Stealing Secrets from the Public Trust, and Selling Them

I don’t know who Ellen Nakashima’s sources are, but they’re very, very well placed!

U.S. weighs option to end dual leadership role at NSA, Cyber Command.

How well placed?

Officials said privately that the changes could help tamp the current furor over the NSA’s sweeping powers by narrowing the authorities assigned to its director. Because of heightened political sensitivities, what might ordinarily be an internal Defense Department policy matter is now being coordinated by the White House, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Yeah, that well placed.  I liked this bit:

“The political side says, ‘We’ve got to make a big change,’ ” said a U.S. official familiar with aspects of the deliberations. “You can’t take all this heat you’ve been taking and not do something.”

True enough!  But there are two kinds of ‘do something’ in government.  1. Actual reform, or 2. Pretend reform.

If you think something is wrong with the way your agencies are organized and managed, you need some actual reform.   If you think that nothing is wrong, that in fact things are going pretty well and the way you want, but, dammit, you’ve just got to throw a bone to the scandal-fabricating press and the ignorant public to take charge of the news cycle, then you need some showy, page-1-news, pretend reform.  Stat!

Splitting up ‘Team Cyber’ or putting a top career SES civilian (do retired military count?) in charge of the agency are just such pretend reforms.  Bound to generate some pro-Obama coverage, – ‘He’s outraged, taking charge, sticking it to the fascist military, and he’s going to ensure this won’t happen again on his watch!’ – but without really doing anything to personnel, missions, capabilities, funding, etc.  That is, without any actual reform.

The giveaway in the piece is the, ahem, proactive ambivalence of DNI Clapper.  And the second page which is full of no-particular-good-reason reasons to split the commands.

But a lack of actual reasons was never a reason not to have a good pretend reason, and Nakashima’s article is not only public fencing of stolen secrets, but a decent way to run the proposal up the flagpole and see who salutes or objects.  So I expect an announcement any month now.  Stay tuned to WaPo National Security!

The post title, by the way, for those not already in the know, stolen from this Moldbug gem.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum gets it. But he’s probably still wrong about that whole ‘it’s not going to fool anyone’ part. People will believe what they have to believe if it means they can believe Obama is good and ‘did something’ about the issue. I expect the coverage to be a lot like that. We’ll see if Kevin Drum chides his colleagues when they predictably drool out that spittle. I won’t hold my breath.

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