Former NSA Official: Anyone Who 'Justified' Snowden's Leaks Shouldn't Be Allowed A Gov't Job
from the because-our-government-is-above-reproach-ALWAYS dept
A few days ago, the FTC announced that it had appointed Ashkan Soltani as its chief technology officer. Soltani is a well-known (and often outspoken) security researcher who has worked at the FTC in the past. Nothing about this appointment should be all that surprising or even remotely controversial. However, recently, Soltani had been doing a lot of journalism work, as a media consultant at the Washington Post helping Barton Gellman and other reporters really understand the technical and security aspects of the Snowden documents. His name has appeared as a byline in a number of stories about the documents, detailing what is really in those documents, and how they can impact your privacy.
Apparently, this has upset the usual crew of former NSA officials.
Let’s start with former NSA director Michael Hayden. The publication FedScoop heard the news about Soltani, and decided to ask Hayden and other NSA-types their thoughts. You can tell by the opening paragraph what angle FedScoop is digging for with its article:
The Federal Trade Commission has hired privacy and technology expert Ashkan Soltani to serve as the commission’s chief technology officer. But security experts and former senior U.S. intelligence officials are questioning the FTC’s decision, given Soltani’s very public role as a consultant for The Washington Post, where he co-authored multiple articles based on classified documents stolen from the National Security Agency by former contractor Edward Snowden.
The loaded language in the introductory paragraph telegraphs FedScoop’s desire to have its predispositions confirmed by the NSA’s defenders, even though this move is more of a return to form for Soltani rather than an indication of the FTC’s willingness to give the administration the finger by proxy, or whatever it is that Hayden feels is going on here.
His job will be to advise the commission on evolving technology and policy issues, a role similar to one he held previously at the FTC before leaving government to become an independent consultant.
Hayden’s criticism of Soltani’s selection begins with a sentence that shows (and immediately denies) what he’d like to do in the limited time FedScoop has granted him.
“I’m not trying to demonize this fella, but he’s been working through criminally exposed documents and making decisions about making those documents public,” said Michael Hayden, a former NSA director who also served as CIA director from 2006 to 2009.
Yes, how dare he do journalism in association with a well-known and (mostly) respected news organization. The FTC has so far refused to comment on its “controversial” selection. The NSA has yet to comment either, although one wonders if anyone outside of FedScoop truly believes the agency actually has anything to comment on here. Neither did the White House, despite FedScoop’s endless harassment.
The White House Office of Personnel Management […] did not respond to FedScoop’s repeated requests for information on the FTC’s ability to hire Soltani given his role in consulting with the Post as it disclosed the Snowden documents.
But guess who else has an opinion on this matter — a hiring so controversial that no one actively employed by the government has felt the slightest urge to comment on? It’s our other favorite NSA apologist, and he manages to top Hayden’s vague but judgemental statements, as well as somehow managing to have even less of a grasp on the subject matter.
Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel, said, while he’s not familiar with the role Soltani would play at the FTC, there are still problems with his appointment. “I don’t think anyone who justified or exploited Snowden’s breach of confidentiality obligations should be trusted to serve in government,” Baker said.
But those who aided and abetted the expansion of domestic surveillance programs and betrayed the American public should be “trusted” to “serve” (themselves and their agencies) for years to come. Those who question the government should be kept as far away from the inner workings as possible, at least according to these two NSA defenders. And they base this judgement not on Soltani’s upcoming position (which neither seem to know anything about), or actual government policies (which neither cite in defense of their claims), but rather on their feeling that no one who has “betrayed” the Agency (even if to serve the public or the Constitution) should be allowed to serve the public in any capacity.