July 1st, 2010
04:49 PM ET
13 years ago

Diplomats feel their way, blazing uneasy trail along digital highway

Editor's note: Since becoming State Department producer in 2000, Elise Labott has covered four secretaries of state and reported from more than 50 countries. Before joining CNN, she covered the United Nations. Follow her on Twitter at @eliselabottcnn

Washington (CNN)
- Sometimes foreign policy isn't best digested 140 characters at a time.

That's what a pair of young State Department officials found in Syria, where they were leading a trade delegation of Silicon Valley executives. Their bosses back in Washington were mortified when media blogs picked up the musings of Alec Ross and Jared Cohen on Twitter about which Syrian cafes serve the greatest frappuccino (Kalamoon University) and their challenge to the Syrian telecom minister for a cake-eating contest (called "Creative Diplomacy.")

Creative, indeed.

It was a mild, but unfortunate distraction from what was widely considered an otherwise productive mission. The delegation of senior executives, from tech heavyweights like Microsoft, Cisco Systems and Dell, met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other officials, as well as businessmen, civil society groups and academics battling their government's tight-fisted control on the internet. The visit illustrated both the opportunities and the landmines Hillary Clinton's State Department has to navigate as it logs into the digital age.

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Filed under: State Department
soundoff (One Response)
  1. they call me "tater salad"

    I guess they must still be trying to figure out "the Goggle"!

    July 1, 2010 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |