Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. He is the author of eight books, including The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, which spent eight weeks on The New York Times best seller list and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Last month, he wrote a piece about the civilian effort to save the five ISIS hostages.
New Yorker exclusive: Lawrence Wright’s definitive account of the secret civilian effort to save five ISIS hostages: http://t.co/jKQ6zdTiM7
The State Department appointed Carrie Greene, in the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, to be a liaison with the families. She seemed impatient with their independent investigations. “You really shouldn’t be talking to these terrorists,” she warned. “It’s against the law.” Viva Hardigg responded, “Excuse me, Carrie, but we are well acquainted with U.S. laws, and if someone you love is being held by terrorists, with whom else should you talk?” Greene ended her e-mails with “Please enjoy your day!”
When Peter Kassig was kidnapped, his parents got a call from a State Department official. Paula recalls, “She basically said, ‘We know your son has been taken in Syria. We don’t have an embassy in Syria. We don’t have people on the ground in Syria. We don’t have a diplomatic relationship with them, so we can’t do anything to help you.’ ” In May, 2014, the families had a joint meeting with Daniel Rubinstein, a special envoy appointed to handle affairs in Syria. “He was nice, but when we asked how to contact him we were told not to e-mail or phone him,” Diane Foley says. In order to talk with him on the phone, the families had to travel to a local F.B.I. office, so an agent could dial Rubinstein’s number for them.
WaPo covered the ambushed and abduction of four Americans and an Austrian employed by Crescent Security Group, a small private security firm in Iraq in July 2007. In March 2008, U.S. authorities were reported to be in possession of five severed fingers, four of which belong to private security contractors. In May 2008, the FBI identified the remains of the kidnapped contractors. This case was originally filed on March 22, 2010, Munns et al v. Clinton et al; case number 2:2010cv00681.
Via Opinion from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, filed on Mar 20, 2015 (pdf):
The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the plaintiffs’ equitable claims due to lack of standing and their federal benefits claims due to lack of jurisdiction, and vacated the district court’s dismissal of the due process and takings claims for withheld back pay and insurance proceeds in an action brought against United States government officials by family members and a coworker of three Americans who were kidnapped and killed while providing contract security services during the United States military occupation of Iraq.
This case arises from the kidnappings and brutal killings of three Americans who were providing contract security services during the United States military occupation of Iraq. The plaintiffs, who include family members and a former coworker of these three men, brought suit against United States government officials to challenge policies governing the supervision of private contractors and the response to kidnappings of American citizens in Iraq (“policy claims”). They also claim the government is withholding back pay, life insurance proceeds and government benefits owed to the families of the deceased contractors (“monetary claims”).
The district court dismissed the policy claims for lack of standing and for presenting nonjusticiable political questions. It dismissed the monetary claims for failure to establish a waiver of the government’s sovereign immunity from suits for damages and for failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted. We hold that the plaintiffs have not shown they are likely to be harmed in the future by the challenged policies. They therefore lack standing to seek prospective declaratory and injunctive relief regarding those policies. We further hold that the plaintiffs have failed to allege a governmental waiver of sovereign immunity that would confer jurisdiction in the district court over their monetary claims. Finally, we hold that the United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims for withheld back pay and insurance proceeds, and we direct the district court to transfer those claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1631. We thus affirm in part and vacate in part and remand.
In November 2006, while working for Crescent, contractors Munns, Young and Cote were assigned to guard a 46-truck convoy traveling from Kuwait to southern Iraq. The plaintiffs allege that on the day of the convoy, Crescent issued the men substandard military equipment and ordered other security team members not to accompany them on the convoy, and that Iraqi security team members slated to join the convoy failed to show up for work, leaving only seven contractors to guard the convoy. When the convoy stopped at an Iraqi police checkpoint, 10 armed men approached and, along with the Iraqi police, took five of the contractors captive, including Munns, Young and Cote. The men were held for over a year, until their kidnappers brutally executed them sometime in 2008.
The plaintiffs trace the contractors’ kidnappings and murders to Crescent’s failure to adequately prepare and supervise its personnel in Iraq. They allege Crescent’s deficient conduct was “officially sanctioned” by the Secretary of State through an unlawful order issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) overseeing the U.S. occupation. CPA Order 17 allegedly gave “blanket immunity [to contractors] from all prosecution,” granting them a “license to kill” with impunity and permitting contractors to “circumvent the authority of Congress, the Courts, and the Constitution.”2 Additionally, the plaintiffs say they heard rumors that CPA Order 17, and the consequent lawless behavior of some security contractors, may have been the motivation behind the kidnappings.
Circuit Judge Reinhardt:
The more troubling and painful question is what the role of our government should be if and when terrorist groups like ISIS or Al Queda capture an American citizen and hold him hostage, and whether the government may, or should, impose any limitation on the rights of the citizen’s family or friends to communicate with that group or pay a ransom. It is significant that the government has told this court that currently there are no policies preventing private individuals from making efforts to secure the release of relatives who are held captive abroad. More important however from the standpoint of the legal rules that govern us, the parties bringing the action – relatives of contractors’ employees “brutally killed,” as Judge Fisher puts it, in the Middle East – seek no damages resulting from that policy but simply seek to have the policy declared unlawful. They ask that the government be enjoined from implementing the policy in the future. Again, even assuming that contrary to what the government tells us, such a policy exists, we cannot under well established legal rules render a decision that will be of no immediate benefit to the individuals bringing the lawsuit. Because the plaintiffs have no relatives currently in the Middle East, or currently in greater danger from terrorist groups than any of the rest of us, we again face only a hypothetical question – the kind that courts do not answer
Read in full online here or download the opinion in pdf file here.
The US Consulate General in Sydney issued the following message over an ongoing security incident in a nearby cafe:
Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: Ongoing Security Incident in Martin Place in Sydney
U.S. Consulate Sydney informs U.S. citizens of a security incident involving at least one armed person at Lindt Chocolate Café in Martin Place in Sydney. New South Wales and Australian Federal police are addressing the threat. Please avoid the area around Martin Place until further notice.
U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to review your personal security plan, remain aware of your surroundings including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security.
Consulate General of the United States of America
American Citizen Services (ACS)
Level 10, 19-29 Martin Place Sydney NSW 2000
Telephone +61-2-9373-9200 (1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Regular Business Days)
For hourly updates on the security situation in Martin Place please call the following number: 02 9373 9297
According the BBC News Australia citing the website of Australian newspaper The Age is reporting that thousands of Sydney’s city workers have been sent home early and some major buildings have been evacuated. They include the Opera House, the State Library, Channel Seven television station offices, the New South Wales parliamentary executive offices, the NSW Supreme Court’s criminal courts and several city legal chambers.
BBC News Australia is also reporting that the CEO of Lindt says there are 10 staff and around 30 customers holed up in the cafe in central Sydney. Several people reportedly can be seen pressed up against windows inside the cafe, with some holding up some sort of flag.
USCG Sydney is headed by Hugo Llorens who arrived in Sydney October 3, 2013 to become Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General with responsibility for the region encompassing New South Wales, Queensland and Norfolk Island. He previously served as the Assistant Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from May 2012 to June 2013. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from September 2008 to July 2011.
In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees. The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979. If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA. The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.
The six rescued American are as follows:
Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant
The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew. According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis. The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and calledthe movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”
In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada! Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.
Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.
A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:
“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”
Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.”
According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway. In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”
Things could still have gotten messy but did not. Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”
Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012. Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.
Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.
Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.
I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.
After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover. He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side. He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”
Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.
If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance.
A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department, previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims. The former hostages had sued under a 1996 law that they argued allowed them to seek damages, and in August 2001 they won a judgment of liability, because Iran did not appear in court to defend itself. But the State Department argued that its ability to conduct foreign policy would be compromised if damages were awarded.
Click here for a GQ piece from 2009, a sort of oral history where more than fifty men and women—hostages, hostage-takers, commandos from the ill-fated U.S. rescue mission, and Iranian and American politicians and policymakers were interviewed for the 30th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis.
The 52 former hostages board the VC-137B Freedom One aircraft for their departure to the United States after their release from Iran. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Families wait for the former hostages to disembark the plane. The former hostages will be on U.S. soil for the first time since their release from Iran. Location: STEWART FIELD, NEW YORK (NY) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Vice President George Bush and other VIP’s wait to welcome the former hostages to Iran home. Location: ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE VIRIN: DF-SC-82-06566 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Judge Sullivan in his 2002 ruling wrote that “‘Both Congress and the president have expressed their support for these plaintiffs’ quest for justice while failing to act definitively to enable these former hostages to fulfill that quest.”
Parade’s over. Iran is still big news, but no one is rushing to meet, or wait or put out a concert for the former hostages. Most especially, the State Department.
Support was easy when all it required was a yellow ribbon?
Yellow ribbon flown in 1979 by Penne Laingen when her husband, US diplomat Bruce was held captive during the Iran hostage crisis; among the first of the modern “yellow ribbons.” US lib of congress picture from http://www.loc.gov/folklife/ribbons/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In 2002, NYT reported that the former hostages, and in some cases their survivors, sued Iran under the 1996 law. While the plaintiffs won their lawsuit by default in August 2001, the State Department sought dismissal, arguing reportedly that it needed to preserve its ability to make binding agreements.
And in so doing, it also sends a signal to all future state sponsored hostage takers that they can take any of our diplomats at any time and they will not suffer any consequences except a break in diplomatic relations, and limited visa issuance restrictions to its officials. If Iran is jerking our chain these days, that’s because we have taught it the wrong lesson. The end.
I supposed we may think of life in the Service as if it were a scale — the national strategic and security priorities on one side and on the other side, the acceptable personal risk of the employees. But not everyone will get to look at that scale. And not everyone will get to make the judgment call. Employees do not get to vote, diplomatic missions are not democracies.
That might as well apply to the mothership of diplomatic missions.
Thirty-two years ago, our diplomats were taken hostage in Iran. Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr. who served as an economic and commercial officer in the U.S. embassy in Iran during the hostage crisis has written an op-ed over in Politico asking “Whose side is the State Dept. on?”
“I was one of the 66 U.S. citizens taken hostage in Tehran in November 1979. Ten months before, revolutionary militants stormed the U.S. embassy, holding the mission personnel hostage for several hours and generating fear for the safety of the remaining Americans in Iran. After this group of U.S. Foreign Service personnel were recovered and removed, our State Department sent out a request to all its posts worldwide, seeking volunteers to staff the embassy in Tehran. Volunteers were informed that it was safe in Tehran and were encouraged to bring their families, including preschool-age children. In all, 66 Foreign Service officers answered this call to serve.
It was not as safe as the State Department had indicated. By October it had seriously deteriorated, as the Carter administration agreed to allow the shah to enter the U.S. for medical treatment.
As Carter had predicted, in reaction to Washington’s acceptance of the
shah, hundreds of thousands of Iranians demonstrated throughout Tehran.
Nov 4, a group of Iranians stormed the U.S. embassy, kidnapping 52
Americans. That they did so with the blessings (and under the apparent
direction) of Tehran can hardly be challenged, since less than a month
later, the government announced its intention to try the hostages as
spies and execute them — unless the U.S. paid $24 billion.
Ultimately, in January 1981, the Carter administration entered into a series of agreements known as the Algiers accords. These provided Iran a $7.8 billion payment and established the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal — through which businesses and financial institutions could file and obtain compensations for property and contract claims against Iran.
The accords, however, contained a provision that precluded the 52 hostages and their families from bringing suit against Iran for seizure, detention and injuries. They, and only they, were unable to obtain any compensation for the life-changing injuries they suffered while in the service of our country as volunteers answering the call of our government.
Congress has passed various statutes, allowing US nationals, victimized by terrorism, to obtain compensation for injuries. Literally hundreds have pursued claims in U.S. courts and received compensation for terrorism sponsored by Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea and Libya.
The Tehran embassy hostages also sought to pursue similar claims in U.S. Courts. In August 2001, we obtained a judgment against Iran — which had refused to appear to defend their indefensible conduct. But the State Department intervened to protect Iran’s interests, asserting that dismissal was necessary to protect U.S. national security interests and uphold the waiver of claims in the Algiers Accords.
In the next 10 years, all our appeals, and other efforts to obtain justice and compensation, have been defeated by the State Department. At the same time, the department has aggressively protected the rights of all U.S. corporations and banks to seek compensation from Iran. Indeed each claim has been adjudicated, and literally billions of dollars awarded, through these channels and paid by Iran.
The signal that Iran has drawn from this is clear – the U.S. cares about protecting interests of its corporations — but has no real interest in protecting its diplomats, no matter the State Department’s lip service about to the importance of diplomatic immunity and the sacrosanct status of our embassies.”
Here is the relevant part of the Algiers Accords signed on January 19, 1981:
11. Upon the making by the Government of Algeria of the certification described in Paragraph 3 above, the United States will promptly withdraw all claims now pending against Iran before the International Court of Justice and will thereafter bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran of any pending or future claim of the United States or a United States national arising out of events occurring before the date of this declaration related to (A) the seizure of the 52 United States nationals on November 4, 1979, (B) their subsequent detention, (C) injury to United States property or property of the United States nationals within the United States Embassy compound in Tehran after November 3, 1979, and (D) injury to the United States nationals or their property as a result of popular movements in the course of the Islamic Revolution in Iran which were not an act of the Government of Iran. The United States will also bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran in the courts of the United States of any pending or future claim asserted by persons other than the United States nationals arising out of the events specified in the preceding sentence.
The late Warren Christopher, then the State Department’s Deputy Secretary negotiated the agreement. He was appointed 63rd Secretary of State from January 20, 1993 – January 17, 1997 by President Clinton.
Thirty years ago yesterday, fifty-two U.S. diplomats and public servants were released after spending 444 days as hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Below is a clip from Andrea Mitchell‘s show with former hostages Ambassador L. Bruce Laingen (US chargé d’affaires when the embassy was overrun by student protesters) and Ambassador John W. Limbert.
This one via AFSA: On Friday, January 28th at 10 am, members of the Foreign Service, Civil Service, military, media, Congress, and friends will gather to honor and pay tribute to the fifty-two U.S. diplomats and public servants who were released on January 20, 1981, after spending 444 brave days as hostages in Iran.
The panel discussion on Friday January 28 will feature former hostages Ambassador L. Bruce Laingen, Ambassador John W. Limbert, Mr. Alan B. Golacinski, and Mr. Barry Rosen and will be moderated by NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell. The location is the George C. Marshall Center/East Auditorium at the Department of State.
Ambassador Laingen is a distinguished diplomat who has received many awards for his long career in the Foreign Service, including AFSA’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award. Ambassador Limbert was once asked about how his experience as a hostage changed him, he said, “I think I got a new appreciation for our own profession — that is, the profession of diplomacy. And the idea of how do you solve problems between nations and between people.” Mr. Golacinski served as the Regional Security Officer at the time and has served in similar assignments throughout his career. Mr. Rosen was the press attaché at the Tehran embassy, and came home to the U.S. to a one-year-old daughter he had never seen before. Ambassador Laingen, Ambassador Limbert, Mr. Golacinski, Mr. Rosen, and all their colleagues from Iran were awarded the State Department’s Award for Valor for their courage and sacrifice.
RSVPs are required and should be sent to email@example.com. If you do not have a valid State, USAID, or other agency badge, please include your date of birth and driver’s license number in your RSVP e-mail, as this information is needed to pre-clear visitors through State Department security.
Today is the 30th anniversary of the takeover by militants of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. According to the Carter Library, of the 66 Americans who were taken hostage, 13 were released on Nov. 19 and 20, 1979; one was released on July 11, 1980, and the remaining 52 were released on Jan. 20, 1981.
The 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981.
Anna Tinsley of the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, TX wrote recently about Rick Kupke, one the the 52 hostages, who recalled his 444 days as Iranian hostage (As anniversary nears, Arlington man recalls his 444 days as Iranian hostage). Excerpts below:
Rick Kupke was busy encrypting classified messages inside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when the Marine Corps guard yelled over the radio, “They’re coming over the wall!”
Kupke, then a 33-year-old communications officer and electronics specialist, sent the telegram, closed a vault door to keep workers in the second-floor office safe and began shredding sensitive government documents — including those about unpopular Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who fled to the U.S. that year.
“The State Department asked me if I destroyed all the cables going back and forth about the shah. They said, ‘You have to confirm to us that you personally destroyed that.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ Then they gave us the order to destroy all of our equipment.”
After Kupke smashed Teletype machines, he began the first of three trips to the roof to keep rifles and shotguns out of the hands of Iranians. After his third trip, he became the 66th — and final — American taken hostage that day.
Kupke said he’ll call a handful of the 42 living hostages Wednesday. But Nov. 4 is not the day many of the hostages choose to remember.
The day they’d rather remember is Jan. 20, when they were released, former charge d’affaires L. Bruce Laingen of Bethesda, Md., has said.
“That’s a good day,” he said. “Nov. 4 is the day the roof fell in.”
Three passports with the last known image of the three men,
their proof-of-life, had been prepared by
the American Embassy Bogota Consular Section in record time.
The Ambassador (William Brownfield) would present them with these symbols
in a small ceremony, welcoming them home.
[US Embassy Photo via Facebook]
John Limbert was one of 100 Americans held hostage after Iranian students took control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.Limbert is a former U.S. ambassador and distinguished professor of international affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent Heather Maher asked him for his reflections on the 30th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
RFE/RL: How do you think your time as a hostage in Iran changed you?
“Well, I really don’t know, specifically. I mean, I’m the worst person to ask this, you’d have to ask maybe my family members or colleagues.
But I think a couple things came out of it. One, I think I got a new appreciation for our own profession — that is, the profession of diplomacy. And the idea of how do you solve problems between nations and between people? Because at the end of the day, that’s what diplomacy is all about, and the importance of that process. Because if that process breaks down, you essentially have anarchy, of the kind that we encountered in Tehran in ’79.”