1998 East Africa Embassy Bomber Gets Life Sentence Without Parole

Ahmed Khalfan GhailaniImage via Wikipedia Via the NYT:

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first former Guantánamo Bay camp detainee to be tried in the civilian court system, was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for his role in the 1998 bombings of two United States Embassies in East Africa.


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The nearly simultaneous attacks in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people and wounded thousands.

Mr. Ghailani, 36, was convicted on Nov. 17 of a single count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property, while being acquitted of more than 280 charges of murder and conspiracy.

But the many acquittals seemed to carry little weight with the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of United States District Court, who, before imposing the sentence, said that “Mr. Ghailani knew and intended that people would be killed as a result of his own actions and the conspiracy he joined.”

The judge rejected the defense’s request for a lesser sentence, saying, “The very purpose of the crime was to create terror by causing death and destruction.”
But in the end, Mr. Ghailani received the same maximum life sentence, without parole, that he would have faced had he been convicted of all counts; and it seems likely that he will be sent to the so-called Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo., where other defendants convicted in the same embassy plot are being held.

“The pain is with me every day; often times it is unthinkable,” said Sue Bartley, who lost two family members in the Nairobi bombing: her husband, Julian L. Bartley Sr., who was the consul general; and her son, Julian L. Bartley Jr., a college student working as an intern at the embassy. “That was half of my family.”

More than 30 victims, many from Africa, had written to the judge before sentencing, most asking that he impose a life term. Judge Kaplan read excerpts from some of those letters.

Active links added above. Read the whole thing here.

US Ambassador to Tunisia Gordon Gray corrects Gawker’s piece, Gawker still calls embassy closure on US federal holiday stupid and crazy…

Actually stupid-crazy it’s not.

As we have pointed out here, just because US Embassy Tunis was closed on MLK day did not mean the staff was not at work. Ambassador Gordon’s letter to Gawker made clear that embassy employees were all hands on deck that holiday weekend. That’s life in the crisis lane, by the way — the emergency committee/plan gets activated, the staff works around the clock to feed the need for information in Washington, and embassy personnel reaches out to American citizens in the consular district to determine their welfare, and in case an evacuation becomes necessary. 

On the holiday itself, we doubt that anyone would dispute that Martin Luther King day is a federal holiday or that the office was closed.  All US embassies and offices around the world, even those in countries that did not have revolutions were closed that day.

We wished that auto respond email was better crafted but we really could not fault the embassy for staying closed during the holiday.  In fact, we think that was actually lucky. If the office was not closed, the US Embassy in Tunis would have had people lining up outside the embassy for their visa interviews.  How can we be sure of this?  Well, people with visa appointments are known to show up at the embassy when it is open for routine consular services. 

We know that people were killed and wounded in street riots around the city.  Given the unpredictability of the mass upheaval in that country, it would have been crazy and stupid to subject embassy clients to such danger by opening for services on a day when it should have been closed.   

Here is Gawker:

Over the weekend Gordon Gray, the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, must have been catching up on his reading, because he sent us an angry defense of his embassy staff’s handling of the crisis.

    To the Editor-in-Chief

    I am dismayed that you published such a misleading and unprofessional article as the recent piece by John Cook, “U.S. Embassy Isn’t Letting a Coup Get In the Way of a Vacation Day.” The article implied that Consular Section staff members, and Consul Stephen Ashby in particular, were not responding to American citizen inquiries during the January 15-17 Martin Luther King Day weekend. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

    All employees at the United States Embassy in Tunis have been working hard to respond to rapidly evolving situation in Tunisia. Staff members have been working at all hours of the day and night—on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays—and from the office (including sleeping overnight, when necessary, at the Embassy), from home, and at the airport. We provided information on fast-breaking events via E-mails, phone calls, Warden Messages, the Embassy’s public website, and its Facebook page. Privacy Act considerations prevent the disclosure of specific case information to the media, but I assure you that this Embassy promptly provided assistance and information to every private American who asked.

    I proudly witnessed my staff absorb without complaint an increased work load and find ways to accomplish their assignments despite a government-issued curfew, severely limited movements in Tunisia, and a markedly increased level of violence, civil unrest, and disorder. They did this under the additional stress that these political developments brought to their family and home lives. Inaccurate and mean-spirited statements such as “but don’t bother stopping by on Monday; they’ll all probably be at barbecues or something” malign and disregard the dedication and commitment of hard working public servants serving the United States and American interests in Tunisia.


    Gordon Gray
    U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Tunisia

    P.S. As the E-mail chain below clearly indicates, Mr. Ashby responded to your correspondent’s non-urgent inquiry at 12:37 p.m. Tunisia time (6:37 a.m. EST) on Saturday, January 15, shortly following a long meeting Mr. Ashby, several Embassy staff, and I attended to review the safety of the American community in Tunisia.

We’re sure the staff of the U.S. embassy in Tunisia worked hard during the crisis there. But that doesn’t mean the embassy wasn’t closed—stupidly—on Martin Luther King Day. It was. A State Department spokeswoman confirmed that to us: “The Embassy will be closed for routine services on Monday.” Gray’s letter doesn’t dispute that. We think that’s crazy!

Active links added above. Read the whole thing here. You might also want to read the comments in the original article here

We must add — we are pleased to see that Ambassador Gray, like any good leader, has his huge umbrella opened to keep the shit from falling on his staff.  

Get some sleep folks! We hope you have other food besides MREs, it looks like this is far from over.         

Sparkling gifts from far away lands – can’t be worn for personal use and simply can’t be returned or exchanged …

Remember that scene in the 1987 movie, No Way Out  between Sam Hesselman and Lt. Cmdr. Tom Farrell

Don't gifts from governments have to be registered
with the office of protocol?
- So they tell us.
- Are their files computerised?
Yes. They would be in the department of state's

That’s not just fiction, that’s real life, too.

US regulations require that the Secretary of State publish in the Federal Register a comprehensive listing of gifts received by Federal employees of more than minimal during the preceding year.

Early this January, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy signed the report, and the Federal Register released the list on January 18. The list includes the reports Federal employees filed with their employing agencies during calendar year 2009 on gifts received from foreign government sources.

3 FAM 4122.1: An employee abroad who has been offered a gift (other than meals, refreshments or entertainment) by a private individual or organization that cannot be personally accepted under 5 CFR 2635, Subpart B or under other authority may accept it on behalf of the Department of State, or if employed by another agency which has gift acceptance authority, on behalf of that agency, if refusal, reimbursement at the fair market value, or return would cause offense or embarrassment or otherwise adversely affect the foreign relations of the United States.

Gifts accepted pursuant to section 3 FAM 4122.1a are deemed to have been accepted on behalf of the U.S. Government and may not be retained by the employee. Employees shall, within sixty days of acceptance, deposit the gift for official use with their agency or, if the agency does not have gift acceptance authority, with the Department of State. Gifts shall be used and disposed of in accordance with State or agency regulations governing property management and disposal.

The CFR defines “minimal value” as retail value in the United States at the time of acceptance of $100 or less, except that on January 1, 1981, and at 3-year intervals thereafter, minimal value is to be redefined in regulations prescribed by the Administrator of General Services, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to reflect changes in the consumer price index for the immediately preceding 3-year period.

F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Rich Boy” (1926) writes: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.” Obviously, that is true (they have more money). But the really rich, countries, that is, are even more different. They don’t have an Oversight Commission asking where that gift money is going (except perhaps Botswana, I mean Ghana, separate post later). 

The more than minimal value gifts listed in the Federal Register range in value from 3-6 figures. They are all accepted because “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S.Government.” Some of the gifts below:

For President Obama:

From the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

  • Large desert scene on a green veined marble base featuring miniature figurines of gold palm trees and camels; large gold medallion with the Royal seal in a green leather display box; large brass and glass clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre in a greenleather display case. Rec’d—6/03/2009. Est. Value—$34,500.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.

From President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao

  • 39 x 49 wooden framed and matted fine silk embroidery depicting a portrait study of the First Family. Rec’d—11/01/2009. Est. Value—$20,000.00.

From UK Prime Minister, James Gordon Brown

  • Black and gold pen with a wooden pen holder, made from the wood of the HMS Gannet in Chatham; book entitled ‘‘Churchill and America’’ by Martin Gilbert; book entitled ‘‘Churchill: A Life’’ by Martin Gilbert; book set entitled ‘‘Biography of Winston S. Churchill,’’ by Martin Gilbert. Rec’d—3/3/2009. Est. Value—$16,510.00.

From President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, Silvio Berlusconi.

  • Book entitled ‘‘I Vetri di Archimede Seguso dal 1950 al 1959’’; pair of blown glass candleholders and a glass fruit bowl. Rec’d—9/24/2009. Est. Value—$14,445.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.

For First Lady Michelle Obama

From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

  • Ruby and diamond jewelry set consisting of a pair of earrings, a ring, a bracelet, and a necklace. Rec’d—6/03/2009. Est.Value—$132,000.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.

From Mrs. Ernestina Naadu Mills, First Lady of the Republic of Ghana

  • Backes and Strauss ‘‘Black Star of Ghana’’ watch, crafted in 18 karat gold with diamonds and leather. Rec’d—8/25/2009. Est.Value—$48,000.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.

From Dierk Wettengel, Senator, Federal Republic of Germany.

  • Franck Muller Color Dreams watch; accompanying book.Rec’d—4/4/2009. Est. Value—$12,895.00. Disposition—Archives

Even White House staff members get gifts:

For Marvin Nicholson

From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

  • One pair of silver cufflinks, one male watch, one female watch, one silver pen, and one diamond jewelry set including earrings, a ring, and a bracelet, presented in a green leather case. Rec’d—6/3/2009. Est. Value—$18,580.00. Location—Pending Transfer to the General Services Administration.

For Peter Rundlet

From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

  • One pair of silver cufflinks, one male watch, one female watch, one silver pen, and one diamond jewelry set including earrings, a ring, and a bracelet, presented in a green leather case. Rec’d—6/3/2009. Est.Value—$12,560.00. Location—Pending Transfer to the General Services Administration.

Diplomatic interpreters get gifts.

Gamal Helal
From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

  • Green leather briefcase with set of jewelry including ruby and diamond bracelet, earrings and ring, men’s and women’s watches with diamond face, Tiffany & Co. sterling silver cufflinks and sterling silver pen. Rec’d—June 3, 2009. Est. Value—$23,400.00. Location—Pending Transfer to General Services Administration.

The Blair House staff get gifts. His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan gave multiple gifts to the Blair House staff presumably during a visit in 2009.

And, of course, US Embassy folks get gifts:

For Joseph LeBaron, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar.

From Shaykh Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, Member of the Royal Family, State of Qatar.

  • Men’s Rolex watch; Women’s Chopard watch with diamond face. Rec’d—June 10, 2009. Est. Value—$15,500.00. Location—Pending Transfer to General Services Administration.

For Richard W. Erdman, Charge d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

  • Green leather briefcase with set of jewelry including topaz and diamond bracelet, earrings and ring, Men’s and Women’s Eloga Tzar ‘‘1928’’ watch with diamond face and, Tiffany and Co. sterling silver cufflinks and sterling silver pen. Rec’d—June 3, 2009. Est. Value—$12,000.00. Location—Pending Transfer to General Services Administration.

See full list after the jump

For David H. Rundell, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

  • 18K white gold bracelet and matching earring set with citrine and diamond stones. Rec’d—June 4, 2009. Est. Value—$1,200.00. Location—Recipient Wishes to Purchase.

For Joan Polaschik, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Libya.
From Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi, Leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

  • 21K gold ring with a green stone. Rec’d—December 11, 2009. Est. Value—$980.00. Location—Recipient Wishes to Purchase.

It is not unheard of for recipients to purchase the gift received. Per CFR: (b) No gift or decoration deposited with the General Services Administration for disposal may be sold without the approval of the Secretary of State, upon a determination that the sale will not adversely affect the foreign relations of the United States. When depositing gifts or decorations with the designated depository office of their employing agency, employees may indicate their interest in participating in any subsequent sale of the items by the Government.

The Honorable Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
From Giulio Tremonti, Minister of Economy and Finance of the Italian Republic.

  • Leather travel bag. Rec’d—2/14/2009. Est. Value—$750.00. Disposition—Office of the Chairman for Official Use.

From Slawomir Stanislaw Skrzypek, President of the National Bank of the Republic of Poland.

  • Commemorative coin set (4 coins)—Poland’s Road to Freedom (2009). Rec’d—9/1/2009. Est. Value—$425.00. Disposition—Chairman’s office for Official Use.

Here are the CFR sections that governs the official use of gifts:

(a) At the request of an overseas post or an office within the employing agency, a gift or decoration deemed to have been accepted on behalf of the United States may be retained for official use.

However, to qualify for such approval, the gift or decoration should be an item which can be used in the normal conduct of agency business, such as a rug or a tea service, or an art object meriting display, such as a painting or sculpture. Personal gift items, such as wristwatches, jewelry, or wearing apparel, should not be regarded as suitable for official use. Only under unusual circumstances will retention of a decoration for official use be authorized. Every effort should be made to place each official use item in a location that will afford the largest number of employees, and, if feasible, members of the public, the maximum opportunity to receive the benefit of its display, provided the security of the location is adequate.

CFR also provides a guide on determining the value of gifts: (2) The donee is responsible for determining that a gift is of minimal value in the United States at the time of acceptance. However, should any dispute result from a difference of opinion concerning the value of a gift, the employing agency will secure the services of an outside appraiser to establish whether the gift is one of minimal value. If, after an appraisal has been made, it is established that the value of the gift in question is $200 or more at retail in the United States, the donee will bear the costs of the appraisal. If, however, the appraised value is established to be less than $200, the employing agency will bear the costs.

You can read CFR Section 1 Part 3: Gifts and decorations from foreign governments here.

You might like to know that the regulations cover just about everyone in the Federal Government. Even the Central Intelligence Agency files a report on tangible gifts. Except that all recipients are listed as “An Agency Employee” and identity of foreign donor and government are simply listed as “5 U.S.C. 7342(f)(4).” For the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the name and title of person accepting the gift on behalf of the U.S. Government as well as identity of foreign donor and government are listed as “5 U.S.C. 7342(f)(4), as amended.” But the gifts are still listed.

Gifts to Federal Employees from Foreign Government Sources | 2009 http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=47319219&access_key=key-z4ouk3tbbhsmqpw8mwc&page=1&viewMode=list