Category Archives: Terrorism

Erect safeguards against mass surveillance

eavesdrop“One year ago this month, Americans learned that their government was engaged in secret dragnet surveillance, which contradicted years of assurances to the contrary from senior government officials and intelligence leaders,” Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Rand Paul wrote. “On this anniversary, it is more important than ever to let Congress and the administration know that Americans will reject half-measures that could still allow the government to collect millions of Americans’ records without any individual suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing. It is time to end the dragnet – and to affirm that we can keep our nation secure without trampling on and abandoning Americans’ constitutional rights.”

Pompeo needs to keep Benghazi probe from being partisan circus

pompeo,mikeThe appointment of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, to the special panel investigating Benghazi reflects how much GOP leadership respects him. As a Thursday editorial argued, he needs to do his best to ensure the probe is substantive and productive and not a partisan circus, as some earlier committee hearings have been. He should avoid partisan grandstanding and instead pursue the nonpartisan goals of justice for the killers and safer U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world.

Now Hillary Clinton is to blame for kidnapped girls?

Pakistan USNot only are Republicans trying desperately to blame the Benghazi attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but some conservative commentators and lawmakers are now trying to blame her for the kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls (which happened 14 months after she left office). Seriously. The only connection they can point to is that the State Department didn’t put Boko Haram on its list of foreign terrorist organizations until 2013. But that’s been enough fuel for what Dana Milbank of the Washington Post described as “a textbook example of the anatomy of a smear.”

Huelskamp thinks Benghazi worth $5 million reward

huelskampRep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, second to none in Congress in opposing federal spending, found one expenditure to endorse last week: a $5 million reward to anyone who could provide information about the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. Huelskamp is co-sponsoring legislation with Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, to mandate the reward through the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program. “By offering a substantial reward for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of suspects in these attacks, this bill will help Americans learn the truth about Benghazi,” Huelskamp said in a statement.

More death, heartache at Fort Hood

forthood2014Americans again have Fort Hood on their minds and in their prayers after Wednesday’s shooting spree. The gunman, an Iraq War veteran being treated for mental illness, killed three people and injured 16 others before committing suicide. Though the incident stirred fears of another terrorist attack like the 2009 one in which more than a dozen died, it now seems more like another indicator of the urgent need to deliver help and hope to those active-duty military and veterans suffering from depression and other serious mental illnesses. It’s sobering, too, to realize that the military deaths on American soil followed the first month in 11 years with no U.S. fatalities in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Could Pompeo lead the House intel panel?

pompeo,mikeRoll Call and other Capitol-watching media have included Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, among the lawmakers interested in succeeding Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, along with Reps. Peter T. King of New York, Devin Nunes of California and Jeff Miller of Florida. “All those candidates would carry on Rogers’ hawkish stance as chairman of the committee, and all are fairly close to Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, relationships that could be a major determining factor if Boehner continues his reign into the 114th Congress, as he has said he will,” reported Roll Call. Pompeo spokesman J.P. Freire told Roll Call that “it’s far too early in the process to speculate on who might be the next chairman, especially given that this is a decision only the speaker can make.” Pompeo lacks seniority on the panel, but has been an unflinching public defender of the intelligence community amid the Edward Snowden revelations. Rogers’ decision to retire at the end of the year took some by surprise.

Pompeo: Obama directive hurts intelligence capabilities

spyingliberty1Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former White House attorney David B. Rivkin Jr. argued in a Wall Street Journal commentary that President Obama’s recent intelligence directive “undermines our intelligence capabilities in service of a novel cause: foreign privacy interests.” They especially criticized Obama for extending the “same privacy protections to foreigners that now apply to data regarding ‘U.S. persons’” and called on Congress to “hold him accountable for a directive that will hobble our foreign-intelligence capabilities, even as the world spies on us and threats to Americans multiply.”

Is another investigation of Benghazi needed?

clinton,benghaziThough the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan report last week on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, columnist Cal Thomas wants more investigation. “What is needed is for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to appoint a select committee, modeled after the Senate Watergate Committee, with subpoena powers to question under oath witnesses and those in charge,” Thomas wrote.

Public doesn’t like surveillance, but it’s not a policy priority

eavesdrop4Though 63 percent of Americans don’t like government surveillance of U.S. citizens, only 42 percent consider it an extremely or very important priority for Congress and the president, lower than 15 other priorities, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Obama tries to strike balance with new surveillance rules

nsaflag2President Obama likely went too far for some and not far enough for others Friday when he ordered the end to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. He also barred eavesdropping on leaders of allied countries. “In our rush to respond to very real and novel threats, the risks of government overreach – the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security – became more pronounced,” Obama said.

Huelskamp, Jenkins at odds on NBAF factor in budget deal

biodefenselabRep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who voted “no” last week on the Ryan-Murray budget deal, challenged as “completely inaccurate” the argument that the deal was needed to provide funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, which is in Huelskamp’s district. “This deal did not include any appropriations. Instead, it was an agreement to increase overall deficit spending by $63 billion over the next two years, but did not identify spending for any specific program, agency or project,” Huelskamp said in a statement, adding that the time to comment on NBAF funding will come with a spending bill next month. But Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, said of her “yes” vote on the deal: “Passing a budget agreement will have a direct impact on funding for NBAF, period, and to deny that is misleading to Kansans. The only way for NBAF to receive anything close to $404 million is to go through the regular appropriations process, and you absolutely cannot do that without this budget agreement.”

Terrorism plot a sobering reminder of danger

grissomterrorThe threat of domestic terrorism just became uncomfortably real for south-central Kansas, with the announcement about a foiled suicide bombing at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Congratulations and gratitude are due the federal, state and local authorities whose work and collaboration enabled the incident to end with an arrest rather than a deadly blast. The arrest was a sobering reminder that a dozen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, people out there want to kill and maim Americans, and not only in coastal urban centers.

Most Muslims oppose violence, al-Qaida

Large majorities of Muslims surveyed in 11 foreign countries oppose violence in the name of Islam, the Pew Research Center found. For example, 89 percent of Pakistani Muslims surveyed think that suicide bombings can never be justified. Only in the Palestinian territories did a majority of Muslims say that suicide bombings often or sometimes could be justified. Also, the percentage of Muslims who have a favorable view of al-Qaida ranged from 1 percent in Lebanon to 35 percent in the Palestinian territories.

How much libertarianism does GOP want?

The GOP presidential race in 2016 “will be heavily defined by just how much libertarianism Republicans want in their party,” Chris Cillizza wrote in the Washington Post. “The answer isn’t certain yet. But it is telling that 40 percent of the House Republican conference voted for legislation that would have significantly curtailed the reach of a government program designed, at least in part, to prevent terrorist attacks.”

An ‘Ellison said, Pompeo said’ situation

In an ABC News interview highlighting his status as the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (in photo), D-Minn., mentioned a fellow House member who “said Muslim Americans are not condemning terrorism enough.” That was a reference to a June floor speech by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. Ellison’s anecdote continued: “And I said, ‘well, let me guarantee you, Muslims are condemning terrorism every day all the time…’ and I gave him a whole list, and he said, ‘Thanks for telling me, I didn’t know, I won’t be saying that again.’” Asked about the incident, Pompeo told The Eagle editorial board in a statement: “Rep. Ellison’s claim is wrong. I continue to believe that Islamic clerics in mosques and the madrassas around the world have an obligation to consistently denounce terrorism done in the name of their faith. While it is true that Rep. Ellison did complain to me on the House floor, it is a shame that he did so by simply repeating the comments of (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and demanding I back down.”

Pompeo’s criticism of Snowden draws Guardian response

Is Edward Snowden a whistle-blower or a traitor? Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, labeled Snowden (in photo) the latter in a recent commentary in The Eagle, arguing that the former National Security Agency contractor “has provided intelligence to America’s adversaries, enabling them to change tactics and avoid detection.” That drew a response from the Guardian, one of the newspapers to which Snowden leaked NSA documents showing the scope of phone and Internet surveillance. While acknowledging that “information published in the press can be read by anyone,” the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman noted that Snowden leaked documents to newspapers, not to al-Qaida or North Korea, and said Snowden told him directly during an online chat that he would not trade access to his documents for asylum. Ackerman challenged “the blithe assertion, absent evidence, that the former NSA contractor actively collaborated with America’s enemies. Snowden made classified information about widespread surveillance available to the American public. That’s a curious definition of an enemy for U.S. legislators to adopt.” Snowden is believed to be at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, trying to arrange asylum in another country and to avoid extradition to the U.S.

UPDATE: J.P. Freire, Pompeo’s director of communications, told The Eagle editorial board that Pompeo doesn’t know whether or not Snowden “actively collaborated” with America’s enemies. But “we do know that what he did helped our enemies,” Freire said, “and that’s why we classify information in the first place – to prevent it from falling in the wrong hands.”

Don’t surrender civil liberties

What is most troubling about the NSA’s data-collection program “is that Americans are not particularly troubled by any of it,” columnist Leonard Pitts wrote. “According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post, most of us – 56 percent – are OK with the monitoring of metadata, a process then-Sen. Joe Biden called ‘very, very intrusive’ back in 2006.”

Pompeo’s claim about Muslim leaders was ‘irresponsible’

What possessed Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, to give a speech on the House floor last week claiming that Islamic religious leaders across America don’t publicly and frequently condemn acts of terrorism? What’s more, he said their “silence” makes them “potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.” U.S. Islamic leaders regularly and repeatedly condemn terrorism and say that it violates the core tenets of Islam. Muslim communities also have been instrumental in preventing terrorism by reporting extremist activities. And Muslims, of course, serve in the U.S. military and law enforcement, fighting on the front lines against terrorism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called on Pompeo to correct his “false and irresponsible” remarks and provided him with links to dozens and dozens of statements by U.S. Muslim leaders condemning terrorism. “It is difficult to understand how an elected official with the resources available to any member of Congress missed such an overwhelming amount of material,” a CAIR official wrote. Pompeo responded that he was “not backing down.”

Pro-con: Is Edward Snowden a hero?

Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old National Security Agency whistle-blower, is a hero. In revealing the colossal scale of the U.S. government’s eavesdropping on Americans and other people around the world, he has performed a great public service that more than outweighs any breach of trust he may have committed. Like Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department official who released the Pentagon Papers, and Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear technician who revealed the existence of Israel’s weapons program, before him, Snowden has brought to light important information that deserved to be in the public domain, while doing no lasting harm to the national security of his country. Snowden uncovered questionable activities that those in power would rather have kept secret. That’s the valuable role that whistle-blowers play in a free society, and it’s one that, in each individual case, should be weighed against the potential harm their revelations can cause. In some instances, conceivably, the interests of the state should prevail. Here, though, the scales are clearly tipped in Snowden’s favor. – John Cassidy, New Yorker

Edward Snowden is neither a hero nor a whistle-blower. He is, rather, a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison. Snowden wasn’t blowing the whistle on anything illegal; he was exposing something that failed to meet his own standards of propriety. The question, of course, is whether the government can function when all of its employees (and contractors) can take it upon themselves to sabotage the programs they don’t like. That’s what Snowden has done. The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air – and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. – Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker

Huelskamp steps up for NBAF

When last year’s redistricting landed Manhattan in the 1st Congressional District, many Kansans wondered whether fiscal hawk Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, would advocate for the federal funding needed to build the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in the city. Huelskamp stepped up last week as the House debated a $45 billion Homeland Security spending bill that includes $404 million for NBAF, arguing on the floor that “as a Kansas farmer and rancher, I recognize the critical damage that would be done to our livestock industries if we do not proceed forth with construction of NBAF.” The bill passed over the objection of Rep. Timothy Bishop, D-N.Y., who argued: “This NBAF project is a boondoggle. We don’t even have a shovel in the ground yet and already the cost has gone up by 250 percent. It is not needed.” Not coincidentally, Bishop’s district includes Plum Island, the site of the federal research lab scheduled to be replaced by NBAF.

NSA phone snooping shows need to scrutinize Patriot Act

It’s hard to know which is more disconcerting – that the National Security Agency is getting telephone records for millions of Americans via a secret court’s order or that such sweeping intelligence gathering is routine, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The White House hasn’t confirmed the Guardian newspaper’s report that a Verizon subsidiary was ordered in April to provide the NSA with daily information on all calls by its customers within the U.S. and from foreign locations into the U.S. But an anonymous White House official defended the practice Thursday “as a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats.” A dozen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, however, the nation is due for a hard look at the constitutionality and necessity of the USA Patriot Act, under which such snooping is legal. UPDATE: The NSA and the FBI also have been tracking people’s movements and contacts by tapping directly into the servers of nine big Internet companies, the Washington Post reported Thursday. The classified PRISM program began in 2007 and now accounts for 1 in 7 intelligence reports, according to the Post.

Pompeo warns against releasing Gitmo detainees

A recent visit to Guantanamo Bay did not persuade Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, that the prison needs to close or that the detainees’ hunger strike is a crisis. “It is not a crisis mode,” he said last weekend on MSNBC. “We have prisoners down there that have chosen not to consume calories, have chosen not to take protein. We now have an obligation to try to take care of them.… The last thing to say about these folks who are assertedly hunger strikers is that they look to me like a lot of them have put on weight.” Pompeo also warned against releasing the 166 remaining detainees, saying “25 percent of the folks that have been released today have returned to the battlefield to wreak havoc against American interests to continue to battle for Islamic jihad.” In a recent speech, President Obama renewed his promise to close the prison, as he said he’d lift a ban on detainee transfers to Yemen.

Our enemies are not contained

President Obama wants to end the open-ended “war on terror” and refocus on individual terrorists or terrorist cells. But that doesn’t mean the threats are gone, columnist Kathleen Parker warned. “We may change our strategies, but we should not convince ourselves that our enemies are contained,” she wrote. “Rather, they are like cicadas, rising from their subterranean berths to wreak havoc when the time is ripe. Let’s hope we’re ready when that time comes.”

Whistleblowers will contradict officials on Benghazi

Benghazi will be back in the news this week, as a U.S. House committee will hold more hearings on the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya. Testimony by State Department whistleblowers is expected to contradict some earlier accounts by Obama administration officials. For example, Gregory Hicks, the deputy The deputy of slain U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, maintains that a team of Special Forces prepared to fly to Benghazi during the attacks was forbidden from doing so by U.S. Special Operations Command South Africa, CBS News reported.

Acts of bravery, dedication amid tragedies

The bombings in Boston and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, again showed Americans the bravery and dedication of law enforcement and other first responders. Boston police and medical personnel rushed to the bomb site to aid victims. Then local and federal law enforcement worked nonstop to identify and apprehend those responsible. In Texas, firefighters and other emergency responders gave their lives trying to prevent the explosion. Other acts of heroism occur every day in this country but often go unnoticed.