That's what the State Department sent in response to nearly a dozen questions from TheBlaze requesting clarification about foreign service officials named in the For the Record, “Honor Fight: The Battle Inside the State Department."
The State Department public affairs office was less than forthcoming to TheBlaze's questions about certain employees mentioned in For the Record's investigation "Honor Fight: The Battle Inside the State Department." (AP)
TheBlaze asked for specific updates on where certain State Department employees were currently assigned; whether they had been promoted; or whether there were any ongoing investigations into their actions. But the department’s limited answers barely warrant a mention.
“We don’t comment on individual employees,” was one of the initial comments a State Department spokeswoman provided TheBlaze last week, in response to this line of questioning:
"Is Tracy Mahaffey still in this position? If not, has she been reassigned or has she retired?
Is Tim Haley still serving as State Department Regional Security Officer in Baghdad, Iraq, and is Marion Cotter serving as State Department Regional Security Officer in Nairobi, Kenya? Were either of these individuals assigned to their current positions because of investigations that were ongoing at the time -- or are still ongoing?
Is Paul Vallee currently assigned to Islamabad, Pakistan by the State Department’s Overseas Buildings Operations unit as a Site Security Manager and is Jeff Thomas is the Deputy Regional Director for International Programs for South-Central and Near-East Asia at the State Department? Were either of these individuals assigned to their current positions because of investigations that were ongoing at the time -- or are still ongoing?
Is Harold Geisel currently working as a State Department contractor for Patrick Kennedy, the Undersecretary for Management at the State Department? If so, what are his responsibilities and duties within that section?”
After the department’s public affairs office initially responded to assess the “context/focus” of the article, TheBlaze responded with clarity:
(The article will) explain where the folks mentioned in our documentary … are currently working with State and whether or not there are current investigations into their alleged actions in recent years harassment, perjury, or otherwise. And/or why they have simply been reassigned rather than investigated for these claims.
Also, we have one particular source quoted in the piece who specifically says the State Department is notorious for treating "whistleblowers" terribly. I wanted to give your office a chance to respond to that specific claim, and perhaps get a statement explaining how you expect anyone who files an internal complaint (such as an EEO complaint) within the State Department to be treated.
(Finally), hoping to get an updated quote on any/all investigations into the claims made that Mr. Kennedy may have squashed an investigation into claims that Ambassador Gutman was involved in prostitution or sex crimes with children.
The department’s response?
“The Department of State does not tolerate or sanction retaliation against whistleblowers on any issue,” a State Department official said. “We don’t comment on individual employees.”
What about the promises of transparency and legitimate whistleblower protection President Barack Obama heralded as top priorities for the executive branch, both on the campaign trail and since his administration officially began?
Obama vowed to deliver “the most transparent administration in history” within minutes of stepping into the Oval Office, and made hefty promises on the campaign trail to bolster protections for “federal workers who expose waste, fraud and abuse of authority in government.”
But when the whistleblowers are in the State Department, it appears the administration abandons transparency.
According to sources revealed in For the Record’s investigation, the State Department has notoriously led the way in dodging efforts for transparency, and some sources suggested top-level foreign service may continue to skirt justice by simply shifting embattled political operatives from job to job to avoid scrutiny from the press or the courts.
“It’s a paradox of needing a government system, and a bureaucracy, to get things done, but what happens is that the bureaucracy turns on itself,” said Bill Gertz, a longtime Washington reporter and the senior editor of the Washington Free Beacon. “Instead of focusing on its external mission -- and this is often the case of the State Department, although there are lots of dedicated people there – the bureaucracy often turns into itself and looks at its own preservation.”
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“Instead of focusing on its external mission — and this is often the case of the State Department, although there are lots of dedicated people there – the bureaucracy often turns into itself and looks at its own preservation.”
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That bureaucratic influence around these cases was apparently so stringent, the State Department public affairs office refused to confirm even whether or not their public website was up to date.
A source revealed to For the Record that Tracy Mahaffey left her position as the executive director of Diplomatic Security, but the State Department would not confirm whether their website — which states she is still in the position — was accurate. (TheBlaze TV)
When TheBlaze asked whether positions and personnel listed on the website were accurate, this was the response: “I have reconfirmed with the experts here that we will not have anything further on individual employees. We do not comment on employees in sensitive positions, which includes Diplomatic Security agents."
This comes as no surprise to those who have observed the State Department for years.
“It is remarkably insular, and they want to protect their own,” said Joel Mowbray, the author of “Dangerous Diplomacy." On the flip side, he said, if you happen to be the person trying to shed light on inconsistencies or illegal behavior within the department, the torment soon follows.
“They will harass you, and shun you and the other employees will treat you like a pariah … I’ve seen people lose out on promotions, I’ve seen people taken from plumb assignments and put in the basement of Foggy Bottom, which is basically as far down as you can go, both literally and of course in terms of employment,” Mowbray said.
Meanwhile, those accused of some of the most egregious violations of the law have been promoted, moved overseas or allowed to retire without a thorough investigation into allegations of wrongdoing.
So what has happened to the career State Department officials linked to not only Benghazi discrepancies, but to stories of child prostitution, harassment and perjury?
The former ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, accused by the State Department’s own inspector general’s office of soliciting underage prostitutes? He was allowed to retire without an investigation into the incidents.
Patrick Kennedy, the man accused of squashing the investigation into Gutman’s actions? The career minister -- that’s Kennedy’s official "rank" within the State Department system -- is still the under secretary for management.
Patrick Kennedy, right, is still in his position as the undersecretary of management, despite reports from the State Department's inspector general's office that claim he directed the diplomatic service office to cease an investigation into former Ambassador Howard Gutman, who was accused of soliciting child prostitutes. (TheBlaze TV)
Scott Bultrowitz and Eric Boswell were both allowed to fade into retirement without formal inquiries into perjury or impeding investigations. Sources said Tracy Mahaffey left her position as position as executive director of diplomatic security this summer, though the State Department website still shows her in that position. Tim Haley, Marion Cotter and Paul Vallee, all named in Rick Higbie’s harassment suit, are currently serving in key positions in Iraq, Kenya and Pakistan, respectively. Cheryl Mills, like many others in former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's inner circle and members of the "Benghazi alumni group," has left the State Department to pass the time in a cushy K Street gig before Clinton's expected 2016 presidential run.
Shifting accused employees from job to job doesn’t seem like the definition of whistleblower protection then-candidate Obama said during his first run for president.
“Often the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out,” an Obama campaign letter espoused during the 2008 campaign. “Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.”
Yet whistleblowers who are attempting to follow Obama’s proclamation to “enforce ethics rules in the executive branch” are actually being bullied by an environment created above all else to plug “leaks” in the system.
“On national security, his administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than any previous president,” Politifact reported, “which one expert told us could have ‘a chilling effect on whistle blowing.”
Chilling indeed. The For the Record investigation revealed that Rick Higbie, the whistleblower highlighted in “Honor Fight,” now has a lien placed on his house by the State Department in order to recover $13,000 in legal fees associated with his case against the government. It didn’t stop there: the government placed an additional lien on Higbie's father’s house to boot, even though his military veteran father has no ties to the case and is not a co-signer on Higbie's primary home.
And the accused perjurers in Higbie’s case? Collecting on their State Department retirement. A failure of both transparency and whistleblower protection, courtesy of the foreign service.
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