Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
1:45 PM ET, 05/29/2009

Lolita C. Baldor writes for the Associated Press: "America has for too long failed to adequately protect the security of its computer networks, President Barack Obama said Friday, announcing he will name a new cyber czar to take on the job."

James Gordon Meek writes for the New York Daily News that Obama "also revealed today that his presidential campaign's computers were hacked by intruders who broke into sensitive files." (That actually was first reported by Newsweek right after the election.)

Devlin Barrett writes for the Associated Press: "The Obama administration asked a federal appeals court Thursday to halt the release of disturbing images of detainee abuse, saying the photos could incite violence in Pakistan as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan. The court papers filed in New York cite two partially secret statements from two top U.S. generals, David Petraeus and Ray Odierno. Such arguments failed to sway the court in the past....ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said the new filing by the Obama administration "has no new arguments" and will be opposed. She also criticized the Obama administration for redacting parts of the generals' arguments about the safety threats posed by the photos. 'It's troubling to us that not only is the government withholding the photographs, but it's also withholding its arguments for withholding the photographs,' said Singh."

Craig Whitlock and Karen DeYoung write in The Washington Post: "Rising opposition in the U.S. Congress to allowing Guantanamo prisoners on American soil has not gone over well in Europe. Officials from countries that previously indicated they were willing to accept inmates now say it may be politically impossible for them to do so if the United States does not reciprocate....European officials involved in the negotiations said Obama administration officials had assured them that some detainees who are not considered security threats would be released in the United States, while others would be prosecuted in U.S. courts." Obama wants to resettle at least 50 Guantanamo Bay prisoners in Europe.

Marc Ambinder blogs for the Atlantic: "President Obama isn't ready to back away from the state secrets privilege...Justice Department lawyers are expected to notify a judge [today] that it will not back away from its assertion of the privilege in the Al-Haramain case, even under the threat of sanctions."

Bobby Ghosh writes for Time that "the experiences of officials like [former FBI interrogator Ali] Soufan suggest that the utility of torture is limited at best and counterproductive at worst. Put simply, there's no definitive evidence that torture works. The crucial question going forward is, What does? How does an interrogator break down a hardened terrorist without using violence? Time spoke with several interrogators who have worked for the U.S. military as well as others who have recently retired from the intelligence services (the CIA and FBI turned down requests for interviews with current staffers). All agreed with Soufan: the best way to get intelligence from even the most recalcitrant subject is to apply the subtle arts of interrogation rather than the blunt instruments of torture."

Garance Franke-Ruta writes for The Washington Post that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday "denied a report in British newspaper the Daily Telegraph that photos showing detainees in Iraq being sexually abused were among those President Obama recently decided not to release." Here's the briefing transcript.

Peter Bergen and Katherin Tiedemann, writing in a New York Times op-ed, take issue with the Pentagon report made public on Tuesday that concluded that 74 of the 534 men who have been freed from Guantánamo were "confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorist activities." The findings "are very likely inflated," they write. "This is in part because the Pentagon includes on the list any released prisoner who is either 'confirmed' or just 'suspected' to have engaged in terrorism anywhere in the world, whether those actions were directed at the United States or not. And, bizarrely, the Defense Department has in the past even lumped into the recidivist category former prisoners who have done no more than criticize the United States after their release."

Michael Hirsh writes for Newsweek: "On a number of perilous fronts—Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Mideast—this most diplomatically oriented of American presidents, who came into office four months ago eager for 'engagement,' has few responsible or dependable parties with whom he can negotiate. As a result, despite Obama's best intentions, each of these foreign-policy problems is likely to grow much worse—possibly disastrously worse—before it gets any better."

Philip Elliott writes for the Associated Press: "President Barack Obama warned Thursday that if Congress doesn't deliver health care legislation by the end of the year, the opportunity will be lost, a plea to political supporters to pressure lawmakers to act. 'If we don't get it done this year, we're not going to get it done,' Obama told supporters by phone (audio, transcript) as he flew home on Air Force One from a West Coast fundraising trip."

Binyamin Appelbaum and Peter Whoriskey write in The Washington Post that senior administration officials "say they are focused solely on forcing critical financial repairs at GM and other companies in which the government plans to take large ownership stakes. They do not want to get dragged into the weeds of daily decision-making." But: "An array of advocacy groups, including unions, environmental advocates and shareholder activists, see opportunities to wrest long-sought concessions from businesses that are now beholden to taxpayers."

Bill Varner writes for Bloomberg: "The Obama administration took actions that averted a second Great Depression and now needs the American people to be patient as the recovery gathers steam, senior White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said."

Jeffrey M. Jones writes for Gallup: "So far in May, Barack Obama has averaged 65% job approval. Since World War II, only three of the previous eight presidents elected to their first terms -- Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan -- have had a higher average approval rating in May of their first year. Obama's average exceeds those of the three most recent presidents -- George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush."

The New York Times reports: "President Barack Obama remains by far the most popular world leader among people in major Western nations and is the one political figure on whom people consistently pin their hopes in the economic crisis, according to new polls conducted for the International Herald Tribune. About 80 percent of people in France, Germany, Italy and Spain have a positive view of Mr. Obama, a ratio that declines only slightly, to about 70 percent, in the other two countries surveyed, Britain and the United States."

Noelle Straub and Eric Bontrager write for Greenwire: "No logging or road project on tens of millions of forested acres will proceed without personal approval by the Agriculture Department's secretary for at least a year while the Obama administration decides how to handle a controversial Clinton-era roadless rule, officials said today."

Chris Christoff writes for the Detroit Free Press about former President George W. Bush's speech yesterday at the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. Bush "defended his decision to allow harsh interrogation of a terror suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., saying it was cleared by his lawyers to prevent what his advisors believed was another, imminent attack. 'I made a decision within the law to get information so I can say, I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people,' he said. 'I can tell you, the information gained saved lives.'"

Eartha Jane Melzer writes for the Michigan Messenger about Bush's "repeated references to the challenges he faced as commander in chief amid the 'fog of war.'" and how "during a crisis it can be difficult to get good information to make the best decisions."

Julie Mack writes in the Kalamazoo Gazette: "One subject that Bush didn't talk about was President Obama. 'Nothing I'm saying tonight is meant to criticize my successor,' Bush said. 'There are plenty of people who are weighing in on that, but I didn't like when former presidents criticized me, and I'm not going to do it to him. I wish him all the best.'"

But Bush chose not to distance himself from some of the most extreme criticism of his successor, either. Peter Hamby writes for CNN: "Bush was asked what he thinks about conservative pundits who claim the Obama administration's fiscal policies are opening the door to socialism. 'I've heard talk about that,' he said. 'I think the verdict is out. I think people are waiting to see what all this means.'"

And James Prichard writes for the Associated Press: "Flying on Air Force One, eating meals prepared by the White House kitchen staff and drawing inspiration from his encounters with U.S. military personnel were among things former President George W. Bush missed since leaving office, he said Thursday."

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