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 Digital5 min read
When Poppies Don’t Pay
With a stark decline in the price fetched by opium gum, Mexico’s government should take strides toward making crop substitution proposals a reality in Guerrero.
Foreign Policy Digital4 min readPolitics
Georgian Dream Meets Georgia’s Nightmare
For the last several days, Georgia’s capital has been rocked by anti-government rallies. The protesters are infuriated by the ruling Georgian Dream party’s increasingly close relationship with Russia, signaled most recently by its decision to invite
Foreign Policy Digital6 min read
Facebook’s New Currency Has Big Claims and Bad Ideas
On June 18, Facebook finally released details of Libra, its long-anticipated cryptocurrency. But the project, as well as having regulators up in arms, is fundamentally misconceived. Absolutely everything Facebook described in its press conference on