KATIE ZERR: Is Congress capable of being included?

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The air in Washington is so polluted with controversy these days it is hard to separate the crud from the actual reason for concern.

The Obama Administration is getting beaten up, with good reason, from all sides. The healthcare debacle is shameful, and should have been dealt with long ago. The lack of cooperation between the Administration and Congress is shameful and discouraging. It is amazing sometimes what little gets done on The Hill or in the White House.

It does make one shake one’s head when members of Congress demand to know why we are spying on the leaders of countries that our allies, and voice concern about why they weren’t kept in the spy loop. They want the heads of security agencies to tell them all of the what is on the radar.

It seems laughable when we watch what happens in Congress and how secrets are kept in Washington. There is so much leaking going on that Bounty doesn’t make enough paper towels to keep the floor dry on Capitol Hill.

Yet, these people are decrying the spy agencies and wondering why they were not told what is going on.

Maybe the leaders of these very sensitive agencies realize what many of us have learned in the past couple of years; there are people in Congress who are just not smart enough to be trusted with national secrets. It becomes clearer every day that we are stuck with individuals who do not understand much outside of their particular pet interest.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Congressional Committee on Tuesday that it is “unrealistic” for the White House to know about reported United States eavesdropping on foreign leaders, and perfectly reasonable for intelligence officials to have neglected to tell Congress.

Clapper said that the recent revelations that the U.S. surveillance programs were monitoring the phone calls of the leaders of foreign countries, such as those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, were not remarkable. He said in the 50 years he had been in the spy business, trying to figure out what foreign leaders are thinking was part of his job.

He explained that knowing what others are thinking on any number of sensitive global issues is invaluable to our safety.

One can’t imagine that this is a revelation to the more experienced members of Congress. It is hoped that he used small words and perhaps some pictures for others.

The testimony brings to mind Jack Nickolson’s role in a “Few Good Men” as Colonel Jessep is pushed to tell the truth about an incident that resulted in a soldier’s death. There is more to the quote, but this sums it up.

“You can’t handle the truth! I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

Do we really think that what is going on at this time is something new and is an obnoxious fungus that has exploded under this administration? The fungus of this administration is that information that was at one time considered for certain eyes only in previous administrations is embarrassingly reported around the world.

As members of Congress debate what they should and should not have been told, reports that the U.S. is not the only country to under scrutiny about spying have surfaced in Europe. Two newspapers have reported that delegates the Group of 20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, in September, were given gifts that included phone chargers and USB drives. According to reports the electronics were bugged. The reports quote anonymous diplomatic sources as saying some who attended the conference became suspicious of the electronic gifts and had security services check them out.

The reports said the devices had been loaded with the equivalent of Trojan malware, and possessed the capability of gleaning sensitive information without detection from mobile phones and computers.

The Russians, of course, are denying this, but it is hard to believe that a country, led by a former KGB officer, would pass up an opportunity to use this new technology to its benefit.

The spy game is changing daily, but one thing remains constant: the fewer people who know about what the spies are doing, the less likely the other spies will also know.

 

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