Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bush-Era Lawyers Won't Be Disciplined For Controversial Interrogation Memos

In a Friday document dump (jargon describing when an administration releases embarrassing--to them--information after all the "journalists" have left for the weekend), the Justice Department as expected cleared two Justice Department lawyers from any professional misconduct in connection with harsh terrorist-interrogation techniques:
Two Bush administration lawyers who authorized harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects used poor judgment but will not face punishment, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday in summarizing a lengthy ethics report.
The department's Office of Professional Responsibility had originally found that the lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, had engaged in professional misconduct, according to a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee leaders.
The department's Office of Professional Responsibility had originally found that the lawyers, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, had engaged in professional misconduct, according to a letter sent to the House Judiciary Committee leaders.
The harsh techniques they authorized included waterboarding of terrorism suspects as the Bush administration tried to elicit intelligence after the September 11, 2001, attacks for capturing or killing anti-American al Qaeda militants.
However, Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis reviewed the ethics report as well as responses by Yoo and Bybee and decided not to adopt that finding, according to the letter by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich.
 Source: NBC/Reuters

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Homeland Security Keeping An Eye On Web Sites During Olympics

From ABC News:
As the winter Olympics begin, the Department of Homeland Security has disclosed that it will be monitoring the comments and posts on websites and social media like Twitter for information on possible terror threats. Among the sites listed in a privacy impact statement filed [February 12] by DHS are the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, Twitter, Google and this web site, the Blotter.
The National Operations Center of DHS will watch the web for information, according to the statement, to "provide situational awareness" in the event of natural disaster, an "act of terrorism, or other manmade disaster."
"The Olympics are a potential target for such events," said the statement. The statement did not list all web sites and social media that the NOC will monitor, but provided 31 examples, many of them, like the Blotter, sites that cover breaking news, security, or terror.
DHS officials say they will not be monitoring the web sites extensively, but would use the sites as a reference and open source tool in the event of an incident or emergency. DHS officials also used the monitoring of social media sites in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake to aid rescue efforts.

White House Receptive To Indefinite Detention For Terrorists

At least that's what Sen. Lindsey Graham tells Politico:
The White House is considering endorsing a law that would allow the indefinite detention of some alleged terrorists without trial as part of efforts to break a logjam with Congress over President Barack Obama’s plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday.
Last summer, White House officials said they had ruled out seeking a “preventive detention” statute as a way to deal with anti-terror detainees, saying the administration would hold any Guantanamo prisoners brought to the U.S. in criminal courts or under the general “law of war” principles permitting detention of enemy combatants.
However, speaking at a news conference in Greenville, S.C., Monday, Graham said the White House now seems open to a new law to lay out the standards for open-ended imprisonment of those alleged to be members of or fighters for Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Obama Justice Department: No Warrants Needed For Cell-Phone Tracking

So let's review the bidding. The many critics of the Bush administration regularly accused the president and his team of violating civil liberties and shredding the constitution. Now comes the Obama administration telling the 3rd Circuit federal appeals court that is okay to track cell phones without a court order. Has there been any significant outcry from privacy advocates or civil libertarians?
The FBI and other police agencies don't need to obtain a search warrant to learn the locations of Americans' cell phones, the U.S. Department of Justice told a federal appeals court in Philadelphia on [February 12].
A Justice Department attorney told the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that there is no constitutional problem with obtaining records from cellular providers that can reveal the approximate locations of handheld and mobile devices.
There "is no constitutional bar" to acquiring "routine business records held by a communications service provider," said Mark Eckenwiler, a senior attorney in the criminal division of the Justice Department. He added, "The government is not required to use a warrant when it uses a tracking device."
This is the first federal appeals court to address warrantless location tracking, which raises novel issues of government surveillance and whether Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts.

Report: Dems To Plant Double Agents In Tea Party Movement

Andrew Breitbart's claims that treacherous Democrat operatives plan to undermine the Tea Party movement with dirty tricks, including blackmail:
Big Government has learned that Clintonistas are plotting a “push/pull” strategy. They plan to identify 7-8 national figures active in the tea party movement and engage in deep opposition research on them. If possible, they will identify one or two they can perhaps ‘turn’, either with money or threats, to create a mole in the movement. The others will be subjected to a full-on smear campaign. (Has MSNBC already been notified?)
Big Government has also learned that James Carville will head up the effort.
Obviously, there is no love lost between Obama and the Clinton machine. It may at first seem odd that Clinton would rush to Obama’s defense, but the tea party movement poses a threat far beyond the immediate goals of the Obama Administration.

Guest Blog: Live by the sword...

Guest blogger Jason Tabrys of shares his thoughts of his perception of Capitol Hill gridlock:

It was called "seppuku" by the Japanese Samurai, the act of falling upon ones sword to show contrition and shame. Through the course of human existence, there have been many variations, many words, and traditions all ending in the same place. A person wrapped in failure embracing one small bit of honor as he or she committed an act of self-sacrifice in the name of the greater good.

Perhaps the whole of the U.S. Congress should take note. Choosing to step aside and allow fresh voices from both parties to be heard. A new generation of legislators with a sense of urgency regarding matters beyond the self serving. There is certainly enough failure and there should be enough shame to justify it.

A global recession, two wars, and double-digit unemployment. Fear is incalculable, struggle a natural way of life for so many. And yet they sit on their hands. We are a nation in drought, no rains, no water, no relief, and all they do is light fires in each others villages. Bickering and scrapping, hoping to win our favor by scoring cheap points when all we care about is easing our own tortured journey.

America is not a nation of one party or two parties; their interests should not concern us. We are 300 million lights shining brightly, the majesty of an individual conquering adversity. A rich tapestry strung together by so many unique stories, so many ideas and purposes, and we are all being held down at once by a party that wishes to legislate us into roboticism and another that seeks to let us be free within the bounds of their own definition. Free to own a submachine gun but not free to marry who we wish. Free to poison yourself with tobacco but not marijuana; your body, your beliefs demanded into obsolescence and submission. The phrase "The greater good," a mallet used to bash a free man about the head.

Once I cared about the frivolity of politics, but a voice grows hoarse, and eyes can see a horror so many times before they close shut. And while the promises and proclamations grow in intensity and volume over these coming months, still just as hollow as those delivered to us last time and the time before that, we must remember that no time has demanded more, and no time has received less from our elected officials at nearly every rung of the ladder. Perhaps mass resignation is a tad fanciful but something must be done to push aside partisan bickering and prove that patriotism is more then a lapel pin, more then a slogan. But rather a religion unto itself where those who truly believe are willing to sacrifice upon its altar.

Administration Considers Flexibility on KSM Trial

The administration may be laying the groundwork for some major backpedaling:
The Obama administration prefers a civilian trial for the alleged 9/11 mastermind, but says that in the face of public and political opposition it must be open to a military tribunal.
In an interview published Monday in The New York Times, Attorney General Eric Holder said, "I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side."
However, Holder did not rule out a military trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, saying, "You have to be flexible." [AP]
As we have pointed out previously, Holder should have recused himself from this entire transaction given that his former law firm represented various detainees.

And administration officials have repeatedly claimed that KSM will be found guilty. Doesn't that taint the jury pool?

Net Neutrality: Government-Run Internet

America does not want government-run healthcare. With the same gusto, most online users--once they get wind of it--reject a proposed government plan to takeover the Internet. has an excellent piece on this latest form of federal overreach:
Net neutrality rules enforced by the Federal Communications Commission would allow government bureaucrats to micromanage the Internet — thus sucking out the lifeblood of the digital economy and threatening the dynamism and freedom we’ve come to take for granted online...
The digital economy is currently so dynamic and cutthroat that free-market forces work quickly to correct any undesirable hiccups that arise — all without any micro-managing of the tech industry by government.
Net neutrality advocates insist we need government to preserve an “open” and “free” Internet and claim the market has failed. But they cannot point to any market failures that make the Internet less open or free. In short, the Internet isn’t broken. And it doesn’t need a government fix
The Heartland Institute created an excellent video (which was embeded the BigGovernment article) on net neutrality:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Terrorists Wanted Dead Rather Than Alive?

It's obvious that the Obama administration is in total disarray in connection with its confused interrogation policies for enemy combatants and ill-advised plans to put terrorists on trial in civil courts. But according to the Washington Post, the administration has apparently come up with a third way, one that that eliminates all that messy and complicated legal mumbo jumbo:
When a window of opportunity opened to strike the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa last September, U.S. Special Operations forces prepared several options. They could obliterate his vehicle with an airstrike as he drove through southern Somalia. Or they could fire from helicopters that could land at the scene to confirm the kill. Or they could try to take him alive.
The White House authorized the second option. On the morning of Sept. 14, helicopters flying from a U.S. ship off the Somali coast blew up a car carrying Saleh Ali Nabhan. While several hovered overhead, one set down long enough for troops to scoop up enough of the remains for DNA verification. Moments later, the helicopters were headed back to the ship.
The strike was considered a major success, according to senior administration and military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified operation and other sensitive matters. But the opportunity to interrogate one of the most wanted U.S. terrorism targets was gone forever.
The Nabhan decision was one of a number of similar choices the administration has faced over the past year as President Obama has escalated U.S. attacks on the leadership of al-Qaeda and its allies around the globe. The result has been dozens of targeted killings and no reports of high-value detentions.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sen. Graham Blasts Administration's Policy Of Trying Terror Detainees in Civilian Court

While he can be wobbly on certain issues, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did an excellent job on FNC today assailing the administration's ill-conceived counter-terrorism policies when it comes to treating enemy combatants as common criminals:

While Graham conceded that Gitmo is the best run prison in the world, he said he is nonetheless willing to support the administration's effort to shut down the prison provided the White House adopts a "national security-centric system."

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Remembering President Reagan

Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, would have be 99 years old today. In drawing a contrast between President Reagan and the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, William Katz of Urgent Agenda aptly wrote the following:
And so we still ask: Who is the president? We will get an inkling in the coming months as he deals with Iran, perhaps the biggest foreign policy challenge of 2010. Our answer to the question will decide Barack Obama's future, both as president and as potential (but not definite) candidate in 2012. This is political theater, and very good theater at that. And it requires acting. Ronald Reagan was a real actor, and a distinguished statesman. Barack Obama is a fake actor, with statesmanship yet to be assessed.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Officials: Al Qaeda Attack Within Six Months

Intelligence officials testified on Capitol Hill this week about an imminent homeland security threat:
Al Qaeda can be expected to attempt an attack on the United States in the next three to six months, senior U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Tuesday.
The terrorist organization is deploying operatives to the United States to carry out new attacks from inside the country, including "clean" recruits with a negligible trail of terrorist contacts, CIA Director Leon Panetta said. Al Qaeda is also inspiring homegrown extremists to trigger violence on their own, Panetta added.
The annual assessment of the nation's terror threats provided no startling new terror trends, but amplified growing concerns since the Christmas Day airline attack in Detroit that militants are growing harder to detect and moving more quickly in their plots.

Appeals Court: Millenium Bomber Sentence Not Tough Enough

The San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has a reputation for "going rogue." The Supreme Court has reversed the 9th Circuit more than any other federal appeals court. However, in a complete role reversal, a divided 9th Circuit panel ruled that a lower court was too lenient in meting out a jail term for the so-called Millenium bomber:
The long legal battle of an al-Qaida-trained terrorist convicted in an attempted bombing on the millennium has taken another turn after an appeals court threw out his sentence and removed the trial judge from the case.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday said Ahmed Ressam's 22-year prison sentence is too lenient. Border agents in Washington state arrested the Algerian national in 1999 after he entered the United States from Canada on a ferry with a car packed with explosives. He was convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.
The appeals court also said Tuesday that it's taking the rare step of assigning the case to another trial judge because it doubts U.S. District Judge John Coughenour's impartiality in the matter.
...the appeals court said Ressam has an extensive criminal history and Coughenour's conclusions were "clearly erroneous." Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon said the Coughenour failed to take into account public safety with the 22-year prison sentence....
Ressam's case will be randomly assigned to another federal judge in Seattle in the coming weeks and it's expected that the Algerian national will receive a harsher sentence. A divided three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled Ressam, 41, deserves a much longer prison term because he had reneged on a deal to cooperate with terrorism investigators around the world.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, the defendant faces a prison sentence of 65 years to life. Incredibly, Judge Coughenour is a Reagan appointee.