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February 25 2014

09:50

December 16 2013

12:42

In Syria, Rebel Movement Continues To Fracture

Has the moderate, Western-backed rebel force collapsed in Syria? And what if it’s an Islamist rebellion now?

Guests

Noah Bonsey, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. Lead author of the recent report, “Anything But Politics: The State of Syria’s Political Opposition.” (@NoahBonsey)

Leila Hilal, director the Middle East Task Force at the New American Foundation. (@LeilaHilal)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Daily Telegraph: The good guys have lost in Syria – only the bad guys are left fighting — “This week, the US and Britain suspended non-lethal aid – such as communications equipment and trucks – to rebels in northern Syria, after bases belonging to the largely moderate, Western-backed Free Syrian Army were ransacked and their equipment seized by the Islamic Front. This rebel-on-rebel fratricidal orgy sums up so much that has gone wrong with Syria’s revolution.”

The Washington Post: U.S. may be open to Islamists joining Syrian rebel coalition — “The SMC, whose Free Syrian Army is the only opposition armed force the United States backs in Syria, has lost both strength and influence to anti-Assad Islamic groups. Among them is the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the al-Nusra Front, both of which have been labeled terrorist groups by Washington. But the increasingly powerful Islamic Front, while it includes many Salafists seeking an Islamic state in Syria, is not affiliated with al-Qaeda. Talks between U.S. envoy Robert Ford and Islamic Front figures held in Turkey last month were inconclusive, said the senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the developing policy.”

Buzzfeed: The End of the Free Syrian Army? – “FSA officials have suggested that the struggle with the Islamic Front might be resolved through negotiations, and that U.S. shipments might eventually resume. But speculation is already swirling that the FSA and its leadership under Gen. Salim Idriss — officially called the Supreme Military Command, or SMC, the political opposition’s military wing — might be at its end. One source close to the SMC called the Islamic Front’s recent aggression in Atimeh ‘an attack and overthrow, basically.’”

November 26 2013

04:02

Stoics at war - The Philosopher's Zone - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Recent philosophical debate on war has focused on the idea that you don't just have to fight by the rules; you also have to be fighting in a just cause. But does this ignore much of the moral context of a soldier's life. What binds comrades in arms together? What about stress and what about grief, and what does the ancient Roman philosophy of Stoicism have to tell us about it? http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/stoics-at-war/3196522

November 25 2013

10:25

‘Historic’ Deal Reached In Iranian Nuclear Talks

Historic nuclear dealer reached with Iran. There are vast implications. We’ll have world-wide reaction.

Guests

Laurence Norman, deputy Brussels bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. (@laurnorman)

Mehrzad Boroujerdi, director of the Middle East Studies Program at Syracuse University, president of the International Society of Iranian Studies.

David IgnatiusWashington Post columnist covering foreign affairs. Author of “Bloodmoney.” (@IgnatiusPost)

Emily Landau, senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, director of the INSS’ Arms Control and Regional Security Project. Author of “Arms Control in the Middle East: Cooperative Security Dialogue and Regional Constraints

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: Major Powers Reach Deal With Iran To Freeze Nuclear Program –”Iran will gain relief from Western economic sanctions that U.S. officials believe will provide between $6 billion and $7 billion in badly needed foreign exchange for Tehran over the next half-year. The agreement reached in Geneva is an interim deal for about six months that will allow international powers to try to strike a permanent pact, an effort experts said would be the true test of Iran’s new government, headed by revitalization-minded President Hasan Rouhani.”

Washington Post: Backstage brawl over a deal – “As the Iran deal has taken shape, a backstage brawl is developing with Israel and Saudi Arabia, two countries crucially affected by the deal. The unrelenting attacks on the agreement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which are the culmination of four years of mistrust between him and President Obama, are rumbling the bedrock of the U.S.-Israeli relationship — a consequence neither country wants.”

The Economist: Modest, but still historic –”The deal struck this weekend is not yet even the beginning of the end of the danger to the world posed by the possible (actually probable) military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear activities. It is a modest first step and there is still an awful lot that could go wrong: in particular, there are irreconcilables on all sides who might prefer that it did. Nor can Iran ever be fully defanged unless and until its leaders believe that it is in their best interests for that to happen—and that is still a long way off. But compared with the situation just a few months ago, what happened in Geneva is extraordinary and does properly deserve to be described as ‘historic.’”

November 22 2013

05:22

Week In The News: Afghan Deals, Midwest Storms, J.P. Morgan Fine

Midwest destruction, Afghan troop talks, a big fine for J.P. Morgan and gay marriage and the Cheney sisters. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Guests

Trudy Rubin, Worldview columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. (@TrudyRubin)

Bill McKenzie, editorial columnist for The Dallas Morning News. (@Bill_McKenzie)

Jack BeattyOn Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Bluster from Congress on Iran, but to what end? – “I can understand Netanyahu’s thinking: He distrusts Tehran and wants President Obama to back an Israeli military strike on its nuclear sites. But I can’t grasp the ‘thinking’ in Congress. Are the sanctions hawks really ready to push America into another unnecessary Mideast war? The hawks argue that if strong economic curbs pushed the Iranians into talks, then harsher punishment will make them give up their nuclear program. But when it comes to Iran, that kind of strategy has failed badly in the past.

The Dallas Morning News:  A second president’s profile in courage — “Johnson’s reaction went beyond an ability to handle emergencies; I think another factor was in play. He was absolutely comfortable using his authority to achieve his goals. That trait separates political leaders from those who follow in their wake. Johnson’s indomitable will certainly helped him prepare to lead from the moment he arrived at Andrews. The late George Plimpton described some leaders as having an X factor that defines them and puts them in a special category. For some, that could be charisma, which Kennedy had in large doses. But Johnson’s ability to tower over others was his X factor. He used it often as Senate majority leader in the 1950s to move legislation. And, of course, he put it to use in carrying out JFK’s domestic legacy.”

Politico: Liz Cheney tries to repair hostile relations with Wyoming press — “The question is whether she can undo the initial damage in a state with such a strong newspaper tradition. The primary contest is nine months away, but political pros say Cheney faces a steep uphill climb against the incumbent, Sen. Mike Enzi. Cheney was widely seen as a carpetbagger from the moment she entered the race — she moved her family to the state last year — and the attacks on the state’s newspapers, which have a loyal readership, have left a sour taste.”

November 15 2013

15:00

Week In The News: Typhoon Recovery, Obamacare Reversal, Iranian Stalemate

Typhoon tragedy.  Obamacare reversal. New guidelines for statins. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Big news on health reform this week.  President Obama stands down on a hot portion of Obamacare.  The “you can keep your coverage” promise will be kept, for a while.  It’s a reversal.  And knives are out for more.  In the Philippines, an epic typhoon leaves devastation so deep that relief is hard to deliver, even when it comes.  Now it’s hunger and thirst.  We’ve got Janet Yellen lining up to be Fed chief.  John Boehner saying no to big immigration reform.  Heat over nuclear talks with Iran.  A giant airline merger.  And Amazon does a Sunday deal with the US Mail.  Up next On Point:  Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Margaret Talev, White House correspondent for Bloomberg News. (@margarettalev)

Ben Pauker, managing editor at Foreign Policy. (@BenPauker)

Jack Beatty, On Point News Analyst

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Obama Needs His Friends Back — “On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Obama with the lowest approval rating of his presidency. Only 39 percent approved of his performance; 54 percent disapproved. The numbers echoed those of a recent Pew survey that pegged the president’s job approval at 41 percent, with 53 percent disapproving. In situations of this sort, there is always a search for an instant repair. ‘Fix the Web site’ is the most obvious, and it’s certainly necessary. But a tech problem has been compounded by the reality of health-care reform itself. ”

Wall Street Journal: Escape From Obamacare — “The particular irony of this Democratic flight for the exits is that their bill would make ObamaCare even less viable. If people are allowed to choose a competitive insurance alternative, the exchanges are unlikely to survive financially. That’s why the White House is trying to stuff in as many people as possible, however unsuccessfully. House Republicans have the better argument. There’s a substantive difference between letting people keep their plans through deregulation and through a new mandate that is supposed to counteract the damage from the old mandates. They should build on this insight and promote more ways for people to elude ObamaCare if they prefer.”

Foreign Policy: John Kerry’s Iran Briefing Succeeds…In Solidifying GOP Against Him — “In an effort to slam the brakes on a new round of Iran sanctions coming through Congress, Secretary of State John Kerry held a classified briefing with the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday. Although the purpose of the briefing was to convey how new sanctions could derail the delicate negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, Republicans stormed out of the closed-door session in opposition to the Obama administration’s message. At the same time, top Democrats remained silent or refused to comment as they exited the Capitol.”

November 14 2013

05:36

Iranian Peace Talks Stay Stuck

The US and Israel are split over negotiations with nuclear Iran. We’ll look at the arguments, and the stakes.

Guests

Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent at National Journal. (@MichaelPHirsh)

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Co-chair of the Project on U.S. Middle East Nonproliferation Strategy. (@dubo1968)

Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. (@MaloneySuzanne)

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: The Case for Stronger Sanctions on Iran — “The Geneva negotiations indicate that Mr. Rouhani’s bosses are willing only to make concessions that are easily revoked or not much of a nuclear impediment to start with. The U.S. and its allies seem much more likely to get the attention of the supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards if the pain from sanctions is so intense that a choice has to be made between economic collapse and the nuclear program.”

CNN: Bad Iran deal worse than no deal — “The problem is that the Iranian leadership does not operate by Western standards. Seldom does the Iranian government place the wellbeing of its population above its own revolutionary ideology. The Supreme Leader considers himself the Deputy of the Messiah on Earth. Sovereignty comes from God; what the Iranian people may think is beside the point.”

Haaretz: Netanyahu’s rage at Iran nuclear deal is fueled by 1938 Western betrayal at Munich — “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, cannot accept any agreement that Iran has agreed to. Conversely, the only nuclear accord that Israel can live with is one that Tehran can’t. Actually, nothing short of complete and utter dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure can convince Israel that the mullahs in Tehran have changed their ways. That Iran has given up its quest for nuclear weapons. That Tehran is no longer pursuing a bomb with which to achieve regional hegemony and to threaten Israel with extinction.”

November 11 2013

09:06

The Future Of America’s Military

On Veterans Day, after more than a decade of deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, we take the pulse of America’s military – as it faces big cuts and big changes.

Guests

Tom Bowman, Pentagon reporter for NPR News. (@TBowmanNPR)

Cpt. Rosemary Mariner, scholar in residence at the Center for War and Society and lecturer in history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Cindy Williams, principal research scientist at the Security Studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Co-author of “Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays For Its Global Role and Safety at Home.”

From The Reading List

Foreign Affairs: Accepting Austerity: The Smart Way To Cut Defense — “It didn’t have to be this way. President Barack Obama signed the BCA in August 2011. By the end of the year, the super committee established to craft a fiscal bargain that would replace the nine-year automatic budget cuts embedded in the bill had crashed and burned, triggering the nine-year budget cuts that began with the March 2013 sequestration. So the White House and the Department of Defense have had two years to develop a national security strategy consistent with the new budget limits, design forces and programs to match that strategy, point the Pentagon down a somewhat less abrupt budgetary glide path, and institute measures to smooth the downsizing.”

New York Times: Cuts Have Hagel Weighing Realigned Military Budget — “In recent weeks, Mr. Hagel has filled his calendar with an accelerated series of meetings with the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs, and with the global combatant commanders. He is requiring them to explain — and defend — how they contribute to security against current global threats, with the Army viewed as most at risk of even steeper cuts.”

NPR: What’s Changed In The Military, And What’s Next — “After the war in Vietnam, the U.S. military changed in profound ways. A conscript force became all volunteer. Congress changed the rules to force much more extensive use of the National Guard in any future conflict. Training and equipment emphasized fighting at night. And technology made blunt instruments like aerial bombing far more precise. Scarred by the experience of a war lost in the jungles of Indochina, U.S. military focused on conventional combat. Then, many of the lessons of counterinsurgency had to be re-learned these past 11 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. “

November 08 2013

15:00

Week In The News: Election 2013, Twitter IPO And Toronto’s Messy Mayor

Chris Christie and election night winners. Sebelius back in the hot seat. Twitter goes public. Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

A crack smoking mayor across the border this week, and early signals in the US on 2016 politics ahead.  Chris Christie wins big as a fighting GOP moderate.  The tea party man loses in Virginia.  New York elects a mayor who’s vowed to take on inequality.  Stay tuned.  In Washington, the president says he’s sorry for Americans who are losing health policies.  They’ll have better policies says the White House.  The Senate votes gay rights in the workplace.  Twitter has a big-time IPO.  New jobs numbers and the GDP, up pretty strong.  Up next On Point:  Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Alexander Burns, senior political reporter for Politico. (@ABurnsPolitico)

Kasie Hunt, reporter covering politics and Congress for NBC News. (@Kasie)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Politico: How Terry McAuliffe mapped his Virginia win — “Recognizing from the start that his path to victory was slim, McAuliffe’s campaign invested early and heavily in establishing powerful tactical advantages over Cuccinelli, including sophisticated modeling of the Virginia electorate, experimentally-vetted messaging and a vast turnout operation that sent more than 13,000 volunteers into the field in the last four days of the election.”

NBC News: Paul pledges ‘new approval process’ amid plagiarism charges — “Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul will create a ‘new approval process” for his speeches and written material after facing charges of plagiarism, a senior adviser said in a statement Tuesday. In a written statement, adviser Doug Stafford also suggested that some instances of possible plagiarism came from staffers, acknowledging that some information was not ‘clearly sourced or vetted properly.’”

New York Times: G.O.P. Weighs Limiting Clout of Right Wing — “While the discussion may appear arcane, it reflects a fierce struggle for power between the activist, often Tea Party-dominated wing of the Republican Party — whose members tend to be devoted to showing up and organizing at events like party conventions — and the more mainstream wing, which is frustrated by its inability to rein in the extremist elements and by the fact that its message is not resonating with more voters.”

October 28 2013

13:17

Saudi Arabia, Iran And A Region In Flux

Saudi Arabia, Iran , and the new geo-political calculus of the Middle East, with America awkwardly in the middle.

Ever since FDR famously sailed into the Suez Canal to meet with Saudi King Ibn Saud in 1945 on the American destroyer the USS Quincy, the United States and Saudi Arabia have been deep strategic partners in the Middle East.  Plenty of stresses, as the US allied with Israel and the Saudis flexed their massive oil power and exported Wahabi Islam.  But the Saudi monarchy had also been an American bedrock in the region.  Now the talk is of potential crackup in the partnership.  That’s big.  Up next On Point:  Saudi fury as the US charts a new course in the Middle East.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Stephen Kinzer, professor on International Relations at Boston University and a former New York Times correspondent. Author of “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles and Their Secret World War” and “Reset: Iran, Turkey and America’s Future.” (@StephenKinzer)

Dr. Abel Aziz Aluwaisheg, Assistant Secretary General for Negotiations and Strategic Dialogue at the Gulf Cooperation Council. (@abuhamad1)

Dan Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, columnist at Foreign Policy Magazine and senior editor at The National Interest. (@DanDrezner)

From Tom’s Reading List

Arab News: Saudi move highlights need for UN Security Council reforms — “The timing of the Saudi decision on Friday appeared to be related in particular to the failure of the UNSC to stop the carnage perpetrated by the Syria regime. Over the past 30 months, the Syrian regime has killed over (100,000) of its own people, while forcing seven million Syrians to be either refugees outside their country, or displaced inside it. UN human rights agencies and special commissions have documented crimes committed by the Syria regime, including mass killings, torture, rape, collective punishment and wholesale destruction of towns and neighborhoods. They have also named key officials who are believed to be behind crimes against humanity committed in Syria.”

Foreign Policy: On Syria, You Say Bureaucratic Politics, I Say Realism — Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off – “Clearly, a lack of consensus among Obama’s top foreign policymakers buttressed his own stated reluctance to get too deeply involved in Syria.  That said, the policymakers with the most influence over the president were articulating a rationale for why continued conflict might not be a bad thing.”

The Guardian: New President Hassan Rouhani make the unimaginable imaginable for Iran — “Finding a way to bring Iran back into the world’s mainstream will be Rouhani’s principal challenge. His power is limited, though in the fluid world of Iranian politics, he is likely to accumulate more. His adversaries, most notably supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and the United States, ridicule him as a puppet of repressive mullahs.”

October 23 2013

04:40

Getting Out Of Afghanistan

Afghanistan and Pakistan are still brewing up big challenges for the United States. Taliban talks, drone wars, how to stay in, how to get out.

Guests

Ben Pauker, managing editor of Foreign Policy Magazine. (@BenPauker)

Stephen Biddle, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University.

Sean Carberry, Kabul correspondent for NPR. (@Frankentele)

From Tom’s Reading List

Foreign Affairs: Ending the War in Afghanistan — “Should current trends continue, U.S. combat troops are likely to leave behind a grinding stalemate between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The Afghan National Security Forces can probably sustain this deadlock, but only as long as the U.S. Congress pays the multibillion-dollar annual bills needed to keep them fighting. The war will thus become a contest in stamina between Congress and the Taliban.”

The Atlantic: Why Is It So Hard To Negotiate With The Taliban? – “At the beginning, talks were just seen as a way to peel off local and regional commanders and local insurgents from the broader movement, and it slowly worked its way up the chain from reintegration to reconciliation. But it did so unevenly and it was never properly explained how these negotiations at the lower level would play out at the higher level. We didn’t know whether the purpose of talks was to split the Taliban movement between the hawks and the doves or to try to maintain a coherent movement under [Taliban spiritual leader] Mullah Mohammad Omar and talk directly to the top.”

The Guardian: US drone strikes could be classed as war crimes, says Amnesty International – “Getting to the bottom of individual strikes is exceptionally difficult in the restive areas bordering Afghanistan, where thousands of militants have settled. People are often terrified of speaking out, fearing retribution from both militants and the state, which is widely suspected of colluding with the CIA-led campaign.”

October 17 2013

06:31

‘The Red And The White’ And The Stories That Follow

“The Red and the White”.  A new history of interracial marriage and massacre in the old American West

Guests

Andrew Graybill, historian and director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University. Author of “The Red and The White: A Family Saga of the American West.”

S. Neyooxet Greymorning, professor of anthropology and Native American Studies at the University of Montana’s Native American Center, author of “A Will to Survive: Indigenous Essays on the Politics of Culture, Language and Identity.”

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: Tapping Into the Land, and Dividing Its People – “It is an increasingly common sight for tribes across the West and Plains: Tourist spending has gone slack since the recession hit. American Indian casino revenues are stagnating just as tribal gambling faces new competition from online gambling and waves of new casinos. Oil and fracking are new lifelines. One drilling rig on the Blackfeet reservation generated 49 jobs for tribal members — a substantial feat in a place where unemployment is as high as 70 percent. But as others watched the rigs rise, they wondered whether the tribe was making an irrevocable mistake.”

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Blackfeet remember Montana’s greatest Indian massacre – “It came to be known as the Baker Massacre. In 1870, the attack was celebrated as a great military victory by the Army and by residents of Bozeman and Helena. When newspapers back East reported the high numbers of women and children killed, it created a scandal, which was quickly extinguished by a cover-up in Washington. And then, for many years, it was largely forgotten. Carol Murray grew up on the Blackfeet reservation, but never heard of the massacre until she went away to college. Murray, now past president of the Blackfeet Community College and a tribal historian, recalled interviewing one elderly woman in 1970, who was still afraid a century after the event that talking about it could land her in jail.”

Read An Excerpt From “The Red and The White: A Family Saga of The American West” by Andrew Graybill

October 03 2013

23:37

Day of the Drones - Books and Authors - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV

This panel examines the moral legitimacy of using drones as killing machines as well as for the surveillance of private citizens. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2013/09/30/3856807.htm

October 02 2013

06:37

David Kilcullen On The Age Of The Urban Guerilla

In the wake of Nairobi’s terror, top counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen looks at the age of the urban guerrilla.

Guests

David Kilcullen, counter-insurgency expert and former soldier, diplomat, and policy adviser for the Australian and U.S. governments. Founder and CEO of Caerus Associates. His new book is “Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerilla.”

Mark Bowden, national correspondent for The Atlantic and bestselling author. Author of “Black Hawk Down” and “The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: Somali Militants Mixing Business and Terror – ”Illicit ivory, kidnappings, piracy ransoms, smuggled charcoal, extorted payments from aid organizations and even fake charity drives pretending to collect money for the poor — the Shabab militant group has shifted from one illegal business to another, drawing money from East Africa’s underworld to finance attacks like the recent deadly siege at a Nairobi shopping mall.”

CNN: How Al-Shabaab picks its targets – ”For Al-Shabaab, the mall was an attractive target because Westerners, including Americans, frequented it. The mall is also in the capital of Kenya, a country that Al-Shabaab has good reason to dislike, as the Kenyan military played a major role in handing their forces a defeat last year when they liberated the key Somali port of Kismayo from their control.”

The Guardian: Al-Shabaab will emerge stronger after Nairobi mall attack, warns analyst – ”The Somalia-based Islamist group known as al-Shabaab will emerge stronger and more unified after its terrorist attack in Nairobi, and could provide other extreme groups with an example to follow, counter-insurgency analysts warned on Tuesday. Al-Shabaab’s message is that it is ‘down but not out’, it is ‘losing territory but not peopl’”, said David Kilcullen, a former adviser to David Petraeus, then US commander in Iraq, and of Nato forces in Afghanistan.”

Excerpt: ‘Out of the Mountains’ by David Kilcullen

Reprinted from Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen with permission from Oxford University Press USA, ©by David Kilcullen, 2013.

September 11 2013

07:34

President Obama’s Case On Syria

The President makes his case on Syria.  We turn to Congress and you for reaction.

Guests

David Gergen, senior political analyst and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Former Presidential adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. (@david_gergen)

Rep. Eliot Engel, Democratic member of Congress for New York’s 16th District. Ranking minority member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. (@repeliotengel)

Rep. Michael Burgess, Republican member of Congress for Texas’ 26th District. (@michaelcburgess)

Rep. Alan Grayson, member of Congress for Florida’s 9th District and a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Last week, the New York Times published his op-ed, headlined: “On Syria Vote, Trust, but Verify.” He has started an online petition against intervention in Syria at www.dontattacksyria.com. (@alangrayson)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Washington Post: Obama’s Syria speech is now a dual challenge – ”Fast-moving events have altered the script for President Obama’s nationally televised speech about Syria. Obama is now in a position of having to argue for both war and diplomacy in the same address. Tuesday night’s speech now becomes one more event in a haphazard and unpredictable process that has shifted repeatedly over the past two weeks. No one appears in control, as the past two days have underscored.”

The Boston Globe: Credibility stakes high for Obama in Syria speech – ”President Obama’s speech to the nation Tuesday night has turned into a defining moment for the remainder of his term. The outcome of his call for Congress to authorize military strikes against Syria could determine both his credibility on domestic issues and his power on the international stage, analysts said Monday.”

The Los Angeles Times: How to listen to Obama’s speech on military action against Syria – ”President Obama has launched a media blitz culminating in a speech to the nation urging military action against Syria. He will speak to diverse constituencies that have little in common: a war-weary U.S. public, a fractious Congress, nations worried about the impact of a strike. Here is a primer on how to listen to the president’s speech Tuesday.”

September 09 2013

14:00

Big Thinkers On Syria: Morality And Strategy

We invite big thinkers to wrestle with the moral and strategic implications of a military strike or pass in Syria.

The megaphones will be on full blast this week over Syria.  To hit or not to hit the Assad regime after a big, deadly attack near Damascus with chemical weapons.  Public opinion is running strongly against American intervention.

And yet, you can hear Americans wrestling with the moral question:  Do we have a moral obligation to hit back against mass chemical killing?  Or is that a nicety we can’t afford?  A bad idea?

This hour, On Point:  just war philosopher Michael Walzer and tough geopolitics thinker Stephen Walt debate the moral and strategic implications of a military strike or pass in Syria.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Michael Walzer, political philosopher. Professor emeritus at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. Author of “Just and Unjust Wars.

Stephen Walt, professor of international Affairs at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Author of “Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy.” (@stephenwalt)

From Tom’s Reading List

Foreign Policy (Stephen Walt): An Open Letter to My Congressman About Syria – ”A U.S. attack on Syria is unwise for several reasons. First, the United States has no vital strategic interests there. Bashar al-Assad’s government is clearly a brutal dictatorship, but neither Democratic nor Republican presidents have cared about that before now. Instead, presidents from both parties have cooperated with the Assad regime whenever it seemed advisable to do so. More importantly, helping to topple the regime is likely to turn Syria into a failed state, igniting a struggle for power among competing sectarian factions. Some of these factions are deeply hostile to America and sympathetic to al Qaeda, which means that U.S. intervention could help bring some of our worst enemies to power.”

The Economist: Fight this war, not the last one – ”America’s potency comes not just from its capacity to project force, but also from the enduring appeal of the values invoked by its founders. Those are stronger than Mr Obama seems to think. With China’s economy slowing and its political corruption evident, the Beijing consensus will seem ever less enticing to citizens of the emerging world. Mr Bush tainted America’s values with inept invasion, prisoner abuse and imperial overstretch. Meeting Mr Assad’s atrocities with appropriate force will help to rebuild American moral authority in the world.”

CNN: Obama to take his case on Syria to American people on Tuesday – ”Obama wrapped up his trip to the G20 summit in Russia by telling reporters he will address the nation on Tuesday as Congress prepares to vote on a resolution authorizing limited military strikes against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons. Facing public opposition reflected by legislators hesitant to support him, Obama said Friday that he understands the skepticism over his call for punishing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for what U.S. officials call a sarin gas attack on August 21 that killed more than 1,400 people.”

August 01 2013

14:00

NSA Chief Speaks At Black Hat

After Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden and Congressional push back, NSA Chief Gen. Keith Alexander speaks to Black Hat, a conference for security professionals.

The gusher of news on the NSA and surveillance keeps coming. This week, one of the keenest audiences is in Las Vegas: hackers and security geeks and execs. Lots of them. At the conferences called Black Hat and DEF CON, where hacker T-shirts say “Hack Naked” and “Stay Anonymous.”

The NSA needs these people. They are the talent, the American cyber pros.

While hearings in Washington banged on the NSA and more news was leaked, the head of the NSA came to Vegas to appeal to the pros.

Up next On Point: NSA surveillance and the hacker perspective.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Kim Zetter, senior reporter for Wired covering cybercrime, civil liberties, privacy and security. (@KimZetter)

Alan Butler, privacy advocate and attorney for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. (@AlanInDC)

Moxie Marlinspike, computer security researcher and co-founder and former chief technology officer for Whisper Systems, which provides mobile apps for security and privacy. (@moxie)

Interview Highlights

Moxie Marlinspike on balancing freedom and privacy:

People tend to try and frame this in terms of a balance between freedom and privacy, to the extent that that’s true. I think the problem is that people like the NSA are not incentivized to be looking for that balance. They are working on things that are built out of careers, billions in revenue, enormous defense contracts. It’s this giant steam roller that is not actually looking for balance.

Alan Butler on the Senate FISA hearing:

What we’re dealing with in the Senate hearing [on July 31, 2013] … is that Congressional leaders are shocked at the extent of this program, specifically the metadata program. And that’s a sign that we don’t have enough push back, that we don’t have enough public knowledge about how these systems work in order to make sure that they’re complying with the law and to make sure we can keep them in check.

Kelly Zetter on company push back and transparency of the courts:

There’s a danger in lumping all companies together. There are companies that are not bothered by this at all and take the view that they need to help the NSA protect the country.

But I think that there are some significant companies (particularly technology companies) that have tried to fight and push back. We don’t know the full extent of these activities.

We had an interesting peek at this recently with some documents that came out regarding Yahoo. Yahoo had attempted to fight a court order back in 2008 seeking collection of data. They cited the Fourth Amendment; they cited a number of issues. And in that case, the judge forced Yahoo to comply … the judge said that the government had assured her that it would not maintain a database of incidentally collected info from non-targeted U.S. persons. In fact, we now know that’s not true. And the XKeystore talks about this database of information that of course is going to include incidentally collected information on Americans.

This goes to speak to the transparency of the courts. We don’t know full extent of what has gone on there. We don’t know how many companies have tried to fight this. We know that they’ve been unsuccessful. I believe that there are companies that are pushing back, but we just don’t know the extent of this because this is all secret.

Marlinspike on the changing way hackers fit into society:

It’s not clear what our cultural norms really are. In some ways, I think we are operating based on a cultural context in the ’90s or whenever the hacker community really coalesced. And that context has changed. I think it’s time for us to re-evaluate. What are the things that we value? What are the things that we want to encourage?

Marlinspike on hackers selling security vulnerabilities:

Hackers and people from this community do a tremendous amount of security research and publish their results, which oftentimes allows those vulnerabilities to be addressed. At the same time, however, there are many people now who have started selling their security research in private. So, for instance, there are people that find vulnerabilities in things like your cell phone or programs that run on your computer or the servers of major web providers. And instead of publicly disclosing them or working with the vendors to fix them, they sell that information to brokers for a lot of money. And, for the most part, those are then turned around and sold to governments … the people selling the vulnerabilities usually don’t have the visibility as to where they go. In all cases, they’re used in the same way, generally offensively by governments in order to gain access to people’s computers, the servers of major providers and things like that.

Video

“Top federal security chiefs from the NSA, FBI, Office of National Intelligence and the Justice Department go before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the FISA surveillance program. A legal panel also testifies on constitutional protections.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Wired: Buffeted By New Disclosures, NSA Chief Defends Surveillance Programs At Black Hat: “Facing occasional hecklers from the audience, Alexander asserted that the surveillance programs have been mischaracterized by the media and others and that as a result the reputation of NSA workers has been tarnished. Extensive oversight from Congress and the courts, as well as technical protections in place — including internal auditing — prevent NSA workers from abusing their surveillance capabilities.”

PC Magazine: Black Hat 2013: NSA Chief Reveals Details About PRISM As Hecklers Call Him a Liar: “The Section 215 Authority, the business records program, collects only telephone metadata and is used only for counterterrorism purposes, Alexander said. The NSA collects the data and time of the call, the phone number initiating the call and the number of the recipient, the duration of the call, and the source and site of the call—such as carrier name. The NSA does “not collect the content of the communications,” such as recording the calls or intercepting the SMS messages. Identifying information such as names, addresses, or credit card information, are not collected. Location data is also not used.”

Slate: One Major Hacker Conference Bans The Feds. Another Welcomes Them: “Two of the largest, most well-known information security conventions, DEF CON and Black Hat, have decided to take very different approaches to how they will interact with representatives of federal agencies (who, in the past, have regularly attended and spoken at these events) … The difference in opinions about socializing with feds can, in large part, be tallied up to economics.”

July 20 2013

01:00

Jul 19, 2013 — Daniel Drezner & Heather Hurlburt

July 11 2013

06:34

Edward Snowden In His Own Words

We listen to Snowden’s account of what he’s up to and look in on the race between asylum and prosecution.

Guests

Greg Miller, intelligence reporter for The Washington Post and co-author of “The Interrogators: Inside the Secret War Against al Qaeda.” (@gregpmiller)

Geoffrey Stone, law professor at the University of Chicago Law School and author of “Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark.” He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project. She’s a former ethics adviser to the Department of Justice and became a whistleblower after disclosing that the FBI interrogated John Walker Lindh without an attorney; she wrote about her experience in “Traitor: The Whistleblower and the ‘American Taliban’” — read an excerpt below. (@JesselynRadack)

Video

Watch the second part of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s interview with Edward Snowden.

If you need to catch up, you can also watch the first part, released in June, of the same interview.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from “Traitor: The Whistleblower and the ‘American Taliban’” by Jesselyn Radack. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Our country has a love-hate relationship with whistleblowers. When one thinks of a whistleblower, images from movies such as The Insider or Erin Brokovich spring to mind; so do TIME Magazines’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002, when whistleblowers enjoyed a rare moment of admiration. One has visions of determined individuals risking it all to make explosive disclosures before Congress or on “60 Minutes.” The media glorifies some who risk everything to expose corruption and illegal activity and rightly so; these lionized individuals deserve every ounce of praise they receive.  But their happy outcomes are not typical–for every success story, there are a hundred stories of professional martyrdom.

Few paths are more treacherous than the one that challenges abuse of power and tries to make a meaningful difference.  Whistleblowers often find that they become the subject of the story. Any personal vulnerability they possess will be used against them, and through these smears, the whistleblower’s charges become a subordinate issue.  The Bush adinistration was expert at this subterfuge. Its vindictive response to its critics went beyond questioning their truthfulness, competence, and motives.  It sought to destroy their careers and livelihoods.

The conscientious employee is often portrayed as vengeful, unstable, or out for fame, profit, or self-aggrandizement. I have not been immune from such accusations, but the terms that have been used to describe me are far more incendiary: “traitor,” “turncoat,” and “terrorist sympathized.  The government paints a caricature of you and obsessively focuses on shooting the messenger rather than listening to the message.  The Obama administration has been even worse that Bush. Although I was the target of a federal criminal “leak” investigation, at least I was never indicted. Obama has now prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than any previous president, and than all past presidents combined.

From Tom’s Reading List

Der Spiegel: Edward Snowden Interview: The NSA and Its Willing Helpers — “In an interview conducted using encrypted e-mails, whistleblower Edward Snowden discusses the power of the NSA, how it is “in bed together with the Germans” and the vast scope of Internet spying conducted by the United States and Britain.” (Part I and Part II)

USA Today: 3 NSA Veterans Speak Out On Whistle-Blower: We Told You So — “When a National Security Agency contractor revealed top-secret details this month on the government’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet records, one select group of intelligence veterans breathed a sigh of relief. Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way.”

The Huffington Post: Edward Snowden: “Hero Or Traitor”? — “The problem, and it is a problem that must be taken seriously, is who gets to decide when classified information should be made public? Who gets to put the national security at risk? The solution must be the creation of a clearly defined and credible procedure through which would-be leakers can bring their concerns to an independent panel of experts who can make a formal and professional determination whether the information at issue should be declassified.”

Earlier Coverage

Listen to previous shows we’ve done on Edward Snowden.

June 10, 2013: Surveillance, National Security And The Constitution

June 24, 2013: ‘NSA Leaker’ Snowden On The Run

July 02 2013

04:10

Gettysburg 150 Years Later

It’s been 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg turned the Civil War and our history. A new book takes a soldier’s-eye view.  We put you on the battlefield.

Guests

Allen Guelzo, Professor of the Civil War era at Gettysburg College. His new book is “Gettysburg: The Last Invasion.”

David Blight, professor of American history at Yale University. His latest book is “American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.”

Gary Gallagher, professor of history at the University of Virginia. His new book is “Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty.”

Kyle Wichtendahl, reenactor at the Gettysburg battle reenactment, where he serves as aide-to-camp for the commanding Union general. He’s been involved in Civil War reenactment for 10 years.

From Tom’s Reading List

Yahoo News: Debunking the Myths of Gettysburg, 150 Years Later: Historian Allen Guelzo — “For something that happened 150 years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg still generates its share of controversy. And myth, according to historian Allen Guelzo, ‘grows like weed out of controversy.’”

The Atlantic: 150 Years of Misunderstanding the Civil War — “In early July, on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, pilgrims will crowd Little Round Top and the High Water Mark of Pickett’s Charge. But venture beyond these famous shrines to battlefield valor and you’ll find quiet sites like Iverson’s Pits, which recall the inglorious reality of Civil War combat.”

Washington Post: Reenactors swarm Gettysburg for tributes to Civil War’s turning point –  “Don Husler was sitting in the shade with the rest of the grimy Yankees, seeking respite from the heat and awaiting the Confederate onslaught, when two quick cannon shots boomed.”

Excerpt: ‘Gettysburg: The Last Invasion” by Allen Guelzo

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