In this series, I began by suggesting a few valuable things that the new Congress might accomplish in coming months, even if they are blocked by presidential vetoes.
I then went on to propose some actual bills that may be worth trying to turn into law. My Top Proposal last time... create the office of Inspector General of the United States, or IGUS. It would take very little, simply re-assigning the IGs in every department and agency into a cohesive service, with traditions and codes of accountability that are no longer under the thumb of high administration officials. Like the Surgeon General, IGUS would personally answer to the people for the ethical and legal health of government, without interfering in policy at all.
There are some very pragmatic short term - as well as long term - advantages to this kind of approach. Instead of engaging in politicized witch hunts, let us first remove the impediments that keep our skilled professionals from doing their jobs. Why not? There is a very good chance that we can use professionals to “clean house”... and keep the house clean... without having to wallow in the filth of Ken Starr-style culture war.
==Following a similar set of themes, here are a few more capsule suggestions:==
* THE SECRECY ACT would ensure that the recent, skyrocketing use of state secrets to avoid accountability -- exceeding anything seen during the Cold War -- shall reverse course.
Without betraying field operatives or vital tactical information, independent commissions of highly-trusted Americans will observe, approve, or set time limits to all but the most sensitive classifications. These commissions will include some members who are chosen (after clearance) from a random pool of common citizens.
Secrecy will still be a useful tool. But we are entering an age when it is simply foolish to count on any secret lasting forever. Also it encourages sloppy habits. But above all, it should not be used as a convenient way to evade accountability.
* THE PROFESSIONALISM ACT will protect the apolitical independence of our intelligence agencies, the scientific and technical staff in executive departments, and the United States Officer Corps. All shall be given safe ways to report attempts at political coercion or undue political meddling in their ability to give unbiased advice.
Further features: appointments to military academies and other special institutions shall be made in ways that avoid dogmatic bias and emphasize excellence. Whistle-blower protections will be strengthened within the US government. Which leads us to...
* THE HENCHMAN’S ACT - It has a provocative name, but the aim is simple. A permanent office will be created, outside the intelligence community, that will confidentially and securely advise any person, in America or around the world, who may be thinking about revealing information about bad activities, including those that are illegal or harmful to the people, or that impair the effective operation of fair markets. According to each individual’s needs, the information may be steered toward intelligence or law-enforcement services, or toward open source networks, or even toward mass media.
Moreover, a system of graduated rewards and prizes will be set up, that encourage emergence of new sources of information about threats to peace or law or public well-being. These rewards will range from financial to public recognition... or else assistance in creating new identities, so that henchmen can turn into whistle blowers in an atmosphere of safety.
A neutral advisory board will ensure that there are no systematic biases in the execution of this program, so that incentives apply to whistle-blowers at all ends of the “political spectrum.”
* THE POLITICAL REFORM ACT: Part One will ensure that the nation's elections take place in a manner that citizens can trust and verify. Political interference in elections will be a federal crime. Strong auditing procedures and transparency will be augmented by a requirement that all voting machines and associated software belong to the People and shall be subjected to relentless open source testing. States will be encouraged to try a variety of incentives to encourage greater (and more secure) voter registration and participation in elections.
* THE POLITICAL REFORM ACT: Part Two will distance government officials from lobbyists. Campaign finance reform will reduce the influence of Big Money over politicians. (A huge ball-o-wax but already on the agenda.)
* THE POLITICAL REFORM ACT: Part Three will begin the process of returning the legislative branch of government to the people, by finding a solution to the problem of gerrymandering.
Declaring an end to hypocritical one-state-at-a-time initiatives, this act will call a meeting of all states, encouraging them to negotiate among themselves a uniform method for ending a modern travesty. It will encourage and insist that states do this in an evenhanded manner without much net injury to any party, either by using independent redistricting commissions or simply by minimizing overlap between state legislature districts and those for Congress. If this 50-state solution in not achieved by a specified deadline, the Attorney General will be required to file suit before the US Supreme Court, seeking redress under the principle of “one person - one vote.”
I admit that I hold out little hope for this last suggestion to be enacted by politicians. At one level, there is all the difference in the world between good and bad politicians, and we should work to help the former to defeat the latter. (Hurrah!) But at another level, they are all members of a political caste that has been complicit in the crime against the citizenry that is gerrymandering. We’ll get around to spanking them all, some day. If some members of the political caste actually help to bring that day a little closer... well then, those few will earn our undying gratitude.
I was going to pause there, but one more item comes from former intelligence officer and consultant Robert Steele... the SMART NATION ACT would “enhance the role of the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Open Sources by legislatively mandating an Open Source Intelligence Program directing that no less than 1% of the total National Foreign Intelligence Program be allocated to collecting, and analysis of open sources of information in all languages, which are essential to the mission of the secret intelligence community. Among other things, it would create fifty state-based Community Intelligence Centers... and broad networks that permit citizens to report threats (119) and suspicions (114), while also leveraging a global translation network....”
What’s not to like? By encouraging educated and tech-savvy citizens to see themselves as part of the nation’s (and the world’s) collective intelligence (in every sense of that word), we can ensure that this civilization remains agile and not overly dependent upon a skilled-but-narrow set of secretive professionals, who can (because of their small numbers) be coerced or suborned by special interests.
Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that this 1% of the intelligence budget that’s applied to open source could provide as much new information - and as many useful correlations - as the other 99% that’s targeted toward the world of cryptic means. (Perhaps reason enough for the less imaginative members of the intelligence caste to resist such moves! But the smarter half, who “get” the nature of the coming century, should see that we have no choice.)
Next time... more capsule suggestions for legislation... before offering some very GENERAL ADVICE for reclaiming a modern, progressive and agile civilization.
==or return to Part 1 of this series