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Secretly, Biden’s Foreign Policies Are Trump’s Foreign Policies

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Though U.S. President Joe Biden is publicly critical of Donald Trump’s foreign policies, he’s continuing almost all of them and is changing only minor ones. The changes are almost entirely in rhetoric, not in policies, as will be documented here.

A good example of this entirely rhetorical ‘difference’ is described in a February 19th article from Reuters, “Drawing contrast with Trump, Biden promises U.S. allies a partnership that’s not transactional”. Biden’s policy, to “promote democracy over autocracies,” condemns Trump’s polices as having been “transactional” instead of based on “values.” But, actually, America’s invasions, and coups, and economic sanctions, during the past few decades, have been ‘justified’ by condemning the U.S. regime’s target-nations (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine before America’s 2014 coup there — and now Ukraine is ‘our ally’) as not being “democratic,” and as not adhering to ‘human rights’, as if the U.S. regime itself were an authentic democracy, or were unquestionably better on human rights than the targets against which its aggressions are directed — none of which is true

If America were a democracy, then why does it have a higher percentage of its residents in prisons than does any other nation on the planet? And they’re almost all poor people, who couldn’t even afford a good lawyer. That’s ‘equal rights’? America is a country of equal rights? And it provides equal opportunity there, if your father went to prison? (Many ex-cons in America aren’t even allowed to vote. And their job-prospects, with a prison record or empty years shown on a CV, are permanently reduced.) Biden condemned “Trump, who angered allies by breaking off global accords and threatening to end defense assistance unless they toed his line. ‘Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional’ [he said].” Liberal hogwash — purely arrogant lies, by the U.S. regime, so that it can continue to perpetrate aggression against its target-nations, while appearing, to suckers, to be a ‘kinder and gentler nation’.

The hypocrisy of that is understood by all of America’s allies — all leaders of the empire’s vassal-nations. They know that many of those allied leaders are, themselves, even more tyrannical than America’s leaders are. For example, on February 16th, the BBC bannered “Princess Latifa: ‘Hostage’ ordeal of Dubai ruler’s daughter revealed”, and reported: “The daughter of Dubai’s ruler who tried to flee the country in 2018 later sent secret video messages to friends accusing her father of holding her ‘hostage’ as she feared for her life. In footage shared with BBC Panorama, Princess Latifa Al Maktoum says commandos drugged her as she fled by boat and flew her back to detention.” Will Biden therefore dump its UAE vassal-nation, for this “problem,” which goes all the way back to the year 2000 and has never yet caused the U.S. regime to drop any ‘ally’?

Another of ‘democratic’ America’s vassal leaders, the one who controls Saudi Arabia, had perpetrated the 2 October 2018 luring into Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (who feared for his life even as he entered there) where he was immediately dismembered and chopped-up by the team of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, and thus was placed on public display how above-the-law Saudi Arabia’s Government really is. The five execution-team-members, whom the Crown Prince had reason to believe might testify against him if released, were sentenced to death. So, anyone who would be hired for such an operation in the future would be a fool to trust that employer. The only real insiders in such a regime are at the very top. ‘Honor among thieves’ doesn’t exist at that high a level. Finally, on 9 September 2019, Turkey’s Daily Sabah newspaper bannered “Saudi hit squad’s gruesome conversations during Khashoggi’s murder revealed”, and reported that

The recordings, which took place before the murder between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, 2018, reveal in detail the plans and preparations made between the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the Riyadh administration.

On Sept. 28, when Khashoggi came to the Saudi Consulate for papers to marry his fiancee Hatice Cengiz, Ahmed Abdullah al-Muzaini, who worked as Saudi Arabia’s intelligence station chief at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, informed Riyadh with an emergency code that Khashoggi had arrived at the consulate. Khashoggi’s return to the consulate on Oct. 2 was also informed to Riyadh.

On the same day at 7:08 p.m., Saudi Consul Otaibi held a phone call with an official from the office of Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide of Crown Prince Mohammed.

During the conversation, the murder of Khashoggi was called [in order to code so as to hide what was going on, in case Turkish intelligence were listening-in] “a private matter” and “a top-secret mission.” The official told the Saudi consul that “the head of state security called me. They have a mission. They want one of your officials from your delegation to deal with a private matter. They want someone from your protocol… for a private, top-secret mission. He can even get permission if necessary.”

These statements are proof that the murder of Khashoggi was not done without the consent of the Saudi crown prince.

And Israel’s Netanyahu isn’t leading a racist apartheid theocratic nation? And Saudi Arabia’s monarch and his son Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud aren’t also leading a pro-jihadist regime, and America’s Government don’t know this?

Not “transactional”? It’s actually just replacing Trump’s transactionalism by Biden’s more hypocritical type.

And the hypocrisy here goes beyond the “not transactional” lie. On February 18th, Reuters headlined “U.S. says ready for talks with Iran over nuclear deal” and this propaganda reported that:

Washington would respond positively to any European Union invitation to talks among Iran and the six major powers who negotiated the original agreement: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

“We are ready to show up if such a meeting were to take place,” the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, after a senior EU official said he was prepared to convene such a meeting among the parties to the deal.

But it’s just a nothingburger.

Though Russia supported an unconditional restoration of the Iran deal, because only the U.S. had broken it and quit it, the U.S. ‘allies’ backed the aggressor-nation (the U.S. regime), “during a video meeting with his British, French and German counterparts gathered in Paris,” as Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken (who has supported every U.S. invasion including the 2003 invasion of Iraq) led them: 

“Secretary Blinken reiterated that … if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end,” a joint statement from the four nations said.

America broke it first, but Iran must return to it first — according to America (which broke it first). Only idiots would accept such wacky ‘reasoning’. But Joe Biden’s Administration appeals only to such idiots. And yet America’s liberals deride Trump for Trump’s stupidity, and for the stupidity of his followers. Truth, and progressivism (which opposes all lies, conservative or liberal), have virtually no representation in today’s American politics. Progressives are marginalized here.

Also on February 18th, the Moon of Alabama blogger bannered “Why Is Biden Creating Himself An Iran Quagmire?” and he wrote that the U.S. side were not only demanding that Iran cancel its own departure from the Iran deal (which cancellation had followed after the U.S. had already abandoned the deal) before the U.S. and its gang would return to the negotiating table to restore the Iran deal, but that in addition the U.S. and its ‘allies’ would demand that Iran restrict its missile program — which hadn’t even been included in the Iran deal — before the U.S. and its allies would negotiate a return to the Iran deal. In other words: Iran would have to make concessions first — though only the U.S. had actually broken the deal — and the U.S. and its ‘allies’ still wouldn’t negotiate unless and until Iran would first agree to reduce its missile-forces (which weren’t part of the Iran deal). Furthermore, already, a law recently passed in Iran’s Parliament requires Iran’s Government to bring an end to the IAEA inspections, starting on February 23rd; so, Iran’s Government wouldn’t be allowed to back down to the U.S. regime’s demands, even if Iran’s President were stupid enough to want to do so.

Instead of the gangster — the U.S. regime — apologizing for what it had done, it tries to fool its own and allied publics into believing that Iran — and not the U.S. gang — were the criminals here. The blatancy of America’s being a regime instead of a democracy is obvious (after all, America stole Iran in 1953 and has been trying to grab it back ever since Iran finally broke away in 1979), and Biden’s pretense to being in a better category than Trump is based on lies that only fools could believe.

And then there’s Syria. 

On January 23rd, Zero Hedge — linking to reliable online sources — headlined “A Large US Military Convoy Rolled Into Syria On 1st Day Of Biden Presidency”. Not only is the new U.S. President Joe Biden intensifying America’s invasion of Syria, but he is preparing to increase the theft of oil that his predecessor Trump began in Syria after Trump’s predecessor Obama had begun America’s attempted conquest of Syria in 2012.

Among the sources which were linked to, in that news-report, is Syrian National News Agency (SANA), which — in the past — has proven to have been truthful, about the war, far more often than standard U.S. and other anti-Syrian ‘journalism’ has been shown to have been. SANA reported, on January 21st (Biden’s first day as U.S. President) that:

The so-called US-led international coalition has sent weapons and logistical materials to its illegitimate bases in Hasaka countryside.

Local sources told SANA that a convoy consisted of 40 trucks loaded with weapons and logistical materials, affiliated to the so-called international coalition have entered in Hasaka countryside via al-Walid illegitimate border crossing with north of Iraq, to reinforce illegitimate bases in the area. 

Over the past few days, helicopters affiliated to the so-called international coalition have transported logistical equipment and heavy military vehicles to Koniko [Conoco] oil field in northeastern Deir Ezzor countryside, after turning it into military base to reinforce its presence and loot the Syrian resources.

That oil field had been heavily contested during 2016 between Syria’s Government (which owns it) and ISIS, until U.S. President Barack Obama bombed Syria’s troops who were protecting it, and immediately ISIS forces moved in, and took it over (as was Obama’s intention). That oil facility promptly became the chief source of income for ISIS’s Syrian operation, to overthrow Syria’s Government.

On 30 April 2017, I had bannered “How Obama & Erdogan Moved ISIS from Iraq to Syria, to Weaken Assad”, and explained:

Chris Tomson of Al Masdar News headlined on Monday May 1st, “Syrian Army tank takes direct hit from ISIS guided missile in Deir Ezzor”[on Sunday, April 30th] and reported that, “Currently, government forces are less than 1500 meters from linking up Deir Ezzor city to its airbase,” which would be an essential link-up in order for the Syrian government to begin to restore control over the largest city in eastern Syria. Here will be the account of how U.S. President Barack Obama handed that city over to ISIS by means of two key actions, so as to weaken Assad’s government.

Today, Der Zor, or Deir Ezzor, Syria’s major oil center, is controlled by ISIS or Daesh, but Obama’s warplanes bombed the Syrian government troops there on 17 September 2016 and thereby ended the then 5-day-old ceasefire that John Kerry had spent months putting together with Sergei Lavrov [Russia’s Foreign Minister], and thus Obama effectively ended all peace negotiations with Russia regarding Syria. Then, when U.S. and Turkish forces attacked ISIS in Mosul Iraq, an escape-path was intentionally left by them for those ISIS jihadists to travel west to Der Zor, so that they could not only take over the oil wells there, but do major damage to the Syrian government’s army forces in that key city, after Obama had bombed there on September 17th. Consequently, Erdogan and Obama were now using ISIS in Mosul as a means for reinforcing ISIS in Syria, in such a way as to provide oil-income to ISIS and also to directly weaken Assad’s government.

Obama never told anyone that he favored ISIS and all jihadists over Assad’s government, but he showed it clearly and consistently by his actions

12 August 2012 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency warning[whose original can be seen here] that the Obama Administration’s strategy might drive ISIS from Mosul in Iraq to Der Zor in Syria, has actually been carried out as a plan instead of a warning — a plan to weaken and ultimately oust Syria’s non-sectarian President Bashar al-Assad and replace him with a Sunni Sharia-law regime (one led by jihadists). The 2012 DIA warning had called this scenario an “unraveling,” but Obama and the U.S. Congress actually chose it, so as to set the incoming President Trump up with an opportunity to replace Assad’s government by one that the Sauds and their U.S.-made weapons will control.

Previously, Al Qaeda had been stealing Syria’s oil, and the EU was cooperating with the Obama regime in order to help sell into the EU nations. Syrian troops briefly grabbed it back, but Obama now forced Syria’s Army out and handed that oil-facility to ISIS, so that they could make money from it and continue the job of weakening Syria’s Government.

On 9 March 2019, three years into Trump’s Presidency, I headlined “Syria Accuses U.S. of Stealing 40+ Tons of Its Gold” that ISIS had accumulated from their foreign sales of Syria’s oil. However, now that U.S. President Trump knew that ISIS had been ‘earning’ that much money from selling that oil, he wanted to become the person who would be choosing whom would be funded by Syria’s oil. So, on 30 October 2019, I bannered “How the U.S. Regime ‘Justifies’ the Theft of Syria’s Oil” and reported that

On 26 Oct, the New York Times headlined “Keep the Oil’: Trump Revives Charged Slogan for New Syria Troop Mission” and opened by saying that “in recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country.” They closed with a statement from Bruce Riedel, retired from the CIA: “‘Let’s say he does do it,’ Mr. Riedel said. ‘Let’s say we establish the precedent that we are in the Middle East to take the oil. The symbolism is really bad.’” The propaganda-value of a ‘news’-report is concentrated in its opening, and especially in what the ‘reporter’ (fulfilling the intentions of his editors) selected to be at the very end (such as Riedel’s statement). However, is what’s wrong with taking Syria’s oil actually the “symbolism,” as Riedel said, or is it instead the theft — the reality (and why did the NYT pretend that it’s the symbolism)? Nowhere did that NYT article use the word “theft,” or anything like it, but that is the actual issue here — not mere ‘symbolism’.

So, Biden will continue that operation, which Obama had started and Trump continued.

The goal is to hand to the Saud family control over Syria’s government. The Sauds are to select whom the rulers of Syrians will be. That has been the plan ever since the CIA’s second coup, which briefly overthrew Syria’s Government, in 1949. 

And then there’s Julian Assange, who has never been convicted of anything but is being drugged and held in a British maximum-security prison as the latest stage in his decade-long imprisonment-without-conviction for anything. A British judge dropped all charges against him and was keeping him in prison pending a decision by Joe Biden (via Merrick Garland) on whether or not to re-assert Donald Trump’s re-assertion of Barack Obama’s assertion that Assange had stolen (though he never stole) and made public U.S. Government secrets and should be extradited to the U.S. for what everyone expects to be a kangaroo court trial that would end in his execution for having done what Daniel Ellsberg had done in the Pentagon Papers case about the Vietnam War. The international hero, Assange, is to be ‘tried’ in a U.S. court. On February 12th, the New York Times bannered, “Biden Justice Dept. Asks British Court to Approve Extradition of Julian Assange”. Biden continues Trump’s continuation of Obama’s attempt to murder Julian Assange.

Ultimately, Biden’s foreign policies are putting Democratic Party lipstick onto the Republican Party’s pig. That’s his ‘change’, on U.S. foreign policies. 

Just like with Hitler, it’s all fakery, except that (like with Hitler) the evil which motivates it, and which threatens the entire world, is all too real. Whether the U.S. regime will go all the way to yet another World War in order to impose it everywhere (as Hitler aspired to do), is unknown. (Some experts think the signs point that way.) Hitler went that far, but lost his war. And his spirit (minus the anti-Semitism) then took over in Washington, but with ‘kinder’ rhetoric. The results in the nuclear Age would be that everyone would lose. The only way to stop that would be to stop Washington, but that’s a decision which only Washington’s vassal-nations would make — if they will.

And even on his domestic polices, Biden lies in order to serve the priorities of the billionaires who funded his way into the White House. For example, on February 20th, NPR headlined “FACT CHECK: Biden’s Comments On Loan Forgiveness And Elite Colleges” and proved that he was deceiving the public about that issue. He is as corrupt as they come. The stopping of the U.S. aristocracy will either come from abroad, or not at all. It won’t come internally from within the U.S., because the regime doesn’t allow its public to recognize that it’s a regime — an imperialistic aristocracy — instead of  a democracy. It’s more cunning than Hitler was. America’s aristocracy recognizes that in modern times, personification of their regime (in a monarch or other ‘divinely ordained’ individual or “Fuehrer”) produces only a fleeting dictatorship and one that is hard to keep in line or continue with a successor. In modern times, a ‘democratic’ dictatorship has more lasting power. So, that’s what we now have. The spirit of Hitler lives on, in America’s aristocracy.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Biden’s Dilemma: Caught Between Israel and Iran

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

By all indication, the latest sabotage at Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz aimed at more than just disabling thousands of Iran’s centrifuges and thus cause another setback for Iran’s nuclear program, it was also meant as an indirect diplomatic sabotage vis-a-vis the on-going nuclear talks in Vienna; the latter had shown real signs of progress before the April 10th incident at the Natanz facility, blamed on Israel by the Iranian officials, who have vowed to get revenge — an attack on an Israeli cargo ship off the coast of Oman as well as an attack on an Israeli post in Iraq’s Kurdistan may indeed be the acts of Iranian retaliation.

But, from Iran’s vantage, the biggest response was the decision to upgrade the enrichment level from 20% to 60% percent, thus bringing Iran closer to the weapons grade enrichment, bound to raise the ire of Tel Aviv, which is intent on dispossessing Iran of nuclear weapons capability.  Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has followed suit by stating that Iran will not be dragged into a “protracted negotiation” with the US and that US’ removal of sanctions needs to be the first step in a future US return to the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  In turn, this raises the question of how will the Biden administration respond, and adjust to, the latest developments?

On the one hand, the Iranian setback in Natanz, widely interpreted inside Iran as a major “embarrassment,” as it is the second time in 9 months that Israel has successfully inflicted serious damage on the facility, weakens Iran’s hand at the table in Vienna, no matter how the Iran negotiators seek to spin the issue.  With Iran’s vulnerability to “nuclear sabotage” irrefutably established, Tehran’s ability to utilize its nuclear chips in the bargaining with US has been diminished, perhaps for the duration of the current year, thus leading some conservative politicians to urge the government to withdraw from the Vienna talks. 

On the other hand, it is by no means clear that the Biden administration favors Israel’s spoiler role, which might lead to an escalation of tensions in the region to the detriment of Biden’s determination to re-embrace the JCPOA as part and parcel of an Iran “re-thinking” policy at odds with his predecessor’s maximum pressure strategy.  Chances are that, much like the Obama administration, the Biden administration will need to defy Israel’s will on Iran and push ahead for a new understanding with Tehran at a time Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and, to a lesser extent the Saudi rulers, are wary of Biden’s resurrection of Obama’s (perceived) conciliatory approach toward Iran.  The big question is if President Biden is willing to act independently of Israel’s hawkish recipe for Iran and make meaningful concessions, above all in the area of post-2015 sanctions on Iran, in order to achieve its key demand of bringing Iran in compliance with its JCPOA obligations?  Lest we forget, Obama’s defiance of Israel on the JCPOA caused a major rift benefiting the Republican Party opponents of the deal, such as Donald Trump, and so far there is little evidence that Biden is unmindful of that prior experience.  In turn, this may explain the timing of US Defense Secretary Austin’s Israel visit coinciding with the Natanz sabotage, which may not have been coincidental as Israel most likely had informed Washington of the coming attack on Natanz beforehand.  

Naturally, Tehran is irritated at Austin’s presence in Israel at that particular time and his expression of “ironclad support” for Israel instead of raising any criticism of nuclear terrorism against Iran, just as China and Russia have done.  In fact, none of the Western governments, as well as the EU, partaking in the Vienna talks, have bothered to condemn the attack on Natanz, thus adding salt to Iran’s injury.  Instead, the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, dispensed with any criticism of Israel and confined himself to questioning Iran’s post-attack decision to increase the enrichment level, which he called “irresponsible.”  But, is it really responsible for the US and European powers to refrain from condemning an act of sabotage with respect to a facility that, under the terms of JCPOA, is recognized to be the hub of Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle? Germany, France, and England, as well as the European Union, ought to act in unison denouncing the acts of nuclear sabotage in Iran, irrespective of Israel’s prerogative.  Their failure to do so simply adds another layer of distrust between Iran and these powers, to the detriment of any prospect for tangible progress in the Vienna talks.

As for Biden’s foreign team, which has reported of its “serious proposal” on the table, it must recognize that unless there is some pressure applied on Israel to stop its spoiler role, US’s national interests maybe harmed and even sacrificed by a hawkish Middle East ally that behaves according to its own calculation of risks to its interests.  In a word, an Obamaian rift with Israel may indeed be both inescapable and inevitable for the Biden administration.

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Roads and Rails for the U.S.

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For those who expect the newly announced $2 trillion Biden infrastructure program to be a goodbye to potholes and hello to smooth-as-glass expressways, a disappointment is in store.  The largest expenditure by far ($400 billion) is on home/community care, impacting the elderly or disabled.  The $115 billion apportioned to roads and bridges is #4 on the list. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) keeps tabs on our infrastructure and their latest report (2020) gave it an overall grade of C-.  Although bridges worsened, this is a modest improvement on the previous report (2017) when the overall grade was D+.  If $115 billion in spending sounds adequate, one has to remember it costs $27 billion annually for upkeep.

Astounding it might be the backlog in spending for roads and bridges runs at $12 billion annually.  Go back 20 years and we have a quarter trillion shortfall.  Add all the other areas of infrastructure and the ASCE comes up with a $5 trillion total.  It is the gap between what we have been spending and what we need to.  Also one has to bear in mind that neglect worsens condition and increases repair costs. 

One notable example of maintenance is the Forth rail bridge in Scotland.  A crisscross of beams forming three superstructures linked together, it was a sensation when opened in 1890 and now is a UN World Heritage Site.  Spanning 1.5 miles, its upkeep requires a regular coat of paint.  And that it gets.  Rumor has it that when the unobtrusive painters reach the end of their task, it is time to start painting again the end where they began — a permanent job to be sure though new paints might have diminished such prospects.

Biden also proposes $80 billion for railways.  Anyone who has travelled or lived in Europe knows the stark contrast between railroads there and in the U.S.  European high-speed rail networks are growing from the established TGV in France to the new Spanish trains.  Run by RENFE, the national railway, Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) trains run at speeds up to 310 km/h (193 mph)  — a speed that amounts to a convenient overnight trip between Los Angeles and Chicago.

The hugely expensive new tracks needed can be considered a long-term investment in our children’s future.  But it will take courage to contest the well-heeled lobbies of the airplane manufacturers, the airlines and big oil.

If Spain can have high-speed rail and if China already has some 24,000 miles of such track, surely the US too can opt for a system that is convenient for its lack of airport hassle and the hour wasted each way in the journey to or from the city center.  Rail travel not only avoids both but is significantly less polluting.  

Particularly bad, airplane pollution high above (26 to 43 thousand feet) results in greater ozone formation in the troposphere.  In fact airplanes are the principal human cause of ozone formation.

Imagine a comfortable train with space to walk around, a dining car serving freshly cooked food, a lounge car and other conveniences, including a bed for overnight travel; all for a significantly less environmental cost.  When we begin to ask why we in the US do not have the public services taken for granted in other developed countries, perhaps then the politicians might take note.

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Congress and the Biden administration should end FBI immunity overseas

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Image source: U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan

The FBI notably has an extended international presence running 63 offices in select countries overseas. The offices are called “legats” and are situated at the US Embassy in the host country. One of the major reasons for FBI’s international presence is fighting international terrorism.

The FBI legat personnel at the US embassies are fully accredited diplomats enjoying full diplomatic immunity but that poses several questions that are worth asking, such as: how is it possible for law enforcement to be diplomats and is that a good idea, legally speaking?

Police work should not enjoy diplomatic immunity because that opens the door to abuse. Does the FBI’s immunity overseas mean that the FBI attaches can do no wrong in the host country? How do we tackle potential rights infringements and instances of abuse of power by the FBI towards locals in the host country? The DOJ Inspector General and the State Department Inspector General would not accept complaints by foreigners directed at the FBI, so what recourse then could a local citizen have vis-a-vis the FBI legat if local courts are not an option and the Inspector Generals would not look into those cases?

This presents a real legal lacuna and a glitch in US diplomatic immunity that should not exist and should be addressed by Congress and the new Biden administration.

While FBI offices overseas conduct some far from controversial activities, such as training and educational exchanges with local law enforcement, which generally no one would object to, the real question as usual is about surveillance: who calls the shots and who assumes responsibility for potentially abusive surveillance of locals that may infringe upon their rights. It’s an issue that most people in countries with FBI presence around the world are not aware of. The FBI could be running “counter-terrorism” surveillance on you in your own country instead of the local police. And that’s not nothing.

When we hear “cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism”, as recent decades show, there is a great likelihood that the US government is abusing powers and rights, without batting an eyelash. That exposes local citizens around the world to unlawful surveillance without legal recourse. Most people are not even aware that the FBI holds local offices. Why would the FBI be operating instead of the local law enforcement on another country’s territory? That’s not a good look on the whole for the US government.

The legal lacuna is by design. This brings us to the nuts and bolts of the FBI legats’ diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic immunity is governed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, under Chapter III on privileges and immunities. The US is also a state party to the Convention, along with most states around the world. While there could be some variations and disagreements on bilateral basis (including on weather for example one state could be hosted and represented through the embassy of another state in a third state), on the whole there is a universal consensus that the Vienna Convention sets the rules establishing diplomatic immunities and privileges.

Under the Vienna Convention, only top diplomats are given the highest degree of immunity from the law. This means they cannot be handcuffed, arrested, detained, or prosecuted by law enforcement officials of the country in which they’re stationed. Diplomatic immunities and privileges also include things like diplomatic “bags” (with very peculiar cases of what that could entail) and notably, protection and diplomatic immunity for the family of diplomats.

It is a universal consensus that not everyone who works at an Embassy has or should have diplomatic immunity.  Immunity is saved for diplomats whose role has to be protected from the local jurisdiction of the country for a reason. Not all embassy staff should enjoy diplomatic immunity. Granting law enforcement such as the FBI full legal immunity for their actions is bad news.

Only the top officials at an embassy are diplomats with an actual full immunity — and that’s for a reason.

It makes sense why a diplomat negotiating an agreement should not be subjected to local courts’ jurisdiction. But the same doesn’t go for a law enforcement official who acts as a law enforcement official by, for example, requesting unlawful surveillance on a local citizen, in his law enforcement capacity, while thinking of himself as a diplomat and being recognized as such by the law.

Law enforcement personnel are not diplomats. Dealing with extraterritorial jurisdiction cases or international cases is not the same thing as the need for diplomatic immunity. If that was the case, everyone at the export division at the Department if Commerce would have diplomatic immunity for protection from foreign courts, just in case. Some inherent risk in dealing with international cases does not merit diplomatic immunity – otherwise, this would lead to absurdities such as any government official of any country being granted diplomatic immunity for anything internationally related.

The bar for diplomatic immunity is very high and that’s by design based on an international consensus resting upon international law. Simply dealing with international cases does not make a policeman at a foreign embassy a diplomat. If that was the case every policeman investigating an international case would have to become a diplomat, just in case, for protection from the jurisdiction of the involved country in order to avoid legal push-back. That’s clearly unnecessary and legally illogical. Being a staff member at an embassy in a foreign country does not in and of itself necessitate diplomatic immunity, as many embassy staff do not enjoy diplomatic protection. It is neither legally justified nor necessary for the FBI abroad to enjoy diplomatic immunity; this could only open up the function to potential abuse. The FBI’s arbitrary surveillance on locals can have a very real potential for violating the rights of local people.  This is a difference in comparison to actual diplomats. Diplomats do not investigate or run surveillance on locals; they can’t threaten or abuse the rights of local citizens directly, the way that law enforcement can. Lack of legal recourse is a really bad look for the Biden administration and for the US government.

The rationale for diplomatic immunity is that it should not be permitted to arrest top diplomats, who by definition have to be good at representing their own country’s interests in relation to the host state, for being too good at their job once the host state is unhappy with a push back, for example. The Ambassador should not be exposed to or threatened by the risk of an arrest and trial for being in contradiction with the interests of the host state under some local law on treason, for example, because Ambassadors could be running against the interests of the host state, by definition. And that’s contained within the rules of diplomatic relations. It’s contained in the nature of diplomatic work that such contradictions may arise, as each side represents their own country’s interests. Diplomats should not be punished for doing their job. The same doesn’t apply to the FBI legats. Issuing surveillance on local citizens is not the same as representing the US in negotiations. The FBI legats’ functions don’t merit diplomatic immunity and their actions have to be open to challenge in the host country’s jurisdiction.

The FBI immunity legal lacunae is in some ways reminiscent of similar historic parallels, such as the George W. Bush executive order  that US military contractors in Iraq would enjoy full legal immunity from Iraqi courts’ jurisdiction, when they shouldn’t have. At the time, Iraq was a war-torn country without a functioning government, legal system or police forces. But the same principle of unreasonable legal immunity that runs counter international laws is seen even today, across European Union countries hosting legally immune FBI attaches.

Congress and the Biden administration should end FBI immunity overseas. It can be argued that for any local rights infringements, it is the local law enforcement cooperating with the US Embassy that should be held accountable – but that would ignore that the actual request for unlawful surveillance on locals could be coming from the FBI at the Embassy. The crime has to be tackled at the source of request. 

When I reached out to the US Embassy in Bulgaria they did not respond to a request to clarify the justification for the FBI diplomatic immunity in EU countries.

To prevent abuse, Congress and the Biden Administration should remove the diplomatic immunity of the FBI serving overseas.

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