The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 51

wealthy, politically connected
Russian businessman with
many friends in Washington,
D.C. He was a frequent trav-
eler and this was just another
business trip—or was it? We
decided to hold his applica-
tion for further scrutiny. It
did not take long before we
began receiving letters and
phone calls from his legal
counsel in the U.S., followed
by letters from members of
Congress. Needless to say,
there was increasing interest
from the Bureau of Consular
Affairs, as well.
It got worse. One member
of Congress threatened me
by telling me that by refusing
the businessman’s visa, I was
jeopardizing my career. I wish
I could have recorded the
telephone conversation when
that angry congressman
shouted a string of expletives
at me and said his next call
was to the Secretary of State.
I asked myself, is this deci-
sion worth it?
We refused the visa on
solid grounds. I made it clear
to CA that the consulate in
Moscow would not be issu-
ing any visa to the applicant
while on my watch. The
ambassador backed me up,
but it was months before the
anger and rage subsided.
The incident did not end
my career. At the time, none
of us considered it dissent;
the visa refusal was simply
the right thing to do. There-
fore, we were surprised to
hear about the Herter Award
nomination. Receiving the
award did not hurt any of our
careers. We can now look
back with satisfaction that
we hung in there to make the
right decision.
At our embassies and
consulates around the world,
Foreign Service members
make decisions with integrity
and good judgment, and we
stand by those decisions. Our
team in Moscow did nothing
more than what many of our
fellow officers do on a regular
basis, hopefully without the
threats and expletives!
Having served in more
senior positions since then,
I have come to highly value
those officers who are
unafraid to provide alterna-
tive ideas, speak honestly,
dissent when warranted and
stand by their convictions. If
that is you, I look forward to
working together.
Dissent continued from page 39
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