So Much For Trials

In reviewing the opinions of the Supreme Court in their Hamdan decision today, it seems pretty clear what action the Bush administration will take in the future with the detainees of the war on terror. More to the point, we know what action they will not take, at least if we rely on Justice Stevens’ opinion. On page 80, in section VII of his opinion, Stevens writes:

We have assumed, as we must, that the allegations made in the Government’s charge against Hamdan are true. We have assumed, moreover, the truth of the message implicit in that charge—viz., that Hamdan is a dangerous individual whose beliefs, if acted upon, would causegreat harm and even death to innocent civilians, and who would act upon those beliefs if given the opportunity. It bears emphasizing that Hamdan does not challenge, and we do not today address, the Government’s power to detain him for the duration of active hostilities in order to prevent such harm. But in undertaking to try Hamdanand subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in thisjurisdiction.

Shorter Stevens: Don’t attempt to hold trials at all for GWOT detainees, and you will have no problems with us. That affirms the treatment of these detainees as POWs in some sense, but in that effort, it makes clear that these detainees have no rights to any court. Stevens only says that if the government wants to try them, then the government must use civil courts, a strange ruling nonetheless when one reviews the relevant articles of the Geneva Convention.
I’m satisfied with that agreement. Lock all of them up until Islamofascists surrender or die. When the Islamist terror networks give up their war on the United States, then we will release them. Until then, they can remain in Guantanamo Bay or wherever we set up detention facilities for them.

Olmert Holds Off On Northern Gaza Operation

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has delayed the IDF incursion into northern Gaza due to an unexpected and unspecified diplomatic initiative, the Jerusalem Post reports. Olmert says that the initiative has paid no dividends as of yet, but apparently he wants to play it out a little further:

In a meeting with Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered the delay of an IDF incursion into northern Gaza . Government sources emphasized that the order was not a cancellation, but rather a postponement.
The delay is related to an undisclosed development on the diplomatic front.
Earlier Thursday, Peretz revealed that a “surprising diplomatic breakthrough” was possible in the attempts to release kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit, but did not elaborate on the development.
“We are in one of the most crucial stages of establishing the rules of conduct between us and the Palestinian terror organizations,” he asserted.
His aides, however, said that diplomatic efforts “were not bearing fruit,” but added that a new development was possible soon.

The initiative has not kept the Israelis from pressing their incursion in the south. The IDF has to ensure that the breached southern border does not allow the terrorists holding Gilad Shalit to escape into Egypt. They want to box the terrorists into as small an area as possible in Gaza. If the situation with Shalit changes for the worst, the IDF wants to have a concentration of targets to attack.
Arab diplomats have no illusions about any diplomacy involving Hamas. The Post reports that they have started to flee Gaza, fearing the results of this standoff. That report comes not from Israel but from the Hebollah television network Al-Manar. They understand that the Israelis mean business on this mission, and that without Hamas surrendering Shalit and any other Israelis they have abducted, the Israelis intend on inflicting serious damage to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and any terrorist infrastructure they can find.
This development should mature in the next few hours. Olmert will not wait forever for the diplomats to provide a solutiion and to return Israeli hostages to the IDF.

Bush Economy Continues To Impress

Although the national media has not covered it in any depth whatsoever, the Bush economy has turned into one of the strongest booms in the last several years. Despite predictions that it had run its course, the opening quarter of this year shows that we continue to expand at a phenomenal rate of 5.6%:

The economy sprang out of a year-end rut and zipped ahead in the opening quarter of this year at a 5.6 percent pace, the fastest in 2 1/2 years and even stronger than previously thought.
The new snapshot of gross domestic product for the January-to-March period exceeded the 5.3 percent growth rate estimated a month ago, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The upgraded reading — based on more complete information — matched economists’ forecasts.
The stronger GDP figure mostly reflected an improvement in the country’s trade deficit, which was much less of a drag than previously estimated.

The economy does not get much press in a Republican administration unless the news is bad. That isn’t just the fault of the media, but also of the people who run communications at the Treasury and the White House. One of the reasons that John Snow had been rumored to be on his way out for so long was the lack of attention given to the four years of economic expansion under George Bush. Apparently, this trend still continues.
One might expect that a better-than-expected trade deficit might get some attention, especially considering the controversies drummed up by political opponents over outsourcing. Again, the improvement will probably escape the notice of the media, due to the lack of bad news.
Cheer up. though, because analysts believe the Q2 figure will drop to around 3%. We can then expect headlines screaming that growth fell by almost half between the two quarters, with plenty of doomsayers to explain why the Bush tax policies are to blame. At that point, they will have to report that Q1 showed such excellent economic strength and hope that viewers and readers can’t connect the dots.

Why Bush Got Angry

Scott Shane provides an interesting and balanced look at George Bush’ reaction to the publication of the covert Swift intel program, ironically in today’s New York Times. In it, Shane acknowledges the effect that his newspaper’s reporting will have on efforts to track terrorist financing:

Ever since President Bush vowed days after the Sept. 11 attacks to “follow the money as a trail to the terrorists,” the government has made no secret of its efforts to hunt down the bank accounts of Al Qaeda and its allies.
But that fact has not muted the fury of Mr. Bush, his top aides and many members of Congress at the decision last week by The New York Times and other newspapers to disclose a centerpiece of that hunt: the Treasury Department’s search for clues in a vast database of financial transactions maintained by a Belgium-based banking consortium known as Swift. …
Experts on terror financing are divided in their views of the impact of the revelations. Some say the harm in last week’s publications in The Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal may have been less in tipping off terrorists than in putting publicity-shy bankers in an uncomfortable spotlight.
“I would be surprised if terrorists didn’t know that we were doing everything we can to track their financial transactions, since the administration has been very vocal about that fact,” said William F. Wechsler, a former Treasury and National Security Council official who specialized in tracking terrorism financing.
But Mr. Wechsler said the disclosure might nonetheless hamper intelligence collection by making financial institutions resistant to requests for access to records.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if these recent articles have made it more difficult to get cooperation from our friends in Europe, since it may make their cooperation with the U.S. less politically palatable,” Mr. Wechsler said.

The problem did not come from the knowledge of our efforts to track financing; it comes from the exposure of the specific tactics we used to do so. As my previous post on Canada shows, that exposure has created pressure on those people who cooperated with American intel agencies to track those transactions. The damage will not limit itself to that particular effort either, but to all instances where we need to discreetly receive cooperation from allies. The Paper of Record has made sure than no one can rely on American discretion.
The House has competing resolutions regarding this revelation, as Shane reports. Republicans have proposed one that supports the Swift effort and scolds unnamed media outlets for jeopardizing national-security efforts. The Democrats have offered an alternative that skips over the generic finger-wagging. Neither resolution has any meaning or teeth, and both should be withdrawn as an embarrassment to the politicians who sponsored them.
Instead of meaningless resolutions, Congress needs to hold hearings immediately on the rash of leaks coming from our intel agencies and Department of Defense. They need to demand an investigation by the Department of Justice that will identify the perpetrators and charge them with the felonies they have committed by their unauthorized release of classified information.
We need to forget about prosecuting the Times for the releases. That dog won’t hunt politically, and legally it will be a necessarily tough sell. The people who leaked this information, however, violated a number of laws in doing so. The reporters involved in these stories need to have subpoenas issued to them for their testimony — and if they do not cooperate, then they need to sit in jail until they do.

Bush Loses On Hamdan

The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the Bush administration, ruling that the US cannot stage military trials for detainees captured in the war on terror. The court ruled 5-3 to overturn the appellate court ruling on Hamdan, relying oddly on the Geneva Convention although the enemy in this war does not qualify for its protections:

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The ruling, a rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and Geneva conventions.
The case focused on Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who worked as a bodyguard and driver for Osama bin Laden. Hamdan, 36, has spent four years in the U.S. prison in Cuba. He faces a single count of conspiring against U.S. citizens from 1996 to November 2001.

I haven’t read the decision, but the reliance on the Geneva Convention seems strange. The convention binds nations when dealing with other signatories, not with those who have not agreed to reciprocity. The terrorists we have captured do not wear uniforms to distinguish themselves from civilians; in fact, they take great pains to hide themselves among civilians, deliberately target civilians, and use civilians as human shields. Applying Geneva Convention protections to these terrorists undermines the primary reason for these conventions: protection of civilians. They now will pay no penalty for their disregard for the rules of war, thanks to SCOTUS.
In fact, if one follows the rules of Geneva, these prisoners would not get access to criminal courts, either. Article 84 makes this clear:

A prisoner of war shall be tried only by a military court, unless the existing laws of the Detaining Power expressly permit the civil courts to try a member of the armed forces of the Detaining Power in respect of the particular offence alleged to have been committed by the prisoner of war.

Since members of our armed forces would face a court-martial for crimes against civilians during a time of war, this tends to negate the exception offered under 84. Article 96 states:

Without prejudice to the competence of courts and superior military authorities, disciplinary punishment may be ordered only by an officer having disciplinary powers in his capacity as camp commander, or by a responsible officer who replaces him or to whom he has delegated his disciplinary powers.

Article 97 also states:

Prisoners of war shall not in any case be transferred to penitentiary establishments (prisons, penitentiaries, convict prisons, etc.) to undergo disciplinary punishment therein.

The Convention forbids criminal trials for those captured in war, except in cases of discipline breaches at the holding facility or POW camp. Prisoners must be held until the end of the conflict, and then repatriated to their nation of origin. All that the Convention allows is a military tribunal to determine their status under the rules of war, ie, whether they qualify as POWs. SCOTUS seems to argue that we must violate the Geneva Conventions in order to uphold them.
The opinion should have some interesting tap-dancing. In any case, the Supreme Court has effectively negated the ability for us to detain terrorists. Instead, we will likely see more of them die, since the notion of having the servicemen who captured these prisoners forced to appear to testify to their “arrest” is not only ridiculous but would require us to retire combat units as a whole whenever their prisoners appear for trial.
Congress needs to correct this issue immedately. The mischief that this enables will not only hamstring this war on terror, but any future war we may be forced to wage.

Canada Balks At Swift Program

The backlash from the Times continues today, this time in Ottawa. Canadian politicians have expressed concern over the use of SWIFT data to track terrorist financing, giving the floundering Liberals an issue to exploit against the ascendant Conservatives:

Bank of Canada governor David Dodge knew in 2002 that the U.S. government wanted data from an international banking organization for use in its war on terror. … Like other central bankers around the world, Dodge does not appear to have raised any red flags in the past four years.
John McCallum, finance critic for the federal Liberals, said Canadians should be worried if personal information was sent to the CIA.
It would fly in the face of Canadian law and banking practice, said McCallum, a senior executive with Royal Bank of Canada before joining former prime minister Paul Martin’s cabinet as minister and secretary of state for financial institutions. …
No one involved with the Canadian banking system, SWIFT or the U.S. government will say what Canadian financial data, if any, might have been seen by U.S. authorities, but Canada’s privacy commissioner is looking into the program.

This should put to rest the argument that “everyone knew we were tracking financial data” as an excuse for the actions of the New York Times. Of course everyone knew we tracked financial transactions in our efforts to defeat terrorism; we’ve talked about that from the start of the war. George Bush made that point in his September 20 speech. What the terrorists did not know — and what the Times revealed — were the specific tactics involved.
Now that this has been revealed, we have embarrassed our allies and put them in politically vulnerable positions. The head of the Canadian banking system had full knowledge of our program, and he knew better than to talk about it. Now that the Times has blown the program and his involvement in it, he may well get removed from his position. At the least, he will be forced to make a number of explanations about his cooperation with our efforts, and likely the Commons will want to know specifics about the kind of data released — which will give the terrorists an even clearer picture of our covert tactics against them.
How many more nations will follow Canada’s lead? Belgium has already announced an investigation into SWIFT and its managers for their participation. The nations who provided us with cooperation in our efforts to fight terrorism have found embarrassment, criminal investigation, and potential career catastrophes as a result of their assistance to the US.
How many people will want to help us now? How many financial managers will agree to help us track terrorists through global banking systems now that we have shown ourselves so inept at keeping secrets? For that matter, this incident will reflect on our intel services across all units — and it will act as a powerful disincentive for individuals and nations to give us any cooperation or assistance in any future program that protects our national security.
This is the damage that the New York Times has wrought on our nation. Bill Keller and his ace reporters have done much more than kneecap our ability to find terrorists through their financial transactions. They have discredited American intelligence services, aided by a handful of criminals who violated their security clearances to have our covert tactics blabbed to the world by the Times. This is what happens when unelected, benighted, arrogant fools decide that they have the right to determine what classified information should be publicized, with the motivation of profit over national interest.

France Blasts Israel; Palis Invade Egypt

France leveled criticism at Israel this morning for its incursion into Gaza, the Jerusalem Post reports. Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy condemned Israel’s arrests of senior Hamas leadership, now up to 60, and insisted that diplomacy should be used instead of violence:

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy condemned on Thursday the arrest of over 60 Hamas members by Israeli forces early in the morning. He said that diplomacy was the only solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that political figures should not be arrested.
Israel stated that the arrests were made as part of a criminal investigation into the Hamas officials’ involvement in a terrorist organization. Israeli officials insisted that the detainees would be entitled to legal representation, and would be released if it were to be found that the suspicions against them were unfounded.
Over 60 Hamas members, including ministers in the Palestinian Authority parliament, were arrested overnight Wednesday throughout the West Bank.
Detainees included such senior figures as Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek, Labor Minister Muhammed Barghouti, parliament member Mohamemd Abu Teir and the mayors of Kalkilya and Jenin. Army Radio revealed that Deputy Prime Minister Naser a-Din Shaer was not arrested, as was reported earlier.
In the cities of Ramallah, Nablus, and Bethlehem security forces arrested the men and took them to a military detention camp to be interrogated under the suspicion of being involved in terror activities against Israel.

This, of course, completely ignores the role that the ruling party of Hamas played in the days leading up to the Israeli incursion. After Palestinians of some faction — none have really taken credit — invaded Israel, killed two soldiers and abducted a third, Israel appealed to the Palestinian Authority to release Gilad Shalit. Hamas refused to cooperate and instead demanded a release of numerous prisoners in Israeli jails, criminals who got caught committing crimes and convicted in open trials.
When Hamas decided to act as agents of kidnappers and provocateurs, they gave official sanction to an act of wat against Israel — as if the constant bombardment of Kassam rockets from Gaza didn’t already provide a casus belli. The Israelis took Hamas at its word, decided that diplomacy would not resolve the problem, and took action. The Israelis have used diplomacy for the last fifteen years, and to no avail; the Palestinians have gone backwards in that time. Their ruling party will not recognize Israel nor the agreements that Israeli diplomacy gained during that time.
Is France really that clueless? No; the French have had no problem using military force to resolve their own issues, including a massacre of civilians in the Ivory Coast and hiring mercenaries to conduct a coup in Comoros. The notion of diplomacy has a certain elasticity for the French — everyone should use it except themselves. That seems especially applicable in the case of Israel, for reasons that should surprise no one familiar with the Jews in French history.
The Israelis owe nothing to France, and their criticism is not only baseless but transparently hypocritical. Diplomacy does not work with people who do not wish to bargain. Hamas made its bed, and now Israel will force them to lie in it.
The Palestinians themselves, meanwhile, simply cannot stay within their own borders. They have blown up part of the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, and the Egyptians have sent troops to the breach to keep Palestinians out. Dozens apparently made it through before it could be secured:

Palestinian militants detonated a land mine near the border with Egypt on Thursday, blowing open a large hole in a wall near the border, witnesses and officials said. …
Palestinian security personnel formed a human cordon to prevent people from pushing through the gaping hole, and hurdling a second, border wall less than 100 meters (yards) away, witnesses said.
On the Egyptian side, soldiers gathered to prevent people from breaching the Palestinian cordon and officials imposed a curfew near the blast site, said Ahmed el-Masri, director of police in the Egyptian border town of Rafah.

The terrorists apparently created the nine-foot gap to get out of Gaza ahead of the IDF. Egypt has no love of terrorists after the series of bombings in the Sinai, and they will no doubt want to make repairs as soon as possible. Perhaps this might cause the Palestinians to reflect on why no nation in the area wants them around.

Did The Palestinians Fire WMD At Israel?

Reuters reports that Palestinian terrorists have claimed an attack on Israel that they say used a chemical weapon warhead (via 4 The Little Guy):

A spokesman for gunmen in the Gaza Strip said they had fired a rocket tipped with a chemical warhead at Israel early on Thursday.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the claim by the spokesman from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.

This follows the AAMB claim this weekend of WMD capability. The Israelis, however, can confirm neither the chemical attack nor any attack as described by the AAMB. So far, then, it appears that the terrorists have no WMD except in their own minds.
Hopefully, that remains the case. If they do start using chemical weapons in their attacks, the Americans should take a serious interest in how the Palestinians acquired these weapons, and where they originated. While Israel looks to Syria for the mastermind of the kidnappings and the attacks on their troops, the US may want to look closer at Syria as a repository of the missing WMD from Saddam Hussein’s reign.

Israel Captures Hamas Ministers As Palestinians Kill Hostage

Israeli forces rounded up dozens of Hamas ministers in the West Bank as the Gaza incursion continued. Palestinian terrorists also announced that they had killed one of their hostages, the teenager kidnapped just as Israel entered Gaza:

Israeli forces arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister and dozens of other Hamas officials early Thursday and pressed their incursion into Gaza, responding to the abduction of one of its soldiers.
Adding to the tension, a Palestinian militant group said it killed an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped in the
West Bank. Israeli security officials said Eliahu Asheri’s body was found buried near Ramallah. They said he was shot in the head, apparently soon after he was abducted on Sunday. …
Army Radio said the arrested Hamas leaders might be used to trade for the captured soldier. Israel had refused earlier to trade prisoners for the soldier’s release.
More than 30 lawmakers were detained, according to Palestinian security officials. Among them were Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer, Labor Minister Mohammed Barghouti and two other ministers in the West Bank.

The arrests of the Hamas officials puts quite a different spin on the hostage negotiations now. Since Hamas has taken responsibility for the kidnappings and refused to intercede to release Gilad Shalit, and since the Palestinians keep committing acts of war against Israel, then their political leadership becomes fair game in war. Now that a few dozen Hamas leaders sit in Israeli jails, the terms of the kidnappers may be changing soon.
However, one hostage will not come home at all. Eliahu Asheri, a teenage civilian captured by Hamas terrorists, was executed by his abductors today. IDF forces found his charred body and identified it later. According to Palestinian sources, they shot him in the head shortly after his kidnapping.
If Shalit does not get released soon, the IDF may come looking for more Palestinian Authority officials.

Peretz Gives Order For Stage Two Of Gaza Incursion

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz reacted to the additional abduction claimed by the Palestinians by giving a green light to the second stage of the Israeli incursion into Gaza. The IDF will roll into northern Gaza and begin a vise manuever on the region as Israel solidifies its grip on Rafah:

Less than 24 hours after the IDF entered Gaza in the biggest operation since disengagement last summer, Defense Minister Amir Peretz gave the green light on Wednesday evening for the second part of the IDF Gaza incursion. The IDF was poised to enter northern Gaza.
IAF planes will distribute flyers on Wednesday night in the Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun areas in the northern Gaza Strip, warning local residents that they are endangering their lives by being in the vicinity of Kassam launch sites. …
The Hamas-led Palestinian government called for a prisoner swap with Israel, saying the Gaza offensive would not secure the soldier’s release. Hamas-affiliated militants holding the hostage previously made that demand, but this was the first time the government did. Israeli has ruled out a deal.
Earlier, IAF aircraft struck a Hamas training camp in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah on Wednesday afternoon, witnesses said.

The Israelis rejected the call for a so-called “prisoner swap”, with Hamas attempting to trade Gilad Shalit and now an unnamed 62-year-old for all of the Palestinian juveniles in Israeli jails. Unfortunately, Israel has agreed to these one-sided trades with terrorists in the past, leading Hamas to believe that the Israelis would do business as usual. The second stage of the Gaza operation is a response that Israel should have given before to terrorist blackmail, and it certainly sends the message that this government will not do business as usual.
The Israelis have poured a lot of resources into Gaza in this mission. At some point, Israel will need to mobilize additional forces to protect itself against an opportunistic attack from Syria, the only one of Israel’s neighbors still dumb enough to try something against the Israelis. If the Israelis decide to keep this mission going, they may call up more reserves soon.