Posted on December 18, 2012 in Countdown

We start this Countdown by offering our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families that were affected by the terrible tragedy that struck the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut last week. As the debate over gun control and mental health-care intensifies over the coming months, we hope that our political representatives will make the right decisions to reduce the likelihood of mass shootings in the future. You can read Jim's column on the Sandy Hook tragedy here.

Is Hagel the Next Secretary of Defense?

Topping President Obama’s potential picks for the post of Secretary of Defense is Chuck Hagel, a moderate former Republican Senator from Nebraska. Hagel, a proponent of reasonable Middle East policy (including a cautious approach with Iran), was the first Republican senator to criticize the Iraq war. He is also a supporter of Israel, but his mere refrain from toeing the AIPAC line and supporting Israel’s most destructive policies has caused a manufactured controversy, predictably created by misguided right-wing “supporters” of Israel, including people tied to AIPAC. By the assessment of Josh Gerstein of Politico, "Few believe Hagel’s troubles would lead the Senate to vote him down, but Obama will have to assess how big a furor pro-Israel forces will raise and whether the White House wants to deal with it." But more reasonable pro-Israel voices like J Street are supportive of Hagel’s nomination, so hopefully the Obama Administration will disregard the manufactured outcry.

No More Indefinite Detention, Unless...

Remember the scare we all had when Congress passed a bill last year giving the president the ability to imprison anyone indefinitely without trial? Well, no need to worry anymore, because this year’s version, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, has an amendment prohibiting the use of military tribunals to hold people indefinitely. So, no reason to worry anymore! Unless you’re not a U.S. citizen, in which case the amendment doesn’t apply to you. Oh, and unless you’re a U.S. citizen overseas, because it only applies on U.S. soil. Oh, oh, and also unless Congress determines that domestic military detention is okay, because the amendment leaves open the opportunity for them to do that. But otherwise, problem solved! Why do you still look worried?

Did Two Really Eat Seven G's?

The 287(g) program, run by DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, deputizes state and local police and sheriffs to enforce federal immigration law. Why is this a really bad idea? Because it invariably ends up leading to racial profiling in otherwise routine police encounters with various communities. Police departments can apply for this program, and (why isn’t anyone surprised) the Rutherford County Sherriff is among the applicants. If you don’t know, that’s the Tennessee county where there was a huge Islamophobic wave to stop the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro. The good news is, the 287(g) program is currently under review, and DHS is not only considering turning down new applications, but possibly not extending existing ones. If you want to nudge the White House to make the right call on this one, you can do so here.

Another "Final" Countdown

Because next week is Christmas break, and the following is New Year's, the Countdown team will be too busy enjoying the holidays to write to you. But don't worry, it's not like it'll be an eventful period or anything; we're just leaving you in the midst of a power-grab by the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt, an announcement of new settlements in East Jerusalem, an explicit acknowledgement by the Assad government that it can't militarily defeat the opposition in Syria, a weak attempt to end indefinite detention in the NDAA 2013 update... Ok, maybe there is much to talk about. But let's continue this conversation in 2013 anyway. As you enjoy the holidays in the meantime, don't overdo the eggnog, unless you've clicked on this "donate to AAI button" and are mulling the size of the contribution you'd like to make to cheer us up at the end of 2012. Oh, and if you believe that the world will end on December 21st, don't forget to donate ALL your money to AAI on the 20th. Happy holidays!

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