Foreign Policy Digital

American Held in Moscow a Prisoner to Paperwork

Paul Whelan’s family can’t discuss his case with the U.S. Embassy until he returns a signed waiver.

The family of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Moscow on suspicion of espionage, says that a simple bureaucratic form has hamstrung their efforts to advocate on his behalf and receive information about his case from the U.S. State Department.

Under the 1974 U.S. Privacy Act, consular officials dealing with Americans detained abroad cannot release any information about the case, including to family members, or launch a public advocacy campaign without their written consent.

In Whelan’s case, U.S. officials had to wait almost six weeks before they were allowed to bring the consent waiver to Lefortovo Prison in Moscow, where Whelan is currently being held. But instead of signing and returning the two-page document on the spot, Whelan was forced to wait to sign it and mail it back to the embassy.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Foreign Policy Digital

Foreign Policy Digital6 min readPolitics
In Hong Kong, the Freedom to Publish Is Under Attack
If the extradition law is eventually forced through the Hong Kong legislature, censorship of books will become commonplace in what has long been a bastion of publishing freedom.
Foreign Policy Digital6 min readPolitics
Economic Band-Aids Won’t Bring Peace to the Middle East
European leaders should not lend support to a Trump administration plan that dangles economic carrots to Palestinians while entrenching the Israeli occupation.
Foreign Policy Digital7 min readPolitics
U.S. Intelligence Undercuts Trump’s Case on Iran-al Qaeda Links
Despite claims by Pompeo, Tehran and al Qaeda have been at odds more often than they've been aligned since 9/11.