On August 10, USA Today reported that the president has threatened retaliation Friday against countries and organizations that issue travel warnings on the United States because of gun violence (see Amnesty International Issues Travel Advisory For the United States of America).
The president said during the gaggle “We are a very reciprocal nation with me as the head. When somebody does something negative to us in terms of a country, we do it to them.”
Oh, Lordy, that’s going to be the end of the State Department’s Travel Advisories, wouldn’t it? Better not show him the other countries’ color coded map of the United States where these gun violence is happening, or that’s going to blow up the State Department’s travel advisory travel map, too.
But seriously, per Foreign Affairs Manual, the travel advisories are part of the Consular Affairs’ Consular Information Program (CIP). It is a public outreach program through which the Department of State, through the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA), and U.S. embassies and consulates, “inform U.S. citizens and nationals of potential threats to their health or safety abroad and provide information about consular services.” Also this:
“All information provided to the public through the CIP represents the Department’s objective assessment of conditions in a given country based on reliable information available at the time of publishing, as reported by posts, various Department bureaus, other U.S. government agencies and departments, foreign governments, and credible open sources.”
Most importantly is this:
“Information provided through the CIP, including Travel Advisories and Alerts for U.S. citizens, is based on the overall assessment of the situation in country. By necessity, this analysis is undertaken without regard to political or economic considerations.”
The Travel Advisory Review Committee (TARC) brings Department stakeholders together to discuss security information and how it is relayed via Travel Advisories. TARC includes representatives from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, (DS/TIA/ITA); Post’s regional bureau; the Office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs; the Office of the Under Secretary for Management; Representatives from other bureaus as appropriate based on the threat, to include: 1) Coordinator for Counter Terrorism (CT), when the threat is terrorism related; 2) Medical Services, when the threat is health related; 3) Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB/TRA/OP), if there are aviation issues; 4) Legal offices (OCS/L/CA), when there are legal issues; 5) The Office of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T), when there is a nuclear issue; 6) Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), when the threat is environmental; and 7) Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), if threat presents human rights concerns, such as LGBTI issues.
The TARC is chaired by CA’s Overseas Citizen Services, an office that reports to the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch. Mr. Risch, however, has overall responsibility for the Consular Information Program (CIP), to include supervising and managing the program, and is authorized to determine the final wording of all products. CA’s Carl Risch reports to the Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao. U/Secretary Bulatao in turn reports to the Deputy Secretary John Sullivan and Secretary Mike Pompeo.
So, if this president starts retaliating against countries that issue Travel Warnings for the United States, who’s going to tell him “no”? We’re ready to borrow the rules from the World Rock Paper Scissors Society, if needed.
So if the U.S. State Department issued a warning to U.S. citizens that travel to a certain country is unsafe, and that country threatened retaliation, would we drop the warning?
— Tom the Dancing Bug (@RubenBolling) August 10, 2019
State and USAID submitted a joint reform plan to OMB in September 2017. According to USAID documents, USAID suspended its coordination with State in January 2018 because State could not articulate the objectives for the joint reform effort. GAO has ongoing work reviewing the status of USAID’s reform efforts.
Trump’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien who was in Sweden for A$AP Rocky’s assault trial apparently told USAToday reporter Kim Hjelmgaard that it is “entirely appropriate” for him to be in Sweden even though this was a criminal case. “When foreign govts. hold American citizens it’s always appropriate”.
The things we learn these days!
As of December 2018, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has conducted 10,399 visits to U.S. citizens in prison overseas. Note – prison visits not hostage visits. Only a few of those U.S. citizens make the news (see CA Fact Sheet).
The Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs also said publicly, while tagging his ultimate boss on Twitter, that the president “has made bringing our fellow citizens home a center piece of his foreign policy”.
Consular work just got so utterly fascinating. Now, which ones of the over 10,000 prison visits by consular officers to U.S. citizens incarcerated overseas will now be done by the special envoy? Which fellow citizens jailed overseas will be brought home next?
— U.S. Special Presidential Envoy O’Brien (@StateSPEHA) August 2, 2019
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) August 3, 2019
Trump’s special envoy for hostage affairs, Robert O’Brien, who is in Stockholm attending the #ASAPRocky trial, tells me it is “entirely appropriate” for him to be here even though this is a purely criminal case. “When foreign govts. hold American citizens it’s always appropriate”
— Kim Hjelmgaard (@khjelmgaard) August 1, 2019
Care to comment? https://t.co/UVQKK6YUlI
— Jakob Andresen (@jakobandresen) August 3, 2019
And while we're on the subject of hostages, #PaulWhelan who needs to be released from Russia and allowed to return to his home in Novi, Michigan. No evidence has been presented against Paul and he has been held for 7 months in the notorious prison Lefortovo. #freePaulWhelan
— Elizabeth Whelan (@elizabethwhelan) August 1, 2019
Next case? Better get cracking…,https://t.co/L2T6kGVVdO
— Francois Duchastel 🇸🇪🇨🇦🇪🇺 (@FDuchastel888) August 3, 2019
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.
On July 1st, CNN reported on a whistleblower’s allegations to congressional investigators regarding“multiple issues over a period of months, about special agents being asked to carry out some questionable tasks for the Pompeo family.” (see “UberEats With Guns”, Susan Pompeo, and Don’t Forget Sherman). On July 2nd, the State Department issued a Message from Secretary Pompeo on Ethics.
Message from the Secretary on Ethics in Government
I recently unveiled our new Professional Ethos to the State Department team. This set of shared operating principles and core values reflects the unique spirit and excellence of the U.S. Department of State. The ethos reflects my expectation that every member of our team must act with uncompromising personal and professional integrity. That includes holding ourselves accountable for complying with U.S. government ethics rules and modeling our commitment to a high standard of ethics at all times.
As part of demonstrating our personal and professional integrity, I expect employees to avoid conflicts of interest in our work, to act impartially, and to avoid using our public offices for private gain. Because we serve the American people first and foremost, it must be clear that our conduct of foreign policy is guided solely by the national interest and not by personal considerations or improper motives. I expect employees to file all required financial disclosure reports on time and to take mandatory ethics training. Some of these tasks can be time-consuming, but the values underlying these requirements are central to our professional ethos and underscore our mission orientation: that we are motivated by our commitment to public service and aim to advance the national interest, rather than any personal interest, in everything we do.
We maintain this ethos of integrity and accountability with the support of our Ethics Office and assistance from supervisors, management officers at posts overseas, and our executive offices here in Washington. We each have a personal obligation to comply with our government ethics rules. But, as in every aspect of our work, we support each other as a team. I encourage all Department employees to reach out for guidance when an ethical dilemma comes your way. The Department offers many resources to help employees ensure that they are complying with ethics rules. There are detailed provisions in the Foreign Affairs Manual, a staff of ethics professionals to answer questions, online training courses, and the EthicsAttorneyMailbox@state.gov, which provides rapid responses to specific ethics questions.
Performing our jobs with integrity supports our credibility and makes us more effective at our jobs. We can and should take pride in a culture of ethics at the State Department. I greatly appreciate your commitment to integrity and to serving the American people as we advance our foreign policy mission around the world.
We’re late on this, but on June 27, 2019, USDOJ announced that Haroon K. Ullah, a former senior official of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the agency formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) entered a plea of guilty for stealing over $40,000 in government money in 2018.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – An Alexandria man pleaded guilty today to stealing over $40,000 in government money during 2018, while he was employed as a senior government official at the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) in Washington, D.C.
According to court documents, Haroon K. Ullah, 41, admitted that he fraudulently obtained thousands of dollars in government funds by submitting falsified hotel invoices, falsified and inflated taxi and Uber receipts, and by billing the government for personal travel and for travel that had already been paid by third parties.
Additionally, Ullah admitted that he created a falsified letter from a real medical doctor purportedly claiming that Ullah needed to fly in business class at government expense because of a sore knee. By submitting the forged letter from the doctor, Ullah fraudulently obtained costly business class upgrades at government expense, including on lengthy international flights. Ullah admitted to creating many of the false documents on his government-issued laptop computer. As part of the plea, Ullah also admitted that he submitted falsified invoices and repair estimates to an insurance company regarding a claim for repairs to his home in Alexandria.
A former employee of the U.S. Department of State, Ullah became a member of the Senior Executive Service when he joined USAGM as its Chief Strategy Officer (CSO). Ullah committed his crime from February through October 2018, while serving as CSO. Ullah is no longer employed with USAGM.
Ullah pleaded guilty to theft of government money and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison when sentenced on October 11. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Steve A. Linick, Inspector General for the Department of State, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III, accepted the plea. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:19-cr-183.
Mr. Ullah’s website still says that he “serves as Chief Strategy Officer at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an $800 million global media agency. He is a scholar, diplomat and policy practioner with a special focus on digital strategy, countering violent extremism and transmedia engagement.”
USAGM’s website has removed Mr. Ullah’s bio from its website and info related to him appears not to display prominently on its website; a search still returns events where he was featured as the agency’s CSO, and the Wayback Machine has archived this CSO for eternity.
A Statement of Facts submitted with Mr. Ullah’s Plea Agreement notes that before joining USAGM, he had been employed with the U.S. Department of State since 2010. It also notes the following:
5. During the approximate ninth—month period of February 2018-October 2018, ULLAH submitted for reimbursement multiple falsiﬁed hotel invoices; falsiﬁed taxi receipts; double-billed third party sponsors and USAGM for the same trips; and billed USAGM for personal
trips, either to promote his book, or for week-end trips during which little to no USAGM business was conducted. ULLAH used his government computer, a Microsoft Surface Pro, to create the false documents. He would obtain logos and other graphics on-line and use either an invoice generator or Microsoﬁ Excel in order to create fraudulent hotel invoices. Sometimes ULLAH had stayed with a family member or friend or at a budget hotel, but he created the false invoice for the purpose of ﬁnancial gain in order to maximize his reimbursement from USAGM. With other hotel invoices, ULLAH took a legitimate hotel invoice and changed his address or other data in order to conceal that the hotel room had been paid by a third party, which fact ULLAH intentionally failed to disclose to E2 and USAGM.
8. As part of a scheme to obtain business class travel to which he was not entitled, ULLAH also submitted to USAGM a falsiﬁed and forged letter from a real medical doctor, identiﬁed here by the initials N.A., claiming that ULLAH required an upgrade to business class because of a medical condition that required him to “lie ﬂat” on long ﬂights. The doctor conﬁrmed to law enforcement that the letter was a forgery; that he did not authorize ULLAH to use his identity or to sign his name for him; and that a business class upgrade for ULLAH’s sore knee
was not medically necessary.
Part of the Plea Agreement says:
Further, in accordance with Rule 11(c)(l)(B) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the United States and the defendant will recommend to the Court that the following provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines apply: Under Section 2B1 .1(b), the intended loss is greater than $40,000 but less than $95,000, thus six levels are added to the base offense level. Under Section 3Bl.2, the United States and the defendant agree to a two level enhancement for abuse of a position of public trust as an employee of the United States.
The Plea also notes:
“The United States will not further criminally prosecute the defendant in the Eastern District of Virginia for the speciﬁc conduct descﬁbed in the information or statement of facts. This plea agreement and statement of facts does not confer on the defendant any immunity from prosecution by any state government in the United States.”
On January 27, 2017, Trump issued an Executive Order that suspends the entry of refugees to the United States for 120 days and deny entry/issuance of visas to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries [Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen]. See Trump EO: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, 1.27.2017
Below is a collection of documents from the State Department via Jason Leopold’s FOIA efforts. The documents illustrate the actions and confusion following the issuance of the Executive Order. In a normal administration where the motto is not “chaos everyday”, this EO would have gone through an internal process where overseas posts learn beforehand about the new policy, how it is interpreted for operational purposes, and are provided guidance on how to address the more complicated cases, and exceptions. In this case, the EO was released and overseas posts had no answers to relevant operational questions. The agreed guidance between DHS and State did not go out until January 30, 2017. Meanwhile, US Embassy Baghdad had to deal with the EO fallout from the Iraqi government and shocked Kurdish partners.
NEW(ish) via my State Dept #FOIA: 56 pages of documents related to Trump's January 2017 EO: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States https://t.co/ojsXgNSAYj pic.twitter.com/tcPSUmYbMV
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) June 23, 2019
For small posts in the Foreign Service, the Eagles’ ‘This could be heaven or this could be Hell’ line is often appropriate. And in the case of the U.S. Embassy Libreville in Gabon, it sounds pretty much like the later. With few exceptions, it’s hard to find things that are working well at the embassy in Gabon based on State/OIG’s inspection. The report lists career diplomat Joel Danies as U.S. Ambassador who arrived at post in March 2018. The listed DCM Randall Merideth arrived at post in August 2017.
Although we don’t have the date, the embassy’s top two officials must have departed post sometime this past winter. By March 2019, CDA Robert Scott was listed as CDA (chargé d’affaires), with Sam Watson as DCM (deputy chief of mission). As of this writing, the U.S. Embassy in Libreville is headed by Chargé d’Affaires Sam Watson. The June 18, 2019 Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts for Gabon (PDF) does not list a Deputy Chief of Mission.
We understand that retired Ambassador Robert Whitehead who was appointed three times as Chargé d’Affaires to Sudan and was previously the U.S. Ambassador to Togo (2012-2015) has been recalled to service as full ambassador to Libreville. He reportedly arrived in D.C. this past weekend for consultations before going to post.
At the time of the inspection, Embassy Libreville had 36 U.S. direct-hire positions, 116 LE staff members, and 8 eligible family member positions. Other agencies at the embassy included the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior. The Department of State (Department) completed the new embassy compound, including the chancery, a warehouse, and other facilities, in 2012. [..] A related classified inspection report discusses the embassy’s security program and issues affecting the safety of embassy personnel and facilities.
OIG assessed Embassy Libreville’s leadership on the basis of 73 interviews that included comments on Front Office performance; staff questionnaires; and OIG’s review of documents and observations of embassy meetings and activities during the course of the on-site inspection.
Front Office Background:
The Ambassador, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, arrived in Gabon in March 2018 after an assignment as Associate Dean of the Department’s Foreign Service Institute School of Professional and Area Studies. His previous assignments included management and political positions in Belize, Switzerland, and Afghanistan, and he served as Deputy Special Coordinator in the Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator.
The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), a career Foreign Service officer, arrived in August 2017 after an assignment as director of the Minneapolis Passport Agency. His previous Department assignments included consular and management positions in Cote d’Ivoire, Afghanistan, South Africa, and Germany. He had served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon.
Ambassador Did Not Set a Positive and Professional Tone for the Embassy
OIG found that the Ambassador did not set a positive and professional tone for the embassy in accordance with Department leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM). In interviews with embassy staff, OIG found that the Ambassador’s verbal outbursts created anxiety and impeded communication and embassy operations. The Ambassador told OIG that he was passionate and committed to improving embassy operations and advancing U.S. interests in Gabon but that he became increasingly frustrated when the staff did not appear to respond to his directives or keep him informed of significant developments. He also acknowledged that he sometimes cursed at employees. American and LE staff told OIG that they were reluctant to provide the Ambassador with complete information on developing situations, fearing they would receive a negative reaction if he did not like what he heard. Finally, OIG noted during the inspection that the Ambassador was in conflict with a key member of the embassy’s security team over an issue that occurred 2 months before the inspection. This conflict resulted in an almost complete lack of communication between the Ambassador and this individual. In discussing the conflict with OIG, the Ambassador agreed that it was essential for embassy security that he take action to repair his relationship with the security team.
The Department’s leadership and management principles require leaders to hold themselves to the highest standards of conduct and to be self-aware. OIG advised the Ambassador to take advantage of the Department’s leadership and coaching programs. The Ambassador welcomed the advice, telling OIG that it was exactly the type of feedback he had hoped to obtain from the inspection. He also committed to work on his tone with staff by moderating the volume of his voice and eliminating the use of profanities.
Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission Did Not Form an Effective Leadership Team
The Ambassador and the DCM did not form an effective leadership team, as described in 2 FAM 113.2, which requires the DCM to serve as alter ego to a chief of mission in coordinating mission activity to meet broad program needs. Specifically, OIG found that the Ambassador did not establish clear expectations for the DCM regarding his responsibilities to manage the embassy. For example, the two officers had not agreed on a work requirements statement for the DCM, which should have been prepared within 45 days of the Ambassador’s arrival in March 2018, as required by 3 FAH-1 H-2815.1a(1). In discussing this issue with OIG, the Ambassador agreed that he had been remiss in not making it clear to the DCM what was expected of him. OIG also found that the Ambassador directly assigned tasks to LE staff members without informing the DCM or section chiefs. He told OIG his intent in doing this was to be personable, accessible, and aware of embassy operations. However, OIG found that the Ambassador was unaware that the practice frustrated supervisors. Embassy supervisors told OIG that although they often did not know about the assignments, the Ambassador subsequently would hold them accountable if the projects were not completed.
OIG found the DCM to be generally unengaged in embassy operations, unfamiliar with the work of the embassy’s sections, and uninvolved in performance management, as discussed later in this report. The DCM told OIG that in the 6 months prior to the inspection, he had prioritized introducing the Ambassador to Gabon but that in the future he would turn his attention to embassy operations.
Deputy Chief of Mission May Have Violated Anti-Nepotism Guidelines
The DCM likely did not comply with the requirements of 3 FAM 8312 to avoid nepotism and the appearance of nepotism in all employment matters. Embassy staff told OIG that the DCM repeatedly urged them to identify an embassy job for his spouse, either by selecting her for an eligible family member position or by encouraging other embassy agencies to create a position for her. This conduct is inconsistent with Department policy. Guidelines in 3 FAM 8324 state that an employee must scrupulously insulate himself or herself from acts benefiting, affecting, or giving the appearance of benefiting or affecting a relative’s career or responsibilities. The DCM denied to OIG that he had pressured anyone to create a position for his spouse or that he had made any comments to compel another embassy agency to hire his spouse. However, based on a review of documentation and interviews with embassy staff, OIG found that the DCM’s actions to secure embassy employment for his spouse likely violated Department standards. Additionally, as discussed further in the Human Resources section of this report, his conduct negatively affected embassy operations, as embassy staff sought to avoid the issue entirely by not advertising to fill any vacant eligible family member positions.
Embassy Did Not Advertise Eligible Family Member Positions (Or how five vacancies could have been filled by 5 of 8 EFMs)
At the time of the inspection, the embassy had four vacant eligible family member positions that it had not advertised. In addition, another family member was due to transfer within a month, but the embassy had not advertised for a replacement. Management staff told OIG they were reluctant to advertise any eligible family member positions because they feared pressure to select the DCM’s spouse for one of the positions. (This is discussed in more detail in the Executive Direction section.) OIG advised the embassy to advertise and to comply with Department standards if the DCM’s spouse applies for the vacant positions. Failure to advertise eligible family member positions hindered the embassy’s operational efficiency.
Deputy Chief of Mission Did Not Review Nonimmigrant Visa Adjudications as Required
The DCM did not review nonimmigrant visa adjudications in a timely manner, as required by Department guidelines. A Bureau of Consular Affairs analysis showed that from April 1 through June 15, 2018, the DCM reviewed nonimmigrant visa adjudications twice, with an average lag time of 90 days between the visa adjudications and the DCM’s reviews. According to 9 FAM 403.12-1d, however, reviewing officers must review adjudications within 3 business days. The DCM had no explanation for this deficiency. Failure to review visa adjudications in a timely manner increases the risk of visa malfeasance or improper adjudications.
Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission Failed to Establish Work Requirements for American Personnel
Neither the Ambassador nor the DCM followed Department guidelines regarding completion of work requirements for American staff. Specifically, at the time of the inspection, the Ambassador and the DCM had not established written work requirements for any of their subordinates within 45 days of the beginning of the rating cycle, as required by 3 FAH-1 H- 2815.1a(1). Developing work requirements ensures that both the supervisor and subordinate participate in the process to develop a mutual understanding of the expectations for the subordinate’s work and how it aligns with the embassy’s goals and priorities. The DCM told OIG he was unfamiliar with Foreign Service performance management requirements because, in his previous assignment, he had only supervised Civil Service employees. Failure to establish work requirements in a timely manner disadvantages employees and can harm operations. Without clear expectations set at the beginning of the performance cycle, employees risk not understanding how to meet or exceed their supervisor’s expectations to achieve organizational objectives.
Embassy Did Not Comply with Department Guidelines on Acceptance of Gifts
The embassy did not adhere to 2 FAM 960 guidelines regarding the solicitation and acceptance of gifts to the Department. Embassy staff told OIG that the embassy did not review the list of companies solicited for July 4th contributions to ensure that proposed donors were neither seeking substantial assistance from the embassy nor would be substantially affected by a pending or reasonably anticipated official action, as required by 2 FAM 962.8a(1). As a result, at least one company for which the Ambassador had actively advocated was solicited for a contribution. The Ambassador also accepted travel on an aircraft chartered by the same company without seeking concurrence of White House Counsel, as required by 2 FAM 962.12h. Failure to comply with these guidelines could create the appearance of partiality or favoritism on the part of the U.S. Government.
State/OIG made 28 recommendations. The Department and the U.S. Agency for Global Media concurred with 25 recommendations and disagreed with 3. State/OIG Recommendation 1 says that “The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources should review whether anti-nepotism violations occurred at Embassy Libreville and, based on the results of its review, take appropriate action. (Action: DGHR).”
In its May 29, 2019, response, DGHR disagreed with this recommendation. “DGHR does not concur with the recommendation. The individual in question has left the Department, so no further action is necessary.”
The report’s second recommendation says that “Embassy Libreville should comply with Department guidelines regarding the acceptance of gifts. (Action: Embassy Libreville)”
Management Response: In its June 3, 2019, response, Embassy Libreville disagreed with this recommendation. The embassy noted that the travel was not provided as a gift and that travel orders were issued for the Ambassador to accompany Board of Directors members to observe the offshore drilling site by helicopter and return by commercial aircraft. The embassy also noted that actions taken by the Ambassador and embassy staff to facilitate access of a U.S. company to the appropriate Gabonese Government officials were consistent with the guidance provided in 2 Foreign Affairs Manual 962.8 that the entity was not “…seeking substantial assistance from post (e.g., nonroutine consular assistance or nonroutine commercial advocacy or assistance) nor would be substantially affected by a pending or reasonably anticipated post official action….”
OIG writes that it considers the recommendation unresolved. “Notwithstanding the embassy’s rationale, the Ambassador’s acceptance of travel on an aircraft chartered by a company for which the Ambassador actively advocated could create the appearance of partiality or favoritism on the part of the U.S. The recommendation can be closed when OIG receives and accepts documentation of Embassy Libreville’s compliance with Department guidelines regarding the acceptance of gifts.”
OIG’s number 3 recommendation says “Embassy Libreville should comply with Department instructions and guidance on reporting significant political, economic, and societal developments.”
Management Response: In its June 3, 2019, response, Embassy Libreville disagreed with this recommendation. The embassy noted it complies with reporting guidance and dispatched cables and communications on significant political, economic, and societal developments through every channel available despite a severely depleted formal reporting staff.
OIG writes that it considers the recommendation unresolved. “During the inspection, OIG identified numerous instances where the Ambassador did not report the results of substantive meetings with business leaders, host government officials, and other senior contacts. The recommendation can be closed when OIG receives and accepts documentation that Embassy Libreville is reporting on significant political, economic, and societal developments.”
We did ask State/OIG about this because well, somebody was too shy to ask. Below is the response we got that we’re passing on as there were other posts also inspected in 2018:
“The report addressing our inspection of Embassy Nassau is in progress. [W]e anticipate that it will be published this summer. For background, all of our Fall 2018 inspection reports were delayed due to the shutdown.”