Yemen Non-Evacuation: Court Refuses to Second-Guess Discretionary Foreign Policy Decisions

Posted: 4:38 am ET

The State Department’s Yemen Crisis page notes that due to deteriorating situation, it suspended embassy operations on February 11, 2015, and U.S. Embassy Sana’a American staff were relocated out of the country.  “All consular services, routine and emergency, continue to be suspended until further notice. The Department notified the public of this move, and its impact on consular services, and urged U.S. citizens in Yemen to depart while commercial transportation was available.”

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa went on mandatory evacuation in May 2011 (see US Embassy Yemen Now on Ordered Departure), and again in August 2013 (see US Embassy Yemen Now on Ordered Departure) and November 2014 (see US Embassy Yemen on Ordered Departure Once Again). In July 2014, the State Department issued a Travel Warning, see New Travel Warning for Yemen — Don’t Come; If In Country, Leave! But Some Can’t Leave).

See our other posts:

The case below was filed on April 9, 2015 by a Nora Ali Mobarez, a United States citizen residing in Yemen.  She was joined by “25 other people, all of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents with Yemeni connections” in filing a cases against the Secretaries of State and Defense and seeking a court order to “compel Defendants to comply with an alleged duty of the Executive Branch to provide a means of evacuation from Yemen for them or their relatives.”

Excerpt from the Memorandum of Opinion dated May 17, 2016 by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:

Plaintiff Nora Ali Mobarez, a United States citizen, is currently residing in the war-torn and conflict-ridden Republic of Yemen. (See Compl., ECF No. 2, ¶¶ 4, 55– 59.) Mobarez has joined with 25 other people, all of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents with Yemeni connections, to file the instant official-capacity complaint against the Secretary of the Department of State (“State”) and the Secretary of the Department of Defense (“DOD” and, collectively, “Defendants”). These plaintiffs seek a court order to compel Defendants to comply with an alleged duty of the Executive Branch to provide a means of evacuation from Yemen for them or their relatives. (See id. ¶¶ 3–24, 29–77.) Specifically, their complaint asserts that the United States has closed its embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, has evacuated embassy staff, and has removed Marines from the country, but that the U.S. government has yet to execute any plan to secure the safe removal of private American citizens. (See id. ¶¶ 34–36, 77.) According to Plaintiffs, Defendants’ forbearance violates the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701–06, insofar as Defendants “have failed to provide through direct military assistance or contracting with commercial entities the necessary equipment, ships, airplanes, and other items that are available to Defendants to [e]nsure the security, safety, and well-being of United States citizens[,]” and have therefore “unlawfully withheld and/or unreasonably delayed agency action to which the Plaintiffs are entitled” and/or “have taken action that is arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law[.]” (Id. ¶ 81.)

Before this Court at present is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the instant complaint. (See Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.’ Mot.”), ECF No. 8.) Defendants contend that Plaintiffs are wrong about the existence of any duty to evacuate them. (See Defs.’ Reply in Supp. of Defs.’ Mot. (“Reply”), ECF No. 12, at 6–8.)1 Furthermore, as a threshold matter, Defendants insist that legal claims such as the ones Plaintiffs bring here require the judiciary to second-guess the discretionary foreign- policy decisions of the Executive Branch, and thus, are nonjusticiable under the political-question doctrine. (See Defs.’ Mem. in Supp. of Defs.’ Mot. (“Defs.’ Mem.”), ECF No. 8-1, at 12–14.)

On March 31, 2016, this Court issued an order GRANTING Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint. (See Order, ECF No. 13.) The instant Memorandum Opinion explains the Court’s reasons for that order. In short, the Court agrees with Defendants’ justiciability argument, and has therefore concluded that it lacks jurisdiction to entertain Plaintiffs’ complaint.
[…]
Plaintiffs have asked this Court, in no uncertain terms, to issue an order that compels the Executive Branch to conduct an evacuation of American citizens in Yemen. Not surprisingly, Defendants insist that any such order would impermissibly encroach upon the discretion that the Constitution affords to the political branches to conduct foreign affairs; therefore, prior to considering Defendants’ contention that Plaintiffs’ complaint fails to state a claim under the APA, this Court must first determine whether or not it has the authority to traverse the thicket of thorny foreign-policy issues that encompasses Plaintiffs’ allegations. Precedent in this area makes it crystal clear that federal courts cannot answer “political questions” that are presented to them in the guise of legal issues, see infra Part III.A., but identifying which claims qualify as nonjusticiable political questions—and which do not—can sometimes be a substantially less lucid endeavor. Not so here: as explained below, after considering the parties’ arguments and the applicable law regarding the boundaries of the political-question doctrine, this Court is confident that Plaintiffs’ claims fit well within the scope of the nonjusticiability principles that the Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit have long articulated. Accordingly, in its Order of March 31, 2016, the Court granted Defendants’ motion and dismissed Plaintiffs’ case.
[…]
It cannot be seriously disputed that “decision-making in the fields of foreign policy and national security is textually committed to the political branches of government.” Schneider, 412 F.3d at 194; see also id. at 194–95 (collecting the various explicit “[d]irect allocation[s]” in the Constitution of those responsibilities to the legislative and executive branches). And, indeed, Plaintiffs seek to have this Court question the Executive Branch’s discretionary decision to refrain from using military force to implement an evacuation under the circumstances described in the complaint, despite the fact that, per the Constitution, it is the President who, as head of the Executive Branch and “Commander in Chief[,]” U.S. Const. Art. II, § 2, decides whether and when to deploy military forces, not this Court. See El-Shifa, 607 F.3d at 842 (explaining that a claim “requiring [the court] to decide whether taking military action was wise” is a nonjusticiable “policy choice[] and value determination[]” (second and third alterations in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

Plaintiffs’ suggestion that the court-ordered remedy they seek could very well stop short of a direct mandate for military intervention (see Pls.’ Opp’n at 15 (asserting that “[t]his Court can order Defendants to [effectuate the evacuation] by simply directing the evacuation to happen and leaving it to Defendants to determine the means”)) makes no difference, as far as the political-question doctrine is concerned. Regardless, the clear basis for the complaint’s assertion that Plaintiffs are entitled to any relief at all is the contention that the Executive Branch has abused its discretion— in APA terms—in refusing to evacuate U.S. citizens from Yemen thus far (see, e.g., Compl. ¶ 81), and the Court’s evaluation of that contention would necessarily involve second-guessing the “wisdom” of these agencies’ discretionary determinations.
[…]
[T]he “strategic choices directing the nation’s foreign affairs are constitutionally committed to the political branches[,]” and once it becomes clear that a plaintiff wishes the courts to “reconsider the wisdom of discretionary foreign policy decisions[,]” the judicial inquiry must end.

Read the Memorandum of Opinion here (PDF) or read below:

 

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Amb. to Seoul Mark Lippert Gets an F-16 Ride Over South Korean Airspace, DPRK Reacts

Posted: 3:01 am ET

 

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Ex-Fox News Commentator/CIA Impostor Sentenced to 33 Months in Prison For Fraud

Posted: 3:27 am ET

We’ve previously posted about this case here: Ex-Fox News Commentator Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Dents Benghazi Cottage Industry. On July 15, USDOJ announced that Wayne Shelby Simmons was sentenced  to 33 months in prison “for major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.” The sentence also includes three years of supervised release, forfeiture of two firearms and $175,612 in criminal proceeds, and restitution to his victims.

Via USDOJ | CIA Imposter Sentenced to Prison for Fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former Fox News commentator who has falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.  Simmons was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release, to forfeit two firearms and $175,612 in criminal proceeds, and to pay restitution to his victims.

“Wayne Simmons is a fraud,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Simmons has no military or intelligence background, or any skills relevant to the positions he attained through his frauds.  He is quite simply a criminal and a con man, and his fraud had the potential to endanger national security and put American lives at risk in Afghanistan.   I want to thank the agents and prosecutors for their efforts on this complicated case.”

“With this sentencing, Simmons now faces the consequences of his criminal activity, deceit, and dishonesty,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “He fraudulently obtained positions with the U.S. government by lying about his previous employment and history, and further, defrauded a victim through a bogus real estate investment scheme. Simmons abused people’s trust for his own selfish gain, and in doing so placed lives at risk and jeopardized national security.”

“Mr. Simmons never worked at CIA and we are pleased that justice was served in this case,” said Dean Boyd, Director of CIA’s Office of Public Affairs.

Simmons pleaded guilty on April 29.  According to court documents, Simmons defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program, in 2009 when he attempted to obtain work with the State Department’s Worldwide Protective Service, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence advisor on the International Security Assistance Force’s Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT).  To obtain these positions and the security clearances they required, Simmons made false statements about his financial, employment, and criminal history, including that he had worked for the CIA, that he had previously possessed a top secret security clearance, and that his prior criminal convictions related to his supposed clandestine work.  In order to obtain the CAAT position, Simmons also lied about the nature of the work he had done just a year earlier with the Human Terrain Systems program, a program from which he had been forced to resign prior to deployment.  The government’s investigation determined that Simmons was never associated with the CIA in any capacity and that during the years he claims to have worked for the agency, he was instead working in a variety of capacities and having various run-ins with the law.  His work activities from 1973-2000 include: defensive back for the New Orleans Saints NFL team, nightclub doorman, manager at a rent-by-the-hour hot tub business, bookie, operator of a limousine business and an AIDS-testing business, mortgage broker, and employment at an anti-graffiti business.  During that time, the defendant was also convicted of state firearms, assault, and gambling charges and federal firearms charges.

Simmons also defrauded an individual victim, identified as E.L., out of $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.  As part of the fraud, Simmons sent E.L. promised monthly disbursements to make it appear as if her funds had been invested as promised and repeatedly lied to her about the whereabouts of her money in order to perpetuate the fraud.  There was never any actual real estate investment project, and Simmons simply spent the funds.

Finally, when Simmons was arrested in this case, he was found to be in possession of two firearms, which he was prohibited from possessing on account of his prior felony convictions.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis, III.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul J. Nathanson and James L. Trump prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1: 15-cr-293.

Click file to read the indictment (PDF) via USDOJ/USAO/Eastern District of Virginia.

This is a guy who was part of the Pentagon’s Retired Military Analysts program whose members, the um… “message force multipliers” were given regular briefings from Donald Rumsfeld, then the secretary of defense. Read the wild story on how this con unraveled: The Plot to Take Down a Fox News Analyst via NYT mag.

 

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Snapshot: Top Recipients of U.S. Assistance — FY1995, FY2005, FY2015

Posted: 1:35 am ET

Via CRS:

In FY2015, the United States provided some form of bilateral foreign assistance to about 144 countries. The following identifies the top 15 recipients of U.S. foreign assistance for FY1995, FY2005 and FY2015. Assistance, although provided to many nations, is concentrated heavily in certain countries, reflecting the priorities and interests of United States foreign policy at the time (via – PDF)

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Ex-Fox News Commentator Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Dents Benghazi Cottage Industry

Posted: 12:05  am ET

On April 29, 2016, DOJ announced that Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former Fox News commentator who has falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), pleaded guilty today to major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.  This individual reportedly made an unsuccessful attempt in 2009 to obtain work with the State Department’s Worldwide Protective Service.

Via Department of Justice | USAO – Virginia, Eastern

Wayne Shelby Simmons, 62, of Annapolis, Maryland, a former Fox News commentator who has falsely claimed he spent 27 years working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), pleaded guilty today to major fraud against the government, wire fraud, and a firearms offense.

“Wayne Simmons is a convicted felon with no military or intelligence experience,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Simmons admitted he attempted to con his way into a position where he would have been called on to give real intelligence advice in a war zone.  His fraud cost the government money, could have put American lives at risk, and was an insult to the real men and women of the intelligence community who provide tireless service to this country.  This case is a prime example of this office’s ongoing commitment to vigorously prosecute government fraud and threats to national security.”

“Mr. Simmons lied about his criminal history and CIA employment in order to fraudulently obtain government contracts, and separately, defrauded a victim through a phony real estate investment deal,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.  “With these criminal actions, Mr. Simmons abused the trust of others, both in and outside of government, for his own personal financial gain.  I commend the work of the talented FBI personnel and prosecutors who vigorously pursued this case and brought about today’s guilty plea.”

In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Simmons admitted he defrauded the government in 2008 when he obtained work as a team leader in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program, and again in 2010 when he was deployed to Afghanistan as a senior intelligence advisor on the International Security Assistance Force’s Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team.  Simmons admitted making false statements about his financial and criminal history, and admitted that there are no records or any other evidence that he was ever employed by or worked with the CIA, or ever applied for or was granted a security clearance by that agency.  Simmons also admitted that in order to obtain the senior intelligence advisor position, he lied about work he had done a year earlier as a team leader on the Human Terrain Systems program.  Simmons admitted to making similar false statements in 2009 as well, in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain work with the State Department’s Worldwide Protective Service.

As to the wire fraud charge, Simmons admitted to defrauding an individual victim, identified as E.L., out of $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.  Simmons admitted to sending E.L. promised monthly disbursements to make it appear as if her funds had been invested as promised, and to repeatedly lying to her about the whereabouts of her money in order to perpetuate the fraud.  As Simmons admitted, he simply spent the funds on personal purposes and there was never any actual real estate investment project.

As to the firearms charge, Simmons admitted that at the time he was arrested in this case, he was unlawfully in possession of two firearms, which he was prohibited from possessing on account of his prior felony convictions, including a prior Maryland felony conviction and two prior federal felony firearms convictions.

Simmons was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 14, 2015, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the major fraud against the government count, a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud count, and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on the felon-in-possession of a firearm count when sentenced on July 15.  The maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This announcement is available on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1: 15-cr-293.

 

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Malian National Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison For Conspiracy to Murder US Diplomat in Niger

Posted: 12:07 am ET

 

In September 2013, we blogged about Malian national Alhassane Ould Mohamed who was indicted for the 2000 murder/attempted murder of US Embassy Niger staffers.  In March 2016, Alhassane Ould Mohamed pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder a U.S. diplomat stationed at US Embassy Niger. In late April, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy to murder William Bultemeier, a DOD civilian employee and retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant.  The victim was  deployed to the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger in July 2000 where he served as the Defense Attache Systems Operations Coordinator. He was murdered the day he was supposed to return home to North Carolina 15 years ago.

 

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USG Supports Japan Relief Efforts Following Kyushu Earthquakes, Also What’s This Mystery Foam?

Posted: 12:02 am ET

USGC reported the April 14 and 15 earthquakes that hit the island of Kyushu:

The April 15, 2016 M 7.0 earthquake north of Kumamoto, on the island of Kyushu in southwest Japan, occurred as the result of strike-slip faulting at shallow depth. Focal mechanisms for the earthquake indicate slip occurred on either a left-lateral fault striking to the northwest, or on a right-lateral fault striking northeast. While the earthquake occurred several hundred kilometers northwest of the Ryukyu Trench, where the Philippine Sea plate begins its northwestward subduction beneath Japan and the Eurasia plate, the shallow depth and faulting mechanism of this earthquake indicate it occurred on a crustal fault within the upper Eurasia plate. At the location of this event, the Philippine Sea plate converges with Eurasia towards the northwest at a velocity of 58 mm/yr.

The April 15, 2016, M 7.0 event (UTC 16:25:06) occurred one day after a series of foreshocks in the same region, which included M 6.2 and M 6.0 earthquakes. The April 14 events resulted in at least 9 fatalities and over 800 injuries.

According to the US Consulate in Fukuoka which covers the consular district, the Kyushu/Yamaguchi Region of southwestern Japan consists of seven prefectures on Kyushu Island (Fukuoka, Oita, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kagoshima) and Yamaguchi prefecture on the southern tip of Honshu, with a combined population of over 15 million. The region’s $435 billion economy constitutes Japan’s fourth largest economic center, representing about 10 percent of national GDP – comparable in size to the Netherlands.

The US Embassy in Tokyo issued one Emergency Message to U.S. citizens saying in part that “Kumamoto is approximately 730 miles southwest of Tokyo. Authorities report nine confirmed deaths and as many as 1,000 injured. Local authorities report no U.S. citizens among the casualties. No tsunami warning was issued. The Japan Meteorological Agency reported several aftershocks, some of which exceeded 5.0 magnitude. Aftershocks may continue for up to a week. Heavy rains are expected in the region over the coming weekend, which may lead to landslides.”

U.S. Forces Japan announced that the Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, over the weekend to assist with recovery efforts in support of the Government of Japan’s relief efforts. According to the DOD release, the U.S. military support is provided at the request of the Government of Japan and is in support of efforts undertaken by the Japanese Self Defense Force.

Japan Times reported that a cabinet secretary said there [are] no abnormalities at nearby nuclear facilities. The epicenter was 120 km (74 miles) northeast of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, the only one operating in the country.  The Asahi Shimbun quotes Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying, “Under the current circumstances, there is no need to stop the plant because (the shaking) is sufficiently low.”

Meanwhile, in Fukuoka, motorists and pedestrians have reported seeing white foam on the streets after the quakes:

 

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US Embassy Kabul’s Two New Buildings Have Hazardous Electrical Currents That Can Cause Severe Injury and Death

Posted: 1:39 am ET

 

On July 24, 2009, DODIG released its report on Electrocution Deaths in Iraq (see Appendix A for the list of 18 U.S. military and contractors who died from electrocution from March 2003- March 2009 (PDF).

On September 1, 2009, US Air Force Staff Sgt. Adam Hermanson who worked for State Department contractor, Triple Canopy also reportedly died from electrocution. According to one media report, his body was discovered on the floor of a shower near his quarters at Camp Olympia. (See State Dept Contractor Electrocuted in Iraq).

On April 12, State/OIG posted its Management Alert: Hazardous Electrical Current in Office and Residential Buildings Presents Life, Health, and Safety Risks at U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan (PDF) affecting potentially 1200 individuals.  The two buildings (a 917-desk New Office Annex (NOX) and the 298-bed Staff Diplomatic Apartment (SDA-1) are part of a major office and residential expansion at Embassy Kabul at a cost of nearly $800 million. Embassy personnel reportedly began occupying the NOX in July 2015, and residents began moving into the SDA-1 apartments in February 2016.

This is a “management alert” as such, its  intention is indeed “to alert” the State Department leadership about this significant issue that requires immediate corrective action. The only think missing from this management alert is its distribution list; we don’t want to hear later on that this went only as far as the assistant secretaries desks.

Excerpt below:

During the course of an ongoing audit of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) construction and commissioning of a new office and residential apartment building at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) identified life, health, and safety risks to building occupants due to a type of hazardous electrical current—known as objectionable current—in both the office and apartment building. Specifically, OIG and the USACE team, which included master electricians from Task Force Protect Our Warfighters and Electrical Resources (POWER), discovered objectionable currents measuring up to 16.7 amps in the New Office Annex (NOX) building and up to 27 amps in the residential apartment building—Staff Diplomatic Apartment (SDA-1).1 Objectionable current is electrical current occurring on the grounding wiring of a building. Although the National Electrical Code does not establish a life safety threshold for objectionable current, Task Force POWER considers any objectionable current a risk to life and safety.

Industry safety standards regarding electrical shock indicate that loss of life is probable with current as low as 10 amps.2 In the case of the NOX, the objectionable current measured 6 amps more than the level that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have determined is likely to result in cardiac arrest, severe burns, and probable death. With respect to the residential apartment, or SDA-1, the objectionable current measured 17 amps more than the level of amperage that the CDC has determined is likely to result in death. The most common causes of objectionable current are improperly installed electrical wiring, equipment, and faulty electrical appliances.

The NOX is designed to accommodate more than 900 Department personnel, and when fully occupied, SDA-1 will house nearly 300 residents. When objectionable current flows on metal parts, it can cause electric shock and even death from ventricular fibrillation because of the elevated voltage. It can also cause a fire to ignite if combustible material is placed near the current. As a result, the life, health, and safety of Department personnel occupying these buildings are at risk. Accordingly, OIG is recommending that Embassy Kabul in coordination with OBO take immediate action to: (1) examine the installation of electrical wiring, equipment, and appliances in the NOX and SDA-1 to ascertain the cause for the objectionable current; (2) determine what mitigation measures can be immediately taken to eliminate or reduce risk to personnel occupying the buildings; (3) and, to the extent necessary, inform residents of the existence of objectionable current and the risks associated with it, and provide instructions on how to eliminate or avoid accompanying hazards.

State/OIG says that Task Force POWER in Afghanistan was created by Congress in response to the deaths of 14 U.S. personnel in Iraq in 2008 due to electrocution as well as injuries to a number of others from electrical shock. Its mission is to identify and correct electrical issues at all military facilities in Afghanistan.

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Senior embassy officials briefed:

OIG and Task Force POWER representatives briefed senior embassy officials of their findings on February 27, 2016. Subsequent to that briefing, the Department sent a cable (see Appendix C) on February 29, 2016, stating, among other things, that little or no objectionable current was measured prior to occupancy but that it is taking actions to address the high levels of objectionable current that have now been detected. The Department also issued a Management Notice on March 2, 2016, further outlining the actions it is planning to take to address the issue (see Appendix D). OIG is equally concerned with the safety and security of personnel living and working at the embassy and believes that it is paramount that the embassy takes actions to address the concerns.

Embassy Kabul’s response:

Embassy Kabul reported that Facilities Management, OBO, and maintenance and construction contractors have examined the electrical wiring in the NOX and SDA-1 and have documented the objectionable current readings at the buildings’ electrical panels. The group also examined the main power distribution loop servicing both the East and West sides of the embassy compound and subsequently shared this information with OBO’s Electrical Safety Working Group.

Embassy Kabul further stated that although the group consisting of Facilities Management, OBO, and contractors performed detailed inspections of the buildings and the power distribution loop, it has not been able to determine a single root cause of the objectionable current. Due to the highly technical nature of objectionable current, the embassy indicated that it must defer to the OBO subject matter experts as well as OBO’s Electrical Safety Working Group for guidance and a determination of the causes of objectionable current at the SDA-1 and NOX buildings

State/OBO’s response:

OBO told OIG in its formal response that it “conducted comprehensive reviews of SDA-1 and the New Office Annex (NOX) buildings prior to occupancy. At that time, little or no objectionable current was measured. However, it is not unusual for objectionable current to present itself after the installation of equipment and appliances post- occupancy and when the building is running at full capacity.”

OIG recommended that the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations’ Facilities Management Office, in coordination with Embassy Kabul, determine what mitigation measures can be immediately taken to eliminate or reduce risk to personnel occupying the buildings.

OBO Director Lydia Muniz told OIG Steve Linick in its memorandum response that “OBO does not agree that the observed objectionable current poses a general problem for the occupants of the building, but agrees that workers in the restricted electrical and mechanical rooms face a potential hazard.”

“OBO Response: OBO did not concur that observed objectionable current poses a general problem for the occupants of the building. OBO stated that the first priority of both OBO and Embassy Kabul was to inspect residential spaces and those used by the public. According to OBO, the readings in residential and public spaces were consistent with readings taken prior to building occupancy, and OBO verified that the objectionable current was limited to locked and restricted mechanical and electrical rooms.”

As a result of OBO’s non-concurence, OIG considered its recommendation unresolved:

… because OBO did not concur that the observed objectionable current poses a risk for occupants in the NOX and SDA- 1. According to Task Force POWER, until OBO is able to isolate the source(s) of objectionable current, it may be present anywhere throughout the electrical system. Higher readings of amperage detected in mechanical and electrical rooms may be the cumulative result of multiple sources of objectionable current located throughout the building. Additionally, according to Task Force POWER, higher levels of objectionable current will be observed at the electrical panels, as this is where all electricity returns to complete the circuit. While authorized personnel performing maintenance on the electrical system are at a higher risk of coming in contact with objectionable current, there is no evidence that the risk is limited only to workers in restricted electrical and mechanical rooms.

The Thing (From Another World) - James Arness plays the hostile plant-based extraterrestrial in the 1951 RKO Pictures sci-fi horror. (gif via Dangerous Universe)

The Thing (From Another World) – James Arness plays the hostile plant-based extraterrestrial in the 1951 RKO Pictures sci-fi horror. (gif via Dangerous Universe)

A need for increased awareness and mitigation measures for all embassy personnel:

State/OIG says it “will consider the recommendation resolved when OBO and Embassy Kabul identify mitigation measures to eliminate or reduce the immediate risk to those personnel occupying the NOX and SDA-1. The March 2, 2016 Management Notice issued to all Embassy personnel increased awareness, but did not identify mitigation measures for all Embassy personnel. Instead, the notice limits its guidance to advising employees not to enter or tamper with locked mechanical rooms or electrical boxes. This recommendation will be considered closed when OIG receives and accepts documentation demonstrating that OBO, in conjunction with U.S. Embassy Kabul, has implemented mitigation measures to eliminate or reduce the immediate risk to office workers and building residents in addition to those mitigation steps already taken to reduce the risk to workers accessing mechanical and electrical rooms.”

Click here for the American Heart Association’s Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care in the case of electric shock — particularly on modifications for basic life support and advanced cardiovascular life support.

 

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@StateDept Designates All Posts in Turkey as Danger Pay Posts: Adana 25%, Ankara 15%, Istanbul 15% … More

Posted: 6:55  pm ET

 

On April 3, 2016, the State Department’s Office of Allowances (A/OPR/ALS) has determined that danger pay is in effect for three diplomatic and consular posts in Turkey: Ankara (15%), Istanbul (15%), and Adana (25%).  Seven other areas in Turkey (including the Embassy Branch Office in Gaziantep) as well as “other” have also been designated as 25% danger pay locations.

via state.gov

via state.gov

The State Department terminated the “authorized departure” status of the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey on February 29, 2016 (see @StateDept Terminates ‘Authorized Departure’ Status for Adana (Turkey) and Bamako (Mali)).

On March 29, the State Department announced the “ordered departure” of family members of USG personnel posted to U.S. Consulate in Adana, as well as family members of USG civilians assigned in Izmir and Mugla provinces. The evacuation also included military dependents from Incirlik AFB in Adana (see U.S. Consulate Adana and All DOD Dependents in Incirlik, Izmir, Mugla, Now on Ordered Departure).

Last year, when the State Department revamped its danger pay designations, Gaziantep located in the southeastern Anatolia, some 185 kilometers east of Adana and 97 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria was one of the newly designated 25% danger pay differential posts worldwide, and the only location designated as such in Turkey. Until now. (See New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status).

 

Related posts: 

 

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DOD Talks About Military Families Ordered Out of Turkey, @StateDept Remains Mum Except — Bunnies!

Posted: 3:07 am ET

 

Meanwhile — information on Foreign Service families evacuated from U.S. Consulate Adana is hard to come by.

We don’t know at this point how many Foreign Service family members and pets were evacuated out of southern Turkey under last week’s “ordered departure” announcement (the number is very small in our guesstimate).  Or whether they were evacuated to other posts in Turkey, or returned to the United States (designated safehaven for eligible family members is the United States — anywhere in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia).

The ordered departure was approved initially for 30 days but will remain in effect until terminated by the State and Defense departments (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).  The DOD spoxes have been forthcoming with evacuation information on military families and pets, whereas the State Department spokesperson got tangled about bunnies at the Daily Press Briefing. DOD has also posted the State Department’s ordered departure unclassified cable for Adana here (PDF); the document is not publicly available on state.gov.

 

Related items:

State Department: Ordered Departure from Adana
ORDERED DEPARTURE FROM Adana, Evacuation Authority And Department Policy

Ordered Departure – Adana, Izmir, and Mugla, Turkey
The Department of State (DOS) has approved an ordered departure from Adana, Izmir Province, and Mugla Province, Turkey, and designated the United States as the safe haven for DOS-eligible family members (EFMs).

Parent Letter for Turkey Departure
As you prepare to leave as a result of the Department of State’s Ordered Departure from Incirlik/Adana, Turkey, continuing your child’s education must be a top priority upon arrival at your safe haven.

Allowances to a safe haven (DTMO)
EFMs of DoD military personnel will be processed for safe haven allowances in accordance with Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), Chapter 6, Part Al.

 

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