Posts Tagged ‘Weekly Web Watch’

Weekly Web Watch 11/16/09 – 11/22/09

November 24, 2009

The Senate has reversed position on bringing Guantanamo detainees into the U.S., shooting down an amendment that would have blocked funds from being used for that purpose.  The Washington Post points out, however, that this is more symbolic than practical.  Marc Ambinder points out that the real story is that 75 detainees will neither be charged nor transferred nor released.  Jonathan Hafetz, perhaps the best-known lawyer for Guantanamo detainees, says that detention policy remains “essentially lawless.”  Steve Aftergood, meanwhile, has posted up records from two House Judiciary Subcommittee hearings on military commissions.

Worried that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused terrorists might be acquitted by a civilian jury?  Rest assured, Attorney General Eric Holder has “thought about that possibility” and reminds you that, if they are acquitted, they will be put back into military detention.  Adam Serwer provides more details; Eric Posner says that this amounts to a “two-tier” system of justice.  John Yoo launches another critique, claiming that the trial will provide an “intelligence bonanza” to al-Qaeda.  Jack Goldsmith and Jim Comey argue that trial is the right decision, given the problems that commissions and tribunals have faced over the last eight years.  David Feige worries that precedents created by the case will impair future detainees from arguing their rights.  And Pat Buchanan asks whether this means we are no longer at war.

Many of you know that one of the arguments against military contractors is that their higher pay drains the U.S. military of qualified personnel.  USA Today now reports that a similar problem occurs at the top, where generals are often hired back and paid two to three times as much as they were earning while on duty to be “mentors.”  Many of the generals have concurrent jobs with defense contractors.

Time put together a story detailing how White House Counsel Gregory Craig found himself shoved out of the White House.  Also included is the story of how the Obama administration walked back some of their tough talk on transparency and openness in government.


Weekly Web Watch 11/9/09 – 11/15/09

November 17, 2009

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, will face trial in a civilian court in New York.  Glenn Greenwald laments that only some detainees will be selected for prosecution.  James Joyner fails to see the upside of providing a civilian trial.

President Obama is reportedly unhappy with the Afghanistan strategies that his advisors presented to him and wants them to redo the options to include more information about withdrawal estimates.  Fred Kaplan has some analysis of the president’s concerns, including his aversion to a decades-long counterinsurgency strategy.  Kevin Drum reports that the military may not provide any “light footprint” plans.  Rich Lowry says that second-guessing the military is below the president’s pay grade.  Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Bob Gates is getting upset with the media’s ability to find out about these deliberations.  “Everybody out there ought to just shut up,” he said, referring to leakers.  Of course, possibly the biggest leak occurred this week when U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry sent two cables expressing doubt that Hamid Karzai is the right man for the job in Afghanistan.

White House Counsel Gregory Craig will step down early next year.  Craig, who was charged with closing Guantanamo Bay this year, had been under fire for his lack of progress with detainee issues and seeming lack of political awareness.


Weekly Web Watch 11/2/09 – 11/8/09

November 10, 2009

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.”


Weekly Web Watch 10/26/09 – 11/1/09

November 3, 2009

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.


Weekly Web Watch 10/12/09 – 10/18/09

October 19, 2009

Shepard Fairey has admitted that he lied about which photo he used to make his “Hope” poster of then-candidate Barack Obama.  Both photographs in question were taken by the same photographer and both were covered by AP copyright.  However, Fairey’s  work was more transformative of the first photograph than of the one that, well, looks exactly like his poster.  That added transformation would aid him in his fair use claim.  Fairey’s lawyers have filed notice that they intend to withdraw from his suit as a result of his misleading them.

The Obama administration may scrap the pre-emptive war part of the “Bush Doctrine.”  Hat tip to Julian Ku.  Meanwhile, Russia and the U.S. both continue to claim the right to use nuclear weapons in a first-strike capability.

Peter J. Wallison penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he points a finger at the federal government for the mortgage crisis.  Wallison points out that the predatory lending theory only tells half the story: Someone had to buy all these toxic assets; often as not, the buyers were government-backed agencies.  Ilya Somin concurs and extends: Not only did government back the purchase of these bad mortgages, they also encouraged excessive risk-taking by the private sector.  Kevin Drum is angered not because of this, but rather because the banks are recovering faster than the rest of the economy because of further government intervention.  And Matthew Yglesias says that we are repeating the pattern.

The Justice Department issued guidelines (.pdf) to prosecutors instructing them to deprioritize the investigation and prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries.  Jonathan Adler explains that this is a valid exercise of power and thus, like, totally legit, man.

The military is currently meeting all of its recruiting goals.  The Pentagon credits the recession, along with marketing, for the success.  Fred Kaplan, however, says that the Pentagon is fudging.


Weekly Web Watch 10/5/09 – 10/11/09

October 12, 2009

Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel

This happened.  Michael Russnow, a general Obama supporter, is irritated by the “cheapening” of the award.  Jonathan Adler argues that this event is not terribly extraordinary; the Prize has often been awarded to people prospectively.  John Miller explains the differences between Obama and other American presidents who have received a Nobel.  Jacob Heilbrunn runs through the list of reasons that Obama deserved the award.  Eugene Volokh questions whether Obama can accept the $1.4 million prize personally or whether the Emoluments Clause requires that he donate it to the country.  As it turns out, he will donate it to charity.  Jonah Goldberg explains why Obama should not decline the award.  And Anne Applebaum finds it bemusing that we care so much about what five Norwegians think (see also John Podhoretz).  On a more abstract level, I agree with Julian Sanchez that the initial reaction was agreement between right and left that this was an odd choice.  However, it quickly turned into a partisan litmus test, aided by the DNC’s claim that questioning the award means that you support the terrorists.

President Obama ruled out any reduction in the number of troops in Afghanistan.  Fellow Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger approves, but says that the U.S. still needs to pursue more engagement with Afghanistan’s neighbors.

James Joyner takes a break from his vacation to give a nice roundup of the tensions developing between President Obama and his top generals.  Obama was reportedly furious at Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley’ McChrystal’s comments last week in which he called for more troops; now Gen. David Petraeus is becoming more involved in the White House decision-making process.  David Greenberg, however, cautions that we should not read too much into the situation.

The Federal Trade Commission issued a set of guidelines for bloggers and users of social media.  The guidelines are ostensibly directed at viral marketers who try to ensure that blogs and social media sites give positive press; the rules, however, are written so broadly that any blog could run afoul of the regulations if they do not include an “adequate” notice that they are being compensated.  An Arnold & Porter blog gives a summary of the regulations.  Walter Olson notes the overbreadthSlate’s Jack Shafer calls it a “mad power grab.”  And Ken at Popehat warns that trying to pump up your page views could land you in the FTC’s crosshairs.


Weekly Web Watch 09/28/09 – 10/4/09

October 5, 2009

Analysis of President Obama’s speech to the United Nations continues.  Kenneth Anderson has one of the most well-developed critiques, arguing that the administration is more concerned with multilateralism than with peace.  Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Lugar offered his thoughts on the future of NATO, the senator called for more troops to be deployed to Eastern Europe.

The Senate Judiciary Committee met to mark up proposed amendments to the PATRIOT Act.  The original matchup was between a moderate bill sponsored by Patrick Leahy and one with significantly heightened privacy protections sponsored by Russell Feingold.  However, the first act in the hearing was the replacement of Leahy’s bill with one sponsored by Diane Feinstein that might increase the ability of the FBI to gather intelligence without warrants.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kevin Bankston liveblogged the hearing here.  Meanwhile, the Justice Department released guidelines that confirm that the FBI is still allowed to conduct “assessments” of groups or individuals without any individualized belief that the target has committed a crime.

Iran’s nuclear facility at Qum continues to perplex some analysts.  Gary Milhollin wrote in the New York Times that the facility must be evidence of an as-yet undiscovered network of nuclear sites.  The Economist says that this ignores how irrationally governments sometimes act.  IOZ is even unkinder as he points out that Milhollin may have already decided Iran is guilty of making nuclear weapons and is taking all evidence to point that way.  The Economist also points out that this marks the third time that Iran has been caught playing fast and loose with the rules of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Nathan Hodge says that we may never know the exact capabilities of the Qum reactor.  Christopher Beam has more information on how nuclear inspections work.  The Express (UK) reports that Saudi Arabia has greenlighted an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities; I have not been able to find a confirming source for that story, however.

Last week, we reported that Vice President Joe Biden had suggested that we move from a counter-insurgency strategy to a counter-terrorism strategy in Afghanistan.  This Thursday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Institute for Strategic Studies that such a strategy would lead to chaos (video and .pdf at the link).  Bruce Ackerman wonders whether the general’s intervention in a policy matter violates the principle of civilian control of the military.  Jonathan Adler thinks that Ackerman (and Michael Cohen) worry too much; this is not disagreement with announced policy, but rather an attempt to influence the formation of a policy that McChrystal, presumably, has valuable experience with.  James Joyner concurs.  Peter Baker points out that President Obama speaks with his theater commanders less than Bush did.  Mark Grimsley says that, historically, Obama’s policy is the more common.  And an attempt by GOP senators to force McChrystal to testify before congress failed on a party-line vote.


Weekly Web Watch 09/21/09 – 09/27/09

September 29, 2009
Gen. Stanley McChrystal

Gen. Stanley McChrystal

The White House is considering a drastic change in Afghanistan strategy, according to the New York Times.  President Obama is, apparently, exploring the feasibility of drawing down the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and getting out of Afghani politics, leaving the Taliban alone in order to focus exclusively on al-Qaeda.  Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, sent a memo to the President warning that, if he does not receive more troops, the mission in Afghanistan is doomed to failure.  The memo is available here (.pdf).  Dave Schuler points out that, under conventional counter-insurgency doctrine, more than 400,000 troops are necessary to secure Afghanistan.  Spencer Ackerman finds that figure in the memo and reminds us that Afghanistan is supposed to supply at least that many troops and police to the effort.  And Andrew Exum points out that counter-insurgency tactics will increase the number of U.S. casualties.  If you visit that link, however, be aware that Exum has several other posts up with arguments and links supporting a counter-insurgency strategy.

The Justice Department concluded that Congress does not need to pass additional legislation regarding the detention of alleged terrorists.  The DoJ claims that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force provides the administration all the detention power that it requires.  Adam Serwer points out that this is considered a victory for civil libertarians.  Meanwhile, the administration is preparing to miss the self-imposed deadline for the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

President Obama delivered a speech to the U.N. on Wednesday.  Reaction to the speech has been fairly quiet.  The New York Times was pleased by the greater multilateralism on display, but concerned about the absence of any discussion of Afghanistan.

William Schambra penned an essay claiming that many of President Obama’s political problems can be traced to his affinity for large-scale policy proposals.  David Broder read the essay and pushed it to a wider audience, claiming that Schambra’s analysis pinpoints why Obama’s is unlikely to be a successful presidency.  Joe Klein takes issue with this and accuses Broder of being overly selective with his historical examples.  Stephen Griffin offers additional thoughts, including ways to amend the Constitutional structure in order to make this type of large-scale policymaking easier.


Weekly Web Watch (8/2-8/9)

August 9, 2009

Propublica has a nifty tool that tracks how much stimulus funding is going into your county and a useful chart that documents critical information about the 31 Guantanamo detainees whose habeas corpus petitions have been ruled on by federal judges.

The Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor to replace outgoing Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court on a 68-31 vote.  The New York Times’ Adam Liptak previews the complex cases she will grapple with in the Court’s next term.  An analysis by the American Constitution Society suggests that President Barack Obama has the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the composition of appeals courts and district courts nationwide.  In other confirmation commentary, the Washington Post editorial board decries the Senate’s delays on confirmation votes for prominent administration nominees such as Dawn Johnson, Obama’s pick to head the Office of Legal Counsel.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Attorney General Eric Holder is on the cusp of appointing a criminal prosecutor to investigate abuses allegedly committed by the CIA during interrogation of terrorism suspects. The Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Sullivan says the devil may be in the details, arguing that if the investigations are only for those acts that exceeded authorized protocol under the Bush Administration, the investigations may legitimize the Bush Administration’s rules permitting torture.

The Obama Administration petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on an appeal of a federal court ruling that demanded that the Administration release photos showing the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody overseas.  The litigation stems from a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU, which stresses on its blog that it is “critical that the American people know the full truth about the abuse that occurred in their name.”


Weekly Web Watch 07/27/09 – 08/02/09

August 2, 2009
Karl Rove

Karl Rove

A judge granted the habeas corpus petition of Guantanamo’s youngest detainee, Mohammed Jawad.  The government admitted that it could no longer defend his military detention.  However, the ruling gives the government until Aug. 21 in order to allow the Department of Justice to decide whether Jawad should be tried in civilian court for allegedly throwing a hand grenade, injuring two American servicemen and an Afghani translator.  Jacob Sullum reminds readers that this is not the end of proceedings for Jawad.  If he is charged and acquitted in civilian court, Jawad could be placed in “prolonged detention” until he succeeds in another habeas proceeding.  Liza Goiten suggests that those designated enemy combatants will never be found “not guilty.”  Scott Horton reminds readers of the treatment to which Jawad was subjected, including death threats and sleep deprivation.  And Glenn Greenwald remembers that the order for Jawad’s release would not have been possible except for the Boumediene ruling.

Another detainee, Khaled Al-Mutairi, whose case has not engendered as much debate, was also ordered released.  And the Obama administration is looking to create a “courtroom-within-a-prison” complex in either Michigan or Kansas.

The Obama administration is proceeding with plans to aggressively pursue antitrust actions.  This reverses the Bush administration position, which sidelined the antitrust division except in cases where consumers were known to be harmed.  Early targets of investigation include airline companies, phone and cable providers, and Google.  Farhad Manjoo reviews the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft and cautions the DoJ against further tinkering with the relative power of software companies.

Retired NSA and CIA chief Michael Hayden took to the pages of the New York Times to defend the President’s Surveillance Program after the release of the inspectors general report.  Hayden noted that Congress was made aware of all activities, that the DoJ signed off on the program, and that, while it is hard to determine the exact amount of useful intelligence procured, the program was valuable to the intelligence community.  Spencer Ackerman accuses the former spy chief of “having fun with adjectives,” rather than addressing the concerns of the report.

CIA director Leon Panetta pens an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he expresses hope that Congress will look to the future with him rather than continue pointing fingers over the CIA’s secret assassination program that the agency concealed for seven years.

Karl Rove (pictured above) stepped in front of the House Judiciary Committee in a closed session to answer questions about his role in the firings of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006.  He then gave interviews to the New York Times and Washington Post.  Rove admitted that he had passed on complaints about New Mexico’s fired David Iglesias and that he had campaigned for a job for his aide Tim Griffin but, his attorney stressed, Rove’s “answers should put to rest any suspicion that he acted improperly.”  Zachary Roth reminds readers that there is a special prosecutor involved and that the story is “a long way from over.”



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