U.S. Foreign Service Posts: Tracking Voluntary Departures and Mandatory Evacuations

10:05 PDT Updated with dates of WHO declarations

We created a tracker for Foreign Service posts on authorized (voluntary) departures and posts on mandatory (ordered) departures. The information below is based on data available on travel.state.gov’s public advisories ; we only searched the advisories going back to the beginning of 2020 as these are the ones issued related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Based on CDC’s MMWR report dated February 5, 2020, an outbreak of acute respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
On January 23, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members from USCG Wuhan.
On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”
On January 31, the Department ordered the departure of all family members under age 21 of U.S. personnel in China.
February was relatively quiet with two voluntary departure orders for the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
On March 11, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
On March 12, the Department ordered the departure of all nonessential personnel from Mongolia to travel, transport, and other restrictions related to Mongolia’s response to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19.
On March 14, the Department of State authorized the departure of U.S. personnel and family members from any diplomatic or consular post in the world “who have determined they are at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19 or who have requested departure based on a commensurate justification.” Click here for reference.
According to our count, there are currently seven (7) posts on ordered, mandatory evacuation for non-emergency personnel and family members/or family members under 21: these are all six posts in China plus Ulaanbatar;  eight (8) posts if US Embassy Bangui turns out to be on “ordered departure” status. If we’ve missed any post on OD or AD, please feel free to let us know and we’ll update the list.
Note that the Crisis Management Training office at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI/LMS/CMT) has a list of posts on evacuation status that may be available to employees. That list is not publicly available as far as we know.
Below is the State Department’s geographic bureaus for reference:

 

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@StateDept Issues Global “Authorized Departure” For Certain USG Personnel and Family Members

Updated: March 15, 8:26 pm PDT:

On March 15, 2020, the State Department issued an updated Global Level 3 Health Advisory: Reconsider Travel. It also announced that the day before it authorized “the departure from any diplomatic or consular post in the world of US personnel and family members who have been medically determined to be at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19.” So the “authorized departure” or voluntary evacuation depends on the determination of the local MED unit or based on current medical clearance?
Excerpt below:

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.   

On March 14, the Department of State authorized the departure from any diplomatic or consular post in the world of US personnel and family members who have been medically determined to be at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19.

For the latest information regarding COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

Keeping workplaces, homes, schools, or commercial establishments safe.

You are encouraged to visit travel.state.gov to view individual Travel Advisories for the most urgent threats to safety and security. Please also visit the website of the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate to see information on entry restrictions, foreign quarantine policies, and urgent health information provided by local governments.

Travelers are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. The Department uses these Alerts to convey information about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, etc. In an emergency, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate or call the following numbers: 1(888) 407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1 (202) 501-4444 from other countries or jurisdictions.

We will update if/when we know more.
Update 8:26 pm PDT: 
The cable released by State/M Brian Bulatao says:  “Effective March 14, 2020, I hereby approve authorized departure (AD) from any diplomatic or consular post of U.S. direct hire employees or eligible family members (EFMs) as listed on employee orders and defined in 14 FAM 511.3 who, after confidential consultation with MED, have determined they are at higher risk of a poor outcome if exposed to COVID-19, or who have requested departure based on a commensurate justification in foreign areas.”
Our source, not from Public Affairs, interpret this to mean that  MED approval is not specifically required but you need to refer to MED when you go tell your boss you want out.
The  last time we had a global authorized/ordered departure order was probably during Y2K, was it? (The State Department at that time also issued an edict stating that all embassies must be prepared to be self-sufficient for 30 days by January 1, 2000). 
Would be interested to hear how this plays out this coming week and how folks are weighing the decision whether to avail of the voluntary evacuation to return to the United States shortly versus staying put at post. Given the slow response and unsettling chaos with the USG’s handling of the pandemic domestically, the decision may depend on post, location, and healthcare system in the host country. Drop us a note if you want to share. 

 

Rest In Peace, Tex

 

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of F. Allen “Tex” Harris last Monday, February 23, 2020.  He died at a hospital in Fairfax County, VA. He was 81 years old. We bear a  tremendous sense of emptiness in our hearts at his passing. Tex has been a friend and a tireless supporter of this blog. We are devastated by this sudden loss and extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
Godspeed, Tex.
Buenos Aires Times  cited Argentina’s Foreign Ministry in paying tribute to Tex:
“The Argentine Government and its people deeply regret the death of former US diplomatic official Allen ‘Tex’ Harris, who played an essential role in denouncing the disappearances and violations of human rights during the last civic-military dictatorship,” the Ministry, headed by Felipe Solá, said in a statement.
“Tex Harris was assigned to Argentina from 1977 to 1979, during which time he opened the doors of the United States Embassy to relatives of the disappeared and tried to help them find their loved ones. During this period, he filed 13,500 complaints about serious human rights violations,” it continued, noting that Harris had been decorated with the Orden del Libertador San Martín by late president Néstor Kirchner in 2004.
Graciela Palacio de Lois who joined the Familiares de Desaparecidos y Detenidos por Razones Políticas (“Relatives of the Disappeared and Detained for Political Reasons”) after the dictatorship’s death squads had kidnapped her husband, Ricardo Lois, told the Buenos Aires Times, “He prevented me from being kidnapped by the dictatorship.”
Robert Cox, the Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1968-1979) called Tex “the man who did the right thing.” In Buenos Aires Times, he writes, “We will never know how many lives ‘ Tex’ Harris saved by his decision to confront the radical evil of the 1976-1983 dictatorship. But I do know that Tex, then a newly arrived junior diplomat at the US Embassy, halted mass murder, simply by keeping a record of the people who were to be obliterated from existence under the military’s plan to wipe out subversion. It was an extraordinarily brave act of conscience and a supreme act of courage that almost cost Tex his career, while endangering his life and that of his wife Jeanie.”
In A Great American, Mario Del Carril writes “Over the years, I have had the opportunity to hear him reflect on his Argentine experience, saying he believed the human rights policy had not been effective. I believe he was wrong. True, it took four years to stop the killings, but this was in part due to vacillations and infighting. The policy had an impact in an area that is very important and often overlooked: it stopped the method of disappearances from becoming a new norm in the fight against terrorism. Some in the Argentine military government were proud of the methods they employed. It was considered a success, to be presented to the world as an achievement in warfare. A method that could be exported and taught. In the long run, this did not happen.”

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Travels With Mike and Susan: Munich, Dakar, Luanda, Addis Ababa, Riyadh, Muscat

 

Muscat, Oman

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Luanda, Angola

Dakar, Senegal

Munich, Germany

@StateDept’s Rules Governing the Use of Social Media by Eligible Family Members

 

Related to D/SecState Biegun Alerts @StateDept Employees to Updated Guidance For Political Activities Restrictions, we’ found this item from the FLO’s FAQ on the use of social media by EFMs.
Via state.gov/FLO/FAQ
What are the Department’s rules governing the use of social media by eligible family members?
    • 3 FAM 4170 sets out Department policy for employees on public speaking, teaching, writing, and media engagement, including the use of social media. Social media posts pertaining to U.S. foreign policy written in an employee’s capacity as a private citizen must be reviewed/cleared by the appropriate office (3 FAM 4174.3). These provisions apply to Eligible Family Members (EFMs) when they are employed by the Department in any capacity in the United States or abroad, including those EFMs working at post under either an appointment or Personal Service Agreement (PSA) and/or who are members of the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC). EFMs who are in Intermittent No Work Scheduled (INWS) status or members of the FSFRC in Reserve Status, are employees of the Department and must abide by Department policies.
    • Where review is required, the Final Review Office for FSFRC members at post (even if not currently working in a position at post) is the Chief of Mission or his/her designee. For FSFRC members residing in the U.S., the Bureau of Public Affairs is the Final Review Office. (See 3 FAM 4174.3.)
    • The provisions of 3 FAM 4170 apply only to employees and, as such, do not apply to EFMs who are not currently employed by the Department in any capacity (i.e., not working at post or domestically for the Department or not a member of the FSFRC); however, the general provisions governing outside activities would be applicable, and the non-employee EFM should be cognizant of the general guidance provided in 3 FAM 4125 (Outside Employment and Activities by Spouses and Family Members Abroad). There is no expectation of privacy on social networking sites. Even where users have taken privacy precautions, hackers and other bad actors may still be able to access information.
Links to the Foreign Affairs Manual inserted above. Below is the specific cite linked to by D/Biegun in recent message (3 FAM 4123.3 (Employee Responsibilities Abroad/Political Activities):

3 FAM 4123.3  Political Activities

(TL:PER-491;   12-23-2003)
(Uniform State/USAID/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service, Foreign Service National, and Civil Service)

A U.S. citizen employee, spouse, or family member shall not engage in partisan political activities abroad, other than authorized activities pertaining to U.S. elections.  This provision shall not preclude a locally hired U.S. citizen employee, who also is a national of the country of residence, from exercising political rights deriving from that foreign nationality.

Shall not as in a commanding must not?  Or else what?
Does the recent Pompeo-approved updated guidance for political activities restrictions from the L bureau addresses 3 FAM 4123.3 order and spouses not currently employed?  Does this regs apply to all EFMs or are there exceptions? If so, what are the exceptions? Best to ask now, or later after surprises?

U.S. Mission China Now on Mandatory Evacuation For All USG Family Members Under Age 21

 

On January 23, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members from Wuhan. (see @StateDept Prepares to Evacuate USCG Wuhan Personnel on 1/28, Limited Seats Available to Private U.S. Citizens).
On January 29, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees from China.
On January 31, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all family members under age 21 of U.S. personnel in China.
On February 2, the State Department issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel Advisory for China:

Do not travel to China due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of travel restrictions with little or no advance notice. Most commercial air carriers have reduced or suspended routes to and from China.

Those currently in China should attempt to depart by commercial means. U.S. citizens remaining in China should follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Chinese health authorities’ guidance for prevention, signs and symptoms, and treatment. We strongly urge U.S. citizens remaining in China to stay home as much as possible and limit contact with others, including large gatherings. Consider stocking up on food and other supplies to limit movement outside the home. In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the U.S.  Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to U.S. nationals within China may be limited.

In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, the Chinese authorities have suspended air, road, and rail travel in the area around Wuhan and placed restrictions on travel and other activities throughout the country. On January 23, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members from Wuhan. On January 29, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel and family members of U.S. government employees from China. On January 31, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all family members under age 21 of U.S. personnel in China.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning for all of China. The CDC has published suggestions on how to reduce your risk of contracting the Novel Coronavirus. Visit the CDC webpage for expanded information about the Novel Coronavirus, including prevention, signs and symptoms, and treatment.

The Department also announced that US Embassy Beijing and its constituent posts in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan will be closed to the public from February 3-7 per host country guidance. 

Retired FSO David Lindwall Remembers the Haiti Earthquake of January 12, 2010 (Excerpt Via FSJ)

 

David Lindwall is a retired FSO who was serving as deputy chief of mission in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake and for the first 18 months of earthquake relief and reconstruction programs. His other posts included Colombia, Spain, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sweden, as well as assignments in Washington, D.C. Excerpt below is from A Night to Remember, Foreign Service Journal, Jan/Feb 2020 where he shares his record of the first hours of the Haiti earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010:

Three embassy houses on a ridgeline had collapsed and slid down the hill. Our human rights officer and her husband and the noncommissioned officer from the defense attaché’s office were trapped in the rubble. Their neighbor, Security Officer Pete Kolshorn, and a couple of Haitian guards worked tirelessly into the night to rescue them. With violent aftershocks rearranging the rubble every 15 minutes, the rescue operation put the rescuers’ own lives at risk. But they persisted and got their injured comrades up to the top of the ridgeline. All three had broken bones and open wounds. During the two hours it took to get them out of the rubble, we sent a scout to the three hospitals in town. All three were overwhelmed and would not even open their gates to us.

A Haitian doctor who lived nearby gave initial attention to our three wounded colleagues and helped Kolshorn move them several blocks through rubble to the main street. An embassy roving patrol vehicle that had been trapped up in the highlands managed to meet the party on the other side of the rubble. The Haitian doctor advised moving them to the clinic of a plastic surgeon he knew in Petionville. It wasn’t ideal, but it was our only choice. The doctor asked us to send oxygen tanks because one of the male patients had a collapsed lung.

In the expectation that one of our drivers would find a way through the rubble that separated the embassy from Petionville, I asked Dr. Steve Harris, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Port-au-Prince who had set up a provisional hospital in the embassy’s health unit, to get me all the oxygen, morphine and casting supplies he could spare. There were only two tanks of oxygen. That would not be enough to keep the male patient alive, the Haitian doctor told me; but it was all we had, and we dispatched the driver with the supplies.

Through the night more and more wounded came to the embassy looking for help. One of the ambassador’s bodyguards with open wounds and broken bones came carrying his infant son who had multiple fractures. His wife and other children had all been killed when their house collapsed.

By midnight we still had not located a large number of embassy personnel. With so many streets blocked by rubble, it was a real challenge to reach them. Assistant RSO Rob Little offered to take his motorcycle and go looking house by house. Rob knew Port-au-Prince better than any of us, and at 6 foot 6, he was intimidated by nothing. For the next two hours he drove around the neighborhoods where embassy people lived, assembling them in areas where they could be picked up by our vans as soon as the roads were cleared. Some of the embassy homes had been completely destroyed, but their occupants were miraculously spared. Several officers sustained injuries that were not life-threatening, but required evacuation as soon as we could get flights in the next days. For those huddled together in the dark front yards of ruined houses waiting for an embassy van, it must have been a very long night

Read in full here: http://afsa.org/night-remember

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Travel With Mike and Susan Pompeo to Silicon Valley

 

UK Charges USG Spouse Anne Sacoolas in Harry Dunn’s Car Crash Death

 

We previously posted in early October that an American diplomat’s wife suspected of involvement in a fatal crash that killed 19-year old Harry Dunn in Croughton, in central England has left the UK under diplomatic immunity (see U.S. Diplomatic Spouse Suspect in Fatal Traffic Collision Departs UK Under Diplomatic Immunity).
The spouse previously identified in media reports as Anne Sacoolas was charged on December 20 with “causing death by dangerous driving.”
UK Chief Crown Prosecutor Janine Smith, said: “Following the death of Harry Dunn in Northamptonshire, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas with causing death by dangerous driving.”  She also announced that “Now that the CPS has authorised Northamptonshire Police to charge Anne Sacoolas we have started extradition proceedings.”
    • Anne Sacoolas (28/08/1977) has been charged with causing death by dangerous driving in relation to the death of Harry Dunn outside RAF Croughton on 27 August 2019. Extradition proceedings are now underway
    • Our guidance on extradition proceedings can be found here: https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/extradition
The Daily Mail reports that Sacoolas, 42, the wife of a US intelligence officer (assigned to RAF Croughton) was twice interviewed by Northamptonshire Police – once on the day after the crash, and on another occasion by officers who travelled to the US.
The Dunn family’s lawyer says that their “case in the judicial review is that Anne Sacoolas never has immunity as the secret UK-US agreement for RAF Croughton did not grant it and in any case under international law/prerogative powers it is not possible to grant family members more immunities than the actual diplomat.”
The State Department and Sacoolas’ lawyer have both issued statements to the press (see below).

 

 

@StateDept Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy Seoul

 

Via USDOJ:

State Department Employee and Spouse Indicted for Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods from U.S. Embassy

A U.S. Department of State employee and his spouse were arrested today for their role in an international conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams of the District of Oregon and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón of the Department of State Diplomatic Security Service made the announcement.

Gene Leroy Thompson Jr., 53, and Guojiao “Becky” Zhang, 39, were indicted by a grand jury in Eugene, Oregon, and charged with conspiracy and trafficking in counterfeit goods.  According to the indictment and other court documents, from September 2017 through December 2019, Thompson Jr. and Zhang allegedly sold counterfeit Vera Bradley handbags from e-commerce accounts to persons throughout the United States.

Thompson Jr. is employed by the U.S. Department of State as an Information Programs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.  Thompson Jr. used his State Department computer to create numerous accounts on a variety of e-commerce platforms, all from within a secure space within the Embassy designed to protect classified information.  Once Thompson Jr. created these accounts, Zhang took primary responsibility for operating the accounts, communicating with customers, and procuring merchandise to be stored in the District of Oregon.  Thompson Jr. and Zhang also directed a co-conspirator in the District of Oregon to ship items to purchasers across the United States.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Diplomatic Security Service Office of Special Investigations investigated the case with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance.  Senior Counsel Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jay Bauer of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter of the District of Oregon are prosecuting the case.

At the State Department, the Information Programs Officer (IPO) manages the Information Programs Center (IPC)  and is responsible for all IPC systems, programs, and telecommunications operations. According to the FAM, the IPC is primarily responsible for all classified Information Resource Management communications and systems.
Count 1 of the Grand Jury Charges is Conspiracy to Traffic in Counterfeit Goods) (18 U.S.C. § 2320(a))

“From at least in or about September 2017 and continuing until at least the date of this Indictment, in the District of Oregon and elsewhere, Defendants, GENE LEROY THOMPSON, JR., a.k.a. Eugene Leroy Thompson, Jr., and GUOJIAO ZHANG, a.k.a. Becky Zhang, a.k.a. Becky Thompson, knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with each other and with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to intentionally traffic in goods, namely Vera Bradley handbags, while knowingly using on and in connection with such goods counterfeit marks, the use of which counterfeit marks was likely to cause confusion, mistake, and deception; Indictment . Page 1 Revised April 2018 Case 6:19-cr-00561-MC Document 1 Filed 12/11/19 Page 1 of 7 In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2320(a).”

Item #9 of the Indictment notes:

“On or about April 23, 2018, Vera Bradley sent cease-and-desist letters to the coconspirator’s home in Nyssa, Oregon. On or about April 26, 2018, that co-conspirator conveyed the information in the cease-and-desist letter to THOMPSON, JR. via e-mail, saying that Vera Bradley is “requesting that you immediately cease and desist from offering for sale any Vera Bradley counterfeit products and destroy any violating products.” THOMPSON, JR. replied, “OK, I thought this would happen. Stop all shipment.” THOMPSON, JR. then sent an e-mail to ZHANG stating, “Take all of the listing for VB down. VB has caught you.”

Also item #10 further notes:

“Subsequently, Defendants began creating e-commerce accounts in the name of aliases and used those accounts to continue selling counterfeit Vera Bradley merchandise.”

Download Thompson Indictment

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