Snapshot: State/OIG Investigative Activities (October 2012 — March 2013)

Via State/OIG Semi Annual Report to Congress (October 1, 2012 – March 31, 2013)

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US Embassy Malta Gets a Viral Video But — Not the Kind You Want

— By Domani Spero

It happened last Saturday, August 24 in the island of Malta. ¬†Somebody was in a¬†flat in Sliema when there was a “USA¬†vs Malta street argument.” ¬†YouTube user¬†jakovids¬†filmed the incident and uploaded it to Youtube with the following note: “…some maltese driver refuses to reverse to make space for this American… next thing you know he’s out the car wanting to fight!” ¬†The video posted on August 24 has now gone “viral” with 107,257 views.

WARNING: video contains explicit language

On August 26, the US Embassy in Malta made the following statement on its FB page:

The U.S. Embassy deplores the conduct shown in the video. We regret such inexcusable behavior, whether on the part of an American citizen, or those of any other nationality. We strongly believe that everyone should be treated with respect and courtesy on the roads and in the streets of our towns and villages. We’re all in this together.

On August 27, the  Times of Malta reported that the US embassy has refused to confirm or deny whether an American man seen verbally assaulting a Maltese driver in an online video is a member of its staff.

On¬†August 28, the US Embassy has reportedly admitted that the American in the video is an embassy employee. ¬†“The US Embassy can confirm that the subject of this video was an embassy employee who has since departed,” the embassy said in a statement cited by The Times of Malta.

According to news reports, the U.S. Embassy also said Wednesday that the unidentified employee ‚Äúdid not comport with the standards of behavior that we expect from all embassy personnel.‚ÄĚ

The statement is not available on the embassy’s website or the mission’s social media sites as of this writing.

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War in Syria: Wading Into Chaos But What Happens After?

— By Domani Spero

A few days ago, in a letter to a member of Congress, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Obama’s chief military adviser reportedly¬†writes¬†that¬†“Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides,” he said. “It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favour. Today, they are not.”

Today, unnamed US officials told reporters military strikes on Syria could come ‚Äúas early as Thursday.‚Ä̬† Syrians must appreciate the 48-hour heads up announced via unofficial press statements, and without a formal declaration of war.¬† Because we don‚Äôt do that anymore.¬† The last time we have formally declared war was World War II.

In this brave new world, warning now comes in a newsflash. ¬†And the ‘we’re going to war’ news is on a furious march today. We we’re going to say this is not a matter of “if” but “when.” Oops, we’ve already been told the when — “as early as Thursday.”

McClatchy’s¬†Michael Doyle explains Why the US won’t declare war on Syria.

Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic writes in A Brief Argument Against War in Syria:

Hawks are most interested in humanitarian causes that can be carried out by force.¬†There is no reason the rest of us should share their world view, given how many times it has resulted in needless slaughter on a massive scale. It’s impossible to know for certain what war would bring. That is the strongest case against going to war.

Franklin C. Spinney in Counterpunch writes in Syria in the Crosshairs that the political marriage between coercive diplomacy and limited precision bombardment is a loser, and a lesson not learned:

However, instead of leading to a divorce, subsequent events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia have reinforced Kosovo’s lesson not learned, and the result is what is now a clear psychopathic marriage of two fatally-flawed ideas.

1. Coercive diplomacy assumes that carefully calibrated doses of punishment will persuade any adversary, whether an individual  terrorist or a national government, to act in a way that we would define as acceptable.

2. Limited precision bombardment assumes we can administer those doses precisely on selected ‚Äúhigh-value‚ÄĚ targets using guided weapons, fired from a safe distance, with no friendly casualties, and little unintended damage.

This marriage of pop psychology and bombing lionizes war on the cheap, and it increases our country’s  addiction to strategically counterproductive drive-by shootings with cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs.

Oh, and we’d love James Fallows more if he stop resisting the “double the proof” threshold from certain quarters.

[T]here should be a very strong burden of proof on people calling for strikes, to show that this is the only answer (not just the easiest one), and that it will do more good than harm. I will resist proposing that the burden of proof be doubled for people who recommended war in Iraq. 

Meanwhile, WH¬†spokesman Jay Carney said this week via CNN that “…. the use of these weapons on a mass scale and a threat of proliferation is a threat to our national interests and a concern to the entire world.”¬†

Whatever happened to¬†“… You don’t roll out new products in August?

Waiting for experts to tell us this is a “slam-dunk” case. Still waiting.

And — how do we get out, again?

We haven’t heard that one.

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Brazilian Diplomat Smuggles Bolivian Opposition Senator Out of La Paz, Big Boss Loses Job

— By Domani Spero

This weekend Brazilian diplomat¬†Eduardo Saboia, the¬†charge d’affaires of the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia reportedly smuggled¬†Roger Pinto,¬†a Bolivian senator and opponent of President Evo Morales out of the country using an embassy car escorted by Brazilian Marines. ¬†According to Al Jazeera, the escorted embassy car traveled from La Paz to the¬†southwestern Brazilian city of Corumba, a drive of some 22 hours. ¬† Today, UK’s Independent newspaper reported ¬†the resignation of Brazil’s Foreign Minister¬†Antonio Patriota. ¬†Apparently, the smuggling of the senator from La Paz to Brasilia was not approved by either country. ¬†It also reported that¬†Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has accepted Mr Patriota‚Äôs resignation but immediately appointed him as head of Brazil‚Äôs UN delegation. ¬†The head of Brazil‚Äôs UN delegation¬†Luiz Alberto Figueiredo has now been appointed the new foreign minister.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota share a toast before a working lunch in Brasilia, Brazil, on August 13, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota share a toast before a working lunch in Brasilia, Brazil, on August 13, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

 Via Al Jazeera:

Eduardo Saboia, the¬†Brazilian charge d’affaires in La Paz, revealed earlier on Monday that he helped Roger Pinto,¬†a Bolivian senator,¬†escape to Brazil after he was holed up for 15 months in Brasilia’s embassy in the Bolivian capital despite having been granted asylum.

Pinto, an opponent of Bolivian President Evo Morales, made his escape Friday in an embassy car escorted by Brazilian marines, driving 22 hours to the southwestern Brazilian city of Corumba, 1,600km from La Paz.

“I chose life. I chose to protect a person, a persecuted politician, like¬†[Brazilian] President Dilma [Rousseff] was persecuted,” Saboia told Globo television on his arrival in¬†Brasilia, where he was recalled for consultations.

He said he made the personal decision to help Pinto escape “because there was an imminent threat to the life and dignity of the senator.”

Saboia said Pinto was suffering from depression and was contemplating suicide.

The Bolivian government views Pinto as a fugitive from justice after he was accused of corruption, for which he was sentenced to a year in prison.

He sought refuge at the Brazilian embassy last year, claiming to be a victim of political persecution after he denounced alleged cases of corruption and alleged links between authorities and drug traffickers.

His case strained relations between La Paz and Brasilia. Morales last year said Brazil’s decision to grant Pinto asylum was “a mistake”.

In La Paz, David Choquehuanca, Bolivian foreign minister,¬†expressed “deep concern over the transgression of the principle of reciprocity and international courtesy”.

Read in full: ¬†¬†Brazil’s top diplomat quits over Bolivia row.

Also this:  Diplomatic war erupts after Bolivian senator flees to Brazil.

We’re waiting for Bolivian President Morales to announce soon that he will close the Brazilian embassy in La Paz. Because of the yanquis. Wait, wait — still trying to connect the dots; it’s there somewhere. ¬†It looks like diplomat¬†Eduardo Saboia shared a toast with Secretary Kerry. Oh, my lord, what were they whispering about?

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Michael Sestak Visa Scandal: USG to seek forfeiture money judgment of at least $9.7 Million

— By Domani Spero

This is an update of the Sestak Visa Scandal that’s winding its way through the court system. ¬†The publicly available Superseding Indictment posted on July 9, 2013 now includes the names of all five defendants — three U.S. citizens and two residents and nationals of Vietnam. ¬†For previous posts, see below:

The August court hearing for Sestak, Hong Vo and Truc Thanh Huynh was rescheduled for 9/13/2013 at 02:00 PM in Courtroom 30A before Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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Excerpt from the Superseding Indictment:

From at least in or around February 2012, continuing through at least in or around December 2012, in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the United States and within the District of Columbia and elsewhere, and pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Sections 3237 and 3238, within the venue of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the defendants SESTAK, BINH VO, ALICE NGUYEN, HONG VO, and TRUC HUYNH, a joint offender who was arrested in the District of Columbia, did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree, together and with persons whose identities are known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to commit offenses against the United States, that is, bribery of a public official, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 201(b)(2), and visa fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 1546(a), and to defraud the United States Government by interfering with and obstructing a lawful government function, that is, the unbiased and disinterested issuance of visas by the Department of State to non-United States citizens, by deceit, craft, trickery, and dishonest means, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

Forfeiture Allegations:

Upon conviction of the offense alleged in Count One of this Indictment, defendants MICHAEL T. SESTAK, BINH TANG VO, ANHDAO T. NGUYEN, also known as Alice Nguyen, also known as Anhdao Thuy Vo, also known as Thuy Anh Dao Nguyen, also known as Anhdao Thuy Nguyen, also known as Dao Thuy Anh Nguyen, HONG CHAU VO, and TRUC THANH HUYNH, shall forfeit to the United States any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from or is traceable to the proceeds obtained directly or indirectly from the commission of the offense, and any property, real or personal, which was used to facilitate the commission of the offense, or was intended to be used to facilitate the offense, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 982(a)(6), and any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 981(a)(1)(C) and 28 U.S.C. Section 2461(c). The property subject to forfeiture includes: Any and all funds and securities seized from Scottrade account #58490015, held in the name of ANHDAO THUY NGUYEN.

The indictment includes descriptions of “transactions” where ¬†individuals, some with multiple visa denials were allegedly issued visas by Mr. Sestak. ¬†The government alleges that defendant Binh Vo informed defendant Sestak of the identity of each foreign national who had agreed to pay money in exchange for obtaining a visa, before the foreign national appeared at the Consulate for a visa interview.

Below is a video posted by Thanh Nien Daily of the December 2012 wedding of alleged conspirators, Vietnamese national Anhdao Thuy Nguyen and U.S.citizen Binh Tang Vo with Sestak as one of the groomsmen.  The Thanh Nien Daily reported that the wedding cost $300,000.  More wedding photos on FB here.

The indictment says that the “United States will seek a forfeiture money judgment against the defendants in the amount of at least $9,780,000.”

The indictment also seeks¬† forfeiture of ‚Äúany property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from or is traceable to the proceeds obtained directly or indirectly from the commission of the offense, and any property, real or personal, which was used to facilitate the commission of the offense, or was intended to be used to facilitate the offense, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 982(a)(6). The United States will seek a forfeiture money judgment against the defendants equal to the value of any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to this offense.‚ÄĚ

If any of the property cannot be located, or has been transferred or sold, or deposited with, a third party; or has been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the court, the indictment seeks, upon conviction of defendants, forfeiture ‚Äúto the United States any other property of the defendants, up to the value of the property described above, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. Section 853(p).‚ÄĚ

Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre reported that Binh Tang Vo and his wife Anhdao Thuy Nguyen last entered Vietnam on April 7, 2012.  Thanh Nien Daily also reported that the publication of their names has sparked widespread speculation as to their whereabouts but that the couple has disappeared from public sight.

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US Embassy Vientiane: Ambassador Karen Stewart Blogs Goodbye

— By Domani Spero

The U.S. Ambassador to  Lao PDR Karen Stewart concluded her three-year assignment at the US Embassy in Vientiane in early August.  She blogged her farewell and favorite Lao things here.   Her Ask the Ambassador: Farewell Edition video is here.  Her successor Ambassador-Designate Daniel A. Clune was confirmed by the Senate on August 1.

You might remember that Ambassador Stewart was also the chief of mission at the US Embassy in Minsk ¬†where embassy staffers were subjected to¬†occasional aggressive surveillance. ¬†In 2008, she was “advised” to leave the country by Europe’s last dictator. Two years after that she got appointed to Lao PDR, another¬†authoritarian state. A case of jumping from a hot frying fan to another.

Below are some of our favorite photos. (All photos from US Embassy Vientiane/Flickr):

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With feelings. At the embassy’s Fourth of July celebration, 2013

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During a visit to see the Nutrition Program in Akkha Village

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During the Pi Mai New Year Holiday in Laos

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At a medical delivery mission to three Hmong villages

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With Nitaya Panemalaythong, the first Lao-American to win the title of Miss Minnesota USA 2012. Video of that fun visit here.

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Foreign Service Specialist Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Traveling to Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct

— By Domani Spero

On August 22, 2013, USDOJ announced that Rosauro Pacubas, a U.S. embassy employee was sentenced to 5-years in prison for ‚Äútraveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct.‚ÄĚ

According to the USDOJ statement, Mr. Pacubas was a USG employee at the US Embassy in Manila. The statement says that on March 1, 2012, Pacubas ‚Äútraveled to Baltimore with his wife and the victim, who was to be evaluated at a hospital in the Baltimore area. During their stay in a hotel in Baltimore, Pacubas sexually abused the victim.‚Ä̬† The statement indicates that on January 2013, Mr. Pacubas was interviewed and admitted sexually abusing the victim during their stay in Baltimore in March 2012.

The back story is more nasty than the press release (statement appended at the end of this post).

The Affidavit in Support of the Arrest Warrant dated January 11, 2013 was filed by DS Special Agent Jonathan Poole. At that time, Mr. Pacubas was assigned, according to the affidavit, to the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a U.S. Foreign Service Specialist.¬† He was under investigation for ‚Äúsexual abuse of a minor, namely, his adopted daughter.‚Ä̬† The¬† affidavit shows that Diplomatic Security expected Mr. Pacubas to land at Dulles International Airport in Sterling, VA, on the afternoon of Saturday, January 12, 2013.¬† The affidavit requested an arrest warrant for Rosauro Pacubas for the charge of ‚ÄúTravel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct pursuant to Title 18, U.S.c. ¬ß 2423(b).‚ÄĚ

A side story — on January 16, 2004, then Ambassador Francis X. Taylor, Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions gave a remarks to Security Technical Specialist graduates.¬† In that remarks. Ambassador Taylor cited in particular, one Rosauro Pacubas:

Rosauro Pacubas (phonetic) is a retired electrician’s mate senior chief. He retired from the Navy after 28 years of honorable service. Rosauro started his employment with the U.S. Government as a dishwasher in the American Embassy in Manila. There he became so impressed with the Marines, he joined the Navy. Smart man.

Now, he is joining the Foreign Service, where he will once again work in a U.S. embassy, this time as a person responsible for ensuring that the technical and physical systems that help protect our facilities and people from harm do not fail us. Welcome back to the Department of State, Rosauro. Isn‚Äôt this an American story? I mean this country, and what it provides as a beacon to the world, is unmatched. That’s just one story among millions about opportunities that are created here.

On LinkedIn, one Rosauro Pacubas identifies himself as a security specialist working for the U.S. State Department.

Via USDOJ

U.S. Embassy Employee Sentenced To Prison For Traveling To Engage In Illicit Sexual Conduct

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | August 22, 2013

Baltimore, Maryland ‚Äď U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander sentenced Rosauro Pacubas, age 58, of Manila, Philippines, today to five years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Judge Hollander ordered that Pacubas pay $21,600 in restitution to the victim. Judge Hollander also ordered that upon his release from prison, Pacubas must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Niall Meehan of the Washington Field Office of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.

According to the facts presented to the court, Pacubas was a U.S. government embassy employee in Manila, Philippines. On March 1, 2012, Pacubas traveled to Baltimore with his wife and the victim, who was to be evaluated at a hospital in the Baltimore area. During their stay in a hotel in Baltimore, Pacubas sexually abused the victim. Following the victim’s hospital evaluation, she entered a therapeutic boarding school in North Carolina where she disclosed sexual abuse by Pacubas. On January 11, 2013, Pacubas was interviewed and admitted sexually abusing the victim during their stay in Baltimore in March 2012.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “resources” tab on the left of the page.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the Diplomatic Security Service for its work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Special Assistant U.S. Attorney LisaMarie Freitas of the U.S. Justice Department, Criminal Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok, who prosecuted the case.

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Snapshot: Highest Level of Youth Unemployment in the World – Middle East & North Africa

Via The Arab Spring and economic transition: two years on by Harry Quilter-Pinner (FCO) and Graham Symons (DFID):

“The Arab Spring, which led to a series of political changes in North Africa and the Middle East, was in part caused by economic underperformance and exclusion. The region has historically been marred by high levels of inequality and unemployment. MENA has the highest level of youth unemployment in the world (figure 1), whilst female labour participation (at 25%) is also the world‚Äôs worst. Significant state (and in some cases military) involvement in the economy has constrained private sector financing and growth (figure 2), and created large fiscal deficits.”

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US Mission Germany: Philip Murphy Exits, John Emerson Enters

— Domani Spero

Remember in 2009 when much had been made about Ambassador Murphy’s arrival in Germany in his Gulfstream V? (See¬†The Ambassador and His Gulfstream¬†Jet). ¬†That’s so long ago.

Last month, after¬†hosting his last Fourth of July reception, Ambassador Murphy departed post at the conclusion of his term in office. The kids, now in larger soccer jerseys are older, there’s one more dog, and — ¬†eat your heart out, he still got his Gulfstream.

We remember Ambassador Murphy as one who vigorously defended his embassy officers at the height of the Wikileaks controversy (See¬†Ambassador Philip Murphy: “I‚Äôm a big boy ‚Ķ.the buck stops with¬†me‚Ķ”). ¬† He made himself the “it” … and no one got thrown under the train for doing their jobs. ¬†There’s a dearth of “I’m a big boy… the buck stops with me” people these days. ¬†So yeah, we like this guy despite his expensive aircraft baggage.

Ambassador Philip Murphy departs post

Ambassador Philip Murphy departs post with his family, July 2013.                     Click on image for more photos via US Embassy Germany/Flickr

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Send off at the airport during Ambassador Murphy’s departure.

A related item, last week, U.S. Ambassador-Designate to Germany John Emerson and¬†his family arrived in Germany to start his tenure. ¬†He and his wife,¬†Kimberly Marteau Emerson are featured in another of IIP’s ambassador introduction video series. See below.

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