The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

16 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Retired Ambassador Arrested for Espionage On Dec. 3, 2023, the Associated Press broke the news that Manuel Rocha, a retired Foreign Service officer and former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, had been arrested for espionage, accused of working as an agent of the Cuban government. He pled not guilty on Feb. 14. Rocha, who was born in Colombia and raised in New York City, received a B.A. from Yale and M.A.s from both Harvard and Georgetown before joining the Foreign Service in 1981. Ambassador (ret.) John Feeley, who served with Rocha in the past, told The New York Times on Dec. 4 this was one of the worst intelligence breaches in recent history, saying: “Manuel literally had the keys to the kingdom. If it had to do with Cuba, he got to see it.” Bill Miller, former director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), told NPR on Dec. 6 that DSS and the FBI would begin damage assessment and damage control. The fact that Rocha left government service two decades ago would make the task much more difficult. It wouldn’t be as easy to pull off such a feat today, Miller said, “because our technology has advanced to the point where we can do more routine monitoring, especially of social media, those things which could prove what we would refer to as undue influence.” First the Boston Tea Party, and Now This A U.S. chemistry professor sparked controversy in the U.K. after claiming that adding a pinch of salt to tea makes for a tastier brew. On Jan. 24, the U.S. embassy in London issued a statement assuring the “good people of the U.K. that the unthinkable notion of adding salt to Britain’s national drink is not official United States policy. And never will be.” The release went on to say that the proper way to make tea is by microwaving it. This jab at British friends reprised a 2020 scandal that began when a U.S. TikTok user recommended microwaving tea. At the time, U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. Dame Karen Pierce called in the military to explain to befuddled Americans how a cup of tea should be brewed. In these (earl) grey times, we’ll take any opportunity for a spot of levity in the news. NYT on Assignment Restrictions On Dec. 31, 2023, The New York Times reported on assignment restrictions at the State Department, interviewing several Asian American Foreign Service officers who believe they have been unfairly scrutinized because of even distant family ties to Asia. Several said they have been banned from working in the region. AFSA State Vice President Tina Wong, who was also interviewed for the article, called the situation “problematic.” The Times reports that the list of posts affected by assignment restrictions includes Russia, Vietnam, and Israel. FSO Thomas Wong, who fought the department for years over an assignment restriction before finally winning an assignment to Beijing in 2023, told the Times, “We should be asking ourselves how to deal with the risk, not cutting off the people who have the best skills from serving altogether. That’s a self-inflicted wound.” n This edition of Talking Points was compiled by Donna Scaramastra Gorman. Interesting and fascinating as Constantinople is, I began to wonder how I was going to get to Alexandria, being then not much nearer than when I first started upon my journey. “Travelling Tredwell,” as Maxwell Blake, at that time in Constantinople, named him, whispered that he had heard that a destroyer might be going to Alexandria. In a day or two the muffled conversation regarding the destroyer’s trip ceased for it had been decided that No. 220, the U.S.S. MacLeish, was to go, and through the courtesy of Admiral Mark Bristol, the High Commissioner, we were to make the voyage together with two naval officers on leave. We were known as the “damn Passengers”! —FSO Ernest L. Ives in “From Pillar to Post,” in the March 1924 American Consular Bulletin (precursor to the FSJ). Agreeable Experiences En Route to Post 100 Years Ago