Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: FBI


Administration must respect media’s government watchdog role

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

In his speech Thursday on national security, President Barack Obama said the right things about the media’s role as government watchdogs. Now the question is whether his administration’s actions will connect to his words.

Obama said that a free press is essential for our democracy: “I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”

You’d never guess it from his detached tone, but he was referring to two abusive leak investigations undertaken

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NRA strategy: Squelch free speech and scientific research

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Hypocrisy, thy name is NRA.

The National Rifle Association fiercely defends the Second Amendment rights of some people – in part by trying to quash the First Amendment rights of others.

It’s one way the organization has worked to prevent information on guns from getting out – information badly needed in efforts to curb the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

An example: In 2011, the NRA actually got encoded in Florida law a gag order barring doctors from talking to their patients about guns in the home. Not only did this infringe on medical providers’ freedom of speech, it interfered with the doctor-patient relationship. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors counsel patients on firearm-injury prevention.) Read more »


Bundy, D.B. Cooper: Two mysteries science might solve

February 1980 mug shot of Ted Bundy (AP)

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Was 8-year-old Ann Marie Burr the first victim of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, who was 14 when the Tacoma girl vanished from her North Tacoma home in 1961?

What was the real identity of D.B. Cooper, who hijacked an airliner in 1971? And did he survive a parachute jump over Washington state? Many doubt it, considering that some of the $200,000 in ransom money he jumped with was found along the Columbia River in 1980.

Separated by 10 years, the Burr and Cooper cases are two of the Northwest’s most enduring mysteries – right up there with Sasquatch and the Mount Rainier UFOs. They have more than geography in common, though: Both might be solved through advances in forensic science that give modern investigators tools their earlier counterparts lacked.
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Secure Communities: Great idea, if done humanely

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Secure Communities is based on a good idea: systematically intercepting illegal aliens who run afoul of the law. Like a lot of good ideas hatched in Washington, D.C., the devil lies in the execution.

Secure Communities is a partnership – not a happy one, in some cases – of federal, state and local law enforcement. When suspects are booked into jail and their fingerprints are passed on to the FBI, the fingerprint metrics also go to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, allowing for cross-checking between criminal and immigration databases.

An illegal alien who lands in jail can thus be immediately flagged for possible deportation by ICE.
Done right, this catches criminals who aren’t in the country legally – precisely the class of illegal aliens nearly everyone agrees ought to be sent home if not jailed in the United States.

As a way of prioritizing immigration enforcement, this beats random hunts for people who jumped borders or overstayed visas yet are otherwise law-abiding.

Aggressively implemented by the Obama administration, Secure Communities is now operating in roughly 800 jurisdictions in 34 states. Washington is not among them.

The Washington State Patrol could provide the metrics to ICE with a few strokes on a keyboard. But the governor and state patrol say it’s up to the individual counties to request that the WSP forward the fingerprints to ICE. They report that none of the county sheriffs have so requested.

One gets the impression that no one wants to touch this tar baby until 2013, when the federal government will force the issue by funneling all FBI fingerprint data into ICE.

Opponents of Secure Communities appear to break down into two camps. One essentially doesn’t believe in borders and fights any serious attempt at immigration enforcement.
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Thanks to tipster, FBI for thwarting terrorist wannabe


This editorial appeared in Tuesday’s print edition.

Look carefully at the booking photo of 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud. It’s the face of what many counterterrorism experts consider to be the greatest potential threat to Americans’ safety: the homegrown radical.

Mohamud, a naturalized American citizen whose family came to the United States from Somalia when he was 5, has been indicted on federal charges in connection with an alleged plot to detonate a car bomb in downtown Portland on Friday during that city’s Christmas tree-lighting celebration.

His goal, according to authorities: Kill as many people as possible – including children. Security was of little concern to him. He reportedly said, “They don’t see it as a place where anything will happen. … It’s on the West Coast, it’s in Oregon, and Oregon’s like you know, nobody ever thinks about it.”
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Threats that target America itself

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Few Americans need reminding that violence has no place in politics. The alleged death threat against U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is a good occasion to talk about why.

A physical attack on an elected leader – be it Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford or former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell – has a criminal dimension beyond ordinary assault or murder. Violence is done against the human being, but violence is also done against democracy itself.

The assassination of an elected leader overturns the election that put him or her in office. In a broad sense, that’s treason – not treason against the leader in question, but betrayal of a constitutional system that guarantees a government founded on the will of the people as expressed in elections, not angry rallies. In America, elections are sacred. The alternatives are not pretty: coups, civil wars, revolutions and thugocracy.

Assaults on public figures may also be a form of terrorism – attacks on the innocent to achieve political or religious ends.

“Mere” threats of violence serve much the same purpose as outright attacks. In both cases, the goal is to intimidate political opponents or decapitate their leadership. Murray has plenty of company on the receiving end of intimidation. Several other members of Congress – including Rep. Eric Cantor, a Republican – have been so threatened. On Wednesday, the FBI arrested a San Francisco man in connection with threats he’d reportedly made against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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Next terror attack, hold the Miranda warning

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The worst case is that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day – was one of multiple would-be terrorists probing for weaknesses in American security. Which means that other attacks might follow.

Abdulmutallab reportedly trained with al-Qaida in Yemen. It would be nice to know exactly who trained him, whom he trained with, who devised the plans, who helped him travel and what he knew of other potential attacks. That would be actionable intelligence, the Holy Grail of counter-terrorism.

But U.S. authorities may never get that intelligence, because the FBI insisted on treating Abdulmutallab as a common criminal and reading him his Miranda rights within hours of his arrest. This looks like a stunning display of soft-headedness by supposedly tough-minded people responsible for the nation’s security.
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Nidal Hasan: More red flags than Beijing

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Radical jihadism and moderate Islam are two different things. But if anti-Muslims tend to equate the moderates with the jihadists, the hypersensitive can make precisely the opposite mistake – with fatal consequences.

Maj. Nidal Hasan, who last week shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and began massacring people at Fort Hood, Texas, appears to have become a violently anti-American Islamist in the years before his explosion. And it increasingly appears that Hasan was overlooked in part because his angry, Muslim-flavored politics were confused with ordinary Islam.

This is a man of Palestinian extraction who reportedly would get belligerent about his Muslim beliefs, suggested that suicide bombings were justified and vented about America “killing Muslims” abroad. The “killing Muslims” line comes straight from Middle Eastern tirades against the United States. Not everyone who rants like that is a jihadist, but every jihadist rants like that. Somebody should have picked up on the pattern.
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