Sunday, June 28, 2009

Italy Sends Freed Achille Lauro Hijacker to Syria

Youssef Magied al-Molqui, ringleader of the Achille Lauro hijacking and the murderer of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer, has been removed from Italy to Syria:

( The ringleader of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro ship will be expelled from Italy to Syria, the Associated Press reports. Youssef Magied al-Molqui has served only 23 years of his 30-year jail sentence for his role in the hijacking and murder of wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer.

Italy’s Attorney General Gianfranco Pagano said that Molqui was to be flown on Saturday from his holding cell in Sicily to Rome and then onto Damascus.

Molqui's claim that he should not be expelled due to his marriage to an Italian citizen was rejected by an Italian court. Nor did his claim to being stateless - he is a descendant of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel - prevent his expulsion order.

He escaped in 1996 while on leave from prison, but was recaptured and returned to jail.

Molqui and three other members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) terrorist group hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship off the coast of Egypt in 1985. The hijackers demanded the release of 50 terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails.

During the incident, the hijackers also murdered wheelchair-bound American citizen Leon Klinghoffer and threw his body overboard. Klinghoffer, 69, was singled out because he was Jewish.

A second hijacker, Ibrahim Abdel-Atif, was released from prison last year and is also fighting a deportation order. Abdel-Atif also has no citizenship, as his country of birth, Lebanon, refuses to grant citizenship to descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel.

The United States has never yet punished anyone for the murder of Klinghoffer, nor for the other acts of terrorism committed by the Achille Lauro hijackers against U.S. citizens. Al-Molqui ought to be the first, his prison sentence in Italy notwithstanding.

The United States does not have an extradiction treaty with Syria, and it is extremely doubtful the Syrians would cooperate with us on this matter, in any case. But do we need Syria's cooperation? Isn't this - now declasssified - 1995 Presidential Decision Directive regarding terrorist rendition still in effect?

Return of Indicted Terrorists to the U.S. for Prosecution:

We shall vigorously apply extraterritorial statutes to counter acts of terrorism and apprehend terrorists outside of the United States. When terrorists wanted for violation of U.S. law are at large overseas, their return for prosecution shall be a matter of the highest priority and shall be a continuing central issue in bilateral relations with any state that harbors or assists them. Where we do not have adequate arrangements, the Departments of State and Justice shall work to resolve the problem, where possible and appropriate, through negotiation and conclusion of new extradition treaties. (U)

If we do not receive adequate cooperation from a state that harbors a terrorist whose extradition we are seeking, we shall take appropriate measures to induce cooperation. Return of suspects by force may be effected without the cooperation of the host government, consistent with the procedures outlined in NSD-77, which shall remain in effect. (S)

President Obama's Executive Order of January 22, 2009 does not revoke PDD-39, so what is there to stop him from ordering the forcible rendition of Al-Molqui? His crimes were committed against citizens of the United States, and simple justice demands that he be punished for them by the United States. Twenty-three years of enduring bad pasta frajule in an Italian prison does not settle his bill with us. He still has an ass-kicking coming to him from Leon Klinghoffer's homeland.

Rendition - whether it's ordinary or extraordinary, regular or extra crispy - is what this case calls for.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

See No Problem, Hear No Problem, Speak No Problem

"Former people," and now business partners.

The revolving door between government and government consulting-contracting-lobbying took another spin or two this week as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright merged her consulting company with that of Sandy "Scissorhand" Berger.

Two international consulting firms founded in 2001 by the Clinton administration's top foreign-policy officials, Madeleine K. Albright and Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, have decided to merge.

Mrs. Albright, who was secretary of state, currently heads the Albright Group, and Mr. Berger, former national security adviser, leads Stonebridge International. The new company will be called the Albright Stonebridge Group, and will be "the premier global-strategy firm helping clients navigate the intersection between business, finance, government and civil society in markets around the world," the firms said in a statement.

The two companies, as well as The Cohen Group, founded by the Clinton administration's other senior national-security official, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, have been in great demand during the past eight years. Mrs. Albright and Mr. Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine, have been among the most visible and media-savvy "former people," as Mrs. Albright likes to call them jokingly.

-- snip --

Mrs. Albright, Mr. Berger and former Sen. Warren Rudman, New Hampshire Republican, will lead the new firm. Ms. Sherman [TSB note: Wendy Sherman, a principal in the Albright Group, headed Mrs. Clinton's transition team at the State Department] and H.P. Goldfield, a former assistant secretary of commerce, will be vice chairs, and former ambassador to Brazil Anthony S. Harrington will serve as CEO. Suzanne A. George, James C. O'Brien and Michael J. Warren will be principals.

Reading news like this, I think back to a conversion I had several years ago with a Turkish government official. He furiously resented a World Bank effort that was going on at that time to combat public corruption, which the Bank saw as an impediment to economic development. The Turk maintained that in the Third World public corruption is more or less benign, since it consists of small amounts of graft broadly distributed throughout society all the way down to the level of traffic cops, whereas the U.S. style of corruption consists of huge amounts of money passed out to a very few people at the top of the government-business nexus. I had no good answer to him then, and I haven't thought of one since.

Irresistible Tax Reformers

The Washington Times pointed to the best example of political spin in years, with its item yesterday on the Quotable Norquist:

The admission by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, of lying to his family and staff about his whereabouts to meet with his mistress in Argentina is a crippling blow for fiscal conservatives who admired his stance against President Obama's stimulus bill.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist admitted to the Washington Independent, a Web-based publication, Mr. Sanford's affair was not helpful to his crusade to reduce government spending, but nonetheless tried to put some happy spin on the sordid situation.

"It does indicate that men who oppose federal spending at the local level are irresistible to women," Mr. Norquist said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Al-Qadhafi: The Sheik of Tripoli?

I'm the sheik of Araby, your love belongs to me.
At night where you're asleep, into your tent I'll creep.
The stars that shine above will light our way to love.
You'll rule this world with me, I'm the sheik of Araby.

- "The Sheik of Araby," Tin Pan Alley hit song of 1921

I knew that Muammar al-Qadhafi was smitten by former SecState Condoleezza Rice. He made that abundantly clear in an interview with Al-Jazeera television last year:

"I support my darling black African woman," he said. "I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. ... Leezza, Leezza, Leezza. ... I love her very much. I admire her, and I'm proud of her, because she's a black woman of African origin."

But I didn't know that he tried to close the deal with Leezza by giving her a ring and a locket. The Washington Post has an item today on gifts given to U.S. officials by foreign dignitaries last year which notes the following items from Qadhafi were accepted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

(1) Diamond ring in wood box. (2) DVD with musical instrument. (3) Locket with Qadhafi's photo. Received 9/5/08. Estimated value: $212,225. Location: Pending transfer to the General Services Administration

I'd like to know which DVD the desert romantic picked out for Leezza. Back in my day, A Man and a Woman was the ultimate make-out movie, but that's so old it's probably not even available on DVD. Chick Flicks definitely don't seem like Qadhafi's style. My guess is the 1921 Rudolph Valentino silent film The Sheik, which is racy but still dignified. The musical instrument? That was most likely an Oud, something on which he could strum traditional Libyan music while wooing Leezza in his tent.

Condoleezza would be well advised to take out a restraining order. She no longer has a security detail, and Qadhafi seems like the type who might stalk her.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hot Dogs on Ice, For Now

Regarding the State Department's intention to engage in hot dog diplomacy with Iran, Department spokesman Ian Kelly told the press "there's no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats."

That was on Monday, June 22. But today, June 24, CNN's Political Ticker blog is reporting that the administration is, in fact, having second thoughts:

"I wouldn't say engagement is off the table, but it is certainly on ice," a senior administration official told CNN this week.


Update: Associated Press is now reporting that the July Fourth invitations have been rescinded.

An offer for Iranian envoys to attend U.S. embassy Fourth of July parties has been rescinded as the violent crackdown in Tehran continues, the White House said Wednesday.

"Given the events of the past many days, those invitations will no longer be extended," presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

-- snip --

[State Department spokesman Ian] Kelly said no Iranians have accepted, and he indicated that the U.S. saw little reason for them to, given the political crisis over their disputed presidential election.

Sorry Iran, but The Great Satan no longer requests the pleasure of your company at his Independence Day celebrations.

Interesting that this announcement came from the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, vice the State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly. And, is it just me, or does Kelly sound kind of glum over this party-pooping development?

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Poet Finds His True Voice

A Washington Times editorial today notes the extensive conflicts of interest that exist at the top levels of the U.S. Justice Department on the matter of Guantanamo detainees. The Attorney General himself and five of his top ten officials, among others, all have to recuse themselves from some detainee matters due to their previous work at a law firm that represented the detainees:

Executive Order 13493 on Jan. 22 appointed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. co-chairman of the Special Task Force on Detainee Disposition, the interagency group charged with determining the status of persons captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations. But according to Justice Department regulations, Mr. Holder is required to recuse himself from certain detainee matters because his law firm represented the detainees.

The Legal Times reported in March that there are more than a dozen such conflicted lawyers at the department. This includes five of the top 10 officials in the department, including the attorney general; Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden; Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli; Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division Tony West; and Lanny A. Breuer, chief of the Criminal Division, who, like Mr. Holder, hails from the firm Covington & Burling LLP.

And there was this nugget about one of Covington's former clients, now deceased:

Former Covington attorney Marc D. Falkoff represented Kuwait-born Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi and included poetry written by the inmate in an anthology he co-edited in 2007: "Poems From Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak."

Mr. Falkoff described the poets as "gentle, thoughtful young men" whose verse was free of hatred. As Debra Burlingame reported in the Wall Street Journal, Abdullah was released in 2005 and next heard from in a martyrdom video posted on an al-Qaeda Web site celebrating his suicide truck bombing of an Iraqi Army compound in Mosul. This gentle poet killed 13 soldiers and wounded 42 others in the attack.

I hadn't seen the news about Al-Ajmi's extraliterary accomplishment before now. I thought the Gitmo detainee poems were sappy doggerel that sucked big time, but I have to say I'm impressed by Al-Ajmi's martyrdom statement. As reported by CNN:

A video posted on various jihadist Web sites shows a number of images of al-Ajmi, followed by text reading, "May God have mercy on you Abdullah al-Ajmi. I send you a warm greeting O you martyr, O you hero, O you, a man in a time where only few men are left."

He really found his poetic muse in mass murder. Probably because he was finally being honest, whereas the "Poems From Guantanamo" stuff was just a matter of telling sob stories to scam the gullible.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fortress Embassies: Not Just for Americans Anymore

The flag flying at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta after a suicide car-bombing, September 9, 2004

The Australian news media is reporting on plans for the construction of a secure new embassy complex in Jakarta, Indonesia, to replace the chancery office building that was attacked by a terrorist bomber in 2004.

Work on a $415 million high-security Australian embassy in Jakarta will begin late next year, six years after a Jemaah Islamiah terrorist bombing that killed five people and injured more than 150 others.

The new chancery will be “bomb-proofed” and house 14 federal government agencies, 123 Australian and 273 local staff, Defence Secretary Mike Kelly said today.
Mr Kelly today submitted budget plans for the new embassy with a start date for construction next year and completion scheduled for 2014.

The current mission is “overcrowded and dysfunctional”, Mr Kelly told Parliament.

In 2004, a suicide bomber detonated a minivan loaded with more than one tonne of explosives outside the embassy.

"The government approved the relocation of the Jakarta mission on security grounds. The new site will enable appropriate setbacks to buildings for blast mitigation while the buildings themselves will be designed to resist blast,” Mr Kelly said.

"While the new development is driven by the imperative to provide more secure accommodation, a rapid increase of staff in the Jakarta mission over recent years has resulted in the chancery being seriously overcrowded and dysfunctional.”

Construction is expected to start late next year, subject to parliamentary approval.

The project will involve construction of a secure compound, including a chancery of about 20,000 square metres, a head of mission residence, residential accommodation for 32 diplomats and their families, recreational facilities and a medical clinic.

Good for the Aussies. Jakarta is to the Australian Foreign Service what Baghdad is to its U.S. counterpart: the No. #1 critical threat diplomatic post in the world. When a responsible government puts 400 employees in such a car-bomb prone hotspot, it spends the money to provide them with a reasonably secure place to work and live.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

British Footballer Playing for the Other Team

The British press is reporting on a rather poignant piece of evidence that native Britons, or at least British-raised persons, are fighting in Afghanistan for the Taliban: the discovery of a Taliban fighter's corpse with an Aston Villa Football Club tattoo:

"We've known for a long time that foreign fighters, many with thick Birmingham accents, have been recruited to fight against us for the Taliban.

"Some of the linguistics specialists have picked up West Midland and Manchester accents too.

"But it was a shock to hear that the guys we were fighting against supported the same football clubs as us, and maybe even grew up on the same streets as us.

-- snip –

A Government official, who wished to remain anonymous, added: "There will always be a number of people who are radicalised in this country and want to leave the UK.

"The details of Aston Villa fans in the Taliban does not shock or surprise me.

"We have never had any hard and fast evidence to tie all of these snippets of information together, but we are sure they equate to a wider ongoing radicalism in the UK."

There has been no official comment yet from the Aston Villa Football Club.

Is Hotdog Diplomacy Still On?

What with everything going on in Iran right now, will U.S. Embassies still be
inviting Iranian diplomats to attend Fourth of July parties?

Senator Boxer's Hard-Earned Title: Bitch

That scene is exactly what I thought of when Senator Boxer went all officious on an Army Brigadier General who addressed her as "Ma'am" - in accordance with military protocol for addressing female Senators - during a hearing before her Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last Tuesday.

Although it goes against my grain to use the word bitch, her behavior fits the dictionary definition, specifically Merriam-Webster's entry 2(b): "a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman."

Gitmo's Uighurs Balk at Going to Palau

Refuge in Palau is not a done deal for Gitmo's Uighurs, it seems, and Bermuda might be having second thoughts about the four would-be entrepreneurs that it accepted last week, as well.

According to the Wall Street Journal today:

The Obama administration's drive to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has hit a new snag: At least some of the 13 detainees accepted for resettlement by the island nation of Palau don't want to go there.

Meanwhile, protests have erupted in Bermuda over its recent resettlement of four Uighur detainees, with the country's leader facing a no-confidence vote by his parliament. Dissent in the British island territory, which sits in the Atlantic Ocean east of North Carolina, came after Bermuda's acceptance of the men strained relations with London, which complained that the island's home-rule government failed to advise it about the decision.

Why would refugees be so choosy? Because it looks like if they go to Palau, they might have to stay there.

George Clarke, a Washington lawyer who represents two Uighurs cleared for release, said his clients "are both very interested in getting out of Guantanamo and they are very open to the idea of going to Palau." But other Uighurs aren't interested in transfer to the islands, he said. "There's a difference of opinion," he said.

Palau has no Muslim community, and the majority of residents are Roman Catholic. Mr. Clarke said his clients are particularly concerned about the legal status they would hold on Palau, and whether they could obtain documentation such as a passport.

"You cannot be a Palauan citizen unless you have Palauan blood. That's just the way their constitution is written," he said. Palau hasn't ratified the international refugee conventions that allow countries to issue travel documents to refugees.

Mr. Clarke said U.S. and Palau diplomats are looking into ways to address the concerns, and that the Palauns are expected to reply by early July.

I'm sure Palau is a nice spot for a vacation and all, but as a place for Turkic Muslim terrorists to stay indefinitely, well, just damn. Evidently Guantanamo's Camp Iguana looks pretty good to them by comparison.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Political Violence Against Americans in 2008

U.S. Consul-General Peshawar's vehicle reversing at high speed out of an ambush kill zone, taking along with it a 'tuk-tuk' auto rickshaw that was in the way

"Ninety percent of threat reports are crap" according to a wise Gringa woman who recently gave me an intelligence briefing on overseas terrorism. For the other ten percent, see the U.S. State Department's 2008 report on Political Violence Against Americans overseas, which was released today. The entire series of annual reports can be found here.

There were 44 incidents of targeted violence involving U.S. citizens abroad last year. Bombings, hotel invasions, ambushes, suicide attacks, kidnappings, drive-by shootings, rockets, mortars, grenades and riots. I just hope PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Americans) is paying attention to this.

Not all of the incidents ended badly. See the photo above and the summary of that incident on page 43 of the report, for example. Our security elements, which play defense to the terrorist's offense, often had their successes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Opening Soon: Four Guys Noodles n' Lamb Restaurant

My suggestion of a Uighur restaurant in Aruba was right on the nose, except it turns out I had the wrong island. It's the four Uighurs we sent to Bermuda who now want to open a restaurant.

The four former Guantánamo inmates — members of China’s Muslim Turkic-speaking Uighur minority — are dreaming of opening the first Uighur restaurant, serving noodles and lamb in the millionaires’ playground. “Uighur food is delicious. These kind and generous people of Bermuda, we want to do something for them. Of course, we want to have a Uighur restaurant,” Mr Abdulqadir said.

Why not? Here's a killer slogan for their first advertisements:

Noodles n' Lamb don't GITMO Better!

Arlington Rap

I walk down the mean streets of Arlington every work day, and I can attest that this guy has the place nailed.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Doing Bad Things to Bad People Since 1775

June 14, 2009, is the 234th birthday of the United States Army, my favorite government institution.

June 14, 1775, was the day the Continental Congress authorized an "American Continental Army" to be composed of units drawn from the united colonies. There had been regional or provincial militias in America before that date, but the force authorized on June 14th was the first to be raised as Continentals. That makes the U.S. Army the only army to precede the birth of the nation it serves, so far as I know. It was thirteen months later that the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.

I Get No Kick From Cocaine (Toothdrops)

While browsing the History News Network I came across a link to this collection of Weed, Booze, Cocaine and Other Old School "Medicine" Ads. From the looks of it, every other man, woman and child in American a century ago was constantly hammered from over-the-counter drugs.

Mind you, the pharmaceutical industry was not completely irresponsible back then. At least Dr. Batty's Asthma Cigarettes were not recommended for children under six.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Hi, I'm Abdul from Aruba, Where Happiness Lives"

It too bad that Guantanamo is fresh out of Uighurs now that Bermuda and Palau have snapped them up. I'm sure Aruba (tourism slogan: "90,000 friends you haven't met yet") would have loved to have a few.

Carlos'n Charlie's might reopen as Carlos'n Charlie's n' Abdul's. Surely there must be a market for a beach bar that offers non-alcoholic tequila shots and halal chicken wings in an atmosphere free of unescorted women. They might even resume those 'Charlie from Aruba' commercials that were so popular a few years ago.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

End of the Susser Saga

The National Coalition for History has briefly noted the resolution of the crisis at the State Department's Office of the Historian.

The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation will hold it's first post-Susser meeting in two weeks, June 23 and 24.

Will the Uighurs Feel the Love in Bermuda?

We learned today that four of the Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay have been shipped to Bermuda. See the Department of Justice press release: United States Resettles Four Uighur Detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Bermuda.

Four detainees, Chinese nationals of Uighur ethnicity who had been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, have been resettled in Bermuda. These detainees, who were subject to release as a result of court orders, had been cleared for release by the prior administration, which determined they would no longer treat them as enemy combatants. The detainees were again cleared for release this year after review by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force.

-- snip --

This marks the first time since 2006 that the U.S. government has successfully resettled any of the Guantanamo Uighur population. In 2006, five Uighurs were transferred to Albania; there have been no reports of post-resettlement engagement in criminal behavior or terrorist activities.

Here's a Bemudian local news story on the detainee transfer, and a statement by the Bemudian Premier.

I wonder how comfortable the Uighurs will be in Bermuda (tourism slogan: "feel the love")? It's pretty much the polar opposite of their Chinese Muslim homeland. They are certain to encounter women wearing shorts and skimpy tops, which will no doubt send them into culture shock. Let's hope the authorities will keep them in some kind of halfway house where they can be slowly acclimated to a subtropical tourist playground, and won't let them out unescorted until they can tolerate the sight of a woman in a bikini without going all Jihadi.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Enchantment Awaits the Uighurs in Palau; U.S. Taxpayers Billed $200 Million

It is being reported today that the State Department has named Ambassador Daniel Fried our Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility. In other words, he's our man in charge of resettling homeless Guantanamo detainees someplace other than in the United States. Lucky him.

The Obama administration is planning to appoint a special envoy to oversee the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Two officials told The Associated Press that veteran diplomat Daniel Fried will be named to the new post in a move intended to demonstrate the administration's seriousness in shutting down the controversial facility that President Barack Obama has pledged to close by the end of the year.

Fried currently is assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a position he held during the Bush administration. Part of his new job will be negotiating the transfers of inmates from the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to third countries, mainly in Europe, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because specifics of Obama's plan to close the prison were still being worked out.

As Guantanamo envoy, Fried will be working with officials from the Pentagon and Justice Department as well as foreign governments on the specifics of closing the camp. He also will work with the State Department's ambassador-at-large for war crimes, Clint Williamson, who has been leading negotiations on detainee transfers, the officials said.

Fried declined to comment on the expected job offer.

Fried has close relations with governments throughout Europe, where the change of U.S. administrations has increased the likelihood that European governments will accept custody of some Guantanamo inmates. Prisoners transferred to Europe would be those determined to pose no threat but who cannot be sent back to their homelands because of the risk of persecution.

Several European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking such detainees.

Fried may soon have his first success, but it isn't in Europe. The Associated Press is reporting today that the government of Palau might be persuaded to take in the 17 Uighur detainees that we are too delicate to send back to China. Palau will take them in, that is, if the price is right.

Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. was prepared to give Palau up to $200 million in development, budget support and other assistance in return for accepting the Uighurs and as part of a mutual defense and cooperation treaty that is due to be renegotiated this year.

I wonder how that will work out. Palau (tourism slogan: "enchantment awaits") is the kind of place where women do not dress modestly, and there are reports that Uighur detainees at Gitmo flew into a rage at the sight of women soccer players with bare arms. They will see a lot more skin than that in Palau. Are the Palauan authorities prepared to make the Uighurs mind their manners?

At least this deal has established the current market value of taking the Uighurs off our hands: $11,764,705 and 90 cents apiece. Portugal and Lithuania shouldn't agree to a penny less for taking in any of our 200 or so other detainees.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Computer Geeks Have the Oddest Sense of History

It is the sixth of June, and Google celebrates the anniversary of ...... Tetris, the computer game that was created on this day in 1984. Tetris?

Septuagenarian Spy Discovered at State Department

The news that a 72-year old retired State Department analyst and his wife have been arrested for espionage on behalf of Cuba - serious matter though it is - has a nostalgic 1930s flavor, I think. From the facts released so far in the indictment and the State Department and FBI press releases, this is one of the very rare instances of genuine ideological motivation. That's something we haven't seen much of in Washington since the days when Communist Party members read the New Masses and raised volunteers for the Spanish Civil War.

Money, compromise/coercion, or ego normally play a big part in motivating espionage. They certainly did in the case of this seething mass of resentment, paraphilias and greed who was the last State Department official to be fired - but not prosecuted - for espionage. However, none of that appears to have played a role with Walter Kendall Myers, or with Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, who was the Natasia to his Boris. All indications are that the Myerses are a sober and straitlaced happily married couple who lived within their means and never did anything on the wild side, apart from espionage, that is, which they evidently approached as a charitable work.

Even their tradecraft was straight out of the 1930s. Getting messages in Morse code over a shortwave radio, taking notes on water-soluble paper, and making brush passes in grocery stores to transmit their notes to the Cubans, is all stuff that Alger Hiss might have done. Oh, towards the end they were getting into the Internet age by sending e-mail to Havana, but it looks like that switch to modern technology played a part in their downfall. The FBI agent who scammed the Myerses into thinking he was sent by the Cubans presented himself as the espionage computer help desk guy:

Authorities say [Gwendolyn's] comments came during a series of meetings with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban spy in April. The Myerses fell for the ruse, authorities say, sharing with the agent their views of Obama administration officials that had recently taken over responsibility for Latin American policy and accepting a device to encrypt future e-mail.

Maybe they should have stuck with that shortwave radio, after all.

We'll see whether there is any more to the story when the Myerses go to trial, but so far they look just like a replay of Lona and Morris Cohen.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

OIG Report re: Office of the Historian is Released

Once again, I am in debt to Anger Management for a timely tip-off to developments at the State Department's Office of the Historian (HO). When he last updated me, the management and morale problems at the HO were being investigated by the Office of the Inspector-General (OIG). Today, he provided a link to the published OIG report: Management Review of the Office of the Historian Bureau of Public Affairs U.S. Department of State (ISP-I-09-43) (May 09). Big Hat Tip!!

As expected, the OIG's recommendation #1 is that the Director of the Office of the Historian be reassigned. Evidently, that has already happened, and Ambassador John Campbell is currently acting. The report also addresses production of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, general office administration, funding, physical plant, new hiring, and the need for developing document security procedures that will better meet the requirements of the FRUS historical compilers.

It all sounds very good. Here's hoping that the Office, its historians, and the FRUS series will quickly recover from their recent troubles and come back better than ever.

Screw the Reds! Save the Greys!

I see that HRH Prince Charles has lent his prestige to the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, which appears to be largely a collection of aristo hunting types and country landowner interests, in their campaign to exterminate the grey squirrel from Britain. The grey species of squirrel was introduced from North America in the 19th century, and Prince Charles thinks they must now be wiped out in order to end the competitive threat they pose to the wimpy native species of red squirrel.

The way Charles described the situation in his keynote speech to the RSST, the American squirrels have been bringing shock and awe to the British countryside:

That is why one of the Red Squirrel Survival Trust's key tasks will be working tirelessly to communicate to the largest possible audience that the greys are, quite literally, driving the native reds to the verge of extinction, not only because they are larger and more aggressive, but because they spread the appalling squirrel pox, to which they are immune but from which the more vulnerable reds suffer dreadfully. At the same time and worst of all, the greys, which are far more populous than the reds, are destroying huge amounts of woodlands, particularly beech trees.

The greys are bigger, badder, and far more numerous than the native reds, and they have so rapidly taken control of their operational environment that their small mammal adversaries are paralyzed and have lost the will to resist. As an American, it makes me proud to know that even our squirrels dominate!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Obama-Abdullah: Bodacious Bling-Bling But No News

The White House has released only a bland statement about President Obama's meeting today with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. His Majesty's presentation of the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit is the only noteworthy thing I've seen so far, and that's just for the comedy value.

"These Screw-Ups Happen" (And I Get Away With Them)

The inadvertent on-line posting by the General Printing Office of sensitive but unclassified information regarding the locations of hundreds of U.S. civilian nuclear sites and activities, information that was compiled for the International Atomic Energy Agency, seems to me to be one of those things that sounds much worse than it really is.

Still, couldn't the New York Times have found a more credible source to quote to that effect in its story on the incident?

“These screw-ups happen,” said John M. Deutch, a former director of central intelligence and deputy secretary of defense who is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s going further than I would have gone but doesn’t look like a serious breach.”

Deutch is a certifiable expert on security screw-ups, but on the extremely serious kind that he personally committed with impunity while serving as the Director of Central Intelligence, rather than on the harmless type that is the issue here.

Let's Have an Orderly Return of the Gitmo Gang

The Obama administration can't close the detention facility at Gitmo until it finds some country dumb enough to take in the last of the detainees, the rock-bottom remainders, the residuum that is left after we have released everyone who is releasable. That country won't be the United States, it seems, since the U.S. Congress isn't dumb enough to go along with something that is opposed by 75% of the public.

So that leaves foreign governments. Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog has a nice piece on Dan Fried, real American hero, the unfortunate State Department official who has the impossible task of "peddling the human equivalent of radioactive waste" to our European allies, or to Middle Eastern governments, or to Asians, or Africans, or Eskimos, or just anybody at all. Anybody, that is, except the few governments that actually want our detainees, but want them for other than humanitarian reasons.

So far, our peddler-hero has been getting nothing but sales resistance. As the clock runs down on Obama's January 2010 deadline for closing Gitmo, thoughts turn toward the option of involuntary repatriation, mitigated by assurances of humane treatment and enough monitoring mechanisms to make us feel better about sending detainees back home to face the music.

Shadow Government quotes The New Republic (Prisoners Dilemma) on that point:

As a fallback, the United States might have to repatriate some of the men to their repressive home countries after all -- which would leave Fried the task of winning promises of good treatment from those governments. "Those are some of the toughest negotiations," says Bellinger, "where we say we have to have high-level, ironclad, specific assurances that [detainees] will not be mistreated, but with some kind of monitoring mechanism."

At the moment, Fried is largely focused on the question of what to do with the roughly 50 to 60 detainees whom the Bush and/or Obama administrations have "cleared," meaning that they won't be charged with any crimes and don't pose a major risk to U.S. security. The obvious answer would be to send them home--except that, in most of these cases, home means a place like Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, or Syria, where many of the men would be greeted with torture and possibly execution.

Involuntary repatriation is nothing new for the U.S. government. Ironically, it's part of the reason we started using the naval base at Guantanamo Bay as a prison in the first place back in 1991 (see how Gitmo became a prison for background). We were quite willing to accept Cuban assurances of humane treatment of returnees back then. An earlier Attorney General said this:

While promising to return any Cubans found at sea, the US won agreement from the Cuban authorities that they will accept back anyone who is repatriated and not punish them. "They will suffer no adverse consequences or reprisals of any sort," Ms Reno said.

Cuba's word was good enough for AG Janet Reno back then. Why shouldn't Tunisia's word be good enough for AG Eric Holder now?

Involuntary repatriation was widely accepted, including by the U.S., when it was Vietnamese refugees being repatriated in the 1990s. Under the euphemism "Orderly Return Program," the government of Hong Kong as well as all other first asylum countries except Thailand forced unwilling refugees onto aircraft that shipped them back to Vietnam. The United Nations World Refugee Survey report for 1997 has details and this summary:

The government of the People’s Republic of China, which will reassume control of Hong Kong from Britain on July 1, 1997, has consistently said that it wants all Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers out of Hong Kong by that date.

To achieve that, in 1996 Hong Kong greatly expanded its use of the Orderly Return Program (ORP), under which it returns Vietnamese involuntarily, in some instances using force to do so. In the four-year period 1992 through 1995, Hong Kong repatriated some 2,272 Vietnamese through the ORP. In 1996, it involuntarily returned 6,722 through the program. Newspaper reports suggested that, in 1996, the Hong Kong authorities had resorted to the use of force to implement its ORP program more often than in previous years.

If U.S. officials voiced much anguish over that forced repatriation, I don't recall hearing about it.

The most notorious example of involuntary repatriation is from World War II. The Yalta Agreement provided for the repatriation of Soviet nationals liberated from prison camps by U.S. forces, regardless of the wishes of the ex-prisoners. There was no illusion that this repatriation would be voluntary in the case of non-Russian Soviet nationals, or that it could be accomplished without force. The U.S. Army even wrote a manual of procedures for forcible repatriation of Soviet nationals that anticipated there would be stiff resistance and even suicides.

Why is the U.S. government so squeamish now? Involuntary repatriation was good enough for Cuban rafters, Vietnamese boat people, and Ukrainian prisoners of war. Why isn't it good enough for unlawful combatants captured in Afghanistan?