You can always count on Peter King to make his point in the most bombastic and incendiary manner possible. Although some folks might think the terms “bombastic” and “incendiary” are more appropriately applied to the congressman’s old crowd.
As noted in today’s Jolt, it’s ridiculous to expect the United States to drop any criminal charges against Snowden, as he leaked a heck of a lot more information than just the revelations about domestic surveillance. Most of his defenders (and some of his detractors) focus on one portion of his leaks and avert their eyes from the rest.
The statement “a significant portion of Snowden’s leaks have nothing to do with domestic surveillance” is a controversial and outrageous statement among people who haven’t followed Snowden that closely, and/or don’t want to see the whole picture.
Here’s just a partial list of Snowden’s leaks that have little or nothing to do with domestic surveillance of Americans:
• The classified portions of the U.S. intelligence budget, detailing how much we spend and where on efforts to spy on terror groups and foreign states, don’t deal with Americans’ privacy. This leak revealed the intelligence community’s self-assessment in 50 major areas of counterterrorism, and that “blank spots include questions about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear components when they are being transported, the capabilities of China’s next-generation fighter aircraft, and how Russia’s government leaders are likely to respond to ‘potentially destabilizing events in Moscow, such as large protests and terrorist attacks.’” The Pakistani, Chinese, and Russian intelligence agencies surely appreciate the status report.
• Our cyber-warfare capabilities and targets don’t deal with Americans’ privacy. The revelation that the U.S. launched 231 cyber-attacks against “top-priority targets, which former officials say includes adversaries such as Iran, Russia, China and North Korea and activities such as nuclear proliferation” in 2011, has nothing to do with Americans’ privacy.
• The fact that the United States has “ramped up its surveillance of Pakistan’s nuclear arms” and has “previously undisclosed concerns about biological and chemical sites there,” and details of “efforts to assess the loyalties of counterterrorism sources recruited by the CIA” . . .
. . . none of these stories have much of a tie to Americans’ privacy.
The all-or-nothing terms of the Snowden discussion are persistent and baffling, and they obscure the truth. The NSA’s willingness to vacuum up and store the communications of ordinary Americans — with no tie to terror, crime, or foreign governments at all, obliterating any remaining meaning of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution — deserves every bit of public outrage and rebuke. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Snowden is the good guy in the story. This story probably doesn’t have a good guy.
Love the War Powers Act or hate it, it’s the law of the land. There are those who believe the War Powers Act is unconstitutional — such as all recent presidents — and the Obama administration has refused to say whether it believes the WPA is constitutional.
But the fact that a lot of people think a law is unconstitutional does not necessarily make it unconstitutional. (Right now, many people think Obamacare is unconstitutional, but five Supreme Court justices ruled otherwise.) If it is indeed unconstitutional, it would be good to get the Supreme Court to sort this out tout de suite. Because if it isn’t, it has been violated fairly regularly, and we may see it violated again soon.
The War Powers Act doesn’t allow a president to use force absent authorization from Congress unless there is a “national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces” — a threshold Syria simply does not meet. If Assad’s forces shoot at our ships offshore, Obama can rain hell down upon him, but absent that “national emergency,” he has to go to Congress — as President Bush did for Afghanistan and Iraq.
(From August to October 2003, President George W. Bush sent 200 Marines to Liberia without authorization from Congress, but that was in response to our ambassador’s requesting assistance to help noncombatants, including American citizens, get out of the country. Similarly, U.S. military forces helped evacuate nearly 15,000 American citizens from Lebanon during July and August 2006. Both Congress and the Supreme Court would probably easily agree that evacuating U.S. citizens from a combat zone qualifies as a national emergency.)
We have some members of Congress insisting that the law is the opposite of what it is. Representative Peter King (R., N.Y.) told BuzzFeed today, “We should not be talking about or insisting on congressional approval.” King added, “If he wants to get approval from Congress, he can, but he does not have to.”
The law sitting there on the books says he does. Either a law is in place or it isn’t. Either the president has the unilateral authority to use this military force absent an attack on the U.S., or he doesn’t.
It’s rather fascinating that so many folks are up in arms about Rep. Peter King’s hearing on radicalization of American-born Muslims, when the Senate committee with the roughly equivalent jurisdiction held a hearing on Fort Hood that dealt quite a bit with the same topic. Those hearings and the report they generated were largely ignored.
Joe Lieberman, of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, unveils the committee’s conclusions here:
Despite the remarkable work of America’s military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies in preventing individual terrorist attacks, the ideology that inspired 9/11 and other attacks and plots around the world continues to motivate individuals to commit terrorism. The threat is exemplified by Omar Hammami, an American from a typical upbringing in Alabama who now fights for the violent lslamist extremist group al-Shabaab in Somalia and recruits Westerners to its cause in English over the internet. As Hammami said, “they can’ t blame it on poverty or any of that stuff . . . They will have to realize that it’s an ideology and it’s a way of life that makes people change.” . . .
The Committee’s 2008 staff report concluded that the threat of homegrown terrorism inspired by violent Islamist extremist ideology would increase due to the focused online efforts of that ideology’s adherents and how individuals were using the internet to access this propaganda. Indeed, the incidence of homegrown terrorism has increased significantly in the past two years as compared to the years since 9/ 11. From May 2009 to November 2010, there were 22 different homegrown plots, contrasted with 21 such plots from September 2001 to May 2009 . . .
Proceeding in the radicalization process from the level of Self-Identification to the levels of Indoctrination and Violence has been made easier by “virtual spiritual sanctioners.’’ These individuals provide a false sense of religious justification for an act of terrorism over the internet. Though many individuals around the globe have become purveyors of violent Islamist extremism, a foremost example of a “virtual spiritual sanctioner” is Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S.citizen now operating from Yemen. In 2008 , then-Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Charlie Allen stated publicly, “Another example of al-Qaeda reach into the Homeland is U.S. citizen, al Qaeda supporter, and former spiritual leader to three of the September 11th hijackers Anwar al-Aulaqi — who targets U.S. Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen.”
It seems the options for government investigations in this topic are either to be ignored or to be demonized.
The Arizona shooting has been a disturbingly clarifying moment in our public life.
Keith Olbermann, who once a night declares someone “the Worst Person in the World” — even the daughter of a well-known political figure — really seems to think that he has the credibility and authority to demand Sarah Palin’s “dismissal from politics” over “violent imagery in politics.”
Clarence Dupnik really thinks the best thing for a sheriff with jurisdiction over a crime scene and the duty to secure evidence for the successful prosecution of a horrific massacre is to appear with Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Keith Olbermann, Parker/Spitzer, Megyn Kelly, and who knows how many other television-program hosts by the time the week is out.
Time’s Mark Halperin thinks that now is the moment for conservatives to “turn the other cheek.” (It’s always easier to urge the other guy to do that, huh?)
Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.) believes that America needs to criminalize symbols, specifically the “use of ‘language or symbols’ that could be interpreted as inciting violence against a member of Congress.” Threats against lawmakers are already a crime, and the question of who interprets the language or symbols, and what standards represents inciting violence, are to be sorted out later, apparently.
Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.) believes he can best be protected by placing himself in the center of a circle with a 1,000-foot radius, that moves with him, in which possession of a firearm is a federal crime. The constitutionally guaranteed Second Amendment rights of those within that circle are null and void, apparently.
Rep. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, sees nothing problematic about sending out a letter that begins, “Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country. I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at www.bernie.org.”
Some unnamed Democratic consultant had no problem articulating to Politico what a political opportunity the shooting is.