Last Friday night, upper management of the country's national security establishment gathered for dinner, speeches, and an evening of conviviality at the annual banquet of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. The event followed hard on the heels of the revelations about the NSA's collection of metadata and the public furor that followed. With that elephant conspicuously in the room, the question was ... how to deal with it.
It was the sort of situation where humor sometimes works when nothing else does. So, as Charles S. Clark writes in Government Executive, James Clapper gave it his best shot and:
... cracked a few jokes. “Some of you expressed surprise that I showed up—so many emails to read!” Clapper said. Greeting fellow banqueter John Pistole, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration who recently reversed a planned policy to permit air travelers to carry certain knives on planes, Clapper said, “John, can I borrow your pocket knife?”
Not Leno quality, for sure, but a good effort.
More interesting and poignant was the presentation of an award to General Michael Hayden, former head of the NSA and, then, the CIA. The tribute
... included such biographical factoids as his having put himself through Dusquesne University working as a bellhop, caddy and Fuller Brush salesman. His hometown of Pittsburgh recently named a street for him.
Hayden's example was lost, plainly, on high school dropout Edward Snowden, whose top clearances were, no doubt, the bleakest joke anyone in the room could imagine.