Alex Gibney’s ‘The Agent’ — CIA, FBI, and Pre-9/11 Interagency Woes Now on Video

Posted: 3:10 am EDT
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The New Yorker recently launched its new video series for Amazon Video with Lawrence Wright, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of The Looming Tower, Ali Soufan, Former FBI Special Agent and author of The Black Banners and others discuss what the CIA knew about the 9/11 hijackers—before 9/11. The Wright piece is an old one from 2006, but the video is new, brief and concise.  The film includes ex-CIA M. Scheuer who said something particularly shocking  (mark 10:26) about FBI agent John O’Neill during a post – 9/11 congressional hearing. O’Neill was among the 2,753 who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center site. We’re posting this here for that sobering part, when interagency cooperation goes exceptionally wrong. The embed video is a little buggy, if you have issues watching it, you can also see it here or available to stream here via Amazon.

 

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Congressional Research Service Reports and Briefs – October 2014

via state.gov

-10/31/14   Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Port of Entry  [502 Kb]
-10/29/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [497 Kb]
-10/29/14   U.S. and International Health Responses to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa  [633 Kb]
-10/28/14   The Ebola Outbreak: Quarantine and Isolation Authority – Legal Sidebar  [55 Kb]
-10/27/14   Proposed Train and Equip Authorities for Syria: In Brief  [340 Kb]
-10/23/14   Iran Sanctions  [709 Kb]
-10/22/14   Political Transition in Tunisia  [437 Kb]
-10/22/14   The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy  [594 Kb]
-10/21/14   A New Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State: Comparison of Current Proposals in Brief  [302 Kb]
-10/21/14   Turkey-U.S. Cooperation Against the “Islamic State”: A Unique Dynamic? – CRS Insights  [170 Kb]
-10/20/14   Palestinian Authority: U.S. Payments to Creditors as Alternative to Direct Budgetary Assistance? – CRS Insights  [58 Kb]
-10/17/14   U.S. Citizens Kidnapped by the Islamic State  [60 Kb]
-10/10/14   Al Qaeda-Affiliated Groups: Middle East and Africa  [1119 Kb]
-10/10/14   Increased Department of Defense Role in U.S. Ebola Response – CRS Insights  [48 Kb]
-10/07/14   As Midterm Election Approaches, State Election Laws Challenged – Legal Sidebar  [53 Kb]

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Intel Signs of Al Qaeda Plot in the Making: U.S. Embassy Closures — Sunday, August 4

By Domani Spero

Updated August 2, 8:08 am: Additional U.S. embassies/consulates closing on August 4: Khartoum (Sudan), Basrah and Erbil (Iraq) and Amman (Jordan).

Updated August 3, 10 pm:  Other posts included in the temporary closures for August 4: Dhahran and Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Djibouti (Djibouti) and Dubai (UAE), bringing the total closures to 23 at this time. The US Tel Aviv Embassy post closure includes the American Center in Jerusalem and the Haifa Consular Agency.

 

As of this writing, 15 embassies in Africa, Near East Asia and South Central Asia have been ordered to close on Sunday, August 4 due to a security threat attributed to Al Qaeda. CBS News reports  that U.S. intelligence has picked up signs of an al Qaeda plot against American diplomatic posts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries. The intelligence does not mention a specific location, which is why all embassies that would normally be open on Sunday have been ordered to close.

According to CBS News, officials say that this appears to be a real plot in the making and not just the normal chatter among terrorists talking about attacks they’d like to carry out. But these same officials add they are missing key pieces of information.

An unnamed senior State Department official also told CBS News: “For those who asked about which embassies and consulates we have instructed to suspend operations on August 4th, the answer is that we have instructed all U.S. Embassies and Consulates that would have normally been open on Sunday to suspend operations, specifically on August 4th. It is possible we may have additional days of closing as well.”

Below is the message posted by the affected embassies; links to the emergency message are listed at the bottom of this post:

The Department of State has instructed certain U.S. embassies and consulates to remain closed or to suspend operations on Sunday, August 4.  The Department has been apprised of information that, out of an abundance of caution and care for our employees and others who may be visiting our installations, indicates we should institute these precautionary steps. It is possible we may have additional days of closings as well, depending on our analysis.  The Department, when conditions warrant, takes steps like this to balance our continued operations with security and safety.  However, beyond this announcement we do not discuss specific threat information, security considerations or measures, or other steps we may be taking.  

We are pleased to see that they are being prudent.  While we have not been glued to the news this past few days, we heard that hundreds escape from the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. There seems to be a whole lot of prison breaks  lately in other parts of the region.  While these incidents may not be connected, we find it disturbing and gravely unsettling.  We are also just a few days away from the 15th anniversary of the twin U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.  We might also remember that in the last several years, August has been a month of death and mayhem for our diplomatic posts overseas.

AUGUST 7, 1998 – EAST AFRICA BOMBINGS: Near-simultaneous truck bombs exploded and severely damaged the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, killing 291 people (including 12 Americans) and injuring nearly 5,000 (including six Americans) in Nairobi, and killing 10 people and injuring 77 (including one American) in Dar es Salaam.

AUGUST 7, 2004 – AL-JAWF, YEMEN: Angry local villagers opened fire on vehicles of the U.S. Embassy Force Protection Detachment.

AUGUST 21, 2005 – PAGHMAN, AFGHANISTAN: Assailants detonated an explosive device as a U.S. Embassy vehicle passed, wounding two Embassy employees and damaging the vehicle.

AUGUST 29, 2006 – KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: Unknown individuals detonated a remote-controlled bomb against a U.S. Embassy vehicle, damaging the vehicle but causing no injuries.

AUGUST 27, 2006 – AL-HILLAH, IRAQ: Four or five mortar rounds were fired at the Regional Embassy Office Hillah, injuring two U.S. soldiers, one U.S. contract employee, and four local employees.

AUGUST 28, 2008 – BASRAH, IRAQ: One of two rockets fired at Basrah Air Station penetrated the overhead cover of the Regional Embassy Office located at the station, and passed through two trailers before embedding in the ground. No injuries were reported.

AUGUST 26, 2008 – PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN: Gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying the U.S. Consulate General’s principal officer to work. She and her driver escaped injury when the driver drove the vehicle in reverse, to the safety of the officer’s residence nearby.

AUGUST 3, 2011 – BAGHDAD, IRAQ: An explosive device detonated against a U.S. Embassy protective security team, injuring five persons and damaging one vehicle.

AUGUST 8, 2012 – ASADABAD CITY, AFGHANISTAN: Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives near U.S. provincial reconstruction team members walking near Forward Operating Base Fiaz, killing three U.S. service members and one USAID employee, and wounding nine U.S. soldiers, one U.S. diplomat, four local employees, and one Afghan National Army member.

 

Below is a list of August 4, 2013 U.S. Embassy Closures:

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Friday Inbox: Forget “Situation Is Fluid” — Remember “Situational Awareness”

In our mailbox this morning:

Spilled hot coffee on your lap?  It’s probably an isolated incident. Still, you should exercise greater situational awareness, and be vigilant about the location and volume of your cup. Don’t worry, we have it on good authority that coffee imports remain strong. 

Rolling blackouts knocked out the lights at your softball game?  Well, it’s probably just an anomaly. Statistically, according to Wikipedia, Cairo gets at least twelve hours of daylight this time of year.  Exercise situational awareness and modify your plans accordingly. 

Seven Egyptian officers abducted by militants in the Sinai?  That’s a rare occurrence. The next group will exercise greater situational awareness, and perhaps be less obvious about being, you know, Egyptian officers. 

 

Our correspondent sounds snarkily unhappy.  It may have something to do with creeping developments like below:

Child Vendor Killed Outside US Embassy Cairo’s Front Gates (Ahram Online, February 2013):

“An Egyptian army conscript walks up to 12-year-old Omar Salah Omran, who sells hot sweet potatoes on the street – outside the front gates of Cairo’s US Embassy, close to Tahrir Square – and requests two potatoes from the young street vendor.

Omar answers, “I’ll do so after I go to the bathroom.” The allegedly untrained soldier retorts with a mix of cockiness and jest that he will shoot Omar if he doesn’t comply immediately.

On Omar’s reply, “You can’t shoot me” – the conscript, on the alleged presumption that his weapon was not loaded, sent two bullets through Omar’s heart. He died instantly.”

Chris Stone Knife Attack Outside US Embassy Cairo (AhramOnline/MENA, May 10, 2013):

“The man who stabbed an American in Cairo on Thursday says he was motivated by a hatred of the United States.  Mahmoud Badr, 30, who holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce, was arrested on Thursday after stabbing American academic Chris Stone in the neck outside the US embassy in Cairo.”

Separately, we heard that “Many Amcits in Cairo are concerned about the lack of security in the area outside the Embassy. Egyptian security forces are present in theory but do little other than sit at their check points and drink tea…. The Embassy appears to take little interest in what takes place outside its fortress.”

Al-Qaeda targeted US, French embassies in Cairo: Investigators (Ahram Online, May 15, 2013):

“Investigations have revealed that members of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group – who escaped from prison during Egypt’s 2011 uprising – had planned attacks on the US and French embassies in Cairo, according to official Egyptian news agency MENA.[…] Investigators said that the suspects had planned suicide attacks – with the use of car bombs – against the US and French embassies in Cairo.”

Benghazi Emails (NBC News, The Weekly Standard, May 15, 2013)

“On 10 September the Agency (CIA) notified Embassy Cairo of social media reports calling for a demonstration and encouraging jihadists to break into the Embassy.”

CIA Warned of ‘Jihadist’ Threat to Cairo Embassy (The Weekly Standard, May 15, 2013)

“The editing process specifically removed any hint that “jihadists” were encouraged to “break into” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. In fact, jihadists were incited to act by Mohammed al Zawahiri, the younger brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as several other al Qaeda-linked extremists.”

 

Meanwhile the State Department has now issued an updated Travel Alert dated May 15, 2013  to include information “about a knife attack on a private U.S. citizen near the Embassy on May 9.” The alert does not/not include any reference to a terror plot or terror cell in Egypt or that the mission has now been targetted in at least two known incidents.

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Travel Warning for Egypt? No Comment or Howabout “There Are No Guarantees In This Business”

The NYT reported on May 11 that Egyptian security forces have arrested three militants with ties to Al Qaeda who were planning terrorist attacks in Egyptian cities and against a foreign embassy.  An unnamed western official told the NYT that the Egyptians had privately identified the embassy as the US Embassy in Cairo. Egyptian officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said at a news conference that the suspects had been arrested with 22 pounds of explosive materials and instructions on how to make bombs and build rockets and model airplanes to use in the attacks.

He said the suspects were ‘‘on the verge’’ of attacking an embassy when they were arrested.

The State Department would not comment on the Egyptian allegations. ‘‘We don’t discuss the specifics of our operations nor the exchanges we have with foreign officials,’’ said Jennifer R. Psaki, a department spokeswoman.

As of this writing, there is no USG Travel Warning issued for Egypt.  There is a Travel Alert dated March 29, 2013 that talks about “the continuing possibility of political and social unrest, incidents of which have led to recent violence.” Also that “There have been no reports of U.S. citizens being targeted specifically because of their nationality; however, in isolated instances, Westerners and U.S. citizens have been caught in the middle of clashes and demonstrations.”

That March 29 alert made no mention of al-Qaeda or terrorism in Egypt. The Embassy’s Messages to U.S. Citizens do not appear to include any details about the October 2012 incident where an al-Qaeda cell was caught in Cairo’s Nasr City. At least, we could not find anything on the embassy or OSAC’s website.

We have several contacts in Egypt and one of them shared with us the security advisory sent by an international organization to its 1,000 plus personnel in Egypt on May 11. Below is an excerpt:

Egyptian security forces reportedly apprehended three militants with alleged ties to al-Qaeda in Alexandria and Cairo on May 11. Initial reports indicate militants planned to execute suicide bombings in central locations in Cairo and Alexandria in the coming days, including in Metro stations. Mohammed Ibrahim then added that their target was a “foreign embassy”, which other reports claimed was the French Embassy in Cairo’s Giza district.

The minister further stated that the cell is related to a previous cell that was apprehended in Nasr City on October 24, 2012. In that incident, forces raided a suspected militant hideout in Cairo’s Nasr City District, killing one suspect said to have been linked to the deadly September 11 Consulate in Benghazi.

The security advisory on its assessment says that the arrests highlight the continued presence of Islamist militants “throughout Egypt and their connection with transnational extremist networks.”

The advisory also notes that the militants of the Nasr City cell who were apprehended in October last year were arrested on suspicion of possessing weapons, engineering attacks in Cairo, planning assassinations of government leaders, and smuggling weapons from Libya to support the rebels in Syria. It warns that “A suicide attack in the immediate term highlights militants’ ability to advance beyond the preliminary stages of planning attacks, which coincides with the ongoing security and intelligence vacuum that emerged following the January 2011 revolution.”

Apparently, there were reports claiming that the target was the French Embassy. The advisory addressed this but appeared convinced that “there remains a high likelihood” that the US Embassy Cairo may have ben the target due to the “notable rise in Anti-US sentiments” since the Arab Spring:

In case the French Embassy was not the intended target, we assess there remains a high likelihood that other Western missions in Cairo may have been targets, primarily the U.S. and Israeli embassies. This is due to a notable rise in anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli sentiments in North Africa since the 2011 upheaval.

Also — the security advisory points to the potential risk for reprisal attacks in the aftermath of the arrests:

As details emerge regarding the background of the detainees, we assess that the risk for reprisal attacks in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt will increase.  This threat is likely to include, but is not limited to, the targeting of security installations as well as foreign interests. Furthermore, in case the planned attack was indeed related to the situation in Mali, this threat applies to Western-affiliated interests in the Middle East and Africa regions as a whole, and not solely in Egypt. 

Via Google Earth

Google Earth

Okay then —

We’re going to have to ask a delicate question – which will annoy folks at Embassy Cairo’s front office.

Did post management know that there is this threat? Does it know about the threat to the mission now?

If the answer is “no” — does that mean their local and intel contacts are plainly useless? But … but …see, apparently “Egyptian officials have reportedly told their American counterparts that the US Embassy was a target.”

Well, then if that is true, then the answer had to be a “yes.” In which case the policy of “No Double Standard” kicks in. That’s the part where if/when the Department shares information with the official U.S. community (as in travel warnings/alerts/consular info program), it should also make the same or similar information available to the non-official U.S. community if the underlying threat applies to both official and non-official U.S. citizens/nationals (see 7 FAM 052.1).

So far we haven’t seen anything from US Embassy Cairo.  This is a curious case that’s bugging our OCD plenty.

Update on May 12@9:50 am:  Wait — we posted this past midnight last night and  this morning, a blog pal kindly knocked us on the head on this — telling the blog that it is “easy” to get around the No Double Standard policy.  See, you only need to tell the public, if you’re alerting the official community.  So, really —  if you carry on as before, and you don’t change official behavior or advice, you don’t need to tell anyone.

Oops …. but… but … oh, dammit!!

If you missed our blog post on US Embassy Cairo on May 11th, see  US Embassy Egypt: From the Real Post Reports, the New Cairo; Plus Western Embassy Targeted.  That post merit at least a triple curse!

 

— DS

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Egypt: From the Real Post Reports – the New Cairo; Plus Western Embassy Targeted

Target: Western Embassy Cairo

Today, the BBC News reported the arrest of three al-Qaeda militants in Cairo.  The reported target is a western embassy. That probably means, the three militants who were in the final stages of their terror plot were targeting New Zealand or Uruguay, either would do as a western embassy.  Dear US Embassy Cairo – since the mob was there to just say hello to you last year, it’s not you, carry on.  Excerpt from the BBC:

Egyptian police have arrested three al-Qaeda militants planning a suicide attack on a Western embassy, the country’s interior minister says.

Mohammed Ibrahim did not specify which embassy had been targeted, but said a quantity of chemicals had been found.

Mr Ibrahim gave the names of three men and said they were planning attacks in both Cairo and Alexandria.
[…]
All three men, described as jihadists, had been in touch with an al-Qaeda militant in Pakistan as well as another in the Sinai peninsula, the minister said.

He also linked the men to a group arrested last October who were accused of setting up a cell in the Nasr City area of Cairo.

Knife Attack: Not Tied to Any Larger Conspiracy

Last Thursday, Christopher Stone, an American citizen and a fellow at the American Research Center in Egypt, was attacked outside the perimeter of the embassy. US Embassy Cairo quickly released a statement that says the ongoing investigation has established that the “incident was not tied to any larger conspiracy.”

“Police investigating yesterday’s knife attack on the Embassy perimeter reported that the perpetrator has admitted to the attack and claimed his motivation was to seek revenge over U.S policies in the Middle East. The perpetrator carried out the attack after establishing his victim to be a U.S. citizen. The U.S. citizen victim is reportedly recovering and should be released from the hospital in the next day or so. The investigation, while still ongoing, has established that the perpetrator acted alone, and the incident was not tied to any larger conspiracy.”

Of course, it’s not a conspiracy! What a silly thing to suggest!

US Embassy Cairo – The Real Post Reports

Post Reports if you’re not familiar with them are detailed reports of every diplomatic post in the U.S. foreign service that are intended to help personnel decide where they want to go next.  It is part of the official bidding resources (see this old one from 2004 still available online via ediplomat.com – Post Report on Egypt).

A while back, the State Department removed the Post Reports from the Internet. Updated reports are now available only via Diplopedia in the State Department’s Intranet website.

Since these are part of the bidding tools, one can easily tell that every post report’s goal is to look as attractive as possible to the prospective bidders. And that’s probably the main reason why the Real Post Report (RPR) was born.  The Real Post Reports is the brainchild of a few Foreign Service spouses and now resides in the privately-run Tales from a Small Planet.  The website, run by volunteers no longer requires registration, so we feel better linking to that from this blog.

There are RPRs going back years.  Sometimes, you’re lucky if you see an RPR once a year. Here are a few examples:

  • Sana’a Yemen  has RPRs submitted in 2006, 2007 (two) and 2011.
  • Kabul, Afghanistan has RPRs submitted in 2008, 2009, 2010 (three) and 2013.
  • Peshawar, Pakistan has one RPR submitted in 2009, and one in 2010.
  • Baghdad, Iraq has one RPR submitted so far in 2013.
  • Tunis, Tunisia has one RPR submitted in 2012.
  • Khartoum, Sudan has at least one RPR submitted every year from 2006 – 2011.
  • Tripoli, Libya has one RPR from January 8, 2007

The RPRs, of course, are done voluntarily and submitted primarily by members of the Foreign Service as well as members of the expat community.

As of this writing, Cairo, Egypt has already six RPRs from January – March 2013 alone.  If that trend continues, we’ll have 24 RPRs by the end of the year. The reports were all written by volunteers affiliated with the US Government in Cairo with overseas experience ranging from a first tour to a seventh/multiple tours. (Note: The day after this post went online, two more RPRs were posted on Cairo here).

Here are excerpts from the Real Post Reports on Cairo culled from six eight reports:

Size of expat community

  • Large, but shrinking because of the political unrest.
  •  Dwindling.
  •  Not as large as before the revolution, but there are still a fair number of expats here.
  • The expat community in Cairo is very very large. Beyond the USG community (which is huge), there are substantial communities from the other embassies, a huge US military/contractor community, and a huge oil community. In addition, there are faculty at CAC and the American University in Cairo, along with other donor groups.
  •  Getting smaller by the day.

Morale among expats

  • Extremely low. Post management was too late in spotting and/or admitting that Cairo is getting worse, not better. Post management is highly unsympathetic to the plights of the little people, and they live a fairly sheltered life with teams of bodyguards and walled villas — while we hope we don’t get sexually assaulted or mugged on the way from our apartment to the Maadi House.
  •  At the moment it is pretty low because of the uncertainty. Crime is on the increase, and people are worried—not sure what is going to happen. The U.S. Embassy community is struggling because of our location right near all the activity of the last two plus years. But, having been here four years, I don’t regret it. I have enjoyed my time here and, if I had a choice, would have done it again. It’s been good for family. But I definitely see that many people are unhappy
  • Extremely low since the revolution – this place really is bad now. It seems that everyone you talk with is counting the days until they leave or they are contemplating curtailing.
  • Long gone. People are waiting for the end of their tours. The use of alcohol is increasing, and rumors about the deterioration of Egypt are circulating everywhere, including at school.
  • Among those I interact with it is very poor. Pessimism about the situation pervades life here. People don’t feel safe and don’t see any prospects that Egypt is going to improve in the near-term future. Even some long-time residents are packing up and heading elsewhere.
  •  Extremely poor. Everyone is trying to get out at the earliest opportunity. It has clearly not always been that way, but the country is going downhill fast.
  • Moral here is mixed. Really, it depends on who you spend time with! Many USG personnel prefer to spend their time only in the USG community. For many folks, it seems like Egypt is their first (and possibly only) developing world post – these folks often seem to be generally negative (i.e., it’s dirty, people are like home, etc.). It’s true that life in Cairo has its quirks, but It is a fascinating place. Egyptians are a generally nice people (who love kids), and life here is relatively easy in terms of amenities. That said, as in many places, the people who thrive here are those that can laugh at the quirks of the developing world and those who make sure to get away for breaks on a regular basis!
  •  Poor. Egypt has always been very dirty and frustrating, but for some people it used to be fun and exotic. Now, with the increasingly poor security, deteriorating infrastructure and criminality, and sense of entitlement of its population, most people—Egyptians included—are desperately trying to flee. Morale at the Embassy is poor, with people hoping for an evacuation.

Are there any special security concerns?

  • The security situation in Cairo is rapidly deteriorating. Egypt is seeing more jihadi extremism, constant protests/riots around the US Embassy, carjackings, and muggings. As tourism bottoms out, people are getting desperate and know that expats have money. Also, sexual assault and/or harassment is pretty much guaranteed to affect you or someone close to you.
  • Crime is on the increase since the revolution, but this is still a safe city.
  • Where to start? Daily power outages, sexual assaults on women, robbery by sudden snatching, theft, assault and battery, rape, getting shot at or attacked with rocks are now all common-place events since the revolution. Even the safe districts of Maadi have seen these issues, rise and the State Department thinks we are still the same 15% post we were pre-revolution. This is easily a 25% diff post now and the tours should only be for two years.
  • And how! Law enforcement, as noted earlier, is ineffective, and criminals have become more brazen—likely because they feel much more confident that they can get away with theft, robbery, sexual assault, etc. The security situation in North Africa and Sinai has created an Egypt in which there is no shortage of guns and other dangerous toys—and bad guys willing to use them. It isn’t at all clear whether a large-scale attack against Westerners hasn’t occurred because there is a lack of capability or a lack of will. Uncertainty about the security environment has created a tremendous amount of stress among expats and Egyptians alike.
  • Absolutely. This place is a war zone. The police are totally ineffective and will stand there and watch while you get robbed or are groped and molested. Carjackings are becoming a problem, with even a senior government minister falling victime to a random carjacking.
  • Since the revolution, security has become more of an issue. But Cairo was abnormally safe for a city of its size prior to the revolution and has now really just shifted to a security level one would expect for city of this size. The key factor is that the police force is relatively ineffective. So, when something does happen, there is little that can or will be done about it. In the expat areas (Maadi, Zamalak, and Dokki, primarily) there have been increases in issues such as purse snatchings, etc.
  • During Mubarak’s regime, Egypt was extremely safe. Now there are few police, and they are quite scared themselves to intervene. On a daily basis you see more and more disorder and chaos. Women are regularly accosted throughout Cairo, and crime has become a real problem.

Knowing what you now know, would you still go there?

  •  I would not wish this post on anyone.
  • Yes, I would do it again, but perhaps not four years. It’s never boring, and I can’t say that I love the place, or will ever come back, but I don’t regret the four years. And yes, I would do it again.
  •  NOOOO!
  • Yes. But we’d like to be recognized for the sacrifices we make. This would be as simple as seeing post management demonstrate that they care about our safety and security and recognize the very real hardships and dangers we face.
  • No. And when I leave, it will be with the intention of never returning. I had wanted to come to Egypt for quite some time, and it’s been a major disappointment.
  • Absolutely. It’s an experience that eveyone should have at least once in their lives—unless you have already lived in a war zone.
  • In a heartbeat! We have loved it, and would have no issues coming back here again, even with all the post-revolution changes—assuming, of course, that things don’t go downhill more than they have to date!
  • No way! Don’t come.

You may read the full Real Post Reports on Cairo here.

Meanwhile, on May 1st this year, Financial Times reported that homicides in Egypt tripled from 774 in 2010 to 2,144 last year; home invasions jumped from 7,368 in 2010 to 11,699 in 2012; kidnapping for ransom rose from 107 in 2010 to 412 in 2012.  The US Embassy published its Egypt 2012 OSAC Crime and Safety Report in February last year. It’s now May and we’re still looking for the 2013 report.


Quick Check – Is There An Abyss in “Abysmal Morale?”

Now, if you’ve been following this blog, you will noticed that we’ve been blogging about the goings on at the U.S.  Embassy in Cairo. No, not just because its Twitter team occasionally make a large splash but also because of a reported “abysmal morale” at post. See this blog post —  US Embassy Bangui: 15% Danger Post With Terrifically Bad Trimmings, It’s Not Alone –Wassup Cairo?

Can you imagine what happened then?

Apparently, following the blog post, the DCM (is it still Marc Seivers?) stormed into the security office demanding to know “who leaked the story to that damn blog…”  and not getting the answer he want, slammed the door on the way out.

Uh-oh!

But really, it’s okay, we’ve been called worse than “damn.”

So anyway, “that damn blog”  has learned that Embassy Cairo was recently host to high level visits presumably to see if there was an abyss in “abysmal morale.”

We understand that post visitors included Ambassador Hans Klemm, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Human Resources (DGHR),  Elizabeth Dibble, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), and Paul Reid, the Director for Entry Level Career Development and Assignments (DGHR/CDA).

We don’t know yet what they found at Embassy Cairo.  But we heard that there is one team heading that way to um ….  look around or something. Another team who’s trip had been previously postponed is also heading that way again …

What a relief that the Interior Minister did not specify which western embassy had been targeted.  It could have been Venezuela, you know.

— DS

$10 Million Bounty for Sudanese Killers of USAID Employees Killed in 2008

Almost five years to the day a USAID officer and FSN were killed in Khartoum, the U.S. Government announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of two of their killers.  The announcement says to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  The embassy, however, has no arrest power, so presumably the arrest and capture can only be done with the cooperation of the host country.  What we don’t want to see is for these criminals to be arrested in the Sudan (again), the USG paying off the $10 million bounty and for the killers to escape once more, as they have done once before from what purportedly was the country’s maximum security prison.

Convicted Killer of USAID Employees in Sudan, and 2010 Escapee Reportedly Killed in Somalia

How much does a US diplomat’s life worth? About $1,800 US dollars, and look there’s no raging mob…

US Embassy Sudan and Those Critical Pool and Picnic Resources
Here is the announcement:

The U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program is offering rewards for information on two individuals involved in the January 1, 2008 murders of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) diplomat John Granville and USAID employee Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama.

The Department has authorized rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the capture of Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhasan Haj Hamad and Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim Mohamed, two of five individuals convicted in Sudan for the murders.

Granville, a U.S. citizen, and Abbas, a Sudanese national, were leaving a New Year’s Eve celebration in Khartoum, Sudan, when gunmen opened fire on their car, killing both of them. Granville worked on democracy and governance programs for USAID. He was credited with being the driving force behind the distribution of over 200,000 solar-powered radios used to inform citizens in remote areas of Sudan of their rights and responsibilities under the historic 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement and subsequent 2010 national elecions. Abbas was born in Juba, now the capital of South Sudan, and began his USAID career in 2004 as one of the original members of the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team for Darfur.

Five men were tried and convicted in 2009 by a Sudanese court for their involvement in the murders. Four of those men – including Abdelbasit and Makawi — were convicted of murder and sentenced to death but escaped from prison on June 10, 2010, before their sentences could be carried out. Of the four escapees, one was recaptured. A second was reportedly killed in Somalia in May 2011. Abdelbasit and Makawi remain at large and are believed to be in Somalia.

Makawi had ties to the Sudan-based terrorist organization al-Qaida in the Land of the Two Niles, which conspired to attack other U.S., Western, and Sudanese targets. He was the leader of the attack that killed Granville and Abbas and was identified as one of the gunmen. Makawi was born in 1984 in Sudan and speaks English and Arabic.

Abdelbasit was the second shooter in the attack. He was born in Sudan and has used birthdates in 1979 and 1983. He also speaks English and Arabic.

More information about these individuals is located on the Rewards for Justice web site at www.rewardsforjustice.net. We encourage anyone with information on these individuals to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or the Rewards for Justice office via the website (www.rewardsforjustice.net), e-mail (RFJ@state.gov), or mail (Rewards for Justice, Washington, DC 20520-0303, USA). All information will be kept strictly confidential.

The Rewards for Justice program is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Since its inception in 1984, the program has paid more than $125 million to more than 80 persons who provided actionable information that put terrorists behind bars or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.

Shortly before the fifth death anniversary of the USAID employees, the Sudan Tribune reported  that a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda has published a video purportedly showing the escape of four men accused of killing John Granville and his Sudanese driver from a maximum security prison in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.  The four managed to escape in June 2010 from Kober Federal prison under mysterious circumstances. The report says that the YouTube video produced by a group calling itself ’Al-Hijratain for Media production’ explained in extensive details how the escape was planned and executed. Apparently, a substantial portion of the 41-minute video was filmed from inside the prison in broad daylight raising questions about the level of security the prisoners were subject to.  The warden of Kober prison, according to the Sudan Tribune was suspended from duty over the incident but was later reinstated after being cleared from negligence.

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Quickie: Goldberg’s Benghazi Embarrassment, But Who’s Red on the Face?

Jeffrey Goldberg,  a national correspondent for The Atlantic writes:

The embarrassment of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. America has its victories against terrorism, and its defeats, and the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American security personnel represents one defeat in a long war. The embarrassment is that political culture in America is such that we can’t have an adult conversation about the lessons of Benghazi, a conversation that would focus more on understanding al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, on the limitations and imperfections of security, and on shortfalls in our intelligence gathering, than on who said what when in the Rose Garden.

He made four reasonable points:

1) Because the conversation around Benghazi is so stupid, we’re going to end up with more mindless CYA security “improvements” that will imprison American diplomats in their fortress compounds even more than they are already imprisoned.

2) It would be good if at least some of the blame for the assassination of Chris Stevens was apportioned to his assassins. Both candidates would do us a service if they would re-focus the debate on ways to defeat Islamist terrorism.

3) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can both take the blame, or the responsibility, for this attack if they want, but the truth, quite obviously, is that neither one of them is in charge of assessing the security needs of individual American embassies and consulates. The job of leaders is to hire well, supervise their hires to the degree possible, and then, if something goes wrong, spend the time and energy to figure out how to fix the problem. It is unrealistic to believe that either leader could have known about what is ultimately a small problem in a large war. We should spend more time judging them on how they respond to defeats then on blaming them for the defeats. (By the way, I would hold George W. Bush to the same standard re:  9/11, and Bill Clinton to the same standard when it came to his Administration’s unsuccessful efforts to stop the spread of al Qaeda in the late 1990s.)

4) As Blake Hounshell put it, “Amb. Chris Stevens was a big boy and he made his own decision to go to Benghazi despite the risks. If he thought it was too dangerous, he should not have gone.” We’ve lost thousands of American government employees over the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Nearly all of them were in uniform, but Foreign Service officers know the risks as well. We need to treat the loss of these four men in Libya as a battlefield loss. That would require people such as Darrell Issa, who chaired a House Oversight committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks, from saying foolish things, like he did the other day.

Continue reading, The Benghazi Embarrassment.

– DS