Posted: 3:38 am ET
Posted: 3:38 am ET
Posted: 12:46 am ET
Congrats, Ken Juster, the new U.S Ambassador to India! The ties between the United States and India run deep, and @POTUS & I are confident that with his leadership, integrity & experience, Ken will build an even stronger partnership that will benefit our nation & our people. pic.twitter.com/wrczzpflya
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) November 13, 2017
Ken Juster sworn in as US Ambassador to Indiahttps://t.co/lusR7PiZPa
— Zee News (@ZeeNews) November 14, 2017
Excited to welcome Ambassador Juster to #IncredibleIndia this week! Look forward to working with him to advance #USIndia bilateral relations. #WelcomeAmbassador #USIndiaDosti pic.twitter.com/3ZXcU3b5gE
— MaryKay Loss Carlson (@USAmbIndia) November 14, 2017
Posted: 3:01 am ET
Via the Department Press Briefing:
(No longer daily, now rebranded, and better than ever)
QUESTION: Well, does that mean parole – the fact that parole had to be used would suggest – and let’s just put it in a – not in this specific context, because you won’t talk about these visas specifically – would suggest that the reason for ineligibility stands, that – in other words, that if parole is the only way a person can get into this country, that the decision made by the consular officers at post stands.
MS NAUERT: The consular officers – as I understand it, under law and the way that they handle visa adjudications, once a visa is denied, that that is not able to be reversed, that that decision is not able to be reversed.
QUESTION: Right. In other words – so the decision that was made at post that these girls or anyone was ineligible for a visa stands. So —
MS NAUERT: I can’t comment – I cannot —
QUESTION: — then one wonders why the immigration law is such that it determines or that someone looking at it determines that a bunch of teenage Afghan girls are somehow a threat to the United States or are somehow a – somehow – or otherwise ineligible for an American visa.
MS NAUERT: I think commenting on that, as much as I would like to be able to share with you more about this – you know I can’t. You know I can’t because it’s a visa confidentiality, but I can tell you that it is not reversible once a consular affairs officer denies someone’s visa. DHS took it up; they have the ability to do so. Anything beyond that, DHS would have to answer that.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean it remains the State Department’s position that someone who can only get into the country on this parole – on parole is ineligible for a visa, correct?
MS NAUERT: I wouldn’t conflate one with the other. That is DHS. That’s a different department. That’s a different kind of program. That’s not a program that we administer here. Okay?
QUESTION: But State Department denied the visas twice before the parole was granted.
MS NAUERT: I can’t comment on that. Again, that would come under visa confidentiality. DHS made its decision, and so we are now glad that the girls are coming to the United States and wish them well.
QUESTION: But would that initial decision be reviewed, then, and whatever —
MS NAUERT: I know that our people at very senior levels in Afghanistan were involved in this, and I’ll just leave it at that. Okay?
QUESTION: So if parole – if visa – if visa information is completely confidential and you can’t discuss it, why is parole information available? And then why didn’t you give parole to the —
MS NAUERT: That’s a – you have to talk to DHS about that. Again, that’s a DHS program.
NOW THIS — tales of visa confidentiality:
In fairness to the State Department, the agency did not release any statement about its issuance of a visa to the current central player of the Russian controversy. The Department of Homeland Security did that on its own in a statement to BuzzFeed News last week when DHS cited the issuance of a B1/B2 nonimmigrant visa by the U.S. Department of State in June 2016.
INA 291 places the burden of proof upon the applicant to establish eligibility to receive a visa. However, the applicant is entitled to have full consideration given to any evidence presented to overcome a presumption or finding of ineligibility. It is the policy of the U.S. Government to give the applicant every reasonable opportunity to establish eligibility to receive a visa. This policy is the basis for the review of refusals at consular offices and by the Department. It is in keeping with the spirit of American justice and fairness. With regard to cases involving classified information, the cooperation accorded the applicant must, of course, be consistent with security considerations, within the reasonable, non-arbitrary, exercise of discretion in the subjective judgments required under INA 214(b) and 221(g).
Individuals who are outside of the United States may be able to request parole into the United States based on humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons.
Posted: 3:03 am ET
Diplomatic Security’s 2015 Political Violence Against Americans publication notes that attacks involving U.S. citizens or interests occurred predominantly in the Near East (NEA), South Central Asia (SCA), and Africa (AF).
Some of the significant attacks against U.S.diplomatic facilities and personnel in 2015 occurred in Dhaka, Bangladesh (protesters threw flammable liquid at a U.S. Embassy vehicle); Dili, Timor-Leste (a hand grenade was thrown over the wall of a U.S. Embassy residential property); Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (a U.S. Embassy vehicle transporting two U.S. congressional staffers to their hotel was hit by pedestrians throwing rocks); Sana’a, Yemen (a mortar or rocket round exploded on the road in front of the U.S. Embassy and Houthi rebels opened fire on two U.S. Embassy Quick Reaction Force (QRF) vehicles dispatched to assist locally employed embassy staffers detained at a rebel checkpoint); Erbil, Iraq (a vehicle laden with explosives detonated outside the U.S. Consulate General, killing two Turkish nationals and injuring 11 others, including a U.S. citizen); and Bangui, Central African Republic (an individual opened fire on a U.S. Embassy two-vehicle motorcade transporting eight passengers to the airport).
The FY2018 budget request proposed to cut funding deepest in the geographic areas that are most volatile and dangerous: NEA -$45.1M; SCA -$43.7M; AF – $32.7M; EUR -$24.3M; EAP -$12.6M; WHA -$12.6M.
The Bureau of African Affairs (AF) promotes the Administration’s foreign policy priorities in 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through 44 U.S. embassies, four constituent posts, and the U.S. Mission to the African Union. AF addresses key foreign policy initiatives and development challenges across Africa by focusing on five overarching policy priorities to: 1) advance peace and security; 2) strengthen democratic institutions and protect human rights; 3) spur economic growth through two-way trade and investment; 4) promote development including better health; and 5) advance diplomatic effectiveness through appropriate staffing and facilities.
In support of U.S. national security interests, AF has provided significant assistance to ensure that the African Union could play a major role in mitigating continental peace and security challenges. AF also supports the African Union’s ability to act as a standard bearer for democracy and human rights, the rule of law, and economic prosperity. AF also strongly supports African efforts to counter terrorism in the Sahel and West/Central Africa, Somalia and wider East Africa, and the Lake Chad Basin region. Finally, the Bureau and other State Department entities are working with counterparts throughout sub-Saharan Africa to provide humanitarian assistance to drought-stricken populations in the Horn of Africa; aid refugee populations; curtail trafficking of people, drugs, and arms; and facilitate the path towards an AIDS-free generation.
The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP) advances vital U.S. national interests in the Asia Pacific region. Home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, the emerging engagement occurring between the United States and nations in the Asia Pacific region reaffirms that America’s future security and prosperity will be shaped by developments in the region. EAP is comprised of 43 embassies, consulates, and American Presence Posts located in 24 countries from Mongolia to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. EAP has 861 foreign and civil service positions in overseas posts and domestic offices. The Bureau also provides support to the American Institute in Taiwan, a non-governmental organization that represents U.S. interests in Taiwan.
EAP leadership and diplomats reinforce rules-based order in the region by building an international commitment to defeat ISIS. EAP works to promote cooperation on transnational threats such as cyberspace and health pandemics, as well as threats from state actors, such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and defending freedom of navigation in the region’s maritime spaces, including in the South China Sea.
To support American prosperity and security, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs’ (EUR) strategic objective over multiple administrations has been to support a Europe “whole, free, and at peace.” The bureau’s range of tools includes the 50 EUR missions and important multilateral platforms including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). European nations are the United States’ most capable and globally engaged partners and can be force multipliers. Maintaining these alliances and partnerships is vital to U.S. defense and to our ability to enhance international stability, counter Russian aggression and subversion, and confront complex global challenges, such as proliferation, terrorist threats, and combatting organized crime and violent ideologies.
The total FY 2018 EUR Enduring Request is $470.6 million, a -$24.3 million decrease to the FY 2017 estimate, including $1.1 million in OCO. With these resources, and in conjunction with foreign assistance resources allocated to the region, EUR will continue to work to achieve the full range of State Department priorities, and seek to generate greater operating efficiencies and cost containment initiatives.
Through 25 embassies and consulates, stretching from Morocco to Iran, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) promotes U.S. interests by combating terrorism and violent extremism, and leading the Global Coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); promoting the free flow of commerce; and preserving Israel’s security, working toward a comprehensive and lasting Middle East Peace between Israel and its neighbors. The region’s primary causes for volatility include: terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qa’eda, who have found safe havens that threaten U.S. interests and allies; Iran’s malign regional influence impends U.S. partners’ strategic security; and the ongoing Syrian civil war that exports instability and undermines the stability of its neighbors with humanitarian crises.
In order to defeat ISIS and stabilize liberated areas, Mission Iraq will vigorously engage with the Government of Iraq, international organizations, regional neighbors, economic partners, and the Iraqi people to support improvements in governance, economic development, Iraq’s regional relations, and to maintain a strong enduring partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement. Mission Iraq’s 5,500 personnel working at Embassy Baghdad, the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC), Consulate General Basrah, and Consulate General Erbil are essential to pursuing the above-stated goals.
The FY 2018 Request is $413.3 million ($175 million Enduring and $238.3 million OCO), a -$45.1 million decrease below the FY 2017 estimate. The request strives to gain efficiencies via a more stringent management of travel, contract, and International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) operations throughout the region. Additional efficiencies are being pursued through the review of programs/operations such as aviation assets and support, consulate operations, and financial support provided to outside entities by way of agreements.
The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) is responsible for promoting U.S. interests in one of the most populous and dynamic regions of the world. With a combined population of more than 1.5 billion people, the 13 countries that make up SCA are home to almost a quarter of the world’s population, including one-third of the world’s Muslims and 850 million persons under age 30, making continued engagement in South and Central Asia vital to U.S. national security and regional stability.
Department operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and across South and Central Asia remain critical to ensuring the security and prosperity of the United States. On the security front, the efforts of the U.S. and bilateral and regional partners have combated multiple terrorist threats. Continued programs to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and deter nuclear proliferation in the region will continue to improve security for the homeland and U.S. global partners.
SCA’s request will also support two major regional initiatives: the New Silk Road (NSR) focused on Afghanistan and its neighbors, and the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor linking South Asia with Southeast Asia.
The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) is comprised of 52 Embassies and Consulates encompassing Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. WHA’s primary goals include helping to shut down illicit pathways to the United States to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism. The bureau will continue to work with partner governments and civil society in support of democratic values and human rights. WHA will support bilateral trade agreements that respect U.S. national sovereignty and promote U.S. investment and jobs. WHA will use all possible sources of leverage to encourage other countries to open markets to U.S. exports of goods and services, to provide adequate and effective enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Department seeks to expand security, prosperity, and democracy in the Hemisphere through partnerships that benefit the United States and its strategic national security partners.
The WHA FY 2018 Request is $256.2 million, a -$12.6 million reduction to the FY 2017 Estimate. WHA will implement contractual services reductions in order to absorb the reduction.
The Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) and its seven diplomatic missions play a central role in U.S. efforts to advance national security through the multilateral system, including the United Nations (UN). IO works through organizations that offer opportunities to achieve multi-national solutions to complex global issues.
U.S. multilateral engagement is an important component of a robust U.S. foreign policy, and particularly in promoting U.S. priorities through transnational action. International organizations comprise a global architecture that can extend U.S. influence at a reduced cost to the American taxpayer over bilateral or unilateral actions.
The UN system, in particular, has principal convening power for multilateral action within its main bodies, funds and programs, and specialized agencies. Through the UN system, the United States can take internationally-recognized action on issues affecting U.S. citizens that may not be resolved elsewhere, including aviation safety and security, public health, internet governance, and global postal services. IO’s multilateral engagement extends beyond the UN system to buttress multi-national resolutions outside the UN’s walls.
Posted: 1:52 am ET
On March 24, USDOJ announced the sentencing of Jeffrey Jason Cooper to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking. Cooper recruited foreign university students from Kazakhstan through the Department of State’s Summer Work Travel Program (SWTP), falsely promising them clerical jobs at his fictitious yoga studio. According to DOJ, he fraudulently induced an educational exchange agency to sponsor the victims’ visas, and caused government officials to issue the victims temporary, non-immigrant “J-1” visas based on Cooper’s false and fraudulent offer of legitimate summer jobs.
Below via USDOJ/FL:
Defendant Lured Foreign Students on False Promises in Furtherance of Interstate Prostitution and Erotic Massage Enterprise
Chief United States District Court Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida sentenced Jeffrey Jason Cooper, 47, of Miami Beach, Florida, to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking and related violations arising from the defendant’s scheme to recruit foreign students on false promises of legitimate summer jobs, and then to advertise them to customers of his prostitution and erotic massage enterprise. Chief Judge Moore also ordered Cooper to pay $8,640.00 in restitution to the victims.
A jury convicted Cooper on Nov. 17, 2016, of five counts of sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking by fraud, three counts of wire fraud, two counts of importing and attempting to import aliens for prostitution or immoral purposes, and one count of using a facility of interstate commerce to operate a prostitution enterprise. According to evidence presented during the four-day trial, Cooper recruited foreign university students from Kazakhstan through the Department of State’s Summer Work Travel Program, falsely promising them clerical jobs at his fictitious yoga studio. In addition to defrauding the students, Cooper fraudulently induced an educational exchange agency to sponsor the victims’ visas, and caused government officials to issue the victims temporary, non-immigrant “J-1” visas based on Cooper’s false and fraudulent offer of legitimate summer jobs.
After the victims arrived in Miami, Cooper revealed to them for the first time that the yoga studio did not exist and that he expected them to perform erotic massages for customers of his erotic massage and prostitution enterprise. Witnesses testified that the victims, shocked and upset, tried to find work elsewhere but eventually gave up and began working for the defendant.
As established at trial, police began investigating Cooper after neighbors complained he was prostituting women from his apartment complex, and conducted an undercover operation that led to the recovery of the victims, one day before Cooper had scheduled them to travel to Los Angeles, California, where Cooper also operated his prostitution and erotic massage enterprise. When questioned by law enforcement, Cooper claimed that the victims cleaned apartments for him, and characterized his relationship with them as that of an “older brother.” Evidence at trial included records from Backpage.com advertising the victims’ services, and Facebook communications confirming that Cooper recruited the victims on false and fraudulent pretenses, revealing the true nature of his erotic massage and prostitution enterprise only after the victims arrived in the United States.
“The successful prosecution and decades-long sentence imposed on Jeffrey Cooper illustrate the international impact of law enforcement’s united efforts to combat human trafficking – whether by fraud, force or otherwise,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to bring to justice those individuals who knowingly exploit others for their own personal profit.”
“We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to prevent situations where vulnerable individuals are exploited in human trafficking schemes such as this,” said Christian Schurman, acting director of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). “Because of our global presence, DSS is positioned to work with U.S. and foreign law enforcement to stop those that would manipulate instruments of international travel to profit from selling human beings in this way.”
The case was investigated by HSI and DSS, with assistance from the Prosecutor General’s Office in Kazakhstan; the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Astana, Kazakhstan; the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Miami Dade Police Department and the North Bay Village, Florida, Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth M. Schlessinger, who was previously with the Southern District of Florida and is now with the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Trial Attorney Matthew T. Grady of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov. Some of the documents including the complaint are also available online here through plainsite.org.
Posted: 1:55 am ET
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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.
Posted: 1:29 am ET
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This year’s rotation brought new faces to the three constituent posts in Pakistan. Senior FSO Raymond McGrath is the latest to join the US Mission in Pakistan as he became Consul General in Peshawar last month. In September, FSO Grace W. Shelton assumed charge of Consulate General Karachi while in August, FSO Yuriy Fedkiw took charge of Consulate Genera Lahore.
U.S. Consulate General Peshawar: Raymond McGrath
Raymond McGrath assumed his post as Consul General in Peshawar, Pakistan in November 2016. Mr. McGrath joined the U.S. Department of State in June 1986. He is a member of the Senior Foreign Service with the personal rank of Minister Counselor. He most recently served in the Bureau of Human Resources in Washington, first as coordinator of a project to redesign the Foreign Service personnel evaluation and promotion systems, and then as a Career Development Officer with staff responsibilities for the high-level committee that identifies Chief of Mission candidates for consideration by the Secretary and President. Mr. McGrath’s other Washington assignments include those of financial economist in the Office of Investment Affairs; Deputy Director in the Office of West African Affairs; and Coordinator for Cuban Affairs. His overseas assignments include Hermosillo, Mexico; Quito, Ecuador; Manila, Philippines; Lima, Peru; Havana, Cuba; Bogota, Colombia; and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (where like in Peshawar he served as Consul General and Principal Officer). Mr. McGrath holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Arizona. He is married and has two teenage children.
U.S. Consulate General Karachi: Grace W. Shelton
Grace W. Shelton assumed charge as the U.S. Consul General in Karachi on September 8, 2016. A career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service, she most recently served as the Director of the Office of Central Asian Affairs in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. She also served as the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton, Bermuda. Her other previous assignments include Slovenia, Nepal, Belarus, Malaysia and Washington DC. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ms. Shelton was an attorney with Bouhan, Williams & Levy in Savannah, Georgia and a law clerk to the Honorable Duross Fitzpatrick, United States District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia. She has a J.D. and a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bucknell University. Ms. Shelton was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina.
U.S. Consulate General Lahore: Yuriy Fedkiw
Consul General Yuriy Fedkiw is the 29th American diplomat to lead the U.S. post in Lahore, where the United States has maintained a diplomatic presence and built a strong relationship with the people of Punjab since 1947.
Yuriy Fedkiw was most recently the Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka, Japan and previously served in Iraq, Ukraine, Slovenia, China, Tokyo, and Washington, DC. Prior to entering the Foreign Service, Consul General Fedkiw coordinated international relations for the City of Oita. He received his B.A. in East Asian Studies from Wittenberg University, an M.A. in International Affairs from American University, and an M.A. in International Relations from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan.
Posted: 1:29 pm ET
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We’ve posted previously about Ambassador Robin Raphel in this blog. See Case Against Veteran Diplomat Robin Raphel Ends Without Charges, Who’s Gonna Say Sorry?. Also below:
Today, the Wall Street Journal runs an extensive account of what happened and why this case is a concerning one for American diplomats:
The NSA regularly swept up Pakistani communications “to, from or about” senior U.S. officials working in the country. Some American officials would appear in Pakistani intercepts as often as once a week. What Raphel didn’t realize was that her desire to engage with foreign officials, the very skill set her supervisors encouraged, had put a target on her back.
The FBI didn’t have a clear picture of where Raphel fit on the State Department organizational chart. She was a political adviser with the rank of ambassador but she wasn’t a key policy maker anymore. She seemed to have informal contacts with everyone who mattered in Islamabad—more, even, than the sitting ambassador and the CIA station chief.
State Department officials said that when they spoke to the FBI agents, they had the feeling they were explaining the basics of how diplomats worked.
At times, Raphel’s colleagues pushed back—warning the FBI that their investigation risked “criminalizing diplomacy,” according to a former official who was briefed on the interviews.
In one interview, the agents asked James Dobbins, who served as SRAP from 2013 to 2014, whether it was OK for Raphel to talk to a Pakistani source about information that wasn’t restricted at the time, but would later be deemed classified.
“If somebody tells you something in one conversation, you might write that up and it becomes classified,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean the next time you see them that you can’t talk about what you’d already talked about.”
Over the past two years, diplomats in Pakistan and the U.S. have scaled back contacts, according to officials in both countries. U.S. diplomats say they are afraid of what the NSA and the FBI might hear about them.
“What happened to Raphel could happen to any of us,” said Ryan Crocker, one of the State Department’s most highly decorated career ambassadors. Given the empowerment of law enforcement after 9/11 and the U.S.’s growing reliance on signals intelligence in place of diplomatic reporting, he said, “we will know less and we will be less secure.”
“Look what happened to the one person who was out talking to people,” said Dan Feldman, Raphel’s former boss at State. “Does that not become a cautionary tale?”
Diplomatic Security had yet to restore her security clearance. Some of her friends at the State Department said they believed the FBI opposed the idea.
Kerry and Raphel stood close together for only a couple of minutes. On the sidelines of the noisy gathering, Kerry leaned over and whispered into Raphel’s ear: “I am sorry about what has happened to you.”
Read in full below:
Posted: 3:30 am ET
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President-elect Trump had a chat with Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, see the read out below. After Sharif’s invitation to visit Pakistan, Mr. Trump reportedly said he would love to come to Pakistan, “a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people.” According to The Times of India, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup issued a deadpan response: “We look forward to the President-elect helping Pakistan address the most outstanding of its outstanding issues – terrorism.”
The Trump Transition has released its own sober readout of the telephone conversation on November 30, but Pakistan’s version got all the eyeballs.
For comparison, click here for the WH readout of the phone call between President Obama and PM Sharif on November 21, 2014. Click here for the readout of that same phone call from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.