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Letter from the Peace Corps Associate General Counsel
Letter from the Peace Corps Associate General Counsel
Letter from the Peace Corps
Associate General Counsel concerned about series
Dear Mr. Bruce:
On behalf of the Peace Corps, we are bringing to your attention significant concerns we have about inaccuracies and misleading information that may be included in an upcoming story that Dayton Daily News reporter Russell Carollo is preparing about the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps has had extensive communications and interactions with Mr. Carollo and his associates for the past year and a half while this story was being investigated. Through these communications, we have become aware of inaccuracies. We bring these matters to your attention before the story has been finalized in an effort to ensure that a fair and accurate story will be published.
The following are examples of statements and assertions made to the Peace Corps by Mr. Carollo and his associates that are false and misleading.
In mid-May 2003, Mr. Carollo submitted several graphic charts purportedly showing adverse trends in safety conditions for Peace Corps volunteers. In a four-page letter dated June 12, 2003, the Peace Corps explained to Mr. Carollo that his graphics presented incorrect numbers and percentages throughout and frequently provided data out of its proper context.
As of this date, the Peace Corps has received no response to this letter and no assurances that the graphics and analysis prepared by Mr. Carollo and his associates would be modified to provide an accurate statistical profile of the volunteers' safety conditions. In a meeting on Oct. 1, 2003, Mr. Carollo stated that he was aware of our "philosophical differences" with his graphics, but indicated that he would not change his approach. These are not merely "philosophical differences;" the graphics presented by Mr. Carollo are false and misleading.
On Sept. 10, 2003, the Peace Corps was also provided slides for a presentation by Dayton Daily News expert Elliot Jaspin at the Oct. 1, 2003 meeting. At least one of the slides was proven to be false. The slide purports to show the "results" of Mr. Jaspin's analysis, that "(t)he official (Peace Corps) report says there were seven rapes in Guatemala when there were actually nine — The same report says there were 11 aggravated assaults. There were really 13."
In actuality, the Peace Corps' report does not state that there were seven rapes, or 11 aggravated assaults. The Safety of the Volunteer 2002 (the report to which Mr. Jaspin refers in his slide) states very clearly that there were, in this case, seven rape incidents or events and 11 aggravated assault incidents or events, which may encompass more than one individual rape or assault. The slide attempts to show that a misrepresentation has been made, but, in fact, Peace Corps represented the situation appropriately.
In addition, during the course of our Oct. 1, 2003 meeting, it was acknowledged by Mr. Carollo that, contrary to Mr. Jaspin's analysis presented in his slide presentation and in light of the key purpose of the Peace Corps' database, to prevent future events as much as possible, the Peace Corps' method of recording assault or rape events for documenting rapes or assaults — rather than recording individual rapes or assaults — is more effective and has proven to be successful at Peace Corps. We have been consistent with this methodology over the 13 years that we have been tracking assault data and most recently, the Peace Corps shows a significant reduction in the rate of major sexual assault events in the past seven years. We would sincerely hope that this acknowledgement would be made when the article is published.
Mr. Carollo has also incorrectly claimed to the Press Office and the Office of General Counsel on numerous occasions that the Peace Corps has not cooperated with him in his investigation. In addition, while Mr. Carollo has maintained to the Press Office and Office of General Counsel that the Peace Corps' FOIA Office was not appropriately responsive to his numerous requests, the facts do not support this assertion.
# Peace Corps has spent over 3,000 person-hours in the past 18 months responding to requests for information from Mr. Carollo through FOIA, as well as through its press and other offices. Much of this time was spent by senior staff members at the Peace Corps.
# Peace Corps has also opened its offices to Mr. Carollo, Mr. Jaspin, and others for lengthy interviews of its senior staff, including the Director of Peace Corps, Gaddi H. Vasquez, in May 2003, another meeting in July 2003, and a third meeting with senior staff, including the deputy director on Oct. 1, 2003.
# While it is correct that initially the unprecedented number and breadth of Mr. Carollo's requests were more than the FOIA Office had, in total, ever managed in recent memory, and Mr. Carollo did file a lawsuit to compel responses to four of his nearly 40 FOIA requests, the initial delays in responding to his FOIA requests were quickly remedied, and the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in July by the federal court in Dayton, Ohio. Since Nov. 4, 2002, when the Peace Corps hired a full-time FOIA officer to respond to Mr. Carollo's multitude of requests, the Peace Corps' FOIA Office has responded to every FOIA request made by Mr. Carollo in a timely and fully responsive manner. The Peace Corps' FOIA Office has actually even agreed to produce documents well before the established FOIA deadlines at the request of Mr. Carollo, who stated on numerous occasions that his deadline for publishing the article was approaching. Mr. Carollo acknowledged this fact at the Oct. 1, 2003 meeting. As it turned out, the deadlines for publishing the article were not accurate.
# In all, the Peace Corps has produced four computer databases and approximately 11,000 pages of documents to Mr. Carollo under FOIA.
# Peace Corps has also responded, and continues to respond in writing, to a series of requests for information made by Mr. Carollo during the course of his investigation. It should also be noted that when asked, no assurances were given that any of Peace Corps' answers to Mr. Carollo's questions would be incorporated into the story.
We are also attaching to this letter, copies of the aforementioned three sets of Peace Corps responses to the questions posed by Mr. Carollo. We would ask that you review carefully these responses before the story is published to ensure the information in the story is accurate. For example, Mr. Carollo stated at the Oct. 1, 2003 meeting that he spoke with the Ukrainian prosecutor involved in the Brian Krow case. This prosecutor informed him that the prosecutor's office had not concluded that Mr. Krow's death was accidental. In the Peace Corps' response to question No. 37 of Mr. Carollo's second set of questions, which refers to a Sept. 15, 1999 final official report from that same prosecutor's office reflecting the conclusion which states that, having considered the medical examination and investigation materials, Mr. Krow had died as the result of an accident. Our own Office of Inspector General was also involved and confirmed the thoroughness of the investigation and subsequent findings.
We would also like you to be aware that as a direct result of Mr. Carollo's investigation, the Peace Corps was compelled to transfer a country director from her post because of concerns about her safety. Peace Corps Country Director Christine Djondo was carjacked in September 2001. The intent to publish Christine Djondo's story, including her name, became clear as the result of inquiries by Mr. Carollo, his associates, and a local Masotho reporter working with Mr. Carollo. Due to the public attention their research of the case garnered, Ms. Djondo felt unsafe for herself, her husband and two young children, as her attackers were now free in her community. As a direct result of these actions, Ms. Djondo felt compelled to leave her host country and requested a transfer to a different post.
It should also be brought to your attention that some of Mr. Carollo's research methods for this story were disturbing. For example, Mr. Carollo provided misinformation to Paul Leveille, the father of deceased former Peace Corps Volunteer Kevin Leveille, in order to entice Mr. Leveille into providing authorization to Mr. Carollo to obtain documents relating to his deceased son. According to Paul Leveille, Mr. Carollo informed him that the only way Mr. Leveille would be able to obtain copies of documents pertaining to his son's death was if he authorized Mr. Carollo to seek them on his behalf. When Mr. Leveille was informed that this information was inaccurate, he retracted his authorization to Mr. Carollo.
Finally, it is important to recognize that in the Peace Corps' 42-year history, more than 170,000 Americans have served in 136 countries, almost always under conditions of hardship. The Peace Corps works in some of the least developed countries and in some of the most remote areas in the world. Health, safety and security risks are an unavoidable aspect of volunteer service. Our challenge is to operate the Peace Corps in a way that minimizes risks and maximizes security, while also providing a meaningful experience for our volunteers and their host communities — a challenge the Peace Corps has been successful in meeting. As situations and world events inevitably change, the Peace Corps will continue to adjust procedures and develop new systems and policies for safety and security that reflect the needs of the time. There is every indication that Mr. Carollo's research and stories may ignore these facts. It is our hope that this message will be communicated to your readers in a fair and balanced matter.
We sincerely hope that you seriously consider the above concerns and take whatever actions necessary to ensure that Mr. Carollo's story is accurate and unbiased. We would be happy to discuss these matters in more details at your convenience.
H. David Kotz
Associate General Counsel