US Mission Italy: Only Emergency Consular Services Available in Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence Due to Reduced Staffing

 

On March 10, the US Embassy in Rome issued a Health Alert noting that only emergency consular services will be available at all posts in Italy due to the reduced staffing that  goes into effect on March 11, 2020:

Event:  Due to reduced staffing that went into effect March 11, only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services are available at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Consulates General Milan, Naples, and Florence.

The CDC advises travelers to avoid nonessential travel to Italy and State Department currently recommends U.S. citizens reconsider travel. See CDC information regarding high-risk traveler categories.

On March 9, the Italian government released a decree prohibiting movement in public places except for justifiable work reasons (commuting, public and commercial transport is allowed), basic necessities (i.e., food shopping), and health emergencies.  The decree also cancels sporting events and public gatherings and closes schools, universities, and recreational facilities through April 3.  The Italian government has stated the new decree does not prevent travelers from departing Italy.

The Italian government has announced that law enforcement authorities would establish checkpoints at airports and train stations to collect self-declaration forms from travelers specifying the purpose of their movement and their destination.  Italian officials have also noted that checkpoints may established on highways to collect these forms.

In areas of Italy with large numbers of COVID-19 cases, the local healthcare system is under significant strain.

Public transportation including airlines, trains, and buses continue to operate, but with reduced frequency.  Travelers should check carrier schedules for the latest updates and work directly with the carrier or travel agent to arrange or reschedule travel.  Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of additional travel restrictions to be implemented with little or no advance notice.

 

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USConGen Milan Suspends Routine Visa Services Until March 2, 2020 #Covid19

 

On February 23, 2020, the US Embassy in Rome issued a Health Alert noting the official count of over 150 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy and the suspension of routine visa services at the U.S. Consulate General in Milan “due to reduced staffing levels.” On Twitter, post says that USCG Milan is suspending routine visa services “out of an abundance of caution.” The consulate general will continue to provide routine and emergency American citizen services.

Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Rome, Italy – February 23, 2020

Location:
  Regions of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia

Event:  The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor the health situation in Italy and recommends that individuals follow Italian health official guidance and avoid government-designated affected areas.  Due to reduced staffing levels, the U.S. Consulate General in Milan has suspended routine visa services until March 2, 2020.  Both routine and emergency American Citizen Services will continue at the Consulate General in Milan.  Full consular services are also available at the Embassy in Rome and the Consulates General in Florence and Naples.

Officials count over 150 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, the majority of which are in the Province of Lodi in the south of the Lombardy region. Two cases have been confirmed in Milan, and one each in Bergamo, Monza, and Turin.  Cases have also been reported in the areas of Brescia, Cremona, and Pavia.  Lombardy regional officials have cancelled schools for the week. City, regional and national officials continue to meet and assess the situation as more information becomes known.

Coronavirus infection rates are still very low, but those concerned that they are presenting multiple symptoms should contact 112 or 1500 to consult with Italian emergency healthcare professionals.

Previously, on January 31, 2020, U.S. Embassy Rome issued a Health Alert noting two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Rome:

On January 30, 2020, the Italian Ministry of Health announced two confirmed case of novel Coronavirus in Rome.
Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.

On February 7, 2020, USCG Naples issued a Health Alert noting the mandatory thermal screening required at Italian ports of entry:

On February 5, 2020, Italian public health officials implemented mandatory thermal screening at all Italian air and maritime ports of entry in response to the recent Novel Coronavirus outbreak.

On February 21, US Embassy Rome issued a Health Alert noting 14 confirmed Covid-19 cases in two areas and the mandated closure of public schools and offices:

On February 21, the Italian Ministry of Health announced 14 confirmed case of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the town of Codogno in the Lombardy region and two cases in Vo’ Euganeo near Padua.

Public school and offices have been closed in the affected areas and Italian health officials have advised residents in these areas to avoid public spaces. Travelers in the area should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.

 

Emergency Messages During Government Shutdown

A tsunami hit the coastal areas around the Sunda Strait in Indonesia (between the islands of Java and Sumatra) on December 22, 2018. It affected the Pandeglang, South Lampung, and Serang districts (as well as the resort area of Anyer). As of this writing, the tsunami death toll is now 373, with 128 missing and 1,459 injured.

The location of the tsunami is about 108 kilometers from the capital city of Jakarta. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta (with constituent posts in Surabaya, Medan, and a Consular Agency in Bali) issued a Message to U.S. Citizens: U.S. Embassy Jakarta – Tsunami on the West Coast of Banten and Lampung on Sun, 23 Dec 2018.

The Embassy Alert to U.S. citizens provides the following actions to take and contact information for those requiring assistance:

Actions to Take:

  • Carefully consider travel plans and avoid nonessential travel to tsunami affected areas.
  • Review the Travel Advisory for Indonesia
  • Review information about what to do in the event of a tsunami.
  • Notify friends and family of your well-being.
  • Review information from the Government of Indonesia’s agency for disaster managementhere (Indonesian language only) and here.
  • For regular updates, follow the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya on Twitter and Facebook and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at Twitter and Facebook.

Assistance:  

The Alert message is currently on travel.state.gov and the embassy’s website, but it is not pushed on to social media due to the government shutdown. The State Department’s deputy spox says that they “are not aware of any U.S. citizens directly affected, but stand ready to assist as needed.”

The Alert message suggests that for regular updates people should “follow the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya on Twitter and Facebook and the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at Twitter and Facebook.” But those feed are no longer updated regularly due to the lapse in appropriation.

Our Foreign Service posts in Jakarta say “visit @StateDept for updates.” We note of only two official tweets to-date: one tweet from @TravelGov calling the tsunami a “Weather Alert” (though tsunami can be caused by weather when the atmospheric pressure changes very rapidly, this tsunami is believed to have been triggered by an underwater landslide caused by the eruption of the nearby Anak Krakatau volcano), and one tweet from the State Department through the deputy spox. While the multiple deaths and injuries in the Indonesia tsunami did not appear to include American citizens, disasters and calamities (besides the one unfolding in Washington, D.C.) could happen anytime.

See US Embassy Jakarta’s tweet:

One of the last few tweets sent by US Consulate Surabaya was about the tsunami before it announced that its Twitter feed will not be updated due to the lapse in appropriation.

The former strategic planner for the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R) cited a policy cable from 2013, adopted formally as guidance in the Foreign Affairs Handbook which explicitly states that overseas missions using social media “should continue to do so in a crisis.” https://fam.state.gov/FAM/10FAH01/10FAH010060.html …. He rightfully noted that we are at an era when gov’t communication via social media is expected, particularly from a US embassy during a crisis affecting its host country. We agree that the use of social media to facilitate emergency communications with the public must be a prime consideration, rather than an afterthought. Posts’s feeds were the first place we looked up when we saw the tsunami alert online. We are sure we’re not the only one looking for information.

Just as we were about to post this, Reuters is reporting that Italy’s Mount Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano, erupted on December 24, and causing the closure of Catania airport on Sicily’s eastern coast. The social media accounts of US Embassy in Rome and its constituent posts in Florence and Naples have not been updated since the government shutdown took effect on December 22. Consulate Milan appears to be updating with holiday tweets as of nine hours ago. There does not appear to be any update from @StateDept concerning the Etna eruption.

Round-Up: Presentations of Credentials

Posted: 12:46 am ET
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New U.S. Ambassadors Say Hello in Fresh Intro Video Playlist

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U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone Maria Brewer

U.S. Ambassador to Algeria John Desrocher

U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor

U.S. Ambassador to Senegal Tulinabo Mushingi

U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Luis Arreaga

U.S. Ambassador to Italy Lewis Eisenberg

U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Sharon Day

U.S. Ambassador to Portugal, George E. Glass

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty

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Ex-CIA Sabrina de Sousa Granted Partial Pardon by Italian President Mattarella

Posted: 2:19 am  ET
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We’ve followed the case of Sabrina de Sousa in this blog since 2009. She previously worked as an FSO for the State Department from 1998 to 2009. In a July 2013 interview with McClatchyDC, Ms. De Sousa confirmed that she worked under cover for the CIA in Milan, Italy.

 

According to the Guardian, the office of Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued a statement late Tuesday saying that De Sousa had been granted a partial pardon. It means a reduction of her four-year sentence of detention by one year.  The statement cited by media reports indicate that De Sousa “would be able to serve her sentence with “alternative measures” to detention, meaning that she could avoid spending any time in jail.”

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Howard v. Kerry: USCG Naples EEO Case Now a Civil Lawsuit in Federal Court

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— Domani Spero

Kerry Howard’s allegations against the former Consul General in Naples made the news last year (see NYPost – State Department swept sex scandals under the rug and Whistleblower accuses consul general of trysts with subordinates and hookers).

Kerry Howard’s LinkedIn profile indicates that she has been in Naples, Italy since January 2008.  The court document also says that she is the spouse of an FSO who was employed as Consulate General Naples’ Community Liaison Officer from February 2010 to May 2012.  Ms. Howard has now filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry in the Eastern District of New York (Case 2:14-cv-00194-ADS-AKT):

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination based on race, color, religion,  sex or national origin. (42 USC 2000e-2(a)  and its anti retaliation provision forbids discrimination against an employee or job applicant who inter alia has “made a charge,  assisted or participated in a Title VII proceeding or investigation. Section 2000e-3(a)

An employer which creates or tolerates a work environment  permeated with discriminatory intimidation,  ridicule and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of an individual’s employment and which creates an abusive work environment is in violation of Title VII.”

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.36.20 PM

The NYPost currently has a screaming headline that runs, American diplomat ran consulate like party pad: suit. The report says that the official “has since been reassigned from the Italian post to a position at the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama, which is also administered by the State Department.” Huh?

While the lawsuit is against Secretary Kerry as head of the agency, if this go to trial, there presumably will be a long list of witnesses from the who’s who at USCG Naples and US Embassy Rome a the time when this incident is alleged to have occured.  The court filing includes the names and positions of several officers in Naples, Rome and the State Department, including the then Deputy Chief of Mission in Rome, the then FLO director, and an FS couple who was alleged to have been “blacklisted” for services at post and alleged to have been subsequently “involuntarily curtailed” from Naples.

Remember last summer’s CBS scoop on allegations by OIG investigator Aurelia Fedenisn over interference of politically delicate investigations at the State Department?  According to NYT,   that report became public as a result of  … that’s right, another civil suit, this one filed in 2011 by Richard P. Higbie, a diplomatic security agent who accused the State Department of blocking his career. “His lawyers sought the department’s internal documents after Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator who worked on the inspector general’s report, complained that the final draft had been toned down.”   We can’t imagine what stuff will come out of this case which includes allegation that the State Department “indifference” to a senior official’s misconduct  “gave consent to the creation of working conditions for women which could be so difficult, unpleasant or intolerable that a reasonable person would feel compelled to resign.”  

In a 19-page complaint demanding jury trial, Ms. Howard asks for reinstatement, full value of compensation and provide the retroactive benefits including those incident to full year service rights to other government positions she would have received had she not been the victim of unlawful discrimination,” compensatory and liquidated damages in the amount of $300,000, and the costs and expenses of litigation including reasonable attorney’s fees and witness fees.

* * *

 

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USCG Naples: Don’t Smile, You’re In the New York Post!

— By Domani Spero

The New York Post has been stirring up a super storm in Foggy Bottom. Following the CBS News scoop on alleged interference over DSS investigations, the NYPost let out the screaming kraken bubbling with all the allegations and names for all to see. On June 11, it has Hillary’s sorry state of affairs.  This was followed on June 13 with State Department has hired agents with criminal records, memo reveals. On June 14, Another State Dept. tryst and shout.  On June 15, Politician seeks answers on Weiner wife Huma Abedin’s private consulting gig.

Frankly, by Sunday, our eyeballs felt Mad Max crazy and weary.  But then another one burst on our screen:  Whistleblower accuses consul general of trysts with subordinates and hookers. Wait – whaaaat?

This latest allegation which concerns the U.S. Consul General in Naples is now reportedly part of an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint filed with the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights.  The complainant according to the New York Post is Kerry Howard, a former Community Liaison Officer (CLO) at USCG Naples. CLO positions are typically filled by eligible family members (EFMs) accompanying their FSOs on assignments overseas.  We should note that the position is currently vacant in the latest Key Officers List.

US Consulate General Naples, Italy Photo via USCG/FB)

US Consulate General Naples, Italy
Photo via USCG/FB)

Excerpt via the NYPost:

[A] whistleblower claims she was run out of the foreign service after complaining about a consul general’s alleged office trysts with subordinates and hookers.

Kerry Howard says she was bullied, harassed and forced to resign after she exposed US Consul General Donald Moore’s alleged security-threatening shenanigans in the Naples, Italy, office.

As the post’s community-liaison officer, Howard was charged with keeping workplace peace and advising higher-ups on the state of morale, but when she revealed allegations about her boss, State Department officials swept it under the rug, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint she filed with the department’s Office of Civil Rights.
[…]
The soap opera in Italy unfolded in the fall of 2010, when Moore became the Naples consul general after serving in the same capacity at the US Embassy in Port au Prince, Haiti. As a senior foreign-service officer, Moore could make as much as $179,700 a year, State Department data says.

[…]
With the affair rumors swirling, Howard’s supervisor, Pamela Caplis, instructed Howard to keep quiet, Howard claims.

“I have already informed Frankfurt,” Caplis allegedly said in what Howard claims was an attempt to head off the complaint.

Still, on a February 2011 trip to Rome, Howard told the US Embassy’s management officer, Frank Ledahawsky, that morale was “very bad” because of the alleged affair.

“We have to save his career,” Ledahawsky allegedly said.

Shortly after the meeting, Moore was allegedly called to Rome and ordered to end his relationship with the employee.

Howard thought her troubles would be over, but she became a target instead.

Read in full here.

According to his official bio, the official referred to in the EEO complaint is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor. He joined the Foreign Service in 1992 after serving as an Assistant State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit in Florida.

The  CLO’s supervisor is normally the management officer/counselor at post.  At one point in 2011, Ms. Caplis named in the report was also the acting Consul General in Naples.  Another officer mentioned in this report Frank J. Ledahowsky, is the management counselor at the US Embassy in Rome.  Mr. Ledahowsky arrived in Rome in August 2008 according to the OIG report on US Mission Italy.  The inspection report is dated 2010 and included an inspection conducted on USCG Naples between February 23 and March 2, 2010 prior to the tenure of Mr. Moore.

The US Mission in Italy (including the constituent posts in Florence, Milan and Naples) is under the authority of Ambassador David Thorne who has been the United States Ambassador to Italy and Ambassador to San Marino since 2009.  He is also the twin brother of Julia Thorne, Secretary Kerry’s first wife.  Douglas C. Hengel is Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Rome, a position he assumed in November 2010. The DCM is typically the supervisor and rating officer of the principal officers of constituent posts.

Since this is an Office of Civil Rights case, it is doubtful that we’ll ever get to read the affidavits apparently executed by seven former Italian consulate employees used in support of this complaint.  Should be interesting to see how this ends. The OCR  investigation into this allegation is reportedly nearing its conclusion.

Is it just us or do you get a feeling that we have crossed into a whole new world of reality?  It looks like keeping a stiff upper lip as was “standard” diplomatic practice has now become as outdated as your ancient Wang machine.  We can’t say if this trend becomes a tidal wave but we noticed that we now have almost about *half a dozen State Department whistleblowers, some self-proclaimed , and it’s only June.

* (Mark Thompson (State/CT), Gregory Hicks (former DCM, US Embassy Tripoli), Eric Nordstrom (former RSO, US Embassy Tripoli)Kerry Howard (former CLO, USCG Naples)Aurelia Fedenisn (former OIG), Richard Higbie (DS, Texas).

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