Obama Berlin Speech: US Foreign Service Workers Instructed Not To Attend

**UPDATE 7/25** ThinkProgress now reports that the bar on Foreign Service workers attending Obama's speech in Berlin --through what a diplomat's union called an "unnecessarily narrow interpretation" of the Foreign Affairs Manual-- may be even more partisan than initially reported. Despite railing against Obama for giving a speech outside the country, John McCain himself gave a speech in Ottowa as recently as June of this year, as reported by The Huffington Post's Rachel Weiner yesterday. Now, ThinkProgress reveals that McCain's speech in Canada prompted no such restrictions for the country's Foreign Service workers. In fact:

The event was reportedly organized in part by U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, whom President Bush appointed in 2005. But more than that, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa confirmed to ThinkProgress that Wilkins also attended the event.

Not only did McCain make clear references to and critiques of Obama's policy positions in the speech, but he also referred to his own presidential campaign six times.


Although it appears most of Berlin is heading to Obama's speech today, US Foreign Service personnel will be banned from the event. And they are not happy. The American Foreign Service Association, a union of Foreign Service workers are opposing the rule. Read more from The Washington Post. And watch the speech live here.

The U.S. Embassy in Berlin has instructed Foreign Service personnel stationed there not to attend Sen. Barack Obama's public rally today, which the State Department this week labeled a "partisan political activity" prohibited under its regulations for those serving overseas.

Government employees serving in the United States are permitted to attend such events under the Hatch Act, which bars other partisan activity, such as contributing money or working in behalf of a candidate...

...The American Foreign Service Association, the union of the diplomatic corps, objected to the ruling, calling it an "unnecessarily narrow interpretation" of the Foreign Affairs Manual. "The fact that you are working for the U.S. government overseas should not preclude political activity that you could engage in in the United States," one retired senior Foreign Service officer said.

HuffPost blogger Jacob Heilbrunn looks into the political connections around the rule:

Indeed, the administration has a long and tawdry record of trying to browbeat government agencies into submission, whether it's the CIA or the Centers for Disease Control. The State Department is perhaps highest on the list of conservatives and neocons who see it as the center of disloyalty and treachery. But this latest action represents a new low. If it's going to these lengths, the Bush administration must be really worried about Sen. John McCain's prospects.

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