Connect with us

Politics

How does the U.S. decide which Russians to throw out of the country?

Published

on

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

The U.S. has expelled 60 Russian diplomats, and the Russians have now responded by expelling 60 U.S. diplomats.

In a statement Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that “based on the principle of reciprocity,” the 60 Americans in Moscow and Yekaterinburg “were declared ‘persona non grata’ for activities incompatible with diplomatic status.” The Americans have to leave the country before April 5, 2018.

“Persona non grata” is the same term the U.S. uses when it expels diplomats. National security types call the expulsions “PNGing,” from the initials.

So how do the U.S. and the Russians decide which diplomats to kick out? And does it have any impact?

Experts consulted by NBC News say the Russian diplomats who were expelled from the U.S. were really spies, for the most part, and PNGing dozens of them is more than symbolic — it has an immediate, if short-term, effect on the ability of Russia to collect intelligence inside the U.S.

Earlier this month, Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by nerve gas in the southwestern English city of Salisbury. British authorities immediately suspected the pair had been poisoned by Russian agents trying to silence Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who had been a double agent.

Twenty-six countries expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning. According to current and former U.S. officials, the Russians had violated one of the unwritten rules of espionage — no assassinations, especially not on another country’s soil.

One current official said there is a gentlemen’s agreement — “honor among thieves” — in which there are lines spies should not cross. If a line is crossed, the offended party can expel as PNGs those diplomats it thinks may have some link to the violation.

 People carrying luggage leave the Russian Embassy in London on March 20, 2018 and board a van bearing diplomatic plates. Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP – Getty Images file

In addition to murder, the official said offenses that have sparked past expulsions from Western nations include:

  • Internal political meddling, like Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election;
  • Preparations for the outbreak of war;
  • Acts of sabotage;
  • Stealing or trying to steal a nation’s “continuity of government plans,” i.e., how the top levels of government would react after a nuclear strike. FBI mole Robert Hanssen gave the U.S. plans to the Russians, and the U.S. expelled Russian diplomats after he was caught in 2001.

The phrase itself, PNG, comes from the 1961 Vienna Convention, an international treaty that defined rules for diplomatic relations. Article 9 of the treaty says that “without having to explain its decision,” the host nation can notify the “sending State” that “any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata.”

When the Russians summoned U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman to the Foreign Ministry, they were notifying the “sending State” that they planned to expel 60 Americans. When the Foreign Ministry announced publicly that the Americans had been chosen for expulsion for “activities incompatible with diplomatic status,” they were calling them spies without giving details.

Once declared persona non grata,a diplomat must leave the country “within a reasonable period” or risk losing diplomatic immunity.

 Russian consulate in Seattle. Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

The U.S. expulsion of 60 diplomats in March was the second such purge in less than 18 months. The Obama administration had PNGed 35 diplomats in late 2016 in retaliation for Russian cyber meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

According to the current and former U.S. officials, in both cases the FBI and CIA had previously identified the operatives and gave the list to policy makers, who made the final decisions. Many of the Russians who fill diplomatic positions in the U.S. are actually operatives working for the country’s various intelligence services.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the U.S. gave Russia the names of the PNGed individuals after an interagency process that included the “weigh-in” of many “U.S. government partners,” like the FBI.

“We believe our country is safer by making these Russians go home,” said Nauert. “We know that they were not here to do good, but rather, they could have done something potentially bad … I think, if you look at the actions that took place against the British citizen and his daughter, it’s clear that, perhaps, our citizens were not safe.”

This month’s expulsion also included the shuttering of a consulate in Seattle. The Trump administration had shuttered the Russian consulate in San Francisco in 2017, and the Obama administration shut Russian recreation facilities in Maryland and New York in December 2016. Consulates and embassies can serve as hubs for human and electronic data collection, say the officials.

Source link

Politics

Furious BBCQT audience members hit back at 'whinging' Labour MPs – 'Don't lecture me!'

Published

on

BBC QUESTION TIME audience members turned on the Labour Party in the first question of last night’s programme, as they raged at “whinging” left-wing MPs who “lecture” voters.

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Brexit LIVE: Forget EU! African finance chief celebrates UK exit – mega deals on horizon

Published

on

BREXIT BRITAIN and Boris Johnson have received a massive boost after an African finance chief cheered the UK’s departure from the European Union and hinted lucrative trade deals with several other countries around the continent.

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Nicola Sturgeon blasted by Lord who says SNP leader 'doesn't want a referendum'

Published

on

NICOLA STURGEON “doesn’t want an independence referendum”, a former Scottish secretary has sensationally claimed.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending