Archive for diplomatic corps

How Far Should Diplomatic Immunity Reach


DPL plates

When I was growing up I took a trip with my older brother to New York City. While we were walking around and seeing the sights, I noticed for the first time a license plate that had the "DPL" imprinted on it. I had never seen that before, growing up in the suburbs of Boston. I wasn't exactly a rube, but I wasn't big city either -- at least at that time.

So my big bro pointed out that the initials indicated that these cars belonged to people in the diplomatic corps. They had immunity and could break the law at will and even flaunt it. That was my brother's take and he even pointed out that the DPL car we were looking at was parked in a red zone.

From that time forward, through my years living in major cities, I've noticed lots of DPL cars and maybe not surprisingly, they always were parked in no parking zones or with time expired on the meters. I guess that's because they don't have to pay to park like the rest of us.

My interest was piqued when I caught this on Reuters:

In New York, Devyani Khobragade, a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, was arrested on December 12 on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her housekeeper, an Indian national. She was released on a $250,000 bail.

In an email to colleagues, Khobragade complained of "repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing" and being detained in a holding cell with petty criminals despite her "incessant assertions of immunity".

In essence, this deputy consul was keeping an illegal slave. Let's just be honest here. And when she was subjected to the same treatment as the rest of Americans, her arrogance and immunity took over. She was demanding to be treated better than anyone else.

Maybe my brother was right. Being a diplomat means you can do anything to anyone and get away with any crime, large or small. That may be the way the government sees things, but if the NSA is going to eavesdrop on our calls and emails, maybe they need the power to hold possible criminals who are harboring sleeper cells on our soil.

I'm not saying Khobragade is running a sleeper cell or that her "slave" was a terrorist. But they could be. And this also could all be just one big misunderstanding. But we need to look at what diplomatic immunity really means. Can you come over here, kill an American citizen and just go back to your home country? Actually yes. And it's happened before with Soviet drunk drivers killing pedestrians and all they got was expelled back to their country. The dead victims didn't get to go home. They got planted six feet under. No charges were levied.

Readers Digest wrote about this:

Diplomatic immunity affords foreign diplomats in America a blank check for bad behavior. Unpaid bills, drunk driving, sex crimes and even slavery - what's the recourse?

In early 2005, Virginia police closed in on a suspected child predator — a man in his 40s who cops say drove four hours to meet a 13-year-old girl he’d met on the Internet, promising to teach her about sex. It turned out the girl was really a cop, and officers arrested the man at a shopping mall.

But then it was the police who got an unpleasant surprise. Their suspect, Salem Al-Mazrooei, was a diplomat from the United Arab Emirates — and therefore covered by “diplomatic immunity.” The cops had to let him go. Days later, Al-Mazrooei left the country, never having spent a night in jail.

Now back to the current crisis. The government of India has it tighty-whities all up in a bunch. They're taking retaliatory steps against the US embassy in India. They've taken down the protective barricades which keep our diplomatic corps over there safe.

The measures included a revision of work conditions of Indians employed at U.S. consulates and a freeze on the import of duty-free alcohol.

You know they mean business when they freeze the import of duty-free alcohol.

It's about time we get real here. Respect and privacy are one thing to grant visiting dignitaries. But freedom to overtly break our human rights laws, to become general parking scofflaws and to commit horrific human crimes is not above the law for us, or for them.

So India, spend a bit more time thinking about why you're defending a slave holder and less on making the US presence on your land less safe.

And Obama -- maybe you need to get John Kerry off the plane a little longer to look at the way we are protecting law breakers here under the guise of diplomatic immunity.


Reopening Soon, An Embassy Near You


US Embassy

Last week the US closed 19 embassies, mostly in the middle East and surrounding areas of northern Africa. They certainly had their reasons and no one, especially in the wake of Benghazi, is thinking this was a bad move. But now comes word from The Hill that 18 of the 19 closed embassies will be reopening -- 6 days later than first announced. Again, I'm sure there reasons were sound. And they must feel it's safe. All except in Sanaa, Yemen. That facility will remain closed.

Unless I'm missing something, the world didn't stop during those seven days the embassies were closed. As far as anyone can tell, it was business as usual. The local economies didn't overtly suffer nor did that of the United States.

So doesn't it make you wonder what if we never reopened those facilities? Think of all the manpower we could save? How much more security we could provide to other embassies and the billions we spend on these locations every year? I'm suggesting consolidation here.

US Embassy 2

My proposal isn't to shut down all the embassies. On the contrary. I would suggest we regionalize them. We don't need one in every country. It's nice but not necessary. Perhaps a few in Europe. A few in Asia. A few in the Middle East, South America, and also in Africa. Cut the number down by 75%. Depending on the exact number closed, that would save us well over $250 Billion a year in salaries and facilities, including security. That savings can be spread out to the newer, larger and more comprehensive facilities that we can build. As countries will be wanting us to locate in their country as opposed to a neighboring country, they will provide us with enough land and perhaps even give us some incentives to come to them. Our presence can boost a country's economy and standing worldwide. There is true incentive there. Let's be wanted and courted, not just expected.

By making these embassies regional, we can streamline processes, better serve our citizens traveling overseas and make it easier for the State Department to rapidly respond to issues without having to have as much jurisdictional interference or complications as they exist now.

A forced experiment was performed with the closing of these embassies. And a good lesson was learned. More is not more. Fewer places, more centralized, less redundancy and more responsive. Let an ambassador look over Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands. We don't need three outfits to do that. France, Spain and Portugal can share a facility. See how easy that is? It will enhance the value of good ambassadors, boost the importance of the staff, and make for a much more responsive State Department.

Something to consider as we prepare to reopen 18 embassies.


Video- President Obama Speaks at the Diplomatic Corps Holiday Reception