Criminal Justice & the Rule of Law

Full Text of Draft Dissent Channel Memo on Trump Refugee and Visa Order

Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic
Monday, January 30, 2017, 9:25 AM

Consider this a major bureaucratic uprising on the part of career foreign service officers against the President on his executive order on refugees.

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Consider this a major bureaucratic uprising on the part of career foreign service officers against the President on his executive order on refugees.

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Numerous Foreign Service officers and other diplomats have drafted a dissent memo expressing opposition to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States. ABC reported this morning on the draft, which is likely to be submitted today.

Here’s a copy of the actual draft. We are hearing that literally hundreds of foreign service officers are planning to be party to the dissent memo; it’s still unclear exactly how many. We have redacted all names and personally identifiable information from this document.

The State Department’s Dissent Channel is a mechanism for employees to confidentially express policy disagreement, created in 1971 as a response to concerns within the Department over the government’s handling of the Vietnam War. Authors of a memo submitted through the Channel, which is open to all regular employees of the State Department and USAID, may not be subject to any penalty or disciplinary action in response. Once a memo is submitted, the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff must acknowledge its receipt within two working days and will usually distribute it to the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of State, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, the Chairperson of the Open Forum, and, if the memo’s author is employed by USAID, by the head of that agency as well. Taking into account the wishes of the author, the memo may also be distributed more broadly within the State Department and may be done so anonymously.

The ultimate significance of the channel is that memos must receive a substantive response within 30-60 working days.

Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.
Susan Hennessey was the Executive Editor of Lawfare and General Counsel of the Lawfare Institute. She was a Brookings Fellow in National Security Law. Prior to joining Brookings, Ms. Hennessey was an attorney in the Office of General Counsel of the National Security Agency. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.

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