Heart of the Matter

Obsidian Wings by quoting Glen Greewald gives laser focus to the heart of the domestic spying program,

Greenwald is laying out points that he thinks people should make when explaining the NSA program. His first is this:

(1) The President is now claiming, and is aggressively exercising, the right to use any and all war powers against American citizens even within the United States, and he insists that neither Congress nor the courts can do anything to stop him or even restrict him.

Greenwald begins by saying that he thinks the issue is best described in this way, rather than as an issue about the rule of law. If we make it about the rule of law, the administration will be able to trot out its legal justifications, everyone will get confused, and the whole thing will just seem like an arcane legal disagreement. Far better, he says, to explain clearly what their legal theory is, and why it is genuinely radical and frightening. He then does exactly that.

“The Administration’s position as articulated by Gonzales is not that the Administration has the power under the AUMF or under precepts of Article II “inherent authority” to engage in warrantless eavesdropping against Americans. Their argument is much, much broader — and much more radical — than that. Gonzales’ argument is that they have the right to use all war powers of which warrantless eavesdropping is but one of many examples against American citizens within the country. And not only do they have the right to use those war powers against us, they have the right to use them even if Congress makes it a crime to do so or the courts rule that doing so is illegal.

Put another way, the Administration has now baldly stated that whatever it is allowed to do against our enemies in a war, it is equally entitled to exercise all of the same powers against American citizens on American soil.

Anyone wishing to defend to me this program or even Bush in general has to start there.

Science Friday looks at a wrap up on Intelligent Design

Barbara Forest speaks on Science Friday about the recent Dover rulling on Intelligent Design. Two key things I want to remember from this chat. One the notion of falsabilityis important for scientific theory. The second is that many of the creationists out there on school boards are pushing stuff specifically because they want to advance religion in the classroom without event understanding what they are pushing.

The Divide

I think I might be getting a bigger clue to the right left divide post 9/11. For many republicans the main focus changed; liberty, morality, constitutional originalism took a back seat to the war on terrorism, and it is quite literally one war to them. I’ve understood this before but I didn’t actually believe it. The same people who so readily condemn the things that happen under dictators and communism excuse some of the same behaviors done by the US as long as it can be defended under the word terrorism. The root logic is survival. Almost any principle can be sacrificed if it even remotely can be tied back to their safety. To me these words still seem harsh, but that is always the root aspect of the arguments. “If it prevents the loss of a major American city, would you say no?” I believe there is a fundamental cowardliness underlying this type of thinking; that our country has been reduced down to just the people in it, all the rules and ways we relate to each other are not enshrined values and principles but things that can be cast aside at the first hint of fear since they are just obstacles to an effective defense. I guess it is this downgrading of us from human to animals in the governmental sphere that drives so many people to get religion back into it. It is so much sadder that the real messages and meaning of religion has been hijacked into a war on the symbols. The religious right has decided that the latest worthy fight is what way retailers wish people a happy holiday season. If that is what religion means to them, they have lost all religious meaning completely. It seems to me to be that the fundamental position of the right in response to 9/11 is to be as much like our enemy as possible; torture as a tactic, drive religion into the public square, and a super powerful executive branch. Their message to the troops who defend us is that they are not defending the US anymore but just the collection of people who are (legally) sitting between Canada and Mexico.

Gideon Rose claims that the Bush Doctrine has colapsed

Mr. Rose of Foreign Affairs in a NyTimes Editorial “Get Real“ talks about the back and forth between idealists and realists, and claims that the pendilum has now swung back to the realist camp.

SEVEN months into George W. Bush’s second term, it is clear that whatever his expansive second Inaugural Address may have promised, American foreign policy has taken a decidedly pragmatic turn. In practice, the Bush administration has recently begun to pursue interests rather than ideals and conciliation rather than confrontation.

The real story is simpler: the Bush doctrine has collapsed, and the administration has consequently embraced realism, American foreign policy’s perennial hangover cure.

Schneir Points Me To An A Hrefhttpwww

Schneir points me to an excellent interview at the American Conservative about suicide terrorist attacks with Robert Pape, professor at the University of Chicago.

TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents—has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.

…TAC: So your assessment is that there are more suicide terrorists or potential suicide terrorists today than there were in March 2003?

RP: I have collected demographic data from around the world on the 462 suicide terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission, actually killed themselves. This information tells us that most are walk-in volunteers. Very few are criminals. Few are actually longtime members of a terrorist group. For most suicide terrorists, their first experience with violence is their very own suicide-terrorist attack.

There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations lying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.

…TAC: There have been many kinds of non-Islamic suicide terrorists, but have there been Christian suicide terrorists?

RP: Not from Christian groups per se, but in Lebanon in the 1980s, of those suicide attackers, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were Communists and Socialists. Three were Christians.

…TAC: Does al-Qaeda have the capacity to launch attacks on the United States, or are they too tied down in Iraq? Or have they made a strategic decision not to attack the United States, and if so, why?

RP: Al-Qaeda appears to have made a deliberate decision not to attack the United States in the short term. We know this not only from the pattern of their attacks but because we have an actual al-Qaeda planning document found by Norwegian intelligence. The document says that al-Qaeda should not try to attack the continent of the United States in the short term but instead should focus its energies on hitting America’s allies in order to try to split the coalition.

What the document then goes on to do is analyze whether they should hit Britain, Poland, or Spain. It concludes that they should hit Spain just before the March 2004 elections because, and I am quoting almost verbatim: Spain could not withstand two, maximum three, blows before withdrawing from the coalition, and then others would fall like dominoes.

That is exactly what happened. Six months after the document was produced, al-Qaeda attacked Spain in Madrid. That caused Spain to withdraw from the coalition. Others have followed. So al-Qaeda certainly has demonstrated the capacity to attack and in fact they have done over 15 suicide-terrorist attacks since 2002, more than all the years before 9/11 combined. Al-Qaeda is not weaker now. Al-Qaeda is stronger.

Slate does Torture

Slate put together a primer on American interrogation practices under Bush’s War on Terror. I have to admit I’m pretty impressed, it ties together the many dispurate stories, events and people in a pretty typical summary story format like the “Chain of Command” page, but goes beyond that with links to the many different source articles and inlined source documents.

Random Web Links

Schneier's 5 Questions

While talking about fingerprinting students on Buses, Schneier gives us five questions to use to evaluate Secuirty Countermeasures:

  • What assets are you trying to protect?
  • What are the risks to these assets?
  • How well does the security solution mitigate those risks?
  • What other risks does the security solution cause?
  • What costs and trade-offs does the security solution impose?

Ny Times Wrapup

This was from tuesday, but better late then never…

Election Series: Vietnam

I’m starting with Vietnam because it’s so fresh right now between the swift boats vets allegations and the bush AWOL thing.

It’s difficult how to judge how important this issue is for me other then how it will role up into the character category. Kerry went to Vietnam, Bush avoided it.

While in Vietnam, Kerry did a pretty good job showing a bit more then courage then the norm as demonstrated by the medals he earned. The swift boats folks attack just doesn’t come off as credible. Many members have historical sour grapes, conflicting testimony between previous statements of the members, where the attacks where financed from, conflicts from other veterans who where there and all the written records backing up Kerry’s version. The exception is Cambodia, which frankly comes down to statements from a decade ago, technicalities about where the border was and has no barring on Kerry’s hero image.

Post war, Kerry made statements that, reading the congressional testimony and watching a Kerry/Paul O’Neil debate from the time, I feel are largely accurate and doesn’t warrant the “all veterans are horrible war criminal“ claims that other veterans have hated Kerry for.

The swift boats vet attack has extra bad points for Bush. Contrary to his claims of not being involved, it follows a line of attacks that Bush and his supporters have used in the past with opponents. This combined with his attempts to change the subject with 527s whenever asked about the issue is plain disappointing.

The Bush AWOL story has shown to be over hyped, Bush had preferential treatment to get into the Texas Guard and didn’t treat his commitment very seriously in the last couple years, exactly how he choose to blow off his commitment and the fact that he did cram sessions in the end resulting in a (possibly influenced) honorable discharge doesn’t change much.