Canadian Caper, CIA Exfiltration, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hurt Feelings

In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees.  The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979.  If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA.  The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.

The six rescued American are as follows:

Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant

The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew.  According to Mendez’s website, Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis.  The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and called the movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”

In addition to The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (William Morrow and Company, 1999. 351 pages), Mendez has also just released the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (Viking Adult, September 13, 2012. 320 pages).  That’s 320 pages of details on how the escape came down from the perspective of the chief exfiltrator.

In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada!  Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.

Via The Star:

Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.

A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:

“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.” 

According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway.  In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

Things could still have gotten messy but did not.  Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”

Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012.  Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.

Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.

Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.

I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.  Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.

But Mark J. Lijek, one of the Argo six has written a detailed memoir of his experience in The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.  The book is available in digital edition at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover.  He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side.  He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”

Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.

If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:

Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home by Robert A. Wright

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam by Mark Bowden






A ‘Rocking Affair’ and Finally Watching the Terror Attack on U.S. Consulate Jeddah

On April 19, WaPo reported that the State Department ceremony for the US ambassador to Malta was a ‘rocking’ affair:

The typical swearing-in of an ambassador is usually a somewhat dry affair. Not so with the ceremony Wednesday to formally install Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the United States’ woman in Malta.

We hear the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room on the State Department’s eighth floor was, and we quote an attendee, “rocking.” The event featured unusual entertainment: the Washington Performing Arts Society’s Men and Women of the Gospel choir performed traditional gospel tunes that had even a few of the most buttoned-up guests tapping their toes.

Not much to read, but go here if you’re interested. We knew that this affair occurred at 4:15 p.m. on April 18 with Deputy Secretary Burns officiating the swearing-in ceremony. No photo of the ceremony had been released by the State Department.

So we were looking for photos of this ‘rocking affair’ when we stumbled on a video showing the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah on December 2004. This is old but we have not seen this video before although its been online since it was aired by ABC News on December 2005.

Notable mention in the video – Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, formerl Consul General at USCG Jeddah and newly sworn-in US Ambassador to Malta. Also, Joseph Adam Ereli,  then Deputy Spokesman of the State Department (from 2003-2006) and currently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

If you did not watch the video, the ABC News investigation has this item:

The secret State Department review concluded that no one breached his or her duty, but noted, “leadership problems in Jeddah,” and found that the officials in charge of security “received little support” from the consul general.

Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the consul general, is no longer posted in Saudi Arabia and declined to comment on the incident in an appearance in Cleveland last week.

The secret review found “a widespread negative perception among the consulate staff of the consul general’s degree for security,” which did not surprise Diebler, a former State Department security officer.

Her bio says:

Ms. Abercrombie-Winstanley is the recipient of Senior Performance Pay, Meritorious and Superior Honor Awards, including “For acts of courage during an attack on the U.S. Consulate General, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on December 6, 2004 by al-Qa’ida terrorists.”

Her US Embassy Malta bio appears to have missed that.

Anyway, if you watch the video, you will see the Saudi guards running away, although they did take their weapons with them.  During the on-the-record briefing following the attack, here is part of what then Ambassador James C. Oberwetter said:

“There are many other stories of heroism about the events of yesterday. Heroism by our locally employed staff. Heroism by the marines, and by other American citizens, and heroism by the Saudis who were guarding our gates and took casualties in doing so. Our investigation is now under way. As President Bush said in comments yesterday, “The war on terrorism goes on. It will take time but the efforts are succeeding. It will take time.”

On the question: What are the benefits that will be provided to the families of those killed in this attack? then Consul General Abercrombie –Winstanley responded:

“There are very specific benefits that are available to any employee of the U.S. Government. I am happy to say that I am not extremely familiar with all of them, because, I hope never to have this happen to anyone that works for me again. But the staff is working very hard right now to figure everything out. We’ve obviously done condolence calls to all the next of kin of all those who have passed, and we will be doing visits to those who are injured. So as I said, there’s a very specific set of benefits, but I cannot get into details right now.”

The five Foreign Service National employees who died during the terrorist attack were Ali Yaslem Bin Talib, Imad e-Deen Musa Ali, Romeo de la Rosa, Mohammed Baheer Uddin and Jaufar Sadik. The casualties whose embassy service range from 18 months to 26 years came from Yemen, Sudan, Philippines, India and Sri Lanka. Click here to read Survivors Detail Attack on U.S. Consulate Dec. 8, 2004.

There were two reports related to the Jeddah attack: an OIG report, “Review of the Management of Compound Physical Security Upgrades,” Report Number AUD/PPA-04-37, August 2004 and the Accountability Review Board report, “Jeddah Terrorist Attack, December 6, 2004.”  In State/OIG’s convoluted archiving system, it’s hard going hunting for old reports. We have emailed the OIG but have not heard any response. The eight-year old ARB report does not appear to be available anywhere online.

Why bother looking them up now? We were named the most curious student in school and we haven’t gotten over that — plus there was that rocking affair that started this off.

Also  on March 4, 2012,   AP says that Saudi Arabia’s  official news agency reported that it has begun trials of 55 suspected Al Qaeda members, some charged in a deadly attack on a U.S. Consulate in 2004. Apparently, six men came before the court on March 4, and the trial of another three began a day earlier. “The report did not say when the rest of the 55 would be tried, or how many of them were accused in connection with the consulate attack.”

Domani Spero




How much is that pony in the K Street window? How Mideast Autocrats Win Friends And Influence People In Washington

Via HuffPo:

Control of the state media is not the only way the oil-rich island kingdom polishes its reputation. A month before the arrests, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying firms began working for Bahrain.

Qorvis, a lobbying and public relations giant with a roster of high-profile clients from Intel and the Washington Post to Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea, began work under a subcontract with Britain’s Bell Pottinger. Among its goals: to position Bahrain as a key ally in the war on terror and as an advocate for peace in the Middle East. As part of its work, Qorvis pitched major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, reports O’Dwyer’s PR Daily.

One Qorvis staffers working on the account, former State Department Official Matt Lauer, was recently named one of Washington’s most influential people under 40.

Lauer did not return several requests for comment. It is unclear what advice Qorvis is offering the government amid Bahrain’s current unrest, in which government soldiers have fired live rounds on thousands of protesters and at least six people have been killed and hundreds injured.

Active links added above.  Continue reading here and see who represented Libya’s King of Kings in K Street until recently. And brownie points if you can guess who was his most recent high power DC visitor in his tent in the desert …

Matt J. Lauer, according to his bio was the executive director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy at the Department of State prior to joining
Qorvis. The commission, a bipartisan panel appointed by the president, analyzes and evaluates the U.S. government’s international public relations capabilities.

George P. Schultz writes Ideas and Action: 10 Commandments of Negotiations

An armed forces full honor departure ceremony ...Image via Wikipedia
We missed that PBS controversy over the airing of the Turmoil and Triumph series based on George Schultz’s 1993 book this past summer.  Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, wrote in a column on that the series suffered from “at least the appearance of a conflict of interest” due to the financial contributions. From NYT Media Decoder:

“Even before the first installment of the series, “Turmoil and Triumph,” had its debut last Monday, it was knocked by television critics for being too long and for treating its subject with reverence. Mr. Getler said he thought the “deification of Shultz” was both unnecessary and distracting.”

Check out the website of Turmoil and Triumph: the George Schultz Years here.

Now, George P. Shultz, the 60th U.S. Secretary of State who served from 1982 to 1989 ( 6 years & 188 days, the longest tenure since Dean Rusk in the 1960s) has written a new book Ideas and Action: Featuring the 10 Commandments of Negotiations.

We have not read the book but his publicist sent us the book announcement excerpted in part below:

IDEAS & ACTION, Featuring the 10 Commandments of Negotiations, a new book by former Secretary of State George P. Shultz published by Free to Choose Press, is a fascinating, first-person account of lessons learned by one of America’s most unique and admired public servants.  In his long career in academia, business, and diplomacy, Shultz has spearheaded negotiations on labor disputes, arms control, and the release of political prisoners. Esteemed by Republicans and Democrats alike, Shultz served in the administrations of Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan.  He was a Marine in the South Pacific during World War II, earned a Ph.D. in industrial economics from MIT, and was Dean of the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business.  As he says in the introduction to IDEAS & ACTION, “We have grown accustomed to drawing a bright divide between the world of ideas, a world dominated by ivory towers, and the world of action, a world dominated by oval offices, market floors, and fields of battle.  My life and career, however, have known no such bright dividing line.”

Image from

The book includes sections on:

  • Keys to good management — Shultz shares insights gleaned from his vast experience as a labor negotiator, university president, and business leader, including the importance of letting employees know that their opinions matter and giving them a stake in outcomes, taking responsibility for decisions, and having a long-term strategy.
  • Civil rights — Shultz recalls his time as a labor negotiator in Texas in the early 1960s and as the chairman of a committee tasked by President Nixon with ending school segregation. 
  • Human rights — Shultz recounts the delicate negotiations with Soviet leaders to obtain the release of dissident Soviet Jews, one of his proudest achievements as Secretary of State.
  • Success in Negotiations: Ten Commandments — Shultz imparts wisdom that has practical applications for all readers as he outlines ten principles for negotiations in work, business, and diplomacy.  He illustrates each commandment with examples taken from his long career, from the Geneva and Reykjavik summits to the release of imprisoned American reporter Nicholas Daniloff, from the air-traffic controllers’ walkout in 1981 to the war in Grenada, and more.
  • A World Free of Nuclear Weapons — Shultz continues to be a leading figure on the international stage.  Along with Henry Kissinger, former senator Sam Nunn, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry, Shultz is a tireless advocate of nuclear disarmament.

Mr. Shultz’s publications include Putting Our House in Order: A Citizen’s Guide to Social Security and Health Care Reform, with John B. Shoven (2008), Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State (1993), Economic Policy Beyond the Headlines (1977), and many more.

The 3-hour DVD of T&T and the new book are available to purchase here.


Former WHA PDAS Craig Kelly Joins Top Heavy Cohen Group

 Via PRNewswire last week:

The Cohen Group
announced today that Ambassador Craig Kelly, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has joined the firm as a Vice President.

“Ambassador Kelly is a widely respected professional and gifted diplomat who will help us serve our clients and expand our work in the Americas,” said Secretary William Cohen, chairman of The Cohen Group.
As Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs for the past three years, he was the United States’ senior-most professional diplomat for policy and management issues related to U.S. diplomacy in 34 countries from Canada to Chile and second-ranking State Department official responsible for these matters.  He led his bureau’s economic and commercial diplomacy and was point person on sensitive issues such as Honduras and Cuba.

From 2004 to 2007, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Chile, where he was a strong advocate for American business and launched several initiatives in science and technology, education and sports.

Prior to this, he was the Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2001-2004, supervising Secretary Powell’s staff and traveling with him to more than ninety countries.  Before this position, he was Chief of Staff to Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Pickering from 1999-2001.  He also served as Chief of the Political-Military Affairs Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, was the acting director of Western European Affairs at the National Security Council, and also served in U.S. Embassies in Rome, Italy, and Bogota, Colombia.

Ambassador Kelly speaks Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.  A native of the Los Angeles area, he received both his Ph.D. and undergraduate degree from UCLA, studied at the National War College, and earned a degree from France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in Paris.

The Cohen Group is a global strategic advisory firm led by former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen.  Founded in 2001 to help multinational business clients accelerate growth, pursue major initiatives, and overcome problems, The Cohen Group has offices in the U.S., United Kingdom, China and India and serves clients in North America, East Asia, South Asia, Europe, Russia, Australia, Africa and Latin America.
The addition of Ambassador  Kelly elevates The Cohen Group’s Latin America practice to foremost among advisory firms, as well as strengthening its capabilities globally.  He joins a deep roster of senior talent at The Cohen Group which includes, among others:

  • General Joseph Ralston, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff;
  • Ambassador Marc Grossman, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey;
  • Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who succeeded Ambassador Grossman as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and also served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO and to Greece;
  • Lord George Robertson, who served as NATO Secretary General and the UK Defense Minister;
  • Admiral James Loy, who served as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Commandant of the US Coast Guard, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, and Under Secretary of Transportation;
  • General Paul Kern, who served as the Commander of the Army Materiel Command and the Secretary of the Army’s Senior Adviser for Research, Development and Acquisition;
  • Lt. General Joe Yakovac, who served as Director of the Army Acquisition Corps and Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology;
  • Lt. General Harry Raduege, who served as Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, Commander of the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations.

The Cohen Group is comprised of 45 professionals with many centuries of combined experience working in top-level positions in Congress, the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community, other federal agencies, European and Asian governments, and international organizations. The Cohen Group assists its clients to better understand and shape the business, political, legal, regulatory, and media environments in which they operate. This includes developing strategic business plans to help clients achieve their objectives and actively participating with clients in the execution of those plans. The Cohen Group practice groups include Aerospace & Defense; Homeland Security; Information Technology & Telecommunications; Energy & Resources; Transportation & Logistics; Financial Services & Investment; Real Estate; China; and India. The Cohen Group also has a strong strategic partnership with DLA Piper, an international law firm with over 3,700 lawyers and 68 offices in 30 countries throughout the world.

State Dept’s Top Twitterati Jared Cohen Moves to Google

Photo from Children of Jihad

This news is going to make our blog friend, The Skeptical Bureaucrat sad.  According to Politico’s Laura Rozen, the State Department’s top twitterati, Jared Cohen is moving to Google, not to Mountain View but to New York. Excerpt:

State Policy Planning staff official Jared Cohen informs colleagues of his last day after four years at State for a new job with Google.

E-mail below:

    From: Jared Cohen
    Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 6:21 PM
    Subject: Jared Cohen Next Steps and New Contact Info
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

    Last Thursday, September 2nd, was my last day in government. After four years on the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, I have accepted a job as the Director of a new entity at Google called “Google Ideas”. I will also serve as an Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    Google Ideas will combine the models of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, a think tank, and a private sector company, with resources to implement. In this sense, Google Ideas will be a think/do tank that strives to bring together diverse perspectives from multiple industries to generate new ideas, approaches and solutions to security, social, economic and political challenges in the world. At the Council on Foreign Relations, I will focus on counter-terrorism, counter-radicalization, and 21st century statecraft. Please see my interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, which describes Google Ideas in greater detail:

Read the whole thing here.

You can still follow him at:

Ambassador Chris Hill to lead DU’s Korbel School

Josef Korbel School of International StudiesImage via Wikipedia

DENVER, PRNewswire-USNewswire/Christopher Hill, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, has been chosen to lead the University of Denver‘s Josef Korbel (Joseph core-BELL) School of International Studies, one of the top international studies schools in the world founded in 1964 by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s father. Hill’s appointment was announced today by DU Chancellor Robert Coombe.

Hill has served as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq since 2009. He is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with more than 30 years of service whose prior assignment was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  He has also served as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea.

In April 2009, Foreign Policy magazine released a survey in its March–April issue that ranked the Josef Korbel School’s professional master’s program among the top-20 Ph.D., master’s and undergraduate programs in the world.  In the master’s listing, the school tied for 12th with Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California-San Diego, and it ranked ahead of schools such as Stanford University and the University of Pittsburgh.

“We are delighted that Ambassador Hill will be joining the DU community as the new dean of the Josef Korbel School,” says Chancellor Coombe. “If one considers his tremendous experience and great success as a Foreign Service officer and diplomat, it’s apparent that this is just the sort of career for which we are educating our students at the Korbel School. He’s going to be a great dean.”

In 2005, Hill was selected to lead the U.S. delegation to the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue. Previously, he has served as U.S. Ambassador to Poland (2000-2004), Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia (1996-1999) and Special Envoy to Kosovo (1998-1999).  He also served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Southeast European Affairs in the National Security Council.

Earlier in his Foreign Service career, Ambassador Hill served tours in Belgrade, Warsaw, Seoul and Tirana, and on the State Department’s Policy Planning staff and in the Department’s Operation Center. While on a fellowship with the American Political Science Association he served as a staff member for Congressman Stephen Solarz working on Eastern European issues.  He also served as the State Department’s Senior Country Officer for Poland.

Hill received the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award for his contributions as a member of the U.S. negotiating team in the Bosnia peace settlement and was a recipient of the Robert S. Frasure Award for Peace Negotiations for his work on the Kosovo crisis.  Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Hill served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon.

“I am delighted to be coming to the Korbel School this fall. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to work with such talented faculty and staff and to do my part in providing the finest education possible for graduate and undergraduate students alike. I also look forward to being a member of the broader University of Denver community, and to contributing in any way I can to the friendly and scholarly atmosphere of this extraordinary center of learning,” Hill says.

Ambassador Hill graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine with a B.A. in Economics.  He received a Master’s degree from the Naval War College in 1994.  He speaks Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Macedonian. His appointment is effective Sept. 1.

The Korbel School has a number of distinguished alumni, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. and Heraldo Munoz, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme and Director for its Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean.

10 Afghans Still AWOL but Gibbs is on the job!

NCIS - Leroy Jethro GibbsImage via Wikipedia

I don’t know if you’ve seen this news bit.  San Antonio News reported the other day that seventeen Afghan military officers and enlistees have gone AWOL from a Lackland AFB language school over the past 18 months.  Excerpt below:

The troops, enrolled in the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, were among 21 foreign military service personnel to go absent without leave since 2009, with one — an Iraqi — reappearing in Houston, where he sought political asylum.
Gary Emery, chief spokesman for the 37th Training Wing at Lackland, said he didn’t know. He said 16 Afghans went AWOL in 2009 and one vanished this year.

Some likely had finished their Lackland courses and were on their way to training elsewhere when they disappeared, Emery said.
Disappearances like the ones at the DLI haven’t been uncommon. But Emery noted that around 3,400 international students attended the Lackland school last year, including 228 from Afghanistan. Of those, the 16 Afghans went AWOL along with the Iraqi and one from Djibouti. Two from Tunisia have gone missing this year along with another from Guinea-Bissau in West Africa.

Asked why the Air Force hadn’t revealed that Afghan troops had gone AWOL, Emery said the disappearances occurred gradually. “I don’t know if I consider that particularly newsworthy,” he said, adding, “it hasn’t been all at once.”

Continue reading Afghans at language school go AWOL. The names of the Afghan nationals who went AWOL are listed here.

FoxNews also reported that the Afghan officers and enlisted men have security badges that give them access to secure U.S. defense installations, according to the lookout bulletin, “Afghan Military Deserters in CONUS [Continental U.S.],” written by Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Dallas and obtained by

The Be-On-the-Lookout (BOLO) bulletin was distributed to local and federal law enforcement officials on Wednesday night.

On June 18, FoxNews has a follow up report saying that 10 of 17 Afghan military deserters who walked away from a training program on a U.S. Air Force base in Texas remain at large, but that seven of the men have been accounted for. Excerpt:

The 17 deserters went AWOL from Lackland Air Force Base, where foreign military officers who are training to become pilots are taught English, according to a “Be-on-the-Lookout” (BOLO) bulletin issued on Wednesday.

Sources said that as of November 2009, one of  the deserters was in Canada, one is now a lawful permanent resident in the U.S., one has left the country and another four are in federal custody and in removal proceedings. The other 10 remain unaccounted for.

Never mind that the “disappearances occurred gradually” but how can we bring in military folks like this for training and then allow them to simply disappear?  They must receive pay and allowances for undergoing such trainings.  Who keep tabs on them and their allowances?  And when their training concludes, aren’t they supposed to hand back their security badges? 

Even with a BOLO issued, officials seem to be understating the issue. “I don’t know if I consider that particularly newsworthy,” the spokesman said regarding the staggered disappearance of the Afghan trainees.  The fact that they disappeared and cannot not be located is not newsworthy?  Holy mother of goat!  And if they started disappearing in 2009, how come we’re just hearing about this now? It is, of course, possible that these guys just do not want to return to a war zone but that they are unaccounted for is a still a gap in the national security blanket. Sure they are friendlies, and have been vetted, but what if ….  if, you know …
The IFs are enough to make you stay awake nights, right?  Except that NCIS is on it.  And of course, we all know that Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs always get the job done. 

Pardon me?

What do you mean that’s not real life?      

BLT on Former Ambassador Robin Raphel

FW: Secretary of State in Islamabad, Pakistan ...Image by via Flickr

The Blog of Legal Times has been tracking the news on lobbying disclosures concerning former Ambassador Robin Raphel who is a member of the team of Richard Holbrooke, the Special Representative to the Af/Pak region.  Ambassador Raphel is currently Senior Coordinator for Economic and Development Assistance.
From last week:
January 07, 2010 | State Department Official Lobbied by Former Employer
Robin Raphel, the State Department’s nonmilitary aid coordinator for Pakistan and a former lobbyist for Pakistan, attended meetings to help that country craft lobbying strategy until shortly before her new position was announced last summer. Now, new lobbying disclosure reports show her former firm contacted her regarding Pakistan within a month after the announcement.

A filing submitted to the Justice Department this month by lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates reports that the firm, which has a $700,000-a-year contract to represent Pakistan, e-mailed Raphel on Sept. 2 regarding “ROZ legislation” – economic development legislation giving the president authority to establish “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (ROZs) in Pakistan’s frontier area with Afghanistan.

Continue reading this entry here.
From last November:

November 06, 2009 | State Department Official Worked on Behalf of Pakistan Immediately Before Taking Job

Newly filed lobbying disclosure documents show that Robin Raphel, the State Department’s nonmilitary aid coordinator for Pakistan, attended meetings to help Pakistan craft lobbying strategy less than a week before her government appointment was publicly announced.

Raphel worked for lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates until July 31; her State Department job was announced Aug. 5. Cassidy has represented Pakistan since May. Cassidy’s latest disclosure filings, submitted to the Justice Department Oct. 30, show Raphel attended more than 40 meetings on Pakistan’s behalf in the two months before she left at places including the State Department, and Capitol Hill, though it doesn’t specify who she met with.

Continue reading this entry here.
Robin L. Raphel is a career diplomat who served as Ambassador to Tunisia (1997-2000).  In August 1993, during the Clinton Administration she was named the first Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs (1993-1997). Her Wikipedia entry says she retired from the State Department in 2005 after 30 years of service.

Profilers, Precogs — Soon to a Career Fair Near You

A State Department official during the George W. Bush administration by the name of Christian Whiton is now advocating an idea that was floated around in 2002. For FoxNews, Mr.Whiton writes Homeland Security Must Grant Visas — Not the State Department.Quick excerpts below:
“News reports are already indicating the screening of air travelers have been tightened. If that is necessary, so be it. But would it not be smarter to avoid letting would-be terrorists onto flights to the U.S. in the first place? What if Mr. Abdulmutallab wanted to commit a terrorist act within the U.S., rather than on the way here? No amount of airport screening would have stopped him, given that the State Department had permitted him access to the United States.
To most people, this is common sense. But to critics on the left, it is the unacceptable act of “profiling.” But the fact is, whether we choose to admit it or not, we are engaged in a global conflict against those who wish us mortal harm. We should empower government officials to apply reasonable skepticism, statistical data and common sense in screening those who wish to visit the U.S.”
Mr. Whiton also provided his recommendations: “Unless we are prepared to see innocent civilians murdered en mass as they travel or otherwise go about their lives—and the massive changes to our society and economy that would result—we need to do three things:”
First, Congress should launch an investigation into why Mr. Abdulmutallab was given a visa. It should also determine how many other risky applicants are visiting or preparing to visit the U.S. with visas issued under similarly lax screening criteria.
Second, Congress should relieve the State Department of its role in issuing visas. This task should be given instead to the Department of Homeland Security, which is less eager to please foreign constituencies. Assigning DHS this role was contemplated at its creation in 2002, but not implemented in order to protect the State Department’s bureaucratic turf. But the department that issued visas to the September 11 terrorists, and still more since then, should no longer be allowed to perform this duty.
Third, we need to demand that senior officials not take the easy and politically correct route of grandstanding against “profiling” while failing to keep America safe. Their job is to make sure security personnel have the guidelines and training to do their jobs effectively. We need to put common sense and judgment back into the equation—before more Americans pay for political correctness with their lives.
As best I could tell from his online bio, Mr. Whiton served as the Deputy Special Envoy focused primarily on the promotion of human rights in North Korea.  Before joining the State Department, Mr. Whiton worked for the corporate finance practice of KPMG LLP, where he was a senior associate, overseeing daily activities of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) engagements and other financial consulting projects. 

Unless things have changed in the last, oh, 60 seconds or so… only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permits access to the United States through its Customs and Border Protection arm. The State Department issues visas, which are travel documents that allow airlines to board you.  It is not your permit to “access” or enter the United States.  You can have a visa and still be denied entry into the United States by CBP. Any current or former official of the State Department ought to know this. 
That said, it is imperative, of course, that bad people not get visas and board transportation bound for the United States. But like I wrote in a prior post, what do you do with a culprit that has not yet committed a crime? Do you arrest him or her before he commits a future crime thereby protecting the public from all prospective harm?  How do you stop, even arrest an individual when there is “insufficient derogatory information available?”
Demanding that the State Department should not have issued this person a visa in 2008, or yank his visa even absent derogatory information in the databases (as it is reported), requires that our visa officers possess both a third eye and skills in precognition — be seers for the unknown, oracles of the future — and deny visas now to anyone who may turn out to be terrorists in the future. 
Shall we go ahead and start with fetal screenings now?
Note that Mr. Whiton also calls for Congress to relieve the State Department of its visa function in the same breath that he calls for an investigation on Abdulmutallab’s visa issuance and the Department’s “lax screening criteria” for visas. So in fact, whatever the results of this visa issuance investigation do not really matter, hmmnn?.

If somebody did not do his/her job on this, there should be consequences.  But that’s another story. Right now with the investigations just unfolding, we don’t know what we don’t know.  Calling for the shifting of visa functions from the State Department to DHS is the easiest option on the list of knee-jerk reactions.  Visa screening went from somewhere near the Stone Age in the 80’s to 21st century technology after 9/11.  To call it “lax” without really knowing what goes into the current adjudication process including various security requirements is just hoo-hah without substance.

Let’s take a deep breath and go through this methodically and rationally minus the fear mongering and dark emotion.  The last time we let emotion ruled, “we” ended up starting a long war with the wrong country. 



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