Section 601, subsection (c) [states]:
No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that … is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran….
Never in the history of this country has Congress ever restricted the right of the White House or State Department to meet with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime. If this measure passes, it will establish a dangerous precedent whereby Congress would likely follow with similar legislation effectively forbidding any contact with Palestinians, Cubans, and others. …
History has shown that governments that refuse to even talk with each other are far more likely to go to war. …
As veteran CIA analyst and Georgetown University professor Paul Pillar put it, “This legislation is another illustration of the tendency to think of diplomacy as some kind of reward for the other guy, rather than what it really is: a tool for our side.”
Similarly, veteran diplomats Thomas Pickering and William Luers observed, “Besides raising serious constitutional issues over the separation of powers, this preposterous law would make it illegal for the U.S. to know its enemy,” a principle that has been understood by strategic planners since first articulated by Sun Tzu in The Art of War in the 6th century B.C.
Another problematic clause in the bill, contained in the same subsection, states that
No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that … presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations.
Not only could what constitutes a “threat” to the United States or an “affiliate” with a “terrorist organization” be interpreted rather broadly, it could restrict investigation of possible terrorist attacks. It would have made illegal the recent sting operation that foiled the alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador, for example.