Saturday, May 30, 2009

You Don't Have to Go Home, But You Can't Come Here

SCOTUSBLOG was not asleep at the switch last night - unlike most of the news media - and caught this late Friday night filing by the U.S. Solicitor General that opposes a petition to release into the United States the Uighur detainees now held at Gitmo.

The Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court on Friday to turn away the plea by 17 Chinese Muslim Uighurs for release from Guantanamo Bay for settling temporarily inside the U.S. The U.S. Solicitor General’s brief in opposition in Kiyemba, et al., v. Obama, et al. (08-1234) can be downloaded here. Although no longer considered enemies, their continued confinement at Guantanamo is constitutionally valid, the brief asserted.

The Uighurs, Solicitor General Elena Kagan wrote, “have already obtained relief. They are no longer detained as enemy combatants, they are free to leave Guantanamo Bay to any country that is willing to accept them, and in the meantime, they are housed in facilities separate from those for enemy combatants under the least restrictive conditions practicable.”

The Obama administration is now 100% in agreement with the previous Bush administration position on this matter, holding that the Uighur have no legal right to be released into the United States. The political irony of the situation is examined here.

If none of the detainees are admitted into the U.S., the chances are that no European country - like German, which apparently is now home to the largest Uighur community outside Asia - will accept them either. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been trying to shop the Uighur detainees to Germany for some time now, but hasn't been able to close the deal. After Friday's filing, he ought to finally give up.

Incidentally, I can't help but notice that the Secretary of State is nowhere to be seen on this issue (although evidently the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs is engaged on it). I can just imagine the scene at the cabinet meeting when action was assigned on the matter of persuading foreign governments to accept the Gitmo Gang.

POTUS: Ah, Hillary, what do you think about approaching our allies on accepting detainees that we can't admit to the United States?

SECSTATE: [long uncomfortable silence]

POTUS: Ah, do you think any of them will help us out on this?

SECSTATE: [sound of crickets chirping]

POTUS: I mean, if you, um, make a personal appeal .....

SECSTATE: [somewhere in the distance, a small dog whimpers]

POTUS: Ah ... Eric! This is really a law enforcement matter, I suppose. How about you handling the foreign angle on this one?

AG Holder: OK, yeah, sure. You da man.

Friday, May 29, 2009

It's Pronounced "PA-kih-stan"

I'm listening to an interview with General Petraeus, and his soft 'a' pronunciation of the word Pakistan ("Pock-i-stahn") is setting my teeth on edge. Americans should pronounce it this way, please.

This whole deal in which people pretend that a foreign word mispronounced in English is being correctly pronounced in whichever foreign language is pretentious and annoying.

Who Says Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Can't Be Fun?

Where was this guy when I had to sit through mandatory sensitivity training? The Department should seriously consider hiring him to deliver sexual harassment prevention training in my workplace - not that we need it, you understand, since we're all perfect gentlemen at all times, but just for the pleasure of having mandatory training that isn't deadly boring and/or seething with hostility.

From the Popehat group blog, here's the three-part account of a lawyer hired to deliver sexual harassment prevention training to the employees, supervisors, and police of a small city:

day one

day two

day three

A few random quotes from the linked posts:

Apparently everyone in this city likes to go “GIRL, you’re looking FINE, SHOW me!”, and then the other employee turns around in place, and the first one goes “WOOOOOO!” It is probably impossible to break them of this, at least with the amount of time and the tools and use-of-force limits I am presented with.

After I prepared this presentation and reviewed the available summaries and caselaw for interesting examples and cautionary tales, I thought I would be impossible to shock. Boy, was I wrong. Midway through the morning an employee described an incident so completely cringingly inappropriate that Andrew Dice Clay would be going “hey man, not cool, not cool,” and then described how supervisors laughed it off. I have my work cut out for me.

So far, in response to my leading questions designed to create the illusion of audience participation, only one person has suggested that yeah, it would be cool to have team-building in a strip club.

Cops don’t like it when you tell them it is potentially problematical for them to post porn all over their locker rooms.

They especially don’t like it when you ask them if they’d be cool with lots of gay porn all over their locker room.

Here’s the breakdown: 80% of my audience knows this stuff already, or even if they don’t, would never act in a way that could violate sexual harassment law because they were raised to act decently. 10% of my audience lacks common sense about how to act and has forgotten their prior training, and requires the training to remind them how not to act, but will do fine after the training. The other 10% is unable to retain simple instructions and lacks the inclination or capacity to act decently even when someone explains to them what “decently” looks like. They will do bad stuff, or not, depending on opportunity, boredom level, and happenstance. They will do so whether or not I train them. That 10% pays my mortgage.

Judging by the laughter today when I explained stuff they shouldn’t do at work, the cops have been spending pretty much all day Monday describing who they nailed over the weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Big Foot Coming Down in Islamabad

Consumer Notice: This post is certified to be 100% free of Matters of Official Concern that are not referenced from publicly available sources of information.

McClatchy has a story today on the Obama administration's plans for new construction at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan (pronounced "Puck-e-staan," I think).

See: Iraq redux? Obama seeks funds for Pakistan super-embassy, but ignore the hyperventilating headline. The new facilities are merely replacements for worn-out embassy office and residential buildings that were first built in the 1960s and which are far too small to meet current needs. Nothing "super" is in the plans, not as I read the publically available sources of information.

The Global and Mail carried the same story today, but with a little bit more detail. See: Islamabad to get giant U.S. embassy; Massive expansion demonstrates significance of Pakistan, but sure to raise anti-U.S. sentiment.

Some key quotes from the McClatchy story:

The White House has asked Congress for — and seems likely to receive — $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad, along with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.

-- snip --

Other major projects are planned for Kabul, Afghanistan; and for the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. In Peshawar, the U.S. government is negotiating the purchase of a five-star hotel that would house a new U.S. consulate.

-- snip--

In Baghdad and other dangerous locales, U.S. diplomats have sometimes found themselves cut off from the population in heavily fortified compounds surrounded by blast walls, concertina wire and armed guards.

"If you're going to have people live in a car bomb-prone place, you are driven to not have a light footprint," said Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy. Neumann called the planned expansions "generally pretty justified."

In Islamabad, according to State Department budget documents, the plan calls for the rapid construction of a $111 million new office annex to accommodate 330 workers; $197 million to build 156 permanent and 80 temporary housing units; and a $405 million replacement of the main embassy building. The existing embassy, in the capital's leafy diplomatic enclave, was badly damaged in a 1979 assault by Pakistani students.

-- snip --

A senior State Department official confirmed that the U.S. plan for the consulate in Peshawar involves the purchase of the luxury Pearl Continental hotel. [TSB Note: the word "luxury" is overstating it by a large measure. The Pearl Continental would make a middle-grade Holiday Inn, at best.] The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

The Pearl Continental is the city's only five-star hotel, set in its own expansive grounds, with a swimming pool. It's owned by Pakistani tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani.

I really like Ambassador Neumann's statement, "If you're going to have people live in a car bomb-prone place, you are driven to not have a light footprint." Truly, when the U.S. government sends more than 1,000 employees to live and work in places as dangerous as Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore, we do indeed need to come down with a heavy security footprint and the usual aesthetic niceties be damned.

My personal philosophy of embassy physical security - incongruous as it may be to have a philosophy of such a thing - is that it should be blended into the landscaping and architecture, hidden from view. It should be, as Lucius Annaeus Seneca said of art, an imitation of nature. Nevertheless, if there was ever a place where the subtle approach ought to be ditched in favor of obvious and overt protection, it is Pakistan today. $736 million can buy us a lot of Old School protection.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

He's Addicted (to Public Service)

The former Mayor of Washington, DC, and current City Council member, Marion S. Barry, who is easily the most entertaining figure in local politics, escaped from the consequences of his actions once again when a judge refused to send him away for violation of his most recent legal probation.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Accused Conspirator in U.S. Embassy Dar es Salam Bombing Brought to Trial in NYC

Here are a few quotes from the U.S. Department of Justice press release (Accused East Africa Embassy Bomber Held at Guantanamo Bay to Be Prosecuted in U.S. Federal Court):

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian national who has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility since September 2006, will be prosecuted in federal court in the United States pursuant to the March 12, 2001 superseding indictment currently pending against him in the Southern District of New York.

-- snip --

Ghailani was first indicted on Dec. 16, 1998, by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York for conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaeda to kill Americans overseas and for his role in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, which killed at least eleven people and caused injuries to at least 85 people.

-- snip --

Among other things, the superseding indictment alleges that Ghailani assisted in the purchase of the Nissan truck as well as the oxygen and acetylene tanks that were used in the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania. He is further alleged to have participated in loading boxes of TNT, cylinder tanks, batteries, detonators, fertilizer and sand bags into the back of the truck in the weeks immediately before the bombing. Ghailani departed Africa for Pakistan the night before the bombing.

-- snip --

Ghailani was charged with the following substantive offenses: murder in violation of the Law of War, murder of protected persons, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, and destruction of property in violation of the Law of War and Terrorism. He was also charged with conspiracy to commit all of the above offenses, as well as providing material support to terrorism. On Oct. 3, 2008, these charges were referred to trial by military commission.

There is some precedent for bringing captured terrorists to trial in the U.S. In 2002, the federal government sought the death penalty against Zacarias Moussaoui, the "19th hijacker" on 9/11, but a jury voted to give him a sentence of life in prison instead.

I hope Ghailani's jury will be a little more hard-nosed, but, who knows?

We're Number 4!

Number 4 on the list of best (U.S. Government) places to work in 2009, that is.

Joe Biden Does the Balkans

Vice President Joe Biden's speech/lecture to the Bosnian Parliament sounded a bit brusque. See: Join Europe or Die. But I'm sure the legislators were properly chastened and set straight. Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats always respond well to a visiting Gringo who knows exactly what's best for them and isn't afraid to tell them so.

Incidentally, the White House was taking no chances with Joe the Gaffer on this trip. The Washington Times reported yesterday that the White House took the unusual step of releasing Biden's prepared remarks in advance, just to preempt any press corps confusion in the event that Joe should go off on a tangent.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Waterboarding Pales in Comparison

ABC News reported today on the observation of Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla) that "any detainee [of Gitmo] over 55 has an opportunity to have a colonoscopy."

The Senator expanded on that thought:

"Now none of them take 'em up on it, because once they explain what it is, none of them want to do it," Inhofe said. "But nonetheless it's an opportunity that they have."

Free colonoscopies? What a sweet deal!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Senator Webb Opposes Bringing Gitmo Detainees to the U.S.

Another of my elected representatives, Senator James Webb (D-VA), has now joined Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) in publicly opposing the administration's plan to bring Gitmo detainees to the United States.

From today's report in The Hill (Sen. Webb reverses on Obama's Gitmo plans) a few quotes:

With Capitol Hill Republicans cranking up the volume on the issue of where to send alleged terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) reversed himself Sunday, and questioned President Obama's "artificial timelines" for closing the facility.

Webb, appearing on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" with Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, said that after reviewing Obama's plans to close the facility within one year, he doesn't agree with the president's time schedule and he opposes bringing any detainees to U.S. soil.

"We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases," Webb said. "There are cases against international law. These aren't people who were in the United States, committing a crime in the United States. These are people who were brought to Guantanamo for international terrorism. I do not believe they should be tried in the United States."

When pressed on the year deadline, Webb suggested the administration might have to be more flexible as it figures out where to send detainees.

"They've said a lot of things and taken a look and said some other things," Webb said. "So let's process these people in a very careful way and then take care of it."

He added: "I think we should defer to the judgment of the administration who is looking at this. I think we all are moving toward the right direction. But we shouldn't be creating artificial timelines."

No release of detainees into the U.S., no trials in the U.S., and no closure of Gitmo on the Obama administration's "artificial deadline." That's a conclusive rejection of the administration's intentions regarding the Gitmo Gang, and it comes from a Democrat who is not even up for re-election in the next cycle. The political winds are not blowing Obama's way on this issue.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"United Forever in Friendship and Labor," But Can the Mighty Soviet Anthem Endure a Reggae Version?

Apropos of nothing at all, I spent this morning listening to the many variations and re-mixes that are available for the National Anthem of the Soviet Union. I've always thought that song is, without a doubt, the Number 1 most kick-ass national anthem ever made. Every national anthem ought to sound like this.

Numerous jazz, rock, and techno versions of the anthem have been recorded, as well as many instrumental versions such as this one for acoustic guitar. Of course, there are lots of parodies, such as the deeply moving Darth Vader rendition which I would have loved to have had back in the Cold War days. The anthem works great in this celebration of the AK-47, which I think is a bit overblown in its unqualified praise of the working man's assault rifle, but still makes a good video.

Any version you can think of and more is available online from the Russian Anthems Museum, which is a regular Motherland Lode of patriotic music.

My second-favorite rendition of the Soviet National Anthem is this English language one by Paul Robeson which was recorded in 1945, just two years after the anthem was adopted (from 1918 to 1943, the USSR used the Internationale as its anthem):

Is it just my imagination, or is Paul affecting a bit of a Slavic accent there?

The English lyrics of that version (I say that version, since I've noticed that the Anthem's lyrics have changed over time, following the political currents) are as follows:

United forever in friendship and labour,
Our mighty republics will ever endure.
The great Soviet Union will live through the ages.
The dream of a people their fortress secure.

Long live our Soviet Motherland, built by the people's mighty hand.
Long live our People, united and free.
Strong in our friendship tried by fire. Long may our crimson flag inspire,
Shining in glory for all men to see.

Through days dark and stormy where Great Lenin led us
Our eyes saw the bright sun of freedom above
and Stalin our Leader with faith in the People,
Inspired us to build up the land that we love.

Long live our Soviet Motherland, built by the people's mighty hand.
Long live our People, united and free.
Strong in our friendship tried by fire. Long may our crimson flag inspire,
Shining in glory for all men to see.

We fought for the future, destroyed the invader,
and brought to our homeland the Laurels of Fame.
Our glory will live in the memory of nations
and all generations will honour her name.

Long live our Soviet Motherland, built by the people's mighty hand.
Long live our People, united and free.
Strong in our friendship tried by fire. Long may our crimson flag inspire,
Shining in glory for all men to see.

But my very favorite version so far is this Reggae one by the Ukrainian group 5'NIZZA, which is going straight to my Ipod:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ex-Diplomat Sues State Department for Invocation of Immunity

A former Foreign Service Officer, one Sabrina De Souza, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State, SecState Hillary Clinton, and the United States of America ("defendants") which asks the judge to:

"Require the USG to formally invoke diplomatic and/or consular immunity on behalf of De Sousa and provide her with legal representation with respect to both the criminal and civil proceedings in Italy"

Background information on this convoluted matter can be found here: Woman in Rendition Case Sues for Immunity. There are also detailed stories about the filing in today's Washington Post (Lawsuit seeks diplomatic immunity in Italian case) and New York Times (Woman in Rendition Case Sues for Immunity).

This paragraph from the filing seems to go to the heart of the matter:

42. De Sousa categorically denies having any involvement in the alleged kidnapping of Abu Omar. She also rejects the allegation that she was a principal planner of the alleged operation. Even if the allegations were true, though, her actions clearly fell within the scope of her official duties and thereby entitle her to diplomatic/consular immunity.

In other words, "I didn't do it, and, even if I did do it, I am entitled to skate away free because I had immunity at the time I did it (not that I'm saying I did it)." Actually, I think that argument is fair enough.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sixty Years Ago the Berlin Airlift Ended

Maybe I just missed it, but I didn't see this anniversary noted in any of the U.S. news media: Berlin airlift anniversary marked.

FBI = Feckless Ban on Image

The FBI seems to be on a roll suppressing disgruntled employees who write books critical of the Bureau. First, it spends years trying to kill a manuscript during pre-publication clearance, and now it's harassing a former agent over the use of the FBI seal that appears on his web site and on the cover on his book, a book that was published years ago.

See FBI Lawyers Threaten Bureau Critic for Using Official Seal on His Book Cover for more.

The Bureau's lawyers say they are just trying to enforce a law that prohibits unauthorized use of the FBI seal, but the law in question, 18 USC Sec. 701, clearly does not prohibit fair use by journalists or publishers.

FBI = Fatal Betrayals of the Intelligence Mission

FBI Special Agent Robert Wright is the author of a 500-page unpublished manuscript, titled "Fatal Betrayals of the Intelligence Mission," which is severely critical of the Bureau for its failures to properly investigate terrorist organizations. Wright has been trying ever since 2001 to get the FBI to clear his manuscript for publication, with absolutely no success. But he finally got good news this week when U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued a 41-page manuscript of her own that beats the FBI like a rented mule.

See Spanking the FBI for more.

U.S. Treasury Lists ETIM as a Terrorist Group

A second U.S. government agency, the Treasury Department, has joined the State Department and the United Nations in listing the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party as a terrorist group with connections to Al-Qaida. Here's the press release, which begins:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today targeted al Qaida's support network by designating Abdul Haq, the overall leader and commander of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIP), a terrorist organization designated under E.O. 13224 for its support to al Qaida.

That designation is intended to help isolate the ETIM from financial networks, but surely it will also help Rep. Wolf in his campaign to block the resettlement into the United States of 17 purported ETIM members now held at Gitmo.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rep. James Moran (D-VA) Welcomes the Gitmo Gang to Alexandria

James Moran, the Congressman who represents Alexandria, Virginia, has publicly volunteered his constituents as hosts for detainees relocated from Gitmo.

Rep. Moran has been a local politician since 1979, and he is - and here I wish there were a more delicate way to put it - flaky and corrupt, with an explosive temperament and an out-of-control personal life. But on the issue of Gitmo detainees he has the courage to accept the consequences of his political position, and I salute him for it. Alexandria's Mayor Euille, as well as seemingly all its other civic leaders, probably don't join me in that sentiment.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rep. Wolf (R-VA) Takes a Hard Line on Gitmo's Uyghurs

Representative Frank Wolf is putting his foot down on the matter of releasing the 17 Uyghir detainees now at Gitmo, making me wonder again: who are the Uyghurs anyway and why do they matter to me?

There are only about 1,000 Uyghirs living in the U.S., according to the Uyghur American Organization (yes, they have their own 501 (c) (3) ethnic-national association, in the long tradition of diaspora groups in America, and they prefer to spell their name with a "u" instead of the "i" that I find in most official U.S. government renderings) but they have an organized lobby complete with web site, press kits, news releases, awards to U.S. supporters, autobiographies of prominent Uyghir-Americans and all. The main thrust of their political activity seems to be working the human rights issue against the Chinese government, and basically trying to elbow in line next to the Tibetans as another certified victim-group in need of our pity, cash, and sanctions against their political enemies.

Here's the press kit where you can read about how a few of their fellow countrymen found themselves, through no fault of their own, in Gitmo. It seems it's all a big misunderstanding that goes back to when U.S. forces in Afghanistan "found the Uyghir refugees ... in the wrong place at the wrong time." Just the kind of thing that could happen to anybody. The "wrong place" was an Al-Qaeda training camp, but you won't learn that from the press kit.

Regarding Rep. Wolf, the Uyghir-Americans used to recognize and praise him for his human rights efforts vis-a-vis China and his support for his Uyghir constituents in Northern Virginia. I guess he has now fallen in their esteem. No more awards for you!

Good Questions About Gitmo Detainees, No Good Answers

The questions of how, where and whether to release the Gitmo Gang are much in the news right now.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal asked where is the Pentagon going to send the Yeminis?, and pointed out that the Secretary of Defense told Congress he doesn't know.

This mess grew even more chaotic this week, when Democrats refused the Administration's $50 million budget request to transfer some of the remaining 241 Gitmo detainees to a prison likely to be somewhere in the U.S. and perhaps to a new one built with taxpayer dollars.

"What do we do with the 50 to 100 -- probably in that ballpark -- who we cannot release and cannot try?" Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently asked Congress.

The best answer is Gitmo.

Congressmen from both parties are starting to oppose the resettlement of homeless terrorists in the United States, and yesterday they grilled Attorney-General Holder, who tap-danced around the issue:

Republicans critical of Obama's plan claim Guantanamo detainees cannot legally be brought to the United States because federal law bars entry to anyone who has received terrorist training.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., pressed Holder to say whether he believed he had the authority to release someone with terrorist training into the United States. The attorney general did not directly answer Shelby's question, but said the government doesn't have any plans to release terrorists.

"With regard to those who you would describe as terrorists, we would not bring them into this country and release them, anyone we would consider to be a terrorist," Holder said.

You see, Congressman, it all depends on the meaning of the word "terrorist." Also on the meanings of "describe" and "consider," not to mention "bring" and "country" and "release." I hope that answers your question.

The Democrat Chair at the hearing didn't sound any likelier than the Republicans to welcome the wretched refuse of Gitmo's teeming shore to her district:

The Democrat chairing the subcommittee hearing, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, also voiced misgivings, saying local and state elected officials should be told if they are going to receive detainees.

Mikulski said she and other lawmakers "would be very concerned" about not being consulted on what the plans are for detainees brought to the U.S.

A bill was introduced in Congress yesterday to place political roadblocks in the path of any resettlement of terrorists. Here's a summary of the provisions:

Affirming Congress’ Opposition to the Release and Transfer of Terrorists. The bill affirms Congress’ opposition to transferring or releasing terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay prison into the United States. Most Americans do not support releasing these terrorists from Guantanamo Bay prison and transferring them into the United States. The bill gives Congress an opportunity to show that it stands with the American people on this critical matter, and opposes the release and transfer of these terrorists.

Governor & State Legislature Pre-Approval. The measure prohibits the Administration from transferring or releasing any terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay to any state without express approval from the state’s governor and legislature, and certifies to Congress that strict requirements have been met. For example, the Administration must certify to the respective governor and state legislature that the detainee does not pose a security risk to the United States. The certifications must be made 60 days before any transfer or release.

Presidential Certification Requirements. The measure prohibits the President from transferring or releasing a terrorist detainee into the United States unless he provides the following notification and certification to Congress regarding:

• The name of the detainee and transfer/release location in the United States.

• The release/transfer would not negatively impact continued prosecution of the detainee.

• The release/transfer would not negatively impact continued detention of the detainee.

• The ability of federal judges to release detainees into the United States.

Clearly, domestic opposition is rising against bringing any Gitmo detainees to the U.S., much less releasing any that the administration would "describe" or "consider" not to be "terrorists."

FBI = Faulted in Backlog Imbroglio

The U.S. Department of Justice has released an Inspector General report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's terrorist watchlist practices. The watchlist is a consolidated product that was created in 2004 by merging separate watchlists that were maintained by various USG agencies that need to conduct investigations or screen people at U.S. points of entry. Now the FBI has exclusive management of the watchlist through it's Terrorist Screening Center, and has to provide a service to the greater Federal community.

How are they doing at that? Not so well, it seems. That finding will not surprise many Feds, who are accustomed to the fact that the FBI does not work well with other agencies.

Here are two items from the conclusion of the OIG report:

The FBI failed to nominate known or suspected terrorists in 15 percent of the cases we reviewed. Although the FBI has instituted policies and procedures intended to ensure that eligible subjects are appropriately nominated in a timely fashion, our testing of a sample of 216 cases in three FBI field offices suggests weakness in the implementation of these policies.

We found that 78 percent of the FBI terrorist watchlist nominations we reviewed were completed in an untimely manner.

78 percent of watchlist nominations were late in coming, and others never came at all? What's the problem? Basically, as I read the report, the typical FBI agent doesn't see any benefit accruing to the Bureau from maintaining a terrorist watchlist, and may even see a detriment to the Bureau. The report quotes agents who feared that, if they posted current info on the watchlist, some other agencies might open their own cases on the listed terrorists (and we can't have that), and quotes others expressing frustration when a listed terrorist was denied re-entry to the U.S. thereby prematurely ending their investigation (and also thereby protecting the U.S., but never mind).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ask the Imam: Is Democracy Sinful?

Ask the Imam, my favorite on-line guide to the application of Islamic law in matters large and small, gave a fascinating reply today to a two-part question about (1) whether the democratic system is inherently un-Islamic and therefore sinful, and (2) whether it is sinful to oppose the implementation of Shari’a law in Pakistan's Swat Valley.

The Iman answered just the way I thought he would, but at much more length and specificity. Here's his bottom line on democracy:

It is true that the democratic system is un-Islamic. Islam only recognises a ‘Shari’a system’, that is a system governed by the Qurān and Hadīth. Any system other than a ‘Shari’a system’ is un-Islamic and should not be supported by Muslims.

‘Democracy” is derived from the Greek word “dēmokratia” (“Dēmos” meaning people and “Kratos” meaning rule or strength). It is evident that in a democratic state, citizens are at liberty to voice their opinions and actively participate in decision-making and other state related issues. This has lured many Muslims to believe a democratic system to be a fair, just and equitable system. Convincing as it may seem, the truth is that a democratic system is un-Islāmic.

The reply is a short essay on the Islamic interpretation of democracy, voting and legislation, the political obligations of Muslims living in majority non-Muslim countries, and the demands of Islamic law in majority-Muslim countries such as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. My on-line Imam is only one Islamic authority among many, of course, but he normally seems to be mainstream in his rulings, and I expect that his interpretation of democracy is widely shared within the Islamic polity.

It should surprise no one that when Iraq and Afghanistan had elections, they adopted constitutions that recognize the Koran as the supreme law of the land, just as non-democratic Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had done.

Do We Know Who the Uyghurs Are? Do We Even Know How to Pronounce "Weeger?"

Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) has released a floor statement that makes plain his strong disapproval of the Obama administration's reported plans to relocate the Uyghur detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay to the United States:

"Madam Speaker, it is my understanding that President Obama’s decision regarding the release into the United States of a number of Uyghur detainees held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 could be imminent. The New York Times, ABC News and others news outlets have reported that the president will soon release these terrorists into the United States, and yet this Congress has yet to be briefed on this decision. This is unacceptable.

"Let’s be clear: these terrorists would not be held in prisons but released into neighborhoods. They should not be released at all into the United States. Do Members realize who these people are? There have been published reports that the Uyghurs were members of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, a designated terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda.

U.S. government policy towards the Uyghirs and the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is complicated. See this Congressional Research Service report, starting on page 8, for background.

For more on the ETIM, see the State Department's 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism and its index of Other Terrorist Groups. Here's how the report describes the ETIM and some actions it recently took against the Chinese government:

Despite a series of violent incidents and threats leading up to the Beijing Olympics, the Games were held successfully without terrorist incidents. Starting in June, representatives of a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) posted videos on the Internet taking credit for violent incidents in China and threatening to strike the Olympic Games. TIP is believed to be an another name for the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIP), also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which was added by UN 1267 Committee to its Consolidated List of individuals/entities associated with Usama bin Laden, al-Qa‘ida, or the Taliban on September 11, 2002. Among the incidents TIP took credit for was a series of bus bombings in Kunming, Yunnan Province that killed two people in July. In March, the Chinese government claimed that flight attendants foiled a plot to detonate a homemade explosive on a flight from Urumqi, Xinjiang to Beijing by subduing a female passenger.

That sounds like terrorism to me, but note that the State Department does not include the ETIM on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (it is merely on State's list of "other terrorist groups," and therefore doesn't receive the sanctions applied to FTOs). However, as noted above, the ETIM is listed by the United Nations as an entity with affiliations to Al-Qaeda.

The Obama administration is caught in a political dilemma. It wants to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility even if it means having to release and resettle in the United States some detainees who - like the Uyghurs - would be, ah, treated harshly if returned to their home countries. That plan requires the U.S. public and Congress to swallow the idea of having Islamic terrorists with Al-Qaeda affiliations living among us.

Of all the Guantanamo detainees, the Uyghurs are probably the group that would be the least offensive to the public and Congress since they seem to have committed no acts against U.S. interests. Possibly, the administration figures the Uyghurs would make a good opening wedge for its plan to eventually bring the whole GITMO gang to the U.S.

Representative Wolf obviously hopes that a public airing of the ETIM's record will make the Uyghur's resettlement in the U.S. politically impossible. I'm on his side.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Mr. Ambassador, Tear Down This Wire" (But Leave the Wall, We Might Need That)

Thanks to Diplopundit for pointing out this ceremonial de-fanging of U.S. Embassy Kabul's perimeter wall.

As someone familiar with razor-ribbon, I'm pleased to see it being removed in this instance because, matters of image aside, I don't think the embassy was getting much actual protective benefit from it. In the first place, they were using weak short-barb wire rather than the good stuff: U.S. Mil Spec General Purpose Barbed Tape Obstacle Type II. When you really need razor ribbon accept no substitutes. And in the second place, they had installed it ineffectively, just attaching it to wall outriggers (i.e., those short posts that point up at 45 degree angles from the top of the wall) instead of really tensioning it. In my judgment, that perimeter wall was easier for an attacker to scale when he could use the outriggers as hand-holds than it is now without the wire topping.

But the really interesting thing about the above photo is that the Ambassador is wearing a necktie the exact shade of Home Depot Orange that perfectly matches the step-ladder he's standing on. What fabulous dress sense he has!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Amy Winehouse Is Dry? In What World?

What kind of Bizarro World are they running down in St. Lucia? Amy Winehouse was just admitted to a hospital there to recover from - of all things - not drinking enough. And this follows a February health scare in which she was hospitalized for being drug-intolerant!

Troubled singer Amy Winehouse is recovering at a hospital in the Caribbean after collapsing at her holiday villa.

The Back to Black hitmaker - who is currently enjoying an extended sunshine break in St. Lucia - was admitted to a medical facility on the island on Friday night, suffering from dehydration.

The health scare comes nearly three months after she was previously rushed to hospital in St. Lucia in February after suffering an adverse reaction to her prescription medication

I like her music and hope she lives past 30, so I suppose she should spend as much time as possible in St. Lucia. It seems to be working for her, in an upside-down sort of way.

The Sky is Not Falling Again

This just in from the New York Times: it looks like we'll survive the Mexican Flu after all. See Outbreak in Mexico May Be Smaller Than Feared

At least, all of us who aren't part of the hyperventilating media hive will survive. I don't know how they'll get by until the next pseudo crisis comes along.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hijacker and Killer of U.S. Citizen Released From Custody in Italy

The government of Italy has released from prison one of the Palestinian hijackers of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, the notorious terrorist incident from 1985 in which an elderly and handicapped U.S. citizen was murdered.

The surviving family members of the victim released this statement: Daughters Of Leon Klinghoffer Outraged At Early Release Of Achille Lauro Hijacker

New York, NY, April 30, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer today expressed outrage at the early release of terrorist Youssef Magied Al-Molqui from a prison in Palermo, Sicily. Al-Molqui was convicted of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and of the shooting death of Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound American tourist. He served 23 years of a 30-year sentence.

Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer issued the following statement:

We are outraged at the news of the release of Youssef Magied Al-Molqui for good behavior. He is the terrorist who was responsible for actually shooting our father, Leon Klinghoffer, in cold blood, in his wheelchair.

We were furious with the Italian court's short sentencing at the time, and we are outraged to now learn that he will be leaving prison early for "good behavior." [TSB note: That all that good. In 1996, Al-Moqui failed to return to prison from a furlough and skipped out of Italy to Spain, where he was recaptured a month later.] There should be no good behavior clause for terrorist murderers. This is a travesty.

The Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation of the Anti-Defamation League is dedicated to educating the world about the deadly realities of terrorism, working to combat the threat of terrorism through educational, political and legal means.

According to the Associated Press, Al-Molqui is now in a holding center for immigrants in Trapani while Italian officials work to expel him. Is there something stopping the U.S. government from seizing this scumbag and delivering him to the U.S. justice system?

The leader of the attack on the Achille Lauro, Abu Abbas, was captured in Baghdad by U.S. forces in 2003 but died of a heart attack before he could be brought to the U.S. for trial, so this country has not yet punished anyone for the heinous murder of Klinghoffer. Italy has no death penalty, and I assume that extradition of Al-Molqui would require the U.S. to agree not to seek to execute him, but we could still seek a life sentence. Spending the rest of his life in a SuperMax prison is the very least Al-Molqui deserves.