Homeland Security

Senate Intelligence report on interrogations should be made public

There’s widespread Oscar buzz about the movie Zero Dark Thirty, which opens in theaters across the nation this weekend and was screened at the Newseum last evening. As a 20 year Air Force veteran, I salute Seal Team Six and their extraordinary work which is depicted in the film. As a professional interrogator who conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq, I hope Americans don't allow their opinions about interrogations to be determined by a movie however they choose to interpret what they see on the big screen. Torture is simply not reliable, moral, legal or productive.

Zero opens with the torture of Ammar (who is apparently a conglomeration of four detainees). Ammar gives up some intelligence information after torture has failed, during a civilized lunch. It appears the filmmakers intention was to show that torture didn't work and that it was civility and deception, a law enforcement interrogation tactic, which eventually worked. But supporters of torture may see it another way -- that complicity was the result of torture. The true story of the torture of the four detainees is that it failed miserably.  

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says that the facts do not support the assertion that torture led to bin Laden. She should know.

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Less politics, more leadership on immigration in 2013

With “fiscal cliff” drama coming to an close, new issues are set to take center stage in the 113th Congress. At the same time, both parties are still responding to the demographic changes in the country that gave President Obama a resounding victory. Democrats feel comfortable that Latinos, who came out strong for the party down ticket, will once again play a vital role in the 2014 midterm cycle. Republican leadership, likewise, is reexamining messaging and policy to ensure they remain competitive in national elections.

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Sunlight at the shooting range: How we fix gun violence

Our gun policies have failed, in part, because our system lacks transparency and accountability. That’s why we’re asking teachers to carry guns before we’ve asked gun owners to tell us who they are. Charles Krauthammer recently argued “increasing public safety almost always means restricting liberties.” But here, merely by shedding some light we can better protect society without restricting liberties of law-abiding, responsible gun owners.

In 2008 D.C. v. Heller affirmed our individual right to own guns. Unfortunately, our culture is stuck in a pre-Heller mindset that prioritizes secrecy and obstruction over transparency and accountability. It is time for us to adapt to Heller and redefine what it means to be a “responsible gun owner.”  

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GOP's 'demographic cliff' and the new politics of immigration

The results of the 2012 elections showed that Republicans are teetering at the edge of a “demographic cliff.” They have alienated Latino voters so thoroughly that they risk becoming a regional party unless something big changes, and changes soon.

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What the immigration reformers are missing

End mandatory detention. Appoint lawyers for detained immigrants. Hold the Office of Public Affairs responsible for disinformation.
 

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Time for Senator Harry Reid to take a stand on gun control

When CODEPINK, MoveOn and representatives of other organizations marched into Senator Harry Reid’s D.C. office on Tuesday, December 18, they wanted a simple answer to a simple question: Does the Senator support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, such as the legislation proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein and supported by President Obama and Vice President Biden? It would seem like a no-brainer for the Senate majority leader to fall in line with the leadership of his party in backing a modest bill that would ban the sale of weapons that are only good for mass murder. Unfortunately, Reid’s senior policy advisor Kasey Gillette was unable to give an answer.

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Zero Dark Thirty: Good movie, bad facts

I just finished watching “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s pretty brutal. Not plucking someone’s eye out brutal, but definitely not “enhanced interrogation technique” euphemism level either. Some of the torture portrayed in the movie is low-grade violence against restrained prisoners – slapping and roughing up, a lot of stress positions (arms tied spread eagle with ropes so that the prisoner can’t lower them or move them), and a waterboarding scene where the detainee is choking up water and spit.
 
Maybe the most horrible (although least graphic) form of torture is when the characters fold a prisoner up into a tiny confinement box and shut the lid on him.

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President Obama must veto defense bill to close Gitmo

As we gather to celebrate the holidays this year, President Obama will determine with the stroke of a pen the fate of more than a hundred men held without charge or trial at Guantánamo Bay. The National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that directs how the Pentagon may use its funds, will likely make its way to the Oval Office with renewed restrictions on transferring detainees to any country regardless of the allegations against them. If President Obama signs the restrictions into law, the human consequences will be severe and forever damage his legacy.

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Keeping our children safe

This afternoon, the families of Newtown, Connecticut are burying two six-year-old boys – Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto.
 
Noah turned six last month. Jack was a New York Giants fan.
 
In the days to come, many of their classmates will also be laid to rest – the victims of a tragedy too terrible to comprehend.
 
Twenty little girls and boys. Twenty tiny daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, friends and playmates.
 
Twenty children, who will never grow up and learn to drive, go on a first date or graduate from high school.
 
Twenty six- and seven-year-olds who will never have the chance to fall in love, get married or have children of their own.
 
Noah and Jack, Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Allison and Avielle.

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Massacre at Sandy Hook has shattered our hearts

I want to start by extending my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of Friday’s massacre, and to the whole community, and to thank the first responders and all those who are helping in the aftermath of this darkest of tragedies.
 
Three days after the horrors of Newtown, we’re all still reeling from what happened. Any time there’s a shooting like this we’re crushed with sorrow, but there’s no escaping the fact that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary stands out for its awfulness. The murder of so many little children and the adults who tried to save them doesn’t just break our hearts, it shatters them.
 
The last few days have been searing for all of us, and the days ahead will be too.

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