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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bureaucratic Dissent and Resistance

A previous post discussed theState Department's Dissent Channel. Benjamin Gettleman reports at The New York Times:
Within hours, a State Department dissent cable, asserting that President Trump’s executive order to temporarily bar citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries would not make the nation safer, traveled like a chain letter — or a viral video.
The cable wended its way through dozens of American embassies around the world, quickly emerging as one of the broadest protests by American officials against their president’s policies. And it is not over yet.
By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the letter had attracted around 1,000 signatures, State Department officials said, far more than any dissent cable in recent years. It was being delivered to management, and department officials said more diplomats wanted to add their names to it.
The State Department has 7,600 Foreign Service officers and 11,000 civil servants.
Some officials who were trying to sign the document on Tuesday said it was not clear who was in charge or who was collecting signatures. The letter was passed through official State Department email accounts and on government time — several diplomats said union rules allowed them to work on dissent memos on the clock.
“Policy dissent is in our culture,” said one diplomat in Africa, who did not want to speak publicly before the letter was released. “We even have awards for it.”
CNN's Elise Labott reports:
 White House press secretary Sean Spicer, when asked about the memo at a press briefing Monday, told the federal employees who backed it to "either get with the program or they can go."
"The President has a very clear vision," Spicer said. "He's been clear on it since the campaign. He's been clear on it since taking office, that he's going to put this safety of this country first. He is going to implement things that are in the best interest of the safety of this country ... And if somebody has a problem with that agenda then that does call into question whether or not they should continue in that post or not."
Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein and Marc Fisher report at The Washington Post:
Less than two weeks into Trump’s administration, federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make.

At a church in Columbia Heights last weekend, dozens of federal workers attended a support group for civil servants seeking a forum to discuss their opposition to the Trump administration. And 180 federal employees have signed up for a workshop next weekend, where experts will offer advice on workers’ rights and how they can express civil disobedience.

At the Justice Department, an employee in the division that administers grants to nonprofits fighting domestic violence and researching sex crimes said the office has been planning to slow its work and to file complaints with the inspector general’s office if asked to shift grants away from their mission.

“You’re going to see the bureaucrats using time to their advantage,” said the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. Through leaks to news organizations and internal complaints, he said, “people here will resist and push back against orders they find unconscionable.”