By naming a special prosecutor to investigate prisoner abuse cases, including interrogation techniques during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder has assured the nation of a prolonged and contentious debate over how to fight a faceless enemy with potential serious damage to the CIA.
Turns out you can fear a government takeover of health care even if the government already took over your health care.
How else to explain the reservations of seniors like 85-year-old Dee Jollie, one of the millions of people covered by Medicare, the government health insurance program for Americans 65 and older, yet still have deep concerns about President Barack Obama's proposed health care overhaul?
"I think it'll be government control," Jollie said this week while waiting for her congressman to hold a health care town hall meeting at her upscale retirement home.
A year after the Bush administration abandoned its harshest interrogation methods, CIA operatives used severe sleep deprivation tactics against a terror detainee in late 2007, keeping him awake for six straight days with permission from government lawyers.
Interrogators kept the unidentified detainee awake by chaining him to the walls and floor of a cell, according to government officials and memos issued with an internal CIA report. The Obama administration released the internal report this week.
During the 1990s, most of us thought we were living in a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. We even spent the "peace dividend" -- cutting resources for intelligence and the military. The Cold War was over. We had no enemies worth worrying about. That was the accepted narrative of that giddy era.
The fact that Americans were being attacked with regularity by Islamist terrorists -- for example in New York City in 1993, at Khobar Towers in 1996, at two of our embassies in Africa in 1998, off the coast of Yemen in 2000 -- did not lead most politicians to conclude there was a crisis that needed to be addressed. As a result, the catastrophic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, came as a shock and a surprise.
This column is about the health-care debate, but first we must take a little diversionary walk -- because the weather is still fine and a nice walk is a healthy activity -- down to our lawyer's office.
As it happens, the lawyer occupies a special place of disrepute in the chronicle of unloved professions. Why, lawyers enjoy even less social standing than other public scoundrels such as journalists.
Of course, lawyers have always been an unloved lot. More than four centuries ago, William Shakespeare gave a rebellious character named Dick the Butcher the famous line: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
A sleepy Montana checkpoint along the Canadian border that sees about three travelers a day will get $15 million under President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan. A government priority list ranked the project as marginal, but two powerful Democratic senators persuaded the administration to make it happen.
Despite Obama's promises that the stimulus plan would be transparent and free of politics, the government is handing out $720 million for border upgrades under a process that is both secretive and susceptible to political influence. This allowed low-priority projects such as the checkpoint in Whitetail, Mont., to skip ahead of more pressing concerns, according to documents revealed to The Associated Press.
The Obama administration took office, in the new president's words, determined to look forward, not backward, and as part of that philosophy it was agreed that it would be unfair to prosecute frontline CIA agents for harsh, even unduly harsh, interrogation techniques that they believed were authorized by the Justice department and encouraged by the White House.
In 2004, the CIA's inspector general did an investigation of those interrogations and found much that was "inconsistent with the public policy positions that the United States has taken regarding human rights." Not only inconsistent but also very likely illegal under U.S. and international law.
With just two weeks of training, or about half the time it takes to become a truck driver, the CIA certified its spies as interrogation experts after 9/11 and handed them the keys to the most coercive tactics in the agency's arsenal.
It was a haphazard process, cobbled together in the months following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington by an agency that had never been in the interrogation business. The result was a patchwork program in which rules kept shifting and the goals often were unclear.
At times, the interrogators went too far, even beyond the wide latitude they were given under the Bush administration's flexible guidelines, according to newly unclassified documents released Monday. Interrogators took the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding beyond what was authorized. Mock executions were held. Family members were threatened. There were hints of rape.
Call me a socialist -- and certainly someone will -- but in light of President Barack Obama's diminishing insistence on a public option in the health care reform package that is developing in Congress, it's worth noting that, despite the noisy support for the status quo arising from the right, many Americans would welcome significant change in our health care system, which even some Republicans admit is broken.
You would like to think that we learned some lessons from the exotic financial products that did so much to push us into recession.
But maybe not.
In a disturbing report, the Associated Press says that financial institutions have begun repackaging old mortgage securities -- some of them good, some of them not so good -- and selling them as top-rated bonds.