Via Sender A with the “top of the iceberg” allegations:
— Opening investigations as favors.
— Closing investigations inappropriately.
— Reported to OIG five times with no action taken.
— Reported mismanagement, bullying, misogyny and hostile work environment
— Specifically and publicly calling a senior woman in the office a “fucking bitch”.
— Specifically and publicly calling a -prominent, newly appointed to a senior position- woman of color “stupid and dumb”
–Specifically and publicly calling a woman in our office “dumber than a bag of rocks”.
— A man in the office was publicly berated, began to cry and was called a “sissy baby”.
— Leadership use of office programs to do favors for personal friends and “friends of the office”.
— Disclosing information on investigations inappropriately.
— Inappropriate consultation with agency counsel…
— General disregard of process and firewalls set in place.
— Severe allegations of toxic work environment.
— Public distrust and embarrassment of this office stems from silencing and censorship of employees by management.
— Staff are actually good people passionate about their roles and want investigation and accountability. However, most are terrified of retribution and retaliation by leadership because of “management style” discouraging “disloyalty”.
— Leadership have made “strategic friends” with power playing roles who can easily look away from the abuse of power.
“At the Department of State, diversity is not just a worthy cause: it is a business necessity. Diversity of experience and background helps Department employees in the work of diplomacy. The Secretary believes that diversity is extremely important in making the State Department an employer of choice. The Secretary has delegated both tasks of advancing diversity within the Department and ensuring equal opportunity to all employees to the Director of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), who also serves as the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO).
The mission of the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) is to propagate fairness, equity and inclusion at the Department of State. S/OCR’s business is conflict resolution, employee and supervisor assistance, and diversity management. S/OCR manages the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) administrative process for the Department and works to prevent employment discrimination through outreach and training.
S/OCR advises and assists the Secretary and other principal officers in equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy and diversity management issues that relate to the Department of State. The office is symbiotically separated into three sections: Diversity Management and Outreach, Intake and Resolution, and Legal.”
We’ve received a long list of disturbing allegations that says in part “history shows the State department(sic) will not enforce accountability unless abuses of power are brought to public light.”
If you know what’s going on over there, we’re here.
State/OCR is one of twenty offices (20!) reporting directly to the Secretary of State.
State/OCR’s only response to our email inquiry is an automated response as follows:
Sean Lawler who was sworn in as Chief of Protocol of the United States, with rank of Ambassador on December 1, 2017 is reportedly resigning over allegations of discrimination and harassment. Bloomberg is reporting that he was pulled off AF1 manifest after his staff complained of intimidating behavior, including allegedly, carrying a horsewhip in the office.
Whoa! There are hidden horses in Foggy Bottom that need whipping?
Folks are understandably confused. “Wait a minute. Is this right? The dude is carrying around a horse whip on the job?” Or “Wait. Carrying a horsewhip ISN’T protocol?” Or “What, exactly, is the utility of a horsewhip in matters of protocol?” One HR person who isn’t confused notes: “If your manager has a horsewhip in his office & you don’t work with horses… maybe you’re in a less-than-stellar work environment.”
An aside — horsewhip is word of the day for a bunch of folks online. And come to think of it, what the HR person wrote made sense. This would be challenging when the Best Places to Work ranking comes around next year. The 2018 ranking, by the way, is roaring red and down -3.3 points, comparable only to the State Department’s ranking in 2003.
NBC’s Josh Lederman reports that “Two U.S. officials said that employees in the chief of protocol’s office had been informed that Ambassador Sean Lawler had been suspended indefinitely pending the outcome of the investigation. A third official said that Lawler had told the State Department’s leadership he planned to submit his resignation to President Donald Trump after the G-20 summit, which starts Friday in Osaka, Japan.” The U.S. officials who told NBC News about Lawler’s situation reportedly declined to elaborate on the specifics of the allegations, but did say that “numerous employees in his office had resigned in protest of his management and behavior.”
These media reports follow the most recent IG report on the toxic workplace at U.S. Embassy Libreville (see U.S. Embassy Gabon: State/OIG’s Ode to All Things Dreadful in a Small Post). We’re quietly watching a couple more on bad bosses bubbling up.
NEWS: Trump’s chief of protocol was pulled from AF1 manifest for G20 trip after his staff complained about intimidating behavior, including carrying a horsewhip in office.
A deputy will aid Trump with the finer points of protocol for this foreign trip.https://t.co/3z7NAsItLu
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 25, 2019
NEWS: Trump’s Senate-confirmed chief of protocol pulled off the job just ahead of G-20 summit, US officials tell me – https://t.co/kRFLJp1sfD
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) June 25, 2019
US Chief of Protocol Sean Lawler welcomes leaders from Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, arriving at the WH individually for talks with Pres Trump. pic.twitter.com/IuF3xOm3F7
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) May 21, 2019
#SanDiego #BorderPatrol, along with @US_Protocol, hosted 19 foreign Ambassadors to the US today. Participants met with #CBP executive leadership and toured the border while exchanging best practices and seeking solutions to global migration/smuggling challenges. #DHS #BORDER pic.twitter.com/v6hrQeit9v
— CBP San Diego (@CBPSanDiego) June 18, 2019
We have a new Ambassador in town 🇩🇰🇺🇸 @DKambUSA Lone Dencker Wisborg, Ambassador Designate of Denmark to the United States is presenting copies of credentials to Ambassador Sean Lawler @US_Protocol at the @StateDept Next stop, the @WhiteHouse #DenmarkinUSA #Denmark #diplomacy pic.twitter.com/Vi5e7Biw6s
— Denmark in USA 🇩🇰 (@DenmarkinUSA) April 1, 2019
Posted: 3:11 am EST
On February 13, 2019, Acting DHS/OIG John V. Kelly wrote a memo to DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen concerning DHS Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Christine Ciccone’s “failure to cooperate with Inspector General review.” Prior to moving to DHS, Ms. Ciccone served as deputy chief of staff to then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (also see Tillerson’s Redesign Chief Leaves Office After Three Months, Meet the New Redesigner-in-Chief; Rex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!DHS/OIG Kelly also formally recommended that Secretary Nielsen “take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Ciccone for failing to cooperate with an Inspector General review.” Excerpt from memo:
Beginning in September 2018, our colleagues at the Department of State Office of Inspector General (State OIG) have been attempting to interview Ms. Ciccone. At the request of several congressional committees,1 State OIG is reviewing allegations of prohibited personnel practices that occurred while Ms. Ciccone was the State Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Ms. Ciccone is a key witness in State OIG’s review; however, she has been unwilling to schedule an interview despite repeated requests made to both her and her attorney over many months.
Pursuant to the Inspector General Act (IG Act), we have assisted State OIG in attempting to schedule an interview with Ms. Ciccone and have enlisted Acting Deputy Secretary Grady in our efforts. We very much appreciate the Deputy Secretary’s assistance and her instruction to Ms. Ciccone that she must participate in the interview. However, as of today, Ms. Ciconne has not scheduled a time to meet with State OIG staff. On Monday February 11, 2019, staff from State OIG, along with DHS OIG Deputy Inspector General Jennifer Costello, met with congressional staff to inform them of Ms. Ciccone’s failure to cooperate.
DHS has implemented the requirements of the Act in DHS Management Directive 0810.1, which in part states that DHS employees will be subject to disciplinary action if they refuse to provide documents or information or to answer questions posed by the OIG. Ms. Ciccone’s handling of this situation is not consistent with her obligations as an employee under this directive. Further, Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to comply with State OIG’s request for an interview sets a dangerous precedent contrary to the fundamental tenants of the IG Act, with the potential to undermine our critical oversight function. Therefore, I recommend that you take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Ciccone under Management Directive 0810.1.
The HFAC statement notes that this review relates to the “ongoing State Department Office of Inspector General review of allegations of politically-motivated retaliation against career State Department employees.”
The HFAC statement provides a background:
- Multiple whistleblowers have contacted our Committees to call attention to allegations of politically-motivated personnel actions during Ms. Ciccone’s tenure as Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department. Chairman Cummings, Chairman Engel, and Ranking Member Menendez reported these practices to State OIG in multiple letters in 2018, as well as in letters to and hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
- State OIG opened a review of politically-motivated personnel practices in response to congressional requests.
- During the pendency of the Inspector General’s review, Ms. Ciccone left the State Department to join the Department of Homeland Security as the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. Though she left her position at the State Department, she remains in federal service and is obligated to cooperate with the Inspector General’s inquiry, per the terms of her home agency’s management directive requiring that all agency employees fully cooperate with OIG reviews.
- On February 11, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee received a briefing from State OIG regarding Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to State OIG’s interview requests. State OIG stated that it was in possession of documentary evidence demonstrating Ms. Ciccone’s involvement in personnel actions against at least three career employees, but was unable to complete its review without Ms. Ciccone’s interview. State OIG noted that given her senior position, Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to an interview was “unprecedented.”
According to the a DHS Directive, employees will —
— be subject to criminal prosecution and disciplinary action, up to and including removal, for knowingly and willfully furnishing false or misleading information to investigating officials;
— be subject to disciplinary action for refusing to provide documents or information or to answer questions posed by investigating officials or to provide a signed sworn statement if requested by the OIG, unless questioned as the subject of an investigation that can lead to criminal prosecution.
What should be most interesting to see is how DHS and Congress will deal with this case. It would send a signal to the rest of the bureaucracy how serious they are in their support of government oversight, and whether or not there are real consequences for failure to cooperate with Inspector General reviews.
Posted: 3:02 am ET
Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have called on State OIG Steve Linick to look into reports of violations of personnel policies and political retribution against State Department employees.
Our staffs have been in touch with whistleblowers alleging that the Department is engaging in prohibited personnel practices that appear to conflict with agency regulations and policies. The information we have received corroborates recent reporting by CNN on the same matter. We ask that you look into allegations that the Department has unlawfully targeted employees for political reasons due to their work under the last Administration.
Our staffs have been made aware of credible allegations that the State Department has required high-level career civil servants, with distinguished records serving administrations of both parties, to move to performing tasks outside of their area of substantive expertise. At the very least, this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. At worst, it may constitute impermissible abuse and retaliation.
The two Ranking Members requested that the State OIG “investigate the State Department’s FOIA surge.” They want to know if 1) “these personnel assignments made according to U.S. law and Department regulations?” 2) “Were the rights of the Department’s employees violated?”and 3) “Did political retaliation play any role?”
On January 30, govexec reported that State/OIG is “looking into” allegations that the agency is engaged in political targeting and other prohibited personnel practices.
State Department IG Looking Into Alleged Political Targeting of Career Workershttps://t.co/4BSUOGqfIZ
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) January 30, 2018
.@RepEliotEngel & @RepCummings: "At the very least, this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. At worst, it may constitute impermissible abuse and retaliation.” https://t.co/jhll29Jnax pic.twitter.com/5x0lLZIkbE
— House Foreign Affairs Committee Democrats (@HFACDemocrats) January 29, 2018
Exclusive: Democrats call on the State Department's watchdog to conduct an "immediate review" of personnel practices after a number of employees told CNN they were unlawfully targeted due to their work under the Obama administration https://t.co/W6eIpFdFrK pic.twitter.com/G2KAH12yEf
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 27, 2018
— Elise Labott (@eliselabottcnn) January 26, 2018
Posted: 3:01 am ET
This is an EEOC case about a complainant who was the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Naples, Italy. The name used here is a pseudonym as in eeoc practice but the details are similar to the ugly, nasty case a few years back that made the news. Most notable lesson here about the Privacy Act, and the limits of Diplomatic Security’s willingness to clear somebody’s name when needed.
Believing that the Agency subjected him to unlawful discrimination, Complainant filed an equal employment opportunity (EEO) claim with the Agency. On November 26, 2013, Complainant and the Agency entered into a settlement agreement to resolve the matter. This decision on the breached settlement was issued in November 2016. Excerpt below:
The record reflects that a subordinate of Complainant (Subordinate 1), who resigned in May 2012, and to a lesser extent her spouse made highly charged allegations against Complainant, i.e., entertaining prostitutes, escorts, and married women in his residence during work hours, engaging in fraud or mismanagement of funds, permitting his driver to be fired so his job could go to someone else and as a form of retaliation, throwing metal umbrella pots from his sixth floor residence down to the parking lot below and then jumping on and crushing them, and this was captured on CCTV and in front of the security guards, and so forth. By April 2013, the U.S. Embassy Rome, in consultation with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Special Investigation Division initiated an investigation. The investigation was conducted by two Special Agents with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and involved 20 individual interviews with Consulate Staff. It concluded that the accusation that Complainant threw metal pots was “false,” and the three other allegations specified above were completely false. The investigation found that the remaining allegations were variously false, completely false, unsubstantiated, not supported by evidence, and one, in essence, grossly exaggerated.
On June 16, 2013, the New York Post and Fox News published highly negative stories about Complainant, writing for example that Subordinate 1, a whistleblower, said Complainant had trysts with hookers, and this was the latest black eye for the scandal-ridden State Department. On June 17, 2013, Complainant was copied on an Agency email chain regarding the New York Post reporting Subordinate 1’s allegation that Complainant insisted a staffer have an abortion and the staffer said she got her “tubes tied” at his instruction. It was indicated in the email chain that the staffer said the article was “all lies” and felt strongly that she should respond to the article by saying something. The above DCM advised that it would be much better for the staffer not to say anything for now – that this could all blow over quickly.
In his EEO claim, according to Complainant, he alleged discrimination when he was denied assignments in line with his experience, ability, and professional background, the DCM knew that allegations against him by Subordinate 1, her spouse and two others were false and failed to take appropriate action, and management held him accountable for the false accusations and denied him support.
By letters to the Agency dated February 1, 2016 and May 10, 2016, Complainant alleged that the Agency misled him into entering into the settlement agreement and breached it. Specifically, he alleged that when he signed the settlement agreement, the Agency knew Subordinate 1’s EEO complaint had been investigated with a finding of no wrongdoing on his part, that she would likely continue to litigate in federal court, and he could have used the EEO decision to exonerate himself. Complainant wrote that after the settlement agreement, Subordinate 1 continued to attack him in the press, with articles appearing in prominent news outlets such as Newsweek and the New York Post. He pointed to a proposed June 2013 Agency press release recounting that the Diplomatic Security Service investigated the allegations and found no violations of U.S. or Italian law, and contended that had the press release been issued this would have rebutted the articles or they would not have been published. He argues that the Agency allowed employees and family members to utilize the EEO process to raise false allegations against him despite the Agency’s conclusion that they were baseless, and in failing to clear his name breached the settlement agreement and made it ineffective and unenforceable.
The Agency found that it complied with the settlement agreement. Regarding term 9.d, the Agency found that Complainant’s submittal of proposed changes to his 2012 EER was a condition precedent to the former DCM reviewing them and considering making changes, and Complainant admitted he did not submit proposed changes because he was too disheartened and depressed. On appeal, Complainant, who is represented by counsel, confirms this, but adds another reason was that he lacked the necessary facts, particularly the EEO decision on Subordinate 1’s complaint.
Regarding term 9.g, the Agency recounted that Complainant stated it was breached because (1) the Agency simply wrote a one page memorandum simply listing the allegations against him and stating they were found to be unsubstantiated rather than discussing things in context to show how his accusers seized on scandal to defame him and hinder his career, (2) the memorandum was only based on facts until October 2013, failing to fulfill its purpose of summarizing the Diplomatic Security investigation,3 and (3) the Agency, in response to his inquiries, could not give him a clear answer on whether he could share the memorandum with family, colleagues, friends, and his Italian attorney, preventing him from doing so. On appeal, Complainant confirms that he raised reasons (1) and (3). He argues that not being able to share the memorandum makes it useless and his reason for entering into settlement negotiations was to restore his reputation.
In determining that it complied with term 9.g, the Agency found that it met its obligation to provide a summary of the investigation, and that there is no evidence the parties agreed to any specific format in or upon the use of the memorandum.
In determining that it did not negotiate the settlement agreement in bad faith, the Agency found that Complainant cited no authority for the proposition that it was obligated to divulge the outcome of Subordinate 1’s EEO case, and there was no evidence it negotiated in bad faith.
On appeal, Complainant adds that he would not have bargained for a memorandum summarizing the results of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s investigation had he known he could not use it, this is common sense, and the Agency’s failure to authorize its use is a breach of the settlement agreement. Complainant argues that the Agency breached the settlement agreement by failing to live up to the spirit of the document. He argues that the Agency’s failure, upon his request, to allow the issuance of the proposed press release in the Agency’s name violates the settlement agreement.
In opposition to the appeal, the Agency argues that disclosing Subordinate 1’s employment discrimination investigation would violate privacy right protected information, and it did not negotiate the settlement agreement in bad faith.
In June 2013, after the New York Post reported highly charged accusations by Subordinate 1 about the way Complainant treated a staffer, an Agency email string on which Complainant was copied showed the staffer wanted to say something rebutting what was reported, but the former DCM opined it would be much better if the staffer did not say anything now – this could blow over quickly. Further, Complainant strongly suggests that he was aware the Bureau of Diplomatic Security investigation was favorable and he certainly knew the Agency had done nothing to publically clear his name. While Complainant wanted the Agency to publically clear his name, he agreed to a settlement agreement that did not have a term explicitly doing this. Instead, the Agency agreed to issue to a summary of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to Complainant – not the public.
Complainant’s contention that the Agency bargained for the settlement agreement in bad faith is not persuasive. First, as argued by the Agency, it had reason to believe the administrative decision on Subordinate 1’s complaint was protected by the Privacy Act, since administrative EEO records are generally within the scope of the Act. Further, Complainant has not shown he did not already have sufficient information to make a fair bargain when negotiating the settlement agreement.
The FAD is AFFIRMED.
Read the full case here via eeoc.gov.
Once a year, we ask for your support to keep this blog going. We’re running our fundraising campaign until Saturday, July 15. Help Us Get to Year 10!
Posted: 1:53 am ET
In the Spring 2017 OIG Report to Congress, State/OIG informed Congress of the following:
OIG did not encounter any attempts to interfere with IG independence—whether through budgetary constraints designed to limit its capabilities or otherwise—for the reporting period from October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017.
During this reporting period, OIG identified the following incidents where the Department resisted or objected to oversight activities or restricted or significantly delayed access to information. The incidents either arose during or persisted into this reporting period. As to each item, OIG has addressed the issue as described below:
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) has limited and continues to limit OIG’s permanent worldwide access to specific DS systems that OIG requires to conduct its oversight activities. OIG has and continues to make repeated requests for access, and DS has denied or revoked access without notice. At this time, OIG is working with the Department to correct this situation.
The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) delayed OIG access to requested information. OIG worked with the Department and sub- sequently obtained the required information. OIG continues to work with the Department to ensure that, in the future, INL provides requested information in a timely manner.
OIG previously explained in response to other requests from Congress that it had faced challenges investigating allegations of criminal or serious misconduct by Department employees. This limitation was addressed in recent legislation— enacted in December 2016—that requires the Department to submit to OIG within 5 days a report of certain allegations of misconduct, waste, fraud, and abuse. OIG and the Department are actively working to ensure that these reports are provided in a timely manner and that OIG receives all necessary information as required by the statute.
Related items to read:
- So, who told Congress the real story about the deadly force incidents in Honduras in 2012? #OperationAnvil May 2017
- State/OIG on Diplomatic Security’s Special Investigations Division – The Missing Firewall March 2013
On or about this time, the State Department has also updated 1 FAM 050 of the Foreign Affairs Manual as the reporting requirement was included in the Department of State Authorities Act for Fiscal Year 2017:
1 FAM 053.2-6 Required Reporting of Allegations to the OIG
a. Effective December 16, 2016, section 209(c)(6) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as added by section 203 of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017 (22 U.S.C. 3929(c)(6)), provides:
REQUIRED REPORTING OF ALLEGATIONS AND INVESTIGATIONS AND INSPECTOR GENERAL AUTHORITY.—
(A) IN GENERAL.—The head of a bureau, post, or other office of the Department of State (in this paragraph referred to as a ‘Department entity’) shall submit to the Inspector General a report of any allegation of—
(i) waste, fraud, or abuse in a Department program or operation;
(ii) criminal or serious misconduct on the part of a Department employee at the FS–1, GS–15, or GM–15 level or higher;
(iii) criminal misconduct on the part of a Department employee; and
(iv) serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any Department employee who is authorized to carry a weapon, make arrests, or conduct searches, such as conduct that, if proved, would constitute perjury or material dishonesty, warrant suspension as discipline for a first offense, or result in loss of law enforcement authority.
(B) DEADLINE.—The head of a Department entity shall submit to the Inspector General a report of an allegation described in subparagraph (A) not later than 5 business days after the date on which the head of such Department entity is made aware of such allegation.
b. Any allegation meeting the criteria reflected in the statute should immediately be brought to the attention of the relevant head of a bureau, post, or bureau-level office. (Bureau-level offices are entities on the Department’s organizational chart as revised from time to time, see Department Organizational Chart.)
c. The first report by any Department entity should cover the period beginning December 16, 2016 (the day the law went into effect), and ending not later than five business days before the date of that report. Thereafter, any additional reportable information is due not later than the five-business day deadline stated in the statute.
d. Questions regarding this reporting requirement may be directed to the Office of the Legal Adviser for Management (L/M), or the OIG’s General Counsel or Deputy General Counsel.
e. As outlined in 1 FAM 053.2-5, any Department employee or other personnel may continue to raise any allegations directly to OIG, via the OIG Hotline, email@example.com, or 1-800-409-9926, or the other methods listed elsewhere in the FAM. All Employees, Locally Employed Staff, Foreign National Employees, individuals providing services via Personal Service Agreements (PSAs), Personal Service Contractors (PSCs), third party contractors, subcontractors, and grantees at all levels are also reminded of the existing reporting requirement contained in 1 FAM 053.2-5 paragraph d and the existing reporting requirements regarding criminal activity, employee misconduct, allegations of harassment, or any other reportable offenses to the relevant action office in Washington.
f. Below is a reporting template, which may be modified pursuant to the situation or needs of the reporting entity.
The FAM reporting template notes the following:
The information provided in this report is preliminary and may be unsubstantiated. Any records or information provided to the OIG in the preliminary report are compiled for law enforcement purposes under the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552. The information in this preliminary report may constitute Personally Identifiable Information. The unauthorized disclosure of information contained in this preliminary report could reasonably be expected to constitute a violation of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a. To the extent the information pertains to an open investigation, the release of such preliminary information could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.
Posted: 12:53 am ET
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In November 2013, the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) announced the construction award, through “best value” determination of the major rehabilitation project of the chancery of the U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand. This project, according to the announcement would include seismic strengthening, security improvements, and general building upgrades.
Below is a brief description of the project estimated to cost between $36-50 million:
SAQMMA-13-R0094, Wellington, New Zealand, Chancery Major Rehabilitation.
The 3,000 gross square meters Chancery building, originally constructed by the USG in 1977, sits on a 1.4 acre compound, located in the Thorndon section of Wellington, in close proximity to a number of other embassies and just north of the New Zealand government offices. The compound is situated at the edge of a residential scale neighborhood of mostly two- to four-story buildings and is across the street from a neighborhood of much taller (up to approximately 16 stories), more densely sited commercial and mixed use buildings.
Anticipated renovation work includes: retrofitting the exterior of the Chancery building façade to meet DOS standards for seismic and blast protection, systems upgrades throughout the building (electrical, telecommunication, mechanical, plumbing, fire and life-safety, and technical security), seismically bracing all building equipment and infrastructure, handicapped accessibility upgrade, constructing a 110 gsm addition to enlarge the work area, and space utilization improvements. Site work includes: a physical security upgrade at the two vehicular entrances; new parking configuration; and new landscaped areas.
The project will require extensive use of swing space and construction phasing, as the Chancery office functions must be fully operational for the entirety of the project.
This week, we’ve received several concerns about the ongoing construction project:
Safety issues: “Work is going on while this building is still occupied by dozens of employees, creating a largely unsafe working environment. Repeated inquiries to Worksafe NZ have gone unanswered, despite the fact that there have been serious injuries on this project. At this point it’s just a matter of time until someone is killed on this site. The building has been evacuated repeatedly due to fire alarms, and building-wide power outages are a routine occurrence.”
Structural concerns: “The building suffered damage from the Kaikoura earthquake in November, and staff were required to return to work before a structural assessment was completed.”
Health concerns: “Employees in all sections are routinely subjected to excessively high levels of noise, dust and smoke. Dozens of employees have complained of respiratory and vision problems since the project began in 2014.”
Communication issues: “A dozen employees were recently evacuated to the British High Commission due to this project, and their workplaces were subsequently consumed by the work. After the High Commission’s closure these staff had to return to the Embassy, except now they effectively have no workspaces. There is no timeline for completion of the project, or for when the rest of the staff might expect any improvement in the work environment.”
We’ve asked State/OBO about these concerns and allegations. We also wanted to know what the bureau has done to mitigate the disruption, and the health and security concerns regarding the ongoing construction. Below is the full response from the State/OBO spox:
In September 2013 the Department awarded a contract to rehabilitate the existing chancery in Wellington to meet seismic and security requirements, as well as address needed improvements to building systems. The extensive construction work underway is required to retrofit and seismically strengthen the building. The project was carefully planned in phases in order to maintain business operations of the embassy during the construction period and phasing plans and impacts were discussed and briefed to stakeholders prior to executing the project. The project is scheduled for completion in early 2018.
Construction of an occupied building is always a difficult under taking and is inconvenient, but measures have been in place since the inception of the project to ensure the safety of both construction workers and embassy staff working in the building. The project is being managed in accordance with the procedures and policies of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) and the Department.
OBO is aware of complaints such as those raised and has reviewed the matter. Though the project has encountered challenges — as is expected with a project of this complexity – the review confirmed that there is an appropriate safety program administered by the construction contractor and enforced by OBO project management, and that there have not been violations of required policies and procedures.
The original note sent to us says that “There is no timeline for completion of the project” but the OBO spox readily told us that project is scheduled for completion in early 2018. That indicates to us that there may be a hiccup in the communication line between employees and the project folks. Somebody please fix that. Whatever discussions or briefs were done to “stakeholders” were not heard or understood.
A separate source told us that US Embassy Wellington and OBO were “looking into having some staff work at home”, or “occupy an office in the British High Commission”, to avoid disruptions while the chancery is renovated. A check with the BHC, however, indicates that the British High Commission in Wellington announced on November 24, 2016 that its building will be closed until further notice. Damage from the recent earthquakes has apparently been discovered in their offices following an inspection so the building was temporarily closed for safety reasons. Now folks still have work but no workspaces? What’s the secret to making that work?
The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Announces the Construction Award for Major Rehabilitation of U.S. Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand; Office of the Spokesperson; Washington, DC -11/12/13
- US Embassy Wellington Issues 7.8 Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Message For New Zealand
- US Mission New Zealand: USS Sampson Supports Kaikoura Earthquake Relief Efforts
- Aparecium! Why do plum jobs suddenly appear just days before bids are due?
- US Mission New Zealand: Two Years in Pictures
- US Disaster Assistance Team Deploys to NZ Earthquake
Posted: 2:02 am ET
Updated: Sept 24, 4:08 pm PST | This piece was edited to use the more neutral word “report” instead of “allegation.” The guide on reporting sexual violence is teaching us that the use of the word “allegation” reinforces the disbelief that a crime actually occurred.
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Last month, we received an anonymous
allegation report of sexual assaults in the Foreign Service. It is alleged We were told that DS and MED “hide” the assaults “under pretense” that it is “the victim’s wish to keep it a secret.”
No specific case was cited only that there were incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were also asked if we know what is the reporting process for sexual assault in the Foreign Service.
We told our correspondent that we will look into the reporting process because we actually had no idea. We were then warned: “On the off chance you get a response, it will probably be something along the lines of, “any victim of crime under chief of mission authority should report to their RSO; the Department takes such allegations extremely seriously.”
Looking at public records
We started looking at publicly available records. We found one assault in 2009 which is only publicly available becase the case became an EEOC case (see Sexual Assault at a State Dept-Leased Apartment: If This Isn’t Abysmal Failure, What Is It?). In 2011, there was the case of a former CIA station chief to Algeria who received 65 months in jail for sexual assault on embassy property. In 2012, there was a case of an FS couple accused of slavery and rape of a housekeeper, In 2013, there was an FS specialist who was sentenced to 5 years in prison; the case was about the sex abuse of an adopted child. Also in 2013, CBS News reported on several allegations including one about a regional security officer (RSO) in Lebanon who “engaged in sexual assaults” of the local guards. A subsequent OIG investigation indicates that the alleged sexual misconduct of this security official spanned 10 years and 7 posts.
These are cases that we’ve written in this blog after they’ve become public.
We’ve poured over the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH) and have reached out to the State Department and other contacts within its orbit to help us find the specific guidance for the reporting process on sexual assault. We have not been successful. For the record, it is not/not 3 FAM 1525, not 3 FAM 4428, not 3 FAM 1800 and not 7 FAM 1940.
Questions for the State Department
We sent some questions to the State Department, the blue italics below is the response from an agency’s spokesperson.
We asked: How does the State Department/Diplomatic Security handle sexual assault among members of the Foreign Service community overseas? The only thing I can find in the FAM is sexual assault relating to private American citizens, and services via the Consular Section.
–What is the reporting process if the victim/perpetrator is under chief of mission authority?
–What is the reporting process if the alleged perpetrator is from the Regional Security Office or a senior Foreign Service official who oversees the RSO?
–Where is the FAM/FAH guidance for sexual assault?
The State Department response: “The State Department/Diplomatic Security handles sexual assault among members of the foreign service community overseas by adhering to Department guidelines. These guidelines are made available to all members of the foreign service community in Department cables and in the FAM. The Department guidelines outlined in these documents address the contingencies included in your questions.”
No specific cables were cited. However, the FAM cited by the State Department in its response above is 1 FAM 260, specifically, 1 FAM 262.4-5 which only notes that the Office of Special Investigation (DS/DO/OSI) within Diplomatic Security is tasked with investigating extraterritorial criminal investigations including assault, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. Go ahead and read it. It does not/does not include nor describe the reporting process.
We asked: If a sexual assault occurs overseas to an employee/family member of USG employees, who are the officials informed about the incident?
–How is the information transmitted? Telegram, telephone, email?
–Is the communication done via secure or encrypted channels?
In response to the above question, a State Department’s spokesman said: “The reporting process calls for the regional security officer to contact the State Department’s Office of Special Investigations. This office is outside the regional security officer’s chain of command.”
The response is only partly responsive and only names the RSO and DS/OSI. Even if DS/OSI is outside the RSO’s chain of command, this tells us that an alleged victim overseas has to go through post’s Regional Security Office; the RSO in that office must then contact DS/OSI located in Washington, D.C. for an investigation to be initiated.
You probably can already guess our next question.
What if the perpetrator is from the security office or the Front Office who oversees the RSO? How would that work? Also both the RSO overseas and DS/OSI back in DC are part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. When we made these follow-up questions, the State Department simply repeated its original response: “The reporting process calls for the regional security officer to contact the State Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI). This office is outside the regional security officer’s chain of command. On your question on the Fam (sic): Sexual assault is a crime investigated by the Office of Special Investigations as outlined in 1 FAM 262.4-5.”
This is a disturbing response particularly in light of a previous CBS News report alleging that a regional security officer sexually assaulted local guards under his supervision and was accused of similar assaults in Baghdad, Khartoum and Monrovia. Okay, never mind CBS News, but the OIG investigation indicates that the same security officer’s alleged sexual misconduct spanned 10 years and 7 posts. How many local guards were assaulted within those 10 years and in those 7 posts? Perhaps it doesn’t or didn’t matter because it happened so long ago. Or it is because the alleged victims were non-U.S. citizens?
The other part of the question on how reports are transmitted is equally important. Are they sent via unclassified email? The perpetrator could be easily tipped off, and that potentially places the safety of the victim in jeopardy.
The third question we asked is a twofer. We wanted to know the statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service, specifically in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003. The second part of our question is overall statistics on sexual assault in the Foreign Service worldwide, during the last 10 years. Note that we are not asking for names. We’re asking for numbers. We’re only asking for an accounting of sexual assault reports
reported allegations since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to the present, and the worldwide number of allegations reports spanning over 280 overseas posts in the last 10 years. Surely those are available?
This is the State Department’s official response:
“The Office of Special Investigations receives and catalogues allegations and complaints. Allegations are neither categorized by location nor by alleged offense.”
Wh–aat? We actually fell off the darn chair when we read the above response. If the allegations and complaints are not catalogued by location or alleged offense, how would the State Department know if there is a trend, or a red flag they should be aware of?
Wouldn’t this constitute willful ignorance?
In our follow-up question, we asked who is responsible for the care and support of a Foreign Service victim? This is the response from a State Department spokesperson:
“The Department takes seriously the safety and well-being of its employees and their family members. The post health unit, Employee Consultation Services and the Regional psychiatrist are all available to assist a victim of sexual assault. MED would also assist if, for example, a medical evacuation to a third country or the United States is required.
Generally MED does not provide direct clinical services in the States but has extensive resources to provide referrals for ongoing treatment.
Additionally, the Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program (VRAP) is available to provide advocacy services so the individual understands the judicial process and has support lines, plus resources applicable to the person’s goals to rebuild and heal.”
In a follow-on response, the State Department cites the Victim’s Resource Advocacy Program (VRAP). We had to dig around the net to see what is VRAP. According to the State Department’s outline on divorce:
VRAP was created in November 2010 by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) “to empower those who have been victimized by crimes that are under DS investigation. A representative of this office also sits on the Department’s Family Advocacy Committee (chaired by the Director of MED/MHS), based in Washington DC. The VRAP is committed to assisting aggrieved individuals in overcoming difficulties that result from victimization by providing resources to deal with the realities that follow traumatic experiences and an understanding of the judicial processes surrounding criminal offenses. Contact VRAP at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Okay, but. All that still does not give us a clear idea on the procedure for reporting sexual assault in the Foreign Service, does it? And most of the info is not even codified in the FAM or the FAH.
What happens in the space between “calling the RSO” and VRAP “empowering” those victimized by crimes — remains a black hole. It is not clear what kind of support or advocacy services and resources are provided to victims of sexual assault. We’ve asked; we haven’t heard anything back.
Since we could not find any guidance from the State Department, we went and look at what the reporting procedure is like at USAID, the Department of Defense, and Peace Corps. As of this writing, we’ve received an acknowledgment from USAID but have not received an answer to our inquiry. Below is a quick summary for DOD and the Peace Corps:
DOD Sexual Assault Reporting Guidance
You may or may not know this but the Department of Defense actually has a separate website for sexual assault which makes it clear that sexual assault is a crime. Defined “as intentional sexual contact,” sexual assault is characterized by “use of force, threats, intimidation or abuse of authority, or when the victim does not or cannot consent.” It explains that sexual assault includes rape, forcible sodomy (oral or anal sex), and other unwanted sexual contact that is aggravated, abusive, or wrongful (including unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact) or attempts to commits these acts. It also notes the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Its website is not just an explainer, it also provides information for assault victims:
If I am sexually assaulted, what should I do?
First, get to a safe place. If you are in need of urgent medical attention, call 911. If you are not injured, you still need medical assistance to protect your health. The medical treatment facility (MTF) offers you a safe and caring environment. To protect evidence, it is important that you do not shower, brush your teeth, put on make-up, eat, drink, or change your clothes until advised to do so. You or the MTF may report the crime to law enforcement, criminal investigation agencies, or to your chain of command. If you feel uncomfortable reporting the crime, consider calling a confidential counseling resource available to you.
Restricted | Sexual assault victims who want to confidentially disclose a sexual assault without triggering an official investigation can contact a SARC/SHARP Specialist, VA/SHARP Specialist, or a healthcare provider. By filing a restricted report with a SARC/SHARP Specialist, VA/SHARP Specialist, or a healthcare provider, a victim can disclose the sexual assault without triggering an official investigation AND receive medical treatment, advocacy services, legal assistance, and counseling.
Unrestricted | This option is for victims of sexual assault who desire medical treatment, counseling, legal assistance, SARC/SHARP Specialist and VA/SHARP Specialist assistance, and an official investigation of the crime. When selecting unrestricted reporting, you may report the incident to the SARC/SHARP Specialist or VA/SHARP Specialist, request healthcare providers to notify law enforcement, contact law enforcement yourself, or use current reporting channels, e.g., chain of command. Upon notification of a reported sexual assault, the SARC/SHARP Specialist will immediately assign a VA/SHARP Specialist. You will also be advised of your right to access to legal assistance that is separate from prosecution resources. At the victim’s discretion/request, the healthcare provider shall conduct a sexual assault forensic examination (SAFE), which may include the collection of evidence. Details regarding the incident will be limited to only those personnel who have a legitimate need to know.
Peace Corps Sexual Assault Reporting Guidance
The Peace Corps says it provides “sexual assault risk-reduction and response training to both Volunteers and staff. Volunteers worldwide learn risk-reduction strategies such as bystander intervention training, and each post has two sexual assault response liaisons trained to directly assist Volunteers who are victims of sexual assault throughout the in-country response process.” It also provides around the clock, anonymous sexual assault hotline accessible to Volunteers by phone, text, or online chat that is staffed by external crisis counselors at pcsaveshelpline.org.
In addition, it provides volunteers who experience sexual assault the option to report the incident as restricted or as standard reporting. This is similar to DOD’s:
Restricted reporting limits the number of staff members with access to information about an assault to only those involved in providing support services requested by the Volunteer. This gives Volunteers access to critical support services while protecting their privacy and confidentiality, and allows the Peace Corps to provide support services to Volunteers who otherwise may not seek support.
Standard reporting provides Volunteers with the same support services along with the opportunity to initiate an official investigation, while maintaining confidentiality.
There’s no 911 in the Foreign Service
For Foreign Service employees and family members assigned overseas, there is no 911 to call. You get in trouble overseas, you call the security office of the embassy. If you are in a small post, you may have to deal with another officer who is assigned collateral duty as post security officer. Post may or may not have a health unit or a regional medical officer. If there is a health unit, it may or may not be equipped or trained with gathering forensic evidence. Above all, if you’re overseas as part of the Foreign Service, you are under chief of mission authority. What you do, what you say, where you live — basically, your life 24/7 is governed by federal regulations and the decision of the Front Office.
So to the question — if I am sexually assaulted, what should I do?
The State Department says that the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and associated Foreign Affairs Handbooks (FAHs) are a single, comprehensive, and authoritative source for the Department’s organization structures, policies, and procedures that govern the operations of the State Department, the Foreign Service and, when applicable, other federal agencies. The FAM (generally policy) and the FAHs (generally procedures) together convey codified information to Department staff and contractors so they can carry out their responsibilities in accordance with statutory, executive and Department mandates.
Every time the FAM is updated, a Change Transmittal documents it. All transmittals includes the following reminder: Officers are reminded that Department-issued materials not codified in the Foreign Affairs Manual or its supplemental Foreign Affairs Handbook series generally have no regulatory validity (see 2 FAM 1115.2).
Since there is no FAM or FAH specifically addressing sexual assault, we end up with a pretty uncomfortable question: Is the State Department saying that sexual assault does not happen in the Foreign Service — that’s why there’s no regs covering it?
If it’s not that, then — what is the reason sexual assault procedure is absent from its single, comprehensive, and authoritative source of policies, and procedures?
Sexual Assault Related posts:
- Sexual Assault at a State Dept-Leased Apartment: If This Isn’t Abysmal Failure, What Is It? Sept 2016
- A Joke That Wasn’t, and a State Department Dialogue That Is Long Overdue Aug 2016
- Peace Corps Assault Victims in Need of Ongoing Therapy Not a Good Fit For Peace Corps Service? Dec 2015
- Ex-State Dept Employee Settles Housekeeper’s Claim Over Slavery and Rape Sept 2015
- State Dept Security Officer Alleged Sexual Misconduct: Spans 10 Years, 7 Posts Oct 2014
- Foreign Service Specialist Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Traveling to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct Aug 2013
- Court Awards $3.3 Million Default Judgment Against State Dept Couple Accused of Slavery and Rape of Housekeeper Sept 2012
- Former CIA Station Chief to Algeria Gets 65 Months for Sexual Assault on Embassy Property March 2011
- What happens when America’s ambassadors of hope and compassion return home as victims of rape and institutional neglect? May 2011
Sexual Harassment related posts:
- Chien v. Kerry: DS Agent Files Suit For Race/Sex Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation Sept 2016
- PDAS Miller Issues Sexual Harassment Message to Diplomatic Security Employees, What’s Missing? Aug 2016
- Inbox: Female Diplomatic Security Agent Pens a Note on Sexual Harassment and Career Suicide Aug 2016
- Another Concerned DS Agent Pens Response to Diplomatic Security’s Broadcast Message on Sexual Harassment Aug 2016