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Archive for January, 2014

Freezing Out U.S. Security at Sochi Is a Counterterrorism Fail

January 29th, 2014

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Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, recently had a disturbing opinion about the personal risk of attending this year’s Olympic Games, saying on CNN, “I would not go, and I don’t think I would send my family.” When a senator who sits on both the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees tells Americans it is unsafe to attend an international event in Russia, people should take note. Despite the threat, Moscow, which is spending some $2 billion on security, or almost $118 million a day, for the 17 days of the 2014 Games, would prefer to freeze out America’s efforts to help secure the Winter Olympics.

Putin should think twice if he thinks the Olympics are secure. Russia’s preeminent jihadist group, the Caucasus Emirate, or CE, intends to disrupt the games, even if Russian forces may have killed its leader, Doku Umarov. GivenCE’s decentralized cell structure, terrorist violence in or around Sochi is still likely to occur and revenge can be a powerful motivator.

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The World Is Failing Failed States

January 28th, 2014

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Representatives of the Syrian regime and rebel groups currently meeting in Geneva face an arduous task: ending a bloody civil war that has lasted three years, cost  130,000 livesdisplaced nearly 9 million people and turned a developed,middle-income state into a failed one. Syria’s problems — ethnic and sectarian tensions, weak institutions and little rule of law — aren’t uncommon in the international arena. What is common among failed states is the international community’s inability to effectively deal with them. According to the 2013 Failed State Index, there are 35 states that have already failed or are in serious danger of failing.

State failures rarely occur in a vacuum; they can destabilize entire regions, as Syria has already done. Some on the right and the left argue that military intervention is the best way to hasten a peaceful political solution and restoration of order. Perhaps they are correct, but only in the short-term; even if a political solution is found, it would be built upon an unsteady foundation of poor civilian institutions. Fixing failed states involves a long-term effort to help them build better, more inclusive institutions. Otherwise, a political solution will only prolong the inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »

To judge NSA reforms, look to the tech industry

January 21st, 2014

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In 1976, Senator Edward Kennedy first introduced the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to rein in government scrutiny of Americans. That law made America’s telecommunications companies the gatekeepers of the public’s information. But back then, “Ma Bell” was still around — AT&T wasn’t broken up until 1982 — and mobile phones were a distant dream. Now, nearly 40 years and a tech revolution later, President Obama faced similar questions on how to protect the American people’s privacy.

A majority of Americans think that NSA collection has gone to far, and an even greater percentage think that the data are being used for more that just terrorism. Many don’t trust the government with their personal data. And the public should be worried — the potential for serious abuse of civil liberties is ever-present in today’s surveillance programs. The history of abuses goes back to the Nixon era, and it continued through the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping after 9/11. All of that is well-documented.

Now, people at home and abroad want reassurances that there’s real transparency and powerful checks in the system to prevent potential abuses. But they also want to be protected from terrorism.

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How the U.S. Can Do More for Syrian Refugees

January 14th, 2014

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The conflict in Syria has created a massive refugee crisis. The number of refugees that have fled the country, already estimated at 2 million, is expected to double by the end of 2014. The refugee crisis is the largest displacement of people in decades, producing more refugees than either Rwanda or Bosnia.

So, how many Syrian refugees has the United States – a nation that prides itself on opening its doors to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – allowed into the country?

90.

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Polar Politics

January 7th, 2014

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All politics is national. Tip O’Neill’s famous maxim, “All politics is local,” which he said he learned from his father in 1935, no longer applies.

Political parties in every corner of the country have become nationalized. There used to be very liberal Democrats in New York and very conservative Democrats in Texas. No more. Now Democrats are the progressive party everywhere. There used to be liberal Republicans in the Northeast — Senators Jacob Javits from New York, Lowell Weicker from Connecticut. No more. Now Republicans are the conservative party everywhere.

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