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Foreign Service Officers File Complaint with GAO on HIPAA, Other Violations

A group of Foreign Service employees of the U.S. Department of State filed a formal complaint with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) alleging criminal actions by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and Office of Medical Services (M/MED) to avoid compliance with the Privacy Act, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and HIPAA.

According to a U.S. Newswire report, the complaint accuses DSS and M/MED of illegally maintaining record documents in non-record committee or working files. It also alleges that personnel improperly transferred documents and files between offices in a deliberate effort to avoid compliance with laws and regulations that would require the State Department to make those records available to employees wishing to contest their use in personnel decisions or security-clearance determinations. A similar complaint was filed with the Civil Rights Office of the Department of Health and Human Services, the enforcement arm of HIPAA, the news service reported.

The group, Concerned Foreign Service Officers, was created to expose alleged abuse of the security clearance process by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service (DS) to circumvent Federal labor laws and established personnel practices. The group asserts that the State Department is increasingly misusing a poorly managed and regulated security clearance process to circumvent federal personnel regulations, to bypass equal employment opportunity laws and to punish dissenters within the agency, U.S. Newswire reported.

The group also alleged improper and coercive interview techniques, fraudulent statements in investigative reports, suppression or destruction of evidence, improper seizure of personal property, misapplication of security regulations and numerous other improprieties in DSS cases, according to the report.

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