Congressional Service Reports and Briefs — September 2014

– Domani Spero

 

Note that most of the docs below via state.gov are in pdf format:

-09/25/14   The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy  [440 Kb]
-09/24/14   Japan – U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress  [716 Kb]
-09/24/14   The “Khorasan Group” in Syria – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-09/24/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: Demographics in Brief  [307 Kb]
-09/22/14   Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015 – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]
-09/19/14   American Foreign Fighters and the Islamic State: Broad Challenges for Federal Law Enforcement – CRS Insights  [57 Kb]
-09/18/14   Energy Policy: 113th Congress Issues  [242 Kb]
-09/18/14   Russia’s Compliance with the INF Treaty – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-09/17/14   Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance  [670 Kb]
-09/17/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [880 Kb]
-09/16/14   Proposed Train and Equip Authorities for Syria: In Brief  [288 Kb]
-09/16/14   The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implementation  [589 Kb]
-09/15/14   Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014  [484 Kb]
-09/15/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [499 Kb]
-09/15/14   Man Without a Country? Expatriation of U.S. Citizen “Foreign Fighters”  [58 Kb]
-09/12/14   Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs  [340 Kb]
-09/10/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [647 Kb]
-09/10/14   Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks [413 Kb]
-09/10/14   The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy  [562 Kb]
-09/10/14   U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2015 Appropriations  [368 Kb]
-09/09/14   Considerations for Possible Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State – CRS Insights  [56 Kb]
-09/09/14   U.S. Military Action Against the Islamic State: Answers to Frequently Asked Legal Questions  [355 Kb]
-09/08/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [633 Kb]
-09/08/14   Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy  [737 Kb]
-09/05/14   China’s Leaders Quash Hong Kong’s Hopes for Democratic Election Reforms – CRS Insights  [57 Kb]
-09/05/14   Defense Surplus Equipment Disposal, Including the Law Enforcement 1033 Program [272 Kb]
-09/05/14   Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation  [433 Kb]
-09/05/14   U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues  [512 Kb]
-09/04/14   Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy  [365 Kb]
-09/03/14   Pakistan Political Unrest: In Brief  [250 Kb]

 

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Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Briefs — Published August 2014

– Domani Spero

 

Note that some documents are web-accessible but most are in pdf formats.

-08/29/14   Latin America and the Caribbean: Key Issues for the 113th Congress  [598 Kb]
-08/29/14   Organization of American States: Background and Issues for Congress  [433 Kb]
-08/29/14   Special Immigrant Juveniles: In Brief  [317 Kb]
-08/29/14   Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990  [646 Kb]
-08/28/14   The “1033 Program,” Department of Defense Support to Law Enforcement  [234 Kb]
-08/28/14   The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq: A Possible Threat to Jordan? – CRS Insights  [84 Kb]
-08/28/14   Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations  [451 Kb]
-08/27/14   The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions  [436 Kb]
-08/27/14   The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)  [53 Kb]
-08/26/14   Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues  [452 Kb]
-08/26/14   NATO’s Wales Summit: Expected Outcomes and Key Challenges  [317 Kb]
-08/26/14   The 2014 Ebola Outbreak: International and U.S. Responses  [625 Kb]
-08/21/14   China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States  [646 Kb]
-08/20/14   Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future  [514 Kb]
-08/20/14   The “Militarization” of Law Enforcement and the Department of Defense’s “1033 Program” – CRS Insights  [66 Kb]
-08/19/14   Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances  [504 Kb]
-08/19/14   Iran Sanctions  [709 Kb]
-08/15/14   Domestic Terrorism Appears to Be Reemerging as a Priority at the Department of Justice – CRS Insights  [97 Kb]
-08/15/14   Latin America: Terrorism Issues  [530 Kb]
-08/15/14   Manufacturing Nuclear Weapon “Pits”: A Decisionmaking Approach to Congress [656 Kb]
-08/15/14   Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United v. Windsor  [234 Kb]
-08/15/14   State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2015 Budget and Appropriations  [558 Kb]
-08/14/14   The U.S. Military Presence in Okinawa and Futenma Base Controversy  [654 Kb]
-08/13/14   U.S. – Vietnam Economic and Trade Relations: Issues for the 113th Congress  [408 Kb]
-08/12/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [497 Kb]
-08/08/14   Ebola: 2014 Outbreak in West Africa – CRS In Focus  [243 Kb]
-08/08/14   Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy  [578 Kb]
-08/08/14   U.S. – Vietnam Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress  [336 Kb]
-08/07/14   Guatemala: Political, Security, and Socio-Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations [449 Kb]
-08/07/14   India’s New Government and Implications for U.S. Interests  [310 Kb]
-08/07/14   Reducing the Budget Deficit: Overview of Policy Issues  [410 Kb]
-08/07/14   U.S. – EU Cooperation on Ukraine and Russia – CRS Insights  [135 Kb]
-08/06/14   2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: Evolution of Strategic Review – CRS Insights  [243 Kb]
-08/05/14   China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress  [4552 Kb]
-08/05/14   Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress  [1348 Kb]
-08/05/14   Safe at Home? Letting Ebola-Stricken Americans Return – CRS Insights  [195 Kb]
-08/04/14   Indonesia’s 2014 Presidential Election – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-08/01/14   “Womenomics” in Japan: In Brief  [232 Kb]
-08/01/14   Gun Control Legislation in the 113th Congress  [539 Kb]
-08/01/14   Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations  [907 Kb] 

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Congressional Research Service Reports (CRS) and Briefs – Published July 2014

– Domani Spero

 

In FY2012, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) had an appropriation of $106.79 million available for expenditure.  U.S. taxpayers fund the CRS, a “think tank” that provides reports and briefs to members of Congress on a variety of topics. However,there is no easily accessible depository for all these reports and U.S. citizens who want them have to request the reports from their member of congress.

On its annual report for FY2012, CRS indicated that it prepared 534 new reports, and 2,702 report updates.  Some CRS reports are available through the Federation of American Scientists, the University of North Texas, and Open CRS. Also check out CRS on Open Congress; it includes links on the discussion of direct public access of these CRS reports. The reports made publicly available through the State Department are available below. We will routinely republish them here. Note that some documents are web-accessible but most are in pdf formats.

 

Subject CRS Reports – July 2014
Afghanistan -07/28/14   Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance  [674 Kb]

-07/11/14   Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy  [1068 Kb]

Africa -07/24/14   African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA): Background and Reauthorization  [444 Kb]

-07/23/14   U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit: Frequently Asked Questions and Background  [571 Kb]

Arctic -07/02/14   Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress  [1469 Kb]
China -07/29/14   U.S. – China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress  [846 Kb]

-07/15/14   China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress  [4546 Kb]

-07/10/14   China – U.S. Trade Issues  [581 Kb]

– 07/09/14   China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States  [644 Kb]

Gaza/Palestinians -07/03/14   U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians  [451 Kb]

-07/18/14   Israel and Hamas: Another Round of Conflict – CRS Insights  [288 Kb]

Israel -07/22/14   Israel: Background and U.S. Relations  [1264 Kb]

-07/18/14   Israel and Hamas: Another Round of Conflict – CRS Insights  [288 Kb]

Iran -07/25/14   Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses  [827 Kb]
Iraq -07/24/14   Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Implications for Religious Minorities – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]

-07/15/14   The Kurds and Possible Iraqi Kurdish Independence – CRS Insights  [170 Kb]

-07/15/14   Use of Force Considerations in Iraq – CRS Insights  [59 Kb]

-07/03/14   Iraq Crisis and U.S. Policy  [762 Kb] -07/02/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [495 Kb]

Libya -07/28/14   Responding to Libya’s Political and Security Crises: Policy Choices for the United States – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]
Mexico -07/01/14   U.S.-Mexico Economic Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications  [498 Kb]
Russia 07/29/14   U.S. – Russia Economic Relations – CRS Insights  [125 Kb]

-07/28/14   Russia Sanctions: Options – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]

-07/18/14   U.S. Sanctions on Russia in Response to Events in Ukraine – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]

Syria -07/24/14   Conflict in Syria and Iraq: Implications for Religious Minorities – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]
Ukraine -07/18/14   U.S. Sanctions on Russia in Response to Events in Ukraine – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]

-07/08/14   Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy  [367 Kb]

Arms Control -07/21/14   Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements  [661 Kb]
Economy -07/25/14   Stealing Trade Secrets and Economic Espionage: An Abridged Overview of 18 U.S.C. 1831 and 1832  [231 Kb]

-07/17/14   International Monetary Fund: Background and Issues for Congress  [523 Kb]

-07/01/14   Monetary Policy and the Federal Reserve: Current Policy and Conditions  [339 Kb]

Elections -07/24/14   The 2014 European Parliament Elections: Outcomes and Implications – CRS Insights  [62 Kb]

-07/14/14   Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile  [286 Kb]

-07/01/14   The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Background and Overview  [398 Kb]

Immigration -07/28/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: An Overview  [338 Kb]

-07/18/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children – Legal Issues: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions  [407 Kb]

-07/16/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: A Processing Flow Chart – CRS Insights  [207 Kb]

-07/03/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: Potential Factors Contributing to Recent Immigration  [501 Kb]

Missile Attack -07/28/14   Possible Missile Attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – CRS Insights  [61 Kb]

-07/28/14   Protecting Civilian Flights from Missiles – CRS Insights  [61 Kb]

Technology -07/23/14   Deploying 5G (Fifth Generation) Wireless Technology: Is the United States on Track?  [58 Kb]

-07/02/14   Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate  [332 Kb]

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US Mission China: Ambassador Max Baucus Says Hello and Xie Xie

– Domani Spero

The video below was produced by the Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs in March 2014. Speakers include Max Baucus and his wife, Melodee Hanes.

Via State/IIP:

“Former Senator from Montana, Max Baucus, returns to China as the U.S. ambassador with his wife, Melodee Hanes. While in China, the ambassador is very interested in working on a number of issues and seeing many different places. In this video he will tell you all about it. His wife will also tell you a little bit about the ambassador and just where you may find him running around – literally!”

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Happy New Lunar Year of the Horse – Let’s Talk Horsey!

– Domani Spero

Last year, they had a snake looking for food. (see USCG Hong Kong & Macau: Lunar New Year Greeting for Year of the Snake) This year, a different animal is up at the consulate — a horse, looking for a job. Consul General Clifford A. Hart, Jr., the staff of the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau, and a “new Consulate employee” wish you a happy and healthy Year of the Horse in this new video:

The Shanghaiist gave this a thumbs down, calling it “weird” — “The U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau has released a ‘2014 Lunar New Year Greetings’ video, and something has gone catastrophically wrong. Remembering that there’s a woman hiding under the desk in each shot, with her hand crammed up a horse-sock, doesn’t exactly help.” It also called last year’s lunar greeting video, “freaking terrifying.”   The Shanghaiist is one of China’s most popular English-language blog/portals, founded by American writer Dan Washburn in 2005.

USCG HK’s lunar video, published last week has been eyeballed 69,577 as of this writing.  That’s more than the views of its lunar video greetings from 2013, 2012, and 2011 combined.  The use of Cantonese seems appreciated by the locals, “[Y]ou speaks Cantonese in this video that means you and your team are respect to HK people and the local culture…” A majority of commenters appear to give it a thumbs up, despite being well, weird.  But then, someone pleaded, “Please bring the US army here to eliminate the locusts coming from China.” We thought, locusts, what locusts?  It turns out in Hong Kong, “locust” is a derogatory term for immigrants and tourists from China.  The anti-China sentiment is  playing out in the comments section of USCG HK’s page.

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Drowning in Smoggy Delhi: There’s No Blue Sky, So Where’s Blueair? (Updated)

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– Domani Spero

In December last year, Hindustan Times reported on how air and water pollution plagued Indian cities:

One in three people in India live in critically-polluted areas that have noxious levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and lung-clogging particulate matter larger than 10 micron (PM10) in size. Of the 180 cities monitored by India’s Central Pollution Control Board in 2012, only two — Malapuram and Pathanamthitta in Kerala — meet the criteria of low air pollution (50% below the standard).

The NYT also reported in February last year  that “The thick haze of outdoor air pollution common in India today is the nation’s fifth-largest killer.”

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response

NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response
Photo from January 11, 2013
(click on image to read more)

The State/OIG report from 2011 says that the health environment for US Embassy employees in India is “challenging, punctuated by frequent respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.”  That’s putting it mildly.  Reports about the air pollution in India is nothing new but has not been as widely reported as the “fog” in China. That’s probably because we have @BeijingAir monitoring crazy bad air in China and no @DelhiAir to report on India’s bad air.  NYT reported this week that “The United States does not release similar readings from its New Delhi Embassy, saying the Indian government releases its own figures.” Click here to see NYT’s follow-up report why.

The Times of India notes that “Lately, a very bad air day in Beijing is about an average one in New Delhi” and cites disturbing comparative numbers between the two cities:

Clean Air Asia, an advocacy group, found that another common measure of pollution known as PM10, for particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in diameter, averaged 117 in Beijing in a six-month period in 2011. In New Delhi, the Center for Science and Environment used government data and found that an average measure of PM10 in 2011 was 281, nearly two-and-a-half times higher.

Of course, FS folks have been living and hearing about this for years.  Haven’t you heard — “If you have asthma or other breathing issues, think long and hard before committing to New Delhi?”  Last year, an FS member said, “Very unhealthy, especially for young children, during winter when dung, garbage, and everything else is burnt for warmth, and smog traps it within Delhi.”  In 2010, somebody assigned to New Delhi warned that “Asthma and skin disorders are on the rise.

We understand that you don’t get to see the blue sky for a couple of months. In 2011, somebody called it, “the worst in the world.”

This past weekend, Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network released its 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.   The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues in two broad policy areas: protection of human health from environmental harm and protection of ecosystems.

The announcement made special mention of improvement in India’s overall performance but cites dramatic declines on air quality. The announcement notes that “India’s air quality is among the worst in the world, tying China in terms of the proportion of the population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization thresholds.

India ranks 155th out of 178 countries in its efforts to address environmental challenges, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). India performs the worst among other emerging economies including, China, which ranks 118th, Brazil, at 77th, Russia, at 73rd, and South Africa at 72nd.
[…]
In particular, India’s air quality is among the worst in the world, tying China in terms of the proportion of the population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organization thresholds.

“Although India is an ‘emerging market’ alongside China, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, its environment severely lags behind these others,” said Angel Hsu of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and lead author of the report.“ Very low GDP per capita coupled with the second highest population in the world means India’s environmental challenge is more formidable than that faced by other emerging economies.”

This is not a health hazard that just showed up yesterday. So we were surprised to hear that at a town hall meeting at Embassy New Delhi, a medical professional reportedly said that none of the government issued embassy purifiers at the mission do the fine particles.

Wait, the US Embassy in New Delhi issued air purifiers that do not work for the  finest particles — the particles that do the most damage?

How did that happen?

Some folks apparently are now buying their own air purifiers. A mission member reportedly spent $1600 for purifiers to allow a breath of clean air inside the house.

Dear US Embassy India, we would have liked an official comment, but your public affairs ninja ignores email inquiries.  Call me, maybe — we’d like to know which smart dolt spent all that money for decorative air purifiers.

On a related note, early this month, China Daily reported that in December last year, the US Embassy in Beijing ordered 2,000 air purifiers  for its employees in the country from Blueair, a Swedish manufacturer:

The cheapest model from Blueair, the Blueair 203, costs 3,590 yuan ($591) from Torana Clean Air, Blueair’s official seller in Beijing, while it sells for $329 on the Best Buy and Amazon websites in the US.  The order placed for air purifiers by the US embassy was handled by the Swedish company’s American supplier, and the unit price was not disclosed.

We don’t know what types of purifiers were issued at US Embassy India.  Popular brands like Blueair, Panasonic, Daikin, Sharp, Yadu, Honeywell are compared here as used in China via myhealthbeijing.  There is also a review of air purifiers by the Consumer Report that should be worth looking into; the report is only available to subscribers.  Or check with MED which should have this information available.

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Today at the SFRC: Bauchus (China), Chacon (DGHR), Smith (INR)

|| >We’re running our crowdfunding project from January 1 to February 15, 2014. If you want to keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub <||

–Domani Spero

Today, the  Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding its confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee for the next ambassador to China, the Director General of the Foreign Service and the Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.  You know where all the attention will be.

Via sfrc

Via sfrc

Presiding: Senator Menendez

Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Time: 10:00 AM

Location: Senate Dirksen 419

Webcast: This hearing is scheduled to be live webcast. Please return to this page to view the hearing live and see the nominees prepared testimonies:

Panel One:

The Honorable Max Baucus (see WH announcement)
of Montana, to be Ambassador to China

Panel Two:

The Honorable Arnold Chacon (see WH statement)
of Virginia, to be Director General of the Foreign Service
The Honorable Daniel Bennett Smith (see WH statement)
of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
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FSO Michael T. Sestak Pleads Guilty in Visa Fraud-Bribery Case, Faces 19-24 Years in Prison

– Domani Spero

On November 6, USDOJ announced that Michael T. Sestak, the former Nonimmigrant Visa Section Chief at the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City had pleaded guilty to “receiving more than $3 million in bribes” in exchange for U.S. visas.  The Government alleged that the visa scheme had netted more than $9 million in bribes (see related posts below) and that Mr. Sestak had personally received over $3 million in proceeds of the conspiracy, which he laundered through China into Thailand. No sentencing date has been set but Mr. Sestak faces 19-24 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Related posts:

Via USDOJ:

WASHINGTON - A U.S. Foreign Service Officer, Michael T. Sestak, 42, pled guilty today to conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering charges in a scheme in which he accepted more than $3 million in bribes to process visas for non-immigrants seeking entry to the United States.

The guilty plea, which took place in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service Director Gregory B. Starr.

Sestak pled guilty before the Honorable John D. Bates to one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery and visa fraud and to defraud the United States, bribery of a public official, and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from illegal activity. No sentencing date was set. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the applicable range for the offenses is 235 to 293 months in prison.

Under the plea agreement, Sestak has agreed to the forfeiture of the proceeds of the crimes, which includes the sale of nine properties that he purchased in Thailand with his ill-gotten gains. He also has agreed to cooperate in a continuing federal investigation.

“Today Michael Sestak admitted taking millions of dollars in bribes to issue visas to allow nearly 500 foreign nationals to enter the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Machen.  “This Foreign Service Officer corrupted the integrity of a process designed to screen visitors to the United States, a process that obviously has implications for our national security.  His motivation for betraying his oath of office was cold, hard cash, as he personally received more than $3 million in this visa-for-cash scam, much of which he funneled into the purchase of nine properties in Thailand.  Mr. Sestak has now accepted responsibility for his conduct and is cooperating with federal law enforcement in this continuing investigation.”

“The Department of State became aware of potential visa improprieties in Vietnam and immediately referred the allegations to the Diplomatic Security Service (DS) to investigate, said Director Starr, of the Diplomatic Security Service. “DS worked collaboratively with the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs to identify irregularities in the visa process which allowed agents and consular officials to pursue investigative leads and develop the evidence which led to Mr. Sestak’s guilty plea today.  This case demonstrates how cooperation with DS partners in the region allowed the Department of Justice to pursue charges where Vietnamese citizens were victimized by individuals guided by greed.”

Sestak was arrested on May 13, 2013, and has been in custody ever since. Four others have been charged with taking part in the conspiracy. They include Binh Vo, 39, and his sister, Hong Vo, 27, both American citizens who had been living in Vietnam; Binh Vo’s wife, Anhdao Dao Nguyen, 30, a Vietnamese citizen; and Truc Tranh Huynh, 29, a Vietnamese citizen.

Hong Vo was arrested in May 2013 and Huynh was arrested the following month. Binh Vo was arrested in September 2013. Nguyen remains at large, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.  Huynh pled guilty on Oct. 16, 2013, to one count of visa fraud and is awaiting sentencing. Binh Vo and Hong Vo have pled not guilty to charges and are held without bond pending trial.

Sestak was the Non-Immigrant Visa Chief in the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from August 2010 to September 2012.  His responsibilities included reviewing visa applications, conducting in-person interviews of visa applicants, and issuing visas when appropriate. While employed at the State Department, Sestak held a sensitive position.

In pleading guilty, Sestak admitted that he and Binh Vo met in Ho Chi Minh City in 2010 and began a personal friendship. They ultimately came up with a plan to obtain money in exchange for facilitating the approval of non-immigrant visas from Vietnam to the United States. Sestak conspired with other U.S. citizens and Vietnamese citizens who worked to recruit customers to the visa scheme. Before they appeared at the consulate for visa interviews, Sestak would be informed of the identities of foreign nationals who agreed to pay money in exchange for obtaining visas. He then attempted to issue a visa to each foreign national who had agreed to pay for obtaining a visa, often disregarding the veracity of the information on the application.

Sestak admitted that between February 2012 and September 2012, he caused visas to be approved for people whose applications were part of the scheme.  Payments made by applicants to the conspirators in exchange for visas ranged from $15,000 to $70,000.  Many of the individuals who received visas had been previously denied visas for a variety of reasons.

The entire scheme generated at least $9,780,000.  Of this, Sestak personally received over $3 million in proceeds of the conspiracy, which he laundered through China into Thailand. In an attempt to hide the illegal proceeds of the scheme, Sestak purchased nine real estate properties in Thailand worth over $3 million.  As part of his plea agreement, Sestak agreed to sell these properties and forfeit the proceeds in order to satisfy a portion of the money judgment of at least $6 million that will be entered against him.

Looking forward to hearing what happens to Mr. Sestak’s alleged co-conspirators.  And may his cooperation with the continuing investigation results in tracking down all the fraudulent visa cases he issued and subsequent deportation of those involved.

Also, I don’t think we’ve ever seen the maximum penalty of 24 years among the rotten FSO cases we’ve reviewed.  One of the more notorious visa fraud scandal involving an FSO was that of Thomas Patrick Carroll, a former vice consul at US Embassy Georgetown in Guyana who was arrested in 2000.  He was arrested for selling 800 visas at reportedly US$10,000 – US$15,000 each.  Mr. Carroll did not invest his ill gotten wealth in real estate but according to reports kept some of it in gold bars.  The court originally sentenced Mr. Carroll to 21 years imprisonment in 2002. The prison term was reduced on appeal to 11 years and he was released from prison this past summer.

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Significant Attacks Against U.S. Diplomatic Facilities/Personnel From 1998-2012

by Domani Spero

The State Department recently released its compilation of significant attacks against U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel from 1998 to 2012.

The list notes that some attacks may not be included because, in certain cases, the motivation of the attacks could not be determined. In other cases, violence against individuals may not have been reported through official channels.  It says that the information is not an all-inclusive compilation but “a reasonably comprehensive listing of significant attacks.”

Thousands of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, breaking windows, setting fire to the Consular Section entrance, and causing extensive damage. (U.S. Department of State Photos)

Thousands of protestors attacked the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, breaking windows, setting fire to the Consular Section entrance, and causing extensive damage. 2012 (U.S. Department of State Photo)

Below is the list of attacks in 2012 We have highlighted in red all attacks with death or injuries, including incidents where the casualties are non-Americans.

JANUARY 1 TO DECEMBER 31 – IRAQ: Unknown individuals targeted the U.S. Consulate in Kirkuk with indirect-fire attacks on 41 separate occasions; additional indirect-fire attacks were launched against other U.S. interests in Iraq.

*FEBRUARY 2, 2012 – BAMAKO, MALI: Demonstrators attacked a U.S. Embassy vehicle with stones while the vehicle was en route to evacuate Mission dependents from a local school. A second Embassy vehicle also was attacked in a different location. There were no injuries in either incident.

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals attacked a U.S. Army convoy carrying one Embassy employee, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding two others.

MARCH 2, 2012 – ADEN, YEMEN: A gunman fired three rounds into the side window of a U.S. Embassy vehicle. No one was hurt in the attack.

MARCH 17, 2012 – FARYAB PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Insurgents fired two rockets at the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound. No injuries or damage were reported.

MARCH 24, 2012 – URUZGAN PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: An explosive device detonated against a vehicle outside an entry control point of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound, killing four Afghan National Police officers and one local national.

MARCH 26, 2012 – LASHKAR GAH, AFGHANISTAN: An individual dressed in an Afghan National Army uniform killed two International Security Assistance Force soldiers and wounded another at the main entry control point of the U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound.

APRIL 12, 2012 – VALLEY OF THE APURIMAC, ENE, AND MANTARO RIVERS, PERU: Presumed members of Sendero Luminoso terrorist group fired on a U.S. government-owned helicopter, killing one Peruvian police officer and wounding the Peruvian crew chief.

APRIL 15 TO 16, 2012 – KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: The U.S. Embassy compound sustained minor damage after heavily armed gunmen attacked several diplomatic missions and Afghan government buildings throughout the city.

APRIL 16, 2012 – GHOR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals attacked a U.S. provincial reconstruction team compound with small-arms fire but caused no injuries.

APRIL 16, 2012 – MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Protesters stole several letters from the sign at the Embassy front gate and threw paint onto the building.

JUNE 6, 2012 – BENGHAZI, LIBYA: An explosive device detonated outside the U.S. Special Mission, leaving a large hole in the perimeter wall but causing no injuries.

JUNE 16, 2012 – PAKTIKA PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown gunmen opened fire on a U.S. Embassy helicopter, striking the aircraft and rupturing its fuel tank, but causing no injuries.

AUGUST 8, 2012 – ASADABAD CITY, AFGHANISTAN: Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives near U.S. provincial reconstruction team members walking near Forward Operating Base Fiaz, killing three U.S. service members and one USAID employee, and wounding nine U.S. soldiers, one U.S. diplomat, four local employees, and one Afghan National Army member.

SEPTEMBER 3, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden vehicle attacked a U.S. Consulate General motorcade near the U.S. Consulate General’s housing complex, injuring two U.S. officials, two locally employed staff drivers, a local police bodyguard, and several other policemen providing security for the motorcade.

SEPTEMBER 8, 2012 – ZABUL PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: The U.S. provincial reconstruction team was targeted with two improvised explosive devices, but suffered no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 – BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Unknown individuals on the ground fired at a U.S. Embassy aircraft, but caused no damage to the aircraft and no injuries to those on board.

SEPTEMBER 11, 2012 – JERUSALEM: A “flash-bang” device was thrown at the front door of an official U.S. Consulate General residence, damaging an exterior door and hallway, but causing no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 11 TO 15, 2012 – CAIRO, EGYPT: Protesters overran U.S. Embassy perimeter defenses and entered the Embassy compound. No Americans were injured in the violent demonstrations that continued for four days.

SEPTEMBER 11 TO 12, 2012 – BENGHAZI, LIBYA: Attackers used arson, small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars against the U.S. Special Mission, a Mission annex, and U.S. personnel en route between both facilities, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. government personnel, wounding two U.S. personnel and three Libyan contract guards, and destroying both facilities.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Demonstrators, at the U.S. Embassy to protest inflammatory material posted on the Internet, threw stones at the compound’s fence and tried to get to the Embassy perimeter wall, before police secured the area.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2012 – SANA’A, YEMEN: Protesters stormed the Embassy compound, looting property and setting several fires. No U.S. citizens were injured in the attack. Throughout the day, groups of protesters harassed the U.S. Embassy and a hotel where Embassy personnel were residing.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – CHENNAI, INDIA: Protesters outside the U.S. Consulate General threw a Molotov cocktail, causing some damage but no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – KHARTOUM, SUDAN: An angry mob threw rocks at the U.S. Embassy, cut the Mission’s local power supply, and used seized police equipment to battle the Embassy’s defenders, damaging more than 20 windows and destroying several security cameras.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Protesters breached the U.S. Embassy wall and caused significant damage to the motor pool, outlying buildings, and the chancery. Separately, unknown assailants destroyed the interior of the American Cooperative School. No U.S. citizens were injured in either attack.

SEPTEMBER 16, 2012 – KARACHI, PAKISTAN: Protesters broke through police lines and threw rocks into the U.S. Consulate General perimeter, damaging some windows but causing no injuries.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 – JAKARTA, INDONESIA: Demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails and other material at the U.S. Embassy to protest inflammatory material posted on the Internet, injuring 11 police officers and causing minor damage to the Embassy.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 – BEIJING, CHINA: Protesters surrounded the U.S. ambassador’s vehicle and caused minor damage to the vehicle, but no injuries were reported.

SEPTEMBER 18, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Demonstrators outside the U.S. Consulate threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and pulled down a billboard showing a U.S. flag.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2012 – LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: During a demonstration by thousands of protesters outside the U.S. Embassy, an unknown individual threw a rock at the building, damaging a ballistic- resistant window.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2012 – KOLKATA, INDIA: Protesters marched toward the American Center, rushed the gates, and threw sticks and stones at the facility, causing minor damage to a window.

OCTOBER 1, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals opened fire on the U.S. provincial reconstruction team facility with small-arms fire, but caused no injuries.

OCTOBER 4, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN:Unknown individuals targeted the U.S. provincial reconstruction team with small-arms fire, but caused no injuries.

OCTOBER 11, 2012 – SANA’A, YEMEN: The U.S. Embassy’s senior foreign service national investigator was shot and killed in his vehicle by gunmen on a motorcycle. The terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack.

OCTOBER 13, 2012 – KANDAHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN: A suicide bomber detonated a suicide vest as a delegation of U.S. and Afghan officials arrived for a meeting, killing two U.S. citizens and five Afghan officials.

OCTOBER 29, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Two men in a car harassed and threw a can at a U.S. military officer assigned to the Embassy who was driving a vehicle with diplomatic license plates. The officer was not injured in the incident.

NOVEMBER 4, 2012 – FARAH, AFGHANISTAN: An unknown individual attacked the U.S. provincial reconstruction team facility with a grenade but caused no injuries.

NOVEMBER 18, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Two mortar rounds exploded near U.S. Consulate General housing, injuring one local guard and damaging the consul general’s residence with shrapnel.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012 – JAKARTA, INDONESIA: Demonstrators, protesting inflammatory material posted on the Internet, threw objects at the U.S. Embassy.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012 – MEDAN, INDONESIA: Demonstrators at the American Presence Post damaged a vehicle gate in an attempt to gain access to the ground floor of the building.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: A round of indirect fire landed near a U.S. Consulate General residence but did not detonate and caused no injuries or damage.

DECEMBER 4, 2012 – DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Demonstrators surrounded a U.S. Embassy vehicle on the road, attempted to set it afire, and threw rocks and bricks at it, shattering several windows and injuring the driver.

DECEMBER 22, 2012 – TUNIS, TUNISIA: Protesters forced their way into the Ministry of Justice to confront a visiting delegation of U.S. government investigators. No one was hurt in the encounter, but photos of the U.S. investigators inside the Ministry of Justice were later posted on social media and other Internet sites.

The complete list is accessible online here.

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USCG Guangzhou: Former Guard Pleads Guilty for Attempt to Sell Info to Chinese Intel Agency

This one gets an award for astounding stupidity like writing an “I’m ready to spy for you” offer to China’s Ministry of Security, except that he called it an um, “business arrangement.”  This dolt then delivered it to the MSS, that’s equivalent to personally delivering a spy offer to the CIA’s branch office.  But that’s not all. When the MSS declined to accept the letter,  this guy left his open letter in his apartment, believing that Chinese spies keeping tabs on foreigners in the city would find it. And presumably contact him to make a counter offer … just like in a bad movie.

Via USDOJ

Former U.S. Consulate Guard Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Communicate National Defense Information to China

Ryan Underwood, a former civilian guard at a U.S. Consulate compound under construction in China, pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia in connection with his efforts to sell for personal financial gain classified photographs, information and access related to the U.S. Consulate to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
[…]
Underwood, 32, a former resident of Indiana, was first charged in an indictment on Aug. 31, 2011, with two counts of making false statements and was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011.  On Sept. 21, 2011, he failed to appear at a scheduled status hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia.  The FBI later located Underwood in a hotel in Los Angeles and arrested him there on Sept. 24, 2011.  On Sept. 28, 2011, Underwood was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government, two counts of making false statements and one count of failing to appear in court pursuant to his conditions of release.  Sentencing for Underwood has been scheduled for Nov. 19, 2012.  He faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.
[…]
According to court documents, from November 2009 to August 2011, Underwood worked as a cleared American guard (CAG) at the construction site of a new U.S. Consulate compound in Guangzhou, China.  CAGs are American civilian security guards with Top Secret clearances who serve to prevent foreign governments from improperly obtaining sensitive or classified information from the U.S. Consulate.  Underwood received briefings on how to handle and protect classified information as well as briefings and instructions on security protocols for the U.S. Consulate, including the prohibition on photography in certain areas of the consulate.

Plan to Sell Information and Access for $3 Million to $5 Million

In February 2011, Underwood was asked by U.S. law enforcement to assist in a project at the consulate and he agreed.  In March 2011, Underwood lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market.  According to court documents, Underwood then devised a plan to use his assistance to U.S. law enforcement as a “cover” for making contact with the Chinese government.  According to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood intended to sell his information about and access to the U.S. Consulate to the Chinese MSS for $3 million to $5 million. If any U.S. personnel caught him, he planned to falsely claim he was assisting U.S. law enforcement.

As part of his plan, Underwood wrote a letter to the Chinese MSS, expressing his “interest in initiating a business arrangement with your offices” and stating, “I know I have information and skills that would be beneficial to your offices [sic] goals.  And I know your office can assist me in my financial endeavors.”  According to court documents, Underwood attempted to deliver this letter to the offices of the Chinese MSS in Guangzhou, but was turned away by a guard who declined to accept the letter.  Underwood then left the letter in the open in his apartment hoping that the Chinese MSS would find it, as he believed the MSS routinely conducted searches of apartments occupied by Americans.

In May 2011, Underwood secreted a camera into the U.S. Consulate compound and took photographs of a restricted building and its contents.  Many of these photographs depict areas or information classified at the Secret level.  Underwood also created a schematic that listed all security upgrades to the U.S. Consulate and drew a diagram of the surveillance camera locations at the consulate.  In addition, according to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood “mentally” constructed a plan in which the MSS could gain undetected access to a building at the U.S. Consulate to install listening devices or other technical penetrations.

According to court documents, the photographs Underwood took were reviewed by an expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security who had original classification authority for facilities, security and countermeasures at the U.S. Consulate.  The expert determined that many of the photographs contained images classified at the Secret level and that disclosure of such material could cause serious damage to the United States.

In early August 2011, Underwood was interviewed several times by FBI and Diplomatic Security agents, during which he admitted making efforts to contact the Chinese MSS, but falsely claimed that he took these actions to assist U.S. law enforcement.  On Aug. 19, 2011, Underwood was again interviewed by law enforcement agents and he admitted that he planned to sell photos, information and access to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to the Chinese MSS for his personal financial gain.

The U.S. government has found no evidence that Underwood succeeded in passing classified information concerning the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to anyone at the Chinese MSS.

A couple quick thoughts —

I would have like to nominate this guy for the Darwin Awards but he did not self-select himself out of the gene pool.

Of course, if he were astoundingly smarter who knows what type of access he would have granted to his would be “business partners” so I’m glad he wasn’t a bulb of smarts.