Monday, June 4, 2012

A Teachable Moment

The State Department is taking a well-deserved beating in the court of public opinion for its free-wheeling incompetence in handling a security clearance/discipline case with free-speech implications. Another case, currently under adjudication, promises similar, or greater, fireworks. 

We predict an imminent legal battle to force State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security to do what every other agency performing security clearance adjudications already does: monitor the quality of security clearance cases and ensure that they comply with laws and regulations. 

Simply put, State is the worst abuser of the security-clearance process in the US Government. It has taken a  process that should be used solely for assessing whether or not a person has sufficient integrity and loyalty to protect classified information, and turned it into a routine method for harassing dissenters, skirting EEO laws, and ridding the Department of anyone that anyone at any level in the hierarchy wants to fire, when no basis exists for doing so legally. 

To be fair, other agencies do this too. Once in a while, in very rare instances. But only State does so as a routine matter of course.  

The differences between State and every other agency are simple. Other agencies have oversight and quality-control mechanisms in place, and State does not. Despite years of complaints, State has steadfastly refused to implement even the most basic quality-control mechanisms mandated by law, much less the mechanisms suggested by AFSA and CFSO. This failure to implement basic management controls has been abetted by what is at least tacit complicity by State's highest-level managers and its Inspector General, which have studiously ignored pressure to address the issue.   

CFSO does not believe that FS members have an absolute right to free speech. We believe that every person who has a security clearance has an absolute responsibility to protect classified information, and we believe that those involved in national defense and international relations must be mindful of the fact that even unclassified statements could have negative consequences to individual or national security.

But we also believe that the Government must follow its own rules, and that employment by an agency's security apparatus should not convey immunity either from law or regulation, or from competence.

We hope that, instead of ignoring, as usual, the current outcry, State will learn from it. It's never too late to start following the rules, whether you are a rank and file employee or the head of State's security arm.


Anonymous said...

How do PR (now SID), PSS, and HR/ER get away with this behavior? PR is a 2 year assignment that someone out of their first assignment can get. So now we have an untenured agent investigating someone who may be senior to him or her. And before we know it, that agent has now rotated to the next assignment leaving cases open for the next highly undertrained super agent to handle (or probably ignore). PSS then gets an ROI, bursting with solely negative information and conjecture, on which it relies to 'adjudicate' the security file. If I only present negative information to you and tell you that you can only make a decision based on that negative information, what is the probability you will make a positive decision? This whole system is a mockery of due process and fairness. Discipline and security clearance adjudication are two distinct processes yet in this organization they have become mutually dependant reasons to make an employee's life a living hell. It is a shame that not more people make a fuss about this. FSO's, CS, and DS agents alike are getting crushed and forgotten by this abuse of discretion and lack of process. And the utter hypocrisy of all of these investigators and deciding officials and adjudicators and a host of others - as if THEY never made a mistake. You know, sleeping with someone other than a spouse, drinking too much, popping one or too many pills, excessive spending habits, driving a few extra miles in the government car, pointing weapons at people. Just stop with the holier than thou nonsense because obviously it's nice when you're outside the glass house - until some untenured agent comes to "investigate" that allegation against you that suddenly finds you without a clearance and in the department's camp x-ray.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I gave up my battle a year ago this month. I never even got to the point of an ROI - after being in limbo for 8 months without pay, with no end in sight, nothing I could challenge, no information that I could read...just silence...I couldn't afford to wait. Who knows what the ROI would've said, if they'd ever finished it. I finally got really mad this summer as I reflected- filed a FOIA request for my files. And the delays continue - as the Department tells me it will take a year to gather my personnel and investigative files. Sigh. I used to love this place.

Steve said...

I hate to say this, but it gets worse: once you resign or retire, you are no longer an employee, and DS's record-keeping obligations change. Certain records must be kept, but "non-record working documents" can be thrown out. If you leave, DS pares down the file. Unless you filed an FOIA before you left (making it illegal to throw out any potentially responsive document), DS would then cull all "working documents" from the file and retire it. The "working documents," which include things like the original write-ups of interviews, are probably now gone, meaning that what you receive under FOIA will be much less useful. Attention readers: If you want to have any hope of seeing your whole file, it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to file an FOIA/PA before resigning or retiring.