State Dept Angst Over Peter Van Buren’s Book – It Never Got to Give an Affirmative Clearance

I just posted an update on Peter Van Buren’s book saga in Could Not Stick to “No Comment,” the State Dept Finally Has Nothing and Something to Say on Peter Van Buren’s Case

Also, on September 30, the Public Intelligence Blog had this to say about Peter Van Buren’s book:

“This is a great book, an important book, and I salute the Department of State people with integrity that approved it for publication, while scorning the seventh floor craven autocrats that have bullied the author for telling the truth.”

Well, hold off on that salute, will ya?

Under 3 FAM 4172.1-3(C) the Review Office for State Department employees in the United States is, you guess it – the Bureau of Public Affairs (PA).

Now PA reportedly is in great angst over this book because the folks there perceive that the FSO-author did not act “in good faith in getting clearance.”  A State insider who is not authorized to speak about this matter said that Mr. Van Buren submitted the book, and when 30 days had elapsed without a response, the author took that as State Department clearance per regulations in the Foreign Affairs Manual. 

And PA folks are now grousing that they never got to give an affirmative clearance. Oh, dear!

Hey, stop laughing over there!

Prior to the book’s publication, I posted a scenario in my blog where somebody at the State Dept forgot that the manuscript of this book was in his/her inbox and did not take action during the “reasonable period of review” indicated in the FAM “not to exceed thirty days.”

I don’t know if forgetfulness was the culprit here, but if the 30-day comment period lapsed without a response from Public Affairs, how is that the author’s fault or why would that be considered as not acting in “good faith”?

For the FAM brainiacs out there, here are a couple of relevant sections for good reading:

3 FAM 4172.1-5 Materials of Official Concern Prepared in an Employee’s Private Capacity: Duration of Review
(CT:PER-584; 11-03-2005)
(Uniform State/USAID)
(Applies to all Employees in the United States and Abroad)
All public speaking, writing, or teaching materials on matters of official concern prepared in an employee’s private capacity must be submitted for a reasonable period of review, not to exceed thirty days, to the office specified in 3 FAM 4172.1-3(C). In the case of time-sensitive materials of reasonably brief length, the period of review should be abbreviated in an effort to accommodate the interests of employees.

3 FAM 4172.1-7 Use or Publication of Materials Prepared in an Employee’s Private Capacity That Have Been Submitted for Review
(CT:PER-584; 11-03-2005)
(Uniform State/USAID)
(Applies to all Employees in the United States and Abroad)
An employee may use, issue, or publish materials on matters of official concern that have been submitted for review, and for which the presumption of private capacity has not been overcome, upon expiration of the designated period of comment and review regardless of the final content of such materials so long as they do not contain information that is classified or otherwise exempt from disclosure as described in 3 FAM 4172.1-6(A).

But here’s the funny thing.  Apparently, the State Department is quite serious about respecting that 30-day timeline when the situation calls for it. In fact, when Condolezza Rice‘s book was being circulated for clearance around the Department a year or so ago — the Executive Office at State reportedly sent that around with “very tight short fuze clearance taskers” so that the 30 day timeline could be respected.

Obviously, they could have done the same with Peter Van Buren’s book, but did not. I don’t know if that’s simple incompetence or if it’s because a mid-level official is presumed not to have a whole lot to say?

Whatever it is, that salute may be uncalled for. And that’s too darn bad.