Joshua Foust

Joshua Foust is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. He was formerly a senior intelligence analyst for the U.S. government. His website is joshuafoust.com.

Recent Articles

Three Guiding Principles for NSA Reform

Many Americans are disturbed by government data-mining, but what can we actually do to change the system we're so uncomfortable with? 

AP Images/Oliver Berg
APImages/Oliver Berg E dward Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton contractor who leaked the details of top secret National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs could have tried to remain anonymous and avoid the consequences of his actions. That he chose not to, instead recording a lengthy interview explaining his motives and worldview, is remarkable for a modern-day leaker. While his supporters complain that the subsequent focus on Snowden has directed attention away from his leaks, his decision—and his moral calculus—are actually central to the public debate that’s erupted. Rather than petulantly whine that it’s unfair to examine the motives of a man desperate to justify himself, we should instead grapple with why Snowden chose to leak. The programs he exposed prompted a steady roar from civil libertarians, transparency activists, and reporters. It also prompted remarkable pushback from progressive Senators like Al Franken , who felt the program was legal and necessary. What...

Do Drones Work?

AP Images/Eric Gay
Last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus hosted an ad hoc hearing on the implications of U.S. drone policy. It was a follow-up of sorts to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in April examining the counterterrorism implications of drone strikes. The two hearings mark the first time Congress has explicitly scrutinized drones as a stand-alone issue; previous discussions were wrapped up in confirmation hearings and Rand Paul’s dramatic filibuster in March. But in narrowing the focus of the debate over drones to encompass only the moral gray areas of the Obama administration’s targeted killings policy, Congress is failing to ask more important questions. There’s no doubt that drone strikes can have horrific consequences. Beyond the disputed numbers of noncombatants killed, there are psychological consequences to consider as well. In the Senate hearing, Farea al-Muslimi, an American-educated Yemeni writer and activist, spoke eloquently of the heartbreak and fear that drones cause...

The Chechen Connection

The Boston bombers have put the region and U.S.-Russia relations in the spotlight.

AP Images
Thursday night, the FBI released photographs of two suspects wanted in connection with Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon. Shortly afterward, Boston police identified two men suspected of the attack, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Over the course of several chaotic early morning hours, a violent chase ensued. Tamerlan died in a shootout with police and as of this writing, Dzhokhar remains at large. The brothers are originally from the restive Russian republic of Chechnya. Like many Chechens, the Tsarnaev family fled Chechnya in the 1990s amidst brutal fighting. There were two wars in the region—the first from 1994 to 1996 that largely kicked Russia’s military presence out of the republic, and a second one from 1999 to 2006 or so that succeeded in cementing Russian control. The first Chechen War was a secular, nationalist war for independence. The countries of the South Caucasus—Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia—gained their independence during the collapse of the Soviet...

What Obama Didn't Say

President Barack Obama marked a dramatic change in the war in Afghanistan in a major speech Wednesday night. In broad strokes, he laid out the framework for how to wind down the war: by declaring victory and transitioning control to the Afghans in the context of an Afghan-led political reconciliation with the insurgency. "We are meeting our goals," he declared, and -- in a surprising twist -- endorsed a political reconciliation with the Taliban for the first time. However, what President Obama did not say in his speech is almost as significant as what he did say. For example, Obama did not once mention General David Petraeus, the current commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The current buzz about his nomination to be the new Director of Central Intelligence is that he will leave his post commanding the troops in Afghanistan early to set up shop at the CIA. For Obama, who seemed cowed by the combined personalities of his top generals in 2009, this is a major reversal of fortunes,...

Revisiting the Obama Doctrine

Obama's approach to foreign policy lets circumstances define him, rather than the other way around.

(Flickr/The White House)
President Barack Obama began his term defining his foreign policy very simply: Tone down the rhetoric of President George W. Bush, focus on humanitarian issues, and reduce American militarism. Analysts, commentators, and pundits have tried to codify this general approach into an Obama doctrine, a set of coherent ideas that define and explain the president's policies. Two years later, however, it's difficult to say what, exactly, Obama's doctrine actually is. It is even more difficult to see a departure from President Bush's foreign policy. None of this changes with Osama bin Laden's rather spectacular death in his mansion in Pakistan. Doctrines require a few basic components: a belief system for understanding circumstances, rules for putting that belief system into practice, and an event signaling the system's enactment -- a speech, an article, or a statement of principles. James Monroe famously said in 1823 that the U.S would view further European colonization of the Western...