Samir’s Selection 03/07/2016 (p.m.)

  • Jeffrey Toobin on the discovery of a knife that may have been used to kill the ex-wife of O. J. Simpson.”… In my book, I assert without equivocation that I believe Simpson killed his ex-wife and her friend, on June 12, 1994. (The FX series is not as definitive on the question of Simpson’s guilt.) Simpson’s blood at the scene, the bloody footprints (in Simpson’s shoe size) leaving the scene, the blood on his Ford Bronco and on the glove found at his home (a matching pair with a glove found at the scene), plus Simpson’s history of violence against Nicole were more than adequate proof for me.Still, the prosecution left some unanswered questions. What was the murder weapon? And what happened to it? And how exactly did the murders take place in the crowded space in front of Nicole’s condominium?”

    tags: OJSimpson LosAngeles police crime JeffreyToobin

  • tags: OJSimpson LosAngeles killing 1990s USculture

    • When the events and information prove to be either definitive or a rather distasteful joke, the country can and probably will busy itself again with the salacious details of the victims’ lives, their brutal deaths and the man who millions of Americans believe got away with two murders. The verdict by the mostly black jury in Simpson’s 1995 double-murder trial has for more than two decades been widely lampooned and criticized. Simpson’s blood, after all, was found at the crime scene. But the jury’s refusal to convict him probably should have been understood as a national warning, one that is particularly relevant today.
    • When the unlawful and sometimes-deadly actions of some police officers go unobserved, unexamined and unpunished, it’s not just the lives of Americans of color — those disproportionately likely to suffer various forms of police and justice system abuse — that are devalued and rendered less secure. The entire concept of justice is eroded, and the process we use to try to render it prone to folly.
    • The connection between the kind of alleged brutality that made the L.A. Police Department infamous in the 1990s and a mostly black L.A. jury’s refusal to convict Simpson is real. It was the primary reason that large shares of black Americans and white Americans did not view the verdict the same way in the 1990s. (Only in 2015 did a majority among both say Simpson was guilty.) And that connection ranks among the primary reasons that more widespread allegations of police misconduct should be taken seriously today.
    • Of course, among the many differences between 1995 and 2016 is this: What the mostly black jury in the O.J. trial knew about the LAPD and its practices via the headlines, as well as their personal experiences and those of their family and friends, is today knowledge that much of America can have, if it so chooses. Today, there is a seemingly constant flow of cellphone and dash-cam videos of police officers beating, shooting, killing or maiming private citizens.
    • An ethical and effective police department in a democratic society should and must be able to withstand scrutiny. It is the linchpin of real public safety.
  • tags: MichaelHayden espionage interception secrecy torture terrorism CIA NSA ethics morality knowledge jargon transparency honesty accountability bookreview

    • They are no doubt driven by the same motives that lead other public figures to write autobiographies—money, narcissism, score-settling, concern for their place in history
    • Spooks in general have had a lot to answer for in the past decade and a half: the 9/11 attacks themselves, Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, secret prisons, torture, warrantless eavesdropping, the bulk collection of Americans’ data, and targeted killings.
    • “Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror” (Penguin Press) suffers from the usual problems of the official memoir. All autobiographies are self-serving, but those of public figures tend to be unapologetically so. Hayden includes liberal excerpts from a graduation speech he delivered at his alma mater, Duquesne University, and reports on the standing ovation that greeted him. “Playing to the Edge” is also badly written, with no trace of a ghostwriter or editor. Hayden is a devout Steelers fan, and his style is jock-bureaucratic—tough talk clotted with insider terminology. At one point, he writes, “I have spent my adult life working in American intelligence. It has been quite an honor. Generally well resourced. A global mission. No want of issues. And it was a hell of a ride.” At another: “The head of operations wanted to try the Thin Thread approach, retain US metadata that we were collecting in our foreign intelligence activities, encrypt it, limit access to it through a kind of ‘two key’ protocol, and then (when indicated) chain through the metadata to other contacts.”
    • Professional jargon—on Wall Street, in humanities departments, in government offices—can be a fence raised to keep out the uninitiated and permit those within it to persist in the belief that what they do is too hard, too complex, to be questioned. Jargon acts not only to euphemize but to license, setting insiders against outsiders and giving the flimsiest notions a scientific aura.
    • In 2014, when the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report, which singled out Hayden for misleading the committee in many instances, he lashed out even more furiously. The report is a damning document on the brutality of the C.I.A.’s practices, the shoddiness of its management, and the mendacity of its leaders. Hayden’s case against the report comes down to the fact that it was written by the committee’s “Democrat” members and staff. Hayden seems more ambivalent about eavesdropping than about torture. He admits that Stellarwind “did indeed raise important questions about the right balance between security and liberty, and Snowden’s disclosures no doubt accelerated and intensified that discussion.” And last week he sided with Apple in its privacy dispute with the F.B.I. But techniques like waterboarding and rectal hydration raise no questions for Hayden.
    • What’s strange is that Hayden knows this. He knows that the intelligence world is isolated from the public, and that, like so many other institutions, it has lost Americans’ trust. He seems to understand that keeping the senior Republicans and Democrats on the intelligence committees informed while imposing a gag order on them is no longer enough to win citizens’ confidence. He goes so far as to call this realization “Snowden’s ‘gift,’ ” referring to him as the “visible effect” of a “broad cultural shift that is redefining legitimate secrecy, necessary transparency, and what constitutes the consent of the governed.”

      This is ultimately why Hayden has come out of the shadows to write this still heavily shadowed book. He wants more openness, not out of any principled belief in government transparency but because it’s essential if his profession is going to survive. “If we are going to conduct espionage in the future,” he writes, “we are going to have to make some changes in the relationship between the intelligence community and the public it serves.” And, he adds, “we also need to explain to those with whom we intend to be more open that with that will come some increased risk. It can be no other way.” He isn’t wrong to say so, or to point out the bad faith of the agencies’ detractors who want to have it both ways.

    • “Far easier to criticize intelligence agencies for not doing enough when [political élites] feel in danger,” Hayden writes, “while reserving the right to criticize those agencies for doing too much when they feel safe.” The truth in this observation isn’t weakened by the fact that Hayden repeats it elsewhere at least twice, nearly word for word.
    • He’s a very imperfect bearer of a legitimate insight: that, if the American people and the intelligence world need each other, they can’t afford to speak mutually unintelligible languages. Imperfect because he failed his own standard of openness, first while in government—he battled any serious oversight of the intelligence agencies’ most controversial programs—and then again in this cheerful, overconfident account of his years there. George Tenet, in his more readable memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” spends a lot of time on his mistakes, especially on Iraq’s missing weapons of mass destruction. Hayden, by contrast, looks back and says, “I could be accused of grading my own work, but I believe that despite our flaws, we’re actually pretty good at this spy stuff.”
    • In a sense, the more the spies say, the less the public will trust them, because it’s secrecy that gives them the mystique of knowledge. The relationship is a little like that between teen-agers and their parents. We expect the intelligence people to keep us safe, we resent them for their intrusions and their failures, and we need to believe that they know better than we do in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.
  • The socioeconomic forces are real, but Trump is also the beneficiary of a long process of Republican intellectual decadence. Paul Ryan denounces Trump but not the Tea Party rhetoric that propelled his own political ascent. John McCain holds Trump in contempt, but selected as his running mate Sarah Palin, the Know-Nothing of Wasilla, one of Trump’s most vivid forerunners and supporters. Mitt Romney last week righteously slammed Trump as a “phony” and a misogynist, and yet in 2012 he embraced Trump’s endorsement and praised his “extraordinary” understanding of economics.

    The G.O.P. establishment may be in a state of meltdown, but this process of exploiting the darkest American undercurrents began with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy and, more lately, has included the birther movement and the Obama Derangement Syndrome. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who compete hard for the most extreme positions in conservatism, decry the viciousness and the vacuousness of Trump, but they started out by deferring to him––and now they ape his vulgarity in a last-ditch effort to keep pace. Insults. Bigotry. Nationally televised assurances of adequate genital dimensions. This is the political moment in which we live. The Republican Party, having spent years courting the basest impulses in American political culture, now sees the writing on the wall. It reads “Donald Trump,” in very big letters. 

    tags: DonaldTrump USpolitics UShistory conservative DavidRemnick

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