Several government employees say they are stuck in "career purgatory" within the State Department for work they did under the Obama administration, CNN reported Friday. Particularly, public servants who worked on closing the Guantanamo Bay prison — which President Trump has vocally resisted — say they've been intentionally relegated to work that they're overqualified for.
The various employees who spoke to CNN say that they've been assigned to the State Department's Freedom of Information Act office, despite being career foreign affairs officials with years of experience. There is a well-publicized logjam of public information requests at the department, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has vowed to clear the backlog of roughly 13,000 outstanding inquiries by the end of the year. Handling FOIA requests is considered "low-level" work, CNN pointed out.
State Department staff claim the Trump administration is using the FOIA office to discard people who worked on now abandoned Obama-era initiatives. CNN described the workers as "misfit toys," including ambassadors and other federal workers whose old jobs were folded in Tillerson's quest to reduce the size of the State Department.
Some dissatisfied employees have even taken to hiring lawyers to help their plight. Ian Moss, who worked on the closure of Guantanamo Bay under former President Barack Obama, was sent to the FOIA office "under threat of disciplinary action," his attorney told CNN. Moss has been unable to get a rationale for his reassignment, even after sending a letter to Tillerson in December.
In explaining the FOIA reassignments, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told CNN that "there is a job that needs to be done. It may not be a glamorous job, but it's an important one." Meanwhile, Capitol Hill Democrats are taking notice of the reshuffling, with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) telling CNN that if the Trump administration "is punishing public servants as a form of political retribution," there must be "consequences." Read more at CNN. Kelly O'Meara Morales