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Old July 8, 2010, 03:27 PM   #1
Glenn E. Meyer
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What's the law on foreign diplomatic bodyguards?

Here's a story:

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/b...Bw7NFkRxVF5l0M

Bebe's bodyguards have 4 Glock 17 go bye-bye. But what is the law on foreign diplomats and heads of state having armed bodyguards? Having those guns in NYC or DC is highly illegal. I suppose that if the bodyguards have diplomatic passports they would be immune from prosecution for carrying them. But is it legal to let the guns into the country?

I have no idea - does anybody here?
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Old July 8, 2010, 03:32 PM   #2
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No idea, although I seem to recall something about them having "Diplomatic immunity.", or maybe that was just Lethal Weapon 2 and I'm confused.

Anyway, interesting article and I'm curious if any one has a better answer, and it would be hard not to, than I do.
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Old July 8, 2010, 03:53 PM   #3
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Diplomatic immunity is just that, a total and unconditional immunity from the host country's laws. The same applies to their luggage, which is not searched. Holders of diplomatic passports, even after a murder, are detained, never arrested - unless the guest country waves the immunity. There was a case some years ago about some Baltic diplomat killing someone driving drunk, and, to his own surprise, his country waved the immunity. He got jail time in the US. But if the diplomat's country insists on immunity, the worst that can happen is you're declared "persona non grata" and are given 24h or longer to leave the country.
Now, if the US does not agree with armed guards, the ambassador will be requested to appear at the State Department to settle the matter. The guards might also be refused entry into buildings, events etc. But they are still immune to (especially) local rules on carrying or owning a gun.
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Old July 8, 2010, 04:05 PM   #4
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So the luggage just comes through. I get it.

Thanks.
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Old July 8, 2010, 04:41 PM   #5
CMichael
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Actually it appears that they were .40 caliber Glocks.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...?mod=djemITP_h

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security detail lost four high-powered semi-automatic guns over the weekend when its luggage was rerouted across the U.S., only to resurface without the weapons.

Members of the prime minister's security team flew on Israeli airline El Al Sunday into John F. Kennedy airport in New York, in advance of Mr. Netanyahu's visit with President Barack Obama, according to officials with knowledge of the incident. After passing through customs, the Israeli security officers checked two hard carrying cases—one containing four .40-caliber Glock handguns and the other containing three Glocks—before boarding an American Airlines flight to Washington, the officials said.
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Old July 8, 2010, 05:34 PM   #6
brickeyee
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So the luggage just comes through. I get it.
Look but do not touch.

Our diplomatic 'pouches' are accorded the same protection entering foreign countries.

They really are sealed, often with wire and a wax seal (imprinted by the State Department) to close the canvas pouch.

A non-US citizen even touching them is a big deal.
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Old July 8, 2010, 09:11 PM   #7
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There are several different ways governments go about this. Without getting into too much detail, you have to work with the United States Secret Service and State Department for importation of firearms and for close protection teams from the host nation with mutual agreement of understanding. With that being said, that's if you want people to know you have a high-ranking diplomat in another country.

If these close protection agents were afforded dipolmatic immunity, I see no reason why they couldn't carry them on board unless these were backup firearms or firearms for counter-assualt teams.

In regards to the comment made about New York City, and Washington D.C. being a no-no for handguns, there could be a way around this. Hire local close protection agents who have the necessary licensing or who are off-duty law enforcement officers (HR 218).

I'm just curious what they did after it was discovered the firearms were missing. Hopefully, they didn't put all their eggs in one basket.

Thanks for the good article!
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Old July 8, 2010, 09:43 PM   #8
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Don't you know? Politicians and friends of politicians are exempt from laws in NYC. Regardless of diplomatic immunity.
I'm sure Bloomy and Obama bent over backwards to make sure their friends didn't have any hassles with those pesky gun laws for the commoners.

Nice to see Bibi got a warm welcome by our competent and professional TSA agents. They lost AND stole his guns. But from what i read in the rags. They had 2 cases. One with 3 various handguns that went through fine and they picked it up and the other with the 4 Glocks that were stolen.
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Old July 8, 2010, 10:38 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nickel Plated
Nice to see Bibi got a warm welcome by our competent and professional TSA agents. They lost AND stole his guns. But from what i read in the rags. They had 2 cases. One with 3 various handguns that went through fine and they picked it up and the other with the 4 Glocks that were stolen.
You have evidence it was TSA who stole the guns? Not a some AA baggage handler? Not some sticky-fingered maintenance guy in the baggage area?

Bibi's bodyguards flew commerical -- AA/JFK/DCA -- and checked baggage like any other passenger.

Diplomatic immunity:
It's up to the host country to extend or deny immunity. However... Most countries extend it to foreign heads of state visiting on official business. Most will also extend immunity to limited personnel on the HOS's staff (cabinet ministers, personal secretary, press secretary, close-protection team, etc.) Countries can withdraw that immunity, but must generally give the person or delegation at least reasonable time to depart the country before making charges.

It's up to the hosting country what they allow. Some years ago, I think it was during Clinton's administration, the Candian Gov't would not authorize the Secret Service to bring weapons into Candada. That was not accepted graciously. In the end, some compromises were made and the visit took place.

If someone wanted to "arrest" Netenyahu for "war crimes" of some sort AND some kind of action was pending in the Hague, his being under the protection of diplomatic immunity means the "arresting party" would be considered a potential kidnapper. And while someone might (however doubtful) get past the secret service, the Israeli protection detail will make that person's career awfully short.

Diplomatic pouches
If you "just happen" to find a diplomatic pouch (from any country) with it's seal missing think of the Eddie Eagle program. Stop! Don't Touch! but call authorities to come investigate. If the seal is intact, it's best to leave it alone and call authorities while making sure it stays there. If you pick it up with plans to give it to police, make damn sure you don't break the seal and get a written receipt for the pouch noting it was still sealed. The State Dept, DHS, FBI and other alphabet agencies can get really frelling serious about who handles these pouches.
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Old July 9, 2010, 06:27 AM   #10
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Our diplomatic 'pouches' are accorded the same protection entering foreign countries.

They really are sealed, often with wire and a wax seal (imprinted by the State Department) to close the canvas pouch.

A non-US citizen even touching them is a big deal.
Cool stuff.

I knew someone would have some answers to this thread.
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Old July 9, 2010, 11:10 AM   #11
divil
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As far as I know, diplomatic visitors have the same immigration status as me, i.e. they are "non-immigrant aliens". Non immigrant aliens are generally prohibited from possessing firearms of any kind unless they meet meet of the exceptions explained in section (y)(2) of http://www.nraila.org/federalfirearms.htm#GCA

The one that applies in this case is probably a waiver issued by the Attorney General.

(my excuse is I have a hunting license of course!)

To import a firearm, I'd have to apply for a license, either an State Dept. import license, or a temporary import license from the ATF.

Maybe these guys have a back door system though!

Also, if they were on there way to the embassy, which is technically Israeli soil, they could probalby bring the guns without any paperwork because it doesn't count as importing.
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Old July 9, 2010, 12:40 PM   #12
brickeyee
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"As far as I know, diplomatic visitors have the same immigration status as me, i.e. they are "non-immigrant aliens"."

Diplomats have VERY different rules, and would not need to purchase a firearm in the US, and are rather free to ignore all laws.
There home country would simply bring a weapon in their diplomatic pouch, and no questions CAN be asked.

While some employees at an embassy are treated this way, real diplomats have immunity granted by the host country.

The US has personal passports, official passports, and diplomatic passports.

Official passports are for government representatives that do not have diplomatic immunity (but you still get treated better at international borders).

Diplomatic passports are for people with diplomatic immunity.
They are treated VERY nicely at borders.

Diplomatic passports are often even different colors to mark them, and at large international airports there are often separate immigration and customs line for holder of diplomatic passports.

Us used to be blue for personal, green for official, and red for diplomatic.
I have no idea what they are now.
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Old July 9, 2010, 03:28 PM   #13
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Mine had a black cover. Everything traveling with me was "Diplomatic Pouch" even though usually it was a collection of green aluminum cases plastered with Biohazard symbols and personal luggage. Never once even asked by customs agents in the USA nor any other country what was in the cases and that was probably a good thing. The one time I was only going on a goodwill trip and made the mistake of carrying my blue passport the luggage handlers returned my suitcase to me stuffed with rolled up newspapers. I guess they needed the ceremonial masks worse than I did.
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Old July 11, 2010, 11:06 PM   #14
johnwilliamson062
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I live near Dayton Ohio. Sometime back we hosted the peace accords for the Kosovo deal. The leaders meeting went shopping at a local mall. Their foreign security detail carried SMGs under trench coats through the mall. They more than printed.
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Old July 12, 2010, 03:46 AM   #15
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rr2241tx, were you working with CDC?

I've done some jobs with WHO and my biohazard labeled luggage had always been treated well, although they were a bit scared...

A long serving Italian politician (GIulio Andreotti) used to say "A pensare male si fa peccato ma si indovina" (If you suspect foul play by someone you commit a sin, but you will guess right - or something like that).

My suspicion is that the guns were conveniently put on the wrong flight in the US in order to prevent Bibi's bodyguard to have them in time.

Some twenty years ago I was in charge of some small duties in the organisation of an international conference on.... let's say, health and humanitarian jobs. Most of the delegates had a semi-diplomatic status, i.e. their luggage could have been (and was) security checked, but unless it contained really opinable articles, there was nothing we could do about it.

One of the delegations had two huge boxes of really nasty propaganda materials against one of the participant countries, and it was evident they were more interested in turning the conference into a rally against that nation rather than discussing about health and humanitarian issues.

Of course we couldn't stop the materials at the customs, so Alitalia conveniently did what they do best. Those items of luggage were sent "by mistake" to Rosario, Argentina...

They came back just a few hours after the closing of the conference...

I may suspect that this is the same thing that happened to the Glocks.....

K.

Last edited by kadima; July 12, 2010 at 03:47 AM. Reason: really bad typing, must be a dysxelxis keyboard 8-)
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Old July 12, 2010, 11:27 PM   #16
SamW
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My suspicion is that the guns were conveniently put on the wrong flight in the US in order to prevent Bibi's bodyguard to have them in time.
I highly doubt this because the other firearms were still on the flight. The fact the trip continued under less than favorable conditions would suggest there were contingency plans in place for such incidents.

Generally speaking, there are advance threat assessment team for such high ranking diplomats. If you're a good planner, you would send a team a few days before with low profile gear, the next day have the gear arrive, the day after have the client arrive.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there was an advance team waiting for the client before he stepped off the plane.

At worst, they adjusted their plans a little and probably called the United States Government for some help. I'm sure we lended a helping hand to our ally.
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Old July 13, 2010, 08:33 AM   #17
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Sam, sometimes security forces play each other some practical jokes, just to show who is at the top of the food chain...

Once the Israeli simply pulled down plane of the Italian secret service (Argo16) because it was used to bring to safety some PLO people (we had an agreement between Italy and PLO, no harm was done in Italy to their agents and they didn't blew anything here...). It was a "practical joke" to express their disappointment....

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Old July 14, 2010, 04:45 AM   #18
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"Diplomatic Immunity" another fine loop hole the USA came up with, are we brainless or what ?
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Old July 14, 2010, 12:25 PM   #19
brickeyee
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"Diplomatic Immunity" another fine loop hole the USA came up with, are we brainless or what ?
Many other nations extend our diplomats similar privileges.
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Old July 14, 2010, 12:33 PM   #20
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"Diplomatic Immunity" another fine loop hole the USA came up with, are we brainless or what ?
Diplomatic immunity was in existance before the United States came into existance.
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Old July 14, 2010, 12:37 PM   #21
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Diplomatic immunity is hardly an American invention. In fact, it's pretty much a universal concept in modern diplomacy, going back at least 300 years.
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Old July 15, 2010, 04:43 AM   #22
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Sorry for my ignorance, I still think it's a bad idea. These people should not be above all if they get into trouble, and that includes yours. They're supposed to be better than that.
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Old July 15, 2010, 09:20 AM   #23
Don H
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Originally Posted by grumpybutt
Sorry for my ignorance, I still think it's a bad idea. These people should not be above all if they get into trouble, and that includes yours. They're supposed to be better than that.
Unfortunately, history shows that without diplomatic immunity, a country's official representatives, in times of tension, tend to get jailed for "crimes" such as disrespect to the "Great Leader", being the messenger of bad news, heresy, etc. Without diplomatic immunity there would be no embassies or consulates in foreign countries to communicate with those governments or provide aid to citizens traveling in those countries; a lost or stolen passport could be almost impossible to replace, leaving a citizen stranded in a foreign country for possibly months if not years. Not having a passport or having an expired visa is a criminal offense in many countries.
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Old July 15, 2010, 10:09 AM   #24
Glenn E. Meyer
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So I suppose: THIS IS SPARTA - isn't part of current diplomacy. Look at the Iranian hostage crisis - that's what happens when a country violates the rule of law. Even in WWII - diplomats of our enemies were allowed to leave and vice versa.

I was just interested in how they got the guns here as compared to local laws.
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Old July 15, 2010, 11:42 AM   #25
brickeyee
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These people should not be above all if they get into trouble, and that includes yours. They're supposed to be better than that.

The country they represent can waive the immunity if they wish.

When a drunken diplomat (Georgia?) killed someone in Washington in an auto accident his country waived his immunity and he stood trial and was convicted and imprisoned.

The people with diplomatic immunity are expected to behave themselves.
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