Posted: 1:38 pm EDT
In November last year, we wrote about John Doe, an Iraqi refugee allowed by Judge Richard W. Roberts to file his complaint under a pseudonym in the District Court of the District of Columbia. As of the filing of the Complaint, it had been over three years since John Doe first filed his papers for chief of mission (COM) approval. Over two years had elapsed since John Doe submitted his SIV Application materials. In addition, it was over one year and nine months since John Doe completed his interview, the final step in his application process (see Meet John Doe, an Iraqi Refugee Who Works For Uncle Sam, and Still Waiting For Resettlement in the Home of the Brave).
According to court records, the SIV was issued and the case was subsequently dismissed by the District Court of the District of Columbia. The case is John Doe v. State Department, et. al., Civil Action No. 15-cv-01971-RBW.
Posted: 2:27 am EDT
Below is Stephen Colbert’s interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The main feature in this interview is the declassified memo (PDF) from General Myers and an accompanying eight-page Joint Chiefs of Staff report which makes clear that the Intelligence Community’s (IC) “don’t know with any precision how much we don’t know” and that “knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence.” Read more here via UNREDACTED from the National Security Archive.
Posted: 6:09 pm EDT
The ‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016’’ which became Public Law No: 114-113 on December 18, 2015 includes a provision for “terrorist travel prevention and visa waiver program” officially called the ‘‘Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015’’. The new law which affects dual nationals from WVP countries and Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria includes a waiver to be be exercised by the DHS secretary. The new law also requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to the Committee on Homeland Security, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate a report on each instance in which the Secretary exercised the waiver authority during the previous year.
On January 21, the State Department announced the implementation of the changes to the Visa Waiver Program. Below is the announcement:
The United States today began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
- Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
- Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.
Beginning January 21, 2016, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked.
Under the new law, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:
- Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
- Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;
- Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;
- Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
- Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.
Again, whether ESTA applicants will receive a waiver will be determined on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the terms of the law. In addition, we will continue to explore whether and how the waivers can be used for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan.
Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States.
The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travelers will not be affected by the legislation.
An updated ESTA application with additional questions is scheduled to be released in late February 2016 to address exceptions for diplomatic- and military-related travel provided for in the Act.
Information on visa applications can be found at travel.state.gov.
Current ESTA holders are encouraged to check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP’s website at esta.cbp.dhs.gov.
A couple days ago ….
Posted: 2:15 am EDT
CNN is reporting that three American contractors went missing in Iraq two days ago, citing an unnamed senior security official in Baghdad.
“A company filed a report Sunday about three of its staff going missing two days ago. They are American contractors. We are looking into this report,” the official told CNN. Separately, an Iraqi security official with knowledge of the case said that two of three missing contractors are dual Iraqi-American citizens, and that the third is an American national.
“We are working in full cooperation with Iraqi authorities to locate the missing Americans,” said U.S. Embassy spokesman Scott Bolz according to the AP.
Although some media outlets are reporting that three are missing, the U.S. Embassy has confirmed to the AP on Sunday that “several” Americans have gone missing in Iraq, after local media reported that three Americans had been kidnapped in the Iraqi capital.
The latest Travel Warning for Iraq dated December 4, 2015 notes:
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Chief of Mission must follow strict safety and security procedures when traveling outside the Embassy and Consulates.
It is not clear if the missing are American contractors working for NGOs operating in Iraq or if they are USG contractors. We also have yet to see reporting on the circumstances of their disappearance.
Posted: 1:50 am EDT
On December 18, the USDOJ announced the indictment by a grand jury of former State Department employee, Kenneth Apple, 65, of Beaverton, Oregon, on charges related to his role in allegedly awarding $2 million in micro-dairy contracts from the U.S. government for use in Iraq.
Via DOJ/U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Virginia:
According to the indictment, Apple, a former employee with the U.S. Department of State, helped to steer the sole-sourcing of $2 million in micro-dairy contracts to a company in which his son, Jonathan Apple, owned a 50 percent interest. However, Jonathan Apple and his partner had no technical experience in the industry. Kenneth Apple conspired to use his official position to pass on non-public information to his son in order to fraudulently award and administer government contracts. The conspirators further provided false information to, and concealed material details from the U.S. government.
According to the indictment, Kenneth Apple provided templates and technical specifications used in the proposal submitted by Jonathan Apple and his partner to the U.S. government. In addition, Kenneth Apple caused false and misleading statements to be made to the U.S. government regarding his experience, ownership interest, and the status of the projects. For example, Kenneth Apple directed a conspirator to keep Jonathan Apple’s name off the company’s website and any ownership documents. When federal law enforcement agents confronted Kenneth Apple about the scheme, he made false statements, including that he could not recall the owner of the company that won the micro-dairy contracts and that he did not receive any money from the contracts.
Kenneth Apple faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted of wire fraud or obstruction of an official proceeding, and five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy or false statements. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is 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.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Frank Robey, Director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU); and Robert E. Craig, Special Agent in Charge for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic Field Office, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Uzo Asonye and Katherine Wong are prosecuting the case.
According to court records, Kenneth D. Apple was arrested on December 18 in Oregon. His defense is currently listed as the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Alexandria, Virginia.
The indictment says that Kenneth D. Apple was a civilian employee with the Department of State assigned to the Kirkuk PRT in Iraq from January 2009 through March 2011 as an agricultural advisor. Micro-dairy processors are self-contained, mini-factories that are used to process milk into cheese and yogurt.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
News: Micro-dairy plant brings Kirkuk local farmers together | Dvidshub.net (2.21.2011)
Posted: 3:01 am EDT
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, opposition is growing in the U.S. to the Obama administration’s plans to admit up to 10,000 refugees from Syria’s civil war. Below via the Pew Research’s Fact Tank:
A new Bloomberg Politics poll found that 53% of Americans don’t want to accept any Syrian refugees at all; 11% more would accept only Christian refugees from Syria. More than two dozen governors, most of them Republicans, have said they’ll oppose Syrian refugees being resettled in their states. And on Thursday the House of Representatives passed a bill blocking the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees unless they pass strict background checks.
According to the Washing Examiner, under the legislation, no Syrian or Iraqi refugee would be admitted into the United States until the nation’s top federal law enforcement officials certify that they do not pose a safety or terrorism threat.
Now this …
The GOP candidates appear to be in a parallel race on who can put out the most dehumanizing idea when talking about refugees: spoiled milk, rabid dogs, Muslim database, special IDs, ending housing assistance, etc. What’s next?
We will remember this week as that time when the 2016 presidential campaigns have gone heartless for the win.
Here’s one story that might give folks a glimpse of how lengthy, and how convoluted is the USG refugee process.
On November 3, 2015, Judge Richard W. Roberts allowed John Doe, an Iraqi refugee to file his complaint under a pseudonym in the District Court of the District of Columbia:
According to court documents, John Doe voluntarily assisted with the U.S.-led reconstruction efforts following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, and has received numerous recommendations for his work in connection with those efforts. But this assistance has come at a significant cost to John Doe and his loved ones. Because of his work, John Doe is a target for those who seek to intimidate, harm, and kill those who have assisted the U.S. in its reconstruction efforts.
Court documents also say that John Doe served as a Provincial Model Clinic Support Coordinator in a USAID funded program. As part of his service, John Doe reportedly worked to improve access to primary health care in and around Kirkuk, Iraq by coordinating health clinics, training clinic staff, and conducting health surveys. Since October 2014, John Doe has served as a Senior Medical Officer at another USAID-funded projects. As part of his service, John Doe’s reported responsibilities include planning, development, implementation, oversight, monitoring, and reporting for two projects: static, camp-based medical clinics and mobile medical units that move throughout displaced populations in and around Erbil.
John Doe is an Iraqi citizen currently residing in Erbil, Iraq. For over two years, since fleeing to Erbil, John Doe has worked for programs funded by USAID in furtherance of the U.S.-led reconstruction efforts following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. During this time, John Doe has risked his life alongside U.S. personnel to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. By helping with the U.S. reconstruction efforts, John Doe has knowingly placed himself, his wife, and his small child in danger. If John Doe’s service to the United States were to become fully known in Iraq, he would likely be killed by persons opposed to the United States and to the Iraqis who have assisted the United States.
He applied as a refugee in 2010:
John Doe first sought protection from the U.S. Government through his application for emigration to the United States with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).
On April 8, 2010, John Doe requested to be added to his sister’s USRAP application out of fear for his own safety after members of his family were threatened and physically assaulted because of their work for the U.S. Government. John Doe provided all necessary documentation and took all steps necessary for his USRAP application, including attending his Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interview. On September 22, 2010, he was notified that his case was deferred and would continue to be processed. Despite continued assurances that his case is being processed, John Doe has yet to receive a decision on his USRAP application. As of the filing of this complaint, it has been over five years and four months since John Doe first submitted his USRAP application. Over five years have elapsed since John Doe attended his DHS interview. In addition, it has now been over four years and eleven months since John Doe was notified that his application was deferred for further processing.
He also applied under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program in 2012:
Finding himself with a deferred USRAP application and with no indication that he would receive a timely response to the application, John Doe sought to avail himself of the protections offered by the SIV program. On August 11, 2012, John Doe’s wife submitted on behalf of herself and John Doe all documents needed to obtain Chief of Mission Approval (COM Approval). COM Approval was granted on June 17, 2013, and John Doe submitted all necessary documentation for the SIV application (the SIV Application) on August 15, 2013. On November 19, 2013, John Doe attended his visa interview at the U.S. Embassy.
As of the filing of this Complaint, it has been over three years since John Doe first filed his papers for COM Approval. Over two years have elapsed since John Doe submitted his SIV Application materials. In addition, it has now been over one year and nine months since John Doe completed his interview, the final step in his application process.
John Doe has exhausted efforts to work with Defendants to receive a timely decision on his SIV Application. Following repeated requests for information concerning his application, John Doe has been told by the U.S. Embassy on several occasions that his case remains in “additional administrative processing” and that no estimate of how long it will take to complete such processing can be provided.
Defendants’ substantial delay in processing John Doe’s SIV Application is not only unreasonable, but egregious-particularly given the dangerous situation faced by John Doe. Each day that John Doe remains in Iraq leaves him in mortal danger. This danger increases by the day as the security situation in Iraq deteriorates. Additionally, John Doe’s wife and child who have been issued SIVs-plan to travel to the United States on October 5, 2015 in advance of the November 4, 2015 expiration of their visas. By failing to make a decision on John Doe’s SIV application, Defendants have created another hardship for John Doe in forcing him to be left behind and separated from his wife and young child.
The court filing says that given the urgency of John Doe’s situation, and because Defendants have been unresponsive to John Doe’s repeated requests that his SIV Application be decided, John Doe has no choice but to seek relief from this Court compelling Defendants to adjudicate his SIV application.
If this is what happened to an Iraqi refugee who helped with USG reconstruction efforts in Iraq, what can other Iraqi and Syrian refugees expect with their resettlement hope in the United States?
And since you’ve read this far, do read Phil Klay’s response to the refugee crisis. He served with the U.S. Marines in Iraq during the 2007 and 2008 surge. He is the author of Redeployment, which won the National Book Award for fiction in 2014. He tweeted his powerful reaction to the congressional news today. In one of them Klay wrote, “It’s only during frightening times when you get to find out if your country really deserves to call itself the ‘home of the brave.'”
Posted: 5:58 pm EDT
The State Department is seeking information for the availability of a new medical service provider for U.S. Mission Iraq. There is an incumbent contractor, CHS Middle East, LLC of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The total estimated contract value for the incumbent contractor is approximately $234M. According to the fedbiz announcement, the health units and diplomatic support hospitals will need to be mission capable by summer 2016. Below is an excerpt from the announcement:
Government is requesting information regarding the availability and feasibility of attracting new medical service providers to support the requirements of the U.S. Mission Iraq as described in this RFI. This notice is issued solely for information and planning purposes and does not constitute a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a commitment on the part of the Government to conduct a solicitation for the below-listed services in the future.
The DOS has a follow-on requirement for a Contractor to provide medical service support to U.S. Government (USG) personnel, USG third party contractors and authorized foreign nationals in Iraq. These medical services will be provided at USG facilities and include but are not limited to the following: general medical, surgical, orthopedic, gynecologic, dental, behavioral health, public health, urgent and emergency care and mortuary affairs. In order to fulfill these requirements the Contractor is responsible for providing trained and certified health care professionals (e.g., physicians, nurse practitioners, surgeons, emergency medical technicians, etc…) and the administrative services and staff to equip and operate the USG contractor-operated health care facilities in Iraq.
The Contractor is responsible for performing random and non-random drug testing for other third party contractors operating in support of the DOS in Iraq. Additionally, because other third party contractors require Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in country, the Contractor is responsible for the medic validation and verification to ensure the verification of maintenance of credentials for EMTs.
Supported population is between 3500-5800
While the primary place of performance is throughout the country of Iraq, the Contractor may be tasked with providing temporary medical service support to other USG facilities located in the Near East Region (i.e., North Africa and the Middle East).
The BDSC Large Diplomatic Support Hospital not only provides primary care to personnel at BDSC, but also may serve as the secondary and trauma care center for the patient population within U.S. Mission Iraq (4300 – 5800 personnel). These services include evacuation management and mortuary affairs.
The Contractor shall provide on-site primary, urgent and initial emergency care for general medical, surgical, orthopedic, gynecologic, and mental health conditions; triage, stabilize and evacuate patients to the next level of medical care; and keep up to two patients in the Health Unit (HU) for up to 24 hours until stabilized or medically evacuated. Staffing shall be continuous and uninterrupted; coverage for illness and vacations shall be the responsibility of the Contractor.
The Contractor is responsible for providing routine care during regular working hours and on an emergency basis after normal working hours based on Chief of Mission (COM) requirements. Medical Service Support Iraq (MSSI) II; Solicitation SAQMMA-15-SS-MSSI .
Posted: 11:13 pm EDT
Join us at the forum today at http://forums.diplopundit.net, noon – 2pm, EST
I’ve blogged about mental health in the State Department for years now (see links below). I know that a mental health issue affecting one person is not a story of just one person. It affects parents, spouses, children, siblings, friends; it affects the home and the workplace. It is a story of families and communities. While there is extensive support in the military community, that’s not always the case when it comes to members of the Foreign Service.
I once wrote about a former Foreign Service kid and his dad with severe PTSD. A few of you took the time to write and/or send books to the ex-FS employee incarcerated in Colorado, thank you.
I’ve written about Ron Capps, Rachel Schneller, Candace Faber, FSOs who came forward to share their brave struggles with all of us. There was also a senior diplomat disciplined for volatile behavior who cited PTSD, I’ve also written about Michael C. Dempsey, USAID’s first war-zone related suicide, and railed about suicide prevention resources. The 2014 Foreign Service Grievance Board 2014 annual report says that eight of the new cases filed involved a claim that a disability, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or other medical condition affected the employee performance or conduct that resulted in a separation recommendation.
With very few exceptions, people who write to this blog about mental health and PTSD do so only on background. Here are a few:
- A State Department employee with PTSD recently told this blog that “Anyone outside of our little insular community would be appalled at the way we treat our mentally ill.” The individual concludes with clear frustration that it “seems sometimes the only unofficially sanctioned treatment plan encouraged is to keep the commissaries well stocked with the adult beverage of your choice.”
- Another one whose PTSD claim from service at a PRT in Iraq languished at OWCP said, “I can assure you that OER and State Med have been nothing but obstructions… as a vet, I have been treated at VA for the past ten months, else I would have killed myself long ago.”
- Still another one writes: “VA indicates the average time between trauma and treatment-seeking is eight years. The longer it is undiagnosed and treated, the more difficult to ameliorate. I have a formal diagnosis from VA but could not even get the name of a competent psychiatrist from DoS. The bulk of DoS PTSD claims are still a few years away (2008/2009 PLUS 8), with no competent preparation or process.”
- A friend of a State employee wrote that her DOS friend was “deployed/assigned to a war-torn country not too long ago for a year. Came back with PTSD and was forced by superiors to return to very stressful/high pressure work duties while also seeking medical attention for an undiagnosed then, but eventually diagnosed (took about 6 months) disease triggered by environmental conditions where s/he was last posted.”
- Another FSO said, “I actually thought State did a decent job with my PTSD. After I was subject to an attack in Kabul, the social worker at post was readily available and helpful. He indicated I could depart post immediately if I needed to (and many did after the attack). When I departed post I was screened for PTSD and referred to MED here in DC. After a few sessions here with MED, I was referred to a private psychologist who fixed things up in a few months.”
- One FSO who suffered from PTSD assured us that “State has come a very long way since 2005” and that it has made remarkable progress for an institution. Her concerns is that PTSD is widespread in the Department in the sense that people develop it in a wide range of posts and assignments. She cited consular officers in particular, who evacuate people from natural disasters and civil wars and deal with death cases on a regular basis, and are particularly at risk.
June is PTSD Awareness Month. We are hosting a forum at http://forums.diplopundit.net for an open discussion on PTSD.
It’s not everyday that we get a chance to ask questions from somebody with post traumatic stress disorder. On Monday, June 29, FSO Rachel Schneller will join the forum and answer readers’ questions based on her personal experience with PTSD. She will be at this blog’s forum from noon to 2 pm EST. She will join the forum in her personal capacity, with her own views and not as a representative of the State Department or the U.S. Government. She’s doing this as a volunteer, and we appreciate her time and effort in obtaining official permission and joining us to help spread PTSD awareness. Please feel free to post your questions here.
Rachel Schneller joined the Foreign Service in 2001. Following a tour in Iraq 2005-6, she was diagnosed with PTSD. Her efforts to highlight the needs of Foreign Service Officers returning from tours in war zones helped prompt a number of changes in the State Department, for which she was awarded the 2008 Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent.
Prior to joining the U.S. Department of State, Rachel served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali from 1996-98. She earned her MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 2001. We have previously featured Rachel in this blog here, and here.
Below are some of our previous blog posts on mental health, PTSD, security clearance and the State Department’s programs:
•Former Foreign Service Kid Writes About Dad With Severe PTSD (Many thanks to readers who took the time to write and send books to Tony Gooch! We appreciate your kindness).