Monday, November 29, 2010

Crossposted from my personal blog:

I had been hearing about the Christmas Tree bomber in Portland all weekend, and was very glad to finally hear somebody mention the word "entrapment." But it's not just Mohamed Osman Mohamud I'm concerned about.

I'm worried about an FBI team who contacts an isolated individual who's failing to make contact with jihadist radicals, teaches him how to make a bomb, helps him to plan and carry out an attack, and chooses a large and public venue to arrest him.

I'm worried about an Attorney General who claims "that if Mohamud hadn't come in contact with the FBI, he 'would have made his plans tragically real.'"

And I'm worried about mass media outlets that just repeat the line that this is a plot that has been "thwarted" or "foiled."

For the record, it sounds to me like this Mohamud fellow may actually have become a threat on his own someday. He very well may have warranted observation by the FBI. But the way the Bureau pursued this investigation sounds very much like entrapment for Mohamud and fear-mongering for the rest of us.

"Look!" says the FBI & co., "here's a home-grown terrorist you should be afraid of! It could be anybody! What's a little inappropriate pat-down compared to the risk of being bombed while lighting a Christmas Tree? What's a little warrantless wiretapping or email surveillance next to, you know, a west coast 9-11?"

What would have been wrong with just watching this kid, and seeing what he does on his own? At least then, he might have actually led investigators to a real terrorist cell, and could have led to some genuine intelligence of real plots to commit terrorist acts. And, when arrested, he might have been guilty of a real crime.

As it is, he's just become the solitary target of an FBI plot to ... to what? boost their own ratings? I hope not. To foil and thwart terrorist attacks? Not very effectively.

I want good security and I want active intelligence gathering on terrorist activities. But that's not what this was. At best, this was a colossal mistake. If anyone in the FBI is reading this, please, don't make the same mistake again.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Theologian appointed to CCHD

This is a step in the right direction: a theologian well grounded in the fullness of Catholic Social Teaching and solidly in support of its pro-life implications "will provide ongoing consultation on the moral and ethical dimensions of campaign's work."

Now, some already are saying, "Too little too late." I agree that this step is a far cry from the kind of butt-kicking and name-taking that some people favor. But it is in keeping with the wait-until-harvest attitude our Lord recommends. It's a step toward insuring greater conformity to Catholic morality without seeking a target for condemnation. In other words, it's a step toward solving the problem rather than blaming the problem.

I'm not saying it's time to rush out and give all your worldly goods to CCHD. I think it's important to hold them accountable, and to ask for evidence that Fr. Mindling is effective in his mission.

But I am saying, it's good to see a step in the right direction, even if it looks like a small step.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

George W. Bush and waterboarding

In his new book, former President George W. Bush shows his pro-waterboarding side (Hat tip: a reader who shared this from the site):

In a memoir due out Tuesday, Bush makes clear that he personally approved the use of that coercive technique against alleged Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed, an admission the human rights experts say could one day have legal consequences for him.

In his book, titled "Decision Points," Bush recounts being asked by the CIA whether it could proceed with waterboarding Mohammed, who Bush said was suspected of knowing about still-pending terrorist plots against the United States. Bush writes that his reply was "Damn right" and states that he would make the same decision again to save lives, according to a someone close to Bush who has read the book. [...]

The Justice Department later repudiated some of the underlying legal analysis for the CIA effort. But Bush told an interviewer a week before leaving the White House that "I firmly reject the word 'torture,' " and he reiterates that view in the book. Reuters and the New York Times first published accounts of the book's contents Tuesday evening.

Would that he had firmly rejected the use of torture, not merely the word.