First Person: I am a ✂️ FSO who was ✂️ raped in ✂️… Continuing on has been ✂️ incredibly difficult…

Posted: 12:45 am ET

 

Below is a redacted version of the Burn Bag we received. The red scissor indicates the parts of the Burn Bag that we purposely snipped (see explanation below):

I am a ✂️ FSO who was ✂️ raped, in  ✂️

It has been an extremely painful ….. ✂️

Continuing on has been an (sic) incredibly difficult.

To have to continue to go ✂️  with this threatening and frightening person still present and looming around, has been terrifying.

In addition to not feeling safe with this violent criminal down the hallway, I have been grappling in fear and lost about what to do.

Like the grim picture your recent article on sexual assault reporting paints, it’s been hard to gather information on what to do.

I’ve heard of two accounts of other FSOs who’ve been sexually assaulted and these violent criminals are still serving as diplomats, with no apparent justice served despite their efforts to address the issue through HR.

I have many specific questions. ✂️

Is there some place outside of the State Dept and other than the police where one can make a report?

✂️ [W]hat about when the assailant is of equal “rank,” particularly, also a FSO? I’ve heard that in these situations, although both the victim and perpetrator were both FSOs, that it tends to discount the crime overall because it’s “embarrassing” to the Department that a FSO would do this. In the end, the female FSO who was assaulted seems to get no real justice. ✂️

What about AFSA? Is there anyone we can talk to at AFSA who has past experiene or specializes in Sexual Adsault (sic) and Harrassment issues in the FS?

I know that this is sent anonymously and that I can’t get these answers directly.

So I hope that Diplopundit will consider an update to the Sexual Assault blog around the questions I’ve raised ✂️

You have at least one oerson (sic) here in the FS family suffering greatly who would appreciate any information or guidance. Thank you.

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Redacted Burn Bag – a Rare Exception

As we’ve previously written here, we received this Burn Bag submission regarding sexual assault in the Foreign Service. We have no way to contact the sender directly but we know that she reads this blog (90% of adult rape victims are female, so we will use the feminine pronoun in this blogpost). She wanted us to have the information for publication since she did send the information via Burn Bag. While we almost never redact/edit the Burn Bag submissions we post in this blog, we are making a rare exception here.  We are doing so because we have serious concerns that posting all details and locations contained in the Burn Bag submission could identify the victim/assault survivor or alert the perpetrator. While the Burn Bag is clearly intended for publication, we do not wish to place the victim/survivor in potential additional jeopardy, and that’s why this version is redacted.

We should note that this is the second anonymous FSO who reported to us their sexual assault while in the Foreign Service. A third employee who did not want us to use her name has also recently reached out to this blog about her assault while posted in a war zone. She shared  the fallout from her reporting and we will post that account separately.

 

Related posts:

 

 

Burn Bag: A confidentiality agreement so others don’t find out how f’d up is the system?

Via Burn Bag:

“How is it that — as promotion panels go back for at least the last several EERs normally and in that period someone gets several awards, and gets specifically recommended for promotion every year by their rater and reviewer — they can be low ranked?? And then the injured party grieves and wins immediately but is required to sign a confidentiality agreement so others don’t find out how f’d up the system is … and how often this sort of thing occurs by promotion panels composed of member(s) who should recuse themselves when reviewing the files of someone they don’t like.”

via reactiongifs.com

via reactiongifs.com

 

*EER – Employee Evaluation Report
*MHAs – Meritorious Honor Award
*IRM -Information Resource Management

 

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Anonymous Letter Outs Sexual Abuse of Household Staff, Former DCM’s Husband Pleads Guilty

Posted: 3:18 am ET
Update: 5:08 pm ET

 

On October 12, the Justice Department announced that Labib Chammasthe husband of the former DCM at the US Embassy in Rabat, Morocco pleaded guilty to abusing a member of the household staff who had worked at the embassy residence for 16 years. He is set for sentencing on January 4, 2017:

Via USDOJ: Husband of Former U.S. Embassy Official in Morocco Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Household Staff Member |  October 12, 2016

The husband of the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Rabat, Morocco, pleaded guilty today to sexually abusing a former household staff member from 2010 to 2013.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia and Director Bill A. Miller of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.

Labib Chammas, 65, of Reston, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one count of abusive sexual conduct before U.S. District Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the District of Columbia.  Sentencing was set for Jan. 4, 2017.

In pleading guilty, Chammas admitted that between August 2010 and February 2013, while living in State Department-owned housing in Rabat, he sexually abused a woman who had worked at the residence for 16 years.  According to the plea agreement, Chammas supervised the staff at the residence and repeatedly threatened to fire staff members.  Out of fear that she would lose her job, the victim complied with Chammas’s requests that she massage his legs, hip and back, and then with his subsequent demands that she “massage” his genitalia.  On at least five occasions, Chammas took the victim by her head or hair and attempted to force her to perform oral sex.

DSS investigated the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Hertzfeld of the District of Columbia and Special Counsel Stacey Luck and Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section are prosecuting the case.

The original announcement is available to read here.

Affidavit in Support of Criminal Complaint

According to the May 13, 2016 Affidavit executed by DSS Agent Elizabeth Marmesh, her investigation “determined that between the dates of August 2010, and February 2013, Labib Chammas, a United States citizen, sexually assaulted a female member of his domestic staff within the confines and on the grounds of his U.S. Government-provided embassy residence in Rabat, Morocco. Chammas was married to the Deputy Chief of Mission (“DCM”) of U.S. Embassy Rabat, and resided in U.S. Govemment housing at “Villa Monterey” located at Angle Rue Memissa. No. 79, La Pinede, Rabat, Morocco (“DCM Residence”).”

The Affidavit cites SMTJ for this offense:  Title 18, United States Code, Section 7(9)(B), provides that. with respect to offenses committed by or against a national of the United States, the “Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States” includes residences in foreign States and the land appurtenant or ancillary thereto, inespective of ownership. used for purposes of United States diplomatic, consular, military, or other United States Govemment missions or entities in foreign States, or used by United States personnel assigned to those missions or entities.

Anonymous letter to OIG outs sexual abuse. We’ve extracted the following main details from the Affidavit. The court document contains much more graphic descriptions of the abuse:

On February 11. 2013, DS/OSI received a referral from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the lnspector General (OIG). ln the referral, OIG personnel informed OSI that during a routine inspection of the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, the OIG inspection team received an anonymous letter alleging that Labib Chammas, husband of the DCM was sexually assaulting a member of his domestic staff.

On February 11.2013, DS/OSI deployed Special Agents (SAs) to Rabat. DS Agents interviewed Kenneth Hillas, Deputy Team Leader of the OIG inspection team. Hillas stated that he was visiting the U.S. Embassy Rabat. Morocco in order to conduct an OIG inspection of the Embassy. Hillas stated that on Friday, February 8,2012, the OIG staff discovered an envelope addressed to “OIG eyes only” in a pile of letters containing surveys fiom Embassy employees in reference to their inspection. Hillas stated that the envelope contained an anonymous typed letter containing allegations against Labib Chammas of sexual assault. Upon discovering the allegations, Hillas notified the Regional Security office (RSO) at U.S. Embassy Rabat and OSI. Hillas provided RSO with the original letter. Hillas stated that the anonymous letter alleged that Labib Chammas was sexually assaulting one of his domestic staff. Hillas stated that the domestic staff members were not interviewed as part of the OIG’s inspection, as they were not U.S. Government employees.

Interviews and evidence collection

The victim was subsequently interviewed on several occasions by federal law enforcement agents, with the assistance of an interpreter. During the course of subsequent interviews, Victim I elaboraled on the details of the ongoing sexual abuse to which Labib Chammas subjected her to between August 2010 and February 2013.

On February 13. 2013, DS Agents conducted a voluntary interview of Labib Chammas. Labib Chammas stated that he had threatened to call the police on his domestic staff or fire the domestic staff because he believed they were stealing from him. Labib Chammas stated that he had received back and leg massages from two staff members, a male employee, witness 2, and the victim, viclim l, because he would get pain in his hip due to a medical issue. DS Agents asked Labib Chammas if the massages ever involved sexual acts, to which Chammas stated “l don’t recall.” and that it might have happened.

In light of the disclosures of Victim l, on February 19, 2013, DS Agents obtained a search warrant for the DCM’s Residence to obtain possible biological evidence. On February 20,2013. a DS agent and a RSO entered the DCM’s Residence in order to execute the search and seizure warrant.

DS Agents photographed the residence and “TV room” prior to any search. DS Agents conducted an inspection of the “TV room” with an altemative light source (ultraviolet light) and discovered possible biological evidence on two couch cushions, the front couch skirt, and locations on the carpet in front of the couch. DS Agents photographed and seized the two couch cushion covers and swabbed the other surfaces.

The FBI DNA Laboratory, Nuclear DNA Unit, conducted serological and DNA testing on the items seized in the execution of the search warrant. Semen was identifled on the swab from front right skirt of couch from the “TV room.” DNA testing confirmed that Labib Chammas was the source of the DNA obtained from the semen stain on the front right skirt of the couch. Based on a statistical probability calculation in which probability of selecting an unrelated individual at random having a matching profile to the DNA obtained was equal to or less than 1 in 6 trillion individuals.

An Arrest Warrant for Labib Chammas was issued by the U.S. District of the District of Columbia on May 13, 2016. In his State of Offense filed in court on October 12, 2016, we learned a few more details:

When the defendant and his wife moved into the DCM Residence in or about August 2010, three household employees were employed there. The defendant and his wife maintained the employ of each of these household staff members during their tenure at the DCM Residence from August 2010 until February 2013. Each of the employees was a Moroccan national who had worked at the DCM Residence and for the Embassy for well over a decade and throughout the tenure of at least the five prior DCM administrations. The defendant took on responsibility for overseeing the day—to-day work of these employees. According to the employees, the defendant was an abusive head—of—household, frequently yelling at the employees, demeaning them, and telling them that they would be fired for failing to live up to his expectations. The employees lived in constant fear that they would lose their jobs.

Among the household staff overseen by the defendant at the DCM Residence was a female cook (hereafter the “victim”), who had worked at the DCM Residence for 16 years by the time the defendant moved into the DCM Residence. The victim, an unmarried Muslim woman, was 53 years old at the time, had a third grade education, and was the sole source of support for her entire family including her elderly parents and several of her siblings and their children, who all lived together in a single residence in Rabat.

The victim did not disclose the above abuse out of fear of losing her job. The above conduct was reported by anonymous letter and came under investigation as a result.

It looks like the DCM’s tenure in Morocco concluded during this investigation in February 2013 but the affidavit and arrest warrant did not happen until May 2016.

Anybody know why there is such a lengthy gap between the investigation conducted in 2013 and filing the case in 2016?

Also a reminder to folks that we’re still searching for the guidance cables on sexual assault reporting for the FS as they are not on the FAM.

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Sexual Assault at a State Dept-Leased Apartment: If This Isn’t Abysmal Failure, What Is It?

Posted: 7:01 pm ET

 

This is not a new case but we have not been aware of this case until we started digging around.  In 2009, a Policy Analyst with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worked as a liaison to the State Department (the Agency).

According to EEOC records, in and around May 2009, the DHS employee (Complainant) was on a tour of duty in Germany, working as an Agency employee. Complainant asserts that, on May 10, 2009, while visiting a friend outside of duty hours, she was sexually assaulted by an individual who, at the time, was a State Department contractor. The incident took place in a State Department-leased apartment in Prague, Czech Republic. The EEOC decision dated June 16, 2011 notes that the accused individual subsequently became a permanent employee of the Agency.

The complainant had to make several attempts to report the sexual assault. She was eventually directed to contact the EEO office at DHS, who took no action, and refused to take her case because the attacker was not a DHS employee. She was sent to the Violent Crimes Unit of Diplomatic Security, who investigated the case and referred it to DOJ for prosecution. DOJ took no action. A DS investigator advised her to contact State/OCR. She interacted with that office for 6-7 months but these “activities focused primarily on resolving the matter as opposed to exploring or clarifying the extent of any EEO implications” according to the EEOC.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

Then State/OCR dismissed the case for failure to state a claim and untimely contact with an EEO counselor.

Sexual assault is a crime punishable by law. Sexual assault and sexual harassment are not the same.  Sexual assault describes the catch-all crime that encompasses unwanted sexual touching of many kinds, with links to state penal code and federal law on related crimes.  It includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact) or attempts to commits these acts.

FindLaw notes that Federal law directs judges to examine a number of factors, including the defendant’s criminal history and his or her acceptance of responsibility, when setting a punishment. The federal law criminalizing sexual assault sets a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and also provides for fines. In addition, federal law provides that those convicted of sexual assault must compensate their victims for any expenses directly related to the crime. This can include costs for medical care, physical or occupational therapy, attorney’s fees, and other related expenses.

But first, you’ve got to investigate, charge the perpetrator and find him or her guilty.

The complainant here alleged that she was sexually assaulted in USG-leased housing, why did people send her to an Equal Employment Opportunity office for godsakes? Why did DOJ take no action? If there was probable cause for Diplomatic Security to refer this case to DOJ for prosecution, how did the contractor become a State Department employee? This incident happened in 2009, the victim did not get to file her case until a year later, and the EEOC did not make a decision until 2011. At some time during this lengthy process, the victim resigned from federal service. The unnamed alleged attacker may still be in the bureaucracy.

Sure, we could call this abysmal systems failure.

But just about every part of this process was deplorably bad. And the people who worked in the system made it so.

Excerpts below from the EEOC decision (we underlined some parts for emphasis):

Reporting sexual assault — Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

In and around May 2009, Complainant was on a tour of duty in Germany, working as an Agency employee. Complainant asserts that, on May 10, 2009, while visiting a friend outside of duty hours, she was sexually assaulted by an individual who, at the time, was an Agency contractor.1 This individual subsequently became a permanent employee of the Agency. The record does not indicate in what capacity he was employed or the date his employment began.

After making several attempts to report the sexual assault and being redirected to various components in DHS, Complainant was eventually directed to contact DHS’ EEO office, which she did on June 1, 2009. The record suggests that DHS engaged in limited EEO counseling, but took no action to process Complainant’s allegations as a potential EEO complaint.  Instead, approximately a week after her June 1 contact, DHS effectively dismissed Complainant from the EEO process, concluding that it could not entertain her issues because the alleged attacker was not its employee.  DHS then advised Complainant to contact the Agency, which she did on June 11, 2009.

Soon thereafter, a criminal investigation was initiated by the Violent Crimes Unit of the Agency’s Office of Diplomatic Security. Complainant was cautioned to refrain from discussing the May 10 incident until the investigation was complete. In October 2009, the Agency referred the matter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for prosecution upon finding probable cause to believe Complainant’s allegations were true. For reasons not reflected in the record, DOJ took no action.

On October 23, 2009, pursuant to the advice of the Violent Crimes Unit investigator, Complainant contacted the Agency’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). During the next six or seven months, she interacted with various OCR representatives whose activities focused primarily on resolving the matter as opposed to exploring or clarifying the extent of any EEO implications.  On May 24, 2010, Complainant filed a sparsely worded formal complaint which contained a single averment of discrimination relating to the sexual assault and several items of requested relief.

In a September 28, 2010 FAD, the Agency dismissed the May 24 complaint upon finding that it failed to state a claim and that Complainant failed to timely contact an EEO counselor.  The instant appeal followed. We note that Complainant is pro se.

Contentions on appeal

In a statement accompanying her appeal, Complainant argues that the chronology of relevant events belies the Agency’s finding that she was untimely in initiating EEO counseling. She also appears to raise questions regarding the trustworthiness of the FAD (final agency decision) by noting several errors of fact reflected in the Agency’s reasoning. The Agency filed no response.

EEOC reversed the State Department’s dismissal

The Agency does not dispute that the alleged assault occurred on May 10, 2009.  Nor does it dispute that Complainant first sought counseling on June 1, 2009 with DHS. The Agency’s finding that Complainant was untimely is premised on the apparent view that her DHS contact had no significance under subsection 105(a)(1). We conclude that it did. To rule otherwise would require the Commission to ignore the plain wording of the subsection, which provides only that aggrieved individuals contact “a” Counselor within the stated time. There is no requirement that the Counselor be from the agency that receives the complaint.3  In this case, Complainant logically initiated contact with a Counselor in the agency where she was employed.

It is self-evident that June 1, 2009 is within 45 days of May 10, 2009. We, therefore, find that Complainant’s counseling contact was timely and reverse the Agency’s dismissal on this ground.

Alleged perpetrator went from contractor to employee

The Commission’s regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(1) authorizes an agency to dismiss a complaint that fails to state a claim that can be remedied through the EEO process.  In its FAD, the Agency concluded that Complainant failed to assert a remediable claim because neither she nor her alleged attacker was functioning in work status when the “event in question” occurred. The non-work status of Complainant and her alleged attacker, on May 10, 2009,  would likely be dispositive of this appeal were we to find that the “matter” in question, when the complaint was filed, was clearly confined to the alleged assault.4 Such a finding cannot be made, however, on the basis of the current record.

We are mindful, initially, that the counseling process was unduly erratic and prolonged in this case. Indeed, more than a year had elapsed before Complainant was provided the opportunity to file a formal complaint. Several events occurred, in the interim, which are potentially relevant to the sufficiency of her complaint.

For instance, by the time the complaint was filed, there had been a change in status of the individual the Agency believed had “probably” assaulted Complainant. He went from being an Agency contractor to an Agency employee. Although it is not clear whether, as a DHS “liaison” to the Agency, Complainant had (or would have)  been required to work with (or for) this individual, we find it significant that, at some point prior to filing the complaint, Complainant resigned from federal service. The record suggests that the resignation was under duress and may have related to a requirement that she refrain from discussing her ordeal.  See Complaint File, April 21, 2010 email from Complainant to named Agency official (“I don’t want to be forced to keep [the attacker’s] secret when I’m the one being hurt and losing.”)

At this juncture, we do not know how (if at all) Complainant’s employment may have been affected by the May 2009 incident. The record is wholly undeveloped in this regard. However, we can say that, if the Agency had directed Complainant to remain silent in order to protect the alleged attacker or facilitate his employment, it could hardly be found (as the Agency did) that the incident did not “involve” any term or condition of her employment. Without suggesting that the known facts in this case, by necessity, implicate a potential claim of “sexual harassment,” it is relevant to note that the Commission has recognized that harassment which occurs outside of work may state a claim when the effect of the off-duty incident creates an “intolerable influence on the employee’s working conditions.” Kokangul v. Department of the Army, EEOC Appeal No. 01A61380 (July 6, 2006)

Deficient EEO processing — looking at you S/OCR

We make no finding with regard to the existence of a viable discrimination claim arising from the May 2009 incident. We merely find that deficiencies in processing, as well as the record, render it impossible to determine the full measure of the concerns Complainant sought to pursue through the EEO process.  The quality of the EEO counseling, provided by the Agency and DHS, left much to be desired in terms of ensuring the record would be adequate to assess the sufficiency of any formal complaint that Complainant might file.

Incomplete files

It is unclear, for example, why the Complaint File does not include the Violent Crime Unit’s report, given its obvious relevance to the matter that prompted Complainant to seek EEO counseling. Also inexplicably missing from the record is a “statement” Complainant apparently prepared during the course of the counseling process.6 The absence of this and other information renders the record insufficient to determine the nature of any claim Complainant may have sought to assert.

Should have – what, whose contractor?

Finally, we note that the Agency also relied on 29 C.F.R. § 1614.106(a) as a ground for dismissing the complaint, finding that Complainant should have filed it against DHS because the alleged attacker was a DHS contractor.7 This ground is also found to be without merit. There is nothing in the record that contradicts the statements made by Complainant and others that her attacker was a contractor (and later an employee) of the Agency—not DHS.

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The complainant here would have been under chief of mission authority in Germany where she was assigned a tour of duty. We don’t know what would have been her status in the Czech Republic where the alleged attack took place. But the incident occurred in a State Department-leased apartment. So we expect that the State Department would have been the investigating authority.  This case happened in 2009 and decided by the EEOC in 2011.  This got us thinking on what procedure is in place for reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service.

We’ve spent the last several days trying to locate the Foreign Service Manual or Foreign Affairs Handbook for the procedure in reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service, but have been unsuccessful, so far. We were able to find 7 FAM 1940  REPORTING CRIME VICTIM CASES, but this section only apply to non-official, private Americans and the reporting covers only crimes reported to a consular officers abroad by victims, their families or by the host country government and which result in a consular officer or officers providing substantial assistance to the victim.

We’ve asked the State Department for its sexual assault regs and guidance; we’ve received a response but it deserves a separate post.

link

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Ex-Fox News Commentator Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Dents Benghazi Cottage Industry

Posted: 12:05  am ET

On April 29, 2016, DOJ announced that Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former Fox News commentator who has falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), pleaded guilty today to major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.  This individual reportedly made an unsuccessful attempt in 2009 to obtain work with the State Department’s Worldwide Protective Service.

Via Department of Justice | USAO – Virginia, Eastern

Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former Fox News commentator who has falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), pleaded guilty today to major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.

“Wayne Simmons is a convicted felon with no military or intelligence experience,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Simmons admitted he attempted to con his way into a position where he would have been called on to give real intelligence advice in a war zone.  His fraud cost the government money, could have put American lives at risk, and was an insult to the real men and women of the intelligence community who provide tireless service to this country.  This case is a prime example of this office’s ongoing commitment to vigorously prosecute government fraud and threats to national security.”

“Mr. Simmons lied about his criminal history and CIA employment in order to fraudulently obtain government contracts, and separately, defrauded a victim through a phony real estate investment deal,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “With these criminal actions, Mr. Simmons abused the trust of others, both in and outside of government, for his own personal financial gain.  I commend the work of the talented FBI personnel and prosecutors who vigorously pursued this case and brought about today’s guilty plea.”

In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Simmons admitted he defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence advisor on the International Security Assistance Force’s Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team.  Simmons admitted making false statements about his financial and criminal history, and admitted that there are no records or any other evidence that he was ever employed by or worked with the CIA, or ever applied for or was granted a security clearance by that agency.  Simmons also admitted that in order to obtain the senior intelligence advisor position, he lied about work he had done a year earlier as a team leader on the Human Terrain Systems program.  Simmons admitted to making similar false statements in 2009 as well, in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain work with the State Department’s Worldwide Protective Service.

As to the wire fraud charge, Simmons admitted to defrauding an individual victim, identified as E.L., out of $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.  Simmons admitted to sending E.L. promised monthly disbursements to make it appear as if her funds had been invested as promised, and to repeatedly lying to her about the whereabouts of her money in order to perpetuate the fraud.  As Simmons admitted, he simply spent the funds on personal purposes and there was never any actual real estate investment project.

As to the firearms charge, Simmons admitted that at the time he was arrested in this case, he was unlawfully in possession of two firearms, which he was prohibited from possessing on account of his prior felony convictions, including a prior Maryland felony conviction and two prior federal felony firearms convictions.

Simmons was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 14, 2015, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the major fraud against the government count, a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud count, and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the felon-in-possession of a firearm count when sentenced on July 15.  The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This announcement is available on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1: 15-cr-293.

 

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Turkish President Erdoğan Visits DC, His Guards Make News, and Oh, the Turkish Army Says No Coup

Posted: 2:48 am ET

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in Washington this week to attend the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit.  He had a meeting with Vice President Biden today, also met briefly with Secretary Kerry and apparently waiting :-) to see President Obama during this visit. Meanwhile, President Erdoğan’s Turkish security detail made news with its demeanor towards protesters and journalists covering the visit.

 

Previously —

President Erdoğan won’t be back in Turkey until Sunday. Meanwhile, the Turkish Army has already threatened legal action against anyone suggesting the possibility of a military coup.

In related news, that #ErdowieErdowoErdogan video from Germany now has 4 million hits!

 

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Former US Embassy London Employee Pleads Guilty to Cyberstalking and “Sextortion” Scheme

Posted: 12:47 am EDT

 

We’ve blogged previously about the Michael C. Ford case (see State Dept Employee Posted at US Embassy London Faces ‘Sextortion’ Charges in GeorgiaUS Embassy London Local Employee Charged With Cyberstalking, Computer Hacking and Wire Fraud).

On December 9, USDOJ announced that the former State Department/Embassy London employee pleaded guilty to perpetrating a widespread, international e-mail phishing, computer hacking and cyberstalking scheme against hundreds of victims in the United States and abroad. More below:

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia, Director Bill A. Miller of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.

Michael C. Ford, 36, of Atlanta, was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Aug. 18, 2015, with nine counts of cyberstalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort and one count of wire fraud.  The names of the victims are being withheld from the public to protect their privacy.

Ford pleaded guilty to all charges and admitted that between January 2013 and May 2015, he used various aliases that included “David Anderson” and “John Parsons” and engaged in a widespread, international computer hacking, cyberstalking and “sextortion” campaign designed to force victims to provide Ford with personal information as well as sexually explicit videos of others.  Ford targeted young females, some of whom were students at U.S. colleges and universities, with a particular focus on members of sororities and aspiring models.

Ford posed as a member of the fictitious “account deletion team” for a well-known e-mail service provider and sent phishing e-mails to thousands of potential victims, warning them that their e-mail accounts would be deleted if they did not provide their passwords.  Ford then hacked into hundreds of e-mail and social media accounts using the passwords collected from his phishing scheme, where he searched for sexually explicit photographs.  Once Ford located such photos, he then searched for personal identifying information (PII) about his victims, including their home and work addresses, school and employment information, and names and contact information of family members, among other things.

Ford then used the stolen photos and PII to engage in an ongoing cyberstalking campaign designed to demand additional sexually explicit material and personal information.  Ford e-mailed his victims with their stolen photos attached and threatened to release those photos if they did not cede to his demands.  Ford repeatedly demanded that victims take sexually explicit videos of “sexy girls” undressing in changing rooms at pools, gyms and clothing stores, and then send the videos to him.

When the victims refused to comply, threatened to go to the police or begged Ford to leave them alone, Ford responded with additional threats.  For example, Ford wrote in one e-mail “don’t worry, it’s not like I know where you live,” then sent another e-mail to the same victim with her home address and threatened to post her photographs to an “escort/hooker website” along with her phone number and home address.  Ford later described the victim’s home to her, stating “I like your red fire escape ladder, easy to climb.”  Ford followed through with his threats on several occasions, sending his victims’ sexually explicit photographs to family members and friends.

Ultimately, Ford sent thousands of fraudulent “phishing” email messages to potential victims, successfully hacked into at least 450 online accounts belonging to at least 200 victims, and forwarded to himself at least 1,300 stolen email messages containing thousands of sexually explicit photographs.  Ford sent threatening and “sextortionate” online communications to at least 75 victims.

During the relevant time period, Ford was employed by the U.S. Embassy in London.  The majority of Ford’s phishing, hacking and cyberstalking activities were conducted from his computer at the U.S. Embassy.
[…]
“When a public servant in a position of trust commits any form of misconduct, to include federal crimes such as cyberstalking and computer hacking, we vigorously investigate such claims,” said Director Miller.  “The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to investigating and working with the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office and our other law enforcement partners to investigate criminal allegations and bring those who commit these crimes to justice.”
[…]
U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross of the Northern District of Georgia scheduled Ford’s sentencing hearing for Feb. 16, 2016.

The Diplomatic Security Service and the FBI are investigating the case.  Senior Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kamal Ghali of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Embassy in London provided assistance in this case.

The case is  USA v. Ford, CRIMINAL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:15-mj-00386-ECS-1 in the U.S. District Court in the  Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

According to court records, this individual, a U.S. citizen lived in London and joined the U.S. Embassy there in 2009; which suggests that he was a locally hired employee.  The charging documents do not indicate which section of the embassy he worked in or what was his job. But he apparently used his State Department-issued computer at the U.S. Embassy in London while he did his cyberstalking and sextortion schemes.

There are a few curious things about this case. One, that there’s no mention anywhere in court records about his location of work within the embassy; 2) no explanation of how he came to target Jane Doe, an 18 year old Kentucky resident; where did he find her and his other victims? and 3) he successfully hacked 450 online accounts belonging to at least 200 victims, and forwarded to himself at least 1,300 stolen email messages containing thousands of sexually explicit photographs — how come nobody noticed? Was this guy a locally hired IT person, so spending all that time on his computer did not raise red flags? 4) Did Embassy London/HR know that this person had a prior criminal record when it hired this employee? If not, why not?

The affidavit in support of a criminal complaint and arrest warrant executed by DSS Agent Erik Kasik is available below:

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FSGB Recognizes Grievant’s “Enduring Dissatisfaction” With @StateDept’s 40 Year Old Grievance Case — Where’s the Medal?

Posted: 1:21 am EDT

 

Charles William Thomas. You may not remember that name. He was a Foreign Service Officer. In April 1971 he shot and killed himself.  The Thomas case led to changes in the promotion and personnel system and helped usher in a grievance program at the Department.  Below excerpted from ADST:

Charles William Thomas was a bright mid-career Foreign Service officer who was selected out because his efficiency report was mixed with a poorer officer of the same name. After his lifelong dream of serving in the State Department came crashing down, Thomas committed suicide and his case became a cause celebre. His wife Cynthia held the Foreign Service and the State Department responsible.
[…]
In 1973, U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell rendered a decision in Lindsey v. Kissinger declaring the lack of procedural safeguards in State’s selection-out system unconstitutional. A Foreign Service Grievance Board with public members was established in 1976, and procedural safeguards were created through consultations with AFSA.

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In April this year, the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) dismissed FSGB Case No. 2014-042 after the State Department sought a preliminary ruling on the grievance, contending that “the grievance was untimely filed and not covered under the Board’s jurisdiction.”

This case is notable not only because officials of the State Department of old ignored the Board’s original ruling in 1972, but also because ignoring the grievance has stretched into the current leadership of the State Department.  The unnamed grievant in this case apparently wrote to Secretary John Kerry on May 14, 2014, and again on May 28, asking that he implement the 1972 recommendations of the Grievance Committee. Apparently, the grievant did not even received a response. The current FSGB accepted the grievant’s appeal with an effective filing date of October 22, 2014 but then dismissed it  for untimely appeal.

Grievant is a former Foreign Service Officer (FSO) who was appointed as an FSO Class 6 on November 26, 1954. He had been in grade for eight years as a FSO Class 4 when the 1968 Selection Boards did not recommend him for promotion to Class 3. On January 17, 1969, the Department of State (agency, Department) officially notified him that he would be separated for expiration of time in class (TIC) effective April 30, 1969. Having already learned informally of his proposed termination, grievant met personally with the then Secretary of State on January 2, 1969, and gave him a paper, “Notes for the Secretary.” The notes detailed policy clashes grievant had with his superiors, which he believed had prevented his promotion. The Secretary appointed two senior inspectors to conduct an investigation. The inspectors made grievant’s “Notes” available to his supervisors and on January 8, 1969, the supervisors gave their comments on the “Notes” to the Secretary. The inspectors furnished their report1 to the Secretary on January 15. The submissions led the Secretary not to take any action to stop the separation.

On September 26, 1969, after receiving several extensions of his employment, grievant requested a hearing under 3 FAM 1820 (“Grievances”), becoming the first Foreign Service employee to do so. He charged that his supervisors’ comments introduced untrue, slanderous and misleading statements into the agency’s records.

Grievant was separated on October 4, 1969. He was not eligible to retire and collect an annuity because he did not meet the age requirement.2 The Department helped him secure an immediate civil service position on October 5, 1969 with the Department of Defense.

Following a period during which grievant sought information to support his case, a three-member Grievance Committee commenced hearings on March 3, 1971. On September 27, 1972, the Committee found generally in grievant’s favor. With one member voicing exceptions to some of its eleven recommendations, the Committee recommended, inter alia, that the agency appoint grievant to FSO Class 3, credit the time he spent in government service since his separation towards Foreign Service retirement, and pay his legal expenses. The Committee submitted its report to the Director General instead of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Personnel, because the latter had appeared as a witness and disqualified himself. The Committee suggested that the Deputy Secretary be the final reviewing officer.

The reviewing officers decided not to accept the recommendations. In 1977, grievant filed an appeal3 with the Foreign Service Grievance Board requesting reinstatement, which request was denied because the Board found the appeal untimely.4 On October 13, 1993, two Senators wrote to the Secretary of State on grievant’s behalf.

Noting that grievant’s claim was adjudicated in his favor by the Grievance Committee but never implemented, they suggested that grievant may not have been notified of his eligibility to pursue administrative and judicial remedies provided in legislation. They asked how their committee could be assured that the Department would implement the recommendations in grievant’s case. There is no evidence of the Secretary’s response in the record of proceedings (ROP).

Apparently, the grievant also seek confirmation that his hearing be held “completely within State Department regulations at the time, so that he would not be required to argue before a court that the Department is improperly failing to recognize the legitimacy of its past responsibility for implementing the recommendations which resulted from his hearing.”

Grievant wrote to the current Secretary of State twice and when he did not get a response, he wrote to the FSGB on September 12 and October 16, 2014. He explained that he sought a negotiated settlement of retirement pay in lieu of enforcement of the remedies granted to him in 1972. The Board accepted his appeal with an effective filing date of October 22. On December 12, 2014, the agency asked the Board to make a preliminary determination that grievant’s appeal should be dismissed, on the grounds that the Board lacked jurisdiction.

The FSGB ruling:

We recognize grievant’s unusual position in the history of this Board as well as his enduring dissatisfaction with the outcome of the hearing process. As noted earlier, our analysis today is limited to jurisdiction and does not address the merits of grievant’s case. In accordance with 22 CFR § 904.2, the Board makes the following preliminary determination on jurisdiction: because grievant has not shown that his appeal was made “not later than two years after the occurrence giving rise to the grievance,” nor is there evidence that grievant was “unaware of the grounds for the grievance,” we find grievant’s appeal untimely.

Grievant was separated on October 4, 1969 under the rules deemed unconstitutional in 1973 after the Lindsey v. Kissinger ruling.  The Grievance Committee recommended that grievant be reappointed to a higher position, a recommendation ignored by senior officials in the State Department.  Last year, the FSGB took the case then says this case was filed late, and the Board lacks jurisdiction. But the members recognize the grievant’s “enduring dissatisfaction.”  Yeah, there’s that. And the State Department lumped this case with the trash with no effort to fix or mitigate the alleged wrongs it did to one individual some four decades ago.

Read the 40 year old grievance case below:

 

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DOD Builds the World’s Most Expensive Gas Station in Afghanistan For $43M, Oh, Joy!

Posted: 1:01 am EDT

 

Apparently, we’ve built a compressed natural gas (CNG) automobile filling station in the city of Sheberghan, Afghanistan. The project cost almost $43 million, and the average Afghans can’t even afford to use it.

The Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO or Task Force) was originally created by the Department of Defense (DOD) to help revive the post-invasion economy of Iraq. In 2009, TFBSO was redirected to Afghanistan, where its mission was to carry out projects to support economic development. From 2010 through 2014, Congress appropriated approximately $822 million to TFBSO for Afghanistan, of which the task force obligated approximately $766 million.

The contract awarded to Central Asian Engineering to construct the station was for just under $3 million. Yet according to an economic impact assessment performed at the request of TFBSO:

The Task Force spent $42,718,739 between 2011 and 2014 to fund the construction and to supervise the initial operation of the CNG station (approximately $12.3 [million] in direct costs and $30.0 [million] in overhead costs).

SIGAR says that the $43 million total cost of the TFBSO-funded CNG filling station far exceeds the estimated cost of CNG stations elsewhere. According to a 2010 publication of the International Energy Association, “the range of investment for a public [CNG] station serving an economically feasible amount of vehicles varies from $200,000 to $500,000. Costs in non-OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries are likely to be in the lower end of this range.”

The SIGAR report notes that the total cost of building a CNG station in Pakistan would be approximately $306,000 at current exchange rates.  In short, at $43 million, the TFBSO filling station cost 140 times as much as a CNG station in Pakistan.

$43 million from the American taxpayers.

The SIGAR report also says that its ’s review of this project was hindered by DOD’s lack of cooperation, and when it comes to TFBSO activities, DOD appears determined to restrict or hinder SIGAR access.

It is both surprising and troubling that only a few months following the closure of TFBSO, DOD has not been able to find anyone who knows anything about TFBSO activities, despite the fact that TFBSO reported directly to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, operated in Afghanistan for over five years, and was only shut down in March 2015.

Further, SIGAR says that “If TFBSO had conducted a feasibility study of the project, they might have noted that Afghanistan lacks the natural gas transmission and local distribution infrastructure necessary to support a viable market for CNG vehicles.  Additionally, it appears that the cost of converting a car to run on CNG may be prohibitive for the average Afghan. TFBSO’s contractor, stated that conversion to CNG costs $700 per car in Afghanistan, where the average annual income is $690.”

We meant well in Afghanistan, too. Oh, joy!  What edition are we on?

But serious question. How can we have something happen like this, with DOD hindering/restricting SIGAR’s access and no one is in jail?

The read and weep report is available online here: https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/special%20projects/SIGAR-16-2-SP.pdf 

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Ambassador Chas Freeman on Diplomatic Amateurism and Its Consequences

Posted: 3:02 am EDT

 

Ambassador Chas Freeman did a speech on Diplomatic Amateurism and Its Consequences at Foggy Bottom’s Ralph Bunche Library earlier this month. He also recently spoke about America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East.  We need more people like Ambassador Freeman telling it like it is; unfortunately that often puts people like him in the outs with people who do not want to hear what needs to be said. More often than not, the top ranks have large rooms for obedient groupies and not much room for anyone else.

Below is an excerpt from his diplomatic amateurism speech:

In other countries, diplomacy is a prestigious career in which one spends a lifetime, culminating in senior positions commensurate with one’s talents as one has demonstrated them over the years.  But, in the United States, these days more than ever, the upper reaches of diplomacy are reserved for wealthy dilettantes and celebrities with no prior experience in the conduct of relations with foreign states and peoples, national security policy, or the limitations of the use of force.  Policy positions in our government dealing with such issues are now largely staffed by individuals selected for their interest-group affiliation, identity, or sizable campaign contributions.  These diplomatic neophytes are appointed for the good of the political party with which they are affiliated and to reward their loyal service during political campaigns, not for their ability to do the jobs they are given.  It is assumed that they can learn on the job, then move on after a while to give others a chance at government employment.  But whatever they learn, they take with them when they leave, adding nothing to the diplomatic capacity of our government.

If you tried to staff and run a business or a sports team like this, you’d get creamed by the competition.  If you organized our armed forces this way, you’d be courting certain defeat.  You can judge for yourself how staffing and running a foreign policy establishment through the spoils system is working out for our country now that our margin for error has been reduced by “the rise of the rest” since the end of the Cold War.  Staffing national security policy positions and ambassadorships with people whose ambition greatly outstrips their knowledge and experience is a bit like putting teenagers in charge of risk management while entrusting lifeguard positions to people with no proven ability to swim.  Hit and run statecraft and diplomacy were never wise, but they didn’t matter much when America was isolated from the world or so powerful that it could succeed without really trying.  Neither is the case anymore

The United States is now the only great power not to have professionalized our diplomatic service.  As the trove of diplomatic reporting spewed out by WikiLeaks shows, our career people remain very bright and able. But their supervisors are less prepared to carry out their duties than their counterparts in the diplomatic services of other great and lesser powers.  One of the 20th century’s greatest diplomats, Abba Eban put it this way

“The word ‘ambassador’ would normally have a professional connotation but for the American tradition of ‘political appointees.’ The bizarre notion that any citizen, especially if he is rich, is fit for the representation of his country abroad has taken some hard blows through empirical evidence, but it has not been discarded, nor should the idea of diluting a rigid professionalism with manpower from less detached sectors of society be dismissed out of hand. Nevertheless, when the strongest nation in the world appoints a tycoon or a wealthy hostess to head an embassy, the discredit and frustration is spread throughout the entire diplomatic corps in the country concerned.”

That was in 1983. Quite a bit before that, about 130 years before that, demonstrating that this is indeed a lengthy American tradition, the New York Herald Tribune observed, “Diplomacy is the sewer through which flows the scum and refuse of the political puddle. A man not fit to stay at home is just the man to send abroad.”

These American observations, or observations about American diplomacy, contrast quite strikingly with the views expressed by the classic writer on diplomatic practice, François de Callières. Writing now almost exactly three centuries ago, in 1716, he said:

“Diplomacy is a profession by itself, which deserves the same preparation and assiduity of attention that men give to other recognized professions. The qualities of the diplomatist and the knowledge necessary to him cannot indeed all be acquired. The diplomatic genius is born, not made. But there are many qualities which may be developed with practice, and the greater part of the necessary knowledge can only be acquired by constant application to the subject.

“In this sense, diplomacy is certainly a profession, itself capable of occupying a man’s whole career, and those who think to embark upon a diplomatic mission as a pleasant diversion from their common task only prepare disappointment for themselves and disaster for the cause that they serve. The veriest fool would not entrust the command of an army to a man whose sole badge of merit was his eloquence in a court of law or his adroit practice of the courtier’s art in the palace. All are agreed that military command must be earned by long service in the army. In the same manner, it must be regarded as folly to entrust the conduct of negotiations to an untrained amateur.”

There is indeed every reason for diplomacy to be a learned profession in the United States, like the law, medicine, or the military.  But it isn’t.  When top positions are reserved for people who have not come up through the ranks, it’s difficult to sustain diplomacy as a career, let alone establish and nurture it as a profession.  Professions are human memory banks.  They are composed of individuals who profess a unique combination of specialized knowledge, experience, and technique.  They distill their expertise into doctrine – constantly refreshed – based on what their experience has taught them about what works and what doesn’t.  Their skills are inculcated through case studies, periodic training, and on-the-job mentoring.  This professional knowledge is constantly improved by the critical introspection inherent in after-action reviews.

In the course of one’s time as a foreign service officer, one acquires languages and a hodgepodge of other skills relevant to the conduct of foreign relations.  If one is inclined to reflect on one’s experience, one begins to understand the principles that undergird effective diplomacy, that is the arts of persuading others to do things our way, and to get steadily better at practicing these arts.  But, in the U.S. foreign service, by contrast with – let’s say – the military, there is no systematic professional development process, no education in grand strategy or history, no training in tactics or operational technique derived from experience, no habit of reviewing successes and failures to improve future performance, no literature devoted to the development of operational doctrine and technique, and no real program or commitment to the mentoring of new entrants to the career.  If one’s lucky, one is called to participate in the making of history.  If one is not, there is yet a great deal to learn from the success or failure of the diplomatic tasks to which one is assigned.

As an aside, I also don’t believe that, as an institution, the Department of State now understands the difference between bureaucrats and professionals.  (I’m not sure it ever did.)   Both have their place in foreign affairs but the two are quite different.  Bureaucrats are trained to assure uniform decisions and predictable outcomes through the consistent interpretation and application of laws, regulations, and administrative procedures.  Professionals, by contrast, are educated to exercise individual, ad hoc judgments, take actions, and seek outcomes autonomously on the basis of principles and canons of behavior derived from experience.  They are expected to be creative, not consistent, in their approach to the matters in their charge.

[…]

There is an obvious alternative to this bleak scenario.  That is that the secretary of state – this secretary of state, who is the son of a foreign service office and who has personally demonstrated the power of diplomacy to solve problems bequeathed to him by his predecessors – will recognize the need for the U.S. diplomatic service to match our military in professionalism and seek to make this his legacy.  In the end, this would demand enlisting the support of Congress but much could be done internally.

Read in full here:  http://chasfreeman.net/diplomatic-amateurism-and-its-consequences/

AFSA’s media digest failed to include Ambassador Freeman’s event in its daily digest for members. But AFSA members got a nice treat with the inclusion of Taylor Swift: America’s Best Public Diplomat? as reading fare.

 

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Related posts:

Too Quick on the Draw: Militarism and the Malpractice of Diplomacy in America

Lessons from America’s Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East