Saturday, July 24, 2010

We're Still Using Fax Machines?

It seems that 21st Century Statecraft and techy-geeky communications have not yet arrived for mundane statecraft matters like consular notifications. At least, not unless you consider the fax machine a 21st century tool.

Fun fact: the fax machine predates the telephone. The first patent for a fax machine was awarded in 1843, and the first commercial fax service was established between Paris and Lyon on 1860. Alexander Graham Bell didn't invent the telephone until 1876.

But, back to the story:

(CNN) -- Russian officials did not receive immediate consular access to a Russian citizen now in American custody because U.S. officials notified the wrong embassy, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.

K.V. Yaroshenko is one of five defendants arrested in late May in Liberia under a Drug Enforcement Administration operation designed in part to stem the shipment of cocaine from West Africa, according to a Justice Department news release.

Justice officials have described Yaroshenko, 41, as an "aircraft pilot and aviation transport expert who transported thousand-kilogram quantities of cocaine throughout South America, Africa, and Europe." He is currently in a New York prison.

"We tried to do everything we were supposed to do," a senior administration official said. "They just pressed the wrong button on the fax machine and sent it to different embassy. ... They aimed for the Russia button. They hit a different button."

There was a "process failure," the official said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. government has apologized to Moscow. "Normally, we try to arrange these consular notifications within 72 hours," he said. "We didn't discover our error until it was after that period of time."

Russian officials have argued that Yaroshenko's apprehension and incarceration "directly violate norms of international law."

"We are talking about kidnapping [TSB note: otherwise known as the "arrest"] of a Russian citizen on the territory of a third country," a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said this week. "The actions of the U.S. special services at forcibly and secretly transferring [TSB Note: otherwise known as "extradition"] of our citizen from Monrovia to New York can be qualified as outright lawlessness" [TSB Note: otherwise known as "law enforcement"].

The Russian statement said that Moscow is "closely watching developments in this case, as well as whether [Yaroshenko's] human rights are observed during the investigation conducted by the American authorities." It noted that Yaroshenko's relatives had "found him an experienced local Russian-speaking lawyer who specializes in criminal cases."

Russian authorities have reached out to their American counterparts on three occasions -- both in writing and in person -- seeking information about the case and criticizing American actions, according to the statement.

During a July 8 meeting between Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns, "it was emphasized that [the] procedural rights of our citizen should be strictly observed," the statement said.

"It was also pointed out that while the U.S. State Department in its reports is teaching the entire world how it should observe human rights, the American special services abroad are getting themselves involved in actual abductions of people."

Yaroshenko, along with the four other defendants, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine, knowing that it will be imported into the United States, according to the Justice Department. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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