Let’s dispel this fiction that an Obama appointed Inspector General is on “fishing expeditions”

Posted: 12: 34 am EDT
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In January, we posted about a Clinton ally going after a senior advisor of the Inspector General of the State Department (see It Took Awhile But Here It Is — Going After @StateDept OIG Steve Linick With Fake Sleeper Cells).

Politico recently reported this:

The State Department’s internal watchdog office subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last fall for records about projects the foundation was involved in during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state as well as records related to longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin, a foundation representative confirmed Thursday.
[…]
A spokesman for Inspector General Steve Linick declined to comment on the subpoena or the scope of the office’s inquiry. Lawyers for Abedin did not respond to messages seeking comment on the development.

However, a spokesman for Clinton’s presidential campaign suggested the inquiry was unfounded and unnecessary.

“It’s very hard, to be honest with you, for me personally to keep track of all the fishing expeditions that this IG office has conducted,” spokesman Brian Fallon said on CNN.
[…]
“This is the same office that launched an investigation into one of Secretary Clinton’s top aides over maternity leave and when the Justice Department refused to go along with that fishing expedition they had to give it up and, now, ever since, they’ve had to look for other things,” Fallon told CNN . “That was ridiculous and the Justice Department laughed at it when the IG made a referral over there and rightfully so.”

Brian Fallon previously worked as spokesman for Eric Holder at the Justice Department and has been the press secretary for the Clinton Campaign since April 2015.

Isn’t it weird that the campaign spox knew that the Justice Department “laughed at it?”

Whenever there is a leak of a State/OIG work product, some folks assume that the leak can only come out of Foggy Bottom. Because obviously, accusing the folks in Congress of leaking an official report is really nutty, hey?  That never happens, right?

Let’s dispel with this fiction that State/OIG Steve Linick appointed by President Obama is out to get the democratic frontrunner and that these investigations are “fishing expeditions.”

The  Inspector General Act of 1978 imposes a dual reporting requirement on inspectors general to both their agency heads and to the Congress.

(5) to keep the head of such establishment and the Congress fully and currently informed, by means of the reports required by section 5 and otherwise, concerning fraud and other serious problems, abuses, and deficiencies relating to the administration of programs and operations administered or financed by such establishment, to recommend corrective action concerning such problems, abuses, and deficiencies, and to report on the progress made in implementing such corrective action.

The OIG’s Semi-Annual Report to Congress no longer includes a summary of congressional requests made to the inspector general but we know from media reports that Senator Chuck Grassley of the Judiciary Committee wrote to the State Department on June 13, 2013 and August 15, 2013 regarding the Department’s use of Special Government Employee (SGE) designations. In March 2015, Senator Grassley asked (PDF) State/OIG to look into SGEs and related issues to Huma Abedin.  IG Linick’s response is here (PDF).

On March 25, 2015, Secretary Kerry requested (PDF) IG Linick for an expedited review of the State Department work “to preserve a full and complete record of American foreign policy, consistent with federal laws and regulations.” Note  that the Kerry request is available through archives.gov and not through state.gov.

Presumably, these are not the only requests but even if the Secretary of State or members of Congress were not asking for investigations, there are issues related to the Clinton tenure that no inspector general worth his/her salt can simply afford to ignore.

Imagine all the uproar going on related to State Department emails, email server, SGEs, FOIA, classifications, big donors, family foundation, potential conflicts of interest and blah, blah, blah.

Now, imagine an inspector general ignoring all that and focusing his attention elsewhere safe like oh, auditing expenditures for FSI’s furniture.

Is that the inspector general we need?

In this election season, any investigation related to the former secretary of state is a political landmine. The easy way would have been to hide under a rock and not come out until well, November 10, 2016.  The fact that the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department is working as it should even when there are political IEDs everywhere is a sign of courage under fire.  And it’s only going to get rougher from hereon.  Hat’s off to you, folks, for doing what you’ve publicly sworn to do — to faithfully discharge the duties of the office you’ve entered.

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Senate Pit Bull Digs Up Old Bone About State Dept’s Alleged Prostitution Case

Posted: 12:50 am EDT
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We’ve written previously about Senator Chuck Grassley’s pursuit for answers related to a State/OIG report on Trafficking in Persons (see Senator Grassley Eyes Linda Howard Case, Seeks Answers on TIP Policy and @StateDept Employees).   On November 23, Senator Grassley threw a larger net and has now included questions about the State Department’s response to an old allegation related to prostitution and a U.S. ambassador. Excerpt from the letter from Senator Grassley to Secretary Kerry:

[T]he Belgium case raises questions as to whether the Department takes allegations of TIP-related misconduct seriously and investigates them thoroughly, free from undue influence and favoritism. With the foregoing in mind, I respectfully request on behalf of this Committee that you submit responses to the following questions by December 11, 2015:

1. Why did the Department halt DS’s preliminary inquiry of the Belgium case and treat this matter as a “management issue”?

2. Why did Under Secretary Kennedy, DS, and L provide OIG with three different explanations of the decisions referenced in Question 1?

3. Was Secretary Clinton informed of the decision to halt DS’s investigation of the Belgium case or to treat it as a “management issue”? If so, please provide all related records, including emails. If not, please explain why not.

4. In how many other cases involving allegations of employee misconduct was Ms. Mills designated as the individual to conduct the investigation?

5. Under Secretary Kennedy told OIG that he had relied on Section 4322.2 of the FAM to address misconduct allegations involving other Chiefs of Mission. The Under Secretary acknowledged that such misconduct issues can arise several times each year. During Mr. Kennedy’s tenure as Under Secretary, how many misconduct allegations involving Chiefs of Mission have been treated as a “management issue”?

6. OIG states that it searched for and found no contemporaneous evidence of the Under Secretary’s determinations in this case, or of Ms. Mill’s investigation.31 OIG made this finding before public revelations that Secretary Clinton and her senior aides conducted official Department business through a private email server. Does the Department currently have access to any of the records OIG was unable to find? If not, will you commit to notifying this Committee as soon as such access is obtained?

7. In September, I wrote you about Linda Howard, who was found liable in federal district court for human trafficking offenses committed against her Ethiopian housekeeper, while Howard was stationed as a diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Japan in 2008 and 2009.32 Reportedly, however, two years after DS interviewed the victim housekeeper about those offenses, Howard not only remained employed at the Department, but even received an honor award and a cash bonus.33 Was the Linda Howard case also treated as a “management issue”?

Full letter is here:

According to that 2014 report, the OIG “discovered some evidence of disparity in DS’s handling of allegations involving prostitution. Between 2009 and 2011, DS investigated 13 prostitution-related cases involving lower-ranking officials. OIG found no evidence that any of those inquiries were halted and treated as “management issues.”

Senator Grassley has been doggedly asking questions about various State Department issues the last few years.  We seriously doubt that the senator can be persuaded to drop this old bone. He’s up for reelection in 2016 so unless he is unable to multi-task, he probably will continue looking for answers on this  matter.  And of course, some folks will probably scream partisan witch hunt, and we can understand that, but …  we also think these are actually questions that need some real answers.

Should be interesting to see what he digs up.

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Related items:

— July 16, 2015: The ambassador’s tale: Lessons I learned about success and scandal by Former U.S. Ambassador  to Belgium Howard Gutman (WaPo Magazine).

— 09/30/14   Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (ESP-14-01)  [685 Kb] Posted on October 16, 2014

— May 10, 2012 | ROP Case No. 2011-064 | FSGB grievance case (read online) that may or may not be related to the Howard case (names have been redacted) but the timeframe and circumstances appears similar, and it looks like DOJ declined to prosecute the case in 2011.

 

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Senator Grassley Lifts Hold on 20 Foreign Service Nominations, Places New Hold on “P”

Posted: 4:10  am EDT
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The nominations were received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in June 2015.  On August 5, the SFRC cleared a short Foreign Service list (PN573-4) containing 20 nominees for “appointment as Foreign Service Officer of Class Two, Consular Officer and Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America.” The nominations went nowhere due to a Senate hold exercised by Senator Chuck Grassley.

According to The Hill, the Senator has now lifted his hold on nearly two dozen nominations, but has moved his hold on to a bigger fish. There goes “P.”

Grassley’s office confirmed that the Judiciary Committee chairman had lifted his hold on 20 foreign service officer nominations.

But the Iowa Republican also added a hold on a top State Department nominee, telling leadership that he intends to block Thomas Shannon’s nomination to be the under secretary of political affairs.

Grassley is also continuing his hold on Brian James Egan’s nomination to be a legal adviser for the department, as well as David Malcolm Robinson’s nomination to be assistant secretary for conflict and stabilization operations and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization.

 

 

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Related posts:

Senators Grassley and Cotton Now Have 25 @StateDept Nominations Glued Down, and Going Nowhere

Senator Grassley Places Hold on 20 FSO Nominations Over Clinton Inquiry

 

 

Senator Grassley Eyes Linda Howard Case, Seeks Answers on TIP Policy and @StateDept Employees

Posted: 1:45 am EDT
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On October 20, 2011, State/OIG issued a report entitled Audit of Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Compliance with Trafficking in Persons Requirements (AUD/IP-12-02 – pdf). The audit found that Department employees were not uniformly aware of key matters relating to Trafficking in Persons (TIP), including what constitutes TIP activity, the penalties for TIP violations, and where to report allegations of violations. The OIG report notes that although the Department’s code of conduct prohibited employees from acquiring a commercial sex act and using forced domestic labor, it did not specifically address TIP or require employees to report suspected TIP violations.

Based on the report’s findings, OIG made four recommendations to State’s J/TIP. Of these four recommendations, OIG closed Recommendation 3 on July 23, 2013, based on the Department’s decision to designate OIG to receive reports of TIP violations. However, according to its follow-up report of September 2015 (pdf), the other two recommendations —  enclosure of the U.S. Government’s TIP policy in the Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), and an expanded code of conduct for employees to cover conduct with respect to TIP activities — remained open.

State/OIG concludes that “by not implementing the recommendations or J/TIP providing an acceptable alternative to fulfill the intent of the open recommendations, the Department is not well-positioned to hold employees accountable for violations of TIP or ensure TIP policies and requirements are understood and followed.”

We missed this — but in September when State/OIG released the follow-up report(officially called Management Assistance Report) related to TIP, Senator Chuck Grassley also fired off a letter to Secretary Kerry asking questions sepcific not just to the OIG report but also the Linda Howard case (see Ex-State Dept Employee Settles Housekeeper’s Claim Over Slavery and Rape).

According to Senator Grassley’s letter, the Howard case “raises questions about the Department’s commitment to holding itself to the same standard by which it judges other countries in assessing their compliance with anti-trafficking standards in its annual TIP report.” Hey, we made it to the footnotes!

Screen Shot 2015-11-15

(click image to read the Grassley letter or click 2015-09-17 CEG to State (Trafficking in Persons)

Among the questions Senator Grassley asked Secretary Kerry are the following:

  1. Regarding the two TIP-related OIG recommendations that remain outstanding since 2011:
    1. Why did the Department fail to implement these recommendations?
    2. Who is responsible for the failure to implement them?
    3. Was former Secretary Clinton or any of her aides including Cheryl Mills, HumaAbedin, or Jake Sullivan informed of any of these recommendations, decisions, or findings? If so, please provide all related records, including emails. If the Secretary and her senior staff were not informed, please explain, why not.
  2. How does the Department ensure that its foreign service officers treat the domestic workers they hire or sponsor in accordance with the TVPA?
    1. As of the date of this letter, how many domestic workers are employed by Department employees worldwide?
    2. Do Department employees stationed abroad need to obtain approval from the Chief of Mission, the Regional Security Officer (RSO), or any other Department official before recruiting and hiring domestic workers? If so, whose approval is needed and what controls exist to ensure the security and safety of those workers as well as national interests? If not, why not?
    3. Is there an independent and confidential reporting mechanism by which these domestic workers may file a complaint with the Department for alleged abuses by Department employees? If not, will you consider adopting such a mechanism?
    4. Do you think implementing OIG’s 2011 recommendations would help Department employees identify and report suspected instances of TIP violations that may be occurring within their own ranks and housing complexes?

The senator is also asking questions specifically related to the State Department’s handling of the Howard case including:

— Did DS or the Department refer these allegations to any other entity, such as the OIG, or any other law enforcement agency? If so, on what date and to whom?

— At any point in time, was Under Secretary of Management Patrick Kennedy, who oversees DS, apprised of any of the allegations, decisions, findings, or news reports relating to Linda Howard or Russell Howard? If so, when, and what was his response? Please provide all related records, including emails. If not, why not?

— At any point in time, was former Secretary Clinton or any of her aides including Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, or Jake Sullivan informed of any of the allegations, decisions, findings, or news reports relating to Linda Howard or Russell Howard? If so, please provide all related records, including emails. If not, why not?

There is an FSGB grievance case (read online) that may or may not be related to the Howard case (names have been redacted) but the timeframe and circumstances appears similar, and it looks like DOJ declined to prosecute the case in 2011:

REDACTED (grievant) is a twenty-year Foreign Service employee of the Department of State (Department, agency). While assigned to the U.S. Embassy in REDACTED, she and her husband, an REDACTED national, were the subjects of a Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) investigation based on allegations by a household worker of sexual abuse and related crimes. This investigation began in June 2009 and ended with a declination of prosecution by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in March 2011.1 Grievant agrees that she curtailed from post in June 2009 for unrelated reasons.

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Senate Confirms Allen, Furuta-Toy, Hankins, Thomas, Jackson, and 632 Career FS Members

Posted: 1:20 am EDT
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The U.S. Senate confirmed the following nominations for ambassadors the last couple of weeks:

2015-11-09 PN569 European Bank for Reconstruction and DevelopmentScott Allen, of Maryland, to be United States Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

2015-10-22 PN581 Department of State | Julie Furuta-Toy, of Wyoming, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

2015-10-22 PN631 Department of State | Dennis B. Hankins, of Minnesota, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea.

2015-10-22 PN715 Department of State | Harry K. Thomas, Jr., of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Zimbabwe.

2015-10-22 PN745 Department of State | Robert Porter Jackson, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Ghana.

The U.S. Senate also confirmed the following 632 nominations of career members of the Foreign Service by unanimous consent:

PN643 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (101) beginning Jennifer Ann Amos, and ending Holly Rothe Wielkoszewski.

PN800 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (127) beginning Kreshnik Alikaj, and ending Brett David Ziskie.

PN877 – 1 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (404) beginning Jason Douglas Kalbfleisch, and ending Stuart MacKenzie Hatcher.

One list remains pending on the Executive Calendar, courtesy of Senator Grassley:

PN573-4 – Nominations beginning Bradley Duane Arsenault, and ending Jamshed Zuberi, which 20 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.

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Senators Seek to INTVW @StateDept CIO Taylor; Wait, Wasn’t He Overseas When Pagliano Was Hired?

Posted: 3:05 am EDT
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Two Senate chairmen are pressing the State Department for more information about the staffer who maintained Hillary Clinton’s controversial email server, including requesting an audience with his former supervisor.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asked that Steven Taylor, State’s chief information officer, sit for a closed-door interview about the duties of his former subordinate Bryan Pagliano, according to a letter the senators sent to Secretary of State John Kerry.
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Mr. Taylor is a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor. He has been the Chief Information Officer of the State Department since April 3, 2013. He was previously appointed as Acting CIO on August 1, 2012. Preceding his assignment as CIO, he was the Department’s Deputy Chief Information Officer (DCIO) and Chief Technology Officer of Operations from June, 2011.

We should note that Secretary Clinton left the State Department on February 1, 2013, two months before Mr. Taylor was appointed CIO. In fact, according to this official biography, prior to his DCIO assignment in 2011, he served as Management Counselor in Cairo and Athens. So we’re guessing that between 2005 to 2011, this poor man was posted overseas and nowhere near the hiring desk when Mr. Pagliano was brought into the IT bureau of the State Department in 2009.

Not that it’s going to matter. The senators will probably drag Mr. Taylor before a closed-door interview still the same. Pagliano joined the State Department in May 2009. Maybe the senators should try the Bureau of Human Resources for their hiring and work duties questions?

Foggy Bottom’s Email Debacle Spreads Beyond Clinton Inner Circle

We don’t think this is going to stop at Mr. Taylor.  On September 14, conservative group Judicial Watch has also released a heavily redacted email, obtained through its FOIA lawsuit, between State Department official Eric F. Stein and Margaret P. Grafeld, dated April 21, 2015, with the subject “HRC Emails.”  Stein is deputy director of Global Information Systems (GIS) at the State Department and Grafeld is deputy assistant secretary of Global Information Systems (GIS). Stein reports to Grafeld that the “gaps” in Clinton’s emails include:

  • Jan. 21 – March 17, 2009 (Received Messages)
  • Jan. 21 – April 12, 2009 (Sent Messages)
  • Dec. 30, 2012 – Feb. 1, 2013 (Sent Messages)

Screen Shot 2015-09-15

On September 14, the State Department spox was asked about these gaps during the DPB and he maintained that there is no gap. Here is the exchange:

QUESTION: There was a release today by Judicial Watch from its lawsuit, and it cited several email gaps it claims existed in the former secretary’s list of ledger – full ledger of work-related correspondence.

MR KIRBY: Yep, seen the press report, Brad. We’re not aware of any gaps in the Clinton emails set with the exception of the first few months of her tenure when Secretary Clinton used a different email account that she has already advised she no longer has access to. And as I understand it, Secretary Clinton’s representatives have publicly stated that she used a separate email account in those first few months of her tenure. But beyond that, there’s no gap that we have seen or are aware of in Secretary Clinton’s email messages.

QUESTION: In that early part, you mentioned there was a gap of, I think, one month before – from the first received email to the first sent email. Now, I realize it’s fully possible she didn’t send an email that was work-related in that first month – that first month when she had that account, but is that your understanding or is that still an incomplete – you’re still fully researching all of those emails or unearthing them?

MR KIRBY: I know of no research attempt to deal with those first few months, Brad, because, as I said, former Secretary Clinton’s representatives already indicated that they were aware this gap existed and that she had – no longer had access to them. So it’s difficult if not impossible to do any particular research or forensics to get at those first few months. And as for how many were sent and received in that timeframe, I just don’t know. But this is not something that hasn’t been addressed before by her representatives. And beyond that first couple of months, those first four months, we have seen no gaps.

QUESTION: And in the last part of – in the last part of her tenure, there was what they cited was another gap in January 2013, which I’m guessing you’re saying is not a gap, in fact.

MR KIRBY: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Can you – they produced an email which showed an official saying there’s a gap or listing it as a gap. Do you understand what happened? Were those emails then later recovered or found?

MR KIRBY: Right. So we continue to maintain there’s no gap. I think you’re talking about this period of December 2012 through the end of January 2013.

QUESTION: Right.

MR KIRBY: And upon further review – so originally when they all came in, a cursory sort of preliminary look, a very quick look at the documents by an official here at the State Department revealed a potential gap of about a month or so in emails. But in going through them in a more fulsome manner after that, we’ve determined that in fact, there was no gap – that that time period is covered quite well by the emails that have been provided.

QUESTION: So you have emails from that period and —

MR KIRBY: We do.

QUESTION: — when you get to that point, they’ll be public.

MR KIRBY: We do, and I think you will continue to see – and we’ve been roughly rolling these out – roughly temporally and you will see – as we get to the remainder of the tranches, that you will see emails that were sent and received during that December ’12 to January ’13 timeframe.

That’s not going to end there.  The “gaps” will be too tantalizing to ignore.

This email released by Judicial Watch also includes a few more names, including Richard C. Visek, the State Department’s Deputy Legal Adviser and also the Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO). We suspect that it’s only be a matter of time before the somebodies in Congress would request the official apperance and interview with Margaret P. Grafeld, Eric F. Stein, and heaven knows, who else.

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