Rules must be obeyed–even if they make you stupid

The Wikileaks disclosures of State Department communiqués has certainly riled up our National Security State. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the one who signed the directive that diplomats obtain biometric information from their counterparts and other members of foreign governments) finds the matter so dangerous to our national security that she has ordered that the sharing of information between the State Department and the Pentagon be stopped.

Speaking to the American government’s constituency at a place where those adult enough to be able to understand, Manama, Bahrain, Secretary Clinton explained how the leaks took place according to Foreign Policy. It seems that it was the Bush Administration’s decision to “connect-the-dots” after 9/11 that allowed all the information to be shared. Now Madame Secretary was not about to throw the Bush Administration under the bus for that. After all, she explained, there were good reasons to share intelligence to track down terrorists who threatened us back then. But she said she ordered the cooperation stopped. She didn’t explain whether it was because we just stopped trying to track down terrorists or that avoiding the embarrassment of allowing the world to see her letters, for example, overrode our security. She did point out, however, that the leak came from the Pentagon not Foggy Bottom.

She urged her listeners to regard the “attack” (Wikileaks not 9/11) as an attack not just on America, but “an attack on the international community” and the way they all did business. For example, it would really damage the international order if American citizens knew how hard their government was pushing Spain to drop prosecution against high placed American war criminals. And we don’t need to know how fundamentally corrupt our client government in Afghanistan is and how hopeless is our occupation there. And why should anyone know about China’s hacking and internet spying? That’s what governments are supposed to do, right? In fact, she suggested that they all become more secretive. That after all is what the State Department intends to do.

According to Democracy Now, the State Department has ordered its employees not to read any of the Wikileaks cables. Since the information is in every news outlet, avoiding it will require studied ignorance by the State Department employees. But Secretary Clinton is a can-do kind of diplomatic chief. If it takes ignorance to obey rules, by golly we will just be ignorant. No matter that all our counterparts and everyone not working for the State Department will know more than the State Department employees. It’s not like the State Department needs to know anything. It runs on automatic.

Oh, but wait. There is another class of citizens that have been advised to know less about our State Department than citizens of Albania–prospective State Department hires. Supposedly, the students of Columbia University’s School of International Affairs (one of the places career foreign officers are more likely to come from ) received this email from the placement office:

Hi students,

We received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. He asked us to pass along the following information to anyone who will be applying for jobs in the federal government, since all would require a background investigation and in some instances a security clearance.

The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.

Office of Career Services

Ordinarily there would be all sorts of red flags going up about the authenticity of this email (the source is the Arabist blog). But SIA has not yet denied it, and given that our National Security State thrives on secrecy, it is not implausible. Supposedly foreign service career graduate students at Georgetown University received similar warnings.

So there we have it. You and I know that the higher ups at the State Department regard the Afghan adventure as hopeless, but that information should not be shared with current State Department employees or future ones. We certainly couldn’t have an effective foreign policy if we allowed the underlings to know what the adults do. And by adults, I mean those willing to ignore the information to continue policies not in the interest of our country.

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