Significantly, when a draft of the dissent channel cable objecting to President Obama’s Syria policy leaked to The New York Times last summer, William Harrop, a distinguished career ambassador who strongly believes in the dissent channel, condemned the leak, saying that the Foreign Service officers’ “oath of office is to protect and defend the Constitution, but they are not free to debate publicly with their president.” He added, “If they wanted to go public they should have resigned.”
Another diplomat, Chas Freeman, said at the time that “the channel can only work if it is ‘internal use only,’ i.e., it does not become part of the political diatribe or embarrass the administration.”
Diplomats confronted with an immigration policy that they believe is harmful to national interests should not abuse their government positions to undermine or sabotage the policy, no matter how strongly they feel about it. They do have three courses they can follow in good conscience:
They can seek reassignment to a position that is not affected by the policy, as John Negroponte did in leaving the White House and accepting reassignment to Ecuador after objecting to what he considered a betrayal of South Vietnam; they can continue working to mitigate the effects of a policy they object to, as Ryan Crocker did with extraordinary effectiveness in Iraq; or they can resign and go public with their objections as the Bosnia dissenters did and as Ann Wright did over Iraq and Ambassador Robert Ford did over Syria.
Whether they also have a First Amendment right to go public with their opposition while still serving in official positions is a question that lawyers can no doubt debate for a very long time.