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.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Rounding up some stories that bear on U.S. national security --

 As Gitmo Detainees’ Legal Victories Mount --  More and more questions arise about whether the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will ever be closed.  Congress passed legislation prohibiting detainees being brought into the United States, problems have arisen with a number of host countries and questions have been raised about whether to try detainees in civilian or military courts.  President Obama's first official action upon being sworn in, ordering that Guantanamo be closed, was never as simple as it appeared to be.  The following story is an illustration.  The Obama "Administration Resists Orders to Release," is by Chisun Lee, ProPublica - April 21, 2010 9:57 am EDT.  To quote:

The government is failing in more and more cases to produce evidence that the men it has imprisoned at Guantanamo belong there, according to ProPublica's latest look at the lawsuits [1] that some 100 captives have filed in federal court to seek their freedom. But the Obama administration continues to challenge the courts' authority to make it release the prisoners.

In 34 out of the 47 cases that have been decided so far -- over 70 percent -- detainees have won judgments that the United States is subjecting them to indefinite detention as al-Qaida or Taliban enemies without proof, and that they must be released. Federal judges have been reviewing classified intelligence and interrogation reports since June 2008, when the Supreme Court recognized the detainees' right to sue. The remaining prisoners have been held seven years or longer.


Big questions remain for civil libertarians --  Attorney and blogger, Glenn Greenwald is a must read for those of us who care deeply about achieving the correct balance between U.S. safety/security, international law, and Bill of Rights protections.  Here Greenwald makes some excellent points.  "Robert Gibbs endorses denial of civilian trials," is by Glenn Greenwald (3/31/10) at  To quote:


Virtually everyone I know who regularly works on civil liberties issues believes it's a fait accompli that Obama will reverse Eric Holder's decision and deny civilian trials to the 9/11 defendants, sending them instead to military commissions ( just as George Bush did).  Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs provided the clearest on-the-record signal yet that this would happen, when he went on MSNBC and said that justice would be served by sending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to "either a military commission or [to] a federal court."  I've written extensively on the evils of the military commission system before, and especially the White House's cavalier view that it can just pick and choose which type of process a defendant gets based on its whims of the day.  I won't re-hash those arguments here, but instead want to note a few brief points about Gibbs' remarks.

First - . . . What are those people going to say when Obama does exactly that which they spent months arguing is prohibited by the Rule of Law, Our Values and the Constitution:  namely, denying civilian trials?

Second - . . . That which Democrats vehemently and with virtual unanimity spent years condemning as a grave assault on our Way of Life -- i.e., denying trials to Terrorist suspects and instead sending them to newly created military commissions -- is exactly what Robert Gibbs endorsed today as just.  Who can possibly defend this?

Third - . . . Robert Gibbs goes on television and defends the denial of civilian trials, which were once deemed by Democrats to be a Grave Assault on the Constitution.  That conversion of what were once Bush/Cheney Assaults on the Constitution into bipartisan consensus is, by far, the most significant and long-lasting impact Obama has had in this area.


Here again Greenwald wades it to an even more troubling question, what protections for due process do U.S. citizens still have ?  "Confirmed: Obama authorizes assassination of U.S. citizen," is by Glenn Greenwald at (4/7/10). To quote:

In late January, I wrote about the Obama administration's "presidential assassination program," whereby American citizens are targeted for killings far away from any battlefield, based exclusively on unchecked accusations by the Executive Branch that they're involved in Terrorism.  At the time, The Washington Post's Dana Priest had noted deep in a long article that Obama had continued Bush's policy (which Bush never actually implemented) of having the Joint Chiefs of Staff compile "hit lists" of Americans, and Priest suggested that the American-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was on that list.  The following week, Obama's Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, acknowledged in Congressional testimony that the administration reserves the "right" to carry out such assassinations.

Today, both The New York Times and The Washington Post confirm that the Obama White House has now expressly authorized the CIA to kill al-Alwaki no matter where he is found, no matter his distance from a battlefield.  I wrote at length about the extreme dangers and lawlessness of allowing the Executive Branch the power to murder U.S. citizens far away from a battlefield (i.e., while they're sleeping, at home, with their children, etc.) and with no due process of any kind.


Do tell about Intel - Former Admiral Mike McConnell served as the Bush administration's Director of National Intelligence.  As such he was responsible for briefing President-elect Barack Obama on national intelligence matters until his successor, former Admiral Dennis Blair was appointed DNI by the new president.  Thus, President Obama got his intel initiation from one of the revolving door practitioners that are far noo numerous in Waashington.  "Mike McConnell, the WashPost & the dangers of sleazy corporatism," is again by Glenn Greenwald (3/29/10).  To quote:

In a political culture drowning in hidden conflicts of interests, exploitation of political office for profit, and a rapidly eroding wall separating the public and private spheres, Michael McConnell stands out as the perfect embodiment of all those afflictions.  Few people have blurred the line between public office and private profit more egregiously and shamelessly than he.  McConnell's behavior is the classic never-ending "revolving door" syndrome:  public officials serve private interests while in office and are then lavishly rewarded by those same interests once they leave.  He went from being head of the National Security Agency under Bush 41 and Clinton directly to Booz Allen, one of the nation's largest private intelligence contractors, then became Bush's Director of National Intelligence (DNI), then went back to Booz Allen, where he is now Executive Vice President.

But that's the least of what makes McConnell such a perfect symbol for the legalized corruption that dominates Washington.  Tellingly, his overarching project while at Booz Allen and in public office was exactly the same:  the outsourcing of America's intelligence and surveillance functions (including domestic surveillance) to private corporations, where those activities are even more shielded than normal from all accountability and oversight and where they generate massive profit at the public expense.  Prior to becoming Bush's DNI, McConnell, while at Booz Allen, was chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the primary business association of NSA and CIA contractors devoted to expanding the privatization of government
intelligence functions.

Then, as Bush's DNI, McConnell dramatically expanded the extent to which intelligence functions were outsourced to the same private industry that he long represented.  Worse, he became the leading spokesman for demanding full immunity for lawbreaking telecoms for their participation in Bush's illegal NSA programs -- in other words, he exploited "national security" claims and his position as DNI to win the dismissal of lawsuits against the very lawbreaking industry he represented as INSA Chairman, including, almost certainly, Booz Allen itself.  Having exploited his position as DNI to lavishly reward and protect the private intelligence industry, he then returns to its loving arms to receive from them lavish personal rewards of his own.




On Cyber Security --  Here is a bit of a different twist on Mike McConnell.  It is taken from Congressional Quarterly's "Behind the Lines," and is by David C. Morrison (4/16/10).  To quote:

A top White House cybersecuricrat terms transnational cybercrime a far more serious concern than “cyberwar” attacks against such infrastructure targets as the electricity grid, Technology Review’s David Talbot relates. “As U.S. officials struggle to put together plans to defend government networks, they are faced with questions about the rippling effects of retaliation,” The Associated PressLolita C. Baldor adds, which questions have stalled establishment of the Pentagon’s Cyber Command — while Threat Level’s Ryan Singel notes the command’s control center contract going to the employer of ex-DNI Mike McConnell, who furiously fans fears of cyber-attack.

Taken from the March 2, 2010 "Behind the Lines" post:

. . . As the most wired nation on Earth, we offer the most targets of significance, yet our cyberdefenses are woefully lacking,” ex-top spook Mike McConnell maintains in The Washington Post — as ThreatLevel denounces him as “the biggest threat to the open Internet.”


Civil libertarians have continued to bemoan the apparent fact that our current president seems not much different from our most recent past president.  I want America to be just as safe and secure as anyone does, but not at the cost of any of our constitutional rights.  That will always be a losing bargain, in my opinion.  And it comes dangerously close to a win by those who would do harm to us by violent means.

References:  Hat Tip -- the following links marked with (#) are from my regular contributor Jon.  

 "The Lede: Is a Culture War Between American Soldiers and Civilians Inevitable?#," is from the New York Times (6/23/10).

"Report finds U.S. tax money may be funding Afghan insurgents#," is from Yahoo! News (6/22/10).

"Has the War on Terror Turned Counterproductive?#," is from Newsweek (6/13/10).

"Analysis: Attack may be tied to North Korean succession#," is from Yahoo! News (5/27/10).

Pro Publica has provided an access link (4/28/10) to the Pentagon's new Manual For Military Commissions (2010 Edition).


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