Everyone is treating the I.R.S. issue as a bigger deal, but the Justice Department scandal is worse. This was a sweeping intrusion that makes it hard for the press to do its job. Who is going to call a journalist to report wrongdoing knowing that at some future date, the government might feel perfectly free to track the phone records and hunt you down?
I would have thought a dozen Justice Department officials would have risen up and splashily resigned when they learned of the scope of this invasion. Aren’t there some lawyers in the Justice Department, and, if so, did they go to law schools where the Constitution is left unassigned?
This scandal arises from a larger cultural virus: leakaphobia. Every administration centralizes power more tightly than the one before and is more paranoid about leaks than the one before. Every administration successively narrows the circle of debate, forsaking wide deliberation for the sake of reducing leaks (except the politically useful ones). Why do they do this? Because people who go into government not only have a tendency to want to control other people but also to control information.
We clearly have a values problem in the federal government. We clearly have a few or many agencies where the leaders don’t emphasize that workers need to check themselves, or risk losing what remains of the people’s trust.