This isn’t a story about whether one agrees with Edward Snowden’s decision to leak classified National Security Agency documents, or what one thinks of Glenn Greenwald’s journalism. It is a story about whether sweeping powers passed with the understanding they’d be used against terrorists will henceforth be marshaled against anyone Western governments want to target, even if there is zero chance that they are associated with Al Qaeda or its affiliates. This is a story about whether national security journalism is already being treated as terrorism so that government officials can bring more powerful tools to bear against leaks of classified information. And it’s a story about the impropriety of targeting the loved ones of journalists in adversarial relationships with the government in order to intimidate them or others.
I don’t see how anyone who confronts Obama’s record with clear eyes can enthusiastically support him. … How can you vilify Romney as a heartless plutocrat unfit for the presidency, and then enthusiastically recommend a guy who held Bradley Manning in solitary and killed a 16-year-old American kid? If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes. … Keen on Obama’s civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama.
—  Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.
Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving,” the news organization reported in a recent article. “All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime,” the small survey found. “Officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping.” These weren’t one-off events. “The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them.
—   The NYPD Officers Who See Racial Bias in the NYPD - Conor Friedersdorf , The Atlantic.

The return of the torture debate is striking because its apologists no longer feel the need to advocate for a narrow exception to prevent an American city from being nuked or a busload of children from dying. In the jubilation over getting bin Laden, they’re instead employing this frightening standard: torture of multiple detainees is justified if it might produce a single useful nugget that, combined with lots of other intelligence, helps lead us to the secret location of the highest value terrorist leader many years later. It’s suddenly the new baseline in our renewed national argument.

That’s torture creep.

—  The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf on the renewed torture debate taking hold of American politics
Right-leaning populists regard the nexus of big finance and big government as irredeemably corrupt; left-leaning populists agree! Alone, neither group can muster a sizable enough coalition to challenge the status quo. How convenient for the establishment that they’re so easily pitted against one another.
Sarah Palin documentary not exactly off to the best start
  • ten number of theaters the Sarah Palin documentary, “The Undefeated,” opened in this weekend — mostly conservative test markets
  • three people were in a recent Orange County showing — including a fairly lonely reviewer for The Atlantic; the other two left after 20 minutes source

» A pretty bad test weekend: While some estimate that Palin’s film could make as much as $4 million over its entire run — good for a rally-the-troops conservative film — the weekend that they chose to test it is one where most filmgoers of all political persuasions are preoccupied with Harry Potter. But one thing to keep in mind — if she decides to run, the film could do a lot better. For what it’s worth, the other two girls in the theater with Atlantic editor Conor Friedersdorf probably thought “The Undefeated” was an action movie, so maybe she’ll get some business from confused moviegoers.

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We’re often told how precise drone strikes are. Obama Administration officials have called them surgical. If a surgery were happening in the building next door I wouldn’t be worried about getting nicked by the scalpel. Would you be worried for your safety if you were 100 yards away from drone strike? Say you’re laying in bed one night, and in the house next door, a terrorist is laying in his bed.

Would you want a drone strike to take him out?

If next door is too close for comfort, do you think the U.S. military or the CIA should be allowed to carry out drone strikes on terrorists with innocent people next door?
What does “better than the Republicans” get you if it means that executive privilege keeps expanding, the drones keep killing innocents and inflaming radicals and destabilizing regions, the Pentagon budget keeps growing, civil liberties keep being eroded, wars are waged without Congressional permission, and every future president knows he or she can do the same because at this point it doesn’t even provoke a significant backlash from the left? Is the dysfunction of the Republican Party license to oppose those policies less vociferously than they were opposed during the Bush Administration?
Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama
Maybe he is the “lesser of the two evils,” as I don’t think Romney has any redeeming qualities, but as a matter of conscience, I can never endorse someone with this kind of record on human rights, civil liberties, or the economy.
  1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue. 
  2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama’s kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.  
  3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.
The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf points out a report the magazine did in 2000 on security measures implemented in the wake of the last major shooting in Colorado, at Columbine High School:

Historically, the police in the United States have employed a standard response when confronted with armed suspects in schools, malls, banks, post offices, and other heavily populated buildings. The first officers to arrive never rushed in. Instead they set up perimeters and controlled the scene. They tried to contain the suspects, and called in a rigorously trained Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The SWAT team arrived, assumed positions to keep the suspects pinned down, and negotiated with them until they surrendered. SWAT teams stormed buildings only when necessary to save lives, such as when hostages were being executed one by one.

Today, however, police officers are setting aside traditional tactics. They are being taught to enter a building if they are the first to arrive at the scene, to chase the gunman, and to kill or disable him as quickly as possible. This sweeping change in police tactics–variously called rapid-response, emergency-response, or first-responder–is a direct result of the shootings that occurred at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20 of last year, which was the worst in a series of shootings in schools across the United States in the 1990s. 

You have to wonder how much this has held up since then, and how much this sort of training helped tonight. (ht pbump)

[L]ook for allies, not heretics. Someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is an ally, not an enemy to denounce for not being a true libertarian. Someone who agrees with you 1 percent of the time, on just a single issue, is someone you can work with in good faith on that issue. And if you do, odds are they’ll listen more closely to your other ideas.

Conor Friedersdorf, “How to Safeguard Liberty through Discourse

This should be printed out in 70 pt. font and pasted on every libertarian’s bathroom mirror. No, make that everyone interested in politics at all. Seriously, this is so key.

Holed up in a redwood forest on the Northern California coast, the nearest McDonald’s two hours away, I clicked through to some photos of Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York City, and saw that one of their signs displayed in big block letters 46 words that I wrote! They’re being held aloft by an attractive 20-something blond woman I’ve never met before.

This is the story of how they got there – or at least the small part of it I know, which is all that’s required to see why it could only happen now, and how political engagement in America is changing.

Winners and Losers of the GOP Showdown. Conor Friedersdorf breaks down last night’s discussion:

The winners in last night’s GOP debate?

The Fox News Channel was the biggest. The cable network’s moderators asked questions that were reasonably tough, well-researched, and less flawed than is typical. America could always do a lot better when it comes to what is asked of its presidential candidates. Relatively speaking, however, kudos are owed, even if former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson got a silly question about what reality TV show he would host if given the chance. (He flubbed it too – the answer is clearly “The Amazing Race.”)

Libertarians had a great night too: they accounted for two-fifths of the people on stage for the only time in memory, and were allowed to make their points without being attacked because none of the other candidates saw them as a threat.

Read the rest of the story and learn about the night’s losers at The Atlantic.

If U.S. drone strikes put American wedding parties similarly at risk would we tolerate our targeted-killing program for a single day more? Our policy persists because we put little value on the lives of foreign innocents. Even putting them through the most horrific scene imaginable on their wedding day is but a blip on our media radar, easily eclipsed by a new Beyonce album.

Welcome to the party Conor, you super-genius:

Suddenly it is imperative that Congress investigate details surrounding the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens. I’ve never felt that way before. But Drew Griffin’s scoop* changed my mind. (via The Attack in Benghazi: Worth Investigating After All - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic)