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State Department Memo on Media Leaks Gets Leaked to Washington Post

A report generated by the State Department on the threat posed by leaks to the media was leaked to Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, according to his commentary published on Friday.

Rogin, who does not provide the memo or a link to the February 20 memo in his commentary, did give a link to the State Department official who allegedly wrote the memo, Richard Visek, acting legal adviser at the agency.

“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 wrote. “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,” Rogin wrote.

The memo was entitled “SBU: Protecting Privileged Information,” according to Rogin.

“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 wrote. “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 wrote.

Rogin provided wording from the memo: “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 makes the case for plugging leaks wherever they be found.,” Rogin wrote. 

“If the Department is going to be able to influence policy deliberations, we need to have a reputation for engaging responsibly in those deliberations,” the memo states.

Rogin also cites unnamed State Department bureaucrats who “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 career State Department official said, according to Rogin. “Posts are calling us and asking us, ‘What are we supposed to say?’ We don’t know what to tell them.”

Rogin wrote that his Washington Post colleagues have reported those bureaucrats are unhappy with Tillerson.

“He hasn’t attended key meetings, crucial foreign policy issues have been delegated to senior White House advisers, Tillerson has been largely out of the public eye and the department has not held a news briefing since the inauguration,” Rogin said.

“Tillerson and his team should do to more to build trust with the State Department workforce and bring them along, rather than worrying about stamping out leaks,” Rogin asserts. “Most State Department officials would prefer to influence policy through the proper channels, if that is an option.”

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