• Here’s How It Works: An Open Appeal for Reason and Free Speech

    October 19, 2011

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    When you offend the State Department by exercising free speech, albeit speech that is unkind to the Department, here’s what they do:

    1) State will take a blog link, to something already on the web, and pretend it is a “disclosure.” They will ignore the reality that several media sources already wrote about the link. They will ignore the fact that al Qaeda can read the document online. They alone determine what is a disclosure within their closed world. They won’t care of their accusations actually drive thousands more people to look at the link. It is not about the link, it is about YOU.

    2) State will then accuse you publicly, without giving you a means to defend yourself, of publishing more classified material. Unless some third party shows you the fax, you won’t even know State made the accusations behind your back. You’ll be held responsible for not complying with an order you never received.

    3) State will then take their own self-created accusation(s) and use them as “evidence” to suspend your security clearance, effectively torpedoing your career. They’ll suspend, rather than revoke the clearance, because a suspension can’t be challenged, questioned or appealed. They simply label you a security risk… and you are one.

    4) State then uses the lack of a security clearance to take away your job.

    5) Circle is complete. Sleep well America. You are safe now.

    For those too busy to click on the link in item Number 3, above, here is the money paragraph State is using as justification:

    DS/SI/PSS has been notified that you have shown an unwillingness to comply with Department rules and regulations regarding writing and speaking on matters of official concern, including by publishing articles and blog posts on such matters without submitting them to the Department for review, and that your judgement in the handling of protected information is questionable. This raises serious security concerns…

    Note the word “and” hilighted in the passage. An “and” statement is used traditionally to link two logical operations, A and B make C true. How does blogging and writing about unclassified information logically link to “your judgement in the handling of protected information is questionable.” Trick question– it does not.

    People in the government with access to classified information, like me for the past two decades, routinely process class and unclass info differently. As in “I’m in a secure space with another cleared person, I can talk about XYZ.” Or, “I am at a dinner party with strangers, I will not bring up classified info.” You get used to it in our line of work.

    The usual thing Diplomatic Security does with someone who has had a clearance for two decades is look to their handling of classified material; there is a track record to assess. Any close calls? Any questionable incidents? (Nope, clean record since 1988.) Next, they look to life circumstances that may have changed– a recent divorce (no, happily married for 24 years), huge debts (nope, just a mortgage), sudden interest in hanging around the Chinese Embassy (nah, prefer a good sports bar).

    What is not done is look at someone’s simple expression of free speech, all clearly unclassified, and extrapolate from that to say suddenly that person cannot be trusted. I wrote the book 14 months ago, have been blogging since April, was first interrogated on September 1 and only today those actions added up to insecurity.

    That is what makes this unfair, twisting things around, hiding behind security procedures, to piss on someone you don’t like. Ain’t right, just ain’t right.

    Related Articles:

    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • MattieB said...


      This is a request that you change the photo at the initial post about the suspension of your clearance.

      Not because it’s crass and gross, though it is, but because it’s unfortunately a visual cue to the exact mistaken argument I’ve heard people make about your situation: “blah, blah, everyone knows you don’t defecate where you eat.”

      If you work for the Acme Widget Company, and publically state that the widgets are defective, or that smoking them will make you very sick, Acme will fire you, so it’s best to resign first.

      But people can CHOOSE whether or not to buy Acme Widgets. People cannot choose whether or not to pay their taxes. Well, then can, but if they opt not to pay they are breaking the law.

      For a public servant to publically warn that the money of his employers — no, not the federal government, I mean the citizens who pay for the government — is being wasted is another form of public service. It is completely different from a private sector employee revealing quality or health issues with his employer’s product. The private sector employee will resign or be fired, and the public then has the CHOICE to avoid buying the dubious widgets.

      I was struck by the comment of an anonymous FSO in the NY Times article, who said something like; “he should have resigned before criticizing his colleagues.” But the big issue here for the rest of America outside of Foggy Bottom is not that you criticized your colleagues. We don’t care, and indeed found that aspect of the book very amusing.

      The big issue is that you told us that our money (or more accurately the money that our grandchildren will still owe many years from now) was knowingly wasted. And that’s a public service performed by a public servant. It is completely different.

      So I think you should take that photo down. It’s an unfortunate visual cue for a lot of Homer Simpson level “logic” about whether a government employee has the right to free speech if that speech places protecting the taxpayer above protecting his federal employers.

      10/19/11 4:20 PM | Comment Link

    • Big Al said...


      Leave the turd.
      Feels right.

      10/19/11 8:18 PM | Comment Link

    • The Cloudwalking Owl said...



      I heard you on CBC’s “Dispatches” and went to this blog. I have a question for you. I am a “radical” and never really expected anything good to come out of the actions of the US State Department. I grew up listening to how people from the US murdered people all over the globe my entire life—starting with Vietnam, running through the overthrow of Allende in Chile, and now Iraq.

      Why is it a revelation to you that the US government does dumb, bone-headed, really nasty stuff to people? If you knew all along, why are you so upset about it now? If you didn’t, why are you so surprised that the “true believers” you left behind feel betrayed?

      Admittedly, I haven’t read all of your blog posts, but do you do any real soul-searching about why you went along with this crap in the first place? Lots and lots of people from the outside knew this Iraq thing was going to go to heck in a handbasket. For example, my understanding is that the head of the Army got canned for saying that there were nowhere enough soldiers going to to preserve order. I also remember seeing the guy who was the head of the British Armoured core during Gulf war number one on “Sixty Minutes”. If memory serves me right, he seemed horrified about what was going to happen.

      Were you hypnotized by the pay and the power? Were you a naive Republican who was blinded by willful ignorance? If you could walk yourself through why you went along with this clusterf*ck” in the first place you might be able warn a few others to avoid playing along with the next one.

      It isn’t enough to just say “we meant well”. Damn near everyone “meant well”—-including Joseph Stalin and Adolph Eichman.

      10/19/11 8:54 PM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...


      The title of the book, We Meant Well, is intended to be somewhat ironic. The first 17 years of my career were spent helping Americans abroad, when they got arrested, robbed, natural disasters, whatever trouble they got into. Social work on steroids. It was fulfilling to me, a part of government that was removed from Wikileaks and classified stuff. Sure, it was government and not an NGO, but it felt like honest work to me. I helped Americans who needed help and did not choose who to assist and who to ignore. Canada offers similar services abroad.

      Iraq was so very different that it was hard for me to connect what I was asked to do with what I had been doing for all those years. My book covers the things I did and saw, and chronicles my own reaction to that. Most people who read it say they did not know what their government was doing in Iraq. You probably followed events more closely than most and so are less surprised. I wrote the book to tell them. That is the story, not me. It is irrelevant whether you like/love/hate me, my goal was to tell you what happened there. There are plenty of excerpts on the web and this site, so read some and if you like it, try the book.

      10/19/11 9:31 PM | Comment Link

    • The Cloudwalking Owl said...



      OK, fair enough. I can understand that.

      10/19/11 10:00 PM | Comment Link

    Leave A Comment

    Mail (will not be published) (required)