WUSA, channel 9 in Washington DC, ran an interview with me, detailing the reasons why I wrote about Iraq at the risk of my career, and shedding light on the State Department’s dirty tricks in retaliation. Twitter version: those people really can’t take a joke. Nor can they tolerate dissent.
Here’s the interview:
(If the video does not appear above, please follow this link to watch it)
WUSA also ran this excerpt from our interview. Note that it is only since I filed a complaint with the Office of the Special Counsel detailing the State Department’s retaliation toward me that State has started to comment on the record. Before the complaint, Foggy Bottom was all about “no comment.” Now, with the complaint closing in on their misdeeds, they suddenly are on the record, albeit denying any wrong doing:
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WUSA) – Veteran Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren sits in his suburban Virginia home, assigned by his superiors at the State Department to online busy work while he fights the Department decision to fire him in a case that he says violates whistleblower protections that are guaranteed to federal workers who point out government wrong-doing.
“Nine months ago, I wrote a book about my experiences in Iraq called We Meant Well. It exposed tremendous waste and mismanagement in the reconstruction of Iraq. The State Department is very unhappy about that, embarrassed about that, and has taken retaliatory steps against me, trying to kick me out, throw me out of the State Department and make it all go away,” Van Buren told 9News Now.
“I came to Iraq and realized that the discrepancy between what we say we were doing and what we were doing at the risk of peoples lives, including my own, and billions of taxpayer dollars, was too wide to stand silent. The waste of lives, the waste of money was so extreme and the lies that were being told in Washington were so egregious that I decided to risk my career and speak out,” he said.
The government believes Van Buren improperly disclosed classified information.
“As far as permission is concerned, The State Department, in fact, approved my book in October of 2010 for publication, I suspect accidently or negligently, but they approved it nonetheless,” he said.
The tension between Van Buren and his employer grew worse when he started to promote the book.
“I started the blog at the publisher’s suggestion as a way to promote the book. I tried to find out first what a blog was, and then started writing it. However, as I started working on the blog, a world that was unavailable to me before opened up to me. Other people who had risked their careers as whistleblowers began contacting me, information became available to me, and I realized there was an audience that was willing to listen to some of the remarks that I had about what had happened in Iraq, and the blog grew to the popularity that it has now, and as it grew, the State Department got angrier and angrier at me, ” he said.
On his blog, Van Buren is harshly critical of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his boss.
“Absolutely. I criticized the Secretary of State. I criticized the president and I’ve criticized other members of the State Department and the Administration, and I did that because when I signed up 24 years ago, my oath was to the constitution, not to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or anyone else. I’ve served under Republicans and I’ve served under Democrats, but my oath has always been to the constitution, and therefore it shouldn’t matter,” Van Buren said.
In some postings, Van Buren has been insulting to Republicans liike former Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachman, calling her insane. In other postings, Van Buren
is so vile that his comments can not be repeated here. Those include references to Mrs. Clinton’s anatomy and sexual practices.
“Absolutely, and those statements are protected by the first Amendment. The First Amendment doesn’t have any cutouts for offensive or words you don’t like.
“My statements were made to show my disgust at the Secretary of State’s chortling over the death of Muammar Gaddafi. He was a lousy human being, no question about that, but to laugh about his death was undiplomatic,” Van Buren said.
And why was it necessary to be so profane?
“It’s necessary sometimes to cause people to pay attention. There’s so much noise out there, so much flim flam, so much huff puff, that occasionally it’s necessary to say ‘Wait a minute, you need to look at this’.
“In addition, I’ve tried by hard to separate my statements from any official statements by the State Department or by the US Government, and I suspect my use of occasional profanity, sometimes vile terms, and oftentimes sarcasm, does set it aside from anything that is official,” he said.
In private business, he concedes, those are firing offenses.
“Fair enough, but I don’t work in private business, I work for the government. I work for you, the people, and I have an obligation to tell you what goes on inside your government. If I didn’t tell you what happened in Iraq who would, who could?
“People inside the government are different. You don’t have a choice. You can go to McDonalds or you can go to Burger King. If you don’t like one company, you can shop at another, but if we don’t tell you, the people who work inside the government what’s going on, then you, the people don’t know,” he said.
“The thing that disturbs me most is the gap between what the State Department says publicly and what they’re doing to me privately.
“The Secretary of State has stood up for the rights of bloggers in Syria and Iran and China and Viet Nam while at the same time saying I, as an American citizen, don’t have my First Amendment rights because I work in her building,” he said.
“Due to privacy considerations, we cannot comment on Mr. Van Buren’s specific case, or that of any other employee, except to say that the claims of retaliation in this case are without merit. With respect to his filing a special complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, there are protections within the government for freedom of expression and for whistleblowers.
“Though we cannot speak to this case specifically, I can tell you that the State Department has followed process and acted in accordance with the law. All employees have the right to present their positions before a final decision is made by the independent Foreign Service Grievance Board, ” said Mark Toner, a Deputy Spokesman at the State Department.
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