Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Why I blog anonymously and don't talk about foreign policy

I found this today on The Hegemonist:

Today I read that I had missed a cable that went out to all diplomatic and consular channels entitled, "Social Media and the Conduct of Diplomacy." The cable starts off by defending the Department's web 2.0 efforts, and then reminds personnel that, "Department personnel must publicly defend U.S. government policy, despite any personal reservations," and, "any posting to a wiki or blog that contains information 'of official concern' to the Department must be cleared through PA (for domestic employees) or Chief of Mission." I looked up a definition of "of official concern" and found "materials are on matters of official concern if they relate to any policy, program, or operation of the employee’s agency or to current U.S. foreign policies." In other words, anything about the Department or about US foreign affairs is off limits without clearance.

Digger comments.

I didn't always blog anonymously. I started this blog on a different platform and for a different reason than why I blog now. I was overseas, in an area with on-going hostilities, and my family was worried about me. So rather than send out mass emails every day saying, yep, I am still okay, I started blogging. I found that I enjoyed doing it and my family liked being able to check up on me at any time.

Then I got warned on two separate occassions, once by both Diplomatic Security and once by our acting Deputy Chief of Mission. After the first warning (from my friend in DS), because I found some of their concerns understandable, I sanitized some of the entries. After the second warning, I made the blog private. But I found that unsatisfactory...the platform I used required each of my family members to get a logon to see it. So I changed to blogspot and went anonymous.

I don't talk about foreign policy issues. I knew when I signed onto the Foreign Service that my job was to defend our foreign policy whether I agreed with it or not. That is the price I pay to serve, the price I pay for the paycheck, and I can deal with that. But we were told from the beginning that domestic policy was fair game. So I figured blogging about life in the Foreign Service, and specifically about life for LGBT folks in the foreign service, is permissible. I don't kid myself...the definition in the post above places what I blog on firmly within the realm of "official concern." But of the hundred or so FS blogs I follow, I don't know a single one that gets clearance for their posts. And I know that if all of us did, there would be no way to post anything in a timely manner.

Plus, I know the Foreign Service is of a mixed mind on blogs. I agree with DS that you have to be cautious not to create security risks (which is why I sanitized what I did). But like the folks in Public Affairs, I consider a blog to be a great recruiting tool. And I think it is important to get the word out. I love serving my country. I want others to join me. But I want them to do it with open eyes. And too, I hope to be part of the nudge to the Department to address the inequities facing LGBT foreign service families.

So here I am.


Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms2.blogspot.com/2009/02/re-tough-decisions.html

Anonymous said...

I like the way you are handling this situation. I read you because I am a FS hopeful. I wouldn't read you if I didn't know you were an FSO. I expect you have the wisdome and intelligence to avoid doing anything that puts your mission or your life in danger. I think State isn't handling this quite right.