The Daily Demarche
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Selling your soul for a vintage motorcycle.
A Foreign Service Officer (FSO) was arrested earlier today in Washington, D.C. charged with the sale of visas. There is a word for this: treason.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

An American foreign service officer was arrested in the nation's capital Monday on charges of plotting to sell visas at the American Embassy in Lithuania for more than $40,000 and a vintage motorcycle, federal prosecutors in Chicago said.

Matthew Christ, 41, of Alexandria, Va., was arrested on charges contained in a 19-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Chicago on March 24 and unsealed Monday, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, an unnamed co-conspirator in Chicago wired money to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius where one of the 10 defendants charged in the case, Darius Reika, 28, would buy the visas from Christ, who served as political officer, for $3,000 to $14,000


When an FSO is worn in to the Service he/she takes the following oath of office:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. That I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me, God.”

Any officer who sells a visa, offers to sell a visa or issues a visa in a case he or she knows is based on fraud is guilty of violating that oath. At a minimum they are not “faithfully discharging” their duties, and to me, in the modern day where non-nation state enemies like al Qaeda lust to strike American civilians at home such actions smack of failing to defend the Constitution.

Is Matthew Christ guilty? I don’t know- that is for the courts to decide. But if he is he should be tried for treason, period. Smiley posted yesterday about what it is like to work on the visa line. In this case Christ was a Political Officer who more than likely had served at least one year as a Consular Officer- odds are (if he is guilty) he used a visa referral to have the visas in question issued. The Foreign Affairs Manual, the regulations that (in part) govern the Foreign Service have this to say about Visa Referral Systems:

9 FAM Appendix K, VISA REFERRAL SYSTEMS
(TL:VISA-411; 05-16-2002) 9 FAM 100 INTRODUCTION 9 FAM 101 General Policy
(TL:VISA-119; 07-03-1995)

U.S. government employees abroad are approached from time to time by persons seeking assistance in obtaining nonimmigrant visas. As a general rule, it is best to avoid offering any assistance other than to provide the information that applicants should apply directly to the consular section because only visa officers may determine visa eligibility under the law.

9 FAM 102 Visa Referral as Foreign Policy Tool (TL:VISA-411; 05-16-2002)
In some instances, however, it may be in the U.S. national interest to provide special assistance. The visa referral system is a useful method of serving U.S. national interests in the foreign and domestic policy context. In the interest of uniformity, as an aid to interested officers, and to provide a monitoring mechanism, a formal visa referral system must be established by all posts for use in referral cases. A visa referral system, if monitored and administered properly, can be a useful method for expediting visa issuance in cases that involve U.S. Government interests, or promote U.S. public diplomacy efforts in the host country. As a management tool, the referral system can conserve scarce consular resources and time by providing additional information regarding an applicant’s eligibility under the law.

So what exactly does that mean? The key words are “if monitored and administered properly”. Smiley’s post gives an idea of what it is like to do visa interviews in a moderately busy post (FWIW my first post was in visa mill, pre-9/11, where we were expected to do 200-250 interviews per day- and often had to do many more). This means that when the Political Officer, who is most likely your neighbor and his kids go to your school, vouches for a visa applicant you issue the visa and move on.

Officers who sell visas have abused the trust placed in them in by their colleagues, by the government, by the people of the United States of America. They deserve to be treated as traitors; they deserve the harshest penalty at hand. If Mr. Christ is innocent he should receive the apologies due to him- if he is guilty his name should be held in contempt ever more.
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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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