This past week President Obama authorized the release of a set of classified memorandums written during the Bush administration. These documents outlined the procedures and tactics employed during the interrogations of captured senior Al Qaeda operatives and have been referred to by the press as the “torture memos.” President Obama’s release of these memos took place despite substantial protest. The four most recent CIA Directors—John Deutsh, George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden—all recommended against the release. President Obama’s own newly appointed Director of CIA, Leon Panetta, did, too. Yet President Obama, in a seemingly relentless effort to discredit his predecessor, George W. Bush, has made the memoranda public.
In taking this action, President Obama has effectively defined the limits of what America, at its most aggressive and most passive, would do against Al Qaeda detainees. This will undoubtedly allow groups like Al Qaeda to adjust the preparation and training of their operatives. Administration officials as well as some journalists on the left have argued that the President took into consideration the fact that much of the memos’ contents have already made it into the press. This is a hollow defense. Speculation or discussion of these details in the press may certainly allow Al Qaeda and other terrorists to assess potential U.S. capabilities to some extent. But official White House memorandums released to the public, and immediately downloadable online, are the gold standard for Al Qaeda.
In addition to bolstering Al Qaeda’s tactical position and morale, I argue that President Obama has also demoralized those members of the CIA's Clandestine Service who make enormous personal sacrifices and take tremendous risks in the fight to keep our nation safe. After having served most of my adult life in Clandestine Service and having led many counterterrorism missions, I can say that the rank and file is truly horrified by President Obama’s naïve decision making.
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/04/20/racism.conference/art.eu.walkout.gi.jpg caption="European Union delegates leave during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech Monday."]
CNN Senior Middle East Affairs Editor
Today was supposed to be all about eradicating racism… or at least dealing with the problem… or just talking about it. The conference opened in Geneva, Switzerland, but not with everyone attending. The US, Israel and Canada boycotted the gathering out of concern that Israel was “singled out.” Furthermore, Israel recalled its ambassador to Switzerland for consultations in protest over allowing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to meet with his Swiss counterpart. If things weren’t difficult enough, Mr. Ahmadinejad was scheduled as the first (perhaps only) speaker at the conference. With his known anti-stance on Israel, there was widespread concern that the speech will turn into a ranting session against the Jewish state.
The UN named this year’s conference on anti-racism, Durban II, in reference to the first conference which was held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. So much has happened in the last 8 years and the world is more polarize and societies divided, that a Durban II was an anticipated event among nations and non-governmental organizations alike.
AC360° Senior Producer
Some political opponents have said President Obama looked weak, talking and smiling with Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez, and before that offering to talk with Cuba, Iran and Syria. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential presidential candidate in 2012, says former President Jimmy Carter sent similar signals, and antagonists to the US "got tougher (because) when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead."
David Axelrod, special advisor to the President, shot back that critics "misinterpreted what happened... the real message of what happened this past weekend with the Cuban regime's response to the president's decision on remittances, or the overtures from President Chavez, I think, what has happened is that anti-Americanism isn't cool anymore."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/01/16/teen.strip.search/art.scotus2.jpg caption="The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether school officials were right to strip-search a student over ibuprofen."]
In the eighth grade, Savana Redding had to strip to her bra and underwear in the school nurses' office. She was told to pull on her bra to expose her breasts and the same with her underwear to expose her pelvic area. What were looking for? Prescription-strength ibuprofen. None were found.
That was more than six years ago. Savana is now 19, but she's never forgot what happened to her in 2003.
Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court will here arguments in the Arizona case. A federal appeals court found the search "traumatizing" and illegal.
Though, in its appeal to the high court, the Safford Unified School District said restrictions on conducting student searches would cast a "roadblock to the kind of swift and effective response that is too often needed to protect the very safety of students, particularly from the threats posed by drugs and weapons".
Do you think the school went too far or made the right decision?
Share your thoughts below.
We'll have more on this case tonight on AC360° and tonight's other headlines.
Join us at 10pm ET.
NY Daily News
The U.S. Army wants you – to be its friend on Facebook.
You can also follow the Army on Twitter. Or post a comment on its new blog. They're all part of the Army's new mission: social networking.
"If Ashton Kutcher can do it, the U.S. Army can do it," said Lindy Kyzer, who posts the Army's "status updates" on Facebook and "tweets" on Twitter.
Kyzer issued a public challenge – to get more followers on Twitter than Kutcher, an actor and social networking fiend who recently won a bet with CNN that he could reach 1 million followers first.
"We know that our ability to share the Army story is shaped by how we tell it and where we tell it," said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, who heads the Army's new Online and Social Media Division. "Using social media platforms allows us to tell our story where we know people are at and are listening."
Even Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is on Facebook. With nearly 5,000 "friends," the four-star general is updating his status straight from the battlefield – something unheard of in past conflicts.
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Editor's note: This is an excerpt from Reza Aslan's new book "How to Win a Cosmic War" published by Random House and in bookstores today. See Reza on AC360 at 10 pm ET tonight!
The problem with the ideological War on Terror is that “terrorist” is a wastebasket term that often conveys as much about the person using it as it does about the person being described. It can hardly be argued, anyway, that this was a war against terrorism per se. If it were, it would have included the Basque separatists in Spain, the Christian insurgency in East Timor, the Hindu/Marxist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Maoist rebels in eastern India, the Jewish Kach and Kahane underground in Israel, the Irish Republican Army, the Sikh separatists in the Punjab, the Marxist Mujahadin-e Khalq, the Kurdish PKK, and so on.
Rather, this was a war against a particular brand of terrorism: that employed exclusively by Islamic entities, which is why the enemy in this ideological conflict was gradually and systematically expanded to include not just the persons who attacked America on September 11, 2001, and the organizations that supported them, but also an ever-widening conspiracy of disparate groups such as Hamas in Palestine, Hizballah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the clerical regime in Iran, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Chenchen rebels, the Kashmiri militants, the Taliban, and any other organization that declared itself Muslim and employed terrorism as a tactic. According to the master narrative of the War on Terror, these were a monolithic enemy with a common agenda and a shared ideology. Never mind that many of these groups consider one another a graver threat than they consider America to be, that they have vastly different and sometimes irreconcilable political yearnings and religious beliefs, and that, until the War on Terror, many had never thought of the United States as an enemy in any war. Give this imaginary monolith a made-up name – say, “Islamofacism” – and an eerily recognizable enemy is created, one that exists not so much as a force to be defeated as an idea to be opposed, one whose chief attribute appears to be that they are not us.
By lumping the disparate forces, movements, armies, ideas, and grievances in the greater Muslim world into a single category (“enemy”), assigning them a single identity (war), the United States manufactured what the counterterrorism expert David Kilcullen termed “an undifferentiated enemy.” And as Sun Tzu said so long ago, if you do not know who the enemy is, you cannot win the war.
Editor’s Note: See Jeffrey Toobin talk about the newest students' rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court tonight on AC360 at 10PM ET.
CNN Senior Legal Analyst
The Supreme Court has struggled with the issue of students’ rights for years. In the 1960s, in the heyday of the liberal Court of Chief Justice Earl Warren, the justices more and more treated students the same way they treated everyone else – as individuals with rights. In one famous case from Des Moines in 1969, a student was thrown out of high school for wearing a black armband to oppose the Vietnam War, but the Court ruled that the student had the right to express himself in this way and ruled against the school.
But times have changed at the Supreme Court. Students have far fewer rights than it once appeared they did. In 1985, the Court ruled that a student caught smoking could have her purse searched. Last year, in a crazy case out of Alaska, the Court ruled that a student could be suspended for holding a sign that said BONG HiTS 4 JESUS (even though Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion couldn’t say what those words meant).
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US President Barack Obama is escorted to his limousine by Central Intelligence Agency director Leon Panetta and Stephen Kappes, deputy director of the CIA, after speaking to employees during a visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on April 20, 2009.
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The Huffington Post
Responding to the somewhat overwrought critique that Obama did not properly stand up to hostile Latin American leaders during a trip to the region this past week, David Axelrod accused critics of missing the point.
"I think some people misinterpreted what happened this past weekend," said the president's close adviser. "I think the real message of what happened this past weekend with the Cuban regime's response to the president's decision on remittances, or the overtures from president Chavez. I think what has happened is that anti-Americanism isn't cool anymore."
The remarks were delivered during a conference hosted by the Religious Action Center, a Reform Judaism organization that seeks to influence society and politics. And they came as part of a broader attempt to frame the election of Obama as a fundamental resetting of "our relationships in the world."