President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden and retired military members, signs executive orders and a presidential directive aimed at closing the Guantánamo Bay detention center. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
As majestic and spacious as it is vague, President Obama's draft executive order directing the shuttering of the prison colony at Guantánamo is at once transformative and evasive.
Obama has taken a critical step in the right direction. But he has also evaded the hardest moral and legal quagmires of the Bush administration, denying both his critics a target and the many innocent detainees the swift relief they deserve. The result is a masterpiece of subtle political indirection -- one that captures and exploits the moral poverty and specious reasoning of national debate over Guantánamo, even as it offers a promissory note for transformation in the future.
Justice Scalia's opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, invalidating the District of Columbia's gun law, is significant on account of more than its bare holding conclusion that Americans have a personal right to carry a firearm. Scalia's arguments and logic have implications for how an increasingly conservative Court treats cases. For careful readers, Heller has striking lessons about whose rights the Court protects, what "judicial modesty" in fact means, and the quality of respect the Court shows for democratic institutions. If Heller is a harbinger of decisions to come, it should sow deep concern.
Less than ten years ago, two respected research engineers wrote a book about privacy and telecommunications. In large measure, that book, by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau, focused on cryptography -- the science of encrypting information -- and the Clinton administration's insistence on installing "escrow" devices, or backdoors into encryption systems, that only it could access.