The Corner

The New York Times and President Obama Indulge their Inner Jekyll and Hyde

What a difference a year makes. Here are the editors of the New York Times in 2014, in an editorial titled “Terror Watch Lists Run Amok.”

After eight years of confounding litigation and coordinated intransigence, the Justice Department this week grudgingly informed Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian architecture professor, that she was no longer on the federal government’s vastly overbroad no-fly list.

“Confounding litigation.” “Coordinated intransigence.” “Vastly overbroad.” That’s pretty strong stuff, all told.

And it’s nothing compared to what comes next:

How can Dr. Ibrahim be a terrorist and not be a threat at the same time? Welcome to the shadowy, self-contradictory world of American terror watch lists, which operate under a veil of secrecy so thick that it is virtually impossible to pierce it when mistakes are made. A 2007 audit found that more than half of the 71,000 names then on the no-fly list were wrongly included.

“Shadowy.” “Self-contradictory.” “A veil of secrecy so thick that it is virtually impossible to pierce it when mistakes are made.”

More:

In a recently unredacted portion of his January ruling, Judge Alsup noted that in 2009 the government added Dr. Ibrahim back to its central terrorist-screening database under a “secret exception” to its own standard of proof. This would be laughable if it weren’t such a violation of basic rights. A democratic society premised on due process and open courts cannot tolerate such behavior.

“Such a violation of basic rights.” “A democratic society premised on due process and open courts cannot tolerate such behavior.”

Except, that is, when that “behavior” might be used indefinitely to restrict an enumerated constitutional right that the Times’s editors and readers happen to dislike. Here are the same people just a year later:

While the nation suffered through the shock of another bloody massacre, on Thursday every Senate Republican except Mark Kirk of Illinois voted against legislation to prevent people on the F.B.I.’s consolidated terrorist watchlist from purchasing guns or explosives.

By the Times’s own standards, the GOP’s skepticism was sensible no? Surely, it would be downright outrageous to allow the Bill of Rights to be compromised by the “the shadowy, self-contradictory world of American terror watch lists, which operate under a veil of secrecy so thick that it is virtually impossible to pierce it when mistakes are made”?

Apparently not. Per the Editors:

The House speaker, Paul Ryan, issued his party’s weak defense of arming potential terrorism suspects on Thursday morning: “I think it’s very important to remember people have due process rights in this country, and we can’t have some government official just arbitrarily put them on a list.

“Weak defense”? Really? How odd. The only thing that has changed between 2014 and 2015 is that more people have been added to the rolls — many of whom, one imagines, have last names such as “Ibrahim.” It couldn’t be that the Times’s editors are full of it?

President Obama demonstrated a similar cognitive dissonance in his speech last night. One moment he was warning Americans that we must not respond to the recent attacks by overreacting, and that we must definitely not do anything that disproportionately affects Muslims:

It is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country. It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL. Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.

Fair enough. And yet Obama also suggested that the very terror watch lists that ensnared Rahinah Ibrahim should be used to deprive innocent people of their rights. Worse, he submitted that there was no comprehensible argument against this position:

To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.

How the times have changed. How the Times has changed.

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