Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Anti-Semitic Incident at Main State

As you must know by now, yesterday the State Department announced that a crude swastika was found scratched into the wall of an elevator at Main State. 
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter said in a briefing with reporters that the graffiti, which is synonymous with the antisemitism of Hitler’s Germany and the genocide carried out against six million Jews during the country's Nazi regime, was discovered late Monday evening.

“Unfortunately, late yesterday a swastika was found carved in an elevator in our building here, at the State Department,” Porter said.

“This graffiti has been removed and the incident will be investigated," she added.

The first report by Axios included a few more details plus a photo, and some speculation - for whose accuracy I cannot vouch - that the particular elevator was chosen because it is "near the office of its special envoy to monitor and combat anti-semitism."

Vandalism with anti-Semitic elements is not so rare, although it is unusual to find it inside a DC federal building, especially a prominent one.

It may be quite some time before we know who did it, or even have a plausible suspect, so it would be prudent to check our tendency to jump to conclusions about the offender's motive. Hate crime statistics from the Justice Department are broken down by the race and ethnicity of known offenders, and perusing them suggests to me that the odds are not overwhelming that the offender was wearing a MAGA hat.

Yesterday's incident is reminiscent of another one from last March when a Capitol Hill Police Officer was suspended after he was observed reading The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, of all things, while at work at an entry control point on the South Capitol Street entrance to the Longworth Building.

(FYI, the U.S. Holocaust Museum has a good background paper on that "most notorious and widely distributed anti-Semitic publication of modern times.")

That incident happened back in mid-March. At the time, the acting Chief of the Capitol Hill Police announced that she had immediately ordered the officer to be suspended until the Office of Professional Responsibility can thoroughly investigate. So, it's now late July, and you may be wondering what was done about the officer. I don't know, because the incident dropped completely out of the news. The Office of Professional Responsibility may be investigating still. Or, possibly the officer's motive may have been of a nature that does not lend itself to easy political exploitation, and the whole thing has been dropped down the memory hole.

Antisemitism is not peculiar to any particular race, politics, or national/ethnic/religious slant. Fanatics of the left, the right, and the just plain crazy might scratch a swastika into a State Department elevator for who-knows-what reason. See Black or White, It’s the Same Old Anti-Semitic Pathology for a number of examples.

Personally, I will wait and see. And I consider it even money that we will never find out exactly who did it, just as happened with the Capitol Hill offender.

Harry Dunn Case Update: Government Files For Protective Order in Civil Suit

This week the U.S. Government entered the civil case as a party that takes no position on the issues but has interests of its own that it wishes to protect.

A small Northern Virginia news outlet had the most details I've seen so far on the wording of the protective order, and the immediate rebuttal by lawyers for the Dunn family (here):
Last Friday, lawyers for the U.S. government filed a motion in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria where the Dunn family filed a lawsuit in 2020, arguing that the details of Sacoolas' employment should not be released in the interests of "national security."

-- snip --

In their motion, U.S. Justice Department lawyers argued that the details of who Sacoolas was working for in the U.K. should play no part in the civil case because "information concerning the United States Government has little to no relevance to an adjudication of any remaining issues in this case."

"Specifically, although the United States takes no position on the ultimate disposition of this private lawsuit, it has a substantial interest in certain limited information at risk of disclosure in further proceedings in this litigation because of the effect disclosure of such information may reasonably be anticipated to have on the national security of the United States," the Justice Department said.

Lawyers for the Dunn family, in a filing with the court on Monday, argued that the Justice Department's proposed protective order "contains imprecise, broad language that could be used to exclude information that is both relevant to Plaintiffs' case and does not implicate the Government's interests."

"Contrary to the Government brief, this is not a case where Ms. Sacoolas has fully accepted responsibility simply by admitting that she was on the wrong side of the road," the Dunn family lawyers wrote.

That last paragraph is curious, since it seems to suggest there could have been some cause or reason for the road traffic accident other than the driver mistakenly driving on the wrong side of the road. Does that seem likely? And why exactly would the plaintiff's lawyers be in any position to say what information does or does not implicate the government's interests?

Those questions will be answered by the judge hearing the case, T.S. Ellis, who is a Reagan appointee with a long record of handling terrorism and espionage cases. He has been given the information that the government wishes to protect. Who knows what any judge will decide, however, if I were a betting man, I'd bet on the plaintiffs being disappointed.

Meanwhile, the protective order has excited the Dunn family's disastrous advisor / spokesman into a new surge of twitter activity and media interviews. You just know that the real lawyers over here who are doing all the work in the case have got to regard him as a loose cannon, especially at this delicate stage when he could just possibly provoke Judge Ellis into sanctioning the plaintiffs or even dismissing the case when he spills the beans on whatever information it is the USG wants to protect.

Not to mention the even bigger liability that he or the family could conceivably commit a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Judge Ellis is the kind of judge who would take a very dim view of anyone violating the IIPA.

I expect that the family's new team of U.S. lawyers are now learning why the original team dropped out of the case.

And you just know that loose cannon will spill anything he knows, or suspects, or wishes were true, or can pretend he has learned, about those USG interests. He is undoubtedly champing at the bit to feed insider tidbits to his favorite media figure, George Galloway, on the later's talk show on Radio Sputnik (yes, really, Radio Sputnik).

By the way, Radio Sputnik is the radio and website counterpart of RT (Russia Today) TV. RT is a subsidiary of TV-Novosti, an organization founded by the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti in April 2005. Its division directed at the United States, RT America, was forced to register with the United States Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

As for Galloway, he was a long-time Member of Parliament until he was expelled from the Labour Party back in 2003, so being a Russian internet shill is for him a late-life occupation.

Galloway is less well known for his brief career as a military strategist and advisor to Saddam Hussein’s regime. By his own account in I'm Not the Only One, Galloway advised Saddam Hussein's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on the best way to handle a potential American invasion:
"The only war that can be fought against a superpower is a war of movement. I brought Tariq Aziz all the writings of Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung on the arts of revolutionary war and he had them translated into Arabic. Fight a war of movement, take the uniforms off, swim among the Iraqi people and whatever their views on the regime, they will undoubtedly provide deep aquifers of support for a patriotic resistance.”
Inexplicably, Saddam didn’t take that advice, so, in all fairness, Galloway cannot be held responsible for Iraq’s subsequent defeat.

Galloway also had other, much more lucrative, conversations with the Iraqi regime, and those came back to bite him when the U.S. Senate looked into the matter of Iraqi oil allocations and under-the-table money sent his way while he was still an MP. See the United States Senate report concerning the testimony of George Galloway (here) for the details.

Well, one good grifter deserves another, and those two are as perfect a paring as I could want.

One last thought: could this civil suit have been avoided if the UK had only done the same thing the State Department did back in 1989 and required the diplomats it hosts to obtain large amounts of motor vehicle insurance and then be issued license plates exclusively through the Foreign Office? Maybe there's a lesson to be learned.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

SFRC Hearings for State Department Nominees In Progress Now

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding hearings for State Department nominations today, one of which is for Gentry Smith, the nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security.

If confirmed - which is a given - he will be only the third former DS Agent to ever hold the post.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"D.C. Jail Inmate Joel Caston Wins ANC 7F07 Race" - Washington Informer

Joel Caston, an inmate at the D.C. Jail, made history Tuesday as the first from that correctional institution to be elected to a public office in the District ... Caston will serve as the advisory neighborhood commissioner (ANC) for single-member district 7F07 in Ward 7. In addition to the roughly 1,500 residents of the D.C. jail, the district includes the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter and residents of Park Kennedy, an apartment complex across the street from the jail ...Caston is believed to be the only incarcerated person to have been elected to a political office in the country at this time.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Fortress Embassy Niamey Has a Weird Facade

My good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) just cut the ribbon on yet another new Fortress Embassy, this one in Niamey, which, I can tell you, really, really, needed one. See the details here: Dedicates the New U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger.

I have one question about the design. That rust-colored thing that covers all of the exterior windows and extends a bit above the roof, what is that? Probably a sun screen, I'm guessing, which makes sense for that climate.  

But doesn't it look exactly like the new southern border fence? 

The first section of completed new border fence 

Not that I mind an artistic reference to the border fence, you understand. However, I'm surprised that feature passed through so many architectural hands, from OBO itself to its construction contractor and their design firm, without someone objecting. 


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Harry Dunn Update: No Sign Yet of Progress Down That Cleared Path

A circular path makes no progress

It's a good news / bad news situation for the Harry Dunn case, as we get ten days out from Joe Biden's visit to the UK.

The good news is "the path is clear" for something legal to happen, or at least that's what Foreign Secretary Raab told the British press ten days ago, seconded by Boris Johnson after his meeting with Biden.

The bad news is Raab's path is evidently circular, because it's been a little while and I see no evidence of any legal action progressing. Or maybe the path is a cul-de-sac, because it seems to lead nowhere.

Most of the time when politicians speak to us they're just playing chin music. We shouldn't pay much attention to the words they use, which are really lyrics and intended only to express emotion. They are poetry and not to be taken literally.

What exactly were the lyrics that Raab sang ten days ago on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme?
"The path is clear for the legal authorities in the UK to approach Anne Sacoolas's lawyers - without any problem from the US government - to see whether some kind of virtual trial or process could allow some accountability and some solace and some justice for the Dunn family … I would like to see some accountability. I think the family deserve no less."
Let's do a little close reading of that statement, the one that launched a thousand misguided headlines, and see how it holds up to a non-poetic analysis. I have many questions.

First, “the path is clear” - Who cleared it? Was an obstacle removed? If so, what was that obstacle? Do the legal authorities in the UK agree with Raab? Who speaks for them, and what does that spokesperson say? Will any UK news organization please ask the Crown Prosecution Service exactly what action it is that they will now take?

Next, “without any problems from the U.S. government” – Doesn’t the fact the USG refused a UK request to extradite the American driver constitute a major problem for any UK legal authority that wishes to prosecute her? Doesn’t the fact that the driver was immune to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK, as has been affirmed by the UK High Court, present another major problem for any UK legal authority that wishes to prosecute her? Doesn’t the fact that diplomatic immunity includes immunity against having to give testimony in court present yet another problem to any UK legal authority that wishes to prosecute her, either in absentia or virtually or in any other way?

Then, “some kind of virtual trial or process” – Is there any kind of trial or process that could be conducted given the defendant’s acknowledged immunity to criminal jurisdiction? Has the CPS now reversed its opposition to trial in absentia ("CPS has written to Anne Sacoolas' lawyers explaining the trial over a video conference idea was not possible over concerns she would not surrender to the court or accept its powers")?

Next, “some solace and some justice for the Dunn family” – Has the Dunn family ever so much as hinted that they would receive solace or justice from any outcome other than the American driver being denied diplomatic immunity and extradited to the UK for trial? If so, please show me where and when they said that.

Lastly and most importantly, “I think the family deserve no less” – Does the family deserve to be misled about the absence of real prospects for a trial? Does the family deserve to be played by weasel-worded official statements that slyly imply what they will not say outright? Rather, doesn't the family instead deserve no less than to be treated as adults and told the unwanted, even tragic, truth?

That refusal by politicians and bureaucrats to speak truth to those who don't want to hear it is where the harm is done, because the Dunn family will grasp at any straw and they take Raab's lyrics literally:
Mr Dunn's mother told LBC: 'It means that there are no hurdles to get over now.'
'We're so grateful to the politicians for clearing the path so we'll just leave it all to the CPS now and wait to hear from them as to what the next steps will be.'
That wait will be quite a while, I think. Reality will set in some day, but that day will not be anytime soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

ISIS Brides Do Their Little Turn On the Catwalk

Yes! I thought so. The ISIS Brides are definitely going for public acceptance via new clothes and - oddly, I think - ball caps. 

Here's a story about a newly westernized French ISIS Bride:
Emilie Konig, 36, was pictured in her new westernised garb at the al-Roj camp in northern Syria in recent days - the same camp where Begum is being held - as she tries to convince people she is no longer radicalized so she can return to France.

Gone was the heavy black niqab, gloves and abaya robe that she previously wore - even while living in France - and in its place she wore a hooded sweatshirt, sunglasses, faux leather leggings, white hi-top trainers and a shoulder bag.

Her head was covered with a Yankees baseball cap, with her hair hanging down her shoulder in a plait.

The look mirrors that of Begum, who first appeared in interviews from Syria dressed in a black hijab and abaya robe - but recently swapped them for a baseball cap, sunglasses, hoodie, white blouse, black jeans and white Converse-style trainers.

Begum, like Konig, adopted the look while trying to convince people she no longer poses a danger so she can return to Britain, which has stripped her of her citizenship because of her membership in ISIS.

Eilish O’Gara, a counter-terrorism analyst with the Henry Jackson Society, previously theorised that the outfit is 'a soft tactic' devised by Begum's lawyers designed to 'win back the hearts and minds of the British public'.
Just "a soft tactic." But, I'm telling you, it's a tactic that is likely to work.