Sunday, December 31, 2023

No Kidding, AMCITs Often Engage in 'Client Aggression' At Consular Hardline Windows

In the halcyon pre-Inman days of embassy security there were no physical barriers at all between Consular Officers and their clients, whether foreign or domestic. "Hardline" walls, doors, and especially windows started to be introduced around 1985-ish, often to furious opposition. 

Those of us who implemented the new requirements had only one reliable ally, and that was the low-level officer who had to sit behind the new windows. The bosses often railed against those windows - which, in fairness, had problems that were yet to be solved, such as poor sound transmission* - but I noticed that the poor officers who had to sit behind them were silently grateful. 

Now, as to AMCITs versus foreigners, any experienced Consular guy that you asked back then told you that the worse threat came from AMCITs. That was so true that when we didn't have the security money to install hardline glass at every consular window at a given post, we prioritized installing it in ACS sections, because those were often the only places the staff had been physical threatened and/or assaulted. 

Being a numbers guy, I researched this phenomenon with CA/EX in order to document the incidence of assaults on Consular Officers - "client aggression" was the term back then - and justify prioritizing security resources on ACS sections. It was counterintuitive maybe, but easily provable, that THAT was where the threat was.

* About that poor sound transmission, consider that office equipment located behind the hardline in those days, especially printers, was incredibly loud. Consider also that there were no privacy booths for most interviews. Add just the slightest touch of deafness on the part of the officer conducting an interview, and you got this kind of thing: "What? Eh? Tell me again, only louder, about all the personal stuff that compels you to come here today, and please disregard the rows and rows of your fellow foreigners who are sitting just feet away from you on that side of the hardline. Now proceed."

Are Self-Interested Domestic and Foreign Parties Spreading Dis-Info About You? That's A Job For Miss Dismal!

This whole mis, dis, and mal information problem just keeps spreading. Now it's the Taliban who are suffering from malicious parties spreading 'wrong' information about them. 

"Welcome to the party, pal," as they say in my favorite New Years Eve movie. [As a public service, please be aware that if you start that movie at exactly 9:58:13 tonight, you'll see Hand Gruber drop off Nakatomi Plaza and hit the ground at midnight. Better than the Times Square ball drop!]

Someone should let the Taliban know that we in the USA have developed robust countermeasures against just such wrong information. I confess to being a little unclear as to exactly who it is who defines 'wrong' from 'right' (and patriotic!) information, but once that wrong stuff is identified we have no end of mysterious and inextricable official justice that we can sic on those malicious parties, be they foreign or domestic. 

Click on the Miss Dismal link to learn more.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

The Harry Dunn Case Sequel Gets Off To a Slow Start But Shows Promise

It isn't the biggest international extradition case, but it's the only one we have right now, and it might yet offer a few tricky plot twists. 

Today a little bit of news came out on the matter of that American driver who left the UK before he could be charged in a traffic accident, all of it attributed to an interview with the driver's father.

Firstly, no one should ever talk to a hostile news media, any more than he should (voluntarily) talk to the authorities. I hope the father in the case will get that message. But, from what he said today we can confirm a few facts that were only hinted at weeks ago when this first became news.

The driver, Issac Calderon, is a private citizen who was working on a contract job in the UK - not further identified - which he obtained due to the security clearance he had been granted as a member of the Texas National Guard. He was released from that job after the traffic accident, leaving him unemployed in the UK. 

His former employer provided him a ticket home, possibly in accordance with whatever terms of employment he had with them. That employer is potentially a major party of interest in this case, if the accident occurred while Calderon was driving on company business, and especially if the employer owned the vehicle he was driving. If that is so, then there must be a UK insurance company involved, you might assume. 

Moreover, the driver was left indigent in the UK, having been released from his job by the time he got out of medical treatment for a concussion and other injuries. That puts a new spin on his decision to leave for home on 25 November rather than wait for a court appearance on 1 December. With no job and no money, was he supposed to live on the street while going through the UK's legal process? 

Here's the gist of the story:
The father of a US citizen who left the UK after being charged with causing a mental health nurse serious injury by dangerous driving has pleaded for donations after the FBI contacted the family about “extraditing him”.
Issac Calderon, 22, is accused of being responsible for a car crash in July which left 56-year-old Elizabeth Donowho unable to walk for six weeks.
Calderon was due to appear at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on December 1 following the incident on the A4103 near Shucknall in Herefordshire.
He was labelled a potential “flight risk” by police, but was able to leave the UK on a commercial flight to Texas on November 25.
A fundraiser has since been set up on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe by the suspect’s father, Manuel Calderon, in which the family are asking for 15,000 US dollars (£11,760) to help with legal fees.
Calderon’s father said the suspect was able to return to the US because “the company that contracted him purchased him a ticket”.
Manuel Calderon said his son, whom he called “Isac”, had been offered a contract job in the UK “due to his security clearance with the Texas National Guard”.
-- snip --
Calderon’s father said his son still has problems with concussion and a fractured humerus following the collision.
In his plea for donations on the crowdfunding page, he said: “My son was released from the contract job shortly after and could no longer support himself in the UK.
“He reported this to the court but they were not concerned with his financial problems. “My son was able to return home because the company that contracted him purchased him a ticket.”
-- snip --
Mr Calderon continued: “My concern for my son was for his wellbeing since at that time he had no funds and still needed his injuries to be looked at.”
Here are some FAQs regarding extradition courtesy of the U.S. Justice Department. It sounds like the process can get very prolonged, what with separate judicial and executive phases to be completed before the final decision is made by the SecState. 

And that SecState has quite a bit of latitude since, according to this publicly available source of information, he "may consider issues properly raised before the extradition court or a habeas court as well as any humanitarian or other considerations for or against surrender ... [and] also will consider any written materials submitted by the fugitive, his or her counsel, or other interested parties." 

Hum. Assume for a moment that all the UK tabloid gossip about 'activities coming under the Official Secrets Act' isn't complete nonsense after all. Were the SecState to find that some U.S. national security interest would be implicated by a trial of Calderon, he would then have to weight that in the balance against the non-fatal injuries done to the British motorist, which hardly rise to the level of serious international crime, after all. 

Throw in some humanitarian concern for our unemployed and convalescing Texas National Guardsman, plus practical consideration of the UK insurance settlement that we may presume to have been made to the victim, and who knows if he might not decline extradition?

Anyway, there would be enough of an argument there to fuel a good old rousing social media circus. 

Saturday, December 23, 2023

A. Blinken's Surprisingly Direct Statement: Why Does Virtually No One Demand Hamas Surrender?

Everyone would like to see this conflict end as quickly as possible. But if it ends with Hamas remaining in place, and having the capacity and the stated intent to repeat October 7th again and again and again, that’s not in the interests of Israel, it’s not in the interests of the region, it’s not in the interests of the world. And what is striking to me is that even as, again, we hear many countries urging to end this conflict, which we would all like to see, I hear virtually no one saying, demanding, of Hamas, that it stop hiding behind civilians, that it lay down its arms, that it surrender. This is over tomorrow, if Hamas does that. This would have been over a month ago, six weeks ago, if Hamas had done that. And how can it be that there are no demands made of the aggressor, and only demands made of the victim? So it would be good if there was a strong international voice pressing Hamas to do what is necessary to end this. And, again — that could be tomorrow.

I have to say that I have strange new respect for our SecState after hearing that short statement. No equivocating there, no hedging, no 'constructive ambiguity' about his meaning.  

There's probably a story there about how that text got drafted and cleared before he delivered it. What parties in State and the White House agreed with it? Who tried to water it down? Who thought it didn't go far enough? 

That will all have to wait for his memoirs, I suppose.


Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Remake Is Never As Good As The Original (Disappointing Review For Harry Dunn Case Sequel)

You may have seen the news about another car crash in England in which an American driver injured a local citizen. Despite the UK news media's best efforts to make some drama out of it - as in, the driver is 'associated with secret services,' was on his way to visit the SAS base at Hereford, and doing work that might be covered by the Official Secrets Act - all of that is complete bollocks. There's nothing to see here, folks. It's a bland traffic accident.

The only interesting thing about the case is that the driver returned to the U.S. after he was released from hospital, resulting in an arrest warrant being issued for him when he failed to show up at his court date.  

This isn't a case of Harry Dunn redux, with all sorts of interesting matters involving diplomatic immunity, international politics, Britain's Small Man Syndrome, and the ability of social media to make people lose their minds. No, this one is just about a 22-year old private citizen in the UK on a work visa for a job of some kind (TBD) on a U.S. base of some kind (also TBD), who will in due course be rendered back to England to face criminal and civil penalties for injuring, seriously but non-fatally, a fellow motorist. 

Here's as good a news article as any with the few details that are known with any reliability, plus all the baseless speculation and heavy-breathing insinuations of deep, dark, U.S. government skullduggery that the tabloid media, aided by the Dunn family's buffoon of a spokesman, can invent. 

The latest twist in this unremarkable tale is that the UK media have tracked the driver down to the wonderfully named town of Humble, Texas. 

By the way, the original cast of the Harry Dunn Story will get together one more time for the curiously late inquest into his death, which seems to be lightly penciled in for next June. See more on that here. I'll be there with bells on.

Friday, December 1, 2023

"Secretary Anthony Lincoln" Visits Jerusalem, According to U.S. Embassy Jerusalem's Facebook

Okay, his name is "A. Blinken," and I suppose that does present opportunities for screw-ups, but that one screw-up is particularly choice. 

Abe Blinken?

'Gold Bar Bob' Menendez Switches Lawyers, Plus a Co-Defendant Eats Some Cheese

Senator Robert Menendez's legal troubles increase. From the WaPo:
Now The Post can disclose that one of Daibes’ former business partners, who was also a Menendez donor, has been cooperating with Manhattan prosecutors since February 2022, four months before the raid.
Please read the whole article, since it describes a New Jersey nest of organized crime that rivals The Sopranos

Given today's news about a rat, my least favorite corrupt public official might well be channeling Paulie Walnuts: “How much more betrayal can I take?”