Posted: 4:03 am ET
An EgyptAir flight going from Alexandria to Cairo in Egypt was hijacked and has landed in Cyprus. According to EgyptAir, the flight has 56 passengers on board, plus a crew of seven and one EgyptAir security. The passengers have been released after negotiations except for the cabin crew and four foreigners. There are media outlets reporting that the alleged hijacker, reported as Libyan in some reports and Egyptian in others, is asking for political asylum. There are also unconfirmed reports that among the passengers are U.K. and U.S. nationals. A video footage below shows the released passengers disembarking in an orderly manner from the plane and into a waiting bus at the Larnaca Airport in Cyprus.
Posted: 12:10 am EDT
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) June 11, 2015
The Daily Beast:
“An embassy official confirmed to The Daily Beast that 42-year-old Ahmed Ali, accused by the Egyptians of helping to plan or taking part in more than a dozen attacks on security forces, was an employee in the security service at the mission in downtown Cairo. Egyptian authorities are claiming he is a commander in the militant Helwan Brigades.
Both the lack of any forewarning by the Egyptian authorities and the apparent security failure by the U.S. State Department, which failed to unearth Ali’s membership in the brigades, is likely to prompt outrage on Capitol Hill.”
Additional details from Daily New Egypt:
The reports claim that State Security prosecution accuse Ali of being a commander with a militant group, the Helwan Brigades, and participating in 13 attacks, including the bombing and burning of a Helwan court.
However, activists who have been documenting a wave of forced disappearances by the Egyptian security authorities in the past two weeks shared an account of a man named ‘Ahmed Amin Suleyman’, 44, who is claimed to be a staff member at the embassy. Suleyman reportedly had his house raided on 25 May, but he was not at home. The following day, Suleyman fell out of contact – 12 days before the reported arrest of ‘Ahmed Ali’.
Following his disappearance, his wife received a phone call informing her that her husband had been arrested. Family members went to the local Helwan police station, but were informed that Suleyman was not there. The family submitted a 1 June telegram to report his disappearance and request support, a copy of which was seen by Daily News Egypt.
VOA reported on June 10 that Egyptian security forces have arrested dozens of activists ahead of a general strike planned for June 11, part of what the activists describe as an unrelenting crackdown on dissent. There are also reports of forced disappearance cases believed to be abductions by security forces.
Local nationals working for our embassies overseas are often targets, especially in repressive countries. We can’t know this early if these are real charges or if this is a case of a targeted arrest for some other reason. There’s a lot we don’t know here. We just hope our congressional reps would refrain from running around with their hair on fire when they read this news. We should give our government a chance to verify the basis of these Egyptian charges before we hold one more outrage hearing on security failure.
What should be most concerning is the fact that the Government of Egypt apparently had enough evidence to arrest this individual on terrorism charges, but did not provide prior warning to the U.S. government. Why?
Let’s see — we give Egypt $1.3bn in annual military funding, and no one bothered to pick up the phone to alert the embassy about this alleged terrorist working at the mission? That’s some kind of partnership we have there.
Posted: 12:10 am EDT
USAID’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a survey (pdf) to identify the challenges USAID faced during the early transition period (December 2010-June 2014) in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. USAID/OIG identified and interviewed 31 key USAID officials from various parts of the organization who have worked on activities in these countries.It also administered a questionnaire to supplement the information gathered from the interviews. Together, 70 employees from USAID were either interviewed or responded to the questionnaire. It notes that the while the survey collected the perspectives of a number of USAID employees, it is not statistically representative of each office or USAID as a whole.
The highest addressee on this report is USAID/Middle East Bureau Assistant Administrator, Paige Alexander. It includes no State Department official nor congressional entities.
Below is an excerpt:
In 2013 OIG conducted a performance audit of USAID/Egypt’s economic growth project1 and found that the changes of the Arab Spring severely affected the project’s progress. Approximately midway through implementation, the project had not made significant progress in seven of the ten tasks in the original plan mainly because of changes in the Egyptian Government’s counterparts and priorities. To adapt to the environment, the project adjusted its plan and identified three new areas of work to focus on. In another audit that year,2 OIG found similar challenges at USAID/Yemen when one of that mission’s main projects had to adjust its approach after the Arab Spring started (page 16).
Beyond project delays, we found a host of other challenges common to all four countries that revolve around three broad categories:
- Increased influence from the State Department
One of the most commonly cited challenges was the difficulty of operating in a volatile environment. Security dictated many aspects of USAID’s operations after the Arab Spring started, and it was not uncommon for activities to be delayed or cancelled because of security issues.
In addition to access, security also disrupted operations because employees were evacuated from the different countries. U.S. direct-hire employees at USAID/Egypt were evacuated twice in 3 years. In USAID/Yemen, employees were evacuated twice in 3 years for periods of up to 6 months.3 In our survey, 76 percent of the respondents agreed that evacuations made managing projects more difficult.
Because of the precarious security situations, strict limits were placed on the number of U.S. direct hires who were allowed to be in each country. Employees said the Agency did not have enough staff to support the number of activities. This problem was particularly pronounced in Tunisia and Libya, where for extended periods, USAID had only one permanent employee in each country
2. Increased Influence From State Department.
According to our survey results, the majority of respondents (87 percent) believed that since the Arab Spring the State Department has increased its influence over USAID programs (Figure 3). While USAID did not have activities in Libya and Tunisia before the Arab Spring, staff working in these countries afterward discussed situations in which the State Department had significant influence over USAID’s work. A respondent from Tunisia wrote, “Everything has been driven by an embassy that does not seem to feel USAID is anything other than an implementer of whatever they want to do.”
While there is broad interagency guidance on State’s role in politically sensitive environments, the specifics of how USAID should adapt its operations were not entirely clear to Agency employees and presented a number of challenges to USAID’s operations. In Yemen, the department’s influence seemed to be less of an issue (page 17), but for the remaining countries, it was a major concern. As one survey respondent from Egypt wrote:
[State’s control] makes long-term planning incredibly difficult and severely constrains USAID’s ability to design and execute technically sound development projects. A path forward is agreed, steps taken to design activities and select implementation mechanisms, and then we are abruptly asked to change the approach.
State’s involvement introduced a new layer of review and slowed down operations. USAID employees needed to dedicate additional time to build consensus and gain approval from people outside the Agency.
USAID employees also described challenges occurring when State employees, unfamiliar with the Agency and its different types of procurement, made requests that were difficult to accommodate under USAID procedures. One respondent wrote that State “think[s] programs can be stopped and started at will and that we can intervene and direct partners in a manner that goes far beyond the substantial involvement we are allowed as project managers.”
Beyond operational challenges, many people we interviewed expressed frustration over the State Department’s increased role, particularly when State’s direction diverted USAID programming from planned development priorities and goals. This was an especially contentious issue at USAID/Egypt (page 7).
This difference in perspectives caused some to question State’s expertise in development assistance, particularly in transitional situations. A USAID official explained that countries in turmoil presented unique challenges and dynamics, and embassies may not have experts in this area. Others said USAID was taking direction from State advisers who were often political appointees without backgrounds in development.
State was not the sole source of pressure; employees said other federal entities such as the National Security Council and even the White House had increased their scrutiny of USAID since the start of the Arab Spring. As a result, mission officials had to deal with new levels of bureaucracy and were responding constantly to different requests and demands from outside the Agency.
3. Host-Country Readiness.
In each of the four countries, employees reported problems stemming from award recipients’ ability to implement assistance programs. According to one employee, local capacity in Libya was a major problem because the country did not have a strong workforce. Moreover, local implementers had not developed the necessary technical capacity because development assistance was not a priority in Libya under Muammar Qadhafi’s closed, oil-rich regime. Activities in Tunisia and Yemen encountered similar issues because neither have had long histories of receiving foreign development assistance. In Egypt, employees reported that some of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on the mission’s democracy and governance program also lacked sufficient capacity.
On Egypt: More than 85 percent of the employees surveyed who worked on activities related to USAID/Egypt agreed that the State Department had increased its influence over USAID programs since the start of the Arab Spring (Figure 5). A number of respondents said State steered Agency programs to address political rather than development needs. This dynamic had a profound effect on the mission’s ability to follow USAID’s guidance on designing and implementing developmentally sound projects. […] Some mission officials questioned the value of adhering to USAID’s project design procedures when the State Department had already decided a project’s fate. […] In this example, State’s desire to award education scholarships to women in Egypt was difficult to justify because university enrollment data showed that higher education enrollment and graduation rates for women are slightly higher than for men. […] With so many differing voices and perspectives, USAID employees said they were not getting clear, consistent guidance. They described the situation as having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” One survey respondent wrote:
State (or White House) has had a very difficult time making decisions on USAID programming for Egypt . . . so USAID has been paralyzed and sent through twists and turns. State/White House difficulties in decisions may be expected given the fluid situation, but there has been excessive indecision, and mixed signals to USAID.
On Tunisia: The State Department placed strict restrictions on the number of USAID employees allowed to be in-country. As a result, most Agency activities were managed from Washington, D.C. … [O]ne survey respondent wrote, “I have been working on Tunisia for nearly 3 years now, and have designed programs to be carried out there, but I’ve never been. I don’t feel like I have been able to do my job to the best of my ability without that understanding of the situation on the ground.”
On Libya: The attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, had a profound impact on USAID operations in Libya. According to one interviewee, after the attacks USAID did not want to attract too much political attention and put a number of Agency activities in Libya on hold. The period of inactivity lasted from September 2012 to September 2013. It was not until October 2013, after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted, that the U.S. Government refocused attention on Libya and funding for activities picked up again.
Before the attacks, USAID had five employees in the country; afterward, only one was allowed to remain. Although his main priority then was to manage USAID/OTI projects in Libya, he also was asked to oversee four to five additional activities managed out of Washington—a stretch for any employee. As one survey respondent wrote, “The lack of people in the field in Libya (small footprint) means that DC overwhelms the field. People in the field are worked ragged.”
On Yemen: USAID/Yemen did not suffer from the challenges of unclear strategy that other USAID missions did in the region; 70 percent of respondents who worked on activities in Yemen believed that the Agency had a clear strategy for its post-Arab Spring activities (Figure 12). This is a stark contrast to responses related to USAID/Egypt, where only 22 percent believed that USAID had a clear strategy. …[O]ur survey also found a strong working relationship between USAID/Yemen and the State Department; the two often agreed on what needed to be done. […] Some respondents said the collaborative atmosphere was due to individual personalities and strong working relationships between USAID and State officials. One employee said because employees of both organizations lived and worked together in the close quarters, communication flowed freely as perspectives could be exchanged easily. …[O]ne senior USAID/Yemen official said, some of what needed to be done was so obvious that it was difficult for the two agencies not to agree.
The report offers 15 lessons learned including the development of a USAID transition plan at the country level, even if it may change. USAID/OIG says that by having a short-term transition plan, the Agency “would have a better platform to articulate its strategy, particularly when it disagrees with the decisions of other federal entities.”It also lists the following:
- Resist the urge to implement large development projects that require the support of host governments immediately after a transition.
- Prepare mission-level plans with Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs)—locally hired USAID employees who are not U.S. citizens—in case U.S. direct hires are evacuated. Evacuation of U.S. staff can be abrupt with only a few hours’ notice. People we interviewed recommended that U.S. staff develop plans with the mission’s FSN staff ahead of time, outlining roles, responsibilities, and modes of operation to prevent a standstill in operations in the event of an evacuation.
- Get things in writing. When working in environments where USAID is getting input and instructions from organizations that are not familiar with Agency procedures, decisions made outside of USAID may be documented poorly. In such circumstances, it is important to remember to get things in writing.
— Domani Spero
Imagine if a country, say China, sends some of its foreign aid funds to foreign non-government groups in the United States to help us repair our roads and bridges or learn about their people’s congress. What if its National People’s Congress dictates that its embassy in Washington, D.C. does not have to take into account the wishes of the U.S. Government as to where or how that money is spent; that the specific nature of Beijing’s assistance need not be subject to the prior approval by the United States Government. What do you think will happen? If we were up in arms (looking at you Texas) over the UN election monitors, imagine what it would be like if a foreign government starts something crazy like this.
But apparently, that’s exactly what we did in Egypt, thanks to then Senator Sam Brownback’s amendment.
In 2004, the U.S. government began discussions with the Egyptian government regarding a program to directly fund NGOs and other organizations to implement democracy and governance activities in Egypt outside of the framework of an implementing assistance agreement. From September to November 2004, the two governments worked to outline a process by which the United States would directly fund such activities. Further information on this process can be found in the sensitive version of our report.
Shortly thereafter, Congress approved an amendment to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 (the Brownback Amendment), which provided further direction regarding assistance for democracy and governance activities in Egypt. The Brownback Amendment stated, “That with respect to the provision of assistance for Egypt for democracy and governance activities, the organizations implementing such assistance and the specific nature of that assistance shall not be subject to the prior approval by the Government of Egypt.”
In fiscal year 2005, USAID began using some democracy and governance assistance to directly fund NGOs and other types of organizations to implement democracy and governance activities, rather than working with the Egyptian government under the implementing assistance agreement. Soon after USAID started to directly fund NGOs and other types of organizations to implement democracy and governance activities in fiscal year 2005, the Egyptian government raised objections. Among other things, the Egyptian government stated that USAID was violating the terms of the process that the two governments had outlined in a 2004 exchange of letters. However, the U.S. government officials responded that they were interpreting their commitments based upon the conditions applied by the Brownback Amendment and agreement in diplomatic discussions on direct funding to NGOs.
The Egyptian government strongly objected to some of the U.S. government’s planned assistance for democracy and governance after the January 2011 revolution, including the award of funding to unregistered NGOs.9 These concerns led to the Egyptian Ministry of Justice questioning officials from several NGOs about their activities in late 2011. Subsequently, in December 2011, the Egyptian police raided the offices of four U.S. NGOs that were implementing U.S.-funded democracy and governance activities—Freedom House, ICFJ, IRI, and NDI. In February 2012, the Egyptian government charged employees of these four organizations and a German organization, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, with establishing and operating unauthorized international organizations, according to government documents.10 At the time of the charges, all four U.S. organizations reported that they had submitted registration applications to the Egyptian government.11 In June 2013, an Egyptian court convicted a total of 43 employees from the four U.S. NGOs and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, of these charges and the NGOs had to close their operations in Egypt. Table 1 provides a summary of the grants the U.S. government awarded after the January 2011 revolution to the four U.S. NGOs that were prosecuted. All of the American staff from the NGOs were allowed to leave Egypt before the convictions.
And we end up with this: USAID Egypt: An Official Lie Comes Back to Bite, Ouchy!
An FSO offers some perspective:
You imply that the United States would never allow assistance of the kind we provide to Egypt in terms of democracy assistance. This is not the case. We do restrict the ability of foreign nations to influence our elections, but foreign nations have both the ability and the right to influence policy decisions in the United States. Two days ago, I was reading a blog on foreignpolicy.com sponsored by the UAE Embassy. But much more importantly many foreign governments hire lobbyists, engage in informational campaigns, or provide grants to NGOs in the United States and all of these activities are protected by U.S. law.
To return to Egypt, I have worked on many authoritarian countries including Egypt where the government has done everything possible to squeeze organizations and individuals standing up for human rights and individual freedoms. Just as we allow foreign countries to engage in policy advocacy in the United States, I see no reason why we should engage in unilateral human rights disarmament and allow the objections of the Syrians, Iranians, Egyptians, Russians, Chinese, and Burmese among others about their sovereignty prevent us from aiding individuals and organizations these governments are seeking to crush. Having said this, I am also acutely aware of the need to ensure that our assistance does not endanger the individuals and organizations we are seeking to support and protect. It’s a tough line to walk, but I have sought to walk it many times in my Foreign Service career.
^ ^ ^
— Domani Spero
Via The District Sentinel/Sam Knight
Here is an excerpt from the transcript of the 12/1/14 DPB:
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the court’s decision dropping the charges against former President Mubarak?
MS. PSAKI: Well, generally, we continue to believe that upholding impartial standards of accountability will advance the political consensus on which Egypt’s long-term stability and economic growth depends. But beyond that, I would refer you to the Egyptian Government for any further comment.
QUESTION: So you don’t criticize at all?
QUESTION: What does that mean?
MS. PSAKI: It means that in general, we believe that courts should be —
QUESTION: It sounds to me like it means nothing.
MS. PSAKI: In general, we believe that impartial standards and the justice system should work as planned —
QUESTION: Yeah —
MS. PSAKI: — but I don’t have any specific comment —
QUESTION: But did —
QUESTION: But are you suggesting it wasn’t impartial?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more specifics on —
QUESTION: But I – wow. I don’t understand that at all. What does that mean? You believe that – of course you do. But was that – were those standards upheld in this case?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything – any specific comment on the case. I’d point you to the Egyptian Government.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) justice was served? Do you think justice was served in this case?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific on the case.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) not try —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — to argue with you or ask about the comment. Are you trying to understand what is – does – this decision means?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you.
Do we have anything more on Egypt?
QUESTION: Do Egyptians explain to you what’s going on?
MS. PSAKI: We obviously remain in close touch with the Egyptians, but I don’t have anything more to peel back for you.
QUESTION: Jen —
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Egypt? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, Transparency International is basically disappointed with that. And some international organizations have also expressed concern over, like, dropping all the charges against Mubarak, who’s accused of having murdered – having ordered the murder of protestors —
MS. PSAKI: I’m familiar with the case, yes.
QUESTION: — and also corruption, other things. And so you’re not willing to show your concern over that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we speak frequently, including in annual reports, about any concerns we have about – whether its rule of law or freedom of speech, freedom of media, and we do that on a regular basis. I just don’t have anything more specifically for you on this case.
QUESTION: Can you see if – can we ask for – push your people a little bit harder? Because I mean, you call for accountability and transparency all the time from any number of governments. And so if no one is held to account, if no one is being held accountable for what happened, it would seem to me that you would have a problem with that and —
MS. PSAKI: If there’s more we have to say, Matt, we will make sure you all know.
QUESTION: But I mean, what you have said, that the – what you said says nothing. I mean, it just – it’s like saying, “Well, we support the right of people to breathe.” Well, that’s great, but if they can’t breathe —
MS. PSAKI: If we have a further comment on the case, I will make sure all of you have it.
QUESTION: I mean, aren’t you a little bit annoyed that the person who was elected by the Egyptian people, Morsy, is languishing in prison while the person who is accused of murdering hundreds of people is actually out on —
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your effort, Said. I don’t have anything further on this case.
QUESTION: No, the reason we ask isn’t because —
MS. PSAKI: Said, I’m sorry. We’re going to have to move on.
Tsk! Tsk! Can’t imagine Ambassador Boucher accepting that kind of crap from any bureau. Next time, make the talking points drafter write in Plain English so we, the natives would understand what our government is talking about. And by the way, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010 on October 13, 2010. That law requires that federal agencies use “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.” This response is neither clear, nor usable.
So — if the talking points do not improve with plain language, go ahead and please kick the door. And if that doesn’t work either, get Madame Secretary to sign a reassignment order (apparently the Secretary of State does that kind of thing) and send the drafter and/or approving officer off to Angola.
Noooo, not/not to Portugal. And check the mike next time.
* * *
Updated below on 12/15/14 @ 2:09 am via Ali Weinberg of ABC News:
— Ali Weinberg (@AliABCNews) December 5, 2014
* * *
— Domani Spero
Migrants, such as foreign workers, from many countries seek employment in the Gulf region. In 2013, the top five source countries of international migrants to Gulf countries were India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, and the Philippines (see table 5). Growing labor forces in source countries provide an increasing supply of low-cost workers for employers in the Gulf and other host countries where, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), demand for foreign labor is high.
Economic conditions and disparities in per capita income between source and host countries encourage foreign workers to leave their countries to seek employment. In 2012, average per capita income in the six Gulf countries was nearly 25 times higher than average income per capita in the top five source countries, and some differences between individual countries were even more dramatic, according to the World Bank. For example, in 2012, annual per capita income in Qatar was more than $58,000, nearly 100 times higher than in Bangladesh, where per capita income was almost $600. Foreign workers in Gulf countries send billions of dollars in remittances to their home countries annually. For example, in 2012 the World Bank estimated that migrant workers from the top five source countries sent home almost $60 billion from the Gulf countries, including nearly $33 billion to India, nearly $10 billion to Egypt, and nearly $7 billion to Pakistan.
Read more here (pdf).
* * *
— Domani Spero
WaPo’s report on whistleblowers’ complaints that critical details had been sanitized from publicly released reports of USAID OIG includes an item on the NGO trial and bail money in Egypt:
[T]he Egyptian government charged 43 NGO workers with operating illegally. Sixteen of them were Americans, including the son of then-U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The Americans were freed in March 2012 after USAID secretly paid the Egyptian government $4.6 million in “bail” money.
On March 1, 2012, the Americans were permitted to leave the country after USAID transferred $4.6 million from a local currency trust fund to the Egyptian government as “bail.” USAID’s connection to the money was not disclosed at the time.
“This was paid by the NGOs,” a State Department spokeswoman said that day.
Several findings were condensed; entire sections disappeared. They included a section titled “USAID/Egypt Borrowed Local Currency From the Trust Fund for Bail Expenses.”
That section raised questions about the legality of using the $4.6 million to free the NGO workers. Also deleted were concerns that the use of trust fund money for “bail payments” could set a bad precedent for USAID.
A lie and a bribe:
US lied about USAID providing the bribe money to Egypt. Another lie is calling NDI/IRI “NGOs.” http://t.co/qi6EGnMScl
— Dan Murphy (@bungdan) October 23, 2014
WP: USAID paid $4.6 million ransom to SCAF’s Egypt to free arrested NGO staff. And more. http://t.co/sSul14zULK
— Marc Lynch (@abuaardvark) October 23, 2014
The State Department spokeswoman not named in the report was the former spox, and now Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Victoria Nuland. And because the lie was from the official podium of the State Department, this was an official USG lie. Let’s revisit the Daily Press Briefing from March 1, 2012:
QUESTION: Victoria, could you clarify for us the role of the U.S. Government in posting the bond? I understand that $300,000 per individual was posted and the promise that they will return to face trial. Could you explain to us if there was any role for the U.S. Government in that aspect?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, let me just clarify that none of these people who have now departed were in custody, none of them were subject to arrest warrants. They were under travel restrictions. So at the request of the attorneys for the employees, the Egyptian court ruled that the travel restrictions would be lifted if the employees posted bail. So through their lawyers, the NGOs made payments on behalf of their employees from available funds. So there were no bribes paid, and this was paid by the NGOs.
QUESTION: No, I did not suggest that there was any bribes. I just wanted to ask if there was any official role for the U.S. Government to post bail. Some people may not have had the money. I mean, did you try to help them post that money? It’s a huge sum of money for the bail.
MS. NULAND: The organizations paid the bail.
QUESTION: But these organizations get money from the U.S. Government. Was there any government money involved in this bail payment?
MS. NULAND: The checks for this bail, as I understand it, came from the organizations.
QUESTION: But as I say, these organizations are funded, some of them quite – to the tune of quite a lot of money. So was there any taxpayer money involved in paying this bail? And if there was, which I understand there was, what happens if they – if bail is forfeited, if these people decide not to go back and to face the charges? Does that leave the taxpayer on the hook for however much the percentage was that you guys kicked in?
MS. NULAND: Well, first, to be clear, the bail was posted by the organizations.
QUESTION: Yes, but if I —
MS. NULAND: That said —
QUESTION: But if I give you $300,000 and then you give it to the Egyptians, it’s technically correct that you paid the Egyptians, but it’s my money.
MS. NULAND: Again, the bail was paid by the organizations. You are not wrong that these organizations benefit from U.S. Government funding. They benefit from U.S. Government funding so that they can do the work that they do to support a democratic transition. With regard to the fungibility of money or anything with regard to that, I will have to take that question.
So the NGOs paid Egypt; maybe those NGO’s carried and handed $4.6 million to the money shakers, and we called it NGO money. But apparently, it’s USAID money, so really — U.S. taxpayers’ money. And but for this WaPo report, the American public would not have known that we paid the bail money because the key finding about the $4.6 million payment to free the NGO workers in Egypt was removed from the performance audit and placed into financial documents. Documents that are not made public. Also apparently deleted were concerns that the use of trust fund money for “bail payments” could set a bad precedent for USAID.
So in places where American NGOs and USAID operates, a not too friendly host government can grab any of the staffers for any purported local crime, and USAID will pay
ransom bail money to get the staffers released and returned to the United States; and it can put the details about those payments in USAID financial documents that we never get to see?
And we wonder why people get jaded watching this show.
The world is changing. While this information might have been hidden in the past from public view for say 20 years or until the FRUS is released, things, at least some things increasingly don’t work like that anymore. The refresh cycle on sunshine in government is coming at shorter bursts.
* * *
— Domani Spero
Today Haaretz reports that Israel’s operation entered its sixth day as the death toll in Gaza mounted to more than 160 Palestinians and as the international community stepped up pressures to reach a cease-fire (live updates here). However, the NYT notes that Israel and Hamas seemed to signal little public interest in international appeals for a cease-fire as they continued their barrages. “More than 130 rockets were fired out of Gaza into Israel on Sunday, with 22 intercepted, the Israeli Army said, while Palestinians expressed anger over the previous day’s Israeli strikes on a center for people with disabilities and on a home in an attack that killed 17 members of one extended family.”
Last week, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip. Egyptian authorities have reportedly opened the crossing specifically to allow in wounded Palestinians for treatment in Egyptian hospitals. According to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Rafah border crossing will re-open again tomorrow, July 14, and would allow entry of U.S. passport holders into Egypt although no assistance will be available from US Embassy Cairo at the crossing. Below is the embassy statement:
The Department of State has received information from the Government of Egypt that the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt will open for United States Citizen passport holders on Monday, July 14, 2014, starting from 09:00 and closing at 15:00. U.S. citizens under the age of 16 can be escorted by one non-U.S. citizen parent only. At this time U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) cannot use the Rafah border crossing.
Please be advised that no U.S. Embassy Cairo personnel will be present at the Rafah border crossing or in the northern Sinai region, as this area is off limits to U.S. Embassy Cairo personnel due to security concerns. United States Citizens who travel through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt do so at their own risk.
On July 11, Embassy Tel Aviv also announced the relocation of its personnel out of Be’er Sheva due to ongoing hostilities:
Due to ongoing hostilities and the continuing rocket attacks throughout Israel, U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv has relocated Embassy personnel assigned to Be’er Sheva north to Herzliya. The Embassy and its annexes continue to operate at minimal staffing. The Consular Section will continue to provide only emergency services. Embassy personnel are not permitted to travel south of greater Tel Aviv without prior approval. Embassy families living in Tel Aviv and greater Tel Aviv, such as Herzliya, are being advised to remain in close communication with one another.
The Embassy continues to closely monitor the security situation and advises U.S. citizens to visit the website of the Government of Israel’s Home Front Command for further emergency preparedness guidance.
Recent events underscore the importance of situational awareness. We remind you to be aware of your surroundings at all times, to monitor the media, and to follow directions of emergency responders.
Read more here.
* * *
- Lebanese rockets strike Israel as Gaza offensive intensifies (usatoday.com)
- Rafah crossing provides hope to exit Gaza (aljazeera.com)
- Political movements call for opening Rafah border crossing ‘indefinitely’ (dailynewsegypt.com)
- Rafah border crossing closed: Gaza Interior Ministry (dailynewsegypt.com)
- Israel: Gaza conflict ends ‘when our goals are realized’ (usatoday.com)