The Foreign Service Journal, April 2024

20 APRIL 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Intelligence agencies including the CIA concluded that no hostile foreign power was responsible for the mysterious illness that struck U.S. diplomats and others in Cuba, China, Russia, and elsewhere. Instead, their investigations found that the illness was likely triggered by “environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress,” according to a Feb. 12 article in e New York Times. e House committee will focus on the integrity of the agencies’ investigations and on “allegations of improper suppression” of information regarding AHI. Attorney Mark Zaid, who has represented some of the victims, told the Times: “ ere is no doubt in my mind based on the years I have represented AHI victims that the executive branch is covering up what it actually knows about these incidents, to include the cause and foreign perpetrators. ... We look forward to the truth nally being made public and accountability, both for the perpetrators and the U.S. Government deniers, occurring.” Meanwhile, AFSA continues to advocate for those a ected by the mysterious illness. Return to Pre-Pandemic Passport Processing Times On Dec. 18, the State Department announced that passport processing times have returned to pre-pandemic levels. According to the press release, “passport applications will be processed within 6-8 weeks for routine service and 2-3 weeks for expedited service.” According to e New York Times, as recently as last summer, the estimated wait time to get a passport was 10 to 13 The revelations surrounding Herbert Kalmbach’s guilty plea on February 26—that he had proffered ambassadorships in exchange for explicit levels of contributions—has once again brought to public light the urgent need to do something serious and constructive about a long-standing abuse. The fact is that every administration, irrespective of party, has seen fit to reward large contributors with ambassadorships whether they had any qualifications for the job or not. And if this has usually been done without the price tag being displayed quite so prominently as in Mr. Kalmbach’s case, the principle nonetheless has been the same: contributors don’t contribute for nothing, and one way you can pay them o« is with an embassy. This nation has been fortunate to have been able to draw on the talents of a large number of remarkable individuals from outside the career service who have made major contributions to American foreign policy. The Foreign Service is not the sole repository of talent in the field of foreign a«airs in this country, and the nation should continue to be able to count on the services of distinguished non-career Ambassadors. Political contributors are another matter. With a few exceptions, the best that can be said about the vast bulk of them is that while Ambassadors they did little damage to American foreign relations. Yet every o±cer knows of incidents where non-career Ambassadors of the major contributor sort have done real damage to our national interests. … As citizens we, like the rest of the American public, have the right to expect that the processes of government will work with integrity. AFSA believes, therefore, that the time has come to bring a halt to the practice of selling Embassies. —From the Editorial, The Foreign Service Journal, April 1974. Selling Embassies 50 Years Ago Latest on Havana Syndrome The House Intelligence Committee informed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Feb. 8 that they have launched an investigation into how U.S. spy agencies investigated purported cases of anomalous health incidents (AHIs), known as Havana syndrome, in the workforce. Despite these challenges, the U.S. has historically been resilient, and it is hoped that its commitment to democratic principles, cultural diversity, and historic leadership will see it through.” e U.K. took second place in the rankings. China, the fastest-growing nation brand, rose from fth to third place. Russia, Ukraine, and Israel all fell in the rankings due to military con icts.