Americans Targeted in South Sudan, a Country That Gets $1.5B in American Humanitarian Aid

Posted: 3:36 am ET

 

The AP report says that “the attack on the Terrain hotel compound in Juba last month shows the hostility toward foreigners and aid workers by troops under the command of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, who has been fighting supporters of rebel leader Riek Machar since civil war erupted in December 2013.”  (See How the World’s Youngest Nation Descended Into Bloody Civil War).  The State Department’s official spox declined to say whether Americans were targeted but the Daily Beast piece includes the beating of an American “with belts and rifle butts for about an hour, accusing him of hiding rebels. “You tell your embassy how we treated you,” one soldier told him as he fled to a nearby UN compound.”  During the attack on the Terrain, several survivors also told the AP that soldiers specifically asked if they were Americans.

The attack on the Terrain compound occurred on July 11.  On July 17, the Special Envoy to South Sudan tweeted that the U.S. is not going to take “offensive action” against South Sudan.

On August 15, over a month after this horrific incident, USUN Ambassador Samantha Power released a statement that the United States is “outraged of the assaults and rapes of civilians … last month.” The US Embassy in Juba received distressed calls, so officials knew this happened before it became  front page news. Still, it took the US over a month to publicly acknowledge this outrage.

A brief backgrounder here — South Sudan gained independence on July 9, 2011, after being at war with Sudan for nearly 40 of the past 57 years. USCG Juba became the US Embassy at the same time.  In early 2013, State/OIG conducted an inspection of the USG’s newest embassy in the world.  One of the OIG’s key findings at that time is the Department inability to staff Embassy Juba adequately, “preventing the embassy from functioning as effectively as it should.”  The embassy operates out of a small chancery deemed too small to accommodate additional staff and the new embassy is not scheduled for construction until 2018. The report warns that the current facility puts embassy employees at risk. The inability to add more staff also leaves assistance programs vulnerable to failure or misuse of funds. The report indicates that the Department has decided to keep the mission with its current footprint until construction of a new embassy, which won’t happen until 2018. It will be a number of years, however, until the new embassy is ready. The OIG concludes that personnel and the integrity of our programs will remain at risk.  (see US Embassy Juba: Dear Congress, This Facility Puts Employees “At Risk” But Hey, Waivers) and US Embassy Juba: An All-in-One Consular Officer on First Rodeo Works Out of a Storage Closet.

The US Embassy in Juba has a small U.S. force guarding it but its ability to function as an embassy is only possible with the protection of the host country.  With South Sudan government troops targeting Americans, how is it that the US Embassy in Juba is still open?

Below is an excerpt from the Daily Press Briefing with the spox addressing what Embassy Juba did during and following the attack. It also show the limits of what the US Government can do despite being the largest donor in South Sudan.

Via DPB on August 15, 2016:

MS TRUDEAU: Yes. And I’m glad for this. Please.

QUESTION: There was a fairly disturbing account put out today of the July 11th attack on the Terrain hotel compound. And as part of it, survivors are saying that they waited for hours after calling for help from the U.S. embassy as well as other embassies in the area, with no one responding. Do you dispute that, and do you have any timeline that you can share with us about what occurred during the time of the assault?

MS TRUDEAU: Okay. So I think we’ve all seen those horrific reports. I want to say at the top that privacy considerations will prevent me from talking about any specific part of this in detail. But as I go through this, I do not in any way want to minimize in any way, shape, or form what people might have gone through during that crisis in South Sudan.

So in terms of the timeline: In the midst of the ongoing fighting throughout the city between government and opposition forces, Embassy Juba actively responded to the July 11 assault on a private compound hosting U.S. citizens, among others. Upon learning about the attacks at Terrain camp, Ambassador Phee immediately – herself – immediately contacted South Sudanese government officials, including officials in the presidential guard and National Security Service. National Security Service sent a response force to the site and put a stop to the attack. Presidential guard forces also went to the scene, but they arrived after the National Security Service.

Following the attack and in the midst of ongoing fighting and violence throughout Juba, including in the immediate vicinity of the embassy, the U.S. embassy ensured that U.S. citizens and foreign nationals affected by the attack were moved to safety and provided emergency medical assistance. The U.S. embassy also facilitated the rapid departure of those involved from South Sudan by air ambulance.

As part of its response to the crisis in South Sudan, the U.S. embassy provided emergency services for those in need and assisted in the departure of more than 80 U.S. citizens during last month’s crisis.

We’ve stated we condemn these attacks. We have called for accountability for those who are involved in the violence.

Anything more on South Sudan?

QUESTION: So you can’t confirm that Americans were singled out and were specifically assaulted due to the fact that they were American in the course of the assault?

MS TRUDEAU: I’m not in a position to say that any particular nationality was singled out.

QUESTION: And as part of the report, it suggests that it was South Sudanese soldiers who were in fact committing this assault. So how was the U.S. embassy – how could they be assured that the people that they were calling were the ones who were actually going to help rather than contributing to the ongoing —

MS TRUDEAU: So what I can say is that the attackers in this incident wore uniforms and they were armed. There were both opposition and government troops in Juba at that time. Armed clashes were occurring throughout the city. The area where Terrain is located was controlled by the SPLA on July 10th and 11th.

Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted – you said that the – in the midst of the ongoing attack at Terrain, you said Embassy Juba actively responded.

MS TRUDEAU: We did.

QUESTION: So the active response, though, as far as I can tell from what you said, was that the ambassador made a phone call. Is that —

MS TRUDEAU: The ambassador made several phone calls.

QUESTION: Several phone calls?

MS TRUDEAU: When we were assured that people would go out and bring people in, then we actively ensured that those people were safe. So yeah.

QUESTION: But in the midst of – while it was going – I understand what —

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: — you’re saying after it was over what you did, but during it, was there —

MS TRUDEAU: When we received reports, we called the people who are best poised to go out and make it stop, which was the National Security Services as well as the presidential guard.

QUESTION: But – yeah, I understand that, but I mean – but was it just the ambassador or did other people – did other staffers do anything? I mean, I’m just trying to get an idea of what the active response was.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah, in terms of sequence, it was – it was reaching out to the government officials who were in a position at that place to intervene.

QUESTION: So I think that the point that at least the survivors of this or some of the survivors of the attack is, is there wasn’t any kind – any attempt to intervene. Is that not appropriate or —

MS TRUDEAU: I – it’s – again, there was an immediate response from the U.S. embassy to identify and dispatch the people who could intervene immediately in the attack.

QUESTION: Right. But the embassy itself was not in a position to do anything?

MS TRUDEAU: Was not in a position to do that.

 

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GOP National Security Heavyweights Warn Potential POTUS Would Be “Most Reckless”

Posted:2:22 am ET

 

The signatories to the open letter published in the New York Times include John Negroponte, the former Director of National Intelligence; former Deputy Secretary of State; former Deputy National Security Advisor and James Jeffrey, former Deputy National Security Advisor, The White House. It also includes Michael Hayden, the former Director, Central Intelligence Agency; former Director, National Security Agency.  The two former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff have also signed the letter along with a good number of familiar names who previously served in the State Department, Defense

This is in addition to the 121 GOP natsec folks who did a letter in March 2016. And the former Acting CIA Director, Michael Morell, who Donald Trump called a “lightweight” and  “a total Clinton flunky!”

“President must be willing to listen to his advisers and department heads; must encourage consideration of conflicting views; and must acknowledge errors and learn from them. A President must be disciplined, control emotions, and act only after reflection and careful deliberation. A President must maintain cordial relationships with leaders of countries of different backgrounds and must have their respect and trust.

In our judgment, Mr. Trump has none of these critical qualities. He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commander- in-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”
[…]
Missing from the signatories are any of the living Republican former secretaries of state: Mr. Kissinger, George P. Shultz, James A. Baker III, Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

Read the letter here:

 

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Self-Service: Debating the Merits of the Different Ambassadorships

Posted: 3:25 am ET

Via NYT:

At first-come-first-served seats near the bar, assistants huddled around lengthy spreadsheets, figuring out which donors were entitled to which passes to which events. Outside, a protester walked with a sign denouncing big money. Inside, two stocky men could be heard debating the merits of the different ambassadorships they hoped to earn under Mrs. Clinton. Even a low-ranking posting meant having “ambassador” on a child’s wedding invitation, the two agreed, and would be helpful in wrangling invitations to sit on corporate boards.

Wow! That’s real public service. We hope they can find those low-ranking posts on the map!

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Visa Fraudsters Who Recruited H-1B workers For the “Bench” Get 87 Months in Federal Prison

Posted: 3:35 am ET

Via DOJ/Northern District of Texas:

Atul and Jay Nanda Used Their Corporation, Dibon Solutions in Carrollton, Texas, to Commit Fraud Through H-1B Visa Program to Create a Low-Cost Workforce

DALLAS — Two brothers who were convicted at trial in November 2015 on felony offenses stemming from a conspiracy they ran to commit visa fraud to secure a low-cost workforce at their information technology consulting company headquartered in Carrollton, Texas, were sentenced today to lengthy federal prison terms, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Atul Nanda, 46, and his brother, Jiten “Jay” Nanda, 45, were each sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn to 87 months in federal prison.  Each was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, and four counts of wire fraud.  The brothers, who have been on bond, were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Dibon Solutions is an information technology consulting company located on Chenault Drive in Carrollton; it is a family operation created by the Nanda family.  Atul and Jiten Nanda created, established, and ran the corporation that they used to commit fraud through the H1-B visa program.

“The H-1B visa program is a powerful and positive tool for businesses and foreign workers alike when properly used,” said U.S. Attorney Parker.  “When employers abuse the program, however, the foreign workers become a captive stable of cheap labor, victimized to the company’s financial benefit.”

“This federal investigation uncovered Dibon’s deeply rooted conspiracy of maximizing its profits at all costs,” said Katrina W. Berger, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Dallas.  “These two brothers created a highly profitable, and highly illegal business model at the extreme expense of the alien workforce that they recruited.  In addition, this same illegal business model operated at an unfair advantage to Dibon’s competition since it had a much lower operating overhead.”

The H-1B visa program allows businesses in the U.S., such as Dibon, to temporarily employ foreign workers with specialized or technical expertise in a particular field such as accounting, engineering, or computer science.

The Nanda brothers recruited foreign workers with expertise who wanted to work in the U.S.  They sponsored the workers’ H-1B visa with the stated purpose of working at Dibon headquarters in Carrolton, but, in fact, did not have an actual position at the time they were recruited and knew the workers would ultimately provide consulting services to third-party companies located throughout the U.S.  Contrary to representations made by the conspirators to the workers (and the government), Jay and Atul Nanda directed that the workers only be paid for time spent working at a third-party company and only if the third-party company actually first paid Dibon for the workers’ services.  Additionally, in Dibon’s visa paperwork, the conspirators falsely represented that the workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary, as required by regulation to secure the visas.

This scheme provided the conspirators with a labor pool of inexpensive, skilled foreign workers who could be used on an “as needed” basis.  The scheme was profitable because it required minimal overhead and Dibon could charge significant hourly rates for a computer consultant’s services.  Thus, the Nandas, as Dibon’s owners, earned a substantial profit margin when a consultant was assigned to a project and incurred few costs when a worker was without billable work.  This scheme is known as “benching.”  Dibon actively recruited H-1B workers for the “bench.”

The Nandas required the H-1B visa candidates to pay the processing fees that the law requires to be paid by the company. The Nandas attempted to hide this, however, by having the H-1B candidates pay the fees directly to Dibon either with cash or a check written to “Dibon Training Center.”

The three other defendants charged in the case, Siva Sugavanam, 37, Vivek Sharma, 48, and Rohit Mehra, 39, who each pleaded guilty before trial to one count of aiding and abetting visa fraud, were each sentenced earlier this month by Judge Lynn to two years’ probation.  Sugavanam was the lead recruiter for Dibon; Sharma acted as Dibon’s office manager; and Mehra recruited employees for the bench and transported benched employees to and from Dibon Headquarters.  All three had knowledge of and/or involvement in the filing of false documents with the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in securing recruits’ employment with Dibon.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, HSI and the U.S. Department of State.

Original announcement is posted here.

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#OrlandoSolidarity: Flowers, Vigils, Condolences From Around the World

Posted: 1:46 am ET

 

The deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 occurred on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The mass shooting which happened inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, is also the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history to date. The casualties include 49 people dead and 53 wounded. The perpetrator, born and raised in New York to Afghan parents who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980’s was killed in a shootout with the police . Below are some expressions of solidarity with Orlando, and the United States from around the world.

US Embassy Paris, France

US Embassy Berlin, Germany

US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

US Embassy Moscow, Russia

US Embassy London, United Kingdom

US Embassy Warsaw, Poland

US Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Vilnius, Lithuania

US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

US Embassy Madrid, Spain

Islamabad, Pakistan

US Embassy New Delhi, India

US Embassy Oslo, Norway

Meanwhile —

In Moscow, two men who left flowers at the US Embassy in Moscow in memory of the Orlando victims were reportedly detained.

And in Jamaica–

Back in DC —

 

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Secretary Kerry’s Travels: A Trip Every Month Since 2013; 165,808 Miles So Far in 2016

Posted: 1:16 am ET

The State Department says that the Secretary of State” travels to all corners of the world to do his job. His duties as Secretary include acting as the President’s representative at all international forums, negotiating treaties and other international agreements, and conducting everyday, face-to-face diplomacy.”  The latest update from state.gov says that Secretary Kerry has now visited 81 countries, has racked up 1,135,417 miles, spent 495 travel days and has a total flight time of  2,465.53 hours /102.7 days.  It looks like JK is sticking true to form of traveling every month of the year for the last three years since he became SecState in 2013.

From June 2-8, Secretary Kerry is traveling to Paris, France; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and Beijing, China. He was in Mongolia on June 5 where he meet with senior government officials, hosted a town hall with young leaders and attended a traditional Mongolian cultural festival, a mini-Naadam according to the US Embassy Mongolia. It is “the three games of men” which includes  Mongolian wrestlinghorse racing, and archery,  He tried his hand at archery but skipped the other two.

 

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FBI’s Misunderstanding of Diplomatic Tradecraft Just Latest in List of “Misunderstandings”

Posted: 1:39 am ET

We’ve covered Ambassador Robin Raphel’s story in this blog since it broke in November 2014. In March 2016, the Justice Department’s case fizzled and it declined to file charges against the former ambassador.

Previously, in the case of Xiaoxing Xi, the Temple university professor and head of the school’s physics department, federal authorities handling the case were said to have also misunderstood key parts of the science behind the professor’s work.  Mr. Xi’s lawyer said, “We found what appeared to be some fundamental mistakes and misunderstandings about the science and technology involved here.” The federal officials handling the Xi case did not know the science but went ahead and indicted him anyway.

They misunderstood science and technology, and now, we can add misunderstanding of the diplomatic tradecraft to the list of serious mistakes made by AG Loretta Lynch investigators.  When investigators don’t know what they don’t know, 40 years of service doesn’t mean anything. And for every hammer, everything is nothing but a nail.

WaPo’s David Ignatius writes a piece on when diplomats get punished for doing their jobs.

Via WaPo’s :

The case leaves behind some disturbing questions about how a diplomat with nearly 40 years’ experience became the focus of a career-shattering investigation — apparently without anyone seeking clarification from knowledgeable State Department officials about her assignment to open alternative channels to repair the badly strained relationship with Pakistan.

“If the Bureau had talked to senior people at State who were knowledgeable about her work, I believe they would never have launched this investigation,” argues Jeff Smith, a former CIA general counsel who was one of Raphel’s attorneys.
[…]
The case had a “chilling effect” on other diplomats, who feared they might be next, a half-dozen State Department officials told me. But Raphel’s colleagues stood behind her, even when the investigation was still active. Beth Jones, another former assistant secretary of state, organized a legal defense fund last summer. The fund raised nearly $90,000 from 96 colleagues and friends, many of whom, recalls Jones, voiced the fear: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Diplomats often go last in our national-security parade. People cheer at ballparks when they see soldiers and sailors. They stand in line to watch movies about snipers and special-forces operators. But a diplomat’s reward for years in danger sometimes seems to be a congressional or FBI investigation for security lapses. That’s wrong. Raphel and many hundreds of colleagues deserve better support.

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State/OIG Audits Local Guard Force Contractors at Critical/High-Threat Posts

Posted: 12:50  am ET

Via State/OIG:

OIG conducted an audit of Local Guard Force Contractors at Critical- and High-Threat Posts  to determine whether (1) local guard force (LGF) contractors at selected critical- and high-threat overseas posts are complying with general and post orders included in the contract; (2) LGF contractors at selected critical- and high- threat overseas posts provide invoices that comply with contract requirements; and (3) regional security officers at selected critical- and high-threat overseas posts perform oversight of the LGF contract in accordance with their Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) delegation memoranda.

Screen Shot

Summary of Findings:

OIG found that the guards working for the four LGF contractors at eight overseas posts (in four missions) complied with, on average, greater than 90 percent of security-related guard post orders observed. However, OIG identified deficiencies that were common across two or more missions related to access control procedures, equipment, unofficial reassignment of post orders, delivery and mail screening procedures, and reporting and investigating procedures. OIG also found that some guards were not receiving a proper number of breaks. Deficiencies generally occurred due to human error, lack of refresher training, and unavailable equipment. These deficiencies, if not addressed, could negatively impact the performance of security procedures that are intended to maintain post security and are required by the LGF contract.

OIG also reviewed whether contractor invoices complied with contract terms and conditions and found that three of the four LGF contractors properly submitted invoices that included appropriate supporting documentation. However, the Mission REDACTED LGF contractor did not adhere to the contractually required invoice format or to the schedule for submitting invoices.

Finally, OIG found that assistant regional security officers (acting as CORs, alternate CORs, and Government Technical Monitors) generally conducted LGF oversight in accordance with requirements, which are to monitor, inspect, and document the contractor’s performance and, when necessary, apply negative incentives for not meeting performance standards. However, OIG found that not all assistant regional security officers (1) documented the contractors’ performance or (2) maintained complete COR files. As a result, oversight was not properly documented. Without a complete COR file, the Government may not have the necessary documentation to defend its position of contractor nonconformance with contract terms, potentially resulting in paying for services that do not meet contract requirements.

A few details:

Local guard force performance deficiencies, if not addressed, could negatively impact the performance of procedures that are intended to maintain post security and are required by the LGF contract. For example, the guards’ failure to conduct access control, delivery, and mail screening procedures in accordance with post orders may result in unauthorized personnel accessing the compound or visitors bringing prohibited items into the compound. Further, if guards do not carry equipment in accordance with post orders, REDACTED, leading to a delayed response to a possible threat. In addition, guards may not be able to react quickly to provide notice to the compound of imminent danger. Similarly, failure to investigate or report suspicious or unusual occurrences to all required parties could delay necessary officials from receiving proper warning, which in turn could delay post officials’ reaction time. Regarding the unofficial reassignment of post orders, guards who are assigned to perform the duties of others may be overwhelmed and unable to complete all reassigned duties. Finally, guards who do not receive regular breaks may be tired, which may lead to impaired judgment in the event a security situation occurs.
[…]
At the new consulate compound in REDACTED, guard post orders stated that guards should instruct contractors to have their irises scanned prior to receiving access badges. However, OIG observed that contractors were receiving badges before having their irises scanned. The LGF Commander stated that logistically, after employees pass through the WTMD [walk-through metal detector], the closest station is the badging station. Thus, it is understandable that guards may stop there first rather than at their scanning stations required.According to the Consulate General REDACTED Senior RSO, once a badge has been issued, contractors are granted official access to the new consulate compound. Thus, it is important that guards verify contractors via the iris scanner prior to issuing access badges.

Read the full report here (PDF).

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Burn Bag: We aren’t even trying to hide this stuff anymore? Bwaaah!

Via Burn Bag:

Job Title:    Visa Analyst    
Job Category:     Non-Exempt
Location:    Washington, DC    
Travel:    N/A
Level/Salary Range:    NEGOTIABLE    
Position Type:    Full Time
Date posted:    April 29, 2016

Job Description: Summary: Immediate full time requirement – CA/VO Visa Analyst – in support of the U.S. Department of State (DOS), Counselor Affairs/Visa Office. Final Top Secret Security Clearance required and candidate must meet eligibility criteria to be granted access to Sensitive Compartmented Information when/if required. The Visa Analyst provides support to the Government staff and prepares letters, reports, and specialized correspondence. A Government manager will provide day-to-day oversight and direction.   

“We aren’t even trying to hide anymore that we plan to supervise the employees of third party contractors [TPCs].  This insidious practice ultimately denies opportunities to government employees who miss out on training and conference experiences when the employees of third party contractors attend instead.  Why do we offer training to these employees of TPCs when they were supposed to already be trained?”

plsmakeitstop

Via media.riffsy.com

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#DefeatingDaesh News Front: Social Media as “Transformational” Tool, Covert Propaganda

Posted: 12:04  am ET

 

Meanwhile, across the pond —

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