S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

National Security tasks on track --

National security is still a high priority, despite an economy officially in recession -- Politico said a few days ago that "a world of trouble awaits Obama," citing such converging trouble spots as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, missile defense, and Guantanamo. But lots of outstanding help is on the path to confirmation if the nominations for the National Security team are any indication. For the newest example of excellence, famed stand-up General Eric Shinseki will be named to head# the troubled Veteran's Affairs Department.

Closing Guantanamo was a campaign promise -- We will see a switch, I predict, in the manner that suspected terrorists are treated. The Supreme Court will hand the new administration an early challenge "about the president’s power to detain 'enemy combatants' indefinitely without charging them with a crime," according to CQ Politics. In the spring of 2009 the court has agreed to hear the infamous case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a Qatari citizen who is a legal resident of the United States. According to Darrell Vandeveld, "a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who left his post at the base in Cuba earlier this year on ethical grounds," Guantanamo remains a "stain on America#," because of the poor quality of justice provided by the military tribunal system, Yahoo! News reports.

It will be a long way journey to restoring the Constitution -- Fourth Amendment rights to privacy have jumped the rails under the lawless "unitary executive," George W. Bush. A glaring example was the story that in October, just before President-elect Obama was elected, there was a shocking report that the National Security Agency was spying on "innocent citizens working overseas," according to an ACLU post. To quote:

"The NSA used its surveillance powers to intentionally collect the personal communications of innocent Americans, including service members and humanitarian aid workers," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project.

. . . In the ABC report, two former military intercept officers who worked at the NSA charge that the government spying agency listened in on calls to the United States made by soldiers, journalists and human rights workers working in the Middle East, even after it was clear that the calls were not in any way related to national security.

. . . The new information seems to contradict the statements of Bush administration officials who assured the public that the NSA's surveillance activities were directed at suspected terrorists.

Any advocates for the rule of law? We have miles to go before we can get any sleep, secure that the rule of law and the Constitution have been restored. So far not many are happy that Senator Joseph Lieberman will continue as the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. And right-wingnuts# will continue with their dedicated work of giving credit where due for keeping us safe. And there is another shocking investigative report via ProPublica. It is the recent story of infamous contractor, KBR's terrible mistreatment -- akin to locking them in boxcars -- of recruited contract workers. To quote:

Yesterday, McClatchy reported that one of its subcontractors has been holding a thousand foreign workers in windowless warehouses in Iraq for as long as three months. The men have no jobs, no money, and twelve toilets among them. (The men had been recruited for a contract that apparently fell through.) The Kuwaiti company also reportedly confiscated their passports, a violation of the U.S. military’s rules for contractors.

Any Civil liberties advocates in our next Intel community? As yet there is not too much known about who will engineer President-elect Obama's intelligence team. The New York Times says there will be early tests on domestic spying that will tell us what his views are about this very thorny issue. One of the thorniest questions is who will conduct the new leadership for the CIA, now under General Michael Hayden. Like CQ's Craig Crawford, I like the idea of Bill Bradley for the job. As for the new Director of National Intelligence to replace Admiral Mike McConnell, this article from the New York Times indicates that part of "The New Team: [will include] Dennis C. Blair," another Navy admiral. The story by Mark Mazzetti was published November 22, 2008, and will be covered much more completely in a subsequent post.

In conclusion, the National Intelligence Council recently published its (every-four-years) global Intel review that headlines*, "Global Forecast by American Intelligence Expects Al Qaeda’s Appeal to Falter:*" It seems that its appeal will go off the tracks eventually. We hope that our own democracy did not get derailed under our current president. Only time will tell. To quote:

"2025 [will see] the end of U.S. dominance: US intelligence [says]: 'We can no longer call shots alone;' [The] European Union will be [a] 'hobbled giant' by 2025; [and the] triumph of western democracy is not certain."
Civil libertarians remain cautiously optimistic that President-elect Barack Obama, a Constitutional law expert himself, would be willing to embark on the serious journey towards restoring the rule of law. Much of the way has been lost; there is so much to do to get back on track. It cannot start soon enough to suit me. But, as I think about it, in a way it has already started. The president-elect's meticulous adherence to the "one president as a time" doctrine is a good indicator of the way his mind works. Nor do I believe that it is only to avoid having his fingerprints on the questionable decisions that continue to be the hallmark of the Bush legacy. Who knows? Senator Robert Byrd may have given our new president an extra pocket copy of the Constitution to have handy. Wouldn't that be a lovely signal of the closing of a Senatorial circle of honor?

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.

View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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