Homeland Security

President Obama should press on with Guantánamo closure and repatriate innocent men cleared for release

After the Flight 253 attack, does it still make sense to close Guantanamo?

It is crucial to remember that the vast majority of the men at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place, and that over 550 have been released and are peacefully rebuilding their lives. Most of the nearly 800 men who were brought to Guantánamo were not captured by the American military on any battlefield, but seized in broad sweeps during the chaos of the Afghan war or in other locations around the world and sold to the U.S. in exchange for substantial bounties. We know from the military’s own records that most of the detainees at Guantánamo have no link to terrorism.

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The Big Question: Has Obama made us safer?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Has the Obama administration made the United States safer? Explain.

(Read today's responses after the jump.)

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The Big Question: Should a failed attack alter Gitmo's closing?

Brad Delong says: "We badly need people like Alhaji Umaru Mutallab on our side. Keeping Guantanamo open," drives them away ...

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.


Today's Question:

Should last week's failed airline bombing affect President Barack Obama's plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center?

(Read today's responses after the jump.)

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The Big Question: Is profiling the answer?

Brent White: What exactly does a Muslim look like by the way? Muslims belong to a religion, not a race, gender or age group.


Today's question:

Would "profiling" be a useful or appropriate tool to stop terrorist attacks?


(Read the responses to today's question after the jump.)

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The Big Question: Did 'the system work' ?

Professor Ronald Walters: "Obviously the system did not work, which puts a glaring focus on what constitutes the system. " ...

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Did "the system work" to stop the Christmas terror attack, as Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano initially claimed?

(Read today's responses after the jump)

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Illinois deserves better than this (Rep. Peter Roskam)

President Obama's decision to relocate Guantanamo Bay's inmates to my home state of Illinois is a misguided decision that will ultimately be regretted. Proponents of the decision have failed to prove how this move will make America safer. Let's be clear: the Administration is not closing Guantanamo, they are simply moving Guantanamo to Illinois.

The multi-million dollar Guantanamo facility will be left dormant while U.S. courts extend an invitation to expand their reach into national security affairs. The move from a military tribunal to U.S. civilian courts will treat individuals who committed an act of war against the United States as common criminals. It flies in the face of logic, long precedence, and assumes the military is not capable of fairly administering justice.

Illinois deserves a better Christmas present than hardened terrorists.

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Comprehensive immigration reform, A.S.A.P. (Rep. Luis Gutierrez)

Tomorrow, December 15, I will join the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and my colleagues in the House of Representatives in introducing a progressive, compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Every single day in America, families are being divided. Over the past year, I've traveled across the country with my colleagues conducting something called the United Families ("Familias Unidas") tour. In twenty-four cities across the country, we heard from families who were being ripped apart by the current system. We've heard stories from a father dying from cancer whose wife faced deportation. We've heard from American citizen children who are faced with choosing between their parents and a college education.

This is a crisis. It's a crisis of human and civil rights, it's a crisis of our economy and our workforce, and it's a crisis of national security. This is why we cannot wait any longer. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009 is a solution that we, as a nation of immigrants, can be proud of.

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Documents reveal new information about destruction of torture tapes

Records obtained late last month by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal new information about the CIA's destruction of videotapes depicting the brutal interrogation of prisoners at CIA black sites, including the precise date the tapes were destroyed and evidence that the White House was involved in early discussions about the proposed destruction.

The ACLU is seeking disclosure of these records as part of its pending motion to hold the CIA in contempt for destroying the tapes in violation of a court order requiring the agency to produce or identify records responsive to the ACLU's Freedom of Information (FOIA) request for records relating to the treatment of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas. The tapes, which show CIA operatives subjecting suspects to extremely harsh interrogation methods, should have been identified and processed for the ACLU in response to its FOIA request. Instead of identifying and processing the videotapes, however, the CIA destroyed them. The tapes were also withheld from the 9/11 Commission, appointed by former President Bush and Congress, which had formally requested that the CIA hand over a variety of information  pertaining to the interrogation of CIA prisoners, including Abu Zubaydah, the subject of many of the videotapes. Special Prosecutor John Durham has been criminally investigating the destruction of the tapes since January 2008.  

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The Big Question: Will Afghan troop funding debate divide Dems?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer some insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Will the effort to fund a troop surge in Afghanistan divide the Democratic Party?

Armstrong WilliamsPundits Blog contributor, said:

The President's increase of 35,000 troops to Afghanistan will certainly not only further divide the already seemingly fragmented Democrats, but tear them asunder. Progressives are growing increasingly frustrated with President Obama’s domestic policies; a troop increase will only further enflame his international policies with disgust. The President's official announcement tonight will exasperate democrats growing frustration.


These are not ideal times politically for the White House. The president’s decision on Afghanistan will definitely land heaviest among his allies on Capitol Hill, especially the House and Senate leadership, who are considered far more liberal than their rank-and-file followers.


What remains for the President now is what policies can he offer early in 2010 to placate that progressive wing of his caucus. I expect a more concerted, personal effort by him on health care reform, followed by some activity to help his union friends (perhaps easing off on the so called ‘Cadillac’ health plans big unions have come to enjoy), perhaps even more crackdowns on international offshore tax havens and trade policies in general, and other sundry items.


The bottom line is his foreign policy stances will have repercussions with the president’s domestic agenda well until the end of his first term. Even candidate Obama was strident in his rhetoric surrounding the war against terrorism, especially in Iraq. His speech tonight will sound eerily similar to the arguments Bush made for entering Iraq, and that causes all sorts of political heartburn for Pelosi and her ultra liberal faction.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said: 

There's that potential, but I don't think anyone should take a hard and fast stand against or for it until we've engaged in the diligence the president did.  Some of us have that already -- I've done plenty of it.  We need to do that in a more focused way.  We've been focused on 'what if the President proposes this,' and now we will have very specific outlines of a strategy that needs to be tested and debated for a number of weeks before Democrats weigh in.  But some will weigh in before that.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said: 

There will always be the far left in the party that don't want to support any war or offshore effort. I think that's very shortsighted because they came to our shores to kill 3,000 people. I think you can probably criticize some on the far right too.  But it's not extreme to be going after al-Qaeda and doing our best to solidify a better form of government in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've been successful in Iraq so far. If we have more troops, the counterinsurgency will work in Afghanistan. I do support a troop surge. We should support our military advisers; I don't think we can undermine them, and that's what the left is doing.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said:

As a former legislator, the President's been very good about trying to find a balance [in the Democratic Party]. We need to use a metric system and set benchmarks to understand what we have to do. You need goals and objectives, or else you have a situation where the Vice President [Cheney] saying we're winning the war in Iraq, and Senator Hagel saying we're losing, and they're both from the same party, same set of facts, but different opinions.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said:

Not if the president clearly states the facts and has a exit strategy.

Ronald Goldfarb, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

How could it not? It will divide Congress and, most importantly, the American public. This war effort is a big mistake and will be costly to everyone involved.

Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said:

Yes, it will divide progressives, but the additional funding will pass. Conservatives, on the other hand, won't agonize all that much over spending more borrowed money — the label "fiscal conservative" no longer applies after the previous administration.

It was on the watch of the Bush administration, working in coordination with a conservative-controlled Congress, that America embarked on a disastrous approach of spending nearly a trillion dollars of mostly borrowed money on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and this ultimately undermined America's position in the world.

It'll take years to dig ourselves out of the hole, but asking tough questions about funding the next steps in Afghanistan is vital for getting our national security strategy back on track.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

Not really. Oh, sure, the more “progressive” types may make noises about a “war surtax,” but this only underscores their capitulation to the War Party on the basic question of U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan and the region: If they were really opposed to the war, on principle, they would vote to eliminate the funding rather than impose a new tax during a recession.

Whatever opposition arises to this war from the Democratic side of the aisle has so far been couched in the language of economics: We can’t afford it, it competes with funding for domestic programs, etc. etc. There is very little opposition grounded in skepticism that we can — or should — try to intervene in the life of a nation thousands of miles from our shores. Everyone seems to be swallowing the dubious line, put out by the Obama-ites, that this is a “war of necessity” because al Qaeda and/or the Taliban will carve out “safe havens” and then — well, then what? Do we really have to fear a bunch of half-starved insurgents sitting around in a cave somewhere? The only “safe haven” the 9/11 hijackers had was an apartment in South Florida, and one in Hamburg, Germany.

A few Democratic members of Congress will register their dissent, but for the most part the party leadership will go along with the Obama administration for the simple reason that the Obama-ites have their hands on the money spigot, which can be turned on as a reward for cooperation — or turned off as punishment for non-cooperation. You’ll recall that when the Democrats took control of Congress, while Bush was still in the White House, they continued to vote for funding the Iraq and Afghan wars, increasing the war budget — in spite of the demonstrable fact that voters had put them in office to put an end to both wars. There was heavy pressure put on dissident Democrats, like my congresswoman, Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), to vote for war appropriations — with the threat of withholding government subsidies (“stimulus”) from those districts whose representatives were so bold as to vote “no.” There is little reason to believe this won’t occur again.

The War Party controls both “major” parties: That’s what Obama’s speech tonight will underscore for the umpteenth time. That’s why, in spite of the fact that the American people oppose these wars, they continue — because the game is rigged. And the American people are the losers.

Michelle D. Bernard, president and CEO of the Independent Women's Forum, said:

The way forward in Afghanistan will create a dilemma for Democrats and fracture party unity by pushing for a major increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan. Already, Speaker Pelosi has expressed her reluctance to support a troop increase and so have key senators, such as Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Many liberal Democrats seem to have forgotten that then-candidate Obama made Afghanistan a priority when campaigning while candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) focused on Iraq. What the president will more likely than not say tonight should come as no surprise to Democrats. Nevertheless, it is clear that many see a continued war effort as a drag on their ability to pursue costly domestic priorities, since more troops will require more money, a big problem given the already record high levels of debt.  Democratic policymakers recognize the dangers and political implications of escalating the war. Democrats -- by pursuing big government health care legislation, passing a massive, expensive spending bill, and pushing forward on cap-and-trade legislation -- have already alienated many Independents and "Obamacans." This move will discourage the Democrats' core liberal base, a base that will be particularly important in November.
 
It's no wonder the president has been so reluctant to make a decision on this issue.

A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, said:

The war in Afghanistan has already divided the Democratic Party and so has the decision by President Barack Obama to try to "finish the job" with another 30,000 more troops. But differences between liberals and conservatives in the Democratic Party have yet to be exposed in the dramatic way that they will when the question of funding arises.
 
At this point it appears members of Congress won't be voting on the issue of funding additional troops for Afghanistan until the spring, in a supplemental bill. The thinking is the Defense spending bills are making their way through the system and wouldn't be the vehicle for this contentious and costly increase in force.
 
If the funding vote were to come up in the Congress tomorrow it would likely pass with most Republicans and enough Democrats, save the anti-war liberals. That could be the same scenario next spring, though technically there is still time to persuade some hesitant Democrats that the new strategy is worth their vote. Sure looks doubtful. 

John F. McManus, president of The John Birch Society, said:

Anything that will divide the Democratic Party would be helpful to America.  This party has, in general, become the socialist party of America and many of its members have been linked with the organization known as the Democratic Socialists of America.  Socialism is, of course, the antithesis of Americanism.  It was practiced in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and in the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Germany. It would be wonderful for America if many of the Democrats in Congress would begin to honor their oath to the U.S. Constitution and work for less government, not more

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Obama violates Osama oath (Rep. Steve King)

On December 18, 2007, then presidential candidate Barack Obama leveled the first of dozens of heavy criticisms against President George W. Bush.  In a speech in Des Moines, Obama blasted President Bush for taking his “eye off the ball in Afghanistan." He continued: "It’s time to…increase our military, political, and economic commitment to Afghanistan.  That’s what…I’ll do as president.”

This was Barack Obama’s first “eye off the ball” speech.  It was the beginning of a barrage of campaign speeches accusing the Bush administration of “taking our eye off of Osama bin Laden” (Denver, 1/30/08).

On July 15, 2008 in Washington, D.C., then Senator Obama vowed to deploy “the full force of American power to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all of the terrorists responsible for 9/11."  In fact, Barack Obama specifically used the name of Osama bin Laden at least 40 times in speeches during his Presidential campaign while definitively pledging to focus all necessary resources against bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Taliban in the countries where they live and operate.

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