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The lack of nominees for AFSA dissent awards might suggest that the channel has dried up. But data obtained by The Times suggests otherwise.

Since 2007, 42 cables have been sent through the channel, compared with 38 during the seven previous years.

But there’s a catch: “The quality of messages in the last few years has not been what it was in previous years,” said one senior State Department official familiar with the dissent channel.

The senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the cables, said that during the past six years some cables “have been very, very good, but in many cases they suffer in that they provide a dissent on an existing policy without providing alternative recommendations to the policy.”

“My view is that the dissenter hasn’t thought it out sufficiently,” the official said. “It shows that people are a little hasty in hitting the button and not taking enough time to think these out carefully.”