Last week it was revealed that the State Department failed to disclose a scandal in Brazil involving a senior Diplomatic Security official who injured a prostitute. The official was not fired and apparently was not even disciplined. The incident highlights a dark side of the Foreign Service, which is that a small number of its members prey on prostitutes in host countries and they do so because these diplomats face no sanction for these criminal acts.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal high tolerance for male sex-capades should be rejected as Administration policy.
The solution is for President Obama to not simply announce that such conduct is unacceptable, but for him to actually do something to stops these crimes. The best solution is to begin waiving diplomatic immunity for diplomatic, military and Secret Service sex crimes committed overseas. That will almost instantly stop most of these criminal acts.
In the Brazil scandal, a group of three U.S. Marines attached to the security detail at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, and a fourth person, who was reportedly a senior Bureau of Diplomatic Security supervisor of the Marines, used an official Embassy van to drive to the Apples nightclub for drinks. They apparently parked their vehicle on the street (a security violation) and then went into the club and hired four prostitutes. While in the process of leaving the nightclub location with the four prostitutes, an argument broke out. One of the prostitutes was pushed out of the van and then the van proceeded to run over her. The four Americans fled the scene leaving the unconscious women lying in the street. The victim, Romilda Aparecida Ferreira, suffered a broken collarbone, two broken ribs and a punctured lung. The four Americans were hastily flown out of Brazil and back to the United States. Two of the Marines were demoted and apparently no disciplinary action was taken against the other two Americans. The senior Diplomatic Security official continues to work at the State Department.
The State Department, under its full transparency policy, failed to report the incident. It only came to light last week because the women filed a lawsuit regarding the attack on her and because the sex crime fit into a larger story in the U.S. about Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel in Columbia, Panama and elsewhere who were involved in similar incidents.
An important facet of this story is the comparison between two Executive Departments, which one might characterize as the Departments of Light and Darkness. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, to his credit, stepped forward and met with the press. He detailed the facts, condemned the conduct of his Marines in Brazil and announced that two of his Marines had been demoted. This is what we should expect from our officials. At the State Department, Secretary Clinton refused to address the media, refused to criticize her Diplomatic Security official and she apparently refused to discipline him. Instead, she sent her hapless press secretary out to meet the news media. During a contentious April 25, 2012 press conference, Victoria Newland, apparently forgetting that she is a woman and a representative of the American people who demand that its officials act with honor, refused to answer almost all questions on the incident. She rejected Secretary Panetta’s characterization of the facts and then shamefully stated that any discussion of the incident would violate the privacy of the State Department’s unidentified employee (which is not true at all). Ms. Newland proudly announced that Secretary Clinton had a “zero tolerance” policy for prostitution offenses, but then refused to explain exactly what that meant, because offenders are allowed to keep their jobs. Ms. Newland then made the outrageous comment that Ms. Ferreira’s injuries were her own fault (i.e., that she pushed herself out of the van and then she ran over herself).
This reinforces the terrible mantra of sex offenders that their victims got what they deserve and it is all their own faults.
Reporters leaving the April 25th press conference must have immediately wanted to take a shower to rinse off the bad smell.
Other important questions unanswered at the press conference were:
1. Who at the Embassy in Brasilia authorized the use of the Embassy van and who knew about these off-site escapades?
2. How wide spread is the use of prostitutes by U.S. diplomats?
3. What are the security implications of such criminal conduct?
4. If the security officials are hiring prostitutes, who is left to enforce the rules?
5. Why are security clearances not being revoked for such crimes?
6. Why was the U.S. Ambassador in Brazil (Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.) not fired? Why does the buck not stop anywhere anymore?
7. Where are Senator John Kerry and Congressman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and why is there never any aggressive oversight by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding State Department sex crimes?
The web site “Diplopundit” has published an expose’ on prostitution and the State Department. In its research, confirmed by this reporter, there are published decisions of the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB), which is supposed to review proposed disciplinary action against diplomats.
In FSGB Case No. 2007-11, a Foreign Service Officer was found to have solicited prostitutes up to sixty times at two overseas postings and in both countries such conduct was criminal. The Board affirmed the State Department’s discipline in the case, which was a three-day suspension for up to sixty criminal acts!
FSGB Case No. 2008-048 was filed in October 2008, but continued into 2009. It was one of the first decisions the new Obama Administration had to make when it took office. In this matter, the senior Diplomatic Security official at an undisclosed embassy (who is called the “Regional Security Officer” or RSO) was found to have used local prostitutes, including one young girl under the age of 16. The case did not focus on the adult prostitutes, which no one seemed concerned about. The concern was over the young girl. The State Department finally agreed to separate the official, but the Obama Administration apparently never prosecuted him.
The tacit approval of the current and previous Administrations for sex crimes has impacted world public opinion and that has consequences. In August 2009, an official of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow named Brendan Kyle Hatcher became temporarily infamous when a Russian news outlet, which was linked to the country’s intelligence services, released a video that purported to show Mr. Hatcher frequenting a prostitute. The world’s press immediately accepted this as true and reported it in the worst light. The reason is that sexual misconduct is condoned by “Fifth Floor” officials at the State Department. While the video was later found to be a forgery created to embarrass the U.S., the forgery worked for a time and the U.S. suffered significant bad press. It is the State Department’s own fault that the international press has such a poor opinion of U.S. diplomats, and the Department has only itself to blame when subsequent Embassy statements about an incident are ignored because U.S. Embassy statements have historically lacked credibility.
This leads to a crucial issue of international law. The reality is that American diplomats are not entitled to diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
American diplomats are not entitled to diplomatic immunity because the United States does not adhere to the Vienna Convention.
Diplomatic immunity was never intended to license sex crimes. The concept was that diplomats, depending on their status and notifications to the host government, would only be immune from local process. All the Vienna Convention did was change the venue of the prosecution from the Host Country to the Home Country.
The cornerstone of diplomatic immunity is the agreement that the offending diplomat will be prosecuted in his or her home country, but the U.S. never prosecutes its diplomats.
None of the sex offense cases has apparently ever resulted in an American prosecution. The same occurred in the case of Raymond Allen Davis, a CIA contractor/official who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore on January 27, 2011. After returning him to the U.S., his “prosecution” was quietly shelved and forgotten.
Also shelved by Attorney General Eric Holder was the investigation into the death of Ebadur Rehman, an innocent Pakistani civilian who was run over in Lahore by four U.S. security officials responding to the Davis shooting. Mr. Rehman was killed when the U.S. officials recklessly jumped the median on Jail Road and drove into on-coming traffic. The Americans fled the scene and then fled the country. The Obama Administration has refused to identify or prosecute them. Pursuant to international law, host countries in the future can ignore all U.S. claims of diplomatic immunity because such immunity simply does not exist.
Last week President Obama gave an interview and characterized Secret Service sex crimes as just “a couple of knuckleheads.” Well, with all due respect Mr. President, you should have characterized them as criminals and until you start to do so, the honor and image of the United States will continue to suffer, as will you own standing in the world community.
The loss of diplomatic immunity for American diplomats would be for the better. As there is no stomach in the U.S. to prosecute these sex crimes, the prosecutions should be left to local authorities in the host countries. The procedure should be that when an incident occurs, the State Department temporarily asserts a claim of immunity, keeps the individuals in-country and conducts a preliminary investigation, which should include the use of polygraphs on its personnel. Unless the U.S. inquiry reveals that the alleged offenses are either clearly untrue or a set up, a decision should be made to immediately turn the diplomat over to local authorities. Such a new policy would largely solve the problem.
President Obama needs to make this decision because Secretary Clinton will not. The American news media last week failed to report a non-event, which is the uncharacteristically invisible Secretary Clinton. As sex scandals in Columbia, Panama, Brazil involving U.S. officials were disclosed, she was curiously absent from public view.
Where is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?
There was no condemnation by her of any of these abuses against women and no vows of swift punishment or corrective action. It is to the credit of Secretary Clinton’s publicity machine that she is “renowned” for her support of women’s rights, when the facts reveal the opposite. Publicity photos and fancy speeches about women’s rights cannot replace the reality, which is that the State Department deafening silence regarding the abuse of women by U.S. diplomats and other officials. Such a policy does not merely condone the practices, but encourages them. The Kabul Press has witnessed this in Afghanistan as the U.S. Embassy has consistently refused to condemn the brothels that sprung up in 2001 to service UN and NATO officials and U.S. Embassy security contractors. Like Ms. Newland, other prominent State Department women have also abandoned women victims. UN Ambassador Susan Rice has consistently remained silent on repeated UN peacekeepers sex abuses in Africa.
Rape, sex abuse and preying on children are literally a war on women.
These sordid practices will continue as long as they are pushed back into the darkness. It will be up to President Romney to bring morality back into U.S. foreign policy. The standing of the U.S. overseas will only improve when people can leave a State Department press conference without having to take a shower.