Yo! The Thing. Still Going on in China?

We understand that there are still “a lot of curtailments” continuing out of China even now because “The Thing” is still going on according to a note in our mailbox.

In January 2018, the SFRC’s had a Subcommittee Hearing Attacks on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba: Response and Oversight. In September 2018, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that the Trump administration provide an unclassified version of the State Department’s recent Accountability Review Board (ARB) report on the incidents affecting the health of U.S. personnel serving in Cuba. We have not been able to locate any congressional oversight hearings on the incident in China.  We don’t know if there is an ARB China. If an ARB was convened on the health attacks in China, there does not appear to be any public notification. 

In late October, an NBC News investigation indicates that US diplomats are concerned that the State Department is down-playing a pattern of what’s been called “health attacks” on diplomatic staff in Cuba and China. (see Is @StateDept Working to Minimize the Health Attacks in China? #Cuba #MissingARBs). If curtailments are still going on, that indicates that USG employees and family members in one of our largest overseas missions remain in harm’s way, so who’s talking about it?  Somebody please ask your friendly senior administration official what are they doing about it. Three years ago, we would have had back to back congressional hearings not just on the Havana Syndrome, but also on the China Syndrome, and on the State Department’s response to these attacks. Can we please have some oversight hearings in January, pretty please?   

Via Giphy

MORE:

This one about Canadian diplomats and their families. G&M reports that  nine Canadian adults and four children have been diagnosed with the brain injuries. “The Canadians who were affected in 2017 are all in Canada and still employed by Global Affairs, although several are unable to work because of their symptoms.”

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Pompeo Convenes ARB Guadalajara For Jan 2017 Attack on USG Employee

On November 8, the Federal Register published a notice that an Accountability Review Board (ARB) for a security incident where a U.S. national attempted to murder a U.S. diplomat in Guadalajara, Mexico had been convened:

On June 1, 2018, Secretary Pompeo authorized the convening of an Accountability Review Board (ARB) to review a January 2017 attack on a U.S. government employee in Guadalajara, Mexico. Pursuant to Section 304 of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, as amended (22 U.S.C. 4834), the ARB will examine the facts and circumstances, and report findings and recommendations as it deems appropriate, in keeping with its mandate. (see American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico). Last month, the assailant was sentenced to 22 years (see U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years For Attempted Murder of U.S. Diplomat in Mexico).

The notice includes the composition of the ARB:

Secretary has appointed Lisa Kubiske, a retired U.S. Ambassador, as Chair of the Board. The other Board members are retired Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, retired Ambassador Joan Plaisted, Ms. Carol Gallo, and Mr. John DeSalvio. They bring to their deliberations distinguished backgrounds in government service.

According to the notice, the Board “will submit its conclusions and recommendations to Secretary Pompeo within 60 days of its first meeting, unless the Chair determines a need for additional time. Within the timeframes required by statute following receipt of the report, the Department will report to Congress on recommendations made by the Board and action taken with respect to those recommendations.”

12 FAM 030 on the ARB provides that “The Secretary must convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such 60-day period may be extended for one additional 60-day period if the Secretary determines that the additional period is necessary for the convening of the Board.”  The attack occurred in January 2017; we have not been able to locate a notice of an ARB for this incident authorized by Tillerson. Pompeo assumed office in Foggy Bottom on April 26, 2018. ARB Guadalajara was authorized on June 1, 2018, some 17 months after the incident, but less than 60 days from Pompeo’s taking office. 

There is a provision in the regs for a delay in convening an ARB; we can’t tell if the delay here was under this provision or simply because Tillerson’s tenure was beset by chaos: With respect to breaches of security involving intelligence activities, the Secretary may delay the convening of a Board, if, after consultation with the chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, the Secretary determines that the establishment of a Board would compromise intelligence sources or methods.  The Secretary must promptly advise the chairs of such committees of each determination to delay the establishment of a Board. 

In any case, we’re still interested in learning more about what happened to ARB Guadalajara. If it’s been concluded, has it been forwarded to Congress? 

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US Embassy Kinshasa Remains Closed to the Public For Sixth Day Over Terror Threat #DRC

 

On December 2, the US Embassy Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that it will be closed to the public again due to a terrorist threat against USG facilities in the capital city. Below is part of the announcement:

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is working closely with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to address a terrorist threat against USG facilities in Kinshasa.  The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will be closed to the public on Monday, December 3.

 Actions to Take:

·        Maintain a heightened level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness.

·         Monitor local media for updates.

·         Keep a low profile and notify friends and family of your safety.

·         Review the country page  and remain alert for potentially dangerous situations.

US Embassy Kinshasha previously “received credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. Government facilities in Kinshasa” on November 24, 2018. It initially closed to the public with only minimal staffing on Monday, November 26, 2018.

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Russia-Ukraine Tensions Escalate in Azov Sea, U.S. Issues Forceful Response: ZZZzzz

 

Still nothing from the State Department, Secretary Pompeo or US Embassy Ukraine  as of this writing, but the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine did tweet a comment with three question marks. Note that the tweet isn’t ALL CAPS.

Also here’s the chief diplomat of the United States tweeting about military protection pay but no tweets, ALL CAPS or otherwise about the incident that Ukrainian Navy said has wounded six Ukrainian servicemen when Russian forces shot at and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels off the coast of Crimea.

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US Embassy Haiti: Employees on “Shelter In Place” Order, 15-Mile Radius Travel Restriction

 

The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince issued a Security Alert on November 18 as anti-corruption protests broke out in Haiti. The alert cites protests, roadblocks, burning tires, and possible gunfire within the capital city including the areas of Petionville, Peguyville, Delmas, La Saline, Cite Soleil, Nazon, Sans Fil, Bel-Air, Champ-de-Mars, Carrefour Aeroport, Bourdon, Canape Vert, and outside the capital, in the areas of Port-de-Paix, Les Cayes, Cap Haitien, Hinche, Gonaives, and Jeremie.

The Embassy required its American employees to shelter in place. “Pending further changes, the Embassy plans to announce a delayed opening (10 a.m., Monday, November 19.” Employees remain “prohibited from traveling within Haiti beyond a 15-mile radius of the Embassy without prior Chief of Mission approval.”

U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years For Attempted Murder of U.S. Diplomat in Mexico

 

This past July we blogged about the guilty plea of U.S. national and former medical student Zia Zafar over his attempted murder of Christopher Ashcraft, a U.S. diplomat assigned at the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico (see U.S. National Zia Zafar Pleads Guilty to the Attempted Murder of U.S. Consulate Official in Mexico).

We posted previously about this case:

On November 7, USDOJ announced that Zia Zafar was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the attempted murder of Mr. Ashcraft. In addition to the prison sentence, Zafar was sentenced to serve eight years of supervised release. The DOJ release also notes that Mr. Ashcraft survived the attack, but that “the bullet remains lodged in his spinal column, as it was deemed too dangerous to remove.”

The original statement is available here.

U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for the Attempted Murder of U.S. Consulate Official in Mexico

A U.S. national and former medical student was sentenced to 264 months in prison for the 2017 shooting of a U.S. diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Acting Special Agent in Charge Tom Jones of the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Christian J. Schurman for U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security and Director for Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), made the announcement.

Zia Zafar, 33, of Chino Hills, California, previously pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder of an internationally protected person and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.  Zafar was sentenced by U.S District Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia.  In addition to the prison sentence, Zafar was sentenced to serve eight years of supervised release.

“Zia Zafar targeted a U.S. government employee and surveilled him before shooting him in the chest at close range,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “The Department of Justice will do everything in its power to prosecute anyone who targets U.S. officials at home or abroad.  I commend the investigative team and our law enforcement partners in Mexico for their outstanding work in bringing Zafar to justice for this premediated heinous act.”

“The FBI works closely with international partners and security services in order to conduct complex investigations and acquire evidence from abroad for criminal prosecutions in the United States,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Jones.  “I want to thank the Mexican government for their full support and cooperation throughout this investigation.”

“The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “No one should doubt the resolve of law enforcement to steadfastly investigate and apprehend those who attack us. I wish to express our sincere thanks to the many United States and Mexican law enforcement agencies involved in the apprehension and return of this defendant to the United States to face justice.”“The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “No one should doubt the resolve of law enforcement to steadfastly investigate and apprehend those who attack us. I wish to express our sincere thanks to the many United States and Mexican law enforcement agencies involved in the apprehension and return of this defendant to the United States to face justice.”

“Today’s sentencing of Zia Zafar sends a strong message: Diplomatic Security is committed to making sure those who attack diplomatic personnel representing America abroad face serious consequences,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Schurman.  “Diplomatic Security’s strong relationships with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. and foreign law enforcement partners around the world continue to be essential in the pursuit of justice.  Such crimes threaten the national security of the United States.”

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea and facts presented at the sentencing hearing, on Jan. 6, 2017, Zafar, then living in Guadalajara, Mexico, armed himself with a firearm and wore a wig and sunglasses to disguise his appearance.  He then waited in a parking garage for the victim, a vice consul who worked at the U.S Consulate in Guadalajara, following him as he walked towards his vehicle.  After noticing a security guard nearby, Zafar changed his location to the vehicle exit ramp, where he waited for the vice consul to exit.  When the vice consul approached the exit in his car, Zafar fired a single shot into the vehicle, striking the vice consul in his chest.  The vice consul survived, but the bullet remains lodged in his spinal column, as it was deemed too dangerous to remove.  Zafar admitted that he targeted the vice consul because he knew from earlier surveillance that the victim worked at the U.S. Consulate.

FBI and DSS investigated the case in close cooperation with Mexican authorities and with valuable assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.  Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Walutes of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.

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We were hoping that court records would provide some more clarity about this case, unfortunately, they don’t. We wanted to understand what made Consulate Guadalajara or this official the specific target in this attack. There is no mention in the unsealed court records of a visa denial as a motive in this attack.  U.S. Attorney Terwilliger says, “The Vice Consul was targeted and shot because he represented the United States.” All consulate officials represent the United States in Guadalajara, what made this specific diplomat the target?  The U.S. national attacker reportedly lived in California but was studying in Mexico. This individual left California, went to Mexico, and then later decided to surveil the consulate in Guadalajara in order to find a target? Why? What made him decide he suddenly wanted to shot a representative of his own country one day? What was the trigger? This case remains perplexing to us.

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Halloween 2018: A Great Day For Scaring Kids, Also a Frightful Time For All Else

 

ALSO IN FRIGHTFUL NEWS: The United States could deploy 7,000 armed troops to the US-Mexican border a week before Election Day. It could go up to 15,000, roughly what we have in Afghanistan and three times what the United States deployed to Iraq. Since Mexico refused to fund that wall, the President of the United States now says “”We have to have a wall of people”. Presumably, our friends to the south are not going to pay for this “wall of people” either, so U.S. taxpayers are already saddled with this tab. And since the deployment to the border number will likely kept growing the next few days, the Pentagon probably should ask how deep is this “wall of people” the Commander-in-Chief is talking about.

Meanwhile in Yemen, people have been dying the last three years. Now 14 million people face starvation as the U.S. government continue its military support of Saudi Arabia’s war (see Secretary Pompeo Saves $2Billion Weapons Sales From Jeopardy). USG is now seeking a cease-fire over there. Why now? Is it because half of Yemen’s population is on the brink of famine? Or is it because the world is finally paying attention to US-support of the war in Yemen after the Khashoggi murder?  Former USNATO Ambassador Robert Hunter writes that “blanket U.S. support for the Saudi air campaign means that it cannot escape its own share of responsibility.”

Also back in 2010, a State/OIG report estimated that the Yemeni-American community in that country was about 55,000. There were no USG-organized evacuations when war broke out. For those covering Yemen, please ask the Secretary of State his department’s estimate on how many Yemeni-Americans were killed in this war.

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Is @StateDept Working to Minimize the Health Attacks in China? #Cuba #MissingARBs

Via  NBC News:

NBC News also reviewed hundreds of pages of medical records of U.S. government workers evacuated from both Cuba and China, including those the U.S. has “medically confirmed” were attacked and those it ultimately said were not.
[…]

Most of the American diplomatic evacuees have improved enough to resume work, State Department officials said. Some have been granted accommodations, such as shortened work hours, dimmed office lights or special glasses. Meanwhile, the White House National Security Council is preparing legislation to deal with gaps that Workers’ Compensation doesn’t currently cover, such as care for affected spouses or pay-outs for permanent impairment of the brain.

In internal State Department instructions reviewed by NBC News, workers in Cuba and China were told not to discuss what they knew with the public, with reporters or on social media.
[…]

In May, Pompeo called Werner’s case “entirely consistent” with the Cuba patients. But now top U.S. diplomats say they’re not sure it’s the same thing, with one telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee it’s “apples and oranges.”

And the State Department, in explaining why it’s not setting up a review board to assess the response in Cuba, told NBC News that Pompeo didn’t believe there was enough information to prove that Werner’s injury was “related to a U.S. government mission abroad.”

Somebody please set us straight here. Wasn’t there an ARB for the Cuba attack? Or was there an ARB Havana but no ARB Guangzhou? How did State made a determination that there wasn’t enough information  the injury was “related to a U.S. government mission abroad” without convening an Accountability Review Board? Did they use their Magic 8 crystal ball?

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Related posts:

Travel Alert: 72 Hours of Hate in America

 

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice current as of October 29 notes the reporting on a number of suspicious packages and devices have been sent to prominent locations in New York City and Washington DC in the last few days, including the CNN offices at the Time Warner Center and the homes of former Presidents Clinton and Obama. “The FBI continue to investigate, but there is currently nothing to suggest that there is a specific threat to British nationals.” It also says “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times.”

Ireland’s travel advice, current as of October 28 notes that “There is an increased threat of terrorism and extremist violence worldwide and this should be borne in mind by Irish citizens living and working in the USA. The USA has also witnessed a number of mass shootings in recent years.”  They forgot to add that massshootingtracker.org indicates that there has been 363 mass shootings in the United States in 2018 alone (a mass shooting defined to be an incident of violence in which 4 or more people are shot). 

Australia’s travel advice says The United States has more violent crime than Australia, although it rarely involves tourists. Shootings, including mass shootings, can occur in public places.” (We must add that these public places include a concert venue, a nightclub, elementary schools, colleges, churches, synagogues, a fast food restaurant, post office, a movie theater, private residences, military headquarters, neighborhoods, an immigration center, workplaces, and cafeterias).

New Zealand’s alert is the only one that specifically mentions the risk of domestic-based extremists that we’ve seen in 72 hours: The United States remains a likely target for terrorist activity by domestic-based extremists and internationally-trained individuals and groups, and we continue to receive reports that terrorist groups are planning attacks against the United States. Terrorist attacks have occurred in the United States in recent years and a significant number of terror plots have been disrupted.”

AND NOW THIS FROM CANADA’S BRUCE MACKINNON:

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Ex-@StateDept Employee Pleads Guilty to Student Loan Fraud

On October 19, USDOJ announced that Corey Cadet Dukes who worked for the State Department from 2013-2017 pleaded guilty to “fraudulently discharging over $200,000 in student loan debt.” Dukes reportedly worked as a GS-11 in Lorton, VA, and later as a GS-13 in the Springfield, VA location.

Former State Department Employee Pleads Guilty to Student Loan Fraud

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Georgia man pleaded guilty today to fraudulently discharging over $200,000 in student loan debt.

According to court documents, Corey Cadet Dukes, 39, of Jonesboro, and formerly of Alexandria, was an employee of the U.S. Department of State from 2013-2017. Simultaneously, Dukes was also a full-time supervisor for a security company providing protection to a federal building in Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, Dukes applied through the Department of Education for a Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) discharge of over $200,000 in student loan debt, affirming that he was unable to work and was disabled.

The Department of Education conditionally discharged Dukes’ student loans subject to successful completion of a three-year income monitoring period, which required that TPD applicants not earn over the Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of two, which was no higher than $16,020. Earned income over that amount triggered a repayment obligation and the loans would be reinstated. After failing to respond to multiple requests for proof of income, in October 2016, Dukes submitted a signed self-certification stating: “I, Corey Dukes, did not have any earned income from May 1, 2013 – October 13, 2016.” In reality, during this same period Dukes had earned over $331,000 from his two full-time jobs, had purchased a Bentley, a Porsche, and other luxury vehicles. The Department of Education permanently discharged $205,687.74 of Dukes’ student loan debt.

Dukes pleaded guilty to wire fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on Jan. 4, 2019. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Steve A. Linick, Inspector General of the State Department, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga accepted the plea. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Russell L. Carlberg and Kimberly R. Pedersen are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-298.

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The Indictment includes the following details:

1. Defendant COREY CADET DUKES (hereafter “DUKES” or “the defendant”) resided in Leesburg, Virginia or Alexandria, Virginia, located within the Eastern District of Virginia. During approximately 2006-2012, DUKES had obtained multiple student loans from various lenders, totaling over $200,000 in principal.

2. From approximately October 11, 2012 though approximately August 11,2017, DUKES was employed full-time at Paragon Systems (“Paragon”) providing security services at a U.S. Government facility in Washington, D.C. as a supervisory security guard, and was paid an annual salary beginning at about $53,000 and increasing to approximately $70,000.

3. From approximately May 5, 2013 through approximately August 22, 2017, DUKES was also employed full-time by the U.S. Department of State (the “State Department”), as a GS-11 with a duty station first in Lorton, Virginia, then as a GS-13 in Springfield, Virginia, in the Eastern District of Virginia, and was paid an annual salary beginning at approximately $62,467 and increasing to approximately $97,956.

4. During portions of 2012 and 2015, DUKES also earned income working for Masters Security (“Masters”) as a security guard at various locations in and around the Eastern District of Virginia.

Folks, how does one have two full-time security jobs?

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