The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2023 11 LETTERS WikiLeaks Harm: We Must Help Yes, we must help those imprisoned because of talking to us. I agree with Niels Marquardt in his Speaking Out piece in the October 2022 FSJ , “WikiLeaks Damage Lives On: The Case of Marafa Hamidou Yaya, ” that there should be no sympa- thy for Julian Assange nor, in my view, for Chelsea Manning. (It’s helpful to remember that Assange’s original extradi- tion was for accusations of rape, sexual molestation, and coercion—he is not an upstanding guy.) I don’t know of any Foreign Service officers, especially any of those who have been in the Service more than a decade and who have written reporting cables, who feel differently. Marquardt is right that especially in parts of Europe, Assange gets held up as some sort of hero for “exposing” the government through WikiLeaks (while they ignore the sexual assault charges, I guess). For years, when I’ve made points about why WikiLeaks was terrible for democracy, I’ve mentioned the lack of safety for our human rights contacts as the top reason. I wasn’t, however, able to point to any particular example of that, until now. In his article, Marquardt (a former ambassador to Cameroon) makes a strong case for helping the northern Cameroonian former government official Marafa Hamidou Yaya, whomMarquardt says years ago spoke in confidence to our embassy about his political intentions. When the cable went into WikiLeaks, the local press picked it up, and Yaya was arrested and jailed. Now after 12 years in prison, Yaya is ailing. Yet despite U.N. and some U.S. efforts, he remains imprisoned, and Mar- quardt is pleading for the State Depart- ment to push hard for his release. I agree with Marquardt—and the seven other former U.S. ambassadors to Cam- eroon working with him—that we owe Mr. Yaya all our efforts to get him freed, and that the moment is now. He suggests we write to our members of Congress for support and also ask the Bureau of Intelligence and Research to look into finding other cases like Yaya’s. Even so many years later, it’s never too late to help somebody who took time to talk with us believing the conversation would be kept safe. Even if not our fault that the cables got leaked, we do have a responsibility to help. Kristin M. Kane Foreign Service officer Minister-Counselor Washington, D.C. Grievance System History Redux John Naland’s history of the FS grievance system in the October 2022 Journal accurately summarizes how the suicide of Foreign Service Officer Charles Thomas contributed to the FS Griev- ance Board’s origins and provides new information onThomas’ tour at Embassy Mexico City. But Naland’s passing mention of the litigation brought by “the Civil Service union, the American Federation of Gov- ernment Employees” (AFGE), overlooks the extent to which the initiative was led by Foreign Service officers, notably the late Gene Preston, Harrison Sherwood, Alison Palmer, and John Vincent. They joined AFGE’s State/AID Local 1534 in 1970 to challenge the absence of due process in Foreign Service selection- out and other personnel inequities and to create a grievance procedure and labor- management bargaining process. In the face of State’s unyielding resistance, and AFSA’s role at the time as a profes- sional association, they believed a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO to be a more promising means to achieve their goals. In 1971, Local 1534 and USIA’s AFGE Local 1812 formed a Foreign Affairs Employees Council and created the Charles WilliamThomas Memorial Legal Defense Fund, with Preston serving as president of the council and the fund. The fund established a National Advi- sory Committee led by former Assistant Secretary of Labor Leo Werts, Ambassa- dor Fulton Freeman, and AFGE National President Clyde Webber. After much delay, the IRS gave the fund tax exempt status, the first time for a union-sponsored legal defense fund. AFL-CIO unions, foreign affairs employ- ees, and individuals sympathetic to issues raised by Thomas’s death con- tributed to the fund, which enabled it to retain the prestigious Washington firm Hogan and Hartson to challenge lack of selection-out due process in court. In November 1971, attorneys William O. Bittman and George Miller met with Under Secretary of State for Management WilliamMacomber and Director of For- eign Service Personnel Howard Mace to state their intent to seek an injunction on selection-out of serving officers who had not been given due process. I attended the meeting as the fund’s USIA trustee with Preston and other union representatives and later served as the fund’s president when Preston was assigned to Nigeria. TheThomas Fund agreed not to litigate in return for a moratoriumon selection-out