Right after the news of the passport breach at the State Department hit the web the night before last, conspiracy aficionados had a field day online. The Huffington Post did a brief news update on its site quoting an MSNBC news item and citing “Mora Hardy” as the person who was in charged of the passport office when the breaches occurred. There was not much on the report; it was approximately 250 words (it’s not online anymore and has now been replaced with this) but it did mention that “Mora Hardy” was am ambassador appointed during the
One post alleged that
I spent some time reading through the online posts and came away with the realization that the regular American public has no idea how the State Department works. I have never seen such ignorance and such great willingness to believe everything so quickly without any supporting facts. I understand that this is the price we pay for the 24/7 barrage of information that comes with technology but isn’t this quite disturbing? Do we think so lowly of our public servants that we cannot afford them the courtesy of waiting until the facts are in before drawing virtual blood? The feeding frenzy reminds me of sharks feeding, really!
Just for clarity - Ambassador Harty was a career Foreign Service Officer; she earned her “stripes” within a very competitive organization through hard work. You can read more information about her career in the State Department here and here.
Her impending retirement was announced in November last year, but her actual retirement did not occur until this past February. She was a career Ambassador, a rank equivalent to a General in the military. She was not only well-respected but also genuinely liked by the people who worked for her.
As for those “prestige” assignments given to political contributors – those are the non-career ambassadors, political appointees nominated by the White House and approved by the Senate. For historical context, I refer to U.S. Diplomacy which states:
“Until passage of the Rogers Act of 1924 all ambassadors (then generally called “ministers”) of the
Foreign Service Officers (our diplomats) are commissioned by the President of the
I must also add that Foreign Service Officers like all Federal employees are precluded from engaging in political activities under the Hatch Act. Federal employees may not-
- be candidates for public office in partisan elections
- campaign for or against a candidate or slate of candidates in partisan elections
- make campaign speeches
- collect contributions or sell tickets to political fund raising functions
- distribute campaign material in partisan elections
- organize or manage political rallies or meetings
- hold office in political clubs or parties
- circulate nominating petitions
- work to register voters for one party only
- wear political buttons at work
The penalties can be a 30-day suspension or removal from office, so folks are extremely careful about that just as we are careful and mindful of all the rules and regulations that govern our lives inside and outside the office. If you are thinking about the Bill Clinton passport flap in 1992, please bear in mind that the culprits then were political appointees not career professionals.