Capitol Hill is home to more than 11,000 opportunities for foreign governments to influence U.S. foreign policy as well as domestic policy. That’s 11,000 (rough estimate) Congressional staff that foreign governments can, and do, routinely target to influence how our taxpayer money is spent and how our laws are written and enforced.
Should you be concerned? Absolutely yes. Should the NSA, and other agencies, be keeping taps on what these foreign governments do in the Congress? I sure hope so. However, Vermont’s Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders does not agree and has taken the NSA, and other executive branch agencies, to task for doing so.
No, I’m not saying that Congressional phone lines should be tapped to listen to every single phone call or e-mail searched; however, when a foreign government decides to lobby Capitol Hill, everything should come under scrutiny by the FBI, NSA, and what ever other agency has legal authority to keep taps on foreign government activity in the United States and abroad.
Then there is the issue of Congressional staff and Members taking foreign trips, a practice that needs some serious reform. Foreign governments can sponsor and pay for these adventures. There are no monetary limits. Why do foreign governments do this? To influence U.S. policy and, at times, find new roads to spy on the United States. Interestingly, if your a U.S. company or organization, travel is one perk that is very restricted under the law.
Sen. Sanders knows all of this, of course. His note to the NSA is designed to further devolve the discussion on NSA reform and push through legislation that will weaken U.S. national security. So long as executive branch agencies have the statutory authority to do so, they must keep tabs on (not spy) on the Congress.
To make a little more sense of all this, if Congress were a business it would need security to protect trade secrets, technology, know-how, and a whole lot more to make sure it maintains a competitive edge. The shareholders would demand it. So should the voters.