Category Archives: Terrorism

GAO: State Dept Management of Security Training May Increase Risk to U.S. Personnel

– Domani Spero

The State Department has established a mandatory requirement that specified U.S. executive branch personnel under chief-of-mission authority and on assignments or short-term TDY complete the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) security training before arrival in a high-threat environment.

Who falls under chief-of-mission authority?

Chiefs of mission are the principal officers in charge of U.S. diplomatic missions and certain U.S. offices abroad that the Secretary of State designates as diplomatic in nature. Usually, the U.S. ambassador to a foreign country is the chief of mission in that country. According to the law, the chief of mission’s authority encompasses all employees of U.S. executive branch agencies, excluding personnel under the command of a U.S. area military commander and Voice of America correspondents on official assignment (22 U.S.C. § 3927). According to the President’s letter of instruction to chiefs of mission, members of the staff of an international organization are also excluded from chief
-of-mission authority. The President’s letter of instruction further states that the chief of mission’s security responsibility extends to all government personnel on official duty abroad other than those under the protection of a U.S. area military commander or on the staff of an international organization.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report which examines (1) State and USAID personnel’s compliance with the FACT training requirement and (2) State’s and USAID’s oversight of their personnel’s compliance. GAO also reviewed agencies’ policy guidance; analyzed State and USAID personnel data from March 2013 and training data for 2008 through 2013; reviewed agency documents; and interviewed agency officials in Washington, D.C., and at various overseas locations.

High Threat Countries: 9 to 18

The June 2013 State memorandum identifying the nine additional countries noted that personnel deploying to three additional countries will also be required to complete FACT training but are reportedly exempt from the requirement until further notice. State Diplomatic Security officials informed the GAO that these countries were granted temporary exceptions based on the estimated student training capacity at the facility where FACT training is currently conducted. We know from the report that the number of countries that now requires FACT training increased from 9 to 18, but they are not identified in the GAO report.

“Lower Priority” Security Training for Eligible Family Members

One section of the report notes that according to State officials, of the 22 noncompliant individuals in one country, 18 were State personnel’s employed eligible family members who were required to take the training; State officials explained that these individuals were not aware of the requirement at the time. The officials noted that enrollment of family members in the course is given lower priority than enrollment of direct-hire U.S. government employees but that space is typically available.

Typically, family members shipped to high-threat posts are those who have found employment at post. So they are not just there accompanying their employed spouses for the fun of it, they’re at post to perform the specific jobs they’re hired for. Why the State Department continue to give them “lower priority” in security training is perplexing. You know, the family members employed at post will be riding exactly the same boat the direct-hire government employees will be riding in.

Working Group Reviews

This report includes the State Department’s response to the GAO. A working group under “M” reportedly is mandated to “discover where improvements can be made in notification, enrollment and tracking regarding FACT training.” The group is also “reviewing the conditions under which eligible family members can and should be required to complete FACT training as well as the requirements related to personnel on temporary duty assignment.”

Excerpt below from the public version of a February 2014 report:

Using data from multiple sources, GAO determined that 675 of 708 Department of State (State) personnel and all 143 U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) personnel on assignments longer than 6 months (assigned personnel) in the designated high-threat countries on March 31, 2013, were in compliance with the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) training requirement. GAO found that the remaining 33 State assigned personnel on such assignments had not complied with the mandatory requirement. For State and USAID personnel on temporary duty of 6 months or less (short-term TDY personnel), GAO was unable to assess compliance because of gaps in State’s data. State does not systematically maintain data on the universe of U.S. personnel on short-term TDY status to designated high-threat countries who were required to complete FACT training. This is because State lacks a mechanism for identifying those who are subject to the training requirement. These data gaps prevent State or an independent reviewer from assessing compliance with the FACT training requirement among short-term TDY personnel. According to Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government , program managers need operating information to determine whether they are meeting compliance requirements.

State’s guidance and management oversight of personnel’s compliance with the FACT training requirement have weaknesses that limit State’s ability to ensure that personnel are prepared for service in designated high-threat countries. These weaknesses include the following:

  • State’s policy and guidance related to FACT training—including its Foreign Affairs Manual , eCountry Clearance instructions for short-term TDY personnel, and guidance on the required frequency of FACT training—are outdated, inconsistent, or unclear. For example, although State informed other agencies of June 2013 policy changes to the FACT training requirement, State had not yet updated its Foreign Affairs Manual to reflect those changes as of January 2014. The changes included an increase in the number of high-threat countries requiring FACT training from 9 to 18.
  • State and USAID do not consistently verify that U.S. personnel complete FACT training before arriving in designated high-threat countries. For example, State does not verify compliance for 4 of the 9 countries for which it required FACT training before June 2013.
  • State does not monitor or evaluate overall levels of compliance with the FACT training requirement.
  • State’s Foreign Affairs Manual notes that it is the responsibility of employees to ensure their own compliance with the FACT training requirement. However, the manual and Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government also note that management is responsible for putting in place adequate controls to help ensure that agency directives are carried out.

The GAO notes that the gaps in State oversight may increase the risk that personnel assigned to high-threat countries do not complete FACT training, potentially placing their own and others’ safety in jeopardy.

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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.
[...]
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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USCG Peshawar Employee Faisal Saeed Killed in Pakistan

– Domani Spero

Pakistani news reports that two gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire on Faisal Saeed, 30, outside his residence in Peshawar.  Senior police official Najibur Rehman reportedly identified Saeed as a former employee of the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, but the U.S. embassy in Islamabad said he was a staff member.

“Local authorities are investigating a tragic incident that has affected a Pakistani national U.S. Consulate Peshawar employee,” a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this brutal and senseless death, and express our heartfelt condolences to the family,” she said.

WaPo also reported yesterday that Saeed, worked as a computer programmer at the consulate and was active in updating its Facebook page.  The report citing a friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said Saeed “was talking on his phone outside of his house when two armed men shot him and fled.”

“Pakistani officials refused to speculate whether Saeed was targeted because of his affiliation with the U.S. government.”

Peshawar has been called the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service and has been in de facto draw-down during the last five years.

In 2013, the Regional Security Office released its annual Crime and Security Report detailing various attacks against post:

Western targets, in particular U.S. diplomatic premises, personnel, and vehicles, have been attacked repeatedly in Peshawar over the past several years. In 2010, the U.S. Consulate weathered a direct assault. In May 2011, a Consulate motorcade was attacked with a car bomb in the University Town neighborhood. In September 2012, another Consulate motorcade was attacked in the same neighborhood utilizing a sophisticated surveillance network and a suicide car bomb, which resulted in numerous casualties and property damage. In November 2012, two separate indirect fire (IDF) incidents were directed at the Consulate’s University Town housing compound. A number of Consulate residences sustained minor damage, and one Consulate guard was injured.

The report also notes the anti-American sentiment in the country and the apparent rise of terrorist acts in Peshawar.

Northwest Pakistan–consisting of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP), the provincial capital of Peshawar, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)–is a dangerous place for all Westerners and especially American citizens. The Abbottabad raid in May 2011 that captured and killed Osama bin Laden, the 2011 NATO action on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers, and the 2011 Raymond Davis incident have inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. In 2012, there were numerous anti-American protests, including large-scale demonstrations and protests against the anti-Islamic movie, “Innocence of Muslims.” The overall number of terrorist acts in the “settled areas” of Peshawar and KP Province appear to be on the rise, particularly with attacks against local commercial and government facilities.

Active links added above.  The U.S. Consulate General Peshawar was headed by senior DS agent Robert Reed from 2012 to 2013.  In fall 2013, he was succeeded by Gabriel Escobar as consul general.  Mr. Escobar previously served as Team Leader of the State Department’s PRT in Kirkuk Province, Iraq in 2009 and 2010.

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Senate Report on Benghazi: Nothing Surprising, Spreading the Blame, Notable Details

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– Domani Spero

Yesterday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released its Review of the Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Facilities in Benghazi, Libya, September11-12, 2012 together with Additional Views.  You may read it here. The Armed Services Committee also released six files from the declassified transcripts of the Benghazi briefings here.

The report notes that between 1998 (the year of the terrorist attacks against the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania) and 2012, 273 significant attacks were carried out against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel. In the course of its investigation, SSCI conducted on-the record Member and staff meetings with officials already named previously in news reports and with  the unnamed former CIA Chief of Base in Benghazi who was at the Annex on the night of the attacks and U.S. Government security personnel on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attacks.

Nothing in the findings or recommendations of the Committee was particularly surprising.  The report spreads the blame around not just on the State Department, Defense, the intel community, but also the late Ambassador Stevens for declining twice additional security offered by AFRCOM’s General Carter Ham.   But there are some notable details that we have not seen before:

More specificity about the team that flew to Benghazi:

A seven-person security team (consisting of two DoD personnel, four CIA personnel, and a linguist) flew from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to Benghazi and successfully helped evacuate the Americans from the Annex to the airport. It is important to clarify that, at the time of the attacks in Benghazi, there were six DoD personnel assigned to Embassy Tripoli. Four employees were under Special Operations Command Africa (SOC-AFRICA) and reported through a similar, but separate, chain of command within AFRICOM. The other two individuals from that team were DoD personnel working (based on a memorandum of understanding) under a separate special operations task force. According to the DoD, the four staff under SOC.,.AFRICA were told by their command to stay to protect Embassy Tripoli due to concerns of a similar attack in Tripoli.

What about State’s Intel Bureau?

Based on the Committee’s review, the State Department’s INR disseminated no intelligence products related to the Benghazi attacks in the year following the attacks. Considering the attacks began on a State Department facility, involved the deaths of two State Department personnel, and were an important indication of escalating threats against U.S. facilities and personnel in the region, the Committee fmds it unsettling that INR chose not to, or was unable to, disseminate any analysis related to the attacks or the implications of the attacks.
[…]
Yet, INR officials have access to State Department information and perspectives that many in the Intelligence Community do not; therefore, INR should play a more active–not just a coordinating-role in analysis for the IC and not just the State Department. The State Department’s Inspector General went even further and found that INR should be the office to produce a comprehensive security assessment for each post based on all available diplomatic and intelligence sources.

Individuals Supporting the Investigation, Killed?

The Libyan Government has not shown the political incentive or will within its own country to seek out, arrest, and prosecute individuals believed to be associated with the attacks. Furthermore, the security environment in Benghazi remains extremely dangerous for individuals wishing to work with the U.S. Government on its investigation into the attacks. In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller noted that as many as 15 individuals supporting the investigation or otherwise helpful to the United States have been killed in Benghazi since the attacks, underscoring the lawless and chaotic circumstances in eastern Libya. It is unclear whether their killings were related to the Benghazi investigation.

Interesting Footnotes!

#18| SSCI Transcript, Hearing on Security Issues at Benghazi and Threats to U.S. Intelligence and Diplomatic Personne/.and Facilities Worldwide Since the Attacks, December 4; 2012, p. 67. However, on page 47 of its classified report, the ARB concluded: “While none of the five DS agents discharged their weapons, the Board concluded that this was a sound tactical decision, given the overwhelming degree to which they were outgunned and outnumbered: A decision to discharge their weapons may well have resulted in more American deaths that night, without saving lives. The multiple trips that DS agents and Annex security team members made into a burning, smoke-filled building showed readiness to risk life and limb to save.“

#65 | The Committee recognizes that there were communications between State Department employees in Libya regarding security during this time period, including an August 22, 2012, document entitled, “Security Requests for U.S. Mission Benghazi” that was sent from OS agents in Benghazi to the RSO in Tripoli that included specific requests for (I) physical security, (2) equipment, and (3) manpower. There is no indication those requests were passed on to State Department Headquarters in the form of a cable.

#68 | An August 28, 2012, memo entitled, “Regional Security Officer Turnover” from the outgoing RSO stated: “U.S.Mission Benghazi has an uncertain future; Post is scheduled to close December 31,2012. Various alternatives are being proposed, including colocating with the Annex. The RSO should be aware that requests for expensive security upgrades may be difficult to obtain as headquarters is hesitant to allocate money to a post that may be closing in a few months.” Classified Report of the ARB, December 18,2012, Appendix 6, p. I.

Wondering why it was necessary to classify #18 and #68 from the publicly available ARB Report? Do you know?

The Senate report in 85 pages long.  The report itself is 42 pages long with its findings and recommendations. The report includes three appendices; as well, there are “Additional Views” attached to the report:  a 5-page one from the Democrats on the SSIC (Senators Feinstein, Rockefeller IV, Wyden, Mikulski, Udall, Warner, Heinrich and Maine Senator Angus King);  a 16-page one from the GOP members of the Committee namely, Vice-Chairman Chambliss and Senators Burr, Risch, Coats, Rubio and Coburn and a 4-page statement by Maine Senator Susan Collins who co-authored with then Senator Joe Lieberman the HSGAC 2012 report, “Flashing Red: A Special Report on the Terrorist Attack at Benghazi.

So, basically, what they could not agree to put in the body of the report, the SSIC members placed as attachments to their bipartisan work. We expect that the morning shows on Sunday will be populated with politicians talking about their “additional views” on the report.

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Balwinder Singh aka ‘Happy’ Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorism Groups in India and Pakistan

– Domani Spero

The day after Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the arrest of  Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade for visa fraud and false statements and caused a diplomatic row, another arrest in Reno, Nevada of Indian national  and U.S. legal resident, Balwinder Singh for conspiring to provide material support to terrorism groups in India and Pakistan barely made the news.

Below via USDOJ:

Reno Man Charged with Conspiring to Provide Material Support to Terrorism Groups in India and Pakistan | December 13, 2013

A Reno, Nev. man has been charged with providing material support to terrorism groups in India and Pakistan in order to intimidate the Indian government and to harm persons that were not supporting their cause, announced John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada, and Laura A. Bucheit, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI for Nevada.

“A thorough investigation and cooperation among agencies led to these charges,” said U.S. Attorney Bogden.  “Investigating and prosecuting matters of national security is the top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Balwinder Singh, aka Jhajj, aka, Happy, aka Possi, aka Baljit Singh, 39, of Reno, is charged in an indictment with one count of conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim persons in a foreign country, one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, one count of making a false statement on an immigration document, two counts of use of an immigration document procured by fraud, and one count of unlawful production of an identification document.   Singh was arrested on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, in Reno, and is scheduled to appear before a U.S. Magistrate Judge on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, for an initial appearance and arraignment.

“After an extensive investigation, the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) of Northern Nevada has disrupted an individual’s involvement in facilitation activities in support of a foreign terrorist organization, targeting an ally of the United States,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Bucheit. “We will continue to work with our international partners to prevent acts of terrorism on U.S. soil or, as in this case, on that of an ally. This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”

According to the indictment, Singh was a citizen of India who fled to the United States and claimed asylum.  Singh lived in the United States where he eventually obtained a permanent resident card from the United States.  The indictment alleges that Singh is a member of two terrorist organizations, Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) and Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), whose members aim to establish an independent Sikh state in part of the Punjab region of India known as Khalistan. These groups engage in bombings, kidnappings and murders in India to intimidate and compel the Indian government to create the state of Khalistan.  These groups also target for assassination persons they consider traitors to the Sikh religion and government officials who they consider responsible for atrocities against the Sikhs.

The indictment alleges that the object of the conspiracy was to advance the goals of BKI and KZF by raising money and obtaining weapons to support acts of terrorism in India.  It is alleged that the conspiracy began on a date unknown but no later than Nov. 30, 1997.  It is alleged that Singh used a false identity and obtained false identification documents in the United States so that he could travel back to India without being apprehended by the Indian authorities.  It is alleged that Singh communicated with other coconspirators by telephone while he was in the United States to discuss acts of terrorism to be carried out in India.  It is alleged that Singh sent money from Reno, Nev., to co-conspirators in India for the purchase of weapons that would be provided to members of the BKI and KZF to support acts of terrorism in India. It is alleged that Singh traveled from the United States to Pakistan, India, and other countries to meet with coconspirators to assist in the planning of terrorism in India, and that Singh provided advice to coconspirators about how to carry out acts of terrorism.

If convicted, Singh faces up to life in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on each count.

The case is being investigated by the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in northern Nevada, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sue Fahami and Brian L. Sullivan, and Trial Attorney Mara M. Kohn of the U.S. Department of Justice Counterterrorism Section.

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In related news, on December 18, in a widely reported retaliation for the treatment of its diplomat in New York, the Indian government removed the security barriers at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

On December 25, Hindustan Times  writes about the “rumblings” in the U.S. Congress over the removal of the security barriers:  “We can understand the anger and the other measures,” said a senior congressional aide on condition of anonymity, “but removing the barriers has raised security concerns.

On December 29, the Times of India says that Indian officials speaking on background refuted “the US suggestion that they were being vengeful towards the US diplomatic corps and endangering the US embassy.” Seriously.  That’s why there was full press court and cameras when it took the muscular response of dismantling the concrete security barricades and spike strips around Embassy Delhi.  So apparently, the security barriers now have its own mini-drama. The TOI report says  that “A decision to remove the barriers was taken several weeks back when the US side removed a diplomatic parking lane in front of the Indian embassy in Washington DC (that also served as security perimeter) and turned it into public parking.”

Coincidences bumping into each other on the dark side of the moon.

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Maid in Manhattan Case: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the Man Who Makes Embassy Row Tremble

– Domani Spero

On December 12, USDOJ announced the arrest of Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade for visa fraud related to her underpaid domestic employee.

The uproar caused by the arrest has only grown in the last several days.  In response to the arrest of its diplomat, India took several retaliatory actions against the U.S. Mission in India. Several examples below according to DNA India, some obviously petty, but others more serious:

  • Indian government officials cancelled their meetings with a visiting US Congressional delegation.
  • Called for details including salaries paid to all Indian staff employed at the US consulates, including Consulate officers & family.
  • Stopped all import clearances for US embassy including food and liquor.
  • “The government has asked for all US Consulate personnel’s ID cards and that of their families immediately. These will now be downgraded on par with with what the US provides to our Consulates in US,” sources said.
  • Asked the US to provide it with visa information and other details of all teachers at US schools and pay and bank accounts of Indians in these schools.

Then the former External Affairs Minister and BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha, called on the government to reciprocate against the alleged mistreatment of its diplomat by arresting the same sex companions of American diplomats using a Supreme Court verdict in India that restored a ban on gay sex.  “Put them behind bars, prosecute them in this country and punish them,” Mr Sinha said.  It appears he wasn’t alone.  According to NPR, a “senior Indian diplomat” told The Hindu that the government could retaliate against the gay partners of U.S. diplomats.  “We also know who all have brought in their gay partners and on what grounds they were given visas though there is a law against it in India,” the official said. “We can’t talk about it because this law is controversial and outdated but if the U.S. wants to go to this extent, then this law and several other options are there.”

On December 17, Delhi Police also removed the security barricades set up outside the American Embassy. “The ministry of external affairs requested us to remove these traffic measures around the US embassy and clear the road. The Nyaya Marg has been opened for public,” Special commissioner of Delhi Police (security) Taj Hassan told PTI.

The Indian Government must think of embassy security as a diplomatic privilege and not an obligation.  The Global Terrorism Index ranked India 4th (after Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan) as most affected by terrorism over a 10-year period.  So there is obviously a reason for those barricades.

Meanwhile, the diplomat at the center of the storm has written a letter to her colleagues, which was released online, and certainly adding to the furor about her alleged mistreatment:

My dear colleagues – senior and junior, 

I am so grateful for all the outpouring of unequivocal support and backing that has been available to me from the fraternity. I take comfort in the confidence that this invaluable support will also be translated into strong and swift action, to ensure the safety of me and my children, as also to preserve the dignity of our service which is unquestionably under siege.

While I was going through it, although I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, hold up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity, I got the strength to regain composure and remain dignified thinking that I must represent all of my colleagues and my country with confidence and pride.

I feel I can continue to do so thanks to this strong and prolific support. I cannot say more now but will later, I did feel the deep need to thank you all so much. 

On December 18, the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C. released a statement that provides additional details of this case including accusations that the maid, Sangeeta Richard, Ms. Khobragade’s “domestic assistant” blackmailed her former employer and also have “taken cash, mobile phone and documents.”

On the same day, Secretary Kerry reportedly called Indian National Security Advisor Menon to discuss the December 12th arrest of Deputy Consul General Khobragade.  According to the State Department, in his conversation with National Security Advisor Menon, Secretary Kerry  “expressed his regret, as well as his concern that we not allow this unfortunate public issue to hurt our close and vital relationship with India.”

Also on December 18, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  released a statement on the United States v. Devyani Khobragade case, clearing up misconceptions about the circumstances surrounding her arrest. No, she was not arrested in front of her children, and she was not handcuffed or restrained. And yes, she was “fully searched by a female Deputy Marshal — in a private setting — when she was brought into the U.S. Marshals’ custody, but this is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not.” Zing!

Below is the full statement:

There has been much misinformation and factual inaccuracy in the reporting on the charges against Devyani Khobragade. It is important to correct these inaccuracies because they are misleading people and creating an inflammatory atmosphere on an unfounded basis. Although I am quite limited in my role as a prosecutor in what I can say, which in many ways constrains my ability here to explain the case to the extent I would like, I can nevertheless make sure the public record is clearer than it has been thus far.

First, Ms. Khobragade was charged based on conduct, as is alleged in the Complaint, that shows she clearly tried to evade U.S. law designed to protect from exploitation the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers. Not only did she try to evade the law, but as further alleged, she caused the victim and her spouse to attest to false documents and be a part of her scheme to lie to U.S. government officials. So it is alleged not merely that she sought to evade the law, but that she affirmatively created false documents and went ahead with lying to the U.S. government about what she was doing. One wonders whether any government would not take action regarding false documents being submitted to it in order to bring immigrants into the country. One wonders even more pointedly whether any government would not take action regarding that alleged conduct where the purpose of the scheme was to unfairly treat a domestic worker in ways that violate the law. And one wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?

Second, as the alleged conduct of Ms. Khobragade makes clear, there can be no plausible claim that this case was somehow unexpected or an injustice. Indeed, the law is clearly set forth on the State Department website. Further, there have been other public cases in the United States involving other countries, and some involving India, where the mistreatment of domestic workers by diplomats or consular officers was charged criminally, and there have been civil suits as well. In fact, the Indian government itself has been aware of this legal issue, and that its diplomats and consular officers were at risk of violating the law. The question then may be asked: Is it for U.S. prosecutors to look the other way, ignore the law and the civil rights of victims (again, here an Indian national), or is it the responsibility of the diplomats and consular officers and their government to make sure the law is observed?

Third, Ms. Khobragade, the Deputy General Consul for Political, Economic, Commercial and Women’s Affairs, is alleged to have treated this victim illegally in numerous ways by paying her far below minimum wage, despite her child care responsibilities and many household duties, such that it was not a legal wage. The victim is also alleged to have worked far more than the 40 hours per week she was contracted to work, and which exceeded the maximum hour limit set forth in the visa application. Ms. Khobragade, as the Complaint charges, created a second contract that was not to be revealed to the U.S. government, that changed the amount to be paid to far below minimum wage, deleted the required language protecting the victim from other forms of exploitation and abuse, and also deleted language that stated that Ms. Khobragade agreed to “abide by all Federal, state, and local laws in the U.S.” As the Complaint states, these are only “in part” the facts, and there are other facts regarding the treatment of the victim – that were not consistent with the law or the representations made by Ms. Khobragade — that caused this Office and the State Department, to take legal action.

Fourth, as to Ms. Khobragade’s arrest by State Department agents, this is a prosecutor’s office in charge of prosecution, not the arrest or custody, of the defendant, and therefore those questions may be better referred to other agencies. I will address these issues based on the facts as I understand them. Ms. Khobragade was accorded courtesies well beyond what other defendants, most of whom are American citizens, are accorded. She was not, as has been incorrectly reported, arrested in front of her children. The agents arrested her in the most discreet way possible, and unlike most defendants, she was not then handcuffed or restrained. In fact, the arresting officers did not even seize her phone as they normally would have. Instead, they offered her the opportunity to make numerous calls to arrange personal matters and contact whomever she needed, including allowing her to arrange for child care. This lasted approximately two hours. Because it was cold outside, the agents let her make those calls from their car and even brought her coffee and offered to get her food. It is true that she was fully searched by a female Deputy Marshal — in a private setting — when she was brought into the U.S. Marshals’ custody, but this is standard practice for every defendant, rich or poor, American or not, in order to make sure that no prisoner keeps anything on his person that could harm anyone, including himself. This is in the interests of everyone’s safety.

Fifth, as has been reported, the victim’s family has been brought to the United States. As also has been reported, legal process was started in India against the victim, attempting to silence her, and attempts were made to compel her to return to India. Further, the Victim’s family reportedly was confronted in numerous ways regarding this case. Speculation about why the family was brought here has been rampant and incorrect. Some focus should perhaps be put on why it was necessary to evacuate the family and what actions were taken in India vis-à-vis them. This Office and the Justice Department are compelled to make sure that victims, witnesses and their families are safe and secure while cases are pending.

Finally, this Office’s sole motivation in this case, as in all cases, is to uphold the rule of law, protect victims, and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law – no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are.

The comments directed at Mr. Bharara on Indian media have turned nasty, a sampling here and here, but much worse on social media.

In early December 49 Russian Diplomats/Spouses Charged With Picking Uncle Sam’s Pocket in Medicaid Scam. That was Mr. Bharara’s office.  He, by, the way, has a 77-0 record in insider trading cases in his office’s campaign to root out illegal conduct on Wall Street. According to NYT, the government’s marquee conviction came in 2011, when a jury found the billionaire hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam guilty of insider trading.  And don’t forget Rajat Gupta, ex-director of Goldman Sachs and ex-head of consulting at McKinsey & Co., who was sentenced to two years in prison.

In 2011, Mr. Bharara, the man who makes Wall Street tremble, was India Abroad Person of the Year 2011, an event attended by who’s who of the Diaspora and India.

It looks like in 2013, Mr. Bharara is the man who makes Embassy Row tremble.

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About That $10 Million Rewards for Justice for Benghazi — Was It In Morse Code?

– Domani Spero

On November 15, news outlets reported that the State Department revealed … that it  “secretly,” some reports says it “quietly,” others say it “covertly” offered, a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the deadly terror attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

How does one communicate secretly that there is such a reward?  Do you pass it on a whisper campaign, on a rumor campaign, in Morse Code or do you use a tin can telephone? Here is the  $10 million reward imagined in Morse Code.

Screen Shot 2013-11-20

$10 Million Reward Imagined
The United States is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the deadly terror attack last year on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy.

On November 18, the $10 million reward made it to the State Department’s daily press briefing. On the red corner, as usual,  is AP’s Matt Lee, and on the blue corner is the official spox, Jennifer Psaki. Below is the word cloud if you want the DPB in 2 seconds.
Created with Word It Out

Via Word It Out

If you want the longer version, below is an excerpt from the transcript:

QUESTION: Can the State Department provide documentation that the $10 million you have offered, dating back to September, exists?

MS. PSAKI: Documentation?

QUESTION: Documentation. On Friday afternoon there was a press release that said –

MS. PSAKI: I’m very familiar with it. I think we confirmed at the time that the Rewards for Justice program has had a reward offer of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual. That is conveyed to the appropriate parties. We haven’t made the decision beyond confirming it to put on the website or publicize it further. So I’m not sure what you’d be looking for.

QUESTION: When you said “at the time,” do you mean last January?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I said that’s when we made the decision to put them on the list. Obviously, there have been an incredible level of interest. We – through consultations, we decided to confirm, but we have made the decision to publicize it by putting it officially on the website, et cetera. But beyond that, in terms of specific documentation, I’m not sure that’s something that we would have available for a program like that.

QUESTION: Understood. Can you describe how a secret reward system works?

MS. PSAKI: Probably not. What are you looking for specifically?

QUESTION: Just the process, like who made the decision? Was it Secretary Clinton, Susan Rice, the White House? Who made the decision to offer a reward and keep it a secret, and if –

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, this is – Secretary Clinton made the decision to, in consultation with a range of parties, to put them on this list. In terms of the decision made about whether to publicize it or not, that’s discussion made through a range of parties. Sometimes we are especially cautious about publicizing the names of suspects or bringing any additional public attention to them if there’s a belief that it would be – that the investigation is sensitive and it would adversely affect the process. So that’s part of the decision-making, and obviously you reconsider that decision just like anything over the course of time.

QUESTION: But if you have a secret rewards program, if nobody knows about it, how can you expect to get any answers?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you that although the reward was not posted, has not been posted on the website, our interagency partners have a range of ways of making this reward offer known as needed, and they’ve done that since January.

QUESTION: What – could you just be a little bit more specific about what that means? Does that mean they go up, walk up to some dude on the street in Benghazi and say, “Hey, buddy, we got some cash here if you can let us know who did this.” Is that what that means?

MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that is probably not an accurate depiction –

QUESTION: Not.

MS. PSAKI: – but I don’t have – I can’t outline for you –

QUESTION: Okay, so exactly how is it – how is it?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I can’t outline for you more specifics. Obviously, there are a range of contacts, a range of steps that are taken. I’m not going to outline those more specifically.

QUESTION: The other thing, I – the one thing I don’t – perhaps you can explain it to me, I don’t really understand this. You said that one of the reasons for not publicizing it is because you don’t want the names to get out there, right? But as I understand it, there are no names on this list, that it’s an event-specific award. In other words, if you have information leading to the arrest of anyone who was involved in the attack – not Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. So if it’s an event-specific award, I just – the argument that publicizing the names is – would be bad or could compromise the investigation seems to vanish into vapor.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I will have to check on that for you in the specifics of what’s being publicized or not publicized. Obviously, anything that could impact an investigation is one of the bottom lines.

QUESTION: Right. But is it not correct that the reward is event-specific? In other words, it is for information leading to the arrest and conviction or capture or whatever of anyone who was involved in the attack on the Benghazi mission and not for Mr. X, specifically, who was involved in the attack? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on whether individual names are a part of that process.

QUESTION: Now, if Secretary Clinton approved the decision to keep this reward a secret, who made the decision within the building to make it a secret?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Lucas, I’m not going to outline decision – internal decision-making, but there is a process in place that discusses what is the appropriate way to handle. That was a decision made. Obviously, it continues to be reviewed, and we decided to confirm it.

QUESTION: So the State Department’s position is you had a secret negotiations about a secret rewards program – how do you expect to capture –

MS. PSAKI: It’s hardly a secret rewards program. Our desire to catch these suspects is hardly secret. It’s a top priority for the Administration. The decision was made for a range of reasons that we were not going to publicize the fact that they are a part of this list. Obviously, we’ve made a decision to confirm it, but I don’t think anybody should question our desire to catch these suspects.

QUESTION: And why was that decision made after repeated questions about these suspects?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s obviously an ongoing review of any of these cases on whether to keep public or private. There was a great deal of interest. In response to an inquiry from Congress, we confirmed that and we’ve confirmed it for all of you since then.

We do not doubt our government’s desire to apprehend the people responsible for the attack.  But do you understand how this is done?  We have a hard time understanding how one can put up a reward  but not put it up on the RFJ website, not use posters, not use matchbooks, has no paid advertisements on the radio and newspapers, the Internet, and any other appropriate avenue to assist in bringing to justice those responsible for this terrorist attack.

In related news, a Grand Rapids resident has hired a lawyer and is reportedly seeking a $25 million bounty for identifying the location of UBL eight years before he was killed in  Pakistan.

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Filed under Congress, Counting Beans, Federal Agencies, Follow the Money, Hillary, Huh? News, Leaks|Controversies, Media, Secretary of State, State Department, Terrorism

30 Years Ago Today: 1983 U.S. Marine Corps Barracks Bombing – Beirut, Lebanon

– By Domani Spero

On 23 October 1983, at around 6:22 a.m., a truck laden with the equivalent of over 12,000 pounds of TNT crashed through the perimeter of the compound of the U.S. contingent of the Multinational Force at Beirut International Airport, Beirut, Lebanon, penetrated the Battalion Landing Team Headquarters building and detonated. The force of the explosion destroyed the building resulting in the deaths of 241 U.S. military personnel: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

BEFORE

LEB_bltoblq

Photo via Beirut Memorial

AFTER

Beirut_after

Photo via Beirut Memorial

The Report of the DoD Commission on Beirut International Airport Terrorist Act, October 23, 1983 also known as the Long Commission after Admiral Robert L. J. Long who chaired the committee, is available here via fas.org. The following are the names of the people we lost in that attack. (via US Embassy Beirut).

CPL Terry W. Abbott, USMC
LCPL Clemon S. Alexander, USMC
PFC John R. Allman, USMC
CPL Moses J. Arnold JR., USMC
PFC Charles K. Bailey, USMC
LCPL Nicholas Baker, USMC
LCPL Johnsen Banks, USMC
LCPL Richard E. Barrett, USMC
HM1 Ronny K. Bates, USN
1STSGT David L. Battle, USMC
LCPL James R. Baynard, USMC
HN Jesse W. Beamon, USN
GYSGT Alvin Belmer, USMC
PFC Stephen Bland, USMC
SGT Richard L. Blankenship, USMC
LCPL John W. Blocker, USMC
CAPT Joseph J. Boccia JR., USMC
CPL Leon Bohannon JR., USMC
SSGT John R. Bohnet JR., USMC
CPL John J. Bonk JR., USMC
LCPL Jeffrey L. Boulos, USMC
CPL David R. Bousum, USMC
1STLT John N. Boyett, USMC
CPL Anthony Brown, USMC
LCPL David W. Brown, USMC
LCPL Bobby S. Buchanan JR., USMC
CPL John B. Buckmaster, USMC
PFC William F. Burley, USMC
HN Jimmy R. Cain, USN
CPL Paul L. Callahan, USMC
SGT Mecot E. Camara, USMC
PFC Bradly J. Campus, USMC
LCPL Johnnie D. Ceasar, USMC
PFC Marc L. Cole, USMC
SP4 Marcus A. Coleman, USA
PFC Juan M. Comas, USMC
SGT Robert A. Conley, USMC
CPL Charles D. Cook, USMC
LCPL Curtis J. Cooper, USMC
LCPL Johnny L. Copeland, USMC
CPL Bert D. Corcoran, USMC
LCPL David L. Cosner, USMC
SGT Kevin P. Coulman, USMC
LCPL Brett A. Croft, USMC
LCPL Rick R. Crudale, USMC
LCPL Kevin P. Custard, USMC
LCPL Russell E. Cyzick, USMC
MAJ Andrew L. Davis, USMC
PFC Sidney S. Decker, USMC
PFC Michael J. Devlin, USMC
LCPL Thomas A. Dibenedetto, USMC
PVT Nathaniel G. Dorsey, USMC
SGTMAJ Frederick B. Douglass, USMC
CPL Timothy J. Dunnigan, USMC
HN Bryan L. Earle, USN
MSGT Roy L. Edwards, USMC
HM3 William D. Elliot JR., USN
LCPL Jesse Ellison, USMC
PFC Danny R. Estes, USMC
PFC Sean F. Estler, USMC
HM3 James E. Faulk, USN
PFC Richard A. Fluegel, USMC
CPL Steven M. Forrester, USMC
HM3 William B. Foster JR., USN
CPL Michael D. Fulcher, USMC
LCPL Benjamin E. Fuller, USMC
LCPL Michael S. Fulton, USMC
CPL William Gaines JR., USMC
LCPL Sean R. Gallagher, USMC
LCPL David B. Gander, USMC
LCPL George M. Gangur, USMC
SSGT Leland E. Gann, USMC
LCPL Randall J. Garcia, USMC
SSGT Ronald J. Garcia, USMC
LCPL David D. Gay, USMC
SSGT Harold D. Ghumm, USMC
LCPL Warner Gibbs JR., USMC
CPL Timothy R. Giblin, USMC
ETC Michael W. Gorchinski, USN
LCPL Richard J. Gordon, USMC
LCPL Harold F. Gratton, USMC
SGT Robert B. Greaser, USMC
LCPL Davin M. Green, USMC
LCPL Thomas A. Hairston, USMC
SGT Freddie Haltiwanger JR., USMC
LCPL Virgil D. Hamilton, USMC
SGT Gilbert Hanton, USMC
LCPL William Hart, USMC
CAPT Michael S. Haskell, USMC
PFC Michael A. Hastings, USMC
CAPT Paul A. Hein, USMC
LCPL Douglas E. held, USMC
PFC Mark A. Helms, USMC
LCPL Ferrandy D. Henderson, USMC
SSGT John Hendrickson, USMC
MSGT Matilde Hernandez JR., USMC
CPL Stanley G. Hester, USMC
GYSGT Donald W. Hildreth, USMC
SSGT Richard H. Holberton, USMC
HM3 Robert S. Holland, USN
LCPL Bruce A. Hollingshead, USMC
PFC Melvin D. Holmes, USMC
CPL Bruce L. Howard, USMC
LT John R. Hudson, USN
CPL Terry L. Hudson, USMC
LCPL Lyndon J. Hue, USMC
2NDLT Maurice E. Hukill, USMC
LCPL Edward F. Iacovino JR., USMC
PFC John J. Ingalls, USMC
WO1 Paul G. Innocenzi III, USMC
LCPL James J. Jackowski, USMC
LCPL Jeffrey W. James, USMC
LCPL Nathaniel W. Jenkins, USMC
HM2 Michael H. Johnson, USN
CPL Edward A. Johnston, USMC
LCPL Steven Jones, USMC
PFC Thomas A. Julian, USMC
HM2 Marion E. Kees, USN
SGT Thomas C. Keown, USMC
GYSGT Edward E. Kimm, USMC
LCPL Walter V. Kingsley, USMC
SGT Daniel S. Kluck, USA
LCPL James C. Knipple, USMC
LCPL Freas H. Kreischer III, USMC
LCPL Keith J. Laise, USMC
LCPL Thomas G. Lamb, USMC
LCPL James J. Langon IV, USMC
SGT Michael S. Lariviere, USMC
CPL Steven B. Lariviere, USMC
MSGT Richard L. Lemnah, USMC
CPL David A. Lewis, USMC
SGT Val S. Lewis, USMC
CPL Joseph R. Livingston, USMC
LCPL Paul D. Lyon JR., USMC
MAJ John W. Macroglou, USMC
CPL Samuel Maitland, USMC
SSGT Charlie R. Martin, USMC
PFC Jack L. Martin, USMC
CPL David S. Massa, USMC
SGT Michael R. Massman, USMC
PVT Joseph J. Mattacchione, USMC
LCPL John McCall, USMC
SGT James E. McDonough, USMC
LCPL Timothy R. McMahon, USMC
LCPL Timothy D. McNeely, USMC
HM2 George N. McVicker II, USN
PFC Louis Melendez, USMC
SGT Richard H. Menkins II, USMC
CPL Michael D. Mercer, USMC
LCPL Ronald W. Meurer, USMC
HM3 Joseph P. Milano, USN
CPL Joseph P. Moore, USMC
LCPL Richard A. Morrow, USMC
LCPL John F. Muffler, USMC
CPL Alex Munoz, USMC
CPL Harry D. Myers, USMC
1STLT David J. Nairn, USMC
LCPL Luis A. Nava, USMC
CPL John A. Olson, USMC
PFC Robert P. Olson, USMC
CWO3 Richard C. Ortiz, USMC
PFC Jeffrey B. Owen, USMC
CPL Joseph A. Owens, USMC
CPL Connie Ray Page, USMC
LCPL Ulysses Parker, USMC
LCPL Mark W. Payne, USMC
GYSGT John L. Pearson, USMC
PFC Thomas S. Perron, USMC
SGT John A. Phillips JR., USMC
HMC George W. Piercy, USN
1STLT Clyde W. Plymel, USMC
SGT William H. Pollard, USMC
SGT Rafael I. Pomalestorres, USMC
CPL Victor M. Prevatt, USMC
PFC James C. Price, USMC
SSGT Patrick K. Prindeville, USMC
PFC Eric A. Pulliam, USMC
HM3 Diomedes J. Quirante, USN
LCPL David M. Randolph, USMC
GYSGT Charles R. Ray, USMC
PFC Rui A. Relvas, USMC
PFC Terrance L. Rich, USMC
LCPL Warren Richardson, USMC
SGT Juan C. Rodriguez, USMC
LCPL Louis J. Rotondo, USMC
LCPL Guillermo Sanpedro JR., USMC
LCPL Michael C. Sauls, USMC
1STLT Charles J. Schnorf, USMC
PFC Scott L. Schultz, USMC
CAPT Peter J. Scialabba, USMC
CPL Gary R. Scott, USMC
CPL Ronald L. Shallo, USMC
CPL Thomas A. Shipp, USMC
LCPL Jerryl D. Shropshire, USMC
LCPL James F. Silvia, USMC
LCPL Larry H. Simpson JR., USMC
LCPL Stanley J. Sliwinski, USMC
LCPL Kirk H. Smith, USMC
SSGT Thomas G. Smith, USMC
CAPT Vincent L. Smith, USMC
LCPL Edward Soares, USMC
1STLT William S. Sommerhof, USMC
LCPL Michael C. Spaulding, USMC
LCPL John W. Spearing, USMC
LCPL Stephen E. Spencer, USMC
LCPL Bill J. Stelpflug, USMC
LCPL Horace R. Stephens, USMC
PFC Craig S. Stockton, USMC
LCPL Jeffrey G. Stokes, USMC
LCPL Thomas D. Stowe, USMC
LCPL Eric D. Sturghill, USMC
LCPL Devon L. Sundar, USMC
LT James F. Surch JR., USN
CPL Dennis A. Thompson, USMC
SSGT Thomas P. Thorstad, USMC
PFC Stephen D. Tingley, USMC
LCPL John J. Tishmack, USMC PFC
Donald H. Vallone JR., USMC
CPL Eric R. Walker, USMC
CPL Leonard W. Walker, USMC
CPL Eric G. Washington, USMC
CPL Obrian Weekes, USMC
1STSGT Tandy W. Wells, USMC
LCPL Steven B. Wentworth, USMC
SGT Allen D. Wesley, USMC
GYSGT Lloyd D. West, USMC
SSGT John R. Weyl, USMC
CPL Burton D. Wherland JR., USMC
LCPL Dwayne W. Wigglesworth, USMC
LCPL Rodney J. Williams, USMC
GYSGT Scipio Williams JR., USMC
LCPL Johnny A. Williamson, USMC
CAPT Walter E. Wint JR., USMC
CAPT William E. Winter, USMC
CPL John E. Wolfe, USMC
1STLT Donald E. Woollett, USMC
HM3 David E. Worley, USN
PFC Craig L. Wyche, USMC
SFC James G. Yarber, USA
SGT Jeffrey D. Young, USMC
1STLT William A. Zimmerman

🇺🇸

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US Embassy Uganda Issues Security Message of Possible Westgate-Style Attack in Kampala

— By Domani Spero

On October 15, the U.S. Embassy in Uganda issued a security message concerning a “possible Westgate-style attack” in the capital city of Kampala.  The mission says it is assessing “reports” that such an attack “may soon occur” in Kampala but also says there is “no further information” on timing or location of this attack.

Below is an excerpt from the security message:

Possible Westgate-style Attack in Kampala

October 15, 2013 | U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala continues to assess reports that a Westgate-style attack may soon occur in Kampala. Embassy officials are sharing all information with the Ugandan authorities. At this time, there is no further information on timing and/or location of this attack.

The Embassy will continue to alert U.S. citizens to any credible, specific information about this and any other potential threats. We again take this opportunity to remind the community to exercise vigilance and to avoid public venues that attract large crowds.

Following the deadly attack in Kenya, Uganda Police have reportedly taken over security at key public places, especially shopping malls in  Kampala.  Presumably, Somalia’s al-Shabab responsible for the Westgate attack also read the news.  In early October, local news reported that Police has received “credible information indicating that wanted terrorist Andreas Martin Mueller alias Ahmed Khaled,” of German origin and reportedly connected with Al-Shabab have entered the country.  Uganda has a large expatriate population so there are potentially other soft targets in the country besides shopping malls.

This made the Daily Press Briefing, of course:

QUESTION: It doesn’t seem to be particularly well-written; at least, it leads one to the conclusion that – the last sentence is something like, “There is no further information about the time or venue of the attack.” Does the United States actually have credible and specific information that some group is plotting a Westgate Mall-style attack in Kampala? Or is this just kind of you’re aware of that there is a general buzz about the possibility that it could happen?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to spell out the specifics of it and its meaning. Obviously, we put out the statement because –

QUESTION: Well –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no.

MS. PSAKI: We put out the statement because of our concern and because of information available, but in terms of the specificity of that, I’m not going to outline that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, the last line of – the last line of before it gets into the –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the basically the B matter about registering and stuff, do you have it there?

MS. PSAKI: I thought I did. I don’t think – I can’t find it right now, but I thought I had it.

QUESTION: All right. Well, it –

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: — speaks of not a threat, but it speaks of an actual attack. And I’m just curious as to – was that poorly written, or is it just a – is this is a threat that you’re aware of, or is there an attack that you know is going to happen?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s more we can provide. These things are written very specifically for reasons, so –

QUESTION: Yeah. Except that since there wasn’t – hasn’t been an attack yet, it seems to be not written well.

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, when there’s a concern we provide information to American citizens.

QUESTION: But I’m not even sure that there is a concern. It doesn’t say that you are concerned by information. It just talks about the possibility, as if it erupted from thin air – as if it erupted from thin air. So I’m just wondering if there is more to it; and if there is, could you tell us what it is?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

The full DPB is here.

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US Embassy Libya: To Restrict Personnel to Essential Travel, Closes From October 13-17

– By Domani Spero

On October 9, the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli issued a security message to Americans in Libya reminding the need for caution, and announcing plans to restrict personnel movement to “essential” travel only and closure of the embassy during U.S. and Libyan holidays from October 13-17, 2013. October 14, Monday is Columbus Day and The Day of Arafa; October 15-17 is Eid ul Adha (Feast of Sacrifice).

The U.S. Embassy in Libya reminds U.S. citizens of the need for caution and awareness of personal security following the October 5 detainment of a Libyan national by U.S. military authorities.  The embassy is aware of public statements threatening the kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Libya, but has no specific information about these threats.  The embassy plans to restrict movement of embassy personnel to essential travel only and will be closed in observance of American and Libyan holidays from October 13-17.  The embassy will reopen for normal operations on Sunday, October 20.  American Citizen Services will be offered during normal hours on October 9.  Review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance, take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security and follow instructions of local authorities.

On October 5, American forces in Tripoli captured Abu Anas al-Liby, a Libyan militant who had been indicted in 2000 for his role in the 1998 bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. (No matter how long it takes …. 5,533 days after the East Africa embassy bombings …).

Via the NYT, October 7:

For months, a swelling team of federal investigators, intelligence agents and Marines waited behind the barbed wire and gun turrets of the fortified compound around the United States Embassy here, aware of suspected terrorists at large in the streets — including suspects in the killing last year of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi — and increasingly frustrated at the inability of the weak Libyan government to move against them.

Now, with the Abu Anas raid, the Obama administration has signaled a limit to its patience. Two years after the United States backed the NATO intervention that removed Qaddafi, Washington has demonstrated a new willingness to pursue its targets directly, an action that has now prompted some of those suspected in Ambassador Stevens’s death to go into hiding, people here said.
[...]
The streets of Tripoli were quiet on Sunday night, with no major protests against the arrest or attacks on American interests. But in just a few hours about 2,000 Libyans had signed into a new Facebook page proclaiming solidarity with Abu Anas, who was born Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai. “We are all Nazih al-Ruqai, O America,” it was called.

One comment read: “The real Libyan hero rebels should kidnap an American in Libya to negotiate for our brother Ruqai’s release. It is a shame on us and all Libyans. The Americans entered Tripoli with their commandos and they kidnapped our son while we were standing watching.”

Libya has been a “danger pay” post since July 15, 2012.  This latest incident will inevitably increase the potential for retaliatory attacks not just for the embassy but other western interests in the country.

On October 8, CNN reported that 200 heavily armed U.S. Marines headed to an Italian naval base, poised to fly at a moment’s notice to Libya should the U.S. Embassy come under assault from angry crowds in the wake of al Liby’s capture.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the chaos continue. The United States will hit the debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion on or around October 17.  Politicians continue with their brainless jaw-jaw before the cameras.  By the time the embassy reopens on October 20, Uncle Sam may not have anything left but socks and underwear, and pols with their useless pointed fingers blaming each other.

(~o~)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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