Archive for ‘Security’

August 31, 2011

In Limbo At Gitmo

by Vince

If you are told that everyone in Guantanamo Bay’s U.S. prison is the same as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, read this story:

It is a strange population, the 171 men still left at Guantánamo. There is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and another two dozen hardened militants, who will never be released. This class of prisoner represents a small minority of the population. Then there are the others — about a hundred men, mostly Yemeni, who have been cleared to leave but have no place to go, as no country will take them. And there are another thirty-five or so like Noor. They are nameless, low-level operatives, or hapless men who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are the detritus of a decade-long war.

They can’t simply be released. That would be admitting that they aren’t as bad as the government once said they were. And most can’t be tried, either, because much of the evidence against them — if there is any — is too fraught, as it was gotten by torture, and would never have even been considered to be evidence in any American judicial proceeding before September 11, 2001. And no serious person would have ever argued for it as such.

August 26, 2011

Banning Video Cameras = Liberty?

by Vince

Does it make sense that an Ohio Congressman banned the public from recording his townhall meeting but allowed the press to record it?

July 29, 2011

Comparing Terror Responses Between America and Norway

by Vince

Glenn Greenwald illuminates the stark differences between America and Norway in light of the Oslo attacks last week:

The failed Christmas Day bombing over Detroit led to an erosion of Miranda rights and judge-free detentions as well as a due-process free assassination program aimed at an Muslim American preacher whose message allegedly “inspired” the attacker.  The failed Times Square bombing was repeatedly cited to justify reform-free extension of the Patriot Act along with a slew of measures to maximize government scrutiny of the Internet.  That failed plot, along with Nidal Hasan’s shooting at Fort Hood, provoked McCarthyite Congressional hearings into American Muslims and helped sustain a shockingly broad interpretation of “material support for Terrorism” that criminalizes free speech.  In sum, every Terrorist plot is immediately exploited as a pretext for expanding America’s Security State; the response to every plot: we need to sacrifice more liberties, increase secrecy, and further empower the government.

(…)

The reaction to the heinous Oslo attack by Norway’s political class has been exactly the opposite: a steadfast refusal to succumb to hysteria and a security-über-alles mentality.  The day after the attack — one which, per capita, was as significant for Norway as 9/11 was for the U.S. — Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang, when asked whether greater security measures were needed, sternly rejected that notion:  “I don’t think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect.”  It is simply inconceivable that any significant U.S. politician — the day after an attack of that magnitude — would publicly reject calls for greater security measures.  Similarly inconceivable for American political discourse is the equally brave response of the country’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, whose office was the target of the bomb and whose Labour Party was the sponsor of the camp where dozens of teenagers were shot:

He called on his country to react by more tightly embracing, rather than abandoning, the culture of tolerance that Anders Behring Breivik said he was trying to destroy.

“The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg insisted at a news conference. . . .

Stoltenberg strongly defended the right to speak freely — even if it includes extremist views such as Breivik’s.

“We have to be very clear to distinguish between extreme views, opinions — that’s completely legal, legitimate to have. What is not legitimate is to try to implement those extreme views by using violence,” he said in English.

Stoltenberg’s promise in the face of twin attacks signaled a contrast to the U.S. response after the 9/11 attacks, when Washington gave more leeway to perform wiretaps and search records.

It reflects the difference between the two countries’ approaches to terrorism. The U.S. has been frustrated by what it considers Scandinavia’s lack of aggressive investigation and arrests.

Since the attacks, Stoltenberg and members of Norway’s royal family have underlined the country’s openness by making public appearances with little visible security. (emphasis by GG)

The American approach, even taken up by Barack Obama, is tough on terror. If we give terrorists (or even in a larger context, criminals) any slack, our demise will be nigh. Ironically, this slogan does not always match our actions (it again goes back to using secrecy for protective purposes):

Patrick Henry’s long celebrated tribute to courage has been turned on its head by the degraded cowardice of GOP tough-guy leaders — such as Pat Roberts, John Cornyn, and Rush Limbaugh — shrieking that civil liberties are worthless if you’re dead: i.e., that safety is the paramount goal.  Meanwhile, as virtually every other country that suffers a horrendous Terrorist attack puts the accused perpetrators on trial in their real court system in the city where the attack occurred — the subway bombers in London, the train bombers in Madrid, the shooters in Mumbai, the Bali nightclub bombers in Indonesia — it is only the U.S., the self-proclaimed Home of the Brave, that is too frightened to do so, instead concocting military tribunals and sticking accused terrorists in cages on a Caribbean island, as members of both parties spew base fear-mongering to bar trials on American soil.

June 23, 2011

Marco Rubio and Hubristic American Exceptionalism

by Vince

A perfect example from an up and coming U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, in his first floor speech for the Senate. Daniel Larison rips his hubris to shreds but I will parse some of his lines:

But since her earliest days, America has inspired people from all over the world. Inspired them with the hope that one day their own countries would be one like this one.

And so he begins his smug parade of looking down on the rest of the world.

I know that now some say that times are so tough here at home that we can no longer afford to worry about what happens abroad. That maybe America needs to mind its own business.

Well, whether we like it or not, there is virtually no aspect of our daily lives that is not directly impacted by what happens in the world around us. We can choose to ignore global problems, but global problems will not ignore us.

(…)

Almost half a century later, America is still the only watchman on the wall of world freedom. And there is still no one to take our place.

What will the world look like if America declines?

Well, today people all over the world are forced to accept the familiar lie that the price of security is our liberty. If America declines, who will serve as living proof that liberty, security and prosperity can all exist together?

Today, radical Islam abuses and oppresses women. It has no tolerance for other faiths, and it seeks to impose its will on the whole world. If America declines, who will stand up to them and defeat them?

Today, children are used as soldiers and trafficked as slaves. Dissidents are routinely imprisoned without trial. They’re subjected to torture and forced into confessions and labor. If America declines, what nation on the earth will take these causes as their own?

And if America declines, who will do all these things and ask for nothing in return? Motivated solely by the desire to make the world a better place?

The answer is no one will. There is still no nation or institution on this planet that is willing or able to do what America has done.

Is this a call to an ongoing interventionalist streak in the world? Can we afford interventionalist wars? Can we fight these threats on our own soil? Where is the line? Larison puts this part of Rubio’s speech into perspective:

Whenever Rubio refers to American decline, we need to remember that what he means by this is that the U.S. will not attack other countries, intervene in their internal conflicts, or attempt to dictate the pace and content of political developments abroad as much as the U.S. does right now. In other words, what Rubio calls decline is what many of us would call a return to normal, or at least a reduction in the number and frequency of foreign conflicts and entanglements. What Rubio calls American decline is what many other nations around the world would refer to as being left alone.

In fact, the decline Rubio describes won’t prevent the U.S. from being that “living proof” of the co-existence of liberty, security, and prosperity. It is quite conceivable that both American liberty and security would be enhanced when our government concentrates its “defense” policies on nothing but the defense of the U.S. and those allies that America will have for limited periods of time. There are many states that already combat jihadist militants on their own soil at great cost, and because most of them are fighting largely in self-defense they are going to continue doing so no matter what the U.S. does or does not do. Something that believers in Rubio’s particular version of American exceptionalism seem to take for granted is that the rest of the world is largely hopeless without constant, direct American involvement in their affairs. If that was ever true, it isn’t any longer.

Finally, you gotta love this line from the tail end of Rubio’s speech:

You see, these nations, these new emerging nations, these new shining cities, we hope they will join us, but they can never replace us. Because their light is but a reflection of our own.

Larison claims that “it is flattering to us to believe that other successful nations have become successful only by basking in the reflected glory of American light.” Indeed.

June 6, 2011

Evening Reads

by Vince
  1. Does serving as First Lady count as executive experience?
  2. Discerning the differences between loyalty, patriotism, and looking to transform your city or nation.
  3. Tired of hearing quasi-religious political platforms that serve the interests of “killing our enemies” or benefiting the filthy rich? Check these out.
  4. Refocusing the education reform discussion.
  5. A bipartisan discussion on the extension of the PATRIOT act.
Tags:
June 6, 2011

Andy Griffith on the PATRIOT Act

by Vince

H/T: Balko

June 6, 2011

What the Money Spent on “Defense” Can Buy Us

by Vince

AllGov shows what domestic programs we could spend the $7.6 trillion defense budget since 2001 on:

Fill the Medicare Gap: If Congress redirected just one-fifth of the budget increases from 2000 to 2011 for defense spending, it would be enough to eliminate the long-term budget hole in the Medicare program.
 
Fund Head Start for 15 Years: Instead of 10 years of warfare in Afghanistan, the U.S. could have secured 15.6 years of early childhood education and support through Head Start for the same price.
 
Insure the Uninsured: Another way to spend the Afghanistan war chest would be on the uninsured. The budget for fighting the Taliban is enough to cover every American without health insurance for 1.7 years.
 
Help State Capitols: A total of 46 states are facing budget shortfalls this fiscal year. Collectively, they need about $130 billion. Ending the war in Afghanistan and getting entirely out of Iraq would save $170 billion—more than enough to wipe out the red ink from Albany to Sacramento.
 
Instead of Iraq…: Even with the end of combat operations in Iraq, the U.S. is still spending $50 billion annually to maintain a large contingent of troops in the country. For this same amount of money, Washington could ensure a year’s worth of health care for 24.3 million poor children, or salaries for more than 725,000 elementary school teachers or nearly 830,000 firefighters.
June 6, 2011

Perpetual War is More of a Hazard than Terrorism

by Vince

Conor Friedersdorf makes the case:

Give the hawks their due: terrorism is an ongoing threat to the United States. In fact, it’s likely to pose a bigger threat with every year that passes, insofar as technological advances are permitting people with meager resources to obtain ever deadlier weapons. Heaven forbid they get a nuke or a killer virus. What the hawks fail to recognize, however, is that perpetual war poses a bigger threat to the citizenry of a superpower than does terrorism. Already it is helping to bankrupt us financially,undermining our civil libertiescorroding our values, triggering abusive prosecutionsempoweringthe executive branch in ways that are anathema to the system of checks and balances implemented by the Founders, and causing us to degrade one another.

Alas, we still have an ambiguous exit strategy from the Middle East.

June 4, 2011

Quote of the Day

by Vince

Reflections on Sarah Palin as a 2012 candidate and POTUS:

“The objections to Mrs Palin are about personality rather than policy. The fear is that she’s too reckless, too divisive and too intemperate to be an effective president. If that’s the case, there’s no reason to think that voters will go for it.” –Erica Grieder

“Given the massive debt, I think her prescription of more, big tax cuts is like giving an alcoholic a free jagermeister supply. Given the perilous instability and transformation in the Middle East, I think accelerating the colonization of the West Bank is insanely reckless, and striking Iran potentially catastrophic. An energy policy that focuses entirely on sustaining a carbon economy is terribly short-sighted. I suspect she would gladly bring back torture into the American government. Above all, I agree with George Will that someone this unstable, this disturbed and this delusional having access to the nuclear codes terrifies me. These concerns are not all about personality, although in her case, I think we have someone outside any conventional boundaries of responsibility. They are also about preventing America accelerating its decline.” –Andrew Sullivan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 28, 2011

Saturday Morning Video: Benjamin Netanyahu Before U.S. Congress

by Vince

Drink your morning coffee, sit back, do your Saturday cleaning, and enjoy Bibi’s pep talk to the U.S. Congress (which gave him 27 standing ovations compared to Obama’s 25 before him. When was the last time this happened and it was labeled anything else but unpatriotic and inciting treason?)

Also, when it’s done, check out this map and see how difficult it would be to establish a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

May 27, 2011

More on the 1967 Borders

by Vince

A long, detailed explanation that may be helpful.

May 27, 2011

The PATRIOT Act Stays Alive

by Vince

This was a bill that was anathema to the Democratic party. It now has bipartisan support. Crazy. Some are even calling this secret bill more secret than we even know.


This law has its objectors. One to mention is Senator Rand Paul. He is basically met with this rhetoric about patriotism: 

Paul and the other dissenting Senators better give up their objections and submit to quick Patriot Act passageor else they’ll have blood on their hands from the Terrorist attack they will cause.  That, of course, was the classic Bush/Cheney tactic for years to pressure Democrats into supporting every civil-liberties-destroying measure the Bush White House demanded (including, of course, the original Patriot Act itself), and now we have the Democrats — ensconced in power — using it just as brazenly and shamelessly (recall how Bush’s DNI, Michael McConnell, warned Congressional Democrats in 2007 that unless they quickly passed without changes the new FISA bill the Bush White House was demanding, a Terrorist attack would likely occur at the Congress in a matter of “days, not weeks”; McConnell then told The New Yorker: “If we don’t update FISA, the nation is significantly at risk”). Feinstein learned well.

Greenwald challenges the myth that there is no bipartisanship in Congress.

So when they were out of power, the Democrats reviled the Patriot Act and constantly complained about fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat being used to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns.  Now that they’re in power and a Democratic administration is arguing for extension of the Patriot Act, they use fear-mongering tactics and exploitation of the Terrorist threat to stifle civil liberties and privacy concerns (“If somebody wants to take on their shoulders not having provisions in place which are necessary to protect the United States at this time, that’s a big, big weight to bear,” warned Feinstein).  And they’re joined in those efforts by the vast majority of the GOP caucus.  Remember, though:  there is no bipartisanship in Washington, the parties are constantly at each other’s throats, and they don’t agree on anything significant, and thus can’t get anything done.  If only that were true.

I would add bipartisan support for Israel to that short list.

Herman Cain’s take on security issues here and Julian Sanchez explains that much of the PATRIOT act would continue on even if parts of it expired.

Conor Friedersdorf explains why this matters to us and brings Barack Obama into the mix:

Contrary to the misleading reassurances of PATRIOT Act apologists, some provisions of the legislation aren’t merely likely to be abused by law enforcement in the future — they’ve already led to civil liberties violations, many of them documented circa 2009 by the Justice Department. Through National Security Letters, for example, law enforcement is permitted to obtain sensitive information from the banks, phone companies and Internet service providers of any American citizen. The FBI doesn’t need a warrant to request this private data, and the target of the snooping needn’t even be suspected of any connection with terrorism! More than 6,000 Americans were spied on in this manner during 2009 (the most recent year data is available), and the federal government has itself documented flagrant FBI abuses. All that’s missing is a desire to fix the problem. There are plenty of other objectionable PATRIOT ACT sections too: the “lone wolf” provision, roving wiretapsSection 215 notices. All are worthy of study, especially since now the American people won’t learn more about them through a Congressional debate.

President Obama’s support for this latest re-authorization matters because it bears on a central promise of his candidacy. During Election 2008, he made it seem as though a vote for him would signify and end to the Bush Administration’s excesses in the war on terrorism: its tendency to needlessly sacrifice civil liberties even when less intrusive measures were sufficient, its disdain for checks and balances on executive authority, its habit of using scare tactics to insist that national security legislation be passed quickly and without a debate. Hope. Change. Those were the slogans. They weren’t about getting Osama bin Laden, nice as that was.

May 25, 2011

The Prison Flood Gates Are Opening

by Vince

The California Supreme Court upheld a decision to release 30,000 inmates. Conor Friedersdorf and Mark Kleiman are hoping they use the GPS-type trackers for these released offenders.

I have mixed feelings about this because I know it’s an imperfect solution. On the other hand, I do know that prison costs are (and have been) exploding. Conversely, I don’t think saving money should always point us towards blanket solutions that may jeopardize public safety

May 24, 2011

A Joke About the CIA, FBI and KGB

by Vince

From the Dish, some political humor:

The KGB, the FBI and the CIA are all trying to prove that they are the best at catching criminals. The Secretary General of the UN decides to give them a test. He releases a rabbit into a forest and each of them has to catch it. The CIA goes in. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They question all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations they conclude that the rabbit does not exist. The FBI goes in. After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the rabbit, and make no apologies: the rabbit had it coming. The KGB goes in. They come out two hours later with a badly beaten bear. The bear is yelling: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

May 23, 2011

POTUS in Dublin

by Vince

Obama ran into a little issue at the U.S. Embasy in Dublin, Ireland:

On its way out of the US Embassy in Dublin, President Obama’s heavily armored limo, Cadillac One (AKA “The Beast”), struck a ramp and subsequently got stuck, forcing POTUS to abandon car.

Obama arrived in Ireland this morning to kick off a six-day tour of Europe, which will include stops in the UK, France, and Poland.

May 23, 2011

To Engage or Not Engage With Terrorists, Ctd.

by Vince

Peter Kirsanow asks another good slew of questions in related to this discussion.

May 21, 2011

Rick Santorum and His Cognitive Dissonance

by Vince

Is Rick Santorum that patriotic (caring so much to protect our country at the cost of breaking down another human being) that he has formed a level of cognitive dissonance? He is a Catholic yet agrees with using torture on our enemies. Here is the rub that doesn’t add up:

Catholic bishops described torture as an assault on the dignity of human life and an “intrinsic evil” in their 2007 statement Faithful Citizenship. (For a more in depth look at intrinsic evil and political responsibility read this essay by Cathleen Kaveny of the University of Notre Dame in America magazine.) “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism,” the bishops wrote in Faithful Citizenship. As Kyle R. Kupp points out over at Vox Nova, Pope Paul VI described such acts as “infamies” that “poison society,” do “supreme dishonor to the Creator,” and “do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from injury.”

May 18, 2011

Visuals, Yay! of the Day

by Vince

Coming soon will be the speech from Barack Obama on American safety and the Internet.

Tags: ,
May 17, 2011

UnCatholic Quote of the Day

by Vince

“…everything I’ve read shows that we would not have gotten this information as to who this man was if it had not been gotten information from people who were subject to enhanced interrogation. And so this idea that we didn’t ask that question while Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was being waterboarded, he doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works. I mean, you break somebody, and after they’re broken, they become cooperative”, Rick Santorum as he calls out former prisoner of war and tortured soldier John McCain for not understanding torture and its role in American foreign policy. (emphasis mine in the quote).

Foreign policy aside, what does the emphasized quote by Santorum say about treating others made in the image of God? Santorum, sadly, may on purpose conflate torture with Christianity.

May 17, 2011

Addressing Thy Fears

by Vince

From our military budget ($800 billion – part of it goes to nuclear subs, which we have over a dozen and China doesn’t even have 1 yet) to our fears, we clearly are still in a Cold War frame of mind. Notice the fears of nuclear attacks, nuclear run-off, poisoning, and so on. Even in Japan after their tsunami and earthquake, the bulk of news reporting was focused on nuclear contamination. In the long run, a few hundred people could die from the nuclear contamination. In the short run, tens of thousands of people died from the earthquake. Irrational?

We worry about some things more than the evidence warrants (vaccines, nuclear radiation, genetically modified food), and less about some threats than the evidence warns (climate change, obesity, using our mobiles when we drive). … [This Perception Gap] produces social policies that protect us more from what we’re afraid of than from what in fact threatens us the most (we spend more to protect ourselves from terrorism than heart disease)…which in effect raises our overall risk.