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Archive for July, 2013

Response to Jonathan Chait’s critique of the “Four Fiscal Fantasies”

July 3rd, 2013

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In response to Jonathan Chait’s critique of our memo on the Four Fiscal Fantasies, let’s begin with two articles from this week. The first, in The Washington Post, shows that America today is spending less to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa than we did under President Bush. The second is a piece from Elizabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times showing the outrageous prices U.S. hospitals charge to deliver babies—charges far out of line with any other country and symbolic of the epidemic of high costs throughout our health care system.

The main point in our memo is that these problems are related.

  1. We have an entitlement system that provides critical economic security and stability to Americans, but it is rife with bloated health care costs that are slowly devouring everything else that government does.
  2. The main entitlement programs for the elderly—Social Security and Medicare—are on a path to insolvency.
  3. Raising new taxes on the wealthy—though necessary—won’t solve our problems.
  4. Acting now to fix entitlements is better and easier than waiting.

Our memo lays out these cases pretty explicitly, so let’s touch on just a few things.

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The CIA Doesn’t Need a ‘Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade’ to Keep Secrets

July 2nd, 2013

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John Brennan’s “Honor the Oath” program is misguided, counterproductive — and a little insulting to agency employees.

The U.S. intelligence community is having a terribly rough time lately with employees who just won’t keep their mouths shut. Following Edward Snowden’s drip-drip-drip of top-secret revelations and “several high-profile anonymous leaks and publications by former senior officers,” CIA in late June launched the “Honor the Oath” effort — an internal movement to stop officers from leaking classified material. It was indeed deliciously ironic that this missive was then leaked to the Associated Press.

But this new effort is a misguided and even counterproductive approach to keep secrets, well, secret. It’s misguided because CIA employees typically don’t — with rare exceptions — disclose classified information to the press. Here’s why:

They’re constantly reminded of the oath already. CIA employees are already acutely aware of what happens when you disclose classified material. From the first day a new agency trainee, analyst, or administrative staff member enters CIA Headquarters and “takes the oath” to uphold and protect the U.S. Constitution, they are told in no uncertain terms the very ugly, life-destroying consequences of betraying privileged information. As a former analyst, I remember the gruff, mustachioed fellow from the Office of Security who, on the first day of my employment, made this point crystal clear.

This emphasis is underscored in multiple training classes. For example, every new analyst must attend the Career Analyst Program (CAP), where grizzled intelligence vets teach “the basic thinking, writing, and briefing skills needed for a successful career.” One point that gets hammered home is what happens to people who provide information to those who shouldn’t have it — especially foreign governments. These classes highlight, among other cases, the Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen affairs, and take care to emphasize that these former top officials are currently serving life sentences in prison. Read the rest of this entry »

The Illogic of Ecuador

July 1st, 2013

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Note: This piece was co-written with Gary Ashcroft, National Security intern at Third Way.

Where’s your dream destination when you’re a 29-year-old who has infuriated the most powerful nation in the world? Apparently … Ecuador. Edward Snowden, the now-famous former National Security Agency contractor, may (or may not) be heading to that South American nation. At first glance, Ecuador seems like a logical hiding place, but that logic breaks down under even a cursory investigation of how the country treats dissidents.

Here are at least a few reasons why Snowden’s move seems logical: the 140-year-old U.S.-Ecuadorextradition treaty states that “[t]he stipulations of this treaty shall not be applicable to crimes or offences of a political character.” Therefore, Snowden may believe that Ecuador should protect him. After all, Ecuador is currently sheltering Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at its embassy in Great Britain for similar reasons.

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