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 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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Ex-State Dept Employee Settles Housekeeper’s Claim Over Slavery and Rape

Posted: 4:01  am EDT
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In September 2012, we blogged about the Linda and Russell Howard case (see Court Awards $3.3 Million Default Judgment Against State Dept Couple Accused of Slavery and Rape of Housekeeper). The Court’s opinion dated September 4, 2012 is here — Jane Doe v. Linda Howard, et.al, (pdf).

On March 5, 2015, Australia’s Herald Sun reported that the Howards who moved to Melbourne were chased through the local court by Jane Doe and that Australian Justice Jack Forrest upheld the US decision. “My opinion is that it would be an abuse of process … to permit Mrs Howard to claim that Jane Doe’s claim was fraudulent,” Justice Forrest said.  “Mrs Howard chose not to agitate her claim … and it was her choice to leave the (United States),” the Herald Sun quotes Judge Forrest.

At that time, the report indicated that Mrs Howard’s legal team was considering an appeal.

On September 6, 2015, Australia’s The Age reported the settlement of the case, and provided more details on how the plaintiff pursued this case in Australian court.   Read more here.

The Daily Mail also reported on this case here citing Justice Forrest saying that Linda Howard “could not argue the housekeeper’s claim was fraudulent after remaining silent on the matter for two years and not fighting it in US courts when she had the chance.”   

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Court Awards $3.3 Million Default Judgment Against State Dept Couple Accused of Slavery and Rape of Housekeeper

In 2011, Jane Doe, an Ethiopian national in her 30s filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against a State Department employee Linda Howard and her husband, Russell Howard, alleging involuntary servitude, forced labor and human trafficking in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).

The complaint also alleges the rape of Jane Doe by Russell Howard, reportedly an Australian national, and a dependent of employee Linda Howard.

According to the complaint, Linda Howard met and hired Jane Doe during her assignment at the US Embassy in Yemen. Jane Doe was paid $200 a month as a housekeeper and made no allegation of mistreatment while employed in Yemen.  In late 2008, Linda Howard was reportedly reassigned to the US Embassy in Tokyo.  Jane Doe agreed to move to Japan with Linda Howard to continue working as a housekeeper.  Their signed contract reportedly guaranteed $300 a month, time off each week, health insurance and a safe place to live and work.

Among the other allegations made by Jane Doe:

  • She was forced to work more than 80 hours a week for less than a dollar an hour; the exact amount was $0.88 an hour; the minimum hourly wage at the time of Jane Doe’s employment was $6.55 an hour.
  • She was raped and was forced to engaged in sexual acts with Russell Howard in the Howards’ Tokyo residence.
  • She was threatened with deportation from Japan by Mr. Howard
  • The complaint says that after five months Jane Doe fled the Howards’ home and found help at a shelter in Tokyo. The women’s shelter reported the abuse to the US Embassy in Tokyo. While at the shelter Jane Doe met with Diplomatic Security investigators. When the case was filed in October 2011, it includes the following item: “Upon information and belief, the State Department’s investigation is still pending.”
  • At the time the lawsuit was filed, she alleged that while Linda Howard was removed from her posting at the US Embassy in Tokyo, Mrs. Howard remains employed by the State Department.

Some nasty, nasty stuff on this one, read the original complaint here.

The Courthouse News Service which reported this case on September 6 says that Linda Howard is currently an IT manager with the State Department in Washington, D.C.’s citing her profile on the professional-networking website LinkedIn. The profile notes that Howard worked as a “manager” for the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo from 2008 to 2009. Before that, Howard worked for three years, from 2005 – 2008 as “Senior IT Manager, Acting Administrative Management Officer, Acting Human Resources Officer and alternate Financial Officer” at the Embassy in Yemen, according to the profile

The report from LexisNexis® Mealey’s™ Legal News says that when Russell Howard, who is from Australia, failed to respond to Jane Doe’s complaint, and Linda Howard’s answer to the complaint was stricken pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), Doe moved for default judgment, which Magistrate Judge Thomas Rawles Jones Jr. granted in an Aug. 7 report and recommendation.

… the judgment against Linda Howard was appropriate based on the four factors established in Belk v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (269 F.3d 305, 348 [4th Cir. 2001]):  bad faith, amount of prejudice, need for deterrence and effectiveness of less drastic sanctions.
[…]
Linda Howard acted in bad faith by telling the court that she was unaware of any upcoming overseas job-related travel and then two weeks later retiring and leaving the country, the magistrate judge said.

“There is a great need to deter defendants from determining that the proper response to litigation is to leave the country and refuse to participate in the resolution of a dispute.  Finally, in light of Mrs. Howard’s flight from the country, it is clear that less drastic sanctions would not be effective.”

The Court awarded Jane Doe total damages in the amount of $3,306,468, broken down as follows.

  • $1,250,000 for compensatory emotional distress relating to forced sexual servitude

 

  • $44,500 in compensatory damages for forced labor and trafficking

 

  • $2,000,000 punitive damages “in light of the Howards’ intentional egregious and outrageous conduct”
  • $11,968 for back wages and liquidated award as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act damages under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA)

The court documents relating to this case are available here to read (some documents listed need to be purchased before you can read them).  The Court’s opinion dated September 4, 2012 is here in pdf.