State Department memo warning against leaks quickly leaked to the media
The State Department issued a memo warning against leaks that was promptly leaked to a journalist.
The Feb. 20 memo issued by acting legal adviser Richard Visek explained how Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was authorized to protect certain types of “sensitive but unclassified” information, reported the Washington Post.
The four-page memo, which itself was marked sensitive but unclassified, argued that leaks chilled policy discussions and harmed the State Department’s reputation.
“When such information is leaked … It chills the willingness of senior government officials to seek robust and candid advice, which ultimately is to the detriment of informed policymaking and the reputation of the institution from which the leak emanated,” the memo reads, according to the Post.
“If the Department is going to be able to influence policy deliberations, we need to have a reputation for engaging responsibly in those deliberations,” the memo reads.
The memo encourages disgruntled officials to take a more active role in shaping policies and express any concerns about policy afterwards to their colleagues or higher-ups.
“The Department has also benefitted [sic] from the existence of the Dissent Channel, which is itself a confidential deliberative channel that seeks to facilitate open, creative, and uncensored dialogue on substantive foreign policy issues,” the memo says.
More than 900 State Department employees used the Dissent Channel to object to President Donald Trump’s travel ban before Tillerson was confirmed, and some of those objections were leaked to the media before they were filed.
But some experts and career officials told the Post that they’re being left out by Tillerson’s office, and some employees complained about a lack of clear communication from the secretary and the president.
Tillerson has reduced the number of officials present at his daily senior staff meeting, and detailed accounts of his meetings with foreign officials are no longer circulated widely within the State Department.
“There’s so much that’s not being communicated inside the building and it’s a huge problem that effects everybody,” one veteran State Department official told the newspaper. “Posts are calling us and asking us, ‘What are we supposed to say?’ We don’t know what to tell them.”