Yes, I Do Actually Have a Problem With This

It’s been an interesting week in which I learned a lot about my husband’s employer. Want to hear about it? Here we go…

A few weeks ago, I posted on a Foreign Service-only Facebook group about the summer hire program at my post. For the record, here was my question, verbatim:

Question about summer hire and security clearances: my son was hired for a warehouse job and worked two days before someone noticed that he didn’t have his clearance yet. A week later, this is still being “adjudicated.” We leave in three weeks, and my son will not have any opportunity to make up days missed to these delays. He is really disappointed and so are we! Post blames DC, but this does not jibe with what I am hearing from other FS folks regarding summer hires. Can someone please answer this question: 1.) is a summer hire’s security clearance and 2.) whether or not any extra clearance is required for any particular summer hire job up to POST or up to DS or State HQ? What is the SOP here?

A lively discussion ensued in which some people shared their similar stories of problems with summer hire clearances—and Eligible Family Member clearances in general. Others described solutions or workarounds that had been implemented at their own posts. One person even messaged me offgroup to share the relevant regulations.

This is good. This is what online communities are for: helping each other.

Among the helpful were Diplomatic Security agents and their spouses. Because, you know, DS spouses like to work, and so do their teenagers.

However, the fact is, one DS agent on this group took umbrage at my questioning of State Department security procedures. Some of his remarks were personally objectionable to me—and to others. He even went so far as to privately message me offgroup to further convince me that family members in fact present a security risk: mentioning that some spouses sleep around (he referred to this as the “Married But Available” program—hilarious, right?) and telling me in effect that I had no business complaining about anything since I was posted to Vienna.

So, that was not cool—and definitely not professional.

I briefly replied to his offgroup message, unaware that he was not using a real name. But he is on this FS Facebook group, I thought, so I don’t have to block him. I didn’t find out until weeks later that he was posting under a fake identity.

Let’s think about this: a man who is using at minimum a fake name, and possibly an entirely fake profile, has joined this closed Facebook group and has then inappropriately messaged a woman who is also on the group. Because he is a member of this closed, moderated, group, she has no reason to think that he is, for example, a random stalker type. But, since he has joined under a fake name, she actually knows nothing whatsoever about him.

Well, that’s not creepy at all, is it?

It gets better. Someone on the group—possibly this same person—copied the entire thread regarding summer hire security clearances and distributed it fairly widely in the State Department, as I have been told, via email. So, everything that was said on this thread on this CLOSED group was revealed, without context, to many people who were not actually on the group. From what I hear, the email even made it to some quarters of senior management. At least one person who participated in the discussion experienced serious employment hassles as a result of this action.

This is ethically challenged behavior, to say the least.

But wait! There’s more! A DS spouse “friended” me on Facebook at about the same time as this discussion took place. She, or someone who had access to the discussion through her, then took a screenshot of a discussion of a related summer hire discussion that took place on my personal Facebook page and circulated it by email to DS employees.

This act just leaves me speechless.

(Except not really, because I am a blogger, and did these people seriously think I wouldn’t write about this stuff?)

There have been no consequences to myself that I know of, and since I have absolutely zero intention of ever applying for an Embassy job requiring a security clearance again, there probably never will be. Not to mention, I didn’t do a thing that could be considered a breach of security by even the wildest stretch of the imagination.

But do I have a problem with all this? What do you think?

I have some questions, too:

In an era when security clearances for many family members are backlogged for months, leaving spouses and other family members unemployed and embassy sections understaffed, is it appropriate for DS employees to be spending their time passing around emails about conversations on Facebook?

Are we OK with DS agents (or their spouses!) trolling our social media groups under fake names or profiles? With no other apparent purpose than reporting on the conversations of other employees and family members?

Now, I KNOW that the actions of a few do not define an entire bureau. But, the conversation that was lifted from Facebook page was reportedly forwarded and viewed by many people in DS, so I cannot write simply write this off as the ill-advised actions of just one or two people.

I find it highly ironic that after six years on Facebook, participating in, administrating, and creating groups—even co-writing a manual that included instructions on setting up secure Facebook groups—the only security problems I have ever experienced on Facebook have, in fact, been caused by Diplomatic Security!

Finally, regarding spouses who take it upon themselves to “report” on other spouses, something to consider: when you have a medical emergency at post; when you are evacuated on short notice; when you just need a shoulder to cry on; who do you think is going to be there for you? Not your husband’s agency, that’s for sure. It will be your community: the employees of multiple agencies at post and, especially, their spouses.

In the American diplomatic community, we all need to trust and rely on each other to at least a certain degree. Don’t screw that up!

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14 comments

  1. I think there are two points here. The length of the security clearance is likely a direct result of Snowden. After that hit, the entire government has become more selective and thorough when it comes to security clearances.

    Lastly, remember that any and everything you post on Facebook should be considered public.

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    • You should consider everything you post on Facebook to be public if you make your own page public and you post to public groups. If you make your page private, and you post to a closed group, then no, it is not in fact public. That’s like saying that my house is public because someone might be peeking through the curtains. In that case, do you blame the homeowner or the peeping tom?

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      • This isn’t 1999 anymore. Anything you do on the internet, be it Facebook, a blogging site, whatever, can be made public.

        There is constructive criticism, and then there is complaining for the sake of complaining. One has a much higher chance of improving the problem.

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      • That’s my point. You don’t have to “buy it.” The people who make the decisions and have the ability to make changes need to “buy it.”

        I have served at six overseas assignments. Some have had great service, and others (one in particular) have been abismal. At that one post, the facilities manager did not want to improve service, so I presented my case to the management officer and got other people to do the same. Things improved, although not greatly. You can’t win them all, and you need to celebrate the small victories.

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  2. Reminds me when I posted a frustration in the FS bloggers group about having a broken AC in our guest bedroom for over a month and nothing being done, despite many reminders that a guest was coming to stay for 2 weeks (and we were in Manila!). I was only asking for “what can I do so this is solved before my guest arrives?” Then the next day my husband had a talking to by the facilities manager who even had the printed Facebook page on his hands. I knew who did it, removed her from my friends list, have the benefit of the doubt “maybe she was only trying to help despite actually giving the screenshot to her husband” and didn’t ask for her to be removed from the group. But rarely posted much there after that again.

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  3. Yes I do actually have a problem with this too. Unbelievable. Also, if someone is posting under fake name/alias etc, aren’t they in pretty big violation of FB T&C? It’s a shame when people don’t understand the actual point and mechanics of an online community or social media for that matter, putting it at risk for so many who actually benefit from open discussion and community support on honest questions.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m sorry to hear about this. As a wife of a DS agent and lover of blogging and social media I assure you that this unbelievably unprofessional, childish, and completely out-of-line behavior is not representative of an entire group of hardworking professionals who consider daily the safety and well-being of their colleagues and their families. Most of the DS employees I have the pleasure of knowing take their jobs seriously and do not have time to run around making fake FB accounts to harass people. It’s a shame that there are idiots in all job roles and the places we consider safe are vulnerable to attack. Rest assured if the ones in charge do see the post you have done nothing wrong and the idiots will show their asses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jamie, I know! I truly do. I had NO intention of lumping everyone in DS together. I know that this is result of a few bad apples in the bunch. If I could get more specific in the post, that would be clearer, but unfortunately, I can’t do that.

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  5. This is sad, but how did you manage to find out this person was using a false name and that he was a “DS”? was it his wife that reported your private conversation? Thanks for blogging!

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  6. Kelly, I am so, so sorry. Please don’t give up on TH, you have an army of spouses behind you. This is all very unfair. Please check your “other” mail. And yes as much as nothing on internet is private, what is despicable here are the actions/behavior of one person. That someone purposely will try to bully, mock, hurt, intimidate another person just because they have a different opinion …. and doing it through a work account is a low low. The action of copying a FB threat and sending it as a chain email to all FS employees he could send it to it is childish and definitely the reflection of a person with severe personal and power issues. “So, you didn’t like my opinion on FB, now I am going to make fun of you through my working account where you DON’T have access to but your husband & husband’s coworkers/bosses do …. Clever, very clever … NOT. Judging by the first comments, It looks like Mr. Hu found your blog Kelly.

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