How a daring 2011 capture operation on the Red Sea created a template for what to do with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Once again an emotional debate is swirling around the Obama administration’s treatment of a terrorist suspect. Its decision not to read Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights by invoking the so-called public-safety exception has anguished civil libertarians, who see it as a slippery slope toward police-state justice. Meanwhile, the administration’s decision not to brand the suspected Boston Marathon bomber as an enemy combatant has provoked howls from Republican members of Congress who say terrorists are war criminals who don’t deserve the gold-plated justice afforded by the U.S. criminal-justice system. Moreover, they argue, the government’s overriding priority ought to be extracting intelligence from terror suspects rather than protecting its ability to prosecute a case in civilian court. (Never mind that Obama would be in defiance of the law if he tried Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, in a military commission.)
This photo released by the White House shows President Barack Obama meeting with members of his national-security team to discuss developments in the Boston bombings investigation, in the Situation Room of the White House on April 19. (Pete Souza/AP)
There’s nothing unusual about the administration being buffeted from all directions by the politics of terrorism. What is different this time is that Obama officials seem to have approached the Boston case with a serene confidence that was lacking during most of the first term. Sources tell me there have been none of the usual fevered White House meetings or the deep divisions between administration lawyers and White House political factions that have characterized many of the other debates over terrorism policy.
For much of President Obama’s first term, the administration tangled itself up trying to calibrate security and civil liberties. The congressional backlash over efforts to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a civilian court left the White House’s rule-of-law agenda in tatters.
In the wake of the bombings, American Muslim writer Asra Q. Nomani calls on the Muslim community to pointedly challenge extremism.
“He looks like me,” my son, Shibli, 10, said as we looked at a photo of a young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev flash upon the TV screen Friday night. Indeed, with his innocent eyes and rumple of dark curly hair, he did. As an American, a Muslim, a mother, and an aunt to a nephew on the cusp of manhood, my heart just broke for yet another boy lost in our Muslim community, taking with him the lives of others.
Muslim-American men pray at the annual Eid al-Adha prayer on October 26, 2012 held at the Teaneck Armory in Teaneck, New Jersey. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty)
Enough, enough, enough, I say, with the CYA—Cover Your A**—strategy in our Muslim communities. I would like our community to take responsibility for how it is that we—yes, we—have allowed an interpretation of Islam to prevail in this world that turns this boy of innocence into a bomber and murderer. We need to work with compassion and love to guide these boys to a “straight path,” as mentioned in the Quran’s first chapter, Al-Fatiha, “the Opening.” And that straight path should be one of nonviolence.
There is much debate about the “T-word,” or “terrorism,” and whether President Obama took too long to say it in the case of the Boston bombing. In the same way, we—Muslims, journalists, and policymakers—have to dare to say the “I-word”—Islam—because there is no denying that an interpretation of Islam is sanctioning some Muslims to commit terrorism. I believe that until Muslims directly challenge it, we will never really isolate this interpretation of Islam, and the world will judge all Muslims.
After 9/11, America directed its anger toward Muslims—and then tried to remake the greater Middle East. Eleven years later, let’s try not to make the same mistake, writes Peter Beinart.
At times last week, it felt like the days after 9/11: the endless TV coverage, the heroic first responders, the ghastly images, the interfaith prayer services. But something was missing. It took me a few days to realize it: this time, America isn’t going to remake the Muslim world.
Muslims pray at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan on May 6, 2011. (Paul Sancya/AP)
After 9/11, that missionary impulse took different forms. For Ann Coulter, who proposed that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity,” the post-9/11 “crusade” was literally that. Others were more ecumenical. In his address to Congress a week after the attacks, George W. Bush declared “freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us.” And many who loathed Bush—myself included—cheered, believing that the best way to prevent another 9/11 was to wage a generational struggle for democracy in the Muslim world, as we had in Europe when its species of totalitarianism threatened our safety.
No one’s saying that anymore. To the contrary, all the Boston-related policy debates have been internal: should the police have read Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights, should he be tried before a military tribunal, does the attack weaken the case for immigration reform, or would a background check have helped? In part, this inward gaze stems from the particularities of attack. The suspects have not been linked to al Qaeda central, and al Qaeda central—which on 9/11 was basically running Afghanistan—is not what it once was. Unlike their 9/11 predecessors, these suspected killers are Americans—they were immigrants before they became terrorists. And unlike 9/11, where most of the suspects came from Saudi Arabia, a seething corner of America’s empire, the Tsarnaevs hail from the Caucuses, a seething corner of Russia’s.
He attacked Obama—and infuriated conservatives.
If you harbor any doubt about the power of words, just take a look at Greg Walden. Last week the eight-term Republican congressman from Oregon went on CNN and accused Barack Obama of “trying to balance this budget on the backs of seniors”—a reference to the president’s proposed cuts to Social Security. Walden—who recently became chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, meaning he will oversee the GOP’s effort to hold on to the House in 2014—was effectively attacking Obama from the left. And soon enough, conservatives were attacking him.
Illustration by Alex Robbins
The Club for Growth, which punishes any Republicans who stray from its small-government orthodoxy, threatened a primary challenge. “We always knew Greg Walden had a liberal record, but he really cemented it with his public opposition to even modest entitlement reform,” said the group’s president, Chris Chocola. Asked about the rogue congressman at a press conference, House Speaker John Boehner replied, “I’ve made it clear that I disagree with what Chairman Walden said”—and added for good measure, “We’ll leave it at that.”
The sudden infamy was a big change for Walden, who prior to last week was not a household name in Washington. The congressman hails from the sprawling flatlands east of Portland, where he routinely garners wins by margins of 30 points or more—something Oregonians attribute to his relentless travel around the eastern part of the state. “People in that part of the world, they want you to take your time to talk with them, and Greg will travel to these small towns and stay until he has heard from everyone,” says Greg Leo, executive director of the Oregon GOP, adding that Walden is one of the most gifted public speakers in state politics. Leo says he doubts local conservatives were much concerned with Walden’s supposed apostasy. “Greg read it in a uniquely accurate way. That is an Oregon quality—we call ’em as we see ’em, no matter what the party line.”
The heroism of public employees.
There are lots of lessons we will, in time, draw from the Boston Marathon tragedy, but one is already clear: don’t denigrate government workers. Along with some heroic civilians, it was government workers who ran toward the blast zone. And they were unionized government workers.
Along with some heroic civilians, it was government workers who ran toward the blast zone. And they were unionized government workers. (Charles Krupa/AP)
If there’s a bogeyman on the right these days, it is a unionized government worker. Mitt Romney, who got rich in part through laying off private-sector workers, made his feelings about government employment clear in the 2012 campaign. “During the president’s term so far, he has added 140,000 more government workers,” he told supporters in San Diego. “Not only do we have to pay for them, but they have to do something every day. So, they look at things they can do, alright? Places they can interfere.”
Things they can do. Places they can interfere. Alright? How about in your former hometown, Mitt? Just over a mile from your former office, government workers found things they can do, places they can interfere. What they did was save lives. What they interfered with was terror. (Oh, and by the way, the progressive wonks at ThinkProgress estimated the number of government workers actually fell in President Obama’s first term by half a million.)
There’s a common thread linking conservatives’ positions on gun control, immigration, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: the constant need to stoke fear. By Michael Tomasky.
Liberals and civil libertarians shouldn’t yet be saying that there’s utterly no way that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be declared an “enemy combatant.” The post-9/11 law, whatever one’s opinion of it, does say that an American citizen affiliated with al Qaeda, the Taliban, “or associated forces” engaged in hostility with the United States can be declared an enemy combatant. It doesn’t seem like he’s that, but who knows, he may shock everyone when he comes to by saying that he and his brother were precisely that.
House Speaker John Boehner answers questions from reporters on gun control, immigration, and the budget during a news conference on Capitol Hill on April 18. Boehner also expressed appreciation to law enforcement in the wake of the attack on the Boston Marathon and toxic letters mailed to Congress. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
But it isn’t liberals who are jumping the gun here. As usual, conservatives are rushing to judgment, shredding the Constitution, using the bombing as an pretext for derailing immigration reform, and generally seeking any excuse to reimpose their paranoid and authoritarian worldview, which needs fear like a vampire needs blood, on the rest of us.
The cry, which I’m sure will pick up steam this week, was led over the weekend by the usual suspects—John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Peter King. On the basis of what evidence? On the basis of no evidence at all. They know nothing! We’re starting to piece together a portrait of these guys, although it’s more of Tamerlan than of his younger brother. It’s a grim portrait. He evidently did become a radicalized Islamist. But if he and his brother were acting alone, even if the bombing was 100 percent politically motivated, they can’t be called enemy combatants. Period.
His 2012 primary bid fell flat, but the party may be moving toward where Huntsman is already standing, reports David Catanese.
Jon Huntsman's 2012 presidential campaign was plagued by internecine feuding between advisers, debilitating disorganization and a late start by a mostly green candidate. But most damaging to the former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China was the perception that he was out of step with his party's base—too moderate, mushy, and effete for the moment.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman announces that he will drop out of the race for the White House bid and endorse Mitt Romney on January 16, 2012 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (Joe Raedle/Getty)
“Timing is important,” Huntsman replied when I asked him recently the most significant lesson he took from the failed run he abandoned 15 months ago.
But as the Republican mainstream gravitates towards his worldview on issues like gay marriage, immigration, and even the war in Afghanistan, the 53-year-old Huntsman appears to be gauging whether he was a candidate ahead of his time—and if there’s space in the GOP for a Huntsman 2.0.
The attacks have nothing to do with immigration reform, but partisans are rushing to exploit them anyway. Howard Kurtz examines the false arguments.
From the moment the first suspect in the Boston bombing was killed in a shootout, I was counting the minutes until the Beltway types started trying to score political points.
People visit a make-shift memorial on Boylston Street on April 20, 2013, near the scene of Boston Marathon explosions as people get back to the normal life the morning after after the capture of the second of two suspects wanted in the Boston Marathon bombings. (Timoth A. Clary/AFP/Getty)
I didn’t have to wait long.
The bogus cry of this-raises-serious-concerns was soon heard throughout the land.
A Republican rep calls women “vaginas” and another says that liberal Bostonians probably wished they had guns during the lockdown. The Daily Beast finds the wildest ideas being proposed, or passed, by state lawmakers.
Arkansas: Gunless Boston Liberals
Nate Bell, a Republican Arkansas State representative, sent out a tweet on Friday that soon went viral as Boston residents remained in lockdown in their homes. The tweet, sent from Bell’s official account @NateBell4AR, read: “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine? #2A.” It didn’t take long for the Internet to erupt, prompting an apology from Bell. “In hindsight, given the ongoing tragedy that is still unfolding, I regret the poor choice of timing,” Bell wrote on his Facebook page.
New Hampshire: ‘Children and Vaginas’
State Republican Representative Peter Hansen got the “shock value” he initially sought with his comments, when he was forced to apologize after calling women “vaginas.” Rep. Hansen, who once restrained an intruder who broke into his own home using a gun, was discussing the idea of retreating in an email when he uttered the phrase that got him in trouble. A day later a number of local groups called on him to apologize and resign but Hansen refused, saying his comments were blown out of proportion. But with pressure continuing to mount from both sides of the aisle, a day later Hansen caved for his "blatantly offensive, insensitive, and frankly, stupid language."
What Obama did in the four months between Newtown and Wednesday’s Senate defeat showed some of the greatest presidential guts in U.S. history, says Peter Beinart.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks beside former Democratic representative from Arizona Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (center) and other victims of gun violence, in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 17, 2013. (Michael Reynolds/EPA, via Landov)
We can apologize now.
What Obama did in the four months between December’s Newtown shooting and this Wednesday’s Senate capitulation was one of the great displays of presidential guts in American history. On gun control, the Democratic Party had been in the fetal position for years. By 2008, the party whose 1972 platform had proposed banning handguns was reduced to declaring: “We recognize that the right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation, but we know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne.” In 2009, when Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley tried to revive gun control legislation, House Democratic leaders refused even to hold a hearing. In 2010, Obama signed legislation lifting restrictions on carrying guns in federal parks. Last July, after a gunman killed 12 and injured 58 at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press: “There are things that we can do, short of legislation and short of gun laws, as the president said, that can reduce violence in our society. We do need to take a broader look at what we can do to reduce violence in America. And that’s not just legislative, and it’s not just about gun laws.”
It was a week filled with terror, anxiety, and mourning. Joshua DuBois on how Americans can respond to such horrifying events.
As I type this, thousands of police officers and millions of citizens in Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown, Massachusetts, are on high alert, as authorities hone in on the second suspect in Monday’s horrible bombing. I hope by the time you read this article or soon after, justice will have the upper hand, and that the people of Boston will finally have some relief.
In West, Texas, a town still smolders after a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant claimed multiple precious lives, including of brave first responders who rushed in to help.
And here in Washington, D.C., we are a city on edge, with ricin-laced letters in our mailboxes, covering even the simplest tasks—riding the subway, going into work—with a thin layer of anxiety.
Fear is at our national doorstep. We’re huddled inside as it knocks. The question becomes, how will we respond? No one knows for sure, but we would do well to look to history for a few instructions.
As the manhunt in Boston unfolds, Obama administration officials are already preparing for the inevitable recriminations surrounding the attack and its aftermath.
As the extraordinary manhunt for a suspected terrorist played out in Boston, officials on the scene were focused on the unfolding operation. But back in Washington some officials were already warily turning their attention to the second-guessing and finger-pointing that inevitably follows a terrorist incident.
A SWAT team files down Nicholas Avenue on April 19 during an ongoing manhunt for a suspect in the terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon earlier this week. (Boston Globe via Getty)
Throughout the intelligence community, officials were scouring terrorist watch lists and monitoring intercepted conversations to learn anything they could about the origins of the attack and whether any threat remained. But one intel professional conceded that they were simultaneously looking out for any evidence that the government could have missed any advanced warnings or failed to connect the dots in the days or weeks before the Boston attacks. “At this point it’s just part of the ritual,” the source told The Daily Beast. “It goes with the territory.”
So far, nothing has emerged publicly to suggest there has been an intelligence failure of any sort. The administration—and especially the FBI—has gotten high marks for its handling of the Boston bombings. President Obama had been widely praised for his firm but restrained public response.
She told us so? The debacle on background checks fully exposed the president’s flawed leadership, which his Democratic rival warned voters about back in 2008.
If you ever need a refresher course in just how disconnected Barack Obama is from America’s mainstream culture of guns, consider this scathing indictment:
President Obama and Hillary Clinton. (AP;Getty)
“You know, Americans who believe in the Second Amendment believe it’s a matter of constitutional right ... I disagree with Senator Obama’s assertion that people in this country ‘cling to guns’ ... People of all walks of life hunt—and they enjoy doing so because it’s an important part of their life, not because they are bitter.”
Is that Wayne LaPierre unloading on the president? Nope. It’s Hillary Clinton back in 2008 after then-senator Barack Obama’s famous reference to small-town Americans “clinging to guns and religion.” And just in case anyone missed her larger point about Obama, she went on to call the remarks “elitist and divisive.”
Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada was a key player in the battle over gun-conrol legislation in the Senate. Here’s why he voted the way he did.
On the weekend after Nevada Sen. Dean Heller joined 15 fellow Republicans to kill a GOP-led filibuster of gun-control legislation, he returned to his hometown of Carson City and ate with his family at an IHOP restaurant—the same one where a gunman went on a rampage in 2011, killing four people and injuring more than a dozen others before killing himself. In the process, the gunman unloaded a 30-round magazine clip and rocked the sense of safety in the small Nevada community.
Heller’s return to the IHOP before the Senate took up a series of gun-control measures was no coincidence. “He wanted to reflect on the upcoming votes,” a staffer explains.
Those votes would put Heller in the middle of an emotional tug-of-war, as senators from both parties called the Nevada Republican throughout the week, seeking his support. President Obama also reached out to him to personally ask him to vote with Democrats to tighten gun restrictions.
Wednesday’s Senate losses may have been devastating for gun-control advocates, but their leaders say they’ve made major headway—and are planning NRA-style letter grades for politicians on guns.
Four months and three days after the Newtown massacre, the bipartisan Toomey-Manchin bill that would have expanded background checks online and at gun shows was rejected in the Senate by a vote of 54-46.
Wayne LaPierre, left, CEO of the National Rifle Association, makes remarks at CPAC 2013, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., Friday, March 15, 2013; and at right, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks to the Economic Club of Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, in Washington. Two of the loudest voices in the gun debate say it's up to voters now to make their position known to Congress. LaPierre and Bloomberg claim their views on guns have the support of the overwhelming number of Americans. (Ron Sachs/AP (L),Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP (R))
And bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were defeated easily just an hour later, making Wednesday a devastating day for gun-control advocates, who are just beginning to exert influence after decades of trying and failing to mobilize voters around any significant reform. But leaders of major gun-control groups say they have made headway in competing with the previously unquestioned influence of the NRA in a way that might have been unimaginable even a few months ago.
“It’s been a zero-sum game for the last 20 or 30 years,” says Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), Bloomberg’s well-funded gun control super PAC. “Most politicians have made the easy decision to care about something else.”
Eric Nordstrom, who worked at the Benghazi consulate on the day it was attacked, choked up during Wednesday's hearings. 'It matters,' he said, that the committee investigate what happened before, during, and after the siege.
Corry Booker’s the hero mayor of Newark, and, yes, he’s running for Senate. By Lloyd Grove
The president’s push for $9 an hour has the GOP on the defensive. Eleanor Clift on the strategy behind the move. But this push could take the politics out of the perennial argument.
Meet the new Treasury secretary, same as the old Treasury secretary. Lloyd Green on nominee Jack Lew.
For John Kael Weston and other men on the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan drone strikes raise many uncomfortable questions. He writes on why we need clearer policy and guidelines for these silent killers.