The word “reform” tends to be used a little too much by elected officials and others engaged in the public policy arena. It is as if it were some political talisman. Once you say it, the user is trying to show that he or she cares about a problem and wants to fix it. If things were only so simple.
When you ever hear someone argue that something or some federal program needs to be reformed, be skeptical. Question intent and motive. Invariably there is some special interest agenda lurking underneath the reform proposal. Someone wants something, usually at the expense of the national interest. If reform is qualified with verbal gems such as “comprehensive” or “long overdue,” run. Fast. Comprehensive immigration reform comes to mind, as do recent remarks by former NSA contractor and traitor, Edward Snowden.
In something called a Manifesto for Truth, perched from Mother Russia, Snowden penned that the benefits of his law breaking “is now clear, since reforms are now proposed in the form of increased oversight and new legislation.” According to his supporters, this fellow is supposedly very bright. It must be limited to computers because when it comes to politics and public policy, he simply has no clue.
Friends, reform is the sine qua non of our federal system. It is why we have a Congress with powerful oversight powers. Everyday one goes to work in this business, one does so to improve it. It is a battle of ideas and there are rules. When it comes to Snowden, I’m not sure he made it past School House Rock or basic political science courses.
Since Biblical times, and before, people and nations have spied on one another. The tools have evolved, but the practice of seeking political, economic, and military foreknowledge will always be with us. In our democracy, national security and civil liberties, among others equities, are carefully balanced and reviewed quite frequently. It may not be in the news, but it does take place.
Since at least 1947, the U.S. intelligence system has undergone various legal, regulatory, and political reforms. Some of it has been good, while some of it, such as the creation of the ODNI, not so good (curiously, it is here where Congress should be focusing some more political pressure, not the NSA directly. More on this topic for a later post). It is also true that no matter how much oversight is extorted, you’ll always have people like Snowden seeking to undermine it.
The reform proposals that Snowden speaks of, no matter how much he or his lawyers think otherwise, would have happened without his reckless release of classified information. If Snowden were genuinely concerned about civil liberties, he should return to the United States to face consequences of his illegal actions, rather than hurt the country he claims to love by hiding out in Russia.
There are people such as Snowden, and legions in the Congress and the public square, who do not like America engaging in this business. They never have. Never will. When these folks argue “reform”, the agenda has little to do with civil liberties. Rather these people seek a different foreign policy and national security strategy. If this were not the case, Snowden would have taken his discoveries to the Congress where there are plenty of sympathetic Members and Staff who would have listened.
Snowden’s waving the reform talisman is supposed to make us all think he did the nation a favor. He’s wrong. He did our enemies a favor and continues to do so (yes, we still have enemies in this world). Like Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Snowden picked a side, the wrong one. The entire foreign policy establishment, including the Congress, needs to focus on securing this fellow’s extradition to the United States. He belongs in a prison cell with no Internet access.