Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 27, 2012

Remembering our mission

Filed under: International HLS,Legal Issues,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on September 27, 2012

I am in New York for a few days.  I arrived Wednesday for private sector meetings on supply chain resilience, catastrophe preparedness, and related. The city is packed for the opening of the United Nations.

When I checked in the guy in front of me asked the desk clerk, “How many Presidents do you have staying here?”  ”Too many,” she replied.

My President’s speech on Tuesday received considerable media attention, but most of  the coverage I saw, heard, or read focused on either the Iranian nuclear issue or domestic political implications.  Following are a few consecutive paragraphs that have — at least for me — important homeland security implications.

Before these remarks the President held up Ambassador Chris Stevens as an example, condemned the attacks on US diplomatic facilities,  and called the video that catalyzed — or justified or created cover for — the violence “crude and disgusting.”  Then he offered an explanation of the American right of free speech blending principle with pragmatism:

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video.  And the answer is enshrined in our laws:  Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.

Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense.  Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.  As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day and I will always defend their right to do so.

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.  We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.  We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities.

We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech.  We recognize that.  But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.  The question, then, is how do we respond?

It’s a question that is very much alive in the United States.   When more control of information is advocated, the justification usually involves some aspect of homeland security.  As Chris Bellavita recently reminded us, “the Preamble to the Constitution is especially relevant to homeland security.  It offers – in 29 words – a majestic vision of the homeland security mission.”   There can be trade-offs between security and liberty.   But the homeland that matters most is secured by preserving liberty.

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11 Comments »

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 27, 2012 @ 8:00 am

My generally positive reaction to this element of the President’s speech — and his overall remarks — was not shared by all. For more see a piece in Tuesday’s Guardian entitled:

Christian conservatives angered by Obama’s comments at the UN

A Wednesday piece certainly seems related. Please see:

Most Republicans think West and Islam are in fundamental conflict, poll finds.

Each of these pieces is too starkly political for me to treat on the “front page” of HLSWatch. Mission creep is already pretty wild. But I did not feel as if I should altogether ignore these important elements of context.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 27, 2012 @ 8:40 am

Professor Eric Foner’s excellent book on “Freedom in American History” or some such title should be a primer for all.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 27, 2012 @ 8:57 am

I think Bill has figured out a way to make me into his personal research librarian. The book Bill mentions is probably The Story of American Freedom by Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University.

Even more specific to homeland security is Foner’s essay on Rethinking American Freedom in a post-9/11 World

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 27, 2012 @ 11:47 am

Thanks Phil!

Comment by William R. Cumming Library

September 28, 2012 @ 5:47 am

If Bill would share his top twenty William R. Cumming books, We could read them if we have not and share them with our youth so we can all be so eloquent and enlightened!

As far as preserving Liberty, again, a “Benghazi Congressional Hearing” for “Treason I Shout and Shame on You I Say” – this intentional perpetuation of a – flick – being responsible for a 911 attack on our Embassy and four wonderful Americans killed – when in fact a pre-planned attack on this lock and key embassy was carried out as clearly depicted by vido, well folks, you talk of preserving Liberty, even the WH and the Clintons are not above the law!

Witnessing top US government officials who have been “entrusted” to tell the truth and conveying such blatant – lie – well Chris and Phil, in the name of Liberty, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring ridicule of others – (being referred to recently as an extremist or being pulled aside by TSA every time I fly even to Washington for meeting w/government official) – rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”

In the name of Liberty gentlemen, again I reference Frederick Douglass who says it all about this “Chicago-Hollywood-Washington Express” when he says, Find out just what People will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both”

A vrey serious Breach of Trust was intentionally decided upon at the WH and at Head of State and far too many died or were injured as well as this blatant – lie – which accused crowds of people attacking the embassy was the direct result of a conflagration which occurred throughout the Middle East and the most serious Act of Treason in breach of faith towards We the People, the good People of Libya and even Iraq and to those in the Middle East who like America, yet this affront coordinated by this “Goldman Sachs WH” –

“Treason I Shout and Shame on You I Say” – a sign I am hoping to hold at the Congressional stairs shortly in one man majority and protest demanding as an American citizen so insulted by such willful dispaly of deceit that an immediate “Benghazi Congressional Hearing” be convened next week at the latest –

In the name of Liberty and for the sake of our buring US ‘ol Glory as a result of this – charade – how dare those We have “entrusted” by precious vote are not held responsible for using tax dollars to display this travesty on Pakistani television before the Middle East -

God Bless America and as Independent Voters, our vote to oust these abusive individuals have already been cast!

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645 USA
chris.tingus@gmail.com

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 28, 2012 @ 7:16 am

As I have endeavored to understand what happened in Benghazi I have reached two conclusions:

First, there is not — yet — sufficient evidence for me to confidently defend or accuse any specific persons.

Second, the hypothesis — but that’s all it is — that is emerging from the evidence I have been able to access is that Salafist militia forces in Benghazi took advantage of the Ambassador’s stay at the Consulate. I perceive that Salafist forces (possibly elements of Ansar al-Sharia) saw a window-of-opportunity open and were agile enough to apply significant tactical force within a matter of a few hours. I am guessing that the decision-chain involved in making the attack was mostly local and limited, essentially a free-lance operation. But this is all very hypothetical, mostly helpful in organizing evidence and looking to disprove the hypothesis.

I am troubled by — but also sympathetic to — the difficulty involved in gathering evidence in Benghazi.

It should be possible — but still complicated — to better understand the sequence of what the administration knew and what it perceived to be true in the immediate aftermath of the lethal attacks.

Given the context of the video-related attacks on the Cairo embassy earlier on September 11, I do not discount that reasonable people would initially assume there was a possible connection with what happened in Benghazi. The attacks in Cairo had prompted concern for follow-on attacks both in Cairo and elsewhere. So… the news out of Benghazi could easily have been perceived as fulfilling that expectation. Unfortunately, that’s what humans usually do, we perceive what we expect. We see confirmation of what we already believe to be true… despite evidence to the contrary or before sufficient evidence is available to reach a conclusion.

Here is what Secretary Clinton initially told us regarding the situation in Benghazi:

“Yesterday, our U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked. Heavily armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our buildings. American and Libyan security personnel battled the attackers together. Four Americans were killed. They included Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer, and our Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals.”

Here is the first statement by the President:

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack. We’re working with the government of Libya to secure our diplomats. I’ve also directed my administration to increase our security at diplomatic posts around the world. And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

“Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. None. The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts… No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”

Even with the additional information now available, I don’t see a lie in these statements. Perhaps you find the oblique reference to other protests misleading?

I am absolutely sure that my own concern on September 11 and 12 was that the smell of blood spilled in Benghazi would motivate blood-lust elsewhere. If I had been at the White House and Department of State I would certainly have wanted to do and say anything I could to suppress such blood-lust. I wonder — but expect it is beyond proving one way or another — if, in fact, the murders in Benghazi did suppress the follow-on protests in Cairo and elsewhere.

Clearly there was public revulsion to the murders in Benghazi. I continue to perceive — but maybe this is self-indulgent to what I want to believe is true — that the most under-reported and unexamined aspect of this event so far is the action by the the people of Benghazi to throw out the militias following the murders.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 28, 2012 @ 7:58 am

Well Chris my library evolves. The pagan philosophers are certainly worth reading and of course the Torah, Quran, and Bible (Old and New Testament)!

But given my age and abilities I prefer synthesis to analysis.
But odds vehicles often have been an influence on me including heavy Sci-Fi from 4th to 8th grade.
Since I was born 8 months and 27 days after Pearl Harbor I have always found WWI and WWII and their impact on Western Civilization (or as I characterize it their real impact was the suicide of the West) the course of Western Civilization of which I am product is always of interest. Sir John Keegan while alive pronounced WW II the largest event in human history so far and probably for the next 10,000 years. As raised a Christian perhaps Christ’s birth a greater event but who knows.

I do strongly commend the books “When Did Christ Become God” and “The Children of Aristotel” by the same author.

And the writings of St. Thomas Acquinas and the debates about faith versus reason in the writings of Christendom have to be considered important post 9/11/01!

And nuclear policy provides insight to me as to the conflict of faith and reason also. Perhaps the writings of SIOP provide insights into the future of mankind.

And Dag Hammerskold’s (sic) book “Etchings” and John Gardner’s writing perhaps indicate the higher purposes of secular humanism as well as the foundation documents of the easter religions.

The best military history and perhaps autobiography in English is that of President US Grant written as he died of throat cancer. The Civil War looms even now as the seminal event in USA history so far.

Well a quick take that perhaps might be of interest to you Chris who like the very odd person who held the Torch of Freedom in the hearing room for the Shoreham Nuclear Power station (a $12 billion dollar case in which I was for a time [3 years] FEMA’s lawyer) gained respect by all involved at least for his physical endurance.

All voices are welcome to me since it is the spectrum of humanity and its endeavours that I find of most interest, not its technology or machinery!

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 28, 2012 @ 8:03 am

There were glitches in my comment on my library. Retired General Lee Butler is the best on nuclear weapons policy and he largely authored the current SIOP!

As as to WWI and the runup to WWII I hold dear the Lanny Budd series of Upton Sinclair whose writings should be treasured by all who hold our democracy (actually a Republic) dear!

On another blog of interest a recent post and comments on the demise of reading in American society may be of interest! The blog is Sic Semper Tyrannis!

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 28, 2012 @ 8:27 am

Best single book to understanding 9/11 is “The Looming Tower”! Perhaps if the redacted pages of the 9/11 Comission Report were made public I would list that report. I gave testimony to the 9/11 Comission staff for 5 hours mostly on info sharing!

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 28, 2012 @ 8:30 am

Dag’s book may have been called “Markings” not “Etching”!

Comment by Silvia Mills

October 3, 2012 @ 11:43 am

I wonder why no one has seen this so called video that caused this anger between the muslins. Is there a cover up?

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