Snowden and the sequester

Columnist

As if the sequester weren’t already playing the mustache-twirling villain — blamed for just about every possible woe — it turns out that the across-the-board-cuts are also responsible for that massive leak of government secrets that’s got everyone so hot and bothered.

In our colleague Jerry Markon’s excellent interview with Lon Snowden, the father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the senior Snowden says it was the sequester that led his son to take the private-sector contracting job that allowed him access to the secret NSA data that he would ultimately make public.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

“Edward has said he took his final government contracting job with Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii to gain access to sensitive NSA information,” Markon reports. “But his father said Edward told him that his previous contracting job had been eliminated because of the federal budget sequestration.”

So no sequester would mean no access, which would mean no leak.

In a parallel universe in which there was no sequester, Snowden might be just another contractor collecting checks, instead of an internationally notorious fugitive camping out in the Moscow airport.

So much for those theories that the sequester had little impact.

Dynamic duos

Every presidency has its “power couples” holding down top jobs in the executive branch. The Obama administration’s second-term examples include:

Tony Blinken, deputy national security adviser, and Evan Ryan, a top aide to Vice President Biden who was nominated this month to be assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

Katie Beirne, the new deputy White House communications director, and Brian Fallon, the Justice Department’s new head of public affairs. Both are former top aides to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Heather Higginbottom, counselor to Secretary of State John Kerry and former deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Danny Sepulveda, deputy assistant secretary of state. Higginbottom is being talked about as a possible deputy secretary of state.

Josh Earnest, White House principal deputy press secretary, and Natalie Wyeth Earnest, assistant secretary of the Treasury for public affairs.

Jamie Smith, deputy White House press secretary, and Eric Pierce, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs. They’re new parents — Lincoln Rose Pierce Smith is not quite 3 months old.

Sometimes half of a power pair leaves the government. Doug Lute is a top National Security Council aide awaiting confirmation as U.S. ambassador to NATO, but Jane Holl Lute is no longer deputy secretary of homeland security.

The appropriately named Samantha Power, a senior NSC aide while husband Cass Sunstein was head of the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is expected to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Sunstein, meanwhile, is teaching at Harvard Law.

Cathy Russell, chief of staff to Jill Biden, has been nominated as ambassador at large for global women’s issues, but her spouse, former national security adviser Tom Donilon, has moved on to the Council on Foreign Relations.

A well-placed call

Bob Perciasepe, deputy administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, is no sore loser, as we wrote Tuesday, about getting aced out for the top job at the EPA by Gina McCarthy, who was an assistant administrator.

After all, he’s sticking around in the No. 2 slot — much to McCarthy’s relief.

Perciasepe, a low-key policy wonk who can also work the brutal politics on environmental issues, had been given high marks during his tenure as acting administrator after Lisa Jackson left the agency’s helm in February. And he knows the agency, having run the air and water divisions in the Bill Clinton administration.

So why not leave? Well, one reason he’s feeling okay about his status, we’re hearing, may be that President Obama called him when he picked McCarthy and personally asked him to stay.

We’re thinking this may be an unusual presidential call to the deputy chief of a non-statutory government agency.

Later, gators

We signed up immediately back in May when we got an invite to a “real alligator hunt” down on the Louisiana bayou, sponsored by a super PAC supporting Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).

After all, it’s hard to turn down an offer to fork over just $5,000 for a day in a swamp. Besides, we heeded the invitation’s warning that “Space is very limited!!” for the hunt, which was set for Sept. 5-7, the weekend before Congress returns.

But apparently not that many folks wanted to take a “swamp tour” in the summer, because we got a reminder this week that space is really, really limited.

“Make sure to RSVP as soon as possible! Only FIVE spots left for the Alligator Hunt,” the e-mail said.

C’mon, folks. Maybe there’ll be a cool breeze.

Buenos Aires-bound

Another mega-bundler snags a fine embassy. Noah Mamet, a Los Angeles business and political consultant and a member of the Obama 2012 campaign’s national finance committee, has been nominated to be ambassador to Argentina. Mamet, a national finance director for House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt from 1995 to 2003, raised at least $1.3 million for the Obama campaign. (Maybe not quite as much as Boston lawyer Robert Sherman, according to a New York Times calculation in mid-2012, but, hey, Sherman got Portugal last week.)

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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