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India and US seal nuclear deal as Modi hosts Obama

25 January 2015 Last updated at 16:03 GMT

_80503578_025573539-1Narendra Modi broke with protocol to meet President Obama personally at the airport in Delhi

The US and India have announced a breakthrough on a pact that will allow American companies to supply India with civilian nuclear technology.

It came on the first day of President Barack Obama’s visit to India.

The nuclear deal had been held up for six years amid concerns over the liability for any nuclear accident.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the nations were embarking on a “new journey” of co-operation, with stronger defence and trade ties.

Mr Obama said that the nations had declared a new friendship.

Security is intense in Delhi, with Mr Obama to be the guest of honour at Monday’s Republic Day celebrations. Thousands of security personnel have been deployed in Delhi.

‘Renewed trust’

The nuclear pact had been agreed in 2008 but the US was worried about Indian laws on liability over any accidents.

Now, a large insurance pool will be set up, without the need for any further legislation.

US ambassador Richard Verma said: “It opens the door for US and other companies to come forward and actually help India towards developing nuclear power and support its non carbon-based energy production.”

_80505230_4ymom3z6Mr Obama stands for the anthems at Rashtrapati Bhavan


_80505232_ys9eajmjThe leaders take tea – or coffee – in the gardens of Hyderabad House

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says the sides also agreed to increase their bilateral trade five times, from the current $100bn (£66.7bn) a year. The US will also sell more military hardware to India.

Earlier, Mr Modi stressed the importance of the visit by breaking with protocol to receive Mr Obama personally at Delhi airport.

After his arrival, the US president travelled to the presidential palace, Rashtrapati Bhavan, for an official welcoming ceremony.

Mr Obama laid a wreath at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial and planted a tree.

At a joint press conference, Mr Modi said the two countries were “starting a new journey” based on “renewed trust and sustained attention”.

He said of Mr Obama: “We have forged a friendship, there is openness when we talk.”

He said the two nations would increase cooperation on defence projects and on “eliminating terrorist safe havens and on bringing terrorists to justice”.

Mr Obama said the countries “had declared a new friendship to elevate our partnership”, which “commits to more meetings and consultations across governments”.

He added: “The new partnership will not happen overnight. It will need patience but will remain a top foreign policy priority for my administration.”

Out of bounds

The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi says security around the Republic Day parade is generally tight, but this year the high-profile visit has taken preparations to a new level.

_80444894_cb709d49-2464-4b54-af1b-02391aaa1d26The parade venue India Gate and the Rajpath have been out of bounds for most people for the past few days

_80444789_pti1_21_2015_000263bA visit to the Taj Mahal is now off so the president can leave early for Saudi Arabia

India Gate and the Rajpath (the King’s Avenue), where Monday’s parade takes place, have been out of bounds for most people for the past few days, with thousands of policemen on duty.

Security has been upgraded at several upmarket hotels, where the US president and his team are staying.

Traffic restrictions have been put in place across the city, and extra checks have been taking place at metro stations.

Mr Obama’s visit to India has been shortened so he can visit Saudi Arabia and pay his respects following the death of King Abdullah.

It means he will not now visit the Taj Mahal.

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Afghan leader condemns NATO airstrike; U.S. defense secretary visits Kabul

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will cut short his China trip to return to Afghanistan after a NATO strike reportedly killed civilians

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned a NATO airstrike this week that a provincial official says killed women and children, in a statement that came just as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived Thursday in Kabul for talks.

A provincial official has said civilians were among the dead in the airstrike, while the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said initial reports revealed only two injuries.

ISAF is aware of the claims of civilian casualties and is looking into what took place, a spokesman for the coalition said.

The NATO airstrike Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan’s Logar province, along the volatile Pakistan border, is likely to strain already tense relations with the United States.

In the statement, Karzai said he was cutting short a trip to China, where he has been attending a summit.

“NATO operations that inflict human and material losses to civilians can in no way be justifiable, acceptable and tolerable,” he said.

Panetta did not address the controversy over the airstrike in his public remarks while in Kabul.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on Thursday condemned “in the strongest terms” the deaths of civilians in Logar and in militant attacks in Kandahar, Faryab and Paktika a day earlier.

Together, the attacks killed 40 civilians, including 10 children, and injured at least 67 others, the U.N. body said, in what was the single deadliest day for civilian deaths in 2012.

While militant attacks have caused by far the greatest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, its statement said, “UNAMA has also repeatedly expressed concern that aerial operations have resulted in more civilian deaths and injuries than any other tactic used by pro-government forces since the present armed conflict began.”

Sahib Khan, a member of Afghan parliament from Logar province, told CNN he believed four insurgents also were killed in the NATO airstrike in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province.

He said the bodies of 18 civilians, including women and children, had been brought to the provincial capital, Pule Alam, but that the bodies of the four insurgents had been taken elsewhere.

An investigation team has gone to the area to determine how many militants were in the building hit in the airstrike, said Khan. He said insurgents had fired on a U.S. military convoy from the house.

Panetta: U.S. running out of patience with Pakistan on militant havens

The allegations of civilian casualties came ahead of discussions between Panetta and U.S. Army Gen. John Allen, commander of ISAF troops, and Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak.

The training of Afghan security forces was likely to be high on the list of discussion topics.

With American troops due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 under a timetable announced by President Barack Obama, the U.S. military is beefing up its training of Afghan forces. At that time, security duties will be fully turned over to the Afghan government, although some U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 as military advisers.

The latest allegations of civilian casualties also come at a critical time for the United States.

While U.S. military and political officials have said publicly that Afghanistan will be ready to take over security of its country by the time NATO troops depart, critics have said there are questions about whether Afghan forces can stand on their own.

Violence has increased in recent weeks, coinciding with the start of the Taliban’s summer fighting season.

On what was his fourth visit to Afghanistan, Panetta praised the efforts of U.S. forces, saying that thanks to them, a “turning point” had been reached after 10 years of war.

He acknowledged that there had been an “uptick in violence,” but said that was because ISAF forces had taken the fight to the Taliban.

“We’ve been able to put this country in the right direction. The reality is we have weakened the Taliban,” the defense secretary told an audience of U.S. troops.

But while Afghan forces are gaining in strength and capability, he said, international forces still have work to do. “This is still not going to be an easy fight. We still have a lot of challenges to confront. We have a resilient enemy that will use any tactic they can to come at us.”

Panetta said that ISAF forces would continue to support Afghanistan beyond the agreed troop drawdown, with an “enduring presence” past 2014, and that the goal was to ensure a safer future for the United States as well as for the Afghan people.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta met Thursday with Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak.

Asked what message U.S. troops should give to Afghan commanders concerned about what would follow the transition to Afghan control, Panetta said: “We are not going anyplace. We are committed to an Afghanistan … that can secure and govern itself.

“We have lost a lot of people in battle, and we continue to lose people. One thing we have to make damn sure of is that those lives were not lost in vain.”

Panetta’s brief trip to Kabul did not include a meeting with Karzai, who was en route back to Afghanistan at the time the U.S. defense secretary was wrapping up his trip.

The last meeting between the two, in March, came on the heels of allegations that a U.S. soldier left his base in southern Kandahar province and went on a shooting spree in two villages that left 17 people dead.

At the time, Karzai called the shootings a cruel act against the people of Afghanistan, and told Panetta that Afghans have lost trust in international forces.

The shooting spree followed revelations that U.S. troops inadvertently burned copies of the Quran and other Islamic religious materials, which sparked massive, violent protests.

Military officials said the materials had been seized from Afghan prisoners because they contained extremist messages.

CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoom and Masoud Popalzai contributed to this report.

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Obama chiama Monti: «Rafforzare la capacità di risposta dell’Europa e stimolare la crescita»

MILANO – Obama torna sulla crisi economica europea. E lo fa con una telefonata arrivata a Mario Monti dopo le parole del presidente della Bce Draghi sulle colpe dell’Europa sulla recessione.

L’interlocutore scelto dal presidente americano per discutere della questione è dunque il premier italiano, con un obbiettivo ben preciso in mente. «Rafforzare l’eurozona contro la crisi». Ma non solo, il presidente americano e il premier italiano si sono trovati d’accordo «che sia necessario stimolare la crescita dell’Europa». Spiega un comunicato di Palazzo Chigi: la telefonata è arrivata «nel quadro dei contatti con i leader europei in preparazione del vertice G20 in Messico il 18-19 giugno per uno scambio di idee sulla situazione economica». Secondo la Casa Bianca infatti Obama ha chiamato anche il cancelliere tedesco Angela Merkel. Sempre secondo Palazzo Chigi:«Obama e Monti si sono trovati d’accordo sull’importanza di rafforzare la capacità della zona euro di rispondere alla crisi e di stimolare la crescita in Europa». Poi la promessa di rimanere in stretto contatto.

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US: “War on Drugs”: America’s second lost war of the last 50 years

The Obama administration has begun, quietly and sensitively, to mark the 50th anniversary of when the United States sent its first “advisers” to Vietnam, and marched into a quagmire-war that would end in enemy victory and divide America.

America is,  simultaneously, 42 years into another lost war.  President Nixon, in 1970 declared the “War on Drugs”, and began to spend billions of dollars, build a vast bureaucracy,  and arrest thousands of young people.
Our governments remain knee deep in the big muddy today. An estimated 100 million Americans have smoked marijuana, including two (and almost certainly three) drug-using recent presidents.  Possession arrests clog the courts.  Drug cartels are moving to control the business along the Interstate 5 corridor.  Drug gangsters are killing each other in once-peaceful British Columbia.

In his new book “Cronkite,” author Douglas Brinkley writes of the legendary CBS News anchorman, a “company man” who served as America’s cheerleader for the space program and Cold War.  But on an eye-opening trip to Vietnam in 1968, he concluded and reported that the U.S. war effort in Southeast Asia would at best achieve stalemate.
In 2006, at the age of 89, Cronkite  likened the War on Drugs to the War in Vietnam as unwinnable and a drain on lives . . . but with those waging it unwilling to admit to error or vast waste.  “Uncle Walter” wrote:

“I covered the Vietnam War.  I remember the lies that were told, the lives that were lost — and the shock when, 27 years after the war ended, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara admitted he knew it was a mistake all along.

“Today, our nation is fighting two wars:  One abroad and one at home. While the war in Iraq is in the headlines, the other war is still being fought on our own streets.  Its casualties are the wasted lives of our own citizens.

“I am speaking of the War on Drugs. “And I cannot help but wonder how many more lives, and how much more money, will be wasted before another Robert McNamara admits what is plain for all to see:  The War on Drugs is a failure.”

Cronkite asked, in Brinkley’s words, “whether arresting 1.5 million Americans a year on drug charges (half of them marijuana arrests) made sense financially to taxpayers.”

The Pacific Northwest was a center of resistance to the Vietnam War. The region, on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, is now trying to talk sense to power on the failing drug war.  Will power listen?

Voters in Seattle, in 2003, adopted an ordinance putting marijuana possession at the bottom of the Seattle Police Department’s enforcement priorities.  The state of Washington will vote this November on an initiative to legalize, regulate and tax sales of small amount of cannabis.

Up north, ex-Vancouver mayors and B.C. attorneys general of all political stripes have united to send a message to Canada’s federal government:

Enforcement isn’t working.  The current policy simply plays into gangs’ hands.  Drugs have become stuff of barter, with B.C. Bud flowing out of  the country, with cocaine and meth and heroin coming in.

Vancouver has even defended, against both our Drug Enforcement Administration and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, the city’s first-of-its-kind safe injection center.  It offers clean needles to addicts, but also medical treatment and education and opportunities to beat addiction.  It has cut down on street deaths.

A key question about Washington’s Initiative 502:  Will the heavy-handed  feds come in, threaten the state, deliver stern warnings about property compensation — and, generally, try to scare us out of doing what is sensible and years overdue?

Soldiers who fought and died in Vietnam were, in numbers disproportionate, poor and/or black and/or Hispanic.  President Lyndon Johnson was the parent of Head Start, but architect of a war that was killing 500 young Americans a week when Cronkite went to Vietnam in 1968.

The similarities could be seen this week in New York, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an end to criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of pot, and — surprisingly — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg backed him up.

Since 1990, with Gotham City cops using stop-and-frisk tactics, marijuana possession arrests in New York City have soared from 2,000 to 50,000 a year.  More than 80 percent of those busted are African-American or Hispanic.

“This is an issue that disproportionately affects young people,” Cuomo said.  “They wind up with a permanent stain on their record for something that would otherwise be a violation.  The charge makes it difficult for them to get a job.”

The busts also make it difficult for law enforcement to do their jobs: Take the 6,000 arrests in Manhattan last year for smoking pot in the open.

As Manhattan District Attorney (and former Seattle lawyer) Cyrus Vance put it, “The human costs to each defendant changed with a misdemeanor are serious.  And the drain on our resources in our office and the NYPD to process those 6,000 cases is significant.”

Enough!  Basta, as they say in Italian.  Decriminalization will not produce a society of druggies.  A shift from enforcement to taxation, treatment and education can only bring better results, and allow our police agencies to concentrate on serious crime.

In his autobiography, and in a new biography by David Maraniss, Barack Obama is seen smoking pot at his elite Honolulu high school.  He would see it as a dead end path and pull back, not because of enforcement but out of ambition and self-discipline.

Will this President, who ended one overseas war and is ending another, see fit — if reelected — to pull America out of the War on Drugs?  What did the famous 2008 Obama poster say?  “Hope.”

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Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran

WASHINGTON — From his first months in office, President Obamasecretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks — begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games — even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.

At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.

“Should we shut this thing down?” Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president’s national security team who were in the room.

Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium.

This account of the American and Israeli effort to undermine the Iranian nuclear program is based on interviews over the past 18 months with current and former American, European and Israeli officials involved in the program, as well as a range of outside experts. None would allow their names to be used because the effort remains highly classified, and parts of it continue to this day.

These officials gave differing assessments of how successful the sabotage program was in slowing Iran’s progress toward developing the ability to build nuclear weapons. Internal Obama administration estimates say the effort was set back by 18 months to two years, but some experts inside and outside the government are more skeptical, noting that Iran’s enrichment levels have steadily recovered, giving the country enough fuel today for five or more weapons, with additional enrichment.

Whether Iran is still trying to design and build a weapon is in dispute. The most recent United States intelligence estimate concludes that Iran suspended major parts of its weaponization effort after 2003, though there is evidence that some remnants of it continue.

Iran initially denied that its enrichment facilities had been hit by Stuxnet, then said it had found the worm and contained it. Last year, the nation announced that it had begun its own military cyberunit, and Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, said that the Iranian military was prepared “to fight our enemies” in “cyberspace and Internet warfare.” But there has been scant evidence that it has begun to strike back.

The United States government only recently acknowledged developing cyberweapons, and it has never admitted using them. There have been reports of one-time attacks against personal computers used by members of Al Qaeda, and of contemplated attacks against the computers that run air defense systems, including during the NATO-led air attack on Libya last year. But Olympic Games was of an entirely different type and sophistication.

It appears to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives. The code itself is 50 times as big as the typical computer worm, Carey Nachenberg, a vice president of Symantec, one of the many groups that have dissected the code, said at a symposium at Stanford University in April. Those forensic investigations into the inner workings of the code, while picking apart how it worked, came to no conclusions about who was responsible.

A similar process is now under way to figure out the origins of another cyberweapon calledFlame that was recently discovered to have attacked the computers of Iranian officials, sweeping up information from those machines. But the computer code appears to be at least five years old, and American officials say that it was not part of Olympic Games. They have declined to say whether the United States was responsible for the Flame attack

NYtimes

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Obama, Romney execute game plans, amid distractions

The narratives are flying at warp speed in the presidential election. Private equity. Public equity. Bain. Solyndra. President Obama undercut by Newark Mayor Cory Booker and ex-governor Ed Rendell. Mitt Romney drowned out by The Donald. What’s a person to think?

The general election is only a few weeks old. What has happened in those weeks is not insignificant, because of what they say about the directions the two campaigns are heading and the arguments they want to make, rather than because one candidate or the other has seized the temporary advantage.

 

What’s important to remember is that there are two audiences for political news. One is the community of campaign workers, strategists, news organizations and highly interested citizens who are hanging on every development. They are keeping score on a minute-by-minute basis — and sometimes trying to extrapolate to November from episodes that will soon be forgotten.

The other is the far bigger and more important audience of Americans who aren’t paying close attention and haven’t paid close attention all year, despite one of the most interesting and unpredictable Republican nomination battles in a long time. These voters may have formed opinions about the president, but they know little about Romney.

Of the two audiences, both campaigns are far more focused on the latter than the former. The political community may set the narrative of the moment, but the voters who will be checking in over the summer are the ones who will determine who sits in the Oval Office next Jan. 20. And it is clear now just what each side wants those voters to believe.

Both campaigns have had to defend their conduct and effectiveness in these opening weeks. Obama’s campaign twice has come in for criticism because unexpected events disrupted otherwise carefully planned messages.

The day after Obama formally launched his campaign with a pair of rallies a month ago, Vice President Biden forced the conversation onto the topic of same-sex marriage. That settled down by the end of that week but only after Obama was forced to state publicly — and not on his own timetable — that he too supported same-sex marriages.

That episode coincided with consternation over the Obama campaign’s attack on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. Booker, Rendell and others decried the negative tone and, as they saw it, unfair criticism of role of private equity in the economy. The Obama campaign did not retreat. “Elites view this as gratuitous, but it’s kind of fundamental,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist.

Obama’s attacks on Romney and Bain are the opening phase of what will probably be a months-long assault aimed at undermining Romney as an acceptable alternative to the president. The president says the attacks are not an attempt to demonize private equity but only to say that Romney’s experience in private business, which has been his calling card as a candidate, doesn’t in any serious way qualify him to be president.

On Thursday, Obama advisers began a fresh attack on Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts. They are quick to note that Romney is not running as an ex-governor, a job more closely associated with the role of president, but as an ex-businessman. 

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Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will

WASHINGTON — This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.

President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them.

“How old are these people?” he asked, according to two officials present. “If they are starting to use children,” he said of Al Qaeda, “we are moving into a whole different phase.”

It was not a theoretical question: Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be.

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a dronestrike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.

“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”

Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve.

In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.

They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”

His first term has seen private warnings from top officials about a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counterterrorism; the invention of a new category of aerial attack following complaints of careless targeting; and presidential acquiescence in a formula for counting civilian deaths that some officials think is skewed to produce low numbers.

The administration’s failure to forge a clear detention policy has created the impression among some members of Congress of a take-no-prisoners policy. And Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.’s strikes drive American policy there, saying “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people,” a colleague said.

Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.

NYTimes

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More Military Spies: Why the CIA Is Applauding the Pentagon’s Intelligence Grab – By Jennifer Sims

Last month, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the creation of a new U.S. espionage agency: the Defense Clandestine Service, or DCS. DCS is expected to expand the Pentagon’s espionage personnel by several hundred over the next few years, while reportedly leaving budgets largely unchanged. The news nonetheless surprised some observers in Washington because the move appeared, at least initially, to be a direct challenge to the Central Intelligence Agency, whose National Clandestine Service leads the country’s spy work overseas. Then came a second surprise: former CIA officers and other intelligence experts started applauding. The question is why.

Four reasons stand out. First, DCS can be regarded as a rebranding and upgrading of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s espionage unit, the Defense HUMINT Service (HUMINT stands for “human intelligence”), which was created in 1992 to improve the coordination and accountability of military espionage. The CIA has long supported the efforts to improve the military’s HUMINT tradecraft, but despaired because the military’s case officers never stayed long in their jobs. The new DCS will have ranking general officers and field grade officers who stay put for the long term.

Second, the CIA likes the idea behind DCS because it has been gaining advantages from improved military espionage over the past few years — the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden is just one example of the kind of success that close collaboration can achieve. The CIA would like to have that capability against national targets outside the current war zones. The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military services, diplomats, and law enforcement officers all need discriminating and persistent engagement with an increasingly dispersed and mercurial adversary. Thanks to the growth of broadband communications and social networking, terrorists, drug syndicates, and arms traffickers operate as overlapping networks. This is a new kind of engagement that requires innovative operations within the legal bounds of civil societies. To respond to such threats, the CIA and the Pentagon see advantages in working as a networked team too. So, the better human intelligence that comes from the military, the better the National Clandestine Service.

For the CIA, the less agreeable issue with the creation of DCS is the notion that the military might be producing the best case officers against some targets. The CIA holds that good case officers can recruit anyone. But recruiting agents is only one part of espionage; other parts involve assessing knowledge, judging risk and reliability, and then knowing what to ask for next. Against military targets, the military may be most successful. Think of it this way: if you want to collect intelligence on the nuclear weapons capabilities of a foreign state, would you prefer to have scientists or non-scientists recruiting foreign physicists and weapons designers?

Third is the matter of integration. Good national and strategic intelligence is critical for operations against transnational targets, but while the military’s tactical awareness is improving rapidly, strategic context has often been lacking. Case in point: in January 2010, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, now head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote “Fixing Intelligence in Afghanistan,” a stinging report on intelligence deficiencies on the battlefield. The CIA has had a hard time improving the situation without being granted direct access to the problems that the military wants solved. DCS can help bridge the divide.

Fourth, chasing today’s amorphous, mobile targets, such as insurgents or terrorists, is logistically difficult. Since the Pentagon has an unparalleled global reach and specializes in logistics, and the CIA has deep ties with target countries, it makes sense to gain economies of scale through combined and complementary operations. That will require overcoming the trust gap that has sometimes weakened military-civilian intelligence cooperation. Rather than representing an escalation of turf tensions, DCS is a boost to the cooperation that has been developing for some years through institutionalized joint training and collaboration in the field. Former CIA officials I have spoken with expressed optimism about the Pentagon’s new initiative, using the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to illustrate the point.

The creation of DCS, however, also poses several risks. Chief among them is the prospect that the CIA will lose control over choosing targets and creating priorities for collection as the requirements for defense HUMINT gain further attention and federal budget cutting forces intelligence dollars to decline overall. The State Department, with no clandestine capability of its own, relies on the CIA to remember its needs too. As the CIA works ever closer with DCS, State’s priorities may get less attention than they should.

More, if the creation of DCS simply increases the Defense Department’s presence inside U.S. embassies, it may complicate the role of CIA station chiefs and U.S. ambassadors, who are legally responsible for operations in the countries in which they are stationed. A stronger Pentagon role might throw off the delicate balance required for effective in-country intelligence operations. The priorities of regional combatant commanders, ambassadors, and civilian intelligence agencies do not always align. If collection priorities or covert actions become skewed toward what the Pentagon wants, civilian policymaking might be compromised, and the risks of poorly coordinated field operations will increase.

To ensure that improved military espionage does not degrade intelligence support for diplomacy and other national security operations, CIA chiefs of station need to retain their status as national managers of human intelligence. Working with ambassadors and combatant commands, the CIA can keep the system infused with the balance of purpose that the National Security Council and the president expect.

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Obama’s Switch on Same-Sex Marriage Stirs Skepticism

WASHINGTON — Most Americans suspect that President Obamawas motivated by politics, not policy, when he declared his support for same-sex marriage, according to a new poll released on Monday, suggesting that the unplanned way it was announced shaped public attitudes.

Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed by The New York Times and CBS News since the announcement said they thought that Mr. Obama had made it “mostly for political reasons,” while 24 percent said it was “mostly because he thinks it is right.” Independents were more likely to attribute it to politics, with nearly half of Democrats agreeing.

The results reinforce the concerns of White House aides and Democratic strategists who worried that the sequence of events leading up to the announcement last week made it look calculated rather than principled.

Mr. Obama, who had said since late 2010 that his position on the issue was “evolving,” finally proclaimed his support for same-sex marriage only after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. did so first in a television interview.

“If Biden hadn’t said something, I don’t think he would have said anything either,” Larry Gannon, 48, a graphic artist from Norwalk, Calif. and an independent, said in a follow-up interview.

Holly Wright, 67, an independent from Smithfield, Va., who works in the food industry, said she believed that Mr. Obama had concluded that more Americans approved of same-sex marriage. “He believes it will help him win the election,” she said. “In other words, say what the majority of the people want to hear.”

The survey results made it clear that the president was wading into a divisive area of American life, one that may not top the nation’s priority list but still has the potential to hurt him at the margins in elections in November. About 4 in 10, or 38 percent, of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 24 percent favor civil unions short of formal marriage. Thirty-three percent oppose any form of legal recognition. When civil unions are eliminated as an option, opposition to same-sex marriage rises to 51 percent, compared with 42 percent support.

The poll showed that relatively few voters consider same-sex marriage their top issue amid continued economic uncertainty, and more than half said it would make no difference in their choice for president. But among those who said Mr. Obama’s position would influence their vote, more said they would be less likely to vote for him as a result; in a close race, even a small shift in swing states could be costly.

The political consequences of the president’s announcement have absorbed Washington, with strategists on all sides poring through data to try to anticipate what it might mean in the fall. Many surveys have shown rising support nationally for same-sex marriage, especially among younger Americans. However, voters in more than 30 states have passed measures banning such unions, most recently those in North Carolina last week.

Mr. Obama’s team is counting on the notion that whatever he might lose in votes or intensity of support will be offset by increased excitement among young voters and his liberal base. His probable Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, is banking on the idea that Mr. Obama’s position will turn off enough supporters of traditional marriage, including African-Americans, to help tip the race his way.

The situation remains so uncertain in part because, as the poll showed, the public is deeply conflicted on the issue. Consider the responses to two questions: Just 32 percent said the federal government should determine whether same-sex marriage is legal, rather than leaving it to the states. But 50 percent favored an amendment to the federal Constitution allowing marriage only between a man and a woman and overruling state laws to the contrary.

Mr. Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage appeared to have little effect on Americans’ view of the issue. More influential seems to be the increasing familiarity with people who are gay and lesbian. In a 2003 Times/CBS News poll, 44 percent of respondents said they had a colleague at work, close friend or relative who was gay, compared with 69 percent in the latest poll. Those who did were more likely to support legalizing same-sex marriage than those who did not.

“I might have been against it a long time ago, but then after meeting people who were gay, I changed my mind and had a different position,” said John Cornett, 70, a Democrat in Georgetown, Ky.

The new nationwide poll is based on telephone interviews conducted from May 11 through 13 on landlines and cellphones with 615 adults.

With less than six months until the election, Mr. Obama remains in a tight race with Mr. Romney. A month ago, a Times/CBS News poll showed the two tied at 46 percent each; the latest survey had the Republican challenger at 46 percent to the president’s 43 percent, an edge that was within the margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Mr. Obama’s vulnerable standing in the poll came despite rising optimism about the economy. About a third of voters said it was very or fairly good, the most since January 2008. More than a third said it was getting better, compared with a quarter who said it was getting worse. Jobs and the economy remain by far the most dominant issue, with 62 percent naming it their top priority and 19 percent their second highest. By contrast, just 7 percent chose same-sex marriage as the most important issue and 4 percent as the second-most important.

While most respondents said the candidates’ position on the issue would not affect their vote, about 4 in 10 said it would, and that played against Mr. Obama. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they were less likely to support Mr. Obama as a result, while 16 percent said they were more likely to. Many of those who described themselves as less likely to vote for Mr. Obama were Republicans who might not have anyway, but in a tight race, even small numbers can matter.

The sample size of the new poll was too small to break out comparisons by race, but aggregating four Times/CBS News surveys that asked the question over the last year opens a window into a racial dynamic that could be challenging for Mr. Obama.

Over all, black and white Americans divided on same-sex marriage in roughly similar numbers. But black Democrats were more skeptical than white Democrats. Forty-five percent of white Democrats supported legalizing marriage for gay couples, compared with 36 percent of black Democrats, while 35 percent of black Democrats opposed any legal recognition, compared with 28 percent of white Democrats.

Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Dalia Sussman from New York. Marjorie Connelly, Allison Kopicki and Marina Stefan contributed reporting from New York.

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American nuns stunned by Vatican accusation of ‘radical feminism,’ crackdown

American nuns struggled to respond Friday to a Vatican crackdown on what it calls “radical feminism” among the women and their purported failure to sufficiently condemn such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Some nuns in the 55,000-member Leadership Conference of Women Religious characterized the disciplinary action announced Wednesday as an “ambush,” but others — including the leadership — said they couldn’t publicly comment on a system that mandates their obedience.

“People are stunned,” said Sister Pat McDermott, president of the 3,500-member Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, based in Silver Spring. “They’re outraged, angry, frustrated, they don’t know where this came from and how to hold it.”

Thousands of people joined a Twitter drive to support the Leadership Conference, which represents more than 80 percent of American nuns. Using the hashtag #whatsistersmeantome, one person wrote of the nun who “was the rock of our Catholic campus.” Another man tweeted about how his father lost his own mother at 13. “It was the Mercy sisters who consoled and loved him onward.”

The conflict highlighted the deep divisions among American Catholics about such issues as sexuality and the male-only priesthood, as well as about how much church leaders should focus on clarifying Catholic doctrine and how much on caring for the poor.

While experts said nuns generally have focused more on such issues as poverty and health care — and less on doctrine — they are not homogenous. Traditional, habit-wearing nun groups are growing more than less traditional orders these days, and reaction to the Vatican move among nuns was “all over the map,” said Mary Gautier, a researcher with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, a Catholic school.

The Vatican report took the nuns to task for making “occasional public statements” that disagree with the bishops, “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

The group condemned by the Vatican includes a wide range of prominent nuns, also called women religious, from Sister Carol Keehan, the head of the Catholic Health Association, which runs 2,000 hospitals and other health facilities, to Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is to implement the Vatican action. They both declined to comment.

Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain has been assigned to oversee a “reform” of the Leadership Conference, which may involve changing the group’s statutes and who speaks at events.

Tensions have publicly flared recently between the bishops and the leadership conference — along with a few other large prominent nun-led groups — over public-policy issues. Some bishops were angry when the leadership conference supported the White House’s health-care reform, which the bishops’ conference had vigorously opposed. The bishops also have focused on opposing a White House mandate that employers, including religious ones, offer birth control, while the nuns accepted a compromise from President Obama.

Via Washington post

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