Tags: freedom of information act | foia | state department

CNN: State Dept. Employees Voice Frustration Over New Duties

Image: CNN: State Dept. Employees Voice Frustration Over New Duties
President Barack Obama makes a statement before signing the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016. (AP)

By    |   Friday, 26 January 2018 07:47 PM

A number of employees at the State Department are growing frustrated because their duties have changed from when they worked in the administration of former President Barack Obama.

In an effort to grapple with what some see as political retribution, where employees have at times been reduced to lower-level responsibilities, several said they had hired attorneys, CNN reported Friday.

When he became secretary of State, Rex Tillerson made clearing the backlog of requests through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a priority. That backlog had been caused by requests made by journalists and conservative groups, including Judicial Watch and Citizens United, especially relating to Hillary Clinton's emails.

The number of requests stood at 22,000 a year ago and had been reduced to about 13,000, Tillerson said in November. He said he aimed to have the requests completed by the end of this year.

"There is a job that needs to be done," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. "It may not be a glamorous job, but it's an important one."

The FOIA Surge, as it's been called, was "temporary," Nauert added, and said many employees were "between assignments."

The reassigned employees include many career diplomats, such as ambassadors returning from overseas, attorneys and senior career and civil service members, the article explained.

"They are not finding posts for people in between assignments," said an ambassador, who requested anonymity. "Instead they are getting sent to the Sibera that is the FOIA office. Why? That is the question of the day."

This has led to a morale problem among some employees who said they were feeling their input was not valued.

The union for foreign service personnel, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), stated in a letter from their president that top ranking foreign service diplomats were leaving "at a dizzying speed." But the State Department maintains the number of senior foreign service members is close to the number at the start of the Obama presidency.

Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have taken note of the reassignments of senior officers at the State Department, including Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who said he was "deeply concerned by reports that the Trump administration has pulled many senior career State Department employees from their critical duties relating to national security and foreign policy."

That sentiment was also voiced by Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., who said he intended to pursue the matter.

"If the allegations are true that the administration is punishing public servants as a form of political retribution, those responsible must face consequences. I intend to get answers about this," Engel said.

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A number of employees at the State Department are growing frustrated because their duties have changed from when they worked in the administration of former President Barack Obama.
freedom of information act, foia, state department
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2018-47-26
Friday, 26 January 2018 07:47 PM
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