Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin write an amusing piece for the Washington Post Friday detailing a unique difficulty still plaguing the new Trump Administration. Leaks. Lots of leaks.
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Rogin’s article was essentially a public statement demonstrating the complete lack of cooperation the Trump White House has to overcome. The State Department prepared a memo outlining the dangers that it perceived stemming from all of the various leaks in Washington.
In what is an exquisite example of irony, the memo was immediately linked to the Washington Post–one of the newspapers the Trump administration is treating as hostile.
Rogin doesn’t spill all of the details of the memo, much less link to it in its entirety, yet he does provide a glimpse of its content. “SBU: Protecting Privileged Information,” was penned February 20 by Richard Visek, acting legal adviser at the State Department.
“The State Department legal office prepared a four-page memo for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning of the dangers of leaking by State Department employees,” Rogin writes. “It promptly leaked, to me.”
“That’s only the latest sign that the relationship between the Trump administration political appointees and the State Department professional workforce is still very much a work in progress,” he continues.
“The SBU stands for Sensitive But Unclassified, a designation used on documents that are not technically secret but also not supposed to be shared,” Rogin explains. “The memo itself is marked SBU and begins with detailed explanation of how and when Tillerson has the privilege of protecting certain types of information from public disclosure, such as anything that has to do with internal State Department deliberations.”
“But the bulk of the memo is devoted to arguments for clamping down on unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information, also known as leaking,” Rogin claims.
What does the memo itself say about leaks? Here’s one claim:
“When such information is leaked […] It chills the willingness of senior government officials to seek robust and candid advice, which ultimately is to the detriment of informed policymaking and the reputation of the institution from which the leak emanated.”
“If the Department is going to be able to influence policy deliberations, we need to have a reputation for engaging responsibly in those deliberations.”
So what does this mean? Rogin offers his interpretation. This leaked memo is the “latest sign that the relationship between the Trump administration political appointees and the State Department professional workforce is still very much a work in progress.”
Because a journalist’s rehashing of the obvious holds just so much water, Rogin backs his assertions with more credible opinions.
State Department bureaucrats, Rogin claims, “don’t feel that they are able to affect policy through the normal channels due to what they see as lack of communication coming from Trump’s and Tillerson’s people.”
“There’s so much that’s not being communicated inside the building and it’s a huge problem that effects everybody,” one State Department official told Rogin. “Posts are calling us and asking us, ‘What are we supposed to say?’ We don’t know what to tell them.”