National Security

Senate Lets Patriot Act Provisions, Including Bulk Data Collection, Expire

Image via Blablo101/shutterstock.com
Image via Blablo101/shutterstock.com

The Senate debate period on the Patriot Act ran past midnight Sunday night, effectively allowing three provisions of the controversial act to expire. Despite warnings of national security risks, "it is clear that the lapse will not come close to debilitating counterterrorism efforts," according to CNN.

The NSA's bulk data collection program was one of the provisions to expire, officially shutting down by 8 p.m. Sunday night. 

The Senate is expected to restore some form of these provisions by midweek. 

From the Archives: February 1989

[A] POPULAR consensus is forming around the fact that new world realities demand fresh policies, beyond militarism. Public opinion is increasingly sophisticated about military and foreign policy issues. This is in large part due to the efforts of the peace movement.

A significant share of the peace movement's task is to promote political literacy in our own country. Every town meeting organized, every opportunity arranged for people to make their own judgments and come to their own decisions about U.S. foreign and military policy is an investment in future social and political change. As people are confronted with these moments of decision, they are given the information, the tools, the sense of their own power to determine the shape of national security policies.

Washington is the place where decisions are made. It is not, however, the place where all the power is or where the most effective campaigns are always fought and won. The real political battle is between those who innovate and introduce ideas, intending to set the foreign and military policy agenda. ...

Common security is both a new way of thinking about the conduct of international relations and a political program. ... The challenge now is to convince cynical politicians that the public is ready for a principled and common-sense approach to foreign policy. n

Pam Solo was co-director of the Institute for Peace and International Security in Cambridge, Mass., when this article appeared.

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Has Drone Firepower Conquered Christ's Love?

Keith Tarrier and spirit of america / Shutterstock
Obama has personally ordered drone strikes. Keith Tarrier and spirit of america / Shutterstock

For centuries, followers of Jesus have wondered how they should relate to states and governments. Recent documents from Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, and the United Nations bring such concerns to the fore, highlighting the cruel collateral damage of many of President Barack Obama’s personally ordered drone strikes — strikes that according to the president, are legal and in accord with international law, use technology that is precise and limit unnecessary casualties, eliminate people that are real threats, and prevent greater violence.

Rather than considering the humanity of our (perceived) enemies and seeking reconciliation and restorative justice, we default to catching and killing. In doing so, we give the widest berth possible to Jesus's teachings and examples of self-sacrificial enemy love. In both Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus tells us that to love our enemies is to be children of God, for radical love and kindness are his nature and his perfection. Loving enemies is essential to anyone who would claim God as his or her Father. Jesus said, "Love." Not, "Love unless you happen to be the ones in charge and in possession of firepower. In that case, kill the bastards."

We are charged with loving our world indiscriminately, self-sacrificially, and with great humility, and that should always inform our relationship with the state and government.

Cell Phone Spying: Would Jesus Even Care?

Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com
Rally against mass surveillance in October in Washington, D.C., Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com

As if it wasn’t chilling enough to learn that NSA cronies are poring over your web browser history, now we discover that Barack Obama sits in bed at night and listens in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone calls to Domino’s.

Okay, maybe those are a bit of a stretch, but quite a buzz has been generated as of late about the revelation that the United States does, indeed, monitor the communications of leaders from allied nations, including the cell phone activity of Chancellor Merkel. For some, the collective reaction has been more of a collective shrug, as if such impositions should be expected from a global superpower that generally prefers to maintain that status. But for others, there’s a clear sense of shock and outrage.

For starters, let's clarify: nations cannot be friends.

The Truth of Bradley Manning and the Mythical Cover-Up of America

Free Bradley Manning rally, photo by cool revolution / Flickr.com
Free Bradley Manning rally, photo by cool revolution / Flickr.com

According to Gil Bailie’s groundbreaking book Violence Unveiled, the word myth stems from the Greek wordmu. Those two Greek letters combine to form the powerful concept behind all myths Mu means “to close” or “to keep secret.” Bailie claims that “Myth closes its eyes to certain events and closes its mouth.” Myths are the lies and the cover-ups that we tell about our own violence. Truth, on the other hand, works against myth to reveal our violence.

Ancient cultures told their myths, of course. Unfortunately, we moderns, who think we’ve progressed so much since our ancestors, tell our own myths. The United States government’s military trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning is a case in point.

Manning’s Leak to WikiLeaks

In 2010, Manning was arrested and accused of the worst military crimes, including espionage and aiding the enemy. He secretly released an extensive archive of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Some believe Manning is a traitor, while others believe he is a heroic whistleblower. As the New York Times reports, “There is no doubt that he did most of what he is accused of doing, and the crucial issue is how those actions should be understood.”

'Bring Our War Dollars Home'

YEAR AFTER YEAR, more than 50 percent of the federal discretionary budget goes to the Pentagon, while only one-third of the non-defense discretionary budget is invested in struggling states and communities—a contrast at the heart of this year’s congressional budget battles. And yet for decades the Pentagon budget has remained sacrosanct while local communities suffer.

From the ground up, activists around the country are fighting back. They are striving to save their communities by calling for cuts in what they perceive as a bloated Pentagon budget—starting in some of the most unlikely places: local city councils.

My organization—the Minnesota Arms Spending Alternatives Project (MN ASAP)—is just one of many groups around the country seeking to shift federal spending priorities from preparing for and waging war to meeting local needs. Through a simple resolution, we build political support by asking churches, organizations, city councils, and state legislators to endorse our initiative to cut Pentagon spending and invest in communities.

In 2011, the Minnesota state government shut down over disputes as to how to address a two-year, $5 billion budget shortfall. Yet Minnesota taxpayers spent nearly $3.5 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011 alone, bringing total Minnesota taxpayer spending for these wars to $40 billion, according to the National Priorities Project. As in other states, many cities and communities in Minnesota are managing austerity budgets, tightening their belts and laying off police, firefighters, and teachers—all while the Pentagon budget remains unchecked.

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What Are We Guarding Against?

Airport security, Tifonimages / Shutterstock.com
Airport security, Tifonimages / Shutterstock.com

As I stood in line at Orlando International Airport, a little girl did not want to go through airport security. She was desperately clinging to her grandmother.

I had already been pondering, as I *always* do, the enormous investment the nation has made in these checkpoints, going on 12 years now, in response to the actions of 19 men. 19 persons. These lines are here forever now, just one more cost of the fall, one more insult to our usual illusion of normalcy.

I'm not inconvenienced by the searches or the scanners, or worried about my personal liberties, though half stripping in public is embarrassing (we men have to take our belts off). At least the posture in those full-body cylinders reminds me that, at a very real level, this ought to be my more constant pose: found wanting, presumed guilty, and in need of throwing up my hands in surrender.

Still, I marvel at the sheer amount of money we must spend for all of this equipment and personnel, hoping this all somehow makes us safe. I'm skeptical.

Gang of Eight: GOP Candidates Debate o' the Week

GOP Presidential Candidates, image by DonkeyHotey via Wylio (http://bit.ly/uvSrq
GOP Presidential Candidates, image by DonkeyHotey via Wylio (http://bit.ly/uvSrqj)

Another week, another Republican Presidential Debate.

This time, eight of the GOP candidates for the nomination spent their evening putting forward their beliefs on the issues of foreign policy and national security. The topics ‘debated’ (out of respect for Debate teams around the country, I use inverted commas) were not surprising – Afghanistan, Iran, the Arab Spring, Israel, foreign aid, immigration.

But there were a few things that the candidates did say that caught my attention as I read through the transcript this morning – particularly in relation to foreign aid and immigration.

It was encouraging to hear at least one candidate come out and support the positive impact and geo-strategic importance that non-military development assistance is playing on the African continent (even if he did accidentally call Africa a "country.")

The Morning News: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

GOP Candidates Show Sharp Differences On National Security And Terrorism; GOP Debate: Romney Aide Struggles To Answer Immigration Question While Attacking Gingrich; Occupy Pessimism; Occupying The Gospel; An America Less Friendly To Christians? Not In This Campaign Supercommittee Failure Confirms What Most Americans Believe About Congress; Evangelicals Assert Their Role In GOP Primary; Occupy Thanksgiving.

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