Weekly Web Watch 09/28/09 – 10/4/09

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Analysis of President Obama’s speech to the United Nations continues.  Kenneth Anderson has one of the most well-developed critiques, arguing that the administration is more concerned with multilateralism than with peace.  Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Lugar offered his thoughts on the future of NATO, the senator called for more troops to be deployed to Eastern Europe.

The Senate Judiciary Committee met to mark up proposed amendments to the PATRIOT Act.  The original matchup was between a moderate bill sponsored by Patrick Leahy and one with significantly heightened privacy protections sponsored by Russell Feingold.  However, the first act in the hearing was the replacement of Leahy’s bill with one sponsored by Diane Feinstein that might increase the ability of the FBI to gather intelligence without warrants.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kevin Bankston liveblogged the hearing here.  Meanwhile, the Justice Department released guidelines that confirm that the FBI is still allowed to conduct “assessments” of groups or individuals without any individualized belief that the target has committed a crime.

Iran’s nuclear facility at Qum continues to perplex some analysts.  Gary Milhollin wrote in the New York Times that the facility must be evidence of an as-yet undiscovered network of nuclear sites.  The Economist says that this ignores how irrationally governments sometimes act.  IOZ is even unkinder as he points out that Milhollin may have already decided Iran is guilty of making nuclear weapons and is taking all evidence to point that way.  The Economist also points out that this marks the third time that Iran has been caught playing fast and loose with the rules of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Nathan Hodge says that we may never know the exact capabilities of the Qum reactor.  Christopher Beam has more information on how nuclear inspections work.  The Express (UK) reports that Saudi Arabia has greenlighted an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities; I have not been able to find a confirming source for that story, however.

Last week, we reported that Vice President Joe Biden had suggested that we move from a counter-insurgency strategy to a counter-terrorism strategy in Afghanistan.  This Thursday, Gen. Stanley McChrystal told the Institute for Strategic Studies that such a strategy would lead to chaos (video and .pdf at the link).  Bruce Ackerman wonders whether the general’s intervention in a policy matter violates the principle of civilian control of the military.  Jonathan Adler thinks that Ackerman (and Michael Cohen) worry too much; this is not disagreement with announced policy, but rather an attempt to influence the formation of a policy that McChrystal, presumably, has valuable experience with.  James Joyner concurs.  Peter Baker points out that President Obama speaks with his theater commanders less than Bush did.  Mark Grimsley says that, historically, Obama’s policy is the more common.  And an attempt by GOP senators to force McChrystal to testify before congress failed on a party-line vote.

Analysis of President Obama’s speech to the United Nations continues.  Kenneth Anderson has one of the most well-developed critiques, arguing that the administration is more concerned with multilateralism than with peace.  Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Lugar offered his thoughts on the future of NATO, the senator called for more troops to be deployed to Eastern Europe.

Ben Wittes penned an op-ed in the Washington Post that laments President Obama’s decision to not ask Congress for detention authority.  Wittes makes the argument that this decision condemns this administration to repeat the mistakes of the last.  Deborah Pearlstein responds that there are significant differences between Obama and Bush: first, this is not a final decision; second, courts have, since 2002, provided enough rules and laws that legislation is unnecessary; third, Obama is not relying on Article II for detention authority; fourth, that Obama’s decision is actually rather uncontroversial.

Roger Alford reports the case Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy.  The case involved an Alien Tort Statute claim by the church against the Canadian energy company.  The church claimed that Talisman was complicit in Sudanese government actions against the church.  The Second Circuit held that purpose, not knowledge, is required to hold a company liable under the ATS.

Eugene Volokh wonders whether U.S. involvement with a resolution before the U.N. Human Rights Commission could be a step backwards for U.S. free speech rights.  The resolution, dated 2005, can be read to impose on the U.S. an obligation to suppress hate speech, including speech that is constitutionally protected.  However, Volokh cautions, the resolution is vaguely worded and actual obligations are unclear.

44 people who were law professors at this time last year are now working for the Obama administration, according to Nan Hunter.  Hat tip to Randy Barnett.

Robert Reich calls for more government spending in a blog post.  He claims that unemployment is going to stay near ten percent for the foreseeable future and that the only way out is through a WPA-style government intervention.  Dave Schuler says that this prescription only works if the “multiplier effect” holds true; thus far, according to Schuler, that is not the case.  Robert Barro makes the case for tax cuts instead of spending in the Wall Street Journal; Paul Krugman makes the case for more Keynesian-style intervention at the New York Times.

The U.N. fired its second-in-command in Afghanistan, claiming that the diplomat, Peter W. Galbraith, wanted to push beyond the U.N. mandate in investigating voter fraud.  Galbraith has now fired back, claiming that the dispute was whether the U.N. had any interest in investigating voter fraud.

Thomas Friedman worries at the tactics being used by some on the right in an attempt to delegitimize and wound the president.  He points specifically to a poll on Facebook that asked “Should the president be killed?”  Ken at Popehat can’t understand why this poll received the media attention that it did, but does offer a good analysis of what the Secret Service does in these cases.

Andrew Exum offers a firsthand account of Israeli airport security.

Bill Kristol is predicting that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates will be replaced by former Sen. Chuck Hagel as head of the Pentagon by the end of the year.

Finally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, well-known for his Holocaust denialism and oft-repeated anti-Semitic remarks, may be from a Jewish family.

Image: Getty.

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