In July 2016, the US Embassy in Bangladesh went on voluntary evacuation (U.S. Embassy Dhaka: Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members of USG Personnel). State/OIG conducted the inspection of U.S. Embassy Dhaka in Bangladesh from September 3, 2019, to January 28, 2020. The report released in June 2020 notes that “In 2016, following a terrorist attack in Dhaka, the Department decided to allow only adult dependents to accompany employees. Many American staff members told OIG this change made the embassy unattractive to Foreign Service employees with children.”
What OIG Found
• The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission led Embassy Dhaka in a collaborative and professional manner. Staff described both leaders as energetic and approachable.
• The embassy had difficulty filling mid-level positions after the withdrawal of minor dependents following a 2016 terrorist attack. Many managerial positions had long staffing gaps that exacerbated workload pressures on the remaining staff.
• The Ambassador’s active outreach efforts advanced efforts to build political capital and goodwill. However, particularly given the staffing shortages throughout the embassy, the Ambassador contributed to the workload stress of embassy staff by not prioritizing demands he placed on employees to support these efforts.
• The Ambassador engaged extensively with Bangladeshi Government officials and led efforts by the international community to assist 900,000 Rohingya refugees who had fled Burma.
• Consular Section staff routinely worked long hours in an effort to manage a growing backlog of immigrant visa work.
• The embassy’s social media program did not comply with Department of State standards.
• The network cabling infrastructure in Embassy Dhaka’s unclassified server and telephone frame rooms was antiquated and did not comply with Department standards.
• Spotlights on Success: The Information Management Office created a tracking system for employee checks of the emergency and evacuation radio network that increased participation rates dramatically. In addition, the office created a travel request application that saved time for travelers and travel managers
At the time of the inspection, Embassy Dhaka had 139 authorized U.S direct-hire employees, of whom 66 worked for the Department of State (Department) and 73 worked for other agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Departments of Defense, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture. The embassy also had 511 locally employed (LE) staff and 5 eligible family members. The embassy occupies two compounds, with the chancery having been built in 1988. The Department is planning to construct a new chancery and annexes during the next several years.
The embassy had difficulty in recent years filling mid-level positions. In the year prior to the inspection, several mid-level positions in different sections either had no assigned employee or had long gaps. For example, the embassy experienced a 30-month gap between Facility Managers, a 10-month gap between Public Affairs Officers, a 15-month gap between Information Management Specialists, a 34-month gap between the Management Section’s Office Management Specialists, and 24-month gaps in two of five Regional Security Office positions.
Excerpt from Embassy Dhaka’s response specific to the staffing gaps:
The Embassy appreciates mention of the staffing gaps identified on page three of the OIG Draft Report. However, the paragraph understates Post’s chronic and severe understaffing and its impact. In addition to the page three gaps, during the Ambassador’s tenure:
• The Front Office was short one OMS for seven months and had a four-month gap in the DCM position, filled only part of that time by an REA TDYer also serving as Acting Management Officer;
• Pol/Econ was without a Chief or Deputy for three months and the Acting Chief was also P/E Deputy, Econ Chief, and Labor Officer for three months. The incoming Refugee Coordinator broke his handshake causing gaps in that position;
• The Visa Chief position was vacant for 14 months; a ConOff position was vacant for five months; and the incoming Deputy Consular Chief who will replace her predecessor who departed during the October inspection has not yet arrived.
Additionally, Post was unable to fill numerous EFM positions in the Section due to the paucity of family members who chose to come to our then unaccompanied Post;
• The previous Management Officer curtailed in August 2019; the DCM recruited an REA officer to temporarily fill the position who was formally recalled to service in January 2020. The A/GSO EPAP departed in September 2019; her replacement is scheduled to arrive in summer 2020. The S/GSO left in May 2019; his replacement arrived four months later. The FMO arrived after a three-month gap. The ISO position has been empty since June 2019 and there is no replacement in the pipeline. Post has had no CLO since February 2019; the position was also vacant for 10 months until April 2018;
• The Deputy CAO – a second-tour Officer — filled the PAO position for 10 months; this was a triple stretch. The remaining two American positions were filled by Civil Servants in hard-to-fill positions; neither had served in a PD position or overseas.
With such substantial staffing gaps, during the tense and violent run up to national elections and the tumultuous aftermath, in times of heightened terrorist threat, and to support multiple VIP visits to Cox’s Bazar and the world’s largest refugee camp, some employees did occasionally work seven days a week. Post appreciated the strain on particular offices and officers and worked hard to burden share with our limited personnel resources. As is typical when new Chiefs of Mission arrive, the Ambassador accepted more invitations his first few months in order to promote crucial U.S. foreign policy objectives including the new Indo-Pacific Strategy, conduct high-profile advocacy over concerns for Bangladesh’s shrinking democratic space, press the Government of Bangladesh to address trafficking-in-persons issues, and protect human rights and voices of dissent in the aftermath of the hugely flawed national election. While the Front Office may not have been explicit in tying all outreach and travel to the ICS, the Ambassador was careful to accept engagement opportunities that furthered ICS objectives which are, as the OIG noted, displayed prominently throughout the Embassy. Further, the Embassy had and continues to have a strategic travel working group which develops quarterly travel schedules and plans.
OIG report says that in February the State Department agreed with Embassy Dhaka’s recommendation to return to fully accompanied status “which should help alleviate continuing staffing and related concerns by 2021, including by filling long-vacant EFM positions.”
— State OIG (@StateOIG) June 16, 2020
In late July, we posted an unsolicited commentary from a retired FS member and former COM, “Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security”. Below is a response we received which should add to the discussions happening outside this blog.
Sender B is part of the State Department community with many friends and family in both the FS and the Civil Service. Over the past 15 years, they worked extensively with the Department of Defense and the military services as well and built a good familiarity with the DS Bureau. He/She has also gone overseas, and interacted with all of the above organizations “in the years after our post 9/11 forever wars,” adding that “what I am about to say is, of course, colored by all of these factors.”
A Response to Warrior Culture, Militarization, and Diplomatic Security
I read Sender A’s note with interest, and like many of these ‘letters’ my reaction is a mixed bag – some scads of truth mixed with big dollops of generalization, stereotype, and the whooshing sound of one Missing the Larger Point. I don’t know who Sender A is, but yet I sort of do. I have met more than a few of these retired FSOs over the years. Most are political officers, most have at least 25 years under their belt, and most are at least a little wistful for the good old days before American Embassies were fortresses with 100 feet of setback around them and located a bit further away from the downtown business districts of world capitals.
I think it’s useful to start with some basic unspoken truths in the discussion of security culture and State – DS and the people who work there have always been looked at askance by the folks at HST and in the upper echelons of the generalist ranks. In particular the Mandarins of the POL cone who run the Department. DS agents, so the line of thought goes, are “knuckle draggers” and an impediment to the Really Important Valuable “substantive” Work of Diplomacy like attending interagency meetings, ribbon cuttings, and sending cables back to Washington.
Okay. I kid, but only a little.
Everything he says (and odds are, as long as he’s been out, it is a ‘he’ – but I could be wrong) in the first few paragraphs is completely true – post 9/11, security theater got ramped up a lot, not just at State but across the federal government. Look at the DHS and TSA as the biggest and most theatrical examples of that phenomenon. This was in part a reaction after 9/11 to the national mood – since the United States of America, love her as we all do, never does anything it can’t over do.
It was also a product of the new operating environment. Iraq and Afghanistan were different places once the shooting started, requiring different skill sets and new ways of doing business for the military services but also State and the interagency. The threat was, frankly, very high and very real in those places for Americans. I saw it firsthand from 2007 to 2011 during several visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. There were decisions made and policies implemented in the years after 9/11 that may or may not have successfully dealt with those threats, but to bemoan DS’s 20-story headquarters and the CT funds that built it is to somewhat miss the point. Nearly every security organization in the U.S. National Security Complex experienced some form of this same phenomenon, which is why today nearly every federal agency has specialized security arms/teams/offices and funding profiles very much unlike what they had just a few decades ago. US Customs and Border Patrol alone, for example, has an air arm that is as large as the Brazilian Air Force. If you visit the Pentagon, the police force that protects the Pentagon reservation has been thoroughly transformed into a kitted-up security force for a building that was already a fairly secure location. The USG was completely subsumed by the post 9/11 security swell, in retrospect, so to bemoan State’s slice of that trend is fine – but it was a much larger issue, and one that would inevitably affect the diplomatic arm of the American government.
There is also the swipe at DS performing duplicative roles. Yes, well … perhaps. Perhaps not. That’s a matter of perspective. Question: why is the Bureau of International Narcotic and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) not under DS? DS is the law enforcement arm of the State Department, the point organization for investigating visa fraud, and a host of other crimes related to international law enforcement and definitely narcotics. Why is it not aligned? What exactly does INL do at HST that is can’t do at DS HQ? Further complicating things, DS manages State’s law enforcement counterterrorism training assistance but main State retains INL? From an outsider’s perspective, that makes little sense. But I get it. Government fiefdoms are what they are and come to be for complex reasons. Little has changed because the people who run the Department don’t want it to, regardless of how much sense it makes.
The comment about the new training center also belies a bit more nuance. Yes, it is the product of some Congressional deal probably served up via a hand shake between the Georgia and Virginia Delegation. Why those two, you ask? It should be noted that prior to the new center’s opening, DS security training was already atomized and spread out to various locales far from Washington. Glynco, Georgia was where DS special agents, alongside other federal law enforcement agents, received their Basic Special Agents Course (BSAC) training. The ability to duplicate that kind of training facility anywhere near FSI inside the beltway is cost prohibitive, to say the least. The facilities alone would bankrupt the Department, as you would need a lot of real estate for activities such as driving courses, mock embassy compounds, firing ranges, and other aspects of admittedly security-oriented curriculums. In other words, not just classrooms.
The more substantive piece of the commentary, however, deserves a bit more attention. ‘Warrior culture’ as it is described is a long-remarked issue across the USG, not just at State. Why? A part of this is certainly a result of the US Government elevating what is known as “veteran’s status” in the application process for federal positions even higher than it was previously to 2001. This resulted in veterans receiving preferential treatment for hiring in positions across the government, but especially within the security apparatus and law enforcement agencies. Over the last ten years, I can’t tell you how many longtime managers and officials in government who have sought to hire candidates for their respective offices (at State and other agencies) have told me they can’t get the right candidates to an interview. In their telling, the culprit is primarily the reflexive application of veterans status points and their effect on the HR process. This results in the saturation of the application pool with candidates armed with a DD 214 (military discharge papers). Some of those positions require skill sets undoubtedly found in certain military career fields, to be sure. The criticism though, is that this policy has been applied with little nuance over time by HR officials.
What is the result? The skill sets/experiences of personnel who have excelled in environments where hard skills and Special Operations Forces mindsets migrate into the civilian bureaucracy over time, in law enforcement surely but also in tangentially related fields as well. We can debate the merits of that trend, but it is a result of a policy choice, approved of by both the Bush and Obama Administrations, and we are dealing with the result of it today in small and large ways. The Department and DS in particular are, of course, caught up in this. A massive demand for security following the advent of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, coupled with the need to bring former military members into the Department both by policy dictate and by the reality of the environment has resulted in this shift playing out. It would be inevitable to say the least there would be friction in these two cultures coming together. There is no easy solution for the imbalance, and you will continue to hear officials at all levels say something needs to be fixed. I’m not sure how exactly that is done, outside of some dedicated member of Congress deciding to champion the issue.
Overall, Sender A’s perspective read like a sort of historical snapshot. A return to the old days, when SY officials had time to do tours out of cone, and the G Men wore fedoras and carried six shooters. I kid, but not by much. This perspective is fun, but it is also a bit naïve, as if the 1980s, much less Nairobi/Tanzania and 9/11 didn’t happen.
We are all products of our experiences, and that goes for people as well as organizations. DS would not be the organization it is today if the Beirut bombings of the 1980s had not occurred, and the Inman Report that followed it had not happened. The 1990s accelerated the rise of a more robust security apparatus at State in this environment, because the threat of terrorism against U.S. interests had changed and was rapidly evolving. By the time 9/11 rolled around, this transformation was unstoppable in many ways.
There is much to lament about the end of the pre-9/11 era. The world was (in some ways) more open, more accessible, and diplomats more able to conduct the traditional business of diplomacy, in most contexts. But to pretend the changes of the last several decades have occurred in a vacuum is disingenuous. The Department may be risk averse today, and overly so in many areas. That deserves some scrutiny. But it is a fact that Americans have died because of choices made by Department officials who downplayed these threats. Policy choices over the decades have results. Once one peels the onion on how counterterrorism policy came to be, we might not like what we find.
“You held discussions and town halls. As the paint dries, Juneteenth receives recognition, and Confederate statues are destroyed, remember that this is just the beginning.
You ask people of color and Black employees to share their suffering and experiences that were repeatedly dismissed and ignored. There is trauma, mental illness, stolen dreams, nightmares, and whispers that travel around the world in household effects. This isn’t the case just for Foreign Service members that are people of color, but the entire organization.
As employees that are people of color come forward and speak their truth, have you provided paid counseling/ therapy and tangible resources to continue these conversations? You ask my fellow colleagues to do the work for you once again.
Related post: You ask, what is it like to be Black in America? A former @StateDept employee tells her story
Honored to be part of the Juneteenth commemoration to highlight our collective solidarity at an inflection point in our nation’s history. Together, we can promote cultural change, to ensure all @StateDept employees succeed – in an inclusive & unbiased work environment.
— Carol Z. Perez (@StateDG) June 19, 2020
""How is it that I have a shared trauma with someone that started their State Department career before I was born? "
— Diplopundit TEST/TRACE/ISOLATE (@Diplopundit) July 7, 2020
"Dear State Department, you have failed so many people, myself included. You have a responsibility to create change. And the rest of us are waiting to see how you respond.[…] Let’s see if you have what it takes."https://t.co/B06R3NpyN5
— Diplopundit TEST/TRACE/ISOLATE (@Diplopundit) July 7, 2020
On June 10, 2020, the U.S. Consulate in Nuuk, Greenland reopened for the first time since 1953. Via US Embassy Copenhagen:
Sung W. Choi, Consul
U.S. Consulate, Nuuk, Greenland
Sung Choi is the State Department’s first Consul in Nuuk since 1953. He previously served at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen focused on Greenland-related matters and Danish domestic politics, beginning 2018. Sung served 2014-2017 in Seoul, South Korea, as the State Department’s primary analyst of political and economic developments in North Korea and on inter-Korean relations; 2010-2012 as a China Desk Officer focused on human rights and Sino-European relations; and 2009 in Shenyang, China as a Vice Consul. He has received the State Department’s Award for Heroism.
Sung earned an A.B. from Dartmouth College, a M.P.H. from Columbia University, and a J.D. from William & Mary School of Law. He worked as a corporate lawyer in New York prior to joining the State Department. Sung is married to Sarah Stephens, and they have two daughters.
On June 10th the U.S. Consulate in #Nuuk, Greenland formally reopened for the first time since 1953. It operates out of the headquarters of Joint Arctic Command until a permanent location is identified. Check out their welcome video here: https://t.co/XJxusopZ8g pic.twitter.com/5GVCElswch
— Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (@State_OBO) June 18, 2020
Minister Steen Lynge said today at the opening of the US Consulate in #Nuuk, “we now have diplomatic representation in each other’s countries, and I am sure that it will contribute to sustaining good and positive #cooperation between us.”
— Greenland MFA 🇬🇱 (@GreenlandMFA) June 10, 2020
Meeting between Greenland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ane Lone Bagger, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofoed and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo in Washington, D.C to discuss issues of common interest pic.twitter.com/mdM1gFoThO
— Greenland in USA&CDA🇬🇱 (@GreenlandRepDC) November 13, 2019
Last week US Secretary of State's Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl visited Nuuk. He was accompanied by Ambassador to the Kingdom, @CarlaHSands, as well as officials from the @StateDept, @DeptofDefense & US National Security Council.
— Greenland MFA 🇬🇱 (@GreenlandMFA) October 30, 2019
“Our country is not for sale, but we are open for business.” -Kim Kielsen, Prime Minister of #Greenland @Naalakkersuisut at #ArcticCircle2019 re: #GreenlandPurchase @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/86w1HfXU6b
— Arctic Circle (@_Arctic_Circle) October 29, 2019
On June 9, the American Academy of Diplomacy called on the State Department to improve diversity in its ranks. It says that it believes that “a diplomatic service and other representatives of US foreign policy need to look like America, an essential part of representing our country abroad.” Excerpt:
The State Department falls short of this goal. Women and minorities continue to be significantly underrepresented in the Department of State, most glaringly in the senior ranks. Out of 189 U.S. Ambassadors serving abroad today, there are three African American and four Hispanic career diplomats. Thus, the Academy supports the following five commitments, the implementation of which can begin immediately:
1. The Department of State should publicly and repeatedly reaffirm and strengthen its previous commitments to establish a culture of diversity and inclusion in the Department of State. The Director General of the Foreign Service’s recent call for employees to engage in honest conversations with their peers is a good start.
2. The Department of State should expand and seek to substantially and verifiably increase the recruitment of minorities and women. This should include outreach to historically minority-serving institutions, increasing the number of Diplomats in Residence at these institutions, increasing the number of internships from minority and women candidates, and targeting future minority and women candidates starting at the high school level.The Department should significantly expand its ROTC-like fellowship programs for aspiring minority officers.
3. The Department of State should strengthen existing mentorship programs to specifically support minority and women officers. Senior officers should be assigned to mentor and sponsor younger officers from different backgrounds than their own. The Department should study best practices of how corporations sponsor future leaders who are minorities and women.
4. The Department of State should work to increase the assignment and promotions of minority and women candidates to the senior ranks and positions of the Foreign Service. A special effort should be placed on the retention of middle and senior level officers.
5. The Department should establish a culture of accountability for officers to ensure that they fulfill their diversity and inclusion objectives.
A prominent group of veteran U.S. diplomats is calling on the State Department to recruit and promote more minorities, pointing to the widespread fury over the death of a black man in police custody as a time for institutional soul-searching https://t.co/07D9D7DOP2
— POLITICO (@politico) June 9, 2020
PRESS RELEASE: @AcadofDiplomacy stands with those peacefully protesting the murder of George Floyd, and calls on the State Department to improve diversity by ensuring the diplomatic service and other representatives of US foreign policy look like America. https://t.co/RzAJkieRE6 pic.twitter.com/3rZF42963C
— Academy of Diplomacy (@AcadofDiplomacy) June 9, 2020
“'I think that a lot of foreign service officers of color, particularly black officers, are at a point where they’re just fed up,' said one official. 'We’re dissatisfied, we feel dehumanized, and I think enough is enough.'"
My latest story: https://t.co/RKSnEk550Q
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) June 11, 2020
There's a vast gap between the public dialogue on institutional racism that US military commanders are starting and the silence of State Dept. officials. See this post from former diplomat & black citizen @BrooksLaSure. https://t.co/LbYtyOMBxp Our story: https://t.co/KVUNVvDeGb
— Edward Wong (@ewong) June 9, 2020
On May 27, the State Department announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr. to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton, Bermuda (see Champion of US Diplomacy Announces Political Donor to be Principal Officer at US Consulate General Bermuda).
Since the announcement, there has been two protests at the consulate, and an online petition expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for the rejection of the Rizzuto appointment. As of this writing, the petition has over 79,000 signatures. The island noted for its sandy beaches and cerulean blue ocean waters has an estimated 2018 population of 71,176.
The Consulate closed on June 1st when the first of two protests took place in front of the consulate (Demonstration Alert – U.S. Consulate General Hamilton, Bermuda, June 1, 2020).
A second demonstration against the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr by the United States Consulate. pic.twitter.com/TsaXH5slHb
— The Royal Gazette (@TheRoyalGazette) June 3, 2020
— Bernews (@bernewsdotcom) June 3, 2020
Reject Rizzuto: protesters are outraged at the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr and racial injustice in the US, highlighted by the killing of George Floyd
Photography by Akil Simmons pic.twitter.com/MHfsMTkT84
— The Royal Gazette (@TheRoyalGazette) June 2, 2020
today in Bermuda, a peaceful protest was held to call for justice in the case of George Floyd and against the appointing of Lee Rizzuto Jr. (a Trump supporter and thus appointed by Trump) as Bermuda’s US Consulate #blacklivesmatter 🇧🇲 pic.twitter.com/JgfOOVpnaK
— königin (@_iamPRYCELESS) June 2, 2020
A controversial beauty products tycoon scheduled to take up the US Consul General’s post this summer made headlines in America after he shared “conspiracy theories and unfounded attacks” about President Donald Trump’s political opponents on Twitter. https://t.co/MhmIpLIKeJ
— The Royal Gazette (@TheRoyalGazette) May 29, 2020
— Hannah 🇧🇲 (@rennah) June 1, 2020
Note: We’ve corrected the posts where she served.
The following is a personal account of a former State Department employee who worked at the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. Tianna S. joined the State Department in April 2018. She was posted at the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (Oct. 2018- March 2019) and then at the U.S. Embassy Mexico City (March 2019- October 2019). She departed post in October 2019, she was 27 years old. Her departure from the State Department was apparently called an “involuntary separation.”
Her account said she “was encouraged not to speak to the press about what I experienced and to steer clear of any lawsuit as it had the potential for serious repercussions against my government career.”
Who provided that encouragement?
Which officials at the State Department or post were aware about these incidents? When she was placed on involuntary separation, did the Bureau of Global Talent Management (State/M/GTM) and DGHR Carol Perez care what precipitated it?
If not, why not?
If yes, what did State’s top talent officer do besides sign off Tianna’s separation documents?
Via What’s Up With Tianna (excerpted with permission). Read the entire piece here: What do I want from white people? (An illustration on Being Black in America).
Her piece started with the death of George Floyd:
Your heart will pound heavily as George repeats “I can’t breathe.”
He will die face down in the middle of the street. You will watch another unarmed Black man die on camera, in cold flesh, at the hands of a white police officer. When the video finally ends, a feeling deep in your soul will tell you that the white police officer will not go to jail. Before you press play, ask yourself, how many more?
At one point in her account, she writes, “You ask, what is it like to be Black in America?” Then she tells us:
I drove my vehicle from my house in Mexico across the United States land border into El Paso, Texas at 2:30PM on Saturday, January 19, 2019. A United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official flagged me into secondary inspection, for what marked the 17th instance of further inspection since I arrived in Mexico on October 26, 2018. The official inquired if I was a U.S. citizen, motive of travel in the United States, reason of visit in Mexico, and if the car I was driving was stolen. I sat on a cold bench and endured further questioning. I showed my Diplomatic Passport, stating I worked at the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, and lived there.
“Sure you do,” he laughed.
He probed, asking more questions. A new official appeared and searched my car, tossing around the contents in my backseat and glove compartment. He took his left hand and rubbed it up and down my car windows.
“I’m going to meet my friend in El Paso,” I stated.
“When you talk to a man, you look at the ground. Do you understand me?” He glared at me, face full of disgust. The officers laughed. My shoulders tense.
“May I speak to your manager please?” I asked.
The on-duty manager approached, crossing his arms, and asked, “what do you want?” I told him about my negative interaction with the previous officers. The manager laughed and asked the motive of travel into the U.S. I told him I was going to meet a friend for coffee and was asked why I needed to come to the U.S. to partake in that activity.
“I’m a U.S. citizen,” I reiterated.
When I told the manager that I worked for the U.S. Consulate General as a Foreign Service Consular Officer, he laughed, rolled his eyes, and said, “right.” Again, I presented my Diplomatic Passport, U.S. Passport, Mexican Carnet, and Global Entry Card. He laughed again and told me he did not need to look at my identification stating, “it could be counterfeit for all I know.”
Blood pumping. Small and humiliated. The manager never looked at my documentation, nor believed anything that I said, even with substantial proof. He went back in his office after obtaining my first and last name. Upon returning, he told me that I had only been pulled over to secondary about eight times so “why are you complaining?” I was bewildered and still am. I requested his name, only to be met with his reply of “I do not have to give you my name.” He later stated “you don’t need my first name.” His name was Officer Kireli.
When I reiterated that his account of the frequency of secondary inspection was incorrect, the manager scoffed, his team standing behind him almost mocking me.
“Just because you say you work at the Consulate, does not mean that you are not smuggling drugs into the country,” he said. Extremely frustrated and irritated, I asked how in the world I would be able to get top secret security clearance to work for the United States Government.
The manager then told me, “I do not know, but I do know what drug dealers and smugglers look like.” When I asked him to explain, the manager stepped forward, attempting to intimidate me, crossed his arms, looked at me up and down, and said, “you know what I mean.” I was furious at his insinuation that I was a drug smuggler and his racially charged implication based off of my appearance. I demanded an apology from the manager for the disgusting and unjust defamation of my name and my character.
The CBP manager took another step forward to stand on top of the platform that the bench sits on, positioning him to be a couple inches taller than me. He placed his hand on his gun, finger around the trigger, and told me to get back in my car.
Updated 1135 am PDT
On January 2018, we posted about the nomination of Leandro Rizzuto to be U.S. Ambassador to Barbados (Prominent Businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr to be Ambassador to Barbados, But Wait – #ForgotSomething?). The nomination was not acted by the Senate and was resubmitted for renomination by the White House in 2019 (see White House Submits Some @StateDept/Related Agencies Re-nominations to the Senate). This nomination was sent to a GOP majority Senate in the 115th Congress and the 116th Congress with no action from the Senate. The last actions according to congress.gov for PN136:
01/16/2019: Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
01/03/2020: Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate;
On May 27, 2020, Mr. Pompeo announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Bermuda, a post typically held by career diplomats. Actually, we could not recall a political appointee at this level in more than a decade of blogging. This position does not require Senate confirmation, which means, they could chuck out the current consul general this week and have this guy packed out and sent down to the island before the month is over.
Foggy Bottom’s top champion of diplomacy strikes again!
According to its website, “the American Consulate General in Hamilton plays an integral role in Bermuda’s political, social and cultural communities. The main office is located at “Crown Hill,” a historic property, just outside the city of Hamilton, that is owned by the US Government. Approximately 40 employees, including the Consul General, Deputy Principal Officer, Consul, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director and officers are assigned to the Consulate General.”
Updated: We understand that the Reagan Administration started the tradition of a political appointee in Bermuda (Thanks K!). In December 1981, Max L. Friedersdorf an assistant to the President for legislative affairs resigned and was announced simultaneously as the next consul general to Bermuda, “a post that usually goes to career Foreign Service employees rather than to political appointees.”
In 2005, George W. Bush appointed Gregory Slayton as U.S. Consul General to Bermuda (Thanks K2). He was sworn in by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on August 15, 2005.
Note that Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. That’s right. The U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton is part of the United States Mission to the United Kingdom.
Also quick question, once Pompeo is done installing a political donor to USCG Hamilton, which post is next? The U.S. Virtual Presence Post in Wales may also be available. For the record, there are 75 more consulates general in the U.S. Foreign Service, and there are still 160 days till election day.
- WH’s Pick For Barbados Ambassadorship “Should Feel Free to Put on His Tinfoil Hat” Sez @SenSasse Spox 2018
- Top Most Expensive Places to Live in the Foreign Service2009
Pleased to announce Lee Rizzuto will be the next Principal Officer at our Consulate General in Hamilton. There he will lead our great @StateDept team in further strengthening our economic and cultural ties with Bermuda.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 27, 2020
Lee Rizzuto – a big Trump donor and hair dryer heir – nomination to be ambassador to Barbados was never taken up after we reported he spread conspiracies.
The admin. just circumvented Senate approval by naming him "principal officer" at the consulate.https://t.co/h05UWMRUe1
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) May 27, 2020
Two years into what is usually a three year post, Trump is replacing a senior foreign service officer with the heir to a beauty products fortune as U.S. Consul General, Bermuda.https://t.co/F6sekdKIsj
— Dan Baer (@danbbaer) May 27, 2020
New: Trump names billionaire son of Conair founder Lee Rizutto as US Ambassador to Barbados. WH statement >> pic.twitter.com/7gAGdOIhJM
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) January 5, 2018
The following is a first person account shared by a Diplomatic Security agent who was assaulted twice by his spouse in
USG quarters temporary housing located in the Washington DC area. He wrote that he wanted to call attention to a situation he faced in the hope that “others who find themselves in similar circumstances know what to expect.” He added that “with the ongoing pandemic and quarantine other employees may find themselves in similar situations as they are trapped with their spouses under stressful circumstances.” He told us he was a DS Agent with a few years on the job. “Despite being relatively junior, I was a good agent that made tenure, had no disciplinary issues, and I received several awards.”
The individual who wrote this told us that he resigned from the State Department and is now employed by another agency in his home state.
This is his story, as sent to us. We’ve added links in [brackets] for the relevant offices:
I was assigned to an HTP [High Threat Post] post in Africa and I was there for several months. While there, a medical issue surfaced that couldn’t be treated at Post. I went on leave to my home state (which was also the location of my previous assignment and where my spouse and child lived while I was at post) and saw a specialist. While on leave, I was “caught out”-the medical condition I was diagnosed with while on leave prevented my return to post. I was told by MED [Bureau of Medical Services] that I could not return to Post, my medical clearance was downgraded, and (after what seemed like an eternity), I was eventually assigned to a position in the DC/NOVA area. Never mind that I burned through all my leave so that I could keep getting paid and the medical per diem that I was authorized didn’t pay out until the very end. I rented out my house in my home state and prepared to move my family to the NOVA area.
While in temporary housing at one of the Oakwood properties, my spouse assaulted me. Our relationship had been badly strained by the long durations apart for training and an unaccompanied tour (while at post, things got so bad that I retained a lawyer and initiated divorce proceedings). After the assault, my spouse was arrested by the local police-and after the mandatory separation period we decided to try to patch things up and try again. Thankfully our child was not present when this happened; several weeks later we brought our child to Virginia. I also started looking for a position with another agency knowing that the foreign service lifestyle was taking its toll. We wound up buying a condo in one of the suburbs and moved in.
I went on a brief TDY and this separation caused issues to resurface to in our relationship. I committed to restarting the divorce proceedings. However, court proceedings, custody issues, and property would be decided in my home state-not in Virginia. I could not afford another residence in Virginia, and I could not stay with my spouse due to the violent outbursts. I was essentially homeless. I reached out to Employee Consultation Services and my CDO [Career Development Officer] and asked about being transferred back to my home state. At least in my home state I would be able to stay with family and see the divorce through. Remaining in Virginia would mean continuing to “crash” at AirBnBs until my tour was up…another 18 months. After several weeks, my spouse assured me that it was safe to return to the condo and I wanted to see my child.
Approximately 3 weeks after returning from this TDY things again took a turn for the worse and my spouse assaulted me-this time with a weapon. I only sustained minor injuries, but my spouse was arrested and this left me responsible for taking care of our child alone. My chain-of-command was incredibly understanding and supportive and I was able to meet family and work obligations without issue. Unfortunately, or HR system was much less understanding and supportive. There were open positions in my home state that I wanted to return to. However, it seems like it takes an act of God to get an employee to one of them. I was told that my request to “the panel”…which was supported by police and court reports, and an affidavit from my attorney which explained the need to be in my home state for the divorce, may not be sufficient justification for reassignment. According to one of the CDOs I was dealing with (more on that later), the panel is concerned that people may “take advantage of (domestic violence) situations” and try to get reassigned. I guess that it is more career enhancing to just continue to get abused and windup losing custody than to transfer an employee. Thankfully, I was able to secure a position with another agency in my home state. I won’t be homeless and I can see the divorce through to the end. Although the pay cut hurts, at least I am safe and will see my child again.
Overall, DS [Diplomatic Security] was a great experience. The work and the people were great. The same goes for all of the Foreign Service and Civil Service colleagues that I had the pleasure of working with. We hire some very talented people, but we don’t do a good job retaining them. Our HR process is garbage. [HR office is now officially the Bureau of Global Talent Management].
I understand that everyone has unique circumstances but just be aware that the programs that you think can help you cannot be relied upon. By all means, try to stay with the foreign service if you like the job…had they been able to accommodate me until my issue was resolved I’d have done 20 and retired. Your DS experience, training, and security clearance make you marketable to other agencies….keep trying and one will come through. If DS (and the Dept. as a whole) were serious about retaining employees, they would fix the HR system. I am now looking to see if I have any legal recourse; others shouldn’t have to go through this. As a wise person said, “at the end of the day it is just a job”. It was an interesting and rewarding job-but still just a job. There is other good work out there. If you think things may go bad, get your applications in. Constantly have applications going with other agencies so you always have a parachute…that is what saved me.