May 31, 2023

The State Department said Wednesday it would allow the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to review a partially redacted, classified dissent cable written by U.S. personnel in 2021 related to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

Republican committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas had announced last week plans for a committee vote on May 24 regarding whether to hold Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena, issued in late March, for the cable. The matter would later move to a vote in the full House.  

In a letter obtained by CBS News dated Wednesday and addressed to McCaul, the State Department said it had already provided “extraordinary” accommodations to the committee amid concerns that disclosure of the cable and its signatories could discourage employees from using the dissent channel for candid reactions to policy decisions in the future. 

“Despite the materially increased risk that additional disclosures of the Dissent Channel cable could further deter Department employees from using the Dissent Channel in the future for its intended purposes of informing internal deliberations,” the letter read, “as an additional extraordinary accommodation, the Department is prepared to invite you and the Ranking Member of the Committee to visit the Department at your convenience to read this cable and its response, with the names of the signatories redacted and with the understanding that the Committee would suspend possible enforcement actions related to the Committee’s subpoena.”

Rep. Michael McCaul
Rep. Michael McCaul arrives to a caucus meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill on May 10, 2023, in Washington, D.C. 

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

The cable was written by 23 of the department’s employees in Kabul, Afghanistan, and according to the Wall Street Journal, warned that Kabul would fall after the Biden administration’s planned withdrawal deadline of Aug. 31, 2021. The Journal’s report also said that the cable pointed out the Taliban was gaining territory quickly, and that it suggested ways of speeding up the evacuation.

“Chairman McCaul himself has said that this is what he is interested in, and so it is our sincere hope that our offer here will sufficiently satisfy their request for information,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Wednesday, reiterating that the dissent channel was considered an “integral and sacred” avenue for feedback within the department. 

In an interview with CNN Wednesday, McCaul later said the offer marked “significant progress” in the months-long standoff, but added that he would push for other members of the committee to be able to review the documents.  

“If we can work out this last step, then I think we’ve resolved a litigation fight in the courts and a good result for our veterans,” McCaul said.

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