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What could possibly be more invasive, more offensive, than the secret indiscriminate bulk collection of data by the National Security Agency?

Quite a number of things, actually.

Let's put aside, for now, the CIA's complicity in torture, which, to my mind, is the worst scandal of the Bush years. Then, as you read about the following two stories, compare them to the NSA's surveillance, and weigh the potential and actual harm to real people that the practices exposed herein would cause.

1. The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill, relying on classified documents, has exposed for all to see the ungainly expansion of terrorist watch lists after September 11, 2001, ...  More»

 

In a calmer world, Ronald Kessler's second book about the U.S. Secret Service might have made more waves. In The First Family Detail, there are salacious details about Bill Clinton's alleged mistress (although Kessler stops short of actually accusing him of having sex with another woman), the cringe-worthy mental image of Joe Biden swimming naked, and a bunch of gossip about current and former protectees.

If Kessler truly had penetrated deep inside an enigmatic agency that is struggling with some scandals and demographic change, then I would wholly recommend the book to you....  More»

 
August 7, 2014, at 9:25 AM

'Tis the week to pick on the Central Intelligence Agency.

And I actually don't want to pick on them. They've done a lot of bad stuff, and they've done a lot of good stuff, and the people who work there, by and large, are as good as you might think you are.

CIA historians? Usually, quite awesome. But the lawyers who try to protect the CIA's historical equities? Bad people. Bad, bad people.

Nate Jones, the senior FOIA researcher at the National Security Archive, has been trying to pry loose a declassified copy of the CIA's internal history of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion....  More»

 

Vladimir Pozner, whom you might remember as a perspicuous commentator on the Soviet Union during the Sochi Olympics, was famous in America in the 1980s for being an articulate defender of the U.S.S.R. He was able to argue his points in the American style of competitive political debate, which is to say: he knew how to talk in sound bites that resonated.

Posner is very smart, and he used one technique over and over, particularly when confronted with a particular horror that the Soviet Union was accused of. He would invariably respond that Americans have no moral authority to judge the Soviet Union because, well, whatever the misdeed in question,...  More»

 
August 14, 2014, at 4:18 PM

The president carries himself weakly. His words don't pressure anyone. American foreign policy is impotent. Nouri al-Maliki, endorsed by the previous administration to run Iraq, would never resign. In fact, he'll dig in his heels precisely because Obama wanted him to go. He'll hold on to his power illegally.

Don't Do Stupid Stuff may be a shrunken encapsulation of President Obama's fundamental caution about the knee-jerk exercise of American military power, but it does not mean he shies away from risk. Intervening in Iraq is risky. Openly calling for Maliki to step down and then using what little actual leverage the United States has to assist (nonmilitary)...  More»

 

America will never become a libertarian utopia. But anti-statism is definitely in.

There will be plenty of differences between the eventual Democratic and Republican presidential nominees in 2016, and anyone who reads The Week can probably come up with a long list of them on demand. But even before the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, expressing rage at an apparent manslaughter by a police officer, exposing the human costs of police militarization, a certain set of bubble issues had made its way into the middle of our politics.

These issues are not conservative or liberal....  More»

 

I've been jacked up by law-enforcement officers three times in my career as a reporter.

The first time was in 2000, when, as an intern for ABC News, I inadvertently walked from the safety of the Democratic National Convention into a protest zone outside the Staples Center and was grazed by a rubber bullet fired by an LAPD officer. Later that night, after we went off the air, another officer shoved me onto the sidewalk. The second time came about three years later. I took a photograph of the motorcade of the secretary of state and was physically accosted by two Diplomatic Security special agents who had seen me....  More»

 

The St. Louis County Police Department released video last night that shows two of its officers opening fire and killing a knife-wielding man who had just held up a nearby liquor store.

Here's the video. Warning: it is quite disturbing, although there are no close-ups of the dying man.

When I posted the video on Twitter yesterday, rather predictably, the reaction broke into two camps.

Camp One notes simply that the officers fired at a man who was walking towards them with a knife after they had warned him. It was a graphic but justified application of lethal force by police officers trying to protect themselves....  More»

 

President Obama is expected to announce by mid-September whether he will circumvent a recalcitrant Congress and press ahead with immigration reform on his own terms. "Executive action," as it's come to be known, could be as robust and consequential as providing de-facto earned amnesty for millions of undocumented immigrants now living in the shadows. That decision would reverberate widely. Democrats have usually been afraid that if Obama decided to showcase the apogee of presidential power, the counter-reaction among conservatives and revanchists would cost Democrats an intolerably high political price....  More»

 

The world is en fuego, with American interests at peril and President Obama's foreign policy failing to stem the chaos. The mood may be as brittle as it was in 2002, the first elections after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, but even though the country is definitely paying more attention to the world's problems as the economy improves at home, the midterm elections in America are just not being fought over foreign policy. This is unusual, but it isn't surprising: Neither party has a clue on foreign policy.

Democrats are divided about Obama's response to the Syrian civil war, the sudden metastasizing of ISIS in Iraq, and the civil war in...  More»

 

Unless you're one of those ornery folks who believe that only politically engaged Americans should vote, there aren't many good reasons to oppose efforts to expand access to the ballot. Voter fraud is quite rare, and voting fraud — an organized effort to illegally disrupt elections — is hard to organize. So you might think that any restriction on the way someone can vote will unfairly marginalize potentially legitimate voters.

That's true, with one big exception: internet voting.

No doubt — nationwide internet voting has an intuitive appeal....  More»

 

Among the more fascinating facts discovered in Brookings analyst Neil Ruiz's research on the geography of foreign students in the U.S. is where they decide to stay after they get their degree.

A plurality stay in New York City — or move there.

New York, it turns out, is very sticky. Foreign students are more likely to stay in New York City after graduation than anywhere else in the country. We all love New York, and it's the biggest city in the country, but there's no reason why it should be so magnetic, unless the city (and New York state) do things to make it attractive for foreign students to stay there after they study....  More»

 

How does a biologist, or a computational neuroscientist, possibly have the wherewithal to stay current on all aspects of his field?

Nature, one of the world's top journals for peer-reviewed scientific breakthroughs, does what it can to encourage cross-discipline knowledge sharing by publishing non-technical essays from the leading lights in particular fields. For a lay person, this is often the best way to become current, very quickly, on very difficult subjects.

This week's topic, when boiled down to its essence, is: how small, how fast, how powerful can computers possibly get?...  More»

 

"There are no boots on the ground."

I don't care for the phrase. Never did. Wearing boots is what combat forces do in certain circumstances. Using it as synecdoche for "troops in harm's way" warps the scope of what the U.S. military does. It may also give the Pentagon an easy out, because certain forces wear sneakers, not boots.

A very brave Ford Sypher, writing for The Daily Beast, saw suspiciously Western-looking commandos race by him in their heavy trucks, and was given word by his Kurdish escorts that these were indeed foreigners:

Contacts in the Kurdish intelligence service and Peshmerga leadership confirmed what we saw....  More»

 

Forget summer. The best books for political junkies usually arrive with the turning of the leaves. Here are three of the juiciest and most interesting titles that soon will be available for your purchase.

Next week, the peripatetic Lawrence Wright will publish Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David, a sure-to-be riveting, moment-by-moment history of a time when peace was both the means to an end and an end in itself, and when political leaders could be brave and forgo politics, grudges, religious attachments, and even the strong lure of national myth-making....  More»

 

Shares of Apple's stock bounced up three percent when Tim Cook unveiled the latest evolution of the iPhone on Tuesday, and then felt gravity when, later in the presentation, he introduced the Apple Watch to the world. The verdict of the market? Hard to say. I was watching the stock price of one of the iPhones' carriers. T-Mobile's shares dropped about 1.66 percent today, to 30.28.

I'd had a sense that T-Mobile is the company best positioned to take quick advantage of consumer stuff-lust to get the latest iPhone (and with it, in January, the Apple Watch....  More»

 

President Obama will make the case tonight for his decision to unleash the U.S. military on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the al Qaeda off-shoot that has torn through territory in the Mideast and proclaimed itself the stewards of a new caliphate.

Obama has used the bully pulpit to explain his choices before, but this speech belongs in a category that includes three other major foreign policy issues — his 2009 explanation for a temporary troop surge in Afghanistan, his 2011 decision to assist NATO in ousting Moammar Gadhafi, and his decision last year not to seek congressional permission to bomb Syria (and his subsequent decision...  More»

 

Under what authority is President Obama going to war against ISIS, the omnivorous octopus that has ruthlessly gobbled up territory in the Middle East? His advisers cite the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda. That's somewhat confusing, because al Qaeda has become an ISIS antagonist.

Indeed, there is quite a bit about the fight against ISIS that remains opaque. What is it "we" are doing, exactly? Does it compare to what we've already done in Iraq and in Afghanistan? If the threat is not imminent, why would we want to do anything?...  More»

 
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