Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Top Diplomatic Pooch of All?

Posted: 00:08 EST

 

Several years ago, two Alsatian guard dogs owned by the Russian Embassy in the UK, were reportedly accused of savaging sheep in rural Kent. The dogs claimed diplomatic immunity to stave off farmers who want them destroyed according to the Independent.  In 2013, Australian Bennett Miller used 36 wiener dogs and their volunteer owners to create a replica of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as a performance art installation. See more here. So we had dogs that invoked diplomatic immunity, and dogs that were art muses!

In 2012, the pooches and all U.S. diplomatic pets were at the center of a very public campaign against United Airlines for its pet travel policy. (See here, here and here). That’s probably when the pets moved over to YouTube, FB and the blogs (also see The Pets of the US Foreign Service). A related trend — these days, we’ve got diplomatic pooches with varying degrees of official presence, from an occasional snapshot or two to a more persistent online presence. Here are few high ranking pooches:

 

SkipJack Armbruster, U.S. Embassy Marshall Islands

dogs_armbruster

Ambassador Thomas Armbruster and SkipJack enjoying their new ride in Majuro (Photo from US Embassy Majuro/FB)

Bernie Mitchell, U.S. Embassy Burma

DOGS_Burma

A thank you note from Ambassador Mitchell, Min, and Bernie to the people of Myanmar for their warm hospitality in 2014.

Deckard Oreck, U.S. Embassy Finland

Ambassador Bruce Oreck’s dog, Deckard, is named after — you guess it — Rick Deckard, the protagonist of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner to Hollywood). Apologies, we don’t have the text for this interview.

DOGS_Finland_Deckard

Deckard Oreck (Photo from US Embassy Finland)

Hapa Berry, U.S. Embassy Australia

 

 Fenway Hackett, U.S. Embassy The Vatican

 

Not all diplomatic pooches are created equal when it comes to their online presence, of course.  We’ve searched for the top dogs on social media and came up with the following:

DiploDog @diplomat_dog

Ambodog of Artur Wilczynski @Arturmaks, Canada’s Ambassador to Norway

“A dog excited to be going on posting to Norway with his two daddies.” Although this labrador retriever has a small number of followers on Twitter as of this writing, he has lots of pics and is marvelously entertaining. How can you not love a pooch who writes, “As a Canadian diplomat, I don’t think I’m supposed to enjoy tonight’s episode of “? Or “I don’t want to get up. It’s too dark! And what does daddy mean- “Get used to it!”?

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Benjamin F. Kerry  @DiploMutt

(Secretary John F. Kerry’s best friend in WashDC)

In November 2013, Secretary Kerry flew to Maine to pick up his new yellow Labrador puppy, Ben from Frances Plessner of Puddleduck Boarding Kennel who spent two months training the dog. According to the Boston Globe, Ben is named in honor of Ben Franklin, also known as the “Father of the American Foreign Service.” (Also see Secretary Kerry Gets a New Dog, Now a State Dept. Dog is Tweeting, Who Needs the NSA?) Ben, whose Twitter handle says @Diplomutt has 1,943 followers but is not terribly social online. He has only tweeted four times, and followed only six people, all State Department folks.  He does not appear to entertain request for retweets even for a good cause.

 

 

If you’re looking at @Diplomutt to come to the rescue after a hashtag diplomacy debacle, you’re out of luck.  It looks like Ben F. Kerry is on a very, very short leash with no other larger purpose than being the Secretary of State’s most devoted friend and most reserved sidekick in Washington, D.C.

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Grigsby Lippert @GrigsbyBasset

(Ambodog of Mark Lippert @mwlippert, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea)

This Basset Hound is an upcoming star among diplomatic pooches. Although he only has over 500 followers, @GrigsbyBasset has tweeted over twenty times more than the more popular top dog from Foggy Bottom. He tweets lots of pictures and even made it to the pages of the Wall Street Journal:

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Scruffy Nellie @DiplomaticDog
(@GregQuinnFCO FCO High Commissioner designate to Guyana)

Our most favorite pooch among the lot is Scruffy Nellie, a feisty little terrier found on the street of Astana, Kazakhstan by a British diplomatic family. Her manservant is @GregQuinn, now the FCO High Commissioner designate to Guyana.  Nellie has her own blog at Diplomatic Dog, followed by over 4200 subscribers. You may subscribe to follow her blog here and get your “regular sniffs.”  She is on Facebook with regular updates on “hairy pudding adventures and occasional words of scruffy wisdom.” She’s also on Twitter (@DiplomaticDog) with 2,797 followers.

Here she is when she was newly found:

Here she is in February 2014:

 

Scruffy Nellie, herself, is available for interviews. See the one she did here with BlogExpat.com.  By the way, when her manservant gave an interview on behalf of the British Embassy in Astana (@UKinKZ with 2,196 followers),  @DiplomaticDog was there to retweet, and amplify.

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@GregQuinnFCO confirmed to us that Scruffy Nellie is moving with him to Guyana this month. We’re looking forward to her Caribbean adventure; maybe she’ll get to see Kaieteur Falls!

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Have Brawn, Endurance and Wanna See the World? Uncle Ben Wants You!

Posted: 14:06 EST

 

The Department of State is developing a rank-order Register to fill a limited number of Foreign Service Diplomatic Courier vacancies.  Couriers are responsible for the security of the Department of State’s Courier-accompanied diplomatic pouch operations worldwide. The job is physically exacting and couriers spend a substantial portion of their careers living and working overseas in a nearly constant travel status using conveyances to include passenger and cargo aircraft, trucks, trains, and ships.

It is important that a Diplomatic Courier has the physical endurance to withstand the challenging physical stresses from working long hours, lack of sleep, extremes of heat or cold, and other discomforts. A Diplomatic Courier must have the physical strength to lift and move heavy items such as diplomatic pouches and crates that may be oversized and weigh as much as 70 lbs or carry heavy equipment.

Some essential functions of the job have a physically demanding component. For instance, a Diplomatic Courier is required to perform work that requires regular and recurring periods of prolonged sitting, standing, bending, and stretching. A Diplomatic Courier is often required to physically move and transport heavy diplomatic pouches. That could involve climbing ladders and working in and around aircraft, trucks, trains, aboard ships, etc. Other essential duties of the job may involve assisting with the recurring lifting of heavy diplomatic pouches and boxes. Related activities include crawling, maneuvering, and working in cramped spaces as well as the occasional moving and transporting of diplomatic pouches that may weigh as much as 70 lbs.

In addition, candidates must have vision that is correctable to 20/20 in one eye and 20/40 in the other, no color blindness, adequate night vision and good peripheral vision. Candidates must have good hearing with no loss of greater than 30 decibels at 500, 1000, 2000 Hz level. The musculoskeletal system should have no deformities, diseases or limiting conditions that would interfere with the performance of duties.

The Office of Medical Services will conduct or arrange for a physical examination of each applicant offered a position to ensure that the candidate meets the physical and medical requirements necessary to perform the essential functions of the job and can meet the standards required for a worldwide medical clearance.

Applicants must be available for worldwide service, and be able to tolerate intensive world travel, living away from family, and working and living in difficult and / or isolated conditions.

 

According to State Department statistics, the agency has 102 full time, permanent couriers as of March 2013.  The largest population of couriers is in the FS-04 level, a couple is in the Senior Foreign Service.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 20 and 59 and posses a valid U.S. driver’s license. Education and experience qualifications must be met. Male candidates must also be in compliance with the Selective Service Act.  This is an FP-06 job with an annual salary of $39,166-$57,517.  Application deadline coming up. See more at careers.state.gov.

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US Embassy Jordan Warns of a Potential Threat Against High-End Malls in Amman

Posted: 15:04 PST

 

On February 25, the U.S. Embassy in Amman issued a message to U.S. citizens in Jordan concerning a potential threat against high-end malls in the capital city:

The U.S. Embassy has received information of a potential threat against high-end malls in Amman.  The threat is judged to be credible, although the possible timeframe and type of threat are unknown.  The Government of Jordan has taken steps to increase security at these locations.  U.S. Embassy employees and family members have been instructed to avoid these locations as a precaution in the coming days, and private U.S. citizens are advised to do the same.

Jordan Map via CIA World Factbook

Jordan Map via CIA World Factbook

Extremist groups have repeatedly expressed interest in attacking so-called soft targets, such as malls and restaurants, in Jordan. U.S. citizens should expect to see an increased security presence at such establishments throughout Jordan, and especially in Amman.  We encourage U.S. citizens to cooperate with all vehicle and personal searches by police and private security.  U.S. citizens residing in or visiting Jordan should remain vigilant regarding their personal security and alert to local security developments.

The 2014 Crime and Safety Report issued by Diplomatic Security notes that the threat of terrorism remains a major concern as regional and transnational terrorist groups, as well as local extremists, have demonstrated the willingness and ability to mount attacks.

In late September 2012, the General Intelligence Department uncovered and foiled a major terrorist plot that targeted several Amman shopping centers and cafes, known to be frequented by diplomats and Westerners, and the U.S. Embassy. The highly sophisticated plot, orchestrated by members of al-Qai’da in Iraq (AQI) who had operated in Syria, was designed to take place in several phases — first targeting commercial locations to draw the attention of security forces and culminating in a complex attack on the Embassy involving vehicle borne explosive devices, suicide bombers, and mortars. The plot was disrupted prior to the group moving to the operational phase. Jordanian authorities arrested all 11 members (all Jordanian citizens) believed to be involved in the plot.

AQI has a storied past in Jordan, to include claiming responsibility for the November 2005 bombings of three international hotels in Amman that killed 60 people and the October 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley.
[…]
In August 2010, a roadside IED detonated near the passing vehicle of three State Department contractors in Sahab. The attack caused minor damage to the vehicle but resulted in no injuries.

The report also notes that due to cross border security concerns as a result of the Syrian civil war, the U.S. Embassy has issued a travel policy for all personnel under Chief of Mission authority, mandating specific restrictions and requirements for official travel to the Jordanian/Syrian border and locations in close proximity to the border, including the Za’atri refugee camp. Travel to these locations by Embassy personnel must be conducted in armored vehicles equipped with RSO monitored tracking devices. Additionally, prior to travel commencing, the Regional Security Office routinely consults with the Jordanian PSD to determine the suitability of the journey and, if necessary, to arrange for additional security measures.

 

Related item:

Jordan 2014 Crime and Safety Report

 

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State Dept Issues Travel Warnings For Algeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia; Warns of “Imminent Attacks” in Kabul

Posted: 11:17 EST

 

On February 24, the State Department issued Travel Warnings for Algeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia:

Algeria Travel Warning:

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens who travel to Algeria to evaluate carefully the risks posed to their personal safety. There is a high threat of terrorism and kidnappings in Algeria, as noted in the Department of State’s latest Worldwide Caution. Although the major cities are heavily policed, attacks are still possible. The majority of terrorist attacks, including bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes occur in the mountainous areas to the east of Algiers (Kabylie region and eastern wilayas) and in the expansive Saharan desert regions of the south and southeast. In September, the ISIL-affiliated Jund al-Khalifa (Soldiers of the Caliphate) abducted and beheaded a French citizen, in the Kabylie region.
[…]
The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S. Embassy personnel assigned to Algiers sufficiently serious to require them to live and work under security restrictions. The U.S. Department of State permits U.S. diplomats in Algeria to be accompanied only by adult family members, and children under age 12. Embassy travel restrictions limit and occasionally prevent the movement of U.S. Embassy officials and the provision of consular services in certain areas of the country. Likewise, the Government of Algeria requires U.S. Embassy personnel to seek permission to travel outside the wilaya of Algiers and provides police escorts. Travel to the military zone established around the Hassi Messaoud oil center requires Government of Algeria authorization.

state.gov/nea map

state.gov/nea map

Pakistan Travel Warning:

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi continue to provide consular services for all U.S. citizens in Pakistan. The U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar no longer offers consular services and the U.S. Consulate General in Lahore remains temporarily closed for public services.
[…]
The presence of several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups poses a danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan. Across the country, terrorist attacks frequently occur against civilian, government, and foreign targets.
[…]
U.S. government personnel travel within Pakistan is often restricted based on security or other reasons. Movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General are severely restricted, and consulate staff cannot drive personally-owned vehicles. Embassy staff is permitted at times to drive personally-owned vehicles in the greater Islamabad area.

U.S. officials in Islamabad are instructed to limit the frequency of travel and minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Official visitors are not authorized to stay overnight in local hotels. Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Mission sometimes places areas such as hotels, markets, and restaurants off-limits to official personnel. U.S. officials are not authorized to use public transportation.

Saudi Arabia Travel Warning:

The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia. There have been recent attacks on U.S. citizens and other Western expatriates, an attack on Shi’ite Muslims outside a community center in the Eastern Province on November 3, 2014, and continuing reports of threats against U.S. citizens and other Westerners in the Kingdom.
[…]
Security threats are increasing and terrorist groups, some affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have targeted both Saudi and Western interests. Possible targets include housing compounds, hotels, shopping areas, international schools, and other facilities where Westerners congregate, as well as Saudi government facilities and economic/commercial targets within the Kingdom.

On January 30, 2015, two U.S. citizens were fired upon and injured in Hofuf in Al Hasa Governorate (Eastern Province). The U.S. Embassy has instructed U.S. government personnel and their families to avoid all travel to Al Hasa Governorate, and advises all U.S. citizens to do the same. On October 14, 2014, two U.S. citizens were shot at a gas station in Riyadh. One was killed and the other wounded.

In related news — yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also issued an Emergency Message concerning threats to American citizens in what is still a war zone.

“As of late February 2015, militants planned to conduct multiple imminent attacks against an unspecified target or targets in Kabul City, Afghanistan. There was no further information regarding the timing, target, location, or method of any planned attacks.”

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is the first overseas destination of the new defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter. According to the NYT, he arrived in Afghanistan over the weekend and opened up the possibility of “slowing the withdrawal of the last American troops in the country to help keep the Taliban at bay.”  Most of the remaining troops in the country are scheduled to be withdrawn by the end of 2016.

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President Obama Nominates FSO Katherine S. Dhanani as First Ambassador to Somalia Since 1991

Posted: 18:17 EST

 

We have not seen the official announcement from the WH yet, but on February 24, Secretary Kerry released the following statement on the nomination of FSO Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991:

President Obama, today, nominated Katherine S. Dhanani to serve as the first United States Ambassador to Somalia since 1991. This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia. It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation. The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner. If confirmed, the Ambassador will lead the U.S. Mission to Somalia, currently based at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. As security conditions permit, we look forward to increasing our diplomatic presence in Somalia and eventually reopening the .

Traditional Hyderabadi marfa drum beaters await the arrival of Consul General Katherine Dhanani at the Pista House, Charminar. (Photo by USCG Hyderabad)

Traditional Hyderabadi marfa drum beaters await the arrival of Consul General Katherine Dhanani at the Pista House, Charminar.
(Photo by USCG Hyderabad)

According to her online bio, Ms. Dhanani succeeded Cornelis M. Keur as U.S. Consul General in Hyderabad and assumed charge of post in  September 2010. She has been a foreign service officer since 1990 and has previously served at US embassies in Georgetown, Guyana, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Mexico City, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lusaka,Zambia and Libreville,Gabon. She was also deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Harare.  She is a trained economist from the Kenyon College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught economics at the Grinnel College before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. During her tenure in Hyderabad, she blogged at A Diplomat in the Deccan.

Via state.gov

Via state.gov

Except for a Virtual Presence Post, the United States has no formal diplomatic presence in Somalia.  The most recent Travel Warning for Somalia last updated in October 2014,  recommends that U.S. citizens avoid all travel to Somalia.

Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, and other violent incidents and threats to U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia. 
[…]
While some parts of south/central Somalia are now under Somali government control with the military support of African Union forces, al-Shabaab has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, and the Somali diaspora.  In February 2012, al-Shabaab announced that it had merged with Al-Qaida.

The current Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, James C. Swan previously served as the United States Special Representative for Somalia from August 2011 to July 2013, leading U.S. diplomatic, security, and stabilization initiatives that culminated in U.S. recognition of a Somali government for the first time in more than two decades.  In August 2013, James P. McAnulty was appointed his successor as Special Representative for Somalia.

The last Senate-confirmed ambassador to Somalia according to history.state.gov was James Keough Bishop (1938-) who was appointed on June 27, 1990. The appointment was terminated when the Embassy closed on January 5, 1991.

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February 25, Wilson Center: The Changing Face and Changing Roles of the Foreign Service

Posted: 08:45 PST

 

The Bureau of Public Affairs, the U.S. Diplomacy Center and the Wilson Center will host a panel discussion on The Changing Face and Changing Roles of the Foreign Service:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
10:30-11:45 am
6th Floor Flom Auditorium

Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Phone: 202.691.4000
wwics@wilsoncenter.org

Via the Wilson Center:

For more than two decades, the US Department of State, USAID and other foreign affairs agencies have worked to ensure that the Foreign Service looks more like America.  Success in that effort could contribute immeasurably to the United States’ global leadership on a range of issues including gender equality, democracy and minority rights. A panel of experts will question if the Foreign Service has been successful in these efforts and explore how it must continue to evolve in a rapidly changing world.

Introduction

Shante Moore, Foreign Service Officer

Remarks

Ambassador Arnold Chacon, Director General of the Foreign Service

Discussants

  • Susan Reichle, USAID Counselor
  • Robert Silverman, President, American Foreign Service Association

Moderator

Diana Villiers Negroponte, Wilson Center Public Policy Scholar

 

 

Related posts:

Related item:

State’s Female-Proof Glass Ceiling: Breaking into the Good Old Boys Diplomatic Club is Still Hard to Do (whirledview.typepad.com)

Photo of the Day: Back in the U.S.A.

Posted: 08:41 PST

 

Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 13, 2015, after the Secretary stopped by a gathering to thank Embassy employees and a Department-based task force for their work to safely and successfully evacuate the Embassy after the suspending operations and temporarily relocating staff out of the capital of Sana’a. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller

 

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FSO Randy Berry Appointed as Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons

Posted: 14:15 EST
Updated 17:01 EST

 

Today, Secretary Kerry  announced the appointment of FSO Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Below is an excerpt from Secretary Kerry’s remarks:

20150218_Randy_Berry_875x972

We looked far and wide to find the right American official for this important assignment. Randy’s a leader. He’s a motivator. But most importantly for this effort, he’s got vision. Wherever he’s served – from Nepal to New Zealand, from Uganda to Bangladesh, from Egypt to South Africa, and most recently as Consul General in Amsterdam – Randy has excelled. He’s a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights. And I’m confident that Randy’s leadership as our new Special Envoy will significantly advance efforts underway to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.

Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally – the heart and conscience of our diplomacy. That’s why we’re working to overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in countries around the world. It’s why we’re building our capacity to respond rapidly to violence against LGBT persons, and it’s why we’re working with governments, civil society, and the private sector through the Global Equality Fund to support programs advancing the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.

Read the full announcement here.

Prior to his appointment, Randy Berry was the U.S. Consul General in Amsterdam. Below is his official bio from USCG Amsterdam:

Randy W. Berry arrived in Amsterdam August 3, 2012.   He was United States Consul General in Auckland, New Zealand from 2009 to 2012, and prior to that, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007 to 2009.

Mr. Berry’s career with the State Department has also taken him to postings in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda (twice), and South Africa, as well as Washington DC.  Mr. Berry holds a State Department Superior Honor Award, and is a nine-time Meritorious Honor Award recipient.  He speaks Spanish and Arabic.

Mr. Berry was raised on a family cattle ranch in rural Custer County, Colorado.  He is a graduate of Bethany College of Lindsborg, Kansas, and was a Rotary Scholar at the University of Adelaide, South Australia.   Before joining the Foreign Service in 1993, Berry worked as an international training manager for America West Airlines in Phoenix, Arizona.

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Move Over Jason Bourne! Meet Diplomat Alex Baines, Our New Favorite Fictional Hero

 

Matthew Palmer is a twenty-seven year veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service. He served as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade from 2011-2014. Last year, he became the Director for Multilateral Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department. The American Mission is his first novel. It is a thriller set in the Democratic Republic of Congo featuring American diplomat Alex Baines as the protagonist. The American Mission is the first in a series of novels focused on American diplomacy that will be published by Putnam, an imprint of Penguin Random House.  This is first-rate, can’t put down fiction.  Bought the book one day, and gobbled it up to the end in two days! The excerpt below selected by Putnam is the only section of the book that’s set in the consular section.  The rest of the story is about Africa, minerals and exploitation by big corporations (there goes your economic statecraft).  Oh, there is an ambassador, corrupted, and an OGA guy with tricks, and a love interest. All for a fictional run that would make into a fantastic movie.  Read the Goodreads review here, from Kirkus here, from Rhapsody in Books here and the rest of media reviews here.  Thanks to Matt, and Ashley (Putnam) for allowing us to share this excerpt with our readers!

Matt Palmer Author Photo Credit (C) Kathryn Banas

Matt Palmer Author Photo Credit (C) Kathryn BanasAMERICAN MISSION jacket

Reprinted from The American Mission by Matthew Palmer by arrangement with G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, Copyright © 2014 by Matthew Palmer.

 

JUNE 12, 2009
CONAKRY

Check this one out. Twenty—two years old. Absolutely stunning. Says she wants to go to Disney World, but she has a one—way ticket to New York. Why do they always say that they’re going to Disney World? You’d think they’d just won the Super Bowl or something.”

Hamilton Scott, Alex’s partner on the visa line at the U.S. Embassy in Conakry, Guinea, leaned around the narrow partition that separated their interview booths, dangling an application for a tourist visa. The woman in the visa photo clipped to the upper corner bore a striking resemblance to the supermodel Naomi Campbell.

It was admittedly unprofessional, but Alex understood what Ham was doing. Visa—line work could be excruciatingly monotonous, and in a third—world hellhole like Conakry, the applicants would say or do just about anything to gain entrance to the United States. The vice consuls often resorted to black humor or informal games like Visa Applicant Bingo as a way to keep themselves sane.

“Do you think she’d sleep with me for a visa?” Ham asked with mock seriousness.

“Twenty—two? Isn’t she a little old for you, Ham?”

“Ordinarily, yes. But this girl’s exceptional. And there’s no way she qualifies as a tourist.”

“Qualify” was a kind of code word in visa work. The law said that anyone applying for a visa to the United States had to prove that he or she was not secretly intending to emigrate. The challenge for the applicants was demonstrating that they had strong and compelling reasons to come back after visiting the U.S. In practice, this meant money. Rich people were “qualified” for visas. Poor people struggled to overcome the supposition that they were economic migrants. In the euphemistic language of government, they were “unqualified.”

Ham turned back to the applicant and explained to Ms. Hadja Malabo that, sadly, she lacked the qualifications for an American visa and should consider reapplying when her “situation” had changed. Ham’s French was flawless, a consequence of four years at a boarding school in Switzerland. He was polite but, Alex thought, somewhat brusque in rejecting Ms. Malabo’s application.

Ham leaned back around the partition.

“I’m almost through my stack, only four or five left. How you doing?”

Alex looked at the pile of application packages still in front of him. There were at least twenty left. He and Ham were the only two interviewing officers at post, which meant about fifty nonimmigrant visa interviews a day for each of them. Ham made his decisions with a brutal efficiency. Alex took more time with each applicant. Most would come away empty—handed, but he wanted to give each person who came into his interview booth the sense that they had had a chance to make their case and that the consul had at least given them a fair shot. For most Guineans, their brief moment with a consular officer was as close as they were going to get to the United States.

“I still have a few to go,” Alex admitted.

“Give me some of yours.” Ham reached over and took nearly half of the stack out of Alex’s in—box. “If we can finish in less than an hour, we can grab a sandwich and a beer at Harry’s bar. My treat. Gotta meet with the Ambassador after lunch to talk over the report on human trafficking I did for him last week.” Ham paused for a moment. “I’m sorry, Alex,” he said carefully. “You know I don’t mean to rub that in.”

 

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US Embassy Tunis September 2012 Attackers Get Prison Terms of Two to Four Years

Posted: 02:12 EST

 

On February 18, France 24 reported that Tunisia’s appeals court sentenced 20 men convicted of participating in a 2012 attack on the US embassy to prison terms after an initial ruling was deemed too lenient.

In May 2013, all 20 men were all given two-year suspended sentences for ransacking the diplomatic mission, as well as the American school, alongside hundreds of protesters enraged at an online US-made film trailer they deemed critical of Islam.

Read more:

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The State Department was asked about the verdicts and here is its official response:

“The verdicts issued by the Appellate Court reflect a serious response to the September 2012 attack on U.S. Embassy Tunis. That said, we remain disappointed that justice in this case has been delayed so long and remains incomplete with several key suspects still at large. We hope that all those responsible for the attack on the U.S. Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis will be brought to justice without further delay.”

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