Posted: 2:35 am ET
Via USCG Karachi/YouTube:
Posted: 2:35 am ET
Via USCG Karachi/YouTube:
Posted: 2:48 am ET
Over 200 people from Pakistan have been named as having offshore companies in the Panama Papers. Media reports say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is linked to 9 companies connected to his family name. He has faced strong criticism for it at home while he is reportedly in London for a medical checkup. On April 13, somebody with no apparent separation anxiety put up the prime minister for sale on eBay UK with a startling beginning price of £99.99. There are currently 100 bids from 12 bidders. The latest bid as of this writing is £66,200.00.
The seller’s description says “No box or instructions. Buyer must collect. Seller not prepared to touch item. Pick up from central London today, address will be supplied on completion of sale. Buyer must arrange own transport.” And that’s the nicer part of the description.
It looks like the idea started off with UK’s prime minister. A couple of days previously, somebody also tried to sell Prime Minister David Cameron on eBay, although it looks like the listing had been taken down with 5 days to go. There were 153 bids before it was removed.
Posted: 7:59 pm EDT
Just saw the news that the Justice Department has closed its espionage investigation into former Ambassador Robin L. Raphel and will not file charges.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Ms. Raphel’s home and office in 2014 looking for evidence that she was spying for Pakistan, which Ms. Raphel adamantly denied.
“It was clear from the outset that this investigation was based on a fundamental misunderstanding,” Amy Jeffress, a lawyer for Ms. Raphel, said in a statement that sharply criticized government officials for revealing details of the investigation to reporters.
She added: “It is of the utmost importance to our national security that our diplomats be able to do their work without fearing that their routine diplomatic communications will subject them to criminal investigation.”
A message left with the Justice Department was not immediately returned, though officials there have consistently declined to comment publicly on the case.
The investigation began when American investigators intercepted a conversation in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from Ms. Raphel, a conversation that led to months of secret surveillance.
The espionage case soon began to fizzle, however, leaving prosecutors to focus on the far less serious charge of keeping classified information in her home. Ms. Raphel, in negotiations with the government, rejected plea deals and has been adamant that she face no charges.
Posted: 4:12 am EDT
On March 1, we woke up to a report that two locally employed staff of the U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar, Pakistan were killed in Pakistan’s FATA area. There were very few details. It looks like the source of the report was Secretary Kerry who talked about the casualties during his Remarks at the Strong Cities Network International Visitors Leadership Program for Municipal Leaders and Countering Violence Extremism Experts Event in Washington, DC.
The news nugget was in the 27th paragraph of his prepared speech at the CVE event:
I’ll tell you something, I’m always stunned by it. I mean, just this morning I woke up to the news that we’ve lost two local employees in Peshawar who work with our consulate there, who were going out on a effort to eradicate narcotics fields. And an IED exploded and several were lost and a few of the soldiers who were there to guard them also. Think about that.
We went looking for an official statement at state.gov and at U.S. Embassy Islamabad and its three constituent posts but there was none available.
We sent an email to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to see if the mission has any other details to share, but as of this writing we have not heard anything back.
Later on March 1, state.gov put out an official statement of the incident:
Earlier today, I learned that two locally employed staff with the U.S. Mission in Pakistan were brutally murdered in an attack against a Government of Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) convoy in Ambar tehsil, Mohmand Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.
On behalf of the Department of State, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of these brave individuals. I know nothing we say can adequately assuage their grief, but they should know we are thinking of them and share their profound sense of loss.
This senseless attack is a compelling reminder of the risk taken every day by our diplomats and the local staff around the world who make diplomacy possible. It also is a testimony to the courage and commitment shown by both Americans and Pakistanis who struggle to combat the scourge of terrorism and build a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for Pakistan. We have offered our assistance to the government of the region in investigating the incident and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Department of State holds in the highest regard all our host country colleagues who serve in our missions around the world. These men and women choose a life of service to improve the lives of their families and citizens and are essential to helping implement our goal of promoting shared prosperity and values. They are our friends, our teachers, and our guardians, and we are profoundly grateful for the sacrifices they make every day.
The New York Times identified the two employees as Faisal Khan, an “anti-narcotics official,” and Abid Shah, a driver employed by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. They were reportedly killed when the bomb detonated as their convoy was traveling in the Mohmand tribal region. Four other people, including two Pakistani security officials, were wounded. The anti-narcotics team had been reviewing poppy eradication efforts in the area. According to the NYT, Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.
State/INL has the following country program in Pakistan (INL/AP):
INL and the Government of Pakistan have collaborated on counternarcotics (CN) activities since the 1980s. INL’s counternarcotics portfolio includes training and operational support to law enforcement agencies as well as crop control and demand reduction projects implemented through local channels. Pakistan’s CN efforts are led by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) under the Ministry of Narcotics Control, but also include several other law enforcement agencies such as the Frontier Corps- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Frontier Corps – Baluchistan as well as the Home Departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.
Posted: 4:15 am EDT
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in December that immigration officials did a poor job reviewing the financée visa application of Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, Calif., rampage that left 14 dead. Goodlatte said he reviewed the application and found there was insufficient evidence to prove Malik and U.S. citizen Syed Rizwan Farook, had met in person — a requirement for a foreign national seeking a K-1 financée visa before being allowed entry into the U.S.
Let’s say that the couple did not meet, 8 U.S. Code § 1184 – admission of nonimmigrants provides for that exception. Below is the relevant section of the immigration law that our U.S. Congress passed:
(d) Issuance of visa to fiancée or fiancé of citizen
A visa shall not be issued under the provisions of section 1101(a)(15)(K)(i) of this title until the consular officer has received a petition filed in the United States by the fiancée and fiancé of the applying alien and approved by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The petition shall be in such form and contain such information as the Secretary of Homeland Security shall, by regulation, prescribe. Such information shall include information on any criminal convictions of the petitioner for any specified crime described in paragraph (3)(B) and information on any permanent protection or restraining order issued against the petitioner related to any specified crime described in paragraph (3)(B)(i). It shall be approved only after satisfactory evidence is submitted by the petitioner to establish that the parties have previously met in person within 2 years before the date of filing the petition, have a bona fide intention to marry, and are legally able and actually willing to conclude a valid marriage in the United States within a period of ninety days after the alien’s arrival, except that the Secretary of Homeland Security in his discretion may waive the requirement that the parties have previously met in person. In the event the marriage with the petitioner does not occur within three months after the admission of the said alien and minor children, they shall be required to depart from the United States and upon failure to do so shall be removed in accordance with sections 1229a and 1231 of this title.
The American citizen petitioner is asked to submit evidence that he/she or his/her fiancé(e) have met in person during the 2 years preceding the filing of the I-129F petition. Such evidence may include a written statement from the petitioner and/or the beneficiary stating the exact date(s) on which the parties have met in person, copy of airline tickets, passport pages, or other evidence showing the U.S. citizen petitioner and the beneficiary have met in person during the requisite time period.
There are two exceptions to the “meet in person within 2 years before filing a fiance(e) petition” that DHS allows. The applicants must establish (PDF) that:
(1) The requirement to meet the fiancé(e) in person would violate strict and long-established customs of the the petitioner or fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice; or
(2) The requirement to meet the fiancé(e) in person would result in extreme hardship to the American citizen petitioner.
In any case, it doesn’t look like the petitioner requested an exemption to the personal meeting requirement. On December 19, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) released a copy of of what he says is “Malik’s K-1 Visa application” (see pdf). What Mr. Goodlatte actually released is not/not a copy of Malik’s K-1 visa application but U.S. citizen Farook’s Fiancee Visa Petition (I-129F) on behalf of Pakistani national, Tashfeen Malik.
It looks from the petition that Farook made an Intention to Marry Statement indicating that they were both in Saudi Arabia in October 2013. If there is a question here, it might possibly be that the Farook submitted copies of passport pages that show the ID pages and admission stamps without the English translation. The I-129F notes that “The petitioner must submit the English translation of the admission/exit stamps.” We don’t know if he ever did, but the petition was presumably approved, or she would not have been issued a visa.
But man, oh, man, the congressional folks looking into this could not even make the distinction between a petition and a visa?
The U.S. citizen petitioner, in this case, Syed Farook submitted the I-129F Fiance(e) Visa petition to DHS. That’s the document that Mr. Goodlatte released online. The alien beneficiary of the petition, in this case, Tashfeen Malik, then applied for a fiancee visa at a consular post overseas. According to the State Department’s deputy spox, she did that at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. She would have been required, among other things, to fill out a DS-160 form, an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form, for temporary travel to the United States, and for K (fiancé(e)) visas. Form DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State website via the Internet. Consular Officers use the information entered on the DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, determine an applicant’s eligibility for a nonimmigrant visa.
The DS-160 form is not available to fill out as a PDF but information asked in that form is available in an unofficial sample form here (PDF).
There’s a notion that if only the K visa was not issued to Malik or if only she were “fully” vetted, perhaps San Bernardino would not have happened. But the other half of the shooters was one of our fellow citizens! Yes, maybe Farook wouldn’t have done it without her. Or maybe Farook would have found someone else and still kill all those people. We don’t effing know. All we know right now is it happened. Sure, we can focus on whether there was enough evidence of a personal meeting or not, but is that going to help us understand the whys and hows behind this attack.
Beyond the question of whether these two have personally meet or not prior to coming to the United States, the larger issue seems to be: how do you determine the intent of a person coming to the United States if he/she has a clean record? The fact is anyone can change one’s intent between the time a visa is issued/entry is allowed into our borders and when action occurs at some later date. It need not have to be a K-1 visa; it can be any kind of visa. It need not have to be a one entry, 90-day visa, it can be a multiple entry, 60 months visa. And it can be a U.S. citizen born, raised, radicalized within our borders, coming back to this country, or already living here. Absent a glass ball, or a pre-cognition system, there is no “full vetting” able to predict a hundred percent an individual’s intent or behavior into future.
And then there’s this: researchers at the Center on National Security at Fordham Law (CNS) analyzed 59 individuals in their ISIS Cases in the United States study (PDF) in 2015. Of the 59 individuals, 17 are domestic plotters, and 100% U.S. citizens. The study notes that “overall, the accused are diverse and difficult to profile, racially or ethnically. They belong to a wide swath of ethnic backgrounds including African, African American, Caucasian, Asian, Eastern European, and South Asian. Few are of Middle Eastern Arab descent.”
Among the characteristics of the foreign fighter and domestic plotter groups in that study? The vast majority, 81% are U.S. citizens, their median age is 24 years. At least one third are converts to Islam and 14% have previous felony convictions. Some food for thought for folks who bother to think this through.
Posted: 2:51 am EDT
This past October, we blogged that the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California ordered the State Department to return the U.S. passport of Yemeni-American Mosed Shaye Omar which was revoked “based on the involuntary statement he provided at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a on January 23, 2013” (see Court orders @StateDept to return Yemeni-American’s improperly revoked U.S.passport).
While researching another court case, we discovered the Hasan v. State Department case. This is a case where the petitioner asked for judicial review of a US Embassy Yemen consular official’s decision of ineligibility for an immigrant visa on behalf of a minor child. Following the filing of this case and the closure of the US Embassy in Sanaa, the US Embassy in Cairo apparently became the post designated to handle visa applications from Yemen. US Embassy Cairo reviewed the prior ineligibility, reversed US Embassy Sana’a’s decision and issued the immigrant visa. The parties subsequently agreed to dismissed this case with prejudice at no cost to Mr. Hasan or the State Department. Except for the court ruling stipulating the dismissal of the case, all other files related to this case are sealed in court.
A closer look at other cases filed in the New York District Court indicates several other court cases against the State Department, US Embassy Yemen, US Embassy Pakistan, Ambassador Matthew Tueller, Ambassador Richard Olson and related federal agencies have also been sealed.
We suspect that these are cases related either to U.S. passport revocations, non-issuance of U.S. passports or immigrant visas in Yemen and Pakistan.
Following the federal court decision ordering the State Department to return the passport improperly revoked by the State Department, we asked State/OIG about this trend and we’re told that the OIG does not have “anything on this issue on which it can comment.” It was suggested that we check with Consular Affairs. And of course, we have previously asked CA about this, but we do not really expect them to address this in terms of oversight.
The court documents in the Omar case suggest that Consular Affairs is revoking U.S. passports contrary to the rules in the Foreign Affairs Manual. But this is not the only case. If all similar cases have the same threshold as the Omar case, it is deeply troubling not only because the revocation appears not to follow State Department’s written guidance, State also never seek to denaturalized the plaintiff. Which basically leaves the plaintiff still a citizen of this country but unable to travel anywhere.
Which brings us to the question as to why these court files are sealed in court. It is possible that these cases all relate to minor children, could that be the reason for sealing the court records? Or is it something else?
Below are some of the cases we’ve located; all sealed unless noted otherwise:
1:15-cv-06425-NGG | Abdu v. U.S. Department of State et al — filed on 11/10/2015. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller.
1:15-cv-05684-FB | Alzonkary et al v. Holder et al — filed on 10/02/2015. Defendants include Secretary Kerry, US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller and CA’s Michelle Bond.
1:15-cv-05587-JG | Mansour Fadhil et al (on behalf of minor children). Defendants include Secretary Kerry.
1:15-cv-06436-FM | Al Zokary v. United States Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller
1:15-cv-04312-GHW | Hasan v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller. The case was dismissed in August 2015 with a stipulation that it be dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees to either party. All files except the Stipulation are sealed.
1:15-cv-01767-ILG | Hasan et al v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson.
1:14-cv-07093-PAC | Issa et al v. Holder et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and US Embassy Yemen’s Ambassador Tueller.
1:14-cv-02584-ER | Alsaidi v. U.S. Department of State et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and Karen H. Sasahara in her official capacity as charge d’affaires ad interime of the U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen. The case was dismissed in 2014 with a stipulation that it be dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees to either party. All files remained sealed.
1:13-cv-06872-PKC | Mohammad et al v. Beers et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry. The case was voluntarily dismissed in July 2014, all files remained sealed.
2:13-cv-04178-ADS | Arif et al v. Kerry et al. Defendants include Secretary Kerry and Embassy Islamabad’s Ambassador Olson. The case was dismissed with prejudice in September 2013, with each party bearing its own costs, fees, including attorney’s fees, and disbursements. The files remained sealed.
One passport case from November 2013, 1:13-cv-08299-AJP Kassim v. Kerry is not sealed. The case was dismissed in March 2014 with a court order for issuance of U.S. passport to plaintiff. “Within 30 days of the entry of this order, Plaintiff will submit to the Department of State a new un-executed but signed passport application (Form DS-11) with passport photos and a copy of the front and back of a valid government identification card. The Department of State will issue Plaintiff a U.S. passport book and a U.S. passport card within 30 days of receipt of Plaintiffs passport application and supporting documentation (described above in subsection 2(a)). This action is hereby withdrawn and dismissed with prejudice and without costs or attorney’s fees.”
One immigrant visa case from 2014, 1:14-cv-03748-KAM | Chaudhry et al v. Holder et al. is also not sealed. The defendants include Secretary Kerry and Embassy Islamabad’s Ambassador Olson. The case was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice in light of the State Department granting of an immigrant visa to Plaintiff.
Posted: 1:06 am EDT
The State Department announced the appointment of Ambassador Richard Olson as the new Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP).
US Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Richard Olson paid a farewell call on the PM Muhammad Nawaz Sharif at PM House pic.twitter.com/KEDucMcMeo
— PML(N) [Official] (@pmln_org) September 17, 2015
Ambassador Richard Olson will succeed Dan Feldman, who concluded his tenure September 18, as U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP). Ambassador Olson will assume his responsibilities as SRAP on November 17, after concluding his service as the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. As were his predecessors, Ambassador Olson will be responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs that support U.S. national security interests in promoting stability and increasing prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ambassador Olson brings extraordinary experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as elsewhere, to his new position. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the last three years. Prior to his experience in Islamabad, Ambassador Olson served as the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan, from 2011 to 2012, during which time he oversaw all U.S. non-military assistance programs and support for the Afghan government. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2011. He is a member of the Senior Foreign Service, and has served at the U.S. Department of State since 1982.
Posted: 2:05 am EDT
We blogged about the Robin Raphel case in September (see The Murky Robin Raphel Case 10 Months On, Remains Murky … Why?.
In November 2014, we also blogged this: Robin Raphel, Presumption of Innocence and Tin Can Phones for Pak Officials.
On October 10, the NYTimes reported that officials apparently now say that the spying investigation has all but fizzled. This leaves the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute Ms. Raphel for the far less serious charge of keeping classified information in her home.
The fallout from the investigation has in the meantime seriously damaged Ms. Raphel’s reputation, built over decades in some of the world’s most volatile countries.
If the Justice Department declines to file spying charges, as several officials said they expected, it will be the latest example of American law enforcement agencies bringing an espionage investigation into the public eye, only to see it dissipate under further scrutiny. Last month, the Justice Department dropped charges against a Temple University physicist who had been accused of sharing sensitive information with China. In May, prosecutors dropped all charges against a government hydrologist who had been under investigation for espionage.
Some American investigators remain suspicious of Ms. Raphel and are loath to abandon the case entirely. Even if the government cannot mount a case for outright spying, they are pushing for a felony charge related to the classified information in her home.
The case against Robin Raphel, no longer about spying, just another fight over classified info in someone’s basement http://t.co/1VTovLG7Ns
— Matt Apuzzo (@mattapuzzo) October 10, 2015
Hey, @sulliview – what are you gonna write about Robin Raphel?
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) October 11, 2015
— Diplopundit (@Diplopundit) October 11, 2015
— Gregory Djerejian (@GregDjerejian) October 11, 2015
— Cynthia Schneider (@schneidercp) October 11, 2015
In the case of Xiaoxing Xi, the Temple university professor and head of the school’s physics department, federal authorities handling the case were said to have misunderstood key parts of the science behind the professor’s work. Mr. Xi’s lawyer said, “We found what appeared to be some fundamental mistakes and misunderstandings about the science and technology involved here.” The federal officials handling the Xi case did not know the science but went ahead and indicted him anyway.
Are we going to hear soon that the federal officials handling the Raphel case also made some fundamental mistakes and misunderstanding of the diplomatic tradecraft? At least two of these officials leaked the probe to the news media even if no charges were filed against Ambassador Raphel.
This was not a harmless leak. She lost her security clearance, and her job at the State Department without ever being charged of any crime. And in the court of social media, just the news that she is reportedly the subject of a spying investigation is enough to get her attacked and pilloried for treason. Perhaps, the most disturbing part in the report is that the authorities appear to have no case against her for spying, so now they’re considering slapping her with a felony charge under the Espionage Act.
Now, why would they do that?
Perhaps to save face and never having to admit that federal authorities made a mistake or lack an understanding of international statecraft? They could say — see, we got something out of a year’s worth of investigation, so it was not completely useless.
Or perhaps because American investigators still viewed Ambassador Raphel’s relationships with deep suspicion?
Because, obviously, “deep suspicion” is now the bar for an espionage charge?
We should note that the hydrologist, Sherry Chen was cleared of spying charges but was notified in September that she will be fired by the National Weather Service for many of the same reasons the USG originally prosecuted her. Xiaoxing Xi of Temple University had been charged with “four counts of wire fraud in the case involving the development of a pocket heater for magnesium diboride thin films.” The USG asked to dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning it could be revived, according to philly.com.
Unlike the Chen and Xi cases, Raphel was never charged and was not afforded the right to defend herself in the court of law. What we have in one case may have been a misunderstanding, a second case, may well have been a mistake, but a third case is certainly, a trend.
This is AG Loretta Lynch’s “Houston, we have a problem” moment.
Posted: 2:47 pm EDT
A local employee of the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan was reportedly killed by unidentified gunmen in the capital city of Islamabad. The victim was identified as Iqbal Baig who worked for the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reportedly for about a dozen years. The AFP citing the victim’s brother reports that the victim had received threats in the recent past.
Gunmen kill local US Embassy employee in Islamabad: police http://t.co/EwTKVc9p73
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) July 26, 2015