Whoa! What happened to these Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) files? (Updated)

Posted: 3:26 am ET
Updated: 2:53 pm PT (see below)

An interesting excerpt from an FSGB case:

Grievant “contends that she should not be held to a higher stand (sic) than senior Department officials and a DCM. In two of those cases, very high-ranking officials were found to have been less than candid with the Deputy Secretary of State about their relationships and not to have followed his instructions to “knock it off.””
FSGB: “However, we find it difficult to conclude that she should be held to a standard higher than that imposed on two of the Department’s most senior managers (Employees 2005-103 and 2005-104), who were both charged, unlike grievant, with lack of candor; who failed to heed direct instructions from the Deputy Secretary of State; and whose conduct led to several complaints being lodged with the Director General of the Foreign Service, as well as curtailments from the office in which they worked. Likewise, we do not agree that grievant, an FS-02, should be punished more harshly than the employee charged in FSGB Case No. 2003- 045, who was, at least during part of the conduct at issue, a Deputy Chief of Mission and thus presumably senior to grievant in the instant case, in both rank and responsibility.”

That perked our interest. So we went looking for FSGB cases 2005-103, 2005-104 and FSGB Case No.2003- 045 using the search and browse function at fsgb.gov.  And lo, and behold, all these files (Record of Proceeding) are missing from the FSGB website (the FSGB case is online, but search function failed to locate it, see explanation below).  We’ve asked the FSGB what happened to these files and why they are not online. We will update this post if/when we get a response.

The Deputy Secretary of State in 2005 is either Richard Armitage who served from March 26, 2001 to February 22, 2005 or Robert Zoellick who served from February 22, 2005 to July 7, 2006, both under President George W. Bush. The Director General of the Foreign Service at that time is W. Robert Pearson who served from October 7, 2003 – February 27, 2006.

Update 2:53 pm PT

In response to our query, FSGB said that the first two numbers we cited (Employees 2005-103 and 2005-104) are not FSGB numbers but numbers assigned by the State Department to employees who faced some sort of discipline; these discipline cases were later presented to the Foreign Service Grievance Board as comparators.  The FSGB website only includes decisions and orders from the Board. It adds:

“We try to post all our decisions and orders online. Sometimes we learn something was missed due to an administrative error, and then we post it as soon as possible when the problem is brought to our attention. We also are reviewing each year’s cases systematically to ensure there are no gaps. We welcome your bringing to our attention any gaps you identify. Please note, however, that a skipped number does not necessarily mean there is something that we are not posting; it could mean that an appeal was withdrawn very early or consolidated with another appeal and given the other appeal’s number before issuance of a decision.”

As to FSGB Case No. 2003-045, it is online and the Board provided us the link here



Related item:
State-13: Foreign Service Grievance Board Records




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.


@StateDept Updates Its Polygraph Policy: Are Results Shared For Security Clearance/Assignment Purposes?

Posted: 1:26 am ET


On September 1, 2016, the State Department updated its 12 FAM 250 policy on the use of the polygraph to examine Department employees (including employees on the General Schedule, the Foreign Service, on Personal Service Contracts, Limited NonCareer Appointees, and Locally Employed Staff).  

Per 12 FAM 251.2-2, the Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence (DS/DO/ICI) Counterterrorism Vetting Unit (CCV) administers the polygraph program and is responsible for hiring polygraph examiners, responding to requests for polygraph support, deploying polygraph examiners, and maintaining relevant records.

The update includes the following:
  • Streamlines the polygraph examination process by removing a requirement to seek pre-approval before a DS or OIG agent can ask an employee if s/he is willing to submit to a polygraph.
  • Authorizes a DS agent or Department OIG investigator to alert an employee or contractor, currently subject to a criminal, personnel security, or counterintelligence investigation, that s/he has the option to undergo an exculpatory polygraph examination, rather than limiting exculpatory polygraphs to cases where it is initiated by the individual under investigation.
  • Allow polygraphs of Department employees detailed to federal agencies (in addition to the NSA, CIA, and DIA) when the relevant agency requires a polygraph to be detailed to the position. Polygraphs of employees detailed to agencies other than the NSA, CIA, or DIA will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require approval from the Under Secretary for Management.
  • Limits the scope of polygraph examinations of Department detailees to other federal agencies to counterintelligence topics for all detailees.
  • Formalize existing processes for polygraph examination of certain locally employed staff, in accordance with the approvals specified in the polygraph policy

Back in May 2015, we questioned the use of the CIA’s polygraph exams of State Department employees (see AFSA Elections: What’s Missing This Campaign Season? Fire, Ice and Some Spirited Debates, Please).

Do you know that Department employees who take the CIA’s polygraph examination for detail assignments will have the  results of their polygraph provided to DS and HR for security  clearance and assignment purposes?  A source told us that “In and of itself, it does no  harm if the CIA retains them for its clearance purposes, but it can  have an unanticipated negative impact when indiscriminately released  by the CIA to third parties, like DS and HR, who use them in violation of the CIA’s restrictions to the Department  and assurances to the examinees.”  If this affects only a fraction of the Foreign Service, is that an excuse not to do anything about it, or at a minimum, provide an alert to employees contemplating these detail assignments?

We’ve recently discovered a newly posted grievance case dated March 2010. We don’t know why this is currently on display upfront on fsgb.gov.  In any case, this is related to the subject of polygraph examination.

On June 24, 2009, grievant, a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer, appealed to the FS Grievance Board the State Department’s (Department) denial of his grievance with respect to the use of the results of a polygraph exam he took in 2003 in conjunction with a detail to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Grievant claims the improper handling and use of the results of that exam violated the Department’s own regulations (12 FAM 250) and resulted in his having been denied a Presidential Appointment as a Chief of Mission (Ambassador).  The ROP includes some interesting interrogatories:

#1: Has the Department ever obtained a Department employee’s polygraph examination results from the CIA for a personnel security background investigation based on the employee’s SF-86 signed release? If so, please describe the circumstances under which this would occur.

The Department objected to answering this interrogatory on the grounds that is was overbroad, immaterial, and irrelevant.

IR #6e for Diplomatic Security Case Officer for the second background investigation: Have you ever requested an employee’s polygraph results from the CIA before? If so, under what circumstances‘?

The Department found this interrogatory overbroad, irrelevant, and immaterial.

Ruling on IR #6e: Under the more ample concept of relevance applied at the discovery stage, the Board finds that the information requested is sufficiently relevant to grievant’s claims or likely to lead to the discovery of information relevant to such claims to compel discovery. The information requested may help to clarify the Department’s practice in applying the regulations governing the use of polygraphs that are issue in this case. We do not find the request to impose such a burden on the Department as to outweigh the potential usefulness of the information requested. The Department is directed to respond.

IR # 7h for Diplomatic Security: Does DS routinely request and receive polygraph examination results on all Department employees who have taken polygraph examinations at the CIA as part of their routine background security investigations?

The Department objected to this interrogatory as irrelevant and immaterial in all respects.

The Department was directed to respond to grievant’s Interrogatories 6e and 7h not later than 20 days after receipt of the order but we have been unable to find the decision on this case.


On June 24, 2009, grievant filed a grievance appeal, claiming improper use by the Department (Department, agency) of the results of a polygraph examination he had taken in conjunction with a detail from the Department to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  The grievant makes several specific claims:

1) that the CIA provided the results of the polygraph to a Diplomatic Security (DS) agent in the Department, in violation of Department regulations and CIA policy;
2) that the Department requested and/or received the polygraph results from the CIA, in violation of its own regulations;
3) that the Department improperly used the polygraph results in the course of security update investigations; and
4) that the Department improperly provided information drawn from the polygraph to the Director General (DG), which resulted in the DG withdrawing grievant’s nomination to be a chief of mission. The FSGB Board finds that it has jurisdiction over the claims presented by the grievant.



That Time When Donald Trump Embraced Anna Wintour’s Rumored Ambassadorship to London or Paris

Posted: 1:13 am ET


Via Politico:

America’s diplomats are shuddering at the notion that Donald Trump, if elected president, will send unqualified cronies around the world as ambassadors, exporting his bombastic style to sensitive jobs that represent the face of the United States.

As the presidential election draws closer, many career diplomats are uncertain about their future should the Republican presidential nominee and his unorthodox foreign policy positions triumph. And while plenty of them are wary of how Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — a former secretary of state who will owe a lot of favors — will shape her administration, Trump is by far the bigger unknown.

“He probably has no idea what the foreign service is,” lamented one person with deep knowledge of the U.S. diplomatic corps. “At least with her we know who half the people who will get these jobs will be. With him we have no idea.”
The rise of Trump this year is adding an edge to what otherwise would be routine efforts to get the candidates to pay lip service to the importance of a qualified diplomatic corps.

Read more:

Donald Trump may not know what the Foreign Service is but back in 2012, he was happy to endorsed Vogue Magazine’s Anna Wintour rumored ambassadorship to either the U.K. or France.  She was rumored to be in the running but was never nominated.  The Daily Beast reported in 2013 that Wintour had actually favored the British appointment over France.

The Times writes that after Wintour was notified that her preferred post would likely go to Obama’s top fundraiser Matthew Barzun in November, she was uninterested in pushing for one of the remaining positions. […] At the time, Wintour’s close friend, designer Oscar de la Renta, found the prospect ridiculous, telling the paper, “When you are editor in chief of an extremely successful magazine, you don’t need an ambassadorship for four years. Ambassadors were great in the 18th century. Today, it’s going to the opening of a cafeteria.”


We should note that President Obama appointed to-date the highest number of career diplomats as ambassadors at 70.8%, and the lowest number of non-career, political appointees at 29.2%.  The challenge is to persuade the next president to break that record and go lower when it comes to political appointees.  See Obama’s Career Ambassadorship Appointments: Highest on Record at 70.8% #ThanksObama.

Whether or not The Donald has heard of the Foreign Service is a guessing game, but he has certainly heard of the State Department, and he has nothing good to say about it.

As to who might received appointments in a potential Trump Administration, we can only guess with trepidation given the quality of surrogates on teevee who appear to reside in an alternate universe where up is down, where inside is out and where smarts is measured by looks, and the ability to suspend disbelief.


Senate Confirmations: Bitter, Kim, Young, Symington, Donovan

Posted: 1:38 am ET


The U.S. Senate confirmed the following ambassador nominations on Wednesday, September 28. Five nominations included in SFRC’s business meeting on September 27 did not make it to the full Senate vote (see bottom list).  About 17 other ambassador nominations and FS lists are currently pending in committee and do not have scheduled hearings as of this writing.


Executive Calendar #728
Rena Bitter – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Executive Calendar #729
Sung Y. Kim – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of the Philippines

Executive Calendar #730
Andrew Robert Young – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to Burkina Faso

Executive Calendar #731
W. Stuart Symington – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Executive Calendar #732
Joseph R. Donovan Jr. – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Indonesia



Executive Calendar #733
Christopher Coons – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

Executive Calendar #734
Ronald H. Johnson – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations


Waiting for full Senate vote:

The following nomination and FS lists were in the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but appear not to make it through the full Senate vote. Note that the hyperlinked lists are those posted in the Senate’s Executive Calendar.

Ms. Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Malaysia

Jorge A. Abudei, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1704), as amended — (PN1704-2)

John Robert Adams, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1705) – (PN1705)

Jennisa Paredes, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1643), as amended — (PN1643-2)

Diana Isabel Acosta, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1642), as amended — (PN1642-2)





Obama’s Career Ambassadorship Appointments: Highest on Record at 70.8% #ThanksObama

Posted: 1:09 am ET


According to @Philip Arsenault who has done a lot of good work using presidential records to track the ambassadorial appointees going back to FDR, President Obama appointed to-date the highest number of career diplomats as ambassadors at 70.8%, and the lowest number of non-career political appointees at 29.2%.

The political ambassadorships during Obama’s two terms amount to 29.2% of his total appointments, which is lower than President Carter, previously the lowest on record at 30.8%.

AFSA’s ambassadorship tracker has different numbers but we’ve stopped using the group’s ambassador statistics since 2015.  See our write up on AFSA’s Ambassador Statistics here and why we find its data problematic.





Obama Nominates Career Diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis — First Ambassador to Cuba Since 1960

Posted: 1:12 pm ET


On September 27, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years:

President Obama said, “Today, I am proud to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years. Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries. There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests in Cuba than Jeff.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Jeff has extensive experience in Cuba and Latin America.  He has served as our Chief of Mission in Havana since August 2014, and was posted to Havana twice before.  Jeff is already working with Cuba on issues that advance U.S. national interests, such as law enforcement, counternarcotics, environmental protection, combatting trafficking in persons, expanding commercial and agricultural opportunities, and cooperation in science and health.  He engages broadly with the Cuban people and expresses the United States’ strong support for universal values and human rights in Cuba.  Jeff also has extensive experience working with the United Nations.  During his most recent service at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations he served for three years as Ambassador, Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs.  Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government.  He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador.  If confirmed by the Senate, I know Jeff will build on the changes he helped bring about to better support the Cuban people and advance America’s interests.

The WH released the following bio of the nominee:

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, a position he has held since 2015.  He served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba from 2014 to 2015.  Prior to that, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Ambassador and Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from 2011 to 2014.  Prior to that posting, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Ambassador DeLaurentis was previously Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Since beginning his State Department career in 1991, Ambassador DeLaurentis has served in a number of overseas posts, including twice before in Havana, first as consular officer from 1991 to 1993, then as Political-Economic Section Chief from 1999 to 2002.  He also served as Political Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, and Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.  In Washington, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Director of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council, and as an International Relations Officer in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.  Prior to entering the Foreign Service, he held a senior staff position at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Ambassador DeLaurentis received a B.S. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and an M.A. from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

According to history.state.gov, the United States remained in Cuba as an occupying power following the defeat of Spain in 1898, until the Republic of Cuba was formally installed on May 19, 1902. On May 20, 1902, the United States relinquished its occupation authority over Cuba, but claimed a continuing right to intervene in Cuba.  Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba. He served until December 2, 1905.

Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador. He served until May 28, 1927.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

On September 1, 1977, the United States established an Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy.  On July 20, 2015, the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations when both countries elevated their respective Interests Sections to Embassy status. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to the date for these actions in an exchange of letters dated June 30, 2015.

Between 1977 to 2015, 14 principal officers served at the Interest Section in Havana, including Ambassador DeLaurentis whose position was elevated to Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on July 20, 2015 when diplomatic relations were restored.

The last Senate-confirmed ambassador prior to the break in diplomatic relations was Philip Wilson Bonsal (1903–1995). He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from March 3, 1959–October 28, 1960.   Daniel McCoy Braddock (1906–1980) served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim until January 1961.

So if/when the Senate considers Ambassador DeLaurentis’ nomination, it will be the first time that they’ll do so since 1960.


Notable reactions, some with consequences to the confirmation of this nomination in the U.S. Senate.


Related Posts:

FSO Morgan O’Brien Launches DiploSport Podcast on Sports Diplomacy

Posted: 1:03 am ET


If you’re taking a road trip, and are looking for something to listen to in the car, check out the DiploSport Podcast. FSO Morgan O’Brien spent the past year studying sports diplomacy as part of a fellowship sponsored by the Council of Foreign Relations and the NBA. For his research, he interviewed journalists, policy makers and athletes to discuss the interplay of sports and government.

The first episode features former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as his inaugural guest (full transcript here). Others featured in the podcast include Norwegian speedskating legend and Olympic champion, Dr. Johann Olav Koss, founder of Right to Play (bit.ly/JOKossRtP) an organization which uses sport to connect with youth around the globe who face some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable; 3x American skeleton Olympian Katie Uhlaender who is preparing for the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang 2018; Ruth Riley who served as a State Department Sports Envoy, and an NBA Cares Ambassador; and two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan who also did a stint as a State Department Sports Envoy. He told us that he started interviewing earlier this year and have about 20 podcasts in the can.

The podcast host is a Public Diplomacy officer who joined the Foreign Service in 2009 (146th A-100). He was  Ambassador Holbrooke’s assistant for his first tour, and he did a consular tour in Brazzaville.  When he came back to the State Department, he worked at the Sports Diplomacy Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). For the past 12 months, he was attached to the National Basketball Association’s International Operations team and had the opportunity to study sports diplomacy.  He is currently in language training in preparation for his next assignment to an East Asia post. We asked him a few questions about this project:

Q: How were you able to get a fun fellowship like this?

MO: This past year, I was on the International Affairs Fellowship through the Council on Foreign Relations, so this wasn’t a formalized “sports diplomacy/NBA Fellowship,” per se. I first pitched the idea to the NBA, with whom I had worked the previous two years when I was in ECA. When they agreed to the concept, I put together a written proposal for the CFR, which was then followed by a panel interview before ultimately being accepted. Since I applied, two things I think have changed: one of the stipulations was that applicants needed to be under 35, I think that’s no longer the case; and I think there is an extra level of State vetting now. Whereas I sent my proposal directly to the CFR, I think this year’s applicants need to be approved by HR before submitting to the CFR.

If one gets creative in canvassing the bid list, they’ll find that the Department can be fantastic about enabling/empowering officers to pursue opportunities outside State, including awesome fellowships (the Una Chapman Cox Fellowship is another incredible, self-paced opportunity). And while I don’t know how it was done, there are officers actually working on international affairs for a few mayor’s offices in a handful of major cities in the US.

Q: What was it like working with the NBA team?

MO: I was a fully-integrated member of the NBA team for the year, fulfilling a childhood dream of working in pro sports. I supported the All Star Game (held in Toronto) and the “Basketball Without Borders” elite youth camps held around the world this past summer. I learned a ton about the decision-making process of a multi-billion dollar organization, and was pretty blown away by their sincere commitment to social responsibility programming. At State, we should also be proud to know that the NBA really relies on us around the world as subject matter experts and partners. There are dozens of Posts with whom we worked throughout the year—whether it be for women/girls-centered programming in Latvia and Ethiopia or to help demystify the visa process for the families of our players in Serbia or Congo.

Q: What did you learn from this private sector experience?

MO: The private sector exposure was fantastic. I’m bringing back to State a wealth of knowledge in monitoring and evaluation and emphasizing efficiency. I do have to admit that the time away also reinforced my love for the Foreign Service, our mission and our wonderful colleagues. My private sector teammates always found it fascinating that we get to travel the world on behalf of the country, and were every bit as interested in what we do day-to-day as I was of their work.

Morgan O’Brien’s views/opinions expressed on the blog/podcasts are not necessarily those of the State Department.

Check out the diplosport links below and while you’re at it, you might also check @SportsDiplomacy, the official Twitter account of exchanges.state.gov/sports

Sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/diplosport

iTunes: http://bit.ly/DiploSport

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2bUgvdI

Blog: http://www.diplosport.com/blog/




Funding IRAs When One Spouse Is Unemployed #ForeignServiceSpouses

Posted: 2:28 am ET


There are over 11,000 Foreign Service adult family members overseas. As of April 2016, 57% are not employed (29% works inside the mission, 14% works outside the mission).  Funding an IRA when one spouse is unemployed is something that some FS spouses already do but if you’re not doing it, this is something you may want to talk about with your working spouse.

Via The Street:

Funding an IRA when one spouse is unemployed or taking a sabbatical can occur if the working spouse makes the contribution. The spouse who is earning income can support the contribution of the non-working spouse’s account, said John Bowen, a retail sales supervisor for Equity Institutional, a financial planning firm in Westlake, Ohio. Whether the spouse contributes to a company 401(k) is not relevant. The contribution can be up to $5,500 for people up to the age of 50 and $6,500 if you are 50 or older in 2016.

Read more about Roth IRA here.




Ambassador Klemm Holds Banned #Szekler Flag in Romania, Reportedly Just Want to Be Polite

Posted: 3:35 pm ET


A couple of years ago, the Hungarian Spectrum posted about The War of the Flags: Diplomatic Spat Over Szekler Territorial Autonomy. A diplomatic spat over a flag. Today, the AP reports on the controversy involving the U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm and the same flag, the Szekler flag.

On September 14, the US Embassy in Bucharest (@AmbasadaSUA) tweeted a photo of the visit to Sfântu Gheorghe by the U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm and his wife.  They did not post the controversial photo of the ambassador with the flag but it was posted on Facebook by the mayor of Sfântu Gheorghe, Antal Arpad according to social media coverage. The media has not been friendly. This one says that “It is time to get over an alleged ignorance of the American ambassador vis-a-vis historical realities in Transylvania. The gesture should be seen rather as a premeditated one.” Read more about the Székely land  here.

The Romani Journal citing realitatea.net says that US Ambassador Hans Klemm said that the only flags that matter to him are the US’s and Romania’s.  He reportedly added that the photo was taken within a context when he only wanted to be polite.

Well, now… imagine if we have the Russian, Chinese, German or Indian Ambassador in Washington show up in Texas holding the flag of Texit or Texas Secede! advocates then telling the press he/she was just being polite.

We’ll have back to back hearings in Congress, our elected folks would refused to go home to campaign during the election season. Right.

The Romania Journal also notes the FB post: Antal Arpad wrote on Facebook: “I offered the US Ambassador as gift the flag of the Szekler community, which has become the symbol of authorities’ disrespect towards the Szekler community. I mention that this flag was first used in 1599, when the Szeklers fought alongside Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave – ruler of Wallachia 1593-1601, the first ruler to unite the three historical provinces of Romania – our note).”

Below is the embassy’s response to Romanian media roiled by the photograph.  Via The Romania Journal as it is not available on the embassy page:

In a release as reply to the information in the media, the US Embassy says that Ambassador Hans Klemm is the US Ambassador for entire Romania. He is periodically travelling through the country, he meets various groups from all the areas of Romanian society. As ally and strategic partner of Romania, the United States support and greet the democracy in Romania and Romania’s efforts to consolidate the democratic institutions with the full and balanced participation of all segments of society, the embassy said.

The 2015 Human Right Report says that the ethnic Hungarian population is approximately 1.2 million.  Also the following:

Ethnic Hungarians also complained of obstructions and bans against the use of the regional Szekler flag and symbols. In March local authorities in Targu Mures rejected the National Szekler Council’s request to hold a march to celebrate the Szeklers’ Freedom Day on March 10 and commemorate five Szekler martyrs.

Ethnic Hungarians continued to report discrimination related to their ability to use the Hungarian language. In August the political umbrella group Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania released a report on the government’s implementation of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The report asserted that ethnic Hungarians were not permitted to use Hungarian in courts or administrative matters and that many municipalities did not use bilingual signs. The report claimed that courts obstructed the financing of Hungarian-language newspapers by local authorities and that the government continued to refuse to establish a public Hungarian-language university. The report also noted there were insufficient Hungarian-language cultural institutions and translations of Hungarian-language literature in the country.

In the region of Moldavia, the Roman Catholic, Hungarian-speaking Csango minority continued to operate government-funded Hungarian language classes. In some other localities, authorities denied requests for Hungarian language classes.