With the conviction of Bradley Manning and asylum granted to Edward Snowden in Russia, it may be time to turn attention away from the controversy over their actions and toward the government -- specifically, the intelligence community. Whatever ultimate judgment is leveled on Manning's or Snowden's actions, they have raised real questions about the ways that the United States gathers, uses and classifies information.
Commentary by Joe Conason
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It is becoming increasingly plain that the most formidable obstacle to national progress and global security is the Republican Party -- and specifically the extremist factions that currently dominate the GOP.
When asked what makes the world work, any self-respecting right-wing Republican knows the politically correct answer: competition! (With at least one exclamation point.) It is the paramount principle and universal solvent perennially touted by the right to cure whatever ails us -- in the abstract.
During most of the Obama presidency, George W. Bush has maintained a decorous silence. Keeping quiet may not always have been easy for Bush, watching his successor repudiate and unwind his legacy, from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond, but his discretion was wise under the circumstances. Suddenly, however, he is speaking out to urge a "positive resolution" to the debate over immigration reform -- and the time to listen to him has surely arrived.
Like many men who volunteered for the U.S. Army in World War II, my late father never boasted about his years in uniform. A patriot to his core, he nevertheless despised what he called the "jelly-bellied flag flappers." But in the decade or so before he passed away, he began to sport a small, eagle-shaped pin on his lapel, known as a "ruptured duck." Displaying the mark of his military service said that this lifelong liberal loved his country as much as any conservative -- and had proved it.
Among the many reasons that Americans hold the House of Representatives in low repute -- at historically abysmal levels, in fact -- is the blatantly partisan and ideological misconduct of so many committee chairs. Without any evident embarrassment these mighty politicians deny science, defy mathematics and dismiss every fact that contradicts their prejudices. But bad as these chairs tend to be, none is quite as flamboyantly awful as Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, a special investigative panel whose latest effort to conjure scandal from nothingness at the Internal Revenue Service would provoke his removal by a responsible leadership.
Immigration reform now seems certain to pass the Senate within days, in an amended bill that could win as many as 70 votes from both parties. The results will improve life for millions of undocumented workers and their families -- but the costs will not be negligible, including a "surge" that will rapidly double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol to 40,00 agents, along with much more fencing and surveillance technology.
Nearly a dozen years after the passage of the Patriot Act, rushed through Congress in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, informed debate over the balance between liberty and security is long overdue. That includes a public examination of how widely and deeply the National Security Agency (and other elements of the "intelligence community") may monitor Americans' telecommunications without violating the Bill of Rights.
This week, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said the National Security Agency's data mining violates our Fourth Amendment right to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers" and is "tyranny that our founders rebelled against." Good for him.
Let's state this very simply, so everybody will understand. The notion that Barack Obama is "Nixonian" -- or that his administration's recent troubles bear any resemblance to "Watergate" -- is the biggest media lie since the phony "Whitewater scandal" crested during the Clinton presidency.
Benghazi Interview: Pickering Dissects Congressional Follies, Media Coverage and 'Cover-Up' Charges By Joe Conason
No doubt the degraded quality of congressional oversight astonishes Thomas Pickering, the distinguished American diplomat who oversaw the State Department's Benghazi review board -- although he tries not to say so too directly. For his demanding and difficult effort -- only the most recent in a long history of public service under both Republican and Democratic administrations -- Pickering has found himself under sustained attack by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the excitable partisan who chairs the House Government Reform Committee.
Having served in Congress for more than three decades -- and in the upper chamber since 1996 -- Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden has established a reputation as one of the Senate's more serious and diligent members. Over the years on Capitol Hill, he has watched the Republican Party veer constantly further rightward, and yet he continues to believe against all evidence that bipartisan legislative cooperation is possible -- even likely. His habitual reaching across the partisan chasm has generated much controversy, notably when he floated a Medicare reform plan with House Budget chair Paul Ryan.
Less than four months after Barack Obama's inauguration, the right-wing propaganda machine is already promoting the only imaginable conclusion to a Democratic administration that dares to achieve a second term: impeachment. Once confined to the ranks of the birthers, the fantasy of removing President Obama from office is starting to fester in supposedly saner minds.
Like all such monuments that former presidents construct to edify the public, the George W. Bush Presidential Center -- opened with great ceremony in Texas last week -- is mounted from its subject's point of view.
Having directed NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies for most of the past four decades, Dr. James E. Hansen retired this month to devote himself to the scientific activism that has brought both awards and catcalls during his long and distinguished career. On April 24, he will receive the Ridenhour Courage Prize in Washington, D.C., for "bravely and urgently telling the truth about climate change."
What can Americans learn from the bitter debate over the gun reform bill?
Amid all the suffocating claptrap celebrating Margaret Thatcher in the media, only the British themselves seem able to provide a refreshing hit of brisk reality. Over here, she is the paragon of principle known as the "Iron Lady," devoted to freedom, democracy and traditional values who bolstered the West against encroaching darkness. Over there, she is seen clearly as a class warrior, whose chief accomplishments involved busting unions and breaking the post-war social contract.
By all accounts, Hillary Rodham Clinton has not yet decided whether to seek the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. But the prospect of her candidacy, combined with her undeniable popularity, is agitating certain commentators so deeply that they simply cannot withhold their bile.
Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times reporter and columnist who died Monday at the age of 86, shaped the American conscience on a broad range of issues, from civil liberties and civil rights to war and diplomacy, for almost 50 years. During his long career, Lewis won numerous awards and published several important books. Unlike many men of his generation who rose to high positions in journalism, he was a charming and thoughtful man who could listen as intently as he talked.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, recently spoke with The National Memo about the sequester's automatic budget cuts, the danger of cuts to Social Security, the Keystone XL pipeline, immigration reform, President Obama and how to defend labor in an era of attacks on the right to organize.