David Kirkpatrick

September 11, 2010

Remember

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:46 am

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=world+trade+center+attack&iid=1232563″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/1232563/file-photo-authorities/file-photo-authorities.jpg?size=500&imageId=1232563″ width=”500″ height=”590″ /]

That image is not easy to look at, but I think it’s important to remember what it meant for America and to protect this date from demagogues and politicization. This event brought international terrorism to U.S. soil in a manner that dwarfed all previous attempts, and in consequence it, at least for a while, united all citizens of America.

The aftermath of what happened to U.S. polity and policy after 9/11 can be debated, but for a few weeks in September 2001, this was truly a nation united.

Here is bit from a comment on a blog post of mine from February 2, 2008 (the post from January 31) on how I felt on September 11, 2001:

Sure that Tuesday morning I was blindingly angry. I was woken in a vacation condo on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, to hear the World Trade Center towers were both struck by planes. When the media began reporting celebrations in Afghanistan I immediately thought of bin Laden (didn’t think of al Qaeda per se, but I was aware of bin Laden pre-9/11). My next thought was we should nuke that country back from its then (and now) Middle Age society to the Stone Age, or maybe to time before humans walked in Afghanistan.

That was my heart. I feel no less strongly about Islamic terrorism today than I did at that moment. I do know I think the US did very well for itself before 9/11, and to me nothing occurred that warrants changing our fundamental approach to the world.

October 20, 2009

Why FISA never needed reform in the first place

I’ve already done a post today on this excellent article by Julian Sanchez on the Obama administration and how it’s retaining some of the Bush administration’s overreaching tools for use in the “global war on terror.” So far the Obama administration has been a disappointment in not rolling back the beating U.S. civil liberties took in the Bush administration’s  panicked response to 9/11.

And as it turns out — and that I’ve argued repeatedly — the tools to fight international terrorists were firmly in place before 9/11, they were just implemented with Keystone Kop level competence.

From the second link:

The FISA Amendments Act is the successor to an even broader bill called the Protect America Act, which similarly gave the attorney general and director of national intelligence extraordinary power to authorize sweeping interception of Americans’ international communications. It was hastily passed in 2007 amid claims that the secret FISA Court had issued a ruling that prevented investigators from intercepting wholly foreign communications that traveled across US wires. Former Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell even claimed that FISA’s restrictions had rendered it impossible to immediately eavesdrop on Iraqi insurgents who had captured several American soldiers. The New York Post quoted tearful parents of the captured men expressing their horror at the situation and a senior Congressional staffer who alleged that “the intelligence community was forced to abandon our soldiers because of the law.”

Yet as a Justice Department official later admitted, the FISA law clearly placed no such broad restriction on foreign wire communications passing through the United States; rather, there had been a far more narrow problem involving e-mails for which the recipient’s location could not be determined. And as James Bamford explained in his essential 2008 book, The Shadow Factory, the delay in getting wiretaps running on the suspected kidnappers was the result of a series of missteps at the Justice Department, not the limits of FISA — no surprise, since even when FISA does require a warrant, surveillance may begin immediately in emergencies if a warrant is sought later. (The suspected kidnappers, by the way, turned out not to have been the actual kidnappers.) Yet on the basis of such claims, a panicked Congress signed off on almost limitless authority to vacuum up international communications — authority that we already know has resulted in systematic “overcollection” of purely domestic conversations, and even resulted in the interception of former President Bill Clinton’s e-mails.

January 30, 2009

Terrorists are criminals, not soldiers

That very point is one of Bush’s failures in the poorly named “war on terror.” These fools are criminals. Sometimes common, sometimes uncommon, but criminals none the less. They aren’t soldiers. Just barbaric thugs wielding dark ages theology in defense  of cowardly acts.

Bush played perfectly into the hands of these idiots by declaring war on the very concept of terror, labeling them “enemy combatants” and giving them special — if unpleasant — status. Better to have utilized our law enforcement and military to capture and legally try each and every one. Being called a common international law-breaking loser is much less sexy than being martyred as a combatant captured in a global war.

Here’s a great bit from Cato-at-Liberty. It’s part of a much longer post on Ali Saleh Mohamed Kahlah al-Marri that deserves reading, but this perfectly illustrates where the Bush response to terrorism utterly failed.

From the link:

German also points out that terrorists rely on their claim to be something more akin to soldiers than criminals to maintain political legitimacy. IRA terrorists held by British authorities staged a hunger strike to retain treatment as “prisoners of war” rather than “criminals.” Ten of them willingly starved to death rather than be lumped in with murderers and rapists, the goal of the British “criminalization” strategy. As German writes:

The reasons for the hunger strike reveal much about the IRA and about terrorists in general. They didn’t strike over the anti-Catholic discrimination that led to the civil rights movement. They didn’t strike over the RUC’s police abuse or the stationing of British troops in Northern Ireland. They didn’t strike over being arrested without charges, interned, and tortured. They didn’t strike over indefinite detentions or even over Bloody Sunday. They knew all those things helped their cause. They went on hunger strike because the British government was going to make them look like criminals.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, architect of the 9/11 attacks, sees the writing on the wall — the Obama administration intends to close down the Military Commissions and try him and his co-conspirators in a traditional court of law. This is why he tried to plead guiltyand become a martyr for his cause. If we convict al-Marri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court and not a Military Commission or one of the proposed national security courts, the Al Qaeda boogey-man is revealed as a thug, not a noble Muslim soldier. 

March 20, 2008

Why discussing the US and torture …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

… is a debate worth both time and intellectual energy. In a previous post on US torture, there was (an all too short) debate on the United States use of torture, and particularly waterboarding, in the comments.

Do read the linked post and all the comments, but I’m going to include my final comment here because I feel it sums up my thoughts on the subject:

I would say elements of both the left and the right use the Global War on Terror (and all its attendant parts, including this issue) as a proxy for ideological arguments.

There are vocal elements of the left who want to do just what you wrote — shut down Gitmo, pull out of the Mideast, etc. And I’m pretty sure there’s parts of the right that would have no problem instituting full-blown, no questions asked systematic torture to attempt to pry information from captured combatants.

What I meant by not a left/right issue is, the topic under discussion — waterboarding and its role in the GWOT — transcends the ideological battles described above.

Certainly pretty much every one in opposition to the Bush administration is against our using the technique, and a number of administration supporters and members have publicly aired concerns as well. Yes, there’s a core of right wing support for waterboarding, but it is a controversial topic. Some people may make it a divisive issue, but the real debate is not inherently divisive.

As I quoted above, as recently as Vietnam our service members were court martialed for using that very technique. The technique may or not be torture, but we defined it as such for a long period of time.

September 11, 2001, created the change in that policy. As shocking as 9/11 was, at the highest levels of government it was not a complete surprise. We’ve known about bin Laden and al Qaeda for a long time, and knew he was plotting against our policies and person.

The question I ask is 9/11 and the subsequent framing of the GWOT worthy of throwing out a policy of non-torture that began during the Revolutionary War and was put into practice by George Washington?

I don’t think the technique is necessary to effectively prosecute the GWOT. I would particularly like to hear a sound justification from the administration why this change in policy was necessary and how it is effective. I’m sympathetic to needs of secrecy regarding the GWOT because there is a unique, and new, nature to the threats facing the US, but I also think this shift is so fundamental to our national heritage and image this debate should be conducted with much more transparency on both sides.

Sure waterboarding is a proxy for many things left and right, but it’s also a tangible and controversial issue.

You mention you feel I’m passing judgement after listening only to the prosecution. I feel I’ve read a wealth of material from sources on the left and right, and from journalism (biased or not) that presents facts. To date the pro-waterboarding side has not persuaded me that bin Laden and his minions require the US to radically change the way we approach the rest of the world militarily and legally. I think the America of September 10, 2001, was perfectly capable of handling the GWOT.

Sure that Tuesday morning I was blindingly angry. I was woken in a vacation condo on the beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, to hear the World Trade Center towers were both struck by planes. When the media began reporting celebrations in Afghanistan I immediately thought of bin Laden (didn’t think of al Qaeda per se, but I was aware of bin Laden pre-9/11). My next thought was we should nuke that country back from its then (and now) Middle Age society to the Stone Age, or maybe to time before humans walked in Afghanistan.

That was my heart. I feel no less strongly about Islamic terrorism today than I did at that moment. I do know I think the US did very well for itself before 9/11, and to me nothing occurred that warrants changing our fundamental approach to the world.

So that’s the question I ask, and the topic I’m discussing — does the GWOT make changing our core values necessary? Or worthwhile? For me, until I learn something completely new about the topic, the answer is no.