State Department disciplines workers for off-duty affairs


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives for testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (Win McNamee/GETTY IMAGES)

The State Department has proposed disciplinary action against Foreign Service members for engaging in extramarital affairs, and in at least one case, indicated that the number of partners involved constituted “notoriously disgraceful conduct,” according to a report in the March issue of the Foreign Service Journal, a publication produced by the American Foreign Service Association.

The article described how the department in 2011 proposed disciplinary action against “a handful” of employees for their off-duty conduct, which included extra-marital affairs. The association complained that the department had never advised employees that the number of partners they slept with could subject them to discipline. It also decried the “tenuous connection” between the accused employees’ jobs and their supposedly randy off-duty behavior.

The State Department would not elaborate on the proposed disciplinary actions or whether employees are ever specifically instructed not to cheat on their spouses. But a State Department official tells the Loop that the concern over what goes on in its employees’ bedrooms is a practical one. “Where an employee is having an extra-marital affair and the spouse does not know, there is a potential for blackmail,” the official said.

A representative of American Foreign Service Association tells the Loop that workers are just looking for clarity about the rules--and consistency in how they’re enforced. “When the State Department wants to make employee rules, it must clearly communicate and announce them... and it must apply [them] fairly and equally to all personnel,” the AFSA representative says.

The State Department official pointed us to a portion of the Foreign Affairs Manual, which governs employee conduct, stating that Foreign Service workers are expected to behave with “integrity, reliability, and prudence.”

“Given the representational nature of employment in the Service...it is necessary that employees observe such standards during and after working hours,” the manual says.

The manual has a few things to say about the sex lives of Foreign Service workers. It specifically calls out for concern “sexual activity by an individual which reasonably may be expected to hamper the effective fulfillment by the agencies of any of their duties and responsibilities, or which may impair the individual’s position performance by reason of, for example, the possibility of blackmail, coercion, or improper influence.”

And it defines “notoriously disgraceful conduct” as “that conduct which, were it to become widely known, would embarrass, discredit, or subject to opprobrium the perpetrator, the Foreign Service, and the United States. Examples of such conduct include but are not limited to the frequenting of prostitutes, engaging in public or promiscuous sexual relations...”

Kind of reminds us of the directive the Loop reported on a few months ago, in which National Security Agency reminding their spooks in the field to report any sexual conduct with non-U.S. citizens (though, we noted, the NSA was unclear whether agents were to report said contact to their employer—or to their spouse).

And it gives a whole new meaning to safe sex.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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