Senator Rand Paul’s crusade against the NSA’s Section 215 metadata program, now successful, has made him an icon to libertarians and anathema to securitarians. He isn’t fully either, for his rhetoric—like that of his adversaries—is incomplete. This battle between libertarians and security hawks needs resolution by Burkeans, who can add a needed dose of prudential balance to the debate.
All the participants in this discussion seem to agree that James Q. Wilson’s book, Bureaucracy, still offers valuable insights, a quarter century after its initial publication. At the same time, we all seem to agree that Wilson’s book didn’t prepare readers for the scale of dysfunction we now see in the federal bureaucracy. We have some disagreement, however, about the explanation of current patterns and what’s most disturbing about them. John McGinnis stresses that federal officials – or at least, a lot of staff attorneys in the Justice Department – are too committed to left-wing visions and too ready to let…
Jeremy Rabkin has written a fine essay about the continuing relevance of James Q. Wilson’s 1989 book Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. I have been fortunate enough to benefit from Wilson’s analysis in my own writing on the Justice Department’s Office of the Solicitor General. His framework showed why the…
It’s Bureaucracy’s twenty-fifth birthday. To celebrate, let’s state some basic facts that correspond with James Q. Wilson’s thinking. Americans want a lot from their government. We want more than we’ve wanted before. It doesn’t ultimately matter where these desires come from (rising standards of living? the inner logic of democracy? interest groups? politicians?). What matters…
The 25th anniversary of James Q. Wilson’s Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It marks an appropriate occasion to reflect on the contributions of this work to our understanding of bureaucratic behavior and performance, and the extensive—and, at least in some areas, growing—presence of the administrative state in the lives of American…
The easy shot against Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State would be to dismiss its warnings as immoderate and overwrought. “Converting the Internet into a system of surveillance,” he declares nearly off the bat (6), turns it “into a tool of repression, threatening to produce the most extreme and oppressive weapon of state intrusion human history has ever seen.” Similarly, “[t]he US government had built a system that has as its goal the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide.” (94) These are bold claims on which to deliver. And yet, piling evidence atop evidence, Greenwald does.
Last week, intelligence officials and congressional overseers were telling the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. government had been surprised by Vladimir Putin’s seizure of the Crimea “because they hadn’t intercepted any telltale communications where Russian leaders, military commanders or soldiers discussed plans to invade.” Meanwhile, debates on intelligence within the government and the policy community were focusing on how to regulate the interception of ordinary Americans’ communications. Establishment Republicans were particularly keen on making sure the practice continued.
The brilliant light that burst over the Northwest quadrant of the nation’s capital Thursday was not a sunrise. Illuminating the skies above the White House was the light bulb of discovery, in this case of an antiquated constitutional ideal: the separation of powers. The NSA metadata program having been authorized by Congress, the President announced plans to seek its reform by Congress. He is to be commended for involving the legislative branch of government in a decision involving, well, legislation.
Vladimir Putin announced his Anschluss of the Crimea— a textbook act of imperial conquest—as a rebuke to American imperialism. This mockery is a measure of our present predicament among nations, and of the prospect that it will only get worse. What reality elicits such contempt? What would it take to remedy it?
This week brought the stunning news that Russia has deployed technology that records every phone call made in the United States, keeps it for 30 days, and retrieves segments for listening and long-term storage.
Not really. But the United States has done precisely this to telephone users in an unknown target country. Leaked documents indicate “every single” call there was recorded—not merely metadata that tracks numbers called, but the actual content of conversations.
Consider that inversion a political Rorschach test. There is a breed of American elite whose mood, upon reaching the end of the second paragraph, would instantly melt from outrage to relief. That breed lacks the political virtue par excellence—prudence—and it is getting us into trouble.
Recently, Senator Dianne Feinstein objected to CIA surveillance of Senate committee staffers who were looking through classifed documents relating to the agency's previous interrogation and detention practices. Feinstein, who has generally been supportive of NSA monitoring, has been criticized on the ground that she only objected to government surveillance when it affected her. Feinstein has now opened herself up to more criticism of this sort. In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday night, the California Democrat said a drone spied into the window of her home during a protest outside her house, and that privacy concerns for the…
“America must move off a permanent war footing,” said Barack Obama in his fifth mockery of the State Of The Union address. He coupled these words with a commitment to “keep strengthening our defenses” at home – meaning enhancing the very “homeland security” measures that are the essence of that war footing. Then, confronting popular outrage against the most serious of those permanent war measures, namely the NSA’s collection of ordinary Americans’ electronic communications, Obama cunningly pledged only to enhance confidence in them, having made clear elsewhere that he would not alter their substance.
A New Year’s wake-up call from the International Business Times: “In their annual End of Year poll, researchers for WIN and Gallup International surveyed more than 66,000 people across 65 nations and found that 24 percent of all respondents answered that the United States “is the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Pakistan and China fell significantly behind the United States on the poll, with 8 and 6 percent, respectively. Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and North Korea all tied for fourth place with 4 percent.”
This confirms what international travelers sense: whereas not so long ago foreigners saw Americans as the embodiment of peace and freedom, a plurality now see us as a source of trouble for themselves. For more people than not, being on America’s side now means being on the side of trouble. Why? And what is that to us?