Thursday, December 29, 2022

Harry Dunn Case Redux: Cosplay Justice Was Good Enough


In the end, all it took to reconcile the Dunn family's demands for justice with the UK government's political embarrassment over the reality of diplomatic immunity was a pretense of a criminal trial. 

Pretend that the defendant is present in a UK court room, and listen to someone in a powdered wig pronounce a stern suspended sentence (while acknowledging she is powerless to impose any actual sentence in reality) and all the players will go away more or less satisfied. 

Since we're learning lessons, here are two important lessons that I think my own government is missing. 

First, we should take a big cue from how the UK handled immunity when one of its diplomats killed a cyclist in a road traffic accident, which was by the offending diplomatic leaving the host country and neither he nor the UK ever mentioning it again. What, no lawsuit? No request to waive immunity? No extradition request? No moralizing? No public vendetta against the diplomat involved? No, there was none of that. 

Second, we should adopt the UK's practice of denying the public any information about incidents in which it claimed immunity on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Take a look at the quick brush-off the Foreign Office gave to a 2014 request in FOI release: diplomatic immunity claimed by British diplomatic staff:
FOI ref: 0995-14 explains that diplomatic immunity has been claimed on a small number of occasions and if the details were to be released it could lead to the individuals concerned being identified. It has therefore been withheld under section 40 (personal information) of the Freedom of Information Act
"Personal information," right. You wouldn't want any personal information, or even identities, getting out or else the UK press might stalk and harass your people. 

If we're in a lesson-learning mood, I hope those two lessons will get absorbed over here. Next time - and of course there will be a next time - just stonewall. 

Money Motivates These Georgia County Court Clerks


Crazy and corrupt it may be, but the law in Georgia allows county court clerks to keep as their personal income the $35 processing fees they collect when their courthouse is used as an acceptance facility for U.S. passport applications. 

Atlanta News First, Superior court clerks legally pocketing thousands in passport processing fees:
In 2021, Cobb’s superior court clerk raked in more than $220K, while Fulton’s pocketed $360K in passport processing fees, on top of their salaries.
Impressive! Government is not a philanthropic activity, after all. And, mind you, the clerks earned that money the hard way - $35 at a time. 

I hadn't known that there are alternatives to using a U.S. Post Office or U.S. Passport Agency or Center when applying for a passport, but there are, and paying a $35 fee to those alternative acceptance facilities is legit, actually

So what I want to know now is where does Georgia find court clerks with the incredible stamina and enough hours in the day to process that many passport applications? I mean, the one in Fulton County is doing more than 10,000 applications a year, or 27 or so every day assuming she works 365 days a year. When you figure in that she must also be doing some Fulton County work, too, that is really extraordinary. 

According to the linked Atlanta News First story, some Georgia legislators are planning to end this sweet deal by amending state law to prohibit clerks keeping the fees as personal income. 

Well, I guess that's the right thing to do. But then, don't expect those clerks to show the same superhuman motivation when they're processing those passports for free.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Who? Who? Who? Who Said My Dog Bites? Who? Who? Who?

There are distburbing relevations about President Biden's relations with his Secret Service detail in a book that's coming out in January (here), with some quotes released today.
President Joe Biden was so disturbed by the Secret Service’s handling of text messages sought by the House January 6 select committee that he stopped speaking candidly in the presence of special agents assigned to his protection detail, a new book on the Biden White House has revealed. 
In The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House, author Chris Whipple writes that Mr Biden’s discomfort with the post-Trump era agency began early on in his presidency, when it became clear that “some of” the agents charged with protecting him from assassination were strong supporters of the man he defeated in the 2020 election, former president Donald Trump. 
-- snip -- 
He added that Mr Biden’s trust in his protection detail was further shaken by a March 2021 incident involving a Secret Service agent and his then-three-year-old German Shepherd, Major. 
Major, who Mr Biden adopted from the Delaware Humane Association in 2018, was the first rescue dog to serve as First Canine. He allegedly bit a Secret Service agent in the private residence portion of the White House on 8 March 2021, and was temporarily relocated to Delaware for training in the wake of that incident, though he later bit a National Park Service worker just after returning to the White House at the end of that month. 
According to Whipple, Mr Biden was quite sceptical about the details of the first alleged biting incident. He writes that although no one disputed that an incident had taken place, the president “wasn’t buying the details,” particularly the alleged location of the biting. 
Whipple reveals that Mr Biden expressed his concerns to a friend while he was giving a tour of the White House family quarters. The president reportedly pointed to the alleged location of the biting — on the second floor of the executive mansion — and told the friend: “Look, the Secret Service are never up here. It didn’t happen”. He added that Mr Biden thought “somebody was lying ... about the way the incident had gone down”.
C’mon, man, stop the malarkey. First the poor old guy has to keep quiet around Secret Service agents who he thinks might be spying on him. Then, those agents spread all kind of lies about his dog. 

Next thing you know, someone will be stealing his favorite Jello cups right out of the Oval Office refrigerator. There is nobody you can trust in Washington.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

DS Agent Complaints Boiling Over to News Media, Something to Watch

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Did Harry Dunn Case Save the Chinese Consul General in Manchester From Arrest?

So after two months of thinking it over, the UK has finally decided to expel the Chinese consular officials who roughed up a British National (Hong Kong) protester outside the consulate. Am I completely crazy for thinking it might not be a coincidence that the decision came one week after the sentencing in the Harry Dunn case? 

Call me crazy, but I notice that consular officers are not accorded diplomatic immunity. They have their own consular immunity under international law, but that is more limited than the diplomatic kind, especially in that it does not include immunity to the criminal jurisdiction of the host country except in cases directly relating to consular functions. 

In other words, those consular officers in Manchester could have been arrested and prosecuted. That is not just a theoretical option. A few years we arrested the Indian CG in New York, and Italy convicted in absentia and extradited a U.S. consular officer who had served in Milan. 

Well, well, well. What's all this then? Rt Hon Cleverly is missing a good one here because he certainly could have arrested those Chinese offenders, just as surely as he could not have arrested the American driver in the Dunn case, since she enjoyed the diplomatic kind of immunity. 

That example of the U.S. Vice Consul in Milan is especially pertinent since her case turned on exactly this point that a consular officer - vice a diplomat or an Admin and Technical staffer - does not enjoy immunity from criminal jurisdiction except for acts related to their consular function. The lawsuit she filed against Hillary Clinton (here) confirms that she was serving in Milan as a consular officer, having previously served as a Political Officer (a diplomatic agent) in Rome. 

Of course, as a consular officer, her status under international law did create this interesting argument in her defense:
"De Sousa categorically denies having any involvement in the alleged kidnapping of Abu Omar. She also rejects the allegation that she was a principal planner of the alleged operation. Even if the allegations were true, though, her actions clearly fell within the scope of her official duties and thereby entitle her to diplomatic/consular immunity."
I believe lawyers call that kind of thing 'arguing in the alternative,' as in, “my client the Consular Officer didn’t do it, but, even if she did do it, that crime would have been part of her job and therefore covered by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.” The Chinese CG might have tried that defense. 

Getting back to the UK Foreign Office and Rt Hon Cleverly, I just wonder whether his long delay in booting those Chinese officials from the UK had something to do with the timing of last week’s judicial empty gesture in the Harry Dunn case.     

Did the UK decide not to arrest and charge those Chinese gentlemen due, at least in part, to the complete impossibility of ever explaining to the public that the American driver in the Dunn case had immunity and the Chinese Consul General in Manchester did not

That could have turned into quite the public opinion disaster, and just as they had gotten the Dunn case settled. Don’t tell me there aren’t any FO or PM staffers who would have thought along just those lines.

Stranger things have happened in government.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

After the Sentencing, Some Lessons Yet to Learn

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly posted a press release yesterday on the sentencing of Anne Sacoolas:
Anne Sacoolas has finally been sentenced in a British court.
Since Harry’s death in August 2019 we have been clear that Ms Sacoolas should return to the UK to face British justice.
Since she chose not to, virtual hearings were arranged as the most viable way to bring the case to Court and give justice to Harry’s family.
I want to pay tribute to the incredible resolve of Harry’s family and I hope that the judgment provides some closure.
We have learnt important lessons from this tragic incident, including improvements to the process around exemptions from diplomatic immunity and ensuring the US takes steps to improve road safety around RAF Croughton.
Oh, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has some more lessons yet to learn, if we are to take that press release at face value. 

First, diplomatic immunity is exercised by the sending state and not by the individual concerned. She did not choose to not return for the sentencing, she followed the USG's instruction that she not return. The choice was not for her to make, and neither the sending state (us) nor the host state (them) is free to choose whether or not to abide by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and international law.
No one but the Dunn family actually thought she would ever return. 

Foreign Secretary Cleverly knows all this, so that press release of his is really constituent service, at best, or more cynically, a pandering to the outrage mob hoping that it will chase the bait he’s thrown it and not come after him. 

And that's the next lesson he has to learn, because the family's manic 'advisor' is a grandiose narcissist who lives for the validation he gets from whipping up a mob.

He has lots of material to work with in the next couple years, and much of it he'll fling right at the Foreign Secretary. 

Try to dodge the torches and pitchforks, Rt Hon Cleverly.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Harry Dunn Case Ends in Suspended Sentence, Plus Declaration of War on "the Real Enemy"

Right from the start, which was three years and three months ago, the tragic death of Harry Dunn presented a political problem for the UK authorities. It's bad optics when a person with diplomatic immunity causes a road traffic fatality, because every government knows the protected party will be allowed to depart the host country and not be prosecuted. Persons with such status are immune to the criminal jurisdiction of the host country under international law. 

In President Obama's words - when referring to an incident in Pakistan several years ago - diplomatic immunity is a principle that all nations of the world have adopted in their mutual interest. Yes, it is. We do it, the British do it, and everybody else does it, too.  

In the Dunn case we have the rare situation of a host government which got so much internal political pressure that it transgressed that principle by charging an immune person with a crime and requesting that the sending state extradite its protected citizen back to the host country for prosecution. Social media was probably the critical factor in bringing that much pressure via a riled-up public.

Skipping ahead two years, the UK prosecutors (Crown Prosecution Service) evidently entered into extended negotiations with the defendant's lawyers and, most likely, U.S. government parties, to come to a compromise in which the CPS would go through the motions of a trial while the immune party would stay out of the UK's jurisdiction, making any sentence a judge might impose an empty gesture. In fact, "empty gesture" were exactly the words used by the judge at today's sentencing hearing to describe any arrest warrant she might issue. 

But, a sufficiently stern empty gesture maybe would placate the victim's family, or so I imagine they thought.

After seeing today's sentencing hearing and the statements made by the family afterward, it's clear that strategy was a big mistake. It would have been far better for the USG to simply refuse to waive immunity and otherwise stand silent. At most, we should have repeated Obama's statement and then said nothing more. 

If you have any interest in the case you probably watched the judge's presentation in court today and know the bottom line: a suspended sentence of eight months incarceration and disqualification from driving for one year. The judge arrived there by finding, first of all, that the defendant's offense of careless (vice dangerous) driving was "not far short" of dangerous, thereby justifying incarceration for a period of 15 months. Then, she acknowledged some mitigating circumstances which reduced the sentence to only eight months. All just hypothetical, really, since the judge several times made it clear that she would have no practical way to enforce either a custodial or non-custodial sentence on someone not in her jurisdiction. 

The most interesting of the mitigations was a statement the USG provided the court to the effect that it advised the defendant not to return to the UK for the sentencing hearing, despite the judge's order that she return, since doing so would place significant U.S. interests at risk. 

And that was that. If the family had been in the least placated by those results, then maybe it wouldn't have been a massively bad idea to strike a compromise between immunity and punishment. But, once the hearing was over, the family and its 'spokesman' took to the Sky News cameras outside the courthouse and made it clear that, far from being satisfied, they are only getting started on public incitement and verbal abuse of the defendant. 

Naturally the first to speak was the blowhard spokesman who said, among other things, that "our real enemy here is the U.S. government." The UK government is in his sights, too, since he promised an extensive coroner's inquest "hopefully sometime next year" plus a parliamentary inquiry and "extensive discussions with the Foreign Office." He ended by repeating his declaration of war on the USG: "if they want a war, they've got a war."

Next up was not the Dunn family but instead the spokesman's son, whose name I didn't quite catch but I think it was "Fredo." He joined in his old man's feckless declaration of war against the dastardly Americans, and even added "me and my team will focus on exposing them." He has a team? How cute. 

Finally the mother got a word in, calling the sentence "pretty much what we expected" and making some bitter remarks about the defendant, the saddest and most revealing of which was that it's "unfair how she's getting on with her life."      

The mother also replayed her emotional victim statement for Sky News, since it was not streamed on the court video. 

The interview ended with the added attraction of some live Sky News video from Washington DC in which an obnoxious reporter ambushed the defendant leaving her lawyer's office. The Mum and her spokesman did some color commentary on the attempted ambush interview, and made some more insulting remarks about the defendant.

All in all, it ought to be clear that there is no middle ground when a government maintains diplomatic immunity. Insist on it, point to Obama's excellent statement about it, and then say no more.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The Curtain Rises Tomorrow on the Last Act of the Harry Dunn Trial

After three years and many a twist and turn, tomorrow the American driver in the case will be sentenced in a UK court for the offense of careless driving. Her appearance will be remote via video and she will not be present within the jurisdiction of that court. That obviously restricts any practical sentence the judge could impose, which probably comes down to a suspended sentence, fine, and some form of community service (to be served over here). 

This should be the climax of the legal, diplomatic, political, and personal dramas that have surrounded what would otherewise be an ordinary albeit fatal road traffic accident. Usually, the climax of a drama is followed by a denouement in which the characters get on with their lives. But in this case? No way will the family be satisfied by whatever takes place tomorrow. 

They - meaning, of course, their advisor - have already signaled their outrage by a broadside of tweets and press releases that followed yesterday's announcement by the court that the judge supervising the trial has accepted a joint application by both the defendant and the prosecutor to allow the defendant to remain out of the court's jurisdiction during the sentencing hearing. 

That decision was hardly a surprise, since that's what the defendant did in her two previous court hearings, not to mention that the USG has absolutely and repeatedly refused to waive her diplomatic immunity. The judge could hardly have foreshadowed that decision any more than she had done at the last court hearing, in which she accepted the guilty plea while noting that she is powerless to impose any sentence the defendant doesn't voluntarily accept. 

Surely the family knew all along that they will have to deliver their impassioned victim statements to a video screen and not to their nemisis in the flesh. The outrage they're expressing today must be largely performative, although no one can doubt they are suffering. 

As usual, the family's awful advisor is doing all the talking for them, so take that into account. 

In addition to outrage and phony surprise, he's been displaying his trademark legal incompetence by screaming that "the United States government is now actively interfering in our criminal justice system" when it advised the defendant to appear via video link. Interesting take, since the judge accepted a joint application by both the defendant and the prosecutor to allow a remote appearance. I tell you, a carnival somewhere lost its pitchman when that guy went to law school.

Tomorrow will not be the end of this story, you can be sure. There's the coroner's inquest, the book, the movie, and who knows what else still to come. 

For one thing, there is a whole separate trial still to come of a different fatal traffic accident involving a female USAF service member who, it seems as of now, will be tried in UK civil jurisdiction rather than by U.S. military justice as per our Status of Forces Agreement with the UK. That one has the elements of a second Harry Dunn trial. Brace yourselves. 


Holiday Cheer From DHS (And That's No Disinformation)

It's holiday time once more, and one of the traditional ways we observe the season here in Washington DC is by sending out a new threat advisory to all our fellow citizens from the folks at Homeland Security. Please enjoy

This year's holiday wishes from DHS are really no different from previous years. You can see this post on the same subject from way back in 2008 (!) for instance. 

I get it that these vague 'we-have-nothing-specific-but,-hey,-you-never-know,-anything-could-happen-in-this-crazy-world' advisories are just bureaucratic ass covering exercises. You can't have a DHS without that. But their all-purpose language and the way they are linked to every kind of special occasion make them the USG's version of Hallmark cards. 

As my contribution to the tradition of pointless panic mongering, let me repeat this bit of doggerel from that 2008 post: 

Roses are red, violets are blue, here's a new analytical note for you.  
You might be attacked this holiday season or maybe not, who can tell? (there's no reason). 

Our warnings we can't substantiate, and against them there's no way to mitigate.  
But take it from us and start to panic, one day you'll go down just like the Titanic. 

We've been wrong in the past, but that's OK, al Qaeda will strike again one of these days.  
Maybe not now but someday, and soon, we'll be right if we keep predicting your doom. 

Read us and worry, you never can tell, it will do you no good, but then, what the hell?  
It keeps us employed and no one minds, So believe all our notes and our portents and signs!

Friday, December 2, 2022

Seeking Without Finding in Jordan and DC

It doesn't take a cynic to understand the real meaning of "continues to seek" when USG officials offer it as an excuse. Ahlam Tamini, the supposedly wanted fugitive, continues to hide in plain sight, so if we really wanted her we'd have her by now.

The terrorist who organized a suicide attack on a restaurant in Jerusalem that killed two U.S. citizens and 13 others is on the FBI's Most Wanted list. But if we were really honest with ourselves, we'd move her to a Kinda Sorta Wanted list, because obviously we aren't looking very hard.

Don't we do extraordinary rendition of terrorists any more? We did once. Several administrations ago, our current POTUS said this about rendition:
Rendition is the practice of detaining a terrorist operative in a foreign country and transferring him or her to the United States or to another foreign country. It has proved to be an effective way to take terrorists off the street and collect, on occasion, some valuable information.
Biden then qualified his praise of rendition by positing that "our commitments to the rule of law and civil liberties" are vital to maintaining "foreign coalitions that are significantly more consequential long term and essential to our efforts to combat international terrorism" and therefore a rendition program should be governed by law. 

That was a problem because we sometimes took wanted people away without first getting the permission of their governments, a practice we called extraordinary rendition. 

Concerning Tamini, I have to very much doubt that the monarch who rules Jordan is a big respecter of whatever laws and civil liberties they may have over there in his kingdom. Certainly not when he wants revenge, it would seem, judging by his perfect willingness to order summary executions to retaliate for the brutal murder of one of the pilots. 

Would the King of Jordan really be terribly upset by a little rendition? C'mon man©, of course not. 

And if he were, then is he really a coalition partner that we want? 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Maryland or Virginia, Which Will Win the Jump Ball For a New FBI Building?

The J. Edgar Hoover building is a notorious failure as government architecture. Expensive, dysfunctional, not physically secure, and falling apart. Not to mention an aesthetic monstrosity completely out of step with the rest of DC's Federal Triangle. But just as bad as the building itself is the failure of Congress and multiple administrations to put the thing out of its misery and build a new FBI HQ. 

A replacement HQ is on the table once again, it seems, although I have to question how likely that really is in the lame duck portion of a Democratic administration with a new Republican majority in the House. Those Democratic seats in suburban Maryland and Virginia don't have control of committees anymore, and the FBI has blotted its copybook, as the Brits say, with the Republicans.

Nevertheless, here's the current state of play. GSA announced its site selection process several weeks ago, which has stirred some complaints from the Governor of Maryland. 
The U.S. General Services Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today announced the site selection process for the new suburban FBI headquarters campus in the National Capital Region (NCR).

As part of the Fiscal Year 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress directed the GSA Administrator to select a site “as expeditiously as possible” from one of the three previously identified sites during project planning in 2016: Greenbelt, Md.; Landover, Md.; and Springfield, Va.

“GSA and the FBI are continuing to move forward to accomplish the key milestones outlined by Congress for the FBI headquarters campus,” said GSA Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service (PBS) Nina Albert. “We look forward to undertaking a fair and transparent process to select a site that will best serve the FBI for generations to come.”

“From the beginning, it has been our priority to identify a new headquarters solution that best meets the needs of the FBI and our workforce, and is a good deal for the taxpayers," said FBI Assistant Director for the Finance and Facilities Division Nicholas Dimos. “We appreciate the efforts of GSA to work in tandem with the FBI to craft a clear process to select the location for the FBI's suburban campus within the National Capital Region.”
First of all, notice that no consideration will be given to the option of keeping the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington DC. Why not keep it there, the simple-minded taxpayer might well ask, since that seems the obvious location for a federal government agency.

Well, how many divisions has the Pope? how many votes and committee seats does DC have in Congress? There's your answer. 

In other words, a big load of delicious government money plus unforetold follow-on land developer boodles are on the table and two starving dogs are salivating at the thought of it. The elected officials of Maryland and Northern Virginia are eyeball to eyeball, growling and whining, and it’s anybody’s guess which one will prevail. 

Notice as well that the GSA has taken a real step toward open process and transparency by making its selection criteria public. It added this disclaimer when it made the criteria public, just to point out it's going the extra mile to be fair and evenhanded. 
“Disclaimer: GSA site selection plans are deliberative in nature and are not routinely released prior to selecting a site. GSA is choosing to release the site selection plan in this instance for the sole purpose of facilitating transparency in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Headquarters site selection.”
What's not to like about all that? Well, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Prince George’s County officials started crying the blues over the inclusion of "proximity to existing FBI facilities" as one of the sub-criteria, since those facilities are in Virginia (as are the Federal courthouses most involved with FBI cases). 

Cry away, but proximity is a perfectly legitimate criterion for site selection, even a key one, and Virginia unquestionably has the edge on Maryland there. You’re not going to win that argument, Gov. Hogan.

Please use the GSA link above to view the site selection criteria, particularly Table #1: Overview of Criteria and Weighting Criteria. The weighting of decision factors is all-important. That's the secret sauce in this tasty dish. Whoever decides on the weighting has all but got the final decision in the bag.

Two factors - FBI Mission Requirements and Transportation Access - are weighted 60 percent between them, and according to my understanding of the geography of the suburban DC area, Virginia has the clear advantage over both the Maryland sites. 
The District's government is the third party to this matter, but it's only in the running for the consolation prize of a vacated Hoover Building site, if that. The WaPo has reported that if and when the FBI finally vacates its Pennsylvania Avenue site, "the District would have the opportunity to gain control of the land from the federal government and transform it into housing, retail, and more.”

Housing?? How big do they think the Hoover Bldg site is? There will never be any housing there, if only because that use wouldn’t throw off anywhere near the tax revenue of a hotel or office building. 

And all that is assuming the Fed will someday relinquish the property to DC, which I wouldn’t bet on them doing.

The U.S. taxpayers emphatically do not have a seat at this table, but of they did, they could make some very good arguments for constructing a new HQ right on the site of the old one. 

First of all, there's the biggest factor in any real estate deal - location, location, and location - and the current location next to the Justice Department in the Federal Triangle is ideal for FBI mission requirements. Then, there are the sunk costs that have already gone into its perimeter, utilities, and (presumably) secure communications infrastructure; why pay those costs again for a new site? A new building would require less space due to digitalization and the dispersal of some functions that have taken place since the Hoover building was designed in the 1970s - the fingerprint center was moved to WVA, for instance - and that smaller footprint would allow the new building to have enough setback distance for adequate blast resistance. 

If the GSA has questions about how to design an office building to resist bomb blast, it can see my good friends at OBO for details. They've done that about 170 times in the last twenty years and have it down pat by now.

Most of all, the purchase price for that old site would be zero. I notice site cost is weighted a paltry 10 percent in GSA's selection criteria, so evidently that isn't a big concern for them, but as a taxpayer, I’d like to see it weighted around 50 percent.

There is one other party to this deal that has no seat at the table - the FBI agents who will have to work in the new place. The Washington Post has reported “FBI leadership and its agents' association previously said they want to stay in D.C. close to the Department of Justice,” which I can understand. 

Of course the FBI HQ should stay near the downtown core, that’s a simple matter of mission requirements. But then, that wouldn’t satisfy the raging hunger of our elected officials in Maryland and Virginia for federal bacon.

Hey, FBI Agents Association, when you get yourselves elected to Congress the GSA will take your wishes into consideration. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Watched A Cat Video Lately? Take 50cc of Populism Vaccine and You'll Feel Better In the Morning.

Those populism-fighting injections of fake news vaccine are packaged as cat videos. Yeah, cat videos, and you taxpayers made it possible. 
This strange belief in the persuasive power of cat videos seems to go back a ways, specifically, to one year ago when the New York Times warned all right-thinking Americans that online cat videos might harbor misinformation (i.e., unacceptable opinion, or at most, quibbling over definitions). 

Here's that story from December 2021. And, since that story was behind a paywall, here's the WaPo's article about that NYT article.

There was once a time when you needed a shortwave radio to hear good propaganda, which I used to do over Radio Moscow. When the propagandists of the old USSR wanted to stretch a point or zoom past some questionable logic, they would simply preface a statement with the phrase "as is well known." A good forthright lie, and nothing that would trouble an audience that was already listening to Radio Moscow.  

I like that approach much better than the complicated rationalization schemes that lie behind our global engagement center's ridiculous cartoons.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Funny Thing About High-End Residential Security

You can see that funny thing in the photo above. A multimillion-dollar residence, this one happens to be owned by the high government official who is third in line of Presidential sucession, something which has brought unwanted attention to the place, that is equipped with CCTV cameras and various alarm systems, presumably also with some kind of access control devices on the exterior doors, and even occasional security presence outside, but for which nobody thought to provide any kind of barrier against forcible entry. I find that odd. 

See the broken glazings in those french doors at the rear of the house? The fact that some shattered glass is still hanging in the frame is a big clue that the glazings are of laminated safety glass - the same thing you have in your car's windshield - and that material is tough enough to require a few good whacks of a tool to break through, although it is still, obviously, not a forced-entry barrier that would keep even the dumbest intruder outside until police can respond. 

What accounts for that oversight? The homeowners no doubt employ expensive help of all kinds to design, build, and maintain that very nice house in San Francisco. Possibly a security consultant as well? At least, we may be sure they get home security advice from the U.S. Capitol Police. And yet when an intruder came with a hammer, the only things he faced were cameras and alarms, none of which hindered him in the least.

It's as if all the people who gave security advice or sold services to the Pelosis have a repertoire that runs the gamut from A to B - cameras to alarms - and they have no idea what to do about a nut case who brings a hammer.  

Actually, judging by my own experience, that's exactly the way it is for all private sector security contractors and 90 percent of their government sector counterparts. 

At least the incident in San Francisco has reportedly raised questions about home security for Congress.
“Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger sent a memo to House offices on Saturday calling the attack “a somber reminder of the threats elected officials and families face in 2022” and outlining existing security resources that lawmakers have, including residential security assessments and law enforcement coordination.” 
-- snip -- 
“Congress has doled out money to help fortify the Capitol complex in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack. And, in response to pressure from lawmakers, members were informed earlier this year that the House sergeant-at-arms would cover up to $10,000 for security equipment at their homes.”

$10K is enough to pay for consumer grade home alarms, but once again it seems no one is thinking about actual physical barriers of the kind that can keep an attacker outside the house while alarms do their thing to get a police response started. 

The Capitol Police would be well advised to consult with their government partners a little more broadly and find some who have expertise in hard physical barriers - that is, with walls, doors, and windows - that delay forced-entry attacks. 

I'll get them started by pointing to a supplier of French doors that can resist tool attacks. There! As a public service, you can have that advice at no cost.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Somebody Just Woke Up After a Long Deep Sleep

The ACLU must have set its alarm clock for one week before the mid-term elections, because just yesterday they opened their eyes and tweeted out that old bromide about what the First Amendment is for. 

Well, quite a bit has changed while they were asleep the past two years. Maybe they'll catch up on all that's gone on between DHS and the IT industry if and when control of the House and Senate flips to the Republicans.


She Used Her Personal Phone and Email For Official Business to Avoid Openness and Accountability?

Well, well, well. What's all this then? 

High government officials doing their official business over personal phones and personal email to avoid freedom of information laws, that's what. And in the case of fleeting PM Liz Truss - the Queen Slayer - that evasion may come back to bite her. 

Truss evidently lacks Hillary's willingness to simply lie and deny when caught breaking the law

It seems they have a lot to learn about modern democracy over there.

State Magazine Notes the Cost in Lives For 75 Years of Diplomacy in Pakistan

It's quite a good article, which you can read here:
One sobering statistic is that 19 U.S. civilian and military personnel have lost their lives in the line of duty, from terrorist attacks and in an airplane crash in Pakistan. Four died in a single day in 1979 when a mob attacked the old U.S. Embassy, trapping nearly 140 American and Pakistani employees and a journalist in a secure suite of rooms for hours as violent vandals ransacked and burned the compound in Islamabad. A Marine corporal died of a gunshot wound while observing the mob from a roof, an Army warrant officer perished in a fire in a residence building, and two Pakistani staff members died of asphyxiation elsewhere on the compound. 
Two Embassy employees died in a terrorist attack in 2002, two in 2006, three in 2008, one in 2009, three in 2010, and two as recently as 2016. Additionally, Ambassador Arnold Raphel and Army Brig. Gen. Herbert Wassom died in a plane explosion that also killed then-President Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in 1988.
That's quite a toll for maintaining a diplomatic presence and advancing our national interests in a country that is not currently having a war or revolution.

Requiescat in pace

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Sentence in Harry Dunn Case to Depend Upon Display of Remorse

Here's the best of today's news reports on the Harry Dunn trial, US citizen Anne Sacoolas urged to prove ‘genuine remorse’ over Harry Dunn death, in which the judge urged the defendant to return to the UK for sentencing about one month from now as a display of remorse, with the implication that she will calibrate the sentence in accordance with the requisite remorse.
Adjourning sentencing until next month, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told Sacoolas that although she could not compel her to face justice in person, it would provide “weighty evidence” of “genuine remorse”. 
Speaking outside court, Mr Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles said that “of course” she wants Sacoolas to return to the UK to be sentenced. 
Mrs Charles told the PA news agency: “I do very much hope that she listens to the judge’s words and makes the effort to come back because that will truly show us all how remorseful she is.
Of course, the judge also acknowledged that she has no power to compel a return, or anything else, frankly, since the U.S. will not extradite someone with diplomatic immunity. 

What will the judge do, you may wonder, if the defendant remains outside the UK on sentencing day? Impose a longer suspended sentence? Because that's just the kind of futile gesture she has available to her. 

As for the prosecutor, he'd made peace with his surrender on the Crown Prosecution Service's preferred charge of dangerous driving, and noted that the defendant's plea to a lesser offense had been negotiated with both the family and his higher-ups.
“The plea that has been entered was one indicated at magistrates’ court and indicated indeed before that as being offered by the defendant. 
“It has been considered at the very highest level and with the very greatest care and with close consultation with Harry’s family.”

We'll see if that close consultation survives when the defendant does not return.  


Plea Accepted in Harry Dunn Trial, Sentencing to Follow, Judge Concedes Powerless to Compel Return to UK

That's one more step to a conclusion of this long drawn-out affair. Not the last step, though, since we've still got to get a sentence that can be served in the U.S. and presumably consisting of nothing more than a fine and community service, just as the defendant has offered to do all along. 

The big deal today was that the Dunn family has evidently lowered its expectations to accept a conviction on the lesser charge of careless driving. That's a climb-down from what they've apparently been insisting on until now, and thus tying the hands of the Crown Prosecution Service.  

So, first we'll have the sentencing, then the public humiliation of the defendant - at least, we will if the UK tabloids have anything to say about it - as she does whatever that community service consists of. Followed by the coroner's inquest that the family has been calling for, which in the UK must come after any criminal proceeding despite the evident pointlessness of that sequencing. 

And after that, what happens? At best, the UK public loses interest in the matter, with a consequent loss of its political utility. At worst, the family takes offense at a piddling sentence and spends the rest of their lives the same way they're spent the last three years. 

Since I'm an optimist, I hold onto the crazy hope that the mum will finally see through her charlatan 'advisor' and denounce him for the three years of wrong information, alienating bombast, and malignant narcissism that he's subjected her to. (Most unlikely, but I can hope.) 


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Harry Dunn Case Finally Has a Criminal Court Hearing, But Defendant Stays Out of the Jurisdiction

It was all of six minutes long and entirely administrative, with the only result being that the American defendant was ordered to appear at another court on October 27 where she will be charged. Exactly with what remains to be determined. The prosecutors want to charge her with dangerous driving - which carries a 14 year maximum - and the defendant's side wants to plead guilty to a lesser charge of careless driving.

Of course, the basic reality is that the defendant is agreeing to participate in this trial purely out of concern for the overall diplomatic relationship between our two countries, I assume. The UK High Court has already affirmed that she had immunity to the criminal jurisdiction of the UK, and that is an ironclad defense against even so much as having to give testimony, much less to ever returning to the UK.   

Far and away the best reporting on today's hearing was in this Daily Mail UK article. With all that dialog it seems like a practically verbatim transcript. 
Her lawyers indicated she would plead guilty to the lesser charge of death by careless driving, which carries the maximum of five years imprisonment, the court heard.

Sacoolas had diplomatic immunity asserted on her behalf by the US government following the collision outside RAF Croughton, and was able to leave the UK 19 days after the incident.

Wearing a blue suit jacket and a spotted scarf, she appeared next to her lawyer Amy Jeffress via video-link from the United States for the six-minute hearing.

Harry's parents Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, alongside Harry's twin brother Niall, arrived wearing either a green tie or a green scarf in memory of the teenager.

Sacoolas looked straight ahead throughout the hearing.

Asked to confirm her name she said: 'Hi, I'm Anne Elizabeth Sacoolas.'

She went on to confirm her date of birth as August 28, 1977.

Her barrister, Ben Cooper, KC, said: 'I just wish to confirm for the record there is no indication of plea in relation to the charge of death by dangerous driving.

'There will in due course be a guilty plea to the charge of death by careless driving.'

Prosecutors will have to decide whether that plea is acceptable to them or not, the court heard.

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson, KC, said: 'She is charged with causing death by dangerous driving which is an indictable only offence and we therefore invite her case to be sent to the Crown Court.'

The offence of causing death by dangerous driving carries the maximum of 14 years.

Sending the case to the Old Bailey, chief magistrate Paul Goldspring told the defendant: 'I hope you followed most of that.

'The first thing I have to do is send your case to the crown court.

'I'm going to grant you unconditional bail in this case - that means there are no restrictions from the court on you.'

The chief magistrate told Sacoolas she would be required to appear in person at the Old Bailey.

He said: 'That may change because there will be a joint application to allow you to attend by video-link as you have today.

'Do you understand?'

Sacoolas replied: 'Yes.'

The Dunn family told the PA news agency they would not be commenting on the case until the conclusion of criminal proceedings.

Sacoolas, whose address was not provided to the court as the chief magistrate was content with her lawyer's address being provided instead, was granted unconditional bail to appear at the Old Bailey on October 27.
Note that the defendant has local British representation, and from a "formidable defence advocate" no less.
A "formidable defence advocate" who "is tireless in representing defendants." He is particularly experienced at handling US extradition requests and also highly capable of conducting extradition cases relating to complex human rights issues." One of the best senior juniors in extradition. He completely immerses himself in the case." "His dedication to the cause is impressive. He is very well known for high-profile American cases, which he does very well due to his extensive experience." - Chambers and Partners 2019
That phrase he's “one of the best senior juniors” has a little Monty Python-ish feel, doesn't it? Well, senior / junior or what have you, the Barrister will get even more well known for handling high-profile American cases after this one.

Lastly, there are the parents and family of the victim. They have shown an impressive message discipline the last several months, avoiding public events and media opportunities. They didn't even show up for the lame motorcycle protest at U.S. Embassy London on the third anniversary of their son's death. Their horrendous advisor has done all the media work lately, and that has amounted to little more than a few re-tweets. 

I can only read between the lines, but it seems that the family's demands for maximum criminal punishment have tied the hands of the Crown Prosecution Service until now, just as they seem to have screwed the pooch by rejecting an initial settlement offer and driving their first set of U.S. lawyers away in the civil suit that was finally settled one year ago this month. 

Now that the defendant has offered a guilty plea to the lesser offense of careless driving probably followed by some court-ordered community service in the USA, will the prosecutors allow the family's demand for emotional satisfaction to override their judgment as to what's achievable when you have a defendant who has diplomatic immunity and doesn't actually have to play along with any Crown court?

I give it only 50-50 odds that the CPS will accept that offer. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

POTUS In London: You Die, We Fly

He and his retinue, almost alone among heads of state attending the funeral, will not queue up to ride in electric buses for the ceremony. No, POTUS will have his customary G-ride which will be surrounded by seemingly dozens of the most heavily armored support vehicles on earth, and none of them green. 

On a totally unrelated matter, isn't that British term "queue" rather poetic? The first letter says it all, and is followed by four more letters that wait silently in line.  

Friday, September 16, 2022

I've Seen 4 and I've Seen 8 (percent inflation), I've Seen Sunny Days and Higher Market Rates


I didn't know until today that old song is about suicide, heroin addiction, and a mental hospital. It's true. Here's an old NPR story about it, Fire and Rain:
Taylor wrote "Fire and Rain" in 1968. The song has three verses. One is about a friend who committed suicide, another is about Taylor's addiction to heroin, the third refers to a mental hospital and a band Taylor started called The Flying Machine.
Those are weirdly appropriate references if Taylor wants to be the troubadore for Biden's upbeat publicity event about consumer price inflation, which is currently eating away at the value of all your money at an annual rate of over eight percent. It's insane to deny that reality, but our government is addicted to spending, and we'll need to put the economy in treatment for a long time before it begins to recover. 

Biden, by the way, keeps declaring victory over inflation even as objective reality (and the NYT) tells us the Consumer Price Index has hit new highs and the stock market new lows.

Inflation was bad in 1968, too, at over 4 percent, but not half as bad as it is today, when we are seeing the largest increase in forty years (9.1 percent for the year that ended in June, 2022). 

Call me crazy, but when I watch the new-ish White House spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre (pronounced Cringe John P Air, I think), dismiss the realities of the latest inflation report, I have never missed Marie Harf more. 

Marie, if you're out there, please take a job at the White House and save these people from themselves.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

HRC Had Exactly 193 More Than Zero Emails That Were Classified

"The fact is that I had zero emails that were classified." 

Oh, really? The FBI and the DOJ Inspector General have shown otherwise. So did the IGs at DOS and the Intelligence Community as long ago as 2014. In fairness, there was some back-and-forth over details at first – such as whether the emails were classifiable at the time they were drafted or only became classifiable later – and there was quibbling, such as Senator Feinstein’s excuse that Hillary didn’t send any of the classified emails that she received on her personal server, but all that dust had settled by 2018 when the DOJ Inspector General issued a 500-page report that is the last word on the matter of Hillary’s emails. 

Specifically, that last word was: “193 individual emails that were classified from the CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET levels at the time the emails were drafted on UNCLASSIFIED systems and sent to or from Clinton’s personal server … Seven of the 81 email chains contained information associated with a Special Access Program (“SAP”).” 

The OIG report even quotes former FBI official Peter Strzok, whose utter hated of Trump is beyond question, as noting that the FBI’s belated discovery of emails which had classification markings on them disproves Hillary’s flat denial that she had ever received material that was marked classified. 

Here’s the key passage from that DOJ report, on pages 74 and 75: 

None of the emails, including those that were found to contain classified information, included a header or footer with classification markings. As we discuss further in Chapter Seven, this absence of clear classification markings played a significant role in the decision by the Midyear prosecutors to recommend to Attorney General Lynch in July 2016 that the investigation should be closed without prosecution. According to the LHM [the FBI’s closing Letterhead Memorandum (LHM) summarizing the Clinton email server investigation], the FBI, with the assistance of other USIC [U.S. Intelligence Community] agencies, identified “81 email chains containing approximately 193 individual emails that were classified from the CONFIDENTIAL to TOP SECRET levels at the time the emails were drafted on UNCLASSIFIED systems and sent to or from Clinton’s personal server.” In other words, the USIC agencies determined that these 81 email chains, although not marked classified, contained information classified at the time the emails were sent and should have been so marked. Twelve of the 81 classified email chains were not among the 30,490 that Clinton’s lawyers had produced to the State Department, and these were all classified at the Secret or Confidential levels. Seven of the 81 email chains contained information associated with a Special Access Program (“SAP”), which witnesses told us is considered particularly sensitive. The emails containing Top Secret and SAP information were included in the 30,490 provided to the State Department. 

In June 2016, near the end of the investigation, investigators found three email chains, consisting of eight individual emails, that “contained at least one paragraph marked ‘(C),’ a marking ostensibly indicating the presence of information classified at the CONFIDENTIAL level.” According to a June 13, 2016 text message exchange between Strzok and Page, the emails containing the “(C)” portion markings were part of the 30,490 that Clinton’s attorneys had provided to the State Department in 2014 but the FBI did not notice them until June 2016 after the IC IG discovered them. By that point in time, as discussed in Chapter Six below, Comey had been drafting his statement announcing the closing of the investigation. Strzok wrote to Page that “DoJ was Very Concerned about this .... Because they’re worried, holy cow, if the fbi missed this, what else was missed?” Strzok further wrote, “No one noticed. And while minor, it cuts against ‘I never send or received anything marked classified.’” According to the prosecutors, Mills, Abedin, and Jake Sullivan were each parties to at least one email in the chains with the (C) markings. However, none of them were ever asked about the emails, because the FBI had not discovered the markings before their interviews and did not seek to reinterview them.

Oh yes, the little "(C)" marking. Bill Clinton, in a rare wingman role, once tried to explain that away.

Here's a link to the report, "A Review of Various Actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice in Advance of the 2016 Election" dated June 2018.

So she did have emails on her private server that were classified, all the way up to the TS and SAP levels. That is a fact, and by now it's old news. 

How does Hillary expect to get away with denying that reality today, you might wonder? Well, the same way she has always gotten away with it in the past. Deny, deny, deny, and wait for your embarrassed voters and supporters to drop the subject. 

There must be a reason why hardly anyone names their daughter Hillary anymore. See this WaPo story for a chart that shows the popularity of the name taking a drastic nosedive in 1992. That was the same year Bill Clinton first ran for President and the American public were introduced to the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock. The Ozark Evita. 

Possibly the name suffers from the moral exhaustion that comes from ignoring Hillary’s endless lies and prevarications. Don’t take my word for it; even her supporters can only shake their heads sadly when her lies run up against an IG report, as they have done before.


How does she keep getting away with it? I suppose, like Bill Clinton, her superpower is the ability to make other people lower their standards. 

It’s never really politically convenient to hold either of them to account, so Official Washington and its news media establishment will only shake their heads yet again and move on.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Battling Chinese Encroachment Into Our Arctic Interests

The Department is looking for a Chief of Mission who can handle cold temps and long, dark, winters. 

Establishing an Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic Region
The Ambassador-at-Large for the Arctic Region will advance U.S. policy in the Arctic, engage with counterparts in Arctic and non-Arctic nations as well as Indigenous groups, and work closely with domestic stakeholders, including state, local, and Tribal governments, businesses, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, other federal government agencies and Congress. The United States remains committed to constructive cooperation in the Arctic, foremost through the Arctic Council, and the Ambassador-at-Large will work in close partnership with the U.S. Senior Arctic Official, the federal Arctic science community, and the Arctic Executive Steering Committee. 
We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the Congress to swiftly confirm the Ambassador-at-Large, once a nomination is sent to the Senate.
For once, wealthy Donor-Ambassadors will not elbow their way to the front of the line. 

I'd get in line for that job myself, since I've always wanted to go to the artic. I already have a good down jacket, and I think that my old magnetic compass will work above the artic circle.

At a minimum I could TDY-it to that new mission. If they need a frozen Fortress Embassy there I'll be right on it.

On Third Anniversary, Harry Dunn Supporters Continue to Search For Unspecified Justice

The GB News story was typical of UK media this weekend, that is, lots of calls for "justice" but no details about what that would mean, exactly. 

Oddly, the family did not show up in any news media interview or public event. Their spokesman was reduced to retweeting news articles on the anniversary observance and inviting supporters to light cyber candles. 

The only concrete action was taken by a small group of bikers - hardly more than a dozen, judging from photos - who parked their bikes in a pedestrian garden in the vicinity of U.S. Embassy London and ran their engines and horns for one minute.

So, take that, Uncle Sam! (Assuming, of course, that whoever was present in the embassy on a Saturday morning could hear anything through the blast-resistant windows of the building.) Know that those protestors promise to be back for another minute next year, and every year, and be properly chastised.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

If You Can't Get Hungover in Moscow, Where Can You?

See the purported video from Embassy Moscow: here

Okay, he doesn't look like he would be in shape to drive. But give him a break, it was 5:18 in the AM!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

24 Years Ago Today

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Wrongful or Rightful, Don't Roll the Dice if You Can't Pay the Price

If you've been following the case of Marc Fogel, the U.S. citizen teacher at Moscow's Anglo-American School who has been sentenced to 14 years after he was caught bringing a small quantity of cannabis into Russia, then you've probably seen the story in the WaPo today which quoted his wife and family. That story had the first fairly solid details about his connection with U.S. Embassy Moscow that I've seen so far. 

Here are a few key quotes:
In suburban Pittsburgh, Jane Fogel has been watching the Griner case spool out and wondered whether her husband has been forgotten. Griner’s wife, Cherelle, received a call from the president. The Fogels have been stalled at the mid-functionary level of the U.S. State Department.
Don’t underestimate mid-level functionaries, I say. That’s where the real work of government gets done. 
He’d packed 14 vape cartridges of medical marijuana into his suitcase, stuffing some in his shoes, and placed some cannabis buds in a contact lens case, his wife said. Jane said she had no idea he’d done it. But why take such a risk? “It’s pretty simple,” his son Ethan said of his father’s plan to bring medical marijuana into Russia. “He thought he could get away with it.
Oh? Very simply, I thought I could get away with it, your Honor is not something you should ever say in court. Nor will it get you much sympathy from the American public, I don't imagine. I’m beginning to understand the reason for that long sentence. 

Now, here's the part I found most interesting, because it cleared up some of the confusion in earlier news stories about Fogel's purported diplomatic immunity.
In previous years, they’d received visas sponsored by the U.S. Embassy that labeled them “technical employees,” a term of art that allowed them to work in Russia at the invitation of the embassy and afforded them certain diplomatic protections, even though they were not employed by the U.S. government. The embassy was involved because the school had been chartered by the American, British and Canadian embassies but overseen by a separate school board. The change in the Fogels’ visa status took place in 2021 when the school transitioned to being a nonprofit institution.
“Technical employees” who enjoy “certain diplomatic protections” sounds an awful lot like Administrative and Technical staff status. I've worked with a number of international schools that enroll USG dependents, but never before have I come across one that had an official connection to an embassy. From what I've learned about the history of AAS Moscow, I expect that some sort of quasi official status may have been necessary in order to get U.S. citizen teachers to work in Moscow during the years of Cold War and post-Cold War harassment. 

Getting back to today's WaPo story, the family is making a public pitch to persuade State and the White House to define Fogle as being wrongfully detained, and therefore to include him in the possible prisoner swap that might be in the works for two others prisoners who are so defined. 

The criteria for wrongful detention status are in the Robert Levinson Act, and, frankly, I don't see how they apply to Fogel's situation. There are some large differences between the circumstances of his arrest and that of Brittney Griner. 

Fogel was not a visitor to Russia, having lived and worked there for ten years, if news reports are correct. He can't credibly claim to be naïve about the place. 

Until recently he'd had some kind of connection to the U.S. embassy and reportedly even some level of diplomatic immunity as a result, and that seems to have caused extra Russian interest in him. According to a TASS report, "Mark Fogel was a teacher of an Anglo-American school, and previously served as a US embassy employee in Moscow. Prior to May 2021, he and his spouse enjoyed diplomatic immunity. According to one investigation version, he could have used it to establish a drug smuggling channel for distribution among the students of the school." 

Fogel had concealed his weed and cannabis oil in his luggage, packing them in a contact lens case wrapped in plastic and stuffed inside a sneaker. Unlike Griner, he couldn't use the ooops!-I-forgot-I-left-those-there defense. 

Fogel stated he has a medical need for marijuana, but his credibility suffers due to the very small amount he had in his luggage - ironically - given his claim to need the drug for pain management. He had less than half an ounce, and no way to resupply himself in Russia, where they do not do medical marijuana. Half an ounce seems more recreational than medicinal. 

Those suspicious Russians might have thought Fogel had another stash at home which his wife disposed of after he was arrested. According to a TASS report, "It was determined that his spouse, who was released, managed to get rid of the evidence that was present in the apartment ... Surveillance camera footage shows the woman carrying a bundle outside and throwing it into a dumpster. Later, the woman retrieved it, put it into a plastic bag, and carried it outside of the residence complex.” 

For whatever reason, the Russians were so interested in Fogel's case that they took eleven months between his arrest and conviction. Very unlike Gainer, who was arrested February 17 and put on trial in early July. 

Fogel's situation was raised at the State press briefing of July 26, and the Spokesman's phrasing about "the totality of the circumstances" does not give me the sense that State is very eager to define Fogel as being wrongfully detained.
QUESTION: And then the term “wrongfully detained” has not been applied to the case of Mark Fogel, so can you just explain why that’s the case, given there are some similarities to the crime he committed and the crime that Brittney Griner committed?
MR PRICE: Well, each case is unique. And in determining whether detention is wrongful, determining if the detention is wrongful, we look at the totality of the circumstances. And those circumstances are then weighed against a series of criteria and factors. The Bob Levinson legislation that was passed some years ago, and in fact was just codified in key ways into the EO, defined some of those considerations that we look at.
Yeah, I think Mr. Price might just as well have channeled Sammy Davis Jr. on that response.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

"It is Understood" (by whom is unclear) the UK May Resubmit Extradition Request in Harry Dunn Case Next Month

A couple UK news outlets today are running this odd not-quite-a-news story that promises, but fails to deliver, anything actually new about the Harry Dunn case. 
The confusion starts with the headline. The Dunn family will seek extradition of the American driver "if the criminal case fails?" How's that again? An extradition is necessary to prosecute a criminal case; if the criminal case fails to materialize, then what would be the point of an extradition request? 

Things get even more vague as the story go on.
"Dunn family supporters will call for her extradition if plans for a criminal trial by video link in the UK have not been agreed by the third anniversary of Harry’s death on August 27 2019."
-- snip --
If there is still no agreement by the third anniversary, everyone is primed to resubmit the extradition request,” said a political source. “This cannot go on indefinitely. We cannot do the inquest until the conclusion of the criminal case.”
There are no real sources in the story, just insinuations. Let's see: we have "a political source" saying that "everyone" wants to submit a new extradition request. Only the UK Home Office can do that, but no one in this story speaks for them. Anyway, they already requested extradition and were refused, so how likely is it that they will step on that same rake again? 

"It is understood," the article says, that the Crown Prosecution Service has done such-and-such. But then, no one is quoting the CPS saying anything at all. 

"A government source" is said to refer to the CPS' last public statement on the case, which followed its embarrassing back-down from a court appearance that it had scheduled and then had to vacate, but that's as close as it gets. 

The only one this article quotes by name is the activist lawyer Mark Stephens, who has no apparent connection of any kind to the case, but nevertheless purports to tell us the inside story of what the U.S. and UK authorities are negotiating. Who told him? Maybe it came to him in a dream, since I don't think the authorities in either the U.S. or the UK are on secrets-spilling terms with him. 

The third anniversary of the fatal road traffic accident is no doubt going to be a difficult time for the Dunn family. By talking up more false hopes, their advisors and well-wishers are again showing their instinct for making things worse. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Living the Attache Life in Bike-Friendly Moscow

Purportedly, this was a U.S. military attache in Moscow (source). 

If so, then I can only quote Zed from Men in Black: "Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training."

Friday, June 17, 2022

UK Home Office Signs Off On Assange Extradition (Next Appeal Pending in 14 Days)


Yes, that's our Julian Assange update theme, in honor of the whitest-skinned person to ever come from Australia. 

He's in the news today because the UK Home Office has affirmed the U.S. extradition order that was upheld by the UK High Court in December. 

Assange has spent the last three years fighting extradition from Belmarsh Prison, where the UK authorities put him due to his habit of skipping bail. Before that he spent seven years in the embassy of Ecuador hiding from Swedish authorities who wanted to investgate him on complaints of rape and sexual assault. Now, he has 14 days to appeal the Home Office decision, which of course he will. Depending on how that goes, he'll next appeal to a European human rights court. 

How much longer can he possibly delay his delivery to American justice? Almost indefinitely, I think. At least, he seems in no hurry to leave his life behind the walls, having spent the last ten of his fifty years in what is basically self-imposed confinement. 

Assange is an Australian citizen, improbable as that might seem given his extreme pallor, and he seems to have a supporter in his Foreign Office. As CNN reports:
On Friday, Australia's Foreign Office issued a statement noting the UK decision to extradite Assange, who is an Australian citizen, adding: "We will continue to convey our expectations that Mr Assange is entitled to due process, humane and fair treatment, access to proper medical care, and access to his legal team."
Of course, he can get all that stuff in a U.S. prison. And due process? Assange has gotten exremely undue process, if you ask me. I mean, he's spent ten years fighting a reckoning in a U.S. court that would likely result in a sentence of far less than that. Besides which, he would be able to do that time in an Australian prison thanks to a bilateral agreement.

What the hell, Assange? Would you rather spend the next ten years in Belmarsh than face the music in a U.S. court and get it over with?

Thursday, June 2, 2022

White House Press Secretary Can't Help CBS News


C'mon, man! I wish the White House press office would stop the malarkey. 

The new Assistant to the President and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told CBS News' Ed OKeefe that she just plain didn't know what he meant when he asked her about President Biden's fanciful claim that he had been appointed to the Naval Academy in 1965. 

She "did not hear that part of the speech ... I need to read it myself, and just go back and see what you're talking about exactly. I can't speak to it right now." 

That anecdote of Biden's was the very first thing he said in his remarks to the graduating class at Annapolis, as you can read for yourself in the transcript put out by Jean-Pierre's very own press office on May 29th. 

I only hope that, somewhere, Marie Harf is warming up to take over the press office. Biden needs some competent help there as he heads into the mid-term elections.