Congress Gives Edward Snowden The Exxon Valdez Treatment

by evanmcmurry

Congress, and policy-making bodies in general, have long displayed what I call Exxon Valdez logic. Quoting myself from a few months ago:

In 1990, in response to the Exxon Valdez spill, Congress pooped the following:

The legislation included a clause that prohibits any vessel that, after March 22, 1989, has caused an oil spill of more than 1 million US gallons (3,800 m3) in any marine area, from operating in Prince William Sound.

In other words, Congress passed a bill prohibiting that exact event from occurring again—not, mind you, the wider causes of oil spills themselves. Ever since I’ve referred to this as “Exxon Valdez” logic: rather than addressing the root causes of an event you wish to prevent, you merely pass a bill prohibiting the event’s particular circumstances. It’s like wanting to avoid getting struck by lighting twice by still going out in lightning storms but changing trees.

And today:

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee emerged from a classified briefing on Thursday about the leak of top secret surveillance programs and declared that Congress would soon consider legislation to sharply limit the access that private contractors — who operate much of the national security infrastructure — have to the nation’s most sensitive intelligence programs.

Might as well pass a bill that says “Schmos named Ed who date Hawaiian acrobats may no longer have access to classified materials.”

For what it’s worth, doesn’t seem that Snowden-types should have the clearance they do. But nobody in their right mind looks at these NSA revelations and thinks the pressing legislative priority is preventing high school dropouts from getting their grubby fingers on government materials—unless you’re Dianne Feinstein, and the only problem you see with expansive surveillance is the people being surveilled knowing about it.

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