Ex-Diplomat William Patrick Syring Gets 60 Months in Prison For Hate Crime

 

We’ve posted previously about William Patrick Syring, a former foreign service officer who was indicted for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) on February 21, 2018.  Syring was previously charged in 2006 for similar threats in four emails and three voicemails. He retired from the State Department in July 2007 and he pled guilty to that previous case in June 2008. He was sentenced on federal civil rights charges for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin. Syring was sentenced to two concurrent sentences of 12 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of post-release supervision, 100 hours of community service and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. He reportedly was released from prison early in January 2009.
In February 2018, he was again  indicted for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute.
On August 15, USDOJ announced that Syring was sentenced to 60 months in prison for committing hate crime by threatening employees of the Arab American Institute.  He will be in prison until 2024.

Via DOJ: Virginia Man Sentenced To 60 Months In Prison For Committing Hate Crime By Threatening Employees Of The Arab American Institute

William Patrick Syring, 61, of Arlington, Virginia, was today sentenced to 60 months in prison for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin, threatening AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States, and transmitting threats to AAI employees in interstate commerce.

“Threats aimed to intimidate individuals based on their ethnic or racial origin are despicable violations of civil rights freedoms protected by our constitution,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Department of Justice will continue to fight to preserve the basic rights of people to live, work, and speak in their communities without the fear of hostility based on racism.”

“Investigating hate crimes is one of the FBI’s highest criminal priorities; these hateful acts are not only an attack on the victim, but are meant to intimidate an entire community,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “This sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable those who seek to violate the civil rights of the people of our community through violent threats.”

Evidence presented at trial established that from 2012 to 2017, Syring sent over 700 emails to AAI employees, culminating in five death threats in 2017. According to court documents, Syring previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending threatening emails to AAI employees. Evidence presented at trial showed that Syring used nearly identical language that he admitted were threats in 2008 as he did in 2017.

According to testimony in court, AAI employees were frightened of Syring because he had sent them death threats in the past and continued to do so over a decade later. Additionally, according to witness testimony, many AAI employees lived in fear that Syring would follow through on his threats and physically harm them. They further testified to the toll it took on them personally and their families and loved ones.

On May 9, Syring was convicted on all 14 counts in the indictment, including seven hate crime charges and seven interstate threats charges. The case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Senior Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg and Trial Attorney Nick Reddick.

Co-founder of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby, who along with his staff were the recipients of Syring’s threats wrote about it here:

click on image to see full piece.

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Congratulations to AFSA’s 2019 Awardees for Constructive Dissent: Anna Boulos, Timmy Davis, and Moises Mendoza

Via afsa.org:

William R. Rivkin Award for a Mid-Level Officer:
Anna Boulos, Consulate Tijuana | While serving in Tijuana, Ms. Boulos challenged Mission Mexico’s consular management over policies that exposed adjudicators to an increased number of Visa Lookout Accountability violations, harming their chances for tenure and promotion. Ms. Boulos requested AFSA’s assistance to advocate for reforms to VLA procedures. As a result of her efforts, the Consular Affairs Bureau’s Visa Office recommended rule changes that have benefited all officers who adjudicate H2 visas in Mexico.
William R. Rivkin Award for a Mid-Level Officer:
Timmy Davis, Consulate Basrah |As Consul General in Basrah, Mr. Davis embodied the best traditions of the Foreign Service and constructive dissent. During the lead-up to the Sept. 28, 2018, decision to suspend operations and evacuate the consulate and its nearly 1,000 staff, and the subsequent carrying out of that evacuation, CG Davis showed courage and conviction in presenting the case for the continued operation of U.S. Consulate General Basrah.
W. Averell Harriman Award for an Entry-Level Foreign Service Officer:
Moises Mendoza, Consulate Matamoros | Mr. Mendoza is honored for his extraordinary two-year efforts to make U.S. Consulate General Matamoros safer by ensuring his colleagues had training in dealing with medical emergencies, at great personal cost. As the consulate has no medical unit and local health facilities are poor, Mr. Mendoza was concerned that colleagues having a medical emergency could die before help arrived. Despite bureaucratic obstacles, he became an emergency medical technician and a CPR instructor in order to make post safer.
It doesn’t look like there are awardees for the Christian A. Herter Award for a member of the Senior Foreign Service(FE OC-FE CA) or for the F. Allen “Tex” Harris Award for a Foreign Service Specialist.
Note that the State Department’s Dissent Channel and USAID’s Direct Channel are unrelated to AFSA’s dissent awards. AFSA states that it welcome any discussion and encouragement of dissent within the foreign affairs agencies, but messages sent through these channels will not necessarily come to AFSA’s attention unless cited in a nomination.
Criteria for the Dissent Awards

The awards are for Foreign Service employees who have “exhibited extraordinary accomplishment involving initiative, integrity, intellectual courage and constructive dissent”. The awards publicly recognize individuals who have demonstrated the intellectual courage to challenge the system from within, to question the status quo and take a stand, no matter the sensitivity of the issue or the consequences of their actions. The issue does not have to be related to foreign policy. It can involve a management issue, consular policy, or, in the case of the recently established F. Allen “Tex” Harris Award, the willingness of a Foreign Service Specialist to take an unpopular stand, to go out on a limb, or to stick his/her neck out in a way that involves some risk. Nominees may or may not have used the formal dissent channel. Recipients receive a trophy as well as a $4,000 cash prize. Click here to read more about what constitutes dissent.

The awards will be presented during AFSA’s annual awards ceremony, which takes place on October 16 at 4:00 p.m. in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room at the Department of State. Please contact AFSA Awards Coordinator Perri Green at green@afsa.org or (202) 719-9700 for more information.

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

 

 

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


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

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

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Congratulations to AFSA’s 2019 Awardees for Exemplary Performance

 

Via afsa.org:

 

Award for Achievement and Contributions to the Association:

F. Allen ‘Tex’ Harris
Widely referred to as “Mr. AFSA,” Mr. Harris has made enormous contributions to AFSA over five decades. In 1970, he was instrumental in AFSA’s efforts to become a union. He was a principal drafter of the 1976 legislation that created the Foreign Service grievance system. He served two terms as AFSA president, leading efforts to improve working conditions and to end ethnic, gender and racial discrimination within the State Department.

Nelson B. Delavan Award for an Office Management Specialist:

Katherine Elizabeth Kohler, Embassy Addis Ababa
In addition to her full-time role as an office management specialist, Ms. Koehler simultaneously served as U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa’s de facto full-time staff assistant, and was instrumental in tracking and coordinating multifaceted efforts to support Ethiopia’s reforms. Ms. Koehler led an interagency project to survey Ethiopia’s population to learn how they feel about the U.S. and their country’s reform agenda. As an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor, she trained more than 100 local staff members in EEO rules.

Avis Bohlen Award for an Eligible Family Member:

Laurent Charbonnet, Consulate Frankfurt
Mr. Charbonnet is honored for his “Diplomacy Through Bicycles” program through the consulate community’s Frankfurt Refugee Outreach Committee. Mr. Charbonnet volunteered weekly as a bicycle mechanic at a refugee center in Frankfurt’s Bonames district. This center is home to thousands of recently arrived refugees who rely on volunteers like Mr. Charbonnet to develop survival and self-sufficiency skills.

M. Juanita Guess Award for a Community Liaison Officer:

Michelle Ross, Embassy Caracas
Ms. Ross is recognized for her extraordinary efforts to assist embassy personnel and family members who were evacuated after the Venezuelan government broke diplomatic ties with the United States in January. Ms. Ross, who joined the Caracas Community Liaison Office team in 2018, was a key ally to evacuees during the difficult transition that followed. Ms. Ross worked with all management sections and the Family Liaison Office to facilitate the swift evacuation of 79 Americans and 22 pets.

Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy:

Christopher Gooch, Embassy Baghdad and Nora Brito, Embassy Caracas
Two Palmer awards are given this year due to an excellent pool of nominees.

Christopher Gooch is a forceful advocate for U.S. and universal values who made bold and imaginative efforts to expand democracy, freedom, and good governance during assignments in Iraq and Nepal. In Baghdad, he protected women civil society activists, persuaded the Iraqi government to take action to protect trafficking victims, and helped launch an initiative aimed at resolving the Kirkuk dispute. In Nepal, he crafted a transitional justice strategy triggering the first movement on the issue in four years.

Nora Brito created an informal group of 12 young members of the Venezuelan National Assembly. This group included members from all sectors of the Venezuelan opposition. Ms. Brito used her impeccable language ability, strong relationship-building skills and substantive knowledge of Venezuelan politics to build honest, long-lasting relationships with the group. These interactions provided her, Embassy Caracas and Washington a fresh perspective on the Venezuelan political situation.

AFSA Post Representative of the Year Award:

Lawrence Fields, Consulate Frankfurt
Mr. Fields is recognized for his work at one of the largest posts in the world. Frankfurt had gone without a post representative for an extended period. Mr. Fields revived AFSA’s presence and recruited a USAID post representative and a State alternate representative to serve members’ needs. He created an AFSA email group to keep our members informed of developments throughout the year and launched an “AFSA Corner” column in the CLO weekly newsletter. Remarkably, this is Larry’s second time receiving this award.

 

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U.S. Embassy Nassau: Aging Facility, Staffing Gaps, Curtailments, Morale Issues, and More in Sunny Bahamas

 

In 2012, State/OIG did an inspection of the US Embassy in Nassau, The Bahamas (see US Embassy Nassau: Where Absence Makes the Heart Not/Not Grow Fonder); State/OIG Nassau Report: What’s taking them so long?
The new inspection dated August 2019 reveals that the aging facility which was supposed to have been replaced in 2016 is still aging. The IG report now says that construction of a new chancery building is scheduled to begin in 2019 and be completed in 2021 on property purchased by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO).
The State Department announced on February 1, 2019 that it has awarded the Design-Build contract for the new U.S. Embassy in Nassau to Caddell Construction Co., LLC of Montgomery, Alabama. Ennead Architects of New York, New York is the design architect for the project and Integrus Architecture of Spokane, Washington is the architect of record.
The report notes that the embassy had been without a permanent, confirmed ambassador since November 2011, when the incumbent, a political appointee, resigned. Her replacement was never confirmed, and, at the time of the inspection, the current nominee had been awaiting confirmation since 2017.
In May 2017, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Doug Manchester to be his ambassador to the Bahamas. His nomination was cleared by the SFRC in the fall of 2017 but failed to make it to the full Senate. His nomination was resubmitted in January 2018 and again in January 2019. The SFRC has held hearings on June 20, 2019. According to congress.gov, this nomination remains pending at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

 

Below via State/OIG:
  • Embassy Nassau is located in an aging facility originally leased by the Department of State (Department) in 1973 and purchased outright in 1994. Construction of a new chancery building is scheduled to begin in 2019 and be completed in 2021 on property purchased by the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO).
  • A related classified inspection report discusses the embassy’s security program and issues affecting the safety of mission personnel and facilities.
  • At the time of the inspection, the embassy had 143 authorized U.S. staff positions, 2 eligible family members, and 76 locally employed (LE) staff members. The embassy houses 11 different U.S. Government agencies and sub-agencies. Embassy Nassau also provides International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS)1 administrative and logistical support to U.S. Government agencies on Grand Bahama Island, Great Inagua Island, Andros Island, Great Exuma Island, and in Turks and Caicos.

Yay! Sections

  • The Chargé and, beginning in October 2018, the acting DCM carried out regular reviews of the Consular Section chief’s nonimmigrant visa adjudications, as required by 9 FAM 403.9-2d and 9 FAM 403.10-3d.
  • The Consular Section chief, who arrived in August 2017, demonstrated strong leadership in developing standard operating procedures, mentoring three First- and Second-Tour officers, and preparing for future hurricanes. OIG determined that the embassy’s consular programs generally complied with guidance in 7 FAM, 9 FAM, 7 FAH, applicable statutes, and other Department policies.
  • Embassy Nassau’s American citizen services workload consisted primarily of processing emergency passports. Nassau hosts up to six cruise ships from the United States per day with approximately 3,000 passengers each, the majority of whom are U.S. citizens. Passengers who missed their ships’ return to Florida contributed to the more than 400 emergency passports Embassy Nassau issued in FY 2018.
  • OIG determined that the Chargé and the acting DCM conducted their security responsibilities in accordance with 12 Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH)-1 H-721[…] Shortly after her arrival, the Chargé reviewed, revised, and reissued all security directives, including one to all personnel under chief of mission authority mandating participation in the weekly checks of the emergency and evacuation radio network. In addition, she emphasized to staff that she expected full participation in the radio checks. Participation rates increased from 20 percent in spring 2018 to almost 90 percent by October of that year.
  • The Chargé successfully oversaw the embassy’s First- and Second-Tour employee development program for five officers and specialists, as directed by 3 FAM 2242.4. Participants commented favorably on the Chargé’s involvement in the program.

Oh, Yow! Sections

Via reactiongifs.com

Lengthy Gaps in Key Leadership Positions Hampered Operations

Embassy Nassau faced significant operational challenges due to lengthy staffing gaps in three key leadership positions: ambassador, DCM, and management officer. The embassy had been without a permanent, confirmed ambassador since November 2011, when the incumbent, a political appointee, resigned. Her replacement was never confirmed, and, at the time of the inspection, the current nominee had been awaiting confirmation since 2017. As a result, three different long-term Chargés have led the embassy since 2011. The current Chargé arrived in March 2018. Additionally, because the embassy’s DCMs have served as Chargé, it has also had a series of acting DCMs. The current acting DCM arrived in June 2016 as the INL Director and assumed the collateral duties of acting DCM in June 2018. As a result, like previous acting DCMs, she shouldered two sets of responsibilities. Finally, due to a series of curtailments in the management officer position, from 2014 to September 2018, the management section had relied on nine temporary duty officers as well as support from the Florida Regional Center.

OIG found that the lack of consistent leadership in the ambassador, DCM, and management officer positions, combined with a series of section heads covering two positions at once for long periods of time, led to serious internal control deficiencies and morale issues, as detailed later in this report. The newly assigned Management Officer arrived in September 2018 and started addressing the embassy’s internal control deficiencies, lack of procedures, and outdated policies. However, the current Front Office structure continued to place undue burdens on both the Chargé and the acting DCM, making it impossible for them to perform all of their required functions.

Internal control deficiencies

During the inspection, OIG identified numerous internal control deficiencies and vulnerabilities in the Management and Information Management Sections. The lengthy staffing gaps in key leadership positions exacerbated many of these issues, particularly those detailed in the Resource Management section of this report.

Management Section operations and oversight suffered as a result of staffing gaps due to two previous curtailments in the management officer position. Since 2014, the embassy had relied on a succession of nine temporary-duty management officers. Additionally, from 2014 to 2018, both the embassy and the management support structure at the Florida Regional Center experienced high turnover of staff.

Embassy Nassau did not have internal controls in place to ensure maintenance and repair charges for its vehicle fleet were properly recorded and monitored, increasing the risk of fraud. OIG’s review of maintenance logs and procurement orders found that in FY 2017 and FY 2018, the embassy spent $244,533 on maintenance and repairs but did not keep records to document that the work was necessary or was actually completed.

INL’s $17.8 million foreign assistance with no formal evaluation

INL has supported Bahamian law enforcement since 1978, including committing $17.8 million in foreign assistance since 2010. […] INL Nassau lacked appropriate metrics to monitor progress for its four law enforcement and judicial assistance projects. Specifically, OIG found that project metrics had not been updated since at least 2014 and were outdated. Furthermore, INL Nassau did not formally evaluate project progress on a quarterly basis, as required by INL guidance.7 INL Nassau told OIG that it informally reported project progress on a quarterly basis but was unaware of the requirement to formally track and monitor project progress against established metrics. Without current metrics for its projects, the embassy cannot measure progress and performance against the embassy’s ICS goals and INL’s strategic planning objectives.

Intranet woes, and WHA the hey?

Embassy Nassau’s intranet network faced critical processing delays and frequent variations in processing speed due to internal IT infrastructure issues. The May 2017 Bureau of Diplomatic Security CSA report also identified this severe network performance deficiency and recommended that the embassy work with the Department and the Regional Information Management Center in Ft. Lauderdale to resolve the issue. In August 2017, a regional center network technician performed a limited service repair to the network infrastructure but did not complete all needed repairs. Embassy staff told OIG that despite repeated embassy requests, WHA had yet to provide the additional Regional Information Management Center technical support to complete the work.

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FSO Chuck Park: I can no longer justify being a part of Trump’s ‘Complacent State.’ #Resignation

 

 

 

I was 26, newly married and more than a little idealistic when I set off for my first diplomatic assignment almost a decade ago as a member of the 157th class of commissioned U.S. Foreign Service officers.
According to a certain type of right-leaning conspiracy theorist, that would make me part of “The Deep State” — a shadowy government within the government that puts its own interests above the expressed wishes of the electorate. Adherents to this theory believe that thousands of federal workers like me are plotting furiously to subvert the Trump administration at every turn. Many on the left, too, hope that such a resistance is secretly working to save the nation from the worst impulses of President Trump.
They have it all wrong. Your federal bureaucracy under this president? Call it “The Complacent State” instead.
Like many in my cohort, I came into the government inspired by a president who convinced me there was still some truth to the gospel of American exceptionalism. A child of immigrants from South Korea, I also felt a duty to the society that welcomed my parents and allowed me and my siblings to thrive.
Over three tours abroad, I worked to spread what I believed were American values: freedom, fairness and tolerance. But more and more I found myself in a defensive stance, struggling to explain to foreign peoples the blatant contradictions at home.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, I spoke of American openness and friendship at consulate events as my country carried out mass deportations and failed thousands of “dreamers.” I attended celebrations of Black History Month at our embassy in Lisbon as black communities in the United States demanded justice for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and the victims of the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. And in Vancouver, I touted the strength of the United States’ democracy at the consulate’s 2016 election-night party as a man who campaigned on racism, misogyny and wild conspiracy theories became president-elect.
Since then, I have seen Trump assert the moral equivalence of violent white nationalists and those who oppose them, denigrate immigrants from “s******e countries” and separate children from their parents at the border, only to place them in squalid detention centers.
But almost three years since his election, what I have not seen is organized resistance from within. To the contrary, two senior Foreign Service officers admonished me for risking my career when I signed an internal dissent cable against the ban on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries in January 2017. Among my colleagues at the State Department, I have met neither the unsung hero nor the cunning villain of Deep State lore. If the resistance does exist, it should be clear by this point that it has failed.
Instead, I am part of the Complacent State.
The Complacent State sighs when the president blocks travel by Muslim immigrants; shakes its head when he defends Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; averts its gaze from images of children in detention camps. Then it complies with orders.
Every day, we refuse visas based on administration priorities. We recite administration talking points on border security, immigration and trade. We plan travel itineraries, book meetings and literally hold doors open for the appointees who push Trump’s toxic agenda around the world.
So when I read a recent New York Times op-ed calling for the public shaming of the “midlevel functionaries who make the system run,” I squirmed in my seat. We rank-and-file, like the Justice Department lawyer who recently endured public scrutiny for defending the administration’s terrible treatment of detained children, don’t like to be called out. And when we are, we shrink behind a standard argument — that we are career officials serving nonpartisan institutions.
We should be named and shamed. But how should we respond? One thing I agree with the conspiracy theorists about: The Deep State, if it did exist, would be wrong. Ask to read the commission of any Foreign Service officer, and you’ll see that we are hired to serve “during the pleasure of the President of the United States.” That means we must serve this very partisan president.
Or else we should quit.
I’m ashamed of how long it took me to make this decision. My excuse might be disappointing, if familiar to many of my colleagues: I let career perks silence my conscience. I let free housing, the countdown to a pension and the prestige of representing a powerful nation overseas distract me from ideals that once seemed so clear to me. I can’t do that anymore.
My son, born in El Paso on the American side of that same Rio Grande where the bodies of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter were discovered, in the same city where 22 people were just killed by a gunman whose purported “manifesto” echoed the inflammatory language of our president, turned 7 this month. I can no longer justify to him, or to myself, my complicity in the actions of this administration. That’s why I choose to resign.

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(Note: This piece originally appeared on WaPo and was cross-posted on MSN in full here. Chuck Park’s resignation from the Foreign Service is reportedly effective Thursday. A Charles Park of DC was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by voice vote as a “Member of the Foreign Service to be Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America” on March 2, 2011, during the 112th Congress.  During the 114th Congress, a Charles Park of New York was confirmed by voice vote “For appointment as Foreign Service Officer of Class Four, Consular Officer and Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America” on May 23, 2015).

 

Related posts:

Dec 2018: Jim Mattis Quits in Protest Over Trump’s Chaos Strategery
Oct 2018: Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit
Feb 2018: Sam Bee’s Rescue Farm for Government Workers With Ex-FSO Elizabeth Shackelford
Jan 2018: U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley Resigns From the Foreign Service Over Trump Policies
Dec 2017: A Foreign Service Officer’s Parting Shot Gets Media Attention
June 2017: Top U.S. Diplomat in China David Rank Resigns Over #ParisAgreement Withdrawal
Mar 2017: Diplomatic Security Agent With 17-Year Service Resigns Over Trump
Nov 2016:Inauguration Day Countdown: Is the prospect of mass resignations a real thing?
Nov 2016: On the Prospect of Mass Resignations: A Veteran FSO Cautions Against Rash Decisions
Mar 2013:Ten Years Ago Today: FSO John Brown Quit the Foreign Service Over Iraq
Jan 2012: An FSO’s ‘Valedictory Dispatch’ — Realities of the Foreign Service
Apr 2009: Insider Quote: Why Didn’t You Quit?

21 Years Ago Today: Bombings of US Embassies Nairobi and Dar es Salaam #August7 #Remember

 

Twenty-one years ago today, the near simultaneous vehicular bombings of the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania cost the lives of 224 people and wounded more than 4,500 others. Twelve American USG employees and family members, and 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees, were among those killed.

East African Embassy Bombings (Photo by FBI)

According to the FBI, over 900 FBI agents alone—and many more FBI employees—traveled overseas to assist in the recovery of evidence and the identification of victims at the bomb sites and to track down the perpetrators in the aftermath of the attacks. Below via the FBI:
These attacks were soon directly linked to al Qaeda. To date, more than 20 people have been charged in connection with the bombings. Several of these individuals—including Usama bin Laden—have been killed. Six are serving life sentences in U.S. prison, and a few others are awaiting trial.
The KENBOM and TANBOM investigations—as the FBI calls them—represented at that time the largest deployment in Bureau history. They led to ramped up anti-terror efforts by the United States and by the FBI, including an expanded Bureau overseas presence that can quickly respond to acts of terrorism that involve Americans.
The investigation continues, with the following fugitives still wanted for their alleged roles in the attacks:

 

Related posts:

New AFSA Governing Board (2019-2021 )Takes Office

 

New AFSA Governing Board (2019-2021). Photo by AFSA/Twitter

The 2019-2021 American Foreign Service Association Governing Board took office on July 15. It will serve a two-year term (Also see 2019-2021 AFSA Governing Board Election Results). Below via AFSA:

Incoming President Ambassador Eric Rubin comes to AFSA from his posting as Ambassador to Bulgaria, where he served from three years. He was previously deputy chief of mission in Moscow, deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, consul general in Chiang Mai, executive assistant to the under secretary of State for political affairs and Rusk Fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Foreign Service Officer Thomas Yazdgerdi, AFSA’s new Vice President of the Department of State constituency, is a 28-year veteran of the State Department. Yazdgerdi is finishing his tenure as Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, but has also served in Kabul, Kirkuk, Baghdad, Pristina, Panama, Bratislava, Tirana and Athens, as well as Director of the Office of South Central European Affairs.

John K. Naland returns as Vice President for the retiree constituency. He has held numerous positions on AFSA’s board, including State Vice President and AFSA President.

Foreign Service Officers Jason SingerJay Carreiro and Michael Riedel will serve as Vice Presidents of the USAID, Foreign Commercial Service and Foreign Agricultural Service constituencies, respectively.

Completing AFSA’s leadership team, retired senior FSO Virginia L. Bennett will serve as Treasurer and Kenneth Kero-Mentz will serve as the organization’s Secretary.

Complete bios for AFSA’s elected leadership, including all officers and constituency representatives, can be found on the AFSA website.

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United States Diplomacy Center Seeks Diplomatic Artifacts For Its Collection

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In 1979, John Limbert was a new FSO posted to the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when it was overrun by Iranian students. He was one of the fifty-two U.S. personnel who spent 444 days as Iran hostages from 1979-81. Later in his career, he was appointed Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Ambassador Limbert and other Americans at the embassy were held captive for 14 months, and among their many hardships, they also contended with not having a change of clothes. He has now donated the items he wore and a pair of sandals given to him by his captors to the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s collection of diplomatic artifacts.

Via USDC:
The United States Diplomacy Center is actively seeking artifacts that represent American diplomacy and the work of the United States Department of State. These artifacts can come from a variety of individuals and sources. Anyone currently or previously working in a diplomatic capacity might have objects that could be a good fit for our collection. If you have items you might be interested in donating, please email them directly for more information. (Also see U.S. Diplomacy Center: Baseball Autographed by Russian Human Rights Activists). 
Specific areas of collecting interest include (but are not limited to) objects which illustrate the following:
      • Diplomat’s work on the range of global issues today, including examples from programs and partnerships
      • The challenges diplomats face while performing their jobs (security; health; communications; transportation)
      • The unique relationships and connections made through diplomacy
      • Diplomatic events, people, and places throughout U.S. history
      • The wide range of work performed at embassies, consulates, and missions
      • Tools, equipment, and clothing representing diplomatic efforts
      • And of course documents, pens, and diplomatic gifts
The United States Diplomacy Center collects primarily for exhibition purposes; USDC is not a research collection nor an archives.  Acceptance of an artifact does not guarantee exhibition for any length of time.  However, the Center strives to display as much of its collection as possible, either in-person or online.
Email the Center at DiplomacyCenter@state.gov.
Check out their online collection.

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Former @StateDept Employee Candace Marie Claiborne Sentenced to 40 Months in Prison

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Correction: 40 months in prison, not 40 years.
In March 2017, the Justice Department announced the arrest of State Department employee, Candace Marie Claiborne, 60, of Washington, D.C. for obstructing an official proceeding and making false statements to the FBI, both felony offenses, and for allegedly concealing numerous contacts that she had over a period of years with foreign intelligence agents. (see @StateDept OMS Arrested/Charged With Concealing Extensive Contacts With Chinese Intel Agents).
In April 2019, USDOJ announced that Claiborne pled guilty to conspiring with foreign agents. (see Former @StateDept Employee Pleads Guilty to Conspiring with Foreign Agents).
On July 9, 2019, USDOJ announced that Claiborne was sentenced to 40 months in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $40,000, for conspiracy to defraud the United States, by lying to law enforcement and background investigators, and hiding her extensive contacts with, and gifts from, agents of the People’s Republic of China, in exchange for providing them with internal documents from the U.S. State Department.
Below via the DOJ announcement. See the original statement here.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu of the District of Columbia, Acting Assistant Director in Charge John P. Selleck of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).

“Chinese intelligence agents convinced Candace Marie Claiborne to trade her integrity and confidential information of the United States government for cash and other gifts for herself and her family,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “Claiborne withheld information and lied repeatedly about these foreign intelligence contacts. Violations of the public’s trust are an affront to our citizens and to all those who honor their oaths. With this sentencing, justice has been imposed for these dishonorable criminal acts.”

“Candace Claiborne received gifts from foreign officials and lied to investigators repeatedly about her role in defrauding the U.S. government,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “Claiborne violated her oath as a State Department employee, and we will continue to hold accountable those abuse their positions of trust.”

“Claiborne was entrusted with privileged information as a U.S. government employee, and she abused that trust at the expense of our nation’s security,” said John P. Selleck, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “The targeting of U.S. security clearance holders by Chinese intelligence services is a constant threat we face, and today’s sentencing shows that those who betray the trust of the American people will be held accountable for their actions. I would like to thank the men and women of the FBI Washington Field Office and our partners at the Department of Justice for their work in investigating and prosecuting this case.”

“This sentence makes a strong statement to those who would attempt to commit crimes that violate the public trust and damage our national security. The Diplomatic Security Service is dedicated to working with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure that those who commit these crimes are brought to justice,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Colón.”

Claiborne, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty in April 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. She was sentenced by the Honorable Randolph D. Moss.

According to the plea documents, Claiborne began working as an Office Management Specialist for the Department of State in 1999. She has served overseas at a number of posts, including embassies and consulates in Baghdad, Iraq, Khartoum, Sudan, and Beijing and Shanghai, China. As a condition of her employment, Claiborne maintained a TOP SECRET security clearance. Claiborne also was required to report any contacts with persons suspected of affiliation with a foreign intelligence agency.

Despite such a requirement, Claiborne failed to report repeated contacts with two intelligence agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), even though these agents provided tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and benefits to Claiborne and her family over five years. The gifts and benefits included cash wired to Claiborne’s USAA account, Chinese New Year’s gifts, international travel and vacations, tuition at a Chinese fashion school, a fully furnished apartment, and a monthly stipend. Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, while others were provided through a co-conspirator.

In exchange for these gifts and benefits, Claiborne provided copies of internal documents from the Department of State on topics ranging from economics to visits by dignitaries between the two countries.

Claiborne noted in her journal that she could “Generate 20k in 1 year” working with one of the PRC agents, who tasked her with providing internal U.S. Government analyses on a U.S.-Sino Strategic Economic Dialogue that had just concluded.

Claiborne, who confided to a co-conspirator that the PRC agents were “spies,” willfully misled State Department background investigators and FBI investigators about her contacts with those agents, the plea documents state.  After the State Department and FBI investigators contacted her, Claiborne also instructed her co-conspirators to delete evidence connecting her to the PRC agents.

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