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US Embassy Kinshasa Now on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Family Members of USG Employees

Posted: 1:20 am ET

 

On September 29, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It also announced the evacuation of family members of U.S. Government employees assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa. Below is an excerpt:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of continued instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The potential for civil unrest is high in parts of Kinshasa and other major cities.  As a result of the deteriorating security situation, family members of U.S. government personnel have been ordered to leave the country beginning September 29.  Most official U.S. government travel to the DRC has been halted.  The U.S. Embassy is able to provide limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in the DRC.  This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 8, 2016.

On September 19 and 20, violent clashes around the election process erupted between security forces and demonstrators, resulting in the loss of life and the destruction of property. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the country and poor security conditions make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa. 

Armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces continue to operate in:

  • North Kivu
  • South Kivu
  • Bas-Uele
  • Haut-Uele
  • Ituri
  • Tanganyika
  • Haut-Lomami

These groups kill, rape, kidnap, pillage, steal vehicles, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians can be indiscriminately targeted. Kidnapping for ransom is common, particularly in areas north and west of Goma, North Kivu. Congolese military and United Nations forces operate throughout North and South Kivu and near the DRC’s borders with the Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park. Travelers in the region may encounter troop movements, armored vehicles and attack helicopters.

Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly trained security forces at official and unofficial roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country, especially near government buildings and installations in Kinshasa. Be cautious if you are stopped by security forces. Requests for bribes are extremely common, and security forces have occasionally injured or killed people who refuse to pay. In the past year, several U.S. citizens have been illegally detained by government forces or robbed of their valuables while being searched.

Read in full here.

Plus this:

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Congress Overturns Obama Veto, Blames Obama For Not Telling Elected Morons of “Potential Consequences”

Posted: 3:43 pm ET

 

Back in April 2016, the NYT did a piece about Saudi Arabia warning of economic fallout if Congress passes the 9/11 bill. Secretary Kerry and top officials from State and the Pentagon warned Congress of potential legal jeopardy for Americans overseas if countries counter with retaliatory legislations:

Obama administration officials counter that weakening the sovereign immunity provisions would put the American government, along with its citizens and corporations, in legal risk abroad because other nations might retaliate with their own legislation. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate panel in February that the bill, in its current form, would “expose the United States of America to lawsuits and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent.”
[…]
In a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on March 4, Anne W. Patterson, an assistant secretary of state, and Andrew Exum, a top Pentagon official on Middle East policy, told staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that American troops and civilians could be in legal jeopardy if other nations decide to retaliate and strip Americans of immunity abroad. They also discussed the Saudi threats specifically, laying out the impacts if Saudi Arabia made good on its economic threats.

President Obama wrote a letter to the Congress explaining the potential consequences of the 9/11 bill.

President Obama said that his opposition to JASTA is based primarily on its potential impact on the United States. No, it’s not because he’s a Muslim.  The sovereign immunity principles protect all nations but the United States, more than any other country in the world, is active in a lot more places. As we’ve pointed out previously, the State Department has diplomatic and consular presence in over 280 locations worldwide, and the U.S. military has 662 known military overseas bases in 38 foreign countries. In short, the sovereign immunity protection benefits the United States more than any other country in the world.

The CIA director said that “the principle of sovereign immunity protects US officials every day, and is rooted in reciprocity.”  If we don’t afford this protection to other countries, other countries will not afford this same protection to American citizens, or the U.S. government overseas.

The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington D.C., understandably has the best collection of those who called on Congress warning of potential consequences of the 9/11 bill. Let’s borrow the following infographic depicting General Dunford. His letter is also appended below:

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter warned of potential consequences:

Former top government officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations warned of potential consequences:

The Senate and the House went and voted for it anyway.

Even if they know that there are serious potential consequences for our country down the road.

So 97 senators voted for the bill.  Then 28 of those senators wrote a letter saying they’ll work to “mitigate” its unintended consequences. They did not say how. Only that they’ll work on it.

Except that they’ve gone home to campaign.  The Senate will meet 15 times between now and November 15 but all those will be pro forma meetings with no business conducted.

So, the override has now angered some countries. Surprise.

But before they all left home for their break — the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate stood before the cameras to blame President Obama — who vetoed the bill — for failure to communicate the “potential consequences.”

President Obama on CNN:

The veto override was a political vote, is there any doubt? The only senator who voted “no” was the one not running for re-election.  Not only was it a political vote, it appears that they passed a bill that opened a can of worms, throw chaos to the wind, put our people and global interests at risks, and appears toothless as heck from the looks of it.

Just Security’s Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) who is also a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law writes that “even if a plaintiff could obtain a judgment against a foreign sovereign like Saudi Arabia under the Senate-passed version of JASTA (that is, if they somehow avoid a perpetual stay), they would still have a devil of a time executing that judgment (and would have to base such execution on a different waiver of attachment immunity).” Read his long primer on JASTA and his piece, The Senate Killed JASTA, Then Passed It… which discusses the changes between the original bill and the version approved by the Congress.

Why perpetual stay? Because it says so in the bill that our elected representatives  passed:

screen-shot-2016-09

 

A stay that can last 180 days, which can be renewed for addition 180 days and can be recertified to provide additional extensions to the stays.  These cases could potentially just go on forever, wouldn’t it? So the 9/11 families’ court cases could be in perpetual stay in U.S. courts but that would not preclude other countries from inacting retaliatory legislations against the United States.

Today, this happened. The case is DeSimone v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 16-cv-1944, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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Philippine Foreign Minister Wears Out Shoes From Walking Back #DuterteHarry’s Comments

Posted: 1:20 am ET

 

The media has taken to calling the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte as “Duterte Harry” after Hollywood’s Dirty Harry.  The Guardian says that the Philippine president is exploiting the rivalry of China and the US to wage a ‘ war on drugs’ that is cover for a tide of extrajudicial killings. A Philippine newspaper is now attempting to document the names and other particulars of the casualties in the Duterte administration’s war on crime with a KILL LIST.  The list  is updated every Monday and Thursday.

One day, President Duterte told reporters that the military exercise next month with U.S. troops will be the last. His Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay had to walk it back the following day. Another day, he told reporters that he is “about to cross the Rubicon” with the U.S. and FM Yasay had to play it down.

Within the last 24 hours, President Duterte has also accused the CIA of planning to kill him.

As if that’s not enough to break the foreign ministry’s news traffic, he apparently has now likened himself to Hitler and wants to kill millions of drug users. Below according to Reuters:

Noting that Hitler had murdered millions of Jews, Duterte said: “There are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them.

“If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,” he said, pausing and pointing to himself.

Holy caramba!

Read through the tweets below, and take this as fair warning for November.

Let’s hear it from the Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay:

FM Yasay playing the let’s downplay this Rubicon crap, shall we?

Here is President Duterte getting potty-mouth with the European Union, though attempting to be civilized, he only  used  “F” not the word.

Here is FM Yasay trying to calm the waters:

Now, Duterte Harry  has reportedly received reports that the CIA is planning to kill him.  Yup, the CIA.

FM Yasay may have to hire creative writers for his shop in Manila to help him explain the Philippine president’s often intemperate comments.  And he may need new pairs of shoes for all the walking back he has to do in the next fews years.

And because telling reporters that the CIA is out to kill you is not exciting enough for the news cycle, let’s see how Duterte Harry will top that? He brought up, Hitler, because why not?

Apparently, investors did not like what they were hearing. And that was before the Hitler comment.

 

 

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Senate Confirmations: Bitter, Kim, Young, Symington, Donovan

Posted: 1:38 am ET

 

The U.S. Senate confirmed the following ambassador nominations on Wednesday, September 28. Five nominations included in SFRC’s business meeting on September 27 did not make it to the full Senate vote (see bottom list).  About 17 other ambassador nominations and FS lists are currently pending in committee and do not have scheduled hearings as of this writing.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Executive Calendar #728
Rena Bitter – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Executive Calendar #729
Sung Y. Kim – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of the Philippines

Executive Calendar #730
Andrew Robert Young – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to Burkina Faso

Executive Calendar #731
W. Stuart Symington – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Executive Calendar #732
Joseph R. Donovan Jr. – to be Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Indonesia

 

UNITED NATIONS

Executive Calendar #733
Christopher Coons – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

Executive Calendar #734
Ronald H. Johnson – to be Representative of the United States of America to the Seventy-first Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

 

Waiting for full Senate vote:

The following nomination and FS lists were in the agenda of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but appear not to make it through the full Senate vote. Note that the hyperlinked lists are those posted in the Senate’s Executive Calendar.

Ms. Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Malaysia

Jorge A. Abudei, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1704), as amended — (PN1704-2)

John Robert Adams, et al., dated September 6, 2016 (PN 1705) – (PN1705)

Jennisa Paredes, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1643), as amended — (PN1643-2)

Diana Isabel Acosta, et al., dated July 13, 2016 (PN 1642), as amended — (PN1642-2)

 

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Obama’s Career Ambassadorship Appointments: Highest on Record at 70.8% #ThanksObama

Posted: 1:09 am ET

 

According to @Philip Arsenault who has done a lot of good work using presidential records to track the ambassadorial appointees going back to FDR, President Obama appointed to-date the highest number of career diplomats as ambassadors at 70.8%, and the lowest number of non-career political appointees at 29.2%.

The political ambassadorships during Obama’s two terms amount to 29.2% of his total appointments, which is lower than President Carter, previously the lowest on record at 30.8%.

AFSA’s ambassadorship tracker has different numbers but we’ve stopped using the group’s ambassador statistics since 2015.  See our write up on AFSA’s Ambassador Statistics here and why we find its data problematic.

 

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Congress Overturns Obama Veto of 9/11 Bill –There Goes Our Billion Dollar US Embassy in Baghdad #JASTA

Posted: 3:19 pm ET

Congress has overturned President Obama’s veto of S.2040 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. Here is a quick sumary of the bill:

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

This bill amends the federal judicial code to narrow the scope of foreign sovereign immunity by authorizing U.S. courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, death, or damages that occur inside the United States as a result of a tort, including an act of terrorism, committed anywhere by a foreign state or official.

It amends the federal criminal code to permit civil claims against a foreign state or official for injuries, death, or damages from an act of international terrorism. Additionally, the bill authorizes federal courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over and impose liability on a person who commits, or aids, abets, or conspires to commit, an act of international terrorism against a U.S. national.

Of course, sovereign immunity does not just apply to other countries like Saudi Arabia, it is also afforded the United States in other countries.  A senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Vox that “If you breach a state’s sovereign immunity, then the argument against your own sovereign immunity being breached is weaker.” Also:

As one hypothetical example, the Iraqi government could pass a law allowing its citizens to sue the US government for damages they suffered during the Iraq war. And if the US lost the lawsuit in the Iraqi courts, Gartenstein-Ross explained, the Iraqi government would legally be able to seize US assets in the country to pay the victims.

There goes our billion dollar embassy in Baghdad. Not to mention diplomatic posts in over 280 locations and 662 military overseas bases in 38 foreign countries.

Click here (PDF) for a good read on the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act from the Federal Judicial Center.

And now this:

We could not locate the Congressional Research Service’s paper on JASTA but here is one on the specific claims against Saudi Arabia defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) that you might find useful.

 

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Obama Nominates Career Diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis — First Ambassador to Cuba Since 1960

Posted: 1:12 pm ET

 

On September 27, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in over 50 years:

President Obama said, “Today, I am proud to nominate Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis to be the first U.S. Ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years. Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, and the appointment of an ambassador is a common sense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries. There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests in Cuba than Jeff.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Jeff has extensive experience in Cuba and Latin America.  He has served as our Chief of Mission in Havana since August 2014, and was posted to Havana twice before.  Jeff is already working with Cuba on issues that advance U.S. national interests, such as law enforcement, counternarcotics, environmental protection, combatting trafficking in persons, expanding commercial and agricultural opportunities, and cooperation in science and health.  He engages broadly with the Cuban people and expresses the United States’ strong support for universal values and human rights in Cuba.  Jeff also has extensive experience working with the United Nations.  During his most recent service at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations he served for three years as Ambassador, Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs.  Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government.  He is exactly the type of person we want to represent the United States in Cuba, and we only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an Ambassador.  If confirmed by the Senate, I know Jeff will build on the changes he helped bring about to better support the Cuban people and advance America’s interests.

The WH released the following bio of the nominee:

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, a position he has held since 2015.  He served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba from 2014 to 2015.  Prior to that, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Ambassador and Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from 2011 to 2014.  Prior to that posting, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Ambassador DeLaurentis was previously Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and Security Council Coordinator at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  Since beginning his State Department career in 1991, Ambassador DeLaurentis has served in a number of overseas posts, including twice before in Havana, first as consular officer from 1991 to 1993, then as Political-Economic Section Chief from 1999 to 2002.  He also served as Political Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, and Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.  In Washington, Ambassador DeLaurentis served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Director of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council, and as an International Relations Officer in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.  Prior to entering the Foreign Service, he held a senior staff position at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Ambassador DeLaurentis received a B.S. from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and an M.A. from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

According to history.state.gov, the United States remained in Cuba as an occupying power following the defeat of Spain in 1898, until the Republic of Cuba was formally installed on May 19, 1902. On May 20, 1902, the United States relinquished its occupation authority over Cuba, but claimed a continuing right to intervene in Cuba.  Diplomatic relations and the U.S. Legation in Havana were established on May 27, 1902, when U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Herbert Goldsmith Squiers presented his credentials to the Government of the Republic of Cuba. He served until December 2, 1905.

Following an act of Congress, the U.S. Legation in Havana, Cuba, was raised to Embassy status on February 10, 1923, when General Enoch H. Crowder was appointed Ambassador. He served until May 28, 1927.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 3, 1961, citing unwarranted action by the Government of Cuba that placed crippling limitations on the ability of the United States Mission to carry on its normal diplomatic and consular functions.

On September 1, 1977, the United States established an Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy.  On July 20, 2015, the United States and Cuba resumed diplomatic relations when both countries elevated their respective Interests Sections to Embassy status. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to the date for these actions in an exchange of letters dated June 30, 2015.

Between 1977 to 2015, 14 principal officers served at the Interest Section in Havana, including Ambassador DeLaurentis whose position was elevated to Chargé d’Affaires ad interim on July 20, 2015 when diplomatic relations were restored.

The last Senate-confirmed ambassador prior to the break in diplomatic relations was Philip Wilson Bonsal (1903–1995). He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from March 3, 1959–October 28, 1960.   Daniel McCoy Braddock (1906–1980) served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim until January 1961.

So if/when the Senate considers Ambassador DeLaurentis’ nomination, it will be the first time that they’ll do so since 1960.

 

Notable reactions, some with consequences to the confirmation of this nomination in the U.S. Senate.

 

Related Posts:

Stupefied: How the best and the brightest learn to switch off their brains at the office door

Posted: 11:57 am ET

 

André Spicer is professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London, where he specialises in political dynamics, organisational culture and employee identity. His latest book, together with Mats Alvesson, is The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work (2016). The following is an excerpt from his piece Stupefied on how organisations enshrine collective stupidity and how employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door.  The article was originally published in Aeon [http://aeon.co].

Organisations hire smart people, but then positively encourage them not to use their intelligence. Asking difficult questions or thinking in greater depth is seen as a dangerous waste. Talented employees quickly learn to use their significant intellectual gifts only in the most narrow and myopic ways.

Those who learn how to switch off their brains are rewarded. By avoiding thinking too much, they are able to focus on getting things done. Escaping the kind of uncomfortable questions that thinking brings to light also allows employees to side-step conflict with co-workers. By toeing the corporate line, thoughtless employees get seen as ‘leadership material’ and promoted. Smart people quickly learn that getting ahead means switching off their brains as soon as they step into the office.

Sounds familiar?  For those interested in further reading, the author co-published a study on a A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations with Mats Alvesson in the Journal of Management Studies in 2012.  The abstract is here; the full article is available for a fee here.

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Clinton v. Trump: Debate Reactions From Around the World, See Who’s Laughing Now

Posted: 3:51 am ET

Here’s a bonus:

And see? The Canadians are just making fun of us now, America. Register to vote today.

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@StateDept Terminates Evacuation Orders For U.S. Mission Turkey

Posted: 1:51 am ET

 

On September 23, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Turkey urging American citizens to carefully consider the risks of travel in the country. The notice also informs the public of the termination of the evacuation orders for family members of USG employees posted in Turkey:

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the  country. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the September 23, 2016 decision to end the authorization for the voluntary departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, which was made following the July 15, 2016 attempted coup. In addition, effective September 24, 2016, the Department of State is ending the ordered departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. government civilians in Izmir. The Department of State will authorize employed adult dependents (21 year or older) of employees to return to Adana.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey at this time. The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing State of Emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of U.S. citizens in Turkey. Delays securing consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, continue.

Just a couple of days  prior to the Travel Warning, the US Embassy in Ankara issued a security message saying that there were reports of a police investigation into a terror cell in Gaziantep.  The information suggests the terrorists are possibly targeting shopping centers, Starbucks, Big Chef Restaurants and or other businesses catering to Western customers.   U.S. citizens in Gaziantep are advised to exercise caution when patronizing these sorts of businesses and to avoid them if possible.

 

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