Posted 430 days ago
Farrow's article suggests that government agencies are walling themselves off from the influence of government and the populace. They are inside a form of feedback loop where their success, measured by their own internal goals, leads to more funding and therefore more power and influence. They have the incentive to succeed by any means possible, including covering up whistle-blowers and creating a culture of blind obedience. This happened in the past, but government realized its unchecked authority and put in place measures to curb it.
In the nineteen-seventies, after C.I.A. agents were found to have performed experiements with LSD on unwitting Americans and investigated Vietnam War protesters, restrictions were imposed that bar the agency from being involved in domestric law-enforcement activities.
National security is a complicated business; secrecy is paramount (or at least that is what we have come to see as the norm). Agencies that are in charge of national security then have the right to maintain secret information, unless requested by the judicial department. But it's hard to even know what to request if that information was kept secret in the first place. This information is rarely made public, and is therefore not subject to the same scrutiny as we would normally expect.
Futhermore, the C.I.A. operates under a very different set of rules internationally as the F.B.I. does internally. Farrow claims that there is a "scheme" made to pass confidential records between these two groups that bypasses laws and is outside of the public view.
...the scheme benefitted the C.I.A. and the F.B.I.: the former received information obtained during operations and the latter reported increased arrests and was able to secure additional federal funding as a result. The scope of the scheme was corroborated in hundreds of pages of e-mails, transcripts, and other documents obtained by The New Yorker.
Mark McConnell noticed that this was happening and reported it internally. This is in stark contrast to whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden who make public unlawful actions by government agencies. Regardless, in recent years, these whistle-blowers have been attacked. They have been accused of treason, lost their jobs, and have undergone public slander by the agencies that employed them.
In eight years, the Obama Administration charged, under the 1917 Espionage Act, more officials with disclosing classified information than all previous Administrations combined. In four years, the Trump Administration has matched that count. In 2018, Trump tweeted that "leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!" His ire has extended not just to officials who leak to the press but also to those, like McConnell, who file complaints with government investigators.
But what could be the reasons for this increase? Is it that the agencies are pursuing more and more unlawful acts? Is it that Americans are generally becoming more skeptical of government actions adn therefore report misteps more frequently? Are these ways to bring down the "deep state" (but note that the grand purveyor of deep state theories, namely Donald Trump and his base, are the sames ones that accuse whistle-blowers of cowardice and treason)?
I think that it may be, and what Farrow seems to imply, that the norms that held democracy together for so longer are being worn down. We are shifting towards authoritarian principles of government as we think that democracy did not bring us the progress that we had hoped for.