Tag: national security

The Conceptual Difficulties of the NSA Case

 

shutterstock_160092761Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued an exhaustive opinion in which Judge Gerard Lynch held that the bulk collection of metadata by the National Security Agency (NSA) was not authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That provision provides in so many words that the Director of the FBI or his designated agent may:

…make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.

At issue in this decision was whether this language was sufficiently broad to permit the vast collection of the metadata and, further, whether and when the individuals who claim grievances for those collection activities are in a position to challenge the standard practice of the NSA under these sections.

What the Second Circuit Got Right

 

1154px-National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_MarylandI agree with much of what John Yoo says in his recent post about “the blindness of the left… to the dire threat of foreign terrorism that has appeared again on our shores.” Although I disagree with his conclusions, John does an excellent job of laying out the policy reasons why he thinks the federal government should engage in bulk data collection.

But the policy arguments should be irrelevant to our analysis of the Second Circuit’s decision in ACLU v. Clapper. The question before the Court was simply whether the bulk data collection program is authorized under statutory and constitutional provisions. Surely, conservatives don’t want judges substituting their own policy preferences for the plain language of the law. And on the basic legal question before it, the Second Circuit got it right.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows the government to seize “any tangible things” but only when the FBI can establish that the “things” sought are “relevant to an authorized investigation.” The bulk data collection, however, is not connected to any ongoing investigation: it is data that is collected in the event that it may come in useful in some future investigation (and, in the meantime, is shared with other law enforcement officials to make arrests that they couldn’t make if they had to get warrants). So, on the plain language of the statute, the government’s program fails, as has been argued by Randy Barnett and Jim Harper, not exactly wild-eyed liberals.

Jihadi Vampires, Jihadi Zombies

 

GarlandThe attack in Garland appears to confirm the observation that there are two kinds of terrorist attacks. The first kind – which we saw on 9/11, the London Tube and Madrid train attacks, the Mumbai attack, and in the Charlie Hebdo massacre – are made by hardened, patient, and well-trained semi-professionals, whose activities are funded (and often directed) from overseas. In contrast, the second kind — think of the Tsarnaevs or Major Hasan — is typified by amateurishness, lack of planning, and poor impulse control. Moreover, it seems that failure to join the ranks of the former often leads to the latter.

As if their nearly complete failure wasn’t evidence enough, the news in this New York Times piece should confirm that the Garland attack was a strong instance of the latter:

But any secret ties that officials might find may be less important than the public exchanges of messages on Twitter by one of the gunmen, Elton Simpson, in the weeks before the attack. Mr. Simpson, a convert to Islam with a long history of extremism, regularly traded calls for violence on Twitter with Islamic State fighters and supporters, as well as avowed enemies of Pamela Geller, the organizer of the cartoon contest.

Member Post

 

Have you seen Mr. Jerry Hendrix writing against aircraft carriers in National Review? I’m a sucker for speeches against the sophisticated, so I spent the time reading the 2700-word piece. Then I found this reply by Mr. Seth Cropsey, whose work I read as often as I can, & the reply to it. Preview Open

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Uncommon Knowledge: Tom Cotton on Whether He Still Thinks the Editors of the New York Times Should be Behind Bars

 

The first time that most Americans heard of now-Senator Tom Cotton was in 2006, when, while serving as a lieutenant in Iraq, he wrote a famous letter to the New York Times upbraiding them for publishing the secret details of the federal government’s anti-terrorist financing program. The conclusion of that letter: “By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.” In this final clip from our recent conversation on Uncommon Knowledge, I ask him, at the remove of nearly a decade, if he still stands by those words:

Member Post

 

By now, you might have read that there is an “imminent” terrorist threat originating from the Texas-Mexico border. It was first reported by Judicial Watch and then confirmed (and yet an “exclusive”) by Breitbart. (h/t Cornelius) Is it ISIS or Al Qaeda? Same garbage, different day. (h/t Annika) Preview Open

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Not a Good Week for Hillary Clinton

 

HillFirst, there was this. Then, there was the fact that Diane Sawyer of all people laid into Clinton over Benghazi (which, lest you forget, is not a scandal, so don’t worry your pretty little heads about it, darlings). And then, there is the fact that her book . . . well . . . isn’t so good:

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s new memoir “Hard Choices” officially launches Tuesday morning, but it’s already being savaged by critics for being overly cautious and, as a result, uninteresting.

“TRUTH BOMB 1: ‘Hard Choices’ is a newsless snore,” Politico’s Mike Allen wrote in his Monday-morning newsletter. He went on to describe the book “written so carefully not to offend that it will fuel the notion that politics infuses every part of her life.”

NSA Surveillance: What We Should All Agree On

 

I’ve received several requests to respond to Tom Meyer’s very thoughtful post about how national security hawks should respond to criticisms of the NSA surveillance program. The piece is mostly about political argument and the art of rhetoric — I’m not quite sure from the post what Tom himself thinks is the best policy — so I’ll have to respond broadly.

What makes this issue difficult is that the war is covert, against a network of non-state fighters who disguise their communications and movements as innocent, but have great destructive power aimed at civilians. We are pursuing the wartime goal of stopping enemy attacks before they happen.

Some Friendly Advice For National Security Hawks

 

Since Edward Snowden’s leaks and subsequent defection, there’s been a raging debate on the Right about the proper role of our nation’s intelligence services. Those who favor broader powers and a more active role for these services have been on the defensive.

nrol-39-nothing-beyond-our-reachWhile I count myself as among the critics of such programs – as much because I believe they’re ineffective as that they’re dangerous – I share the hawks’ concern for my fellow citizens’s safety: I don’t want my loved ones or countrymen blown up by Islamic fanatics any more than the next guy.* Keeping us safe and in peace requires a lot of work, including some degree of surveillance. As national security is one of the core responsibilities of the Federal Government, our intelligence services bear an incredible burden.

Space Invaders — Rob Long

 

This either bothers you or it doesn’t. From Yahoo News:

Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the air force to adopt an integrated air and space defence capability, in what state media on Tuesday called a response to the increasing military use of space by the United States and others.

Member Post

 

Alternate-Side Parking is a semi-regular, once or twice a week, podcast. Each episode lasts approximately as long as it takes for me to find a new alternate-side parking space in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, plus however long I feel like sitting in the driver’s seat. In today’s special Sunday going-to-Pep-Boys-oops-it’s-closed-I-guess-I’ll-go-to-Autozone episode I talk […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Podcast: Implementing a Coherent Foreign Policy, with (Ret.) Admiral Gary Roughead

 

How are America’s military leaders constrained by the political process and institutional factors? It’s a question we don’t ask very often, but one that’s key to understanding how American foreign policy actually gets implemented.

In a recent conversation for the Hoover Institution, I talked to retired Admiral Gary Roughead — the 29th Chief of Naval Operations and one of only two officers in the Navy’s history to have commanded both the Atlantic and the Pacific fleets — about precisely this set of issues. What he had to say was fascinating. Have a listen:

The Nation’s False and Dishonest Crimea Narrative

 

For those who believe that the recent annexation of Crimea by Russia might actually unite Americans of all ideological stripes in opposition to the thuggishness of the Putin regime, I give you this piece by editors of the Nation. It shows that even now, in the immediate aftermath of the annexation, while historical memories are still fresh, there are those who are willing to rewrite current events in order to advance a narrative filled with desperate attempts to explain away unjustified Russian bellicosity. And of course, it ought to surprise no one that the editors are willing to put forth false attempts at establishing moral equivalence in order to leave readers with the idea that the United States is really at fault in this story.

The urgent issue today is to stop the drift toward hot war. Yes, Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea trespasses on international law, though it is difficult to bear US officials’ invocation of a principle that Washington itself has often violated (see, most recently, Kosovo and Iraq, the latter now marking the eleventh anniversary of an illegal US invasion and occupation). Financial and visa sanctions, while inflicting a cost on Russia, will not deter Moscow. As Putin argued in his March 18 speech before the Russian Federal Assembly, Russia feels “cornered” and has been repeatedly “deceived” by the West—particularly Washington—since the Soviet Union broke apart more than two decades ago, especially in light of the expansion of NATO to its borders.