Sunday, February 24, 2019

However it Ends for the ISIS Bride, She Did it Her Way

A photo shared by Hoda Muthana on her now-closed @ZumarulJanna Twitter account

The Program on Extremism at the George Washington University issued a report last year on the phenomenon of American foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq. Read it here: The Travelers, American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq. It mentions Hoda Muthana and has some general remarks about the American women, comprising eleven percent of the travelers, who went there to join ISIS.
In November 2014, 20-year-old Hoda Muthana (kunya: Umm Jihad) left her hometown of Hoover, Alabama, for Syria. Prior to her departure, she was active in the community of English-speaking IS supporters on Twitter and other social media sites, and continued her online presence after arriving in Syria.

-- snip --

Despite the small sample size, American jihadist women travelers help shed light on Western women’s participation in jihadist networks. The three women above, alongside others in the sample, defy conventional stereotypes about how and why women (especially Western women) participate in jihadist movements. Although many presume that female jihadists are duped into participation, and motivated by the personal pursuit of love or validation, their contributions and motivations for engagement vary as much as their male counterparts. Though often relegated to support roles, women’s more “traditional” efforts as the wives and mothers of jihadists are not necessarily passive either. American women were committed to the jihadist cause and decided to travel on their own accord. They also appear to have played significant roles in their respective jihadist organizations. Muthana highlights the role of Western women in networks of online jihadist supporters, Nasrin served in a critically important and understaffed non-combat position (in a hospital), and Mansfield may have been more directly involved in operations.

Where does Hoda Muthana go from here? Will she manage to fight the State Department and get her day in court on the matter of birthright citizenship? The complaint filed on her behalf makes some fascinating points, and I would not count her out. All we know for sure is that she has no caliphate to go back to after five years of living the ISIS life. She made her own decisions, and soon she'll have to own up to what she's done.

And now the end is near, and so she'll face the final curtain. My friend, she'll say it clear, she'll state her case, of which she's certain. She's lived a life that's full, and traveled each and every highway. And more, much more than this, she did it her way.

Regrets, she's had a few. But then again, too few to mention. She did what she had to do, and saw it through without exemption. She planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, she did it her way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew, when she bit off more than she could chew. But through it all, when there was doubt she ate it up and spit it out. She faced it all and she stood tall, and did it her way.

She's loved, she's laughed and cried, she had her fill, her share of losing. And now, as tears subside she finds it all, all so amusing. To think she did all that, and may I say, not in a shy way, oh no, no not her, she did it her way.

For what is a woman, what has she got? If not herself, then she has naught. To say the things she truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows she took the blows, and did it her-er-er-er way.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

New U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Survived a Vehicle Ambush in 2008

Photo from DOS publication

Our new Ambassador to Armenia was sworn in this week, and please see Diplopundit's post here: @StateDG Perez Swears-In Career Diplomat Lynne Tracy as US Ambassador to Armenia.
On August 26, 2008 gunmen ambushed FSO Lynne Tracy’s vehicle in Peshawar, Pakistan, riddling the car with bullets. She survived the attack.

She then remained at post for the rest of her tour in what was one of the most vulnerable and highly threatened posts in the Foreign Service. Somehow, the public image of diplomatic posts remains completely out of whack with the reality, no matter how many such incidents occur, so I'm happy to see attention paid to Ambassador Tracey. 

For details of the ambush see page 43 of Political Violence Against Americans (2008) which has diagrams as well as the above photo. The photo captured the CG's vehicle reversing out of the kill zone at high speed and taking a 'Tuk-Tuk' auto rickshaw along with it.

While you're at it, browse the whole library of PVAA reports and then compare and contrast with the next movie or TV representation you see of embassy life.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Law Suit Filed on Behalf of ISIS Bride

Social media incitement in the Spanish Civil War

I seriously think we can get a lot of insight about the foreign fighters who joined ISIS, and what to do about them now that they want to be repatriated, by looking to the historical example of the foreign fighters who joined the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.

They even had great female propagandists who riled up the troops, the most famous of whom was Dolores Ibárruri – La Pasionaria – who did all her work with just a microphone and a radio broadcast. What new levels of incitement she might have achieved with a Twitter account!

But, back to our present day social media inciter, Hoda Muthana. Her father filed a lawsuit on her behalf requesting injunctive relief to prevent the government from ruling on her lack of birthright citizenship without due process.

Hoda Muthana Lawsuit by on Scribd

It comes down to a battle of the letters. Mr. Muthana waves that 2004 USUN document with its all-important employment termination date of September 1, 1994 – just a month short of his daughter’s birth – and the USG replies with its 2016 letter that informed Muthana the U.S. Government was not notified of his loss of diplomatic employment until after his daughter’s birth.

The letters are brandished in paragraphs 21 and 25:
21. Utilizing his daughter’s birth certificate, Mr. Muthana applied for a passport for his minor daughter Hoda Muthana in 2004. After receiving this application, officials from the United States State Department initially questioned whether Ms. Muthana was eligible for a U.S. passport, based on their records showing her father’s diplomatic status remained in effect until February 6, 1995. In response, Ahmed Ali Muthana provided the government with Exhibit C, a letter from the United States Mission to the United Nations, signed by Russell F. Graham, Minister Counselor for Host Country Affairs, and addressed to Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, which confirms that the diplomatic status he had due to his employment at the U.N. was terminated prior to the time of Ms. Muthana’s birth. The United States accepted this documentation and issued Hoda Muthana the requested passport on January 24, 2005. Exhibit D. The United States also later renewed Ms. Muthana’s passport on February 21, 2014.

25. On January 15, 2016, the United States issued a letter addressed to Ms. Muthana at her parents’ residence, purporting to revoke her passport under 22 C.F.R. 51.7 and 51.66. Exhibit D. In the revocation letter, the government again acknowledged that her father’s diplomatic position ended on September 1, 1994, but now asserted for the first time that because the U.S. Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Host Country Affairs Section, had not been officially notified of his termination until February 6, 1995, she was not “within the jurisdiction of the United States” at the time of her birth, and therefore not a United States citizen pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Notice the dates in para 25. It was in 2016, during the Obama administration, that the State Department revoked her passport because it had concluded she was not a citizen at the time of her birth. (Here’s a headline you'll never see: “Trump agrees with Obama, Alabama woman not a citizen under 14th Amendment”)

So then, the father was well aware of the USG’s position on the matter of his daughter’s lack of U.S. citizenship long before this became a news story. It turns out he was not entirely forthcoming when he released that 2004 USUN memo to the news media earlier this week; he could have also released the 2016 letter in which the State Department informed him that it did not end his diplomatic status until it was notified that his employment at the Yemeni UN Mission had been terminated, which notification occurred after the birth of his daughter Hoda.

And then there is the separate matter of whether or not Hoda Muthana expatriated herself, assuming she was in fact a birthright citizen, by her act of joining the ISIS caliphate. The complaint addresses that matter indirectly in a footnote on page ten:
Birthright citizenship may be revoked under 8 U.S.C. § 1481 for “formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state or a political subdivision thereof.” However, none of the circumstances set out in § 1401 is facially applicable to the facts of this case, as ISIS is not and has not been recognized as a state by the United States, or any country. And, Ms. Muthana’s actions do not meet the definition of treason as required by the statute. Apart from § 1481, counsel is not aware of any statutory process to revoke recognized birthright citizenship.

Facially applicable? I suppose that refers to something of or pertaining to surface appearances. Well, below the surface I don’t think that argument works at all.

Of course we didn’t diplomatically recognize the ISIS caliphate. So what? It didn’t need our recognition. It declared its own sovereignty, as do all states, and it operated as a full-fledged state until it was militarily destroyed.

We also didn’t recognize the USSR as a state until 1933. Nevertheless, if a birthright U.S. citizen had moved there and declared his allegiance to the USSR before 1933, we would surely have revoked his citizenship.

Count 8 of the complaint also goes to the issue of expatriating acts:
As United States Citizens, Ms. Muthana and her minor child have the right to return to the United States under international law, and the United States government has a vested interest in assisting U.S. citizens who flee armed conflict on foreign soil.

Ms. Muthana and her young son have succeeded in escaping ISIS-controlled territory; however, they are still located in an area of Syria which is riddled by conflict and violence. Since 2011, “fighting in Syria has killed an estimated 465,000 people, injured more than one million, and forced about 12 million people - or half the country's pre-war population - from their homes.”

Although Mr. Muthana’s daughter has at times been in the company of ISIS fighters and present in ISIS-controlled territory, there is no evidence to suggest that she has taken part in any armed combat or hostilities.

Armed combat, no. But she certainly did take part in hostilities in that she incited others to violence. Furthermore she must have been in the company of ISIS fighters more than just occasionally since she married three of them, the first one only a month after she arrived in Syria. And it is a huge understatement to say she was merely "present" in ISIS-controlled territory when she had to scheme and plot to get there from Alabama without her family's knowledge, and she stayed there five years, leaving only after it collapsed.

What about her acts and words during her time in ISIS territory? See the UK Guardian article of last Sunday:
[She was] Once one of Isis’s most prominent online agitators who took to social media to call for the blood of Americans to be spilled.

- Snip -

Her experience in the so-called caliphate tracks the arc of Isis’s shocking rise and precipitous collapse over five brutal years. Muthana fled her home and took a flight to Turkey in November 2014 after several months of planning, which she kept secret from her family.

She settled into the Syrian city of Raqqa, then one of Isis’s two main hubs – the other being Mosul in Iraq – where she married an Australian jihadist, Suhan Rahman, the first of her three husbands.

Rahman was killed in the town of Kobanî, and soon afterwards Muthana angrily tweeted: “Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drivebys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc day … Kill them.”

For many months in 2015, her Twitter feed was full of bloodcurdling incitement, and she says she remained a zealot until the following year. She now says her account was taken over by others.

And this:
That same day [as the “kill them” tweet], she tweeted out a photo of her ISIS husband’s bloodied body:

“I’m the most content I have ever been in my life. … And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead,” according to the UK’s Daily Mail.

And then there was the tweet in which she urged the taking down of President Barack Obama:

“You can look up Obamas schedule on the white house website. Take down that treacherous tyrant!”

That's some very high level of hostility, and all at the service of ISIS when it was at its gruesome peak.

Today, she says it was all a big mistake and we should welcome her back. Not coincidentally, today the caliphate has been destroyed and its fighters largely annihilated.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

More Documents Released in the ISIS Bride Case - Citizen or Not?

Muthana's tweet one month after arrival in Syria

After arriving in the ISIS caliphate in November 2014, Hoda Muthana went by a few different names on social media, including @AhlulDhikr, @ZumarulJannah, and Umm Jihad. You can find that passport bonfire tweet and more details at the Counter Extremism Project, which tracked her online activities for some time.

Did Hoda first make a copy of the inside page before she burned her passport? Because you never know if you might want a replacement passport some day.

And was that passport valid in the first place? Yesterday, the State Department released a statement that Hoda is not a U.S. citizen, despite being born in the U.S., because her father was a diplomat with the Yemeni Mission to the UN when she was born in 1994.

But today, her father released a 2004 document from the USUN that states he ceased to be a member of that Yemeni Mission one month before Hoda was born, which, if true, means she has a claim on U.S. citizenship. That document was used to obtain Hoda's first passport in 2004, at age ten.

That 2004 memo from the USUN may not fully answer the question of whether or not Hoda's father was a foreign diplomat when she was born. First of all, it has to be verified. Then, what exactly was the father's status after leaving the Yemeni UN mission? Did he retain his diplomatic passport and visa? Was he employed by another diplomatic mission of the Government of Yemen, say, its New York City Consulate? Doesn't Article 39 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations recognize immunity for a “reasonable period” of time between the end of an assignment and the diplomat’s departure from the country? What if he doesn't depart?

Furthermore, citizenship at birth aside, didn't Hoda Muthana in effect expatriate herself when she joined the ISIS caliphate?

There is an expatriation law explainer online that is generally supportive of Hoda's claim to citizenship, but also sums it up this way:
In a nutshell, the Supreme Court has repeatedly insisted that the Constitution requires expatriation to be based upon some voluntary, affirmative renunciation of citizenship or pledge of fealty to another sovereign – and not simply a punishment imposed by the state.

Can’t we reasonably conclude from Hoda Muthana's own words and actions that she did just that? That she voluntarily renounced her U.S. citizenship and became a loyal subject of, and an activist for, the ISIS caliphate? Or can she take back those words and actions now that ISIS has been destroyed and she’s changed her mind?

Historical side note-wise, there might be a pretty good precedent for how to treat foreign volunteers after a failed war: how were the U.S. citizen volunteers in the Spanish Civil War repatriated after the collapse of the Spanish Republic? Some of them never got back. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Plot Twist in 'ISIS Bride' Repatriation Case

"Alabama woman" according to CNN, but by way of Yemen

Well, well, well, it looks like the latest ISIS bride will not be coming back to sweet home Alabama, despite her claims to now regret the social media work she did for the caliphate. It appears that she is not a U.S. citizen, and is therefore someone else's problem.

'ISIS bride' Hoda Muthana is not a US citizen: Sec. Pompeo
In her first television interview, the 24-year-old Alabama woman who spent four years as an "ISIS bride" told ABC News she felt shame hearing the tweets she posted when she was part of ISIS and wants to return to the U.S. with her 18-month-old son, who was born under the terror group.

But in a statement, Pompeo said she "is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States. She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the United States."

Muthana was born to a Yemeni diplomat in New Jersey and moved to New York and then Washington, D.C., before finally settling with her family in Alabama as a seventh grader, she said.

While children born in America are granted citizenship under the 14th Amendment, children of foreign diplomats are not because they are not under the "jurisdiction of" the U.S., according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Still, children of diplomats can apply for residency and then eventually citizenship, per USCIS.

Here's the official announcement. Apparently somebody is working at State despite the snow day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Eight-Hour Government Shutdown Begins Tomorrow

Saturday, February 9, 2019

AOC Rolls Out the New Green Deal, Nuts and Bolts to Follow Someday

AOC using one of Eisenhower's National Defense Highways

My new favorite Member of Congress really needs to work on her very skimpy official website. It seems to have been ignored while her staff rushed that New Green Deal resolution out the door this week. At least for now, the resolution is still up on her website (read it here), which is something you can't say about the FAQ document that was released simultaneously with the resolution but then quickly withdrawn.

Exactly why the FAQs were withdrawn we aren't told, but I wouldn't be surprised if Speaker Pelosi had a word with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about the FAQs' unrestrained utopianism, especially the part about "economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work."

You can read the initial version of her FAQs here, as published by NPR last Thursday as part of the Green New Deal resolution launch.

Here's the FAQ overview:
We will begin work immediately on Green New Deal bills to put the nuts and bolts on the plan described in this resolution (important to say so someone else can’t claim this mantle).[TSB comment: Presumably that “important to … claim this mantle” phrase was a drafter’s comment and not intended to be published. Evidence of the rushed nature of the document, or of sloppy staff work, or both.]

This is a massive transformation of our society with clear goals and a timeline.

The Green New Deal resolution [is] a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society at a scale not seen since World War 2 to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic prosperity for all. It will:

· Move America to 100% clean and renewable energy

· Create millions of family supporting-wage, union jobs

· Ensure a just transition for all communities and workers to ensure economic security for people and communities that have historically relied on fossil fuel industries

· Ensure justice and equity for frontline communities by prioritizing investment, training, climate and community resiliency, economic and environmental benefits in these communities

· Build on FDR’s second bill of rights by guaranteeing:

· A job with a family-sustaining wage, family and medical leave, vacations, and retirement security

· High-quality education, including higher education and trade schools

· Clean air and water and access to nature

· Healthy food

· High-quality health care

· Safe, affordable, adequate housing

· Economic environment free of monopolies

· Economic security for all who are unable or unwilling to work

Lists like that are normally preceded by the words “Dear Santa.” That’s a huge pile of adjectives and abstractions for her poor staffers to turn into those mundane nuts and bolts that she promises will be worked out later, maybe.

Personally, I’m glad she didn’t wait for a bunch of facts to catch up with her excitement. Counterfactual performance art is what she’s good at, and is the basis of her considerable charm. Like the lovable Baghdad Bob, she stands superior to facts.

But I do have one complaint. Lay off Eisenhower and the interstate highway system.

From her resolution:
“Americans love a challenge. This is our moonshot. When JFK said we’d go to the by the end of the decade, people said impossible. If Eisenhower wanted to build the interstate highway system today, people would ask how we’d pay for it.”

AOC has said that before, but contrary to what she says, the old White men who wrote the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 did, in fact, decide how to pay for it before they passed the bill. They did not just wish a national highway system into existence. Far from it. They assumed leprechauns would bring pots of gold to Capitol Hill, and that all the cars and trucks using the highways would be powered by unicorns.

Just kidding – they paid for it with new taxes. The bill authorized $25 billion from 1957 through 1969 to be raised by Federal excise taxes on fuel, automobiles, trucks, and tires. That new tax revenue went into a Highway Trust Fund that paid for 90 percent of construction costs, with the states required to pay the remaining 10 percent.

Hasn’t AOC ever wondered why she pays an 18.4 cents per gallon tax on gasoline at the pump? But, maybe she doesn’t drive.

By the way, that gas tax was only 3 cents per gallon when the highways were built. After Eisenhower, government got greedy for all that money, and now we pay a lot more. You can read about Federal and state fuel tax facts here.

Moreover, exactly how we would pay for the interstate highway system was explained right there in the full title of the law:
An act to amend and supplement the Federal-Aid Road Act approved July 11, 1916, to authorize appropriations for continuing the construction of highways; to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 to provide additional revenue from the taxes on motor fuel, tires and trucks and buses; and for other purposes; June 29, 1956.

Read about it here: National Interstate and Defense Highways Act (1956).

The legislative history of the Act shows that, of course, the main concern of Congress was about how we’d pay for it.
Between 1954 and 1956, there were several failed attempts to pass a national highway bill through the Congress. The main controversy over the highway construction was the apportionment of the funding between the Federal Government and the states. Undaunted, the President renewed his call for a "modern, interstate highway system” in his 1956 State of the Union Address. Within a few months, after considerable debate and amendment in the Congress, The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 emerged from the House-Senate conference committee. In the act, the interstate system was expanded to 41,000 miles, and to construct the network, $25 billion was authorized for fiscal years 1957 through 1969.

Back in that day, our legislators were serious. In our day, not so much.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Woman had her dog’s Xanax in her blood when she crashed into, killed cyclist, state says - The Oregonian Live

Witt faces manslaughter charges, and prosecutors allege she had at least 11 medications in her system at the time of the mid-afternoon crash, including her dog’s Xanax. She also had three empty beer cans, a handgun and a Taco Bell receipt from that afternoon, according to an affidavit.

“The defense provided the state with veterinary records showing that Ms. Witt’s dog was given a prescription for Xanax two days before the crash,” prosecutors wrote in the filing ... According to the court records, 11 of [the dog] Lola’s 20 pills were missing.