National Security

The Government Program That's Equipping Police Like an Occupying Military Force

A chilling index from the Institute for Southern Studies.

(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes)
(AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.B. Forbes) Protesters raise their hands in front of police atop an armored vehicle in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. This index was originally published by Facing South , a website of the Institute for Southern Studies. ( Click here to subscribe to their newsletter.) Year in which Congress initially authorized the Defense Department to give excess arms and ammunition to law enforcement agencies for counter-drug activities, leading to the creation of what's come to be known as the 1033 program: 1990 Number of law enforcement agencies the program has given equipment to: more than 17,000 Percent of U.S. states with agencies participating in the program: 100 (Photo from the Richland County Sheriff's Department website.) Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County, South Carolina and members of his department's Special Response Team with the military vehicle they call "The Peacemaker." Value of military equipment the program has transferred...

Thoughtful, Prudent and Faltering: The Paradox of Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Barack Obama meets with advisors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2014. N ew York Times columnist Tom Friedman's extended interview with President Obama shed some light on how Obama can be well-informed, thoughtful, prudent—yet still be seen as faltering as a foreign policy president. If you compare Obama with George W. Bush (OK — a low bar), Obama wins, hands down. Unlike Bush, Obama inhabits the reality-based foreign policy space, with no apologies. Unlike Bush, he has no messianic zealots among his advisers. He gives the kind of well-considered responses that suggest a president who carefully engages with truly difficult policy conundrums. Yet at the end of the day, he often comes across as vacillating and indecisive—an impression that can be fatal in his dealings with allies, adversaries, and, of course, any electorate. In the case of Iraq and ISIL's murderous assault on religious minorities and rivals, not to...

If Having a Foreign Policy Doctrine Is So Important, Why Won't Hillary Clinton Spell Hers Out?

Official State Department Photo
J effrey Golberg has an interview with Hillary Clinton which is being billed as a rebuke of, or maybe a distancing from, her old boss, Barack Obama. While you'll probably think that an overstatement when you read the transcript, she does express a desire for a foreign policy "doctrine" of her own, even if she doesn't actually deliver it. While there are a few unsettling things in the interview (her comments on Israel could have come from Bibi Netanyahu himself), the doctrine question is worth paying attention to. As I've argued before , President Obama doesn't have a foreign policy doctrine, and that's by design. He explicitly rejected the idea that it was necessary to have some kind of bumper-sticker-ready idea guiding all his foreign policy decisions, a single phrase or sentence that sums up everything he'd be doing in foreign affairs. Even though doctrines don't have a particularly good track record of late, in this interview, Clinton says that a doctrine is necessary (though she...

The New York Times Finally Comes Around on "Torture"

An enhanced interrogation chair from the Inquisition. (Flickr/Anguskirk)
The New York Times has finally decided, only a decade or so too late, that it will now use the word "torture" to describe the torture techniques used during the Bush years by the United States government on prisoners believed to be connected to terrorism. While we should certainly be glad that they've finally come around, the statement by Executive Editor Dean Baquet explaining their decision shows just how wrongheaded the editors' thinking this issue has been all along. You should read the whole thing (it's pretty brief), but here are some particularly troubling parts: When the first revelations emerged a decade ago, the situation was murky. The details about what the Central Intelligence Agency did in its interrogation rooms were vague. The word "torture" had a specialized legal meaning as well as a plain-English one. While the methods set off a national debate, the Justice Department insisted that the techniques did not rise to the legal definition of "torture." The Times described...

It Isn't About the Tunnels. So What Is the Gaza Conflict Really About?

The Israeli government's tactical goals shifted repeatedly. At no point, it appears, has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a strategic political vision.

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 17, 2014. Update: August 8, 4:00 p.m. Israel time ( 9 a.m. EDT ): Hopes for an end to the Gaza War evaporated after indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo stalled. Hamas rejected an extension of the three-day ceasefire that began on Tuesday . Moments after the ceasefire ended, rocket fire from Gaza into Israel resumed this morning. Israeli artillery fire and air strikes followed, and the Israeli negotiators left Cairo. I. At four o'clock after the war —which is to say, 4 p.m. Tuesday—a Hebrew news site carried a telegraphic bulletin: The head of the Israeli army's Southern Command announced that residents of the area bordering Gaza could return to their homes and feel safe. The reassuring message was undercut by the bulletin that appeared on the same site one minute earlier: "IDF assessment: Hamas still has at least two to three tunnels reaching into...

Our Privacy and Liberty Still At Risk, Even If Leahy NSA Bill Passes

Under the USA Freedom Act, the executive branch could exploit the absence of a bright-line restriction to engage in collection that is far broader than necessary.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy arrives as his panel questions top Obama administration officials about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. A fter a brief hiatus, legislative reform of the NSA’s bulk collection program appears to be back on track. Thanks to skillful negotiations on the part of Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and other cosponsors, the version of the USA Freedom Act that was unveiled in the Senate last week restores many of the protections that House leadership and administration officials stripped out of the House version in secret, last-minute talks. Most notably, the Senate bill clearly would prohibit the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records and other types of information. And yet, even if the Senate version becomes law, Americans’ private information will remain vulnerable—under both the domestic programs addressed by the bill and other, much larger...

House Intel Committee Finds No Benghazi Scandal; Will Boehner Ignore Its Findings?

House Speaker John Boehner faces a choice: Either he can accept the findings of a responsible, Republican committee chair, or cynically allow a kangaroo court to proceed. 

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)
A ccording to Representative Mike Thompson , Democrat of California, a report from the Republican led House Intelligence Committee on the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, "confirms that no one was deliberately misled, no military assets were withheld and no stand-down order (to U.S. forces) was given." Late last week, before Congress headed out of Washington for August recess, the body voted to declassify the document. After nearly two years of investigations, millions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of pages of documents handed over by the administration, a Republican-led committee is about to release a report stating that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Obama White House. In fact, nearly all of the accusations levied against the White House over the past year by conservatives in Congress, and amplified by the media, have now been determined to be false—by a Republican jury. House Speaker John Boehner is now left with a choice. Will he allow Rep...

The Limits of American Power: Judging Obama's Foreign Policy

The Bush administration taught us the folly of overreach, but America simply can't exit the world stage. The dangers are too great.

AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo U.S. Army soldiers salute American flags at a ceremony at Camp Liberty in Baghdad on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hen I was young, a mantra among progressives was that America had to stop operating as global policeman. Vietnam was the signal episode of arrogant and ultimately self-defeating American overreach. But there were plenty of other cases of the U.S. government doing the bidding of oil companies and banana barons, and blithely overthrowing left-democratic governments as well as outright communists (or driving nationalist reformers into the arms of communists.) As the late Phil Ochs tauntingly sang, " We're the cops of the world. " Or as Randy Newman mordantly put it, " Let's drop the big one and see what happens. " At the same time, I viewed myself as sensible left. I was the guy at the Moratorium demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s (actually covering them for Pacifica) hoping to make...

A Bright Spot In Obama's Foreign Policy: Iran. Yes, Iran

With a glimmer of success on the horizon, Obama's critics are predicting the apocalypse.

U.S. State Department
U.S. State Department Photo U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his plane after traveling from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Vienna, Austria, on July 13, 2014 for allied talks with Iran about its nuclear program. W ho would’ve ever thought that the Iranian nuclear program—that’s the Iranian nuclear program —would be the bright spot in President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, the place where things were looking up? But that’s the situation we find ourselves in, with talks between Iran and the U.S. and it partners in the p5+1 (the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council—U.S., U.K., France, Russia, and China, plus Germany) having achieved serious progress. This past Sunday was the end of the six-month interim period laid out in the agreement last November in Geneva. The parties agreed to a four-month extension of the talks in order to try and reach a comprehensive agreement. The State Department released a fact sheet on the extension’s terms, noting that Iran had...

Hillary for Liberals: A Conversation With Walter Shapiro

AP Photo/Randy Snyder
AP Photo/Justin Hayworth Campaign buttons are ready for distribution at an Iowa kickoff event for the national Ready for Hillary group led by Craig Smith, senior adviser to the Ready for Hillary group, in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Ready for Hillary is a so-called super PAC building a national network to benefit Clinton if she decides to seek the presidency in 2016. The gathering of Iowa Democrats included the state chairs of both Clinton and President Barack Obama's 2008 campaigns. A s a reporter and columnist for Time , Newsweek , the Washington Post , USA Today , Esquire , Salon , and other publications, Walter Shapiro has covered nine presidential elections and the nation’s politics for four decades. He is currently a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and a lecturer in political science at Yale while he finishes a book about his great-uncle, a vaudevillian and con man who once swindled Hitler. Shapiro is also an accomplished Hillary-...

Alabama Steelworkers Fight for Their Jobs, Threatened By Korea Trade Ruling

The steel industry is under attack by the selling or “dumping” of foreign steel, says the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Alliance for American Manufacturing
Alliance for American Manufacturing Approximately 1,000 supporters of steelworker jobs turned out Monday, June 16 at a rally at the U.S. Steel facilities in Fairfield. The author works for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which works in partnership with the United Steelworkers and other petitioners to the Department of Commerce for an appeal of the department's February ruling in favor of South Korea's steel industry. S tanding high atop Red Mountain overlooking the city of Birmingham, Alabama, is a statue known as the Vulcan. It is the symbol of this scrappy southern city, reminding people of Birmingham’s roots in the iron and steel industries. A depiction of the ancient Roman god of the fire and forge, it is, at fifty-six feet tall, the largest iron statue in the world, and the seventh-tallest, free-standing statue in the United States. While it may not dominate the landscape the way the 125-foot “Christ the Redeemer” statue does in Rio de Janeiro, it is a similar symbolic,...

Netanyahu's Dangerous Posture on Kidnapped Israelis Could Lead to Conflagration

Photo by Tali Mayer/NurPhoto/Sipa USA via AP Images
Photo by Tali Mayer/NurPhoto/Sipa USA via AP Images A mass prayer for the release of three Jewish teenagers, believed to have been snatched from an area between the Israeli occupied West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Hebron while hitchhiking, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 15, 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Islamist Hamas movement of kidnapping three teenagers on the third day of a massive West Bank manhunt for the missing youths. Update, July 1, 1:30 p.m. Israel time (6:30 a.m. EDT): Israeli troops and security agents yesterday afternoon found the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens buried in open country north of Hebron in the West Bank. The manhunt for the two alleged murderers, Hamas activists from Hebron, continues. From the information released so far, it appears that the kidnappers did intend to keep live hostages. But when one of the boys dialed the police and whispered, "We've been kidnapped," their abductors killed them...

Can the U.S. Stop Drones From Creating a More Dangerous World?

A drone launches from the USS Lassen (U.S. Navy photo)
In an op-ed in today's Washington Post , retired Army general John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks, a former Defense Department official, warn that "[t]he United States' drone policies damage its credibility, undermine the rule of law and create a potentially destabilizing international precedent—one that repressive regimes around the globe will undoubtedly exploit." Their argument, which comes from a report they produced for the Stimson Center together with a task force of former defense and intelligence officials, is essentially that unmanned aerial vehicles make the use of lethal force across borders too easy, and we need to establish strict policies limiting their use. True enough. But the question I'm left with is, how much will the United States' policies really determine the worldwide future of drones and their use? Before we get to that, we should acknowledge that President Obama has declared his intention to establish rules restraining his own and future presidents' use of drones. In...

Epic! Cheney Made to Answer to Paul Waldman's Assessment of Iraq Record

Fox News
Fox News host Megyn Kelly yesterday put former Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot, reading to him the words of Prospect Contributing Editor Paul Waldman, and demanding a response. In his other gig at the Washington Post , Waldman wrote a searing assessment of Cheney's recent attack on President Barack Obama's Iraq policy, offered in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with his daughter, Liz, who served in the Bush administration's State Department. In her interview of Dick and Liz Cheney, Kelly read this bit from Waldman's WaPo post : There is not a single person in America...who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault... Then she asked, "The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?" As related...

Should We Listen to Those Who Were Wrong on Iraq in 2002?

Dick and Liz Cheney announcing their new pro-strength organization.
Last week, I wrote a post over at the Washington Post expressing amazement that so many of the people who were so spectacularly wrong on Iraq in 2002 are now returning to tell us what we should do about Iraq in 2014. While it went out under the headline "On Iraq, let's ignore those who got it all wrong," I didn't actually argue specifically that they should be ignored, just that we shouldn't forget their track records when we hear them now (although I did allow that seeking out John McCain's opinion on Iraq is like getting lost and deciding that Mr. Magoo is the person you need to ask for directions). Then yesterday, after Dick Cheney popped up with a predictably tendentious criticism of Barack Obama, I wrote another post on the topic of our former vice president, and here I did get a little more explicit about how his opinions should be greeted, after running through some of his more appalling howlers: There is not a single person in America — not Bill Kristol, not Paul Wolfowitz,...

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