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Obama Channels Nixon

June 23, 2013 Leave a comment

offwithheads

And here I thought President Obama was merely institutionalizing the domestic spying that the Bush administration introduced in the name of the War on Terror. Who knew Obama has been upping the ante, introducing Stasi-style spying on colleagues? Thanks to the piece by Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay of the McClatchy Washington Bureau, we now know better. Read it and weep.

The opening:

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

Yes, even the Education and Agriculture departments, those hotbeds of information on which our national security depends.

And check this out:

The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.

That’s right—you better not be thinking of divorce, or falling into debt. That might be cause to be reported.

The article continues:

“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”

The Defense Department anti-leak strategy obtained by McClatchy spells out a zero-tolerance policy. Security managers, it says, “must” reprimand or revoke the security clearances – a career-killing penalty – of workers who commit a single severe infraction or multiple lesser breaches “as an unavoidable negative personnel action.”

Employees must turn themselves and others in for failing to report breaches. “Penalize clearly identifiable failures to report security infractions and violations, including any lack of self-reporting,” the strategic plan says.

And then there’s this:

Obama in November approved “minimum standards” giving departments and agencies considerable leeway in developing their insider threat programs, leading to a potential hodgepodge of interpretations. He instructed them to not only root out leakers but people who might be prone to “violent acts against the government or the nation” and “potential espionage.”

[snip]

The Department of Education, meanwhile, informs employees that co-workers going through “certain life experiences . . . might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” Those experiences, the department says in a computer training manual, include “stress, divorce, financial problems” or “frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”

As Charles Pierce observed in a rare weekend post that the McClatchy news moved him to write, Obama isn’t merely formalizing Bush programs.

This, right here, this is Nixonian, if Nixon had grown up in East Germany. You’ve got the entire federal bureaucracy looking for signs of “high-risk persons or behaviors” the way Nixon sent Fred Malek out to count the Jews. You’ve got created within the entire federal bureaucracy a culture of spies and informers, which will inevitably breed fear and deceit and countless acts of interoffice treachery. (Don’t like your boss at the Bureau Of Land Management? Hmm, he looks like a high-risk person. Tell someone.)

[snip]

I especially don’t want to hear about how all the administration’s really done is “formalize” programs that were already in place, as though giving the creation of a culture of informers the imprimatur of the presidency makes it better. … No, Mr. Current President, this is not business as usual. This is not even the NSA sifting through e-mails and phone calls. This is giving Big Brother a desk in every federal agency and telling him to go to work.

It’s too bad Obama didn’t level with us in his two election campaigns.

Categories: Law

Anniversary Dinner, 2

June 23, 2013 Leave a comment

georgianview

We were married 28 years ago today at the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. As I wrote last year, “we therefore make it a habit to return to the Olympic for our anniversary dinner. Not every year, but many, including this one. We eat in their Georgian Room, one of the most beautiful dining spaces in the city, and with excellent food too.” The Georgian Room is closed on Sundays and Mondays. That’s the main reason that we sometimes celebrate elsewhere. This year, we decided instead to stick with the Georgian Room but eat a day early, i.e., last night.

In reviewing last year’s post on our anniversary dinner, I see that this year wasn’t much different. Nearly the same menu; nearly the same choices. I’ll write about the meal anyway.

As has become my custom, I had called Topper’s, the excellent florist that resides in the basement level of the hotel, ahead of time to arrange for flowers to be delivered to our table. I had also called the restaurant to request one of the two-tops spread throughout the room that has a banquette on one side for side-by-side seating (and no chairs on the other side). I particularly like the table by the rear window toward the right that affords a view into the entire room, and I successfully explained to the host which table I meant. When we arrived last night, all was in place. We were led to the desired table, and a floral arrangement of modest size—so as not to overwhelm the space—was there.

We had decided before arriving that we would follow last year’s plan and start with glasses of Prosecco, to be followed later by a half-bottle of red. As we studied the menus, we ordered the Prosecco from our waiter. We’re especially fond of the Georgian Room’s long-time sommelier, an Austrian gentleman named Joseph, and were pleased that he came by to pour the Prosecco. This offered us the first of what would be many occasions to chat with him. (You can learn more about him here and click on the embedded links that take you to youtube videos featuring him.) His own anniversary is near ours, a fact we keep re-learning each year. He has two older stepsons and two teenage sons.

The menu presented us with some familiar choices. For instance, which salad to start with? The Young Spinach Salad with truffled quail egg, bacon lardons, and white balsamic, or the Olympic Caesar Salad with aged pecorino and toasted crouton? I asked the waiter’s advice and he said he loves both, but maybe I’d enjoy the Caesar more with the Prosecco. That decided it.

Looking back now at my post a year ago, I see that I went then with the spinach salad. And I see that Gail repeated last year’s order, described on the menu as Dungeness Crab Bisque, Tarragon Infused Mini Crab Cakes. The bowl comes with two stacked crab cakes and, above them, two pieces of crab meat, over which the soup is poured. The Caesar has a long, thin-sliced piece of pecorino, above which is an equally long lettuce wedge, with dressing and some shaved cheese pieces on top. And to the side is a long, thin, crisp “crouton”. No, it must have been served on top of the rest. I simply removed it first thing. Great presentation.

I enjoyed the salad. The dressing was applied lightly. Perhaps a little too light for me to appreciate how well it matched the Prosecco. And Gail enjoyed the soup.

On the entree choice, this is what I wrote last year:

For our main dishes, I was leaning toward the rack of lamb, but when Gail ordered it, I went for the T-bone steak. Hers was listed on the menu with four accompaniments. Each was prepared in a block about one-and-a-half inch square and maybe three-fourths of an inch high, the four squares laid out in the center of the plate to form a three-inch square with the lamb on top. It looked beautiful. One of the squares was a mashed pea concoction with tomato jam on top. I ate some of it at the end. It was sublime. Another was spinach, another lamb shank, and I don’t remember the fourth. Gail chose well.

This year was a near repeat. Perhaps I should have read last year’s post before we went. Once again, I was tempted by the lamb, totally forgetting last year’s experience, and once again, when Gail told me she planned to order it, I decided I would have steak instead. Here’s the menu description of the lamb: Roasted Rack of Lamb, Herbs of the Garden Crust, Quadrant of Flavors & Textures: Crushed Peas, Braised Shank, Spinach Gratin, Crispy Prosciutto-Whipped Potato. Once it came to the table, I knew I really wanted those peas. Oh well.

Last year’s T-bone came with three sauces—béarnaise, peppercorn, cabernet jus—each in its own small square plate. This year’s menu has in its place a Black Pepper-Crusted Bone-In Ribeye Steak, Bacon Whipped Potato, Roasted Bone Marrow, Truffle White Asparagus. The steak comes in a large metal plate with handles on left and right, as if straight from the oven, with asparagus below. Also on the plate is the potato, in a miniature metal pot about two inches in diameter, and the bone marrow, in a deep cup. I’ll confess that I didn’t eat much of the bone marrow. Everything else was superb.

Oh, the wine. Well, when you go with a half-bottle of red, your choices are constrained, and there’s not a lot of advice for Joseph to offer. In recent visits, we’ve chosen the Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Vieux Télégraphe. Not a novel choice, but we love it, so much so that we have several bottles in the basement waiting for suitable occasions. Also available was the Pirouette from Long Shadows, a Walla Walla winery whose wines we have been trying in recent months. The (sold out) current release is a 2009, a classic Bordeaux blend: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec. We had never tried a Pirouette of any vintage, but do have a bottle of the 2009 downstairs, also awaiting a suitable meal. On the menu was a 2007. We conferred with Joseph, who agreed that it would be a good option, so we chose it. And we weren’t disappointed, though Gail did admit at the end of the meal that she might have preferred the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Pirouette

As with the rest of the meal, dessert presented another opportunity to do what we always do, which in this case means ordering the soufflés. (Can you blame us?) There is always a fixed option on the menu, black and white chocolate, and a nightly special, which last night was white chocolate and strawberry. Gail chose the classic black and white; I went with the special. And they were perfect. I couldn’t have been happier, except that mine didn’t look as cool as Gail’s, with its split down the middle into black and white halves.

We paid, had a farewell conversation with Joseph, asked our waiter for the box our flowers came in, had him pour some water out of the vase, carried the box and vase out, then had yet another conversation with Joseph, just outside the Georgian Room entry at the top of the lobby.

But wait. The amuse-bouche. I forgot about that. Back when Joseph was pouring our Prosecco, the amuse-bouche arrived. A custardy concoction with a poached cherry on top, served on a spoon as a single bite. My custard stuck to the spoon, so I didn’t quite get it all out as intended. Maybe it had sat too long.

No matter. It was a beautiful evening. Food, presentation, wine, service, flowers, setting, and most of all, Gail. Happy Anniversary.

Categories: Family, Restaurants