Inspector general recommends disciplinary action for Brian Hook and others, in latest scandal to roil US state departmentBrian Hook, back, with Mike Pompeo in Abu Dhabi in September. The report strongly criticised Hook, who led the US campaign to isolate Iran. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty ImagesThe state department’s watchdog has recommended senior Trump officials, including the administration’s Iran envoy, be disciplined for discrimination against a career civil servant, in part because of her Iranian ethnicity and the fact that she had served under the Obama administration.The inspector general’s report, which strongly criticised Brian Hook, who has led the US campaign to isolate Iran, is one of a series of scandals at the state department contributing to a growing crisis of confidence among the country’s diplomats.On Tuesday, NBC News revealed that the official in charge of conflict and stability operations, had fabricated much of her résumé, inventing a role on a UN panel, and falsely implied she had Harvard and Army War College degrees. The official, Mina Chang, even faked a Time magazine cover about herself, but she was put in a post with a $6m budget and which normally requires a top-secret security clearance.The new report also comes in a week in which US diplomats have appeared as key witnesses at congressional impeachment hearings, which has led to their professionalism and integrity being impugned by the president and his supporters, while the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has said nothing to defend them.In his report, details of which were first reported by Politico, the state department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, published correspondence and testimony between Hook and other political appointees on removing Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a civil servant of Iranian descent, from the high-profile policy planning office run by Hook.Top aides to the then secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, circulated a rightwing magazine story that portrayed Nowrouzzadeh as a diehard Obama loyalist who was obstructing the new administration’s policies.One of those officials, Julia Haller, who was acting White House liaison officer, noted in an email that Nowrouzzadeh “was born in Iran and upon my understanding cried when the president won” and argued it would be easy to get her suspended. Nowrouzzadeh was born in the US, and when asked for her reason to believe she had cried, Haller cited “office gossip”, but said she passed it on because “it could raise a question of “loyalty to the United States”.Haller’s comments were part of an email chain which was forwarded to Hook, who noted, “This initial info is helpful” and added: “I’ve emailed friends who tracked the Iran deal for intel on her and waiting to hear back.”Nowrouzzadeh was moved out of the policy planning office before her assignment was completed and has since left the state department.In her first public comment on the case, she said on Twitter: “It is my hope that the inspector general’s findings pertaining to my case help prompt action that will guard against any further such misconduct by members of this or any future administration.”When questioned for the report, Hook, claimed that he had agreed to remove her because he had a replacement in mind, but the inspector general found that to be false. The eventually replacement was not in contact with Hook until after Nowrouzzadeh had been moved and did not start until some months later. The report also notes that Hook’s claims about his role were contradicted by other witnesses.“The comments regarding her perceived place of birth are particularly concerning. Although these comments were initiated by Ms Haller, they were circulated by others, and they are wholly inconsistent with department policies requiring fair and equitable treatment of employees without consideration of national origin,” the inspector general report concluded.It added: “Regardless of whether Mr Hook personally shared the opinions and motivations expressed by Ms Haller and others, the comments about [Nowrouzzadeh] in the articles and emails circulated within the office of the secretary suggest that improper factors likely influenced the requests to end her detail and his acquiescence to those requests.”The report did not find wrongdoing in four other cases it looked into, but in part this was because senior figures would not talk to the inspector general’s staff.In a response to the inspector general’s conclusions, the state department counselor, Ulrich Brechtbuhl, said that Pompeo would “consider whether disciplinary action is appropriate” but defended Hook, saying his consideration of “non-merit factors” in his treatment of staff “would be wholly inconsistent with the professional leadership and behavior we have observed”.The report was widely seen as a whitewash among state department staff whose morale is already at a low ebb at a time when Pompeo has boasted about bringing “swagger” and a new “ethos” to the state department.But Pompeo has failed to defend his own diplomats in the face of White House attacks on officials who testified to Congress as “radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the constitution”.“This has been a difficult time for our colleagues, because you’ve never had a situation where … members of our association, have been forced to choose between complying with legal subpoenas from Congress or compliance with a directive of the president of the United States,” Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association, said. “That dilemma is unprecedented.”A senior US diplomat said: “This a scary time for the foreign service, and for public servants in general.”

Source link

قالب وردپرس


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here