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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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A Top Spook Reunion, Of Sorts

It’s not every day that 10 former CIA directors and 10 former deputies get together. But when The New York Times recently saw fit to publish the names of three agency covert operatives, the old-boy network went into action.

In a letter to the editor published Tuesday, they expressed displeasure with the Times and outlined the history and rationale for keeping undercover agents’ names out of the newspapers.

The letter was signed by Albert M. Calland, Frank Carlucci, John M. Deutch, Robert M. Gates, John Gordon, Porter Goss, Michael V. Hayden, Bob Inman, Stephen R. Kappes, Richard Kerr, John McLaughlin, John McMahon, Michael J. Morell, Leon E. Panetta, David H. Petraeus, William O. Studeman, George J. Tenet, Stansfield Turner, William H. Webster and R. James Woolsey.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

The SEC's 'Home Court' Advantage

Lawyers talk of “venue shopping,” or filing cases in courts strategically selected as likely to be sympathetic to one’s client. But none can match options available to the Securities and Exchange Commission, where five administrative law judges and even the five commission members have power to rule on enforcement actions.

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal published Thursday found that the SEC is increasingly using its “home court advantage” (the option dates to the 1940s) and enjoying its successes. Of hundreds of decisions reviewed, the regulatory agency for Wall Street won 90 percent of cases against defendants accused of financial crimes from October 2010 to March 2015, compared with only a 69 percent success rate using federal courts.

“Going back to October 2004, the SEC has won against at least four of five defendants in front of its own judges every fiscal year,” wrote reporter Jean Eaglesham.

The success rate also appears at the appeals level, where the commissioners themselves decided in their own agency’s favor concerning 53 out of 56 defendants—or 95 percent of the time—from January 2010 through this past March, the Journal determined.

Though SEC officials declined to comment for the investigation...

Lawmaker Encourages Americans to ‘Thank a Fed’

When it comes to improving the civil service, Congress generally waits until something breaks, and then makes a haphazard attempt to repair it.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is looking to change that dynamic by creating the “Thank a Fed” initiative. The long-time federal employee advocate created an email address this week -- ThankAFed@mail.house.gov -- and encouraged his constituents and others to send in examples of government working well.

Whether it’s a Social Security Administration employee who “worked tirelessly to process benefits for a loved one” or an agency that displayed “impressive operational efficiency” in delivering services, Connolly wants to hear about it.

“By sharing interactions and experiences,” Connolly said, “Americans can help Congress identify efficiencies, best practices, and incorporate lessons learned to improve agency performance across the federal government.”

Those practices and lessons could then be scaled up and replicated at other agencies, Connolly said.

Connolly announced the initiative as part of Public Service Recognition Week. In a newsletter to his constituents, the congressman called feds “the face of America here at home and around the globe.”

“Please know I will continue to fight in Congress to stand up for our neighbors who dedicate their life to public...

Obama to Public Servants: Thanks, and Sorry Things Have Been So Tough For You

As President Obama enters the home stretch of his administration, he seems determined to acknowledge that federal employees have been through a lot during his time in office.

This weekend, in a proclamation recognizing Public Service Recognition Week, Obama said today’s committed civil servants must overcome a lot of obstacles to succeed. “Despite tough circumstances -- including pay freezes, budget cuts, sequestration and a political climate that too often does not sufficiently value their work -- these exceptional leaders continue to make real the fundamental truth that people who love their country can change it,” he said.

In his proclamation, the president said today’s federal employees carry on the work of the Founding Fathers: “From the moment an early band of patriots first came together to secure the blessings of liberty for all, public servants have worked to create a more perfect union,” he declared.

Today’s civil servants, Obama said, “are scientists and teachers, social workers and first responders -- they are the leaders of today's progress and the innovators of tomorrow's breakthroughs. With determination and resolve, they defend our country overseas and work to widen the circle of opportunity and prosperity here at home.”

Obama also declared...

Journalist Badmouths Two Administrations' Treatment of Whistleblowers

The New York Times' James Risen, who recently was spared threatened prosecution by the Justice Department for refusing to reveal his source for some classified information on operations inside Iran, had some tough words on Wednesday for both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

Risen, speaking to hundreds from the podium at the National Press Club to receive the Ridenhour Prize for courage, said, “We in the press have to speak out against the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers.”  People often ask Risen whether the Obama team “is really that bad” given that “they are liberals,” he said.

“I feel like they must not have been paying attention,” Risen said. “My friends have said the difference between the Bush and Obama administrations on the war on terror is that the Bush people believed in what they were doing.” The Obama people, by contrast, whatever their motives, Risen said, “feel bad about it.”