadh a few times. Two days before I flew out the state dept. Issued a warning to all Americans in Jeddah about imminent threat of a terrorist attacks. This was the only trip, I have ever backed out of. Do you think I made the right choice? I got some heat for not going. I am engineer and was suppose to help with the kings tower on building it. I just want to know what a person Like you would advise? Sorry for typos on a phone. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/21/saudi-arabia-us-embassy-security-threat-jeddah

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 2 points 4 hours ago

Risk tolerance is a very personal decision. I can tell you that the State Department does not issue those type of notices lightly, as they have obvious repercussions with the Host Nation, and the public.

When in doubt, do what you feel comfortable with.

[–]Tacoboutnachos 2 points 3 hours ago

Do you guys do donuts?

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 2 points 3 hours ago

I love doughnuts. Who doesn’t? They are damn delicious!

–]RellenD 2 points 4 hours ago

Do you think attacks on Hillary Clinton over what happened in Benghazi are fair? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 6 points 4 hours ago

I think being at the top is tough. I’m not going to defend or slam Clinton, but to assume she operated in a vacuum is absurd. Decisions are made with input from multiple sources, to include the National Security Council and the White House. Someone always has to bear the brunt of the blame in the public eye, however. permalink

[–]innextremis 1 point 4 hours ago

What was the most dangerous situation you have been in while working for the DSS? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 3 points 4 hours ago

Hmmm. Indirect Fire is arguably the most terrifying thing IMO. Service Members can feel free to agree or disagree, but something about hearing the alarms and not knowing when/where it will hit is a surreal experience. permalink

[–]MacCop 1 point 4 hours ago

Do you find that people confuse you for the USSS a lot, especially on protective details? Also, in terms of protection, besides who the protectee is (SOS or other foreign dignitary vs POTUS, etc), is there any real difference between the work you do and what the USSS does?permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 1 point 4 hours ago

Ha ha ha. Absolutely. Nobody knew who the hell we were before Benghazi, and I’d argue very few do now. Sometimes it can work to our advantage😉.

I’d say we go about protection a bit differently, largely in-part because there are about 2000 of us (half of which are overseas at any given time), and nearly double that in the USSS. permalink

[–]DarthBall 1 point 4 hours ago

How did you come into this job?
What is the best/worst part of the job? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 2 points 4 hours ago

I always wanted to be in Federal Law Enforcement and to live/travel abroad. I found out about DS in college and years later was hired.

Best – I’ve been paid to hang out with olympic athletes and visited approximately 30 countries, some of which most people have never even heard of.

Worst – The job is hard on a family. The joke amongst agents is that DSS really stands for “Divorced Separated or Single.” permalink

[–]littlenative 1 point 3 hours ago

Is it easy to pick up women/men when you tell them what you so for a living or harder?

I imagine office dating must be pretty popular for you guys right? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 2 points 3 hours ago

There are “badge bunnies” all over, so yes.

Eh, surprisingly I don’t think it as common as people think. I mean it definitely happens, but in general I think agents kind of stay away from other agents. It could be far too disastrous when things go south. permalink

[–]lichorat 1 point 2 hours ago

Is there a better way of assessing authenticity? Also what makes you special as in special agent? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 1 point 2 hours ago

As every federal, state, and local organization has different credentials, I can’t think of a better way other than calling “911” and inquiring.

The “special” is a legal term and indicates that our authority is limited in some way, shape, or form. We don’t have unlimited authority as agents of the government, instead, we have special authority to investigate specific statutes. That said, many states grant federal agents peace officer status within their jurisdiction.  permalink

[–]Yoyoma_2 1 point 2 hours ago

The event I was discussing was a long time ago. To be honnest, from what i’ve seen, no one is doing this “Crowd Diving” anymore.

What was the funnyest/oddest unscheduled stop or plan deviation that you have had to deal with? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 1 point 2 hours ago

I’ve gone to a strip club with a group of foreign dignitaries and I’ve been “clubbing” on numerous occasions.  permalink

[–]Yoyoma_2 1 point 3 hours ago

How long was your training and hiring process? From the time you got your letter of offer to when you were deployed in the field?

Are you initially deployed with “less important, important protectees?” How do they work you in for you to get experience? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 2 points 3 hours ago 

Our hiring process is significantly faster than many other Federal agencies IMO. I applied and was made an offer approximately six months later. Our training consists of:

1) 3 weeks of foreign service specialist orientation; 2) 56 days of the Criminal Investigator Training Program at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center; followed by 3) Approximately 3 months of DS specific training.

Then we get our creds, firearm, and badge.

Then later we go on to complete a 10 week high threat course (most agents do anyway), 3 month Basic Regional Security Officer Course, Basic Firearms Officer Course, and other firearms, language training.

There is a LOT of training out there and much of it is front loaded.

Almost every agent will start their tour in a field office and you protect whoever comes through town. You may be in a support role such as driving, early on, however, it doesn’t take long before you are thrown to the wolves. We are small and therefore are asked to take on higher levels of responsibility early on. It’s one of the things I love about the job. permalink

[–]KeysAnimations 1 point 4 hours ago

Do you find there is a lot of misinformation out there about ‘big brothers’ capabilities, in terms of gathering information and preparing for tragic events? I feel like everyone thinks it is all knowing and all powerful, but it can only be as human as the humans that run it right? permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 2 points 4 hours ago

While I cannot get into the specifics of the Whiz Bang behind what keeps us safe as anything worth discussing is sensitive and/or classified, I will say that this isn’t 24, Fast and Furious, or CSI. The dedicated work of thousands of government employees working together (sometimes) is what keeps the world (and the United States) safe IMO.permalink

[–]derick_ferelli -1 points 4 hours ago

Do you know James Bond? And by any chance do you have a shoe with a cellphone on it? Thanks permalink

[–]Not_in_Benghazi[S] 1 point 4 hours ago

No and No. permalink

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Photo of the Day: The Room Numbers on His Arm

Posted: 3:25 am ET

Via State/DS:

A Diplomatic Security Assistant Regional Security Officer who responded to the attack checks his weapon. Scrawled in ink on his arm are the room numbers of Americans trapped inside the hotel. The DSS-led team entered the building a second time to rescue them. (U.S. Department of State photo)

A Diplomatic Security Assistant Regional Security Officer who responded to Bamako’s Radisson Blu Hotel attack in Mali checks his weapon. Scrawled in ink on his arm are the room numbers of Americans trapped inside the hotel. The DSS-led team entered the building a second time to rescue them. (U.S. Department of State photo)

 

US Embassy Burma: “Routine Security Drill” Triggers Bomb Scare in Yangon

Posted: 2:36 am ET

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More Email Fallout and Security Clearance: @StateDept Says, “We’ll do it by the FAM.”

Posted: 4:22 am ET

The State Department has reportedly resumed its internal review related to the Clinton emails.  The spox refused to confirm “what specific materials” the State Department will consider or “what individuals may or may not be evaluated for possible employment or security clearance-related actions.” Note that this internal review is conducted by Diplomatic Security; perhaps due to public interest the results of the review may be released to the public, but that is not a given.

Via DPB dated July 15, 2016

We have additional information to provide about our internal review process. I will not be speaking about any specific case, nor will I be engaging in hypotheticals. As is standard, to protect the integrity of our work we cannot discuss the details of an ongoing review. Just as the FBI did not comment on its investigation, while it is ongoing we will not comment on our review.

That means I cannot confirm for you what specific materials we will consider or what individuals may or may not be evaluated for possible employment or security clearance-related actions. Our policy – so yes, it is —

QUESTION: What can you tell us?

MS TRUDEAU: It is moving. Yes, well, let’s go and I’ll give you exactly what we can.

Our policy is to assess each case on its own merits while taking into account all relative – relevant facts and circumstances. Furthermore, the department cannot comment on the status of any particular individual’s security clearance. Our goal is to complete this process thoroughly and expeditiously, but we will not put arbitrary deadlines on our work.

There is a significant amount of information about our process available to the public online. You’ll like this: For instance, I would point you to our Foreign Affairs Manual, specifically 12 FAM 500 and 230 sections. I’ll do my best to outline this process from the podium, but I cannot speak to every provision in the FAM. I also cannot speak to how the process will be applied to account for any specific circumstances.

In summary – and I still have a lot more to go, so stay with me – Diplomatic Security is responsible for evaluating security incidents and then reviewing them as appropriate for potential security clearance-related actions. Diplomatic Security is also responsible for referring certain incidents to our Bureau of Human Resources for potential employment actions. No matter the individual or conduct involved, the department conducts the review process in a professional, impartial, and fair manner that takes into account all relevant circumstances.

Multiple components within Diplomatic Security are involved in the process, supervised and overseen by the assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security. One component of Diplomatic Security conducts an initial assessment of security incidents and, when appropriate, issues security infractions or security violations. Security clearance reviews are conducted by a different DS component. As with Director Comey at the FBI and Attorney General Lynch at DOJ, it’s standard for our chief law enforcement officer, the assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security, to be involved with high-profile or complex matters, which is certainly the case here.

Assistant Secretary Greg Starr is the person in Diplomatic Security who is ultimately responsible for affirming or rejecting recommendations to revoke an individual’s security clearance. A decision to revoke a security clearance may be appealed to the Security Appeals Panel. Similarly, our human resource process can include multiple components, but ultimately Director General Arnold Chacon is responsible for taking disciplinary actions on an employee. That’s our process.

I know there’s questions about potential outcomes of the process. The short answer is that outcomes for any individual depend on their specific circumstances taking into account all of the relevant facts. This is what our review will determine. Current employees can face a range of employment discipline including reprimand, suspension, and termination. People with security clearances, including former employees, could have those clearances suspended and/or revoked.

We also maintain a security file on all personnel involved in security incidents. For individuals who no longer have a security clearance, the incident information is kept in their security file so it can be considered if they apply for a security clearance in the future. When evaluating whether a person remains eligible for access to classified information, the department follows the whole person approach based on the government-wide adjudication guidelines. Our Foreign Affairs Manual states that, quote, “Each case will be judged on its own merits,” end quote, based on specific, quote, “facts and circumstances,” end quote. Under the guidelines we can look at the severity of an incident, whether the person is a repeat offender, whether the individual is amenable to training or reform, and whether the incident was a technical violation or resulted in actual harm to national security.

As we have said, now that the FBI and DOJ have concluded their investigation, the department intends to conduct a review of Secretary Clinton’s emails according to our well established Security Incident Program. We’re preparing to conduct our review.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS TRUDEAU: So there’s a lot. Thank you for your patience.

QUESTION: Well, I’ve got to digest quite a few.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: But be with me on this, because I’m trying to get my head around it.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: So the question here is: Has the FBI handed over – and how many emails has the FBI handed over to be reviewed?

MS TRUDEAU: At this stage, we have not received any from the FBI.

QUESTION: Have they indicated to you when that’s going to be?

MS TRUDEAU: I have no timeline on that, but we have not received them.

QUESTION: And then on DS, are they the – do they have the final word? Would – does Greg Starr have the – Assistant Secretary Greg Starr have the final word on this? Or can Secretary Kerry or even the President overturn those decisions or have the final say?

MS TRUDEAU: So I said there is – as I mentioned, there is a significant amount of information about our process online. So for this particularly, look at section 230 and 500 of 12-FAM. The 500 section outlines the Security Incident Program, which is handled by the Program Applications Division of Diplomatic Security. The 230 section outlines the security clearance, which is administered by the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability, also within DS. Both components operate under the oversight and supervision of the assistant secretary for Diplomatic Security.

QUESTION: So when it comes to Diplomatic Security, is that withdrawn – as you’re investigating it, is that withdrawn at the end or is it withdrawn at the beginning? Is it frozen? How does that work?

MS TRUDEAU: So the process you’re talking about – and forgive me for the FAM references, but it’s really detailed and really specific. So if people are looking for the details on this, refer to 12-FAM 233.4. I’m going to refer you there. As a general matter, the suspension of a security clearance is available if Diplomatic Security determines it’s appropriate while they carry out their review. However, if you read the FAM, you’ll see it’s not an automatic process; whether or not to suspend a person’s clearance depends on the circumstances. It’s a judgment of the trained professionals in DS.

QUESTION: And then how unusual is it that Diplomatic Security – or how unusual is it that this process – that you use this process?

MS TRUDEAU: So I’m not – it’s – I’m not going to talk sort of precedent, but I would say that there is offices within Diplomatic Security, and this is their mandate. All of us within the department – and we’ve spoken about this; Secretary Kerry has spoken about this – have the obligation to safeguard and correctly handle information.

QUESTION: So would this also include former employees? It includes former employees, right?

MS TRUDEAU: As I’ve said.

QUESTION: As you said. Does it include employees that are not part of the State Department but might also be involved in this – in the emails?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, I’m not going to speak, as I mentioned, to the specifics of any individual, any case. I just want to outline this broadly, bring you guys up to date on it, and give you the references, because it is such a technical and granular matter.

QUESTION: Yeah. But I mean, as you know, Secretary Kerry – Secretary Clinton has been involved in this, and a lot of people are wondering how this could affect her. So would you be able to make some kind of outcome whether it includes her or whether it includes somebody in a lower position? Is everybody going to be looked at equally?

MS TRUDEAU: Again, I just can’t speak to the specifics on who will be reviewed, what incidents will be reviewed. But I will say the review is taking place.

QUESTION: And you can’t tell us when this review is going to start?

MS TRUDEAU: No. No, they – the idea of projecting a timeline on this – we’ll say they’re committed to a fair, impartial, and absolutely rigorous process.

QUESTION: And when you say – just one more question.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: When the FBI says that it’s looking at thousands of withheld emails, that it’s going to give State thousands, you don’t know if it’s going to be thousands or if it’s going to be hundreds? You have no idea?

MS TRUDEAU: I couldn’t speak to the FBI documents.
[…]
QUESTION: Is Pat Kennedy going to be involved in any of this?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay, so thanks for the question.

QUESTION: I know there’s been some questions about that.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. So first, as we’ve said many times, Under Secretary Kennedy did not approve nor was he aware of the extent to which Secretary Clinton was using personal emails. No matter the individual or the conduct involved, the department will conduct and does conduct the security clearance process review in a professional, impartial, and fair manner that takes into account all relevant circumstances.

According to our Foreign Affairs Manual, the Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy becomes involved in a security clearance revocation in the event of an appeal. He is a member of a three-person panel that’s at the very end of our process. I’m not going to speculate that it’ll even get that far.

QUESTION: And you said Secretary Kerry is not going to be involved?

MS TRUDEAU: So Secretary Kerry will be informed of the details, the results of the review, after its completion. Again, I’m not going to speculate on outcomes or hypotheticals. As we’ve said many times from this podium, he wants this review done by the book, and the book requires Diplomatic Security lead and conduct this review.

QUESTION: And then just one more small one.

MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

QUESTION: Will the – so FAM is pretty clear that supervisors (inaudible) be held responsible for their subordinates’ actions. How are you going to deal with this? Is this —

MS TRUDEAU: That is – that’s something I think I’m not going to speculate on that. I’m not going – I can’t speak to the details of that. I can’t speak to the review. And honestly, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals on the review.

QUESTION: Yeah. And then are you going to deal it as one big infraction, or are you going to look at several —

MS TRUDEAU: Again —

QUESTION: You don’t know?

MS TRUDEAU: I can’t speak to how they’ll do it – specific incident, individuals. It’s just the review is happening.

QUESTION: Will they —

MS TRUDEAU: We’ll do it by the FAM.

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Domestic Assault, Reporting Requirement Under 2 FAM 272, and a Troublesome Comma

Posted: 4:22 am ET

This is a grievance case about a domestic assault, an arrest, and a punctuation:

Grievant is a tenured FP-02 Financial Management Specialist, employed by the Department of State as a Regional Financial Management Officer at the REDACTED at the Executive Office of the REDACTED. He has been employed by the Department since 1997, serving both overseas and domestically.

On June 29, 2013, grievant was arrested in REDACTED on a charge of domestic assault against his wife. Grievant’s former wife reported this arrest to the Department; however, when grievant’s current spouse told authorities that the incident was a misunderstanding, the charges were dropped on July 22, 2013. On August 6, 2013, the Department of Diplomatic Security (DS) obtained a copy of the arrest report and began investigating grievant’s failure to report the incident.

DS issued a Report of Investigation (ROI), dated January 14, 2014 and on December 12, 2014, the Director of the Office of Employee Relations (HR/ERCSD) notified grievant of a proposal to suspend him for a period of five (5) calendar days without pay on a charge of Failure to Follow Policy, citing 12 FAM 272. Grievant submitted a written response to the proposal on February 20, 2015, claiming that he did not realize that he had to report the arrest because the regulation is not clear. In any event, he claimed, the arrest was reported by his ex-wife and the charges were dropped within weeks of the arrest. Finally, he claimed that the penalty was too harsh, in light of his confusion about the mandate. After reviewing grievant’s response, the Deciding Official concluded that grievant knowingly failed to report his arrest immediately after it occurred and that he was on notice of his obligation to report the arrest, both because of the “clarity” of the regulation and because grievant had previously made a mandatory report under this same provision in 2010. In the end, the Deciding Official did not credit the reasons offered by grievant and sustained the charge on April 3, 2015.

Grievant argues that the wording of 12 FAM 272 is “far from clear.” He contends that the Department’s construction of the regulation is unfair because it relies on either removing or ignoring punctuation that totally changes the meaning of the provision.

12 FAM 272 states in pertinent part:

b. Employees must immediately report information of a potentially . . . derogatory nature . . . concerning their . . .

(2) Adverse involvement with law enforcement agencies to include:

(a) Arrests, other than minor traffic violations, for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed, or
(b) Arrests for “driving under the influence” [DUI] or “driving while intoxicated [DWI].

c. Arrests must be reported in a timely fashion (i.e., within 72 hours) and must not be delayed pending the conclusion of any judicial action.

[…]
The Department argues that 12 FAM 272 b should be interpreted to require disclosures by cleared employees of any and all arrests, including two traffic offenses — DUI and DWI. The only exception to this rule of mandatory disclosure, according to the Department, is that an employee is not required to disclose “minor traffic violations for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more is imposed.”

The agency contends that this regulation required grievant to disclose the fact of his arrest for domestic assault because it was not for a minor traffic violation. The Department concedes that “the specifics of 12 FAM 272(b) could be more precisely worded,” and “the wording of 12 FAM 272(b) could be improved,” but insists that grievant had sufficient notice that he was  required to report his arrest. The Department lastly argues that under both sections 272 b and 272 c, grievant should have reported his arrest immediately, that is, within 72 hours of his “adverse involvement with law enforcement.”

Here is the full section of the Foreign Affairs Manual:

12 FAM 272  REPORTING ADVERSE FINANCIAL SITUATIONS AND CERTAIN ARRESTS
(CT:DS-143;   02-12-2009)

a. Employees should use good judgment and discretion in recognizing and avoiding situations and/or behavior that would call into question their judgment, reliability, and trustworthiness to safeguard information and to hold a position of trust and responsibility.

b. Employees must immediately report information of a potentially derogatory nature to the Director, Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/SI/PSS) concerning their:

(1)  Wage garnishments, credit judgments, repossessions, tax liens, bankruptcies, and/or intentions to file for bankruptcy; or

(2)  Adverse involvement with law enforcement agencies to include:

(a)  Arrests, other than minor traffic violations, for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed; or

(b)  Arrests for “driving under the influence” or “driving while intoxicated.”

c.  Arrests must be reported in a timely fashion (i.e., within 72 hours) and must not be delayed pending the conclusion of any judicial action.

d. Employees with information they believe may have a bearing on another individual’s eligibility for access to classified information, as listed in 12 FAM 233.2, should report that information to the Director, DS/SI/PSS.

e. Reporting pursuant to this section should be in writing and directed to the Director, DS/SI/PSS, and may be either faxed to (571) 345-3191 or sent by mail to DS/SI/PSS, Attn: Director, 11th floor, SA-20.  Reports may also be emailed to DSDirectorPSS@state.gov.

f.  Cleared contractors must report information listed in paragraphs b, c, and d of this section to the Industrial Security Division (DS/IS/IND).  See 12 FAM 576.4 for additional adverse information reporting requirements.

The FSGB disagrees with the Department interpretation:

The critical language is “[a]rrests, other than minor traffic violations, for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed. . . .” The Department argues that this language should be interpreted as if the second comma were not there. That is, the agency would have us read the provision to require disclosure of: “(a) [All] arrests, other than minor traffic violations for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed. . . .” We find that while this may have been what was intended, the first rule of statutory construction is to give the words of the enactment their plain and ordinary meaning, presumably as punctuated, unless there is a clear contrary intent expressed.
[…]
We conclude that whatever the intent of the drafters, a clear delineation of what arrests are required to be reported was not captured in the language of the section 272 b(2)(a). We also conclude that both parties’ interpretations leave serious questions about which arrests were intended to be disclosed and which ones did not have to be reported.

12 FAM 270 was last updated on March 9, 2015.

Read the FSGB case below:

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