Weekly Web Watch 06/15/09 – 06/21/09


The Iranian election between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi is alleged to have been fraudulent.  Protests erupt in the streets.  The government cracks down on the protesters, with sometimes horrific results (warning: graphic footage at the link).  President Obama issues statements of moderate support.  Charles Krauthammer calls this an absurd and cowardly stance; Paul Wolfowitz sees in this “mistaken neutrality” a repeat of the early, confused response to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Joe Klein responds to them both, complete with his own preferred historical reasoning.  Alex Knapp seconds him. Thomas Joscelyn argues that silence does the Iranian people a disservice (see also his colleague Stephen Hayes).  Spencer Ackerman argues that the protests are not a revolution against the Iranian system, but rather a protest against some excesses of the regime.

In response, the House of Representatives, led by Mike Pence, passed a resolution condemning the Iranian government’s actions.  Politico reports that the language of the resolution was moderated by presidential aides.  Jim Henley wonders if this makes the House a body of “535 secretaries of state” and accuses Pence of hypocrisy.  And Dave Weigel observes the Democrats’ response to Pence and predicts that the debate over Congress’s proper role in foreign policy may be shifting.

One intervention that has garnered near-universal praise (though not actually universal)?  The State Department pressured Twitter to postpone maintenance operations while the protests in Iran are ongoing.

The Uighurs assigned to Palau express reservations about going to the island nation. They are primarily concerned with the lack of a Muslim community in Palau and their inability to gain Palauan citizenship and passports.  Meanwhile, Palau’s ambassador takes to the New York Times to refute claims that Palau was paid to accept the detainees.  And, in Bermuda, the arrival of four detainees provokes protest.

Last week, Executive Watch passed along news that the FBI was Mirandizing suspects in Afghanistan.  The House GOP has now included in a bill language to prohibit that practice.  The war supplemental bill is also still trying to grind through Congress.  W. James Antle reports on the latest developments at The American Spectator.

A week ago, President Obama fired the Inspector General of the Corporation for National and Community Service.  Fox News interviews the former IG, who claims that the administration’s justification for his firing is a “total lie.”  The Economist’s blog notes that this is a non-story except for the Administration’s “oddly cryptic” response to the firing.  John Elwood has another critical take on the Administration’s actions.  Ed Morrissey reports that two more IGs have been fired in the last two weeks.

The Washington Post reports that the CIA realized that it was mistaken in its view of Abu Zubaida as early as his Combatant Status Review Tribunal.  Thomas Joscelyn claims that the article is based almost entirely on Abu Zubaida’s own words, ignoring the possibility that he is a liar.  He also provides a link to the transcript itself.

MSNBC requested visitor logs from the White House.  The administration refused to release them.  The Economist claims that the new administration is faltering on its promises of open government.  Scott Horton notices that the Department of Justice is arguing that Vice President Cheney’s statements to prosecutors during the Valerie Plame investigation should be kept secret.  Glenn Greenwald provides a rundown of selected quotes and stories to make the case that Obama’s “new era of openness” is nothing of the sort.

Nia-Malika Henderson reports on Obama’s new initiative to promote fatherhood.  James Joyner sees this as a valuable use of the President’s time, noting that he can only do so much in Iran.  Patrick Frey argues that the President should be more focused on the crisis.

President Obama’s approval numbers slip, according to polls by the New York Times/CBS and NBC/Wall Street Journal .  Dave Weigel reminds pollwatchers that Obama remains well ahead of either of his predecessors in approval.  James Joyner agrees with Weigel but insists that the downward trend is what makes this a story.

President Obama issues an executive order extending federal benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees.  Patrick Frey argues that this is a purely political move.  Joe Davidson reports that opposite-sex partners are excluded.

William S. Lind wonders if Washington is suffering from a legitimacy crisis and notes that more prominent voices are speaking of “secession.”

REAL ID, the proposal to increase the requirements for driver licenses and other identification documents in the wake of 9/11, may be dead.  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has suggested that it be replaced by an more moderate idea called “Pass ID.”  Daniel McCarthy sees Pass ID as a real danger to civil liberties.

The National Security Agency may be collecting far more data on Americans than they are legally entitled to, even after the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.  Julian Sanchez claims that this was entirely foreseeable when the Amendments Act was passed.  Glenn Greenwald seconds that and notices that congressional oversight remains lax.  And Danielle Citron worries about the privacy implications of “friending” the White House on Facebook.

Former Israeli JAG officer Amos Guiora is guest-blogging this week at Opinio Juris, offering his views on detention policy.  His initial post is here.  A NYT/CBS poll finds that a majority of Americans believe that detainees at Guantanamo should be released, not administratively detained.

Brian Tamanaha relates the story of a group of lawyers who are being charged for issuing faulty legal advice that encouraged their clients to evade taxes.  He follows that up with a post about Padilla v. Yoo.

Secretary of Defense Gates “has a big problem” with the House Armed Services Committee’s decision to add $369 million to the Defense budget in order to buy F-22s that Gates has no desire for.  Noah Schachtman provides some backstory and points to Air Force General John Corley as a possible instigator of the fight.  Gordon Lubold of the Christian Science Monitor talks to Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who warns that Gates “needs to learn who’s in charge, and the Congress is.”  Tell it to Roland Burris, who learned this week that the Defense Department runs research labs.

David Axe reports on how the United States could respond to Mumbai-style attacks, including the possibility of jamming all cell phone signals in case of emergency.  No word on whether the Department of Homeland Security’s new blog is part of the response.


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