Tonight at 9 p.m. ET President Obama will give his final State of the Union address. (Barring unexpected developments.) He is expected to reflect on his legacy in office and also look towards the future with the same optimistic viewpoint which has always been a signature of his political identity. [more inside]
Tonight at 9 EST Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley will come together for a debate in Iowa at Drake University. [more inside]
During the 1980s and ’90s, the historic alliance between the wealthy monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the country’s powerful clerics emerged as the major financier of international jihad, channeling tens of millions of dollars to Muslim fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere. Among the project’s major patrons was Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who last month became Saudi Arabia’s king. [more inside]
Canada's government on Friday introduced its new anti-terror legislation, a sweeping range of measures that would allow suspects to be detained based on less evidence and let CSIS actively interfere with suspects' travel plans and finances. [more inside]
Over the last few days, as the United States has stepped up its bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria, it has been hard to escape another reality: the US is still looking for a coherent strategy against the Islamic State. [more inside]
Above all, what these experiences demonstrate is that there isn’t really an alternative to talking to the terrorists if you want the conflict to end. Hugh Orde, the former chief constable in Northern Ireland, rightly says, “There is no example that I know of, of terrorism being policed out” – or fully defeated by physical force – anywhere in the world. Petraeus said that it was clear in Iraq that “we would not be able to kill or capture our way out of the industrial-strength insurgency that was tearing apart the very fabric of Iraqi society”. If you can’t kill them all, then sooner or later you come back to the same point, and it is a question of when, not whether, you talk. If there is a political cause then there has to be a political solution. [more inside]
Politically Incorrect was an American late-night, half-hour political talk show hosted by Bill Maher that ran from 1993 to 2002, first on Comedy Central and then on ABC. Four guests (usually including at least one comedian) would debate topics across the political spectrum in what Maher once described as “The McLaughlin Group on acid.” Of the 1300+ episodes produced, 190 can be viewed on YouTube. [more inside]
The Interpreters We Left Behind. "As our troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we're abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we'd let them in."
Imagine two politicians: One preaches fear and excessive "security," while the other says terrorism is a negligible risk. They hold, like me, that risk is part of life, and that while some security is necessary, we should mostly just refuse to be terrorized and get on with our lives. Fast-forward 10 years. If I'm right and there have been no more terrorist attacks, the preacher of fear takes credit for keeping us safe. But if a terrorist attack has occurred, my government career is over.
Murder of an Idealist. "For six hours on September 11, the American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, stood siege. When the attack was over, J. Christopher Stevens's body was pulled from the wreckage—the first U.S. ambassador killed by militants in over thirty years. Since then, his death has been politicized and the details of the attack distorted. Sean Flynn straightens out the story of Stevens's last days in Libya—and reveals the true believer we lost that day."
The Permanent War (video). "This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing." Part 1: Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists. Part 2: A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counterterrorism policy. Part 3: Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations. [more inside]
Our leaders -- of both parties -- have systematically infantilized Americans to believe that perfect security is attainable. This is one reason the White House reacts so defensively to any intimation that its conduct of the war on al-Qaeda is less than perfect. It’s one reason Republicans cynically argue that the administration is incompetent in its prosecution of the war, and in its mission to keep U.S. personnel alive. So long as both parties react so small-mindedly and opportunistically to the terrorist threat, we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war. - Jeffrey Goldberg, Benghazi Attack Brings Infantilizing Response
"From the ground, drones are terrifying weapons that can be heard circling overhead for hours at a time."
"What's that buzzing sound?" Foreign Policy's third annual War Issue focuses on what it calls "Barack Obama's Secret Wars," including My Drone War, in which a Pakistani journalist for Newsday and the NYT describes what drone warfare looks and sounds like from the ground; The Obama Doctrine, which argues drone warfare is a failing strategy in both Yemen and Pakistan; The Evolution of Drone Warfare: A Photo History, 1917-2010, and more. The package also includes two takes on cyberwar - Cyberwar is still more hype than hazard and Cyberwar Is Already Upon Us - along with a lot of interesting links.
At first glance, the new inside-the-CIA Showtime series Homeland looks like a cynical socio-political potboiler -- an attempt to exploit fears of a terrorist attack on American soil by Muslim extremists. In reality, the critically acclaimed show, about an anti-terrorism agent (Claire Danes) tracking a U.S. Marine war hero (Damian Lewis) who may now be working for what's left of Al Qaeda, is thoughtful and emotionally complex despite its airplane-thriller trappings. That's why showrunners Howard Gordon and his buddy Alex Gansa gave an interview to Mother Jones, a self-described "news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting." Reflecting on lessons they learned in the trenches of 24, they talk about Homeland's self-aware approach to paranoia as entertainment, and how "dangerous and politically incendiary" a TV show can be .
Following a months-long investigation, the Department of Justice has announced the existence of a well-funded plot "conceived, sponsored and directed" by "high-ranking members of the Iranian government" to assassinate Saudi Arabian ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir on U.S. soil in conjunction with informants in Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas. The "Hollywood" plot, revealed in an afternoon press conference and described in a detailed 21-page complaint [PDF], is alleged to have involved an attack on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. One suspect, naturalized American citizen Arbab Arbabsiar, has been arrested, while co-conspirator and Quds Force member Gholam Shakuri remains at large. Iranian officials were quick to label the charges a "fabrication" intended to distract from America's economic troubles.
Coming Apart: After 9/11 transfixed America, the country’s problems were left to rot. "No national consensus formed around 9/11. Indeed, the decade since has destroyed the very possibility of a common narrative."
The Memorial. "People talk a lot about the "healing process." Well, this is New York. In the aftermath of a tragedy of monumental proportions, the healing process has been noisy and rude, with elbows out, redolent of greed, power, and the darker forces that drive human existence. And most of the shouting has been about how to make a fitting monument to what happened here. But in a hundred years, all the shouting and all the politics will be forgotten. What will be remembered is what is built here, now, on these sixteen acres." [more inside]
"This is the retaliation for the killing of Osama bin Laden" - At least 70 Killed at military training centre in North-West Pakistan. Pakistan Taliban claim responsibility.
How Britain's largest corporations helped engineer the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.
Cartoonist Tim Kreider (previously, previously) of The Pain talks about the last decade, our "disastrous decline" and his latest book of cartoons and essays, Twilight Of The Assholes. Part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
The Combating Terrorism Act (C-17) has passed second reading in Canada's House of Commons with the support of both Liberals and Conservatives. The bill would allow terrorism suspects to be jailed without trial for up to 12 months. So far it has been completely ignored by Canada's mainstream media. [more inside]
Court Affirms Ban on Aiding Groups Tied to Terror. "In a case pitting free speech against national security, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld a federal law (PDF) that makes it a crime to provide 'material support' to foreign terrorist organizations, even if the help takes the form of training for peacefully resolving conflicts."
The FBI has released their extensive files on US Senator Edward M. Kennedy to the public, covering their relationship with him between 1961 and 1985. The seven files, totaling more than 2,200 pages of documents reveal (among other things,) the perhaps unsurprising news that the late Senator received "scores" of death threats from radical groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, “Minutemen” organizations, and the National Socialist White People’s Party. The release was initiated by a Freedom of Information Act Request from Judicial Watch on May 3, 2010, (Complaint pdf) but the FBI gave the Senator's family the "rare opportunity" to raise objections before releasing the file.
Threats of right wing violence have doubled in the past year. What is behind the latest upsurge in the movement to create a Christian theocratic state? [more inside]
Fantasy Meets Reality. The very best works of science fiction illuminate controversial current events and the intricacies of human nature. So, it's no surprise that the United Nations Public Information Department and the Sci Fi (SyFy?) Channel co-hosted a panel yesterday evening on "humanitarian concerns" at the UN, with the creators and actors of Battlestar Galactica -- a show which regularly explores those themes. A 2-hour video webcast is archived here. (RealPlayer video). Entertainment Weekly has an additional write-up. [more inside]
Illusions of Victory: How the United States Did Not Reinvent War… But Thought It Did. Is Perpetual War Our Future? Learning the Wrong Lessons from the Bush Era. Two excerpts from The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, the new book by Andrew Bacevich (previously: 1, 2, 3, 4).
2009: A True Story. "My name is Sara Ford and I am 18 years old. I moved to California at the end of last year. Before the first attacks... before everything changed." [Via] [more inside]
Gen. Vang Pao’s Last War. "The U.S. government relied on Vang Pao and his Hmong soldiers to battle Communism in the jungles of Laos. Why is the Justice Department now calling him a terrorist?" [more inside]
Biomaterial charges against N.Y. art professor dismissed. A judge has thrown out the charges against Steve Kurtz. Finally. Kurtz's case was previously discussed here and here. [Via]
ACLU Watch List Counter: U.S. Terror List Now Exceeds 900,000 Names. That's an awful lot of terrorists. More Privacy and Surveillance Filter: Bruce Schneier on The Myth of the 'Transparent Society', Glenn Greenwald on The Banality of the Surveillance State, and Stephen Colbert on AT & Treason. [more inside]
"The Billboard Liberation Front today announced a major new advertising improvement campaign executed on behalf of clients AT&T and the National Security Agency. Focusing on billboards in the San Francisco area, this improvement action is designed to promote and celebrate the innovative collaboration of these two global communications giants." [Via Threat Level.]
Stumbling into chaos: Afghanistan on the brink. A report from the Senlis Council think tank claims that the Taliban has a permanent presence in more than half of Afghan territory and the country is in serious danger of falling back into their hands. The Canadian and British governments disagree.
HR 1955 : The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens. While the United States must continue its vigilant efforts to combat international terrorism, it must also strengthen efforts to combat the threat posed by homegrown terrorists based and operating within the United States.
Tame Iti, Maori activist, is no stranger to controversy - with his full facial moko he has a face you won't soon forget. But is he a terrorist? Recently, the New Zealand Police force carried out a series of "raids" against a "training camp" in the north island, in the first use of the Terrorism Suppression Act, legislated in 2002. The act itself is not without it's critics but the country seems divided about the raids. Deluded extremists? Harmless Activist? or Real Threat? Some have claimed the raids are politically motivated, enacted by a police force with a declining public image. The whole case is racially loaded [more inside]
Today's Washington Post: "The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials." [more inside]
Surveillance Society Clock. "It's six minutes before midnight as a surveillance society draws near within the United States." [Via Danger Room.]
Homeland Insecurity. "What happened to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which Democratic leaders promised to make one of their top legislative priorities? What are the most deadly potential terrorist targets no one talks about—and who's lobbying against securing them? What's the one measure that could improve our chances of preventing an attack—without costing a penny? Why are the 2008 presidential candidates—Republicans and Democrats alike—nowhere on this issue? In this seven-part series Mother Jones' senior correspondent James Ridgeway examines how the government has let homeland security languish since September 11, 2001, with dire consequences."
What's the Big Secret? Four surveillance experts try to figure out what the NSA's superclassified wiretapping program really is (hint: it may have something to do with the filters). They don't seem to realize that this kind of reckless public discussion means some Americans are going to die. [Via Threat Level.]
Death Grip: How Political Psychology Explains Bush's Ghastly Success. Interesting article on the work of psychologists Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszczynski. [Via Disinformation.]
Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check. The passage of the new FISA bill was a hurried response to the revelation that the FISA court recently decided that at least part of the NSA wiretapping program is illegal. It looks to be another step in our gradual transition into a National Surveillance State.
Busting the Merchant of War. "The Bush administration finally nails a notorious supplier to terrorists—after he spent 30 years hiding in plain sight." [Via Disinformation.]
The Green Scare: Rod Coronado gave a talk in San Diego and the feds called his words ‘terrorism.’ How new laws are equating environmentalists with Al Qaeda. [Via Gristmill.]
Hussein's Prewar Ties To Al-Qaeda Discounted. A newly declassified report (PDF) by the Pentagon's inspector general claims that Iraq was not working with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion and that the intelligence was manipulated by then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. On the same day as the report came out, Dick Cheney claimed that they did have a relationship via Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi may be dead, but he's still useful. [Via TalkLeft.]