Edward Snowden's stolen secrets and the dismal failure of the rollout of Obamacare is giving electronic technology a bad name. But blaming high-tech tools is more like blaming the messenger. We have to work harder to master the secrets of the Internet, but the human element remains our biggest weakness.
It's hardly news that the screening process for giving Snowden access to sensitive data was deeply flawed. So, too, were the instructions to the National Security Agency that enabled the abuse of the rest of us. For whatever good intentions the NSA might have had, the snoops cost America the moral high ground in dealing with the evil abundant in the world. We've enabled Vladimir Putin, the old KGB hand, to give a civil-rights lecture to the president of the United States.
Angela Merkel, one of America's best friends among the Europeans, is more than embarrassed by Snowden's revelations. Germans are sensitive to their Gestapo/Stasi past, and they're devouring Snowden's self-serving open letter in der Spiegel, justifying his leaks, as if he's a reincarnation of Tom Paine. Citizens, Snowden writes, "have to fight against the suppression of information about affairs of essential importance for the public." He now has a job with a large Russian website. If this is bad news for Barack Obama, it's more than interesting news for Vladimir Putin.
The failure of the electronic tools for making Obamacare accessible to those who are required to use it poses a different problem. America, which led in inventing the Internet, has nevertheless fallen behind the curve in the high tech world in how it delivers government services. This goes to the heart of why big government couldn't get the Obamacare rollout right. A White House that doesn't know much about business, and sneers at those who do, compounded the failure.
In a 2010 memo that is only now getting attention, David Cutler, who worked for Obama as a healthcare adviser, warned the president and his administration that it lacked the crucial ingredients for the successful implementation of the health care law, which needs men and women with experience in complex business start-ups, basic regulations, technology and policy coordination.