The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2023 23 for a process for department personnel to express alternative and dissenting positions. Simultaneously, the State Department was undergoing a larger reform effort. In 1967, as part of his efforts to modernize, Secretary of State Dean Rusk formalized the Open Forum, a volunteer association of younger officers whose mandate was to bring new or alternative views into the policy debate. And in January 1970, Under Secretary for Administration William Macomber launched a massive reform effort called “Diplomacy for the 70’s: A Program of Management Reform for the Department of State.” Thirteen task forces staffed by more than 50 foreign policy professionals worked for more than five months. They produced more than 500 recommendations that were compiled in a 610-page volume delivered to Secretary of State William P. Rogers on Nov. 20, 1970. One of those recommendations was that the State Department “establish as a general principle [that officers] are free to submit a dissenting statement.” This opened the door for the creation of a formal mechanism for dissent. Meanwhile, dissent bubbled. In November 1970, more than 50 Foreign Service officers signed a letter to Secretary Rogers outlining their opposition to the invasion of Cambodia. As the letter was circulated for additional signatures, it was leaked to the press. Incensed, President Richard Nixon called Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson in the middle of the night, demanding that the signers be fired immediately. They were not, but the pressure to silence them was intense. As a result of the space created by reform efforts and the courage of the dissenters of the time, the State Department established the right of foreign affairs officials to dissent in February 1971. A new section of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), section 101, was called “Policy of Openness in Post Management.” According to Management Reform Bulletin No. 9 of Feb. 23, 1971: “Officers who may conclude, after carefully weighing all views, that they cannot concur in a report or recommendation are free to submit a dissenting statement without fear of pressure or penalty.” Although this bulletin has been seen as establishing the Dissent Channel, the term was not used. The new FAM section did not establish guidelines for who could dissent, to whom dissents should be communicated, or how the policy process should react to each “dissenting statement.” In April 1971, Archer Blood, who was the consul in Dhaka (then in East Pakistan and now the capital of Bangladesh), was the first to test this new openness to dissent. Blood authorized the use of the consulate’s telegraph machine for seven staff at the consulate to send what is often called the first Dissent Channel message. The “Blood Telegram,” as it came to be known, appealed to the Nixon administration to intervene to stop the Pakistani military’s violence in East Pakistan. The dissent did not lead to U.S. policy change but did bring attention to what the dissenters called “genocide” in East Pakistan, generated support for their interpretation inside the State Department, and helped to create the Dissent Channel. In late 1971 and early 1972, the Dissent Channel began to take shape as a formal mechanism. On Nov. 4, 1971, State Department cable No. 201473 laid out the first set of instructions for submitting dissenting opinions, emphasizing “that all expressions of dissent