Weekly Web Watch 11/2/09 – 11/8/09


The White House will ask Congress for supplemental war funding, continuing a practice that the Bush administration used to break up the full cost of the war.  Furthermore, McClatchy reports that the White House is planning to deploy an additional 34,000 troops to Afghanistan but is waiting for PR support before making an announcement.  Meanwhile, Andrew Exum has found three alternative strategies to the McChrystal plan that he supports and has posted them up.  For quicker thoughts, see Robert Farley’s pithy comments on the coming choice of defense strategy, or the Economist’s quick hit on why Afghanistan is not Iraq.

An Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal Malik, opened fire at Fort Hood, killing at least a dozen soldiers.  Malik was scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan.  Speculation abounds about his motives; Malik is still in the hospital after being shot four times during the attack.  Kevin Drum forwards on a firsthand account of the shooting.

23 Americans, some or possibly all CIA agents, will find themselves in prison if they ever return to Europe.  The agents, along with 2 Italians, were convicted in absentia of kidnapping a terrorism suspect from Italy and “rendering” him to Egypt.  “Ishmael Jones” claims that this is actually a sign of a risk-averse CIA.

Off-year elections delivered two governors’ offices into Republican hands, though the GOP also lost a House seat in New York that had been held for more than a century.  Analysis trends towards the belief that this shows the beginning of a backlash against President Obama and the Democrats, though others claim that three races don’t provide an adequate sample.  Victor Davis Hanson counsels “wait-and-see.”

Everyone loves lists and grades; foreign policy experts are no exception.  Foreign Policy asked 24 experts to deliver grades on President Obama’s first year as America’s diplomat-in-chief; the full article is available online.  Just as a straight average, Obama’s grade is a low “B,” but you can see the experts’ full opinions at the link.

Remember the case of the DEA agent suing the CIA because they bugged his coffee table (penultimate paragraph)?  The DEA agent, Richard Horn, just won a $3 million settlement because the CIA lied to Judge Royce Lamberth in order to justify the use of the “state secrets” doctrine.  The government caved after Lamberth hinted that they might have committed a “fraud on the court.”

Daphne Eviatar at the Washington Independent has posted up memos written by the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis unit in 2002 and 2003.  The memos caution that “enhanced interrogation” techniques were unlikely to be useful and that personnel who did conduct such interrogations could be subject to prosecution.

Fannie Mae will start renting out homes rather than foreclosing on them.  According to the AP, homeowners will be given the opportunity to transfer ownership to Fannie Mae and enter into a lease agreement; a catch is that the houses will also be set up for sale.

Dave Kopel reports that the Obama administration will support the Arms Trade Treaty, reversing the position taken by the Bush administration.  The ATT would further regulate the import and export of conventional weapons.  Kopel argues that the Treaty will have little practical effect.

Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen rendered by the U.S. to Syria, where he was tortured, saw his suit tossed by the Second Circuit, which declined to extend the scope of Bivens actions to cover his suit.  Scott Horton provides additional history about the case, including what he claims is a significant misstatement of the facts by the majority opinion.

If you’ve been waiting for a good chance to geek out over counter-terrorism policy, the JASON defense advisory panel has just provided you an excuse.  As reported by Steve Aftergood, the panel has just released a report on the pitfalls of predicting terrorist activity; the main upshot is that their analysis predicts a 7% chance of a major terrorist attack in the next 10 years, though they caution that using statistics to predict terrorist activity is of limited use.

Image: David Axe.

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