Topic: Foreign Policy and National Security

50 Years On, Some Common Sense

Steve Clemons posts a heartening little video of Bush père’s National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft responding to Steve’s question “What do you think about Cuba?” It’s a rare occasion for foreign policy folks to take heart and ponder whether the forces of reality may not be making progress on some issues, at least:

More common sense on Cuba here.

L-1: The Technology Company in Your Pocket

Inspired by the promotional brochure I recently came across, I’ve taken a look at L-1 Identity Solutions in a new Cato TechKnowledge. Though it has better options, L-1 and its new acquisition, Digimarc ID Systems, seem likely to continue lobbying for the REAL ID Act. My concluding line: “A corporate lobbying operation can do as much harm to liberty as any government agency or official.”

REAL ID Deadline Passes - Zero Compliance

Yesterday - Sunday, May 11, 2008 - was the statutory deadline for state compliance with the REAL ID Act. Not a single state has begun issuing nationally standardized IDs as called for by the law. Nor are they putting driver information into nationally accessible databases.

Matthew Blake of the Washington Independent has a solid recap of the situation.

Cracking Down on Legal Permanent Residents, Pt. II

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a legal permanent resident who was arrested because he shared a common name with a suspected illegal immigrant. It illustrated how the E-Verify program would foul things for legal workers, a prominent subject of this paper.

Here’s another story of legal permanent resident mistreatment. This illustrates how overblown terror fears can cloud officials’ judgments and foul things for … well, everyone.

It seems that a woman in Florida asked her relatives in Monterrey, Mexico to ship her the birth certificates of two relatives who want to apply for their Mexican passports at the consulate in South Miami. At the behest of U.S. Customs and Border Security, the envelope is being held by the United Parcel Service in Louisville, Kentucky until she identifies herself further.

Asked to explain, a CBP spokeswoman in Washington asserted the U.S. government’s right to examine everything entering or exiting the country and said, “Identity documents are of concern to CBP because of their potential use by terrorists.”

This is a terrific example of poorly generated suspicion. In our paper on predictive data mining, Jeff Jonas and I wrote about how suspicion is properly generated in the absence of specific leads: “[T]here must be a pattern that fits terrorism planning … and the actions of investigated persons must fit that pattern while not fitting any common pattern of lawful behavior.”

False identities and forged documents have been used by terrorists, but with little purpose or effect. There just isn’t a proximate relationship between false identification and successful attacks. But obviously some terrorists have believed that they need false or fraudulently-gotten IDs. So there is a weak but plausible relationship between shipping identity documents and terrorism planning.

But that doesn’t end the inquiry. We have to ask a second question: Does shipping identity documents fit any common pattern of lawful behavior? Yes it does, such as the example here: legal permanent residents seeking to apply for home-country passports at consulates in the U.S. There are probably dozens of other reasons for shipping identity documents as well. CBP’s suspicion of this woman and her documents is not well founded.

One is reminded of the cases where photographers have been harassed or arrested for photographing buildings and monuments. Yes, photography of big things is potentially consistent with terrorism planning! Oh, but it’s also consistent with having an interest in architecture, having an interest in photography, taking a vacation, working as a photographer for a newspaper, and so on, and so on …

This woman should get her documents without further delay.

More Strategic Brilliance from Our Friends at the Weekly Standard

Here’s Michael Goldfarb:

As to whether Bush is a recruiting tool for terrorists–who cares? Al Qaeda was recruiting before Bush was in office and they will continue to do so after he’s gone. The important thing is that we keep killing those recruits. Eventually, one side will give up.

Do they edit this stuff before putting it up? By this logic, why don’t we airdrop a bunch of copies of Penthouse Letters into the Kabaa? After all, al Qaeda will continue recruiting whether we do it or not. Or maybe we could declare war on all of Islam. After all, al Qaeda was recruiting before we declared it. Or maybe we could send Senator McCain’s “moral compass and spiritual guide” onto al Hurra to tell Muslims that “America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.” After all, it’s not like al Qaeda’s not recruiting today.

Antiwar Republicans Win in NC

Over at The American Conservative blog, Jim Antle points out that Rep. Walter Jones, an antiwar Republican incumbent, as well as another antiwar Republican, B.J. Lawson, won big in last night’s North Carolina primary.

Although the Republican establishment in Washington seems to have sacrificed every other governing principle at the altar of reckless militarism, it appears that a contingent of Republican voters haven’t. Maybe Bill Kauffman is onto something

Expert Opinion

The back page of the Week in Review section of yesterday’s NYT features a symposium on “How to See This Mission Accomplished,” in which the Times asked nine experts to address problems going forward in Iraq.  Since at least five of the nine were enthusiastic backers of the war – and three work for the American Enterprise Institute – this is something like asking the captain of the Exxon Valdez* for his considered judgment on how best to conduct the cleanup.  Hey NYT: next time, why not consult someone who got it right

* Ironically enough, the Valdez’s Wikipedia entry places one “Able Seaman Robert Kagan” at the helm during the crash.  They’re everywhere