Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cheney & Co. Wanted to Deploy the U.S. Military on American Soil

The Virginia Bar Exam looms, but I'm taking a break from studying to draw your attention to this.

The New York Times reports in this article that the Bush Administration toyed with the idea of using the military to round up terrorists on U.S. soil. Such an action is banned by the Posse Comitatus Act which says that the military cannot be used on U.S. soil to carry out police or law enforcement operations unless expressly authorized by the Constitution or the U.S. Congress. Bush officials considered trying to circumvent this law specifically in the instance of the arrest of the Lackawanna Six which was a terrorist cell located just outside of Buffalo, NY.

In my opinion, this is the most disconcerting idea of an administration that came up with some truly terrible ones. I think that this is worse than the "enhanced interrogation techniques" or the military detention at Guantanamo Bay. It's worse because it shows just how power hungry and out of touch major players in the Bush administration were. I don't defend torture or the detention at Gitmo, if you've read my blog you would know that, but I can see how a misguided sense of patriotism might lead someone to think that the war on terror necessitates taking extreme steps. If you torture people maybe you can get them to talk and you can save lives and avert disaster. If you lock up terrorists indefinitely then you can stop them from carrying out terrorist attacks. Neither of these practices stands on solid legal ground, but you can rationalize them because you can make a logical argument that they are aimed at keeping Americans safe and generally keeping the peace. That logic is completely missing when you talk about using the military to arrest terrorists on U.S. soil. Can you imagine the panic that would ensue if people saw the military rolling down their street? Imagine sitting at home one afternoon watching The Price is Right and you look out of your window and see an Abrams tank parked on your neighbor's yard with a group of soldiers breaking down the door. I can see two obvious arguments as to why this is a terrible idea - one argument is basically ideological and one is practical.

First of all, from an ideological standpoint, that is the kind of thing you would expect to see in some third-world country where the government uses its military to keep control of the people. It's like having a loaded gun pointed at the populus. The government uses the military to keep people in check through fear brought about by the coercive presence of the military. This is the United States. This is supposed to be a place where the people are free of oppression and tyranny. We have a system of laws in place that is meant to stop someone from centralizing too much power and using it to control the country. There is no more powerful thing in this country than the military. In fact, the United States military is the most powerful force on the planet. Allowing it to be deployed domestically would tip the scales of power dramatically towards whoever controlled it.

Secondly, from a practical standpoint, if your goal is to keep Americans safe and allow them to carry on with their daily lives, sending the military out into the streets is not the way to do it. That is what the police and federal law enforcement agencies are for. Americans are under the belief that domestic law enforcement agencies are capable of keeping us safe here at home. The message that would be sent in sending the military out to perform the work of police forces is that the problem has gotten so out of hand that those forces that have protected here at home for so long are no longer capable of protecting Americans. That kind of message doesn't comfort people, but rather makes them scared and hyper-paranoid.

Some of you may be able to guess the officials that supported this plan. It's the usual suspects that were behind all of Bush's worst ideas: Dick Cheney, John Yoo, and David Addington. There were others as well, but these seem to be the most vocal of the group. There's absolutely no explanation for this idea other than their penchant to raise the stakes in every situation and try to squeeze every drop of power possible from the leeway the American people gave to the federal government after September 11th. The justification for the plan was that arresting terrorists on American soil was a national security action, not a police action, and therefore it would not be barred by the Posse Comitatus Act. That is just absolutely absurd, but even if that justification were true, why would you do it? Local and federal police authorities are perfectly well equipped to arrest terrorists. They've done it many times, and never once has someone said "Man, we really should have brought the military in on this one." These terrorists in America try to blend in to the community. They try to live just like all of us, in houses or apartments. They don't construct heavily fortified structures that we need military level strength to penetrate. Sending in the military is a complete overreaction. The thought of using soldiers to apprehend terrorists here would almost be a laughable overreaction if the precedent it would have set wasn't so terrifying. It seems like the creators of this idea simply wanted to do it just because they thought they could. They can't have thought about how extreme the consequences would be. The lengths to which these people thought they were justified in going is disturbing, luckily more level heads such as Condoleeza Rice and John Bellinger prevailed, but I shudder to think what would have happened if they didn't.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

H to the Izzo - Jay-Z as a Paradigm for International Relations?

Music, clothes, vodka. You knew it was only a matter of time until Hov got into international relations. This is just an awesome piece.

Also, I would like to officially welcome The Game back to the headlines even if it is in the form of a blog post on Foreign Policy. Take what you can get Game.

I Knew It

The CIA secret program everyone has been talking about was revealed to be a program designed to use assassins to take out Bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda leadership. Voodoo told you in his last post that he had a feeling it was a Jason Bourne-esque assassination program (this one appears to be minus the mind control). I'm good. To be honest you probably don't have to be a genius to guess that a super-secret CIA program will involve assassination. I still got it right though.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Bourne Reality?

When I read about this ultra-secret CIA program that everyone is talking about I can't help but think of Jason Bourne. To be clear, I have no evidence, nor am I trying to say in anyway, that the Agency was engaged in a program where it used mind control to turn people into unstoppable assassing, but I can't get images of this out of my head.

The Government Will Launch an Investigation Into Some Torture Allegations

Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that he will appoint a prosecutor to investigate allegations that some government employees may have tortured terrorism suspect even beyond the scope of authority given to them in the now infamous torture memos. President Obama has stated that he will not seek to prosecute the Bush administration officials who wrote the memos or those employees who acted in the good faith belief that those memos authorized them to use tactics that have since been determined to be torture. This investigation is different because it will target investigators that engaged in activities that were outside the bounds of any kind of authority.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Al Qaeda in Africa

It's bar exam crunch time right now so I apologize for not posting very much. Just saw this New York Times article about increased Al Qaeda activity in North Africa. In the recent weeks attacks against Westerners and local residents have increased in Algeria, Mauritania, and Mali. The article says that the groups there are less ideologically motivated than they are economically motivated, but that doesn't seem to stem the severity of the attacks.

No matter what motivates them, I think Africa is the logical place for AQ to move to. As I've said in past posts, it is already happening in Somalia. The elements that make Somalia an ideal place for AQ to grab a foothold are present in numerous other African nations like the ones named in this article.

In other news, there have been a couple of developments on the legal front of national security, but I get my fill of legal content every day so it's hard to summon the motivation to read more of it. I will try to post something about them soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Glenn Beck and Michael Scheuer Have a Chat... Insanity Ensues

Even when I don't have time to ridicule Glenn's show he still finds a way to get on to this blog. There is one key difference in this post and the other Glenn-based posts, and that difference is that Glenn is not the craziest person involved this time. Extremism is supplied to us in this instance by former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer. For those of you unfamiliar with Scheuer he was in charge of a CIA program dedicated to tracking Osama Bin Laden ("OBL") called "Alec Station." He has since left the Agency, but he remains vocal (understatement) about national security matters. In this interview with Glenn he says that the only chance this country has is for OBL to successfully use a weapon of mass destruction against the United States. He then goes on to insinuate that the U.S. has not used the necessary amount of violence to protect itself since 9/11.

If these statements strike you as odd you are not alone. Voodoo is with you on that one my friend. For starters I find it odd that a WMD attack will make this country more safe. For some crazy reason I feel that it would make the country less safe. For example, New York City, as it exists now, would be a lovely and relatively safe place for a visit this summer. I encourage you to take your family there. On the other hand if terrorists detonated a nuclear weapon in Manhattan tomorrow your choice of vacation spot would be slightly less picturesque and safe as there would be possibly millions of dead bodies there, and the resulting nuclear fallout would render the city uninhabitable for the next 20 years. Under these circumstances I would not recommend you take your family there. Based on these facts I will put my reputation on the line and say that NYC, and the U.S. as a whole, is definitely safer now than it would be in the event of a WMD attack. I will also respectfully disagree with the implication that the U.S. has not used the requisite amount of violence to protect itself. Some might even say we've used too much seeing as how we've started wars in two different countries (three if you count the move to Pakistan) that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of soldiers, terrorists, and civilians. We also tortured a bunch of people.

In conclusion: 1) We are safer in the absence of a WMD attack; and 2) Starting two wars and torturing people is, at the very least, a reasonable reaction to terrorism. These are just my thoughts of course. Voodoo encourages debate so if you feel that Scheuer is the only voice of reason left in this crazy, pansy-ass country let me know.

Oh and of course, welcome back Glenn.