US Embassy Barbados: Paradise Inspected, Again — Still Expensive, Isolated and Uh-oh! (Updated)

— Domani Spero

In 2009, we blogged about the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados (see US Embassy Barbados: Paradise Inspected).  In 2012 Ambassador Larry Palmer, a career diplomat succeeded political ambassador Mary Martin Ourisman who was appointed by George W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Carribean from 2006-2008.

Embassy Bridgetown’s DCM is Christopher J. Sandrolini, who was post’s chargé d’affaires, a.i. prior to Ambassador Palmer’s arrival.  We remember him responding to our inquiry with an unofficial note in the wake of  George Gaines’ tragic death in Barbados in 2012.

This week, State/OIG released its latest report on the  Inspection of Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados, and Embassy St. George’s, Grenada (ISP-I-14-09A).

 

The view over Castries Harbor from a viewing point just below the Government House of St. Lucia. Photo by Cultural Affairs Assistant, Khalil Goodman, US Embassy Bridgetown/FB

The view over Castries Harbor from a viewing point just below the Government House of St. Lucia. Photo by Cultural Affairs Assistant, Khalil Goodman, US Embassy Bridgetown/FB

The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 3 and October 17, 2013, and in Bridgetown, Barbados, between October 20 and November 4, 2013. The overseas portion of the inspection was truncated due to the partial Federal Government shutdown. Ambassador Pamela Smith (team leader), Lavon Sajona (deputy team leader), Paul Cantrell, Eric Chavera, Mark Jacobs, John Philibin, Iris Rosenfeld, Scott Thayer, and Steven White conducted the inspection.  The following details extracted from the publicly available report.

Post Snapshot:

Barbados is the largest of the seven island nations of the Lesser Antilles to which the embassy is accredited. The others are the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Lucia, and Grenada, which has a small U.S. embassy whose existence is rooted in the 1983 ouster of Cuban troops by American military forces.

The mission includes 81 U.S. direct-hire positions representing 8 agencies, including the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, and Health and Human Services, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Internal Revenue Service. Two-thirds of the officers, including nine section and agency heads, turned over in summer 2013. Ninety Peace Corps volunteers are assigned to Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent. Peace Corp operations in Antigua and Barbuda and in St. Kitts and Nevis ceased at the beginning of 2013 because of budget cutbacks. Embassy expenditures in FY 2013 totaled $46.5 million.

Key Judgments 

  • The Ambassador must address his leadership issues regarding his strategic vision, favoritism, team building, proper delegation, and overbearing treatment of some employees.
  • Embassy Bridgetown’s emergency preparedness program lacks direction and focus. The embassy has not exercised the safe areas and alternate command center to determine their adequacy. Embassy personnel are unaware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
  • The consular section services U.S. citizens spread over seven countries and numerous islands. Consular managers should exercise closer supervision over consular operations in Bridgetown and at the consular agencies in Antigua and Martinique.
  • Embassy Bridgetown’s consular section needs to improve crisis management planning and coordination with consular agents, wardens, and U.S. citizen residents in this hurricane prone region.
  • The management section delivers good customer service; however, the section needs to address several management control issues.


First, Some Good News

  • Embassy Bridgetown maintains productive relations with the seven governments to which it is accredited. The Ambassador works hard and travels often in the region to build personal rapport with leaders and advance U.S. interests.
  • Interagency cooperation not only runs smoothly at the mission but also represents an achievement for which the Ambassador and DCM can both take credit. Prior to their arrival, internal frictions hampered embassy operations.
  • A combined political/economic section reports on issues in the seven countries to which the Ambassador is accredited, but the high cost of travel, unreliable transportation, and limited lodging compound the challenge of covering a vast geographic area. Despite these challenges, the section produced nearly 100 required reports and responded to nearly 1,000 taskings from Washington in the past 12 months.
  • This past year, the embassy was able to consolidate personal property into one warehouse, saving $75,000 per year in rent.
  • The Ambassador and DCM also make a priority of fostering a family-friendly work environment, an attitude appreciated by American employees with families and the locally employed (LE) staff.

 

Leadership and Management – Uh-oh! 

  • The Ambassador involves himself in administrative matters that he should delegate to the management officer or DCM. For example, until midpoint of the inspection, he personally approved all official travel. He sometimes calls entry-level American officers and LE staff to his office without their supervisors, often when he is dissatisfied with their work. These interactions should be delegated to supervisors or the DCM. The Ambassador also holds some decisions until the last moment or reverses his decisions, upending plans.
  • Most employees find the Ambassador’s leadership style inspiring, but some staff expressed that it is overbearing and inhibits their performance. The Ambassador did not realize he needed to modulate his behavior for different staff members until the inspectors pointed it out to him. He admitted that a few times he had lost his temper and reprimanded employees in front of others, which led some employees to feel intimidated and to fear retribution. The OIG team found no evidence of actual threats or retribution. The Ambassador stated that he harbored no intention to intimidate and was surprised to learn that some colleagues felt as they do. He accepted a packet of Department guidance, pertinent articles, and the inspectors’ advice about intimidation. He also agreed with the inspection team’s suggestion to turn to his DCM more frequently to address problematic issues.
  • The Ambassador does not have an official residence expense (ORE) house manager at his residence and relies on the human resources section to manage the ORE staff of four. As a result, human resources staff must perform daily operations, such as tracking time and attendance and ensuring that substitute staff are available when others are absent from work. This is burdensome and inappropriate, because ORE employees are the personal employees of the Ambassador.
  • Mission policy authorizes the Ambassador and DCM to travel officially using the lowest unrestricted fare as the cost basis, while requiring all other employees to use less flexible restricted fares.

 

No State Department EER since 2005

  • The Ambassador has not received an employee evaluation report prepared by a Department official since 2005. For subsequent years the Ambassador was assigned to an independent U.S. Government agency or filled temporary Department assignments. While the Ambassador is not required to receive a rating in the 2 years prior to his retirement, the WHA Assistant Secretary may prepare a rating at her discretion.
  • Prior to the inspection, the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) was aware of some of the leadership issues covered in this report. More active engagement from WHA will solidify progress that embassy leadership pledged to make in addressing these shortcomings. The Foreign Affairs Manual (1 FAM 112 [3]) enjoins assistant secretaries of the regional bureaus to actively support chiefs of mission in carrying out their official duty to implement U.S. foreign policy and lead their missions effectively.

 

Morale and Workplace Issues: Divided Staff, Favoritism  and Which Staff Member?

  • Many staff members believe the Ambassador shows undue favoritism toward a member of his front office staff. The Ambassador’s and the DCM’s low scores on inspection questionnaires, corroborated by personal interviews, reflect this view. For example, many employees expressed that the Ambassador had empowered the staff member–whose conduct is widely perceived as inappropriately demanding, non-collegial, and unprofessional–to speak for him. In addition, the Ambassador allowed the staff member to take over duties more appropriately conducted by the DCM or other senior officers. Employees cited numerous examples of the employee’s inability to carry out basic duties. The staff consumes unnecessary time discussing this issue, which has become a distraction from the embassy’s central mission.
  • Among the conditions that have led to this untenable situation are poor implementation of normal front office procedures, a failure of the staff member’s work requirements to align with actual and appropriate duties, and a lack of clarity as to the responsibilities of front office personnel. A thorough review and operational realignment of duties among front office staff could resolve many of these issues and improve internal functions. Clearly articulating the results of that review to all mission employees is an essential step in the process.
  • Embassy Bridgetown’s staff is divided. Staff referred continuously to the “old team,” the new “Team Palmer,” and the “A Team.” Employees from the “old team,” many of whom departed the embassy in summer 2013, were at odds with the Ambassador, who is perceived to value new arrivals over them. The sudden death of a widely admired American colleague on the eve of the Ambassador’s arrival also split the embassy community into two groups: those who experienced the trauma and those who came after it. Although the Ambassador and the DCM get along well, the division of labor and leadership styles between them has not produced the collaboration of a true partnership.


Quality of Life

Despite beautiful weather and beaches, many Department employees at Embassy Bridgetown find life on Barbados extremely confining and isolated. Travel to the United States or to other locales in the region is expensive. As a result, employees receive one rest and recuperation trip for a 2-year tour and two trips during a 3-year tour. The rest and recuperation point in the United States is Miami, Florida. Employees are also authorized a 5-percent post differential due to the hardship of living on a small island, and a 50-percent cost-of-living allowance to reflect the high cost of goods and services on an island that imports nearly 100 percent of its consumer products.

 

The Consular Section: A Familiar Complaint

A number of LE staff members have more than 30 years’ experience working in the consular section. Among these veterans are the local supervisors in the nonimmigrant visa, immigrant visa, American citizens services, and fraud prevention units. The FAST officers in the section rotate through the four functional units for periods ranging from 4 to 10 months. During their time in the units, these American officers—some of whom have no consular experience— serve as unit chiefs and supervise local staff members. FAST officers like this policy, but their LE colleagues have reservations. LE staff members are constantly training new supervisors, which they report compromises the smooth running of operations. They describe examples of inexperienced American officers making uninformed decisions about workflow and policy without listening to the local staff. The inspection team concluded their concerns were justified. Each unit has a weekly meeting that the LE staff members and their immediate American supervisors attend to discuss workflow and processes. However, the consul general and deputy consul typically do not attend these meetings.

The IG report notes that the consular agents in Antigua and Martinique also failed to comply with all the requirements for consular agents. Both have expired appointment commissions. Neither agent responded to a required questionnaire about fee collection procedures that the Bureau of Consular Affairs sent to them in June 2013.The report points to post’s need to enforce the visa referral policy, the expectation that the cashier provide an OF-158 receipt for consular fees to the accountable consular officer on a daily basis, and for the DCM to review NIV adjudications. The DCM is not reviewing the nonimmigrant visa adjudications of the consul general because of functionality problems with the required software, according to the inspectors.


Art in Embassies Program Alert!

Inventory records for high-value artworks are incorrect. For example, works donated by the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, worth thousands of dollars each, show a value of one dollar.

$1.00 !!!

The Foundation also known as FAPE, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing permanent works of American art for U.S. embassies worldwide would not like that at all.

Read more here.  And hey, you cannot auction off laptops simply because the encryption keys were lost!

* * *

 

 

 Related posts:

 

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U.S. Embassy Barbados: Paradise Inspected, Again — Still Expensive, Isolated and Uh-oh!

— Domani Spero

In 2009, we blogged about the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados (see US Embassy Barbados: Paradise Inspected).  In 2012 Ambassador Larry Palmer, a career diplomat succeeded political ambassador Mary Martin Ourisman who was appointed by George W. Bush as U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Carribean from 2006-2008.

Embassy Bridgetown’s DCM is Christopher J. Sandrolini, who was post’s chargé d’affaires, a.i. prior to Ambassador Palmer’s arrival.  We remember him responding to our inquiry with an unofficial note in the wake of  George Gaines’ tragic death in Barbados in 2012.

This week, State/OIG released its latest report on the  Inspection of Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados, and Embassy St. George’s, Grenada (ISP-I-14-09A).

 

The view over Castries Harbor from a viewing point just below the Government House of St. Lucia. Photo by Cultural Affairs Assistant, Khalil Goodman, US Embassy Bridgetown/FB

The view over Castries Harbor from a viewing point just below the Government House of St. Lucia. Photo by Cultural Affairs Assistant, Khalil Goodman, US Embassy Bridgetown/FB

The inspection took place in Washington, DC, between September 3 and October 17, 2013, and in Bridgetown, Barbados, between October 20 and November 4, 2013. The overseas portion of the inspection was truncated due to the partial Federal Government shutdown. Ambassador Pamela Smith (team leader), Lavon Sajona (deputy team leader), Paul Cantrell, Eric Chavera, Mark Jacobs, John Philibin, Iris Rosenfeld, Scott Thayer, and Steven White conducted the inspection.  The following details extracted from the publicly available report.

Post Snapshot:

Barbados is the largest of the seven island nations of the Lesser Antilles to which the embassy is accredited. The others are the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Lucia, and Grenada, which has a small U.S. embassy whose existence is rooted in the 1983 ouster of Cuban troops by American military forces.

The mission includes 81 U.S. direct-hire positions representing 8 agencies, including the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, and Health and Human Services, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Internal Revenue Service. Two-thirds of the officers, including nine section and agency heads, turned over in summer 2013. Ninety Peace Corps volunteers are assigned to Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent. Peace Corp operations in Antigua and Barbuda and in St. Kitts and Nevis ceased at the beginning of 2013 because of budget cutbacks. Embassy expenditures in FY 2013 totaled $46.5 million.

Key Judgments 

  • The Ambassador must address his leadership issues regarding his strategic vision, favoritism, team building, proper delegation, and overbearing treatment of some employees.
  • Embassy Bridgetown’s emergency preparedness program lacks direction and focus. The embassy has not exercised the safe areas and alternate command center to determine their adequacy. Embassy personnel are unaware of their roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
  • The consular section services U.S. citizens spread over seven countries and numerous islands. Consular managers should exercise closer supervision over consular operations in Bridgetown and at the consular agencies in Antigua and Martinique.
  • Embassy Bridgetown’s consular section needs to improve crisis management planning and coordination with consular agents, wardens, and U.S. citizen residents in this hurricane prone region.
  • The management section delivers good customer service; however, the section needs to address several management control issues.


First, Some Good News

  • Embassy Bridgetown maintains productive relations with the seven governments to which it is accredited. The Ambassador works hard and travels often in the region to build personal rapport with leaders and advance U.S. interests.
  • Interagency cooperation not only runs smoothly at the mission but also represents an achievement for which the Ambassador and DCM can both take credit. Prior to their arrival, internal frictions hampered embassy operations.
  • A combined political/economic section reports on issues in the seven countries to which the Ambassador is accredited, but the high cost of travel, unreliable transportation, and limited lodging compound the challenge of covering a vast geographic area. Despite these challenges, the section produced nearly 100 required reports and responded to nearly 1,000 taskings from Washington in the past 12 months.
  • This past year, the embassy was able to consolidate personal property into one warehouse, saving $75,000 per year in rent.
  • The Ambassador and DCM also make a priority of fostering a family-friendly work environment, an attitude appreciated by American employees with families and the locally employed (LE) staff.

 

Leadership and Management – Uh-oh! 

  • The Ambassador involves himself in administrative matters that he should delegate to the management officer or DCM. For example, until midpoint of the inspection, he personally approved all official travel. He sometimes calls entry-level American officers and LE staff to his office without their supervisors, often when he is dissatisfied with their work. These interactions should be delegated to supervisors or the DCM. The Ambassador also holds some decisions until the last moment or reverses his decisions, upending plans.
  • Most employees find the Ambassador’s leadership style inspiring, but some staff expressed that it is overbearing and inhibits their performance. The Ambassador did not realize he needed to modulate his behavior for different staff members until the inspectors pointed it out to him. He admitted that a few times he had lost his temper and reprimanded employees in front of others, which led some employees to feel intimidated and to fear retribution. The OIG team found no evidence of actual threats or retribution. The Ambassador stated that he harbored no intention to intimidate and was surprised to learn that some colleagues felt as they do. He accepted a packet of Department guidance, pertinent articles, and the inspectors’ advice about intimidation. He also agreed with the inspection team’s suggestion to turn to his DCM more frequently to address problematic issues.
  • The Ambassador does not have an official residence expense (ORE) house manager at his residence and relies on the human resources section to manage the ORE staff of four. As a result, human resources staff must perform daily operations, such as tracking time and attendance and ensuring that substitute staff are available when others are absent from work. This is burdensome and inappropriate, because ORE employees are the personal employees of the Ambassador.
  • Mission policy authorizes the Ambassador and DCM to travel officially using the lowest unrestricted fare as the cost basis, while requiring all other employees to use less flexible restricted fares.

 

No State Department EER since 2005

  • The Ambassador has not received an employee evaluation report prepared by a Department official since 2005. For subsequent years the Ambassador was assigned to an independent U.S. Government agency or filled temporary Department assignments. While the Ambassador is not required to receive a rating in the 2 years prior to his retirement, the WHA Assistant Secretary may prepare a rating at her discretion.
  • Prior to the inspection, the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) was aware of some of the leadership issues covered in this report. More active engagement from WHA will solidify progress that embassy leadership pledged to make in addressing these shortcomings. The Foreign Affairs Manual (1 FAM 112 [3]) enjoins assistant secretaries of the regional bureaus to actively support chiefs of mission in carrying out their official duty to implement U.S. foreign policy and lead their missions effectively.

 

Morale and Workplace Issues: Divided Staff, Favoritism  and Which Staff Member?

  • Many staff members believe the Ambassador shows undue favoritism toward a member of his front office staff. The Ambassador’s and the DCM’s low scores on inspection questionnaires, corroborated by personal interviews, reflect this view. For example, many employees expressed that the Ambassador had empowered the staff member–whose conduct is widely perceived as inappropriately demanding, non-collegial, and unprofessional–to speak for him. In addition, the Ambassador allowed the staff member to take over duties more appropriately conducted by the DCM or other senior officers. Employees cited numerous examples of the employee’s inability to carry out basic duties. The staff consumes unnecessary time discussing this issue, which has become a distraction from the embassy’s central mission.
  • Among the conditions that have led to this untenable situation are poor implementation of normal front office procedures, a failure of the staff member’s work requirements to align with actual and appropriate duties, and a lack of clarity as to the responsibilities of front office personnel. A thorough review and operational realignment of duties among front office staff could resolve many of these issues and improve internal functions. Clearly articulating the results of that review to all mission employees is an essential step in the process.
  • Embassy Bridgetown’s staff is divided. Staff referred continuously to the “old team,” the new “Team Palmer,” and the “A Team.” Employees from the “old team,” many of whom departed the embassy in summer 2013, were at odds with the Ambassador, who is perceived to value new arrivals over them. The sudden death of a widely admired American colleague on the eve of the Ambassador’s arrival also split the embassy community into two groups: those who experienced the trauma and those who came after it. Although the Ambassador and the DCM get along well, the division of labor and leadership styles between them has not produced the collaboration of a true partnership.


Quality of Life

Despite beautiful weather and beaches, many Department employees at Embassy Bridgetown find life on Barbados extremely confining and isolated. Travel to the United States or to other locales in the region is expensive. As a result, employees receive one rest and recuperation trip for a 2-year tour and two trips during a 3-year tour. The rest and recuperation point in the United States is Miami, Florida. Employees are also authorized a 5-percent post differential due to the hardship of living on a small island, and a 50-percent cost-of-living allowance to reflect the high cost of goods and services on an island that imports nearly 100 percent of its consumer products.

 

The Consular Section: A Familiar Complaint

A number of LE staff members have more than 30 years’ experience working in the consular section. Among these veterans are the local supervisors in the nonimmigrant visa, immigrant visa, American citizens services, and fraud prevention units. The FAST officers in the section rotate through the four functional units for periods ranging from 4 to 10 months. During their time in the units, these American officers—some of whom have no consular experience— serve as unit chiefs and supervise local staff members. FAST officers like this policy, but their LE colleagues have reservations. LE staff members are constantly training new supervisors, which they report compromises the smooth running of operations. They describe examples of inexperienced American officers making uninformed decisions about workflow and policy without listening to the local staff. The inspection team concluded their concerns were justified. Each unit has a weekly meeting that the LE staff members and their immediate American supervisors attend to discuss workflow and processes. However, the consul general and deputy consul typically do not attend these meetings.

The IG report notes that the consular agents in Antigua and Martinique also failed to comply with all the requirements for consular agents. Both have expired appointment commissions. Neither agent responded to a required questionnaire about fee collection procedures that the Bureau of Consular Affairs sent to them in June 2013.The report points to post’s need to enforce the visa referral policy, the expectation that the cashier provide an OF-158 receipt for consular fees to the accountable consular officer on a daily basis, and for the DCM to review NIV adjudications. The DCM is not reviewing the nonimmigrant visa adjudications of the consul general because of functionality problems with the required software, according to the inspectors.


Art in Embassies Program Alert!

Inventory records for high-value artworks are incorrect. For example, works donated by the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, worth thousands of dollars each, show a value of one dollar.

$1.00 !!!

The Foundation also known as FAPE, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing permanent works of American art for U.S. embassies worldwide would not like that at all.

Read more here.  And hey, you cannot auction off laptops simply because the encryption keys were lost!

* * *

 

 

 Related posts:

 

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State Dept’s Suicide Prevention Resources — A Topic So Secret No One Wants to Talk About It

—By Domani Spero

This blog has been running almost uninterrupted for years now.  We have heard just about everything there is to hear about the worldwide available universe. While we don’t get shocked very often anymore, there are days when running this blog becomes heavy on one’s soul.

In the last few months we have heard allegations of sexual harassment, workplace bullying and an attempted suicide. All these have two things in common. One, the alleged perpetrators were senior officials in the Foreign Service who appeared able to skirt accountability.  And two, the informers all prefer to remain anonymous for personal and professional reasons.

The allegations are troubling and disturbing given how often we’ve seen officers get recycled to other posts when trouble comes calling.  A person who harasses one or more person at Post A is probably a serial harasser who will not stop when you move him to Post B at a different geographical location.  A person who routinely bullies subordinates probably think he/she is doing hands-on management and do not have the self-awareness to recognize his/her negative impact at post.  He or she rotates to the next post and do the same thing all over again to miserable consequences.   Yes, there are rules, but those apparently are quite useless when people look the other way.

Below is an excerpt from one of our correspondents:

“How many Foreign Service Officers have attempted suicide, and named [Senior FSO X] as the reason?  I personally know of at least one officer who did this.”

“[T]his attempt, PRECISELY BECAUSE of” Senior FSO X’s  “treatment/management of that officer.”

“Why is there only accountability for those who are new in their career, or who do not have the unwavering support of a career ambassador?”

The note was sent anonymously but there was nothing anonymous about the pain that leapt across the screen.  It kept me awake for days.  What happens when one feels suicidal while in an overseas posting?

Suicide is not unheard of in the Foreign Service.  In 2007, Colonel Thomas Mooney who was then with US Embassy Nicosia went missing, and after four days was found with reportedly self-inflicted wound.  In May 2012, Caribbean news reported as “apparent suicide” the death of RSO George Gaines of the US Embassy in Barbados.

Two cases too many.  What we don’t know is how many suicide attempts have occurred behind the embassy walls.  We have so far been unable to confirm that an FSO working for Senior FSO X attempted suicide.  According to save.org, there are an estimated 8 to 25 attempted suicides to 1 completion.  That’s an estimate for the general population, what is it in the foreign service?  When we asked around, our question was answered with another question by a blog pal —

What FSO is going to risk losing their security clearance by going to MED and saying they are thinking about suicide?” 

We know of one documented case of an attempted suicide:  an FS employee accused of raping his maid in Bangkok, Thailand.  The employee reportedly maintained the sex was consensual but aggressive interrogation techniques by DS agents allegedly drove this employee to jump off a hotel window.

[A]fter “being told he would end up in a Thai prison, his wife would lose her job and his children would be pulled out of school, [the man] attempted suicide by jumping out of the 16th-story window at a hotel in Bangkok … The man was flown back to Washington for in-patient psychiatric care, where the agents continued to harass him, the union charged. The rape charges were ultimately dropped.

Psychology Today explains that “the thought of suicide most often occurs when a person feels they have run out of solutions to problems that seem inescapable, intolerably painful, and never-ending.”

“Of all motivations for suicide, the two found to be universal in all participants were hopelessness and overwhelming emotional pain.”

We wrote to the State Dep’t’s Family Liaison Office (FLO)  inquiring what resources or material on suicide prevention are available to FS employees and spouses.

FLO’s response: “Please direct them to the Employee Consultation Service (ECS) here is a link to their website http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c21952.htm   They provide in-person and phone counseling.”

We wrote to the Employee Consultation Service at MEDECS@state.gov, with the same inquiry and received a response from one Pollenetta P. Douglas: “Good morning, Are you or your family member employed by the State Department?”

After being informed that we are writing about suicide prevention resources available to employees and family members, we never heard from Ms. Douglas again. You’d think that they would want that information widely disseminated.  But no, apparently, suicide prevention is a topic so secret no one wants to talk about it.

The State Department does have a “Do You Need Help?” page that says:

If you are feeling suicidal or homicidal, it’s important that you let someone know. You should seek help immediately by calling 911 or going to the closest emergency room.

It did not say what an FS employee/family member should do if one is in a foreign country where there is no 911 to call or no ER.  Perhaps that’s because the text of that web page is cribbed from DOD’s afterdeployment.org without attribution.

If you or somebody you know needs help, please —

Screen Shot 2013-06-16

If you have thoughts of suicide, these options are available to you (via save.org):

  • Dial: 911
  • Dial: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Check yourself into the emergency room
  • Call your local crisis agency
  • Tell someone who can help you find help immediately.
  • Stay away from things that might hurt you.
  • Most people can be treated with a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy.

For FS folks overseas, this can get even more complicated. In some places, there is no 911.  In most cases, for language, logistical or other reasons, one may require the help of the mission’s MED or Health Unit to visit the ER.  Which means the incident could be reported up the embassy’s chain of command.  And certainly if one is at a post with very few foreigners, showing up at an Emergency  Room would probably be big news.  A medical evacuation is always an option but realistically, despite what officials say, there are ongoing concerns about security clearance and mental health issues, not to mention the stigma for people who have a mental health condition. That fact alone is enough to preclude people who needs help from asking for it.

Given the expanding number of people who served/are serving in the war zones or in unaccompanied, dangerous assignments, we suspect that there is a good number of people suffering quietly with PTSD, depression and other related issues.  Secretary Kerry needs to pay attention to this.  Asking for help while overseas is particularly complicated.  Secretary Kerry can make a difference by ensuring that people who needs help can get it without fear of jeopardizing their security clearance or their jobs. And he needs to do something about State’s recycle program.

In the meantime, we hope the following is helpful:

If you’re overseas and need help but do not want to call the ECS, please call the Military Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1), online chat or text (838255). In Europe call 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118*. This is available for veterans, active duty/reserved service members, and family members and friends of service members. We recently used the online chat and we’re told that help is available even if you’re in the Foreign Service.  You do not have to give your name or other personal information. See the FAQs here.

Below are some common misconceptions about suicide (via save.org):

“People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”

Not True. Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

“Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.”

Not True. Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are always signs of mental illness but are not signs of psychosis.

“If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop him/her.”

Not True. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waiver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

“People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”

Not True. Studies of adult suicide victims have shown that more then half had sought medical help within six month before their deaths and a majority had seen a medical professional within 1 month of their death.

“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”

Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

If you or somebody you know is contemplating suicide, please call the numbers above or contact one of these hotlines before you do anything else.

⛅ ⛅ ⛅

In the Foreign Service: Death, Too Close An Acquaintance

This past week saw the death of a member of a local guard force at the US Embassy in Ankara.  Nomads By Nature who blogs from Ankara writes that the guard who died when the suicide bomber detonated the bomb at the embassy entrance, Mustafa Akarsu was a 46-year-old security guard at the embassy.  He left behind a wife, an 18 year old son, and a 15 year old daughter. “He put duty ahead and confronted the bomber in that initial checkpoint, hollering out a warning to the others as he did so.

This has been a reality for the Foreign Service, not just for the American employees and family members but also for the locally hired employees, and host country police officers tasked to guard our people and diplomatic facilities overseas.  AFSA has a long list on its memorial plaque of American officers lost dating back to 1780 when William Palfrey was lost at sea.  We don’t think there is a memorial plaque just for local employees. We lost so many of them in Beirut one year, and more another year. We lost many more during the twin bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Since 2008, this blog has attempted to keep track of the violent deaths related to the State Department overseas.  Since we mostly worked through publicly available material, we are pretty confident that we have covered FS employee/family-related incidents (missing, suicide, attacks).  We are also sure our list covering local national casualties are incomplete because those do not always make the news.

Apologies if we missed anyone.  If you know anyone not listed below kindly please add the information in the comment section.

* * *

Feb 2013  – Mustafa Akarsu, Local Guard Force (Ankara, Turkey): investigation is still ongoing. Hurriyet Daily News has some additional details here.

Jan 2013 – Christopher “Norm” Bates, Foreign Service  (Johannesburg, South Africa): case is open and ongoing.

US Mission South Africa: FS Employee Christopher Bates Dead in Jo’burg

Nov 2012 – George Anikow, Foreign Service/EFM (Manila, Philippines): four alleged perpetrators are currently in Philippine court system.

US Embassy Manila:  George Anikow, Diplomatic Spouse Killed in Early Morning Altercation

October  2012 – Qassim Aklan, Foreign Service National (Sana’a, Yemen)

US Embassy Yemen: FSN Qassim Aklan Killed in Motorcycle Drive-by Shooting

 

Sept 2012

  • J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service (Benghazi, Libya)
  • Sean Smith, Foreign Service (Benghazi, Libya)
  • Tyrone Woods, Contractor (Benghazi, Libya)
  • Glen Doherty, Contractor (Benghazi, Libya)

Outrage! Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others killed in Benghazi, Libya

August 2012 – Ragaei Abdelfattah, USAID (Kunar, Afghanistan)

US Mission Afghanistan: USAID Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, Four Others Killed, Two Wounded in Suicide Attack in Kunar

May 2012 – George Gaines, Foreign Service (Bridgetown, Barbados)

US Embassy Barbados: Death of the Regional Security Officer

February 2011 – Khairy Ramadan Aly, Foreign Service National (Cairo, Egypt)

US Embassy Cairo Local Employee Confirmed Dead with Three Bullet Holes

March 2010 –  Lesley A. Enriquez, Foreign Service National (Ciudad Juarez, Mexico): one gang leader extradited from Mexico

 

January 2010

  • Victoria DeLong, Foreign Service (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
  • Laurence Wyllie, Foreign Service/EFM (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
  • Baptiste Wyllie (5),  Foreign Service/EFM (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
  • Evan Wyllie (7), Foreign Service/EFM (Port-au-Prince, Haiti)

State Dept Reports Death of FSO in Haiti Earthquake

Three FS Family Members Perished in Haiti Quake

September 2009 – James Hogan, Foreign Service (Curacao, Netherlands Antilles): still missing, more blog posts archived here.

James Hogan Case: A Royal Hurricane Shit Storm of Pain for All to Read

May 2009 Terrence Barnich, State Department  (Fallujah, Iraq)

US Embassy Baghdad Employees Killed by IED

February 2009 – Brian Adkins, Foreign Service (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia): a local man reportedly pleaded guilty to the murder but we have no information whether the murderer was sentenced.

One of Ours is Dead in Addis Ababa

January 2008 

  • John M. Granville, USAID (Khartoum, Sudan): convicted murderers still at large
  • Abdel Rahman Abbas, USAID/FSN (Khartoum, Sudan) convicted murderers still at large

How much does a US diplomat’s life worth? About $1,800 US dollars, and look there’s no raging mob…

 

For the Foreign Service, the six degrees of separation is acutely much closer.  As such, death is often too close an acquaintance.

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US Embassaurus Baghdad About to Get Even Bigger? Like Super Big? Like LA’s Super Rock?

Mother god of thunder, what wonderful news you bring us!

The US Embassaurus in Baghdad will not just be the biggest and most expensive in the world, it is on its way to becoming super big; like that very big rock in Los Angeles now fondly called, “Levitated Mass, by the artful.

Despite official claims to the contrary of “rightsizing” the mission, this will help ensure that US Embassaurus Baghdad will continue to hold the world’s record as the biggest with the mostest.  Yes, yes, by all means — go bid there during the AIP cycle (is that about now?) while it is still the record holder.  Just so you know that US Embassy London, US Embassy Kabul and US Embassy Islamabad are all vying for that same dubious honor.  Of course, given all accommodation shown by our friends allies frienemies in Pakistan in the construction of the new diplomatic digs there, and given the potential that they would want to shave off the floors above four-five storeys, there is a fighting chance that US Embassy Pakistan will grab the record before all this is over.

Via WaPo’s Walter Pincus:

The State Department is planning to spend up to $115 million to upgrade the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, already its biggest and most expensive in the world, according to pre-solicitation notices published this month.

Remember, it has been 3 1 / 2 years since American diplomats moved into the 104-acre, $700 million facility and only four months after State officials in February talked about trying to cut back the U.S. presence there.

State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) put out a statement Wednesday saying new planning began after it was determined there needed to be “a larger population on the Baghdad Embassy compound, due to the consolidation of satellite diplomatic facilities and property around Baghdad.”
The statement added, “The consolidation takes the overall diplomatic property in Baghdad down by one-third, but increases the personnel working and living on the Embassy compound.”

Here is a quick rundown:

SAQMMA-12-R0271-:  Baghdad, Iraq, New Power Plant, Life Safety and Utility Infrastructure Upgrade Project

Estimated Price Tag: $60 – 80 million

Estimated performance period:  24 months

The project will consist of the following:

  • A central utility power plant consisting of equally sized generators capable of parallel operation
  • Adequate 21-day underground fuel storage
  • A new utility building for the generators and switchgear
  • Compound-wide electrical distribution system
  • Compound-wide site electrical infrastructure
  • Waste heat utilization program
  • Compound-wide fire main replacement and fire water distribution upgrade
  • Compound-wide domestic water system upgrade
  • Compound-wide sanitary sewer system upgrade
  • Compound-wide storm water system upgrade
  • Compound-wide telecommunications system upgrade (telephone, data, CATV)
  • New communication central office building
  • Interface with communication tower (installed by others)

The Embassy compound is approximately 104 acres, located in the International Zone of Baghdad, Iraq.  The entire compound will be affected by this project.

SAQMMA-12-R0288:  Baghdad, Iraq, Major Rehabilitation Project

Estimated Price Tag: $20 – 35 million. 

Estimated performance period:  11 months

The Major Rehab project will consist of the renovation of an existing annex building and installation of independent support systems.  The Major Rehab will include interior partitions, electrical/telecommunication systems upgrades, extensive mechanical and plumbing systems, fire/life safety installations, commissioning and certification.

The Embassy compound is located in the International Zone of Baghdad, Iraq. The annex building is a three story structure with a fourth level penthouse.  The area to be renovated includes approximately 334 net square meters and has been laid out to accommodate a Data Hall and Office Area on a 450mm high raised access flooring system

Of course, we just dedicated that US Embassy in Baghdad, remember? So three years after it was officially launched and marked its claim to fame, we already need a rehab and an upgrade?  In a place where we’re supposed to be “rightsizing” our footprint? Is there no end to this?  Yes, yes, it is still much cheaper than when troops were in that country. But that’s like splurging just because there is a fire sale!

This is, of course, the same embassy with so little influence within the Iraqi Government.  Just recently, it took a two-week bureaucratic debate before the GoI released the body of Michael David Copeland because the Iraqis insist on performing an autopsy on his remains. Man, if we can’t even get the Iraqis to compromise on the release of our dead, how can we get them to compromise on something for the living?

The AP reported that Copeland, of Colbert, Okla., moved to Iraq within the last month to take a job on an aviation project with DynCorp International under a State Department contract. His body was found in his bed on June 9, family members said. No foul play was suspected.  Copeland, a former Marine showed no obvious signs of trauma or illness but under Iraqi laws, as in other countries, local authorities must issue a death certificate before releasing a body to survivors outside the country, according to the AP.

It turns out that our largest and most expensive embassy in the world does not have a medical examiner on staff to do autopsies.

That said, must also point out that the US Embassy Barbados does not have a medical examiner on staff either but was able to convinced the host country to released the body of George Gaines shortly after his demise for an autopsy back in the United States.

Imagine if the US Embassy in Baghdad is a “normal” embassy, it would have taken months to get the body of Mr. Copeland released!  Thankfully, we have a large, effective mission at the forefront of our people to people diplomacy in the Middle East, it only took two weeks to secure a dead body.

Domani Spero

The View From Barbados: George Gaines Case, “the matter is more than a little troubling”

We’ve blogged about the passing of RSO George Gaines in Barbados recently.  Read US Embassy Barbados: Death of the Regional Security Officer and US Embassy Barbados: Death of RSO George Gaines “Unnatural” Investigation Ongoing.

On May 18, Barbados Nation reported that there will be no local autopsy or coroner’s inquest into the death of the embassy’s Regional Security Officer:

“In an unusual twist, the body of the 51-year-old security official was flown to his United States homeland Wednesday, following high-level talks between United States Embassy and Government officials. The United States Consulate had reportedly made a request for Gaines’ body to be sent to his homeland for forensic investigations to determine the cause of death.”

The following day, Barbados’ Nation News articulated its concerns about the handling of the death case in an editorial titled, Diplomacy vs sovereignty, and questioned why the body was “flown home with dispatch.”  See below, the original piece is posted here.

Sat, May 19, 2012 – 12:00 AM
WE TEND TO THINK that diplomatic immunity should not be tantamount to a host country’s loss of national sovereignty.

With that in mind, we are more than a little concerned about the handling of the case of well known United States Embassy official George Gaines, who died recently on these shores as a result of an apparent suicide but whose body has been flown home with dispatch, without the lawful and routine coroner’s inquest or even an autopsy, which would have taken less than a day.

Has expertise

Even if the autopsy had to be executed in the strict presence of American officials, it is obvious that Barbados has the requisite expertise to carry out such a procedure, if only for the record.

The circumstances of this matter have been extreme, to say the least: a man has died in unnatural circumstances, not within the confines of the United States Embassy or even its environs, but on a public beach at Dover, Christ Church. Following this, the Embassy’s counsellor for public affairs Rebecca Ross merely added to the mystery by saying officials were treating the death as a “private matter”, and asking the local media to “respect the privacy of the family”.

Does diplomatic immunity mean privacy about a death on a public beach in our own country? Had Gaines’ body not been found in a public place, would Barbadians have been informed at all then?

The Embassy’s position, even in the face of a high-level security official’s death, pushes us to wonder about the United States of America’s view of Barbados.

We ask, without prejudice, whether that country’s respect for anyone’s sovereignty is merely convenient, and whether countries like ours are seen as mere assets rather than the “partners” we and our CARICOM sister states are often touted to be.

Since no one in Barbados could officially touch Gaines’ body, how could Barbados exonerate itself in the event of any finding other than apparent suicide? And if the Barbados Government has indeed satisfied itself that there has been absolutely no need for a local autopsy, where is the official record to satisfy the people of Barbados, who deserve to know – after all, he died in our midst.

Investigation

While we pride ourselves on having a free Press and access to information, this matter begs for investigation at the highest level.

We shouldn’t have to wait to hear its details on CNN or FOX NEWS. We can’t help but say the matter is more than a little troubling – in terms of both diplomacy and sovereignty.

The dead have no use for diplomatic immunity and if the Barbadians are confused at this turn of events, our embassy in Bridgetown with its social media arms failed in its embrace of people to people outreach.

It is worth noting that this is not the first tragedy that befall a US mission overseas in recent years. In 2007, Colonel Thomas Mooney went missing, then was found dead in Cyprus. In 2010, Vice Consul James Hogan went missing, and was never found in the Netherlands Antilles. Here now is another tragedy in Barbados.

In this incident in Barbados, the editorial expressed a quiet affront to national pride — perhaps even a slight resentment on three things: 1) we have the expertise, why did they not trust us; 2) if we are partners, they must not think very much of us, and 3) how can we defend ourselves if this is foul play when we have no idea what happened here?

And their concern is understandable.  While one can argue that the privacy of the family at this difficult time be protected, the deceased, like all public officials serving at our embassies and consulates abroad are just that, officials with public lives. Presumably, they have friends in the local community, and professional contacts in and out of the host country government who cares about what happened to them. Incidents like this will generate interests and questions even from non-embassy friends. In this case, perhaps even to seek confirmation that the host country did not have anything to do with the death of its diplomatic guest. To respond to these incidents as if there’s a news blackout is not going to make the tragic news go away, or make rumors disappear but it will sure make a mystery out of a personal tragedy.

At the height of the disappearance of James Hogan in the Netherlands Antilles, our email inquiries sent to to the US Consulate General in Curacao and to Timothy J. Dunn, the Chief of Mission/Consul General were never acknowledged or responded to.  Nothing on its website indicates that one of its three officers has gone missing or that there was a search going on. There was no official statement from the mission. About a year later, a James Hogan Missing flyer was posted on its website, with no further explanation.

In this latest incident, emails to the press office of US Embassy Bridgetown, its front office and ASKPRI@state.gov have so far all gone unanswered. A request to the Consular Section for the embassy’s latest Disposition of Remains Report for Barbados will reportedly be responded to in 72 hours. And while the press officer of the embassy was quoted as saying this is a “private matter” the embassy did not release any official statement to the local press or on its website. There’s nothing on its Facebook page, or in its mission blog, or in its Twitter account. It’s like business as usual and there’s no death in the family. Or if there is one, it’s none of your business.

By contrast, when the US Defense Attaché, Thomas Mooney disappeared from the US Embassy in Cyprus on June 28, 2007, the U.S. Embassy there issued a public appeal for information on his whereabouts. And at the sad conclusion of Col. Mooney’s disappearance, then Ambassador Ronald Schlicher released an official statement also posted on the embassy’s website.

The message bears repeating below because we feel this is how it is done by a class act:

After the notification of next of kin, with deep sadness, I announce that LTC Thomas Mooney, who served his nation with distinction as our Defense Attaché, was found dead by Cypriot authorities on Monday.

At this point in the investigation, it is now clear that LTC Thomas Mooney’s death was a personal tragedy with no political or security implications.  We wish to thank the Cypriot authorities and people once again for the extraordinary level of support and the messages of sympathy they extended to the Embassy throughout this difficult and trying time.

Please remember LTC Mooney and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Ambassador Ronald L. Schlicher

Ambassador Schlicher’s message is comforting in its simplicity. It confirmed the death of the official member of the embassy family, thanked the folks that needed thanking, and it made the embassy come across as more than just a building, but a real community. More importantly, it acknowledged the mission as part of a larger community of human beings who grieve as part of life.

We don’t know this for sure but since Col.Mooney was in the military, his remains was probably sent to Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner (OAFME) at Dover Port Mortuary for an autopsy. But not once did we uncover a press account or editorial questioning the disposition of his remains.

Update @1314 PST, May 25:

Christopher J. Sandrolini, who until recently was US Embassy Bridgetown’s chargé d’affaires, a.i. and currently its Deputy Chief of Mission, responded to our email requesting comment over the editorial with the following note:

I have no official comment. Personally, I can say that George Gaines was a good friend of mine and of the entire Embassy; we miss him greatly. Many of us came up from Bridgetown for the funeral and to be with his wife and daughter.  George was an outstanding officer and widely known and respected everywhere he served.

While we understand that our embassy officials are not always able to provide an official statement, we appreciate the note from Mr. Sandrolini.
Domani Spero

 

 

US Embassy Barbados: Death of RSO George Gaines “Unnatural,” Investigation Ongoing

On May 13, we posted here about the reported death of George Gaines, the Regional Security Officer at the US Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados.  Over the weekend, we have also sent an email to the Public Affairs Officer of US Embassy Barbados and to the Royal Barbados Police Force. As of this writing, the embassy has not acknowledged nor responded to our query.  Neither the embassy nor the State Department has released an official statement on Mr. Gaines’ death.

The Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) did confirm to us via email on May 14 that it is investigating the death of Mr. Gaines.  RBPF says that under Barbados laws, this death is being treated as unnatural and a Coroner’s Inquest will be held in the future to determine whether or not it was a suicide.  The Police also confirmed that a firearm was found at the scene and the body had a wound to the head.

Below is one of the last official photos we can locate of George Gaines, as one of the crew members of the Lancelot II during the Round Barbados Race in January 2012:

Crew of the Lancelot II included: Victor Henken, Brian Greaney, Mike Biggins, George Gaines, Bill Hobbs, Jerry Aylward, Kit Rosenstein, Fred Melton, Joe Cowan, Mark McHugh, and Stephanie Palisek.
(Photo from US Embassy Barbados website)

Via US Embassy blog and press statement, January 2012:

The Round Barbados Race dates back to the 19th century and is based upon bragging rights for the fastest “trading schooner” – a prize worth its weight in gold to captains in an era where boats competed for cargo business and the fastest cargo won a hefty premium.  The slowest boat won a consolation prize of a barrel of Mount Gay Rum, a practice discontinued after two boats remained out at sea for days, stalling to win the rum!

The modern event is held on January 21, a day celebrating Errol Barrow, Barbados’s first Prime Minister and an avid sailor.  It’s sponsored by Mount Gay Rum, and the prize for a new record in any existing class is the skipper’s weight in Mount Gay Rum Extra Old.

This year, the Embassy’s Charlie Hillyer took up the challenge from the Barbados Cruising Club’s Commodore to find a boat and a U.S. crew.  Captain Charlie found two Beneteau 40s and Shanghaied 22 sailors who, while courageous and willing, had varying degrees of sailing expertise.

[…]

Team USA, on board Lancelot II met the challenge of the open sea’s and 29 other seasoned sailing vessels, crewed by seasoned sailors in the Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race 2012 on Saturday January 21, to take first place in Class 60′ and under.

They bore the brunt of gusting 25 knot winds, 12 foot rollers from the North Atlantic, slippery decks and vessels that seemed to go every way but straight !!!!Even under these extreme conditions they prevailed and made a lasting mark on the sailing community of Barbados and other boats from foreign ports.

Crew of the Lancelot II included: Victor Henken, Brian Greaney, Mike Biggins, George Gaines, Bill Hobbs, Jerry Aylward, Kit Rosenstein, Fred Melton, Joe Cowan, Mark McHugh, and Stephanie Palisek.

US Embassy Barbados is a medium sized-post with approximately 60 direct hire Americans. The grief from this tragic event will be deep and painful especially for a small community like the embassy.

US Embassy Barbados: Death of the Regional Security Officer

Caribbean news are reporting today as “apparent suicide” the death of the Regional Security Officer (RSO) of the US Embassy in Barbados.

POLICE ARE INVESTIGATING the apparent suicide of a 51-year-old United States Embassy security official.

The body of American George Gaines, a Caucasian male, was found at White Sands Beach, Dover, Christ Church, around 8:30 a.m. yesterday with a bullet wound to the head.

The discovery was met by an immediate response from United States government officials, including Chargé d’Affaires for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Christopher Sandrolini, who was among those gathering at the scene.

When a team from the SUNDAY SUN arrived, Gaines’ body, partially covered with a white sheet and clad in khaki pants, white socks and suede boots, lay a few feet away from the sea, in a bushy area of the beach.

Read the original post here.

US Embassy Bridgetown, Barbados
Photo from US Embassy

The Caribbean Trakker citing reports, with no links says that “guard at a nearby hotel heard a gunshot in the early hours of the morning, a tourist discovered  the body just after 8.30 a.m.  A gun was found at the scene.”

In June 2011, Nation News did a piece on George Gaines and his family (see Reaping big Gaines: Close-knit family of three makes time to play together).

According to that family profile, Mr. Gaines served in Thailand, the Netherlands, Croatia and was on domestic assignment for five years. He has also served in the US military. He has an adult daughter and has been married to his wife of over 20 years.

A separate item online indicates that his most recent assignment in the U.S. is reportedly as the Professional Responsibility Division Chief, in the Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence at the Department of State  from 2008-2010.

As of this writing, the embassy has yet to release a statement. And we have yet to receive a response from our email. We will update if we learn anything more.

Domani Spero