Workplace Horror Award Goes to the IO Bureau, @StateDept Offers Counseling in Uppercase Voice

 

Where do you even start with this bonkers IO report from the State Department Inspector General? Congrats?
Well, then, felicitations and congratulations to the Bureau of International Organization Affairs and its leadership for getting the Workplace Horror Award!
Given the lack of meaningful action from the 7th Floor following this report, perhaps we should borrow Secretary Pompeo’s “Miles With Mike” signoff and send “Keep crushing it!” wishes to everyone, too.
Bear it, and swagger, there’s an Ethos Award at the end of the rainbow.
But really, Secretary Pompeo should stop talking about his professional ethos initiative because, to put it mildly, this report ruins it loudly, particularly the parts about showing “unstinting respect in word and deed for my colleagues and all who serve alongside me” and taking “ownership of and responsibility” of something, something stuff.
As Nero Wolfe would say, “Pfui!”

Short Take: BAD, ALL CAPS

Update at 10:08 am: Added the DOS swagger seal

 State/OIG began this review in July 2018 by examining whether the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) officials had acted improperly toward career officials on the basis of their perceived political or ideological views.
Just reading the report makes us want to drown our sorrows in vats of grapes, wine, rum, etc.,  Don’t worry, we’re allergic to alcohol but if we could, we would. This is painful to read, but can you imagine the people living through this?
Has anyone heard from AFSA?
Read the full report here.  A few excerpts below:

“OIG found evidence of leadership and management deficiencies and mistreatment of career employees in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO). These inappropriate practices included disrespectful and hostile treatment of employees, accusations against and harassment of career employees premised on claims that they were “disloyal” based on their perceived political views, and retaliation associated with conflicts of interest. OIG also found that numerous employees raised concerns about the IO leadership to Department management officials outside of IO and that Department officials counseled IO leadership; however, the Assistant Secretary for IO, Kevin Moley, did not take significant action to respond to such concerns.

During the course of this review, OIG received allegations that two personnel actions were undertaken by IO leadership for improper motives: the removal of the IO Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS), a career senior foreign service officer, and the cancellation of the selection process for a career position in the IO Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. OIG found evidence that both actions by IO leadership were likely based on non-merit factors and thus violated Department policy.”

Staff Departures Set a Record in Our Books

Approximately 50 of 300 domestic IO employees have departed IO! Darnit, that’s quite a record that will be in our books for quite a while. Well, actually, maybe in our books until we see the next IG report focused on the Secretary’s office. That could be record-breaking, too, in terms of how many people departed the State Department starting at the dawn of Tillerson’s tenure. Alas, we’d also like to know who did what to whom, to the Senate-confirmed DGHR and others, who thought it was a great idea to double the stress and double the fun at the Ops Center, and other stuff… we can wait.

“In 2018, IO had 239 civil service positions and 71 domestic Foreign Service positions. Assistant Secretary Moley began his tenure in IO in April 2018. The IO Bureau also has four Deputy Assistant Secretary positions, one of which is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS). In April 2018, all Deputy Assistant Secretary positions were held by career employees. During Assistant Secretary Moley’s tenure, three individuals have served as PDAS: the first, whose reassignment is described on page 14 below, served until June 2018; the second served from August to October 2018; and the third has served since November 2018.
[…]
Approximately 50 of 300 domestic IO employees have departed IO since Assistant Secretary Moley took over its leadership, and nearly all of the former employees who OIG interviewed stated that poor leadership of the bureau contributed to their decision to depart.”

 

When the OIG Rings the Fire Alarm and …

Image via Giphy

The OIG report paints in great details the leadership deficiencies and mistreatment of career employees; the disrespectful and hostile treatment of employees; the unmerited accusations of disloyalty and harassment based on perceived political views; retaliation based upon conflicts of interest; and failure of bureau leadership to respond to concerns expressed by employees, and expressed by Department management.

“OIG found significant evidence of systemic deficiencies in leadership and management relating to the treatment of career employees, as well as evidence that non-merit-based considerations played a role in at least two personnel decisions. Several employees raised concerns relating to disrespectful and hostile treatment of staff, inappropriate accusations of disloyalty and harassment of employees based on perceived political views, and retaliation based on conflicts of interest. Furthermore, despite being counseled by Department management regarding some of these issues, IO leadership has not adequately addressed these concerns. Such conduct conflicts with the Department’s leadership principles, which set expectations that its management will strive for a collaborative, respectful, and inclusive workplace. Moreover, these failures of leadership have led to serious morale problems in IO and to the departure of a significant number of career staff. OIG encourages the Department to take action to address these concerns promptly.”

On the two personnel actions undertaken by Assistant Secretary Moley and Ms. Stull, the OIG report notes the following:

“The circumstances of Assistant Secretary Moley’s removal of the PDAS suggests that he undertook a personnel action based on non-merit factors, namely, her articulation of concerns about Ms. Stull’s conduct. In addition, her removal raises questions regarding compliance with the Department’s non-retaliation policy because the concerns that she brought to Assistant Secretary Moley, Under Secretary Shannon, and Deputy Secretary Sullivan could evidence the violation of a law, rule, or regulation.
[…]
Ms. Stull’s instruction to the human resources officials that future vacancies reflect the President’s agenda and beliefs was inappropriate for career positions and reflects an intent to introduce non-merit factors into the IO hiring process. Based on this evidence, Assistant Secretary Moley and Ms. Stull appear to have violated Department prohibitions on using non-merit factors in personnel assignments.

The State Department Passes the Buck ..er Alarm

The OIG made two recommendations to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs: to develop a corrective action plan to address the leadership and management deficiencies within the Bureau of International Organization Affairs and to consider other appropriate action, including disciplinary action. The Department concurred with both recommendations.
Now for the funny part (but don’t laugh).
The State Department told the OIG that “The Department noted that two IO officials are named in the report, but one of them is no longer employed by the Department and therefore not subject to any disciplinary action. The remaining official has already been counseled regarding his leadership, and the Department will consider additional discipline based on OIG’s “assessment” of the response from Assistant Secretary Moley.”
Oh, dahrlings, the State Department wants the IG to do the Department’s job! Looks like the decision on what to do with IO is beyond OIG, or “P” or “M” or “D” but sits on Secretary Pompeo’s desk.
Also how soon before we’re going to start seeing this case  as a comparator in grievance cases? “I only screamed once and I apologized, and two people curtailed from post during my tenure. The proposal to suspend me for three days is not fair given similar cases at the agency. For example, the IG report on IO …” or something like that…

Yes, Your Concerns Are Pointless: True as the Sky is Blue

(and the State Department Offers More Counseling)

Below excerpted from the OIG report:
  • [I]n his interview with OIG, Assistant Secretary Moley was dismissive of the counseling he received from senior Department leaders. He cited other senior government positions he held in the past and expressed his opinion that individuals such as Acting Director General Todd were in no position to give him advice.
  • On June 25, 2018, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan met with Assistant Secretary Moley to discuss the comments and the general atmosphere in IO. According to Deputy Secretary Sullivan, Assistant Secretary Moley responded that IO employees were misinterpreting his and Ms. Stull’s actions and were over-reacting. Also, on June 25, Deputy Secretary Sullivan and then-Legal Adviser Jennifer Newstead counseled Ms. Stull on her treatment of employees.
  • Despite these counseling efforts, multiple witnesses told OIG that the hostile treatment and other conduct described above continued into the fall of 2018, and some of the notable examples described above occurred after Assistant Secretary Moley’s June 2018 meeting with the Deputy Secretary.
  • Several employees told OIG that they approached the Assistant Secretary at various times with concerns about treatment of employees and management of the bureau. These employees consistently reported to OIG that Assistant Secretary Moley reacted negatively when employees brought concerns to him and that, rather than addressing the issue directly, he tended to minimize the concern or place blame on others.
  • Similarly, when individuals raised concerns with Ms. Stull about her treatment of employees, she asserted that she was herself the victim of harassment and informed at least one employee that raising such concerns was pointless because the Trump administration “has my back.”
  • Beginning in late April 2018, a succession of increasingly more senior Department officials shared concerns they had received regarding the leadership and management of IO directly with Assistant Secretary Moley. However, OIG found that Assistant Secretary Moley did not undertake any meaningful efforts to address these concerns. Furthermore, in the course of this review, OIG continued to receive accounts of the same type of conduct against which the Assistant Secretary had been counseled, such as hostile treatment of employees, allegations of disloyalty, and conflicts of interest.
  • Then-Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon met with Assistant Secretary Moley to discuss concerns about management of the bureau that Under Secretary Shannon had heard from several IO employees. Under Secretary Shannon told OIG that he reminded Assistant Secretary Moley that his first responsibility is to the Secretary and that he put himself at risk by not exercising leadership and granting Ms. Stull an “unprecedented level of independence” to manage the bureau, especially during the critical period before UNGA. Under Secretary Shannon advised against managing the bureau by intimidating staff and questioning their loyalties.
  • On June 13, 2018, Acting Under Secretary Mull contacted Assistant Secretary Moley and recounted these concerns, including an email exchange that the Assistant Secretary had with a junior desk officer,30 the reported imminent departure of several members of IO’s senior staff, and general reports that he was “targeting” career civil service and Foreign Service officers. Acting Under Secretary Mull advised Assistant Secretary Moley that such reports were “embarrassing” to the Secretary and ran counter to his priority of lifting morale and forging a better sense of teamwork. Acting Under Secretary Mull directed him to take several steps [snip].

Quick Test: Compare and Contrast

Via Imgur

We should note that former S/P Kiron Skinner who was reportedly fired for her “abusive” management style did not oversee close to 300 people but a couple dozens (see @StateDept Policy Planning’s Kiron Skinner Reportedly Out Over “Abusive” Management Style).  Not to minimized the issues at S/P where some staffers reportedly left and five more threatened to quit according to Politico, that’s still less than the approximately 50 departures  cited by OIG from the IO bureau.  Good grief!
Yes, we are pointing out that the State Department is inviting criticism of contrasting treatment between these two offices: one managed by an African-American woman who was reportedly fired amidst allegations of bad management (but no IG investigation), and another managed by a white American male who was given repeated counseling amidst allegations of bad management and mass staff departures (despite an IG investigation). Any “unusually candid” official out there willing to explain this, we’re all ears.

 

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

 

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wait, they want an employee to “prove causation” for a mystery illness?

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Former Senior USAGM Official Haroon K. Ullah Pleads Guilty to Stealing Government Money

 

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.
Former Senior Official Pleads Guilty to Stealing Government Money
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.
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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.”

 

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DOJ’s Sarah Fabian Makes Outrageous Argument USG Isn’t Required to Provide Toothpaste, Soap, or Beds For Detained Children

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Update: Justice Department career lawyer defends herself after viral video on child migrant treatment

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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Former U.S. Diplomat William Patrick Syring Convicted of Threatening Employees of the Arab American Institute

This is a follow-up to an item we posted in March 2018 (Ex-FSO William Syring Charged With Hate Crime and Threats to Arab American Institute Employees).  On February 21, 2018 USDOJ indicted former foreign service officer William Patrick Syring for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute. Syring was previously charged in 2006 for similar threats in four emails and three voicemails. He retired from the State Department in July 2007 and he pleaded guilty in that previous case in June 2008.

The 2018 indictment alleged he sent 350 e-mails from March 2012 to January 2018.

On May 9, 2019, USDOJ announced Syring’s conviction:

William Patrick Syring, 61, of Arlington, Virginia, was convicted today of threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI), because of their race and national origin, threatening AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States, and transmitting threats to AAI employees in interstate commerce. Syring was convicted on all 14 counts in the indictment.

“Threats aimed at individuals because of their race and national origin have no place in our society and violate federal civil rights laws,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold criminals accountable who commit such acts of hate so that all individuals in this country can engage in civic life and political discourse.”

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

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

Sentencing is set for Aug. 9. The maximum penalties for the convictions is 42 years of imprisonment.

The case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office and is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Senior Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg and Trial Attorney Nick Reddick.

 

Hostage Crisis – Day 32: Federal Hostages Are Still Hostages #EndThisMitch

Pompeo Talks Up Saudi “Investment” in Yemen, and USG’s “Additional” $131M Assistance #ExcludingArms

 

On November 28, the Secretary of State told the world that “Saudi Arabia has invested billions to relive suffering in Yemen.” Pretty soon,  Saudi Arabia’s spokesman would not have a job anymore.

The Guardian reported that in 2017, the Yemen appeal for $2.5bn was only 73% funded, but that the needs have intensified in a country battered since 2015 by a Saudi-led military offensive aimed at repelling Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital. In April this year, during a UN donor conference for people affected by war in Yemen – labelled as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” – has received pledges of more than $2bn, close to half of which is promised by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key protagonists in the conflict, according to the same report. Click here for the OCHA page for pledges and paid contributions for Yemen.

On October 24, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller re-issued a disaster declaration for the ongoing complex emergency in Yemen for FY 2018 due to “continued humanitarian needs resulting from the complex emergency and the impact of the country’s political and economic crises on vulnerable populations.”  USAID’s November 9, 2018 Factsheet on Yemen Disaster Assistance indicates that the United States humanitarian funding for the Yemen response in FY2018 is $566,273,269 (includes funding through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM)).  Secretary Pompeo’s tweet on November 28 says that the United States is providing an “additional” $131 million in food assistance to Yemen.

According to the CRS, since March 2015, the U.S.-trained Saudi military has used U.S.-origin weaponry, U.S. logistical assistance, and shared intelligence in support of military operations in Yemen. Excerpt:

In May 2017, President Trump signaled a continuation and deepening of bilateral defense cooperation, announcing completed and proposed defense sales during his visit to Riyadh with a potential value of more than $110 billion. The sales include cases that the Obama Administration had proposed and notified to Congress, cases developed under the Obama Administration on which Congress had been preliminarily consulted, and new sales that remain under development.
[…]
The United States’ role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen has evolved over time. 65 At present, it consists of some intelligence sharing, aerial refueling, and the deployment of advisers to Saudi Arabia for border security and anti-ballistic missile purposes.66 In his latest biannual War Powers letters to Congress on the deployment of U.S. forces abroad in combat operations (P.L. 93-148), President Trump informed Congress about ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and stated that U.S. forces in noncombat roles were providing “military advice and limited information, logistics, and other support to regional forces combatting the Houthi insurgency.”

So, on one hand, we’re supporting the side that’s indiscriminately bombing hospitals, school buses and children, and on the other hand, we’re spending millions of dollars for food and humanitarian assistance to help those who are bombed and starved.  Also, our Secretary of Swagger did not just announced the additional millions in food assistance but also cited “our generous example” in “galvanizing humanitarian assistance.” When is this going up on Instagram, people?

By the way, the most recent USAID/OFDA official said “no amount of aid money can prevent this famine” and that absent massive political pressure on the Saudi, this is just “window dressing.” 

Related item: Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF) | Updated September 21, 2018 (Congressional Research Service).

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