FEATURED:

The not-so-private lives of congressional staffers

A few weeks ago, buried in my pile of junk mail was the ominous letter from the Office of Personnel Management telling me that my personal data “may have been” breached. As federal employees’ unions cry foul and promise legal action, I haven’t yet heard outrage over what this means for former and current Hill employees.

Yes, Hill staffers had their personal data compromised just like so many other federal employees and contractors. This doesn’t seem that outrageous. However, what’s not being reported is how much additional personal information on Hill staff is already a matter of public record. 

Certainly all of their salaries are available to the public, but there are also those staffers who file annual financial disclosures and are subject to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act filings. Think about how much personal information is now available on congressional staff members to the bad actors who breached the OPM’s data.

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The OPM now says the personal data for over 21 million current and former federal employees was compromised. In fact, the personal information of those employees’ family members may have been a bonus to those infiltrating the system. Combine that information with what is publicly available through a simple Internet search and you have a very thorough profile of any congressional staff member — and likely their spouses and children as well.

Pandora’s Box is already open, and it’s too late to fix what has been broken. While congressional staff are frequently portrayed as overpaid government employees with over-the-top benefits, that is not an accurate profile of a Hill staffer. They are dedicated public servants who often choose to do this work rather than pursuing more profitable careers. These hard-working individuals need protection too. 

From Summer Mersinger, senior vice president, The Smith-Free Group, Washington, D.C. 


Taiwan's peace initiative deserves honest consideration from the US

I want to give kudos to Francis Yi-hua Kan for writing and presenting a thoughtful and reasoned op-ed on a proposed peace initiative concerning territorial disputes in the South China Sea (“Underlining the ideals and spirit of the South China Sea Peace Initiative,” July 21). 

The South China Sea is arguably one of the most dangerous regions in the world, with conflicting diplomatic, legal and security claims by major and mid-level powers. It is clear that Washington and Beijing must find ways to cooperate on issues related to the recent escalation of tensions caused by the muscle-flexing of some claimants in the South China Sea.

Because of its proximity to and knowledge of China, Taiwan is uniquely equipped to assist U.S. efforts to counter this distinct challenge. Rather than fearing possible damage to bilateral ties with China, the United States should take advantage of the benefits this important initiative can offer as it provides a viable empirical model for peaceful resolution of regional disputes, especially in light of Beijing’s recent efforts to reclaim land and construct facilities in the South China Sea. 

Peace does not come through miracles but through perseverance, enterprise, strength and support from friends and allies. Taiwan is quietly carving out a role as a component of the region’s security architecture. Washington should take a close look at Taiwan’s role within the region and how this peace initiative can resolve the sovereignty disputes and enhance stability in the South China Sea. 

From Kent Wang, research fellow to the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies, Washington, D.C.