US Embassy #Syria Suspends All Visa Services Until Further Notice

Via US Embassy Damascus, posted on July 11, 2011 | Status of US Embassy Visa and Consular Services:

All visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus have been suspended until further notice.  The Embassy regrets the inconvenience this temporary suspension causes for persons wishing to visit or immigrate to the United States.  The Embassy will commence visa operations gradually as circumstances permit.

The Embassy will continue to process the visa applications of anyone who was interviewed prior to the suspension of visa services.

Applicants who need to travel to the United States before resumption of full visa services in Damascus are welcome to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at any U.S. embassy or consulate outside Syria which provides visa services.  Information on the requirements for doing so and the locations of U.S. visa-issuing embassies and consulates is available at  The non-refundable MRV application fee must be paid in the country of application, according to procedures established by each U.S. embassy or consulate.

Read in full here.

The US Embassy in Damascus continues to recommend that American citizens not travel to Syria at this time. On July 6, Ambassador Ford explains:

“Earlier this year several U.S. citizens, including tourists, residents and in one case a diplomat, were detained by Syrian security forces without notification to the Embassy.  In at least one case, absolutely no security issue was involved and the government sought to exploit the detention for purely political reasons. In other instances, U.S. citizens were blocked from movement around Syria at military checkpoints.  Given these incidents and the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, the U.S. Government has recommended that U.S. citizens not travel to Syria now, and the U.S. Embassy has reduced its staffing to minimize the number of persons exposed to risk.  Until that risk is reduced not only for diplomats, but for all U.S. citizens, the warning against travel to Syria will remain in place.  Unlike private U.S. citizens, the U.S. ambassador has special security arrangements whenever he moves around Syria and his situation has no impact on the evaluation of risk to private U.S. citizens.”

Fox News is reporting that State Department Spokesman Victoria Nuland said today that the Syrian Foreign Ministry has returned the U.S. flag that was stolen and replaced with a Syrian flag during the mob attack on the embassy.  Apparently, the Syrian government has also arrested six people in connection with the attacks and it has replaced damaged U.S. security cameras and improved Syrian security forces around the U.S. embassy.


USA vs. Ishmael Jones (Pen Name): Secrecy Agreement Does Not Violate First Amendment Rights

CIA floor sealImage via WikipediaVia Secrecy News:

“Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled at a June 15 hearing (pdf) that the CIA officer, who goes by the pseudonym “Ishmael Jones,” would be held liable for publishing his 2008 book “The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture” in the face of a refusal by the CIA’s Prepublication Review Board to clear the volume for publication.”

According to the author’s website:

“Ishmael Jones, a pseudonym, was born in the United States and raised in the Middle East, East Asia, and East Africa. He attended universities in the US and served as an officer in the US Marine Corps. In the late 1980’s he joined the Central Intelligence Agency where he served as a deep cover officer focusing on human sources with access to intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. His assignments included more than 15 years of continuous overseas service in numerous exotic countries and several rogue nations. He resigned from the CIA in good standing.”

On the 2010 CIA lawsuit over Jones’ book published in 2008:

“The CIA requires that its employees submit manuscripts before publication in order to make sure that no classified information is revealed. After review, the CIA sends authors a list of what sentences need to be removed or rewritten. For The Human Factor, the CIA was unable to find any classified information in the manuscript, but objected to its criticism of the CIA, and took the unusual step of disapproving every single word in the manuscript. During the year that the CIA spent evaluating the manuscript, Jones repeatedly offered to remove or rewrite anything in the manuscript. 

Initially, the book drew relatively little attention, but as Jones continued to work toward intelligence reform and to meet with members of Congress and the Administration, he began to get more traction. In July 2010, more than two years after the book was published, the CIA filed a lawsuit against Jones. Jones learned about the lawsuit in September 2010, when the CIA served him papers.”

Below is Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia ruling excerpted from the June 15 hearing transcript obtained by Secrecy News.

Let the record reflect this matter is before the Court on the defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment as to liability. And this is a case as we’ve heard involving the publication of a manuscript that was not approved by the Agency in prepublication review as required by the secrecy agreement.

So the issue is whether the Court should grant the Government’s motion for summary judgment as to liability where the plaintiff signed a secrecy agreement which is attached to the complaint as Government Exhibit A. And, the Agency required under the secrecy agreement that the plaintiff obtain written permission from the Central Intelligence Agency’s publication review board prior to publishing any work. And the plaintiff did not secure Agency approval prior to having his book published.

The facts are not in dispute, it seems to me. Plaintiff admits that he was signatory to the secrecy agreement. He did prepare a manuscript which he submitted to the publication review board multiple times, and he was given feedback from the Agency about what was publishable and what was not.

His opinion is that the Agency’s refusal to approve publication of his book was unreasonable and deprived him of his rights under the First Amendment, and he decided to publish the book without securing Agency approval.

I don’t think that this is really a very difficult question. I think the Snepp case would control here. It seems to me that where he signed a binding secrecy agreement that prevented from publishing any materials prior to receiving written consent, that under Snepp this liability for the Government has been established.

His signing a secrecy agreement does not violate his First Amendment rights. And his claim that the Court should deny summary judgment because of genuine issue of fact about whether the plaintiff’s counterclaim alleging First Amendment violations creates a genuine issue of fact for trial.

It seems to me that the judgment that he exercised at some risk, according to his own counsel, to publish a matter without securing Agency approval does not demonstrate that the Government breached the contract first because plaintiff acknowledges that under the process in effect that once the prepublication board denied his request for publication, that he had a remedy and that remedy was to come to U.S. District Court and to pursue a claim to have the Court determine if the Agency’s withholding of permission was unreasonable. Not having exercised that right, I do not see how the Government could be held liable for breach when they were pursuing the process as set forth in the agreement.

So, I am first of all holding that the Snepp case controls here. They’re both — Snepp was an agent and so is this plaintiff. They both signed secrecy agreements. They both failed to adhere to them knowing what they were — the agreement said.

I don’t think any discovery is necessary because the plaintiff admits that he published without the permission. And the issue of whether the Government breached first because of some sham appellate review, the process was never over. And, his judgment to go forward without the completing — pursuing his remedies before the court was the breach. It was not the Government’s breach. The Government was carrying out it’s agreement.

So, for those reasons, it is the — the case is also very similar to Marchetti, but I don’t think we needs to go as far as Marchetti. I think that Snepp is sufficient.

Motion for summary judgment for the Government is granted, and the case will be dismissed as it relates to his claim, counterclaim. So, partial summary judgment liability is granted.

What remains to be done is the issue of what remedy the Government is entitled to because of the breach of secrecy agreement.

The Snepp case mentioned above is SNEPP v. UNITED STATES, 444 U.S. 507 (1980) where SCOTUS held that:

“A former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, who had agreed not to divulge classified information without authorization and not to publish any information relating to the Agency without prepublication clearance, breached a fiduciary obligation when he published a book about certain Agency activities without submitting his manuscript for prepublication review. The proceeds of his breach are impressed with a constructive trust for the benefit of the Government.”

“[…] The C.I.A. would later admit in court, the book contained no secrets at all.  Unable to go after Snepp for unauthorized release of classified information, the C.I.A. and the Justice Department instead sued him for violating a clause in his original agency contract demanding prepublication review. The goal, Snepp says, was to reduce him to penury and seal his lips and fingers with legal superglue. In court, the Government argued that Snepp should be stripped of all earnings from the book — virtually every penny he had made in the nearly two years it took to write it — as well as all future profits. At the same time, the C.I.A. asked the court to impose a lifetime gag order on him, demanding that he submit all writings — articles, scripts, novels, speeches, everything, true or fictional — for prior censorship. The only exceptions were cookbooks and treatises on gardening. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, but Snepp ultimately lost, sending him into a financial and emotional tailspin from which he is only now recovering. (Even this memoir had to be vetted before he could give it to his editor.)”

The Afghan Plan: Where Dakota Gets Warrior of the Month Award and Then "Abandoned" by His PRT-mates in Farah

Our favorite FS blogger in Afghanistan who may or may not pen a book about his PRT adventure in that country writes in his blog about the departure of his Second PRT (November 2010-July 2011) and saying goodbye to his teammates. I’ll miss reading Dakota’s stories about these guys but I’m glad they’re coming home.

The Godfather — also known affectionately as Commander Killjoy; the new PRT Commander.

Commander Quixote — AKA Doc Quixote, the infectiously enthusiastic but somewhat ADHD head of PRT Medical. Hobbies include stargazing, playing the electric cello and tilting at windmills.

Captain Adventure — the tall and self-assured head of SecFor; the only person thus far allowed to pick his own nickname.

Engineer Lovesalot — a Navy lieutenant whose geographic separation from the female species appears to be causing him physical pain; Captain Adventure’s roommate.

Captain Harmony — the musically talented, multi-lingual Air Force officer from Public Affairs.

Captain Tomcat — the laid-back officer from Operations whom I wanted to name “Captain Peachy” for his habit of responding requests with “that’s peachy.”

Lieutenant ______ — A Navy Lieutenant who hounded me for months about getting a nickname; I refused — and continue to refuse — to bow to that pressure.

Lieutenant Granola — a midwesterner with a firmly crunchy-granola-esque Seattle mindset.

Lieutenant Dracula — the officer in charge of Supply whose first name — Vlad — was far too Transylvanian not to inspire his nickname.

Warrant Exasperated — a good-natured but habitually grumpy Warrant Officer from Public Affairs.

Sergeant Major Moralekill — the Senior Enlisted man from the maneuver unit we share the base with. Had the hoops removed from the basketball court to prevent injury.

Senior Chief Intimidating — the terrifying Senior Enlisted

First Sergeant McGruff — The PRT’s Rule of Law guy and second highest ranked Enlisted man, a 30-year veteran of the Michigan Police Department with a gruff, no-nonsense attitude.

Chief Blackboard — the PRT’s Communications Officer and Liaison to the Department of Education; an elementary school principal in Oklahoma City.

Chief Hammersmith — the PRT’s Seabee and resident all-around handyman; great with a hammer and a nice guy to boot — the kind of person you’d kill to have as a neighbor.

Petty Officer Moonshine — a Navy NCO in Supply who owns a distillery (which I always screw up and call a brewery) in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Sergeant CapsLock — A sergeant from Civil Affairs whose wife tends to update his Facebook page on his behalf, writing exclusively in caps.

Sergeant DoubleD — an NCO from SecFor; the DoubleD is for Domestic Dispute, taken from his habit of having protracted fights with his wife in the public arena of Facebook.

Specialist Masai — a Kenyan-American from SecFor, born and raised on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Wishing them all smooth landing back home.

And — before they left, they gave Dakota the following award, which he writes is “easily the greatest award that I have ever received.”






Professional achievement as Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah’s resident Master of the English Language and all things superfluous from February 1 through February 28, 2011. If wars could be won with ink, foes slain with the precise application of commas, comrades shielded by the eradication of dangling participles, and the disenchanted masses enthused by the transformation of dysfunctional phrases into self-sustaining sentences, then [Dakota] would be granted a place in the pantheon of American military heroes. However, since this is not the case, he is instead recognized as PRT Farah’s Warrior of the Month for February 2011. His expeditious and near perfect editing of 94 command awards ensured their smooth and timely progression through the military approval channels. If not for [Dakota]’s selfless dedication to the team, three times the number of man-hours would have been expended while producing inferior results. [Dakota]’s accomplishments reflect great credit upon him, and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Navy.


Read the whole thing here.

Although Dakota is leaving PRT Farah before the summer is over, I’m looking forward to reading the nicknames of the new PRT members before he leaves; not sure he will have time to do that as he wraps up his assignment.  The question is — can he top, as nickname goes “Commander Killjoy” or “Engineer Lovesalot?” Stay tuned.   Follow him here.