State Department Moves to Fire Peter Van Buren

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, March 15, 2012

The State Department is moving to fire Peter Van Buren, who we have profiled extensively as the man who exposed the fatal weaknesses in our so-called counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and who has been an ardent critic of the U.S war and diplomatic policies in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The foreign service officer and author of We Meant Well: How I Helped to Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, was suspended last year, his diplomatic passport and security clearances stripped as he became a “hall walker” and then a home-bound paper pusher while the agency did their “investigation” of his purported transgressions (supposedly, disclosing classified documents when he linked to two Wikileaked documents on his critical personal blog, and allegedly revealing classified information in his book, which Van Buren denies). He expressed sadness and surprise in a statement emailed today to Antiwar.com:

It saddens me to see a once-great institution, our first cabinet agency, the Department of State, reduced to crude retaliation against one of its own employees for writing a book and a blog. Despite all the huff-puff from State about “regulations,” this is all about free, critical speech that the organization does not like and seeks to squash. When they couldn’t stop my writing, they seek to punish me. Instead of rebutting what I say, they seek to attack me as a person. I always planned on retiring in September, so all this effort is about cutting my career short by only a few months. If that does not show the retaliatory intent of State, I don’t know what does.
Actually, maybe this does. I filed my complaint for retaliation as a whistleblower with the Office of the Special Counsel early in January 2012, about which the State Department was officially put on notice at that time. After sitting on their own report of investigation for three months, it was only days after the Office of the Special Counsel referred my complaint to its investigatory and prosecutorial section, that the Department issued the termination notice. Very curious timing.
That the State Dept advocates for the rights of bloggers and authors and journalists in countries the US is in conflict with (Syria, Iran) while opposing those same rights for its own employees, turning its internal security apparatus loose on those employees (me!), is a very powerful story. Clinton in fact said “No individual should be prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression” about a blogger in Vietnam.
This case illustrates the crude use of security as a tool within government to silence dissent. Per their own Report of Investigation, Diplomatic Security at State monitored my email, interrogated me, used computer forensic tools, placed me on a Secret Service Watch list, charged with me with impeding an investigation when I refused to implicate myself in a Federal crime and compiled examples of my work online, all because of a simple blog. I am not arguing that Security can’t do these things– they did them– but arguing that such draconian, Stasi-like use of the tools of security over an employee blog demonstrates the dark intent of the State Department when confronted with dissent. Really, a three month investigation involving dozens of employees? Diplomatic Security even sent an agent to try and interview my neighbor yesterday. That is a sad comment on our America.
If I did not tell you about the waste and mismanagement of billions of your tax dollars in Iraq, who would? Who could, besides someone who saw it? I know now that the State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) opened a case– against me for linking to a document elsewhere on line –after my book came out, refusing to investigate instead the waste I wrote about. The oath I took when I joined the State Department was to the Constitution– to you all, really, and not to a particular Secretary of State, or administration, or government policy. That is why I speak out.
That government employees are Citizens first, enjoying their First Amendment rights irrespective of their employer’s beliefs, is long established—see Pickering v. Board of Education, (http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/391/563) among other cases. I, like all Citizens, do not give up my basic rights at the State Department doorway and I intend to fight for that.
Firing him months before his retirement — he served 24 years — may mean a loss in pension and benefits. We will follow this story as it develops.



19 Responses to “State Department Moves to Fire Peter Van Buren”

  1. I am all for freedom of speech, it is one of the foundations of this great country – however, when Mr. van Buren was accepted into the state department I am sure he had to sign some confidentiality agreement that would limit his ability to publicly vent his personal views if they are contrary to whatever the US policy is at the time of the writing. So in short – he should have waited until he was no longer a 'diplomat' to write his book. Clearly his agenda was personal – he wanted as much press as possible for his book prior to leaving the government as a way to curry favor (and perhaps a job) with anti-government entities. Mr. van Buren you get what you deserve.

  2. The State Department is a farce. Run by warmongering lunatics and espousing hypocrisy as a formula for diplomacy. Hmmm, diplunacy? Mr. Van Buren has the Constitutional right to speak his mind and if that upsets the freakish Madam SecState Schoolmarm Clinton, GOOD! Well and of course her boss, Barack the Beneficent. Kudos to Matt B. for that turn of phrase.

  3. Wow. Did you even read his words above?? "The oath I took when I joined the State Department was to the Constitution– to you all, really, and not to a particular Secretary of State, or administration, or government policy. That is why I speak out. That government employees are Citizens first, enjoying their First Amendment rights irrespective of their employer’s beliefs, is long established…" Does this not resonate at all, or are you a member of the pro-government elite?

  4. More of the same!! The Neocriminals wish to keep their crimes out of the public spotlight…….. They wish to silence all dissent and sugar coat their genocidal accomplishments. Their dark cult of theft and credocide (of Muslims) eschews light and reflection…..

  5. It's actually surprising that there are any State employees with a conscience. The proximity to reflected power must be a powerful antidote to the feelings of shame and embarrassment any normal person would have working for the likes of Allbright and Clinton. Welcome back to the human race Mr. Van Buren.

  6. Peter, the State Department does not deserve you. The fact that Hitlery Rotten Clinton heads it notwithstanding, this department, like virtually ALL cabinet-level departments nowadays, is corrupt and rotten to its core, a hive of amoral sycophants, poseurs, incompetents, and criminals. You deserve much better company, and they are absolutely unworthy of your leadership, humanity, and vision. It might also very well be that your respect for the Constitution (that quaint little governing document that is the sole basis for their existence) was the ultimate bone in their collective throats that was suffocating them and that led directly to your expulsion.

    Trite as this might sound, I really believe that your firing is a blessing in disguise. There are plenty of opportunities for a man of your vision and character to make changes for the better elsewhere. In such a capacity, you're needed now more than ever.

  7. The anxiety of an empire in decline … The administration has nothing to replace the traditional values it has squandered — except brute force.

  8. When U.S. GovCo, in its State Department branch, supposedly tries to protect those in other countries that speak truth to power and then goes after Mr. Van Buren for doing the same; it tells us how sad our "State" of affairs is.

    You are to be admired Mr. Van Buren, a man is known by the enemies he keeps.

  9. You're right, but Mr. Van Buren was extremely naive to think the Lizard Queen and her goon squad wouldn't retaliate against him. The more corrupt an institution, the less it tolerates dissent — and he saw the corruption firsthand. Van Buren should have retired a year or so early, then gone public with the facts, just as Smedley Butler retired before writing War is a Racket. Retirees can't be fired or stripped of their pensions.

  10. Peter Van Buren's book was given clearance for publication by the Department of State, so your comment does not stand.

    You are not required to check your brain on employment at the Department of State, although that appears to only apply to criticism of offical policy.

  11. Much worse is coming. All of our emails can be, and will be, monitored. Tiny spy drones will gather data on everyone. There is no escape. And the Obama administration is adopting the stance that any whistle-blowing constitutes an offense against the World War I Espionage Act. How many of us will dare to challenge government policy when to do so brings the death penalty?

  12. IF ONE PLAN'S TO RETIRE IN SEPTEMBER, WHY RISK PENSION, OTHER BENEFITS AND POSSIBLE JAIL TIME TO WRITE SOME STUPID BOOK THAT MOST AMERIKANS WON'T READ ANYWAY…………….???

    There are times when one has to wonder what is it that people drink these days. Is there something in the water? Why is it that the Peter Van Buren types look on in disbelief when they fall victim to the system they unthinkingly served and then decided to oppose?

    This guy serves a government that has killed millions around the world, wrecked countless countries, and assassinates people on a daily basis when they disobey royal asylum state edicts. Does this guy think that the Hillary Clintons and the Barack Obamas of the world will allow him to defy them without consequence? Really?

  13. Peter Van Buren and all other whistleblower wannabes,

    Next time, retire with full pension and benefits first, then shoot off your big mouths later………………..

  14. Peter Van Buren: Thank you for your service. Thank you for the added value service to our country and Consitution.

  15. More worship of the state. More tricks for those in power to live without consequences while they are in power. Jon B. , you get one of the rare thumbs down from me. I don't give them out easily. If free speech is a foundation , and if the country is currently great as you claim a "however" is not necessary.

  16. [...] been used under the Obama Administration to censor and punish whistleblowers — like Tom Drake and Peter Van Buren — and to keep information endeavored to be shared by whistleblowers, out of the public domain. [...]

  17. There are times when one has to wonder what is it that people drink these days. Is there something in the water? Why is it that the Peter Van Buren types look on in disbelief when they fall victim to the system they unthinkingly served and then decided to oppose? houston spring limo

  18. The oath I took when I joined the State Department was to the Constitution

  19. This guy serves a government that has killed millions around the world, wrecked countless countries, and assassinates people on a daily basis when they disobey royal asylum state edicts