Last updated: April 14. 2014 11:46PM - 352 Views

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A troubling decision

When looking at the political climate over at least the past 20 years, it is difficult to say that special interest groups have not had an impact on the outcomes of various races at the national and state level.

This took another step this week when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to change the limits on contributions made to candidates at a federal level, parties and political action committees (PACs).

In the long-term outlook, this decision is troubling and could ultimately promote the agenda of a few more than the whole …

In the short-term, the ruling should not have an immediate impact on Ohio unless the current state laws are changed unexpectedly, but this sets up an interesting proposition for state lawmakers the next time they sit down to look at contribution limits.

The current Ohio contribution limits will be in place until February 2015.

One could view this as a win for those on the right, but make no mistake those on both sides will use this decision to their full advantage.

It is important for everyone to have free speech and the ability to voice their opinions, but no one’s voice, especially those coming in with an outside interest or large wallets, should have a louder voice than other citizens of the United States or a particular state.

Unfortunately, all this does in the end is continue diminishing the overall confidence citizens have in lawmakers, the government and the political process.

— The Ironton Tribune


Freedom for Israel’s spy

The release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard seemingly comes up in the context of every round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the mistaken belief that freeing a man who is quite simply a traitor to his country will make Israel more amenable to the U.S. view of how those talks should evolve.

Secretary of State John Kerry recently floated the possibility of Pollard’s release. The idea was that freeing Pollard would somehow keep the talks, which are preliminary talks about holding more talks, going. But before the issue could be sent to the White House for the necessary presidential pardon the preliminary negotiations fell apart on their own.

That made it increasingly unlikely that the parties would come up with anything substantive before the April 29 deadline to decide whether to pursue further talks.

Pollard, 59, was a civilian analyst for the U.S. Navy when he began spying for Israel. He was arrested in 1985 as he and his wife sought asylum at the Israeli embassy in Washington. Israel at first disavowed him, but he became something of a national hero in that country and was awarded Israeli citizenship in 1995.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked — at every meeting with a U.S. president going back to Ronald Reagan — that his spy be released. Each one has said no.

Pollard is eligible for parole next year, but there’s no guarantee he’ll get it. If he must be released, it should be as a reward for specific, concrete accomplishments that benefit both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, not as an inducement for two sides who don’t much want to work with each other to keep on talking.

— The Commercial Appeal


Exposing the CIA’s ‘dark side’

More than a year after it approved a report critical of the CIA’s interrogation and detention policies, the Senate Intelligence Committee has voted to make a portion of the document public. It’s now up to President Obama to ensure that the agency doesn’t mount a rear-guard attempt to censor or sanitize the committee’s findings in the name of national security.

Thanks to news reports and a report by the CIA’s inspector general, Americans long have been aware of both the broad outlines and some abhorrent details of the Bush administration’s mistreatment of suspected terrorists after 9/11. We know that suspects were transported for questioning to “black sites” abroad, and that two suspected Al Qaeda operatives, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, were subjected to waterboarding. And we have read the memos in which Bush administration lawyers used contorted reasoning to justify torture.

But the Intelligence Committee’s 6,200-word report, based on a review of millions of pages of documents, contains additional accounts of abuse, including (according to a Washington Post report) the alleged repeated dunking of a terrorism suspect in tanks of ice water at a site in Afghanistan. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee chairwoman who aggressively has sought its declassification, said the report “exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation.”

More important, those who have read the report say it concludes that waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” yielded little valuable intelligence that couldn’t have been obtained by other means.

Last week the committee voted to declassify the report’s 480-page executive summary along with 20 findings and conclusions, but that represents only the beginning of the disclosure process. The executive branch will now determine which portions of the document must be redacted to protect sensitive national security information.

The Central Intelligence Agency has promised that it will do its part to ensure that the declassification review proceeds “expeditiously.” But the agency complained that a previous version of the report contained serious errors — a charge echoed by the committee’s Republican vice chair — and it has a vested interest in suppressing information that would sully its reputation. That is why the president, who has sent mixed signals about the importance of confronting the abuses of the past, must make thorough and timely declassification of this report a personal priority.

— Los Angeles Times

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