16 OCTOBER 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Former FSO Sentenced to 40 Years F ormer FSO Steven Hadley Hassan, 52, of Frederick, Maryland, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for sexually abusing minors overseas to produce child pornography and for trans- porting these images to the United States, the Department of Justice reported in an Aug. 13 press release. Hassan has been detained since his arrest in June 2018. In his guilty plea, Hassan admitted to sexually abusing young girls from 2010 to 2013 in U.S. government–provided housing in the Philippines and South Africa, where he was posted by the State Department. From 2014 to 2018, Hassan, under a number of aliases, shared thou- sands of images of the girls to an online file-sharing network. “Steven Hassan preyed on vulnerable young girls, including foreign nationals, while representing the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “This sentence demonstrates that we will find and bring to justice those who victimize children.” Diplomats’ Mail at Risk If U.S. Leaves Postal Union T he Trump administration announced a year ago, on Oct. 17, 2018, that the United States was starting the one-year withdrawal process from the Universal Postal Union, a 145-year-old United Nations organization that regu- lates global mail delivery. As of press time, the UPU is scheduled to meet in late September to consider changes to the organization’s rules and rate structures, in particular a Trump administration proposal to normalize rates on packages sent to the United States from heavy net exporting countries that have been kept artificially low for decades. The administration has said that it will remain in the UPU if certain changes are adopted. Because countries are required to give one year’s notice before with- drawal, the United States could leave the postal union as early as mid-October. Should the United States go through with the withdrawal, the Diplomatic Post Office (known by DPO) will experi- ence—at best—significant interruption, if not outright elimination while the United States would have to negotiate new bilat- eral postal service agreements with other countries. While pouch deliveries will not be affected, DPO deliveries for any For- eign Service personnel at U.S. missions overseas will be affected. The potential ramifications are obvious to all members of the Foreign Service, particularly when it comes to delivery of medical supplies and medications. AFSA has raised the possible harmful effects of withdrawal on Foreign Service families with senior officials in State’s Bureau of Human Resources and has been working with the Military Officers Association of America, as APO services may be affected as well. While the legal authority to withdraw from the UPU lies with the executive branch, AFSA is also warning Congress of the negative implications DPO interrup- tion or elimination would have for our diplomats. The State Department’s Bureau of Administration is well aware of this prob- lem and has been working to mitigate possible challenges and seek alternative solutions. AFSA advises all members to read the recent ALDAC on this issue (19 STATE 76584), as well as any embassy- issued management notices. AFSA will keep following the issue and will update members as needed. In the meantime, please heed the guidance from the Department of State: Plan to purchase crucial supplies early so that your deliver- ies reach you before mid-October. Hiring Freeze Hurt U.S. Diplomacy, OIG Finds T he federal hiring freeze imposed by the Trump administration beginning in January 2017 had devastating effects on the State Department, which did not lift the freeze even after it was lifted on other agencies in April 2017, according to an August report by the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General. “Several bureaus charged with pro- tecting security, health and life safety reported to [the inspector general] that the hiring freeze had significant detri- mental effects,” said the report, which was ordered by Congress. According to the OIG, 96 percent of 151 embassies and consulates surveyed and 95 percent of 38 domestic bureaus said the hiring freeze “had a somewhat negative or very negative effect on overall operations.” Ninety-seven percent of overseas posts and 100 percent of domestic offices told OIG that the hiring freeze had a signifi- cantly negative effect on employee morale and welfare. The hiring freeze at State was not lifted until Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resumed hiring in May 2018. The freeze primarily affected eligible family mem- bers (who experienced a 20.7 percent decrease in employment during the hiring freeze) and Civil Service employees (who faced a 7.1 percent decrease), the OIG found. Foreign Service employment levels decreased by 1 percent over the period. n This edition of Talking Points was compiled by Cameron Woodworth, Dmitry Filipoff and Susan B. Maitra.