WASHINGTON, D.C., November 6, 2012 – Peace Corps volunteer Dorian Diaz del Castillo of San Diego, Calif., is working with eight women from his small Costa Rican community to develop business skills and generate income from the sale of hand-sewn products.
Diaz del Castillo said that creating a new business will boost morale and generate income that goes directly to the women who participate, and it has the potential to create jobs for others in the community as the enterprise grows. He has already helped the women raise money for necessary equipment and business licensing fees.
The women came up with the idea for the small business after they participated in a free community sewing class together. Since the first class, they have participated in advanced sewing courses, taken courses dedicated to finance, accounting and marketing and met weekly with Diaz del Castillo to learn basic computing and business skills. The women have also raised money for the business by selling home-cooked food.
About Peace Corps/Costa Rica: More than 3,370 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Costa Rica since the program was established in 1963. Currently, 128 volunteers serve in Costa Rica. Volunteers work in the areas of youth development, community development, business and English education. Volunteers are trained and work in Spanish.
About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
The U.S. Government’s Approach to Countering Somali Piracy
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Thank you. It’s my great pleasure to be here at Combating Piracy Week.
Today, I want to talk to you about the progress that has been made in combating piracy off the coast of Somalia – and the task that remains.
I am pleased to say that we have made remarkable progress. In 2007 and 2008, pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia began to escalate dramatically. A vicious and reinforcing cycle was forming. Motivated by escalating ransom payments – which grew into the millions of dollars – and a lack of other employment opportunities, more and more Somali men took to the waters. Piracy, as a result, went from a fairly ad hoc, disorganized endeavor to a highly developed transnational criminal enterprise. Flush with money, pirates were able to improve their capabilities and expand their operations further and further away from shore.
Since that time, Somali pirates have hijacked more than 175 vessels and attacked more than 400 vessels that we know of, likely many others. They have kidnapped thousands of crewmembers from over 40 countries. Pirates still hold hostages from at least 20 countries.
In a globalized world, the impact of piracy in one area can ripple across the globe. People in countries around the world depend on secure and reliable shipping lanes for their food, their energy, and their consumer goods brought by cargo ships and tankers. By preying on commercial ships in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, pirates off the Horn of Africa threaten more than just individual ships. They threaten a central artery of the global economy — and that means that they threaten global security and exact a painful toll.
Action had to be taken. While there seemed to be no limit to the growth of piracy, through the collective effort of the United States, the UK, NATO, the EU, the broader international community, and the private sector, we are now seeing signs of dramatic progress.
Today, I can report that, according to figures from the U.S. Navy, we are on track to experience a 75 percent decline in pirate attacks this year compared with 2011. We are seeing fewer attempted attacks in no small measure because pirates were less successful at hijacking ships. In 2011, the number of successful pirate attacks fell by half. This year, in 2012, the number of successful attacks has continued to decline. To date, pirates have captured ten vessels this year, compared to 34 in 2011 and 68 in 2010. The last successful Somali pirate attack on a major commercial vessel was more than five months ago on May 10, 2012. The lack of success at sea means that pirates are holding fewer and fewer hostages. In January 2011, pirates held 31 ships and 710 hostages. Today, pirates hold five ships and 143 hostages. That is roughly a 75 percent reduction in ships and hostages held by pirates since January 2011. While this is still unacceptably high, the trend is clear. We are making significant progress.
Today, I want to talk about the U.S. government response to piracy. In combating piracy, the United States has pursued an integrated multi-dimensional approach that is rooted in what Secretary Clinton described as “smart power.” This approach has involved utilizing every tool in our tool kit. It has focused on:
- Diplomatic engagement: by diplomatically engaging the international community to spur collective international action;
- Military power: by expanding security at sea through the use of naval assets to defend private vessels and to disrupt pirate attacks;
- Collaboration with the private sector: by encouraging and empowering industry to take steps to protect itself;
- Legal enforcement: by using our legal tools to deter piracy through effective legal prosecution and incarceration;
- Targeting networks: by utilizing our investigative and financial tracking capabilities to target pirate networks, their financing and their ringleaders ashore;
- And lastly development and governance: by working with our Somali partners to build responsive and credible governing institutions as well as effective law enforcement in Somalia.
I would like to talk about each of these areas in a bit more detail.
First, our diplomatic efforts.
While the problem of piracy of the Horn of Africa was a problem that affected the United States, piracy affects the whole international community. It could only be effectively addressed through broad, coordinated, and comprehensive international action.
From the beginning, the United States adopted a multilateral approach focused on addressing this issue as a shared challenge. For our part, the United States has helped lead the international response and galvanize international action. In January 2009, the United States helped establish the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to both prompt action and coordinate the efforts to suppress Somali piracy. The Contact Group is based on voluntary membership and was established concurrent with the UN Security Council’s passage of Resolution 1851 in 2008. It now includes over 70 nations as well as international and maritime industry organizations, to help coordinate national and international counter-piracy policies and actions.
The Contact Group helps galvanize action and coordinate the counter-piracy efforts of states, as well as regional and international organizations. A number of specialized working groups were established within the Contact Group to address a variety of subjects, including, naval coordination at sea, judicial and legal issues related to anti-piracy efforts, and the disposition of captured pirates; and public diplomacy programs in Somalia to discourage piracy. While we don’t always agree on everything, we agree on a lot, and this coordinated international engagement has spawned action.
Additionally, to utilize resources effectively and prevent duplication, a UN- managed Trust Fund to support counter-piracy initiatives was established. Through contributions from states and the private sector, the Trust Fund has funded a range of initiatives designed to counter-piracy and build capacity ashore. This includes the construction of prisons, the training of judicial officials, and the purchase of equipment for law enforcement in Somalia. It has also helped underwrite the cost of piracy trials for countries in the region.
A second area of emphasis was to expand the naval forces in the region.
Critical to the decline in piracy has been the deployment of naval forces. At sea the United States and others have responded by deploying naval assets to conduct counter-piracy operations. The United States established Combined Task Force 151 – a multinational task force charged with conducting counter-piracy naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden and in Indian Ocean waters off the eastern coast of Somalia, covering an area of over one million square miles.
In addition, there are a number of coordinated multinational naval patrols off the Horn of Africa. NATO is engaged with Operation OCEAN SHIELD and the European Union has Operation ATALANTA. Other national navies, including several from Asia and the Middle East conduct counter-piracy patrols and escort operations as well. These are independent from the multinational efforts but are coordinated through participation in Shared Awareness and Deconfliction meetings known as SHADE to ensure the independent and multinational efforts don’t work at cross purposes.
On any given day, up to 30 vessels from as many as 22 nations are engaged in counter-piracy operations in the region. This includes countries that are relatively new to this kind of effort, like China and Japan. International naval forces have thwarted pirate attacks in progress, engaged pirate skiffs, and successfully taken back hijacked ships during opposed boardings. We have worked together to create safer shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden for commercial shipping vessels by establishing the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor or IRTC. This transit zone is heavily patrolled by naval forces and used by some countries for convoy operations. The corridor has helped reduce the number of attacks within the transit zone.
Pirates adapted to these efforts. The expanded use of mother-ships enabled pirates to expand their area of operations toward the west coast of India. Mother-ships have also made pirates more difficult to interdict and more effective at operating during the monsoon seasons. Somali pirates now operate in a total sea space of approximately 2.5 million square nautical miles – an area equivalent to the size of the continental United States. This makes it difficult for naval or law enforcement ships and other assets to reach the scene of a pirate attack quickly enough to disrupt an ongoing attack. There is just too much water to patrol. Naval patrols are a required component of an effective counter-piracy strategy but will not succeed alone. Military power, while necessary, is not sufficient.
This leads me to a third area of emphasis for the U.S. government – and that is working with, and empowering the maritime industry so that they can better protect themselves from attack.
Perhaps the most significant factor in the decline of successful pirate attacks has been the steps taken by commercial vessels to prevent and deter attacks from happening in the first place. We have found that the best defense against piracy is often simply vigilance on the part of the maritime industry.
The widespread adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs) has clearly had a significant positive effect. These include practical measures, such as proceeding at full speed through high-risk areas and employing physical barriers such as razor wire to make it more difficult for pirates to come aboard. The overall effect of the BMPs is to the extent practicable harden merchant ships against pirate attack.
You all probably know the BMPs better than I do. Some of you helped develop them. We know they will change and evolve as pirates adapt their tactics and the industry’s best practices evolve. The point is that ship owners and operators can and should continue to implement measures designed to make their vessels harder targets. Adherence to the BMPs is not a guarantee against hijacking, but all available evidence indicates they considerably mitigate the risks.
Recognizing the value of these measures, the U.S. government has required U.S.-flagged vessels sailing in designated high-risk waters to fully implement the BMPs. We remain troubled that there are still commercial ships travelling through pirate-infested waters that have yet to implement appropriate security measures. Some 20 percent of all ships off the Horn of Africa are not taking proper security precautions. Unsurprisingly, these account for the overwhelming number of successfully pirated ships. We urge flag states to strive for 100 percent implementation of BMPs among their vessels operating in high risk waters.
But perhaps the ultimate security measure a ship owner can adopt is the use of armed security personnel, either provided by their government as Vessel Protection Details (VPDs) or through employing Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP), where Flag state rules allow. The latter are often made up of former members of various armed forces, who embark on merchant ships and guard them during transits through high risk waters. To date, not a single ship with armed security personnel aboard has been successfully hijacked. These teams have served as a game-changer in the effort to combat piracy.
For our part, the U.S. government has mandated that U.S.-flagged merchant vessels transiting the high risk area conduct a risk assessment with specific consideration given to supplementing onboard security with armed personnel.
When PCASP emerged on the scene a few years back, there were reservations. Many feared that armed security personnel would escalate the level of violence during pirate encounters, further endangering mariners. The opposite appears to have happened. From the evidence that we have seen, in most engagements, the attack ends as soon as pirates realize an armed security team is on board. Pirates often break off their boarding attempt and turn their skiffs around to wait for another less protected ship. These teams therefore have served as an effective deterrent.
However, PCASP teams come in varying sizes and, to be frank, in varying degrees of quality. Their emergence as a security option has brought with it complications. Varying national legal regimes complicate the movement of these teams and their weapons from ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore. Some flag states do not have clear legal guidelines for addressing armed security personnel and are struggling to formulate positions vis-à-vis armed security personnel at sea.
Untangling legal and policy issues related to armed security will take time. But the U.S. government is hoping to make progress. Last month, the U.S. Department of State hosted a working level meeting of policy specialists from 23 nations and international organizations. The intent of the meeting was to give participants an opportunity to share information about their national or organizational law and policy on PCASP, thereby allowing all involved to gain a more complete picture of the overlaps and gaps in legal regimes and policies from country to country. This is a crucial step in figuring out a way forward that addresses the thorniest differences.
As a legal matter, authority over the use of privately contracted armed-security personnel beyond territorial sea limits (12 nautical miles from land) falls to the flag State. Once a vessel with armed personnel embarked enters territorial seas it may carry such personnel provided it is engaged in innocent passage or transit passage. If a vessel with an armed team embarked intends to enter a port, the port State may exercise authority for regulating the personnel or their arms.
While we are finding ways to deter pirates and better protect vessels at sea, some vessels still do not take all available security precautions. Piracy and armed robbery at sea will therefore remain a danger for the foreseeable future. In a hostage situation our foremost concern is always about the safety of the crew, regardless of nationality. The U.S. government is acutely aware of the dilemma that shipowners face when ships and mariners are taken hostage. While the safety of the crew is critical, it is also a fact that submitting to pirate ransom demands guarantees that future crews will face similar threats. The United States has a long tradition of opposing the payment of ransoms, and we have worked to discourage or minimize ransom payments. While some may consider ransoms a cost of doing business, every ransom paid further institutionalizes the practice of hostage-taking for profit and promotes its expansion as a criminal enterprise. In order to guard against such dangers, as well as to ensure that all available expertise is brought to bear to achieve the return of hostages, we strongly encourage flag states, shipowners, and private parties involved in hostage crises to seek assistance from appropriate government authorities.
Now let me turn to another aspect of our response – our efforts to deter piracy through effective apprehension, prosecution, and incarceration of pirates and their supporters and financiers. Today, over 1,000 pirates are in custody in 20 countries around the world, and most are or will be convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
An important element of our counter-piracy approach has involved a renewed emphasis on enhancing the capacity of states – particularly those in the region – to prosecute and incarcerate suspected pirates. The United States is currently supporting efforts to:
- increase prison capacity in Somalia; and to
- develop a framework for prisoner transfers so pirates convicted abroad serve their sentence back in their home country of Somalia;
Prosecution is crucial to counter-piracy efforts. A few regional nations have been bearing the lion’s share of the burden in this area. Notably, Kenya and the Seychelles have each accepted for prosecution dozens of pirates captured by naval forces patrolling off the Horn of Africa. They have also agreed to incarcerate convicted prisoners until more durable solutions are found. They deserve both commendation from the international community and support for their judicial systems.
Going forward, however, we can’t expect Somalia’s neighbors to host trial after trial and continue to absorb large numbers of imprisoned pirates. Many nations have laws that allow them to prosecute piracy as a crime of universal jurisdiction. Whenever possible, nations affected by piracy, even if only tangentially, should exercise that jurisdiction and help ease the burden. Additionally, flag states should consider their counter-piracy responsibilities – including by prosecuting the pirates that attack their ships. The economic stakes for flag states are significant. Ship registrations earn millions of dollars a year for flags states, tens of millions of dollars in some cases. Those financial rewards come with responsibilities, including the defense of their ships through prosecution of suspected pirates.
It is also imperative that the maritime industry do everything it can to support prosecutors trying to bring cases against pirates. Too often prosecutors decline cases because they do not believe the required witnesses will be available when a case goes to trial. With pirates from one country; prosecution in a second; a shipping company from a third country; and a merchant mariner witness from a fourth — prosecutors often have little ability to compel testimony. Instead, they must rely on voluntary cooperation. Merchant mariners should be able to participate in the trials of their tormentors secure in the knowledge that their employers support their decision and will hold their job for them. Ideally, employers should help with travel costs and other expenses associated with testifying, either directly or through donations to the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). I realize the costs are not negligible and that back-filling positions is a logistical challenge. I maintain, however, that the cost to industry of suspected pirates being released without trial will be higher in the long run.
Ultimately, the majority of Somali pirates belong in Somali prisons. That is the most durable and cost-effective outcome for most piracy cases. To the extent we in the international community can help build the capacity of Somali judicial institutions, including courts, prisons, and law enforcement agencies, we are helping ourselves while also making a contribution toward a more peaceful and stable Somalia. The ultimate goal is a Somalia where a legitimate, functioning maritime defense force apprehends suspected pirates and turns them over to an independent and fair judiciary who tries them and remands those convicted to the custody of a functioning prison system. In the near term, perhaps the most realistic approach is to start with the prisons and develop them to ensure they are capable of safely and humanely incarcerating Somali pirates tried and convicted elsewhere.
As piracy has evolved into an organized transnational criminal enterprise, it is increasingly clear that the arrest and prosecution of rank and file pirates captured at sea is insufficient on its own to meet our longer term counter-piracy goals. Most pirates captured at sea are low-level operatives. The harsh reality of life in Somalia ensures there are willing replacements for pirates apprehended at sea. Prosecutions is one key to deterrence, but this must include the prosecution of the masterminds and funders along with the gunmen. After an intensive review of our strategy last year, Secretary Clinton approved a series of recommendations that constitute a new approach. A focus on pirate networks onshore is now at the heart of our campaign.
We are using all of the tools at our disposal to disrupt pirate networks and their financial flows. We are focused on identifying and apprehending the criminal conspirators who lead, manage, and finance the pirate enterprise, with the objective of bringing them to trial. We are making progress in this effort. For instance, on August 13, 2012, Pirate negotiator Mohammad Saaili Shibin received ten concurrent and two consecutive life sentences from a U.S. federal court for his role in the attack that ended in the deaths of four U.S. citizens aboard the S/V Quest. This kind of trial and sentence is exactly what is needed to create strong disincentives to piracy. Moreover, it represents prosecution of someone other than the pirate rank and file. It is as an important step against the upper tiers of the pirate hierarchy and demonstrates that individuals beyond the gunmen in skiffs are culpable and prosecutable.
The Contact Group recently endorsed the focus on pirate networks and formed a new working group – Working Group 5, under Italy’s leadership, to assist in multilateral coordination to disrupt the pirate enterprise ashore. We are working to connect law enforcement communities, intelligence agencies, financial experts, and our international partners to promote information sharing and develop actionable information against pirate conspirators. This effort will include tracking pirate sources of financing and supplies, such as fuel, outboard motors, and weapons.
We have made significant progress over the last year. Under the aegis of Working Group 5, the U.S. Government has worked closely with INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Washington to develop a customized database on Somali piracy, that is now available to all INTERPOL member states. By making information accessible the database is designed to facilitate law enforcement investigations worldwide. In addition to advancing the work by INTERPOL through their piracy database, Working Group 5 is also improving cooperation between law enforcement and the maritime industry for the purpose of identifying and prosecuting Somali pirates. A sub-group of officials from Working Group 5 met here in London in January and again in March in Washington, DC with shippers, insurers, and attorneys, to encourage them to more systematically share information about piracy collected during and after hijackings. We hope to have future meetings with these groups to further the cause of information sharing and to bring pirate leaders and facilitators one step closer to prison cells.
Another recent and promising multilateral effort I would like to highlight is RAPPICC (RAP – pick) which stands for the Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecutions Intelligence Coordination Centre in the Seychelles. In August of this year, the UK and the Seychelles broke ground on the Centre’s new facility, which will be located on an old Seychellois Coast Guard base. RAPPICC will be an information fusion center that facilitates the capture and prosecution of the financiers, investors, and ringleaders of Somali piracy. Its headquarters will be part of a larger “Crime Campus” with a 20-person holding facility for use in conducting interviews. We are confident that if interested parties commit to participating and sharing information, RAPPICC can produce the kind of results we want to see — prosecutors around the world equipped with the evidentiary packages they need to win convictions against not just rank and file pirates, but the middle and top tier actors in these criminal enterprises.
Lastly, the most durable long-term solution to piracy, the strategic solution, is the re-establishment of stability in Somalia. Once Somalia has a viable government capable of policing its own territory, piracy will fade away. We are encouraged that the end of Somalia’s eight-year political transition occurred in September, culminating in a new provisional constitution, parliament, and president. Supporting the emergence of more effective and responsible governance in Somalia will require continued, accountable assistance to build the new government’s capacity to deal with the social, legal, economic, security, and operational challenges it faces. To that end, the United States continues to work with our international partners to build a durable and responsive central government in Mogadishu while also supporting other regional Somali authorities working toward these same goals, a “dual-track” policy we have pursued for the better part of two years now.
In closing: this is a challenge where deliberate and concerted action by governments, international organizations, and the private sector resulted in a truly multilateral campaign that has suppressed piracy off the coast of Somali to levels that seemed impossible only 18 months ago.
While we have made great gains against piracy, piracy remains an ever-present threat. A ship or vessel could be pirated tomorrow. More hostages could be taken and brutalized. Somali pirates have shown it does not take much to prey on ships at sea. Should the vigilance of mariners at sea wane, should governments and navies turn their attention and resources elsewhere, pirates are certain to get back in their skiffs. Piracy is a crime of opportunity and will flourish again if we open up the space before the Government of Somali is ready to police its shores.
The efforts we have all made thus far have brought success. But it is a fragile success — one that requires a great deal more work to make permanent. Working together, we have made great strides. We now need to ensure that those gains are not carelessly discarded, leaving us to fight for them once again. Let’s continue to work together to close the door on Somali piracy. Let’s stay vigilant.
Thank you very much and I would be happy to take your questions.
WASHINGTON, D.C., November, 2012 - Peace Corps volunteers Rick Wiersma of Rockford, Mich., and Roxann Brown of Wauwatosa, Wis., are working with their community to promote gender equality in Azerbaijan. This included recent group discussions on gender and development with more than 25 Azerbaijani students and community members in southern Azerbaijan. Topics reviewed included the role of gender within families, women’s rights and gender equality.
“The goal of the presentations was to promote social awareness as well as critical thinking in local community members,” said Wiersma, a graduate of Liberty University who has been living and working in Azerbaijan since September 2011. “We want to get the young members of rural Azerbaijan to start thinking outside of their daily scope of how men and women are seen and valued in Azerbaijan and move into what is possible for the future of their country.”
Presentation attendees included local students, teachers, business professionals and parents. Wiersma and Brown began the conversation by asking attendees what gender means to them as a launching point for discussion on societal and familial expectations of women.
The presentation concluded with a group discussion on how societal views of gender and women could be shaped to benefit women in rural communities. Participants left the discussion ready to share the information discussed with peers and community members in order to spread the word about gender equality.
About Peace Corps/Azerbaijan: More than 420 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Azerbaijan since the program was established in 2003. Currently, 155 volunteers serve in Azerbaijan. Volunteers work in the areas of education, youth development and community economic development. Volunteers are trained and work in Azerbaijani (Azeri).
East Asia and the Pacific: U.S. Department of State and U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation to Send Off First Group of Dogwood Trees as Part of the U.S.-Japan Friendship Blossoms Initiative
Officials from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation will hold a “send-off” ceremony today at the U.S. National Arboretum for the first 100 dogwood trees going to Japan as part of the Friendship Blossoms Initiative.
This initiative, a public-private partnership between the Department of State and the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation, commemorates the centennial anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees as a token of friendship between our two nations. To honor the next 100 years of U.S.-Japan friendship, U.S. officials announced the United States gift of 3,000 American dogwood trees to the people of Japan during the April 30 visit of Prime Minister Noda to Washington.
The trees have been carefully selected by the U.S. National Arboretum for their durability and beauty from Holly Hill Farms in Maryland and Hawksridge Farms in North Carolina. The dogwoods that will be sent off include Appalachian Snow, Sweetwater Red, Cherokee Chief, Cherokee Brave, and Cherokee Princess. Of these trees, 66 Appalachian Snow and 34 Sweetwater Red will be the first to be planted on November 16 in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park.
In total, the 3,000 American dogwood trees will be planted in Tokyo, the Tohoku region – the area recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 – and in other locations around Japan over the next several years. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine will attend the dedication ceremony in Tokyo.
Joining the Department of State and the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation at today’s event will be officials from the Embassy of Japan; representatives from the U.S. National Arboretum, which is providing its expertise to support this initiative; representatives from corporate partners who have generously assisted this public-private initiative, including UPS, Chevron, Coca Cola, Caterpillar Inc., General Electric, and Applied Materials Inc.; and other individuals from organizations that promote close U.S.-Japan ties.
The U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that awards scholarships to U.S. undergraduate students to study for one semester or academic year in Japan.
For more information on the Friendship Blossoms Initiative, please visit http://www.bridgingfoundation.org/friendship-blossom-project.
For more information on attending today’s ceremony, please visit: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/10/199318.htm
Diplomatic Security : More than 230 Stopped at California Ports of Entry for Passport and Visa Fraud
Press Statement San Diego, CA October 15, 2012
From October 2011 through August 2012, authorities arrested and prosecuted over 230 individuals in the Southern District of California for using fraudulent or altered travel documents, including over 100 U.S. passports.
Operation Joint Shield, a collaborative effort by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, targeted the use of false travel documents to illegally gain access to the United States from Mexico through San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.
The joint enforcement operation disrupted smuggling and trafficking efforts along the California-Mexico border and developed information on illegal travel document vendors, trafficking cells, and border smuggling methods and operations.
After serving their criminal sentence, individuals illegally using U.S. passports and visas are formally deported to their home country. Because of our geographic proximity to Mexico, most are deported to Mexico, and the violators are barred from ever lawfully entering into the United States again. When U.S. citizens and legitimate document holders sell or lend their documents, they are also subject to prosecution.
CBP officials note that Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico, serve as key transit points for illegal aliens seeking entry into the United States. From October 2011 through August 2012, CBP officers in the San Diego Field Office seized 27,165 documents from aliens attempting to enter the country fraudulently either by using counterfeit documents, altered legitimate documents, or by presenting legitimate documents that did not belong to them.
“CBP officers catch hundreds of people daily attempting to fraudulently enter the United States and partnerships with the Diplomatic Security Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are crucial to ensure consequences are delivered to those that would engage in criminal activity at our ports of entry,” said Chris Maston, director of field operations for San Diego and Imperial Counties, U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“The success of this investigation and enforcement operation demonstrates that the Department of State and the Diplomatic Security Service are committed to protecting the integrity of U.S. passports and visas, the most sought after travel documents in the world,” said Wes Weller, Special Agent in Charge of the DSS Los Angeles Field Office.
“There are foreign nationals who fraudulently acquire U.S. passports and visas to carry out criminal activities inside our borders, threatening the national security of the United States,” Weller said. “DSS has a very strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Southern California. With this type of collaboration and teamwork we can more effectively combat travel document fraud and illegal entry into the country.”
“United States passports are the ‘gold standard’ of identification throughout the world. Our office makes every effort to prosecute smugglers who use passports to facilitate illegal entry into the United States. Advances in technology and increased manpower at the ports have been instrumental in identifying this fraud and prosecuting the offenders,” said U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy.
Those convicted of passport and visa fraud face a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. Offenders also may be charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years to be served consecutive to the underlying offense..
The agencies will continue to conduct regular joint enforcement initiatives in the future. These initiatives are important to maintain control and security at the international border.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) mandated that after June 1, 2009, all U.S. citizens entering the United States at its ports of entry must produce a secure travel document such as a passport, passport card, trusted traveler program document, or an enhanced driver’s license from a participating state or province. Under WHTI, CBP is able to run automated checks against law enforcement databases more easily. CBP also can validate the travel documents against information from their issuing agency, thereby substantially increasing the ability to detect and identify fraudulent documents.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of the nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws. For more information go to www.dhs.gov.
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State, provides a secure environment for the conduct of American diplomacy. To advance American interests and foreign policy, DS protects people, property, and information at more than 280 State Department posts worldwide. DS is the most widely represented U.S. security and law enforcement organization in the world, and a leader in international investigations, threat analysis, cyber security, counterterrorism, and security technology. For more information go to www.diplomaticsecurity.state.gov.
For more information on the U.S. Attorney go to www.doj.gov.
Diplomatic Security Public Affairs
Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Department of Justice
WASHINGTON D.C., – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton administered the swearing-in oath in Dakar, Senegal to 19 Peace Corps volunteers who will be working in community economic development. The ceremony took place on the first day of Secretary Clinton’s six-country visit to Africa. U.S. Ambassador to Senegal Lewis Lukens, Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson, Peace Corps Country Director Michael Simsik, and other Peace Corps staff attended the ceremony.
Since arriving to Senegal in May, the new volunteers have undergone several months of comprehensive cross-cultural, language and technical training. After today’s swearing-in ceremony, the volunteers will travel to their permanent site in a local community, where they will live and work for the remaining two years of their service. There is no deadline to apply with the Peace Corps. The agency is recruiting, placing, and training Americans for service in 75 host countries throughout the year.
About Peace Corps/Senegal: More than 3,190 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Senegal since the program was established in 1963. Currently, 254 volunteers serve in Senegal. Volunteers work in the areas of agriculture, environment, health and business. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: French, Wolof, Pulaar du Nord, Fulakunda, Pulafuta, Seereer, Malinke, Mandinka and Jaxanke.
Peace Corps volunteers Darius Bittle-Dockery of New Haven, Conn., and Jeanine Chiu of Oak Park, Calif., have developed a mobile internet station to train people in remote communities in Jordan basic computer and Internet skills.
More than 100 students and stay-at-home mothers have received two weeks of training each in basic computer navigation skills and word processing since the “mobile knowledge station” project was created a year ago.
“With more than 50 percent of the population of Jordan residing in the capital of Amman, there is a significant disparity between the connectedness throughout the different governorates,” said Chiu, who has been working as an English teaching volunteer since October 2010.
The project is similar to traveling libraries, providing programming with a set of mobile equipment that moves according to the expressed need and on a set schedule between villages. This flexibility enables people in remote villages to access to training at a fraction of the cost.
“The mobile knowledge station is simple, yet versatile and can provide whatever programming is needed at any available time. The flexibility and cost makes it ideal for any center or organization that wants or needs training in a particular computer program or skill,” said Bittle-Dockery, who has been living and working as a youth development volunteer in Jordan since October 2010.
About Peace Corps/Jordan: More than 500 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Jordan since the program was established in 1997. Currently, 60 volunteers serve in Jordan. Volunteers work in the areas of education and youth and community development. Volunteers are trained and work in colloquial Arabic.
About the Peace Corps: Since
Senior officials of the United States–Mexico High Level Consultative Commission on Telecommunications (HLCC) on June 8 signed major amendments to two existing bilateral agreements between the United States and Mexico to allow for the elimination of interference to the communications of first responders and to enable compatible operations for Sprint’s deployment of high-speed wireless broadband service in the U.S.-Mexico common border area.
The amendment for eliminating interference to first responders and public safety organizations reconfigures the channeling in a key radio band (800 MHz) to separate public safety channels from commercial channels. The amendment involving Sprint adds two sub-bands to the 1995 U.S.-Mexico Agreement for Personal Communications Services in which Sprint holds FCC licenses nationwide and may now deploy networks compatibly under those licenses along the common border area.
More information regarding the HLCC and the texts of the amendments can be found at http://www.state.gov/e/eb/cip/.
1952 Syracuse Grad Returns to New York City
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 1, 2012 – Bernard “Bernie” Cheriff, 81, of New York, N.Y., the oldest currently serving Peace Corps volunteer, today completed his 27 months of Peace Corps service in Ukraine. He returned home to his four children and six grandchildren in the New York area. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps volunteers are over the age of 50.
Since March 2010, Cheriff has worked as a youth and community development volunteer in central Ukraine, helping an English language school grow from one student to more than 100 students. Throughout his Peace Corps service, Cheriff also helped develop a business plan and accounting system for the school. In his spare time, he helped implement a program to import used bicycles from the United States to Ukraine, which were repaired by students and then donated to a local orphanage.
“Mr. Cheriff is superb example of how all Americans can make an impact in a developing country at any stage in life,” said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams (returned Peace Corps volunteer, Dominican Republic, 1967-1970). “Older Americans bring tangible skills, professional development and life experience to their Peace Corps position in a community overseas. I encourage Americans to consider serving with the Peace Corps at any age.”
In addition, Cheriff taught English classes to local community members with disabilities and square dancing to young Ukrainians. Cheriff also introduced students to American traditions and holidays such as Thanksgiving and Halloween.
Cheriff recommends Peace Corps service and says he would consider serving again: “Would I volunteer for Peace Corps again? The answer is yes,” said Cheriff. “If I needed something, I would point and just keep smiling, and it worked,” he said.
Prior to his Peace Corps service, Cheriff practiced law for 50 years in New York City. He received both a bachelor’s degree in 1952 and a law degree in 1954 from Syracuse University.
Last year, New York was ranked second as the top producing state of Peace Corps volunteers; the New York/Northern New Jersey/Long Island region alone produced 393 Peace Corps volunteers, the greatest number of any metropolitan area in the nation.
There is no age limit to serve with the Peace Corps. For more information about Peace Corps volunteers over the age of 50, visit: www.peacecorps.gov/50plus.
Arthur Goodfriend of Honolulu, Hawaii was the oldest volunteer in Peace Corps’ history. He was 87 when he completed his service in Hungary in 1994.
Peace Corp Press Release: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press.view&news_id=2034&cid=rssnews
ByCapt. Richard Barker, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs , Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan (June 1, 2012) — In the midst of combat, acts of valor and bravery are performed so often they are sometimes overlooked. This was almost the case with the story of the Soldiers who rescued Marine Lance Cpl. Winder Perez.
On Jan. 12, 2012, a call was passed over the radios to a medical evacuation, or medevac, crew to rescue a 3-year-old Afghan girl who had suffered from a gunshot wound and shrapnel to the back. After dropping off personnel and equipment from their current mission, they headed back out to the location for pick-up.
Upon contacting the ground crew on the directed frequency, the pick-up location had moved. After verifying the medevac request and landing safely to retrieve the patient, the landing zone controller came over the radio with a loud, frantic voice, “the patient has (unintelligible) unexploded ordnance!”
The patient was no longer the girl, but Perez who had a rocket-propelled grenade embedded in his leg extending to his lower abdomen. The RPG had not detonated yet, meaning the slightest wrong move could set it off.
“That call will be in my mind all my life,” said Sgt. Robert Hardisty, a crew chief with C Company, 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment, New Mexico National Guard, who was attached to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. “First you land thinking it’s a little girl and the next thing it is a Marine with an unexploded RPG embedded in his body.”
Spc. Mark Edens, a flight medic with C/1-171, was the first to see the RPG round visible in Perez. At this point the crew had to make a decision.
“Because of the level of danger, if the crew left Perez on the ground and decided not to take him, no one would have ever blamed them. We all would have understood,” said Maj. Christopher Holland, C/1-171 commander.
Capt. Kevin Doo, the pilot-in-command for this mission, the pilot of the crew decided they would only take Perez if the entire crew agreed.
“There was no doubt to anyone that we were going to take this Marine and get him the medical attention needed to save his life,” said Doo. “When dealing with this, not knowing that any moment could be your last. Eighteen inches from the patient’s legs was about 360 gallons of aviation fuel.”
The crew transported Perez as quickly as they safely could, landing at Forward Operating Base Edinburgh only 24 minutes from the time the RPG hit Perez.
“After Lance Corporal Perez was loaded on the Black Hawk, it was a total of 11.2 minutes of flight time where every minute felt like an hour,” Doo said. “During that time, we were on the radio coordinating with our escorts, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, and medical personnel who were going to treat Perez.”
The crew’s coordination paid off. The coordination included telling the armed escorts of the medevac helicopter to stay a good distance away for their safety, calling the EOD team to handle the disposal of the RPG, and ensuring medical personnel were aware of and prepared for the situation they were about to handle.
Upon hearing the news of the RPG, the medical team set a plan in motion to properly remove the round as they gathered necessary supplies and met the medevac at the landing zone. When Perez arrived at FOB Edinburgh, he was transported to a safe area to extract the round with only the necessary personnel present.
Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari, department head, Surgical Company B, 2nd Supply Battalion, noticed the wounds Perez received were life threatening. If he had not been transported by the speed of medevac, then he would have died of those wounds.
After removing the round and closing up the wounds, Perez was transported to Bastion Hospital for further care. The same crew who evacuated him from the battlefield were the ones who transported him to the next higher medical facility.
Although the RPG round was now miles away from Perez, other issues arose for him and the crew. His ventilator failed during the flight prohibiting his oxygen flow. At this moment, Edens and Hardisty acted rapidly manually giving oxygen and bringing the Marine back to a stable condition.
“After stabilization, I witnessed Specialist Edens and Sergeant Hardisty work in a calm, cool and professional manner ensuring the safety of this patient who suffered a second near catastrophic event with the loss of the oxygen ventilation machine,” said Gennari. “I distinctly remember thinking that if Dustoff could risk their lives to bring this patient to us, the least I can do is take some risk and get that thing out of his leg.”