Thursday, May 6, 2021

New Consulate Office Building in Hermosillo, Mexico, Topped Out

Sweet deal for CG Hermosillo, which gets to move out of the quirky building it has occupied since the early 1980s, the one that kind of resembles a Pizza Hut only with a pagoda roof. You can see it in this photo, courtesy of Mexican news media:

The old building was the product of a family-owned construction firm that at one time very nearly monopolized the diplomatic construction business of the USG in Mexico. The patriarch had been a subcontractor on the early 1960s embassy job in Mexico City and his two sons went on to build most of our consulates, including the ones in Tijuana, Guadalajara, Ciudad Juarez, and Monterrey. The family saved design expenses by using the exact same design to build both Juarez and Monterrey, which is commendable.

Hermosillo was the end of the family's streak of good luck, as by then OBO had finally decided it would henceforth take charge of its own business in Mexico. Ever since, OBO has been replacing one old Mexican consulate after another with 'safe, secure, and sustainable' New Consulate Compounds. Plus a New Embassy Compound, too, assuming that project ever gets completed.    

So, NCC Hermosillo marks the end of an era for OBO in Mexico. What's more, the old consulate was the last time OBO ever built a new office building anywhere in the world without taking security standards (boo, security) into account, because in that pre-Inman Commission day there were no standards, at least none that were mandatory.

Enjoy the new building, Hermosillo.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Extradite This Terrorist

You may be familiar with this diplomatic conflict between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Jordan. The bottom line is that we have a wanted fugitive by the name of Ahlam Ahmad Al-Tamini, whom the Department of Justice would like to prosecute for "Conspiring to Use and Using a Weapon of Mass Destruction Against a United States National Outside the United States Resulting in Death and Aiding and Abetting and Causing an Act to be Done." Al-Tamini lives very openly in Jordan, but the authorities there refuse to render her to the U.S. for trial.

Jordan's stated reason for not extraditing Al-Tamini is that her prosecution in the U.S. would violate the old Anglo-Saxon principle of double jeopardy, since Al-Tamini was once before convicted and imprisoned in Israel for the same bombing that gives rise to the U.S. charges. That excuse is complete rubbish. The U.S. charges are for the separate offense of murdering a U.S. citizen overseas, and the Justice Department appears to be confident they can prosecute her without implicating double jeopardy.

In any case, the idea that the King of Jordan won't extradite Al-Tamini because of some tender concern for English common law traditions is too ridiculous for words. He can and will act like a king when he wants to, and good for him. 

Moreover, Al-Tamini's release from prison in Israel, although it is sometimes confused with her being pardoned by Israel, was obtained by means of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. "Exchange" does not begin to describe that one-sided affair in which Israel gave in to political/emotional coercion by the terrorist group HAMAS. But, really, what else could they do? That small country is like an extended family, so to end the five year-long torment of one Israeli solider was worth releasing over a thousand prisoners. 

All monarchies strikes me as farcical, but the legitimacy of the Hussein dynasty of Jordan is even thinner than most. Why the Palestinian native population tolerates a British-imposed royal family that originated from elsewhere, I have never understood. (Of course, at least one Palestinian nationalist did not tolerate it.) Does the USG really need to placate them?

Well then, why doesn't the USG bring enough pain to Jordan to overcome its reluctance to extradite Al-Tamini? Presumably, the Biden administration (like its predecessor) must see some larger foreign policy interest involved that makes it willing to tolerate the dissonance of naming a top-wanted fugitive that it will not make a serious effort to capture.

I am realistic about the chances of a petition stirring up any action in either the Administration or Congress, but I'm signing it anyway. Al-Tamini has punishment coming to her from the fellow citizens of one of her victims, and I hope she gets it.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Toronto Police Service Guns Seized" - Twitter Site

I love following Toronto Police Service Guns Seized for the antique pieces they take #offthestreets with some frequency. Usually it's something like an old Iver Johnson break-top .32, or a British military Webley or Short Magazine Lee-Enfield. But this week's seizure takes it to a new level. This pistol was 'on the streets' practically before there were streets.

Assuming it's not a modern reproduction - and that looks very unlikely - what the Toronto Police Service have seized is a muzzle-loading caplock percussion pistol complete with ramrod, probably of 14-bore caliber, and seemingly of the French 1822 pattern. It may even be a caplock conversion of a flintlock [!] pistol. Whatever it is, there must be an amazing bit of military history in the story of how it turned up in Toronto in the year 2021.

If that one ends up being destroyed instead of sent to a museum, I'll be shaking my head for a long time.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Update: Civil Hearings Pushed Back to October

From the latest second-hand and unreliable internet chatter we learn that hearings in the civil case have been pushed way back to late October.

Has there really been an agreement between the parties? I find that hard to believe, in light of the Dunn family's total refusal so far to consider anything other than the driver's return to the UK. 

Consider the sole public interview given by the driver's lawyer, which was to Law in Action, BBC 4 (exclusive interview with the lawyer of Anne Sacoolas) back on 9 March. From that primary and reliable source we learned that: 

"It seems there has been no interest [on the part of the family] in moving forward short of her [the American driver] return to the United Kingdom."

I can easily believe that, since it's exactly what the family has said in each and every one of the many public comments they have ever made. 

That interview also cleared up a couple common misunderstandings about the case. 

First, there is no Interpol Red Notice for the driver and there never was. That bit of nonsense was spread by the family's ringmaster/spokesman and was immediately, publicly, refuted by the police force he had cited as his source, but it nevertheless lives on in internet perpetuity. 

Also, after the crash the driver called RAF Croughton base police and also flagged down a motorist who called local emergency services, contrary to the outrageous and slanderous contention otherwise which the family's U.S. law firm made in the civil suit. 

Finally, the driver was interviewed by police at the scene, and again days later, and later still after she returned to the U.S. The police know all there is to know about the crash and its immediate aftermath. There is nothing left to learn that requires a deposition or any other kind of face-to-face meeting.

So that's the current state of play. What are the odds there will be an agreement between the parties that settles the case before the October 28 hearing? Well, what's the closest I can get to zero while still hedging a tiny bit? Let's call it 98-to-2 against.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Incident involving stripper at job site 'entirely unacceptable'" - Canadian Broadcasting Corp. News, dateline Toronto
CBC News also obtained graphic video of the incident showing at least four men watching and two men touching the woman while she dances. Nobody in the video is wearing a mask or physically distancing, despite government rules for job sites.

There it is: the stripper was not wearing a mask, and no one was physically distancing. You can bet the stripper wasn't wearing ear and eye protection either, much less steel toe stilletos. Write that contractor up for health and safety violations.

For the love of Dr. Fauci and everything holy, I just hope this sort of misconduct does not spread to those job sites run by my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. I hold them to a higher standard.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Fortress Embassies to be Fully Funded in the New FY

(CG Guadalajara, according to an OBO design contractor) 

I love the architect's-pastel-watercolor-rendering stage of new embassy construction. The buildings never look half as good in execution as they do in the imagination. It's practically theater of the mind stuff. 

Well, there will be more such happy architectural dreaming this year because the new international affairs budget request has been published and it did not forget my good friends in the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations. They are looking at handling another year of capital security construction projects, i.e., new Fortress Embassies. 

It's on page 29 of the FY21 Congressional Budget Justification:
EMBASSY SECURITY, CONSTRUCTION, AND MAINTENANCE - The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), funded through the Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance (ESCM) appropriation, is responsible for providing U.S. diplomatic and consular missions overseas with secure, safe, and functional facilities that represent the U.S. Government to the host nation and support the Department’s staff in their work to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives. These facilities represent the best of American planning, design, engineering, construction, and facility management.
The FY 2021 Request is $1.7 billion. The work supported by this request is vital, as more than 93,000 U.S. Government employees from more than 30 agencies at over 291 locations depend on the infrastructure OBO provides and maintains. The FY 2021 Request includes the Department of State’s share of the $2.2 billion Capital Security and Maintenance Cost Sharing Programs to construct and maintain, new, secure facilities, and $100 million to address deferred maintenance for State’s non-cost shared facilities
Which lucky posts will get the next round of safe, secure, and functional new facilities? That is a carefully risk-managed decision, as is explained in this publicly available source of information:
OBO will continue to construct diplomatic facilities based on the Department's list of the most vulnerable facilities and to address other security concerns overseas consistent with available resources. This Vulnerability List, published each year by DS, ranks posts according to their vulnerability across different security threats. The process for identifying and prioritizing projects begins with a review of the Vulnerability List mandated by SECCA. The Vulnerability List is then used to establish the Top 80 list that helps OBO to prioritize facilities that need to reduce security vulnerability. In addition to new construction projects, OBO must also design and construct security upgrades to existing facilities. 
That sounds like a tricky business, but I assume whoever it is in DS who ranks overseas posts according to their vulnerability to security threats must know what he or she is doing.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Chinese zoo embarrassed after attempting to pass off golden retriever dog as an African lion" - South China Morning Post

Biden His Time On Ambassador Appointments

When you're as old as Biden, and have been in Washington as long as Biden, time becomes of very little importance, really. What difference does it make if he waits a few months before making any ambassadorial appointments? What's the rush? Those embassies and foreign capitals will still be there this summer, or next year. C'mon man!© Stop the malarkey and get off his back about it, already.

But some people are just impatient, according to CNN:

Washington (CNN) - More than two months into his term, President Joe Biden has yet to name a single ambassador to send overseas, putting him behind the pace set by his most recent predecessors and leading to early frustrations among some career State Department officials and big-time Democratic donors.

Though Biden has been presented with the names of top contenders for ambassadorships to the European Union, NATO and other high-level posts, including China and Russia, and is expected to make a decision on at least some of those positions in April, people familiar with the matter say that on the vast majority of ambassador posts, the president is still weeks away from deciding on the broader makeup of his diplomatic corps.

The slow-moving process has however been the subject of rising frustration among some top-level donors, who have been eyeing key ambassador posts since Biden won the election. The whispers have largely remained in the background, however, as top Biden advisers have made clear that campaigning for an ambassadorship is highly frowned upon.

A key gatekeeper is Katie Petrelius, who served as national finance director for the Biden campaign, and is now the special assistant to Biden for presidential personnel. She is tasked with fielding inquiries from donors, lawmakers and others who are interested in ambassador posts.

"Under President Biden, ambassadorships will be remarkably hard to come by," a top Biden donor who is familiar with the process told CNN. "That has been made perfectly clear."

The State Department has identified a number of career officials who could take on ambassador roles, said a State Department official. Without White House decisions on which political appointees will get certain posts, the department is stuck waiting.

Several prominent names are already topping the lists for some posts: former Ambassador Nick Burns for China; former Biden national security adviser Julie Smith for NATO; former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for Japan.

Biden is also keeping in mind longtime friends and allies from the Senate who were helpful to his campaign. In addition to Cindy McCain, who is seen as on track for a European post, Biden is also believed to be considering former Missouri Sen. Claire Mckaskill, former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar for posts, along with Vicki Kennedy, whose late husband Edward Kennedy served along Biden for decades.

So it looks like the widows of his old cronies are first in line for appointments, followed by big-bucks donors, followed by living ex-cronies, and then the current and former career officials can fight for what's left over.

The mere fact that Biden's campaign finance director is now his special assistant for personnel ought to tell you how the appointment priorities stack up.

Cultivate the value of patience, all you wishful career officials.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Moves to Discovery Phase, Depositions By End of July

Upon the utterly unsurprising failure of the parties to reach a settlement, the judge in the case has now set a date for depositions. 

That means two things. First, the mother of Harry Dunn will at long last have her nemesis cornered in a little room. Will she be attended by a full staff of mediators and crisis counselors at the moment of confrontation, as she insisted on as a condition of meeting the American driver when that opportunity was offered to her in the White House a year ago? I doubt it, but who knows? And will her carnival barker of a spokesman/advisor be present? He most certainly will be if he has anything to say about it, but, he won't have anything to say about it. 

The second thing that will happen is that the Dunn family will also be deposed, since they bear the burden of proving the mental and emotional injuries which are the basis of their claim for damages. They may well be required to be examined by shrinks of the insurance company's choosing, for instance. Judging by the many interviews the mother has given since the civil suit began, I don't think she understands that depositions apply to both parties in a suit. 

From Sky News, Harry Dunn death: Parents set to hear face-to-face legal testimony from son's alleged killer:
Mrs Sacoolas, and her husband Jonathan, have now been told they will be "deposed" by 23 July - meaning they will give their account of events under oath in front of Mr Dunn's mother, Charlotte Charles, and father, Tim Dunn.
The deposition will form part of the "discovery" process in the Dunn family's civil claim, in which correspondence and documentation relevant to the case will be handed over ahead of a trial at the end of the year.
Indeed, the mother seems to not understand that a civil suit cannot force the driver to return to the UK for a criminal trial, which even today she insists is "the only resolution."
But Mrs Charles told Sky News: "She needs to come back to the UK and go through the justice system. It's not up to us, or them, to decide what penalty, if anything should be handed down."
"She wants to find resolution; the only resolution is to face the UK justice system."
"She needs to move on with her life, we need to rebuild ours, but without her going through the UK justice system that can't be done."

Nevertheless, officials in both the UK and the U.S. have made it abundantly clear that the driver will not face the UK justice system, from whose criminal jurisdiction she had immunity from the day she arrived in the UK to the day she departed, as a matter of international law. A civil suit for damages cannot change that. 

And so the stage is set for a great reckoning in a little room, sometime before July 23rd.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Satan Tries to Get a Date on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Train" - NBC 10 Boston

That approach is more personable then looking for dates on Tinder, I suppose. But frankly, I find it implausible that Satan would ride public transportation in Boston, or anywhere.

Now, my idea of a real Satan is someone who sounds Mick Jagger/Keith Richards-ish and lives in Las Vegas, where he buys and sells James Brown's soul and makes winner-take-all bets about dragging the Vegas Strip at dawn.

Please enjoy:

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

White House Press Secretary Briefly Fends Off Question re Harry Dunn Case

Yesterday, Jen Psaki was asked by a White House reporter - not identified - to clarify whether or not the diplomat's wife in the Harry Dunn road traffic accident and civil suit had diplomatic immunity. She referred the questioner to the State Department.

Here's the Q and A transcript:
Speaker 9: (01:02:05)

And if I could, Anne Sacoolas is still wanted in the UK on charges of causing death by dangerous driving. Now, the original rationale for her leaving the country with diplomatic immunity was that she was the spouse of somebody who was working at RAF Croughton, which under the terms of the agreement there meant she would have diplomatic immunity. It since seems to have emerged, from her lawyer in court here, that she was actually employed by the State Department or the US intelligence services. I wonder if you can clarify whether she was working in UK for the United States government and whether she does actually, as far as you’re concerned, have diplomatic immunity?

Jen Psaki: (01:02:41)

I would point you to the State Department. They, of course, engage in any questions about diplomacy, diplomatic immunity. Of course, the status of somebody who served during the prior administration, I don’t have anything more for you from it on it from here. Go ahead in the back.
She does like to circle back, doesn't she?

Now, the question of whether the diplomat's wife had diplomatic immunity has been repeatedly answered in the affirmative by, among others, the UK's own Foreign Minister and its High Court, as well as by the USG at every level from the former Ambassador to the UK to the former SecState, and the USG's position has been reaffirmed by the State Department spokesman for the current administration. That matter really isn't up for grabs. The jury is in, so to speak.

But I find it amusing that Psaki reflexively tosses the ball back to the Trump years, as if "somebody who served during the prior administration" is qualitatively different from the professional staff and their family members who are serving today. She separates herself from that bunch, and doesn't have any more on that/them from here.

In other news, the civil case against the diplomat's wife will take another step forward tomorrow when the court resumes. Psaki aside, there may be more on that matter then.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The RAND Corp Reports on Durations of Attacks on Western Diplomatic Facilities

The RAND Corporation published an interesting little report last week that has quite a bit of relevance to the physical security of U.S. diplomatic missions. Read it here: Seizures of Western Diplomatic Facilities, Historical Timelines, 1979–2019.

It addresses these research questions:
What were the durations of attacks on Western diplomatic facilities since 1979, and how much advance warning was there of each attack? And,
What implications do historical timelines of duration and advance warning of attacks on diplomatic facilities have for efforts to respond to such attacks?
The report found there have been "33 successful seizures of Western diplomatic facilities since 1979 ... The majority of attacks culminated in two hours or less, and over 90 percent culminated in six hours or less ... the median attack duration was four hours, and the average was 4.8 hours." 

Mind you, those incidents were not only at U.S. diplomatic missions. My general sense of the history of these things is that you'd see a longer average duration if only U.S. missions were considered.   

RAND supposes that "the lengthening of this [attack] duration could offer wider windows of opportunity to intervene," such as, intervention by U.S. military forces. Hum. Does that sound likely?  

RAND is the Defense Department's think tank, so far be it from me to question whatever they say about the chances of U.S. military intervention to an attack underway at a U.S. diplomatic mission. But, I can legitimately point out that the last time there was such an intervention was in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion in China. Can you think of another? I can't. 

There was an attempted intervention in Iran in 1979 - operation Eagle Claw - but it failed. There has not been another one since, and for what should be an obvious reason. The U.S. military is not a police force, and a U.S. embassy cannot just call 911 and expect an immediate response from the SWAT team. 

The closest thing to a military SWAT team is the Crisis Response Force (formerly known as the Commander's In-Extremis Force) and those, as we learned form the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report, are prepared to respond to a crisis within six hours. On the night of the Benghazi attack, the closest In-Extremis Force was training in Zagreb, Croatia, and the attack was long over before they could have arrived.      

The realities of time and space make it completely unrealistic to expect a timely intervention from the U.S. military to an attack underway at any of the 270+ U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. The Select Committee on Benghazi heard testimony from both the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to that effect. Does anyone doubt it? If so, then I think you read too much Tom Clancy and play too many video games. 

All that said, please do read about The China Relief Expedition Joint Coalition Warfare in China Summer 1900, which is even better than the Charlton Heston movie version.  

Most Head Skakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Rooster fitted with knife for cockfighting kills its owner by slashing his groin as it tries to escape" - Daily Mail
The fighting cock had a blade strapped to its leg ready to take on an opponent when it tried to flee the vicious blood sport ... His owner was cut and rushed to hospital in rural Telangana state but died of blood loss before he arrived ... The killer rooster was briefly held at the local police station earlier this week before it was sent to a poultry farm.

I love how the Daily Mail ascribes a motive to the rooster - "it tried to flee" - which makes it all sounds deliberate. The rooster had a definite consciousness of guilt all right, and I just hope it's prepared to pay the price for its rash act. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time, even if it's hard time on a poultry farm.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"A Columbia professor who uses heroin says the drug helps him maintain a work-life balance" - Insider
What is so wrong, he wonders in the book, about indulging in a short, thin "few lines by the fireplace at the end of the day"?

Hart is convinced the US must regulate and license recreational drugs and then teach people how to use them safely ... "You could have a massive public-service-announcement campaign that says 'If you're going to use opioids, don't use alcohol as a background or other sedatives in combination, because it increases the likelihood of respiratory depression and death,'" Hart said.
So then, please enjoy your opioid of choice responsibly.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"3 Pennsylvania neighbors dead after fight over snow shoveling" ABC News

Gitmo Joe: I'm Old Enough to Remember When ...

With the start of a new administration comes the restart of the old failed effort to close Gitmo. We already did that for Obama's eight years. But apparently that doesn't count, so now Joe Biden has to step up to the plate.

Biden launches review of Guantanamo prison, aims to close it before leaving office

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Biden administration has launched a formal review of the future of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, reviving the Obama-era goal of closing the controversial facility, a White House official said on Friday.

-- snip --

“The NSC will work closely with the Departments of Defense, State, and Justice to make progress toward closing the GTMO facility, and also in close consultation with Congress,” [National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne] added.

-- snip --

Of the prisoners who remain, nine have been charged or convicted by military commissions. The most notorious is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused Sept. 11 mastermind. About two dozen have not been charged but have been deemed too dangerous to release.

Joe's options on closing Gitmo seem to come down to a very few. He could execute the remaining detainees, unlawful combatants that they are, and then close Gitmo. (That's my choice.)

He could move them to other countries, but that would require willing countries, and we've run out of those.

He could move them to a prison in the U.S., but there is a law against that and absolutely zero political appetite to change that law. Hell, even Bernie Sanders voted to prohibit funding to transfer, release, or incarcerate detainees detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to or within the United States. Really, that makes it unanimous. Nobody who wishes to get elected or reelected in these United States will vote to move the Gitmo gang here.

He could prosecute them in the US, but that didn’t work out so well the one time it was tried (here). Oh, the guy was convicted on a couple counts, but was also acquitted of 224 individual counts of murder that he'd committed by conducting the bombings that destroyed the American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. That outcome does not fill me with confidence that we could risk sending even the 9/11 planner to trial.

What to do, what to do?

Maybe Joe should do nothing; it's usually best. There is lots of good advice about that here: Will Joe Biden Repeat Obama’s Mistake?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

OTD in 1950 Senator McCarthy Held in His Hand a List Provided By the State Department's Office of Security

The popular narrative of Senator McCarthy and his lists of "known communists" in government, like this one, are wrong in several respects, and as a public service I take it upon myself to correct that misimpression.

Also, I just think it's amusing that his lists came from the State Department itself.

The History Channel's OTD message for today repeats what we all know:
Senator McCarthy famously announced that he had a list with the names of over 200 members of the Department of State "that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”
What's not so famous is that McCarthy's list(s) of names, whatever else they may have been, were "not fictitious."

Have a look at Chapter Four of the history of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security (here), an official publication of State's Office of the Historian.
McCarthy’s numbers—205, 57, and 81—were inconsistent, but not fictitious. The numbers were derived from testimony by Department of State officials and Division of Security files. An SY [Office of Security] memorandum admitted in April that the “81” figure that McCarthy presented to the Senate was drawn from the “108 Cases,” which had been derived from SY files by a team of House of Representatives researchers in 1947. That group found 108 employees of questionable loyalty working for the Department. The “57” figure was also from the 108 cases; Deputy Under Secretary for Administration John E. Peurifoy had testified to Congress in March 1948 that 57 of the 108 still worked for the Department.(4) The number “205” was also derived from SY figures. In 1946, Robert L. Bannerman’s Security Office and the Department’s Screening Committee had flagged 284 “security risks.” Secretary of State James F. Byrnes reported this to Congress in July 1946, noting that the Department had dismissed 79 of the 284, leaving 205 possible risks. As the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations emphasized, McCarthy’s “information was beyond all reasonable doubt … a ‘dressed up’ version of material” previously presented to Congress. Yet McCarthy had so effectively repackaged the numbers that it was several weeks before Department of State officials determined their origins.(5)


(4) Memorandum, Division of Security, n.d. [April? 1950]. Memorandum “History of 108 Cases,” Division of Security, 6 April 1950, Folder – Administrative Folder, Box 5; and Memorandum “Report on Loyalty Security Performance – 1947-1952,” Conrad E. Snow, Chairman of the Loyalty Security Board, to Dean Acheson, Secretary of State, 8 January 1953, Folder – Loyalty Security Board, Miscellaneous 3/1952 – 3/1953, Box 4; both Security Files 1932-63, A/SY/Evaluations. Committee on Foreign Relations, State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation, p. 8.

(5) Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense, 109, 111-112, 156 ( McCarthy quotation on page 156. Committee on Foreign Relations, State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation, 81st Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Report 2108, p. 7, 14-17. Of that report, pages 6-17 make clear the connection between McCarthy’s numbers and the figures and files of the Security Office and of SY. Memorandum, Division of Security, n.d. [April? 1950], p. 6.
So, I guess those listed names really were known to the SecState.

There is more detail here on the interplay between McCarthy and his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Government Operations Committee and the subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (“Tydings Committee”) concerning those lists.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Harry Dunn Case Update: Chumming the Waters of Tabloid Media

This week, the American driver in the case had her chance to enter a motion to dismiss the civil action filed against her in a Virginia court.

During oral presentations it emerged that she had taken advantage of the opportunities for family member employment overseas while being the spouse of a member of Embassy London's Administrative and Technical staff. At least, that's what I'm taking away from the news media's coverage, scattered and unreliable as it is.

That is to say, she was simultaneously an appointment eligible family member, able to work for the embassy in her own right, and also a just-plain family member of someone with diplomatic immunity. That's not a hard concept to grasp, or so you might think.

There are many ways for the U.S. government's family members to find employment abroad, and good for them. What would the State Department do without them?

Now for the question of the day: did her employment as an eligible family member negate that family member status which conveyed her spouse's diplomatic immunity to her? That's what the Dunn family spokesman / ringmaster is telling the news media, and they respond like seals clapping when someone tosses them a fish.

But, is it true?

As someone with internet access and the ability to form questions, I looked here - a publicly available source of information - and found this answer:

Family members of administrative and technical staff assigned to an embassy have full criminal immunity, testimonial immunity, and inviolability. However, they have no civil immunity ... Many foreign states will not permit a family member with diplomatic status to work unless the diplomatic status is waived. The important thing to note is that the right to waive immunity belongs to the U.S. Government; no one has a right to waive his/her own diplomatic immunity. Under the Vienna Convention rules, family members who are employed on the local economy may request the post to waive their civil or administrative immunity with respect to their employment; however, criminal immunity is preserved in every case.

So, despite the chills and trills currently running through the UK and some U.S. media, the matter of eligible family member employment is not the gamechanger they would wish. The American driver had criminal immunity as the family member of an A and T staff employee, as has long been confirmed by the UK Foreign Office and been re-affirmed by the UK High Court. Nothing about that changes.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

"Orgy involving at least 81 people raided by police in France for breaking covid rules Partygoers fined over breach of curfew rules" - The Independant
"The event was in breach of the curfew, and there were also problems with masks and social distancing," an investigator said.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Biden Administration Declines Extradition in Harry Dunn Case: "Our decision in that regard was final"

The Biden administration wasted no time dealing with the matter of extradition in the Harry Dunn case. One day after SecState Blinken’s first phone call with his UK counterpart, the new State Department spokesman announced the Biden administration takes exactly the same position on that issue as the Trump administration did.

State spokesman Ned Price was delicate enough, or cagey enough, to put the message in past tense voice:
“We again offer our sincere condolences and sympathy to the Dunn family for the loss of their son. This was a tragic accident.”

“Since the tragic accident occurred, the United States has been closely engaged with the UK government and we have been transparent about our positions on legal and diplomatic matters concerning this accident. “The United States government has declined the United Kingdom's request for extradition of a US citizen involved in a tragic vehicle accident that occurred in the United Kingdom. Our decision in that regard was final.”

“At the time the accident occurred, and for the duration of her stay in the UK, the US citizen driver in this case had immunity from criminal jurisdiction.”

In effect, he said hey, the last guys in change here refused to extradite, and they already said that was final, so what do you want from me?

The Mum did her part, repeating for the UK media what her advisor/pitchman told her:

“This statement from the State Department comes as no surprise,” Ms Charles said. "It is a repeat of exactly what they have said before as their public position on the case."

“The bottom line is that this is not what diplomatic immunity is to be used for between two friendly countries and the State Department knows that."

“Our spokesperson Radd Seiger is having conversations with officials in Washington and London, and remains absolutely confident that we will get justice for Harry."

“You do not get to kill someone and walk away no matter who you are and I maintain my direct appeal to President Biden and his new secretary of state Tony Blinken to do the right thing. It is the only way forward."

So, the family remains in denial, shaking off the announcement of the Biden administration's refusal to extradite as just some odd little thing that a minor employee happened to say. Their emotional appeal continues regardless. Well, of course the State Department spokesman would say that, the State Department has always said that. But, if Blinken and Biden would only listen to me cry, they’d find out what’s going on, and that would change everything. Complete denial. 
And, of course, it goes without saying that Professor Radd Seiger "remains absolutely confident“ about that stirring occasion when he saw 76 trombones leading the big parade.

Do the rubes actually believe it when he tells them he is having conversations with “officials” in Washington? He even pretends to have inside info about what Biden has or hasn’t seen about the case. Wow.

In related news about that lawsuit filed in a Virginia court against the U.S. citizen driver on behalf of the Dunn family, the court was due to hear a motion to dismiss today, but the judge in the case has rescheduled that hearing for February 3, 2021.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Most Head Shakingly Bad Thing of the Week

Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina-scented candle explodes into flames causing an ‘inferno’ in a woman’s living room - The Sun

“The candle exploded and emitted huge flames, with bits flying everywhere ... I’ve never seen anything like it. The whole thing was ablaze and it was too hot to touch. There was an inferno in the room ... We eventually got it under control and threw it out the front door."

Monday, January 4, 2021

Assange Avoids Extradition, Pending Appeal by USG

That's our Julian Assange update theme, in honor of the whitest-skinned person ever to come from Australia. The first thing he should do once he's sprung is to get a massive dose of vitamin D, if you ask me.

The news today from the UK is that a judge has decided to release Assange rather than extradite him to the U.S., where she fears he might kill himself if confined in a U.S. prison.

In 2018, a British court refused to extradite Lauri Love, a hacker accused of penetrating U.S. government networks, because of the risk he would kill himself. In 2012 then-Home Secretary Theresa May blocked the extradition of Gary McKinnon, who was accused of breaking into U.S. military and space networks, because of the risk he would end his life. So there is a clear pattern here.

On all the substantive issues raised by the U.S. government against Assange, the judge actually agreed. She said that the alleged offenses go beyond "encouraging a journalist." For instance, Assange called for people to join the CIA so they could access confidential information for WikiLeaks, something the judge found to be "beyond investigative journalism."

The judge also said the right to free speech does not give anyone "unfettered discretion" to disclose any document they wish, and she rejected Assange's assertion of free speech laws noting that the difficulty with this argument is it vests in Assange the right to sacrifice the safety of individuals named in leaked documents, in the name of free speech. Such as the 50-some persons who sought asylum in the United States after being so named.

Moreover, the judge pointed out Assange’s eventual "indiscriminate" release of some 800,000 State Department cables, in contrast to his first, more responsible and much smaller, release of cables to news media outlets who published them with redactions.

Warming up to the subject, the judge noted that any hurt caused to Assange's family by his extradition "is nothing unusual in these kind of proceedings." Damn! I am liking this judge.

Regarding the U.S. judicial system, the judge said she does not accept it would be impossible to find twelve impartial jurors, or that the plea bargaining system was unjust, or that U.S. prosecutors would prosecute Assange out of pure vengeance. She even noted that President Trump has publicly praised Assange.

So, then, what's her objection to extradition?

Only that Assange has a frail mental condition. She accepted testimony that Assange suffers from autism and clinical depression, and is at risk of self-harm. If confined in a U.S. prison under special administrative measures, Assange has the intellect and determination to get around suicide prevention measures, she thinks. Therefore, "extradition would be oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health."

From the AP story:

Assange, who sat quietly in the dock at London’s Central Criminal Court for the ruling, wiped his brow as the decision was announced. His partner Stella Moris, with whom he has two young sons, wept.

Outside court, Moris said the ruling was “the first step towards justice,” but it was not yet time to celebrate.

“I had hoped that today would be the day that Julian would come home,” she said. “Today is not that day, but that day will come soon.”

“Mr. President, tear down these prison walls,” she said. “Let our little boys have their father.”

Ms. Moris is one of Assange’s lawyers and also his jailhouse squeeze, now age 37 with two little kids that he fathered during his years of self-imposed exile in London's Ecuadorian Embassy. Specifically, while in a tent set up inside his room in the embassy in order to avoid the secret cameras that the lovebirds assumed must have been trained on Assange by the CIA.

Ms. Moris says that by 2017 the pair were "secretly engaged,” and that Assange even proposed to her, kind of, via a virtual reality experience.

She is quite sure Assange wants to marry her. Good luck with that, but based on everything I've read about him, Assange does not seem the family-man domestic type.

It is not rare for even more or less normal women to marry convicts. Google “Hybristophilia.”

But Assange is only two weeks away from freedom, unless the USG's appeal of today's decision succeeds, which it probably won't. Like all famous outlaws, he has surely received tons of female fan mail. Once he’s out of his British prison, Assange will have a vastly expanded range of available females. Do you see marriage in that future? I don't.

Whereas, if he were to be extradited, well, the U.S. federal prison system provides many benefits to inmates who wish to marry, including a minimum of four visiting hours per month. (No conjugal visits, however.)

Think about it, Ms. Moris.