Mandatory Evacuation On For US Consulate General Basrah in Southern Iraq

In June last year, we blogged about the Tillerson State Department’s plan to close down the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah (see U.S. Consulate General #Basrah, Iraq: Six-Year Old Diplomatic Outpost Faces Closure).

On September 28, the State Department announced Secretary Pompeo’s determination to place the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah on “ordered departure” status. That means post is now under mandatory evacuation. Media reports elsewhere notes post’s “temporary” closure but we could not find a formal announcement for temporary closure, post closure, or suspension of operation.

Per 2 FAM 410, the final decision to open, close, or change the status of a diplomatic mission is made by the President.  The final decision to open, close, or change the status of a consular post, consular agency, branch, or special office is made by the Under Secretary for Management, a position that remains vacant.

A statement from Secretary Pompeo talks about the “temporary relocation of diplomatic personnel“, blames Iran, and cites “increasing and specific threats and incitements to attack our personnel and facilities in Iraq.”

Basrah is located in the southern-most province of Iraq, near the border with Kuwait and Iran and serves the four provinces of the region: Basrah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, and Maysan.  The U.S Consulate General is adjacent to the Basrah International Airport and the facility, an interim project cost at least $150 million (this includes security and facility upgrades).  Post did not provide visa services or non-emergency American citizen services, both of which are provided by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  Its consular services were limited to emergency American citizen issues.

CIA map

An updated Iraq Travel Advisory says:

The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited.  On September 28, 2018, the Department of State ordered the departure of U.S. government personnel from the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.  The American Citizens Services (ACS) Section at the U.S. Embassy Baghdad will continue to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in Basrah.

A 2013 State/OG report notes the following about Basrah:

The Government of Iraq would like to reclaim the 108-acre compound that houses the U.S. consulate general—a former British forward operating base 12 miles from Basrah on an Iraqi military compound adjacent to the international airport. The embassy is committed to maintain a presence in the south of Iraq, not least because it is the largest source of new oil to market in the world, and many U.S. companies are pursuing commercial opportunities there. The local government supports a U.S. presence, and the Government of Iraq committed in a 2004 bilateral agreement to provide a permanent site for consulate operations. To date, however, there has been no progress identifying a future site. The U.S. Government does not have a land use agreement for the current compound. The consulate general’s hold on the property remains tenuous.

At the time of the inspection, the Department was completing a $150 million interim construction project to provide basic security and infrastructure upgrades, but the facility and its isolated location are not suitable for a diplomatic mission on more than a temporary basis. Employees live in deteriorating containerized housing units; the compound has no central generator grid or access to city power; all supplies, including food, have to be trucked to the compound; and the security support needed to interact with contacts in Basrah City is costly. Operating costs to maintain the current, oversized facility and its hundreds of guards and life support staff are approximately $100 million per year. The Department has not given priority to or identified funding for a purpose-built facility.

Basrah’s ability to sustain operations is fragile under the best of circumstances because of its location at the end of a supply chain beset by shipping delays, security concerns, and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining U.S. direct-hire staff. As long as the consulate general occupies a sprawling compound that requires nearly 1,200 support staff, efforts to reduce costs and develop a long-term diplomatic presence commensurate with U.S. interests will remain on hold. If the Department cannot decide soon on Basrah’s future, it will at the very least have to fund interim upgrades to make facilities livable.

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@StateDept Awards $422M Contract For New Consulate Compound in Erbil, Iraq

Posted: 3:49 am ET
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On June 30, the State Department awarded a $422,470,379.00 contract to B.L. Harbery (sic) International, LLC of Alabama for the construction of the New Consulate Compound in Erbil, Iraq (NCC Erbil). We believe the company’s name is actually B.L. Harbert contrary to published information via fedbiz.

The new Consulate Compound will be constructed on U.S. Government property located in Erbil, Iraq. The site is approximately 50 acres and is located 8.1 miles from the city center.  The scope includes: New Office Building, Marine Security Guard Residence (MSGR), Consulate General Residence (CGR), shops, storage, and maintenance facilities (SPX), perimeter security, vehicle and pedestrian access control pavilions (CACs), utility building (UTL), and vehicle parking. Staff Housing, Visitor Accommodations, a Community Center with bathhouse/cabana and compound landscaping are also part of the project.

Delal Bridge, Zakho City, Duhok Province
Photo via USCG Erbil/FB

Consulate General Erbil serves the four provinces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Dohuk, Erbil, Halabja and Sulaimaniya. The Consulate General consists of an executive office headed by the Consul General and sections covering political affairs, economic affairs, public diplomacy, rule of law, management, and security. Co-located with the U.S. Consulate General is the USAID office serving the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

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Failure of Iraq’s #Mosul Dam Would Likely Cause “A Catastrophe of Biblical Proportions”

Posted: 2:29 pm PT
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In February 2016, the US Embassy in Baghdad released a fact sheet on Mosul Dam.  It warned that in the event of a dam failure, the floodwave would resemble an in-land tidal wave between Mosul and Samarra’, and would sweep downstream anything in its path, including bodies, buildings, cars, unexploded ordinances, hazardous chemicals, and waste. It notes that less than 6 inches of moving water is strong enough to knock a person off his feet, and 16 inches of moving water can carry away most automobiles. Flooding south of Samarra would resemble that of Hurricane Katrina, with standing water that pervades much of Baghdad for weeks to months. As floodwaters recede, mud and waste-covered remnants of previous infrastructure will be left behind.  Flood water could reach depths greater than 45 feet in some parts of Mosul City in as little as one to four hours, giving residents little time to flee. Flood water could reach Tikrit in one to two days.  Flood water could reach Baghdad in three to four days and have depths of up to 33 feet in the river channel.  Some parts of Baghdad would be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport (see US Embassy Baghdad Issues Warning on Possible Collapse of Iraq’s Mosul Dam).

The State Department’s July 2016 Travel Warning notes that the Government of Iraq has taken measures in improving the structural integrity of the dam but urged contingency planning for those who reside in the floodplain. The same Travel Warning also notes that the ability of the Embassy to assist U.S. citizens facing difficulty is extremely limited.

The Government of Iraq has begun to take measures to improve the structural integrity of the Mosul Dam.  A dam failure could cause significant flooding and interruption of essential services from Mosul to Baghdad.  While it is impossible to accurately predict the likelihood of the dam failing, the Embassy has made contingency plans to relocate its personnel in such an event.  The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in Iraq, especially those who reside in the floodplain of the Tigris River, prepare their own contingency plans, have valid U.S. passports, and stay informed of local media reports and Embassy security messages for updates.  

Dexter Filkins has a new story in  (subscription) about the potential coming flood if the Mosul Dam collapses and cause a “catastrophe of Biblical proportions.” Earlier this month, Al Jazeera also reported that the Mosul Dam collapse ‘will be worse than a nuclear bomb’. Apparently warnings by scientists and environmentalists about an imminent collapse are dismissed by Iraqi officials as far-fetched.

 

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EEOC Case: Complaint Over Arranging Transportation to a Happy Hour in Baghdad

Posted: 12:35 am ET
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Via eeoc.gov

DECISION | Complainant filed a timely appeal with this Commission from the Agency’s decision dated January 21, 2014, dismissing her complaint of unlawful employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.  Upon review, the Commission finds that Complainant’s complaint was properly dismissed pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(1) for failure to state a claim.

BACKGROUND

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as a Foreign Services Officer at the  U. S. Embassy  in Baghdad, Iraq.

On December 20, 2013, Complainant filed a formal complaint alleging that the Agency subjected her to discrimination on the basis of sex (female) when she received an email from an official outside her chain of command requesting that she arrange his transportation to a happy hour.

Information in the record shows that the  email  stated “[Complainant], since you are such an expert could you put in a request for a vehicle.”   Both Complainant and  the involved official had been invited by the Australian  Embassy to go to the event, and the official’s office and Complainant’s office  had worked together in the past. The official said that Complainant had offered to arrange transportation to a meeting in the past. When the official learned that Complainant was upset by his email, he apologized.

Analysis and Findings

Under the regulations set forth at 29 C.F.R. Part 1614, an agency shall accept a complaint from an aggrieved employee or applicant for employment who believes that he or she has been discriminated against by that agency because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disabling condition.  29 C.F.R. §§ 1614.103, .106(a).  The Commission’s federal sector case precedent has long defined an “aggrieved employee” as one who suffers a present harm or loss with respect to a term, condition, or privilege of employment for which there is a remedy.  Diaz v. Dep’t of the Air Force, EEOC Request No. 05931049 (April 21, 1994).  If complainant cannot establish that s/he is aggrieved, the agency shall dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim.  29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(1).

The Commission has held that where, as here, a complaint does not challenge an agency action or inaction regarding a specific term, condition, or privilege of employment, the claim of harassment may survive if it alleges conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the complainant’s employment.  See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23 (1993). We find that Complainant’s allegations, involving a one-time isolated email,  are insufficient to state a claim of a hostile work environment.

The Commission finds that the complaint fails to state a claim under the EEOC regulations because Complainant failed to show that she suffered harm or loss with respect to a term, condition, or privilege of employment for which there is a remedy.  See Diaz v. Dep’t of the Air Force, EEOC Request No. 05931049 (April 21, 1994).

Accordingly, the Agency’s final decision dismissing Complainant’s complaint is AFFIRMED.

The text of the entire decision is available to read here.

 

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Three American Contractors Kidnapped in Iraq Tell Their Story

Posted: 1:54 am ET
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Remember the Americans reported missing in Iraq early this year? (see US Embassy Baghdad: “Several” Americans Missing in Iraq).  It turns out there were three American contractors who went missing: Waiel El-Maadawy, an Army veteran and former Florida sheriff’s deputy,  his cousin, Amr Mohamed, of Bullhead City, Arizona, and Russell Frost, of Wichita, Kansas.

McClatchyDC has their story:

[T]he men were released to Iraqi middlemen who took them to the Green Zone, the government complex where the U.S. Embassy is housed. That day, Feb. 16, was the last the Americans saw of Abu Marina, the Iraqi held captive with them. Attempts to reach him via his Facebook account failed; his whereabouts are unknown.

Coverage of the kidnapping is a case study in the unreliability of newsgathering in Baghdad, where fear and sectarian agendas shape how incidents are reported, especially given the difficulties of Western journalists to move freely around the city.

Every news organization that covered the case reported inaccurate information, typically focusing on the brothel angle based on the accounts of unnamed “Iraqi security officials.” Virtually everything else in the reports was wrong, too: the men’s names, nationalities, genders, employer and time of capture.

Read more below:

 

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@StateDept Summer Rotation Brings New Faces to the U.S. Mission in Iraq

Posted: 2:48 am ET
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The 2016 summer rotation brought in new faces at the U.S. Mission in Iraq.  On September 1, the U.S. ambassador designate Douglas Silliman arrived in Baghdad. As far as we can tell from social media posts, he has yet to present his credentials to the GOI. His new DCM, Stephanie Williams preceded him in Baghdad by a month. Ambassador Ken Gross, the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan from 2009-2012 is now the Consul General in Erbil. In August, Win Dayton also assumed responsibilities as principal officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah.  At the US Consulate in Kirkuk, Roy Perrin assumed office as principal officer.  Mr. Perrin is also the current Deputy Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil. Below are brief bios:

Douglas A. Silliman | Ambassador

He arrived in Baghdad on September 1, 2016. He served as Ambassador to Kuwait from 2014 until July 2016. In 2013-2014, he served as a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the Department of State in Washington, D.C., working on Iraq issues and the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2012 to 2013 and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs in Baghdad from 2011 to 2012. He was the Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara, Turkey from 2008 to 2011. He joined the Department of State in 1984 and is a career member of Senior Foreign Service.

Ambassador Silliman earlier served as Director and Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Southern European Affairs, as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan, and as the Regional Officer for the Middle East in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. Ambassador Silliman worked as political officer in Islamabad, Pakistan, in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs, as Lebanon Desk officer, and as Staff Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. He began his career as a visa officer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a political officer in Tunis, Tunisia.

Ambassador Silliman received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science summa cum laude from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He earned a Master of Arts in International Relations from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.

He has received numerous awards from the Department of State, including the Secretary’s Award for Public Outreach in 2007 and senior performance awards. The American Foreign Service Association gave Ambassador Silliman its Sinclaire Language Award in 1993 and the W. Averill Harriman Award for outstanding junior officer in 1988. He speaks Arabic and French.

Stephanie Williams | Deputy Chief of Mission

Ms. Williams has been the Deputy Chief of Mission since August 2016.  She is a senior member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor. She has served as: Deputy Chief of Mission in Amman and Manama, as well as the Director of Maghreb Affairs, the Deputy Director of the Egypt and Levant Affairs Office and the Jordan Desk Officer at the Department of State. Other overseas assignments include serving as the Political Section Head in Abu Dhabi, Consular and Political Officer in Kuwait, and Assistant General Services Officer in Islamabad. She has studied Arabic at Georgetown University, FSI Tunis and the University of Bahrain and attended the National War College.

Ken Gross | U.S. Consul General Erbil

Ken Gross, the Consul General in Erbil, is a career member of the U.S. Department of State’s Senior Foreign Service. Mr. Gross previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan from 2009-2012. He has had two previous overseas postings in Iraq, including as Principal Officer at the Regional Embassy Office in Basrah, and he returned to Iraq as director of the Office of Provincial Affairs, the office overseeing Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

He has previously served as a Career Development Officer for senior-level officers in the Human Resources Bureau and as director of the Middle East Partnership Initiative Office in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau.

Mr. Gross also served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Tajikistan from 2002- 2004. His other overseas postings include Haiti, Malaysia, Nepal, and Germany. In the Department of State, Mr. Gross worked in the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs as an aviation negotiator, in the Bureau of European Affairs as desk officer for Austria, and in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research as a current intelligence analyst.

Mr. Gross joined the Foreign Service in 1987. He received a B.A. from Auburn University, a J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law, and a M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College. He speaks Tajiki, German, and French.

Win Dayton | U.S.Consul General Basrah

On August 1, 2016 Mr. Win Dayton assumed responsibilities as U.S. Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah. Mr. Win Dayton is a career member of the State Department’s Senior Foreign Service.

Prior to his current assignment, Mr. Dayton served most recently in Washington with the Foreign Service Board of Examiners and as Director of the State Department’s Counter-ISIL Coalition Working Group. His overseas service includes assignments to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, where he served as Deputy Principal Officer, as well as to the U.S. Embassies in Harare, Bangkok, Tegucigalpa and Dublin.

Domestically, Mr. Dayton has served as Director of Overseas Operations in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, and as Director of the Office of Transportation Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. Mr. Dayton also served domestic tours in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

Mr. Dayton is a graduate of the National Security Executive Leadership Seminar and is the recipient of several State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1989, Mr. Dayton was an attorney in Dallas, Texas, for five years, and worked on Capitol Hill for a year. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Arts with honors in Political Science from Amherst College.

Roy Perrin | U.S. Consulate Kirkuk

A career Foreign Service Officer, Mr. Perrin is currently the Deputy Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Erbil, Iraq and Consul of the United States for Kirkuk, Iraq.  He recently served several months as the Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. at the Embassy of the United States in San José, Costa Rica, where he was also the Embassy’s Counselor for Political, Economic and Narcotics Affairs.

Mr. Perrin was previously posted to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China as an economic officer and as the State Department’s Labor Officer.  He also served for an extended period as acting Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, China. Mr. Perrin has also worked as an economic officer and vice-counsel at the U.S. Embassies in Caracas, Venezuela and Bangkok, Thailand, and in Washington, D.C. he served in the State Department’s Operations Center Crisis Management office.

Mr. Perrin received a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and worked as a mechanical engineer at the former Avondale Shipyards in Avondale, Louisiana. He then entered law school at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Tulane Maritime Law Journal. After earning a J.D. from Tulane Law School with honors, Mr. Perrin practiced law in San Francisco, California and New Orleans, Louisiana, specializing in the defense of corporations in class action and product liability litigation. He entered the Foreign Service in 1999.

Mr. Perrin is the recipient of several State Department individual Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the American Foreign Service Association’s 2002 Achievement Award, and the joint State and Labor Department 2011 Award for Excellence in Labor Diplomacy. His foreign languages include Spanish, Thai, and Chinese.

 

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Ambassador Nomination: Douglas Silliman — From Kuwait to Iraq

Posted: 1:23 am ET
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On May 19, President Obama announced Douglas Silliman as his nominee for the next Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq. The WH released the following brief bio:

Douglas Silliman, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as U.S. Ambassador to the State of Kuwait, a position he has held since 2014.  Ambassador Silliman was a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2013 to 2014 and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq from 2012 to 2013.  From 2011 to 2012, he was Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs in Baghdad.  Before serving in Iraq, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara, Turkey from 2008 to 2011.  Ambassador Silliman was Director of the Office of Southern European Affairs from 2005 to 2007 and Deputy Director from 2004 to 2005.  From 2000 to 2004, he was Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan.  Since joining the Foreign Service in 1984, he has also served at posts in Haiti, Pakistan, and Tunisia.

Ambassador Silliman received a B.A. from Baylor University and an M.A. from The George Washington University.

Photo via USEmbassy Kuwait/FB

Photo via USEmbassy Kuwait/FB

Ambassador Silliman had his confirmation hearing at the SFRC on June 21.  If confirmed, he would succeed career diplomat, Stuart E. Jones, who was sworn in as the United States Ambassador to Iraq on September 17, 2014.

 

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US Embassy Baghdad Issues Warning on Possible Collapse of Iraq’s Mosul Dam

Posted: 3:19 am EDT
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On February 29, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a Security Message to U.S. citizens in the country on planning for the possible collapse of the Mosul Dam, formerly known as Saddam Dam and the largest dam in Iraq.

The disruption of maintenance operations in 2014 increased the risk of the Mosul Dam collapsing.  The Government of Iraq (GOI) is preparing to initiate emergency maintenance operations to reduce the risk of failure.

A dam failure would cause significant flooding and interruption of essential services in low-lying areas along the Tigris River Valley from Mosul to Baghdad.  Some models estimate that Mosul could be inundated by as much as 70 feet (21 meters) of water within hours of the breach.  Downriver cities such as Tikrit, Samarra, and Baghdad could be inundated with smaller, but still significant levels of flooding within 24-72 hours of the breach.

We have no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur, but out of an abundance of caution, we would like to underscore that prompt evacuation offers the most effective tool to save lives of the hundreds of thousands of people living in the most dangerous part of the flood path in the event of a breach.  Proper preparation could save many lives.

 

The Telegraph reported in December last year that an Italian company, Trevi, won a $2 billion (£1.3 billion) contract to repair the dam and that the Italian government was prepared to send 500 troops to guard the Italian company’s employees who will be tasked to do repair work.  On February 29, a company spokesman confirmed to the Guardian that the contract still had not been signed and gave no expected signature date.

On February 28, the US Embassy in Baghdad also released a fact sheet on the dam:

The floodwave would resemble an in-land tidal wave between Mosul and Samarra’, and would sweep downstream anything in its path, including bodies, buildings, cars, unexploded ordinances, hazardous chemicals, and waste; less than 6 inches of moving water is strong enough to knock a person off his feet, and 16 inches of moving water can carry away most automobiles. Flooding south of Samarra would resemble that of Hurricane Katrina, with standing water that pervades much of Baghdad for weeks to months. As floodwaters recede, mud and waste-covered remnants of previous infrastructure will be left behind.

> Flood water could reach depths greater than 45 feet in some parts of Mosul City in as little as one to four hours, giving residents little time to flee.

> Flood water could reach Tikrit in one to two days.

> Flood water could reach Baghdad in three to four days and have depths of up to 33 feet in the river channel.

> Some parts of Baghdad would be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport.

Read in full here:

 

 

Embassy Baghdad notes that it would be “extremely limited in its ability to assist in the event of a crisis” and encouraged  U.S. citizens in Iraq, especially those who reside in the floodplain of the Tigris River to develop their personal contingency plans.

 

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Following a Court Filing, @StateDept Issues Iraqi Refugee John Doe a Special Immigrant Visa

Posted: 1:38 pm EDT
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In November last year, we wrote about John Doe, an Iraqi refugee allowed by Judge Richard W. Roberts to file his complaint under a pseudonym in the District Court of the District of Columbia.  As of the filing of the Complaint, it had been over three years since John Doe first filed his papers for chief of mission (COM) approval. Over two years had elapsed since John Doe submitted his SIV Application materials. In addition, it was over one year and nine months since John Doe completed his interview, the final step in his application process (see Meet John Doe, an Iraqi Refugee Who Works For Uncle Sam, and Still Waiting For Resettlement in the Home of the Brave).

According to court records, the SIV was issued and the case was subsequently dismissed by the District Court of the District of Columbia. The case is John Doe v. State Department, et. al., Civil Action No. 15-cv-01971-RBW.

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Look Who Gets A Straight Answer Out Of Donald Rumsfeld

Posted: 2:27 am EDT
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Below is Stephen Colbert’s interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The main feature in this interview is the declassified memo (PDF) from General Myers and an accompanying eight-page Joint Chiefs of Staff report which makes clear that the Intelligence Community’s (IC) “don’t know with any precision how much we don’t know” and that  “knowledge of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”  Read more here via UNREDACTED from the National Security Archive.

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