Many Questions To Be Answered, Publicly And Quickly (II)

While the Obama Administration and the State Department are trying to keep a lid on what really happened in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi — because they are treating it as a “crime scene” — the news media is doing its job.

CNN has an article about warnings that purportedly were given to U.S. officials in Libya about the deteriorating security situation there.  The New York Times reports on the “problem of Libya’s militias,” which indicates that since the overthrow of Muammar el-Qaddafi Libya has become a fractionalized, lawless place dominated by heavily armed, autonomous “miliitias” with little sense of central control.  A BBC story quotes the president of the Libya’s interim assembly as saying that the Benghazi incident was carefully planned by foreigners who came to Libya months ago and have been plotting the attack since then.  The latter story, of course, undercuts the notion that the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens was a spontaneous reaction to an inflammatory internet video.  And the photos of the burnt-out remains of the consulate, published in newspapers and on websites across the globe, demonstrate how devastating the attack was.

These reports raise obvious questions about the real cause of the Benghazi attack and whether the Obama Administration, the U.S. State Department, and the intelligence community ignored clear danger signs — or even explicit advance warnings — about the security situation in Libya.  These questions can’t be adequately answered by spin-oriented flacks like White House press secretary Jay Carney.  Instead, those questions need to be asked, in a public forum, and answered under oath by knowledgeable Administration officials whose jobs involve collecting intelligence, ensuring that our diplomatic outposts are adequately safeguarded, and communicating with host countries about embassy security.  We deserve to know how this fiasco happened.

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Let’s Not Forget About The First Amendment

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a man who allegedly was involved in making The Innocence of Muslims — the video that the Obama Administration says sparked riots in in the Middle East — has been picked up by police in California.

The stated reason for the pick-up is that Nakoula, who has served time in prison on fraud and identity theft charges, may have violated the terms of his probation.  Those conditions barred him from owning or using devices with access to the Web without prior approval.  Although Nakoula apparently is not under arrest, as he left his home he was accompanied by a large number of uniformed deputies.  In pictures taken of the event, he is wearing a floppy hat and has his face wrapped in a towel; he says he fears for his safety and that of his family.

I’m not defending a convicted fraudster who may have violated the terms of his probation, but I am concerned about the First Amendment.  Consider the message sent by this incident:  An inflammatory video is posted on the internet; Muslims in Egypt and Libya storm our diplomatic outposts and, in Benghazi, kill the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans; members of the Obama Administration repeatedly express their disgust about the video; the Egyptian government says the creator of the video should be charged with a crime . . . and then the man is picked up for questioning about a potential parole violation.  Is that sequence of events really conveying the message we want to send to radical Muslims who, before The Innocence of Muslims was created, found many other reasons to engage in angry anti-American protests?

There’s a reason why the First Amendment is the first amendment.  Freedom of speech is the core freedom we enjoy, from the newspaper reporter to the internet blogger to the person who may harshly criticize our government without fear.  I don’t think we should be suggesting, by our actions, that we will cooperate with foreign governments in cracking down on whatever speech Muslims might conceivably find offensive.  Instead, I’d like to see the Obama Administration engage in a vigorous, public defense of our free speech rights.  The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the other governments in the Middle East, need to understand that we stand by our First Amendment rights and aren’t going to meekly submit to intimidation or demands that those rights be restricted.

Living With The Walking Classic

This morning is the New Albany Walking Classic.

That means that our neighborhood in the North of Woods section, which is right at the one-mile marker, will be blocked off and inaccessible to cars as thousands of walkers of different sizes, shapes, and capabilities walk past, take a tour around New Albany, and then come  back again.  We and our neighbors always wonder what would happen if someone had a medical issue or got an emergency call and had to leave during the Classic.  Fortunately, that hasn’t happened.  We just try to plan things so that we can hole up in our houses as the hordes power-walk past — and it does give us something to chat with the neighbors about.

There’s always lots of entertainment for the walkers:  the high school band, cheerleaders from nearby schools, a string quartet, and rock musicians all have their little performance areas set up.  Although it’s a bit inconvenient for some of us, it’s a good event for the community and brings a lot of people here.