National Security

Security Theatre Gets Badly Out Of Hand

With the administration having announced that there were “credible” threats of anniversary attacks on the US by Al Qaeda on 9/11, everyone was admittedly a bit jumpy. The AP carried mentions of two airline incidents which caused fighter jets and security personnel to be scrambled, including this description of one relating to a Frontier Airlines flight:

Police temporarily detained and questioned three passengers at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport on Sunday after the crew of the Frontier Airlines flight from Denver reported suspicious activity on board, and NORAD sent two F-16 jets to shadow the flight until it landed safely, airline and federal officials said.

The three passengers who were taken off the plane in handcuffs were released Sunday night, and no charges were filed against them, airport spokesman Scott Wintner said.

Frontier Flight 623, with 116 passengers on board, landed without incident in Detroit at 3:30 p.m. EDT after the crew reported that two people were spending “an extraordinarily long time” in a bathroom, Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuck said.

FBI Detroit spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold said ultimately authorities determined there was no real threat.

“Due to the anniversary of Sept. 11, all precautions were taken, and any slight inconsistency was taken seriously,” Berchtold said. “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.”

In such dry terms, it sounds reasonable that people would be “on the side of caution”. Try reading instead the account of one of the three passengers cuffed and questioned — for being so suspicious as to look slightly like two guys she didn’t know who were in her aisle, both of whom committed the suspicious activity of going to the bathroom:

We had been waiting on the plane for a half hour. I had to pee. I wanted to get home and see my family. And I wanted someone to tell us what was going on. In the distance, a van with stairs came closer. I sighed with relief, thinking we were going to get off the plane and get shuttled back to the terminal. I would still be able to make it home for dinner. Others on the plane also seemed happy to see those stairs coming our way.

I see stairs coming our way…yay!
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Rick Santorum: “I Do Not Believe [Enhanced Interrogation] is Torture”

Former Senator Rick Santorum, a Catholic, has formed an exploratory committee to see if he can generate support to run for President.

Apparently there is a big flap between Rick Santorum and John McCain on the issue of waterboarding (enhanced interrogation) which was used to gain the cooperation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed — cooperation that led to his giving information which enabled our forces to find Osama Bin Laden.

Read “The Waterboarding Trail to Bin Laden: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said that as late as 2006 fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of al Qaeda came from harsh interrogations”

I have been back and forth on the waterboarding issue, but I have come to the conclusion that this whole thing is being blown out of proportion due to a lack of understanding of what waterboarding is. Today, Mark Shea, who I love and respect, is engaging in some brutal ad hominem against Rick Santorum. So who is right and who is wrong here? Let’s take a step back, a deep breath, and consider the facts.

Is waterboarding “torture”? I would agree with these remarks below from Fr. Brian Harrison at Catholic Culture:

Even deciding what exactly we mean by torture is not easy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as “physical or moral violence” (CCC 2297); the definition given by the 1984 United Nations Convention on Torture is “the intentional infliction of severe pain.” The words violence and severe are themselves somewhat vague. Who draws the line — and where? — as to which specific practices are harsh enough to correspond to those words? What has become clear in the contemporary debate is that while many shudder-evoking practices (which needn’t be spelled out here) are recognized by everyone as meriting the name torture, there is no consensus about whether other less extreme interrogation techniques really count as torture: for instance, sleep deprivation, being kept under harsh temperatures or in uncomfortable positions, or “waterboarding” (which causes a brief, panic-inducing sensation of being about to drown but no pain or injury). Since no Catholic magisterial intervention so far offers any real guidance for resolving this controversy, the only methods we can be sure are included under “torture,” when that word appears in Church documents, are those in the former group.

“Inducing panic”, such as we find in waterboarding, is not “torture”. Considering that it is not torture in the first place, all other points appear to be moot.

Rick Santorum responded on the Mark Levin Show yesterday to the false claims that he endorses the use of torture. (CLICK HERE to watch video at The Right Scoop to hear his remarks.)

Again, I’ve been back and forth on the issue, because I did not understand fully what waterboarding is and how the Church defines “torture”. Now, I know. It’s not torture and it did gain information necessary to capture Osama Bin Laden. It was not used to force anyone to confess a crime but to gain information. The intent was to defend life and the action was not torture. Case closed.

Related at Catholic Online: Silence on Santorum is Deafening: Republican Establishment Sends Signals

Related at WMUR, New Hampshire: Conversation with the Candidate, Rick Santorum

A Plan For Palin, A New Contract With America?

Sarah Palin

[Updates at the bottom of his post]

Governor Sarah Palin recently announced her resignation as governor of the great state of Alaska and there has been a flurry of analysis of her motives, her character, and her future plans.  Some of this analysis were sincere, others were borderline antagonistic.

This is all occurring in the midst of an Obama presidency steering both Democratic controlled chambers of Congress that have substantially increased spending and enlarged the government to the detriment of our freedoms.  Couple this with the lack of a clear Republican plan to challenge all of this, the American people are in need of a leader to guide us out of this wilderness.

I believe Governor Palin can and should play this important role.  She stated in her final address as governor of Alaska that she wants to do what’s best for her state.  If she is a person of principle and a patriot then it is logical to presume that she wants what’s best for America.  And what’s best for America right now is to have a strong and vigorous counterweight to the liberal agenda of President Obama and his enablers in the Congress.

The plan that Governor Palin should pursue is to proactively lead Americans to take back Congress as part of the pact with America.  She should do what then House Leader Newt Gingrich did in 1994 with the Republican Party’s Contract with America that gave the Republicans control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

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"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and The Obama Administration

I would like to think that I rarely, if ever, use my privileges here to get on a “soapbox” or as a means to be politically partisan and issue an attack on any person or group. Similarly I hope the subject that I am undertaking reflects my commitment. I would like to admit in regard to the subject that I am terribly biased and I don’t think I am wrong about the matter. I am no source of infallibility, obviously; everyone is free to contradict me. I will passionately disagree, but will respect everyone’s right to intellectual freedom presupposing the same respect.

My self-identification as a Democrat is no secret. After President Obama was elected last November, I was hopeful, that despite his horrific position on life issues, a Democratic Administration and Congress would be able to go, in what I deem, a positive direction on many issues. One of these issues, I hoped, would be repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

President Obama on the campaign trail reiterated how he supported “equality” for gay and lesbian Americans. While his definition of “equality” is incompatible with my Catholic faith, I find the matter of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” one in which good Catholics may disagree on and it is one I thought the President and I agreed. Let me clarify: I do not march in GLBT parades or belong to any of their advocacy groups.

Just yesterday I learned that allegedly, 619 individuals were discharged last year from the military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. I won’t address those 619 discharges because I do not know any of the details to cast any sensible judgments.

However, it so happens that just yesterday a White House official indicated that there were no plans in the foreseeable future to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” (cf. Barack Obama campaign promises).

So, why does this bother me so much?

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