U.S. Ambassador to Panama Resigns: Who Is John Feeley?

Friday, January 12, 2018
John Feeley

John Feeley, a career member of the Foreign Service, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 9, 2015, as the U.S. ambassador to Panama. He resigned from the post, and the Foreign Service, effective March 9, 2018.


Feeley, an Eagle Scout, attended Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is a 2004 distinguished graduate of the National War College. Before joining the State Department, Feeley was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, reaching the rank of captain, from 1983 to 1990.

Feeley’s diplomatic career was focused on the Western Hemisphere. His early assignments included Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as stints in Washington at the State Department operations center. In 1998, Feeley was appointed Policy Planning Officer in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and in 1999 he was made executive assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The following year he became deputy director in the Office of Caribbean Affairs.


Feeley was sent to Mexico City in 2001 as a deputy political counselor at the embassy there. He returned to Washington in 2004 as deputy executive secretary in the office of the Secretary of State. There, he worked for secretaries Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, arranging travel and coordinating their schedules. In 2006, he became director of the Office of Central American affairs. Two years later, he was moved to the Office of Recruitment as an assessor.


Feeley returned to Mexico City in 2009 as the deputy chief of mission. Beginning in 2011, he served as chargé d’affaires upon the departure of Ambassador Carlos Pascual after some embarrassing cables were released as part of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s WikiLeaks dump. Feeley later testified in secret at Manning’s trial concerning the release’s impact on relations with Mexico and Ecuador.


Feeley served as the coordinator for the Summit of the Americas, for which he oversaw preparation for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s work at the event held in Cartagena, Colombia.


Beginning in 2012, Feeley was principal deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Part of that work was preparation for the resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba. It also involved ongoing management of regional policy implementation and the supervision of 50 diplomatic posts in the Americas.


As ambassador in November 2017, Feeley saved the day for Los Angeles’ Pacific Standard Time music festival when he helped nearly two dozen Cuban musicians obtain visas to come to the United States. 


Feeley informed the State Department on December 27, 2017, that he would be leaving the Foreign Service because he no longer believed he could work for President Donald Trump. His resignation letter read, in part: “As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies.


“My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come.”


Feeley’s resignation was made public on January 12, 2018, the day after Trump remarked at a White House meeting with members of Congress working on immigration issues: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”


Feeley and his wife Cherie, a former Foreign Service officer, have two sons. Feeley speaks Spanish.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

U.S. Ambassador to Panama Resigns, Says Cannot Serve Trump (Reuters)

Official Biography


Comet 4 years ago
Why can't he be president instead?

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