Archive for the ‘Nat Hentoff’ Category

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Obama’s Black Widow

December 29, 2008

Nat Hentoff • Village Voice header
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Thanks to Bush and Obama, the National Security Agency now knows more about you

Barack Obama will be in charge of the biggest domestic and international spying operation in history. Its prime engine is the National Security Agency (NSA)—located and guarded at Fort Meade, Maryland, about 10 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. A brief glimpse of its ever-expanding capacity was provided on October 26 by The Baltimore Sun’s national security correspondent, David Wood: “The NSA’s colossal Cray supercomputer, code-named the ‘Black Widow,’ scans millions of domestic and international phone calls and e-mails every hour. . . . The Black Widow, performing hundreds of trillions of calculations per second, searches through and reassembles key words and patterns, across many languages.”

In July, George W. Bush signed into law the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which gives the NSA even more power to look for patterns that suggest terrorism links in Americans’ telephone and Internet communications.

The ACLU immediately filed a lawsuit on free speech and privacy grounds. The new Bush law provides farcical judicial supervision over the NSA and other government trackers and databasers. Although Senator Barack Obama voted for this law, dig this from the ACLU: “The government [is now permitted] to conduct intrusive surveillance without ever telling a court who it intends to spy on, what phone lines and e-mail addresses it intends to monitor, where its surveillance targets are located, why it’s conducting the surveillance or whether it suspects any party to the communication of wrongdoing.”

This gives the word “dragnet” an especially chilling new meaning. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Nat Hentoff: What Obama Doesn’t Know

December 18, 2008

Nat Hentoff  • Village Voice     more from Nat Hentoff • more posts in News & Anaylsis

Much has been hidden from the new president by the Bush team

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No presidential transition team in recent history has ranged as widely as Barack Obama’s in its attempt to find out what minefields he may be walking into. For example,The Washington Post notes, 10 teams of 135 explorers, wearing yellow badges, have descended on dozens of Bush administration offices and agencies to look into their programs, policies, and records.

However, I keep remembering a dark warning to the successors of the Bush-Cheney legacy in a January 3 letter to The New York Times by Arthur Gunther of Blauvelt, New York: “Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have so deeply embedded tacit approval for illegal acts in government agencies that wrongdoing by their philosophical sympathizers will continue in shadow operations for years to come.”

How many of those shadow sympathizers will remain deep in the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security—and, as I shall later emphasize, in the omnivorous National Security Agency, with its creatively designed submarine that, on the bottom of the ocean floor, will be tapping into foreign cables carrying overseas communications, including those of Americans?
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What Does Letting Our Own War Criminals Go Free Tell Us About Ourselves?

December 15, 2008

By Nat Hentoff • The Village Voice

Since I live in the Village, my Congressman is Jerrold Nadler, a civil libertarian for all seasons. Unlike many of his Democratic colleagues, he has never been in fear of being targeted as “soft on terrorism” for opposing the Bush-Cheney war on the Bill of Rights. Nadler certainly does not underestimate the jihadists: The 9/11 attacks exploded in his district.   

In The Almanac of American Politics, Michael Barone describes Nadler’s reaction to that day of terror: Securing “$20 billion for the cleanup and eventual rebuilding, he spearheaded numerous actions on behalf of affected families . . .” but “Nadler remained true to his civil libertarian views. He vigorously opposed the USA Patriot Act and the Iraq War Resolution.” And since 2007, he has chaired the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.

In that subcommittee, and on the floor of the House, he fought Bush (and some Democrats) in order to give “enemy combatants” their habeas corpus rights. (The Supreme Court has agreed.) And, unlike many Democrats, he has worked to narrow the very definition of “enemy combatant,” which is especially important. Under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, voted for by too many Democrats, anyone held as a captured “detainee” in a military prison can be charged with giving “material support” to the enemy and can be locked up indefinitely. American citizens have also been held on this charge—which could include giving money to a charity they weren’t aware was on some secret government list—and thus accused of having “links,” however tenuous, to terrorism.
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