Nov 14, 2019

State Department watchdog finds officials retaliated against career diplomats

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The State Department improperly retaliated against a career diplomat based on her "perceived political views, association with former administrations, and perceived national origin," according to a report from the Office of Inspector General.

The big picture: The inspector general report into alleged political retaliation against career diplomats comes as President Trump faces an impeachment inquiry "whose elements involve the mistreatment of career diplomats, in particular those dealing with Ukraine," per Politico.

  • The OIG recommends State Secretary Mike Pompeo discipline any political appointees, including U.S. envoy to Iran Brian Hook, who have violated policies against using non-merit based factors when assigning employees.

Context: The report focuses on events that unfolded in 2017, when Rex Tillerson was still the secretary of state. The OIG reviewed thousands of emails regarding five cases of "allegations of politicized and other improper personnel practices."

  • Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant, had her one-year detail to the Policy Planning office cut short due to concerns over her Iranian heritage and questions about her loyalty to Trump, per Politico. She is known as Employee One in the report.
  • Employee Two worked in the Office of the Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure was re-assigned Freedom of Information Act duties because "he raised allegations of unethical conduct while on detail to another agency and because he worked on priorities of the previous administration," the report finds.
  • Employee Four, a senior executive, was removed from his position as director of refugee admissions and given temporary detail assignments allegedly because of his support for refugees, he and his supervisor told the OIG.
  • The OIG also investigated the case of Employee Five, a senior Foreign Service employee, who was denied a deputy assistant secretary position. The government watchdog said it examined this case because it found conversations discussing the employee's ethnicity and connections to the prior administration.
  • Information regarding Employee Three was redacted in the report.

The OIG's conclusion: "Improper considerations played a role in the early termination of Employee One’s detail, but OIG found no evidence that inappropriate factors played a role in relevant decisions relating to Employees Two and Three. As to Employees Four and Five, the lack of documentation and OIG’s inability to gain essential information from key decision makers meant that OIG could not draw conclusions as to the motives for the personnel decisions affecting these individuals."

  • The State Department's official response to the report can be found on page 54.

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