Secret Service Scandal Slides Over Embassy Gate, Creeps into US Embassy Brasilia, US Embassy San Salvador and the Where Else Bar

Even under a rock, we managed to hear about the 24 Secret Service and military personnel accused of misconduct in the prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia.

Then on April 25, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and told the panel that the incident involving as many as 20 women appeared to be an isolated case. She said the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility had never received previous complaints in the past 2 1/2 years. We don’t know why 2 1/2 year is significant.  But it’s good to know since apparently, according to the Secretary Napolitano, the Secret Service has provided protection on more than 900 foreign trips and 13,000 domestic trips.

In a closely watched developing news, Defense Secretary Panetta was in Brazil on April 24 and had a joint presscon with Brazilian Minister Amorim in Brasilia.  They entertained three questions and the first one was about U.S. Marines from the US Embassy in Brasilia allegedly injuring a prostitute in December last year.

U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas A. Shannon Jr. greets U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta upon his arrival in Brasilia, Brazil, April 24, 2012. Panetta is on a five-day trip to the region to meet with counterparts and military officials in Colombia, Brazil and Chile to discuss an expansion of defense and security cooperations (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

A reporter from TV Global asks: “Is the U.S. government going to act to punish the Marines involved here in Brasilia with prostitutes?”

Here is Secretary Panettta’s response:

“With regards to what you mentioned, obviously this incident was fully investigated and those that were involved have been punished and held accountable.  They are no longer in this country.  They were reduced in rank and they were severely punished for that behavior.  I have no tolerance for that kind of conduct, not here or any place in the world.  And where it takes place, you can be assured that we will act to make sure that they are punished and that that kind of behavior is not acceptable.”

Brazil’s News G1 globo.com has a report of this incident (in Portuguese) and aired a video with an interview of Romilda Aparecida Ferreira, the alleged victim and the subject of the question posted to Secretary Panetta.

From best we could tell from translated text, the woman was allegedly assaulted by officers of the U.S. Embassy at the end of last year. The case occurred four months ago after she met four embassy staffers in a nightclub where she worked as a dancer. The woman reportedly had an argument with the driver and she got dumped off the car and she fell and was injured.

Globo.com also says that the U.S. embassy through a statement (which we have difficulty locating online) acknowledge the case, said it had cooperated with the investigation and that the Americans involved in the case are no longer in Brazil. No charges were reportedly filed by the Brazilian authorities. The Foreign Ministry said it was not notified about the case.

VOA reported here that Defense officials say three U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Brazil and an embassy staffer picked up two prostitutes at a nightclub last December. One of the prostitutes says the men pushed her out of the car, and when she tried to re-enter the vehicle, she fell to the ground and was injured.

According to Secretary Panetta the Marines were “were reduced in rank.” The VOA report says that the U.S. embassy staff member was removed from his post and that injured prostitute has filed a lawsuit against the embassy in the wake of the Cartegena scandal.

The Brasilia incident, of course, made it to the Daily Press Briefing of April 25.

QUESTION: — for what Americans might consider the ongoing soap opera involving the Secret Service, except this doesn’t involve the Secret Service. We’re talking about three U.S. Marines who apparently have been punished as well as an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia who apparently were implicated in tossing a prostitute out of a moving car sometime last year. And I wanted to find out, since we know that the Marines have been punished, who was the employee of the Embassy? Was this person an American? Was this person a local hire? What can you say about a pending lawsuit now, apparently, against the Embassy?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, your report of the incident in question is not accurate in terms of what actually happened. Second, this is something that happened back in December. There was a State Department employee involved. The – we did cooperate fully with the appropriate Brazilian authorities, including with the civil police. None of the Americans involved in the incident are still in Brazil. The civil police, as I understand it, are still working on their case, and no charges have been brought by the Brazilian authorities.

We’ll come back to the DPB later in a separate post because it is interesting all in itself.

This story has now taken on a life of its own like, well, like a fast-sprouting magic tree with many limbs.

Late Wednesday, Kirotv.com out of Seattle claims it has an exclusive about strippers and the Secret Service advance team (snipers, K-9 and explosives sweeps) in San Salvador prior to President Obama’s trip there in March of 2011.

The bar owner reportedly told kirotv’s investigative reporter Chris Halsne (oh, he got names) that his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting FBI and DEA agents. The owner says his reputation for “security” and “privacy” makes him a popular strip club owner with “those who want to be discreet.”  Kirotv.com says it is currently writing and editing-together a series of television stories for air beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 26.

Next stop, the Where Else Bar … but hey, there’s a mad cow in California!

Domani Spero

 

Update: 4/16@10:18 pm
We’ve now seen the KiroTV exclusive – hey, they’re squeezing the juice out of that San Salvador trip; it’s like a drip, drip, drip of the same story. It is rather annoying.  It blares “New evidence expands Secret Service scandal” here. In Chris Halsne Reveals More on Secret Service piece, we get to see an interview with a retired Secret Service agent who boils this down to terrorism, and of course, there has to be footage of half naked dancing girls because it is the Lips Strip Club, and you just gotta show them half naked people doing the boogie. Sorry, no pole dancing included.

The reporter is shown talking to the strip club’s Salvadoran guard in English, he responds in Spanish, and we’re left to imagine what he said to the reporter.  The source is reportedly a bilingual subcontractor of the U.S. Secret Service whose identity has been kept confidential. Obviously, if he was a subcontractor of the Secret Service, they know who he is, so what’s the motive for his anonymity?  His face is fuzzy, and he’s now called a whistleblower. The news report also cites multiple witnesses but we only hear from the sub-contractor. We’re told that the owner of the strip club is an American named, DJ Ertel, who gave an interview but did not allow video footage. Since the club has a reputation for “security” and “privacy” and prides itself for being discreet, the interview does seem like reverse public relation.  The report did not even include important details such as hours of operation: 12:00pm-2:30am, daytime cover: $3.50; nighttime cover: $7.00; dance prices: $9; drink prices: $3. So no free advertising there (we did note that all prices are under $28).

As for the strip club not being too far from the embassy — if I heard it right, Lips is located on Paseo General Escalon, one of the main areas in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America. It’s so small that you can drive from end to end in a matter of hours! So yeah, the embassy and the club are practically neighbors. The end.

 

 

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US Mission Afghanistan: To 2024 and Beyond – That’s A-OK ‘Cuz Our Soldiers for 2024 Entered Kindergarten Last Fall

According to news report, the United States is promising to help defend Afghanistan militarily for at least the next decade after Afghan forces formally take full control of the their country’s security in 2014.

Afghan National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta said that under the proposed deal, both sides could agree to extend U.S. military assistance past 2024.  The draft agreement was reportedly signed over the weekend by Spanta and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker during a ceremony in Kabul.

Oddly enough, US Embassy Kabul’s website and social media arms are pretty quiet about this new and important development.  No photos of the ceremony were posted, no draft agreement of the US-Afghan Strategeric Pact posted, not even a Twitter whisper. Just absolutely nothing! Everything and everyone sewed up as quietly as a stuffed mouse.  Although not on the area of condemnation, of which there’s a lot like —

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker Condemns Actions Depicted in Photos
U.S. Embassy Kabul Condemns Attacks
U.S. Embassy Condemns Attacks in Herat and Helmand Provinces

A related VOA News quotes U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall praising  the draft agreement, saying it supports “an enduring partnership with Afghanistan that strengthens Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity” and that contributes to the shared goal of defeating al-Qaida and its extremist affiliates.

Wait, wait a minute – didn’t Leon said something about those Al-Qaida dudes in Afghanistan?

In June 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta told Jake Tapper on teevee that there were “at most” only 50-100 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Remember that?

“I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small,” Panetta said. “At most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

Well, so what? That’s just the CIA, what do they know?

The same report repeated that news item about President Karzai wanting a written commitment of $2 billion a year from the United States after the withdrawal.

Apparently, our government is happy to give him more.  U.S. officials said they could pay up to about $4 billion a year to fund Afghan forces.

*Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng!!!

This is absolutely freakin great news!

There are less that 100 Al Qaida “nationals” in Afghanistan and we’re staying there for ten more years until 2024, and maybe beyond. You know, in case they make a mess of our nation-building project mess over there. But it’s all right because our soldiers for 2024 entered kindergarten last fall.

Also, President Karzai whose control spans Kabul and beyond the city limits (as we all know) wanted $2 billion on paper. And we’re giving him $4 billion and change because we are generous people, never mind that our houses are falling down. Or that many of our kids, who will be fighting this war beyond 2024 go to sleep hungry every night in the United States of America.

As an aside – please, somebody, please tell us which International School of Negotiation did you all go to, because we are definitely going to enroll there for our Ph.D.

Um – about being hungry in America? You think, no way, Jose – not in America. Yes, way – Hunger in America 2010, the  largest study of domestic hunger, providing comprehensive and statistically-valid data on the emergency food distribution system and the people Feeding America serves indicates that: 1) Feeding America is annually providing food to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children (an increase of 46 percent over 2006), 2) Feeding America’s nationwide network of food banks is feeding 1 million more Americans each week than the organization did in 2006; 3) The number of children the Feeding America network serves has increased by 50 percent since 2006.

So, I was eating lunch today and all I could think about is Hamid Karzai’s $4 freakin billion every year for the next ten years for starters.  And I hate to admit that I lost my lunch, all over the place.

After I’ve cleaned up my mess, I heard that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) was barred by Hamid Karzai from entering Afghanistan.  And while I am not/not a fan of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), U.S. taxpayers elected that man. And since U.S. taxpayer money is funding Hamid Karzai and the Government of Afghanistan, and will continue to do so until 2024 and on to perpetuity, I say, we should send Congressman Rohrabacher as Pro-Consul to Afghanistan, and make sure our investment is well spent. As our dear, Jerry Bremmer did in Iraq.

Oops! And here is where I’ll make a confession — I’ve just lost all my marbles! It’s that kind of sucky day.

What else is there to say except perhaps remind our government  to better not slash funds for Feeding America, so we’ll have soldiers for Afghanistan for 2024 and beyond.

Domani Spero

*Excuse me for saying – Frog-Humping Son of a Bitch!