Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and CIA defector Edward Lee Howard died last month in Moscow. While it is widely known that there is an absolute prohibition against anyone who ever worked for a US intelligence agency ever serving in the Peace Corps, many do not know that former volunteers may go to work for the CIA after a 5- year waiting period. Edward Lee Howard was one such former Peace Corps Volunteer who became a CIA operative.
Howard was a PCV in the Dominican Republic and Colombia in the late 1960's. After leaving the Peace Corps he worked for USAID for a few years, then applied to the CIA for work. He later became a traitor to his country when he defected to the USSR. Edward Lee Howard was a disgrace to the CIA and a disgrace to the Peace Corps. Many volunteers think it is a further disgrace that returned volunteers are even allowed to join the CIA and that there isn't an absolute prohibition on their future employment in the intelligence community. Come to the website to read the complete story and leave your opinion at:
...........II. POST OFFICE REJECTS FREEDOM CORPS SPY PROGRAM
In a related story, the United States Post Office announced that it will not participate in a new Justice Department spy program that encourages millions of American workers to report suspicious activity they see while doing their routine work. The program, named Operation TIPS, is called "a national reporting system that allows these workers, whose routines make them well-positioned to recognize unusual events, to report suspicious activity," according to a description posted on a government Web site. The TIPS Program will be a SISTER ORGANIZATION to the Peace Corps as part of the USA Freedom Corps.
There has been opposition to TIPS across the political spectrum. Republican leader Dick Armey came out against TIPS when he included language in his markup of the legislation currently pending to create the Homeland Security Department that would prohibit the implementation of the TIPS program. In addition to the ACLU, the Cato Institute and the conservative Rutherford Institute have both come out against the proposal.
However Attorney General John Ashcroft said on July 25 that the program is still going forward and is scheduled to be launched later this summer. He assured senators that a program that would ask millions of Americans to report suspicious activity won't create an Orwellian government database that could be used against innocent Americans.
Many volunteers have already expressed concern on our message boards with TIPS and the integrity of the Peace Corps. If it is illegal for the CIA to plant agents in the Peace Corps, is it really a good idea for the Peace Corps to be associated with an organization whose mission is domestic spying. The Post Office doesn't want their organization to be identified with TIPS because they do not to create mistrust between postal workers and the community. Shouldn't the same logic apply even more strongly to the Peace Corps where our mission is to work within communities that may already be mistrustful? Why doesn't the Peace Corps speak out like the Post Office did? Is it that they don't understand the problem, or aren't they concerned with the Peace Corps being identified with domestic spying? If the Post Office can speak out as an independent organization, then why aren't the men and women who lead the Peace Corps willing to speak out to protect the agency?
Read our full coverage of TIPS on our website and leave your opinion on this controversial issue at:
...........III. GAO REPORTS ON PEACE CORPS SAFETY AND SECURITY
The GAO issued its long awaited report on Peace Corps Safety and Security on July 25. The report said that assaults against Peace Corps volunteers around the world have doubled in the past decade and that Peace Corps' efforts to safeguard volunteers are not consistent. The report offered a number of recommendations to the Peace Corps to improve security. Director Vasquez with his background in law enforcement seems the ideal man to implement these changes and when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year during his confirmation hearings he said that he would make safety and security of volunteers one of his top priorities. Read the complete GAO report and Director Vasquez's response on what he will do to improve volunteer security at:
The GAO's most interesting recommendation is for the Peace Corps to develop a strategy to address staff turnover as it implements its safety and security initiatives. The Peace Corps has said that high staff turnover is the result of its statutorily imposed 5-year limit on employment for U.S. direct hires. The GAO recommends that the Peace Corps consider asking Congress to modify the 5-year rule.
PCOL concurs that consideration needs to be given to modifying the 5-year rule to reduce staff turnover to improve PCV safety and security. Just as important is that to reach the Peace Corps' stated goal of doubling the number of volunteers in the field by 2007, the number of staff will also have to double. The Peace Corps' inability to retain their most experienced staff may put too much stress on the organization to meet that goal.
The idea behind the 5-year rule is good - to avoid an entrenched bureaucracy and to keep the Peace Corps young. However, many RPCVs believe a modification of the 5-year rule to 7 or 8 years would allow the Peace Corps to retain its most experienced staffers instead of losing them just when they become most effective.
PCOL will be covering this issue in more detail later on this year with op-ed pieces both for and against the 5-year rule. Leave your opinion at:
...........IV. PEACE CORPS CARTOONS - THIS MONTH - "TRIP"
Last month we put up our Peace Corps Cartoon called "Hourglass" and asked our readers to come up with the funniest caption. See what RPCVs wrote and compare it to the original caption. Then, take a look at our cartoon for this month - "Trip" - and come up with your own caption for it.
...........V. THE STATUS OF THE PEACE CORPS BILL IN CONGRESS
The new Peace Corps legislation continues to move through Congress. Two more Senators publicly co-sponsored the bill in July bringing the total to seven. Our contacts on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee tell us that the Senate has been too busy with the Homeland Security Bill and Corporate Oversight legislation to address the Peace Corps bill yet. Congress will soon be adjourning for August recess and representatives will be returning to their home districts to meet with constituents. RPCVs who support the new Peace Corps bill should contact their representatives through their home district offices and lobby for passage of Senate Bill S 2667 and House Bill HR 4979. It is expected that the bill will be considered when Congress returns from recess in September. Read our full coverage of the bill at:
...........VI. NPCA TO FORM SEPARATE THIRD GOAL ORGANIZATION
Opposition to the Peace Corps Fund seems to have died down this month as posters to our web site discussed the pros and cons of the fund. The Peace Corps Fund had received sharp criticism from former NPCA President Chic Dambach in an op-ed piece he did for PCOL in which he said the Peace Corps Fund could "be confused with funds for the Peace Corps agency", that the founders violated "ethical standards by using an event sponsored, organized, and financed by the NPCA to promote and raise funds for their organization" and that the founders of the Peace Corps Fund seem "determined to fracture the RPCV community." Read the complete coverage of the debate at:
In related news the Peace Corps Fund opened their web site and announced that former Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan, former Senator Harris Wofford, and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala have joined their advisory board.
The NPCA announced this month that they are forming a separate non- profit organization to fund RPCV third Goal activities under the new Peace Corps legislation. The new organization will be a joint program between the NPCA and Roger Landrum and Dave Hibbard's Coalition for a Peace Corps Charter for the 21st Century. The new coalition is forming an "Office of RPCV Mobilization" to lobby on behalf of the new Peace Corps legislation and is asking for donations from RPCVs for $30,000 initial seed money to begin their efforts. Read the full story at:
This month we focus on four service projects that RPCVs have been involved with. Read about the web site the Friends of Niger are hosting for the 2002 Niger AIDS Education Bike Ride organized to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and to teach people with no formal education about how they can protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. The Friends of Niger is one of the partner organizations officially supporting the Ride along with Africare, CARE International and Family Care International. Read and comment at:
RPCV Kevin Denny and members of the African charity he co-founded, Malawi Children's Village, will be featured on "NBC Nightly News." Malawi Children's Village helps 37 tribal villages on the southern shore of Lake Malawi by providing medical care, food and education to African children orphaned by AIDS, and devastated by famines and homelessness. The charity serves 3,000 orphans in the Mangochi district. Read about it at:
Next read a profile of RPCV Congressman Tony Hall who is leaving Congress to start his new assignment as ambassador to the Rome-based United Nations organizations that deal with international hunger relief at:
Finally read this profile of Peace Corps Giant C. Payne Lucas who is one of the most distinguished Peace Corps Alumni working in NGO's. He served as Country Director in Togo and Niger before becoming Regional Director of the Peace Corps for Africa in 1967. He went on to spend thirty years as the President of Africare, a Washington- based nonprofit organization specializing in grass-roots development. Read the story at:
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