Weekly Web Watch 10/26/09 – 11/1/09

By Ryan Caldwell

Abdullah Abdullah

Abdullah Abdullah withdrew from the run-off election against President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rushed to assure everyone that this would not affect the vote’s legitimacy.  Meanwhile, the New York Times discovered that Karzai’s brother is not only a major player in Afghanistan’s thriving drug trade but also involved with the CIA.  Congress is displeased that, again, they are learning about CIA operations only by reading their newspapers.  But The Economist says that this is nothing new and Philip Giraldi says this is something good.

The economy may be emerging from the recession.  Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner cautioned against excessive optimism but confirmed reports that GDP grew during the last quarter.  Geithner credits the administration and Congress for the growth; so does Steve Verdon, who worries that the governmental stimuli are providing false indicators of recovery. Kevin Drum says that little of the growth is going towards wages.  And Sam Staley may have the best point: It took almost a year for economists to declare that we had been in a recession; it will likely take a similar amount of time for them to discover that we have recovered.

Ali Al-Marri, who was held as an enemy combatant in the United States for six years, has been sentenced to more than eight years in civilian prison for providing material support to a terrorist organization.  The judge said that the sentence, which could have been for as long as fifteen years, was shortened to reflect time that Al-Marri spent in military detention.

Robert J. Delahunty has prepared a paper defending John Yoo’s 2001 OLC memorandum (which he co-authored) that stated that the Fourth Amendment would not apply to any military operations taken against terrorists, even on U.S. soil.  Orin Kerr responds, arguing that Delahunty is constructing an overbroad scheme that provides no guidance for interpretation of current law nor for the interpretation of specific fact scenarios.

Michael McConnell argued in the Wall Street Journal that the “pay czar” position is unconstitutional.  McConnell says that, as an officer of the United States, Kenneth Feinberg should have received Senate approval prior to exercising his authority.

Philip Alston, a U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, scolded Washington for lack of transparency regarding the Predator drone strikes that the Bush and Obama administrations have used to target suspected militants in several countries, notably Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Alston is concerned that the CIA is running a program that kills civilians (if inadvertently) without any accountability to international law.  Kenneth Anderson provides a fuller legal treatment; he argues that once the U.S. has satisfied the requirements of international law to its own satisfaction, it is under no obligation to report its findings to the U.N.

Eric Posner and Henry Farrell have had a running discussion on the laws of war and how they should be defined.  The key point of disagreement appears to be what role the United Nations should play in “refereeing” disputes.

The FBI arrested two terror suspects in Chicago.  The men, the Justice Department claims, were planning to attack the Danish newspaper that stirred up controversy in 2005 when it printed the “Mohammed cartoons.”  Meanwhile, the Stewart Nozette espionage trial attracted a lot more attention when the prosecution charged him with disclosing information to Israel, compromising a $1 billion program.

Marty Lederman makes a return to the blawgosphere, sort of.  Jack Balkin has reposted a memo issued by OLC on the constitutionality of hate crimes legislation.

The White House followed through on its promise to provide visitor records to the public – by dumping every record of every name for which a request has been made.  Kevin Drum is bemused by this, saying that it is “kind of ridiculous” for the White House to trumpet its release of public tour records.  James Joyner goes further, calling it “dirty pool.”  Stephen Spruiell deserves credit for finding a workaround, of sorts.

The Obama administration deployed the state secrets doctrine again in an effort to shut down litigation aimed at the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping programs.  Quin Hillyer has a roundup of other areas in which the Obama administration may be underachieving its pledge of transparency.  So does Michael Isikoff.

The U.S. intelligence budget for 2009 was around $75 billion, with around one-third of that going to the military.  Marc Ambinder, however, says this is a lowball estimate and the real figure is probably around $130 million.

The Supreme Court will likely have to make a decision about the constitutional boundary between the Spending Clause and the Suspension Clause when it hears Kiyemba et al. v. Obama et al. this winter, according to Lyle Denniston.  At issue is the relocation of Guantanamo detainees to the United States.  Congress and the President have now created binding law that forbids detainees from being transferred into the country, which, if upheld, could force people to stay in detention even though their habeas petitions were granted.

Adam Serwer finds that at least some FBI agents were in favor of using “enhanced interrogation techniques” against detainees in 2002.  However, several of them also made a record of allegations of abuse and mistreatment in a “war crimes” file.  The revelations were made in an Inspector General report

The State Department is buying armored vehicles and other equipment to allow civilians to operate further away from heavily armored embassies.

The Obama administration is moving forward with a Senate proposal for a journalistic “shield” law that would provide greater protections for reporters and their sources, at least with regard to civil cases.

Twenty of President Obama’s top forty-seven fundraisers have been appointed to government positions, including those always in-demand ambassadorships.  Currently, he has given out more spoils, percentagewise, than any other president, though the article hastens to mention that this will change as more appointments are made.  Meanwhile, a Democratic National Committee fundraiser invited both registered lobbyists and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, leading to an admission of mistake by the DNC.

I haven’t posted a good blog-rant yet, but because I link Andrew Exum so often, I feel that Kelley Vlahos’s screed against the counter-insurgency “industry” is a good place to start.  While it may be overblown, he is right that COIN proponents do seem to have a near-monopoly on the process at the moment (something that Exum himself has implicitly lamented).  At the moment, while Vlahos is impatient with Obama for further delaying his decision on Afghanistant, Exum thinks it is the right call.

Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images


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