Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Vacation Break

I will be visiting family for the next week. I will post again about January 4.

Have a Happy New Year!

Remember MoveOn's Position on Afghanistan

MoveOn.org is running another ad calling for withdrawal from Iraq without regard to whether our objectives have been achieved. For a little perspective on MoveOn's political orientation, you may want to recall MoveOn's position on Afghanistan after 9/11.

MoveOn opposes keeping U.S. troops in Iraq, but MoveOn also opposed the war in Afghanistan. Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, MoveOn founders Wes Boyd and Joan Blades circulated a petition that read, "Our leaders are under tremendous pressure to act in the aftermath of the terrible events of Sept. 11th. We the undersigned support justice, not escalating violence, which would only play into the terrorists' hands." Eli Pariser, who would become MoveOn's political director, circulated a petition of his own calling on President Bush to use "moderation and restraint" in responding to 9/11 and "to use, wherever possible, international judicial institutions and international human rights law to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks, rather than the instruments of war, violence or destruction." (Boyd and Blades were so impressed by Pariser's work that they hired him for MoveOn.)

Before the invasion of Afghanistan, MoveOn did not want to use force against the Al Qaeda planners of 9/11. MoveOn wanted to try them in an international court, ignoring the problems of capturing them without the use of force, of gathering hard evidence to convict individuals, and of keeping them imprisoned (witness the release by Germany this past week of a terrorist who killed an American serviceman).

Today, MoveOn continues to ignore reality, pretending that leaving Iraq without achieving victory will not endanger Americans and will not give provided terrorists a safe haven in Iraq. Listen to MoveOn at your peril.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Palestinain Munich Mastermind Believes Killing Israeli Civilians Okay

From Little Green Footballs, we get this Reuters story:

The Palestinian mastermind of the Munich Olympics attack in which 11 Israeli athletes died said on Tuesday he had no regrets and that Steven Spielberg’s new film about the incident would not deliver reconciliation.

Mohammed Daoud planned the Munich attack on behalf of PLO splinter group Black September, but did not take part and does not feature in the film. He voiced outrage at not being consulted for the thriller and accused Spielberg of pandering to the Jewish state.

...

“We did not target Israeli civilians,” he said. “Some of them (the athletes) had taken part in wars and killed many Palestinians. Whether a pianist or an athlete, any Israeli is a soldier.” ...

You should note 2 things that he said. First, he "accused Spielberg of pandering to the Jewish state". Spielberg's film, Munich, has been criticized for espousing moral equivalence. Therefore, to put Daoud's words in perspective, moral equivalence is not enough; the initiating actions of the Palestinian terrorists must be shown as morally superior to the reactions by Israel.

Second, Daoud's view that "any Israeli is a soldier" means that the Palestinian terrorists do not distinguish between soldiers and civilians. That is, the Palestinians regard all Israeli civilians as legitimate military targets. (This should not come as a surprise.)

Putting these comments together, we must realize that the Palestinian terrorists are completely one-sided in tier thinking and they will continue to commit acts of terrorism wherever they find Israelis. Israel's only available response, other than surrender, is to defend its citizens and to try to kill the Palestinian terrorists first. Any other course of action ignores the reality of what the Palestinian terrorists intend to do.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Fundamental Questions on Warrantless Surveillance

Recently, the New York Times revealed that the government intercepts communications (telephone calls and email) between a person in the U.S. and an Al Qaeda suspect overseas. A few days later, U.S. News and World Report disclosed that the government monitors selected sites (mosques and homes) in the U.S. for radiation that may signal a nuclear bomb. In both programs, which were started after the 9/11 attacks, the government does not first obtain a warrant from a court.

For a moment, forget the legal and political issues, and consider the practical aspects. Then ask yourself the following 2 questions:

1. Which risk do you prefer to take: (a) the government will monitor a communication involving an Al Qaeda suspect overseas that the participants do not want the government to monitor, or (b) the government will not monitor a communication involving an Al Qaeda suspect in which the participants discuss the planning or execution of a terrorist attack in the U.S.?

2. Which risk do you prefer to take: (a) the government will monitor for radiation a place that the occupants do not want monitored, or (2) the government will not a monitor for radiation a place in which the occupants are preparing a nuclear device for a terrorist attack in the U.S.?

These are the fundamental and crucial questions regarding the government programs of warrantless surveillance. At the most basic, as we consider the merits of warrantless surveillance, we are weighing the relative values of a person's right to be left alone versus society's right to protect itself.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Government Monitoring of Radiation

U.S. News and World Report reports:

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a ... program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities ... . In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained ... .

...

The question of search warrants is controversial, however. To ensure accurate readings, in up to 15 percent of the cases the monitoring needed to take place on private property, sources say, such as on mosque parking lots and private driveways.

The story correctly notes that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the government's use of "thermal imaging technology to search for marijuana-growing lamps in a home" requires a warrant. Note, however, that there are several differences between thermal imaging to search for marijuana equipment in a home and radiation monitoring to search for a nuclear bomb.

1. The scope of the threat to society from marijuana is far less than from a nuclear bomb.

2. The potential crimes involving marijuana are minor compared to ones involving a nuclear bomb.

3. Thermal imaging peers inside the home, while radiation monitoring samples the outside sir. The expectation of privacy within the home is far greater than the expectation of privacy in the great outdoors. Think, for example, whether a court is more likely to find probable cause if a policeman conducted a search after smelling marijuana in the open air rather than after detecting a thermal image in the home.

4. The search for a marijuana-growing lamp is purely domestic law enforcement. The search for a nuclear bomb is protection from a national security threat, specifically Al Qadea's known goal to explode a dirty nuclear device in a major U.S. city.

5. Radiation monitoring is part of the effort to defend America fro Al Qaeda in the War on Terror. This brings into play the President's power as commander in chief to order operations in the course of a war.

The differences listed above and perhaps other differences make courts more likely to find that a search by radiation monitoring is reasonable and therefore does not require a warrant.

The part of the radiation monitoring program that may in some cases trouble me is the federal agent's entry onto private property. Entry onto a mosque's parking lot is less troubling than entry onto a residential driveway. Still, even a residential driveway is accessible to anyone making a delivery to the home. It is not the same as breaking into a home.

All in all, the radiation monitoring program appears at first glance to be a reasonable warrantless search.

What is more troubling is the leak of classified information. What was the source of the information reported by U.S. News?

Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program.

The leaking of classified programs is becoming a serious issue. The FBI needs to investigate the source of the leaks, and the Justice Department needs to prosecute them. The harm done is too great to ignore. The harm is certainly greater than was done in the Valerie Plame affair.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Law Professor Sunstein on President's Authority to Order Warrantless Surveillance

Prof. Cass Sunstein of the University Chicago Law School, a leading legal scholar on the Constitution, gives a brief and tentative opinion on Pres. Bush's legal authority to order warrantless surveillance of communications of people with known Al Qaeda affiliations who are calling to or from the United States. His analysis is notable for 3 reasons: (1) he is a leading authority on the Constitution, (2) he is an avowed liberal, and (3) he is intellectually honest.

Sunstein's tentative opinion is that the warrantless surveillance is legal.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Legal Analysis of President's Authority

For an excellent legal analysis of the president's authority to order warrantless electronic surveillance of communications between a person inside the U.S. and a person outside the U.S., read Power Line's post on the subject. The post is long for a blog post, but it is well worth the reading.

More on Legal Authority to Order Warrantless Surveillance

In a post yesterday, I quoted from an article by a lawyer who worked in Clinton's Justice Department, which supported the president's legal authority to conduct warrantless surveillance of communications between the U.S. and international locations. A thoughtful commenter, Progressive Democrat, disagreed that the article provides support for the argument that Pres. Bush's authorization of warrantless surveillance is lawful.

Progressive Democrat believes that "the fact that he [John Schmidt, the author of the article] worked for Clinton does nothing for your [i.e., my] argument". One point Schmidt made is that "President Bush's post- Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and e-mails is consistent ... with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents". Schmidt was in a position to know the position of the Justice Department when Clinton was president. In fact, a higher official in Clinton's Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, testified to Congress that "the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes". One argument by liberals in this controversy is that Pres. Bush is somehow unique among presidents in his authorization of warrantless surveillance. The article by Schmidt helps to refute this argument by liberals, and his position in Clinton's Justice Department helps to make that point.

Progressive Democrat's second and more serious argument is that Schmidt presented the Keith case in a misleading way. Progressive Democrat objects principally to Schmidt's statement in the article that "the court said explicitly that it was not questioning the president's authority to take such action in response to threats from abroad".

As a lawyer, I read Schmidt's statement differently than Progressive Democrat does. Schmidt simply points out, in a persuasive way, that the Keith court did not address the issue of the president's authority to order warrantless surveillance in response to foreign threats to national security.

The Keith case concerned the question of warrantless electronic surveillance in domestic security matters. Therefore, the court expressly left open the issue of warrantless surveillance in matters involving security from foreigners. As the court itself said,

[T]he instant case requires no judgment on the scope of the President's surveillance power with respect to the activities of foreign powers, within or without this country.

The court emphasized the limits of its opinion in a later portion.

We emphasize, before concluding this opinion, the scope of our decision. As stated at the outset, this case involves only the domestic aspects of national security. We have not addressed, and express no opinion as to, the issues which may be involved with respect to activities of foreign powers or their agents.

In effect, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that it was not deciding the issue of warrantless surveillance when foreigners threaten national security. To date, the Supreme Court still has not decided the question. However, as Schmidt points out in his article, "Four federal courts of appeal subsequently faced the issue squarely and held that the president has inherent authority to authorize wiretapping for foreign intelligence purposes without judicial warrant." Thus, the judgment of those appellate courts is the prevailing law in the U.S. today.

I thank Progressive Democrat for his thoughtful comment. I hope he will consider my response above and agree that Pres. Bush does have the legal authority to authorize warrantless electronic surveillance of communications involving foreigners, especially foreigners known to associate with al Qaeda and other terrorists.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

President Has Legal Authority to Order Warrantless Surveillance For Foreign Intelligence

John Schmidt, associate attorney general under Pres. Clinton from 1994 to 1997, writes an article in the Chicago Tribune about the president's legal authority to do warrantless surveillance of communications. The title of the article is "President had legal authority to OK taps" (Hat tip to Power Line).

President Bush's post- Sept. 11, 2001, authorization to the National Security Agency to carry out electronic surveillance into private phone calls and e-mails is consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents.

...

In the Supreme Court's 1972 Keith decision holding that the president does not have inherent authority to order wiretapping without warrants to combat domestic threats, the court said explicitly that it was not questioning the president's authority to take such action in response to threats from abroad.

Four federal courts of appeal subsequently faced the issue squarely and held that the president has inherent authority to authorize wiretapping for foreign intelligence purposes without judicial warrant.

In the most recent judicial statement on the issue, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, composed of three federal appellate court judges, said in 2002 that "All the ... courts to have decided the issue held that the president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence ... We take for granted that the president does have that authority."

The passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978 did not alter the constitutional situation. ...

[A]s the 2002 Court of Review noted, if the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches, "FISA could not encroach on the president's constitutional power."

Schmidt served in the Justice Department while a Democrat was president. His position is consistent with the positions taken by every president and their legal advisors. Democrats and the mainstream media are not being intellectually honest when they ignore the legal basis for warrantless surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence.

All Presidents Assert Warrantless Surveillance Power

Since the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978, every president has asserted the power to perform warrantless surveillance. The list of presidents includes 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats. As far as elected presidents are concerned, support for warrantless surveillance is bipartisan. Pres. Clinton went so far as to claim the power to perform physical searches, not just surveillance of communications.

Presidents of both parties have carried out warrantless surveillance of communications. You would never know this by listening to today's Democrats' complaints about warrantless surveillance. If the Senate Intelligence Committee does hold hearings on this matter, I suggest that the committee calls former Pres. Carter and former Pres. Clinton, both Democrats, as the first 2 witnesses and asks them what their position while in office was on the power and the authorization to use warrantless surveillance.

Rockefeller's Concerns over Warrantless Surveillance

As many of you heard in yesterday's news, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) wrote a secret letter to V.P. Dick Cheney in 2003 expressing concerns about the program by the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications without a court warrant. This morning, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, disputes Rockefeller's claim of deep concerns.

"In his letter ... Senator Rockefeller asserts that he had lingering concerns about the program designed to protect the American people from another attack, but was prohibited from doing anything about it," Mr. Roberts said in a statement yesterday. "A United States Senator has significant tools with which to wield power and influence over the executive branch. Feigning helplessness is not one of those tools."

...

If Mr. Rockefeller had these concerns, Mr. Roberts said, he could have raised them with him or other members of Congress who had been briefed on the program.

"I have no recollection of Senator Rockefeller objecting to the program at the many briefings he and I attended together," Mr. Roberts said. "In fact, it is my recollection that on many occasions Senator Rockefeller expressed to the vice president his vocal support for the program," most recently, "two weeks ago."

...

Mr. Roberts accused Mr. Rockefeller of political opportunism.

"Now, when it appears to be politically advantageous, Senator Rockefeller has chosen to release his two and a half year old letter," he said. "Forgive me if I find this to be ... a bit disingenuous."

Sen. Rockefeller does not deny Sen. Roberts's account. Instead, Rockefeller attempts to change the issue.

"The real question is whether the Administration lived up to its statutory requirement to fully inform Congress and allow for adequate oversight and debate," Mr. Rockefeller said.

It is quite obvious from what Rockefeller has revealed of his secret letter that he had been informed sufficiently to have concerns within his own mind. Rockefeller had the opportunity to raise questions but did not. He had the opportunity to request additional oversight hearings by the Intelligence Committee but did not. He could have debated the surveillance program in Intelligence Committee meetings but did not. In fact, Rockefeller "expressed to the vice president his vocal support for the program" as recently as "two weeks ago". So much for genuine concerns.

Rockefeller's secret letter is nothing more than a CYA. (For the uninitiated, CYA stands for Cover Your Ass; CYA letters are all too common in business and government.) Rockefeller revealed his secret letter solely for partisan political purposes. Democrats further reveal the partisan nature of their position on the NSA's surveillance program by asking for public hearings on this clearly confidential intelligence matter. If they were serious about overseeing the program rather than political posturing, they would seek private hearings.

Clinton and Warrantless Searches

We are reminded by Byron York at National Review Online that Pres. Clinton's administration believed that the president has inherent authority to conduct even physical searches without a warrant, which are more intrusive than the warrantless wiretaps in controversy today.

"The Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the president has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes," Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 14, 1994, "and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General."

"It is important to understand," Gorelick continued, "that the rules and methodology for criminal searches are inconsistent with the collection of foreign intelligence and would unduly frustrate the president in carrying out his foreign intelligence responsibilities."

Executive Order 12333, signed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, provides for such warrantless searches directed against "a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power."

Unlike the hystreria today and despite Clinton's claimed right to conduct more intrusive searches, there was no outcry in 1994 over the loss of civil liberties and invasion of privacy. Of course, Clinton is a Democrat, and Bush is a Republican.

Warrantless Wiretaps and the Brooklyn Bridge

As we consider the desirability of warrantless wiretaps, think about Dick Morris's story of the Brooklyn Bridge:

In 2002, the feds (presumably the NSA) picked up random cellphone chatter using the words "Brooklyn Bridge" (which apparently didn't translate well into Arabic). They notified the New York Police Department, which flooded the bridge with cops. Then the feds overheard a phone call in which a man said things were "too hot" on the bridge to pull off an operation. Later, an interrogation of a terrorist allowed by the Patriot Act led cops to the doorstep of this would-be bridge bomber. (His plans would definitely have brought down the bridge, NYPD sources told me.)

Why didn't Bush get a warrant? On who? For what? The NSA wasn't looking for a man who might blow up the bridge. It had no idea what it was looking for. It just intercepted random phone calls from people in the United States to those outside — and so heard the allusions to the bridge that tipped them off.

If Al Gore had been president and had heeded the Democrats' sensitivity on warrantless wiretaps, the Brooklyn Bridge would probably be rubble today. Think about it. How much national and personal security are you willing to trade for wiretaps only pursuant to a court-authorized warrant.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Warrantless Wiretaps and the Fourth Amendment

Is the President acting legally when he authorizes warrantless wiretaps of communications between persons in the U.S. and someone outside the U.S.? Orin Kerr provides a preliminary legal analysis at Volokh's Conspiracy. Kerr's analysis of the Fourth Amendment is the most aplicable, I think.

The Fourth Amendment. On the whole, I think there are some pretty decent arguments that this program did not violate the Fourth Amendment [which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure] under existing precedent.

...

The border search exception permits searches at the border of the United States "or its functional equivalent." United States v. Montoya De Hernandez, 473 U.S. 531, 538 (1985). The idea here is that the United States as a sovereign has a right to inspect stuff entering or exiting the country as a way of protecting its sovereign interests, and that the Fourth Amendment permits such searches. ...

... The case law on the border search exception is phrased in pretty broad language, so it seems at least plausible that a border search exception could apply to monitoring at an ISP or telephone provider as the "functional equivalent of the border," much like airports are the functional equivalent of the border in the case of international airline travel. ...

The government would have a second argument in case a court doesn't accept the border search exception: the open question of whether there is a national security exception to the Fourth Amendment that permits the government to conduct searches and surveillance for foreign intelligence surveillance. ...

... [B]etween the border search exception and the open possibility of a national security exception, there are pretty decent arguments that the monitoring did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Spending Bill Includes ANWR Drilling Provision

Yesterday, a House-Senate conference committee agreed on a final defense appropriations bill, including a provision to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). How did it happen?

Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and the main champion of drilling, is also chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and proposed attaching drilling to the defense spending bill. Yesterday, the House-Senate conference committee voted to approve his plan, with all Republicans and one Democrat in each chamber supporting it.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is furious.

"We've become like the House of Commons. Whoever has the most votes wins. It hasn't worked that way in 216 years," he said.

Apparently, Sen. Reid does not believe in majority rule.

President Bush on Wiretaps Without Court Authorization

On Friday, the New York Times ran a story disclosing that the U.S. government has intercepted communications of individuals in the U.S. without first obtaining a warrant from a court. The Times has held the story for a year and published it on the day that the Senate was to vote on extending the Patriot Act. The story gave Senate Democrats a partisan pretext to filibuster the extension of the Patriot Act. (Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) proudly announced this as an accomplishment at a gathering of Democrats, who applauded.)

Pres. Bush responded on Saturday (hat tip to Fake Turkey):

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland. During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.

The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.

This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.

When the terrorists do strike, I wish the civil libertarians would go first. Unfortunately, all of us are put at risk by the failure to extend the Patriot Act and to publicize the President's wiretap authorizations. When the next terrorist strike occurs, we know to blame the media and the Democrats.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

House Democrats Oppose Victory in Iraq

The House of Representatives voted for a resolution that calls Thursday's election in Iraq a "crucial victory", which would not have occurred without the presence of American troops, and calls timetables for withdrawal "fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory in Iraq." The resolution passed 279-109. No Republicans opposed the resolution. Among the Democrats, 59 voted in favor, 108 against, and 32 present. One independent voted against the resolution.

According to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), the resolution is "divisive" and is intended "to denounce those who disagree". Apparently, as Power Line points out, "letting the voters know which representatives hold which opinion is "divisive".

Democrats proposed an alternative resolution, which did not offer any position on withdrawal. Per Power Line again, "Perhaps the most significant difference between the two resolutions, though, was that the Republican resolution mentioned 'victory' seven times, the Democrat one not at all." Democrats do not want voters to know, but most Democrats in the House are not willing to commit to victory in Iraq. That is, Democrats favor withdrawal without victory and do not care about the adverse consequences. Can this nation afford to put its military in the hands of Democrats?

Irresponsible Democrats Filibuster Patriot Act

Members of the U.S. Senate like to call it "the world's greatest deliberative body". Yesterday, the senators made a mockery of that title as they permitted the Democrats to filibuster the extension of the Patriot Act. Without the extension, the act expires at the end of this month.

The Patriot was passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to give us a greater intelligence capability to combat terrorists. The need has not lessened, but we seem to feel the need less as the memory of 9/11 fades while there are no further attacks.

The Senate Democrats are acting with extreme irresponsibility. Risking American lives for partisan purposes is not acceptable. Can this nation afford to trust Democrats on national security?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Successful Election in Iraq

Iraqis, including the Sunnis, are turning out in large numbers to vote today. Villence has been minimal.

In the U.S., anti-war Democrats are strangely silent on this American success.

This election is another step toward putting the Iraqis in complete charge of policy and security in their country. That does not mean that American troops will begin to pull out tomorrow. The road remains long, but we and the Iraqis continue to get closer to the destination.

Proposed Social Security Solution

The Social Security debate has quieted, but the long-term solvency problem has not been addressed. Some of us continue to look for financially responsible and politically feasible solutions. Andrew Samwick, along with 2 others, has put forward such a proposal at Vox Baby (hat tip to Asymmetrical Information). The 3 individuals worked for Bush, McCain, and Clinton and should therefore represent a wide spectrum of political views on Social Security. That does not mean their plan has a high chance of success, but the plan does address the fundamental problem in a reasonable way.

The plan contains four primary elements: a gradual reduction in future benefits; an increase in the payroll tax cap; an increase in the retirement age; and the establishment of personal retirement accounts. The plan puts great emphasis on fiscal responsibility – there are no transfers from general revenues to achieve sustainable solvency.

The plan appears to have the essential elements necessary to solve the Social Security problem. According to Vox Baby,

[T]he Office of the Chief Actuary has evaluated it and certified that it would "easily satisfy the criteria for attaining sustainable solvency."

Read the whole post at Vox Baby.

Media Missed Another One

We received an email from a friend earlier this week.

The Media Missed this one!!!!

...

Subject: Denzel Washington, and Brooks Army Medical Center

Don't know whether you heard about this but Denzel Washington and his family visited
the troops at Brook Army Medical Center, in San Antonio,Texas (BAMC) the other day. This is where soldiers who have been evacuated from Germany come to be hospitalized in the United States, especially burn victims. There are some buildings there called Fisher Houses. The Fisher House is a Hotel where soldiers' families can stay, for little or no charge, while their soldier is staying in the Hospital. BAMC has quite a few of these houses on base, but as you can imagine, they are almost filled most of the time.

While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, they gave him a tour of one of the Fisher Houses. He asked how much one of them would cost to build. He took his check book out and wrote a check for the full amount right there on the spot. The soldiers overseas were amazed to hear this story and want to get the word out to the American public, because it warmed their hearts to hear it.

The question I have is why does:

Alec Baldwin,

Madonna,

Sean Penn, and

other Hollywood types

make front page news with their anti-everything America crap and Denzel Washington's Patriotism doesn't even make page 3 in the Metro section of any newspaper except the Local newspaper in San Antonio.

That is a good question. Why do you think the mainstream media missed this one?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Reality of International Support in Afghanistan

We in the U.S. are often reminded that many countries in the world do not support our mission in Iraq and therefore will not contribute troops or other personnel. On the other hand, almost everyone supports our justified invasion of Afghanistan, the base and sanctuary of Al Qaeda before 9/11.

So, how much assistance are other nations contributing to Afghanistan, and how are we doing in rebuilding Afghanistan? From Scotsman.com (hat tip to Captain's Quarters):

"In many ways, Afghanistan is in a worse position now, four years on from the war there, than Iraq is," - [British] Army officer

BRITAIN is set for a U-turn on its commitment to send thousands of troops to fight in Afghanistan next year, with some in the army now questioning whether the mission should be abandoned altogether.

...

[British Cabinet] Ministers hoped British involvement could kick-start the faltering process of rebuilding the country, but their enthusiasm seems to have waned.

...

Opium production in Afghanistan has returned to pre-invasion levels, the police force is in disarray and there is an active and growing insurgency.

It took months of wrangling to persuade other NATO members to agree to supply troops. But one senior officer described the efforts of coalition partners as "shambolic", accusing the Dutch government of demanding United States military protection for its troops before agreeing to send them.

Another officer accused the Germans of a complete failure in their mission to rebuild the country's police force. He said German forces had trained little more than 200 officers in four years, and when the new police force was deployed in Kabul, they had promptly disappeared. ...

"It is going to take years to resolve it and the insurgency is getting worse. It is being squeezed in some places but that simply means it moves to other areas."

...

Under the ARRC plans for next year, Canada is expected to send 2,000 troops but Dutch ministers have postponed a decision on their deployment of 1,000 soldiers until next week, amid concerns about security in the more dangerous southern part of the country.


After the internationally supported invasion of Afghanistan, the U.N. was not able to raise troops. The U.S. turned to NATO, in part to quiet domestic criticism of our unilateralism. However, NATO has provided troops grudgingly, demonstrating the limits of multilateralism. In far less time than Germany has taken to train 200 police officers in Afghanistan, the U.S. has trained over 200,000 security personnel in Iraq.

The news media in the U.S. give little attention to the poor quality of international support in Afghanistan and the difficulty in obtaining that small international contribution. Like it or not, the U.S. is and will be fighting the war on terror with limited international support. We can usually count on Britain and Australia, but not others. Those who criticize the U.S.'s more unilateral effort in Iraq need to examine the less successful, less publicized, and more multilateral effort in Afghanistan. A fair comparison shows a slowly improving situation in Iraq, while Afghanistan seems to be deteriorating with little of the promised international support.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Democrats Cover Up Clinton Scandal

Last week, Quite Right informed you about the Democrats' attempt to cover up scandals discovered in the investigation of Henry Cisneros, former Housing Secretary under Clinton. Now, Power Line and the Evans=Novak Report report on the cover-up:

Democrats have their own scandal brewing at the moment, but they are doing much better in covering it up than their Republican counterparts. At issue is the report by David Barrett, the last remaining U.S. independent counsel. Over ten years, Barrett has spent $21 million on the investigation of former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, who lied to FBI investigators about hush money paid to an ex-mistress.
The reason the report and the investigation have taken so long is that allies to Cisneros and the legal team of former President Bill Clinton at the powerhouse Washington law firm of Williams and Connolly have fought its progress in court at every step. Meanwhile, Clinton-sympathetic judges have sealed everything concerned with the case, including Barrett's report.

The report contains shocking allegations of high-level corruption in the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department under Clinton, which Barrett found as Clinton aides monitored his investigation and sought to derail it in order to cover up the Cisneros matter. A regional IRS official had formulated a new rule enabling him to transfer an investigation of Cisneros to Washington to be buried by the Justice Department. Barrett's investigators found Lee Radek, head of Justice's public integrity division, determined to protect President Bill Clinton.

A recently passed appropriations bill, intended to permit release of this report, was altered by Democrats behind closed doors to ensure that its politically combustible elements never see the light of day. Democrats succeeded in inserting instructions into the bill's conference report that are very broad and will allow judges to continue suppressing the report. Three of the toughest Democrats in Congress -- Sen. Carl Levin, Sen. Byron Dorgan and Rep. Henry Waxman -- have been behind the effort to suppress, and they have done it effectively.

Where is the press? They were so concerned about uncovering the Plamegeate non-scandal. Why are they not as concerned about uncovering the Clintons' scandals?

Execution of Tookie Williams

The state of California executed Tookie Williams this morning for 4 murders. His case attracted international attention because he has written children's books and has been nominated for the Nobel Prize. His supporters claimed he was a changed man.

Yesterday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied Williams's request for clemency. The governor cited among his reasons for denial that Williams had never admitted guilt and had never expressed remorse for his crimes.

Williams founded the Crips, a violent gang guilty of many crimes, including murders. Even to the end, members of the Crips supported Williams.

Williams's supporters generally oppose all capital punishment. They say the death penalty is the moral equivalent of murder, making the state no better than the murderer being executed. This moral equivalence ignores the difference between crime and punishment. For example, if the death penalty is the moral equivalent of murder, does that mean that imprisonment is the moral equivalent of kidnapping? Is a fine the moral equivalent of stealing? Is the use of force to enforce the law the moral equivalent of the use of force to commit a crime?

The opponents of the death penalty also say that the death penalty does not deter murder. In this regard, we note that the murder rate is down since the death penalty was reintroduced, although isolating the effect of the death penalty is difficult at best. The deterrent effect of the death penalty would increase if the delay between the murder and the execution were reduced. Before World War II, execution followed a murder by only a year or two. The men who kidnapped and murdered the Lindbergh baby lived about 18 months, not the 18 years that occurs all too often today. However, the opponents of the death penalty also oppose reforms that would accelerate the punishment and increase the deterrent effect. You can not have it both ways, but death penalty opponents try to do so.

Death penalty opponents also claim the death penalty is applied unevenly. Making the death penalty automatic for certain classes of murder would cure that problem, but death penalty opponents oppose that, too.

Death penalty opponents say that imprisonment is sufficient to protect the public from convicted murderers. Unfortunately, prisoners do escape, prisoners do murder guards and other prisoners, and murderers do gain parole. One man in Texas was convicted of the murder of 3 teenagers in the 1960s and was sentenced to death. When the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Texas death penalty statute, the man's sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. Eventually, the parole board released the man. He disappeared and killed 7 people before he was captured. He was once again convicted and sentenced to death. When the death penalty was carried out, the death penalty opponents did not bother to show up to protest, as they always had done before. Even the death penalty protesters realized that opposing the execution of this man, a resident of death row who was released, was bad public relations for their cause.

Tookie Williams was rightly executed last night. Society has a right to put murders to death in order to punish the murderer and to protect itself.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Gene McCarthy, R.I.P.

Former Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) died this past weekend. McCarthy is best known for seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 1968. He was an anti-war candidate running against an incumbent of his own party, Lyndon Johnson. In 1968, the Vietnam War was full blown, the death toll was mounting, and anti-war sentiment was strong and widespread. McCarthy became the standard bearer for the anti-war wing of the party when it appeared to be a hopeless quest. His success in the New Hampshire primary, receiving over 40% of the vote against an incumbent president, caused Johnson to withdraw from his re-election bid and gave Robert Kennedy the courage also to enter the contest. Vice President Hubert also entered the race after Johnson withdrew and won the nomination but lost the general election to Richard Nixon.

What many people have forgotten is that most of McCarthy's vote was a protest against Johnson. In a poll after the New Hampshire primary, over 60% of people who voted for McCarthy wrongly thought he was a hawk on Vietnam.

McCarthy was an honorable man who disagreed with his country's policy in Vietnam, and he conducted his campaign generally without resorting to distortions of his opponents' records and statements. The anti-war Democrats today do not follow his example.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Troops Massacre Citizens in Southern China

Geopolitical Review reports that Riot police opened fire on protesting villagers in Dongzhou in Guangdong province in southern China. Estimates of the number of deaths range from 2 to 20, but some sources have heard that the dead exceed 100.

According to a Corpus Christi television station:

International rights groups say police opened fire on a crowd of thousands of people in the town in southern China. They were unhappy over having their land confiscated for a power plant.

Government-controlled media have made no mention of the incident and authorities in the area have refused to talk about it.

A villager reached by phone says the place is surrounded by riot police. She says people in other villages have been ordered not to sell them anything.

CNN, which admitted that it did not report bad news in Saddam's Iraq, has not reported on the event in China. No word yet on the reaction from the International Olympic Committee, which awarded the 2008 summer games to China's capital, Beijing.

Levees Breached Due to Human Mistakes over Decades

From the New Orleans Times Picayune:

Floodwall breaches linked to design flaws inundated parts of the city that otherwise would have stayed dry, turning neighborhoods into death traps and causing massive damage. In other areas, poorly engineered gaps and erosion of weak construction materials accelerated and deepened flooding already under way, hampering rescue efforts in the wake of the storm.

Read the whole story.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Deal Reached to Extend Patriot Act

The Patriot Act was originally passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The law is set to expire at the end of this month.

As the clock ticks down, Senate and House negotiators have reached a deal to extend the Patriot Act (hat tip to Ace of Trump).

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced that the negotiating committee had reached an agreement that would extend for four years two of the Patriot Act's most controversial provisions — authorizing roving wiretaps and permitting secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries. Those provisions would expire in four years unless Congress acted on them again.

...

Most of the Patriot Act would become permanent under the reauthorization.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the only senator to oppose the Patriot Act 4 years ago, vowed to filibuster the extension.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Air Marshals Kill Man at Miami Airport

Today at Miami's international airport, air marshals killed a man who claimed to have a bomb. No bomb was found. The man's wife says he was bipolar and had not taken his medication lately.

This is a sad case, but the air marshals were right to shoot the man when he refused to lay on the ground as ordered. Some are questioning the air marshals' decision to shoot the man, but the second guessers are misguided. Imagine the reaction if the air marshals had not shot the man and he detonated a bomb. Can air marshals (or other law enforcement officers) afford to risk many innocent lives when a declared bomb carrier acts dangerously? Obviously not.

Clintons and Democrats Kill Report on Clintons' Corruption

Do you remember that a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate Henry Cisneros, who was Clinton's Housing Secretary? Do you remember that Cisneros consequently found guilty of lying to the FBI about making payments to his mistress to buy her silence? Whether you do or do not remember the investigation, you do not remember the final report because it has never been released. The special prosecutor's report has been delayed many times by many motions to keep the report away from the public. Why? As William John Hagan put it:

While, apparently, neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton were involved in Cisneros’ crime it appears that the special prosecutor’s final report, due out just in time for her 2006 Senate campaign, will reveal that both Clinton’s misused their power while in office and used the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a weapon against their enemies. Judicial Watch has pointed out that the Clinton’s ordered IRS audits of The National Rifle Association, The Heritage Foundation, The National Review, The American Spectator, Freedom Alliance, National Center for Public Policy Research, American Policy Center, American Cause, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for Honest Government, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Concerned Women for America and the San Diego Chapter of Christian Coalition. They didn’t limit this abuse of power to organizations; they also allegedly ordered audits of individuals such as Bill O’Reilly of Fox News; Clinton paramours Gennifer Flowers and Elizabeth Ward Gracen; sexual assault accusers Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick, and fired White House Travel Office Director Billy Dale.
In other words, the prosecutor's report contains political dynamite. The report would damage Hillary Clinton's hope to become president and would put the lie to the Democrats' supposed concern about White House corruption.

Apparently, the Democrats realize better than the Republicans do how explosive the report is. The Democrats in the Senate outmaneuvered the Republicans in negotiations over a spending bill, resulting in an end soon to the special prosecutor's office and putting the final report in cold storage.

The clock is ticking. Senate Republicans need to wake up and force the release of the report. Contact your senators (if Republicans) to push them to get this report released and to keep the special prosecutor's office alive if necessary to get that done.

Pearl Harbor Anniversary

Today is the 64th anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii. The attack on Pearl Harbor brought a previously reluctant America into World War II. The U.S. and its allies agreed that they would seek the unconditional surrender of their enemies, principally Japan and Germany. The allies did not set a deadline, not even a flexible deadline. They simply started to do the things that were necessary to turn the tide and to win the war. We could learn a lesson from that today.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Democrats Criticize Iraq Strategy

For weeks, the Democrats have criticized Pres. Bush for, in their view, not having a strategy to win in Iraq. Last week, Bush outlined his Iraq strategy in a speech at the Naval Academy. The White House also posted the strategy document on its website. (Hat tip to Westhawk for the link)

Almost immediately, Democrats attacked the President and his strategy. Several Democrats, including House Monority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), announced that Bush's strategy contained nothing new.

This particular criticism raises a question. If it is true that Bush's Iraq strategy contains nothing new, how can it be true that Bush did not have a strategy before when Democrats said he did not have a strategy? On the other hand, if it is true that Bush did not have a strategy before his speech, how can it be true that his strategy speech contains nothing new? This conundrum illustrates the political strategy of the Democrats, relentlessly negative criticism without regard for consistency or the truth.

Louisiana Governor Worked More on Image After Katrina

In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Gov. Blanco and her staff spent their time and effort on maintaining the governor's image and shifting blame to Pres. Bush for the poor response to the disaster. Irish Pennants directs us to stories in the New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper and television Channel 2 in Baton Rouge. One excerpt from the Times Picayne:

"We need to keep working to get our national surrogates to explain the facts -- that the federal response was anemic and had been shortchanged by budget cuts and avoiding responsibilities like protecting Louisiana levees and wetlands," Chief of Staff Andy Kopplin wrote to senior staff on the morning of Sept. 4, six days after Katrina made landfall.

At the same time, however, the governor's staff was sensitive to any notion that the federal government was taking control of the response from state officials.

"(Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael) Chertoff is now saying that the federal government 'is in control of New Orleans,' " Blanco Communications Director Bob Mann wrote in response to Kopplin. "(Brig.) Gen. (Mike) Fleming (of the Florida National Guard) is ready to say at the 11 a.m. briefing that that is not correct. The LA Natl Guard is in charge."

The exchange came two days after a private meeting aboard Air Force One in which President Bush asked Blanco to cede control over the National Guard forces in Louisiana to the federal government. Blanco refused.

After New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin had been quoted in news reports as saying Blanco responded to Bush's request by asking for 24 hours to make a decision, assistant chief of staff Johnny Anderson sent a Sept. 4 e-mail to Kopplin advising that, "We have to get this in check."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Part of DeLay Indictment Quashed

The Judge threw out the first indictment against Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), former Majority Leader. The first indictment charged DeLay with conspiracy to violate a prohibition against corporate contributions to candidates for Texas offices. The problem with the indictment was that the underlying crime was created by the Texas legislature after 2002, when the conspiracy allegedly occurred.

The judge did not reject the second indictment, which concerns money laundering. The second indictment was sought when the Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a liberal Democrat, realized that his first indictment was for acts that were not criminal. Earle could not get an additional indictment from the first grand jury, was not able to convince a second grand jury to indict DeLay, and then empaneled a third grand jury to obtain the indictment.

No one has ever before accused anyone in politics of money laundering in similar circumstances. We must note in this regard that D.A. Earle did not investigate any Democrats for doing the same things that DeLay is accused of doing.

Friday, December 02, 2005

House Democrat Leader Flip-flops on Immediate Withdrawal

On November 19, the House of Representatives voted 403-3 against a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Even Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who called for immediate withdrawal in a speech 2 days before, did not vote for the resolution. Neither did the House Minority Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.).

Reversing her position in only 12 days, Pelosi now supports Murtha's call for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. Not all Democrats agree. According to news accounts,

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who supported the war, rejected Murtha's idea for a quick pullout, saying "a precipitous withdrawal of American forces in Iraq could lead to disaster, spawning a civil war, fostering a haven for terrorists, and damaging our nation's security and credibility."

As California Yankee observes, "No wonder a majority of the public believes the Democrats' criticism of the war is motivated by partisan politics, not because they believe the criticism will help the war effort."

The Failure of Soft Power

We frequently hear that soft power (diplomacy, for example) is as effective as and therefore preferable to military power. Unfortunately for proponents of soft power, reality shows that soft power is not very effective.

The U.S. has allowed the Europeans (specifically, Britain, France, and Germany) to take the lead in negotiating with Iran. To date, the negotiations have not led to any change in Iran's policy of pursuing nuclear weapons.

Another example of the limits of sort power is discussed by Wretchard at Belmont Club. According to the New York Times,

Nov. 27 - ... [T]he European Union opened a two-day conference [in Barcelona, Spain] on Sunday aimed at renewing its commitment to developing and democratizing Muslim nations on the Mediterranean's southern rim.

Many of the North African and Middle Eastern leaders who had agreed to come to the meeting announced last week that they could not attend. Their absence weakens European claims that their approach to the Muslim world - based on economic development, dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, and other forms of soft power - has greater credibility with the region's leaders than what they see as the Bush administration's more aggressive approach.

As Reuters pointed out, "only two of the 10 Mediterranean partners -- Turkey and the Palestinian Authority -- sent their top leaders to the two-day conference." The Financial Times concludes that the Barcelona conference on immigration and terrorism "has shown the limits of the soft (political) power that Europe likes to vaunt and contrast with US hard (military) power."

Belmont Club is one of the more insightful blogs. Read Wretchard's whole post.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Muslim Terrorists in Balkans

The Washington Post reports::
... Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans are becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks in Europe.

In particular, Islamic radicals are looking to create cells of so-called white al Qaeda, non-Arab members who can evade racial profiling used by police forces to watch for potential terrorists. ...

Parts of the Balkans, stuck in lawless limbo after years of war in the 1990s, are ripe recruitment territory for Middle East radicals, intelligence officials say.
How is the recruitment and training of terrorists in the Balkans different from the alleged recruitment and training of terrorists in Iraq, other than which president put the U.S. military there (Clinton in the Balkans and Bush in Iraq)? I wonder if those who point fingers at Bush and Iraq will also point fingers at Clinton and the Balkans.

(Hat tip to Captain's Quarters)

Muslim Terrorists in Balkans

The Washington Post reports::
... Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans are becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks in Europe.

In particular, Islamic radicals are looking to create cells of so-called white al Qaeda, non-Arab members who can evade racial profiling used by police forces to watch for potential terrorists. ...

Parts of the Balkans, stuck in lawless limbo after years of war in the 1990s, are ripe recruitment territory for Middle East radicals, intelligence officials say.
How is the recruitment and training of terrorists in the Balkans different from the alleged recruitment and training of terrorists in Iraq, other than which president put the U.S. military there (Clinton in the Balkans and Bush in Iraq)? I wonder if those who point fingers at Bush and Iraq will also point fingers at Clinton and the Balkans.

(Hat tip to Captain's Quarters)