US Embassy Kabul on COVID Lockdown, AFSA Calls For Vaccination Requirement For All Staffers

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The US Embassy in Kabul issued a Management Notice for an Immediate COVID-19 Lockdown due to surging cases at post. The notice notes that “95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.” The notice also says “Failure to abide by the Mission’s COVID policies will result in consequences up to and including removal from Post on the next available flight.”
AFSA has issued a statement calling for the Biden Administration to “take swift action to allow the Department of State to require all personnel, including local employees and third-country nationals, serving at our embassies and consulates abroad under Chief of Mission authority, direct-hire and contract alike, to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 as a condition of their physical presence in the workplace.” AFSA’s vaccination requirement push includes “for those individuals who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons or disability or religious belief or practice.”
Below is the AFSA statement:

Our Embassy in Afghanistan has announced that one employee has died and 114 have been infected with Covid-19. Several employees have had to be evacuated from Afghanistan, and others are being treated in an emergency Covid-19 ward at the Embassy that was created because U.S. military hospital facilities are full. The entire Embassy staff has been put on lockdown and nearly all staff members are confined to their quarters around the clock.

At a time when the U.S. military withdrawal is accelerating, attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces are intensifying and the U.S. is seeking to establish a stable and positive presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal, the damage to our national security and national interests is potentially grave.

AFSA urges the Biden Administration to take swift action to allow the Department of State to require all personnel, including local employees and third-country nationals, serving at our embassies and consulates abroad under Chief of Mission authority, direct-hire and contract alike, to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 as a condition of their physical presence in the workplace. The only exceptions would be for those individuals who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons or disability or religious belief or practice.    

This has always been a matter of life and death, but now it literally has become exactly that for our members and colleagues serving their country abroad. Recent Federal court rulings have upheld requiring vaccination as a condition of employment in specific situations, such as health care. Service at our embassies and consulates should be treated similarly.

 

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US Embassy Ottawa Announces Arrival of Chargé d’Affaires Arnold Chacon, in Self-Isolation Until 6/29

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On May 28, the State Department announced the designation of Ambassador Arnold Chacon as Chargé d’Affaires at US Mission Canada (see Amb Arnie Chacon Heads to U.S. Mission Canada as Chargé d’Affaires (a.i); What’s going on at U.S. Mission Canada?).
On June 15, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa announce the arrival of Chargé d’Affaires Arnold Chacon.

“I’m delighted that Secretary of State Blinken selected me to serve as Chargé d’Affaires in Canada and am honored to take on this important role working with the United States’ closest friend, partner, and ally.  We are active across Canada, not only at the Embassy in Ottawa, but also through our seven consulates that stretch from Vancouver to Halifax.  The U.S.-Canada relationship is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration as we revitalize and strengthen our historic alliance and steadfast friendship. I am committed to continuing the exceptional work already being done by my colleagues and Canadian government officials under the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership.  We will continue to make progress together in the key areas of trade, climate change, COVID-19 response and recovery, diversity, inclusion, and equity, and global and regional security issues,” said Chargé d’Affaires Chacon.

Chargé d’Affaires Chacon succeeds Katherine Brucker who has been acting in the role since September of 2020.  Ms. Brucker will continue to serve at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa as Deputy Chief of Mission.

In keeping with public health requirements, Chargé d’Affaires Chacon will self-isolate for the next 14 days.

We’re wondering if folks are ready to do the Bhangra dance.

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Belarus Kicks Out US Diplomats With New Limits in US Embassy Minsk Staffing

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According to the June 3 statement from the Belarus Foreign Ministry, the government summoned the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Minsk and informed him of retaliatory measures against the United States. The measures include the reduction of the diplomatic and administrative-technical personnel of the American diplomatic mission, the tightening of visa procedures, the limitation of the work of American specialists in Belarus on a temporary basis. The government also revoked the work permit for the US Agency for International Development.
In 2008, the Belarusian Government imposed restrictions on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, and the State Department was forced to reduce its embassy staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw the U.S. Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. We are not sure how many were at post prior to this latest development. The current CDA Ruben Harutunian assumed his duties as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk on May 24, 2021.
In April 2020, with improved relations with the dictator in Belarus, the Trump Administration announced the nomination of  career diplomat Julie Fisher as the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008. She was confirmed in December 2020. In April this year, the new ambassador was reportedly to reside in Lithuania temporarily as she was not granted a visa for Belarus.

Related posts:

FSJ/Speaking Out: The president can nominate anyone. True, but …

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Via FSJ/Speaking Out: The Case Against Political Ambassadors by Edward L. Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania and Iraq:
“The president can nominate anyone. True, but the Founding Fathers, in a far less complicated world, required the Senate to consent after considering nominees’ qualifications. In theory, the only criterion would be national interests; but political nominations reflect the importance of money, friendship and patronage, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has long since abandoned its constitutional responsibility. The committee has also abandoned the requirements and restrictions included in the 1980 Foreign Service Act written by Congress, rubber-stamping all but the most egregious candidates, knowing that their party will have its turn.”
Read in full here.

 

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POTUS Joe Biden’s First Overseas Trip/2: Brussels, Belgium For NATO and US-EU Summits

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President Biden is on his first overseas trip from June 10-16. He was at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, U.K. from June 11-13. He will be in Brussels, Belgium for the NATO Summit on June 14, and the U.S.–EU Summit on June 15. He will then travel to Geneva, Switzerland for a bilateral summit with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin on June 16.

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Snapshot: Bureau of Legislative Affairs Org Chart With Unclear Reporting Lines

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Via State/OIG:

Organizational Chart – Bureau of Legislative Affairs – State/H. 2021

 

Oh, but look here. How long has the FAM been outdated, pet?

 

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Washingtonian: The Maddening, Twisted Story of the Diplomat Who Became a Troll

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Via: Washingtonian |The Maddening, Twisted Story of the Diplomat Who Became a Troll

How could so many experts have concluded that Syring wouldn’t hurt them when his victims felt with such a visceral certainty that he would?

Part of it, at least for some people involved in the case, was that Syring just didn’t seem the type—white, older, someone who’d spent decades in a cautious bureaucracy. It didn’t make sense that a man with so much to lose would operate at such a high personal cost. Bristol had initially hedged his investigation for this reason, believing that a midlevel State Department employee probably wouldn’t also be a racist troll. (He says he would never make that assumption now.)
[..]
Zogby will be 78 when Syring gets out of prison, if he serves his full sentence, and 81 when his probation ends. If Syring reappears in Zogby’s life at that point, it will mark 20 years and counting that his obsession has persisted—20 years in which Zogby has never fully understood what Syring might be capable of doing to him. “I didn’t know, I never knew,” he told me recently. “And I still don’t know.”

Related posts:

 

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State/OIG Reports to Congress: Investigations Into Mrs P’s Travels, Ambassadors, Senior Advisors, FSOs and More

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On June 1, 2021, State/OIG published online its Semiannual Report to the Congress (October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021).
On  accountability and independence, the OIG reports:
“OIG did not encounter any attempts to interfere with Inspector General independence—whether through budgetary constraints designed to limit its capabilities, resistance or objection to oversight activities, or restrictions on or significant delays in access to information—for the reporting period from October 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021.
OIG encountered a three-month delay in scheduling an interview with Secretary Michael Pompeo as part of its review of allegations of misuse of Department resources. OIG initially requested an interview on September 11, 2020, but then-Secretary Pompeo did not agree to the interview (which was scheduled for December 23, 2020) until December 16, 2020.
During a mandated review of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ (INL) reporting related to National Drug Control Program activities, INL was not sufficiently responsive to OIG’s requests for information. At the conclusion of fieldwork, OIG determined that it could not complete its review because it did not have sufficient, appropriate evidence to be able to draw a conclusion about whether the Department’s management assertions in its Accounting and Authentication of FY 2020 Drug Control Funds and Related Performance Report were fairly stated.”
The Office of Evaluations and Special Projects (ESP):
“From October 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, ESP issued one unclassified report on Department programs and operations. Management Assistance Report: Representational Travel by the Spouse of the Secretary of State (ESP-21-01, 12/2020) In 2019, OIG received a whistleblower complaint related to travel by the spouse of the Secretary of State that the Department considered official travel. To investigate this complaint, OIG requested and reviewed documentation related to official representational family travel by Susan Pompeo from April 2018 to April 2020. Generally, Department policy permits such travel by relatives of Department officials for appropriate representational purposes. However, both Department guidance and principles of internal control require documentation of both the official purpose and the approval of the travel. The Secretary’s spouse took eight trips that were declared official from April 2018 to April 2020. Of the eight trips, OIG found documentation of an authorized purpose for all eight trips, but only found written approval for two of the trips.
OIG recommended that the Office of the Secretary seek and gain written approval for all representational travel, and that the Under Secretary for Management or other authorizing official document in writing the approval for all representational trips by any family members. The Department concurred with these recommendations.”
ESP Substantiation of Allegations of Non-Criminal Misconduct Involving Senior Government Employees, 10/1/2020–3/31/2021
— A case closed in January 2021 involved a U.S. Ambassador. “OIG found that the official committed several violations of Department policy, including involving a household member in official duties, using personal social media accounts for official activities, and failing to comply with 3 FAM 1214.1 “Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees” and “The Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch,” issued by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. OIG referred its findings to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the Bureau of African Affairs. Shortly after OIG issued its findings, the Ambassador left office as part of the presidential transition.”
— A case closed in March 2021 involved a USAGM Senior Advisor.  “OIG found that the official violated Federal recordkeeping regulations by instructing employees to communicate with her on official matters using a mobile messaging application and then deleting the messages without properly preserving them in agency recordkeeping systems. OIG referred its findings to USAGM, which reviewed the matter and notified the National Archives and Records Administration of the improper disposal of Federal records.”
The Office of Investigations conducts worldwide investigations of criminal, civil, and administrative misconduct related to programs and operations of the Department. During the reporting period, OIG conducted a number of investigations involving senior Government employees.
Investigations Involving Senior Government Employees Where Allegations Were Substantiated, 10/1/2020–3/31/2021
— On June 12, 2015, OIG opened an investigation based on information that a senior Administrative Officer and two of her subordinates violated procurement rules and regulations related to the use of U.S. Government purchase cards. The investigation substantiated the allegation and revealed the officer instructed her employees to engage in the practice of split purchasing. As there was no violation of criminal law, the case was not referred to DOJ. However, the officer resigned from the Department while under investigation. The case was closed in January 2021.
— On October 28, 2019, OIG opened an investigation based on information that the senior advisor to a U.S. Ambassador serving overseas may have received supplemental compensation from a private company while serving as a U.S. Government employee. The investigation revealed the advisor transmitted Sensitive But Unclassified information to non-U.S. Government personnel and received gifts of airfare and a gift card valued over $8,000 from a private business entity. As there was no violation of criminal law, the case was not referred to DOJ. However, the officer resigned from the Department while under investigation. The case was closed in February 2021.
— On May 29, 2019, OIG opened an investigation regarding multiple allegations of misconduct by a U.S. Ambassador. The investigation revealed the Ambassador inappropriately used his position to try to influence the move of a professional sporting event to a different venue. He also knowingly allowed his special assistant to conduct personal matters that fell outside of her scope of official duties, and while using non-Department email accounts, he did not courtesy copy or forward to his official Department email account at least 62 official emails in the span of approximately 6 months.As there was no violation of criminal law, the case was not referred to DOJ. However, the Ambassador resigned from the Department while under investigation. The case was closed in February 2021.
Under notable resolutions, State/OIG/INV’s list includes the following:
— In March 2021,  two Foreign Service Officers agreed to pay more than $13,033 to the U.S. Government to resolve issues related to fraud allegations regarding Department travel vouchers. OIG special agents determined that the married couple engaged in a scheme to defraud the Department by filing four travel vouchers that claimed lodging expenses they were not entitled to under Federal Travel Regulations. The fraud was committed from approximately September 2014 through April 2019. OIG’s Office of General Counsel coordinated the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act action that resulted in the settlement.
–In October 2020, three individuals were indicted for using a business email compromise scheme, or BEC, to defraud the Department. OIG and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agents determined the individuals tricked the Department and a nonprofit agency into wiring at least $575,000 into bank accounts they controlled for the purpose of enriching themselves and their co-conspirators.
Under employee misconduct:
— In November 2020, former Seabee Martin Huizar was sentenced to 109 months’ incarceration and ordered to pay $40,100 in fines and $10,000 in restitution, along with serving a 10-year term of supervised release, for transportation of images of child sexual abuse on his phones and tablet computer. The OIG Special Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.
 

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