Homeland Security

Anti-terrorist Protection Without Sacrificing Civil Liberties

As President-elect Barack Obama confronts a myriad of domestic and foreign issues, one of the most critical will be what to do about the Terrorist Surveillance Program and other highly classified, covert programs that caused substantial civil liberties concerns during much of the Bush administration.

In this regard, his national security transition team will want to assess the effectiveness of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a five-member, president-appointed panel that provides independent supervision of the government's anti-terrorist activities that could infringe on privacy rights and civil liberties rights. The board was recommended by the 9/11 Commission and created by the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act, and subsequently amended in 2007.
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The New American Komityet Gosudarstvennoy Besopasnosty

Now that the Bush administration is making its final efforts to do away with civil liberties, we need to adjust to the new totalitarian reality.

With non-stop proposals to continue consolidating our law enforcement and intelligence entities, the inevitable police state will need to come up with a new name for the single government organization that will control and monitor every facet of our lives.

No longer will we need a confusing alphabet to differentiate between the various agencies. No longer will we need "PD" (as in NYPD or LAPD), FBI, DoJ, DIA, CIA or even NCIS. We can combine them. Let's call them all "The KGB.”
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Spotlight: House Committee on Homeland Security

Every now and then, I like to shine a spotlight on the shenanigans of our beloved U.S. Congress and its members. After all, there’s so much “news” being generated in this town that it’s nearly impossible to catch it all. So with this feature, I’ll try and call attention to items that should really make Americans’ blood boil. Rest assured, this column will be an equal-opportunity critic — challenging both Democrats and Republicans.

This week’s spotlight looks at a story that barely registered a blip on Washington’s audacity-meter last week. I’m referring to a story in Congress Daily reporting on turmoil within the House Homeland Security panel.
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Obama's ‘Sister Souljah Moment’ on the Surveillance Bill

This post was also published in today's Chicago Sun-Times. — Ed.


Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) announcement that he would support the compromise bill providing court and congressional supervision of the president's Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) and immunity for certain telecom companies that cooperated with it has led to a barrage of criticism from his "netroot" supporters on his campaign website and in much of the liberal blogosphere.

But the senator's position is not only correct on the merits from a pro-civil liberties and -privacy rights perspective. It also provided the senator an important chance to demonstrate his "Sister Souljah moment."
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Supreme Mistake

As they adjourned for the summer, the Supreme Court ruled this morning in a close 5-4 decision that terrorist detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are afforded rights and protections under the Constitution.

What a travesty of justice handed down by justices more interested in political correctness than protecting the American people from very dangerous people who seek to kill us and end our way of life. Make no mistake, these are not Boy Scouts held against their will in Camp Gitmo. No, these are enemy combatants who have been captured on the battlefield and sent to Cuba. Let me say that again: captured on the battlefield waging war against our brave men and women.
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The Torture Amendment Democrats Should Offer

In the most astounding testimony to Congress that I can remember, Gen. Hartmann
refused to state that waterboarding against American POWs is illegal. The entire upper strata of American military leadership, plus vets, plus military families, plus virtually all Americans, would vehemently disagree with Gen. Hartmann.

The general's problem is that he cannot say that waterboarding against American troops is illegal without saying waterboarding by the CIA or other U.S. agencies is illegal.

It is time to end waterboarding once and for all.
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Watered-Down Liberty

You know, democracy and the rule of law can be mighty inconvenient. If I were the members of the congressional intelligence committees I'd be outraged that the CIA decided I couldn't be trusted with its torture tapes. To say nothing of some judges. "Too much danger of leaks," says the CIA director, explaining that the video clearly showed some of the agency's waterboarders.

We can't have their covers blown. After all, then we would have some idea who should be punished for "just following orders." (By the way, don't you like that term, "waterboarding"? I can't get it out of my head that before the interrogators begin, they holler, "SURF'S UP!!!")

In fairness, we really should consider the argument that those who were on the receiving end of the abuse possessed information vital to the protection of the United States. Still, shouldn't we always remember what it is about the United States that we're protecting?
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Did Democrats and Republicans Endorse Torture?

The reason a special prosecutor is needed in the torture tapes obstruction of justice case, and the reason there is private panic in many Democratic and Republican circles, is that it now appears that some prominent Democrats, along with some prominent Republicans, gave a private thumbs-up to torture in 2002.

Waterboarding is torture. Torture is a crime.  Looking at the various creative means of torture that have been publicly reported, the laws that were broken include the Geneva Convention, European law, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the domestic laws of probably a dozen countries at least, especially in Europe, and very possibly the Nuremberg rules.

Flashing back to 2001 and 2002, when torture was instituted and some Democrats and Republicans were briefed: That was the time when most senior Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the Iraq war and voting for the Patriot Act (including the
majority in the Congress who did not read the Patriot Act before voting for it).
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Bordering on Ridiculous

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.) has plans, if he's the GOP presidential nominee, to balance his ticket with a prospective vice president who is an undocumented immigrant. I don't know where that one started.

However, if Tancredo did somehow become the Republican candidate, he'd be getting a huge boost from the Department of Homeland Security.
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Dangerous Dysfunction in the House

This is getting embarrassing. Worse, it is getting dangerous.

First, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blunders the House into an international crisis by threatening to schedule a non-binding Sense of the House resolution regarding a massacre that occurred a century ago in place far, far away.

Don’t forget she did that for purely partisan politics, against the advice of her major foreign policy advisers, including Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), Dick Gephardt and almost every Democratic foreign policy professional of the last 40 years.
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