[Paul Whelan] What Does It Take?

David Whelan davidpwhelan at gmail.com
Thu May 19 09:00:00 EDT 2022


Paul has been struggling to keep in touch with our family.  About 3 weeks
ago, Paul's phone calls became more sporadic.  He's been unable to call our
parents since then.  It's not clear if it's the FSIN prison system or
sanctions or something else.  Right now Paul can only call the US Embassy,
when calls are approved, and the Embassy staff transfer the phone call to
our parents.  Sometimes that works, but eats into the 15 minute time limit
of the call as Paul is switched through.  Other times, the call just
doesn't happen.

This must be so frustrating for Paul.  Our family remains focused on
supporting his day to day needs but there's a limit to what we can do from
here.  We appreciate the US Embassy's help with their consular care.  It's
thanks to them that a payment Paul needed to have made to a dentist has
been disbursed this week.  We could never have done that ourselves.

But we're frustrated too.  Ever since the Trevor Reed and Konstantin
Yaroshenko release, we've been asked about what made Paul's case different?
Why was he left behind?  Perhaps if Paul had been sicker, he might have
been included in the exchange?  Perhaps if we'd met with the President, it
would have meant Paul was released too?  Personally, my favorite was the
one where someone asked what financial support the US government was
providing Paul; as if.  I don't blame journalists their questions; we ask
ourselves what stones we haven't yet overturned.

US State Department representatives tried to clarify that in a a call to
one of our family this week.  They feel we need to do more, "make more
noise" or "be a squeakier wheel."  Sure, we did 40-odd media interviews 2
weeks ago and Elizabeth participated in a rally in DC with so many other
families in the same position.  Elizabeth's made nearly 20 visits to
Capitol Hill and inspired House and Senate Resolutions to be passed.  But
what have we done *lately*?

This suggests that people in the Biden Administration need to - still,
after 41 months - be persuaded that Paul's case deserves action.  We know
that President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, National Security Advisor
Sullivan, and many others are aware of Paul's case.  So additional
notoriety isn't needed for its own sake.  But apparently we need to do more
because not everyone is onboard with securing Paul's release.

This is a hard message to hear.  The family of a wrongful detainee
shouldn't be bearing the burden of *persuading American government
officials to act to secure the release of an American citizen wrongfully
detained*.  It's frustrating.  What sort of circus does a family need to
put on to make more noise, to squeak louder, to move the immovable levers
of government?

If any of you have the opportunity, I'd be happy to read your stories with
answers to these questions from US government officials:

   - why does the US government feel that families of wrongfully detained
   need to persuade officials to act by "making noise" and "getting more
   emotional"?
   - at what point has a family sacrificed enough to get the US
   government's attention: bankrupt elderly parents?  lost jobs?
   deteriorating health?  lost homes?  We have 13 more years to go and it
   would be nice to know what we'll be expected to give before the US
   government acts.

Thanks as always for following Paul's case.  I'm very grateful.  Best,
David.

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