Case Against Veteran Diplomat Robin Raphel Ends Without Charges, Who’s Gonna Say Sorry?

Posted: 7:59  pm EDT
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Just saw the news that the Justice Department has closed its espionage investigation into former Ambassador Robin L. Raphel and will not file charges.

Via NYT:

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Ms. Raphel’s home and office in 2014 looking for evidence that she was spying for Pakistan, which Ms. Raphel adamantly denied.

“It was clear from the outset that this investigation was based on a fundamental misunderstanding,” Amy Jeffress, a lawyer for Ms. Raphel, said in a statement that sharply criticized government officials for revealing details of the investigation to reporters.

She added: “It is of the utmost importance to our national security that our diplomats be able to do their work without fearing that their routine diplomatic communications will subject them to criminal investigation.”

A message left with the Justice Department was not immediately returned, though officials there have consistently declined to comment publicly on the case.

The investigation began when American investigators intercepted a conversation in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from Ms. Raphel, a conversation that led to months of secret surveillance.

The espionage case soon began to fizzle, however, leaving prosecutors to focus on the far less serious charge of keeping classified information in her home. Ms. Raphel, in negotiations with the government, rejected plea deals and has been adamant that she face no charges.

 

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U.S. Embassy Havana: Post of the Hour Until POTUS is Wheel’s Up

Posted: 3:09 am EDT
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Via @USEmbCuba

The United States established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba in 1902, opening the first U.S. Embassy in Havana in 1923.  The Embassy was closed in 1961 when the United States severed diplomatic relations.  During President Carter’s administration in 1977, the United States and Cuba signed an agreement establishing the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in Havana, and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC.  Under the formal protection of the Embassy of Switzerland, USINT operated out of the former U.S. Embassy building, which first opened in 1953.  On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced the intention to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.  After six months of negotiations, the two nations officially renewed diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, and USINT became U.S. Embassy Havana.

Photo from US Embassy Havana/FB

¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Mujer! Photo from US Embassy Havana/FB

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis (front row, right on couch) is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba.  Prior to taking up this position in August 2014, Ambassador DeLaurentis served for three years as the Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Prior to that posting, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Scott Hamilton (front row, left on couch) is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who assumed his current position as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on July 20, 2015.

ADST writes that one of the most daunting and stressful tasks a Foreign Service Officer abroad can face is supporting a visit by the President of the United States:

Concerns about security, cultural sensitivities, press coverage and political effectiveness turn such events into an all-encompassing, embassy-wide obsession from the day the idea of the visit is floated until “Wheels Up” when Air Force One departs. There’s plenty of drama, bruised egos, hurry-up-and-wait, and silliness in the planning and implementation of such a visit. The outcome can make or break a career.  A mark of a great FSO is the ability to support a presidential visit while maintaining a sense of courtesy and good humor, especially when demands from everyone from the pre-advance team to the press pool verge on the ridiculous.

And what do you do when the White House press advance team is “as prickly as a hedgehog?”  Click here and read more: What Goes on Behind the Scenes When POTUS Comes to Town.

President Obama arrived at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana on Sunday, March 20, 4:50 p.m  and did a meet-and-greet at U.S. Embassy at 5:50 p.m.

Schedule for POTUS on Monday, March 21 (via usatoday):

• Wreath-laying and tour at the José Marti Memorial, 10:20 a.m.
• Official welcoming ceremony, Palace of the Revolution, 11 a.m.
• One-on-one meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, 11:30 a.m.
• Expanded meeting between U.S. and Cuban officials, 1 p.m.
• Statements to the press by Presidents Obama and Castro, 1:50 p.m.
• Entrepreneurship summit, 3:45 p.m.
• State Dinner at the Palace of the Revolution, 7:25 p.m.

For Tuesday, March 22:

• Address to the Cuban people at El Gran Teatro de Havana, morning
• Meeting with dissidents and civil society leaders, morning
• Baseball have between the Tampa Bay Rays at Cuban National Team at Estadio Latinoamericano, 2 p.m.
• Departure from Jose Marti International Airport en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, afternoon

 

 

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Photo of the Day: Diplomatic Security’s High Threat Operations Course

Posted: 12:35 am EDT
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Via state/gov/ds:

November 26, 2013:  Working under stressful and realistic conditions in the freezing rain, DS special agents and security protective specialists participate in an intense day of motorcade tactics training. They were the first to complete this block of instruction in the newly inaugurated High Threat Operations Course. Students practice “cross load” and “bail out” drills, where they simulate moving in tight formations to “get off the X” and bring a protectee to a more secure location. Above, lower left, the security detail comes under fire, and agents throw a smoke grenade to create concealment. These varied scenarios prepare them for similar situations they may encounter while operating in the field. (Source: U.S. Department of State)

Screen Shot

 

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Will ambassadorships become part of the horse trading for delegates this summer?

Posted: 12:32 am EDT
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According to Fox News, delegates become “unbound” and are free to support other contenders as soon as their candidate withdraws.

Rubio, in suspending his campaign after his home-state Florida loss, leaves 169 delegates behind. Ben Carson accrued eight delegates before he dropped out of the race, while Jeb Bush picked up four. Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul each picked up one in Iowa.

And if either Ted Cruz or John Kasich drop out in the weeks ahead — and Donald Trump still has not clinched the nomination with the necessary 1,237 delegates — additional zombie delegates could be in play in Cleveland.
[…]
They would become essentially free agents, prizes to be wooed by the candidates duking it out in Cleveland.
[…]
In the 1976 Republican convention, it was the unbound delegates moving toward President Gerald Ford instead of Ronald Reagan that handed Ford the nomination that year. Ford held a slight lead going into the convention, but was shy of an outright majority.In part by using the power of the White House, with promises of visits and patronage to woo over delegates, Ford won the nomination on the first ballot, by a slim 60 votes.

In addition to these “zombie” delegates, there are apparently also 112 Republican delegates who are “unbound” because their states and territories – North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, American Samoa and Guam – hold no primaries or caucuses. According to Real Clear Politics, delegates are chosen at state convention without reference to voters’ views on the presidential candidates.

Below is a link to a video clip with Ben Ginsberg, a Republican attorney who has served as counsel to the Republican National Committee and several presidential campaigns talking on MSNBC.  He explains what happens to Marco Rubio’s delegates now that the candidate has suspended his campaign, and the role that unbound delegates play in the Republican primary process. It looks like promises and patronage can play a big part in wooing over delegates. Will ambassadorships become part of the horse trading as candidates duke it out in Cleveland this summer?  Oh boy!  “A lot of ambassadorships out there and some 1500 Schedule C jobs.” See the great legal question and the answer.  Watch at the 1:59 mark.

The video can also be viewed here on MSNBC.

 

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