Inside Opinion

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Tag: President Obama

June
8th

NSA data-spying has left the Constitution intact

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Hollywood sometimes portrays intelligence agencies as almost omniscient in their power to track Internet traffic. It turns out that Hollywood is sometimes right.

Libertarians of various stripes are raising a stink over last week’s revelations that the National Security Agency has routinely been tracking billions of phone calls – maybe most phone calls made in America and many other countries.

On top of that, the Washington Post reported that the NSA has been sifting through the central servers of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other Internet giants, dredging up emails, chats, documents and other digital connections among unsuspecting people.

The libertarians are wrong on this one.

The details so far suggest that the digital surveillance has been limited, constitutional and supervised by all three branches of government. Not to mention effective at spotting terrorists.

Part of the stink is a matter of timing: A second-term-scandal narrative has begun gathering around President Obama.

His Justice Department stepped into dangerous territory when it swept legitimate journalists into criminal investigations.

It also looks as if Internal Revenue Service people – at some level – persistently singled out small-government advocates and other political opponents for special scrutiny during the president’s first term.

But the NSA business doesn’t belong in this story line.
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Feb.
16th

Drones: Wise, maybe; constitutional, certainly

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Is the fight against al-Qaida chiefly a criminal proceeding, or is it a campaign of war?

If it’s the former, President Barack Obama must stop ordering drone strikes against Americans who’ve fallen in with al-Qaida and its affiliates, and who are working with them abroad.

In fact, he must stop ordering strikes against non-Americans, including al-Qaida leaders – because Hellfire missiles deny them due process, criminal defense teams and trials.

But if armed drones are weapons of a congressionally authorized war against avowed enemies of the United States, the Constitution fully empowers the president to use them. The only questions that remain are matters of practicality, ethics and wisdom.

Count us in the second camp. The nomination of John Brennan as CIA director has been foolishly sidelined in the Senate over this issue.

An individual drone strike can be criticized on various grounds: Was it effective? Did it hurt or help U.S. strategy? Did it create more enemies than it killed? Did it kill a disproportionate number of civilians?

But the president’s constitutional authority to order drone strikes as part of the war against anti-American jihadists is unquestionable. The presidential war-making power is not contingent on avoiding civilian – or American – casualties.
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Sep.
1st

Forget Jesus. What would Glenn do?

By the time we digested the news, it was Sunday. My husband was flipping burgers. I was dishing up potato salad.

On Saturday, America had turned back to God.  That was the good news. The bad news? We had Glenn Beck to thank for it.

If you want to make us liberals gag on our veggie burgers, mention Glenn Beck at an end-of-summer barbecue just before a big election. If you

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Aug.
26th

American Islamophobia running out of control

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

If one of the chief purposes of an Islamic center by Ground Zero was to promote interfaith understanding, its chief backer – Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – might want to think about building it elsewhere.

But if the Cordoba House will be about making a defiant assertion of Muslim identity and constitutional rights, the location near the fallen World Trade Center will do just fine. Whatever Rauf originally had in mind, and whoever’s to blame, that site has become an incitement to Islamophobia, and the public now sees it as a stick in the eye.

Much as he’s been maligned for defending the project, President Obama actually got things right two weeks ago – if you combine both his original statement and the half-step back he quickly took.

As he said initially, Muslims have the same right as other Americans to “not be treated differently by their government.” Next day, he said he was talking about constitutional freedoms, not the “wisdom” of the project.

No one was questioning either the wisdom or foolishness of the Cordoba House until recently, when the usual crew of mega-mouthed media rabble-rousers – thank you, Fox News – began whipping up a furor about it. It might otherwise have quietly been built, opened and absorbed by the commercial din and ethnic cacophony of Lower Manhattan.

That possibility is long gone. The project has since become an epicenter of anti-Muslim sentiment, which has rippled out to other mosque projects elsewhere in the country. The Washington Post reported Monday, for example, that citizens in Murfreesboro, Tenn., are protesting plans for an Islamic center there with such signs as “Keep Tennessee Terror Free.”

Islam in America has taken a beating since the uproar metastasized across the nation. A recent Time magazine poll is particularly discouraging.
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June
9th

More for Helen Thomas groupies to explain away

Some more to chew on for diehard Helen Thomas fans. I particularly like the “Thank God for Hezbollah” quote.

Let’s not forget her question at President Obama’s first press conference about whether “so-called terrorists” – i.e., al-Qaida and the Taliban – were being given sanctuary by Pakistan. I won’t bother making the argument that there’s nothing “so-called” about their terrorism.