Welcome Reception for Randy Berry, Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons

Posted: 18:05 EST

 

On February 23, 2015, the State Department  announced the appointment of FSO Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons. Today, Secretary Kerry hosted a welcome reception at the State Department to commemorate the announcement. Click on the image below to view the video of the welcome remarks by Secretary Kerry, Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (State/DRL) and Special Envoy Randy Berry:

Screen Shot 2015-02-27

Randy Berry, LGBT Special Envoy at Welcome Reception on February 27, 2015 (click image to view video)

I am well aware how lucky I am to be standing here before you today with such amazing and comprehensive support networks, not only professionally but also personally. I’m joined here today not only by my sisters, Rita and Rhonda from Colorado, but also by my husband and my fellow global traveler, Pravesh Singh. Pravesh left his native South Africa nearly a decade ago not only to join me, but I think he really didn’t realize he was also joining a larger family, and that is the Foreign Service, a family bound together in service to the United States. He’s as much a member of the United States Foreign Service as I am, and I am very pleased to say that post-DOMA, when we move here from Amsterdam in early April, he will move home as an American citizen. (Applause.)

Pravesh and I do not share a common culture, nor do we share a common religion, nor do we share a common race. As much as it pains me to say this, we don’t even share a common decade – (laughter) – really. What we do share, however, is love, and that love has built a good and happy life and a family that now includes our exceptional – (laughter) – our exceptional young children who are normally so well behaved – (laughter) – Arya and Xander. Yet as I say that, I think all of us in this room recognize just how unbelievably fortunate we are, for in far too many places around the world not only is this type of story impossible, but additionally, great and terrible injustices are visited on people like us.

This love still stands ground for imprisonment, harassment, torture, and far worse in too many places around the world. That is a violation of human rights. It is a violation of human rights by the standards set forth by many of our allies and partners around the world, and it is a violation of human rights by the standard of the universal declaration. We can and we must do better. Lives, futures, hopes and dreams depend on that, and that is why we’re here today. That’s also why this type of role is needed.

Read the full remarks here.

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State Dept’s Counterterrorism Official Arrested For Allegedly Soliciting Minor Online

Posted: 13:45 EST
Updated: February 27, 2015, 20:45 PST

 

This is not the kind of news you want to read with your latte. Via CBS News:

A senior State Department official who oversees counter terrorism programs was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of soliciting sex from a minor, reports CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan.

The department’s director of counterterrorism was charged with one count of attempting to solicit sex from a juvenile, and spent the night in Washington, D.C. jail.

According to police, Daniel Rosen, 44, was taken into custody at home after exchanging multiple online messages with an undercover detective from their child exploitation unit. The detective was operating a sting operation to bust online predators.

Court documents do not appear to be publicly available online as of this writing. However, the Fairfax County Police Department says that the charge was for “one count of use of a communications device to solicit a juvenile” and that Rosen will be extradited to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center at some point within the next 10 days.   He will have a status hearing at the D.C. Superior Court in the afternoon of March 3.  Click here for  @wusa9 video coverage.

Below is a recap via Twitter.  There was a DC man:

 

Who turned out to be some official working in a high profile bureau:

 

Local news covered the arraignment, see Peggy Fox’s timeline on Twitter:

 

Also covered by CNN after bail denial.  The larger problem cited by Dr. Lori Handrahan, the author of forthcoming book Child Porn Nation: America’s Hidden National Security Risk which details America’s child sex abuse epidemic:

 

 

The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris reports that at the State Department on Wednesday, “there was no official communication to staff about Rosen’s arrest, just an awkward silence.” He writes:

Those who know Rosen pushed back on initial reports that he was a senior-level official in charge of all counterterrorism programs at the State Department. His job was largely budgetary and bureaucratic, they said. Rosen had mastered the byzantine rules imposed on how a federal agency can spend money.
[…]
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told The Daily Beast in a statement: “We are aware that a State Department employee has been arrested and charges have been issued. For issues related to Department personnel and for privacy reasons, we are not able to confirm the identity of the individual or specific charges.”

Psaki said the employee would be placed on administrative leave during the judicial process. “We are following standard procedure in this case,” she said.

Rosen’s publicly available LinkedIn profile says that he is the Director of Counterterrorism Plans, Programs and Policy at the U.S. Department of State  from August 2008 to present (6 years 7 months). Among the experience he listed is oversight of $300 million per year in CT programs related to Countering Violent Extremism, Antiterrorism Assistance, Counterterrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Engagement and Regional Initiatives and management of an office with over 20 personnel.

This case is serious and creepy but we should also note that the charge in the complaint is an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in the court of law.

Meanwhile, the State Department’s telephone directory had been scrubbed.  The updated directory dated February 25 lists the Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Director for the Office of Programs and Policy located at 2509 as currently “vacant.”

* * *

 

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)

A Perfect Case for OIG’s Office of Evaluations & Special Projects: How the Visa Waiver Sausage Gets Made

– Domani Spero

 

In 2004, Alden P. Stallings, a Foreign Service Officer pleaded guilty for writing false visa referrals. According to DOJ, Stallings was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea as the Deputy Public Affairs Officer when he submitted to the Consular Section 54 referrals in which he provided false information about his relationship with the applicants. DOJ charged that on each of the 54 referral forms, Stallings stated that he recommended the issuance of a non-immigrant visa to the applicant because the applicant was an “important post contact” whom he had “personally known” since a specified date. In fact, on each of the 54 occasions, Stallings knew that his statement on the referral form was false, and that he did not personally know the contact.

At the time Stallings pleaded guilty,he faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and that case effectively ended his career.

But hey, is it true that if you are in a senior position or a congressional representative,  a personal intervention on behalf of a rejected visa applicant — who allegedly brought foreign maids into the country under false visa pretenses, and donated money to political campaigns — is A-okay?

Via the NYT:

The Obama administration overturned a ban preventing a wealthy, politically connected Ecuadorean woman from entering the United States after her family gave tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns, according to finance records and government officials.

The woman, Estefanía Isaías, had been barred from coming to the United States after being caught fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids. But the ban was lifted at the request of the State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton so that Ms. Isaías could work for an Obama fund-raiser with close ties to the administration.

It was one of several favorable decisions the Obama administration made in recent years involving the Isaías family, which the government of Ecuadoraccuses of buying protection from Washington and living comfortably in Miami off the profits of a looted bank in Ecuador.
[…]
In the spring of 2011, Ms. Isaías, a television executive, was in a difficult situation.

Her father and uncle were Ecuadorean fugitives living in Miami, but she was barred from entering the United States after she brought maids into the country under false visa pretenses and left them at her parents’ Miami home while she traveled.

“Alien smuggling” is what American consular officials in Ecuador called it.

American diplomats began enforcing the ban against Ms. Isaías, blocking her from coming to Miami for a job with a communications strategist who had raised up to $500,000 for President Obama.
[…]
Over the course of the next year, as various members of the Isaías family donated to Mr. Menendez’s re-election campaign, the senator and his staff repeatedly made calls, sent emails and wrote letters about Ms. Isaías’s case to Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Mills, the consulate in Ecuador, and the departments of State and Homeland Security.

After months of resistance from State Department offices in Ecuador and Washington, the senator lobbied Ms. Mills himself, and the ban against Ms. Isaías was eventually overturned.
[…]
David A. Duckenfield, a partner at the company who is now on leave for a position as deputy assistant secretary of public affairs at the State Department, said Ms. Isaías worked for the firm but declined to comment further. Another senior executive at the firm said she must work outside the office because he had never heard of her.
[…]
“There are rigorous processes in place for matters such as these, and they were followed,” said the spokesman, Nick Merrill. “Nothing more, nothing less.”

A White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, declined to comment, saying that visas are issued free from political interference by other federal agencies.

Mr. Boehm, the former Pennsylvania prosecutor, said Senate ethics rules allowed members of Congress to reach out to the administration on behalf of a constituent. “Members of Congress do a lot for their constituents,” Mr. Boehm said.

“These folks are not his constituents,” he added, referring to Mr. Menendez.

See the whole report here: Ecuador Family Wins Favors After Donations to Democrats. 

Pardon me? Ah, yes, the vomitorium is next door to the right, please don’t make a mess.

Continue reading

Kerry Officially Appoints Amos Hochstein as Energy Envoy. Oh, Hey, What’s That?

– Domani Spero

 

It’s official. Last week, Secretary Kerry appointed Amos Hochstein as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs. Here is his state.gov bio:

Amos J Hochstein serves as the Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs leading the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) at the U.S. Department of State. He oversees U.S. foreign policy engagement in the critical intersection of energy and national security. In this role, he advises the Secretary on global energy security and diplomacy, as well as promotes U.S. interests to ensure energy resources are used to increase economic opportunity, stability and prosperity around the world. Special Envoy Hochstein also advises the Secretary on U.S. strategy to advance global integration of renewable and clean energy sources. Prior to this role, Mr. Hochstein served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy and in that capacity oversaw the Office of Middle East and Asia and the Office of Europe, the Western Hemisphere and Africa where he lead the bureau’s energy diplomacy efforts.

Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Hochstein spent more than 15 years advising U.S. elected officials, candidates for public office and thought leaders on domestic and global energy policy initiatives. He began his career in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill where he served in a variety of senior level positions, ultimately serving as the Senior Policy Advisor to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Hochstein first served as the principal Democratic staff person on the Economic Policy, Trade and Environment Subcommittee where he oversaw work authorizing Ex-Im Bank, OPIC and USTDA, as well as drafting legislation on export controls and trade-related multilateral organizations and regimes.

Mr. Hochstein served as Policy Director to Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). Prior to his work with Sen. Dodd, he worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to Senator (then Governor) Mark Warner (D-VA).

Harnessing his experience in the policy, campaign and public sector, Mr. Hochstein moved to the private sector as Executive Vice President of International Operations at Cassidy & Associates. Throughout his career, he has been a counselor for both domestic and international oil and gas companies, as well as companies focusing on renewable energy. In this capacity, he assisted corporations in assessing potential new markets and the development of alternative sources of power and best strategies to bring them to market.

 

You may now follow (or not) Mr. Hochstein on Twitter at  but he says “tweets are my own.” Now, where’s the fun in that?

* * *

Mr. Hochstein succeeds Ambassador Carlos Pascual who was appointed Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs after a stint as ambassador to Mexico. The Bureau of Energy Affairs was subsequently  created in November 2011.   We have posted here about Ambassador Pascual when he became the first public casualty of WikiLeaks in March 2011.  Two days after that, his resignation was announced On May 2011, Ambassador Pascual was appointed as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs. He was nominated the first Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Energy Affairs in February 2012.  The Senate did not act on the nomination and this past summer, he resigned from his State Department post to join Columbia University’s  Center on Global Energy Policy.

According to the state.gov, the Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) is “working to ensure that all our diplomatic relationships advance our interests in having access to secure, reliable, and ever-cleaner sources of energy.” It’s three core objectives includes energy diplomacy, energy transformation, and energy transparency and access.

Mr. Amos has been appointed to a special envoy position which requires no confirmation. He heads State’s ENR office supported by  Amb. Mary Warlick as his Principal Deputy Assistant SecretaryRobin Dunnigan as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy and Robert F. Ichord, Jr., Ph.D. as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Transformation.

Oh, hey, what’s that?

 

Wait — there’s more? Via Newsweek back in 2010, with special mention for the new special envoy, Mr. Hochstein who then oversaw the Equatorial Guinea account:

The rise in foreign lobbying may have also compromised the policymaking of current and future U.S. government officials. With little oversight, lobbyists can represent the most repressive regimes and then turn around and work in government. According to John Newhouse, author of a forthcoming book on the influence of foreign lobbies on American policies, one of John McCain’s senior foreign-policy advisers during his 2008 campaign, Randy Scheunemann, simultaneously worked for McCain and as a paid adviser to the government of Georgia, which had been accused of human-rights violations. Despite McCain’s reputation as a leading champion of human rights, Scheunemann largely escaped questions about whether his lobbying might have affected his foreign-policy advice to the powerful senator. Similarly, while at Cassidy & Associates, lobbyist Amos Hochstein oversaw the Equatorial Guinea account, which required him to argue the merits of one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Still, after leaving Cassidy, Hochstein landed a prominent job on the (ill-fated) 2008 presidential campaign of Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, a politician also known for his longstanding human-rights advocacy. Now Hochstein says he helped “move the ball forward on human rights” in the country.

Lobbying can turn down the pressure on authoritarian regimes. After years of intense lobbying, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang managed to transform his image in Washington from a venal autocrat into a solid American ally and buddy of U.S. business. In 2006 he strode out of a meeting at Foggy Bottom with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who declared him “a good friend.”

Look, one of our readers also sent us a link to Sunlight Foundation’s Foreign Influence Explorer for Equatorial Guinea. If you have never seen it, click here for folks you may or may not know.

Oh, dear.  May we please retract our congratulations now?

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshot: State Dept Overseas Real Property Acquisitions & Disposals (FY2008-2013)

– Domani Spero

 

 Via GAO

Our analysis of State’s real property portfolio indicated that the overall inventory has increased. State reported its leased properties, which make up approximately 75 percent of the inventory, increased from approximately 12,000 to 14,000 between 2008 and 2013. However, comparing the total number of owned properties between years can be misleading because State’s method of counting these properties has been evolving over the past several years. OBO officials explained that in response to changes in OMB’s and FRPP’s reporting guidance, they have made efforts to count properties more precisely. For example, OBO has focused on separately capturing structural assets previously recorded as part of another building asset, such as perimeter walls, guard booths, and other ancillary structures. As a result of this effort, State recorded approximately 650 additional structural assets in its fiscal year 2012 FRPP report and approximately 900 more structures the following year in its fiscal year 2013 FRPP report, according to OBO officials.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 9.11.13 AM

Acquisitions: State reported spending more than $600 million to acquire nearly 300 properties from fiscal year 2008 through 2013 (see fig.1).11 State uses two sources of funding to acquire real property. It acquires land for building new embassy compounds (NEC) with funding from the CSCS program. It acquires residences, offices, and other functional facilities with proceeds from the disposal of unneeded property. In fiscal years 2008 through 2013, State reported spending approximately $400 million of these disposal proceeds to acquire approximately 230 properties.

Disposals: From fiscal years 2008 through 2013, State reported selling approximately 170 properties. In doing so, it received approximately $695 million in proceeds (see fig.1). According to State, property vacated when personnel move into newly constructed facilities is the largest source of property that can be disposed of. When State completes construction of a NEC, personnel previously working in different facilities at multiple locations are then collocated into the same NEC, a move that provides State an opportunity to dispose of its former facilities. Further information on State’s acquisitions and disposals from fiscal year 2008 through 2013, can be found in figures 1 and 2 below.

Leases: The majority of State’s leased properties are residences. State reported spending approximately $500 million on leases in 2013 and projects a potential increase to approximately $550 million by 2016 as growing populations in urban centers around the world push rental costs higher and the U.S. government’s overseas presence increases.

 * * *

 

 

 

 

Benghazi Select Committee Invites DS Greg Starr (Again) and IG Steve Linick to Hearing #2

– Domani Spero

 

The House Select Committee on Benghazi had its inaugural hearing on September 17 (see Battle For Benghazi in WashDC:  Vroom Vroom Your Search Engines Now or Just Drink Gin). That hearing’s topic was “Implementation of the Accountability Review Board Recommendations” and the committee had as witnesses, DS Greg Starr, the Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, and Mark J. Sullivan and Todd Keil, chairman and member respectively of the The Independent Panel on Best Practices. The Accountability Review Board Recommendations were issued for the State Department and not a task just for Diplomatic Security. For whatever reason, Mr. Starr, one bureau’s assistant secretary was invited to answer agency implementation questions from the Select Committee. No deputy secretary or under secretary was available to answer questions from the Hill?

On November 21, the House Intel Committee released its final Benghazi Report.

 

The Select Committee on Benghazi issued the following statement on the declassification of the House Intelligence Committee’s Benghazi Report:

“The Select Committee on Benghazi received the Intelligence Committee’s report on the Benghazi terrorist attack months ago, and has reviewed it along with other Committee reports and materials as the investigation proceeds. It will aid the Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation to determine the full facts of what happened in Benghazi, Libya before, during and after the attack and contribute toward our final, definitive accounting of the attack on behalf of Congress.”

 

Some fellow over there said that the report is full of crap.

 

Also, apparently, other GOP lawmakers, and Benghazi survivors were fuming over the House report and were not happy with the Intel Committee’s chairman, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers. Uh-oh.

So crap or not, the Benghazi Select Committee is charging on.  The Committee will have a second hearing on “Reviewing Efforts to Secure U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel.” This time, the Committee will appropriately hear from Assistant Secretary Starr. By the way, where can we place bets on how many times A/S Starr will be invited to speak to the Committee before this is over in 2017?  Because you know this won’t be over until after the 2016 elections; poor fellow was not even working at the State Department when the Benghazi attack happened.

A/S Starr will be joined by State Department Inspector General Steve Linick for this hearing.  We think this is Mr. Linick’s first appearance before Congress following his confirmation.

Wed, 12/10/2014 – 10:00am
HVC-210

Topic: Reviewing Efforts to Secure U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel

Witnesses:

  • Greg Starr, Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security
  • Steve Linick, Inspector General, Department of State

The hearing page is here.

 * * *

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Yemen: How to Catch the Visa Malfeasance Pokemons? Very Quietly.

– Domani Spero

 

 

Via NY Daily News:

An employee at the embassy may have given out more than 50 sham visas to people who falsely claimed they needed to enter the U.S. to attend an oil industry conference in Texas, according to unsealed papers in Brooklyn Federal Court. The feds learned the Yemeni citizens never went to the conference. It was not clear if the fraudulent visas were connected to terrorism. The feds have uncovered a breach of security inside the U.S. Embassy in Yemen that led to bogus visas being issued, the Daily News has learned.

 

* * *

Via U.S. Consulate Amsterdam

Via U.S. Consulate Amsterdam

If these visas were issued at the embassy, these are authentic visas, using real foils –issued under fraudulent reasons. What are the typical types of visa fraud? Below according to state.gov:

  • Presenting false documents to apply for a visa
  • Concealing facts that would disqualify one from getting a visa, like a criminal history in the alien’s home country
  • The sale, trafficking, or transfer of otherwise legitimate visas
  • Misrepresenting the reasons for requiring a visa
  • Counterfeiting, forgery, or alteration of a visa

We must also add, procurement of authentic visa by malfeasance — bribing a consular employee.  For more on visa security, read Fred Burton’s Getting Back to the Basics here.

DSS Special Agent Bert Seay’s filed a court statement at the Eastern District of New York supporting probable cause to arrest one of those 50 individuals issued visas in Yemen:

In August 2014, DSS received information from the Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General (“DHS-OIG”) that DHS-OIG had received an anonymous tip that Yemeni national employees working in the non-immigrant visa unit of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen were helping other Yemeni nationals to fraudulently procure non—immigrant visas in exchange for money. Based on information provided by DHS-OIG, DSS identified one specific Yemeni employee at the U.S. Embassy who submitted over 50 suspicious Bl/B2 visa referrals for Yemeni citizens.

DSS identified the visa applications as suspicious because, in the applications, the Yemeni visa applicants purported to be employed by Yemeni oil companies and stated that their reason for traveling to the United States was to attend an oil industry conference called the “Offshore Technology Conference” in Houston, Texas.  However, investigation by DSS determined that, in most instances, the Yemeni oil companies listed as employers on the visa applications were fictitious and, further, that the visa applicants did not, in fact, attend the “Offshore Technology Conference” after traveling to the United States.

The DS agent statement includes a caveat that the “complaint is to set forth only those facts necessary to establish probable cause to arrest,” but does not include “all the relevant facts and circumstances.” The complaint also notes that “DSS identified one specific Yemeni employee at the U.S. Embassy who submitted over 50 suspicious Bl/B2 visa referrals for Yemeni citizens.”

The allegations involved Yemeni national employees,more than one. Suspicious cases involved over 50 visas, and law enforcement got one arrest. Alert is now broadcasted on all channels. So, how do you catch the Visa Malfeasance and Visa Fraudster Pokemons? It’s not like you can now pretend to send a local employee to FSI for training then arrest him or her upon arrival at Dulles like this or this.

Also, for non-State readers, here is what the regs say about visa referrals:

“A referral is a written request, maintained permanently, to advocate for, or otherwise assist, your contacts at post in the visa application process. Referrals are the only allowed mechanism to advocate for or assist visa applicants prior to visa adjudication.” (See 9 FAM, Appendix K, Exhibit I – pdf).

The news report actually gave us more questions than answers. Visa issuance is a specific responsibility of a Consular Officer; it cannot be issued by just any embassy official or any embassy employee. The processing and issuance process is now automated and requires specific login credentials; it’s not like anyone can just stamp a visa foil on a passport with a stamp pad.

And when did foreign national embassy employees started issuing visa referrals? Only qualified and approved individuals may make visa referrals. But here’s the thing – the regs are clear, to qualify as a visa referring officer you must:

(1) Be a U.S. citizen, direct hire, encumbering an NSDD-38 authorized position or serving in a long-term TDY role (of more than 121 days) in place of a permanently stationed direct hire who falls under Chief of Mission (COM) authority and encumbers an NSDD-38 position as defined by the Human Resources section at post;

(2) Attend a referral briefing with the consular section; and

(3) Submit a signed and dated Worldwide NIV Referral Policy Compliance Agreement to the consular section.

Not only that, the chief of section/agency head of the referring officer’s section or agency must approve each referral (and must attend the briefing and sign the compliance document in order to do so). In the absence of a section/agency head or acting head, the Principal Officer (PO) (if at a consulate), or Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), or Ambassador must approve the referral.

So, how is it possible for a Yemeni employee in this case (who has not been identified publicly or charged), to submit 50 visa referrals is seriously perplexing.

The complaint identified one defendant as ABDULMALEK MUSLEH ABDULLAH ALZOBAIDI. He allegedly submitted a visa application dated March 8, 2014 presented to an in-person interview with “a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa,Yemen on April 14, 2014.”  In his visa application, the defendant allegedly stated, among other things, that he was a “manager” of “Jaber Oil Company.” The defendant allegedly further provided the Consular Officer with a business card for Jaber Oil Company. The defendant also allegedly stated in his visa application that the purpose of his trip to the United States was to attend the “Offshore Technology Conference” in Houston, Texas for approximately 15 days.

According to court docs, in September 2014, DSS agents received information from the Yemeni Ministry of Commerce and Information confirming that the Jaber Oil Company is not a registered or legitimate company in Yemen. That Houston conference is an annual event.

Since this individual has now been charged, he will have his day in a New York court but this brings up an even troubling scenario.

According to 2009 unclassified cable published by WikiLeaks, Yemen security conditions prevent the embassy’s Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU) from performing field investigations so post rely almost exclusively on telephone investigations to combat fraud.  So, if there’s a universe with 50 suspicious cases, how many were investigated by FPU prior to visa issuance? This would have been a pretty standard practice in a high fraud post like Yemen.

In a 2010 inspection review of US Embassy Sana’a, OIG inspectors noted (pdf) that “Because of staffing limitations, Embassy Sanaa is not doing the required annual reviews of its visa referral system. This important internal control is mandated by 9 FAM Appendix K 105(d). Not regularly reviewing referrals deprives consular management of important information on the adjudication process and potentially improper behavior.”

That report, although old, also noted at that time that nonimmigrant visa processing is “a relatively small part of the post’s consular workload, and it is managed successfully by one part-time officer.”

Embassy Sana’a has suffered from staffing and security limitations for many years. We can’t imagine that the staffing situation at post has grown any better since that 2010 report. Has it?

And this makes one wonder — if Sanaa is under “ordered departure”and has limited staff, why do we insist on processing visas there?  Embassy Sana’a did not respond to our inquiry on this case but says on its website that “requests for U.S. tourist and business visa appointments continues to grow.”  Also that “Visa services are an important Embassy function, and the robust demand for tourist and business visas reflects the strong continuing relationship between Yemen and the United States.”

The continuing relationship is so strong that no one has been arrested for the multiple attacks of the U.S. mission in Yemen.

According to AQAP, it has targeted US interests in Yemen three times in the last 60 days alone: shelling of compound on September 27, targeting Ambassador Tueller with IEDs on November 6, and the detonation of two IEDs on post’s northern gate on November 27. The attack last week reportedly resulted in embassy guard death/s; this has not been mentioned, confirmed, or denied by the State Department. This news has not made it to the front pages, so you know they will try again.

via UKFCO

via UKFCO

On a related note, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is now advising against all travel to Yemen and strongly urge British nationals to leave the country.

Is this what we should call expeditionary consular diplomacy now?

 


 

 

State Department OIG – Published Reports, October 2014

via state.gov/oig

* * *

Robin Raphel, Presumption of Innocence and Tin Can Phones for Pak Officials

– Domani Spero

 

Late on November 6, WaPo published the following Robin Raphel story:

Here is a link to the NYT story:

 

On November 7, an unnamed official cited by the Associated Press said the FBI investigation was related to access to classified materials:

 

NYT did a follow-up report over two weeks later reporting that an eavesdropping on a Pakistani official led to the Raphel inquiry:

 

A follow-up report from WaPo includes a statement from Amy Jeffress, Ambassador Raphel’s attorney (she is also the former chief of the National Security Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia).

“Ambassador Raphel is a highly respected career diplomat who has dedicated her life to serving the United States and its interests,” said Amy Jeffress, Raphel’s attorney and the former chief of the National Security Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. “She would never intentionally do anything to compromise those interests. She, and we as her counsel, are cooperating with the investigation, and we are confident that she will be cleared of any suspicion.”

What do we know about this case?  Below is a list of “known” items out there according to media reports:

  • The federal investigation reportedly is part of a counterintelligence probe.
  • Ambassador Raphel’s security clearances reportedly was withdrawn.
  • She reportedly was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire.
  • The FBI reportedly searched her Northwest Washington home, and her State Department office  also was examined and sealed.
  • Agents reportedly “discovered classified information” during a raid at her home.
  • In an intercepted conversation this year “a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat,” reportedly setting off the espionage investigation.
  • Apparently,Ambassador Raphel has not been told she is the target of an investigation, and she has not been questioned according to her spokesman.
  • Ambassador Raphel now has a lawyer.
  • Over two weeks after the original report surfaced, she has not been formally accused or charged with a crime. Since she has not been formally charged, she has no way to defend herself from allegations.

The Indian media has had a field day with this investigation, throwing in a bunch of name calling, and well, it looks like she is considered a national nemesis over there. The view from Pakistan (read this) is thoughtful and more wait and see.  We’re also now starting to see Raphel’s name being linked to Hillary Clinton; she has been described as a “close Clinton family friend,” a  “Hillary donor” and a “powerful Clinton ally.”

In any case, we understand from a source inside the building that the FBI would “never investigate” a State employee without coordinating with Diplomatic Security’s Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence. Apparently, there is an FBI liaison in DS/IC to assist with the sharing of case information but whatever role Diplomatic Security played in this case, the bureau is not advertising it.

We’ve compiled a list of the things we don’t know about this case and the questions we have:

  • According to WaPo, two U.S. officials described the investigation as a counterintelligence matter, which typically involves allegations of spying on behalf of foreign governments. Who are these officials and what are their motive for leaking a counter-intel probe to the news media?
  • The investigation reportedly is ongoing; does the media spotlight not jeopardize the investigation?
  • According to NYT, it is unclear exactly what the Pakistani official said in the intercepted conversation that led to this investigation. Apparently, it is also not/not clear “whether the conversation was by telephone, email or some other form of communication.” Does this mean all discrete discreet Pakistani officials in the U.S. now are limited to discussing their lunch menu and tourist opportunities in their host country to using tin can telephones for official subjects?
  • Who is the  Pakistani official? Was he/she aware that USG agents were eavesdropping? If he/she/they were not aware before of the eavesdropping, are they aware now?  We’re seriously perplexed, how is this helpful?
  • We understand that by the time a case like this goes overt, the government has  all the information it needs.  It is not not apparent if that is the case here. If we presume that the USG went overt because it has all the evidence it needs, how come there are no charges to-date?

One of our most sacred principles in the United States is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.   The government not only must charge an individual suspected of a crime, it also must prove,beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged. That has not happened here.

Despite what the Indian media says, and even if Pakistani officials in the U.S. now are using tin-can telephones to communicate, the current status of the Raphel case amount to allegations from unnamed officials, and an ongoing investigation.  That is far from clear evidence of guilt.

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Updated on 11/25/14 at 1546 PST to correct grammatical errors and for clarity.