Could Not Stick to "No Comment," the State Dept Finally Has Nothing and Something to Say on Peter Van Buren’s Case

Student Using an Interactive WhiteboardImage via WikipediaI don’t know why I thought the State Department could hold its tongue and stick to its “no comment” response on the Peter Van Buren case. Apparently, somebody did not read the memo.

An unnamed State Department spokesman gave The Atlantic Wire a statement late last week.  Excerpts below:

“Regarding Mr. Van Buren, we do not discuss individual personnel matters,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement to The Atlantic Wire today.
The State Department’s statement to The Atlantic Wire did defend their policy of investigating information that is potentially “improperly disclosed”, presumably in response to Van Buren’s assertion that they are unfairly targeting him alone for linking to the WikiLeaks materials and publishing critical opinions on his blog.

“The Department of State has an obligation to try to ensure that official information is released in an authorized and appropriate manner, that classified and other protected material is not improperly disclosed, and that the views an employee expresses in his or her private capacity are not improperly attributed to the U.S. government.  Foreign Service Officers and other employees know that they are expected to adhere to the rules associated with meeting these obligations.

All Department employees who write for publication in their private capacity on matters of official concern are required to have their work reviewed by the Department in compliance with longstanding clearance requirements and procedures set forth in the Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual.”  

I expected the State Department to stick to its “no comment.” But if it had to say something about this, I also expected its spokesman to say something a tad more creative not something as lame as this.

Remember that Chinese saying – more talk, more mistake, no talk, no mistake?

Peter Van Buren’s book apparently had been cleared by the appropriate channels in the Big House in compliance with the requirements in the FAM, so why bring that up? Is the spokesman saying without saying that Mr. Van Buren’s book did not follow the appropriate clearance procedures, that’s why he is under investigation? C’mon folks, either the book was officially cleared or not; you can’t have it both ways. If it was cleared, then stop harassing the guy so he can sell the book. If it was not cleared, why have you not frog-marched the author out of C. Street — given that you talk about  “classified and other protected material” in the same statement?

As to clearance of blog posts and tweets, best not go there since that’s a tricky, tricky thing that may show a rather selective flavor.

And oh, a note on disclaimers — the spokesman’s statement says that the State Department obligations include ensuring that “the views an employee expresses in his or her private capacity are not improperly attributed to the U.S. government.”

Well, hookay, but what kind of disclaimer would be acceptable when the guy already had this marked prominently on page 6 of his book:

The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the Department of State, the Department of Defense, or any other entity of the US government. The Department of State had the chance to review this book in manuscript form before publication, as required by 3 FAM 4170. Th e Department of State does not approve, endorse, or authorize this book.

If that disclaimer is not acceptable, then I don’t know how else you can write a disclaimer that would say the same thing and be acceptable.

Remember that Chinese saying – more talk, more mistake, no talk, no mistake?

Make that spokesman write this a hundred times on the “R” Front Office’s whiteboard, please.