Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You For Your Service

To be stripped of one's security clearance is to be stripped of one's nationality. It is a statement by those who see themselves as the official definers of loyalty and patriotism that a person does not meet the mark: cannot be trusted to be a loyal American.

Too often, the definers of loyalty define a patriot as one who is exactly like them: white, christian, straight, narrow-minded, bigotted and frequently appallingly ignorant of the most basic principles on which the United States of America was founded.

So each year, on Veterans' Day, CFSO likes to highlight American Veterans - American Patriots - who are as different from the definers of loyalty as diamonds are from dog manure.

This year, we salute the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, the fighting "Budda Heads." The Budda Heads, the most decorated fighting unit in the history of the American Armed Forces, was composed of Americans of Japanese descent, who fought for the United States in a war in which Japan was a leader of the enemy forces. By the standards of today's Bureau of Diplomatic security as administered by its current staff, not one of them would have received a security clearance.

The 442nd Infantry, formerly the 442nd Regimental Combat Team(RCT)of the United States Army, was self-sufficient fighting force, fighting with distinction in Italy, southern France, and Germany. The unit became the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the United States Armed Forces, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients.

Most Japanese Americans who fought in WWII were Nisei, Japanese Americans born in the U.S. Nevertheless, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese American men were categorized as 4C (enemy alien) and therefore non-draftable.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing military authorities “to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” Although the order did not refer specifically to people of Japanese ancestry, it set the stage for the internment of people of Japanese descent, including many relatives and family members of the men in the 442nd.

In March 1942, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, issued the first of 108 military proclamations that resulted in the forced removal of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast from their homes and placed in guarded concentration camps behind barbed wire, or (as the government euphemistically referred to them) relocation camps.

In Hawaii, martial law, complete with curfews and blackouts, was imposed. A large portion of the population was of Japanese descent (150,000 out of 400,000 people in 1937) and internment was deemed not practicable, mostly for economic reasons.

When the War Department called for the removal of all soldiers of Japanese ancestry from active service in early 1942, General Delos C. Emmons, commander of the U.S. Army in Hawaii, decided to discharge those in the Hawaii Territorial Guard, which was composed mainly of ROTC students from the University of Hawaii. However, he kept the more than 1,300 Japanese American soldiers of the 298th and 299th Infantry regiments of the Hawaii National Guard.

Despite this, the discharged members of the Hawaii Territorial Guard petitioned General Emmons to allow them to assist in the war effort. The petition was granted and they formed a group called the Varsity Victory Volunteers, which performed various construction jobs for the military. General Emmons, worried about the loyalty of Japanese American soldiers in the event of a Japanese invasion, recommended to the War Department that those in the 298th and 299th regiments be organized into a “Hawaiian Provisional Battalion” and sent to the mainland. The move was authorized, and on June 5, 1942, the Hawaiian Provisional Battalion set sail for training. They landed at Oakland, California on June 10, 1942 and two days later were sent to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. On June 15, 1942, the battalion was designated the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate)—the “One Puka Puka”.

The 100th performed so well in training that, on February 1, 1943, the U.S. government reversed its decision on Japanese Americans serving in the armed forces, and approved the formation of a Japanese American combat unit. The U.S. Army called for 1,500 volunteers from Hawaii and 3,000 from the mainland. An overwhelming 10,000 men came forth. About 3800 were inducted. President Roosevelt announced the formation of the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team (the Go For Broke regiment), famously saying, “Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race or ancestry.”

As a regimental combat team, the 442nd RCT was a self-sufficient fighting formation of three infantry battalions (originally 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions, 442nd Infantry, and later the 100th Infantry Battalion in place of the 1st), the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the 232nd Engineer Company, an anti-tank company, cannon company, service company, medical detachment, headquarters companies, and the 206th Army Band.

Although they were permitted to volunteer to fight, Americans of Japanese ancestry were generally forbidden to fight in combat in the Pacific Theater. No such limitations were placed on Americans of German or Italian ancestry who fought against the Axis Powers in the European Theater, mostly due to practicality, as there were many more German and Italian Americans compared to Japanese Americans. However, many men deemed proficient enough in the Japanese language were approached, or sometimes ordered, to join the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) to serve as translators/interpreters and spies in the Pacific, as well as in the China Burma India Theater. These men were sent to the MIS Language School at Camp Savage, Minnesota to improve their language skills and receive training in military intelligence.

The 442nd Combat Team, minus its 1st Battalion, which had remained in the U.S. to train Nisei replacements, sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia, on May 1, 1944, and landed May 28 at Anzio and joined the 100th Battalion in Civitavecchia north of Rome on 10 June 1944, attached to the 34th Infantry Division.

The unit continued in the push up Italy, now attached to the 88th Infantry Division, before joining the invasion of southern France, where the 442nd participated in the fight to liberate Bruyères, and was next attached to the 36th Infantry Division, originally a Texas National Guard outfit.

The 442nd famously rescued the "Lost Battalion" at Biffontaine. Pursuant to army tradition of never leaving soldiers behind, over a five-day period, from October 26–30, 1944, the 442nd suffered the loss of nearly half of its roster—over 800 casualties, including 121 dead—while rescuing 211 members of the 36th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry, which had been surrounded by German forces in the Vosges mountains since October 24.

Following the Vosges, the 442nd was sent to the Franco-Italian border on November 28 to relieve the soon-to-be-disbanded 1st Special Service Force. The 442nd remained there, refitting and training, until March 25, 1945, when it returned to the Fifth Army in Italy and was attached to the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division.

On the Italian front, the 442nd had contact with another segregated American unit, the 92nd Infantry Division, as well as troops of the British and French colonial empires (West and East Africans, Moroccans, Algerians, Indians, Gurkhas, Jews from the Palestine mandated territory)and the non-segregated Brazilian Expeditionary Force which had in its ranks ethnic Japanese.

The 442nd returned to heavy combat, seizing Monte Belvedere on April 7 and Carrara on April 10. The 522nd Field Artillery Battalion remained in northern France and joined the push into Germany in 1945. Scouts from the 522nd were among the first Allied troops to release prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp - or, more specifically, from one of its 169 sub-camps, where more than 3000 prisoners were held.

The 442nd RCT became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service, with its component 100th Infantry Battalion earning the nickname “The Purple Heart Brigade”. The 442nd RCT received 7 Presidential Unit Citations (5 earned in one month), and its members received 18,143 awards, including:

21 Medals of Honor first awarded posthumously to Private First Class Sadao Munemori, Company A, 100th Battalion, for action near Seravezza, Italy, on April 5, 1945; then to:

Barney F. Hajiro
Mikio Hasemoto
Joe Hayashi
Shizuya Hayashi
Daniel K. Inouye
Yeiki Kobashigawa
Robert T. Kuroda
Kaoru Moto
Sadao Munemori
Kiyoshi K. Muranaga
Masato Nakae
Shinyei Nakamine
William K. Nakamura
Joe M. Nishimoto
Allan M. Ohata
James K. Okubo
Yukio Okutsu
Frank H. Ono
Kazuo Otani
George T. Sakato
Ted T. Tanouye

52 Distinguished Service Crosses (including 19 Distinguished Service Crosses which were upgraded to Medals of Honor)

1 Distinguished Service Medal

560 Silver Stars (plus 28 Oak Leaf Clusters for a second award)

22 Legion of Merit Medals

15 Soldier’s Medals

4,000 Bronze Stars (plus 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters for a second award; one Bronze Star was upgraded to a Medal of Honor. One Bronze Star was upgraded to a Silver Star.)

9,486 Purple Hearts

The members of the 442, like all American veterans honored today, made the highest sacrifice to this country. More information on the 442nd can be found here.

We thank them, and all American veterans, for their service.

Friday, May 28, 2010

CFSO supports Rolling Thunder 2010

Rolling Thunder XXIII Message Points:

Live POWs - what is our government doing about the live POWs left behind in all past and present wars? Why are government efforts focused only on recovering remains? Why has the government ignored its own documentation or changed creditable reports into discredited reports. It is impossible that every piece of intelligence that concerns a live unreturned POW is wrong. For the families of those still unaccounted for, there will never be closure.

House Res. 111 – why has Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi refused to allow this resolution to come to the floor for a vote? This bill had 289 co-sponsors in the 110th congress and has 248 in the 111th congress. Bills have come to the floor with less than half-dozen co-sponsors yet ours remains blocked by Nancy Pelosi. When you read the text of the proposed bill, it is difficult to understand why there is opposition: “Resolved: that there is established in the House of Representatives a select committee to be known as the Select Committee on POW and MIA Affairs…The select committee shall conduct a full investigation of all unresolved matters relating to any United States personnel unaccounted for from the World War II, Cold War Missions, the Korean conflict, Vietnam Conflict, Persian Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation Enduring Freedom, including MIA's and POW's missing and captured.”

Veterans benefits – the economic recovery and healthcare reform have taken center stage, yet there are still serious problems with the VA system, particularly in the areas of speedy transition of service personnel after discharge, claims processing, and geographic inequities in VA facilities. While we applaud VA Secretary Shinseki’s efforts—and we believe him to be a true advocate—we believe there is more that could be done. This includes more public communication about VA programs such as the new Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2009 and the Special Pension for Veterans’ Aid and Attendance. Many veterans and their families have no idea these benefits are available to them; an estimated $22 billion annually goes unclaimed.

Rolling Thunder Charities - Rolling Thunder® Charities Inc. (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) was created in 2007 to start a fund from which we could address more of the needs of our veterans, our troops and their families who have fallen between the cracks and not gotten the help they deserve. Since then, with generous contributions from Rolling Thunder chapters, individuals and corporate sponsors such as Aetna, Humana Military Healthcare, and Harley Davidson of Washington, DC, Rolling Thunder Charities and Rolling Thunder chapters nationwide have helped veterans across the country. From purchasing wheelchairs and building wheelchair ramps, to fixing leaky roofs, ductwork and heating units, to donating food and building a shelter for homeless veterans, Rolling Thunder Charities is ―filling in the cracks for those who have served this country with courage and honor. They deserve nothing less.

POW/MIA Flag Over the White House – why is this flag not flying over the White House, as it has in previous administrations?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Go Joe Carson!

CFSO supporter and Department of Energy whistleblower Joe Carson's case has reached the supreme court.

Joe Carson is a nuclear safety engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy. He is a decorated veteran who served as an officer in the nuclear navy for six years and later worked at several commercial nuclear power plants. He worked at the Oak Ridge nuclear facility in Knoxville Tennessee.

In 1994, Carson was appointed head of a board to investigate a fire at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. The fire occurred in connection with the Terrific Reactor Isotope Separator To Analyze Nuclides (TRISTAN) experiment, which was being conducted by a private contractor at Brookhaven, under DOE’s supervision.

Carson alleged that DOE officials had permitted the contractor at Brookhaven to operate the TRISTAN experiment for more than ten years in non-compliance with a series of DOE safety orders and procedures. Had the procedures been followed, he alleged, the experiment would have been shut down because of the dangerous energies and substances, high voltage and high level radioactive waste being used in a confined area with inadequate containment.

Investigations by an outside agency confirmed Mr. Carson’s allegation that DOE had not conducted comprehensive safety reviews of the TRISTAN experiment and that a number of management inadequacies contributed to the failure to conduct safety reviews of TRISTAN commensurate with its hazards. The investigations implicated DOE in cases s of injury and sickness of DOE employees, put in harms way by inadequate safety practices.

As a result, Congress passed a law in 2000, the Energy Employee Occupational Illness Compensation Plan Act (EEOICPA), to provide a measure of compensation and health care to thousands of diseased, disabled, or prematurely deceased DOE workers or their survivors. President Clinton, in signing this legislation, apologized to these workers for their being put in harms’ way in DOE facilities, without their knowledge or adequate protection. About 70,000 claims have been filed under the EEOICPA and thousands of claims have been paid.

As for Carson, DOE responded by relieving Carson of his oversight and investigative duties, tranferring him to a series of clerical and make-work jobs, eventually "promoting" him to a low level clerical job preparing training materials. At the same time, they opened an investigation into alleged problems with his competence, and accusing him of being a disgruntled employee. And of course, they began the process of revoking his security clearance.

Carson appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which ordered DOE to give Carson back his job. DOE abolished the job,and Oak Ridge did not offer him a different job (though some were available). Carson was offered a choice of taking a job in the Washington area (moving his family from Oak Ridge to Washington) or finding work outside the agency. He chose to move to Washington.

Eventually, he appealed again to the MSPB, and again, he "won." DOE was ordered to give him a good job, and to pay him 260,000 for his legal fees. To date, despite several subsequent "victories" including an additional 120,000 in legal fees, DOE has yet to comply.

In April of 2003, Carson appealed to the Office of Special Counsel to investigate DOE's failure to comply with the MSPB orders, and to oblige their compliance. OSC failed to do so alleging (incorrectly) that it did not have the authority to do so. In essence, the legally mandated "enforcer" of MSPB's decisions was refusing to carry out its responsibilities. In the course of seeking justice in his own case, Carson discovered that, in the 31 years of its exitence, the OSC has repeatedly refused to take on high-profile investigations, effectively allowing agencies to carry out prohibited personel practices even after those practices were shown to be illegal.

As a result, Carson expanded his struggle for justice, to attempt to oblige the OSC to comply with its own mandate. That is the case that is now entering the Supreme Court.

Defining his case, Carson wrote:

"The OSC has repeatedly refused to investigate allegations of federal employees harmed by agency violations of agency directives for personnel matters as work force discipline, grievances, performance evaluations, personnel security clearances, etc, basing its refusal on the idea that there is no "civil service rule" prohibiting such reprisals. This has continued despite the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled the contrary, that agency work force discipline directives are “rules” per 5 U.S.C. §7703(c)(2) - see Doyle, v. VA, 229 S.Ct. Cl. 261 (1982).

As a result, agencies are allowed free reign to use such means, particularly biased performance evaluations and security clearance revocations, as reprisals against whistleblowers and internal policy dissenters.

To obscure this failure, OSC has claimed that the reporting requirements of 5 U.S.C. §1214(e) do not apply to the selected laws, rules, or regulations it considers to be under its jurisdiction. The result is that OSC obstructs justice by not formally reporting to the involved agency head, as §1214(e) explicitly requires, its nondiscretionary investigatory determinations, “there is reasonable cause to believe” such a violation occurred, thereby creating a permanent, publicly available record of OSC’s report and the agency-head certified response, per 5 U.S.C. §1219(a)(3)."

CFSO notes that DOE has a long history of non-compliance with court decisions and those of appeal boards, as well as a history of cheating in security clearance matters. In one recent case, a DOE employee was denied access to allegations against him, violating his legal right to review and respond to those allegations.

For this reason and others, Joe Carson has been a supporter of CFSO. Now it is our turn to help him.

We urge CFSO members and readers of this blog to go to the National Whistleblowers Center website and sign on to the amicus currae brief supporting Joe's case.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

As American as......

From the March 26 New York Times:

WASHINGTON — One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.

The day had been long, the hour was late, and the young men had not been home in months. So they had cadged some matzo and Manischewitz wine, hoping to create some semblance of the holiday.

Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. “Hey, is this the Seder?” Barack Obama asked, entering the room.

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)

Top aides like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett will attend, but so will assistants like 24-year-old Herbie Ziskend. White House chefs will prepare Jewish participants’ family recipes, even rendering chicken fat — better known as schmaltz — for just the right matzo ball flavor.

If last year is any guide, Malia and Sasha Obama will take on the duties of Jewish children, asking four questions about the night’s purpose — along with a few of their own — and scrambling to find matzo hidden in the gleaming antique furniture.

That event was the first presidential Seder, and also probably “the first time in history that gefilte fish had been placed on White House dishware,” said Eric Lesser, the former baggage handler, who organizes each year’s ritual.

As in many Jewish households, the Obama Seder seems to take on new meaning each year, depending on what is happening in the world and in participants’ lives (for this group, the former is often the same as the latter).

The first one took place at the bleakest point of the campaign, the long prelude to the Pennsylvania primary, which was dominated by a furor over Mr. Obama’s former pastor. “We were in the desert, so to speak,” remembered Arun Chaudhary, then and now Mr. Obama’s videographer, who grew up attending Seders with his half-Jewish, half-Indian family.

No one led the proceedings; everyone took turns reading aloud. Mr. Obama had brought Reggie Love, his personal aide, Ms. Jarrett and Eric Whitaker, another close friend, all African-American. Jennifer Psaki, the traveling press secretary, and Samantha Tubman, a press assistant, filtered in. Neither had ever been to a Seder, but they knew the Exodus story, Ms. Psaki from Catholic school and Ms. Tubman from childhood Sundays at black churches.

Together they peppered the outnumbered Jews at the table with questions, which the young men sometimes struggled to answer. “We’re not exactly crack Hebrew scholars,” said Mr. Lesser, now an assistant to Mr. Axelrod.

Participants remember the evening as a rare moment of calm, an escape from the din of airplanes and rallies. As the tale of the Israelites unfolded, the campaign team half-jokingly identified with their plight — one day, they too would be free. At the close of the Seder, Mr. Obama added his own ending — “Next year in the White House!”

Indeed, the same group, with a few additions, has now made the Seder an Executive Mansion tradition. (No one ever considered inviting prominent rabbis or other Jewish leaders; it is a private event.)

But maintaining the original humble feel has been easier said than done.

Ms. Tubman and Desirée Rogers, then the White House social secretary, tried to plan an informal meal last year, with little or even no wait staff required. White House ushers reacted with what seemed like polite horror. The president and the first lady simply do not serve themselves, they explained. The two sides negotiated a compromise: the gefilte fish would be preplated, the brisket passed family-style.

Then came what is now remembered as the Macaroon Security Standoff. At 6:30, with the Seder about to start, Neil Cohen, the husband of Michelle Obama’s friend and adviser Susan Sher, was stuck at the gate bearing flourless cookies he had brought from Chicago. They were kosher for Passover, but not kosher with the Secret Service, which does not allow food into the building.

Offering to help, the president walked to the North Portico and peered out the door, startling tourists. He volunteered to go all the way to the gates, but advisers stopped him, fearing that would cause a ruckus. Everyone seemed momentarily befuddled. Could the commander in chief not summon a plate of cookies to his table? Finally, Mr. Love ran outside to clear them.

Mr. Obama began the Seder by invoking the universality of the holiday’s themes of struggle and liberation. Malia and Sasha quickly found the hidden matzo and tucked it away again, so cleverly that Mr. Ziskend, the former advance man, needed 45 minutes to locate it. At the Seder’s close, the group opened a door and sang to the prophet Elijah.

In preparation for this year’s gathering, Mr. Lesser and others have again been collecting recipes from the guests, including matzo ball instructions from Patricia Winter, the mother of Melissa Winter, Mrs. Obama’s deputy chief of staff.

“We like soft (not hard) matzo balls,” Mrs. Winter warned in a note to the White House chefs, instructing them to buy commercial mix but doctor it. Use three eggs, not two, she told them; substitute schmaltz for vegetable oil, and refrigerate them for a day before serving (but not in the soup).

The Seder originated with Jewish staff members on the campaign trail who could not go home, but now some celebrate at the White House by choice. Participants say their ties are practically familial by this point anyway. “Some of the most challenging experiences of our life we’ve shared together,” Ms. Jarrett said.

No one yet knows exactly what themes will emerge this year. Maybe “taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves and health care reform,” suggested Ms. Sher, now Mrs. Obama’s chief of staff.

The evening might also reflect a group that has settled into the White House and a staff more familiar with the new custom. Last week, Ms. Sher was leaving the East Wing when a guard stopped her.

“Hey, are you bringing macaroons again this year?” he asked.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Murders in Mexico

A drive-by shooting that killed three employees of the U.S. Consulate in Mexico reminds us that there are other dangers out there besides terrorism.

From the Associated Press:

By Philip Elliott and Terry Wallace.

Gunmen killed a U.S. consulate employee and her husband as they drove in this violent border city with their baby in the back seat, minutes after the husband of another consular employee was shot to death and his two children wounded, officials said Sunday. Security forces suspected a drug gang hit.

President Barack Obama expressed outrage over the killings, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon said he was indignant and promised a swift investigation.

The gunmen are suspected of belonging to a gang of hit men tied to the Juarez drug cartel, according to a statement from the joint mission of soldiers and federal police overseeing security in Ciudad Juarez. The statement said the theory was based on "information exchanged with U.S. federal agencies" helping in the investigation.

But police said gave no information on a possible motive. U.S. State Department spokesman Fred Lash said the three slain people had attended the same social event before the attacks Saturday.

Several U.S. citizens have been killed in Mexico's drug war, most of them people with family ties to Mexico. It is very rare for American government employees to be targeted, although assailants hurled grenades at the U.S. consulate in the northern city of Monterrey in 2008.

Civilians have increasingly gotten caught in the middle of drug gang violence that has made Ciudad Juarez one of the deadliest cities in the world, with more than 2,500 people killed last year alone. At least 11 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez over the weekend.

The three died during a particularly bloody weekend in Mexico, with nearly 50 people killed in apparent gang violence. Nine people were killed in a gang shootout early Sunday in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, one of Mexico's spring break attractions.

The State Department authorized U.S. government employees at Ciudad Juarez and five other U.S. consulates in northern Mexico to send their family members out of the area because of concerns about rising drug violence. The cities are Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros.

Lash said the decision was based not only on Saturday's killings but also on a wider pattern of violence and threats in northern Mexico in recent weeks. The State Department noted the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has advised American citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of the Mexican states of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua.

The consulate employee and her husband, both U.S. citizens, were shot to death Saturday afternoon in their car near the Santa Fe International bridge linking Ciudad Juarez with El Paso, Texas, said Vladimir Tuexi, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state prosecutors office.

The woman was shot in the head, while her husband suffered bullet wounds in his neck and arm. Their baby was found unharmed in the back seat. Tuexi estimated the child was about 1 year old.

The pair was identified as consular employee Lesley A. Enriquez, 35, and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, 34, by Robert Cason, Redelfs' stepfather. Redelfs was a detention officer at the El Paso County Jail, he said.

Cason declined to discuss the welfare of his grandchild. "I don't want to give any more information to the psychotics out there," he said.

Tuexi said the baby was in the custody of Mexican social services.

The U.S. government had not described Enriquez's job at the consulate, and Cason said he didn't know what she did there. A neighbor of Enriquez, Zonia Rivas, also didn't know.

"I do know she just went back to work about three months ago after having her baby," she said.

Ten minutes before that killing, police had found the body of the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate.

Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, 37, was shot to death in his car, while his two children, ages 4 and 7, were wounded, according to the state prosecutors office. The children were hospitalized.

Obama was "deeply saddened and outraged" by the killings, the White House said.

"He extends his condolences to the families and condemns these attacks on consular and diplomatic personnel serving at our foreign missions," the statement said. "In concert with Mexican authorities, we will work tirelessly to bring their killers to justice."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "these appalling assaults on members of our own State Department family are, sadly, part of a growing tragedy besetting many communities in Mexico."

"They underscore the imperative of our continued commitment to work closely with the Government of President Calderon to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico," she added. "This is a responsibility we must shoulder together."

Calderon's office said the Mexican president "expresses his indignation" and "his sincerest condolences to the families of the victims." He "reiterated the Mexican government's unwavering compromise to resolve these grave crimes."

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who represents El Paso, expressed concern about the safety of Americans who frequently cross into Ciudad Juarez to work or visit relatives.

"These brutal murders are another sobering reminder that Mexico's drug-related violence poses a shared security threat to the United States," Reyes said in a statement. "Many American citizens and innocent civilians have lost their lives in drug-related violence, and thousands of El Pasoans continue to live and work in Ciudad Juarez every day."

Some Americans killed have been involved in the drug trade. Other cases have not been resolved, including the December killing of Augustin Salcedo, a California school board member and assistant principal who was abducted with five other men from a restaurant in northern Durango state.

Nearly 18,000 people have been killed since Calderon deployed tens of thousands of troops and federal police across the country in December 2006 in an offensive against drug traffickers.

In Acapulco, a battle between drug gangs killed eight gunmen and a 23-year-old woman caught in the cross fire as she rode in a taxi, according to a Guerrero state police report.

Weekend shootouts left more than 30 people dead in Guerrero, where several cartels are battling for drug dealing turf and trafficking routes. Eight people were killed Friday night when gunmen burst into party in western Sinaloa state.


The State Department released a press release expressing condolences.

The State Department authorized U.S. government employees at Ciudad Juarez and five other U.S. consulates in northern Mexico (Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros) to send their family members out of the area because of concerns about the risks of escalating violence.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dr. Martin Luther King January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968

"The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for "the least of these". Deeply etched in the fiber of our religious tradition is the conviction that men are made in the image of God and that they are souls of infinite metaphysical value, the heirs of a legacy of dignity and worth. If we feel this as a profound moral fact, we cannot be content to see men hungry, to see men victimized with starvation and ill health when we have the means to help them. The wealthy nations must go all out to bridge the gulf between the rich minority and the poor majority."

Dr. Martin Luther King, in his Nobel Prize lecture in Oslo, December 11, 1964

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

FSJ: State Clearance Decisions Arbitrary? No Doubt About It!

From this month's Foreign Service Journal, by AFSA VP Daniel Hirsch:

In January 2006, AFSA wrote to management expressing concern that department decisions in adverse-action security clearance cases lacked objectivity.

The department responded with the briefest of notes, asserting that it followed governmentwide guidelines for adjudication.

AFSA disagreed and wrote again in 2007, noting, among other things, that unlike the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense, which collectively adjudicate more that 94 percent of U.S. government security clearance cases, the department applies no standard of evidence to the derogatory information used as a basis for clearance suspensions and revocations.

The department responded in 2008 that Executive Order 12968 did not establish a specific standard of evidence and, in essence, that the laws were vague and subject to interpretation.

In both responses, the department asserted that “all doubt” in a security clearance matter must be resolved in favor of national security.

It is rare that a dispute with management takes so long to resolve, but AFSA is again pursuing this issue. The executive order is indeed vague, but it is crystal-clear on three points: information used as the basis for a security clearance action must be reliable; the adjudicative process must involve a “whole person” review; and security clearance decisions must involve an investigation conducted for that purpose.

AFSA feels that since the law is vague, and since the department’s share of adjudications is a tiny portion of the whole government’s, it is reasonable for the department to follow the interpretation used by the vast majority.

In the 94 percent of security clearance cases adjudicated by OPM and DOD, the “reliability” of derogatory information is subject to a standard of “substantial evidence.” That is not the highest evidentiary standard — in fact, it is a very low standard — but it is one that benefits the vast majority of cleared government employees. Yet it is denied to the 1 percent or so of employees whose cases are decided by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

That standard does not come from the executive order. It derives from decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and those of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals, which provide most of the case-law precedents used by the security clearance community as a way of avoiding arbitrary and capricious determinations contrary to law.

The dictionary defines “arbitrary” as “based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by the intrinsic nature of something.” In other words, an arbitrary decision is one made in the absence of an objective standard.

Absent an evidentiary standard, the current adjudicative procedures used by the department are, by definition, arbitrary.

With reference to the concept that all doubt must be resolved in favor of national security, that is also very different for 94 percent of cleared government employees than it is for those employed by State.

Here again, OPM and DOD apply a Supreme Court- and DOHA-supported definition, in which the word “doubt” is defined as “reliable, relevant, derogatory information that is not mitigated by other information either supplied by the subject or otherwise available.” By that definition, if one cannot determine the reliability of information, one cannot have the kind of legally-defined doubt that should form the basis of a security clearance determination.

AFSA does not ask that State Department employees be treated more leniently than anyone else.

However, Foreign Service members should not have fewer rights than the 94 percent of cleared government employees whose clearances are adjudicated by DOD and OPM. If their evidence-based procedures are good enough to protect military information in a time of war, they should be good enough to protect State Department information, as well.

Moreover, we feel that given a mandated governmentwide trend toward interagency standardization and reciprocity of clearances, State should not continue to forge its own interpretations of law, but should join other agencies of government by accepting the standards used in the vast majority of security clearance adjudications.

This includes not only the standard of evidence mentioned above, but also written procedures documenting a whole-person review, and clear and rebuttable statements of reasons for denial of a clearance.

Let doubt be resolved in favor of national security, by all means. But let that doubt, and all decisions related to it, be based on the same evidentiary standard that protects 94 percent of cleared government employees from arbitrary
decisions and abuse.