In addition to the ACLU, the Government Accountability Project, the Project on Government Oversight and others chastising the Department of State for hypocritically supporting web freedom abroad while planning to fire me here at home for writing this blog, former US Ambassador to Mozambique and Peru Dennis Jett now joins the growing list of prominent critics.
Ambassador Jett writes:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton forcefully intervened recently on behalf of Chen Guancheng, the blind Chinese dissident, who has been hounded by his government for criticizing official policy. It’s too bad she won’t afford the same consideration to the employees of her own department.
Secretary Clinton has made defending the kind of freedom of expression that Chen tried to practice one of the hallmarks of her time in office. In a speech at the Newseum in Washington in early 2010, she insisted citizens must have the right to criticize their governments not just in the public square, but also in blogs, emails, social networks, text messages and other new forums for exchanging ideas. Governments should not attempt to censor or limit such activity she asserted, noting proudly that the State Department was working in more than 40 countries to help individuals silenced by oppressive governments.
Why, then, is the State Department trying to silence one of its employees for remarks it does not like and attempting to criminalize his exercise of freedom of speech? The book and a blog by Van Buren were apparently more freedom-of-expression than the State Department could tolerate however.
The chilling effect on State Department employees of such a blatant attempt to silence unwelcome opinions is apparently not limited to Van Buren’s case. The American Foreign Service Association, the professional association of the Foreign Service, gives four annual awards each to recognize employees who have “exhibited extraordinary accomplishment involving initiative, integrity, intellectual courage and constructive dissent.” In three of the last four years, there has been no winner of the award for either junior officers or senior officers.
Read Ambassador Jett’s full article online now.
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
Note to Mr. Chen: Welcome to the New World! Feel free to criticize any government you wish to here, except the US government. Even our version of free speech has limits. Watch your back around these parts, Chen.
BREAKING NEWS – My Bank of America mortgage broker, who is blind and thus in charge of assessing properties for the Bank, sought asylum in my home. He told me he fears persecution, imprisonment and even physical beating if I return him to the Bank.
The Bank of America, meanwhile, who holds my mortgage, told me to turn him over, so I had to. I’ll spend the rest of the news cycle trying to make this seem better than it actually is. Being in debt sure cuts back on your options.
P.S. The man on the far left of the photo is State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh. Dude, the 1970’s called and wants its hair style back. The other guy holding Chen’s hand is US Ambassador Gary Locke. No one knows why Koh and Locke decided to wear matching ties for this event, but it appears to be the only aspect of the fiasco that the State Department properly coordinated.
Also, activists in Bahrain, Saudi and other countries the US has to suck up to, you’re also on your own.