Confirmations: Bill Burns as CIA Director, Brian McKeon as State D/MR; Cancún Cruz Still a Hold on Sherman

 

On March 18, the U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote the following nominations:
  • Executive Calendar #28, William Joseph Burns, of Maryland, to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Executive Calendar #36, Brian P. McKeon, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
The nomination of Wendy Sherman to be Deputy Secretary of State remains pending on the Executive Calendar with the reported hold placed on her nomination by  Cancún Cruz, a senator who will forever be remembered as either one of the heroes of the January 6 insurrection or one who fled to Mexico while his state froze.


 

 

Mystery Illness: “a much larger scale and widespread attack against our diplomatic corps, and our families”

Following the publication of ARB on Havana Syndrome Response: Pray Tell, Who Was in Charge? and Oh ARB China, Where Art Thou?, we received the following in our inbox:
This is an interesting piece though it cites only 15 cases in China. I personally know of more cases involving people posted in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenyang. After the stories from Guangzhou broke, there was strong suppression by the Department in China. And yes, family members, including children, were victims of attacks.
This is a much larger scale and widespread attack against our diplomatic corps, and our families, than is being acknowledged and reported. If I hadn’t been so naive about the department’s willingness to take care of those injured and push to stop the attacks, I would have better documented all of the information I was coming across.
Please know that there are many more, in cities across China, that were attacked.
We asked a separate source who was acutely familiar of these attacks and he/she confirmed that there were attacks beyond Guangzhou in China and that there was suppression of information about the attacks in China by the State Department.
Also, what if Patient Zero in Havana, a CIA employee widely accepted to have been injured in December 2016 was not the  first attack?
What if an individual who served at an affected country had a mystery illness much earlier that doctors could not figure out?
There is a story there.
And what about foreign nationals injured in these attacks? This separate source told us:
“State knows that foreign nationals have been affected but has covered this up….There were certainly Chinese nationals injured in China and certain career officials at State know this very well and have gone to great lengths to cover up and suppress this.”
There are stories that still need to be told.
It would be so wrong and disgraceful to allow individuals to deal with this illness on their own.
On February 24, CNN reported that the CIA has set up its first-ever task force to focus on suspected microwave attacks on intelligence officers and diplomats:
“Sources familiar with the ongoing investigations out of the separate US agencies — including the CIA, the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the State Department — say that a major impediment to their efficacy is the fact that they are largely siloed efforts. Interagency coordination has been limited, in part due to the highly classified nature of some details and the privacy restrictions of health records, and that has hampered progress.
It is not clear if the Biden administration will bring the multiple investigations of these suspected microwave attacks under one roof, but officials at the National Security Council are discussing that possibility, two sources familiar with the discussions told CNN. “
Our government needs to get rid of the darn silos. It needs a real inter-agency investigation to get a full accounting of what happened. They also need to expand their timeline to 6-12 months earlier than the first reported incidents, and include any mystery illness reported by employees across the globe.
Just as important as learning about what happened, and about the government’s response  — how will our people be protected against the next attacks?

 


 

 

Havana Syndrome: @StateDept Says Investigation “Ongoing and Is a High Priority”

We recently posted ARB on Havana Syndrome Response: Pray Tell, Who Was in Charge?.  While reading that report, we requested an update from the State Department on actions the Secretary of State took in response to the ARB report. We were also interested in learning about any outstanding issues from the ARB Havana Report not addressed under the previous administration, and what actions Secretary Blinken intend to do to fully address the recommendations of the ARB Board.  And we were very interested if WHA, EUR, EAP and the Secretariat had been tasked with putting together a full timeline and lessons learned based on the official State Department response to the Havana syndrome incidents in Havana, Guangzhou and Tashkent?
So far, under new management, Foggy Bottom has responded to our inquiry.  The following is a response from a State Department spokesperson:

We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. personnel, their families, and other U.S. citizens.

The U.S. Government is working to determine what happened to our staff and their families and to ensure the well-being and health of our officials going forward. That investigation is ongoing and is a high priority.

Secretary Blinken requested a comprehensive briefing on the issue during the transition, and he has received updates during his time in office. He has made clear that this is a priority for him, and those updates will continue on a regular basis.

The Department established an interagency task force to coordinate the U.S. government’s response to these incidents in May 2018. To reassert the Department’s leadership and responsibility for U.S. government personnel overseas, this week we elevated the coordinator role to a senior level position so that a high-level official will be empowered to advise senior Department leadership, coordinate the Department’s interagency response to the health security incidents, and provide continuing support to affected personnel.  This advisor will be positioned in a senior role and report directly to the Department’s senior leadership to ensure that we continue to make significant strides to address this issue and to ensure our people are receiving the treatment they need.

We will have additional details on this new role in the coming days.

We’ll be in the lookout!

 

 

@StateDept’s Mystery Illness: The “It Depends” Treatment of Injured Personnel

Via NYT:

According to a whistle-blower complaint filed by Mr. Lenzi, the State Department took action only after Ms. Werner’s visiting mother, an Air Force veteran, used a device to record high levels of microwave radiation in her daughter’s apartment. The mother also fell ill. That May, American officials held a meeting to reassure U.S. officers in Guangzhou that Ms. Werner’s sickness appeared to be an isolated case.
[…]
But Mr. Lenzi, a diplomatic security officer, wrote in a memo to the White House that his supervisor insisted on using inferior equipment to measure microwaves in Ms. Werner’s apartment, calling it a “check-the-box exercise.”

“They didn’t find anything, because they didn’t want to find anything,” Mr. Lenzi said.

He sent an email warning American diplomats in China that they might be in danger. His superiors sent a psychiatrist to evaluate him and gave him an official “letter of admonishment,” Mr. Lenzi said.

Months after he began reporting symptoms of brain injury, he and his family were medically evacuated to the University of Pennsylvania.
[…]

The State Department labeled only one China officer as having the “full constellation” of symptoms consistent with the Cuba cases: Ms. Werner, the first evacuee. In an internal letter, the department said 15 others in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing had some symptoms and clinical findings “similar to those” in Cuba, but it had not determined they were suffering from “Havana syndrome.”

Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania said they did not share individual brain scans with the State Department, so the government lacked necessary information to rule out brain injuries in China.

“It seems to me and my doctors that State does not want any additional cases from China,” Mr. Garfield wrote, “regardless of the medical findings.”

Libyan National in 2012 Benghazi Terrorist Attack Sentenced to More Than 19 Years in Prison

 

On October 31, 2017, we posted about the capture of Libyan national Mustafa al-Imam by U.S. special forces in Misrata, on the north coast of Libya. He was alleged to be involved in the 2012 deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.  An unnamed official told the AP at that time that the suspect was taken to a U.S. Navy ship at the Misrata port for transport to the United States. (see Libyan National Charged in 2012 Attack on U.S. Special Mission and Annex in #Benghazi).  On June 17, 2019, DOJ announced that hel was found guilty of terrorism charges in the 2012 attack of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi. (see Libyan National Mustafa al-Imam Found Guilty of Terrorism Charges in 2012 Benghazi Attack (June 24, 2019).
On January 23, 2020, DOJ announced that Mustafa Al-Imam was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison. See below:

Mustafa Al-Imam Sentenced to More than 19 Years in Prison for September 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, Libya

Mustafa al-Imam, a 47-year-old Libyan national, was sentenced today to 236 months in prison on federal terrorism charges and other offenses stemming from the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Special Mission and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya.  Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. government personnel Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty died in the attack.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu, Jay Tabb, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office.

“We have not rested in our efforts to bring to justice those involved in the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, which led to the death of four courageous Americans – Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Ambassador Christopher Stevens – and we never will,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Those responsible for these crimes must be held accountable.  I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors – and all of their partners in the U.S. government – who are responsible for this important investigation.”

“Today’s sentence demonstrates the United States’ continuing commitment to pursue justice against those who commit terrorist acts against the United States no matter how far we must go or how long it takes. Mustafa al-Imam played an important role in the terrorist attack that destroyed the U.S. Mission and the CIA Annex in Benghazi,” said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue justice against all those who murdered these four American heroes and who seriously injured our personnel defending these U.S. facilities overseas.”

“The tragic loss of four American lives in the Benghazi attacks will never be forgotten and today’s sentencing of Mustafa al-Imam is an important reminder of that,” said Jay Tabb, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “The FBI is committed to investigate and bring to justice all individuals involved in acts of terrorism against U.S. facilities or citizens and will use the full range of our resources to pursue such cases.”

“Mustafa al-Imam played a significant role in the 2012 Benghazi attack, one that ultimately claimed American lives,” said Assistant Director William F. Sweeney, Jr. “While nothing will ever change the outcome of this horrific event, today’s sentencing is a reminder that the safety of Americans—whether at home or abroad, civilian or otherwise—will always be our top priority. If you commit an act of terrorism, we will find you and bring you to justice.”

Al-Imam was captured in Libya on Oct. 29, 2017, and brought to the United States to face trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  He was found guilty by a jury on June 13, 2019, following a six-week trial, of one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists and one count of maliciously destroying and injuring dwellings and property, and placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States. He was sentenced by the Honorable Christopher R. Cooper.

According to the government’s evidence, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, a group of extremists, armed with AK-47 rifles, grenades, and other weapons, swept into the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, setting fires and breaking into buildings.  During that violence, Ambassador Stevens, Mr. Smith, and Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Special Agent Scott Wickland valiantly tried to protect themselves when the attackers stormed into the Ambassador’s residence, sheltering in a secure area.  However, when the attackers could not gain entry to the secure area, the attackers set fire to the residence.  Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith suffocated from the thick, black smoke that enveloped the residence.  Special Agent Wickland, who tried to guide them to safety, was injured and repeatedly took small arms fire while trying to rescue Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith.

Al-Imam arrived at the Mission shortly after the attack began, accompanying Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the leader of an extremist militia named Ubaydah bin Jarrah and one of the planners of the attack.  During the attack on the Mission, al-Imam maintained contact with Khatallah in a series of cellphone calls, including an 18-minute phone call that took place during the height of the attack.  Members of Ubaydah bin Jarrah, as well as other extremist groups, were caught on surveillance video attacking the Mission.  After the American security personnel withdrew from the Mission, al-Imam, Khatallah, several UBJ members, and other extremists entered the Mission’s office and removed sensitive information, including maps and other documents related to the location of the CIA’s Annex in Benghazi.  

Following the attack at the Mission, in the early hours of Sept. 12, 2012, the violence continued at the CIA Annex, first with gunfire and then with a precision mortar attack.  While defending the Annex, Mr. Woods, Mr. Doherty, DSS Special Agent David Ubben, and CIA security specialist Mark Tiegen were hit by a precision mortar attack, leading to the deaths of Mr. Woods and Mr. Doherty.  Special Agent Ubben and Mr. Tiegen were seriously wounded but survived.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s New York Field Office with substantial assistance from various other government agencies, including the Department of Defense and the two victim agencies, the CIA and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. The National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section provided significant assistance.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Cummings and Karen Seifert of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.  Assistance was provided by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Coleman and Jolie Zimmerman, Paralegal Specialist Donna Galindo, detailed Paralegal Specialist Ashley Davis, Intelligence Research Special Dustin Powell, contract Document Management Analyst Michael Watts, Victim-Witness Advocates Yvonne Bryant, Tonya Jones, Laverne Perry and Wanda Queen, and Litigation Technology Chief Leif Hickling. Earlier stages of the prosecution were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiLorenzo and former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Opher Shweiki and Julieanne Himelstein.

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Libyan National Mustafa al-Imam Found Guilty of Terrorism Charges in 2012 Benghazi Attack

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On June 17, DOJ announced that a Libyan national was found guilty of terrorism charges in the 2012 attack of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi.

Casualties in the US Consulate Benghazi attacks: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Management Officer Sean Smith, security personnel and former Navy SEALs, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty

Excerpt from announcement:

Mustafa al-Imam, a Libyan national approximately 48 years old, was found guilty of terrorism charges for his participation in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya.  Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. government personnel Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in the attack at the Mission and the nearby Annex in Benghazi.
[…]
Al-Imam was captured in Libya on Oct. 29, 2017.  He was found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists and maliciously destroying and injuring a dwelling and placing lives in jeopardy by a jury on June 13, 2019.  The former charge is punishable by up to a maximum of 15 years in prison, while the latter charge is punishable by up to a maximum of 20 years in prison. The jury failed to reach a verdict on 15 other charged counts, leading the court to declare a mistrial on June 17, 2019.  The government has not yet announced whether it plans to retry Al-Imam on the remaining counts.  The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes.  The sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court after considering the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The trial began with opening statements on May 8, 2019, before a jury in the courtroom of the Honorable Judge Christopher R. Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Over the next four weeks, the government presented testimony from 27 witnesses.  The witnesses included those who were wounded in the attack, as well as others who survived the attacks.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s New York Field Office with substantial assistance from various other government agencies, including the Department of Defense and the two victim agencies, the CIA and the Department of State.

Read the full statement here.

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Thanksgiving 2018

 

 

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Ex-CIA Sabrina de Sousa Granted Partial Pardon by Italian President Mattarella

Posted: 2:19 am  ET
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We’ve followed the case of Sabrina de Sousa in this blog since 2009. She previously worked as an FSO for the State Department from 1998 to 2009. In a July 2013 interview with McClatchyDC, Ms. De Sousa confirmed that she worked under cover for the CIA in Milan, Italy.

 

According to the Guardian, the office of Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued a statement late Tuesday saying that De Sousa had been granted a partial pardon. It means a reduction of her four-year sentence of detention by one year.  The statement cited by media reports indicate that De Sousa “would be able to serve her sentence with “alternative measures” to detention, meaning that she could avoid spending any time in jail.”

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