Quickie: The Threat of Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case

On Feb. 13, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement demanding that the government of Pakistan execute U.S. government contractor Raymond Davis or turn him over to the TTP for judgment. Davis, a contract security officer for the CIA, has been in Pakistani custody since a Jan. 27 incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt.

Pakistani officials have corroborated Davis’ version of events and, according to their preliminary report, Davis appears to have acted in self-defense. From a tactical perspective, the incident appears to have been (in tactical security parlance) a “good shoot,” but the matter has been taken out of the tactical realm and has become mired in transnational politics and Pakistani public sentiment. Whether the shooting was justified or not, Davis has now become a pawn in a larger game being played out between the United States and Pakistan.

When one considers the way similar periods of tension between the Pakistanis and Americans have unfolded in the past, it is not unreasonable to conclude that as this current period plays out, it could have larger consequences for Davis and for American diplomatic facilities and commercial interests in Pakistan. Unless the Pakistani government is willing and able to defuse the situation, the case could indeed provoke violent protests against the United States, and U.S. citizens and businesses in Pakistan should be prepared for this backlash.



Based on this history, the current tension between the United States and Pakistan, public sentiment in Pakistan regarding U.S. security contractors and the possibility of groups like JuD and JeI attempting to take advantage of the situation, there is a very real possibility that Davis’ release could spark mob violence in Pakistan (and specifically Lahore). Even if the Pakistani government does try to defuse the situation, there are other parties who will attempt to stir up violence.

Due to the widespread discontent over the issue of U.S. security contractors in Pakistan, if protests do follow the release of Davis, they can be expected to be similar to the protests that followed the Mohammed cartoon case, i.e., they will cut across ethnic and sectarian lines and present a widespread threat.

Physical security measures such as concrete barriers, standoff distances and security cameras can add to a facility’s defenses against a terrorist attack, but they really do not pose much of an obstacle to an angry mob intent on overrunning a property — especially if local and indigenous security forces are unwilling or unable to intervene in a timely fashion and the mob has the time and latitude to assault the facility for a prolonged period. The protesters can scale barriers and their overwhelming numbers can render most security measures useless. Barriers such as hard-line doors can provide some delay, but they can be breached by assailants who possess tools and time.

Additionally, if protesters are able to set fire to the building, as happened at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad in 1979, a safe-haven can become a death trap, especially if the mob can take control of the secondary escape hatch as it did in that incident, trapping the Americans inside the safe-haven.

Commercial facilities are, by their very nature, far more accessible — and far more vulnerable — to mob violence than diplomatic facilities. A commercial facility can present a tempting soft target to those who wish to attack a symbol of America without tackling a hard target like a U.S. diplomatic facility, which is designed and built to comply with stringent security standards. If a mob storms a hotel, the local staff will be unable to protect the guests, and conceivably could leave the guests to fend for themselves in the confusion and chaos of a riot. Even worse, they could even facilitate attacks against Americans by pointing them out or providing their room numbers.

Any person identified as an American by such an angry mob could quickly find himself or herself in dire danger. While Americans working for the U.S. government can expect to have some security assistance in getting back to the embassy or to another secure location, non-officials may be left to fend for themselves, especially if they are not registered with the embassy. Non-officials are also not required to abide by the same security rules as officials. While many non-officials consider the U.S. State Department’s security rules to be onerous at times, during troubled periods these conservative security rules often serve to keep diplomats out of harm’s way.

Once a mob attacks, there often is little that can be done — especially if the host government either cannot or will not take action to protect the facility being attacked. At that point, the focus should be on preventing injuries and saving lives — without regard to the physical property. In most cases, when a mob attacks a multinational corporation, it is attacking a symbolic target. KFC restaurants, for example, have been frequent targets of attacks in Pakistan because of the company’s association with the United States. In many cases, multinational franchises such as KFC and even some hotels are owned by locals and not Americans, but that does not matter to the mobs, which see nothing but a U.S. symbol.

When an issue such as the Mohammed cartoons, the Bhutto assassination or the release of Raymond Davis spirals into violent protests, the only real precaution that many companies can take is to escape the area and avoid loss of life. The best defense is to use good intelligence in order to learn about the protests in advance, to track them when they occur and then to evacuate personnel before they can be affected by the violence.

U.S. diplomatic facilities and business interests in Pakistan are almost certainly reviewing their contingency plans right now and planning for the worst-case scenario. During such times, vigilance and preparation are vital, as is a constant flow of updated intelligence pertaining to potential demonstrations. Such intelligence can provide time for an evacuation or allow other proactive security measures to be taken. With the current tension between Pakistan and the United States, there might not be much help coming when the next wave of unrest erupts, so keeping ahead of potential protests is critically important.

Active links added above. Read the whole thing here — The Threat of Civil Unrest in Pakistan and the Davis Case (republished with permission of STRATFOR).

The Next Country to Topple Its Leader? Check out the Bookmaker’s Odds

Paddy Power is apparently Ireland’s biggest and most successful bookmaker. It operates both a retail and an online/telephone division and has a chain of licensed betting offices located throughout Ireland and in the UK.

On February 16, the Telegraph reported that the bookmaker has Yemen leading the pack as the next country to topple its leader.  It also installed Jordan at 9/4 as the second favorite to fall with Algeria at 7/2. Today, Yemen’s odds remain at 15/8/ but changed to 11/4 for Jordan, with Algeria and Morocco tied at 4/1.   Bahrain, which is facing Egypt-style unrest, was called a good bet by the Telegraph and its 8/1 a “generous odds.” The more oppressive regimes of Saudi Arabia and Syria have been given longer odds of 20/1, although both countries have seen protests.  The odds remain at 20/1 for both countries as of this writing.

Paddy Power’s odds applies to the next country from the list below to have a prime minister/president/monarch/state leader step down due to public protests, according to its website. It must be reported by Sky News, and the bookmaker’s decision is final in settlement.

15/8 Yemen

11/4 Jordan

4/1 Algeria

4/1 Morocco

8/1 Bahrain

8/1 Libya

12/1 Iran

16/1 Sudan

16/1 Iraq

20/1 Saudi Arabia

20/1 Syria

Fractional odds are the traditional odds you see in the bookmaker window and are used here.  You simply treat them like fractions. If you divide the first number by the second, you will get a multiplier. For example, 20/1 means that whatever you stake on this bet you will receive 20 times your stake back if you win. So, $100 on a 20/1 bet will give you $2000 winnings. For $100 on 15/8 you just need to divide 15 by 8, giving you a multiplier of 1.875. Therefore if you stake $100 at a 15/8 bet you will return winnings of $187.50.

Apparently, bookmaker.com operating out of Cyprus had calculated the odds much earlier than Paddy Power. Called the tackiest press release here for turning real-life drama into sport, the bookmaker also placed Yemen on top of the pack. 

Secretary Clinton on #NetFreedom … excuse me for not clapping …

Below are some excerpts from Secretary Clinton’s speech, Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices & Challenges in a Networked World at the George Washington University yesterday.

The goal is not to tell people how to use the internet any more than we ought to tell people how to use any public square, whether it’s Tahrir Square or Times Square. The value of these spaces derives from the variety of activities people can pursue in them, from holding a rally to selling their vegetables, to having a private conversation. These spaces provide an open platform, and so does the internet. It does not serve any particular agenda, and it never should. But if people around the world are going come together every day online and have a safe and productive experience, we need a shared vision to guide us.
Together, the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association online comprise what I’ve called the freedom to connect. The United States supports this freedom for people everywhere, and we have called on other nations to do the same. Because we want people to have the chance to exercise this freedom. We also support expanding the number of people who have access to the internet. And because the internet must work evenly and reliably for it to have value, we support the multi-stakeholder system that governs the internet today, which has consistently kept it up and running through all manner of interruptions across networks, borders, and regions.
At the same time, the internet continues to be restrained in a myriad of ways. In China, the government censors content and redirects search requests to error pages. In Burma, independent news sites have been taken down with distributed denial of service attacks. In Cuba, the government is trying to create a national intranet, while not allowing their citizens to access the global internet. In Vietnam, bloggers who criticize the government are arrested and abused. In Iran, the authorities block opposition and media websites, target social media, and steal identifying information about their own people in order to hunt them down.
For the United States, the choice is clear. On the spectrum of internet freedom, we place ourselves on the side of openness. Now, we recognize that an open internet comes with challenges. It calls for ground rules to protect against wrongdoing and harm. And internet freedom raises tensions, like all freedoms do. But we believe the benefits far exceed the costs.
Security is often invoked as a justification for harsh crackdowns on freedom. Now, this tactic is not new to the digital age, but it has new resonance as the internet has given governments new capacities for tracking and punishing human rights advocates and political dissidents. Governments that arrest bloggers, pry into the peaceful activities of their citizens, and limit their access to the internet may claim to be seeking security. In fact, they may even mean it as they define it. But they are taking the wrong path. Those who clamp down on internet freedom may be able to hold back the full expression of their people’s yearnings for a while, but not forever.

While the rights we seek to protect and support are clear, the various ways that these rights are violated are increasingly complex. I know some have criticized us for not pouring funding into a single technology, but we believe there is no silver bullet in the struggle against internet repression. There’s no app for that. 

Photo from state.gov/Flickr

Please feel free to read the entire transcript here.

Nice speech, I supposed … intelligent and inspiring to some although Evgeny Morozov calls it “powerfully confusing.”

AlecJRoss tweeted:
#SecClinton “There is no silver bullet in the struggle against Internet repression. There’s no “app” for that.” #netfreedom #Egypt #Iran

Um, okay… but excuse me for not clapping.

Secretary Clinton’s “freedom to connect,” whether she knows this or not is not/not always true in her very own big house at Foggy Bottom and its satellite sites in over 260 posts worldwide.

Even as she claims that “we place ourselves on the side of openness,” that is not always the case when an employee of the State Department blogs in his/her private capacity.  I’ve heard it said more than once that HR/Recruitment absolutely love the Foreign Service blogs.  But if true, some parts of the State Department, absolutely hate/hate the FS blogs, too.

Because how else can you explain the quiet pressures exerted by the State Department to its staff and their spouses … to quit. that blog. of theirs.  

I can understand certain restrictions to limit a free for all environment for its own employees. After all, there are rules we all abide to whether our work is in the public sector, the private sector or even my own nowhere place.  The trade-offs, see?  But even obscure blogs can catch the eye of higher ups in the ladder. And personal musings and opinions can quickly cross that chalked lines, if your boss so decides that what you write about all fall under the large umbrella of “official concern.”  
As to spouses, well, they are not employees of the US Government or the State Department. Of course, that has not prevented post (embassy) management in some places from threatening diplomatic spouses if their blogs do not come down. But what can management possibly do to diplomatic/FS spouses who are not government employees? After all, the 1972 directive recognizes them as private persons, and with that the recognition that the performance of employees may not be rated based on the actions of their unpaid “dependent” spouses. 

But it’s not what they can do to the spouses, silly!

The truth is you won’t get too many State folks to admit to that take down “request” publicly. Here’s why….

One take down request I’ve seen was extremely polite. Far from a memo format but there was no mistaking that the language was far from a request. Of course, with freedom of expression as muse, you can choose to ignore the warning (not/not advisable), pull down your blog, or argue about the merits of your blog posts (non-security related, freedom to connect, right to free expression, mental health, etc).  But in the end, if you make too much waves — you can get very, very wet.  Nobody is going to defriend you outright, see? But phone calls will go unreturned, emails will go unanswered, and about that next assignment you want to talk about ….well, good luck with that …you can perhaps talk to the wall…

As to the FS spouse blogs, the harassment continues but there are no marks, and no paper trail.  And there will be no show of hands today.  What happens when you’re ask to pick between your blog or your husband’s career? Your blog or your spouse’s promotion prospects? Dead blog or life can be bad at post or next post?  Oh, hmmn, let’s see — how crazy bad is that?!  Of course, the blog goes down to sleep pronto, and fades away quietly; sometimes with a quick goodbye, sometimes without.  I cannot blame any spouse for staying quiet given the repercussions to their employee-spouse careers … and their lives.

Yes, lives. Management tells you where to live, where to send your kids to school, what jobs you may/may not take, etc. etc. As the parody song goes, “the answer my friend is all the FAM.”          

This is a particularly sad, sad business because there are no remedies. Spouses are not employees, and there is no grievance process for it.  You quit. The blog. Because why would you put your loved one in such a bureaucratic mess?  And the darn old tigers, even in the 21st century are counting on that.  

Never mind that the blog is still cheaper than therapy.  

I’ll have to say — the State Department may not be running a systematic management suppression of employees/spouses using the public square of the 21st century but it. is. happening. Oh, I know, I know — suppression is such a nasty, ugly word, isn’t it?  I’ll accept any nicer, more diplomatic word you can come up with for arm twisting that doesn’t leave any purple marks.

And for the State Department geeks who did the webchat after the speech who insisted that there is no generational disconnect — oh, dudes!  I’d bet that neither one has ever worked overseas at an embassy where their boss has pulled down the web switch on them.

Anyway, my question of the day — if an FS blog goes down in the 21st century public square and no one heard it, does it make a sound?

Would you please, pretty please, ask that question in the next webchat on #netfreedom?

Related post:

Can you still blog if trouble is already your call sign?| Sunday, May 16, 2010