RESEARCH DOCUMENT : Department of State’s Dissent Channel Revealed


Department of State’s Dissent Channel Revealed

Published: Mar 15, 2018

Briefing Book #620

Edited by Nate Jones, Tom Blanton, and Emma Sarfity

Foreign Service Officer Protests of: US Inaction over My Lai atrocities “similar to those of Nazis;” “Selective Genocide” in Bangladesh and Burundi; Cooking the Books on Vietnam Intelligence; and US Policy towards the USSR, China, and the World.

Cables Report “Blatantly Illegal” Congressional Gemstone Smuggling and the use of embassies for the “soliciting of female companionship.”

Responses to Dissent Cables from Policy Planning Staff including from Tony Lake, Warren Christopher, Paul Wolfowitz.

Washington D.C., March 15, 2018 – A US Foreign Service officer warned that “blatantly illegal” Congressional requests, including the use of a diplomatic pouch to smuggle gemstones and utilizing embassy employees for the “soliciting of female companionship,” were harming “the personal integrity of employees of the Department of State,” according to a Dissent Channel cable newly released to the National Security Archive after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The Foreign Affairs Manual 2 FAM 070 which governs the use of the Dissent Channel.

Archer Blood, author of the first known Dissent Cable on "genocide" in East Pakistan. From the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training.

The first known Dissent Cable describing "genocide" in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Unlike most of the documents released by the State Department in our lawsuit, the names and signatures on this cable are unredacted.

Dissent channel memorandum condemning the inaction of the executive branch "to discipline a military unit that took action at My Lai."

Dissent Channel memorandum from Honduras describing "problems involving personal integrity" including the use of the diplomatic pouch by a senator to smuggle gemstones and the utilization of embassy employees for the "soliciting of female companionship."

Ambassador Thomas Boyatt, author of the Dissent Cable on US actions in Cyprus and “What if I Disagree? Dissent in the Foreign Service.”

The most recently known dissent, signed by nearly 1,000 State Department employees denouncing a Trump administration’s "Muslim Travel Ban" executive order.

This 1974 cable from the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, one of the earliest sent via the Dissent Channel, is one of dozens of messages, together with responses by the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, posted today by the National Security Archive. Cables sent via the Dissent Channel are formal critiques of US policy by employees of the State Department. State responded to the Tegucigalpla dissent by stating that “current guidance…regarding Congressional travel is adequate.”

The topics covered in these formal cables vary widely, from moral concerns over embassies soliciting female companionship for US Congressmen, to calls for the US to act to stop “genocide,” to warnings of errors in intelligence reporting from the Vietnam War, to recommended changes in grand strategy towards the Soviet Union and China. Among the dissents and responses posted today by the Archive are:

· A dissent over the 1972 “attacks against fuel and other storage facilities in Haiphong [Harbor]” arguing that the renewed bombing was “a breach of the spirit if not the letter of our stated policy to disengage from the Indo-China conflict.” According to the authors, “military triumph, at this juncture, is well beyond the grasp of the United States.”

·

· A dissent over the US “policy of non-intervention in Burundi during massive murdering of Hutu tribesmen” which the author characterized as “waiting until reported ‘selective genocide’ has resulted in the elimination of any dissident Hutu leaders.”

·

· A dissent over the executive branch’s decision to “initiate[] no steps to discipline a military unit that took action at My Lai” and the “systematic use of electrical torture, beatings, and in some cases, murder, of men, women, and children by [U.S.] military units in Vietnam.” These actions by US soldiers, according to the dissenter, Alexander Peaslee, were “atrocities too similar to those of Nazis.”

·

· A dissent over the “hypocritical” US support of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, bemoaning that the US missed a “unique opportunity … to intervene for once on the right repeat right side” of history.

·

· A dissent over US recognition of Guatemalan dictator General Efrain Rios Montt, “a man who may not be in full possession of his mental facilities… who more and more is taking on the image of a despot who believes he rules by divine will” which “stretch[ed] our concept of democracy to its limits.”

·

These Dissent Channel cables were previously withheld from an Archive FOIA request under the FOIA’s "predecisional" Exemption 5, but the 2016 FOIA Improvement Act amendments made it illegal for agencies to use this exemption after 25 years. The first impact of this change was the CIA’s release of the fifth volume of its Bay of Pigs history, which it previously hid from the public as a “draft.”

Following passage of the FOIA Improvement Act, the National Security Archive re-requested these key Dissent records. After the State Department failed to respond to the National Security Archive’s FOIA request, we sued with pro bonorepresentation from Alex Haskell, Cliff Sloan, and Gregory Craig of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The agency then agreed to release these historically important records drafted by its dissenters on a rolling basis. The Archive will post them as they are released.

The Dissent Channel was created as a result of the US war in Vietnam. By 1968, each unmarried junior Foreign Service officer who had not performed active duty military service was required to go to Vietnam for his first Foreign Service tour. High FSO casualty rates, and the fact that, according to a Foreign Service Journal article by David T. Jones, “a critical mass of officers had genuinely come to believe that the US policy in Vietnam was wrong, ineffective or both” led to the gradual creation of State Department mechanisms for its employees to voice dissent.

The initial iteration under Secretary of State Dean Rusk was the Open Forum Panel, which served as a “general conduit” for the previously underrepresented views of junior officers on issues including foreign policy. But the Forum was a “steam valve, not a steam turbine” and in April 1970, 50 FSOs sent a letter to Secretary of State William Rodgers protesting the pending US invasion of Cambodia.

At the same time, the American Foreign Service Association began awarding annual awards for dissent to US policy Foreign Service officers. The pressure led to the publication of a State Department report entitled “Diplomacy for the ‘70s, which included over 500 recommendations for improvement. One of these was to establish “a general principle… that officers who cannot concur in a report or recommendation submitted by the mission are free to submit a dissenting statement.” These developments culminated in February 1971 when the Foreign Affairs Manual was updated to include the explicit freedom of FSOs to dissent.[1]

Today, the Foreign Affairs Manual states that the Dissent Channel was created “to allow its users the opportunity to bring dissenting or alternative views on substantive foreign policy issues… to the attention of the Secretary of State and other senior State Department officials in a manner which protects the author from any penalty, reprisal, or recrimination.”[2] In the words of Ambassador and dissenter Thomas Boyatt, “In the US federal government (and probably the world) [the institutionalization of dissent] exists in only one place – the US Department of State. For more than 40 years, whistleblowers and those prepared to tell truth to power have been protected and respected there.”[3] Now, we can read the cases that diplomats made against their government’s foreign policy.

In the words of one now-declassified cable, “The Dissent Channel can be a mechanism for unclogging the Department’s constipated paper flow” related to pressing employee dissent against current foreign policy actions. The Director of Policy Planning for State is responsible for “providing a substitutive reply, normally within 30-60 working days.”The responses to the critiques posted today are drafted by high level diplomats including Anthony Lake, Warren Christopher, and Paul Wolfowitz.

The Dissent Channel remains in active use today. In January 2017, nearly 1,000State Department Foreign Service officers and civil service members signed a document transmitted through the Dissent Channel in opposition to an executive order signed by President Trump halting the issuance of visas to people from seven Muslim countries. The dissent, which has been published, states, that the executive order “runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play, and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitor and immigrants.” Moreover, “[t]he end result of this ban will not be a drop in terror attacks in the United States; rather, it will be a drop in international good will towards Americans and a threat towards our economy.” The text or existence of any Policy Planning response to this Dissent has not been made public.

Included among the Dissent Channel cables and Policy Planning responses posted today by the National Security Archive are formal dissents over:

· Arms sales to Pakistan used for atrocities in Bangladesh

· An FSO being asked to hire “female companionship” for congressmen in Honduras and other “blatantly illegal actions” including the use of the diplomatic pouch to smuggle gemstones and cash

· Allegedly inaccurate intelligence reported by the Ambassador to South Vietnam.

· US policy towards China and Taiwan

· The Vietnam Paris negotiations

· The 1972 Bombing of Haiphong Bay

· The 1972 "genocide" in Burundi

· “Helping totalitarian governments of the right"

· “The imperative of US action on the Palestinian question"

· “Hypocritical” US policy toward Italy

· The use of "aid as a weapon"

· US policy on the Korean peninsula

· "Ostentatious living" by US government employees in Indonesia

· The US policy of supporting the Somoza "dictatorship" in Nicaragua

· The "Syria, Lebanon, and Israel Convergence and Divergence" on 1977

· The relationship between President Carter and Augusto Pinochet

· US policy " not [to] negotiate with terrorists"

· The "State Department and Human Rights in Cuba"

· "US Policy toward Zaire"

· US Policy Toward Kenya and the Horn

· The “US and Syria: The Special Relationship Crumbles" in 1978

· US acquiescence to drug trafficking in Paraguay

· US economic animosity toward the USSR in 1972

· The handling of the 1974 Cyprus crisis

· US policy toward Lebanon in 1981

· US policy towards Israel in 1982

· The 1982 Recognition of the Rios Montt presidency in Guatemala

· The policy of Sanctions and the Atlantic Alliance

· US-Palestine relations in 1982

· The issue of sexual harassment at the State Department in 1983, and

· Using “carrots and sticks” to influence the actions of Poland in 1983

Peruse these and other Dissent Channel cables, and flag new insights on Twitter with the hashtag #dissentchannel. As the Department of State continues releasing documents in response to our FOIA lawsuit, the National Security Archive will post the full corpus of Dissent Channel cables on a special section of our website.

READ THE DOCUMENTS

Document 01

Dissent from U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan, April 6, 1971, from Dacca, Confidential.

1971-04-06

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73 Pol and Def. From: Pol Pak-U.S. To: Pol 17-1 Pak-U.S. Box 2535

The first known Dissent Channel Message has not yet been released by the Department of State in response to a FOIA request. Rather it can be found at the US National Archives. This cable, unlike the vast majority of Dissent Channel documents released so far by the State Department in response to the National Security Archive’s FOIA lawsuit, includes the names of its 28 State Department drafters and signatories.

The cable, originally posted by Sajit Gandhi for the National Security Archive, dissents to the US policy of supporting and arming West Pakistan as it committed genocide in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in March and April of 1971.

The authors of this dissent cable write, "U.S. policy related to recent developments in East Pakistan serves neither our moral interests broadly defined nor our national interests narrowly defined." The cable continues: "Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the west Pak dominated government and to lessen likely and deservedly negative international public relations impact against them. Our governem6nt has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy."

The first cable vividly describing these atrocities was written by US Ambassador Archer Blood on March 28, 1971, and is entitled "Selective Genocide." Though not officially sent through the Dissent Channel, the cable warned, "Full horror of Pak military atrocities will come to light sooner or later. I therefore, question continued advisability of present USG posture of pretending to believe GOP false assertions and denying" of the actual situation.[4]

Document 02

• Some Adjustment of U.S. Policy in the South Asian Crisis, from New Delhi, December 15 1971, Secret.
• Department of State Response, Washington, January 10, 1972, Secret;
• Untitled Dissent Regarding "Arms Sales to Pakistan," from United States Agency for International Development, from Islamabad, March 21, 1973, Confidential;
• Director of PCS William Cargo on "Comments on the Points Raised in [Redacted] Dissent Letter on South Asian Arms Supply," May 14, 1973, Confidential.

1971-12-15

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

The following related dissent cables and responses from Policy Planning, released by the Department of State in response to the National Security Archive’s FOIA lawsuit, continue the debate over US support of West Pakistani aggression in Southeast Asia.

The first contends that the ambiguous support the US was providing to Pakistan would render "the U.S. role to contentious irrelevancy." The cable argues that the current U.S. posture does little to alter the outcome of the Pakistan-Indian military confrontations, and risks alienating India. The author recommends that the United States support a ceasefire at the UN based on the "emerging reality of Bangla Desh [sic]," release a statement "re-affirming U.S. ‘neutrality,’" and the "prompt establishment of pragmatic USG relations with Bangla Desh [sic] authorities."

The State Department’s response affirmed that senior policy-level officers have carefully reviewed the sentiments shared in the dissent cable despite the fact that a "number of points mentioned run counter to current U.S. policy."

The second cable expresses a USAID officer’s concern over the ending of the U.S. arms embargo to Pakistan. The author believes that it "threatens the stability of the subcontinent," and would cause U.S. influence and credibility in the region to suffer. Moreover, he predicts difficulties in distinguishing between lethal and non-lethal weapons, and in ensuring these weapons will not be used against civilians or U.S. allies. The message warns that reinstating arms sales to Pakistan could cause an arms race on the subcontinent, and could impair USAID objectives. He attaches a report he had prepared on the matter, ultimately concluding that the continuation of the arms embargo is "the preferred course."

Director of Planning and Coordination Cargo responds that the dissent cable "raised a number of specific substantive points…and they deserve an answer." Cargo acknowledges that the issues raised by the dissent cable had been discussed at the highest levels of government by those concerned with "the implications of our arms supply policy."

In his attached comments, Cargo reaffirms that the policy "resulted in only very small transfers of military supplies." Cargo contends that all arms sales raise "strong moral, political and (often) economic arguments…it is difficult to see why we should make a unique exception for South Asia." He acknowledges that "we cannot guarantee that our arms will only be used in the context in which they were supplied," but Cargo and his colleagues "believe that the liklehood [sic] of India and Pakistan using weapons against each other has diminished markedly." He also predicts that "we do not believe that Pakistan is likely to engage in an ‘arms race’ with India any more."

Document 03

Dissent: The Soviet Union and Vietnam, from Jack Perry, April 17, 1972, Limited Official Use.

1972-04-17

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

In this dissent Jack Perry states that "as a loyal Foreign Service Officer, I do not believe in leaking or in public dissent," but he does hope his views on the international implications of the US policy in Vietnam will be given consideration via the Dissent Channel.

His message concludes that U.S. statements putting culpability for the Vietnam War primarily upon the Soviets are incorrect and harmful to U.S. international relations. He also states that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States can control the actions of Vietnam, either diplomatically or militarily. As such, he argues the benefits to the U.S. of improving U.S.-Soviet and east-west relationships far outweigh the temporary gains the U.S. will achieve by pursuing its current strategy focused primarily and exclusively on Vietnam.

Document 04

Statement of Opposition to the Bombing of Haiphong, from Bangkok, April 26, 1972, Limited Official Use.

1972-04-26

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This cable, sent on behalf of several Foreign Service Reserve Officers serving with the Agency for International Development in Thailand, disavows the "attacks against fuel and other storage facilities in Haiphong." They warn that these actions are "a breach of the spirit if not the letter of our stated policy to disengage from the Indo-China conflict," and risk an escalation of hostilities. The officers insist that "military triumph, at this juncture, is well beyond the grasp of the United States.

Document 05

• Narcotics Control, from Asuncion, June 14, 1972, Confidential.
• Under Secretary of State John Irwin II response, June 30, 1972, Confidential.

1972-06-14

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This message recommends measures that the United States government should take "in light of the Paraguayan government[‘s] lack of commitment to cooperate in [the] narcotics field." It expresses the belief that "the U.S. must go beyond words now" to ensure that President of Paraguay Alfredo Stroessner understands consequences of failure to cooperate." The cable suggests withholding military aid and weapons sales until President Stroessner complies with U.S. narcotics control strategy. It finally proposes that "if Paraguay remains uncooperative, U.S. interests might best be served by decisive steps against Paraguay."

Under Secretary Irwin commends the "thought, effort, and conviction" put into the preparation of the proposal. He writes that the "[State] Department has been and remains dissatisfied with GOP [Government of Paraguay’s] posture toward this serious problem." Irwin, however, warns that public action against Paraguay could "stimulate nationalistic sentiment against U.S," and that the Department does not want to force Paraguay "into a corner."

Document 06

• Policy of Non-Intervention in Burundi, from Tegucigalpa, July 7, 1972, Limited Official Use.
• Director of Planning and Coordination Staff William Cargo response, July 20, 1972, Limited Official Use.

1972-07-07

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent denounces the US "policy of non-intervention in Burundi during massive murdering of Hutu tribesmen" and warns that "we seem to be waiting until reported ‘selective genocide’ has resulted in the elimination of any dissident Hutu leaders." Its author worries about "the future development of the Hutu majority." The officer suggests that "the elimination of future aid…may provide the leverage" to end the ethnic conflict.

Director of Planning and Coordination Staff William Cargo insists that when the crisis began, "the U.S. Government tried to be helpful from both the humanitarian and political points of view." He is "reasonably certain" that the supplies and aid provided by the U.S. "reached the intended recipients without discrimination against any ethnic group." Cargo suggests the best policy for the U.S. is to engage other African nations in its response to the crisis, though they "appeared reluctant to interfere." Ultimately, he believes that "the U.S. Government has been doing the maximum within its limited capabilities to help Hutus and to encourage a return to peaceful conditions.

Document 07

• U.S. Government Responsibility for My Lai, from Alexander L. Peaslee, Halifax, July 17, 1972, Limited Official Use.
• Director of Planning and Coordination Staff, William Cargo response, July 28, 1972, Limited Official Use.

1972-07-28

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

In this dissent cable, Alexander Peaslee, one of the few officials whose name was not redacted in these documents’ release, transmits his opposition to the U.S. military’s murder of hundreds of civilians at My Lai, Vietnam. Peaslee writes that he is retiring from the Foreign Service after 29 years because of his "unwillingness to be further associated with the actions of the executive branch that initiated no steps to discipline a military unit that took action at My Lai." Furthermore, he compares the "systematic use of electrical torture, beatings, and in some cases, murder, of men, women, and children by [U.S.] military units in Vietnam" to "atrocities too similar to those of Nazis." Ultimately, Peaslee writes that he wants his message to be distributed to all Foreign Service Officers to foster an environment where other officers could express their dissent and pressure the executive branch to "prevent a recurrence of such an event."

In Director of Policy Planning Cargo’s brief response, he assures Peaslee that these matters had been brought to the attention of the appropriate offices within the State Department. He then denies Peaslee’s request for the dissent cable to be declassified on August 1, 1972, writing that the "LOU classification of these messages will be maintained beyond August 1," specifying that "the Dissent Channel is intended for internal expression of views.

Document 08

• U.S. Assistance to Essentially Totalitarian Regimes: Value of Ole UNRRA and China Relief Mission Approach, from Halifax, July 21, 1972, Limited Official Use.
• Director of Planning and Coordination Staff William Cargo response, July 28, 1972.

1972-07-21

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

In this cable written just before his retirement, Principal Officer Alexander L. Peaslee suggests that the U.S. Government "would in the long run ensure its security more effectively by reducing its assistance and close ties to essentially totalitarian governments." He specifically cites totalitarian governments "primarily… of the right," including Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, and Paraguay. This is especially prescient as he argues that "our aid had been interpreted as approval of undemocratic regimes." If the U.S. continues to support undemocratic regimes, Peaslee believes that extreme leftist opposition can arise.

He argues that "in the long run we lose the goodwill of those who are oppressed by those governments and we gain none from the totalitarian regimes…we also lose the money."

Document 09

Untitled Dissent Message on "The Somali Threat to Ethiopia," from Addis Ababa, February 7, 1973, Secret.

1973-02-07

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This message conveys a dissenting view of a previous memorandum entitled "Implications for US Policy of the Somali Threat to Ethiopia." The cable’s writers believe that report exaggerated the "Somali threat." They recommend that mission officers emphasize that "the U.S. considers Ethiopia capable of meeting the foreseeable Somali military pressures" if it properly allocates resources and combats nepotism and corruption. They also urge Ethiopian-Somali diplomatic and economic cooperation

Document 10

• Untitled Dissent Message on "Problems Involving Personal Integrity," from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, February 25, 1974, Unclassified.
• Deputy Secretary of State Robert Ingersoll responses, October 29, 1974, Limited Official Use.

1974-02-25

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent warns of "blatantly illegal" Congressional requests in Honduras, including an unnamed senator using a diplomatic pouch to smuggle gemstones and other congressmen and staff utilizing embassy employees for the "soliciting of female companionship."

Facilitating these actions was harming "the personal integrity of employees of the Department of State," according to the cable. To ameliorate having to respond to these immoral requests, the foreign service officer proposed creating "mechanisms" so that the Department of State could formally deny improper Congressional requests, rather than case by case denials by overseas posts. The author claims that the embassy in Honduras "does not have a working capability to question, let alone refuse, a Congressman’s request."

The Department of State response to the dissent stated that current regulations remain adequate for Congressional visits and that "under no circumstances should foreign service officers or missions honor any request which they know violates U.S. or local laws." Moreover, the response seems to criticize the original dissent author’s concerns for "diminish[ing] the responsibility which the Department expects officers to exercise."

Document 11

• Dissent Message [on Intelligence Reporting in Vietnam], from Belgrade, September 2, 1974, Confidential/LIMDIS;
• "Dissent Message [Responding to Dissent Message on Intelligence Reporting in Vietnam], Ambassador Graham Martin from Saigon, December 17, 1974;
• Deputy Secretary of State Robert Ingersoll response, October 11, 1974, Limited Official Use;
• Lacy A. Wright of POL/INT response, December 2, 1974, Unclassified.

1974-09-02

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

These dueling dissent cables on intelligence reporting in Vietnam serve as a notable encapsulation of the strains of the State Department that led to the creation of the Dissent Channel. In the first dissent message, a foreign service officer warns that "a consistent distortion of the flow of foreign service reporting from Vietnam exists and is serious enough to call into question the Department’s ability to reach any policy decision based on this reporting." Due to "tendency by higher-level officers to accept optimistic appraisals at face value, but to demand careful documentation of any unfavorable statement," the dissenter alleges that reports sent to Washington often included "frequent, significant, omissions," and included "a consistent distortion" where cables were "slanted" towards a positive interpretation of events. To combat this, the cable asked for the State Department to "reaffirm to all posts its commitment to insuring an accurate flow of reporting from the field" and to convene a panel to investigate inaccuracies in Foreign Service reporting.

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Ingersoll responded that a State Department inspection of the activities of the Embassy in Vietnam was already being carried out and that the concerns stated in the dissent cable were transmitted to the inspectors.

Two months later, the initial dissent cable and the Department of State’s response to it elicited a furious twelve-page dissent cable from the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Graham Martin. Martin personalized the dissent cable about reporting from Vietnam as "a most serious charge against the most valued item any diplomat can carry in his professional baggage – his reputation for total professional integrity." Martin believed that the author of the dissent cable was remiss for not confronting the ambassador personally before filing the cable, which Martin believed was an "ad hominem attack on the integrity of a fellow officer" that "marked the Department’s further descent into the neo-McCarthyism."

The Ambassador lambasted this use of the Dissent Channel as "not the opportunity for legitimate and reasoned dissent, but licensed anarchy." He also took issue with Policy Planning’s suggestion that the forthcoming inspection of the Embassy in Saigon would study this issue as "an implication I rather think the Secretary [of State Kissinger] may find both distasteful and absurd" as Kissinger "has already directed that it be publically announced that the Department has complete confidence in the integrity and completeness of the reporting of the Saigon Mission."

Ultimately, the warning of faulty and slanted reporting from the Embassy in Saigon to be correct. Less than five months after Ambassador Martin’s polemic, he oversaw the abrupt departure of American personnel from Vietnam after Saigon unexpectedly fell to the North Vietnamese.

Document 12

• Critique of the Substantive Handling of the Cyprus Crisis, from Thomas Boyatt, August 9, 1974, Secret.
• Deputy Director of Policy Planning Samuel W. Lewis response, "Your Dissent Memorandum, ‘Critique of the Substantive Handling of the Cyprus Crisis’ dated August 9, 1974," December 9, 1974, Secret.

1974-12-09

Source: Joseph Sisco records, RG 59, NARA and FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

The Department of State released its response to a dissent of the United States’ handling of the 1974 coup d’etat by the Greek army in Cyprus, but not the original cable. Fortunately, we were able to find this key original papers at the US National Archives. The dissent contends that the CIA did not accurately report and predict that there would be a coup in Cyprus, in fact it predicted that a coup would not occur. After the fact the CIA allegedly told the press that its intelligence and analysis was successful, a claim the dissent cable author Thomas Boyatt deemed "a misrepresentation." Boyatt also argued that the new situation in southern Europe was worse for the United States than it had been.

The response to this dissent from Deputy Director of Policy Planning admits "nobody would claim perfection for our policy concerning Cyprus," but argues "it would have been very hard for the USG, as a government, to foresee the present situation in all its complexities before the crisis." He contends that the "status quo" of extremely strained Turkish-Cypriot relations on the island before the crisis was not as desirable as most, including Boyatt point out in retrospect, and that its preservation would not necessarily have led to regional stability. Lewis maintains that "intelligence reports from Athens were at best conflicting," and that the U.S. inserting itself could have left "very important US/NATO facilities in both Greece and Turkey in jeopardy," Ultimately, Lewis writes, "war was avoided, negotiations began, and…civilian government was restored in Greece. We were not responsible for either the successes or the failures." However, he believes this outcome preserves US influence in the region, remarking that "while there are few grounds for optimism, there are as yet no grounds for despair."

Similar questions about US actions in relation to the crisis in Cyprus were raised in Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s preparation for a Pike Committee hearing, according to an October 24, 1975, Memorandum of Conversation from The Foreign Relations of the United States series. In this memorandum, Deputy Under Secretary Eagleburger informs Secretary Kissinger that the Pike Committee would likely probe the "mishandling of the Cyprus crisis." Ultimately, the Pike Committee ordered Kissinger to release the above-cited dissent memorandum written by Thomas Boyatt criticizing the CIA and State Department actions during the crisis. However, Kissinger refused to release Boyatt’s cable, claiming that his secrecy was an attempt to maintain the integrity of the Dissent Channel. The dissent and Policy Planning’s response have now been released and the public now has more key details about what the U.S. knew on the eve of the coup in Cyprus.

Document 13

• Dissent Channel Message: Normalization of Relations with Vietnam -Steps Along the Way, from Asia/PT, March 14, 1977, Confidential.
• Director of Policy Planning Anthony Lake response, March 23, 1977, Unclassified.

1977-03-14

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent cable urges the Department of State to "overcome the emotionalism and bitterness" of the Vietnam War and help facilitate the integration of a reunited Vietnam into the international financial system by removing legal prohibitions.

Director of Policy Planning Anthony Lake responded by stating that there has already been "considerable movement and change in direction" and that the U.S. no longer opposes Vietnamese membership in UN specialized agencies and will no longer raise objections to loan programs to Vietnam

Document 14

• U.S. Security Policy toward Korea, June 21, 1977, from Rome, Limited Official Use.
• Director of Policy Planning Anthony Lake response, August 12, 1977, Limited Official Use.

1977-06-21

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent warns of a changing U.S. policy to "remove the threat of nuclear response" to North Korean aggression.

Director of Policy Planning Anthony Lake responded that the threat of nuclear war against North Korea remained a military option in the Carter administration and "in this case, it appears we are all on the same wave-length.

Document 15

• Decontrol and Release of LOU and Unclassified Material, from Asia/PT, September 15, 1977, Unclassified.
• Director of Policy Planning Anthony Lake response, September 30,1977, Unclassified.

1977-09-15

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This is a dissent on a lack of State Department guidance on classification, FOIA, and how to distribute unclassified documents to the public, including the improper protection of information that is not harmful to national security but that "could be embarrassing to an office or an individual." According to the cable, this included "how to protect unclassified Dissent Channel messages."

The response from Policy Planning stated that the Department of State was properly following the FOIA and other laws and provided a summary of the current FOIA processes at the Department

Document 16

• Dissent Message: Redrafting of Carter/Pinochet Letter, from Santiago, November 4, 1977, Secret.
• Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher response, November 5, 1977, Confidential.

1977-11-04

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent critiques the pro-human rights tone of a letter sent by President Carter early in his administration to the leader of Chile, General Augusto Pinochet. The letter recommends removing Carter’s communication to Pinochet of the need "to restore" the "democratic tradition" in Chile, warning that "making a ‘restoration’ a sine qua non for improved relations will have effectively eliminated our leverage on the GOC [government of Chile] for progressive changes." Additionally, the diplomats warned that when the letter leaked ("and we are sure that it will"), Pinochet will be seen as reacting to U.S. pressure and therefore will be less likely to implement democratic and human rights reforms.

Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher responded to this dissent by stating that Carter’s letter to Pinochet should "go forward unaltered as soon as possible." Despite this, the dissent did trigger "intensive reconsideration" of the use of the term "restoration." In the end, the highest levels of the State Department concluded that "democratic traditions" did not refer to pre-1973 institutions, but to a more general tradition of honoring democratic practices and procedures."

Document 17

• Dissent Paper on Dept’s Policies on Terrorism, from [Redacted], October 20, 1975, Confidential.
• Special Assistant to the Secretary and Coordinator for Combating Terrorism Robert Fearey response to Policy Planning, November 13, 1975, Confidential.

1975-10-20

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This document dissents on the Department of State’s policy "that it will not negotiate with terrorists" because it will "deter future kidnappings." After citing a number of examples where State Department negotiations with terrorists saved lives, the paper concludes that the State Department should move beyond "its machismo-image self-concerns into an outward-looking policy which worries about hostages, rather than how the Dept will look. I believe some lives may have been lost and others endangered by the Dept’s refusal to move."

The dissent elicited a response from Special Assistant to the Secretary and Coordinator for Combating Terrorism Robert Fearey to the Directorate of Policy Planning arguing that the policy of the US State Department not to negotiate with terrorists was "in no sense a ‘slogan’" and cited evidence that he believe showed that it was a largely successful policy.

Document 18

• Dissent Channel: Development Aid as a Political Weapon, from New Delhi, March 10, 1976, Confidential."
• Acting Director of Policy Planning Staff Reginald Bartholomew response, May 7, 1976.

1976-03-10

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent cable criticizes a 1976 cut in aid to India and cuts to aid in general in ways that appear to the author to be "political weapons." The author argues that cutting aid in response to UN votes unfavorable to U.S. policy and as reactions to anti-U.S. public statements is actually at odds with U.S. interests. "In sum, we have little or nothing to gain from using aid as a political weapon and much to lose by it," beginning with declining U.S. world influence.

The response from Acting Director of Policy Planning Staff Reginald Bartholomew stood by the U.S. decision to cut aid to India, stating that the cuts were a necessary response to "unfriendly and untrue" statements by Indira Gandhi.

Document 19

• Aid Lifestyle, from Jakarta, October 12, 1977, Confidential
• Secretary of State Cyrus Vance response, October 18, 1977, Confidential.

1977-10-12

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This cable dissented to the use of the term "ostentatious living" by the State Department as it was requesting examples of budget cuts made by US AID employees abroad. The dissenters objected to the implication that they were living luxurious lives in Jakarta, noting that "Jakarta is a sprawling, traffic choked, shoddy, dirty, and aesthetically unappealing city" and that "one of our employees has trapped sixteen rats in the second floor bedrooms of his housing during the past year." Moreover, "the majority [of staff] would be willing to swap their generally untrained hired help for a few good American appliances."

The Secretary of State provided a cursory response stating that he had received the dissent.

Document 20

• Nicaragua from Santo Domingo, September 21, 1978, Unclassified.
• Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher response, September 26, 1978.

1978-09-21

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent cable, vociferously criticizes the U.S. government’s support of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, bemoaning that the "Nicaraguan situation represented and perhaps still represents unique opportunity for the US to intervene for once on the right repeat right side." The cable describes U.S. tacit support of Somoza as "hypocritical" and writes that he felt "deeply shamed" that Moscow and Havana could exploit the U.S. actions in Nicaragua.

Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher provides only a brief acknowledgement of receipt.

Document 21

• Dissent Channel Message: The US and Syria: The Special Relationship Crumbles, from INR/RNA/NE, October 13, 1978, Confidential.
• Director of Policy Planning Anthony Lake response, December 7, 1978, Confidential.

1978-10-13

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent warns that U.S. facilitation of the September 1978 Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel caused the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Syria to have "largely crumbled." The dissenters, from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research suggest that the U.S. attempt to rebuild the special relationship with Syria so that "the assets that Assad possesses with the Palestinians, the Jordanians, and the Lebanese," could be utilized for rather than against U.S. interests.

Director of Policy Planning Anthony Lake responded by stating that he did not believe that the U.S. relationship with Syria had crumbled, but that "the fact that [it] remains as good as it is can be viewed as cause for satisfaction." Lake welcomed further thoughts on how the State Department could work to produce a more favorable Syrian attitude toward the Camp David Accords and other U.S. policy in the region.

Document 22

U.S. Disinformation Policy on South Lebanon, from Bonn, March 31, 1981, Confidential.

1981-03-31

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent criticizes the U.S. policy of refusing to acknowledge Israeli support to rebels in Southern Lebanon led by Major Saad Haddad. According to the dissent, this "’hear no evil see no evil’ approach toward Israeli interference in Lebanon defies even tactical rationalization" as Israeli support for the Lebanese rebels is common knowledge in Israel, Lebanon, and to "anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the middle East." "To tell the truth as we know it on South Lebanon," the author argues, "would lend some sorely needed credibility to our professed support of the territorial integrity of Lebanon, and it would be honest."

No substantive response has been released by the Department of State.

Document 23

• US Should Condition Recognition of Presidency of Rios Montt, from Guatemala, June 10, 1982, Confidential.
• Director of Policy Planning Paul Wolfowitz response, July 29, 1982, Confidential.

1982-06-10

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This dissent warned, "The USG should not and cannot recognize without comment the new presidency of General Efrain Rios Montt," an army officer who led a coup and established martial law to seize power. "To have recognized the military junta that took power March 23 was to stretch our concept of democracy to its limits." The cable warned that the U.S. "may be dealing with a man who may not be in full possession of his mental facilities… who more and more is taking on the image of a despot who believes he rules by divine will." U.S. support for a leader who took power by violence rather than election, the dissent warned, shows "we have not come far from the days in which we recognized Fulgencio Batista, Anastasio Somoza or Juan Vicente Gomez."

Policy Planning responded that though they shared some of the concerns of the dissent cable, "we are less pessimistic than you are," and concluded "there is reasonable possibility that Rios Montt will provide positive leadership in Guatemala." Soon after this cable, Montt began implementing his "scorched earth" counterinsurgency strategy aimed at the indigenous Mayan population.

Document 24

• Dissent Channel Message: Sanctions and the Atlantic Alliance, drafted by Policy Planning Staff, March 27, 1982, Limited Official Use;
• State Department response [author name missing], July 30, 1982, Confidential.

1982-07-30

Source: RG 59, SN 70-73 Pol and Def. From: Pol Pak-U.S. To: Pol 17-1 Pak-U.S. Box 2535

In this dissent, its high-level State Department authors argue that the U.S. goal of using sanctions to limit Soviet international aggression has been undermined by European unwillingness to limit profits acquired through trade with the Soviet Union. "Billions of dollars in cheap credits and mountains of western technology provided in the East Bloc during the so-called détente period have increased rather than moderated Soviet expansionist appetites. The case was made absolutely clear by the use during the Afghanistan invasion of Kama River Plant heavy vehicles, manufactured with the latest Western equipment purchased through subsidized credits." The solution, the authors argue, is to make a stronger case for tougher sanctions including against the Soviet-German gas pipeline – despite their economic costs – on both sides of the Atlantic.

An unknown State Department author replied to this "cogent and thoughtful" dissent which had received "wide distribution" by stating that the Reagan administration’s goals were similar to those advocated in the dissent message, but that its tactics were somewhat different. Most notably, the administration, did not think it wise "to apply a policy of linkage … in its most extreme form" toward European allies, lest "we start treating the Europeans like adversaries rather than allies" and set the conditions of the "self-fulfilling prophecy" of an isolated United States.

Document 25

• The United States and the Palestinians: Need for an Open Dialogue, from Tel Aviv, December 17, 1982, Confidential.
• Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Policy Planning response, February 22,1983, Confidential.

1982-12-17

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This cable warns that by refusing to communicate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and West Bank Village Leagues, the U.S. was departing from its stated policy objective of "maintaining and fostering contact and dialogue with all strains of political expression on issues of concern to the US." The dissenters called this lack of contacts with prominent Palestinians "self-defeating" because it precluded US officials from "gain[ing] first-hand impressions of Palestinian viewpoints."

Secretary of State George Shultz replied that the dissent was a "thoughtful message" and provided an opportunity to review U.S. policy on "a sensitive subject," but stated that the U.S. would not be substantially changing its policy on contacts with these Palestinian groups. He did note that the U.S. was aware of the views of the PLO and Village Leagues through television and information "passed on" by the Saudis and Jordanians.

Document 26

• Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, from Vienna, April 20, 1983, Unclassified.
• Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam, April 30, 1983, Unclassified.

1983-04-20

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This cable criticizes the American Foreign Service Association’s (AFSA) efforts to combat sexual harassment, characterizing the actions as "stick[ing] its nose where it does not belong." The author compares these efforts to J Edgar Hoover’s "dirty little file" on adversaries because what he or she believes to be the potential for abuse of "this unregulated spy system."

Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam responded that he referred the matter to the AFSA for response.

Document 27

Dissent Channel Message: Poland: Carrots and Sticks are Needed, from Warsaw, November 17, 1983, Confidential.

1983-11-17

Source: FOIA lawsuit, National Security Archive v. Department of State (17-cv-0770)

This cable dissents from U.S. policy following the period after "Martial Law" in Poland, arguing that the U.S. should have lifted at least some of its sanctions on the Warsaw Pact country after its government somewhat improved human rights conditions. The current hostile policy towards Poland, the author argues, "continue[s] to drive the Poles closer to Moscow."

NOTE

[1] For the best account of the creation of the Dissent Channel, see David T. Jones, “Advise and Dissent: The Diplomat as Protester,” Foreign Service Journal, April 2000, 36. For a summary of the subsequent history of the Dissent Channel, see Kai Bird, “The Decline of Dissent,” Foreign Service Journal, February 1985, 26.

[2] From the Foreign Affairs Manual, 2 FAM 070 Dissent Channel,

[3] Thomas Boyatt, “What if I Disagree? Dissent in the Foreign Service,” excerpted from Inside a U.S. Embassy, 2011. Boyatt also includes helpful instructions on how to best draft and ague a dissent.

[4] For the full history of the genocide in East Pakistan, the State Department officials reporting it, and Nixon and Kissinger’s support of West Pakistan, read Gary J. Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).

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