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

Posted: 2:19 am  ET

 

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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America First Parodies – 12 Countries, 63 Million Views #ThanksTrump

Posted: 2:14  pm  ET
Updated 3:12 pm ET

 

The worldwide trend spoofing President Trump’s America First policy continues. Below is a round-up of the top most viewed parodies.    We’ve listed below the videos that top at least a million views on YouTube. We estimated that the 12 videos alone have approximately 63 million views as of this writing.  And it does not look like this trend is ending anytime soon.

The Netherlands Second  — 23,594,538 views

Switzerland Second — 11,217,297 views

Germany Second – 9,186,518 views

Denmark  Second – 5,390,941 views

Portugal Second — 4,042,847 views

Morocco Second – 1,702,004 views

Iran Second – 1,681,774 views

Croatia  Second  — 1,519,849 view

Austria Second  – 1,342,517 view

Luxembourg  Second — 1,305,935 views

Finland Second – 1,286,739 views

Australia Second  — 1,069,138 views

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Secretary Tillerson Travels to Germany For G-20, Also @StateDept Counselor Steps Down

Posted: 12:50 am  ET

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first official trip as SecState is to Bonn, Germany from February 15-17 to participate in the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

According to a SAO, Secretary Tillerson will have “a couple of key themes from his meetings will be to reassure everyone of our continued commitment to transatlantic relations and to our commitments – transatlantic commitments in NATO and otherwise, and to urge solidarity with Europeans on Ukraine and on Russia, on the Minsk, and to push Russia to honor its commitments, both in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

He will also have a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister and a second meeting with a gathering of six of the key players (U.S., UK, the Emiratis, the Saudis, the UN, and the Omanis) to discuss Yemen.

More here.

In related news, career ambassador Kristie Kenney, one of the three remaining top senior officials at the State Department was reportedly let go this week.  Ambassador Kenney was appointed Counselor to the Secretary of State in February 2016 (see Secretary Kerry Appoints Kristie Kenney as State Department Counselor).  We do not as yet know if this is a resignation, or a retirement from the Foreign Service.  With her departure, only one Senate-confirmed official remains at the top ranks of the State Department (Tom Shannon (P)). Career diplomat Bruce Wharton who previously served as Ambassador to Zimbabwe also remains as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R).

Seven of the nine senior State Department positions are now vacant. It looks like all under secretary positions, with the exception of “P” and “R” are vacant with no officials designated in an acting capacity. For the Under Secretary for Management, we understand that one John W. Hutchison, a member of the Trump Transition is “Acting M” for 120 days.

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OSCE Minsk Group: James Warlick Steps Down, Richard Hoagland Assumes Co-Chair Position

Posted: 9:53 pm PT

 

The US embassies in Armenia and Azerbaijan announced that Ambassador James Warlick, Co-Chair for the Minsk Group is stepping down effective December 31.  Ambassador Richard Hoagland will assume the position on an interim basis starting in January 2017.

Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland will assume the position of U.S. Co-Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group on an interim basis starting in January 2017. He replaces Ambassador James B. Warlick, who will step down on December 31.

Ambassador Hoagland brings over 30 years of diplomatic experience to the position. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan from 2003 to 2006, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan from 2008 to 2011, and as Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan from 2011 to 2013. Ambassador Hoagland most recently led U.S.-Russian military coordination for the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria and served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the State Department in Washington. Prior to these assignments, Ambassador Hoagland led the Office of Caucasus and Central Asian Affairs in the Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs and was Press Spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Ambassador Hoagland’s extensive diplomatic experience will be critical as the United States works with the sides toward a lasting and peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The United States continues to call on the parties to maintain their commitment to the ceasefire and to implement agreements reached at the Vienna and St. Petersburg summits, and urges a return to negotiations on a settlement, which would benefit all sides.

The permanent replacement for Ambassador Warlick will be announced at a future date.

Meanwhile — things are heating up again over there:

Political Violence Against Americans in 2015: Highest in Near East Asia, Lowest in the Western Hemisphere

Posted: 1:55 am ET

 

The Political Violence Against Americans publication is produced annually by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Directorate of Threat Investigations and Analysis (DS/TIA) to provide a comprehensive picture of the spectrum of politically motivated threats and violence that American citizens and interests encounter worldwide. This report includes incidents of violence involving U.S. citizens and facilities with the exception of incidents against American military personnel serving in combat positions.

Of the 61 incidents that involved U.S. citizens and interests, 19 are believed to have resulted from intentionally targeting Americans while 42 are incidents where Americans or American interests were not targeted due to nationality.

The highest targets occurred in Near East Asia (NEA), followed by Africa (AF), and South Central Asia (SCA). In NEA, the most number of attacks were directed at private U.S. entities; in AF, the most number of attacks were directed at U.S. Government (USG) entities while in SCA, they were directed at the U.S. military.  The top three most common types of attack are 1) “armed attacks” followed by 2) “stray round,” and 3) “bomb” tied with “attack with vehicle.”

The region with the lowest number of attacks is the Western Hemisphere (WHA) with one incident of vandalism directed at the USG. The second region with the lowest number of attacks is East Asia Pacific (EAP) with three incidents (attempted murder, bomb, violent demonstration) all directed at the USG.

Via state.gov/ds

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UN Amb Samantha Power Refers to the “Genocide Denial Against the Armenians” in Elie Wiesel Tribute

Posted: 1:29  pm PT
Updated: Dec 7, 9:01 am PT

 

Excerpt from Ambassador Power’s statement, as delivered:

“… How cruel was it, then, that young Elie Wiesel, who was taunted by his perpetrators that nobody would ever know or care what had happened to him and his people, how cruel was it that he encountered a world that again didn’t seem to care what he had gone through. When he was hawking that manuscript, did he feel somehow like Moshe the Beadle, a man who possessed the truth, but was ignored?

And yet none of this appears to have tamed the determination – or even the spark and sparkle – in and of Elie Wiesel. Night of course did eventually find its publishers and after several years, its readership did begin to grow, at first gradually, and then exponentially. Indeed, arguably no single work did so much to puncture the silence that had previously enveloped survivors, and bring what happened in the Night out into the light, for all to see. And yet. Injustice was still all around. Genocide denial against the Armenians, the horrors of his lifetime – Pol Pot, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria, in his later years. He lived to see more and more people bear witness to unspeakable atrocities, but he also saw indifference remained too widespread.”

We should note that Ambassador John M. Evans, a career diplomat who was appointed to Armenia from 2004-2006 lost his job during the Bush II administration after calling the Armenian killings a genocide.  In the waning days of the Obama Administration, we doubt if any reference to the Armenian Genocide as she did here in her tribute to Elie Weisel would make a difference career-wise. She will  leave her post on/around January 20, so it’s not like they’re going to fire her between now and then. Also, that’s a public speech she delivered, which means it has been through a clearance process, and not an accidental or even rogue reference.

For folks who want to read about the Armenian Genocide, also known as the “Events of 2016 1915,” the place to start is the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) from history.state.gov: Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1915, Supplement, The World War  > Page 981

Click here for Samantha Power and what she said about the Armenian Genocide back in 2008 when she was campaigning for then candidate, Barack Obama. Ambassador Power is also the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” published in 2003.

Turkey has been there many times before, of course, below are some sample reactions just from 2016 alone:

 

 

Related items:

Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1915, Supplement, The World War  > Page 981

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power

1915 Armenian Genocide — The “G” Word as a Huge Landmine, and Diplomatic Equities (April 2015)

John M. Evans: The diplomat who called the “Events of 1915” a genocide, and was canned for it (Aril 2015)

$4.2 million to dispute a single word (August 2009)

And the Ambassadorship Race Is On: Ivana Wants the Czech Republic

Posted: 1:43 am ET

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USG Invokes Sovereign Immunity in Ex-Local Embassy Guard Case in Ireland

Posted: 12:30 am ET

Via The Irish Times:

A former US embassy security guard has been told he cannot take an employment appeals case over his dismissal as his former employer, the US government, has diplomatic immunity in Ireland.

John Greene had argued that he was unfairly dismissed from the security guard role in September 2013 following an investigation into what his superiors termed a “security breach” at the embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin.
[…]
In hearings that touched on several Supreme Court rulings, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights, counsel for the US government successfully argued that sovereign immunity applies due to the important nature of Mr Greene’s duties.

Related posts:

 

 

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Consulate General St Petersburg: Two U.S. Diplomats Slipped “Date-Rape” Drug in Russia

Posted: 1:36 am ET

 

The U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg is the largest of the three consulates general in Russia. It is the nearest to Moscow and is the site for many high-level bilateral and multilateral meetings. According to the 2013 OIG report on US Mission Russia, employees face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War. The mission employs 1,279 staff, including 301 U.S. direct-hire positions and 934 locally employed (LE) staff positions from 35 U.S. Government agencies (2013 OIG report).

Via RFE/RL:

Two U.S. officials traveling with diplomatic passports were drugged while attending a conference in Russia last year, and one of them was hospitalized, in what officials have concluded was part of a wider, escalating pattern of harassment of U.S. diplomats by Russia.

The incident at a hotel bar during a UN anticorruption conference in St. Petersburg in November 2015 caused concern in the U.S. State Department, which quietly protested to Moscow, according to a U.S. government official with direct knowledge of what occurred.

But it wasn’t until a dramatic event in June, when an accredited U.S. diplomat was tackled outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, that officials in Washington reexamined the November drugging and concluded they were part of a definite pattern.
[…]

The U.S. government official told RFE/RL that U.S. investigators concluded that the two Americans — a man and a woman — were slipped a so-called date rape drug, most likely at a bar in the St. Petersburg hotel where they were staying.

One of the Americans was incapacitated and brought to a Western medical clinic in the city for treatment, and to have blood and tissue samples taken in order to determine precisely what caused the sudden illness. However, while the person was at the clinic, the electricity suddenly went out and the staff was unable to obtain the necessary tissue samples, the official said.

The individual was then flown out of the country for further medical treatment, but by then it was too late to gather proper samples, the official said.

Because the U.S. officials in attendance at the conference were not top-level State or Justice officials, the State Department decided to take a quiet approach to the incident.A formal note of protest was lodged, the official said, but Russian authorities asked for evidence that the person had been drugged, and the Americans lacked samples.

Read in full below:

 

Related posts:

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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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