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Republicans want U.S. to treat terrorists as war makers not individual criminals

December 31, 2009 2 comments

 WASHINGTON, D.C (Press Release)- House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohion on Wednesday issued the following statement on the attempted airline terrorist attack as well as the Obama Administration’s response:

“The terrorist plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 exposed a near-catastrophic failure at every level of our government.  News reports suggest our government had intelligence in hand that this attack was coming, yet did not piece together all the information and take the necessary actions to prevent it.  The system clearly did not work, and I’m glad the President finally acknowledged that yesterday.
 
“Just as troubling is the Administration’s treatment of this matter as a mere law enforcement issue.  We’re fighting a war on terror, and this was a terrorist act.  Our first priority should be gaining intelligence to help prevent the next attack.  The threat we face is real, and we don’t need to downplay it.  We need to do a better job of connecting the dots and putting in place a homeland security and intelligence plan that helps prevent future attacks before they ever get off the ground.  We know al Qaeda is plotting more attacks, and our security depends on gaining critical intelligence and connecting those dots.
 
“The Administration’s response following this attempted attack is consistent with its dangerous decision to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay and bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 terrorists to trial in the United States through civilian courts, rather than the military commissions already in place.  We know the decision to close this prison has not stopped al Qaeda from plotting attacks on Americans, turning these terrorists over to other countries is not working, and we shouldn’t import them into the United States.  It’s time for the President to halt terrorist transfers to other countries, including Yemen, and to reevaluate his decision to close the prison at Guantanamo.
 
“All year long, Republicans have asked the question: what is this Administration’s overarching strategy to confront the terrorist threat and keep America safe?  The American people deserve answers to this question, and Republicans will push for the type of aggressive oversight to give them confidence that their government is doing everything it can to detect and stop future attacks, rather than just responding to them after they happen.”

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Preceding provided by Congressman Boehner

Feinstein seeks revision of terrorist watchlist rules

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Press Release) – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on Wednesday sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to strengthen U.S. counterterrorism policies in the wake of the December 25 attack.
 
Following is the text of the letter sent by Chairman Feinstein to President Obama:
 
December 30, 2009

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
The failed December 25, 2009, plot by Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab is a reminder that attempts to attack the U.S. Homeland continue and that al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups are searching for new ways to use explosive devices and operatives that will not arouse suspicion in order to carry out attacks in this country.  We must therefore adjust to meet these developments and stay ahead of them. 
 
It is clear that the U.S. Government was warned of Mr. Abdulmutallab’s radicalization more than a month before he flew from Nigeria to Amsterdam to Detroit.  Yet apparently no action was taken other than to put Mr. Abdulmutallab in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE).  He was not placed on a No Fly or Selectee List for additional scrutiny and screening, nor was action taken to revoke his visa.  I understand that no such action was taken because of a policy, established in 2008 and remaining in place today, that limits the circumstances under which the government adds an individual to the watchlist. 
 
I believe the 2008 standard is too restrictive and should be changed.  The U.S. Government should watchlist, and deny visas to, anyone who is reasonably believed to be affiliated with, part of, or acting on behalf of a terrorist organization. 
 
Intelligence collection, dissemination, and sharing has improved greatly since 9/11.  The immediate counterterrorism challenge we face is understanding the importance of information already available and acting urgently on that information.
 
I understand that increasing protective measures may lead to increased delay and hassle to many Americans.  But as you have said many times, and I strongly agree, our first priority must be to protect our nation from attack.  I appreciate your effort to begin a full review of U.S. policies and I look forward to working with you to implement the changes that are needed to protect our nation.
 
Sincerely,

Dianne Feinstein

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Preceding provided by Senator Feinstein

Congress should examine both Patriot Act and Interpol privileges

December 31, 2009 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before leaving town, the House and Senate agreed to a 60-day extension of provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire at the end of the year.  When they return they will take up the separate House and Senate versions of the bill that would reauthorize the full Patriot Act through 2013.
 
The three key  – and sometimes controversial – provisions extended are known as the “lone wolf,” “business records,” and the “roving wiretap.” 

The “lone wolf” allows the government to track a non-American suspect who has no discernable tie to a terrorist group or foreign power.  It appears never to have been used in a FISA application (FISA is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that governs national security related warrants).

The “business records” provision allows the government to compel third parties (telephone companies, banks, etc.) to provide them access to a suspect’s record without notifying the suspect.  The FBI told the Senate that the “business records” provision had been used just over 200 times between 2004 and 2007.

“Roving wiretaps” allow investigators to apply one FISA court warrant to all forms of electronic communications used by the suspect (phone, cell phone, BlackBerry, home computer, etc.) but only if the government can show that the suspect is switching devices to evade detection.  The government has applied for roving wiretaps an average of 22 times a year since 2001.

The numbers repudiate the notion that the government is in wholesale violation of the civil liberties of Americans and despite his previous denunciation of the Patriot Act, President Obama has publicly supported the reauthorization with the inclusion of these three provisions. We hope Congress returns able to make the case that the government has been – and will remain – able to balance security and civil liberties while we are at war.
 
On the other hand, as regards civil liberties, before leaving town, President Obama issued a worrisome Executive Order regarding Interpol, the international law enforcement organization headquartered inside the Justice Department.  

In 1983, President Reagan gave Interpol elements of diplomatic status, subject to constraints; the most important being that Interpol’s property and assets remained subject to search and seizure, and its archived records remained subject to public scrutiny under provisions including the Freedom of Information Act.  President Obama’s brief Executive Order (100 words including the full title of Interpol) removes the Reagan limitations. 

Interpol’s files and assets are now inviolable while it conducts operations in the United States that affect Americans and American interests.  Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy notes that Interpol works with foreign courts including those in Europe that are investigating the Bush administration for purported war crimes, and asks, “Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files which… will be beyond the ability of Congress, American law enforcement, the media, and the American people to scrutinize?”

“Why would we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies?”

Good questions.  Congress might want to consider them when they address the civil liberties questions arising from the Patriot Act.
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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member

Jews of Australia topic of Jan. 8 Shabbat talk at Dor Hadash

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)–Janice Alper, former executive director of the Union for Progressive Judaism in Australia and a founding member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education, will discuss “The Jews of Australia,” at 7:30 p.m., Fridy, Jan. 8, at  Congregation Dor Hadash, 4858 Ronson Court, San Diego.  For more information, contact Mark Stover at (858) 268-3674

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Preceding provided by Congregation Dor Hadash

The word for J Street: irrelevance

December 30, 2009 2 comments

 

 By Bruce S. Ticker

PHILADELPHIA–Where’s a J Street when you really need one?

 For a very long time, I could not voice differences over Israeli policies without being shouted down by hard line advocates for Israel. It was very difficult to defend Israeli policies. The military undertook operations that seemed excessive and settlements were built amid a hostile Arab population in Gaza and the West Bank.

I could have benefited from the supportive presence of a strong organization willing to raise legitimate concerns about Israel. None existed. Now we have J Street, which bills itself as “the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement” and lobbies Congress and President Obama to take positions that are considered leftward of those stances supported by most other pro-Israel organizations.

A series of events transformed my thinking on Israel, as said events transformed the thinking of many on the right. The most agonizing moment came during summer 2005 when Israel evacuated all settlements in Gaza, thus eliminating the threat to the lives of settlers and troops there. I fume whenever I recall reports of Arabs burning down the synagogue structures that were left behind, and then they subsequently launched rockets into southern Israel.

There are still times when criticism against Israel is merited, but now I am on the same page with one-time adversaries on most key issues. I have been close to the point where I do not care what Israel does.

So why does J Street inject itself into such a volatile situation? J Street offers a new take on the theory that some groups outlive their usefulness. J Street would have been helpful prior to the Gaza evacuation, but J Street’s usefulness vanished before J Street was even created.

Israel’s new ambassador, Michael Oren, launched a frontal assault on J Street in Cherry Hill, N.J., a Philadelphia suburb, while addressing a convention of Conservative synagogue leaders on Dec. 7. The weekly Forward reported that Oren called J Street “a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.

“This is not a matter of settlements here (or) there. We understand there are differences of opinion. But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke.”

Perhaps Oren’s outburst was more forceful than necessary. On its Web site, J Street denies that it is the disloyal monster portrayed by its detractors. However, a single word defines J Street: irrelevance.

I objected to some Israeli policies a decade ago despite the peacemaking strides of Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. Israel played with fire by allowing settlements in Gaza and the more isolated reaches of the West Bank. I was willing to support the creation of a Palestinian state even with its capital in East Jerusalem if it would produce a peace settlement. When Ariel Sharon was prime minister, I was appalled by Israel’s fierce military incursions that contributed to a skyrocketing casualty rate.

Circumstances changed my perspective.

Nearly two years ago, J Street joined a sprawling network of Jewish advocacy organizations that tend to trip over one another and prove themselves useless when some important issues arise. The money spent on their bureaucratic operations can be better directed to Jewish social-service needs. To be fair, many of these organizations serve the Jewish people well in numerous ways, but not all the time.

Most of these organizations take moderate or hawkish positions on Israeli issues that can change with circumstances and political arrangements here and in Israel. J Street sets itself apart by firmly urging the creation of a Palestinian state and sending mixed messages on whether the Arabs should control East Jerusalem. I might be able to find common ground with J Street to eliminate West Bank settlements, but existing organizations share this view.

J Street’s arguments collapse against the backdrop of the past decade. Israel offered the Arabs an independent state with no strings attached during the 2000 Camp David summit, despite the lies of the late Yasser Arafat. Arafat rebuffed the offer and facilitated a war against Israel, and then refused an expanded offer shortly before President Clinton left office. After Sharon defeated Barak for prime minister in February, 2001, he intensified the hostilities which mainly played out in Gaza and the West Bank. Most civilian casualties were caused by terrorist bombings and other attacks within Israel proper and the bulk of military casualties occurred in the territories.

Sharon presided over the Gaza evacuation in 2005, eliminating concerns about settlements being retained there amid hostile neighbors. Arabs responded by burning synagogues and greenhouses, and then firing rockets into Sderot and other towns in southern Israel. They provoked a two-front war in 2006 after kidnapping a soldier near Gaza and two soldiers in or near southern Lebanon. That effectively delayed plans to evacuate settlements in the West Bank.

Both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon have built war machines, and Hamas provoked Israel into another fight last year. The leadership of Fatah in the West Bank has shaky support and Hamas persists with its intent to destroy Israel. Have I mentioned Iran’s threat to demolish Israel with a nuclear device?

These events helped satisfy my prime concerns about Israeli policies. Israel no longer controls land in Gaza and its attention to West Bank settlements was diverted by military conflicts. Flaws with the military infrastructure were exposed during the 2006 war and some improvements were implemented, though probably not enough.

It is foolish to take fixed positions on issues that will be subject to negotiations between Israel and the Arabs. All parties should be open to the question of an independent Palestinian state and consider all pros and cons. Yet, J Street adamantly supports a state while right-wing groups such as the Zionist Organization of America adamantly oppose it. Too many questions must be answered.

As for Jerusalem, Arab leaders must justify why they need any part of it. Israel fought for control of East Jerusalem in 1967 and annexed it shortly after that war. I cannot see why they need any section of Jerusalem.

I presume that J Street and myself share common ground on arguments for evacuating some West Bank settlements, but existing organizations share these concerns.

 Perhaps it should be comforting that J Street is here for me now. Not that I need it.

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Bruce S. Ticker is a Philadelphia freelance journalist. He can be reached at Bticker@comcast.net.

The holidays and their music, Part I

December 30, 2009 1 comment

By David Amos

SAN DIEGO–We have just passed the time of the year when we are bombarded from everywhere by Christmas music. We hear it in television, radio, shopping malls, independent stores, school concerts, elevators, waiting rooms and anywhere else you can fathom. The exposure is inescapable.

 Yet, I enjoy listening to most of it. Every year, the month of December is a time to be in touch with once-a year friends, enjoy family gatherings, football playoffs and bowl games, and the exchanging of holiday greeting cards. Inevitably, we are exposed to so many Christmas carols, songs, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, Handel’s Messiah, and other classical masterpieces associated with this time of the year.

Although in our home we do not celebrate Christmas in any way, I find all of the above not an annoyance, but a pleasant reminder of another secular year which has just passed. In my younger years, my mother of blessed memory used the word “Pesach”, or Passover, to indicate the time of the year to clean the house of unneeded objects and have everything neatly in its place. Pretty much what we call today Spring Housecleaning. In our household, we plan in the last two weeks in December to delete old files, re-organize, shred, and give away whatever has stopped serving our needs.

During my days as a music teacher, in the 1960’s and 70’s, I routinely prepared the high school singing groups, including the band and orchestra, for the expected Christmas Music concert, and I enjoyed it. It was similar to the task of preparing the marching band to perform at football game halftimes and parades. I made it my obligation to enjoy everything I was doing, and to transmit the enthusiasm and love for good music in whatever activity I was involved; that was the only way to create quality performances, when all participants were totally immersed in the music at hand. I admit to having a wonderful time with these activities.

Did I try to include Hannukah music in these programs? Yes and no. At times, I taught the non-Jewish high school students Hannukah favorites, sometimes in Hebrew, and a few other times my own arrangements. Other times, I did not bother to even try. After all, we have never tried to compare the two holidays, and to avoid, perish the thought, for Hannukah to be labeled “The Jewish Christmas”!

But, let’s face it: There are many great musical works, individual songs, and more serious compositions, oratorios, ballets, masses, cantatas, operas, and even pure orchestral ones which have been inspired by Christmas. They are part of the serious classical music repertoire, and, justifiably, likely to be with us forever.

But, I have often asked myself: Why are there so few works inspired by Judaism in the standard, mainstream classical music world? Sure, we have Ernest Bloch’s Sacred Service, and other serious, weighty compositions, but few can be safely labeled as “masterpieces”.

The answer is obvious, and documented by history. Up to the beginning of the Twentieth Century, being Jewish in the Christian and secular world was not a wise career move. Take the obvious cases of Mendelssohn and Mahler. Wagner did little to improve this with his virulent anti-Semitism, his 1850 book of Music and the Jews, the political, social, and economic dynamics of Europe, Russia, and the United States, even in its large, enlightened cities of progress and creativity, and the obvious tendency of the Jewish people to gravitate within their own communities, fearing and expecting rejection and retaliation from the outside world.

During these times, little if any music was being composed for the concert hall of any Jewish relevance, while masters such as Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Verdi, Faure, and many others were feasting in major musical statements based on the New Testament. They left us timeless masterpieces to enjoy again and again.

When the Twentieth Century finally arrived, and Jewish creativity was finally allowed to flourish side by side, in equal terms with the secular world, classical music started to be rejected by the masses, because of the new musical styles, serialism, atonality, and modern idioms which did not consider beauty and accessibility a primary necessity.

All composers were caught in this wave of rejection of the modern styles, including the newly emancipated Jewish composers. With a few exceptions, (Gershwin, Copland, Bernstein, and others), Jewish composers were caught in the universal acceptance of pop culture and mass entertainment, while Jewish performers flourished worldwide.

I feel very strongly that serious Jewish music should be better represented in the concert hall, in recordings, and in the radio. In the last decade, I was approached by two radio networks in the United States that regularly program classical music. During the traditional Jewish holidays, including the High Holidays, these stations have wanted to include serious Jewish music representative of the particular festival, but had to go back to the old, redundant favorites, for lack of available variety. I was literally begged to encourage the creation of more Jewish music for broadcasting and recording.

What to do? Let’s talk about it in next week’s column of San Diego Jewish World.

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Amos is conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and a guest conductor of professional orchestras around the world.

Return to Bush doctrine needed that U.S. fight is against terrorists and countries that harbor them

December 30, 2009 4 comments

By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –President Bush was right. There. We said it and we’ll say it again. President Bush was right that the war in which the West is engaged is the war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them. 
 
President Bush’s formulation was a sea change from the Clinton Administration’s law-enforcement approach that worked to apprehend people and understand the process after the fact. The Bush formulation was also rejected by President Obama, whose Homeland Security secretary’s first instinct after the Christmas day airline bombing attempt was to say that “after the incident” the system worked vey well. OK, Secretary Janet Napolitano recanted, but still, she is the one who brought you “man caused contingencies” because she couldn’t bring herself to say “terrorism.”
 
President Obama remains focused on stopping individuals who “break the law.” He has asked for a review of the “terrorism watch list” containing the names and aliases of some half a million persons.
 
A notably liberal columnist in The Washington Post wrote that, “Our enemy apparently sees its future in places such as Yemen-or perhaps Somalia, a failed state for almost two decades…The enemy’s leadership is believed to be ensconced in remote areas of Pakistan…yet the United States will soon have about 100,000 troops chasing its shadows in Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda’s presence is now minimal.”
 
But the liberal columnist couldn’t connect the dots – a common failure among those who don’t choose to understand. The connection is that states that do not control their territory and states that hate the West are places that terrorists find haven, money, training, passports and airline flights. Iran, Syria and the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza do it on purpose. Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon don’t control their territory entirely – and maybe don’t want to. 
 
The liberal columnist didn’t say it, maybe didn’t understand it, and surely wasn’t about to give credit where it was due.
 
Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan before, but it left when the United States toppled the Taliban that gave it sanctuary. Al Qaeda was in Iraq, but it left when the United States deposed Saddam and helped the Iraqis build a governmental structure that controls all the parts of the country – without rape rooms and mass graves. The United States has been helping Yemen dispose of the al Qaeda presence that lives in the areas that are relatively remote and ungoverned. According to American military sources in Iraq, Syria has become a haven for al-Qaeda. 
 
This is not a plea to invade any additional countries, but to understand the sources of the problem and determine which countries can deal with it themselves, which ones we need to help and which are-determinedly-our enemies and need to be dealt with as such.
 
Stripping airline passengers is the last stage of failing to address the problem. Looking for one individual in the terrorism watch list database and thinking you can stop him (or her) is ridiculous. We are lucky in the extreme that brave and vigilant people sometimes pop up to stop individuals committing or trying to commit acts of terrorism. We are lucky in the extreme that parents are beginning to come forward to express concerns about their own children. But we will never stop all the individuals who seek to do us harm.
 
That is what the Israelis understood when they went into the West Bank in 2002 to wipe out the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure and reclaim control of the territory from which terrorism came to Israel during the so-called “second intifada.” That is what the security fence and checkpoints do. That is what the Israelis understood when they launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza one year ago. 
 
They couldn’t stop all the individuals; they had to control the space.
 
That is what President Bush understood. And he was right.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.