Confirmations: Ambassadors, FS Lists, and @USAID Nominees

 

The following State Department and USAID nominees were confirmed by the full Senate on May 23, 2019.

AMBASSADORS

2019-05-23 PN598 MACEDONIA | Kate Marie Byrnes, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of North Macedonia.

2019-05-23 PN122 ECUADOR | Michael J. Fitzpatrick, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Ecuador.

2019-05-23 PN520 SLOVAK REPUBLIC | Bridget A. Brink, of Michigan, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Slovak Republic.

2019-05-23 PN521 ACBO VERDE | John Jefferson Daigle, of Louisiana, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Cabo Verde.

2019-05-23 PN522 TURKMENISTAN | Matthew S. Klimow, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Turkmenistan.

2019-05-23 PN126 ICELAND | Jeffrey Ross Gunter, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iceland.

2019-05-23 PN124 OSCE | James S. Gilmore, of Virginia, to be U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, with the rank of Ambassador.

 

FOREIGN SERVICE LISTS

2019-05-23 PN519 Foreign Service  | Nominations beginning Kenneth H. Merten, and ending Kevin M. Whitaker, which 7 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on March 25, 2019.

2019-05-23 PN604 Foreign Service  | Nomination for Lisa Anne Rigoli, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 10, 2019.

2019-05-23 PN607 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Timothy Ryan Harrison, and ending Rachel Lynne Vanderberg, which 5 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on April 10, 2019.

 

USAID

2019-05-23 PN101  | Richard C. Parker, of North Carolina, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

2019-05-23 PN105 | John Barsa, of Florida, to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

 

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American Diplomatic Posts Commemorate Memorial Day 2019

 

U.S. Mission Iraq Gets a New Ambassador After Mandatory Evacuation of Non-Emergency Personnel

 

 

On May 16, the day after the State Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees from Iraq, both at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Matthew Tueller as the next Ambassador to Iraq. State  also issued a new Level 4 Do Not Travel advisory for Iraq due to “due to terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict.”

We could not recall Mission Iraq  ever going on “ordered departure” (mandatory evacuation).  On June 15, 2014, the State Department went on partial “temporary relocation” of USG personnel from Embassy Baghdad to Basrah, Erbil and Amman, Jordan (see US Mission Iraq: Now on Partial “Temporary Relocation” To Basra, Erbil & Amman (Jordan).  In August 2014, it relocated additional Baghdad/Erbil Staff to Basrah and Amman (Jordan). Note that these “temporary relocations” occurred around the targeted airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists. The State Department went out of its way to avoid the use of the words “authorized departure”, “ordered departure” or for that matter “mandatory evacuation” in describing the movement of its staff that summer.  In September 2018, there was a Mandatory Evacuation For US Consulate General Basrah but limited to Southern Iraq.

As recently as March 31, 2019, in the LEAD IG REPORT TO THE U.S. CONGRESS says:

USCENTCOM reported to the DoD OIG that Iranian activity in Iraq has not changed from last quarter.404 Iranian-backed groups continue to monitor Coalition operations, personnel, and facilities, publish false or misleading stories about Coalition activity in the media, and, through allies within the Iraqi Council of Representatives, support legislation to compel the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.405 CJTF-OIR reported that Iran and Iran-backed groups prefer to try to diminish U.S. and Coalition presence in Iraq through soft power means rather than through direct military confrontation.406

404. USCENTCOM, response to DoD OIG request for information, 3/26/2019.
405. CJTF-OIR, response to DoD OIG request for information, 3/26/2019.
406. USCENTCOM, response to DoD OIG request for information, 3/25/2019

 

Former @StateDept Employee Pleads Guilty to Conspiring with Foreign Agents

Former @StateDept Employee Pleads Guilty to Conspiring with Foreign Agents

 

 

 

This is a follow-up post to a 2017 case concerning a State Department employee arrested for concealing extensive contacts with intelligence agents from China (see @StateDept OMS Charged With Concealing Extensive Contacts With Chinese Intel Agents). Last month, USDOJ announced that Claiborne pled guilty to conspiring with foreign agents. Sentencing is scheduled for for July 9, 2019.

Download Claiborne Plea Agreement

Via USDOJ:

Former State Department Employee Pleads Guilty to Conspiring with Foreign Agents

Defendant Admitted Receiving Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Benefits From Two Chinese Agents in Exchange for Internal State Department Documents
Candace Marie Claiborne, a former employee of the U.S. Department of State, pleaded guilty today to a charge of 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 (PRC), in exchange for providing them with internal documents from the U.S. State Department.

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, Assistant Director in Charge Nancy McNamara of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.

The plea took place before the Honorable Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Candace Marie Claiborne traded her integrity and non-public information of the United States government in exchange for cash and other gifts from foreign agents she knew worked for the Chinese intelligence service,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers.  “She withheld information and lied repeatedly about these contacts.  Violations of the public’s trust are an affront to our citizens and to all those who honor their oaths.  With this guilty plea we are one step closer to imposing justice for these dishonorable criminal acts.”

“Candace Claiborne broke the public trust when she accepted gifts and money from foreign officials, and then lied about it to State Department background investigators,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “The United States will continue to seek to hold accountable those who abuse their positions of trust.”

“Candace Claiborne was entrusted with Top Secret information when she purposefully misled federal investigators about her repeated interactions with foreign contacts which violated her oath of office as a State Department employee,” said Assistant Director McNamara.  “The FBI will continue to investigate individuals who fail to report foreign contacts, which is a key indicator of potential insider threats posed by those in positions of public trust.”

“Our close working relationship with the FBI and the Department of Justice resulted in the conviction of Candace Claiborne who violated the public trust and damaged our national security,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Colón.  “Diplomatic Security will continue working with our law enforcement partners to vigorously defend the interests and security of the United States of America.”

According to the plea documents, Claiborne, 63, began working as an Office Management Specialist for the Department of State in 1999.  She 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 as well as any gifts she received from foreign sources over a certain amount.

Despite such a requirement, Claiborne failed to report repeated contacts with two agents of the People’s Republic of China Intelligence Service, 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, a monthly stipend and numerous cash payments.  Some of these gifts and benefits were provided directly to Claiborne, while others were provided to a close family member of Claiborne’s.

In exchange for these gifts and benefits, as stated in the plea documents, Claiborne provided copies of internal documents from the State Department on topics ranging from U.S. economic strategies 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.  That same agent at one point 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.  She was arrested on March 28, 2017, following a law enforcement investigation.

Judge Moss scheduled sentencing for July 9, 2019.  Claiborne, of Washington, D.C., was ordered detained pending sentencing, but will self-surrender for said detention on June 5, 2019.  The statutory maximum penalty for a person convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States is five years in prison.  The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes.  The sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI’s Washington Field Office is leading the investigation into this matter.  The case was prosecuted by Thomas A. Gillice and investigated by John L. Hill, both Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Deputy Chief Julie A. Edelstein and Trial Attorney Evan N. Turgeon of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

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Snapshot: Comparative Look at @StateDept Staffing 2008 – 2018

Via state.gov:

(click image above for larger view)

 

FSGB Annual Report 2018: Judicial Actions Involving Board Rulings

 

The following is excerpted from the Foreign Service Grievance Board Annual Report 2018. This is a good time to remind folks that while names/posts and identifying details are typically redacted from the Record of Proceedings (ROPs) routinely posted in the publicly available website fsgb.gov, once the case is filed in federal court, the records are usually publicly accessible and are unredacted (unless the case is sealed).

As described in last year’s report, USAID OIG had recommended that the grievant in FSGB Case No. 2012-057 be separated for cause. After two hearings, the Board approved the agency’s decision. The grievant appealed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In a decision issued October 12, 2018, the court upheld the Board’s decision on cross-motions for summary judgment. The grievant has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, challenging the District Court’s and Board’s construction of section 7(b) of the IG Act, which protects the confidentiality of employee informants.

In FSGB Case No. 2014-018, the grievant had requested a waiver of collection of a substantial overpayment of her deceased mother’s survivor’s annuity. The Department contended that she was not entitled to consideration of a waiver because the overpayment was made to her mother’s estate; under Department regulations, estates are not entitled to waivers. The Board concurred and grievant appealed. In a decision issued January 19, 2018, the D.C. district court found that the regulation denying waivers to estates was valid, but that the FSGB had erred in determining that the overpayments were made to the mother’s estate rather than to grievant as an individual. The court remanded the case for the Department and the Board to decide the request for the waiver on its merits. The waiver request is currently pending with the Department.

The grievant in FSGB Case No. 2015-016 filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2017 against the Department and his former rater and reviewer requesting monetary damages related to the Board’s denial of his grievance. He had contested two EERs and a low ranking. The district court dismissed the complaint as untimely in a decision issued March 30, 2018. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed that decision on December 28, 2018.

The grievant in FSGB Case No. 2013-005 contended that he was deprived of certain benefits, such as promotion consideration, during a five-year assignment to an international organization. The Department found him ineligible for the benefits because his assignment to the organization was effected through a “separation and transfer” agreement, rather than a “detail.” The Board affirmed the Department’s decision and the United States District Court for the District of Colombia upheld that decision on appeal in a decision issued in 2016. The grievant had also appealed the Board’s decision in a second, related, case, FSGB Case No 2014-024, in which he had claimed certain benefits based upon his separation and transfer and subsequent reemployment with the Department. The Board dismissed his second grievance on the grounds of claims preclusion. In a decision issued March 14, 2018, the district court concluded that the Board’s decision was neither arbitrary and capricious nor contrary to law and dismissed his claims. The grievant appealed both decisions to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and that matter remains pending.

The grievant in FSGB Case No. 2017-014 was denied tenure and scheduled for separation from the Foreign Service. Consequently, the Department ordered her to leave her overseas post and assigned her to a position in Washington, D.C. The grievant filed a grievance with the Department challenging her transfer on several bases. The Department denied the grievance, and the grievant appealed to the Board. The Board denied all of grievant’s claims. It further found that, since no statute or regulation had been violated, it lacked jurisdiction to overturn an assignment decision. The grievant appealed the decision to the U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Division. In a decision issued September 24, 2018, the court affirmed the Board’s decision.

Decisions were issued this year in two other cases filed by the same grievant, stemming from the same sets of circumstances but not involving appeals of Department or Board grievances. The grievant filed a case under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims alleging gender-based discrimination in pay and benefits. She claimed that the Department discriminated against her by paying her less and providing her with fewer benefits than a similarly-situated male employee. The court initially dismissed the case, finding that it lacked jurisdiction because the same appeal was pending in another court at the time she filed. However, that decision was overturned by the circuit court and the case was remanded to the Court of Claims. The grievant also filed two identical complaints in the U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Division, alleging discrimination and retaliation by the Department under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In both cases, the court dismissed all but one of the claims. The grievant also filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging nearly identical discrimination and retaliation by the Department under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Therefore, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has stayed its proceedings pending a decision in the U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands case.

An appeal of the Board’s 2017 decision by the State Department and USAID/OIG in another long-running case remains pending in the D.C. District Court following briefing of crossmotions for summary judgment in Civil Action No. 18-cv-41 (KBJ). As described in previous annual reports, the grievant in FSGB Case No. 2013-031 contested the decision to calculate his retirement annuity based on the application of a pay cap on his special differential pay that had not been applied when his salary was paid. In 2014, the Board initially upheld the agency’s decision. On grievant’s appeal, the district court in Civil Action No. 14-cv-1492 (KBJ) vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the case to the Board for further review. On remand, the Board in FSGB Case No. 2013-031R and No. 2016-030 issued a decision granting the grievant calculation and payment of his annuity that he sought. The Board denied the Department’s request for reconsideration of that decision. The Department and USAID/OIG jointly appealed the Board’s decision on remand to the district court in Civil Action No. 18-cv-41 (KBJ).

The 2015 Annual Report reported that the grievant filed an appeal of the Board’s decision in FSGB Case No. 2014-003 in Federal District Court, District of Colombia, claiming that the Department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act when it separated her. That appeal is still pending.

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Senators Van Hollen and Sullivan Introduce the Foreign Service Families Act (S.1293)

 

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), cofounders of the bipartisan Foreign Service Caucus, have introduced the Foreign Service Families Act (S.1293), a bill to expand employment opportunities for spouses of Foreign Service officers.

Senator Van Hollen’s press statement notes that “This legislation will help ensure that the State Department is able to attract and retain a world-class diplomatic corps by providing expanded career options and services to eligible family members. For many of these family members, the process of finding employment isn’t easy — frequent moves, language barriers, and limited options pose significant challenges. This legislation will address that issue so our Foreign Service can continue to serve the best interests of Americans at home and abroad.”

According to Senator Van Hollen’s press statement, The Foreign Service Families Act would provide authority to the State Department to offer the same services to Foreign Service family members overseas that the Defense Department is permitted to provide to military families. This includes:

  • Expanded hiring authority and preference for qualified spouses
  • Ensuring that Foreign Services spouses receive notice of State Department vacancies and that those who apply receive consideration
  • Making space available in State Department facilities for outside entities to provide career services
  • Developing partnerships with the private sector to enhance employment opportunities for Foreign Service spouses, and
  • Incorporating hiring preferences for qualified Foreign Service spouses into contracts between the Department of State and private-sector entities.

Additionally the legislation:

  • Directs the State Department to expand telecommuting opportunities for Foreign Service family members, so that family members can continue to work federal civilian and private sector jobs while overseas
  • Ensures that family members in the Expanded Professional Associates Program, which offers career opportunities for family members with advanced education and professional experience, are not held to unfair hiring standards, and
  • Makes sure that the State Department has fully implemented the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps, a program intended to speed hiring and improve clearance portability for Foreign Service family members.

The bill has been “read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.” We’ve searched for the text but have not yet been able to locate it.  According to congress.gov, as of 05/10/2019 text has not been received for S.1293: “Bills are generally sent to the Library of Congress from GPO, the Government Publishing Office, a day or two after they are introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed.”

Govtrack notes that the United States Congress considers about 5,000 bills and resolutions each year, but of those only about 7% will become law. All bills not enacted by the end of the session on Jan 3, 2021 die, and Congress will start over.

 

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@StateDept Recalls Amb. Marie Yovanovitch From Ukraine After Persistent Campaign For Removal

 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich has reportedly been recalled and now expected to depart post on or about May 20. This development followed a persistent campaign for her removal among conservative media outlets in the United States as well as allegations by Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Lutsenko concerning a do not prosecute list.

The State Department reportedly told RFE/RL  on May 6,  that Ambassador Yovanovitch “is concluding her 3-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned.” And that “her confirmed departure date in May aligns with the presidential transition in Ukraine,” which elected a new president in April.

While that may well be true – she was confirmed in 2016, a 3-year tour is a typical assignment; the new Ukraine president takes office on June 3rd — it is hard to ignore the louder voices calling for the ambassador’s removal from post for political reasons. It doesn’t help that there is no Senate confirmed EUR Assistant Secretary or that the Secretary of State did not see it fit to come forward to defend his top representative in a priority country in Europe.

Ambassador Yovanovich is a career diplomat and a Senate-confirmed Ambassador representing the United States in Ukraine. She previously served as Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) under President Obama and to the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under President George W. Bush. We’ve seen people calling career diplomats “holdovers”. If they were political appointees, they would be called “holdovers” or “burrowers,” but they are career public servants; that term does not apply to them. If some folks insists on calling them “holdovers,” then the least that these folks can do is to accurately enumerate all the public servants’ prior presidential appointments, some going back 30 years at the start of their careers in the diplomatic service.

Perhaps it is helpful to point out that as career appointees, ambassadors like Ambassador Yovanovich do not go freelancing nor do they go rogue; they do not make their own policy concerning their host country.  They typically get their marching orders from their home bureau, in this case, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at the State Department, under the oversight of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who report to the Secretary of State.  And they follow those orders.  Even if they disagree with those orders or the administration’s policies. Career diplomats who do not follow their instructions do not have lengthy careers in the diplomatic service.

After all that, if the United States is taking the word of a foreign official over our own ambassador, it’s open season for our career diplomats. Will the “you want a U.S. ambassador kicked out from a specific country go on teevee ” removal campaign going to become a thing now? Will the Secretary of Swagger steps up?

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FSGB finds no merit in argument that @StateDept has “unfettered discretion” to grant or deny SNEA benefit

Via FSGB Case No. 2018-016:

“The Department next argues that its granting a SNEA under section 5924 is “discretionary,” and in any event must be paid in accordance with the DSSRs. As we have previously stated, the prior authorization the grievants sought, for reimbursement after their arrival at post, is fully consistent with the DSSRs. Further, we find no merit to the argument that the Department has unfettered discretion under section 5924 to grant or deny a SNEA benefit to employees in any way it may see fit. Rather, law and regulation must limit its discretion.”

Via giphy.com