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

Posted: 1:29  pm ET

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

Read in ful below:

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New Executive Order Provides Limited Non-Career Appointees a Pathway to the Competitive Service

Posted: 2:23 pm ET

 

On November 29, President Obama signed an executive order that allows the appointment of certain limited non-career appointees into the competitive service.  The E.O says “the head of any agency in the executive branch may appoint in the competitive service an individual who served for at least 48 months of continuous service in the Foreign Service of the Department of State under a Limited Non-Career Appointment under section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, and who passes such examination as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may prescribe.”  It looks like LNAs can be appointed to any civil service position at any agency but does not provide for their appointment into the Foreign Service.

Republished below in full, the original text is available here.

PROVIDING FOR THE APPOINTMENT IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE OF CERTAIN EMPLOYEES OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE
BARACK OBAMA
THE WHITE HOUSE
November 29, 2016.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 3301 and 3302 of title 5, United States Code, and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The Federal Government benefits from a workforce that can be recruited from the broadest and deepest pools of qualified candidates for our highly competitive, merit-based positions. The recruitment and retention of workforce participants who serve in the Foreign Service of the Department of State under a Limited Non-Career Appointment under section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, Public Law 96-465 (22 U.S.C. 3949), as amended, are critical to our ability to meet consular staffing levels (now in substantial deficit) and thereby enhance our capacity to meet high national security standards and efficiently process visas in accordance with our policy of “open doors, safe borders.” Program participants undergo a rigorous merit-based evaluation process, which includes a written test and an oral assessment and to which a veteran preference applies, and develop advanced- to superior-level skills in languages and in cultural competence in particular regions, skills that are essential for mission-critical positions throughout the entire Federal workforce.

Accordingly, pursuant to my authority under 5 U.S.C. 3302(1), and in order to achieve a workforce that represents all segments of society as provided in 5 U.S.C. 2301(b)(1), I find that conditions of good administration make necessary an exception to the competitive hiring rules for certain positions in the Federal civil service.

Sec. 2. The head of any agency in the executive branch may appoint in the competitive service an individual who served for at least 48 months of continuous service in the Foreign Service of the Department of State under a Limited Non-Career Appointment under section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, and who passes such examination as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may prescribe.

Sec. 3. In order to be eligible for noncompetitive appointment to positions under section 2 of this order, such an individual must:

(a) have received a satisfactory or better performance rating (or equivalent) for service under the qualifying Limited Non-Career Appointment; and

(b) exercise the eligibility for noncompetitive appointment within a period of 1 year after completion of the qualifying Limited Non-Career Appointment. Such period may be extended to not more than 3 years in the case of persons who, following such service, are engaged in military service, in the pursuit of studies at an institution of higher learning, or in other activities that, in the view of the appointing authority, warrant an extension of such period. Such period may also be extended to permit the adjudication of a background investigation.

Sec. 4. A person appointed under section 2 of this order shall become a career conditional employee.

Sec. 5. Any law, Executive Order, or regulation that would disqualify an applicant for appointment in the competitive service shall also disqualify a person for appointment under section 2 of this order. Examples of disqualifying criteria include restrictions on employing persons who are not U.S. citizens or nationals, who have violated the anti-nepotism provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(7), 3110, who have knowingly and willfully failed to register for Selective Service when required to do so, 5 U.S.C. 3328(a)(2), who do not meet occupational qualifying standards prescribed by OPM, or who do not meet suitability factors prescribed by OPM.

Sec. 6. The Office of Personnel Management is authorized to issue such additional regulations as may be necessary to implement this order. Any individual who meets the terms of this order, however, is eligible for noncompetitive eligibility with or without additional regulations.

Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof, or the status of that department or agency within the Federal Government; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

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New Executive Order Provides Certain USG Program Alumni a Pathway to Competitive Service

Posted: 2:07 pm ET

 

On November 29, President Obama signed an executive order that allows the appointment of alumni of the Fulbright, Gilman, and CLS programs into the Federal civil service.  Republished below in full, the original text is available here.

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –
PROVIDING FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF ALUMNI OF THE FULBRIGHT U.S. STUDENT PROGRAM, THE BENJAMIN A. GILMAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM, AND THE CRITICAL LANGUAGE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM TO THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE

BARACK OBAMA
THE WHITE HOUSE
November 29, 2016

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 3301 and 3302 of title 5, United States Code, and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The Federal Government benefits from a workforce that can be recruited from the broadest and deepest pools of qualified candidates for our highly competitive, merit-based positions. The issuance of an order granting Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) to certain alumni of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, and the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, all of which are academic exchange programs carried out under the authorities of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961, Public Law 87-256, as amended, also known as the Fulbright-Hays Act, and the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, title III of Public Law 106-309, would be in the best interest of the Federal Government. Participants in these programs develop advanced- to superior-level skills in languages and cultural competence in regions that are strategically, diplomatically, and economically important to the United States. It is in the interest of the Federal Government to retain the services of these highly skilled individuals, particularly given that the Federal Government aided them in the acquisition of their skills. Participants in the Fulbright, Gilman, and CLS programs are drawn from highly competitive, merit-based national selection processes to which a veterans’ preference applies to ensure that the most qualified individuals are selected.

Accordingly, pursuant to my authority under 5 U.S.C. 3302(1), and in order to achieve a workforce that is drawn from all segments of society as provided in 5 U.S.C. 2301(b)(1), I find that conditions of good administration make necessary an exception to the competitive hiring rules for certain positions in the Federal civil service.

Sec. 2. Establishment. The head of any agency in the executive branch may appoint in the competitive service any person who is certified by the Secretary of State or designee as having participated successfully in the Fulbright, Gilman, or CLS international exchange programs, and who passes such examination as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may prescribe.

Sec. 3. The Secretary of State or designee shall issue certificates, upon request, to persons whom the Department of State determines have completed the requirements of a program described in section 1 of this order.

Sec. 4. Any appointment under this order shall be effected within a period of 1 year after completion of the appointee’s participation in the programs described in section 1. Such period may be extended to not more than 3 years for persons who, following participation in the programs described in section 1, are engaged in military service, in the pursuit of studies at an institution of higher learning, or in other activities which, in the view of the appointing authority, warrant an extension of such period. Such period may also be extended to permit the adjudication of a background investigation.

Sec. 5. A person appointed under section 2 of this order becomes a career conditional employee.

Sec. 6. Any law, Executive Order, or regulation that would disqualify an applicant for appointment in the competitive service shall also disqualify an applicant for appointment under this order. Examples of disqualifying criteria include restrictions on employing persons who are not U.S. citizens or nationals, who have violated the anti-nepotism provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(7), 3110, who have knowingly and willfully failed to register for Selective  Service when required to do so, 5 U.S.C. 3328(a)(2), who do not meet occupational qualifying standards prescribed by OPM, or who do not meet suitability factors prescribed by OPM.

Sec. 7. The Office of Personnel Management is authorized to issue such additional regulations as may be necessary to implement this order. Any individual who meets the terms of this order, however, is eligible for noncompetitive hiring with or without additional regulations.

Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)  the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof, or the status of that department or agency within the Federal Government; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Foreign Service Victims’ Concerns

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

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

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

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


FOIA Diplomatic Security’s sexual assault cables?

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

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

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


State/OIG Hotline and Office of Special Counsel

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

Continue reading

OPM Hack Victims Must Re-Enroll Starting December 1 to Keep Monitoring Services

Posted: 12:37 am ET

 

Some former and current federal employees whose personal data was compromised in the OPM data breach will have to re-enroll starting December 1 to continue receiving monitoring protection from a USG contractor. OPM doesn’t say what will happen to the data, feds and former feds have already submitted to CSID, but folks who have enrolled in that service will no longer have access to their CSID account when that contract expires on December 1. The Government Executive is reporting that as many as 600,000 individuals impacted by the initial hack will need to re-enroll to continue monitoring services through ID Experts. How is it that CSID is not able to port data over to ID Experts? Below from OPM:

OPM is announcing a change to the credit monitoring and identity protection service provider that will affect a subset of individuals impacted by the personnel records cyber incident announced in the summer of 2015. Most impacted individuals will not experience any change to their current coverage, and do not need to take any action, but a subset of individuals will need to re-enroll to continue coverage.

OPM currently uses two different companies to provide credit monitoring and identity protection services free of charge to impacted individuals. Winvale/CSID covers the 4.2 million individuals impacted by the personnel records cyber incident and ID Experts (MyIDCare) covers the 21.5 million individuals impacted by the background investigations cyber incident. As of December 1, coverage under Winvale/CSID will expire.

Credit monitoring and identity protection services from Winvale/CSID expire on December 1, 2016. Once services with Winvale/CSID expire, you will no longer have access to information in your Winvale/CSID account. If you wish to review or print your credit reports or other monitoring information from your Winvale/CSID account, please log in to your account prior to December 1.

As of December 2, 2016 all individuals impacted by either incident will be eligible for coverage through ID Experts (MyIDCare).

According to OPM, individuals currently covered by ID Experts (MyIDCare) will not experience a change in their coverage or service at this time and do not need to take any action. More:

Starting December 1, individuals previously covered by Winvale/CSID will be offered services through IDExperts (MyIDCare). Impacted individuals will also still be automatically covered by identity restoration and identity theft insurance, but you will need to re-enroll with ID Experts (MyIDCare) if you would like to continue to receive monitoring services.

Most of the individuals covered by Winvale/CSID were also impacted by the background investigation records cyber incident. These individuals should already have received a letter from OPM inviting them to enroll in services with ID Experts (MyIDCare) and providing them with a 25-digit PIN code.

If you previously received a notification letter in connection with the background investigation records incident and wish to enroll with ID Experts (MyIDCare) now, you will need to use the 25-digit PIN code provided in this letter. Click here if you have your 25-digit PIN code and wish to enroll now.

If you believe you previously received a notification letter in connection with the background investigation records incident, but no longer have your original notice, you can visit the Verification Center to obtain a duplicate copy by U.S. Postal Service.

If you are in the subset of individuals who were not impacted by the background investigations incident, you will be receiving a new notification letter from OPM via the U.S. Postal service with a 25-digit PIN that you can use to enroll with ID Experts (MyIDCare). We expect to mail the majority of these notifications in November 2016.

Note that OPM makes clear that ID Experts cannot enroll victims without the 25-digit PIN code and cannot provide former/current employees with a PIN code over the phone.

Read more here: https://www.opm.gov/cybersecurity/ and https://www.opm.gov/cybersecurity/personnel-records/.

And while you’re reading how to re-enroll, you might want to read about grafted fingerprints and hackers’ long term intention, because why not?  If the data has not surfaced for sale, we have to wonder what was that hack about?

 

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EEOC Case: Complaint Over Arranging Transportation to a Happy Hour in Baghdad

Posted: 12:35 am ET

Via eeoc.gov

DECISION | Complainant filed a timely appeal with this Commission from the Agency’s decision dated January 21, 2014, dismissing her complaint of unlawful employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.  Upon review, the Commission finds that Complainant’s complaint was properly dismissed pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(1) for failure to state a claim.

BACKGROUND

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as a Foreign Services Officer at the  U. S. Embassy  in Baghdad, Iraq.

On December 20, 2013, Complainant filed a formal complaint alleging that the Agency subjected her to discrimination on the basis of sex (female) when she received an email from an official outside her chain of command requesting that she arrange his transportation to a happy hour.

Information in the record shows that the  email  stated “[Complainant], since you are such an expert could you put in a request for a vehicle.”   Both Complainant and  the involved official had been invited by the Australian  Embassy to go to the event, and the official’s office and Complainant’s office  had worked together in the past. The official said that Complainant had offered to arrange transportation to a meeting in the past. When the official learned that Complainant was upset by his email, he apologized.

Analysis and Findings

Under the regulations set forth at 29 C.F.R. Part 1614, an agency shall accept a complaint from an aggrieved employee or applicant for employment who believes that he or she has been discriminated against by that agency because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disabling condition.  29 C.F.R. §§ 1614.103, .106(a).  The Commission’s federal sector case precedent has long defined an “aggrieved employee” as one who suffers a present harm or loss with respect to a term, condition, or privilege of employment for which there is a remedy.  Diaz v. Dep’t of the Air Force, EEOC Request No. 05931049 (April 21, 1994).  If complainant cannot establish that s/he is aggrieved, the agency shall dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim.  29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(1).

The Commission has held that where, as here, a complaint does not challenge an agency action or inaction regarding a specific term, condition, or privilege of employment, the claim of harassment may survive if it alleges conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the complainant’s employment.  See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23 (1993). We find that Complainant’s allegations, involving a one-time isolated email,  are insufficient to state a claim of a hostile work environment.

The Commission finds that the complaint fails to state a claim under the EEOC regulations because Complainant failed to show that she suffered harm or loss with respect to a term, condition, or privilege of employment for which there is a remedy.  See Diaz v. Dep’t of the Air Force, EEOC Request No. 05931049 (April 21, 1994).

Accordingly, the Agency’s final decision dismissing Complainant’s complaint is AFFIRMED.

The text of the entire decision is available to read here.

 

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EEOC Case: Complaint Regarding Comments on Blog Does Not State a Claim

Posted: 1:52 am ET

Via eeoc.gov

Complaint Regarding Comments on Blog Does Not State a Claim. The Commission affirmed the Agency’s dismissal of Complainant’s complaint alleging that disparaging comments were posted about him on an internet blog frequented by Agency employees who were members of a professional association. The blog contained a disclaimer that statements “do not reflect any official position” of the Agency, and there was no indication that the blog was sufficiently related to Complainant’s employment. There was also no indication that the blog was sponsored by or affiliated with the Agency or that Agency resources or official time were used to author the article in question. Alfonzo H. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120160450 (April 22, 2016); request for reconsideration denied EEOC Request No. 0520160327 (July 20, 2016).

The blog cited in this case is ‘Dead Men Working’ named in the EEOC Appeal filing.  The following appears as footnotes in the same document:

1 This case has been randomly assigned a pseudonym which will replace Complainant’s name when the decision is published to non-parties and the Commission’s website.

2 According to a Declaration submitted by Complainant, officers of the AFSA learned about the contents of the blog because they receive Google alerts to note anything on the internet that mentions “AFSA,” and this blog post popped up in an alert.

3 Complainant, himself, concedes this is not the first name of the agency employee he believes authored the blog.

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Why Did Diplomatic Security Compile a Short-List of DS Agents Leaving For the U.S. Marshals Service?

Posted: 3:30 am ET

 

On October 4, we wrote about DS agents fleeing Diplomatic Security in droves for the U.S. Marshals Service.  On October 14, we did a follow-up piece, Is Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s Law Enforcement Arm Trying to Break the Law? Today, we’ll talk about the list.

As we’ve previously reported, in addition to the alleged warning that DS agents who leave for the U.S. Marshals will not be allowed back into the agency (contrary to 5 USC § 2302(b) and 3 FAM 2130), a State Department official speaking on background shared with us a short-list of DS agents leaving the bureau for the U.S. Marshals Service. The list is allegedly compiled at the direction of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Front Office. We were given the names of the people allegedly involved in this mess but we do not have a paper trail of who said what to who, or who did what for whom so we are not publishing those names at this time. There should be record emails if/when Inspector General Linick decides to look into this matter.

The List:  Where did it come from?

A source with detailed knowledge of the USMS lateral hiring program told us that USMS HR sent out an email but did not blind carbon copy (BCC) the distribution.  It was therefore easy to recognize many names as well as identify agency affiliation as some folks did use their state.gov email addresses. Our source suggested that this same email could have made its way to the DS Front Office and may have been the origin of the list. Even granted that this might have been what actually happened, somebody still had to compile that list.

The 30 names on the list includes 19 Special Agents (SA) assigned domestically, 6 Assistant Regional Security Officers (ARSO) assigned overseas, 1 agent from an unidentified office and 4 agents with the Mobile Security Deployments (MSD).  We don’t know how many agents from this list have now successfully transferred to USMS but we’ve since learned that two of the first agents to leave were just given Superior Honor awards for a human trafficking case. So let’s dispel with the notion that these folks walking out the door are  low-performers.

The list is on a 6-column spreadsheet, and includes each DS agent’s name, current assignment, future rotational assignment and/or TED dates.  While there is great concern that the list has a retaliatory intent, we have to grant that there could be other reasons for the bureau to compile such a list. But what? That’s why we asked Diplomatic Security 1) why this list was compiled, 2) what is its purpose, and 3) why DS/IP is reportedly consulting this list during pre-assignment deliberations? But the bureau was mum on this and we received the same non-response to our questions:

“Thank you for your query. We will have no additional comments on this.” 

We’ve sharpied out the last names and all locations outside of DC from the list below because these folks could be easily identifiable in overseas posts and non-DC domestic locations.  If the list was born from a USMS HR email, the other details below particularly rotation information could have only come from State Department systems.

recd_usmsapplicantlist

 

The List: What is it for?

It is alleged that the purpose of this list is retaliation. Whether real or perceived, we understand that there are agents with conditional offers who are now considering withdrawal from the USMS process for fear of being blacklisted or blackballed when it comes to promotions and assignments.  The State Department official who shared the list with us also mentioned assignments and promotions as real concerns and said that though this may sound petty, the bureau can retaliate against these agents through denial of domestic assignments to areas where their families live, denial of overseas assignments, denial of extensions to those assignments, as well as denial of tenure or promotions, etc. The official admits that there is “nothing concrete to support this assumption, just the overall experience of how the game goes.”  That comment in itself is concerning.  It indicates that retaliation is not an isolated action within the bureau, but something that employees view as part of the system and even come to expect as part of a “normal” institutional reaction.

We’ve learned that as concerns for this list mounted later this summer, one official associated with the compilation of this list was removed from his position and a DS Broadcast announced that “effective immediately” a new agent was filling his position. Whether the removal was just coincidence, it did not seem to abate the concerns and fears about the list.

One might argue — and we’re trying hard to find a good argument here — that perhaps the list is just a heads up to the top leadership about folks the bureau is losing to the U.S. Marshals Service.  Or maybe the list was just a harmless “hey look at these co-workers we have to send congratulation cards to.” Okay. Fine. But as far as we know, no one from the top leadership has explained the reason for the list even as it has roiled its rank and file. And there was that alleged warning at UNGA.

Also two things:

#1.  The compiled list is not/not of all DS agents leaving the bureau, but specifically, of all agents leaving the bureau for the U.S. Marshals Service. So they’re not looking at say, a projected attrition data but at a clearly defined group of employees.

#2. DS/IP, the office who has a final say on where agents end up overseas is allegedly consulting this list during pre-assignment consultations/deliberations. Whether true or not, that’s the story racing down the corridors.

So why did Diplomatic Security compile a short-list of DS agents leaving for the U.S. Marshals Service?  We have no good answer. And Diplomatic Security refuses to say. If  there’s a perfectly good reason for all this, the top leadership at Diplomatic Security has not done anything to address the real concerns that people have.

Blowing Up the Security Officers’ Attrition Rate

We were previously told by PA that the overall Special Agent attrition rate for 2015 was 3.66%.  We have since learned that this attrition rate is incorrect as this does not include the number of agents who leave DS for other federal agencies.

According to the State Department’s recently published data, the average annual attrition rate for security officers between 2011-2015 is 58 employees. This is the highest among Foreign Service specialists, by the way, followed by Office Management Specialists (OMS).  With a total force of approximately 2,000 special agents (including nearly 800 special agents posted in regional security offices at over 250 posts worldwide) that makes the average attrition rate in the last five years at 2.9%. The State Department projected that it will have an overall attrition of 296 (retirements and non–retirements) from FY2016 to FY2020; an annual average the next five years of 59 individuals or 2.9%. Note that since we’re using approximate and not the exact number of security officers, these numbers may be slightly off.

The departures for the U.S. Marshals Service would certainly spike that attrition number.  The USMS departures if/when concluded this year would already constitute 55% of the average annual attrition rate and could bump up this year’s attrition rate to 4.4%.  Except that if unconfirmed reports are true, these departures could go higher.  Apparently, there are also agents taking GS-9 and GS-10, entry-level positions with other law enforcement agencies.  We believed that the largest pool of security officers is in the  FS-03 rank which is equivalent in pay to GS-12/13. So if true that folks are taking a pay cut just so they could transfer to other agencies, there’s an even bigger problem at play here. Also how Diplomatic Security handle these departures could potentially have an impact on its projected attrition in the next five years.

ds-attrition-number

via state.gov

 

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POTUS Issues Memo Promoting Diversity and Inclusion, and @StateDept Sounds Like Baghdad Bob

Posted: 1:47 am ET

 

On October 5, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in the National Security Workforce. Below is an excerpt:

Currently, more than three million military and civilian personnel in the U.S. Government are engaged in protecting the country and advancing our interests abroad, through diplomacy, development, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security.  In broad comparison with the wider Federal Government, the federal workforce dedicated to our national security and foreign policy is – on average – less diverse, including at the highest levels.

While this data does not necessarily indicate the existence of barriers to equal employment opportunity, the Presidential Memorandum outlines a number of actions that will allow departments and agencies to better leverage the diversity and inclusion of the federal workforce, consistent with the existing merit system and applicable law, including:

#Collection, analysis, and dissemination of workforce data: Data is an essential tool to help departments and agencies identify workforce talent gaps, assess the efficiency and effectiveness of their diversity and inclusion efforts, and promote transparency and accountability. The memorandum provides guidance for departments and agencies to make key workforce data available to the general public, provide an annual report to their leadership and workforce on the status of diversity and inclusion efforts, expand the use of applicant flow data to assess the fairness and inclusiveness of their recruitment efforts, and identify any additional demographic categories they recommend for voluntary data collection.

#Provision of professional development opportunities and tools consistent with merit system principles: Providing access to professional development opportunities consistent with merit system principles is a key element to retaining and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce. The memorandum directs departments and agencies to engage their workforce through regular interviews to understand their views on workplace policies and why they choose to stay or leave, prioritize the expansion of professional development opportunities including programs specifically designed to develop the next generation of career senior executives, and implement a review process for decisions related to certain assignment or geographic restrictions.

# Strengthening of leadership engagement and accountability: The memorandum recognizes the critical role that senior leadership and supervisors play in fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce and cultivating talent consistent with merit system principles. It encourages departments and agencies to reward and recognize efforts by senior leaders and supervisors to participate in mentorship, sponsorship, and recruitment; to disseminate voluntary demographic data for external committee and boards that advise the leadership of an agency; and to expand the provision of training on implicit or unconscious bias, inclusion, and flexible work policies.

The full text of the memo is available here.

The State Department’s top HR person Arnold Chacon forwarded President Obama’s message to agency employees encouraging them to read the memo and learn of government-wide efforts:

Today the President issued a new Presidential Memorandum providing guidance on the implementation of policies to promote diversity and inclusion in the national security workforce. Under the leadership of Deputy Secretary Higginbottom the Department has been an integral part of this effort. It’s consistent with our values and the principles enshrined in the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and other legislation. As outlined in the QDDR under Secretary Kerry’s leadership, we’ll continue to work to promote a diverse, capable, agile workforce that can advance America’s interests and values in the 21st century.

I believe strongly that we have no greater resource than our people. As the face of America to the world, we have a responsibility to ensure the Department’s workforce reflects our nation’s richness and diversity. I encourage you to read the White House fact sheet below and the Presidential Memorandum to learn more about government-wide efforts to strengthen diversity and inclusion at all levels.


Waaaaa! When the State Department sounds like Baghdad Bob!

The statement says, this has been so “consistent with our values and the principles enshrined in the Foreign Service Act of 1980” that it was impossible to pry the gender and diversity data from the State Department (a 2013 stats was made available to AFSA). For years we’re been looking at the State Department to make available publicly its diversity statistics, most particularly the gender and race component of its promotion statistics (see related posts below). Somebody from Secretary Kerry’s office once told us he would look into it and then we never heard anything back despite periodic reminders.  Data is available annually, just not available publicly.

Last April 2016, the Senate passed a bill (introduced in June 2015) that would require the State Department to report on diversity recruitment, employment, retention, and promotion.  That same month, just days before the Senate passed S.1635, the State Department dumped online its promotion data for 2015 (see @StateDept Dumps Online the 2015 FS Promotion Statistics Including Diversity Data, Have a Look!). The way HR presented this data –particularly the one on diversity and cone — is enough to give you migraine.  But what happened to the previous years’ data? Is the State Department going to wait until Congress forces it to publish promotion data going back three fiscal years?

Patricia Kushlish of WhirledView wrote two posts Lies, Damned lies and non-comparable statistics: reporting diversity at the State Department and More than Undiplomatic Moments: State’s Diversity Record Remains Behind a Hard Line that are both worth a read.

 

Talking the Talk, But Where’s the Walk?

The DGHR cites “the leadership of Deputy Secretary Higginbottom” his boss’s boss and the State Department as “an integral part of this effort.” He further cites “the QDDR under Secretary Kerry’s leadership” as the State Department “continue to work to promote a diverse, capable, agile workforce that can advance America’s interests and values in the 21st century.”

Look, first — remember back in 2014 we posted about FSO Margot Carrington’s paper on Advancement for Women at State: Learning From Best Practices? That report was written during a sabbatical sponsored by the Una Chapman Cox (UCC) Foundation and the State Department (see Advancement for Women at the State Department: Learning From Best Practices). The paper includes multiple recommendations including the collection of detailed attrition data and exit interviews to better understand the factors leading to attrition/retention; training and other assistance to women to help them learn to network more effectively and solicit sponsors to help them in their career development and advancement; mitigating unconscious bias; mentoring requirement for all SFS officers and making them accountable for their performance as mentors, to cite a few. Wasn’t the State Department’s “integral” participation in this WH effort informed by the report done by Ms. Carrington? Yes? No? Never heard of it?

WhirledView once asked, “Why is it that Foreign Service recruitment is able to recruit entry level classes that are far more representative of the American population as a whole but the further an individual advances up the career ladder the fewer the women and minorities are found.”  That is a really good question and top officials at State should be able to answer that. And what would have been most useful in that DGHR statement?  Had DGHR included information on what the State Department has done or is planning to do in support of promoting diversity and inclusion. What programs and accommodations is it doing to improved D&I at the agency?  Since the State Department was an “integral” part of President Obama’s effort why not talk about what is the State Department doing in terms of collection, analysis, and dissemination of workforce data? What is it doing in support of strengthening leadership engagement and accountability?   What is it doing in support of  professional development to improve opportunities for women and promote a more diverse leadership?

Because after reading and admiring the government-wide D&I efforts–  then what?

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USDOJ Drops US Embassy Yemen Passport Revocation Case Sans Explanation

Posted: 2:16 am ET

 

On October 13, 2015, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the State Department to return the U.S. passport of Yemeni-American Mosed Shaye Omar which was revoked “based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013.” (See Court orders @StateDept to return Yemeni-American’s improperly revoked U.S.passport). In February 2016, the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California issued a cross motions for summary judgment: “This lawsuit presents the question of whether the United States government may revoke a United States citizen’s passport based solely on a purported “confession” that the citizen did not write, dictate, read, or have read to him, but did in fact sign. On the record before the Court, the answer is no.” (see more Omar v. Kerry, et.al: Passport Revocation “Arbitrary and Capricious,” New Hearing Ordered Within 60 Days).

On October 5, 2016, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California asked to drop the case “without prejudice.”  We’re wondering how many more of these revocation cases would mow be dropped and sealed in court.

Via Politico:

Federal prosecutors — acting abruptly and without public explanation — have moved to drop a controversial criminal passport fraud case that critics alleged stemmed from coercive interrogations at the U.S. embassy in Yemen.

Earlier this year, a grand jury in San Francisco indicted Mosed Omar on passport fraud charges linked to a statement he signed during a 2012 visit to the U.S. diplomatic post in the unstable Middle Eastern nation.
[…]

Thursday afternoon, prosecutors submitted a brief court filing asking to drop the criminal case “without prejudice,” meaning it could be refiled. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer will need to approve the dismissal of the case.

Spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco did not respond to messages seeking an explanation for the sudden move.
[…]
In response to a query Thursday from POLITICO, a spokesman for State Inspector General Steve Linick confirmed that an inquiry is underway into the allegations about improper passport revocations

“In June 2016, State OIG’s Office of Evaluations and Special Projects initiated a review of the Department’s processes of passport confiscations and revocations at the US Embassy Sanaa, Yemen,” spokesman Doug Welty said. He offered no additional details on the review.

If the case against Omar went forward, prosecutors might have been obligated to turn over to the defense some or all records of the IG review. That prospect may have contributed to the proposed dismissal, but there was no direct indication.

Read more:

 

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