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 strike 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.