U.S. Ambassadors in the News: Iceland, United Kingdom, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, South Korea







@StateDept Announces “National Interest Exceptions” for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland

Via State/CA:
National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland
Last Updated: July 16, 2020

Certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for National Interest Exceptions under Presidential Proclamations (PPs) 9993 (Schengen Area) and 9996 (United Kingdom and Ireland). Qualified business and student travelers who are applying for or have valid visas or ESTA authorization may travel to the United States even as PPs 9993 and 9996 remain in effect.

Students¬†traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland¬†with valid F-1 and M-1 visas,¬†do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel.¬†Students¬†from those areas who are¬†traveling on a J-1 may contact the nearest embassy or consulate to initiate an exception request.The Department of State also continues to grant National Interest Exceptions for qualified¬†travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to‚ÄĮhumanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

Granting national interest exceptions for this travel to the United States‚ÄĮfrom the Schengen area, UK, and Ireland, will‚ÄĮassist with the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and bolster key components of our transatlantic relationship.

We appreciate the transparency and concerted efforts of our European partners and allies to combat this pandemic and welcome the EU’s reciprocal action to allow key categories of essential travel to continue.

Also see: Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak
Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak

July 20 SFRC Hearing: Robert W. Johnson IV for United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Posted: 1:01 am ET
Updated: 11:47 am PT
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Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Robert W. Johnson IV to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017
Time: 09:30 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

A live video of the hearing and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.

Below is the Certificate of Demonstrated Competence report made available online by the State Department per Section 712 of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017:

SUBJECT: Ambassadorial Nomination: Certificate of¬†Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service¬†Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

CANDIDATE: Robert Wood Johnson IV

Robert Wood Johnson IV, a prominent businessman, committed civic leader and compassionate philanthropist, has been, for more than thirty years, the Chairman and CEO of The Johnson Company, New York, NY, a private asset management firm. Since 2000, he has also been Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets, an NFL franchise team and the Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets Foundation, New York. Mr. Johnson is also the Founding Chairman of Lupus Research Alliance, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of lupus. Mr. Johnson served on the President’s Export Council (1989-93) and the President’s Commission on White House Fellows (2001-02). His demonstrated commitment to a culture of success and his wide-ranging engagement in business, community and government make him well-qualified to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr. Johnson serves as Trustee Emeritus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropic organization devoted exclusively to promoting health and advancing healthcare. He has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, New York since 1993 and is serving as a board member of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center. He also lends his time and talents to The Peregrine Fund, Boise, Idaho.

Mr. Johnson earned his B.A. degree in 1972 from the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. He also attended the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration and completed the Smaller Company Management Program in Boston, Massachusetts in 1982.


Trump to Nominate New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson to be U.S. Ambassador to the U.K.

Posted: 4:10 am ET
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On June 22, President Trump officially announced the long-rumored nomination of New York Jets owner Woody Johnson to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.


Since you’re here ….

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British Diplomats of the Future — More Like ’24’ or ‘Spooks’? Read ‘Future FCO’ Report

Posted: 9:31 am PT
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This is an interesting read; may require registration/subscription via ft.com:

Last year, there was a discussion at¬†Chathamhouse on¬†21st Century Diplomats: The Changing Role of British Diplomats. Below is an excerpt from Ambassador Tom Fletcher’s talk:

I recently put in a very audacious and cheeky bid for a senior position in the Foreign Office and part of my application was to say, I think my age may be a problem. Up front, I think my age is a problem, I think I’m too old for the job. My point was that in so many of the countries that we’re now trying to influence, and this was one of them, as one of the bigger emerging economies, the people that we most need to get to are actually much younger than me. So we need to reflect on that as we work out how to engage with those new groups.
Diplomats have always been told they’re about to go out of business and we have always found ways to evolve. It’s a Darwinian profession and we have found ways to move forward and use new tools and that’s what we’re going to do in this phase. The basic qualities of a diplomat through that period, I would argue, haven’t really changed that much either. I’ve been writing recently about the history of diplomacy and consistently find that the people who make good diplomats tend to have a certain amount of courage, tend to have a certain amount of tact and can probably eat anything. That will be the case for diplomats in 100 years’ time as it was for diplomats 200 years ago and beyond.
The scientists tell us that the change that we’ll see in the next century is equivalent in sociological terms to the change we’ve seen in the last 43 centuries. So imagine that’s like going from the cave painting to the atom bomb in three generations of diplomats. This change as we’re seeing in all sorts of industries is disruptive. It is going to put a lot of businesses out of business. It’s going to put a lot of states out of business, though not I would argue states altogether. It’s going to put a lot of ideas out of business and for all of us who care about diplomacy, we have to make sure that we’re not one of those businesses that is disrupted.

The FCO has just released the Future FCO report by Ambassador Fletcher. Give it a read below or read here¬†(PDF) to see what’s in store for the¬†cousins across the pond.

The Future FCO report notes that the skills mix required to deliver successful diplomacy is changing. In 2020 and beyond, it¬†will need to retain and bolster the FCO’s¬†traditional strengths: geographical and multilateral expertise; languages; policy-making; networking, influencing and negotiating. By 2020, the FCO will also need to build or strengthen the following skills: Programme; open source data; digital diplomacy; stabilisation and mediation, particularly in volatile and/or ungoverned space;¬†smarter use of cross-Whitehall resource, including financial, economic, diplomatic, intelligence and legal measures (as pioneered by the ‚Äėfull spectrum‚Äô approach on security issues); working with business and non-state actors.


Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif Up For Grabs on eBay For a Limited Time

Posted: 2:48 am ET
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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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13


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.





Former US Embassy London Employee Pleads Guilty to Cyberstalking and “Sextortion” Scheme

Posted: 12:47 am EDT
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We’ve blogged previously about the Michael C. Ford case (see¬†State Dept Employee Posted at US Embassy London Faces ‚ÄėSextortion‚Äô Charges in¬†Georgia;¬†US Embassy London Local Employee Charged With Cyberstalking, Computer Hacking and Wire¬†Fraud).

On December 9, USDOJ announced that the former State Department/Embassy London employee pleaded guilty to perpetrating a widespread, international e-mail phishing, computer hacking and cyberstalking scheme against hundreds of victims in the United States and abroad. More below:

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia, Director Bill A. Miller of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office made the announcement.

Michael C. Ford, 36, of Atlanta, was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Aug. 18, 2015, with nine counts of cyberstalking, seven counts of computer hacking to extort and one count of wire fraud.  The names of the victims are being withheld from the public to protect their privacy.

Ford pleaded guilty to all charges and admitted that between January 2013 and May 2015, he used various aliases that included ‚ÄúDavid Anderson‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúJohn Parsons‚ÄĚ and engaged in a widespread, international computer hacking, cyberstalking and ‚Äúsextortion‚ÄĚ campaign designed to force victims to provide Ford with personal information as well as sexually explicit videos of others.¬† Ford targeted young females, some of whom were students at U.S. colleges and universities, with a particular focus on members of sororities and aspiring models.

Ford posed as a member of the fictitious ‚Äúaccount deletion team‚ÄĚ for a well-known e-mail service provider and sent phishing e-mails to thousands of potential victims, warning them that their e-mail accounts would be deleted if they did not provide their passwords.¬† Ford then hacked into hundreds of e-mail and social media accounts using the passwords collected from his phishing scheme, where he searched for sexually explicit photographs.¬† Once Ford located such photos, he then searched for personal identifying information (PII) about his victims, including their home and work addresses, school and employment information, and names and contact information of family members, among other things.

Ford then used the stolen photos and PII to engage in an ongoing cyberstalking campaign designed to demand additional sexually explicit material and personal information.¬† Ford e-mailed his victims with their stolen photos attached and threatened to release those photos if they did not cede to his demands.¬† Ford repeatedly demanded that victims take sexually explicit videos of ‚Äúsexy girls‚ÄĚ undressing in changing rooms at pools, gyms and clothing stores, and then send the videos to him.

When the victims refused to comply, threatened to go to the police or begged Ford to leave them alone, Ford responded with additional threats.¬† For example, Ford wrote in one e-mail ‚Äúdon‚Äôt worry, it‚Äôs not like I know where you live,‚ÄĚ then sent another e-mail to the same victim with her home address and threatened to post her photographs to an ‚Äúescort/hooker website‚ÄĚ along with her phone number and home address.¬† Ford later described the victim‚Äôs home to her, stating ‚ÄúI like your red fire escape ladder, easy to climb.‚Ä̬† Ford followed through with his threats on several occasions, sending his victims‚Äô sexually explicit photographs to family members and friends.

Ultimately, Ford sent thousands of fraudulent ‚Äúphishing‚ÄĚ email messages to potential victims, successfully hacked into at least 450 online accounts belonging to at least 200 victims, and forwarded to himself at least 1,300 stolen email messages containing thousands of sexually explicit photographs.¬† Ford sent threatening and ‚Äúsextortionate‚ÄĚ online communications to at least 75 victims.

During the relevant time period, Ford was employed by the U.S. Embassy in London.  The majority of Ford’s phishing, hacking and cyberstalking activities were conducted from his computer at the U.S. Embassy.
‚ÄúWhen a public servant in a position of trust commits any form of misconduct, to include federal crimes such as cyberstalking and computer hacking, we vigorously investigate such claims,‚Ä̬†said Director Miller.¬† ‚ÄúThe Diplomatic Security¬†Service is firmly committed to investigating and working with the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney‚Äôs Office and our other law enforcement partners to investigate criminal allegations and bring those who commit these crimes to justice.‚ÄĚ
U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross of the Northern District of Georgia scheduled Ford’s sentencing hearing for Feb. 16, 2016.

The Diplomatic Security Service and the FBI are investigating the case.  Senior Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Trial Attorney Jamie Perry of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kamal Ghali of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Embassy in London provided assistance in this case.

The case is  USA v. Ford, CRIMINAL DOCKET FOR CASE #: 1:15-mj-00386-ECS-1 in the U.S. District Court in the  Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).

According to court records, this individual, a U.S. citizen lived in London and joined the U.S. Embassy there in 2009; which suggests that he was a locally hired employee.  The charging documents do not indicate which section of the embassy he worked in or what was his job. But he apparently used his State Department-issued computer at the U.S. Embassy in London while he did his cyberstalking and sextortion schemes.

There are a few¬†curious things about this case. One, that there’s no mention anywhere in court records about his location of work within the embassy; 2) no explanation of how he¬†came to target Jane Doe, an 18 year old¬†Kentucky resident; where did he find her and his other victims? and 3) he successfully hacked¬†450 online accounts belonging to at least 200 victims, and forwarded to himself at least 1,300 stolen email messages containing thousands of sexually explicit photographs — how come nobody noticed? Was this guy a locally hired IT person, so spending all that time on his computer did not¬†raise red flags? 4)¬†Did Embassy London/HR know that this person had a prior criminal record when it hired this employee? If not, why not?

The affidavit in support of a criminal complaint and arrest warrant executed by DSS Agent Erik Kasik is available below:


State Department Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken Meets With Junior Diplomats

Posted: 12:26 am EDT
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In London

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken meets with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in London, United Kingdom, on March 4, 2015. To the left of the Deputy Secretary is Embassy London’s¬†Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Dibble.¬†[State Department photo/ Public Domain]


In Paris

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken speaks with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, on March 2, 2015. Also pictured to the left of the Deputy Secretary is Embassy Paris Deputy Chief of Mission Uzra Zeya. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


In Seoul

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Mark Lippert, and Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim meet with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on February 9, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]



In Beijing


In Foggy Bottom



The State Dept’s Most Expensive Assignments in the World (February 2015)

Posted: 11:31 EST
Updated: 21:57 PST

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The ‚Äúcost-of-living‚ÄĚ allowance or COLA is officially called “post allowance” in the State Department. ¬†It is an allowance based on a percentage of ‚Äúspendable income,‚ÄĚ i.e. money you can really put your hands on to spend on goods and services. ¬†The allowance is calculated by comparing costs for goods and services in multiple¬†categories – including food (consumed at home or in restaurants), tobacco/alcohol, clothing, personal care items, furnishings, household goods, medical services, recreation, public transportation, or vehicle-related expenses ‚Äď to the cost of those same goods and services in Washington, D.C.

The State Department’s Office of Allowances¬†determines a ratio between the average cost of goods and services at the foreign post¬†to costs in Washington, D.C. ¬†It then evaluate expenditure patterns between the foreign¬†location and Washington, D.C. to establish an overall cost index, which may be adjusted biweekly for exchange rate fluctuations.¬† If the overall cost of goods and services at a foreign post, taking into account expenditure patterns,¬†is at least 3% above the cost of the same goods and services in the Washington, D.C. area, the office¬†¬†establish a post allowance. See DSSR section 220 for more¬†information.

According to state.gov, this allowance is a balancing factor designed to permit employees to spend the same portion of their basic compensation for current living as they would in Washington, D.C., without incurring a reduction in their standard of living because of higher costs of goods and services at the post.  The amount varies depending on salary level and family size.

We put together a list of countries and posts with the highest State Department COLA rate as of January 2015. Posts in Europe (EUR), Africa (AF), East Asia Pacific (EAP) and the Western Hemisphere (WHA) are represented.  No posts from South Central Asia (SCA) and Near East Asia (NEA) made it to this top list.  The traditionally expected expensive posts like Tokyo, Vienna, Hong Kong, Sydney and Rome are all in the 35% COLA rate and are not included in this list (we chopped the list at 42%; representative posts in France at the 42% rate are included).

Note that we added a couple of columns for the cost of a McDonald’s meal (or equivalent) and cost of a regular cappuccino from numbeo.com, a crowdsourcing site for cost of goods and services around the world. For another snapshot¬†¬†on most expensive cities for expat employees, click here with data from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s¬†Worldwide Cost of Living ranking¬†(costs compared to NYC) and¬†Mercer’s Cost of Living surveys from 2014.

DOS | Most Expensive Assignments in the World (February 8, 2015)

DOS | Most Expensive Assignments in the World (February 8, 2015)


Corrected the spelling for Ediburgh. Also the Allowances Bi-Weekly Updates dated February 8, 2015 indicate several changes on the COLA table, so we updated it to reflect that newest data. Switzerland went from 90% to 100% in this latest update. Shanghai, Copenhagen, Auckland and Wellington went from 50% to 42% COLA posts.  Helsinki, Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Versailles and Oslo were all downgraded from 42% to 35%, so we took them off this table. It is conceivable that the rankings in allowances will change again in a couple of weeks or in a few months.  The bi-weekly updates are located here.  The original list we did based on end of January data is located here.


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US Embassy London Celebrates 10,750 Visitors to Winfield House With a Time-Lapse Video

— Domani Spero
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Via US Embassy London:


With¬†“Let ‘Em In,” ¬†the second single from Paul McCartney and the Wings’ 1976 album Wings at the Speed of Sound. Post also¬†did a timelapse video of¬†Winfield House for the embassy’s¬†New Orleans themed July 4th Party.

Since we now live in the age of social media, Winfield House which was given by Barbara Hutton to¬†the U.S. Government after World War II for a token price of¬†an American dollar — to be repaired and used as the official residence of the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s — now has its own Instagram account. Check it out!

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