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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.
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Exactly How 'Sophisticated' Is Hillary Clinton on Email Use and Classification?

Amid the fireworks at Thursday’s House hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey came a dispute—largely along partisan lines---about the sophistication of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Republican agenda on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was to grill Comey on whether politics tinged his decision not to prosecute Clinton for sending classified information on a private email system. The Democrats’ agenda was to portray the hearing itself as Republican political theater.

Each made their case differently when addressing what Comey called the key to his decision not to prosecute: What was Clinton’s intention and thinking when she set up the private server?

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Republicans repeatedly noted that Clinton was an attorney, first lady and U.S. senator before becoming secretary of State, upon which time she would be expected to be briefed and understand the ins and outs of handling classified material.  Clinton “would be sophisticated enough to understand what a “C” in parentheses means,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., referring to the State Department manual’s label for identifying classified material in the text of an email.

Rep. Ron...

FBI’s Balancing Act on Clinton Email Decision

It’s not surprising that FBI Director James Comey went through a long wind-up before delivering his pitch to the world on Tuesday morning: the announcement that his agency would not recommend criminal charges against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server as secretary of State.

Comey for months had been insisting that the FBI would take as much time as needed to be thorough in its investigation, despite political pressure from friends and foes of Clinton in this election season that his team fish or cut bait. He was in an unprecedented situation.

Comey’s wind-up Tuesday was not flattering to Clinton or the to the State Department. “Although we did not find clear evidence” of intentional misconduct,” he said, “there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” The FBI also found no evidence of outsiders breaching Clinton's email, though Comey said investigators concluded “that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.”

The...

John McCain Goes Straight Talk Express on Defense Personnel Reform

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had some nice things to say about Defense Department employees during a recent event at a Washington think tank. But he also had a few choice words for the federal government’s hiring process and the Pentagon bureaucracy.

“Our nation is blessed by the very hardworking [people] -- both military and civilian personnel -- working in the Department of Defense,” the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said at the Bipartisan Policy Center in opening remarks before a June 29 discussion on Defense personnel reform. “These are patriotic Americans who wake up every day to do difficult jobs often foregoing easier careers and more lucrative opportunities because they care about the mission of keeping America safe.”

Then, the gloves came off.

“The question is whether our military is able to recruit and retain so many excellent Americans because of its personnel system, or in spite of it,” said the former Republican presidential nominee. “I’m concerned that all too often it’s the latter.” McCain, who isn’t known for pulling punches, went on to call USAJOBS – the website federal job candidates use to apply for nearly every job in government – an “abysmal failure.” To be fair...

OPM Tells Feds How to Turn Off Those Sex Offender Notifications

When more than 20 million individuals had their personal information breached in a hack of data maintained by the Office of Personnel Management in 2015, the government decided it would make things right by offering a suite of protection services to the victims.

The benefits included the normal perks for hack victims: credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and restoration, and other ongoing observations for fraud. They also included, for those who received notifications their information was breached and signed up for the protection services, regular email updates on when registered sex offenders moved near their home addresses.

OPM and ID Experts, the company selected to provide the services to the impacted population, have not reported any instances of hackers using the information stolen during the breaches for nefarious purposes. While hack victims enrolled in the package would receive alerts for any suspicious credit activity or potential identity theft -- even if it the incident does not involve the OPM breach -- many of the notifications sent out so far have been sex offender alerts.

The process for turning those reports off is not as simple as a click of the mouse; in a recent update to the Frequently Asked Questions section of...

How Well Do You Really Know the Presidential Candidates?

Do you remember which presidential candidate threatened to “beat [another candidate’s] rear end” on stage? Or which one accused the Syrian president of invading . . . Syria? Like others, we’ve tried to bury the memories. But a new quiz over at the Atlantic has resurrected those dark moments and rekindled our fears for the republic.  

The quiz (They Said What?) is embedded in a fascinating piece by Jonathan Rauch best summed up by its title: “How American Politics Went Insane.” Spoiler alert: It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

For federal employees inclined to consider politics as something other than a spectator sport, we’ll soon offer our own quiz on the Hatch Act—the law that governs feds’ involvement in political activities. Following the 2016 presidential election may cause you to lose your mind. But failing to follow the Hatch Act could cause you to lose your job.   

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