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Exposure of CIA Station Chief Spotlights Administration’s Immaturity

May 27th, 2014 - 10:24 am

Anybody can make a mistake, and that certainly appears to be what led to the Obama White House’s exposure of the top CIA official in Afghanistan this weekend. Unfortunately, as Roger Kimball details, this is not an isolated incident. In year six of the Obama administration, it speaks volumes about not just incompetence but immaturity and the skewed priorities that come with it.

Exactly because anyone can make a mistake, large organizations — presidential administrations included — build layers of vetting into the disclosure of information to the public. In this instance, because the commander-in-chief made a surprise visit to Afghanistan over Memorial Day weekend, the White House put out a list of government officials the president met with. Somehow, that list included the intelligence official’s name with the designation “chief of station.”

This error is so basic that it grabbed the attention of Scott Wilson of the Washington Post, the “pool reporter” who received the list. Regrettably, he’d already sent out the pool report by the time he noticed the station chief designation and thought to ask whether the White House press office had really intended to put out that information.

That’s how the administration learned about what it had done — from a reporter. Think about that. In the composition and disclosure of this list, many people on both the military end and White House end have to have known that such information should never be circulated. That’s not only true as a matter of principle and common sense; it’s empirically true: Fox News reports that this administration has already had to remove a CIA station chief in Pakistan (in 2010) because of an exposure incident. It is astonishing that such an obvious error was not caught.

It is, moreover, tough to be sympathetic because Democrats never are when the shoe is on the other foot. When Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA operative — apparently inadvertently, by senior State Department official Richard Armitage — Democrats turned the error into a major controversy that damaged the Bush administration. Ms. Plame had a desk job at Langley and there are no indications that her exposure caused much harm. (There were reports at the time suggesting that she had been exposed long before through a bureaucratic screw-up.) By contrast, the official just exposed by the White House is the current top CIA official in a war zone that presents tremendous challenges to the United States, one where intelligence gathering is at a premium. The gravity of this error thus appears far more serious than the one over which Democrats spent years demanding a Bush administration scalp.

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Confusion on Boko Haram and Terrorism

May 17th, 2014 - 11:44 am

For admirers of George Will and Charles Krauthammer, it’s a real treat to find them together many nights on Bret Baier’s panel on Special Report. But I must confess to nearly falling out of my chair upon watching the replay of a segment last night in which Mr. Will opined that Boko Haram seemed to him more like “a military insurgency” than a terrorist organization. Dr. K vigorously refuted this assertion and was right to do so.

At issue was the State Department’s failure, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary, to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. I sympathize with Will’s (very) general premise that “terrorist” is an overused term. But the premise was inapposite in this case.

Terrorism is the use and threatened use of mass violence in violation of the laws of war in order to coerce a government or society into policy changes or the acceptance of some ideological agenda. It does indeed trivialize the term to apply it to people who do not commit terrorism, whether they are serious criminals (e.g., mafia hit-men or serial murderers) or, as is fashionable on the Left, to people who merely represent things with which one disagrees (e.g., energy-producers, “the one percent,” or the Tea Party). It is not wrong, however, to refer to terrorists as terrorists—it’s entirely accurate.

Will said he sees terrorism as “random” violence, while Boko Haram seemed to him more like a military insurgency against the Nigerian government. Since Boko Haram has what Will sees as “military objectives,” that somehow suggests to him that its violent attacks are more like lawful combat operations than terrorism. It is tough to unwind all he gets wrong here (though Krauthammer did a very good job of it).

A terrorist organization is distinguished from a militia by its failure to comply with the laws and customs of war—particularly, its intentional targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Al Qaeda has military objectives, too; so does every terrorist organization. The fact that a terrorist organization has “military objectives” is beside the point if it pursues those objectives through mass-murder attacks in conjunction other operations distinguished by their extreme cruelty—like brutally murdering scores of school boys and turning young girls into sex slaves, as Boko Haram does.

I assume that by “random” attacks, Will means that terrorists terrorize by creating an atmosphere of intimidation in which anyone could be attacked at any time. Military insurgencies, by contrast, conduct more regular, predictable attacks, concentrating on targets that have military value (even if hitting them causes collateral damage to civilians). If that’s how he sees it, one has to assume that he simply does not know much about Boko Haram. Its attacks are as random as any other terrorist organization’s. There are more of them, but that is because Boko Haram is a particularly vicious group, not because it is fighting a traditional battlefield campaign. And while it attacks government targets (just like al Qaeda has attacked the Pentagon, U.S. embassies, and U.S. military installations), Boko Haram routinely targets civilian centers, school children, churches, and other Western targets that could only be considered “military objectives” by a violent jihadist who sees non-Muslims as “at war with Islam.”

Moreover, as Bret Baier pointed out, Tom Joscelyn has outlined long-standing ties between Boko Haram and al Qaeda. (Tom’s latest on that, in the Weekly Standard, is here.) Will appears to be under the misimpression (one the State Department promotes) that Boko Haram is not part of the global jihad but is simply waging a local war for political control of Nigeria. But this canard elevates what progressives want to believe about Boko Haram (and radical Islam generally) over the reality of how these groups define themselves.

Boko Haram’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, meaning “People (or The Group) Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teaching and Jihad.” The short handle Boko Haram reflects a part of this overarching Islamic supremacist mission: “Western education is forbidden.” (Note the wishful thinking of progressives repeatedly peddled over the past few days: Boko Haram, we’re told, is not an Islamist group; they are just a backward-thinking political group opposed to education. In fact, what they oppose is Western education; they are all for Islamic education because they are an avowedly Islamist group.)

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Boko Haram is a violent Salafist group that emerged in predominantly Muslim northeast Nigeria in the early 2000s. (Salafism is a Sunni Muslim reform movement that seeks return to the mores of the first generations of Muslims — the Salafiyya or the companions of Mohammed.)

There are reports that it got seed money from Osama bin Laden, and it has long been known to have al Qaeda ties, but how closely it actually works with al Qaeda — as opposed to loud displays of ideological support — is the subject of some debate in the U.S. government. This debate is reflective of general confusion and incoherence in American counterterrorism policy.

The ideological glue that holds Islamist groups together is Islamic supremacism, which is directly derived from a strict, literal interpretation of Muslim scripture, coupled with a belief that the “golden age” of Islam was the time of the first generations — Mohammed and his immediate companions and descendants — to which Muslims must return if they are ever to overcome the corrupting influence of the West. (Boko Haram actually means “Western education is ‘haram’ or forbidden.”)

Nevertheless, our government adamantly refuses to acknowledge the Islamic doctrinal underpinnings of Islamic supremacism.  Consequently, the disconnect: Boko Haram is quite clear that its goal is to impose sharia law and join al Qaeda’s global jihad. Its targets include churches and Western symbols, and its current leader, Abubakar Shekau, is quoted threatening the United States in 2010: “Do not think jihad is over. Rather jihad has just begun. America, die with your fury.” Yet, the Obama administration long refused to designate it as a terrorist organization — at the insistence of the State Department under Hillary Clinton, over the objections of other government agencies. (The State Department finally listed Boko Haram as a terrorist organization after John Kerry took over for Mrs. Clinton.)

Instead, ignoring what Boko Haram pronounces its goals to be, the Obama administration portrayed it as a diffuse organization with no clear agenda that was ascendant due to the policies of the Nigerian government (which is under Christian leadership). As the Boko Haram threat got progressively worse, the State Department and the White House theorized that it could be defused by better government engagement with the Muslim population in Northern Nigeria, and that designating Boko Haram as a terrorist organization—which would have triggered our law’s array of counterterrorism tools and squeezed the organization financially—would raise its prestige while encouraging more government repression against Muslims.

Note the absurdity: our government denies the Islamic doctrinal roots of jihadist terror, yet constantly fears that America’s condemnation of a group as “terrorist” will increase its appeal to factions of the Muslim population.

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Steve Hayes has another important report at the Weekly Standard today about how, in the stretch run of a tight presidential election campaign, the Obama administration misled the public regarding the Benghazi Massacre. The whole report is worth your time, but the conclusion really demonstrates how indefensible the White House position has become:

At the same time the White House was putting the [anti-Muslim] video at the center of the Benghazi story, intelligence professionals and U.S. officials on the ground in Libya were describing a precise attack carried out by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. The Weekly Standard has learned that an analysis from the Defense Intelligence Agency produced a day before [Obama deputy national security adviser Ben] Rhodes sent his email assigned blame for the attacks to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al Sharia Libya. [As Hayes explains, the Rhodes email uncovered by Judicial Watch “rooted” the “protests” in  the “internet video.”] The DIA analysis did not mention a video. It adds to the still-growing body of memos and warnings from top U.S. officials. The top U.S. intelligence official on the ground in Libya repeatedly told officials in Washington that the Benghazi attacks were part of a planned assault by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists. The top diplomat in the country said the same thing. Last week, a top intelligence official for AFRICOM told Congress that he shared that view.

We are left with this reality: Top diplomats and intelligence officers in Libya offered assessments of the Benghazi attacks that were true when they made them and remain true today. But top Obama administration officials ignored those assessments. Six weeks before the 2012 presidential election, those officials—at the direction of White House communications and political strategists desperate to maintain the fiction that al Qaeda was “on the run”—lied to the public about how four Americans were killed in a sophisticated attack carried out, on the anniversary of 9/11, by terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda.

Kerry Echoes His Boss

April 29th, 2014 - 9:04 am

John Kerry is attempting to walk back his smear of Israel as an “apartheid” state. That the current secretary of state is a clownish figure has been well known for decades. But what should not be lost in the latest gaffe is that it is not a gaffe. In what he foolishly thought was a safe place to let his hair down, Kerry merely gave voice to what the Obama administration thinks. “Apartheid” trips easily off his tongue because it is part of the Islamist narrative that the administration has internalized.

Forget Kerry. This was made explicit in Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech—for anyone who didn’t infer it already from Obama’s friendships with notorious Israel bashers like Rashid Khalidi and Bill Ayers (see P. David Hornik’s FPM report on Ayers joining his fellow tenured radicals in a 2010 petition accusing Israel of — all together now — apartheid policies). As I recounted in The Grand Jihad, Obama’s speech “combined fictional accounts of Islamic history and doctrine, a woefully ignorant explanation of Israel’s claim to its sovereign territory, and an execrable moral equivalence drawn between Southern slave owners in early America and modern Israelis besieged by Palestinian terror.”

On the latter two points, in what I described as a “sweet-sounding sell-out,” the president claimed:

The recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust.

The Muslim Brotherhood leaders invited to the speech over the Mubarak government’s objection must have been giddy. My book explains:

“The basic Arab argument against Israel,” Caroline Glick observes, is that the Jewish nation was established for a single reason:  “to soothe the guilty consciences of Europeans who were embarrassed about the Holocaust.  By their telling, the Jews have no legal, historic or moral rights to the Land of Israel.”

This is patently false. As Melanie Phillips put it:

The Jews’ aspiration for their homeland does not derive from the Holocaust, nor their overall tragic history.  It derives from Judaism itself, which is composed of the inseparable elements of the religion, the people and the land.  Their unique claim upon the land rests upon the fact that the Jews are the only people for whom Israel was ever their nation, which it was for hundreds of years—centuries before the Arabs and Muslims came on the scene.

Exactly.  The legal, historical, and moral claims of Jews predate Adolph Hitler by many centuries.  As Glick elaborates, what the League of Nations mandated in 1922 was not the creation but the reconstitution of the Jewish commonwealth.  Moreover, by emphasizing “anti-Semitism in Europe,” Obama ignored the Nazis’ alliance with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinians—“and the fact,” Phillips adds,that Nazi-style Jew-hatred continues to pour out of the Arab and Muslim world to this day.”

It was all well and good for the president to discourage “threatening Israel with destruction” and the repetition of  “vile stereotypes about Jews.” But this was just buttering-up rhetoric, preparing the way for a wholesale adoption of Palestinian mythology.

According to Obama, it was “undeniable” that for sixty years the Palestinians had suffered in pursuit of a homeland, endured the pain of dislocation, and been confined “in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands,” waiting, ever waiting for “a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.”

This is preposterous.  Let’s put aside that the Palestinians have controlled Gaza since 2005—any refugee camps there are courtesy of Hamas. The Arabs, Phillips pointed out, could easily have created a Palestinian state during the twenty years (between 1948 and 1967) that Jordan and Egypt held the West Bank and Gaza, respectively. They opted not to do so. Before that, the Palestinians had been offered a homeland in 1936 and 1947, and Israel renewed the offer in 1967 and 2000.  They keep turning down these entreaties because their goal is to destroy Israel, not coexist in “peace and security.”

How fitting it would have been, in Cairo, for an American president to look [the al-Azhar University officials in the audience] in the eye and observe that Egypt, too, has a border with Gaza, which they police energetically—at times, brutally—to seal off the Palestinians.

But no, instead we got Islamism 101:  The Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegitimate, the president declared. They “undermine efforts to achieve peace” and must stop. Unstated, naturally, were the nettlesome facts that: (a) a million Arabs live in Israel (live, in fact, with more freedom and dignity than Arabs live anywhere else in the Middle East), and (b) Palestinians demand a “right of return” to Israel (one that would destroy its character as a Jewish state) as part of any final settlement. Hectoring Israel over the settlements is the world according to sharia:  What’s Islam’s is Islam’s, and what’s yours is Islam’s.

Worse than that, though, Obama treated listeners to this bit of wisdom: “Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed” (emphasis added). Resistance is a weasel word par excellence—sort of Saul Alinsky for Islamists. It is how the Islamist can tell you, straight-faced, that he is vigorously opposed to “terrorism.” In his mind, “terrorism” is American national defense and the existence of the Zionist entity. Blowing up Israelis and American troops, by contrast, is not terrorism—it’s resistance. By using their weasel word, the president accepted a noxious premise: The Palestinians are an oppressed people, not a people trying to annihilate their unwanted neighbors. Their violence and killing is not a moral wrong but a tactical problem—“it will not succeed.”

And why not?  Well, because in Obama’s twisted history, the Palestinians are just like “black people in America” fighting for their civil rights . . . which, of course, implicitly casts Israelis in the role of slave owners inflicting “the lash of the whip.”  Those civil rights, Obama maintained, were won solely “by peaceful and determined resistance.”

In Cairo, the president drew a despicable analogy between (a) the plight of American blacks from the time of slavery through the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. and (b) the Palestinian campaign of terror that has failed to achieve statehood because its unrelenting goal—reaffirmed recently as a few days ago when Hamas and Fatah united—is the annihilation of the Jewish state, not peaceful coexistence with it.

I do not understand how anyone who heard Obama’s Cairo speech could be remotely surprised by Kerry’s “apartheid” remarks.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that dozens of lawyers will be reassigned to the Justice Department’s pardon office in anticipation of a surge of applications from drug offenders for reductions in their sentences — applications the Obama administration has signaled it would look upon favorably. This exercise is another transparent usurpation of legislative power by the president. The pardon power is just the camouflage for it.

The pardon power exists so that the president can act in individual cases to correct excesses and injustices. It is not supposed to be a vehicle by which presidents rewrite congressional statutes that they disagree with philosophically (just as “prosecutorial discretion,” another doctrine the Obama administration has abused, is not supposed to be a vehicle by which the president substitutes his policies for duly enacted federal law).

The Obama administration is philosophically opposed to mandatory minimums in the federal penal law, especially in the narcotics area. The Justice Department is filled with racialist ideologues and pro-criminal rights ideologues (they tend to be the same people) who have long contended that the drug laws are racist. This is another of those absurd arguments that finds racism based on unintended consequences rather than racist designs.

The mandatory minimums for crack (“cocaine base”) crimes are more severe than for powder cocaine (which was called “cocaine hydrochloride” back when I was a federal prosecutor). Many crack distributors are black and Hispanic, while many powder cocaine distributors are white — although there are plenty of whites in the former category and minority dealers in the latter. Thus, it is contended, the mandatory minimums are racist in effect.

It has been argued for decades that this disparity is unjust. As a matter of racism, this claim is frivolous. As a matter of logic, it is not: crack is rightly punished more severely because it is more addictive and ruinous. For a long time, though, crack was punished at a 100:1 ratio to powder coke (e.g., the 10-year mandatory minimum kicked in at 5,000 grams, or 5 kilos, of powder coke but only 50 grams of crack). It is perfectly constitutional for Congress to do this, but it is not sensible — crack may be worse than powder coke, but not a hundred times worse.

The way our system deals with bad laws is to change them by legislative repeal or amendment, not for the president to decree new laws unilaterally. And, in fact, the drug laws have been changed: Crack is still treated more harshly, but the crack floor for the 10-year minimum was raised (by a factor of more than 5) from 50 to 280 grams. Similarly, for the 5-year mandatory minimum, the ratio is no longer 100:1 — while it is still triggered by 500 grams of powder cocaine, it now takes 28 grams of crack, not 5 grams.

To many people, this is still too wide a disparity, but note that the difference is based on the severe addictive tendencies and street-level violence associated with crack, not race. And in any event, if the law is to be changed, our system requires that it be changed by passing laws in Congress.

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Outside of the specter of U.S. pressure on Israel to release additional scores of terrorists, I confess to having had little interest in the latest futile American quest to resuscitate the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Like most transnational progressive enterprises, this decades-old theater is all process and no peace—about what you’d expect from a venture in which the United States believes it must be an impartial “honest broker” between America’s friends and America’s enemies.

To make a long, long, long story short, there can be no acceptable peace between Israel and the Palestinians absent four non-negotiable conditions: (a) there must be a single authority capable of negotiating for the Palestinian side; (b) the Palestinians must unconditionally accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state; (c) the Palestinians must convincingly renounce terrorism; and (d) the Palestinians must abandon the absurd “right of return” demand. Islamic supremacists whine that this is a one-sided set of requirements, but it’s not. It is basic in any negotiation that each side acknowledge the other’s right to exist and basic sovereign prerogatives. Besides, we all know that there is almost no concession Israel would refrain from making for the sake of peace if these elementary understandings were in place. So my general attitude about the “peace process” is: Wake me up when the Palestinians agree to those conditions and, in the meantime, try not to do too much harm.

Nevertheless, it is worth reading Adam Kredo’s report in the Washington Free Beacon on the Obama administration’s underhanded efforts to scapegoat Israel for the inevitable failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s farcical attempt to negotiate a final settlement without pressing the Palestinians to make the basic concessions everyone knows must be made. Adam writes:

The Obama administration has been waging a secret media war in capitals across two continents blaming Israel for the recent collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians, according to former Israeli diplomats and Washington, D.C. insiders familiar with the peace process.

Multiple sources told the Washington Free Beacon that top Obama administration officials have worked for the past several days to manufacture a crisis over the reissuing of housing permits in a Jerusalem neighborhood widely acknowledged as Israeli territory.

Senior State Department officials based in Israel have sought to lay the groundwork for Israel to take the blame for talks collapsing by peddling a narrative to the Israeli press claiming that the Palestinians were outraged over Israeli settlements, the Free Beacon has learned.

These administration officials have planted several stories in Israeli and U.S. newspapers blaming Israel for the collapse of peace talks and have additionally provided reporters with anonymous quotes slamming the Israeli government.

The primary source of these multiple reports has been identified as Middle East envoy Martin Indyk and his staff, according to these insiders, who said that the secret media campaign against Israel paved the way for Secretary of State John Kerry to go before Congress on Tuesday and publicly blame Israel for tanking the talks.

“The Palestinians didn’t even know they were supposed to be abandoning negotiations because of these housing permits, which are actually old, reissued permits for areas everyone assumes will end up on the Israelis’ side of the border anyway,” said one senior official at a U.S. based pro-Israel organization who asked to remain anonymous because the Obama administration has in the past retaliated against critics from inside the pro-Israel world….

So the Palestinians won’t concede that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, and Hamas—which rules at least half the Palestinians and is not controlled by the Fatah faction Kerry is courting—continues to promise jihad until Israel is annihilated, and Obama wants you to think the problem is … housing permits in Jerusalem?

We have seen for over five years now that the Obama administration and its State Department (under both Hillary Clinton and Kerry) are sympathetic to the Islamic supremacist case against Israel—or, to try to put a more benign spin on it, are persuaded that appeasing Islamic supremacists is the best way to make them more accommodating. I happen to think that’s reckless, but wouldn’t it be refreshing if they’d just say what they really think rather than playing these stupid games?

And imagine being Israel about now, with President Obama saying, “Hey, don’t worry about what might be going on in my Iran negotiations. You know I’ve got your back.” Gives you lots of confidence, no?

Obama’s Motley ‘Champions of Change’

April 4th, 2014 - 8:51 am

I did not learn until this week that President Obama’s website, WhiteHouse.gov, regularly profiles young leftwing radicals it calls “Champions of Change.” Now, in a space of just a few days, two of the president’s “champions” have made news.

One is Linda Sarsour, described by the White House as a “community activist” who specializes in “community organizing” and “immigrants’ rights advocacy,” and who “conducts trainings nationally on the importance of civic engagement in the Arab and Muslim American community.” Evidently, civic engagement need not be civil engagement. Ms. Sarsour has joined her voice to that of CAIR in the campaign to suppress Honor Diaries, a film about the brutalization and systematic inequality faced by women in Muslim-majority societies. Ms. Sarsour reacted to the widely viewed and acclaimed film by tweeting:

How many times do we have to tell White women that we do not need to be saved by them? Is there code language I need to use to get thru?

I’d note that the executive producer of Honor Diaries is the heroic Somali human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It features several courageous Muslim women, including Pakistani-born Qanta Ahmed, a medical doctor who has an important column about the film and the campaign to suppress it at NRO today. But there are indeed some “White women” involved in the writing, production and financing of the film, and that’s apparently too much for a “Champion of Change” to abide.

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Earlier today, a jury in Manhattan federal court convicted Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, of al Qaeda’s conspiracy to mass-murder Americans, as well as providing material support to the terror network. I discussed the case here, and Ben Weiser’s report at the New York Times is here.

The result is cause for celebration, including for those of us who can separate public policy disputes from justice in individual cases. I have been arguing for many years that alien enemy combatants should not be given civilian trials, particularly while the war is still ongoing—and while the country certainly does not seem to be on a war footing, we are still have troops in harm’s way, we are still in armed combat against al Qaeda and its allies under a congressional authorization of force, and the Obama administration is still using lethal force against al Qaeda operatives under the laws of war. But regardless of whether I ever succeed in persuading the government on how enemy-combatant terrorists should be treated—the current administration is dead set against my position—I still want the United States to convict culpable terrorists, no matter where the trials happen, civilian or military court. The policy debate is by definition political (in the non-pejorative sense of “political”); but no one should want to see the trials themselves politicized.

Alas, Attorney General Holder cannot help himself. Here is part of the press release he put out after Abu Ghaith’s conviction:

I want to especially note that this verdict has proven that proceedings such as these can safely occur in the city I am proud to call home, as in other locations across our great nation. It was appropriate that this defendant, who publicly rejoiced over the attacks on the World Trade Center, faced trial in the shadow of where those buildings once stood.

We never doubted the ability of our Article III court system to administer justice swiftly in this case, as it has in hundreds of other cases involving terrorism defendants. It would be a good thing for the country if this case has the result of putting that political debate to rest. This outcome vindicates the government’s approach to securing convictions against not only this particular defendant, but also other senior leaders of al Qaeda.

This statement is by turns disingenuous, specious, and improper…which is what we’ve come to expect from Mr. Holder, throughout his Clinton and Obama stints at the Justice Department.

1. No one doubted that this terrorism trial in Manhattan, like the many before it dating back to 1993, would occur safely. The question was whether the heavy expense and burden involved in keeping it safe were worth bearing under circumstances where a perfectly safe trial facility is available at Guantanamo Bay. American taxpayers have spent untold millions to make Gitmo state-of-the-art, holding the trial there would have spared New York City lots of expense and anxiety, and we’d have had the added benefit of compliance with acts of Congress that endorse military commission trials.

2. How strange to point to “the shadow of where those [World Trade Center] buildings once stood”—a jolting reminder that they no longer stand because terrorists destroyed them about two months after the conclusion of another al Qaeda trial in Manhattan (involving four terrorists complicit in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa).

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As an enthusiastic fan of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), I am sorry that an ongoing project prevented me from participating in PJM’s Cruz symposium. But this relevant news just came over the transom, so I thought I’d at least pass it along.

As I’ve previously noted, Obama administration officials have been working the codify in federal law the IRS harassment and obstruction of conservative organizations that President Obama and Attorney General Holder claimed to find “intolerable,” “inexcusable,” “outrageous,” and “unacceptable” back when the scandal first came to light. As usual, it has been Senator Cruz leading the charge to try to stop them.

In the Senate today, Cruz offered two amendments that would have safeguarded the First Amendment rights of Americans against being profiled and targeted for IRS harassment. Specifically, it would have made it unlawful for IRS employees to:

[W]illfully act with the intent to injure, oppress, threaten, intimidate, or single out and subject to undue scrutiny any person or organization in any state.

One might think that discriminating against groups based solely on their political beliefs is something so manifestly wrong and un-American that everyone could agree it should be prohibited – especially after all the Obama administration’s bloviating about how terrible it is. Instead, Democrats unanimously opposed the Cruz amendment. Their majority assured the measure’s defeat.

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