Page 10 - FSJ June 2012

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10
F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 1 2
FS Bloggers, Beware
The saga of FSO Peter Van Buren
has taken several more twists and turns
since we reviewed his book,
We Meant
Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for
the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi Peo-
ple
, in January
(
www.afsa.org/fsj
).
After suspending Van Buren’s secu-
rity clearance for allegedly including
classified material in his exposé, in
March the State Department moved
to separate him from the Foreign Serv-
ice for cause. It alleges eight violations
of department policy, including linking
in his blog
(
http://wemeantwell.
com/blog
) to
documents on Wiki
Leaks; failing to clear each blog post-
ing with his bosses; displaying a “lack
of candor” during interviews with
diplomatic security officers; and exer-
cising poor judgment by criticizing
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham
Clinton and then-presidential candi-
date Michelle Bachmann on his blog.
Van Buren and his defenders assert
that these allegations are baseless, and
ask why State is so focused on his blog
when many other Foreign Service per-
sonnel and family members allegedly
post similar material with impunity.
They believe the charges mask the true
motivation behind efforts to fire him:
official anger in Foggy Bottom over his
book.
In a March 19 commentary titled
“State Dept. Throws Sink + All Fix-
tures but One at FSONon Grata Peter
Van Buren,” the
Diplopundit
blog
(
diplopundit.net
)
recalls that last fall
Principal Deputy Secretary for Public
Affairs Dana Shell Smith wrote Van
Buren’s publisher to request redactions
of supposedly classified information
from the book, which were not made.
Noting the curious fact that none of
the eight new charges even references
that episode,
Diplopundit
poses a mul-
tiple-choice quiz:
1. The folks over at HR forgot to in-
clude the allegation fromPDAS Smith;
even smart people sometimes forget,
you know.
2. Somebody finally discovered that
“Mogadishu” is not a classified item,
and the government lawyers did not
want to be laughed at all the way to
court.
3. The letter to the publisher was a
scare tactic that did not work … and
should not have been sent.
4. All of the above.
In a March 21
follow-up posting,
“Deadly Contagion Hits Foreign Serv-
ice Blogosphere,”
Diplopundit
lists
nearly two dozen Foreign Service
blogs that have suddenly gone dead in
recent weeks — though it’s not clear
whether “the contagion was caused by
a rogue virus, or the ‘Peter Van Buren
effect’ on the FS blogosphere.
“It’s not even that they just stopped
blogging — there are no goodbyes,
and the archives are gone. Some blogs
were scrubbed clean. Some have be-
come online parking lots. And some
have been totally deleted from the cy-
berverse.”
To help its members who blog,
AFSA recently disseminated and
posted on its Web site the following
“Guidance on Personal Use of Social
Media.”
It contains the following ad-
vice:
• Read the Existing Regula-
tions.
The current regulations re-
garding the use of social media can be
found in 5 FAM 790, “Using Social
Media.” Although we understand that
some of these rules with their cross-
references to other Foreign Affairs
Manual citations are confusing, we
strongly recommend that any AFSA
C
YBERNOTES
T
hey [the United States] say we
will give you money, but will
not specify the amount. We say
give us less, but write it down.
We want them to write down that
America will give for Afghani-
stan’s security $2 billion a year,
or at least $2 billion a year. If
they want to give us more, they
are welcome.
— Afghan President Hamid
Karzai, speaking to a group of
university professors and stu-
dents in Kabul on April 17;
Yahoo News
(www.yahoo.com)