Tag: terrorism

Weekend Links

The Buck Stops with Obama

Today Politico Arena asks:

Do you feel safer from terrorism today than you did the day before? Assess Obama’s response.

My response:

So Obama tells us that the buck stops with him.  Aides signaled that in saying that, Politico reports, the president “was consciously seeking to be the anti-Bush, airing his administration’s dirty laundry and stepping up to take his share of the responsibility.”  Yet as Arena contributor Dana Perino notes in response, with evidence in hand, they don’t even have their facts right.  Bush repeatedly took responsibility, and for good reason:  There was much to be responsible for, not least the creation of the intelligence bureaucracy that failed so clearly to connect the Christmas Day dots, as discussed in this morning’s Wall Street Journal.
But before we heap too much blame on the bureaucracy and those who created it, let’s recognize that this administration’s obsession with appearing “anti-Bush,” which has been its leitmotif from the start, could hardly have inspired even the most conscientious bureaucrat.  This is not the place to recount the countless ways Obama and his people have sought to downplay the terrorist threat — or “man-caused disasters” — even as no fewer than 12 terrorist incidents, including thwarted plots, were unfolding on American soil during its tenure, culminating with November’s Fort Hood murders.  Arena contributor Walter Russell Mead put it well last evening: “The narrative that a lawyer-run, PC-happy, Miranda crazed administration is coddling criminals rather than protecting the people has been gaining a kind of subterranean credibility out there past the Beltway.”  And not without reason.
We can hope that the administration is at last taking terrorism seriously, but there are still too many signs that it is learning on the fly, so we will have to keep reminding Obama and his people that the buck does indeed stop with them.

Thursday Links

  • How Obama’s plan for health care will affect medical innovation in America: “Imposing price controls on drugs and treatments–or indirectly forcing their prices down by means of a ‘public option’ or expanded public insurance programs–would reduce the incentive for innovators to develop new treatments.”
  • Register now for the upcoming Cato forum featuring author Tim Carney and his new book, Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses. Buy the book, here.

An “Attempted Act of Terrorism”

Along with learning the factual details, it remains to be seen whether the effort by a Nigerian traveler to ignite some type of explosive on a U.S.-bound flight was an “attempted act of terrorism”—as it has been characterized by the White House—or a successful act of terrorism. 

Though it certainly helps, terrorism doesn’t require explosions and fatalities to work its will. If public fear produced by this incident drives the U.S. toward self-injurious overreactions—abandonment of plane travel, overwrought and poorly directed security measures, and so on—then it will be a successful act of terrorism.

The behavior of the Obama administration, political leaders in Congress, and the media will determine whether this is a successful act of terrorism. One early commentator has framed this event as a “desperate bid for relevance” on the part of al Qaeda, chastising the “permanently hysterical” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for promoting overreaction.

We will be reviewing the first year of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies at a Cato Institute policy forum on Wednesday, January 13, 2010—a follow-on to our hugely successful counterterrorism conference in January 2009, the week before President Obama’s inauguration. Along with an impressive line-up of commentators, the event will feature a keynote address by Daniel Benjamin, Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the State Department.

This most recent event will surely be a focus as we review the Obama administration’s first year in counterterrorism. Register here.

Thursday Links

  • The War on Terrorism ends; and the winner is… China.

Greenwald on the Arrar Ruling

Glenn Greenwald has a good post about Arrar v. Ashcroft, an appeals court ruling that came down the other day.  Here’s an excerpt:

Maher Arar is both a Canadian and Syrian citizen of Syrian descent.  A telecommunications engineer and graduate of Montreal’s McGill University, he has lived in Canada since he’s 17 years old.  In 2002, he was returning home to Canada from vacation when, on a stopover at JFK Airport, he was (a) detained by U.S. officials, (b) accused of being a Terrorist, (c) held for two weeks incommunicado and without access to counsel while he was abusively interrogated, and then (d) was “rendered” – despite his pleas that he would be tortured – to Syria, to be interrogated and tortured.  He remained in Syria for the next 10 months under the most brutal and inhumane conditions imaginable, where he was repeatedly tortured.  Everyone acknowledges that Arar was never involved with Terrorism and was guilty of nothing.  I’ve appended to the end of this post the graphic description from a dissenting judge of what was done to Arar while in American custody and then in Syria.

Read the whole thing.   Also, the ACLU has put together a short film about the experiences of some prisoners released from Guantanamo.

9/11: All the PSA We Needed

Right on the heels of my post the other day discussing the error in inviting terrorism reporting, here’s another video (and suspicious-activity-reporting Web site) produced by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The production values in this video are hipper, and L.A. appears to have its share of actors willing to look concerned about terrorism. But really, the attacks of September 11, 2001 were all the Public Service Announcement we needed to encourage reporting of genuine suspicions.

Asking amateurs for tips about terrorism will have many wasteful and harmful results, like racial and ethnic discrimination, angry neighbors turning each other in, and—given the rarity of terrorism—lots and lots of folks just plain getting it wrong. People with expertise—even in very limited domains—can discover suspicious circumstances in their worlds almost automatically when they find things “hinky.”

My impressions of the LAPD were formed up in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I lived in southern California. To encourage reporting, what that department needs most is to make the community confident of its own fairness and competence. Reporting of meritorious suspicions will naturally follow that. There’s no need for it to artificially gin up crime or terrorism reporting.