According to a report by the Washington Post, some 180 federal employees have registered for training on the February 4-5 weekend in both the rights of workers and in civil disobedience. The report said that dozens of federal bureaucrats attended a support group that foments opposition to the Trump administration, less than two weeks after the inauguration President Donald Trump.
While the Post report pointed out the obvious public protests that have emerged since the beginning of the Trump administration, “there’s another level of resistance to the new president that is less visible and potentially more troublesome,” it said. This “growing wave of opposition,” the report said, is from within the federal government and federal employees who are supposed to implement the new president’s policies to the administration: a growing wave of opposition from the federal workers charged with implementing any new president’s agenda.
According to the Post, an anonymous employee of the Justice Department said that bureaucrats will use time to their advantage. By leaking information to media, coupled with internal complaints, federal bureaucrats may resist Trump administration orders that they cannot live with. The newspaper said that the resistance is so widespread and strong that some federal officials are concerned that government could become paralyzed by federal workers who refuse to do their jobs.
Anonymous dissident Twitter accounts
Dissidence was already evident last week when tweets appeared on the official accounts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service that appeared to flout the administration’s position on global climate change. While the administration soon took control of government social media accounts, the Post reports that federal bureaucrats are regularly consulting their former bosses who had served during the Obama administration. According to the post, bureaucrats have started anonymous social media accounts in order to leak policy changes and directives emitted by the Trump administration.
For example, there is a Twitter account at the Defense Department that protests against Trump. Using the handle @Rogue_DoD
, the tweeter has, for example, distributed Defense Department documents warning about the effects of climate change. There are some within the national security apparatus who contend that Trump is actually a threat to national security. Elsewhere, there are Twitter feeds that have garnered more than 200,000 followers who are part of the so-called “Resistance” to Trump: @altUSEPA and @ActualEPAFacts.
This week, 800 American diplomats out of 8,000 used the so-called “dissent channel” in order to convey their opposition to Trump’s executive order that temporarily suspends immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, as well as the admission of all refugees. These career diplomats contend that the order unnecessarily emboldens anti-American sentiments among Muslims in foreign countries. In this case, the White House has been blunt. On January 31, the American Foreign Service Association issued an advisory entitled, “What You Need To Know When You Disagree With U.S. Policy.” It provided information on legal protections for federal employees, but also warned that “walking out in protest of a U.S. government policy, even just temporarily, would be considered a strike” and can result in dismissal. On January 30, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that dissident diplomats “should either get with the program, or they can go.” The State Department's dissent channel, which has been in place since the early 1970s, is one of the methods most dear to thos organizing against Trump.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich is one of the early critics of the development, and he has called on the Trump administration to clean house at the departments of Justice and State and remove “left-wingers.” He called it the “opposition in waiting.” A page on the Patheos website calling itself Convention of States
criticized the dissident bureaucrats and says that “The alligators in the DC swam[p] will never give up. That’s why the people — acting through their state legislatures — must call and convene a Convention of States to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” Article Five of the Constitution calls for either two-thirds of the Congress or a convention of states to propose and ratify an amendment to the Constitution.
How to dissent and keep your federal job
At Just Security
-- a program of the New York University School of Law that is supported by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation -- offers tips to federal employees who are at odds with government policy. Before Trump was inaugurated, the website offered a catalog of methods of resistance:
(1) working from within; (2) reaching out to allies in other parts of the government; (3) whistleblowing; and (4) last resort measures.
As for “last resort measures,” Just Security suggested that dissident federal employees should align themselves with outside groups such as Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Government Accountability Project, and the Project on Government Oversight. These organizations have formulated a plan for federal employees to take action when they believe that policies are either illegal or against their principles. These groups have produced a white paper,
which was linked at the Just Security website, that discusses how dissidents and whistleblowers within the government can the internet to thwart regulations and administration policy.
The Internet has become a popular tool for public employees, particularly when an employee wants to leak a “smoking gun” document that speaks for itself. Scanned versions of photos or internal memos can set the record straight in a powerful way. Advocacy groups’ web sites double as bulletin boards for public employees to post these documents. The documents are supplemented with outreach to relevant agency staff, decision makers and media outlets, with links back to the scanned documents and a brief description of their significance. As with white papers, these web links force agency leaders to address a well-documented message, while keeping the messenger safe.
Helpfully, the Just Security website provided an email address for whistleblowers and dissidents to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.