Some State Dept. employees retaining lawyers amid career concerns: report
Several State Department employees are retaining lawyers amid concerns that their careers are now being stalled because of past work on policies and initiatives championed by former President Obama.
According to a Friday CNN report, frustration is growing among some at the department, who returned to Foggy Bottom from high-level assignments only to be put on low-level jobs such as responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Many of the workers who have been reassigned under the Trump administration previously worked in the offices of special envoys created during the Obama administration.
But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has over the past year moved to do away with some of the special offices created by Obama. Other offices were absorbed by regional bureaus, and some responsibilities were folded into the State Department’s Policy Planning Office, CNN reported.
Officials who previously worked in those offices have been assigned to clerical tasks they say do not match up with their ranks. Some allege that they may be victims of political retribution.
One employee who has retained a lawyer is Ian Moss, who worked for five years in the office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure and later at the National Security Council (NSC) as the director of human rights and national security issues.
He stayed at the NSC during the first few months of President Trump’s tenure and received glowing reviews when his detail there ended in May, according to CNN.
When he returned to the State Department, however, Moss was assigned to the FOIA task force, where he worked alongside interns and civil service employees well below his rank, according to a letter Moss’s attorney, Mark Zaid, sent to Tillerson last month.
He tried to resolve the issue internally and even sought the help of the NSC, but to no avail.
“To date, no explanation or rationale has been provided as to how this reassignment is an effective allocation of Department resources, particularly given Mr. Moss’ specific expertise and skill sets,” Zaid wrote in his letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill.
Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, told CNN that employees were being assigned to FOIA work out of necessity. Tillerson has vowed to chip away at a large backlog of FOIA requests, which has grown in recent years. Many of those requests relate to the controversy over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Nauert said that politics do not play a role in the decision to put employees on the FOIA task force.
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