Category Archives: Locally Employed Staff

U.S. Troops Deploy to C.A.R. For Resumption of Operations at U.S. Embassy Bangui

– Domani Spero

 

On September 11, 2014, President Obama sent the following congressional notification concerning the deployment of U.S. troops to the Central African Republic:

On September 10, 2014, approximately 20 U.S. Armed Forces personnel deployed to the Central African Republic to support the resumption of the activities of the U.S. Embassy in Bangui.

This force was deployed along with U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security personnel for the purpose of protecting U.S. Embassy personnel and property.  This force is expected to remain in the Central African Republic until it is replaced by an augmented U.S. Marine Security Guard Detachment and additional U.S. Department of State civilian security personnel as the security situation allows.

This action has been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect U.S. citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148).  I appreciate the support of the Congress in these actions.

 

Map via cia.gov

Map via cia.gov

On December 27, 2012,  the State Department announced the temporary suspension of U.S. Embassy Bangui operations.  At the time, Embassy Bangui was staffed by 7 U.S. direct hires, 2 local-hire Americans, and 35 locally employed (LE) staff members. One temporary liaison officer from the U.S. Army’s Africa Command represented the only other agency at the mission.  At the embassy’s departure, the Government of the Republic of France, acting through its Embassy in Bangui, served as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in CAR.

via State Magazine

via State Magazine (click on image for larger view)

Here is a brief history of the U.S. presence in Bangui via state.gov:

The United States established diplomatic relations with the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) in 1960, following its independence from France. The C.A.R. is one of the world’s least developed nations, and has experienced several periods of political instability since independence. The Central African Republic is located in a volatile and poor region and has a long history of development, governance, and human rights problems. The U.S. Embassy in C.A.R. was briefly closed as a result of 1996-97 military mutinies. It reopened in 1998 with limited staff, but U.S. Agency for International Development and Peace Corps missions previously operating there did not return. The Embassy again temporarily suspended operations in November 2002 in response to security concerns raised by the October 2002 launch of a 2003 military coup. The Embassy reopened in 2005. Restrictions on U.S. aid that were imposed after the 2003 military coup were lifted in 2005. Due to insecurity and the eventual overthrow of the C.A.R. Government, the U.S. Embassy in Bangui has been closed since December 2012. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the C.A.R.

Via diplomacy.state.gov:

On August 13, 1960, the Central African Republic gained its independence from France, and on the same day, the United States recognized it as a nation. Six months later, the embassy was established at the capital in Bangui. Since that time, the Central African Republic has had a rocky political history and a struggling social situation. The embassy has had to deal with a number of issues despite its limited influence in the country, including combating local and foreign militant groups, encouraging proper rule of law, and assisting in humanitarian aid.

 

According to Embassy Bangui’s website (which might be outdated), David Brown is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and became Senior Advisor for the Central African Republic on August 1, 2013 succeeding Ambassador Lawrence Wohlers.   Mr. Brown was Diplomatic Advisor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) in Washington, D.C. from August 2011 to July 2013. His prior Africa experience includes serving as the Senior Advisor to the J-5 (Strategy, Plans, and Programs) Director of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart (Germany); three times as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassies in Cotonou (Benin), Nouakchott (Mauritania), and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso); and as Economic Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Lubumbashi (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

Photo via diplomacy.state.gov

Photo via diplomacy.state.gov

In 2012, the OIG inspection report says that “if the Department cannot adequately staff and protect the embassy, it needs to consider whether the risks to personnel in Bangui are justified or find another way to maintain diplomatic representation in the Central African Republic.”

It looks like the Department has now considered the risk, a regional embassy presence is out and the embassy will reopen with the 20 deployed troops until they are replaced by an “augmented U.S. Marine Security Guard Detachment.”  How many Marine guards exactly, and how many DS agents and private security contractors will be there to support the reopened post still remain to be seen.

We cannot tell how old is the Embassy Bangui building shown above. It looks like it lacks the set back required for newer buildings. We are assuming that this is  one of those legacy diplomatic properties constructed prior to 2001.  The State Department’s FY 2013 funding supported the acquisition of sites where New Embassy Compound projects are planned in future years, including one for Bangui (p.478). The request, however, did not include  a time frame when the new embassy construction for C.A.R. is expected.

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Here’s Merle Haggard with ‘I think I’ll just stay here and drink.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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U.S. Embassy Cyprus Remembers Ambassador Rodger Davies Shot Dead 40 Years Ago Today

– Domani Spero

 

 

 

On the 40th anniversary of their deaths, the U.S. embassy residence in Nicosia is named the “Rodger Davies Residence” after Ambassador Davies who was killed on  August 19, 1974 and the embassy personnel lounge is named “Antoinette Varnava Lounge” after the local employee killed in the same attack.

Via ADST Oral History:

On August 19th, 1974, recently appointed Ambassador to Cyprus, Rodger Davies, was shot dead during a Greek Cypriot protest outside the U.S. Embassy. The demonstration brought out over 300 people who were protesting against the U.S.’s failure to prevent the Turkish invasion of the northern part of the island the week before. Davies was seeking shelter in a hallway at the embassy building in Nicosia when a sniper struck him in the chest. When Antoinette Varnava—a Maronite consular employee—rushed to his aid, she too was struck dead, with a bullet to the head.

James Alan Williams, a Political Foreign Service Officer, was at the Embassy in Nicosia as events unraveled. He served in Cyprus from 1973 to 1975 — the height of the tension between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; the coup which ousted democratically elected leader Archbishop Makarios III; and the Turkish invasions — all of which define the sociopolitical landscape of the divided island today. He was interviewed by Ray Ewing beginning in October 2003.

WILLIAMS:
[it was the] morning of August 19th, [1974]. A sunny day, cloudless skies, as it almost always is in Cyprus, and I think it was around 9:30 or 10:00, I don’t remember. [You could hear a rumble], a large number of people. I [had] only heard that once before in my life, and that was when Ann and I were in Adana, Turkey, and the consulate was stoned by a mob. I think I mentioned that in an earlier session, 1966 that was. You never forget that once you hear it. And I heard it, and everybody else heard it. We thought the demonstration had been approved by the police or whomever some ways away.

Cyprus Demonstration Riots[It was] a large crowd. It wasn’t a mob yet. I think the focus of the discussion was criticism of the Americans for what had happened to them, what had been done to them, what they had suffered. And somehow, and I don’t know how because I wasn’t there, the crowd started moving toward the embassy. At this point, I think it gained a lot of hangers-on and other elements [which] might not have been in the original demonstration at all. By the time it reached the embassy, which was in about 10 minutes, they were throwing rocks and other things at the chancery. So, we immediately had the Marines and everybody else shove the wooden shutters so the glass would be protected, close the gate, get the teargas canisters ready and prepare to stave off what we thought was going to be an unfettered demonstration, but that was about all.[…]

The Ambassador’s office was shuttered and he and his secretaries came into the central hallway. The rest of us were in the central hallway on the second floor. The FSNs were there. It was very crowded. The air conditioning held up for us, so it wasn’t too hot, but it was a little sticky. [Our] offices which had been on either side of that hallway, particularly [those which] were facing the front, were sort of exposed to the brunt of the mob’s wrath, we thought. At some point, shooting started. I remember hearing pops or whatever, but did not think anything of it because I didn’t know what it was, and I’d never heard shots fired in anger. I don’t know how many shots were fired. Several pierced the water tanks on the roof because they were leaking. Again, there was no central direction, put your hands down and put your hands behind your head and hunker down. We were milling around.
[...]
Q: Do you think the shots were fired at the patio at the top of the residence because they had seen the Marines up there doing the teargas?

WILLIAMS: It’s the same time the shots were fired at the Ambassador’s office. I think there were two shooters. There would have had to be because the ones that came in from the side [his office], were way over there, and this shot was up here. And I always thought, and my memory’s a little hazy on some of this, but the rounds that came into the office of Ambassador Davies were concentrated in the area of his office where his desk was. The rounds that came into the other side of the building where the residence was were concentrated on the patio, and I think some at the window of his bedroom. I think that’s right, though I’m not sure of it. So whether or not they fired at the patio because they saw a Marine or because they thought the ambassador was up there or because they saw me or whatever, I really don’t know. But there were a lot of bullets that came up there. I always thought it was an effort to get the Ambassador because of the way the bullets had come in. By sheer dumb luck they did get him. It was a blind bullet came in through the shutter, the glass and the partition in his office and came down into the corridor where he was standing and they shot him through the heart.

He was [in the central hall], and he was dead before he hit the ground. Another bullet came in and ripped off the top of the skull of Toni Varnava, a Maronite local in the Administration section, and she was dead instantly. A steel jacket of one of the bullets that came in landed up in the thigh of Jay Graham, the economic officer. Those were the only causalities from the rounds. One of the older locals may have had a heart attack. Everybody else was intact but scared to death.
[…]
[Varnava] had [gone to Ambassador Davies’ aid]. She had been very close to him and she saw him fall. I was not down there, but those who were say she saw him fall and bent down to catch him and as she did her head was ripped open by the bullet, so they both fell.

The windows were appropriately shuttered. So, the bullets did not have to go through significant physical barriers to get to the Americans in the central corridor. I have no way of knowing whether the shooter or shooters knew that we would be huddled in that corridor as a safe place, but the wooden shutter over the window, the single pane of glass and the partition on the door of the wall of the office were not very thick.
[…]
It was a blind shot that got the Ambassador, no question about that. Toni was an incidental casualty, God rest her soul, and Jay Graham was also unlucky with that minor wound in his thigh.[…]

[The shooters] were on the periphery of the crowd in both cases. One of them was wearing the uniform of a Greek Cypriot policeman as I recall, although the weapon he used was not in the standard arms of the Greek Cypriot police. They were in the crowd on the periphery, but not in adjacent buildings. There was some more shooting of handguns I guess. I think though, soon after the heavy stuff came in and killed the ambassador, they couldn’t know at that time they killed the Ambassador, and hit the side where Mike and I and the Marines were, soon thereafter as I recall, maybe 20 or 30 minutes, time was really very strange as experienced in that day, the crowd started to disperse. Either its anger had been spent or the Greek Cypriot police had started to come in sufficient numbers to control it. Because what the Greek Cypriot authorities had approved as a demonstration had quickly gotten way out of hand and had to be stopped. I don’t know who was calling, our phones were still intact, I don’t know who called whom. I certainly was not calling anybody because I could still barely see, Mike wasn’t.
[...]
I remember I knelt down to Rodger and I just said, “Oh, Mr. Ambassador,” and I couldn’t say anything else because he was clearly gone. I think it had gone right through his heart so there was no question about saving him.
[…]
Q: Ambassador Davies did not have any family of his own at post?

WILLIAMS: He did. Dana is the daughter and John is her younger brother, and they had briefly come to post with Rodger and Ms. T, the family cat. Rodger’s wife had died tragically after a long struggle with brain cancer just that year. And so one of the reasons he wanted to go [to] Cyprus was to get away from Washington and the intense environment he’d been working and living in there, and also get away from, I think, some of the memories of Sally and what she’d gone through in the last years of her life.

Nicosia was going to be a way for the family to replenish itself, just relax and recover a bit. And tragically it did not work out that way. So John and Dana had been in the convoy that went south to Akrotiri [British Airbase in Cyprus] in late July and were in Beirut, and had to be told what had happened to their father on August 19th.

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U.S. Court Awards Damages to Victims of August 7, 1998 East Africa Embassy Bombings

– Domani Spero

 

Last week, we posted the State Department’s Albright archive of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.  Yes, the interesting thing about that is how 16 years later, the names, the response, the briefings and the narrative are ever so familiar.

The twin-embassy bombings cost the lives of over 220 persons and wounded more than 4,000 others. Twelve American USG employees and family members, and 32 Kenyan and 8 Tanzanian USG employees, were among those killed.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07

U.S. Embassy Nairobi employees joined Charge d’Affaires Isiah Parnell for a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the victims of the 1998 Embassy bombing in Nairobi. August 7, 2014

In December 2011, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled (PDF via Legal Times) that the governments of Sudan and Iran will be liable for monetary damages to victims of suicide bombings at U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1998. According to Judge Bates’ 2011 order (PDF via Legal Times) , a special master was appointed to figure how much in damages the plaintiffs will receive.  The Court previously ruled that the foreign-national U.S.-government-employee victims have a federal cause of action, while their foreign-national family members have a cause of action under D.C. law.

On July 25, 2014, the Court entered final judgment on liability under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) on several related cases—brought by victims of the bombings and their families—against the Republic of Sudan, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Sudan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security (collectively “defendants”) for their roles in supporting, funding, and otherwise carrying out the attacks. The combined cases involve over 600 plaintiffs. The awards range from $1.5 million for severe emotional injuries to $7.5 million for severe injuries and permanent impairment. The total award is reportedly $8 billion.

Judge John Bates in his ruling  (see Wamai, et al.,v. Republic of Sudan, et.al. (pdf) (Civil Action No. 08-1349 (JDB) writes that the 1998 embassy bombings shattered the lives of all plaintiffs.

[T]heir personal stories reveals that, even more than fifteen years later, they each still feel the horrific effects of that awful day. Damages awards cannot fully compensate people whose lives have been torn apart; instead, they offer only a helping hand. But that is the very least that these plaintiffs are owed. Hence, it is what this Court will facilitate.

 

 

Below are some of the embassy employees and their injuries cited in court documents:

  • Many plaintiffs suffered little physical injury—or none at all—but have claims based on severe emotional injuries because they were at the scene during the bombings or because they were involved in the extensive recovery efforts immediately thereafter. Those plaintiffs will be awarded $1.5 million. See id. Typical of this category is Edward Mwae Muthama, who was working at the offsite warehouse for the United States Embassy in Kenya when the bombings occurred. Report of Special Master John Aldock Concerning Edward Muthama [ECF No. 93] at 4. Shortly after the attack, Muthama headed to the blast site and spent days assisting with the gruesome recovery efforts; to this day he suffers from emotional distress resulting from his time administering aid to survivors and handling the dead bodies (and body parts) of his murdered colleagues. Id.
  • Other plaintiffs suffered minor injuries (such as lacerations and contusions caused by shrapnel), accompanied by severe emotional injuries. They will be awarded $2 million. Typical is Emily Minayo, who was on the first floor of the United States Embassy in Nairobi at the time of the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Emily Minayo [ECF No. 162] at 4. She was thrown to the floor by the force of the blast, but she was lucky enough to escape with only lacerations that were later sewn up during a brief hospital stay. Id. She continues, however, to suffer from severe emotional damage resulting from her experience. Id.
  • To those who suffered more serious physical injuries, such as broken bones, head trauma, some hearing or vision impairment, or impotence, the Court will award $2.5 million. Typical is Francis Maina Ndibui, who was in the United States Embassy in Nairobi during the bombing. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Francis Maina Ndibui [ECF No. 152] at 4. Ndibui became temporarily trapped under debris that fell from the ceiling, and he suffered minor lacerations similar to Minayo’s. Id. Also as a result of the bombing, he continues to suffer from partial vision impairment, which has persisted even through reparative surgery. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id.
  • Plaintiffs with even more serious injuries—including spinal injuries not resulting in paralysis, more serious shrapnel injuries, head trauma, or serious hearing impairment—will be awarded $3 million. Typical is Victor Mpoto, who was at the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam on the day of the bombing. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Victor Mpoto [ECF No. 136] at 3. The blast knocked him to the ground and covered him in debris, causing minor physical injuries. Id. Because he was only about fifteen meters away from the blast, he suffered severe hearing loss in both ears that continues to this day and for which he continues to receive treatment. Id. He also suffers from severe emotional damage resulting from his experience. Id. at 4.
  • Those who suffered from injuries similar to those plaintiffs who are generally awarded the “baseline” award of $5 million (involving some mix of serious hearing or vision impairment, many broken bones, severe shrapnel wounds or burns, lengthy hospital stays, serious spinal or head trauma, and permanent injuries) will also be awarded that baseline. See Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d at 84. Typical is Pauline Abdallah, who was injured in the bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Stephen Saltzburg Concerning Pauline Abdallah [ECF No. 117] at 3. She was knocked unconscious by the blast, and later spent about a month in the hospital. Id. She suffered severe shrapnel wounds requiring skin grafts, third-degree burns, and two of her fingers were amputated. Id. Shrapnel still erupts from her skin. Id. She also suffered severe hearing loss. Id. Like other plaintiffs who were injured in the bombing, she suffers from severe emotional damage. Id. at 3-4.
  • And for a few plaintiffs, who suffered even more grievous wounds such as lost eyes, extreme burns, severe skull fractures, brain damage, ruptured lungs, or endured months of recovery in hospitals, upward departures to $7.5 million are in order. Livingstone Busera Madahana was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Kenneth Adams Concerning Livingstone Busera Madahana [ECF No. 175] at 4. Shrapnel from the blast completely destroyed his right eye and permanently damaged his left. Id. He suffered a skull fracture and spent months in a coma; his head trauma caused problems with his memory and cognition. Id. “He endured multiple surgeries, skin grafts, physical therapy, vocational rehabilitation, speech and cognitive therapy, and psychotherapy for depression.” Id.
  • Gideon Maritim was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Gideon Maritim [ECF No. 222] at 3. The second explosion knocked him unconscious for several hours. Id. at 4 The blast ruptured his eardrums, knocked out several teeth, and embedded metal fragments into his eyes. Id. He also suffered deep shrapnel wounds to his legs and stomach, and his lungs were ruptured. Id. His hearing is permanently impaired, as is his lung function. Id. at 5. And he suffers from chronic back and shoulder pain. Id.
  • Charles Mwaka Mulwa was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Jackson Williams Concerning Charles Mwaka Mulwa [ECF No. 132] at 3. The bomb blast permanently disfigured his skull, ruptured both his eardrums, and embedded glass in his eyes. Id. He continues to suffer from nearly total hearing loss, and his eyesight is permanently diminished. Id. And he suffered from other shrapnel injuries to his head, arms, and legs. Id.
  • Tobias Oyanda Otieno was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Tobias Oyanda Otieno [ECF No. 181] at 4. The blast caused permanent blindness in his left eye, and substantial blindness in his right. Id. He suffered severe shrapnel injuries all over his body, including a particularly severe injury to his hand, which resulted in permanent impairment. Id. His lower back was also permanently damaged, causing continuous pain to this day. Id. He spent nearly a year recovering in hospitals. Id.
  • Moses Kinyua was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Deborah Greenspan Concerning Moses Kinyua [ECF No. 202] at 4. The blast knocked him into a coma for three weeks. Id. His skull was crushed, his jaw was fractured in four places, and he lost his left eye. Id. The head trauma resulted in brain damage. Id. In addition, he suffered from a ruptured eardrum, a detached retina in his right eye, a dislocated shoulder, broken fingers, and serious shrapnel injuries. Id. He was ultimately hospitalized for over six months. Id.
  • Joash Okindo was injured in the blast at the United States Embassy in Nairobi. Report of Special Master Brad Pigott Concerning Joash Okindo [ECF No. 163] at 4. He spent about eight months in hospitals, and was in a coma for the first month because he suffered a skull fracture. Id. at 4-5. He suffered from severe shrapnel injuries to his head, back, legs, and hands, and the blast fractured bones in both of his legs. Id. at 4.
  • Each of these plaintiffs also suffered severe emotional injuries. The injuries suffered by these plaintiffs are comparable to those suffered by plaintiffs who were awarded $7–$8 million in Peterson II. See 515 F. Supp. 2d at 55-57 (e.g., Michael Toma, who suffered “various cuts from shrapnel, internal bleeding in his urinary system, a deflated left lung, and a permanently damaged right ear drum”). Hence, the Court will award each of these plaintiffs $7.5 million for pain and suffering. The Court adopts the recommendations by special masters of awards consistent with the adjusted guidelines described above, and will adjust inconsistent awards accordingly.

An attorney for hundreds of the East African victims cited the “need to have patience and determination” in collecting approximately $8 billion from Iran and Sudan, acknowledging it is unlikely that the  two governments would make voluntarily payments for the award ordered by the U.S. court. The lawyers are reportedly looking at Iranian and Sudanese assets seized in the United States or other countries as a source for the court-ordered payments.

 

Related documents ( all pdfs):

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1380 ONSONGO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 233 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1361 AMDUSO et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 255 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

07/25/2014 Civil Action No. 2008-1349 WAMAI et al v. REPUBLIC OF SUDAN et al
Doc No. 246 (memorandum opinion) by Judge John D. Bates

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OIG to State: Here’s How to Save $4.3 Million Annually

– Domani Spero

 

State/OIG reviewed the remote voucher processing of the State Department early this year and concluded that the agency can save an estimated $4.3 million annually if embassies with the highest voucher processing costs processed 50 percent of their vouchers remotely. While the remote processing unit (Post Support Unit (PSU) currently charges embassies $12 per voucher, it costs significantly higher overseas. For instance, it cost $71.40 to process a voucher in Paris, $57.59 in Kuwait, and $41.77 in Conakry.  The PSU reports that it is able to keep voucher processing costs low by operating in locations with low labor costs, like Thailand, Bulgaria, South Carolina, and soon the Philippines.

The OIG report says that vouchering costs at large and medium-sized embassies totaled $32 million in FY 2013 but that only 13 percent of embassy-funded vouchers were processed remotely in 2013.  According to the inspectors, the resistance to processing vouchers remotely stems from bureaus’ and embassies’ reluctance to reduce embassy-based voucher examiner positions and associated funding.

The OIG recommends that the Under Secretary for Management “mandate that the 20 embassies with the highest potential cost savings through Post Support Unit use increase the percentage of vouchers they process remotely to 50 percent by the end of 2016 to allow for $4.3 million in savings annually.”

 

via State/OIG

via State/OIG

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Related item:

Review of Remote Voucher Processing (ISP-I-14-21)  [304 Kb]  Posted on July 30, 2014

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Greg D. Johnsen: How One Man Saved The American Embassy In Yemen

-Domani Spero

On September 17, 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen was attacked by armed militants. The armed attack which includes car and suicide bombings resulted in the death of seven militants and 12 security personnel and civilians. Greg D. Johnsen in telling the story of that day, writes that things would have been unimaginably worse if not for an unlikely hero.  This also shows how much our diplomatic posts are at the mercy of their host countries’ security support. If the host country’s security personnel runs away or refuses to fight, our people overseas are on their own.  

Photo via State/DS - 2008 Annual Report (pdf)

Photo via State/DS – 2008 Annual Report (pdf)

Gregory D. Johnsen — follow him @gregorydjohnsen — is the Michael Hastings National Security Fellow and author of The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia. Excerpt below:

The men knew their early Islamic history, and had picked their target accordingly. For them, Sept. 17 was a holy date. On the Islamic calendar, which held to the lunar cycle, the date was Ramadan 17, 1429. Centuries earlier, at the very beginning of Islam — 624 A.D., or the second year on the Muslim calendar — the Prophet Muhammad led a small band of believers into battle against a much larger pagan force. That morning on the plains south of Medina, the ragtag Muslim army stunned the pagans, a victory Muhammad and the Qur’an attributed to divine intervention.
[...]
The plan was simple: The first vehicle would crash into the main gate, exploding a hole in the embassy’s perimeter and allowing the second jeep and the rest of the men to flood into the main compound and kill as many Americans as they could before they were gunned down. But to do that they had to pass through the concentric circles of security undetected.

At the first checkpoint, the one manned by the Central Security Force, soldiers glanced at the military license plates on the jeeps and waved them through.

The two jeeps pulled ahead to the next checkpoint and stopped. “We have a general here to see the ambassador,” one of the men shouted at Mukhtar and Shumayla.

Neither of them knew anything about a meeting. This wasn’t protocol. Seche hardly ever met people at the embassy; he usually went out. Still, the ambassador didn’t consult with them on his decisions.

Shumayla moved first, walking toward the jeeps to check IDs. About halfway there he paused. The windows in the jeeps were so darkly tinted that he couldn’t see inside. That wasn’t right. Mukhtar was already pulling on the rope to raise the drop bar when Shumayla saw it: a man in the lead jeep popping through a hole in the roof and clutching a Kalashnikov.

“Ya, Mukhtar,” Shumayla shouted. “Run.”

And then the shooting started. Three men jumped out of the trailing jeep, firing as they ran. Shumayla was gone, fleeing for the protection of several concrete barriers. But Mukhtar waited. He had to get the bar down. Letting the rope slide back down through his hands, he hit the duck-and-cover alarm — the embassy’s early warning system — as the bar crashed back down. It all lasted only a few seconds, but that was all it took. One bullet hit him below the left the shoulder; another took him in the stomach. He managed to turn and run about 10 yards toward some rocks before a third bullet hit him in the back and exploded out his chest.

According to Greg Johnsen’s report, Mukhtar al-Faqih was posthumously awarded the Department of State’s Thomas Jefferson Star for Foreign Service for sacrificing his life and giving “the last full measure of devotion to his colleagues and friends.” The U.S. Embassy reportedly hired his younger brother Muhammad to replace him as a security guard but has denied the fourth and youngest brother, Walid, a visa to travel to the U.S.

Read in full: The Benghazi That Wasn’t: How One Man Saved The American Embassy In Yemen.

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Photo of the Day: JK Salutes Two 42-Year U.S. Embassy Mexico City Employees

– Domani Spero

Secretary of State John Kerry salutes Ana Elena Tappan Alvarado and Arturo Montano Robles during a visit to U.S. Embassy Mexico City on May 21, 2014, in recognition of the 42 years they each have spent working at the mission.

 

Secretary Kerry Greets Longtime Embassy Mexico City Employee Alvarado U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during his visit to Mexico, hugs Ana Elena Tappan Alvarado in recognition of the 42 years she and Arturo Montano Robles, background, have spent working at U.S. Embassy Mexico City, May 21, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

May 21, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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Oh, la vache! U.S. Court on French Embassy’s “transparent ploy” over discrimination case

– Domani Spero

Judge James E. Boasberg of the District Court for the District of Columbia was not happy with the French Embassy in Washington, D.C.. In a court ruling dated April 17, 2014, Judge Boasberg chastised the French Embassy writing that the “defendant may delay these proceedings, but it may not evade trial by means of this transparent ploy”as embassy asserted immunity on the eve of a discrimination trial.

The civil case is between Ashraf-Hassan and the Embassy of France in United States.  The plaintiff is Saima Ashraf-Hassan, a former employee of the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., and a French citizen who was born in Pakistan. According to court papers, she originally came to the United States to complete research for her Ph.D. in law. After arriving in Washington, Ashraf-Hassan obtained an internship with the French Embassy, which later led to an offer of full-time employment:

During her five years of employment, Ashraf-Hassan alleges that she suffered discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, religion, and pregnancy, all in violation of Title VII. See id. at *2. In addition to claims of unlawful termination, Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment that was permeated by harassment so severe and pervasive that it altered the conditions of her employment.
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Evidently dissatisfied with this result and with trial looming a few weeks away, the Embassy now invokes the doctrine of sovereign immunity, claiming that after nearly three years of proceedings before this Court, it retains the power to divest itself of the suit at any time it pleases. See ECF No. 51 (Mot. to Dismiss). While at the outset of this litigation, the Embassy acknowledged that it was not entitled to assert immunity, it also stated – somewhat opaquely – that it “reserve[d] the right to raise its immunity should it be necessary to protect the confidential character of [its governmental] activities.” See ECF No. 11 (prior Mot. to Dismiss) at 1. This time has now come, according to Defendant.

In his memorandum opinion, Judge Boasberg writes:

In May of 2011, Plaintiff Saima Ashraf-Hassan brought this suit, alleging that her employer, the Embassy of France in the United States, had violated Title VII by discriminating against her on account of her national origin, race, religion, and pregnancy. In the intervening years, the parties have conducted discovery, attempted to solve their dispute through mediation, and filed assorted motions and other pleadings. Indeed, Defendant has previously moved to dismiss and has also sought summary judgment, but it has repeatedly failed to convince the Court to deny Plaintiff a trial on her discrimination claims.

Now, three years into this litigation and on the eve of trial, Defendant seeks to secure dismissal by claiming for the first time that the Court no longer has subject-matter jurisdiction. Despite its early concessions to the contrary, the Embassy now suggests that it never fully ceded its sovereign immunity when it hired Ashraf-Hassan or when it willingly entered into this litigation. The Embassy contends that it reserved the right to assert immunity at any time of its choosing and that it has the unfettered ability to walk away whenever it deems the claims to be meritless or the proceedings unfair. It protests, moreover, that this suit is now an affront to its dignity, yet Defendant offers no colorable basis to justify dismissal on sovereign-immunity grounds. This case falls squarely within multiple exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a reality that no amount of invective and indignation can change. Defendant may delay these proceedings, but it may not evade trial by means of this transparent ploy.

Read the case here: Ashraf-Hassan v. Embassy of France in United States Civil Action No. 11-805 (JEB).

 

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US Embassy Ottawa: Canadian Court Sets Aside FSN Sandra McDonald’s $240K Default Judgment For Now

– Domani Spero

Via Ottawa Citizen, a wrongful dismissal case filed by Sandra McDonald, a former Foreign Service National (local employee) of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.

Sandra McDonald, now in her early 60s, worked at the embassy for nearly 30 years as one of its locally engaged staff. She sued for wrongful dismissal after she was fired in early 2011 while on long-term disability with complex regional pain syndrome.

McDonald’s lawyer, Bijon Roy, said she was “very disappointed” with the judge’s decision and that it might force her to fight the case all over again.

In July 2012, Ontario Superior Court Justice Heidi Polowin issued a default judgment in McDonald’s favour after U.S. officials failed to file a statement of defence or contest the case in court. The embassy had been served notice of the case through Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and was kept informed of the matter on a regular basis. McDonald’s story also received high-profile coverage from Ottawa media, including the Citizen.

In court this week, embassy officials, seeking to overturn the default judgment, said they had “explicable and plausible” reasons for not having responded to McDonald’s lawsuit, and a “good defence” to be made against it. According to court documents, the Americans claimed that they’d “lost the documentation”, “could not open the email attachment”, that the documentation was “inadvertently directed to the wrong office at the State Department”, and that it was “not indexed correctly”.

Superior Court Justice Timothy Ray questioned how U.S. State Department officials could claim not to have been aware of McDonald’s default judgment. “Its embassy apparently failed to see the front page of the Ottawa Citizen (on) Sept. 11, 2012,” the judge commented.
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Ray said he would set aside Polowin’s default judgment on conditions the embassy pay McDonald’s legal costs and put the $240,000 award in a court trust within the next 60 days.

Read in full: U.S. Embassy wins bid to set aside wrongful dismissal judgment.

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US Embassy Venezuela: Local Employee Miguel Cartaya Killed in Caracas

– Domani Spero

We posted recently about the US Embassy Caracas where three embassy officials were given 48 hours to leave the country (see Venezuela (Where Almost No One Has Toilet Paper) Kicks Out Three U.S. Diplomats for “Flaming” Student Protests).

The anti-government rallies has been roiling Venezuela for days with people expressing their grievances against high inflation, crime, and the shortages of staple goods such as toilet paper, milk, rice and cooking oil.  According to CNN, four anti-government protesters and one government supporter have died in clashes around the country. 

Amidst these chaos, local news reported yesterday that a former official of the Bolivarian National Police (BNP) who worked for the security office of the US Embassy in Caracas was killed at 4:30 in the morning during an attempted  robbery.

Local reports identified the employee as Miguel Angel Borges Cartaya, 39. He reportedly was  found at the bottom of a ravine with multiple gun shots wounds.

One report says that the victim was working escort duties at the American Embassy in Caracas.  Relatives cited in the report also said that the victim was leaving his house when he was attacked by several armed men who were after his belongings.  He was reportedly shot when he resisted.

The Regional Security Office’s 2013 Crime and Safety Report notes that violent crime is the greatest threat in Caracas, affecting local Venezuelans and foreigners alike.

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We are so sorry to hear this news.  This has been a tough couple of weeks for local embassy staff.  On February 12, we blogged about the death of an FSN working at USCG Peshawar (see USCG Peshawar Employee Faisal Saeed Killed in Pakistan).  On February 13, we posted about the arrest and detention of an FSN working at US Embassy Cairo (see  US Embassy Cairo FSN Ahmed Alaiba Detained Since 1/25–State Dept Still Seeking “Clarity”).

We have sent an inquiry to the US Embassy Caracas but received no response.

Our unofficial source in the country confirmed to us that Miguel Cartaya was an FSN, working at the Embassy as a security guard.  At this point, there apparently is no reason to believe the shooting is related to his work at the Embassy, but rather a sad fact of daily life in Caracas, which has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America. We will have a blog update if we learn more.

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US Embassy Cairo FSN Ahmed Alaiba Detained Since 1/25–State Dept Still Seeking “Clarity”

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– Domani Spero

Cairo Post reported on February 11 that Egyptian National Security arrested a local employee on Jan. 25 who works for the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  On February 12, NYT’s David Kirkpatrick has additional details:

Security forces have detained an Egyptian employee of the United States Embassy who worked as a liaison to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian news reports said Wednesday, stirring fears of pressure on Western diplomats who communicate with the Islamist opposition.

Embassy officials said the employee, Ahmed Alaiba, was detained on Jan. 25, the third anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising here, and he has been held without charges since then.
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An Egyptian government official briefed on the case said Mr. Alaiba was under investigation for both participating in an illegal demonstration and “communicating with an outlawed group.”
[...]
Mr. Alaiba, an Egyptian citizen, has no diplomatic immunities. But some Western diplomats said that the leaks to the Egyptian news media about his arrest appeared to convey a message to them as well. Many diplomats were already wrestling with fears of possible retribution from the military-backed government if they continued meeting with Brotherhood officials as they did before the takeover.

Questions about Mr. Alaiba’s arrest made it to the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing with Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf. This FSN has been detained since January 25. Besides repeating what has already been reported in the news media, Ms. Harf could only promise to “see if we have more clarity on this.” Eighteen days after the embassy employee was detained, Ms. Harf could not even say what was this employee’s job at the embassy?!

Typically, the local employees who do work overseas like Mr. Alaiba’s are political assistants or political specialists. These are fairly common jobs in diplomatic missions.  We do want to know what the former DCM, now  Chargé d’Affaires Markc Sievers is doing about the detention of a member of his embassy’s staff?  Yes, he’s Egyptian, and a local employee, and he’s one of ours.  If uncorrected, this could become a dangerous precedent. Anyone who works for the U.S. government in Egypt who talks to MB officials or supporters or other opposition figures could just be thrown into jail without charges or some spurious ones.

In some dark corners of the net, the conspiracy theorists are already busy. This is apparently proof of President Obama’s secret support for the Muslim Brotherhood.  Which just shows how little people know about what our official representatives do overseas.  Our diplomats and local employees talk to host country governments and opposition parties/figures around the globe.  What they learn help inform the decisions that our government makes.  This happens whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. Some of the folks our officials talk to are not very nice, some are corrupt, some would not even think twice about stabbing us in the back. But that’s the world we lived in.  To expect that our government officials should only talk to the government in power is idiotic, that gives us only half the story. It also makes it impossible for our people to do substantial work when the levers of power change hands.  So, do think about that when you hear about these nutty stuff.

Now, can we please have somebody at the podium who wears a hat or sash that says, “Clarity is my name” whether it snows or not?

Excerpt below from the greatest mid-day show in town:

QUESTION: I wanted to start by asking about the Embassy employee in Cairo who was arrested for his liaison with the Muslim Brotherhood. First off, what is the reaction of the State Department? What’s being done, I assume, to have him released, if he hasn’t been released already? And then if you could talk a little more broadly about whether or not the State Department or the Administration believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, and what this says about dealing with a government in Cairo that is refusing to recognize such a significant part of the population in Egypt.

MS. HARF: Absolutely. So we can confirm that a locally employed staff member of the U.S. Embassy was detained on January 25th and that, as far as we understand, he has been held without charges since then. We have been in touch with the Government of Egypt and have requested additional information about his case. The locally employed staff member was detained, I think, over a weekend on January 25th while off-duty, as I think maybe you mentioned.

The United States does not – has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. We have been very clear in Egypt that we will work with all sides and all parties to help move an inclusive process forward. We’ve also repeatedly, both publicly and privately, called on the interim government to move forward in an inclusive manner. That means talking to all parties, bringing them into the process. We’re not saying what the future government should look like specifically other than that it should be inclusive. That, of course, includes the Muslim Brotherhood. We will continue talking to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as part of our broad outreach to the different parties and groups there.

QUESTION: So if he was arrested or detained anyways off-duty, is it your understanding he was – he is being detained because of his liaison with the Muslim Brotherhood, or was there another reason to your understanding?

MS. HARF: Let me see if we have more clarity on this. I’m not sure we have entire clarity about the reasons for his continued detention. Let me check with our folks and see. Again, I’m not sure if we know exactly why he’s being detained.

QUESTION: Because otherwise, I mean I’m sure other employees at the Embassy are – would be reluctant to liaise with the Muslim Brotherhood or any opposition groups that the current government in Cairo seems to not look upon favorably. And –

MS. HARF: Let me see – oh, sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. No, and so I just wonder, as you say, how the Obama Administration and the State Department is going to continue reaching out to the Muslim Brotherhood. How will they do that if employees are being arrested and there’s certain penalties that people have to face in doing so.

MS. HARF: Well – yeah. No, it’s – to be clear, I’m not saying that that was the reason for his detention. I would need to confirm that with folks.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I actually haven’t heard that, so let me check and see that.

Again, he was a locally employed staff member. Our folks that are on the ground there have been talking to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups as well. So let me see two things if I can get a little more clarity about the reason for his detention and also what his job was at the Embassy. I just don’t have all that clarity.

QUESTION: Okay. So would an American official at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo be able to liaise with the Muslim Brotherhood? I assume they have been.

MS. HARF: Well, they certainly have been. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: And again, I’m not sure that was the reason for his detention. So before we sort of take this – I’m happy to check and see if we just have some more clarity on that.

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