I remembered another incident connected with my Foreign Service transfer from Warsaw to Rome during the government shutdown.

When we unexpectedly transferred, my wife did not have a job in Rome.  The political minister of the embassy arrived about the same time as we did, and he offered her a job working as an assistant in the political section.  She was happy to have a job and started off learning the many combinations of the safes in the political section where classified material was stored.  A few days after she had started, the embassy security section informed her that she could not work there because her security clearance had lapsed.

It turned out that someone in Warsaw had forgotten to fill out some security forms that would have extended the security clearance that she had obtained before we left Washington for Warsaw.  As a result, not only did she lose her job, but the political section in Rome had to change all of its combinations because an uncleared person had had access to them.  She felt terrible for inconveniencing them.

Again, this was just another example of government bureaucracy at its worst, but I deeply resented the implication that my wife, and by association myself as well, were security risks.  The embassies in Warsaw and Rome were full of first generation Americans of Polish or Italian ancestry who had managed to get assigned to their family’s home country.  Even the Ambassador was an Italian-American.  It turned out that Amb. Reginald Bartholomew’s original family name was Bartolomeo before they anglicized it.   He remained in Rome after finishing his ambassadorship.  All these people with strong ties to the host government were not security risks, but my wife and I, who were third-, fourth-, fifth- or more generation Americans of British ancestry were risks.

My wife’s security clearance was eventually restored.  She ended up with a job in the embassy security office because she spent so much time there getting the situation straightened out.  By itself the incident would have been just a blip on the radar, but combined with the government shutdown, the failure to provide housing, and the downgrading of my diplomatic title, it created the impression that the State Department was not an honest, reliable employer for whom I wished to continue to work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *