Storified by Brian Empric· Fri, Mar 29 2013 19:07:25
Satellite radio show host Armstrong Williams (@arightside) writes about a reportreleased last month by the Henry Jackson Society (a bipartisan,British-based think tank), “Al-Qaeda in the United States: A CompleteAnalysis of Terrorism Offenses,” which showed that 24% of al Qaeda terroristsembraced radical Islam later in life with the fervor of religious converts.
“The report is more than 700 pages, and is a painstakingand meticulous review of all 171 al Qaeda or al Qaeda-inspiredterrorists who were either killed during their attacks or convicted incourt in the U.S.”
“It reveals that the bulk of the terrorists in the U.S.are not highly trained foreign nationals infiltrating our borders to attack us,butour neighbors next door.
“More than half of the terrorists wereAmerican citizens. A shocking 82 percent of the terrorists killed or convictedwere U.S. residents. Ninety-five percent were men, and they lived instates from coast to coast and across the heartland.”
“Another remarkable data point is that 52percent of the attackers were college-educated and nearly 60 percentwere either pursuing education or were employed at the time of their arrests. Thesefacts punch gaping holes into the self-defeating assertion that thosewho hate America are driven to terrorism because they are ignorant ordowntrodden.”
Chad Bray reports that Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a 47-year-oldson-in-law of Osama bin Laden and onetime spokesman for al Qaeda, plead notguilty earlier this month in a lower Manhattan federal courthouse of conspiringto kill American citizens, and he faces life in prison if convicted. The next hearing is April 8.
“At the brief hearing in Manhattan federal court, Mr. AbuGraith, who was ordered detained, was wearing blue prison garb and was led intothe ornate ceremonial courtroom in handcuffs.”
“Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Cronan told the courtthat after Mr. Abu Ghaith was taken into custody, he gave a 22-page statement tolaw enforcement. That statement, in the form of a Federal Bureau ofInvestigation report, as well as a number of DVDs containing speeches by Mr.Abu Ghaith, were turned over to his lawyers, the prosecutor said.”
“Mr. Abu Ghaith was captured in Jordan after he wasdeported from Turkey, according to people familiar with the investigation. Hewas detained in Turkey last month after leaving Iran, where U.S. officials believed hehad been hiding for a decade, according to people familiar with thematter.”
“Mr. Abu Ghaith is being held at the MetropolitanCorrectional Center in lower Manhattan, one of two federal facilities in NewYork City that house defendants awaiting trial.”
“According to the indictment, Mr. Abu Ghaith appearedwith Mr. bin Laden the day after the (Sept. 11) attacks and said a ‘greatarmy’ was gathering against the U.S. In another statement, he advisedMuslims, children and opponents of the U.S. ‘not to board any aircraft and notto live in high rises,’ according to the indictment.”
Mark Steyn (@MarkSteynOnline) writes of drones,paramilitarized bureaucracies and all-seeing governments.
“I’m a long, long way from Rand Paul’s view of the world(I’m basically a 19th-century imperialist a hundred years past sell-by date), butI’m far from sanguine about America’s drone fever. For all itsadvantages to this administration — no awkward prisoners to be housed at Gitmo,no military casualties for the evening news — the unheard, unseen, unmanneddrone raining down death from the skies confirms for those on the receiving endal-Qaeda’s critique of its enemies: As they see it, we have the best technologyand the worst will; we choose aerial assassination and its attendantcollateral damage because we are risk-averse, and so remote, antiseptic,long-distance, computer-programmed warfare is all that we can bear. Ourtechnological strength betrays our psychological weakness.”
“The guys with drones are losing to the guys withfertilizer — because they mean it, and we don’t. The drone thus has come tosymbolize the central defect of America’s ‘war on terror,’ which is that it’sall means and no end: We’re fighting the symptoms rather than thecause.”
“The same bureaucracy that booked Samira Ibrahim for anaudience with the first lady and Anwar al-Awlaki to host prayers at the Capitolnow assures you that it’s entirely capable of determining who needs to be zapped by adrone between the sea bass and the tiramisu at Ahmed’s Bar and Grill.But it’s precisely because the government is too craven to stray beyondtechnological warfare and take on its enemies ideologically that itwinds up booking the first lady to hand out awards to a Jew-loathing,Hitler-quoting, terrorist-supporting America-hater.
“Insofar as it relieves Washington of the need to thinkstrategically about the nature of the enemy, the drone is part of the problem.But its technology is too convenient a gift for government to forswear at home.America takes an ever more expansive view of police power, and, whilethe notion of unmanned drones patrolling the heartland may seem absurd,lots of things that seemed absurd a mere 15 years ago are now a routine featureof life. Not so long ago, it would have seemed not just absurd but repugnantand un-American to suggest that the state ought to have the power to fondle thecrotch of a seven-year-old boy without probable cause before permitting him toboard an airplane. Yet it happened, and became accepted, and is unlikely ever to bereversed.”
“We have advanced from the paramilitarization of thepolice to the paramilitarization of the Bureau of Form-Filling. Two years agoin this space, I noted that the U.S. secretary of education, who doesn’t employa single teacher, is the only education minister in the developed world with his own SWATteam… That the education bureaucracy of the Brokest Nation in Historyhas its own Seal Team Six is ridiculous and offensive. Yet the citizenry don’t find itso: They accept it.”
“I mention in my book that government is increasinglycomfortable with a view of society as a giant ‘Panopticon’ —the radial prison devised by Jeremy Bentham in 1785, in which the authorities can seeeveryone and everything. In the Droneworld we have built for the war onterror, we can’t see the forest because we’re busy tracking every spindlysapling. When the same philosophy is applied on the home front, it willnot be pretty.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorializes that the logicof elevating the Distinguished Warfare Medal for military personnel who operatedrones over established honors given for valor on the battlefield is inexplicable. Courage counts, and a medal for valor should outrank one for desk duty.
“Drones have changed the face of modern warfare. Killingenemy soldiers, while still a brutal act, is no longer as intimate as it was inthe last century. Nowadays the distance between target and targeter can bethousands of miles, and launching an attack can look more like a video game.”
“From the perspective of the victim and the collateraldamage that results, it doesn't matter whether the assault came from anAmerican soldier in a hideout 200 feet away or a military base 7,000 milesaway. In either case, the target is extinguished.”
“(Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. TimMurphy) object to the Defense Department's decision to rank the Distinguished WarfareMedal higher than the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, two honors thatcan be earned only in the face of combat. The Purple Heart goes to woundedsoldiers, but in the new hierarchy it will sit lower than the award given to aservice member pushing buttons in the safety and comfort of a controlroom in the United States.”
“War is hell, but the Pentagon doesn't haveto make it worse by losing perspective on loyal troops' sacrifice.”
Charles Krauthammer writes that the war on terror is notgoing away, but it needs a new rulebook when it comes to drone warfare. 4,700 are estimated to have been killed bydrone, without any protest from the hypocrites, whereas “George W. Bush wasexcoriated for waterboarding exactly three terrorists, all of whom are nowenjoying an extensive retirement on a sunny Caribbean island…”
“In choice of both topic and foil, Rand Paul’s nowlegendary Senate filibuster was a stroke of political genius. The topic was,ostensibly, very narrow: Does the president have the constitutionalauthority to put a drone-launched Hellfire missile through your kitchen— you, a good citizen of Topeka to whom POTUS might have taken a dislike —while you’re cooking up a pot roast?”
“The correct response, of course, is: Absent an activecivil war on U.S. soil (of the kind not seen in 150 years) or a jihadistinvasion from Saskatchewan led by the Topeka pot roaster, the answer is no.”
“The vexing and pressing issue is the use ofdrones abroad. The filibusterpretended not to be about that. Which is testimony to Paul’s politicaladroitness. It was not until two days later that he showed his hand, writing in The Post, ‘No American should be killed bya drone without first being charged with a crime.’ Note the absence of therestrictive clause: ‘on American soil.’”
“Outside American soil, the Constitution does not rule, nomatter how much Paul would like it to. Yet Paul’s unease applies tonon-American drone targets as well. His quarrel is with the very notion of thewar on terror, though he is normally too smart to say that openly andunequivocally. Unlike his father, who implied that 9/11 was payback for oursins, Paul the Younger more gingerly expresses general skepticism about notjust the efficacy but the legality of the entire war.”
“The war’s constitutional charter, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), hasproved quite serviceable. But the commander-in-chief’s authority is so broad —it leaves the limits of his power to be determined, often in secret memos, bythe administration’s own in-house lawyers — that it has spawned suspicion,fear and now filibuster.
“It is time to rethink. That meansnot repealing the original AUMF but, using the lessons of the past 12 years,rewriting it with particular attention to a new code governing drone warfare andthe question of where, when and against whom it should be permitted… Allwe need now is a president willing to lead and a Congress willing to takeresponsibility for the conduct of a war that, however much Paul and hisacolytes may wish it away, will long be with us.”
Back in 1787,Alexander Hamilton wrote FederalistNo. 23, one in the series of articles frequently used to interpret the intentof the Constitution, especially in Supreme Court decisions. He observed:
“The authorities essential to the common defense arethese: to raise armies; to build and equip fleets; to prescribe rules for thegovernment of both; to direct their operations; to provide for their support.These powers ought to exist without limitation, because it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and varietyof national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the meanswhich may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger thesafety of nations are infinite, and for this reason no constitutional shacklescan wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed.This power ought to be coextensive with all the possible combinations of suchcircumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils whichare appointed to preside over the common defense.”
AndrewC. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the NationalReview Institute, writes that Congress, not theConstitution, should curtail the president’s war powers. The president can be shackled “by trimminghis sails in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), not bytrimming his constitutional power.”
“It was Wednesday, shortly beforeSenator Rand Paul’s bravura 13-hour filibuster, the Jimmy Stewart star turn inPaul’s crusade to have the Constitution ban a bogeyman of his own making: thekilling of American citizens on American soil by America’s armed forces— a scandal that clearly cries out for action, having occurred exactly zerotimes in the 20 years since jihadists commenced hostilities by bombingthe World Trade Center.
“At a hearing of the Judiciary Committee, Senator TedCruz was grilling Attorney General Eric Holder. Cruz seemed beside himself — inthe theatrical spirit of the day — over Holder’s refusal to concede that theimaginary use of lethal force conjured up by Paul would be, underany and all circumstances, unconstitutional…Yet my sympathies were with Holder. I found myself wishing he’d stood by hisequivocal guns.”
“To cross Paul admirers can mean being castinto the neocon darkness, along with all those other cogs in themilitary-industrial complex who dream of a global American empire — and that’s evenwhen the offense is not compounded by suggesting that Eric Holder might havebeen right about something. So let me say outright: I am against using our armedforces to kill our citizens in our homeland.
“That puts me in the same camp as about 99.9 percent ofAmericans. In part, that owes to our natural, patriotic predilection. Butthere’s another part of the explanation — just as important, but less wellnoticed: After 20 years, we understand the particular conflict we are in.We can confidently say that, in the war authorized by Congress a dozen yearsago, wedo not need to use lethal military force inside our country.”
“Contrary to Senator Paul’s assertions, and those ofsenators Cruz and Mike Lee, who lent their voices and scholarly heft to Paul’sfilibuster, the Constitution does not prohibit the use of lethal force in theUnited States against American citizens who collude with the enemy.
“American history and jurisprudence teach that Americancitizens who join the enemy may be treated as the enemy:captured without warrant, detained indefinitely without trial, interrogatedwithout counsel, accused of war crimes without grand-jury proceedings, tried bymilitary commission without the protections of civilian due process, andexecuted promptly after conviction. That is because these measures arepermissible under the laws of war, and the Constitution accommodatesthe laws of war — they are the rule of law when Congress has authorizedwarfare.”
“The Constitution enables the government to marshal allthe might necessary, under any conceivable circumstances,to quell threats to the United States. The Framers, with a humility thatcontrasts sharply with our certitude, understood that some threats could beexistential in nature…”
“In the ongoing conflict, the enemy does not havefortifications inside our territory that would enable its operatives to keepthe police at bay. As long as we catch them in time, our enemies can be safely taken intocustody. And if we catch them on the precipice of deadly action,ordinary law-enforcement principles allow for the use of lethal force to stop them.
“But that may not always be the case.We could have enemies with much greater capabilities, enemies including traitorousAmericans. The fact that we do not appear to need lethal military forcein the homeland in this conflictdoes not mean we will never need it.”
“Senator Paul has the controversy he sought because theObama administration arrogantly claimed nigh-limitless power to kill anyone,anywhere, at the president’s whim. Thereis no reason to believe the president actually intends to abuse such power — hehas not done so to this point…”
“Senators Paul and Cruz have suggested that theconstitutional claim they’ve posited — viz., presidents are not empowered tokill Americans on American soil absent an imminent threat of violence — is ‘easy,’‘clear,’ and ‘obvious.’ I respectfully disagree. It is none of thosethings. What is easy, clear, and obvious is that if we do not needcertain troublesome authorities to fight a war successfully, Congresscan withhold them… Why does it make a difference whether thiscurtailment comes from the AUMF rather than the Constitution?”
“If all the senator really has in mind is somecurtailment of presidential overreach, the right way to do that is to limit theAUMF. If his ambition is greater, if he believes the country would bebetter off ending the war paradigm and returning to peacetime due process, theforthright way to do that is to repeal the AUMF. That would be aterrible mistake, but one we could withstand, however painfully. Whatwe might not be able to withstand is the shackling of constitutional powers wemay someday need to sustain the United States.”