Error of Judgment

In his 32-year career at the state department, Donald W. Keyser became known as a master of the diplomatic cable. "He is without doubt the fastest and most impressive drafter of telegrams and memos I have ever dealt with," says Winston Lord, the former U.S. ambassador to China for whom Keyser worked in Beijing during the late 1980s. But on Sept. 1, 2003, Keyser whipped off a note that would shatter his professional reputation. E-mailing his superior, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly, Keyser said he planned to take three days of annual leave because...

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