House Judiciary Committee Unable to Make a Distinction Between a Fiance(e) Petition and a Fiance(e) Visa

Posted: 4:15 am EDT
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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.

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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.

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Happy 2016! New Year Wishes Around the Foreign Service (Videos)

Posted: 7:08 pm EDT
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U.S. Embassy Bangkok continues its creative streak. See post’s … it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s superm …. it’s a drone moment! With embassy staff and Ambassador Glyn Davies.

 

Here is U.S. Embassy Islamabad‘s happy 2016 video. These folks’ smiles are contagious, aren’t they? Naya Saal Mubarak!

 

Ambassador Joan Polaschik and her staff at U.S. Embassy Algiers say they look forward to the year ahead, and hope that it will be filled with peace, prosperity and more opportunities to strengthen the ties between the two countries.

 

Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun from U.S. Embassy Ankara with a message from Ambassador John Bass. The video has annotations added for viewers to learn more about embassy programs done in 2015.

 

U.S. Embassy The Hague with Ambassador Timothy Broas on the highlights from 2015. They said it was another great year for U.S. – Dutch cooperation and they look forward to what 2016 will bring.

 

U.S. Embassy San Jose with Ambassador with S. Fitzgerald Haney with a year in review in Costa Rica.

 

Happy New Year from the U.S. Embassy Paramaribo! This is Ambassador Nolan’s first time lighting a pagara. Enjoy!

 

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US Embassies Issue Possible Terrorist Attack Warnings in Tunisia, Pakistan, Indonesia

Posted: 5:34 pm EDT
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Tunisia

Pursuant to the recent Security Message for U.S. Citizens in Tunisia that was published on Thursday, December 17, 2015 we wish to advise you that a report of unknown credibility indicates the possibility of a terrorist attack at the Tunisia Mall in Berges du Lac on Sunday, December 20, 2015.  We advise you to avoid the area. Also see the Security Message for U.S. Citizens, published December 17, 2015.

Pakistan

The American Embassy in Islamabad has received threat information regarding possible terrorist attacks against locations in Islamabad in late December, especially during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period.  Possible targets include places of worship and shopping centers.  U.S. government personnel are under additional movement restrictions in coming weeks, including religious venues and large shopping centers.  We advise private U.S. citizens to exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.  U.S. citizens are reminded to review the active travel warning for Pakistan, and minimize the number and duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, hotels, places of worship, and other locations where large numbers of people congregate.  U.S. citizens should monitor Pakistani media reports regarding these and similar threats.

Indonesia

[F]urther to the Worldwide Travel Alert published on November 23, 2015, we advise U.S. Citizens to exercise a high degree of caution when traveling in Indonesia during the Christmas and New Year holidays due to continued threats from extremists to conduct attacks in the country. Gatherings at places of worship in such places as Poso and Solo have been, and may still be appealing targets for terrorists. The Indonesian National Police, through multiple news media outlets, have announced that they will be providing additional security to stop ISIL type attacks in Indonesia. During this holiday period, we advise U.S. citizens to remain aware of their surroundings when gathering at nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and places of worship in Indonesia, as terrorists have previously planned and carried out attacks on these venues, and could do so again.

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Dear @StateDept, You Need Bond. Michele Bond at the Daily Press Briefing

Posted: 4:08 am EDT
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In case you missed this:

 

We’ve just read the Daily Press Briefing from last week with the press corps asking questions about K-1 visas related to the San Bernardino attack.

Oh, holy mother of goat and her stupid nephews!

It should have been all hands on deck to know absolutely everything about this case.  Instead we have Mark Toner, the deputy spokesperson of the State Department on December 3, either asking to take the question, or guessing his response. “I don’t know “…. “I would presume …”

Then the next day, Elizabeth Trudeau, the Press Office director did the DPB and seriously underwhelmed our video player. She refused to confirm that the K-1 visa was issued in Islamabad, something that Mr. Toner already talked about just the day before. 

Folks, haven’t you learned anything at all?  Anything? It’s not like this case is locked in a file cabinet in the catacombs of Foggy Bottom..  That’s why you have your consular systems.

 

Her name is Bond, Michelle Bond.

The State Department need to put its Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary of State Michele Bond up there at the podium to answer these questions.  Help the journalists understand the K-1 process, and the roles State and DHS play in the systems currently in place.  PA officials who have not done visa work in 15-20 years should not be left on the podium guessing about the process and unable to answer questions about this case.

When the press asks, “Can Americans have confidence in this visa processing system?”, Ms. Bond should be able to say “Absolutely, and here’s why.”  And she should be able to explain clearly the whys.  Hopefully, she’s not going to say because “it’s an adaptable system” or  that “We continue to improve it.” Because people are not really interested whether it’s an adaptable system. They want an assurance that the systems in place work; and if it did not work in the visa issuance process for Tashfeen Malik, they want to know what had been done to update that process.

We were going to suggest that the State Department convene an Accountability Review Board per 12 FAM 030. The ARB Permanent Coordinating Committee, where the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services sits as one of its seven members, by the way, can make that recommendation to the Secretary:

“The ARB process is a mechanism to foster more effective security of U.S. missions and personnel abroad by ensuring a thorough and independent review of security- related incidents. Through its investigations and recommendations, the Board seeks to determine accountability and promote and encourage improved security programs and practices. In addition, the ARB mechanism enhances the integrity of the visa issuing process by determining accountability in certain instances in which terrorist acts in the United States are committed by aliens.”

Except that current regulations are quite clear that “a Board will be convened with respect to a visa incident only if the following three determinations are made:”

(1)  That the incident involved a terrorist act causing serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property in the United States;

(2)  That there is probable cause to believe that a specifically identified alien was a participant in the terrorist act; and

(3)  That the alien was issued a visa on or after May 1, 1996; at the time of visa issuance, the alien’s name was included in the Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) and that the visa was issued as a result of a failure by the consular officer to adhere to the procedures required to be followed by the inclusion of the name in such visa lookout system.

Since State is confident of its vetting process, it appears right now that subject was not in the CLASS.  Which would make the ARB not a requirement under these regs.

Nonetheless, it would be helpful to know if the State Department has reviewed its internal processes or that it plans to do so. This individual got through  — despite the vetting, the interagency sharing of information, fingerprints, etc, and the face to face interview —  it is not unreasonable to ask how she got in. Maybe there are no cracks, but the public needs to understand the process, which will never with 100% fault-free.

As our consular blog pal told us, “It will never be fault-free because humans aren’t.” People can get away with lying, or can change their minds. Unless the USG has come up with a precognition system similar to Philip K. Dick’s in the Minority Report, there is no way to determine an individual’s action in the future. What do you do with a culprit that has not yet committed a crime? Do you arrest him or her before he/she commits a future crime thereby protecting the public from all prospective harm?  What regulations apply to that?


Daily Press Briefing excerpts:

On December 3, Mr. Toner, the State Department’s deputy spox took a stab at the K-1 questions.  If you want to beat your head against the wall, hard … well, we can understand the feeling, but wear your helmet first, okay?

QUESTION: — of the suspects in the San Bernardino mass shooting that happened yesterday? There are various statements and reports out there about Tashfeen Malik, the alleged female shooter suspect who was killed yesterday. Some are saying that she lived in Saudi Arabia before coming to the U.S. And what I wonder is the extent to which the State Department has been pulled into this investigation. Can you give us some kind of guidance on whether those reports are accurate? And if so, what type of visa was she in the United States on? Is there anything about the citizenship status of her that you can share with us?

MR TONER: Sure. Well, since it’s already been reported out in the press, I can confirm that she did receive or was issued a K-1 so-called fiancee visa, I believe in 2012. Is that correct? 2015 – 2000 – help me here. Okay, we’ll get that number for you. Unfortunately, it’s not in front of me here. But she did receive that from Pakistan. That allowed her to travel here to the United States.
[….]
QUESTION: Does that require an interview?

MR TONER: If that petition is approved, the case is forwarded to the U.S. consulate abroad in order to verify the qualifying relationship and vet the applicant for any derogatory information. I’m virtually sure that, as in any visa – as in any visa processing, that that involves an interview. I don’t know if —

QUESTION: But not a joint interview, right? They don’t have to appear together at the consular office, wherever that is?

MR TONER: Not – that I’ll have to – I’ll have to take that question. I’m not sure. I’m not sure.

[….]

QUESTION: And can you also check on the – that before getting that given visa, where did they meet? Because I’m not sure, but if I’m remembering correctly, there is a clause that they should have met or like – it’s not just on the —

MR TONER: Again, no, that wouldn’t – so that wouldn’t – again, I would refer those kinds of questions to the FBI who’s conducting the investigation into this.

QUESTION: Well, what happens if they don’t get married within 90 days?

MR TONER: I would presume that the – that would invalidate the visa.

QUESTION: And if – okay. And then if they do, does that mean that the visa is extended or they have to apply for something else?

MR TONER: Unclear to me whether that would be – that would be automatically extended. I would somewhat doubt that. There may be – again, I’m – I’d have to get you the full facts on it. I mean, if there’s extenuating circumstances, perhaps. I don’t know in this particular case and can’t really speak to it, but there’s a 90-day window because there’s a 90-day window. So, I mean —

QUESTION: Right. But one doesn’t automatically become a U.S. citizen —

MR TONER: No, not at all.

QUESTION: — simply because one married one. So clearly —

MR TONER: Not at all. So any individual would have to provide for legal residency or a green card after living here, I guess, in – it’s one year, I think.
[…]

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Why Are Court Cases Related to US Passports and Immigrant Visas in Yemen and Pakistan Sealed?

Posted: 2:51 am EDT
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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.

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1:15-cv-04312-GHW | Hasan v. U.S. Department of State et al.

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.

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Ambassador Richard Olson as New Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP)

Posted: 1:06 am EDT
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The State Department announced the appointment of Ambassador Richard Olson as the new Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP).

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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.

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US Embassy Pakistan: Local Employee Iqbal Baig Killed in Islamabad

Posted: 2:47 pm EDT
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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.

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Doomsday Go: The Brink, Nuclear Apocalypse Dark Comedy With Tim Robbins and Jack Black (Video)

Posted: 12;56 am EDT
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It looks like Nacho Libre‘s “Friar Storm” was reassigned from Mexico to Pakistan and we’re going to get Foreign Service officer Alex Talbot in a business suit. The Brink,  is coming to HBO on June 21 with Jack Black playing FSO Alex Talbot and Tim Robbins, apparently playing the philandering or kinky (take your pick) Secretary of State Walter Larson.  Aasif Mandvi, of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” plays Rafiq Massoud, a Pakistani employee of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.  TV.com says that the dark comedy focuses on a geopolitical crisis (some rogue general took over somebody’s nukes) “through the eyes of three disparate, desperate men” who must “pull through the chaos around them to save the planet from World War III.”  Sounds so totally not Madam Secretary.

 

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We understand that if it catches on, we could be watching The Brink tackle different crises in different parts of the world for its next seasons.   We would like to make a public appeal now that  Alex Talbott put in Venezuela top of his bidlist so the next season will be set in the Western Hemisphere.

The Brink’s 10-episode season premieres June 21 at 10:30PM on HBO.  Get your funny bones ready, or if you don’t have one, stay away from teevee this summer.

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Ambassador David Hale: From US Embassy Beirut to US Embassy Islamabad

Posted: 01:16 am EDT
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Ambassador David Hale. Taken at the Green Park and Friendship Square, Jan 2014. Photo by US Embassy Beirut/FB

Here is a brief bio via US Embassy Beirut:

David Hale, a career Senior Foreign Service Officer, was confirmed as Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic on August 1, 2013.  Previously, he was the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, 2011-2013, a Deputy Envoy (2009-11), and U.S. Ambassador to Jordan (2005-8), after multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and service in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN.  In Washington, Hale was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant and Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs.  He held several staff posts, including Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Albright.  In 2013 Secretary Clinton gave him the Distinguished Service Award, and Hale has several Department Superior and Meritorious Honor awards.  He speaks Arabic, is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a native of New Jersey.

If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed career diplomat Richard Olson who was appointed ambassador to Pakistan in 2012. All chief of mission appointees to Islamabad since 1973 had been career diplomats.  We have to go all the way back to 1969 t0 find a political appointee to this post.

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U.S. Embassies Warns of Threats to American Residences in Pakistan, Potential Targets in Afghanistan, Mali, Ethiopia

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On December 19, the State Department issued a Worldwide Travel Alert concerning potential threats during the holiday period.

The lone wolf attack in Sydney, Australia on December 15, 2014, resulting in the deaths of two hostages, is a reminder that U.S. citizens should be extra cautious, maintain a very high level of vigilance, and take appropriate steps to enhance their personal security.  This Travel Alert expires on March 19, 2015.

An analysis of past attacks and threat reporting strongly suggests a focus by terrorists not only on the targeting of U.S. government facilities but also on hotels, shopping areas, places of worship, and schools, among other targets, during or coinciding with this holiday period. ­U.S. citizens abroad should be mindful that terrorist groups and those inspired by them can pose unpredictable threats in public venues.  U.S. citizens should remain alert to local conditions and for signs of danger.

Meanwhile the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan on December 19 is also warning of terrorist threats to American residences by groups that may be purporting to be service providers to gain access to the properties:

The Embassy has been informed of plans by terror groups to gain access to U.S. citizen  residences through visits by construction, maintenance, or utility companies, as well as other technical service providers. U.S. citizens should be extremely cautious about granting access to their residences, even to established companies, for the immediate future. Recent terror attacks in Peshawar and the resulting Pakistan Government response may raise the possibility for future threats.[…] The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan urges U.S. citizens to vary their times and routes when traveling anywhere in Pakistan, and to avoid travel patterns to such locations that would allow other persons to predict when and where they will be. Depending on ongoing security assessments, and as part of routine operational security measures, the U.S. Mission occasionally places areas such as hotels, markets, airports, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel.

 

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, meanwhile is  warning of potential attacks on western NGOs in Kabul:

As of early December 2014, militants were planning to attack a Western, possibly American, non-government organization (NGO) in Kabul City, Afghanistan. Surveillance had been completed and the attack was likely to take place within 2-4 weeks. The NGO office was possibly located close to the Ministry of Interior and the Afghan Passport Authority in Kabul City. There was no further information regarding the timing, targets, or methods of the attack.

The U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali issued a security message for places typically visited by Westerners:

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia also issued a security reminder for U.S. citizens to be vigilant during the season and of the continued threat of potential terrorist attacks in the country.  The targets for these attacks, according to the message, could include large gatherings at hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, shopping malls, and places of worship.

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