State Department Writes Anti-Leak Memo... Which Quickly Leaks To The Washington Post

At this point it is no great surprise that the Trump administration is the victim of an attempted "soft coup" led by so-called career politicians, most of whom are liberal, Obama/Clinton loyalists, staffing the various agency buildings sprinkled around Washington D.C.  As we noted a few days ago, here is just a small sample of what has been leaked by these career politicians in just the past couple of weeks:

  • The "National Guard roundup": The AP published a story this week on a draft Homeland Security memo that would call up National Guard units to round up illegal immigrants. The administration quickly denied it was considering the idea, but someone leaked that memo. 
  • Torture executive order draft: Only days after the inauguration, a draft of an executive order started circulating detailing plans to reinstate the CIA's "black site" prisons and using Gitmo for detainees. It's uncertain where this came from, and nothing has come of it since. 
  • His conversation with Australia: An official told the NYT that the call between Trump and Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was heated and had an abrupt end. 
  • His conversation with Mexico: Dolia Estevez from Forbes reported that sources from both sides told her that Trump threatened to send U.S. military to Mexico during his "friendly" phone call with President Nieto. 
  • The raid in Yemen: Military personnel leaked information about the raid in Yemen, which led to the death of a Navy SEAL. They accused Trump of not having the proper intelligence before signing off on the raid. 
  • Gen. Flynn's phone call: Weeks after the FBI warned the Trump administration that then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn talked about Obama's sanctions during his call with Russia in December, the information was leaked to the press, which ended up with Flynn forced resignation. 
  • The insiders: Republican Senator John McCain told reporters on Tuesday, "It's a dysfunctional White House, and nobody knows who's in charge." Others have told journalists, including our Mike Allen about the "borderline chaos" of Trump's administration, Steve Bannon's growing influence, Trump's dramatic process for selecting his SCOTUS, etc.

Trump even commented on the persistent leaks again today in an early morning, mini tweet storm saying that "classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S."

 

But the latest leak, while not terribly damaging to the Trump administration, certainly wins the award for "Most Ironic."

Earlier this week on February 20th, the State Department's acting legal adviser, Richard Visek, prepared a four-page memo for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, entitled “SBU: Protecting Privileged Information”, which warned of the dangers of leaking by State Department employees. Ironically, that memo was promptly leaked to Josh Rogin of the Washington Post who subsequently penned an article bragging about his latest intelligence breach.

While the memo warns that leaks are a "detriment of informed policymaking and the reputation of the institution from which the leak emanated", those warnings apparently fell upon deaf ears.

“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,” the memo states.

 

State Department officials unhappy with a policy have many perfectly good alternatives to leaking, the memo argues. The can participate in the policy process as it develops or convey their concerns about a policy afterwards to their co-workers, supervisors or department leadership.

 

“The Department has also benefitted [sic] from the existence of the Dissent Channel, which is itself a confidential deliberative channel that seeks to facilitate open, creative, and uncensored dialogue on substantive foreign policy issues,” the memo says.

Of course, Secretary of State Tillerson has responded to the leaks by shutting off access to sensitive information.

Several State Department officials told me that they see evidence of an effort by Tillerson to stymie leaking is already underway. For example, detailed readouts of Tillerson’s meetings with foreign officials are no longer distributed widely inside the building, leaving officials in relevant bureaus unsure exactly what transpired.

 

Another official told me Tillerson has shortened the list of officials allowed inside the daily 9:15 a.m. senior staff meeting, which has previously served as a key channel through which various State Department offices and bureaus learn about the day’s agenda and get direction from the secretary’s office.

 

A third State Department official told me he was instructed to make requests for policy information and guidance over the phone or in person, rather than commit any policy discussions to an email that might be leaked.

And while quarantining sensitive information is a more than appropriate step by an administration plagued by leaks emanating from a group of disaffected career politicians seeking political retribution, we can already hear the faint cries of Democrats who will undoubtedly blast what will surely become a "secretive" Trump administration...never mind that they caused the problem in the first place.