Friday, January 29, 2010

From AFSA: Remembering the FSO Community Victims of the Haiti Earthquake

Remembering the FSO Community Victims of the Haiti Earthquake

AFSA wishes to express its deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of those in the Foreign Service community who perished in the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti. One Foreign Service Officer and at least six Foreign Service Nationals are among the fallen, with 28 others unaccounted for:

Victoria DeLong: A 27-year veteran of the Foreign Service and an AFSA member, Victoria served as the Cultural Affairs Officer in Port-au-Prince. She had fallen in love with the people and culture of Haiti and called this tour the highlight of her career. Donations in her memory of Victoria Delong can be made to the Little Flower/Rosa Mina Orphanage, where Vickie volunteered. Online donations can be made through the Partners in Progress website ( There, click on "make a donation" to get the donations page. Where it asks "How should we use your donation", there is a drop down menu, and Little Flower/Rosa Mina is third on the list of options. On behalf of AFSA and its members, AFSA President Susan Johnson will present Victoria’s family with a United States flag at the funeral this weekend.

We also mourn the terrible loss of so many of our FSN colleagues. The Foreign Service National (FSN) Emergency Relief Fund enables the Department of State to respond to crises affecting locally employed staff overseas. To donate to the fund, send a check to the Department’s Gift Fund Coordinator, Donna Bordley, RM/CFO, Rm. 7427, 2201 C Street NW, Washington DC 20520. Make checks payable to the U.S. Department of State, designation for the “FSN Emergency Relief Fund.” State and USAID employees may also check their intranet for guidance on donation by cash or credit cards.

Our thoughts are also with State Department employee Andrew Wyllie, who tragically lost his wife Laurence and his two young sons, Evan and Baptiste, in the earthquake.

As a part of honoring their memory, AFSA has opened an online condolence and remembrance page at Please share your thoughts on those who gave their lives by e-mailing them to They will be posted each day. We encourage you to express your support for the dedication, courage and professionalism of your colleagues and fellow members of our Foreign Service family/community. The families of the fallen will then be provided with a bound book containing all the messages regarding their loved ones.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Secretary's Town Hall

The Secretary mentioned the issues facing LGBT Foreign Service families in her recent Town Hall marking her first year on the job.

MS. GREENBERG: Our next sounding board entry comes from Selim Ariturk, an economic officer in Azerbaijan. He says, “Madame Secretary, gay and lesbian staff worldwide have been so heartened by the wonderful changes you have made since you took office. I can’t tell you how much it means to me when I look at my HR records and finally see the word ‘family member.’ More than any of the financial benefits, those two words say so much about the kind of atmosphere you have set. Thank you so much for all you have done. Many of us still face problems coming home to the U.S. with our partners, and I wonder if you could help us by talking to Congress about the challenges we face. Thank you for your consideration and thank you again for all you’ve done.”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, and thanks to everyone who has supported and embraced this policy change. I’ve met with people across the world at every – just about every post I’ve visited, which are a lot by now. And we will continue to follow up on issues that arise, but we’re very proud that the State Department led the way on this.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TSB: Good Reminder

The following is from fellow State Department blogger The Skeptical Bureaucrat. I agree completely with his assessment: it is nice to have our experiences acknowledged.

Good Reminder

Yesterday, Fox News reported that approximately half of the houses used by the U.S. embassy staff in Haiti were destroyed in the earthquake. And tonight, I heard one of their TV anchors remark that our embassy staffers in Port-au-Prince are not only relief workers in this crisis but are also victims of it themselves, having lost friends and co-workers as well as their homes.

I thought that was a refreshing perspective. Our Foreign Service members are often criticized or derided in the wake of disasters such as the Haitian earthquake, but I hope that at least some of the American public will reflect on the fact that our embassy staffers fully share the personal crisis that the earthquake inflicted on Haitians.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

DeLong "Had the calling"

There was a nice piece in yesterday's Washington Post about Victoria DeLong, the FSO who was killed in Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti. I have shared it with you below:

Victoria DeLong was only known U.S. diplomat to die in quake

Victoria DeLong didn't have a favorite country. After serving as a diplomat in so many, from Costa Rica to Congo, choosing one would have been hard.

But friends say that few places in her nearly three decades at the State Department touched her the way Haiti did.

Posted there last year, she was struck not only by the poverty but by the resilience of the people, recalled Cesar B. Cabrera, who was the U.S. ambassador to Mauritius and kept in touch with DeLong after she moved from that island nation to Washington and then on to Haiti.

"She said they were very poor, but they were always smiling and they were very nice people," Cabrera, who is retired, said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico.

DeLong, who was 57 and served as a cultural affairs officer in Port-au-Prince, died in Tuesday's earthquake. She was at her home in the capital city when the quake struck, and she is the only U.S. diplomat known to have perished in the catastrophe.

It was the end of a career that began by chance at a California college.

A fellow student was taking a break from the Foreign Service to go back to school, and she raved to DeLong about what a wonderful career the State Department offered.

"I was the one who convinced her to join," said Dorothy Ledger, who was that other student and who remained a close friend.

By Ledger's account, it was a career choice that DeLong never regretted.

"She loved it. She absolutely loved it," Ledger said in an interview from Kentucky. "She loved the travel. She loved her job. She just loved all of it."

Over the course of 27 years, DeLong counted Australia, Germany and the Philippines among her postings.

Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, was her last overseas assignment before Port-au-Prince. Like Haiti, Mauritius is a small nation on an island, but with none of the economic and political instability that have long plagued Haiti.

When Cabrera arrived as the ambassador in 2006, DeLong was already in Mauritius. As part of the small embassy staff, the two worked closely on issues such as terrorism and piracy, which are very much part of the mission, given the proximity to Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Less than a month after his arrival, she accompanied him on a trip to Djibouti to meet with U.S. military officials stationed there.

Cabrera soon learned that DeLong shared the passion that he and so many others brought to jobs in the Foreign Service.

"It's a vocation. It's a calling," he said. "She had the calling."

In Haiti, it wasn't just her smarts and determination that impressed Janet A. Sanderson, who was the U.S. ambassador to Haiti from 2006 to 2008. "She had a wonderful sense of humor, which you have to have in Haiti, even under the best of times," Sanderson said.

For DeLong's family, the spirit of their lost loved one is what they want people to remember.

"Victoria cared deeply for her family and friends," her family said late Friday in a written statement. "She was a wonderful sister, friend, and humanitarian; she was cheerful and full of life in all her endeavors and accomplishments."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Our Local Staff Need Help Too

This Department notice came out yesterday. As you can imagine, the local staff suffered alongside all their fellow Haitians in this disaster. No doubt, maybe will be homeless. I have not heard if any FSNS or their family were killed in the earthquake, but if not, we were incredibly lucky. But their need will be extreme, and I hope you will consider directing some of your generousity to them.

Foreign Service National (FSN) Relief Fund Replenishment


Ref: STATE 00003587


1. This notice provides guidance to all Americans and Locally Employed (LE) Staff for making donations to the Foreign Service National (FSN) Emergency Relief Fund (see paras 4-10). As a result of the devastating earthquake that struck on January 12, our LE colleagues are in urgent need of your financial support. End Summary.


2. While we are unable to anticipate the number of requests, we expect it to be overwhelming and the Relief Fund needs to be prepared to provide immediate assistance. By making a public-spirited gift, you will aid the Department in this effort as well as replenish the Fund as a continuing source of LE Staff assistance. In the past month we disbursed more than $90,000 to employees in Manila, Antananarivo, and Ouagadougou and now we need your support for current disaster assistance. Contributions to the Fund can be made by check, credit card, or through payroll deductions. All contributions to the Fund are tax-deductible and can be made by all elements of the public and private sector.

3. The Department of State established the Relief Fund to respond to crisis or humanitarian requests on behalf of Foreign Service National employees serving all agencies of the United States Government. Please follow the detailed process below to make your donation.

How To Donate:

4. Check Contributions: Please send checks to the Department's Gift Fund Coordinator, Donna Bordley, Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, RM/CFO, Rm. 7427, Washington, DC 20520. Make checks payable to the U.S. Department of State, designation for the FSN Emergency Relief Fund. Please include a return address where a letter of acknowledgment for your charitable tax deduction purposes may be sent.

5. Credit Card Contributions: On Visa or MasterCard accounts only, send an e-mail message to "FSN Emergency Relief Fund" on the GAL. Include your name, mailing address, VISA/MasterCard account number and expiration date. Also include the following statement in the e-mail: "Contribution to the FSN Emergency Relief Fund". "I authorize the Department of State to charge the referenced credit card account in the amount of U.S. "$XX" as a contribution to the FSN Emergency Relief Fund." You will be provided with a response e-mail that can be used for your tax purposes.

6. Payroll Deductions (American employees): Department of State and overseas American employees of other federal agencies on payroll by the Department of State may also make voluntary contributions to the FSN Emergency Relief Fund by payroll deduction. You may request a one time or recurring deduction from your net pay by contacting the Payroll Customer Support Center (PCSC) at (found in the Global Address Listing under “Payroll Customer Support”). You may speak with a Payroll Customer Support Center representative by dialing 1-800-521-2553 or 1-877-865-0760. Faxed requests should be sent to 1-843-308-5625 and must include your signature.

Your request for voluntary payroll deduction should include your name, address, social security number and date of birth along with the following statement:

I intend to make a gift in the amount of $XX as a contribution to the FSN Emergency Relief Fund. I request the Department of State to deduct from each of my biweekly salary payment (s) $XX for XX pay periods, until the total gift amount has been deducted. If the contribution is a one-time deduction, indicate “1” pay period in your request so it is clear that it is a one-time deduction.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Statement from the Secretary on Victoria DeLong


The Passing of Victoria DeLong

This morning I spoke with the family of Victoria DeLong, the Cultural Affairs Officer at our Embassy in Port-Au-Prince who lost her life in the earthquake. I expressed my sincerest condolences on behalf of the men and women of the State Department and the American people. So many have lost their lives in this tragedy. The United Nations has suffered grevious losses. And the Hatian people have endured unimaginable heartbreak. For the State Department, we have lost one of our own. Victoria was a veteran Foreign Service Officer who worked tirelessly to build bridges of understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of Haiti. She served her country with distinction and honor, and she will be sorely missed. Victoria's friends and colleagues at the Embassy are working day and night to support vital relief and recovery efforts, and our thoughts, our prayers, and our deepest thanks are with them as well. Along with the military personnel, the search and rescue teams, and all the aid and relief workers now deploying, they represent the unwavering commitment of the United States to stand with Haiti in its hour of need and in the hard days and years to come. My heart is with the DeLong family today, and with all those in Haiti and around the world who have lost loved ones and friends in this disaster.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sad News for the Foreign Service

During the Daily Press Briefing tonight, the State Department announced that Victoria J. DeLong, the Cultural Affairs Officer in Port Au Prince, was killed when her house collapsed during Tuesday's earthquake.

DeLong joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and had served in Haiti since February 2009. She was 57.

The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the Foreign Service go out to her family. We all know the risks we take when we sign up to serve our country, and that any one of us could have been in her place.

From our department notice:

We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Victoria J. DeLong, our Cultural Affairs Officer in Port-Au-Prince. We join our embassy in Haiti to express our heartfelt condolences to her family, and we are providing all necessary support to the family during this difficult time.

Ms. DeLong joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and served as Cultural Affairs Officer in Haiti since February 2009. In one of the most challenging environments in the world, she dedicated herself to educational and cultural exchange between the people of Haiti and the people of the United States. Her creativity, hard work, communication skills, and courage in this task advanced the partnership between our countries and the cause of peace and prosperity in our global neighborhood. She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends.
A station in her native California covered her death here.

Haiti Earthquake Info Website

The Department has launched a web page with information on the earthquake in Haiti, including how to find your loved ones and how to help:

2010 Earthquake in Haiti

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti Assistance

For those with loved ones affected by the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday evening, the following notice was sent by the State Department:

Americans are urged to contact the Embassy via email at to request assistance. Americans in Haiti can call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672. The State Department has also created a task force to monitor the emergency. People in the U.S. or Canada with information or inquiries about U.S. citizens in Haiti may reach the Haiti Task Force at 888-407-4747. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, call 202-501-4444.

You can also find more information here.

Also, please consider texting and donating $10 dollars to the Haiti relief effort. Simply text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.

And please keep all those in Haiti, especially those serving our country there (one of whom is still not accounted for), in your thoughts and prayers. All of us in the Foreign Service know how easily it could be us.

Diversity DiaBLOGues

I learned yesterday what the Department's Office of Civil Rights has begun what it calls Diversity DiaBLOGues. According to the website:

Diversity DiaBLOGues is designed to be a forum where issues regarding diversity can be brought to light through innovative, constructive, and progressive discourse. The blog is also an avenue for Department Employee Affinity Groups to discuss relevant issues. We hope to engage all Department employees and realize the Secretary's pledge of "equity, fairness, and inclusion” in our work environments at home and abroad.

You can check it out here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

Just less than an hour ago, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake was reported with the epicenter 10 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. Our embassy in Port-au-Prince is working to account for all of our staff there, but apparently landlines and cell phone communication. We have heard that some buildings across from the embassy have collapsed.

Please keep the people of Haiti, particularly those who are serving our country there, in your thoughts and prayers.

And from Secretary Clinton just moments ago:

Before I begin with this critically important subject about our future in Asia, I want to just say a few words about developments in Haiti. We are still gathering information about this catastrophic earthquake, the point of impact, its effect on the people of Haiti. The United States is offering our full assistance to Haiti and to others in the region. We will be providing both civilian and military disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. And our prayers are with the people who have suffered, their families, and their loved ones.

Women in the Foreign Service

The Washington Post yesterday had an interesting piece on the "Hillary Effect" and how Secretary Clinton is credited with bringing more women into ambassadorial positions in the U.S. According to the article, there are now 25 female ambassadors posted in Washington (including the first ever from a Muslim country, Hunaina Sultan Al-Mughairy of Oman), the highest number ever. Women remain, however, a distinct minority among the 182 accredited ambassadors in Washington.

Today, DiploPundit has an interesting piece on "The Palmer Effect".

Alison Palmer, the woman who helped get more women into the U.S. State Department, was hired as a FSO in 1959. In 1970, the Department paid for her to earn a Master's in African studies from Boston University. Yet despite her experience and degree, she was turned down for several assignments in Africa after ambassadors wrote that they didn't want her because she was a woman. She ended up as a social secretary to the wife of an ambassador who did not want her because she was a woman.

This was at a time when just nine percent of Foreign Service officers were women. By 2007, it was 37 percent. Palmer, now 78, wonders why it is not 51%, like the general population.

You can read all of DiploPundit's excellent post here.

I do wonder whether sexism is completely dead and gone in the State Department. I know that for my own A-100 class, which was about 50% female, only 20% of the women in the class were tenured on the first go round, compared with 50% of the men. And of those tenured, again about 20% of the women and 50% of the men were promoted. Those statistics bothered me, and several other of the the women in the class (whether tenured and promoted or not), but we decided not to say anything about it.

Clearly the Department has come a long way in hiring and promoting women, minorities, and gays and lesbians. I am optimistic the trend will continue, but we are still have a ways to go.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Not just visas

Joel Mowbray has an editorial in the Washington Times today blaming the Christmas Day Under Bomber attack squarely on the State Department. I have have seen this sentiment in the blogosphere and completely disagree with it, but I have been loath to discuss it here. Now that someone has stirred that hornets nest in the mainstream media (both WT and CNN), I'll weigh in a bit.

MOWBRAY: It's the visas, stupid

By Joel Mowbray
"Tucked away in a single paragraph near the end of the declassified preliminary report on the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack is the key fact glossed over by most in media and the government: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had a valid visa when he boarded his Detroit-bound flight.

Whether or not "dots" had been "connected," Mr. Abdulmutallab never could have come as close as he did to successful mass murder had the State Department immediately revoked the man's visa when his father first raised concerns. Without a valid visa, the young Nigerian would not have been en route to the United States in the first place. "

Digger comments:
As Mowbray mentions later in the editorial, Abdulmutallab was qualified for the visa when he received it. He said, "he is, after all, well-educated and from a successful family." He had travelled previously without breaking any laws. So issuing the visa was the appropriate decision. However, even had State revoked the visa the moment his father raised concerns, this would not have affected his ability to get onto the flight because he still had in his passport a visa that looked valid. Airlines don't have access to our visa records for understandable security reasons, and we don't have DHS agents at every overseas airport in the world. So the first place that it could have been noticed that his visa had been revoked would have been at the U.S. border. and his attack occurred long before that.

The only way that the visa could have been invalidated so that the airlines would know would have been to get him to come into the embassy and let them stamp "revoked" on his visa. What do you think the chances of that are?

Mowbray continues:
"All the more maddening is that this is precisely the lesson we learned from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists, none of whom actually qualified for the visas that were nonetheless issued to them. Yet eight years later, the State Department has barely budged its default position that visas are to be issued unless they have a clear reason to deny applications. "

Digger continues:
Absolutely false. When I took con-gen (the training course for consular officers), I was told that for tourist visas you start at no. All applicants are to be presumed to be intending immigrants until they can prove otherwise. For me, this meant that they needed to overcome, in addition to everything else, what I called my "hinky feeling." If I wasn't sure you intended to come to the U.S. for legitimate reasons, you didn't get the visa. Period. And I think this is the default position for every officer working the visa window, especially those of us who joined after 9/11. Because no one wants to be part of letting that happen again. We all jumped through a lot of hoops to join the Foreign Service because we love this country and wanted to serve it.

Mowbray continues:


As part of this larger power struggle, DHS has been thwarted in many of its attempts to open Visa Screening Units (VSUs), which were mandated for every visa-issuing post as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Nearly eight years later, there are only 14 VSUs, or fewer than 10 percent of all embassies and consulates. There is no VSU in Nigeria, even though DHS has wanted to establish one.

Lack of funding is partly to blame, but several ambassadors have successfully rebuffed efforts to create VSUs in their countries - fearing that enhanced security enforcement would slow visa processing, angering local government officials. "

Digger comments:
I think the lack of VSUs has much more to do with funding than any power struggle. It cost a lot of money to have someone overseas. Not only do you have the cost of the person's salary, but their housing and transportation as well. Add to that the cost of training in language and area studies (most FSOs going to do visa work receive six months to a year of language training alone. DHS would have to bear the expense of that training for someone who was likely to serve in that country only once and then come back to the U.S. FSOs know that there is a likelihood of returning to the countries where their language skills are needed). If I had to guess, most of those 14 VSUs are in English-language posts. I would personally welcome DHS at any post where I served, but it is going to cost the American taxpayers a bundle.

You can read the rest of his editorial, which continues from the building blocks above, here.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Blogging in the Foreign Service

DiploPundit has a good piece on the new toys that are available for reaching the world and the State Department's resistance to using them. She sites a report the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, wrote for Foreign Policy on “How the U.S. State Department should enable and encourage social-networking sites in the global fight for freedom. In the report, Senator Luger said:

"But social networking technologies are more often used to enable individuals across a country, or across the globe, to interact, engage, and become empowered. Although this means that our government will not be able to control the message as well as it might with conventional public diplomacy tools, I believe it is a risk worth taking. Terrorists and other anti-American propagandists have for some time been using the Internet and other techniques to communicate and recruit. America needs to beat them at their own game, especially since we invented most of the technology.

I would encourage the administration and our diplomats to be nimble, flexible, and innovative as they pursue a wide range of foreign-policy initiatives that use these new communication and connection techniques. Diplomacy and development are our best means of winning the global war of ideas, and we must come to the battle armed with the most modern tools at our disposal."

Of course, the Department is loath to be nimble and flexible. And, I would argue, suffers from multiple personality syndrome where blogging and new media are concerned. I am in Public Affairs and have discussed new media and blogging with those in HR as well, and I can assure you that both bureaus LOVE blogging and new media. PA tweets. PA blogs. And they love that others do as well because it is a way to get our message out and is a great recruitment tool.

DS and some political folks, on the other hand, are convinced it is a security risk and that we bloggers are half-way down the path of handing the keys to the building over to terrorists. And while there is a course now at FSI that includes new media, even there, both personalities are evident. After we hear about all the great things we can do with new media, a speaker comes in and tells us all the reasons we can't. And then of course there is the directive that we have to clear anything of "official concern." As you can imagine, "official concern" is in the eyes of the beholder, and the clearance process and the realities of our techno-savvy world are completely incompatible. If I cleared everything I wrote here, I would still not have entries discussing anything more recent than months ago.

And the world would have moved on.

One of the most disturbing things I read on DiploPundit's entry was a comment from another FS blogger, who said she walked by the A-100 classroom and head the coordinator "crushing the blogging hopes and dreams of one of the new officers." I hope they don't listen, because I believe the anti-blogging parts of the Department will ultimately be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of new technology by those bureaus that have already realized what a great tool it is. PA tweeting messages from the Secretary's speech on development this earlier this week, and one of those was retweeted by a group with 360,000 followers. THAT is getting our message out. (ON EDIT: Looks like at least one new FS blogger has already deleted his blog based on what was said in the current A-100. And his in particular was helpful to those looking to join. Sad.)

Personally, I blog because I love serving this country and I want other good folks to join me, but with eyes wide open. It is why I maintain such an extensive blogroll. I want people to have access to slices from a wide variety of Foreign Service experiences. And I blog because communication and self-analysis makes us stronger. And because we have to get our message out in ways that people today will hear. And that means communicating not through the channels we are accustomed to but in the places where we can actually reach people.

Uganda lawmaker refuses to withdraw anti-gay bill

From the Wires this Morning:

Uganda lawmaker refuses to withdraw anti-gay bill
By GODFREY OLUKYA - Associated Press Writer

KAMPALA, Uganda - (AP) The Ugandan lawmaker who proposed a bill that would give some gays the death penalty said Friday he will refuse any request to withdraw the legislation after a minister said the government would ask him to.

Lawmaker David Bahati said he felt the bill is necessary in the conservative East African country. On Thursday, Minister of State for Investment Aston Kajara said the government would ask Bahati to scrap the bill because they fear backlash from foreign investors. The bill, which Bahati proposed in September, has provoked criticism from gay-rights groups and protests in London, New York and Washington.

"I stand by the bill," Bahati said. "I will not withdraw it. We have our children in schools to protect against being recruited into (homosexuality). The process of legislating a law to protect our children against homosexuality and defending our family values must go on."

The proposed legislation would toughen Uganda's already strict laws against homosexuality, which are bolstered by Uganda's conservative society.

The draft of the new bill says anyone convicted of a homosexual act _ which includes touching someone of the same sex with the intent of committing a homosexual act _ could face life imprisonment. The death sentence could apply to sexually active gays living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. The new law also expands its scope to include Ugandans living abroad, who can be extradited and punished.

The bill will appear before parliament in late February or early March.

Kajara said government officials worried the bill would scare off investors.

"Ever since the bill was tabled, there have been a lot of outcries not only here but from all over the world," he said. "There has been negative publicity on Uganda which is not good for investment. As government, we shall talk to the private member who brought it to parliament and request him to withdraw it."

President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes the bill is too harsh and has encouraged his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to overturn the death sentence provision. Several lawmakers have agreed and say they will push to remove the statute.

The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.

On the African continent, South Africa is the only country that allows gay marriage. However, some South African groups have rejected homosexuality as "un-African" and gangs carry out so-called "corrective" rapes on lesbians. A 19-year-old lesbian athlete was gang-raped, tortured and murdered in 2008.

The Catholic church in Uganda has said it supports the bill but not the death penalty provision. But a group of non-traditional churches has accused Museveni of siding with gays and maintains that the Bible supports killing gays. Anglican Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is one of the global fellowship's most senior priests, has said he condemns the proposed law in his native country.

DC Agenda: State Dept. issues guidance for FSOs with same-sex partners

This in the DC Agenda (formerly the Washington Blade) is about the cable I posted for you earlier this week.

State Dept. issues guidance for FSOs with same-sex partners
By Chris Johnson

A new State Department directive obtained this week by DC Agenda instructs U.S. embassies how to implement new rules for Foreign Service officers with same-sex partners.

The undated message brings into effect changes President Obama ordered in June as part of a memorandum that notably gave some partner benefits to LGBT federal workers.

In addition to these benefits, the June memorandum offered to the same-sex partners of FSOs resources for moving abroad, assistance in obtaining foreign visas as well as access to employment opportunities, emergency evacuation and embassy medical units.

This new cable directs U.S. embassies to carry out that June order by instructing posts to ask host countries to issue visas to the same-sex partners of FSOs. Embassies are exempt from taking this action only if they believe asking host countries for these visas would make allowing an FSO’s same-sex partner to accompany them more difficult.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

US complains of Pakistan harassment of diplomats

Sounds like things are getting a bit nasty in Pakistan.

Though to be fair, it isn't uncommon for diplomats to get harassed in country (we got it fairly often in Jerusalem. Our Consul General, the chief of our mission, was once held up for hours at a check point where they insisted he get out of the vehicle (not safe) or get a call from the Ambassador in Tel Aviv (the consulate does not report to Tel Aviv). We also regularly had "visitors" in our homes.

Here is a recent AP story on the issue in Pakistan:

US complains of Pakistan harassment of diplomats
By NAHAL TOOSI - Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD - (AP) The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan complained Thursday that its diplomats are being harassed and detained as they travel in the country, illustrating heightened tensions between the allies as America expands its presence here.

The rare public protest reflects the rising frustration among U.S. officials over alleged Pakistani efforts to stymie Washington's moves to add hundreds more staff and more space to its embassy in Islamabad.

U.S. officials say they need more room and people to help disburse a $7.5 billion humanitarian aid package to Pakistan, whose cooperation Washington needs to fight al-Qaida-allied militants along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

But suspicion of U.S. motives abounds among Pakistanis: Many believe the U.S. is simply flooding the country with more spies whose ultimate aim is destabilizing Pakistan and taking over its nuclear program.

In recent weeks, American diplomats have faced lengthy delays in receiving approvals for visas and visa extensions. Some also have been stopped at checkpoints by police who have in a couple of cases temporarily confiscated their vehicles. Some of the incidents have been publicized in the Pakistani press.

On Wednesday, two Pakistani employees of a U.S. consulate and their police escort were detained while traveling in Baluchistan province in the country's southwest to prepare for a visit involving a development project, an embassy statement said. It called upon Pakistani officials "to cease these contrived incidents involving U.S. mission vehicles and personnel."

The statement also quoted U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson as pushing Pakistan to implement an agreement to identify diplomatic vehicles in a safe manner.

The agreement lets those vehicles carry normal Pakistani license plates on the outside _ so as not to be identified as U.S. vehicles and easily targeted by militants _ while carrying special diplomatic plates inside to show polices, embassy spokesman Rick Snelsire said.

"There was an agreement on that," Snelsire said. "We're waiting for the agreement to be implemented."

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Snelsire said U.S. Embassy employees were still experiencing delays in visa approvals, despite appeals to Pakistani authorities.

"They don't tend to reject visas; they just don't issue them," Snelsire said. "We're still working on refining the process."

Foreigners coming to work in Pakistan are often subject to background checks by multiple ministries and agencies, including Pakistan's powerful intelligence apparatus.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad has plans to go from about 500 American employees to more than 800 over the next 18 months, largely to accommodate the aid package, which provides $1.5 billion annually over five years for economic and social programs.

The package is designed to strengthen Pakistan's civilian government and comes as a string of violent militant attacks have rocked the country _ apparent retaliation for its anti-Taliban army offensives.

The package's requirements for accounting and oversight have rankled Pakistanis including top brass in the army, an institution that has ruled the country for about half its 62-year existence.

And this is the latest press release from the embassy.

Press Releases 2010

U.S. Mission To Pakistan Concerned By Harassment of U.S. Diplomatic Vehicles

January 7, 2010

Islamabad - The U.S. Mission to Pakistan is concerned about the continued provocative actions and false allegations against U.S. personnel working to implement the new partnership between the leaders of Pakistan and the United States. The U.S.Embassy today called for immediate action by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has responsibility to facilitate proper arrangements under which a foreign mission may operate with full security.

In the most recent incident, on January 6, 2010, a U.S. Consulate General vehicle with two Pakistani employees of the Consulate and their Sindh police constable escort were detained on Wednesday when traveling in Gwadar. The staff was preparing for the upcoming visit of U.S. development assistance staff to one of Pakistan's most impoverished regions. The U.S. Embassy emphasizes that all U.S. vehicles in Pakistan are appropriately registered with the Pakistani authorities and carry at all times full documentation attesting to their legal status. The two Consulate employees and their police escort were carrying all the required documents and had met in Turbat with the Police Commissioner as part of their work.

Speaking in Karachi today, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson pointed out that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is obliged to provide proper arrangements in order to address the security concerns of foreign diplomats in Pakistan. The Ambassador offered assurances that American diplomats and their staff will comply with all Government of Pakistan procedures, but that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet implemented the agreed upon procedures.

The U.S. Mission renews its call on Government of Pakistan officials to implement immediately the mutually agreed upon procedures for the issuance of license plates to U.S. Mission vehicles and to cease these contrived incidents involving U.S. Mission vehicles and personnel.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

State Department Same-Sex Domestic Partner Accreditation

We've been waiting for this cable to go out for a long time. Basically, this instructs all posts to ask the host country to grant visas for same-sex domestic partners. The only excuse for not asking is if post thinks that will make it HARDER for Foreign Service employees to bring their partners to post.

This is such an amazing change from previous administrations, where diversity didn't include the LGBT community. And it is important to note that the Secretary granted these benefits to same-sex partners "to to achieve greater equality for the Federal workforce through extension to same-sex domestic partners of benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex. " This is about addressing inequities facing those who CAN NOT get married, not to place them above their heterosexual colleagues who CHOOSE not to get married.

SUBJECT: Same-Sex Domestic Partner Accreditation

1. Summary and Action request: In this cable, the Department is advising posts about new accreditation procedures regarding declared same-sex domestic partners of our U.S. government personnel under Chief of Mission authority. These individuals have been provided a diplomatic passport by the Department and/or are listed on the travel orders or approved OF-126 (Foreign Service Residence and Dependency Report) of a sponsoring employee following submission of an affidavit declaring a domestic partner relationship pursuant to 3 FAM 1610. In this regard, we request that posts inquire about the host government's accreditation policy for same-sex partners and urge host governments to accredit them where such accreditation is possible. See action request in PARA 5. End Summary.

2. The Department's new practice regarding the accreditation of same-sex partners is part of its implementation of the President's June 17 Memorandum on Federal Benefits and Non-Discrimination "to achieve greater equality for the Federal workforce through extension to same-sex domestic partners of benefits currently available to married people of the opposite sex." Secretary Clinton has repeatedly stated her commitment to this goal.

3. The Department has taken steps to implement this policy and, as part of that effort, has changed its visa and accreditation policies regarding personnel of foreign missions in the United States:

a. The Department has amended its visa regulations and is issuing diplomatic visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign mission personnel, subject to reciprocity.

b. On November 4, the Department's Office of Protocol advised foreign missions in the United States that it will accept the accreditation of same-sex domestic partners as members of the family of diplomatic and consular personnel who enjoy privileges and immunities. The text of Protocol's circular note is set forth at PARA 7.

4. The Department is also working with the Department of Homeland Security to amend the regulations regarding work authorization so that same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats who are accredited will also be able to work in the United States. Once the new regulations are issued, we will be seeking to amend our bilateral dependent employment agreements or arrangements to allow for the reciprocal extension of employment authorization to domestic partners.

5. ACTION: Posts are requested to approach the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of Protocol, or other appropriate office to advise orally, in a meeting, that the United States intends to seek accreditation for the same-sex domestic partners of its diplomatic and consular personnel as members of the family of such diplomatic and consular personnel and requests that they be accorded the same status, privileges and immunities currently accorded other members of the household, such as spouses.

Posts are asked to advise the Department (M and regional A/S by front channel cable) whether the MFA in such a meeting expressed its willingness to accept the accreditation of USG same-sex partners. Posts should also advise the Department on approaches to other offices in the host government in situations where the decision may not rest only with the MFA. Posts are also asked to include details on steps that post will take or is taking to ensure same sex partners are accommodated to the fullest extent possible.

EXCEPTION TO ACTION REQUEST: Posts that are of the view that such an approach to the host government would do more harm than good by impeding the ability of same-sex partners to accompany personnel to post or otherwise cause harm to personnel or their families are asked to advise the Department (M, L, and regional A/S) by front channel cable of that conclusion, the reasoning supporting the conclusion, and recommendations for further action that may implement the President's and the Secretary's directives.

6. Where the MFA expresses a willingness to accept same-sex partners, post should subsequently notify the MFA that the individual is a member of the family of an accredited member of the diplomatic or consular mission in the identical fashion that it accredits other family members. In such situations, posts are asked to update the Department (M, L, and regional A/S) by front channel cable if any implementation issues arise in the context of such accreditations.

7. The Office of Protocol's Circular Diplomatic Note:

The Secretary of State presents her compliments to Their Excellencies and Messieurs and Mesdames the Chiefs of Mission and refers to the notes dated November 3, 1988, February 2, 1987, and May 22, 1986, concerning the definition of family members.

As indicated in the referenced May 22, 1986, note, it has long been an accepted principle of international law that the privileges and immunities to which members of the mission are entitled extend, to a certain degree, to the members of their families forming part of their households. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (Article 37(1)) specifies the privileges and immunities which shall be accorded such "members of the family of a diplomatic agent forming part of [the] household" but does not provide a definition of the term "members of the family" for the purposes of the Convention. The drafters of the Convention recognized that the concept of "family" differs among the societies of the world and left the matter to be resolved according to the standards of the respective receiving States.

The Chiefs of Mission are informed that, in addition to the categories of individuals previously accepted as family members, the Department has determined that the definition of "family" forming part of the household of a diplomatic agent may include same-sex domestic partners ("domestic partners") for purposes of the application of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in the United States. In accordance with guidance from the White House, the Department is not in a position to accept the accreditation of opposite-sex domestic partners as members of the family.

In order to be eligible for acceptance as a domestic partner of a member of a diplomatic or consular mission, a same-sex domestic partner must not be a member of some other household, must reside regularly in the household of the principal, and must be recognized by the sending State as a family member forming part of the household of the principal, as demonstrated by eligibility for rights and benefits from the sending State. Therefore, when notifying the Department of domestic partners of its mission members, the sending State is requested to submit appropriate documentation that it recognizes the same-sex domestic partner relationship, which could include evidence that the sending State provided the domestic partner with a diplomatic or an official passport or other documentation based on that status, or with travel or other allowances. Domestic partners of employees of a diplomatic or consular mission (and of miscellaneous foreign government offices) accepted by the Department will be eligible for "A" or "G" visas. The new visa regulation is enclosed.

In addition, the Department intends to pursue the legal measures necessary to enable the United States to offer dependent employment to same-sex domestic partners, on a reciprocal basis, in the context of bilateral dependent employment agreements or arrangements. The Chiefs of Mission will be advised of any such developments as soon as it is possible to do so.

The attention of the Chiefs of Mission is also drawn to applicable provisions of international law in respect of the termination of status. As stated in previous circular notes, whenever any person who has been accorded status as a member of the family in the United States (other than a student attending boarding school or college) ceases to reside with the principal, such person immediately ceases to be a member of the family within the meaning of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Accordingly, all privileges and immunities, if any, to which such person previously had been entitled in the United States would terminate thirty days thereafter unless in a particular case a shorter time has been specified by the Department of State.

The Chiefs of Mission are advised that until the Department of State publications and circular notes are revised explicitly to incorporate "domestic partners" as members of the family of diplomatic or consular agent forming part of the household, references to family members in the context of privileges and immunities and related matters other than dependent employment should be understood to include domestic partners as described herein.

It is emphasized that the standard set forth in this note is to define members of the family for the purposes of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and is without prejudice to other definitions of family for other purposes which have an independent basis in international agreements or U.S. domestic law.

Monday, January 04, 2010

USAID tandems now include same-sex couples

As you know, back in June, the benefits announced by the Secretary included allowing same-sex couples where both partners were employees to be considered tandem couples. This means that, like heterosexual married couples where both partners are employees, the Department will make every effort to assign the employees together. It isn't a guarantee for either heterosexual or same-sex couples, but it does make bidding a little easier.

This is one change that affected me personally. The Department had treated my wife and me as an "unofficial tandem" since I joined State, but I notice the difference now that we are official. They are willing to do even more to keep us assigned together, which is both nice for us (because we would consider leaving the service if we couldn't be assigned together) and cost effective for the Department (because if they keep a tandem couple happy, that keeps them from having to spend the amount needed to recruit and train two people rather than just one). And our getting treated like a tandem is not dependent on whether the person making the decisions is open-minded or a dinorsaur.

In their newsletter today, USAID sent out a notice about their tandem couples. The notice makes clear that USAID has followed suit with State and now considers same-sex couples where both are employees to be tandem as well. This not only makes life easier for those couples, but for couples where one person is State and the other USAID as well.

Very welcome news.

USAID/General Notice

Subject: FS Assignments and Tandem Couples - OHR Registration

As the 2010 Foreign Service Assignment System moves forward, the
Office of Human Resources would like to highlight the process for the
assignment of tandem couples.

USAID ADS 436, Foreign Service Assignments, includes detailed guidance
on the assignment of couples, (which now includes both married and
same-sex partners
) who are both members of the United States Foreign
Service. Of particular note is ADS 436.3.14 Tandem Assignments, which
all USAID tandem couples should review.

To register as a USAID tandem couple, please send an e-mail with the
following exact subject line: "Tandem Couple Registration" to:
Courtney Applegate cc: William Seabreeze, Cecilia Pitas, Skip
Kissinger, and Rene Reyes.

Please include for both members of the couple:

1) Name

2) Backstop (for USAID FS employees)

3) Employing organization of non-USAID members

If registering as a same-sex tandem couple, also include in the e-mail
a statement that you have completed the steps indicated at the OHR
website for declaring domestic partner relationships. Those steps

1) Complete the affidavit of eligibility for benefits and
obligations. (The affidavit can be found at the OHR website at
Benefits - New/Changes to benefits, or as an attachment to Executive
Message dated August 4, 2009 entitled "Implementing Benefits for
Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Employees Serving

2) Amend the Residency and Dependency Report (Form OF-126) to add
"domestic partner" in the box requesting "relationship."

3) Turn the forms into your Foreign Service Specialist.

OHR makes every effort to accommodate tandem couples when making
assignment decisions, however please note that a tandem couple
assignment is not guaranteed as a result of this tandem couple

Differences Between Danger and Hardship posts

DiploLife has a good piece on understanding the difference between danger, hardship, etc. kinds of posts.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Dangerous Life

The U.S. announced today that it was closing the Embassy in Yemen because of Al Qaeda threats there. They will re-evaluate the closure tomorrow. Britain has taken similar measures.

This, and the recent attack on the CIA Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Afghanistan that killed eight Americans, highlights the dangers faced not just by our military but by those serving our country overseas in a civilian capacity. I hope that as you offer your support, encouragement and prayers for our troops and their families, you remember to do the same for those serving alongside them.

Lawsuit may challenge State Department's lack of equal treatment

Found this piece this morning on Proposition 8 and the Right to Marry. Short and sweet and I disagree entirely. Yes, you would have trouble justifying giving benefits to unmarried same-sex couples if they had the option of federal marriage. Until then, it addresses an inequity. Whether you can just give blanket benefits to any partner, or any adult named by an employee, is more an issue of cost.

Everyone I have ever heard discuss the idea of allowing everyone to designate one person to receive their benefits immediately starts coming up with exceptions. What about the person who has two living parents who need care? What if a person has more than one adult child in need of care? How can you limit it to one? But if you don't, you are right back at unequal treatment. Those with the most dependents get the most benefit from their job, which is hardly equal pay for equal work.

U.S. Foreign Service employees seek benefits for their heterosexual partners - lawsuit may challenge State Department's lack of equal treatment

Law professor Nancy Polikoff is author of Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families Under the Law. In the introduction to her book, she says that couples should "never have to marry to reap specific and unique legal benefits." This article suggests that as employers extend limited benefits to same-sex partners of employees, they face the problem of justifying restriction of these benefits on the basis of sexual orientation. One heterosexual couple has threatened to sue the State Department for discrimination over restricting its extension of benefits to same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers.

Tips on the Written Exam

It has been a while (September 2002?) since I took the written portion of the FSOT and I know it has changed a good bit in that time. Luckily for you, FS Rookie, who will start A-100 tomorrow, has a more current description of the essay portion of the written exam. You can check it out here.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

I hope this New Year's finds you happy and healthy and that 2010 is the best year yet for you and yours.

And for all those beginning A-100 on Monday, congrats on embarking on what will hopefully be an excited and rewarding new phase of your life!