Sabrina De Sousa: “Patriots” till investigations and prosecutions by foreign courts…

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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We’ve previously blogged about the case of Sabrina De Sousa, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in India who served as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department from 1998 to 2009.  In August 1998, she was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy as a Political Officer, Second Secretary.  In May 2001, she was transferred to the U.S. Consulate in Milan as a Consular Officer for a tour of duty scheduled to end in May 2004. In dismissing the case against De Sousa filed against the State Department, United States District Judge, Beryl A. Howell on January 5, 2012 issued an opinion –here’s the important part:

“The facts underlying this case are troubling in many ways. The plaintiff served the government and the people of the United States in the Foreign Service for a decade. During the course of her service to this country, she was accused and convicted in absentia of committing a crime in a foreign nation, not for any personal gain, but at the alleged behest of the United States government. According to her allegations, she requested the government’s assistance to counter the charges against her in Italy, but received none and was instead “[e]ffectively abandoned and left to fend for herself.” Am. Compl. at 2. Following her foreign conviction, she faces the risk of arrest and imprisonment if she travels outside the United States, which is a particular hardship in her case both because of the impact on her professional options and because she is a naturalized citizen with family members living abroad. Then, when the plaintiff sought judicial review in this Court, the government did little to minimize the “logistical obstacles” presented by the need to protect against the inadvertent disclosure of classified information, but rather denied her counsel the use of a secure computer to draft filings and “threatened” the continuation of her counsel’s security clearance. ECF No. 63 at 13 n.6. The message that this scenario sends to civilian government employees serving this country on tours of duty abroad is a potentially demoralizing one.”

In a July 2013 interview with McClatchyDC, Ms. De Sousa confirmed that she worked under cover for the CIA in Milan.

Confirming for the first time that she worked undercover for the CIA in Milan when the operation took place, Sabrina De Sousa provided new details about the “extraordinary rendition” that led to the only criminal prosecution stemming from the secret Bush administration rendition and detention program launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
[…]
Among the allegations made by De Sousa in a series of interviews with McClatchy:

– The former CIA station chief in Rome, Jeffrey Castelli, whom she called the mastermind of the operation, exaggerated Nasr’s terrorist threat to win approval for the rendition and misled his superiors that Italian military intelligence had agreed to the operation.

– Senior CIA officials, including then-CIA Director George Tenet, approved the operation even though Nasr wasn’t wanted in Egypt and wasn’t on the U.S. list of top al Qaida terrorists.

– Condoleezza Rice, then the White House national security adviser, also had concerns about the case, especially what Italy would do if the CIA were caught, but she eventually agreed to it and recommended that Bush approve the abduction.

[…]
“I don’t have any of the cables with me. Please put that down,” De Sousa added with a nervous laugh, her unease reflecting the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on leaks of classified information to journalists.
[…]
De Sousa, 57, a naturalized U.S. citizen from India’s state of Goa, was one of 23 Americans convicted in absentia in 2009 by a Milan court for Nasr’s abduction. She received a five-year sentence. An appeals court in 2011 added two more years, and Italy’s Supreme Court upheld the sentence. Nineteen of the Americans, De Sousa said, “don’t exist,” because they were aliases used by the CIA snatch team.

The case drew fresh attention this month when Panama detained Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA’s former Milan station chief, whom the Italian court had sentenced to nine years in prison. But Panama released him within 24 hours and allowed him to fly to the United States, rather than wait for Italy to request his extradition.

Another convicted American, Air Force Col. Joseph Romano, who oversaw security at Aviano, the U.S. base from which Nasr was flown out of Italy, received a seven-year term. But Italian President Giorgio Napolitano pardoned him in April under U.S. pressure.

The Bush and the Obama administrations, however, have refused to ask Italy to do the same for De Sousa, who insists that she qualified for diplomatic immunity as a second secretary accredited to the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
[…]
[H]er treatment, she said, provides a warning to U.S. employees serving around the world. If they get prosecuted while doing their jobs, she said, “You have no protection whatsoever. Zero.”

An old piece from 2013 but worth reading again, given that the new CIA appointee called officials who waterboarded patriots. Ms. De Sousa writes on Twitter, “Patriots” till investigations and prosecutions by foreign courts…then abandoned.

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ProPublica: As Hollywood Lobbied State Department, It Built Free Home Theaters for U.S. Embassies

by Robert Faturechi ProPublica, July 2, 2015, 5:15 a.m.

This story was co-published with The Daily Beast.

Hollywood’s efforts to win political clout have always stretched across the country, from glitzy campaign fundraisers in Beverly Hills to cocktail parties with power brokers in Washington.

Last year, the film industry staked out another zone of influence: U.S. embassies. Its lobbying arm paid to renovate screening rooms in at least four overseas outposts, hoping the new theaters would help ambassadors and their foreign guests “keep U.S. cultural interests top of mind,” according to an internal email.

That was the same year that the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the six biggest studios, reported it was lobbying the State Department on issues including piracy and online content distribution. Hollywood’s interests 2013 including its push for tougher copyright rules in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact 2013 often put the industry at odds with Silicon Valley.

The only public indication of the embassy-theater initiative was a February 2015 press release from American officials in Madrid, titled “U.S. Embassy Launches State-of-the-Art Screening Room.” It credited “a generous donation” from the MPAA.

Asked about its gifts to the State Department, the lobby group declined to say how many embassies got donations or how much they were worth.

“Because film is a great ambassador for U.S. culture around the world, MPAA assisted with the upgrade of some embassy theater facilities,” said spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield. “All gifts complied with the law as well as with State Department ethics guidelines.”

Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman, said at least three embassies besides Madrid received between $20,000 and $50,000 in entertainment upgrades last year 2013 London, Paris and Rome. The revamped screening rooms, she said, aren’t intended to entertain U.S. officials, but rather to help them host screenings to promote an American industry and sow goodwill.

Thompson said the donations were proper and that all gifts to the department are reviewed to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. “The department has explicit authorities to accept gifts made for its benefit or for carrying out any of its functions,” she said.

The State Department routinely accepts gifts from outside groups, Thompson said. She couldn’t provide any other examples of major gifts from groups that simultaneously lobby the agency. Thompson declined to list the items given by the MPAA or their total value, and wouldn’t say whether the group had made similar gifts in the past.

There was at least one precedent. A spokesman for Warner Bros. Entertainment said the studio helped pay for the refurbishment of the screening room at the U.S. ambassador’s home in Paris in 2011. “This donation was coordinated with the State Department and complied with all appropriate rules and regulations,” the spokesman said.

State Department policies posted online specifically permit gifts from individuals, groups or corporations for “embassy refurbishment, ” provided that the donors are vetted to ensure there’s no conflict or possible “embarrassment or harm” to the agency. The posted policies include no caps on the value of donations, nor any requirements for public disclosure of foreign or American donors. The rules also say that the donations can’t come with a promise or expectation of “any advantage or preference from the U.S. Government.”

Obtaining an advantage, albeit a nonspecific one, sounded like the goal when a Sony Pictures Entertainment official wrote to the studio’s chief executive officer, Michael Lynton, to relay a request to fund the screening rooms from Chris Dodd, the former U.S. senator who heads the MPAA. The executive writing the note 2013 Keith Weaver 2013 sought to assure the CEO that such a donation wouldn’t be improper.

“The rationale being that key Ambassadors will keep U.S. cultural interests top of mind, as they screen American movies for high level officials where they are stationed,” reads the message, included in a cache of emails hacked from Sony and which were posted online by the website WikiLeaks.

“The cost implication is estimated to be $165k (aggregate of $$$/in-kind) per embassy/per studio. Apparently, donations of this kind are permissible.”

Besides Sony, the MPAA represents Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment. The e-mails suggest that Sony executives decided against contributing to the project for budget reasons.

The MPAA has long been a powerful presence in the nation’s capital, spending $1.34 million on federal lobbying last year, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. One of its flashier tools has been to host exclusive gatherings at its Washington screening room, two blocks from the White House, where lawmakers get to watch blockbuster films, rub elbows with celebrities, and up until several years ago, enjoy dinner 2013 a perk scuttled because of stricter rules on congressional lobbying.

Hollywood studios depend on foreign markets for much of their profit but the MPAA’s interests don’t always align with those of other major American constituencies. For example, Hollywood studios have moved some film production to Canada to cut costs. American film workers have tried to get the federal government to stop the outsourcing of jobs, but have been met with resistance from the MPAA.

The trade group has also pushed federal officials to pressure foreign governments into adopting stricter copyright laws. An MPAA-funded study found that in 2005 worldwide piracy cost American studios $6.1 billion in revenue. That number has been disputed by digital rights advocates.

For the TPP trade deal, the MPAA has discouraged the American government from exporting “fair use” protections to other countries. In a hacked message from Dodd to the U.S. Trade Representative, the MPAA chief warned that including such provisions, which in American law allow limited use of copyrighted materials without permission, would be “extremely controversial and divisive.” Digital rights activists have characterized the efforts as overzealous.

“They’re basically encouraging other countries to adopt the most draconian parts of U.S. copyright law and even to reinterpret U.S. copyright law to make it more stringent,” said Mitch Stoltz, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Broadly speaking broadening copyright law harms free speech in many cases by creating a mechanism for censorship.”

The state-of-the-art screening rooms are a relatively minimal investment by Hollywood as it works to strengthen connections abroad.

This spring, the U.S. ambassador to Spain, James Costos, brought a group of foreign officials to Los Angeles for a meeting hosted by the MPAA. Among them were representatives from the Canary Islands, who came prepared to discuss filming opportunities and tax incentives for American studios in the Spanish territory. The State Department touted the trip as an opportunity to “expand bilateral trade and investment, including through ties between the entertainment industries.”

It’s not known whether the path to that particular meeting was eased by the new screening room in Madrid. At the theater’s debut in February, the ambassador’s guests were treated to a dark tale of corruption, lobbying and double-dealing in Washington 2013 the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

Related stories: For more coverage of politics and influence, read ProPublica’s previous reporting on secret political dealings by Sony, a reversal by the higher ed lobby and an imploding super PAC.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

Republished under Creative Commons.
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USCG Naples: Don’t Smile, You’re In the New York Post!

— By Domani Spero

The New York Post has been stirring up a super storm in Foggy Bottom. Following the CBS News scoop on alleged interference over DSS investigations, the NYPost let out the screaming kraken bubbling with all the allegations and names for all to see. On June 11, it has Hillary’s sorry state of affairs.  This was followed on June 13 with State Department has hired agents with criminal records, memo reveals. On June 14, Another State Dept. tryst and shout.  On June 15, Politician seeks answers on Weiner wife Huma Abedin’s private consulting gig.

Frankly, by Sunday, our eyeballs felt Mad Max crazy and weary.  But then another one burst on our screen:  Whistleblower accuses consul general of trysts with subordinates and hookers. Wait – whaaaat?

This latest allegation which concerns the U.S. Consul General in Naples is now reportedly part of an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint filed with the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights.  The complainant according to the New York Post is Kerry Howard, a former Community Liaison Officer (CLO) at USCG Naples. CLO positions are typically filled by eligible family members (EFMs) accompanying their FSOs on assignments overseas.  We should note that the position is currently vacant in the latest Key Officers List.

US Consulate General Naples, Italy Photo via USCG/FB)

US Consulate General Naples, Italy
Photo via USCG/FB)

Excerpt via the NYPost:

[A] whistleblower claims she was run out of the foreign service after complaining about a consul general’s alleged office trysts with subordinates and hookers.

Kerry Howard says she was bullied, harassed and forced to resign after she exposed US Consul General Donald Moore’s alleged security-threatening shenanigans in the Naples, Italy, office.

As the post’s community-liaison officer, Howard was charged with keeping workplace peace and advising higher-ups on the state of morale, but when she revealed allegations about her boss, State Department officials swept it under the rug, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint she filed with the department’s Office of Civil Rights.
[…]
The soap opera in Italy unfolded in the fall of 2010, when Moore became the Naples consul general after serving in the same capacity at the US Embassy in Port au Prince, Haiti. As a senior foreign-service officer, Moore could make as much as $179,700 a year, State Department data says.

[…]
With the affair rumors swirling, Howard’s supervisor, Pamela Caplis, instructed Howard to keep quiet, Howard claims.

“I have already informed Frankfurt,” Caplis allegedly said in what Howard claims was an attempt to head off the complaint.

Still, on a February 2011 trip to Rome, Howard told the US Embassy’s management officer, Frank Ledahawsky, that morale was “very bad” because of the alleged affair.

“We have to save his career,” Ledahawsky allegedly said.

Shortly after the meeting, Moore was allegedly called to Rome and ordered to end his relationship with the employee.

Howard thought her troubles would be over, but she became a target instead.

Read in full here.

According to his official bio, the official referred to in the EEO complaint is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor. He joined the Foreign Service in 1992 after serving as an Assistant State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit in Florida.

The  CLO’s supervisor is normally the management officer/counselor at post.  At one point in 2011, Ms. Caplis named in the report was also the acting Consul General in Naples.  Another officer mentioned in this report Frank J. Ledahowsky, is the management counselor at the US Embassy in Rome.  Mr. Ledahowsky arrived in Rome in August 2008 according to the OIG report on US Mission Italy.  The inspection report is dated 2010 and included an inspection conducted on USCG Naples between February 23 and March 2, 2010 prior to the tenure of Mr. Moore.

The US Mission in Italy (including the constituent posts in Florence, Milan and Naples) is under the authority of Ambassador David Thorne who has been the United States Ambassador to Italy and Ambassador to San Marino since 2009.  He is also the twin brother of Julia Thorne, Secretary Kerry’s first wife.  Douglas C. Hengel is Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Rome, a position he assumed in November 2010. The DCM is typically the supervisor and rating officer of the principal officers of constituent posts.

Since this is an Office of Civil Rights case, it is doubtful that we’ll ever get to read the affidavits apparently executed by seven former Italian consulate employees used in support of this complaint.  Should be interesting to see how this ends. The OCR  investigation into this allegation is reportedly nearing its conclusion.

Is it just us or do you get a feeling that we have crossed into a whole new world of reality?  It looks like keeping a stiff upper lip as was “standard” diplomatic practice has now become as outdated as your ancient Wang machine.  We can’t say if this trend becomes a tidal wave but we noticed that we now have almost about *half a dozen State Department whistleblowers, some self-proclaimed , and it’s only June.

* (Mark Thompson (State/CT), Gregory Hicks (former DCM, US Embassy Tripoli), Eric Nordstrom (former RSO, US Embassy Tripoli)Kerry Howard (former CLO, USCG Naples)Aurelia Fedenisn (former OIG), Richard Higbie (DS, Texas).

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More Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service

Catch up post on additional Fourth of July celebrations around the Foreign Service this year that caught our eye. The previous one we did is here: Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service Round-Up.

US Mission Mexico

Guadalajara, Jalisco: Los Vice Cónsules Nick Geisinger y Timothy J. Dunaway interpretaron el himno nacional estadounidense durante la celebración.
Click on image for more photos of the Fourth of July celebrations in our Mexican posts.

US Embassy Paris, France

Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin at the 4th of July Garden Party, Ambassador’s Residence, July 4th, 2012.  More photos via FB here.

US Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas

On Tuesday, July 3 the United States Embassy commemorated the 236th Anniversary of Independence of the United States of America by hosting a celebration in Nassau, The Bahamas aboard the U.S. Naval Ship USS ANZIO docked at Prince George Wharf.  The event was held in partnership with the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and included more than 200 of The Bahamas’ top leaders, representing the government, the business community, civil society, media, and the arts.

U.S. Charge d’Affaires John Dinkelman gives official remarks and toast at the 4th of July celebration. (Photo State Dept.)

US Embassy Dublin, Ireland

On July 4 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney and his wife Patricia celebrated American Independence Day and hosted at their Residence in the Phoenix Park in Dublin the Third Irish American Flag Football Classic. Over 2,500 guests were in attendance for the Independence Day celebrations.

Photo from US Embassy Dublin/Flickr
(click on image for a slideshow)

US Consulate General Chennai, India

Photo via USCG Chennai/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Afghanistan

U.S. Ambassador Stephen G. McFarland, the Coordinating Director of Rule of Law and Law Enforcement shakes hands with a Marine after he received his naturalization certificate on 29 June 2012 at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Click on image for more photos

Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

US Embassy Cairo, Egypt

Ambassador Patterson on the dance floor during the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo from US Embassy Egypt via FB
Click on image for a slideshow

US Mission Pakistan – Islamabad

Photo via US Embassy Islamabad website

US Mission Pakistan – USCG Lahore

Consul General Nina Maria Fite hosted U.S. Independence Day reception at her residence. She was joined by Chief Guest Senior Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, U.S. Army Attaché Colonel Kurt H. Meppen, and USAID Punjab Director Theodore Gehr, and 400 guests from various walks of life. The event included the playing of the Pakistani and U.S. national anthems and a cutting of a cake.

Photo via USCG Lahore/FB

US Embassy Rome, Italy

Visitors arriving at the Villa Taverna for the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo via US Embassy Rome/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The theme of U.S. Embassy Bangkok Independence Day Celebration for this year is “The Great American Roadtrip.”

US Embassy Vientiane, Laos

Photo from Ambassador Karen Stewart’s Tumblr.
Click on image to read about it in the ambassador’s blog

US Embassy Beijing, China

Ambassador Gary Locke cutting the Fourth of July cake. Photo from US Embassy Beijing/Flickr. Click on photo for a slideshow

US Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau

Probably the most popular US mission online post for this Fourth of July, 11,000 forward and still counting. Via the WSJ:

For the July 4 commemoration of U.S. Independence, it stepped back into history to tweak the Party with its own words.  Accompanied by an exuberant image of the Stars and Stripes, its Weibo posting said:

On this day each year, joy and glory is felt by every good and honest person in this world. From the birth of this new nation, democracy and science were seeded beneath the foundations of a new liberal world… Day and night, the god of liberty shines her torchlight of freedom into the darkest corners of the earth, providing warmth for those who have suffered and reminding them there is still hope left yet.

This post quickly gained popularity and has now been forwarded more than 11,000 times.

Let’s see how long before the Chinese tigers bite.

Domani Spero