Homeland Security

Help fight torture — release the CIA report

In 1988, President Reagan led a bipartisan effort to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Twenty-five years ago today, he told the Senate in a letter that, “Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.”
The recent phenomenon of unyielding partisanship and stalemates on Capitol Hill can make it easy to forget that it was once common to put aside partisan differences and work on issues of national concern. From Reagan’s leadership on the Convention Against Torture to the Senate’s overwhelming support in 2005 for the McCain amendment designed to prohibit abusive interrogations, the United States has a strong history of bipartisan opposition to torture.


The FBI’s surveillance power in the aftermath of Boston

Last month’s tragic attack on the Boston marathon leaves us wanting answers — not just about why it occurred, but why we failed to prevent it. One tempting answer is that the FBI could have prevented the Boston attack if it had more power and fewer legal encumbrances. That seems to be the wrongheaded if understandable impulse of former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who at last Thursday’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Boston attack, urged Congress to review the Attorney General Guidelines that regulate the FBI’s surveillance and investigation power.

In our democratic society, a thought crime is no crime at all. Yet Lieberman and some members of Congress suggested that the FBI should be able to keep investigations open based on a person’s religious and political beliefs. That change would be ruinous to an agency that prides itself on upholding the Constitution, and it would not help prevent terrorism.


Missile defense turns 30

While missile defense may have been a politically divisive issue when it was first proposed by President Reagan 30 years ago, the need for such capability is no longer in doubt.


Drones are useful, but not the solution or the problem

The use of drones to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al Qaeda there and in Yemen, draws criticism for exacerbating anti-American sentiment. But drone use needs to be seen in broader contexts as the U.S. withdraws from combat in Afghanistan, deals with unrest in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, and grapples with al Qaeda threats to our homeland.


It's time for the truth on 'enhanced interrogation'

We already knew that the CIA gave unusual access to the creative team behind the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” Now we know at least some of what the agency got in return. A memo obtained earlier this week by Gawker shows that the screenwriter, Mark Boal, altered two scenes at the CIA’s request.
In the end, though, this revelation doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about the film’s accuracy, or lack thereof. “Zero Dark Thirty” is and always was fiction, a product of its creators’ artistic and political choices. One of their choices was to depict torture as effective, disturbing but necessary, and something that American heroes do.
As a former interrogator, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that all of us — including those at the CIA — are interested in gaining actionable intelligence to disrupt terrorist plots. But as someone who interrogated members of al Qaeda, I know that torture is ineffective, disturbing and unnecessary.


Administration should release post-9/11 CIA program report

When he was a senator from Delaware, Joe Biden was never one to mince words. As Vice President, he still has that same characteristic candor. It was on full display this past weekend at the McCain Institute, when Vice President Biden voiced support for releasing the Senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program during a discussion with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

During their discussion, Senator McCain, a vocal supporter of releasing the report, asked Vice President Biden whether he agreed that “we should expose those abuses of human rights” committed by the United States to make sure that the nation never repeats them. Biden’s response was clear: “I’m with you John, I’m where you are.” Biden then added,  “I think the only way you excise the demons is you acknowledge, you acknowledge exactly what happened straightforwardly.”


Don't deride our drone and cyber operators

In a statement variously attributed to George Orwell and Winston Churchill, and perhaps uttered by neither, citizens of prosperous democracies are periodically reminded that “we sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” Today, we also rest comfortably because attentive people at consoles sit ready to do the same.
The concept of valor lies at the heart of the Pentagon’s April 15 cancellation of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, intended to recognize service members directly impacting combat operations from locations outside the battlefield. The demise of the so-called “Nintendo medal” was widely acclaimed in both the media and large swaths of the military community as a restoration of martial virtue and a fitting rebuke to “cubicle warriors.”


Violations of laws of war are war crimes


Back in 1994, during the Rwandan Genocide, the Security Council embarrassed itself and made a mockery of international law when it decided to pass Resolution 918 on May 17, which stated, “Recalling in this context that the killing of members of an ethnic group with the intention of destroying such a group, in whole or in part, constitutes a crime punishable under international law.” 


A well-intentioned but ill-conceived compromise

Compromise and bipartisan are the two words being used to describe the Senate "Gang of Eight’s" immigration bill. No doubt, reaching agreement on the first real chance at overhauling our archaic immigration laws was no easy feat.

A rigorous path to earned citizenship for the 11 million living in the shadows? Check. Clearing decades-long family backlogs? Check.

The big wins are easy to spot, but the devil is in the details. And that is where ill-conceived compromises were made.

Once again health care was put on the chopping block to make the bill more palatable to conservative lawmakers. A major misstep.


House cyber bill protects privacy, civil liberties while addressing threat

Cyber espionage and warfare pose a grave threat to our nation. Foreign countries such as China and Iran are conducting massive cyber attacks and espionage campaigns on the United States, disrupting our networks and stealing our trade secrets. In both open and classified briefings, we hear far too often about the loss of American companies’ corporate trade secrets and the jobs that go along with them. Although our nation is vulnerable to serious damage from cyber attacks, we do not have to concede this fight, nor should we wait for a crippling incident to act. It is imperative that we safeguard our networks from foreign hackers while still protecting Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.