• US Diplomat Enslaved Woman; Sadly, Not Uncommon Except in the Extreme

    October 11, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    Next time Hillary cranks up the PR machine to talk about women’s rights and the rights of workers, somebody might clear their throat and ask her to look inside her own State Department before opening her mouth in public.

    Rape

    According to court documents, a U.S. Department of State diplomat (LinkedIn photo above) and her husband tricked an Ethiopian woman into accompanying them as their domestic servant to Japan, where they held her virtually as a prisoner in their home and forced her to work for them for less than $1 per hour and where the husband repeatedly raped the woman with his diplomat wife’s consent. A Virginia federal judge awarded the victim $3.3 million in damages on a default judgment against the couple. The diplomat retired from the State Department with full pension and then fled the country.

    The victim, identified only as “Jane Doe,” told the court she was hired by the Howards in 2008 as a live-in housekeeper at the couple’s home in Yemen, where Linda Howard worked at the U.S. embassy. Doe says she agreed to move with the couple to Japan after Linda Howard was transferred to the embassy there and that she was promised wages of $300 per month, time off each week, health insurance and a safe place to live and work.

    Once in Japan, Doe says, Russell Howard repeatedly raped her, forced her to perform oral sex and sexually assaulted her. Doe says Linda Howard was complicit in her husband’s sexual abuse, telling Doe that she should gratify her husband and make him happy. Doe, who speaks little English and no Japanese, says the Howards also used nonphysical force, such as isolation and threats of deportation, to coerce her into servitude.

    Justice?

    After five months in Japan, Doe says, she fled the Howards’ home in the middle of the night. She says that after she reported the abuse, the State Department removed Linda Howard from her overseas post and launched an investigation into the Howards.

    Once back in Washington and while the so-called investigation took place, Howard, according to her LinkedIn profile, worked among other places as a recruiter and assessor for people seeking jobs with the State Department. She tells us on LinkedIn that she received a Superior Honor Award, with cash bonus, from State in June 2011, which would have been well after any investigation commenced. Her LinkedIn profile also references Cleared Connections, an employment site for government workers, suggesting she retained her security clearance from State.

    Linda Howard acted in bad faith by telling the court that she was unaware of any upcoming overseas job-related travel and then two weeks later retiring and leaving the country, the magistrate judge said. She also refused to appear for a deposition as ordered by the court and refused to communicate with Doe’s attorneys to facilitate discovery as ordered by the court, Magistrate Judge Jones said.

    Now, a question: if the allegations are true– and a Virginia court says they are– Mr. and Mrs. Howard committed felonies on federal property. Mr. Howard is an Australian citizen, so maybe it is a huge guess to wonder if they are outback there. Has the FBI been called in by State, as the FBI has jurisdiction over crimes on federal property (that why they are the lead investigators in Libya now)?

    Or is Julian Assange the only Australian the State Department cares about bringing to justice?

    U.S. Embassy Prostitution

    Unfortunately the story above is not an isolated incident. America’s diplomats are allowed by both U.S. and most foreign laws to import and employ domestic help pretty much without oversight. The workers are typically from Third World countries, and often do not speak the local language. Lacking friends, social contacts and legal protections, State’s diplomats are free to treat their household help pretty much any way their conscience allows. Most are fair and decent, but there is little safety net underneath when things go bad.

    For example, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo has had its share of problems. In the early part of this decade, the embassy paid-for-dormitory for domestics (so they did not have to live with their diplomatic masters) was found full of women not connected with the embassy, some of whom were prostituting themselves on and out of U.S. government property. The public restroom just outside the dorm was a known quickie spot for night time taxi drivers looking for sex. Things were handled nice and quietly by State and the story stayed out of the news and out of the taxpayers’ attention.

    Economic Enslavement?

    A bit further back, one Tokyo embassy U.S. diplomat identified here as Thurmond Borden, had domestic troubles. The story is that in 1993, 40 year-old Lucia Martel was working as a domestic in Manila. In March of that same year, Mr. Borden was visiting the Philippines on vacation with his Filipino wife, and the couple was looking for a woman. Mr. and Mrs. Borden offered Lucia a monthly wage of about Y30,000 (USD300). To comply with the Japanese immigration regulations, a written contract was signed that contained very different language. The contract stated her working conditions as six days/week, eight hours/day, a monthly salary of Y150,000 (USD1500), and an overtime pay of 125%. The contract papers were submitted both to the U.S. Embassy and to the Japanese Immigration Bureau.

    Lucia started working at Borden’s residence October 16, 1993. Despite her contract, she was forced to work from six in the morning to ten in the evening, and was not allowed to rest even on Christmas and New Years according to reports.

    On May 22, 1994, reports were that Lucia complained to Mrs. Borden and the latter confiscated Lucia’s original contract, return air-ticket and Alien Registration Certificate. This Certificate is very important for expatriates in Japan. It must be carried at all times and if caught without it, one may end up being taken into custody by the police. Lucia went to the Naka-ward municipal office to have a new card issued. The shocked office staff who heard her story contacted the police. A cop officer visited the Borden’s residence to take Lucia’s Registration Certificate back from Mrs. Borden. Mr. Borden, returning from his work, was said to have become enraged. He allegedly shouted, “Go back to the Philippines!” to Lucia. Lucia feared that she might be assaulted. She fled the residence taking none of her belongings except the clothes she was wearing.

    Lucia eventually tried to sue the Borden’s, and organized protest marches outside the U.S. embassy. The State Department, however, claimed diplomatic immunity on Borden’s behalf and the Japanese legal system dropped the case. State Department records list Borden now as the head of the Consular Section in Jakarta where, among other tasks, he has responsibility for issuing maid visas to U.S. diplomats’ domestic help bound for the U.S.



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