As this NSA surveillance scandal unfolds, people are following Edward Snowden's apparent attempts to evade extradition. However, I think we're losing sight of the other fugitive from justice - James Clapper. After committing the criminal offense of lying to Congress back in March, Clapper vanished into the federally administered tribal areas around Washington, DC. He is thought to be somewhere near McLean, Virginia, and continuing his role as Director of National Intelligence. Will he be caught and brought to justice?
Now legally, it seems like it should be a more straightforward matter for American authorities to seize Clapper. Unlike Ecuador, where Snowden is seeking asylum, Northern Virginia is technically a part of the United States. The same is true of other areas in and around the "Beltway zone" where Clapper could be hiding. These areas have US administrators at the federal and state level - they even use our currency. In fact, since 9/11 American funding has absolutely flooded the local economy there in an effort to buy us influence.
But as with many other US allies, we're not always sure of their loyalties. These are intensely secretive people. Simply put, we don't trust each other. They don't share our values: They don't believe in transparency or accountable governments. It's never been part of their culture, and they resent our attempts to impose our system on them. And the fact that we give them so much money creates a strange cognitive dissonance that makes these people really hard to communicate with. Here you'll find someone whose entire lifestyle is based on getting money from the US Treasury, and he will nonetheless refers to himself, seriously, as "a small-government conservative."
What complicates matters is that, because of the idiosyncratic way they use language, they don't think James Clapper actually lied. One of their local media sites, ABC News, recently posted this article, and I think the title alone tells us what we're dealing with: "Did Intel Dir. James Clapper Lie To Congress? It's Complicated." The basic point of the article is that Clapper found himself faced with a simple question that required him to lie, but he really, really wanted to answer another, more complicated question that would have allowed him to evade the truth without actually lying.
"How is that not lying?" you're asking. "How does that complicate things?" Believe me, when you've lived in this place long enough, you'll get it.
The bottom line, I think, is that Clapper broke our laws, and we need to force them to hand him over. Otherwise they'll never respect us. They want to take our money so they can continue to intervene in every conflict around the world, and then make cable news specials about it. But we must make it clear that there are limits.
We have to use each other, but never forget - they're just not like us. We don't want the same things, the same kind of society. And we must never, ever put them in the position where we're not monitoring what they do. There's a reason no US soldier wants to go out on a mission controlled by someone from the DC area. They know that's how you get killed. If you want to show our people we care, don't put them at the mercy of someone from inside the Beltway. Simple as that.
I hate to say it like this, but it's true: They just don't value human life the way we do.