Why is anyone still listening to these people?
“I guess now Dick Cheney knows what it feels like when someone you thought was a friend shoots you in the face.” –Jon Stewart after Megyn Kelly grilled Dick Cheney on Fox about being wrong on Iraq.
Republicans have been trying to blame everything on the Affordable Care Act including long standing health care issues, unemployment, the poor performance of Denver in the Super Bowl, and Justin Beiber’s recent antics. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but to blame Obamacare for any of these problems is untrue. I’ve already discussed the false claims from conservatives that the Congressional Budget Office shows that Obamacare will increase unemployment when it will actually do the reverse and decrease unemployment.
Unemployment is a serious problem but the attempts to tie it to the Affordable Care Act do not hold up. In addition to the information released by the Congressional Budget Office, the argument that employers are not hiring due to the mandate to provide insurance coverage also fails to hold up. The argument fails to take into account the subsidies which will help employers provide the coverage, along with the fact that the employer mandate had not been scheduled to start until 2015. The White House has today announced a further delay in the employer mandate until 2016 for employers with 50 to 99 employees. (The mandate does not affect employers with under 50 employees).
Derek Thompson has more on the myth that Obama has been killing jobs or is responsible for an increase in part-time employment.
Paul Krugman looked more at the unemployed, and how the right wing is impervious to evidence regarding government action.
Steve Benen explains once again what the “insurance trap” means and why freeing people from having to keep their current job to maintain their insurance is a feature, not a bug, of Obamacare. Face it, if the conservatives don’t understand this yet, they are (intentionally) never going to understand.
Update: Sarah Kliff has a good rundown of the additional changes announced today including relaxing the requirements for employees covered by large companies. The most important change is probably that volunteers won’t be counted as full-time employees. There had been some speculation that volunteers such as volunteer firefighters would be covered by the mandate, making it more expensive to use such volunteers. She also makes the valid point that, as the majority of companies offer insurance, the postponement of the employer mandate won’t affect very many people.
The conservative reaction has been to denounce this as a dictatorial action from Obama. If these people are so concerned about potential abuse of Executive power, where were they during the Bush years when Republicans backed the Unitary Executive theory which would greatly expand the power of the President (or during the Busy years, the Vice President)?
Update II: Two more thoughts on the conservative spin:
Strange that they are complaining so much about a delay in the employer mandate when they have been predicting such dire consequences of the mandate.
The reason much of this, right or wrong, is being done by executive order is that the system is broken. We know whose fault that is. Congress has voted, at last count, 47 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act but the Republicans are not willing to work on fine tuning the law as would normally be done after such a huge law was passed.
Cross posted at The Moderate Voice
There’s been more news out about Matt Smith and David Tennant working together, including confirmation that Matt Smith’s is bigger than David Tennant’s:
“Mine’s bigger” confirms Smith. “I won… on that one”. “His is much bigger!” laughs Tennant. Everyone’s since 1963 is bigger than mine! Well, maybe I just don’t have as much to compensate so much; maybe I’m very happy with my sonic’s length. And it does everything it needs to.”
Celebration of the anniversary includes additional events including a TV movie on BBC 2 about the development of the series, An Adventure In Space And Time. Five pictures have been released here, including one with Jessica Raine (of Call the Midwife) as producer Verity Lambert:
Steven Moffat has been teasing the regeneration in recent interviews. From a statement in Doctor Who Magazine, it appears that Matt Smith’s regeneration into Peter Capaldi will occur in the TARDIS:
“Pretty soon [Peter] will arrive and he’ll be whisked off to begin the trip of a lifetime, probably wondering what it will be like, where it will take him, and how long it will last. And about then, Matt Smith will be standing in his TARDIS for the very last time, with his eyes on the studio door – because about to step through is a Scottish actor, dressed as him.”
Moffat discussed the twelve-regeneration limit in an interview with Radio Times:
The fact that the Doctor could be close to using up his apparent limit of 12 regenerations is one that hasn’t passed Doctor Who fans by. What will happen when his time is finally up we don’t know but there’s an assumption that whoever’s in charge of the show will find a way.
After all, there is a precedent here. The Doctor’s Time Lord adversary the Master used up his entire allocation but was handed a new regenerative cycle after taking possession of a non-Time Lord body and later having it restructured (it’s a long story).
However, Steven Moffat today confirmed of the Doctor, “He can only regenerate 12 times”, while simultaneously suggesting there has been a miscalculation of how many regenerations he has actually been through.
“I think you should go back to your DVDs and count correctly this time,” said Moffat, “there’s something you’ve all missed.”
What can it all mean? If we were attempting to explain how the Doctor might already have had more than his fair share of regenerations, we could do it. John Hurt’s newly introduced dark Doctor would presumably add one, making Peter Capaldi the 13th and final incarnation. If we then followed the argument that David Tennant’s tenth Doctor used up a whole dose of regenerative energy when he re-grew his lost hand almost immediately after having transformed from the ninth Doctor, that would give us an illegal 14 versions of the Doctor. Whether the new hand counts as a full regeneration is very much up for debate, of course, but either way these are both arguments for adding not subtracting regenerations.
On the other hand (pardon the pun), we didn’t witness Paul McGann regenerating into either John Hurt’s ninth(?) Doctor or Christopher Eccleston’s ninth/tenth Doctor. If somehow neither of those counted as regenerations we would have one fewer than we’d previously thought – Matt Smith would be the tenth Doctor and Peter Capaldi would be the 11th. But how could the Doctor have changed bodies without regenerating?
Needless to say, there has been a lot of speculation regarding this on various blogs.
It seems that in recent years there have been more genre shows and movies which attract female following–not that these shows are for women only. I had almost skipped Once Upon A Time in Wonderland until I read good reviews of the first episode, and thought the second episode was even better. In this version, Alice is an older action figure, not a small girl, and she is in love with a different version of the Genie from Aladin. Besides the new impressions of classic Disney characters, the magic in Wonderland reminds me of the fun in the early Harry Potter movies. The original version of Once Upon A Time, is spending the season in Neverland. The creators of the shows, who previously worked on Lost, discussed the two shows, and explained why the made Peter Pan evil in this interview.
Arrow, which is also fun even if sometimes feeling too much like a soap opera, ended with quite a cliff hanger. Earlier in the episode, Oliver Queen acknowledged the same issue I brought up last week and made Felicity his executive assistant (over her objections) to explain why he spends his days as well as nights with her. (“And I love spending the night with you.”) Laurel tried to explain why she suddenly hates the vigilante so much but it is hard to accept her arguments as to why he is to blame for Tommy’s death. This leads to the cliff hanger and brings up two more of my ongoing complaints about the series (or two reasons why it is best to just enjoy the show and not to think much about it). We have seen repeated examples of predictable crimes with little done to prevent them. With medical supplies being stolen, you would think that guarding the trucks carrying them would be a top priority for police. That didn’t happen as it turns out that Laurel had all the well-armed police officers on stand-by for the next time the vigilante encountered her. In the past, Oliver has escaped such traps with far too little difficulty. With all the guns aimed at him, I hope they come up with a more creative and plausible way for him to escape.
Steve Buscemi of Boardwalk Empire hopes people remember the shutdown in the next election:
“I think the shutdown is ridiculous. I think the Republicans in Congress are holding the country hostage. I think it’s criminal. I don’t see why they’re allowed to do it.” Buscemi on politics livens up. “The Tea Party faction of the Republican party are holding the Republican party hostage. They’ve hijacked it. I don’t understand their philosophy. I think that in their own hearts and minds there’s a reason why they feel they’re doing good. But I certainly don’t agree with it. And I hope the shutdown effects change. I hope people remember this in the next cycle of elections.”
The assassination of the Vice President on Homeland was not only plausible, but a scenario which Dick Cheney’s doctor had taken precautions against several years previously.
BBC America is going for even more genre:
BBC America has greenlit Intruders, an eight-episode original series based on Michael Marshall Smith’s 2007 novel The Intruders. Glen Morgan (The X-Files, Those Who Kill) is the writer and executive producer on the series that’s about a secret society devoted to chasing immortality by seeking refuge in the bodies of others. BBC Worldwide Prods is producing, with production to begin in early spring 2014. Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner are exec producing, and BBC Worldwide is handling global distribution. The Intruders joins BBC America’s breakout original drama Orphan Black.
Community is returning to Thursday nights on January 2. Unfortunately, in terms of ratings, it goes up against The Big Bang Theory again. That’s why we have DVR’s.
This week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory included a break-out event for Sheldon Cooper. He was relieved to learn that the old adage about not defecating where you eat does not mean he shouldn’t use the men’s room at the Cheesecake Factory: “Not as relieved as I’m about to be. It’s a brave new world, little lady.” Amy saw a bright spot in Sheldon’s incessant knocking: “I don’t mind. I’m hoping to put his love of repetition to use someday.” Meanwhile Raj got it right while watching Howard digging himself into quite a hole when talking to Bernadette: “His only options here are to fake a heart attack or have a real one.” She didn’t fall for it, especially when he chose the wrong arm.
I have often randomly pulled up old episodes of The Big Bang Theory to rewatch. It might be easier to choose which episode the next fifteen times I do this if I follow this guide to the top fifteen episodes. I may or may not wind up agreeing as to whether they are the fifteen best, but I’m sure they will all be excellent.
Also on last Thursday’s sit-coms, Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black added comedy to the many roles she plays on Parks and Recreation. She will return next week.
On Homeland, Nick Brody helped kill the Vice President in a plot involving taking remote control of his pacemaker. This led to a number of articles, such as here, explaining that this really could be done. In an interview on Sixty Minutes, we found that Dick Cherney’s cardiologist had anticipated this risk five years earlier:
Before he had a heart transplant 20 months ago, Cheney was a seriously ill man who had undergone several life-saving procedures, including the implantation of a defibrillator. Cheney had that replaced in 2007 and his doctor, cardiologist Jonathan Reiner, with whom he wrote the book, had the device’s wireless function disabled so a terrorist couldn’t send his heart a fatal shock. Some years later, Cheney was watching an episode of the SHOWTIME hit “Homeland,” in which that terrorist scenario was woven into the plot. “I was aware of the danger…that existed…I found it credible,” he responds to Gupta when asked what went through his mind. “I know from the experience we had and the necessity for adjusting my own device, that it was an accurate portrayal of what was possible,” says Cheney.
News reports do not answer the questions top in our minds: Does Liz, like her father, lack a beating heart? Does she have a reflection in the mirror? Can she be warded off with garlic? What type of spell is she casting in the picture above?
Barack Obama has responded to some of the civil liberties concerns raised recently in an interview with Charlie Rose. He did provided two proposals to respond to the questions raised about the surveillance programs. Here is a partial transcript via Buzzfeed:
Barack Obama: Well, in the end, and what I’ve said, and I continue to believe, is that we don’t have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. That’s a false choice. That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take. So all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports, which when we were growing up that wasn’t the case…. And so that’s a tradeoff we make, the same way we make a tradeoff about drunk driving. We say, “Occasionally there are going to be checkpoints. They may be intrusive.” To say there’s a tradeoff doesn’t mean somehow that we’ve abandoned freedom. I don’t think anybody says we’re no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports.
Charlie Rose: But there is a balance here.
Barack Obama: But there is a balance, so I’m going to get to your — get to your question. The way I view it, my job is both to protect the American people and to protect the American way of life, which includes our privacy. And so every program that we engage in, what I’ve said is “Let’s examine and make sure that we’re making the right tradeoffs.” Now, with respect to the NSA, a government agency that has been in the intelligence gathering business for a very long time —
Charlie Rose: Bigger and better than everybody else.
Barack Obama: Bigger and better than everybody else, and we should take pride in that because they’re extraordinary professionals; they are dedicated to keeping the American people safe. What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails … and have not. They cannot and have not, by law and by rule, and unless they — and usually it wouldn’t be “they,” it’d be the FBI — go to a court, and obtain a warrant, and seek probable cause, the same way it’s always been, the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you want to go set up a wiretap, you got to go to a judge, show probable cause….
So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule. There are two programs that were revealed by Mr. Snowden, allegedly, since there’s a criminal investigation taking place, and they caused all the ruckus. Program number one, called the 2015 Program, what that does is it gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically you have call pairs. You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there. Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there’s a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors. Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did any of the — did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there’s no content that —
Charlie Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.
Barack Obama: Well, let me — let me finish, because I don’t. So, what happens is that the FBI — if, in fact, it now wants to get content; if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone — it’s got to go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.
Charlie Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?
Barack Obama: The — because — the — first of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.
Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?
Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court…. The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee — but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.
Now, one last point I want to make, because what you’ll hear is people say, “Okay, we have no evidence that it has been abused so far.” And they say, “Let’s even grant that Obama’s not abusing it, that all these processes — DOJ is examining it. It’s being renewed periodically, et cetera — the very fact that there is all this data in bulk, it has the enormous potential for abuse,” because they’ll say, you know, “You can — when you start looking at metadata, even if you don’t know the names, you can match it up, if there’s a call to an oncologist, and there’s a call to a lawyer, and — you can pair that up and figure out maybe this person’s dying, and they’re writing their will, and you can yield all this information.” All of that is true. Except for the fact that for the government, under the program right now, to do that, it would be illegal. We would not be allowed to do that.
Charlie Rose: So, what are you going to change? Are you going to issue any kind of instructions to the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Clapper, and say, “I want you to change it at least in this way”?
Barack Obama: Here’s what we need to do. But before I say that — and I know that we’re running out of time, but I want to make sure I get very clear on this. Because there has been a lot of mis-information out there. There is a second program called the 702 program. And what that does is that does not apply to any U.S. person. Has to be a foreign entity. It can only be narrowly related to counter-terrorism, weapons proliferation, cyber hacking or attacks, and a select number of identifiers — phone numbers, emails, et cetera. Those — and the process has all been approved by the courts — you can send to providers — the Yahoos or the Googles, what have you. And in the same way that you present essentially a warrant. And what will happen then is that you there can obtain content. But again, that does not apply to U.S. persons. And it’s only in these very narrow bands. So, you asked, what should we do? …What I’ve said is — is that what is a legitimate concern — a legitimate critique — is that because these are classified programs — even though we have all these systems of checks and balances, Congress is overseeing it, federal courts are overseeing it — despite all that, the public may not fully know. And that can make the public kind of nervous, right? Because they say, “Well, Obama says it’s okay — or Congress says it’s okay. I don’t know who this judge is. I’m nervous about it.” What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, number one. And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at because frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.
Number two. I’ve stood up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board, made up of independent citizens including some fierce civil libertarians. I’ll be meeting with them. And what I want to do is to set up and structure a national conversation, not only about these two programs, but also the general problem of data, big data sets, because this is not going to be restricted to government entities.
Charlie Rose: Let me just ask you this. If someone leaks all this information about NSA surveillance, as Mr. Snowden did…. Did it cause national security damage to the United States, and therefore, should he be prosecuted?
Barack Obama: I’m not going to comment on prosecution…. The case has been referred to the DOJ for criminal investigation… and possible extradition. I will leave it up to them to answer those questions.
Obama Also Cited a Prosecution in Defense of the Programs
This defense has been widely dismissed:
The one thing people should understand about all these programs though is they have disrupted plots, not just here in the United States but overseas as well. And, you know, you’ve got a guy like Najibullah Zazi, who was driving cross country trying to blow up a New York subway system. Now, we might have caught him some other way. We might have disrupted it because a New York cop saw he was suspicious. Maybe he turned out to be incompetent and the bomb didn’t go off. But at the margins we are increasing our chances of preventing a catastrophe like that through these programs. And then the question becomes, “Can we trust all the systems government enough as long as they’re checking each other that our privacy is not being abused, that we are able to prevent some of the tragedies that unfortunately there are people out there who are going to continue to try to — try to strike against us.
Obama’s two proposals, declassifying some of the information so that the public can better evaluate the surveillance programs and setting up a privacy and civil liberties advisory board, are steps in the right direction. We will need to see how much is really declassified and how effective this board turns out to be. While the system has not been as transparent as Obama suggests in this interview, the system has been more transparent under Obama than under George Bush.
I am not reassured by his response to the question on the FISA courts when Obama responded, “the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.” The number of requests would be expected to be lower when such massive amounts of data are being requested in a single request. Requesting all phone records, even if only metadata, is not indicative of a query with a good suspicion.
I do consider it a point in Obama’s favor that he is not commenting on prosecution of Snowden other than referring it to the Department of Justice. This is far preferable to people like John Boehner, Dick Cheney, and even Diane Feinstein calling him a traitor. I am not very worried about abuses occurring under Barack Obama (not that we can be certain they haven’t occurred). I am more concerned that we are building a infrastructure for a police state which could be misused by people like Dick Cheney or John Boehner
I only heard portions of Barack Obama’s speech while driving to and from lunch today but did like what I heard. It was clear that whether or not I wound up agreeing with everything, contrary to claims from portions of both the left and right, Barack Obama is no Richard Nixon or George Bush. For now I am relying on the prepared text, which lacks the portion where I hear Obama did an excellent job of responding to the criticism of a heckler. While we could question if some of this is being said later than desired, there was much in today’s speech which I did like, such as addressing this early in the speech: “I believe we compromised our basic values – by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.”
Obama discussed our triumphs in fighting al Qaeda , and then its cost:
These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our service-members and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.
So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.
He recognized that victories over terrorist groups often come from targeted efforts and police actions as opposed to the Bush/Cheney concept of a global war on terror:
Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we are providing military aid to a French-led intervention to push back al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.
Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. That’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of Yemen is now in prison in New York. That’s how we worked with European allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom. That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic.
Obama called for greater oversight over the use of drones and targeted killing, and greater transparency:
This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil…
Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.
I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.
He called for a media shield to protect journalists:
Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.
While Republicans were leading us into a perpetual war, Obama realizes that, like all wars, this war must end:
The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.
He is addressing the continued detaining of prisoners at Guantánamo:
Today, I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from GTMO. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions. I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.
Even after we take these steps, one issue will remain: how to deal with those GTMO detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks, but who cannot be prosecuted – for example because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing GTMO, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.
I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future – ten years from now, or twenty years from now – when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country. Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?
The president does not micromanage every action by the United States government and, as Ed Kilgore and David Weigel pointed out, Obama did try to hold the Congressional Republicans for their actions:
One thing is fairly clear: the speech poses a challenge to congressional Republicans that may not be that easy for them to meet, distracted as they are and as divided as they tend to be on national security policy these days. As Slate’s Dave Weigel quickly noted, Obama four times shifted responsibility for current dilemmas at least partially to Congress: on drones (where he insisted the appropriate congressional committees have known about every single strike); on embassy security; on the 9/11-era legal regime that still governs anti-terrorist efforts; and on Gitmo (where Republicans have repeatedly thwarted effort to transfer detainees to U.S. prisons). But like critical reporters, Republicans, other than neocons who want GWOT not only to be maintained but intensified, will probably tear off tasty chunks of the speech and masticate them noisily, or just dismiss it all and get back onto the crazy train of Scandalmania ‘13.
David Corn sees this as Obama taking the middle ground:
Not shockingly, Obama is attempting to find middle ground, where there is more oversight and more restraint regarding activities that pose serious civil liberties and policy challenges. The McCainiacs of the world are likely to howl about any effort to place the effort to counter terrorism into a more balanced perspective. The civil libertarians will scoff at half measures. But Obama, at the least, is showing that he does ponder these difficult issues in a deliberative manner and is still attempting to steer the nation into a post-9/11 period. That journey, though, may be a long one.
He is also looking for a middle ground which considers our security needs in the era of international terrorism along with the need to respect civil liberties and the principles which the nation was founded upon. He might not get it completely right, and the answers are not always entirely clear but, contrary to Bush and Cheney, he is considering the key issues.
In case anyone still had any doubt that George Bush and Dick Cheney should be tried as war criminals, a bipartisan report confirms the long-standing criticism of torture being used under them:
A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture” and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning.
Debate over the coercive interrogation methods used by the administration of President George W. Bush has often broken down on largely partisan lines. The Constitution Project’s task force on detainee treatment, led by two former members of Congress with experience in the executive branch — a Republican, Asa Hutchinson, and a Democrat, James R. Jones — seeks to produce a stronger national consensus on the torture question.
While the task force did not have access to classified records, it is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs. A separate 6,000-page report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s record by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on agency records, rather than interviews, remains classified.
“As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture,” the report says.
The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.
Interrogation and abuse at the C.I.A.’s so-called black sites, the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba and war-zone detention centers, have been described in considerable detail by the news media and in declassified documents, though the Constitution Project report adds many new details.
It confirms a report by Human Rights Watch that one or more Libyan militants were waterboarded by the C.I.A., challenging the agency’s longtime assertion that only three Al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the near-drowning technique. It includes a detailed account by Albert J. Shimkus Jr., then a Navy captain who ran a hospital for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison, of his own disillusionment when he discovered what he considered to be the unethical mistreatment of prisoners.
But the report’s main significance may be its attempt to assess what the United States government did in the years after 2001 and how it should be judged. The C.I.A. not only waterboarded prisoners, but slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, stripped them of clothing and kept them awake for days on end.
The question of whether those methods amounted to torture is a historically and legally momentous issue that has been debated for more than a decade inside and outside the government. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel wrote a series of legal opinions from 2002 to 2005 concluding that the methods were not torture if used under strict rules; all the memos were later withdrawn. News organizations have wrestled with whether to label the brutal methods unequivocally as torture in the face of some government officials’ claims that they were not.
In addition, the United States is a signatory to the international Convention Against Torture, which requires the prompt investigation of allegations of torture and the compensation of its victims.
Like the still-secret Senate interrogation report, the Constitution Project study was initiated after President Obama decided in 2009 not to support a national commission to investigate the post-9/11 counterterrorism programs, as proposed by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others. Mr. Obama said then that he wanted to “look forward, not backward.” Aides have said he feared that his own policy agenda might get sidetracked in a battle over his predecessor’s programs.
The panel studied the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A’s secret prisons. Staff members, including the executive director, Neil A. Lewis, a former reporter for The New York Times, traveled to multiple detention sites and interviewed dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as former detainees.
Mr. Hutchinson, who served in the Bush administration as chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration and under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he “took convincing” on the torture issue. But after the panel’s nearly two years of research, he said he had no doubts about what the United States did.
“This has not been an easy inquiry for me, because I know many of the players,” Mr. Hutchinson said in an interview. He said he thought everyone involved in decisions, from Mr. Bush down, had acted in good faith, in a desperate effort to try to prevent more attacks.
“But I just think we learn from history,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “It’s incredibly important to have an accurate account not just of what happened but of how decisions were made.”
He added, “The United States has a historic and unique character, and part of that character is that we do not torture.”
The panel found that the United States violated its international legal obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret detentions. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released, saying they conflict with independent reviews.
Many on the right justified these actions belieing they were necessary for our national security. Therefore I will repeat the line above which points out: The use of torture, the report concludes, has “no justification” and “damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.” The task force found “no firm or persuasive evidence” that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While “a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information,” much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.