U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou – What’s Going On?

Posted: 11:56 am PT

 

A State Department employee posted at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou is reported to have some “abnormal” “sensations of sound and pressure” which is similar to those reported by personnel at U.S. Mission Cuba. We did hear about this prior to MSM reporting the incident and asked the agency’s US Asia Pacific Media Hub to connect us with Guangzhou but — you guessed it — their black hole inbox also worked really, really well, and we never heard anything back. We are pleased to see the news is out, and folks are not waiting months to react. 

USCG Guangzhou is headed by Principal Officer Charles Bennett. We understand that USCG Guangzhou did a townhall for post employees/families 2-3 hours after it sent out the health alert. Another townhall was also supposed to be held on May 25 but we have not heard if that actually happened. 

Via USCG Guangzhou: “Throughout the past two centuries, dating back to the presidency of George Washington, Consulate Guangzhou (Canton), as America’s oldest diplomatic post in China and one of America’s oldest posts in the Far East, has played a pivotal role in promoting America’s relationship with China.  Today, the Consulate promotes trade and commercial ties, engages China across-the board on key American policy objectives, and promotes public diplomacy through visitor exchanges.  The Consulate General is the only U.S. mission in China to process American adoptions and immigrant visas, making it one of the U.S. Department of State’s busiest consular-related posts.”

Note that as of May 2017, the U.S. China Mission (Embassy Beijing, and Consulates General Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan) had representatives from 33 U.S. Government agencies and an authorized staff of 729 U.S. direct-hire American employees, 168 local-hire Americans and 1,807 non-American locally employed (LE) staff members.

In FY2016 Consulate General Guangzhou processed more than 54,000 immigrant visas, making it the third busiest immigrant visa unit in the world. It also had approximately 210 First and Second Tour (FAST) employees, among the largest number of any U.S. overseas mission.

According to State/OIG, Mission China’s Consular Sections provide services to a community of U.S. citizens, both residents and visitors, which the embassy estimated to be as many as 800,000 on any given day. “Factors affecting American citizen services included a growing demand for notarial services and chronic difficulties in obtaining Chinese government permission to visit the approximately 100 U.S. citizens imprisoned in China.”

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Killer Air in China: Pollution Kills an Average of 4,000/day x 365 = 1,460,000

Posted: 4:18 am EDT
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Berkeley Earth released a study showing that air pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day in China, 17% of all China’s deaths. For 38% of the population, the average air they breathe is “unhealthy” by U.S. standards. According to the study, the most harmful pollution is PM2.5, particulate matter 2.5 microns and smaller.  This penetrates deeply into lungs and triggers heart attacks, stroke, lung cancer and asthma.

“Beijing is only a moderate source PM 2.5 ; it receives much of its pollution from distant industrial areas, particularly Shijiazhuang, 200 miles to the southwest,” says Robert Rohde, coauthor of the paper.

“Air pollution is the greatest environmental disaster in the world today,” says Richard Muller, Scientific Director of Berkeley Earth, coauthor of the paper. “When I was last in Beijing, pollution was at the hazardous level; every hour of exposure reduced my life expectancy by 20 minutes. It’s as if every man, women, and child smoked 1.5 cigarettes each hour,” he said.

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Perhaps it’s time to revisit this Burn Bag submission?

“Why are we still downplaying the enormous health impact to officers and their families serving in China? Why are State MED officers saying ‘off the record’ that it is irresponsible to send anyone with children to China and yet no one will speak up via official channels?”

Embassy Beijing and the five consulates general in China house one of the largest U.S. diplomatic presences in the world (no presence in Kunming and Nanjing).  Service in China includes a hardship differential (when conditions of the environment differ substantially from environmental conditions in the continental United States) for poor air quality among other things, ranging between 10-25% of basic compensation.

According to the 2010 OIG report, more than 30 U.S. Government agencies maintain offices and personnel in China; the total staff exceeds 2,000 employees. Consulates General Guangzhou and Shanghai are as large as many mid-sized embassies, each with more than 250 employees. Consulates General Chengdu and Shenyang are smaller but serve the important western and northern parts of the country respectively. Consulate General Wuhan, opened in 2008, is staffed by one American. Mission China is a fully accompanied post; we have no numbers on how many family members, including children are present at these posts.

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USCG Guangzhou: Former Guard Pleads Guilty for Attempt to Sell Info to Chinese Intel Agency

This one gets an award for astounding stupidity like writing an “I’m ready to spy for you” offer to China’s Ministry of Security, except that he called it an um, “business arrangement.”  This dolt then delivered it to the MSS, that’s equivalent to personally delivering a spy offer to the CIA’s branch office.  But that’s not all. When the MSS declined to accept the letter,  this guy left his open letter in his apartment, believing that Chinese spies keeping tabs on foreigners in the city would find it. And presumably contact him to make a counter offer … just like in a bad movie.

Via USDOJ

Former U.S. Consulate Guard Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Communicate National Defense Information to China

Ryan Underwood, a former civilian guard at a U.S. Consulate compound under construction in China, pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia in connection with his efforts to sell for personal financial gain classified photographs, information and access related to the U.S. Consulate to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
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Underwood, 32, a former resident of Indiana, was first charged in an indictment on Aug. 31, 2011, with two counts of making false statements and was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011.  On Sept. 21, 2011, he failed to appear at a scheduled status hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia.  The FBI later located Underwood in a hotel in Los Angeles and arrested him there on Sept. 24, 2011.  On Sept. 28, 2011, Underwood was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government, two counts of making false statements and one count of failing to appear in court pursuant to his conditions of release.  Sentencing for Underwood has been scheduled for Nov. 19, 2012.  He faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.
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According to court documents, from November 2009 to August 2011, Underwood worked as a cleared American guard (CAG) at the construction site of a new U.S. Consulate compound in Guangzhou, China.  CAGs are American civilian security guards with Top Secret clearances who serve to prevent foreign governments from improperly obtaining sensitive or classified information from the U.S. Consulate.  Underwood received briefings on how to handle and protect classified information as well as briefings and instructions on security protocols for the U.S. Consulate, including the prohibition on photography in certain areas of the consulate.

Plan to Sell Information and Access for $3 Million to $5 Million

In February 2011, Underwood was asked by U.S. law enforcement to assist in a project at the consulate and he agreed.  In March 2011, Underwood lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market.  According to court documents, Underwood then devised a plan to use his assistance to U.S. law enforcement as a “cover” for making contact with the Chinese government.  According to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood intended to sell his information about and access to the U.S. Consulate to the Chinese MSS for $3 million to $5 million. If any U.S. personnel caught him, he planned to falsely claim he was assisting U.S. law enforcement.

As part of his plan, Underwood wrote a letter to the Chinese MSS, expressing his “interest in initiating a business arrangement with your offices” and stating, “I know I have information and skills that would be beneficial to your offices [sic] goals.  And I know your office can assist me in my financial endeavors.”  According to court documents, Underwood attempted to deliver this letter to the offices of the Chinese MSS in Guangzhou, but was turned away by a guard who declined to accept the letter.  Underwood then left the letter in the open in his apartment hoping that the Chinese MSS would find it, as he believed the MSS routinely conducted searches of apartments occupied by Americans.

In May 2011, Underwood secreted a camera into the U.S. Consulate compound and took photographs of a restricted building and its contents.  Many of these photographs depict areas or information classified at the Secret level.  Underwood also created a schematic that listed all security upgrades to the U.S. Consulate and drew a diagram of the surveillance camera locations at the consulate.  In addition, according to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood “mentally” constructed a plan in which the MSS could gain undetected access to a building at the U.S. Consulate to install listening devices or other technical penetrations.

According to court documents, the photographs Underwood took were reviewed by an expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security who had original classification authority for facilities, security and countermeasures at the U.S. Consulate.  The expert determined that many of the photographs contained images classified at the Secret level and that disclosure of such material could cause serious damage to the United States.

In early August 2011, Underwood was interviewed several times by FBI and Diplomatic Security agents, during which he admitted making efforts to contact the Chinese MSS, but falsely claimed that he took these actions to assist U.S. law enforcement.  On Aug. 19, 2011, Underwood was again interviewed by law enforcement agents and he admitted that he planned to sell photos, information and access to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to the Chinese MSS for his personal financial gain.

The U.S. government has found no evidence that Underwood succeeded in passing classified information concerning the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to anyone at the Chinese MSS.

A couple quick thoughts —

I would have like to nominate this guy for the Darwin Awards but he did not self-select himself out of the gene pool.

Of course, if he were astoundingly smarter who knows what type of access he would have granted to his would be “business partners” so I’m glad he wasn’t a bulb of smarts.

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Consulate General Shanghai Launches Air Quality Monitor

Over the weekend, the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai launched its own air quality monitor with hourly updates via Twitter.

Here is the consulate’s statement on its website:

In line with the Embassy’s practice of making air quality data available to the American community in Beijing, the U.S. Consulate Shanghai has installed an air quality monitor to measure the concentration of particulates (PM 2.5) as an indicator of overall air quality in the area surrounding its Huai Hai Middle Road offices. The monitor is an unofficial resource for the health of the Consulate community. Citywide analysis of air quality cannot be done using readings from a single machine.  Particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM 2.5) are referred to as “fine” particulates and are believed to pose the largest health risks. PM 2.5 particulates are of concern since they are small enough to get into the lungs and even the blood stream. For more information on PM 2.5, please visit http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/pm/pm25_index.html.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a formula to convert PM 2.5 readings into an air quality index (AQI) value than can help inform health-related decisions (see chart). For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality. Please note that AQI is different from the Air Pollution Index (API) used in China. For more information on AQI and how it is calculated, please visit http://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=aqibasics.aqi.

The monitor’s measurements, expressed in the form of PM 2.5 concentration (micrograms per cubic meter, ug/m3) and corresponding AQI, are available on Twitter at http://twitter.com/cgshanghaiair.

Since its debut on May 15, all readings have been “unhealthy.” Which is not good but it could be worse, really.

WSJ’s China Real Time Report writes:

The “good” news for Shanghai residents: The air is worse elsewhere, namely in Beijing. No surprise there, as Beijing, a city far from the coast and subject to seasonal sand blasts from the Gobi Desert, is where the Embassy famously once designated the air as “crazy bad.”

The average PM2.5 concentration was roughly twice as bad in Beijing as it was in Shanghai over the first four periods during which the Shanghai consulate provided average readings. Between noon Sunday and midday Monday, Shanghai had average PM2.5 readings of 39 micrograms per cubic meter and an index of 107, which put it at unhealthy for sensitive groups. Beijing was plain unhealthy during that same period, averaging 77.3 micrograms per cubic meter and 158 on the index.

The consulate’s air monitor makes it the third USG monitor in China in addition to US Embassy Beijing and USCG Guangzhou.  They are all in Twitter:

http://twitter.com/cgshanghaiair.

http://twitter.com/#!/Guangzhou_Air

http://twitter.com/#!/beijingair

Here is the chart on the monitor readings:


Domani Spero