Daniel Klaidman

Stories by Daniel Klaidman

  • Klaidman: Defining the Obama Doctrine

    During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama vowed to roll back Bush-era abuses and restore the proper balance between security and freedom. A few days after being sworn in, he elated progressives by banning torture, beginning the process of closing Guantánamo, and putting military commissions on ice. But a year on, a majority of Bush's counterterror policies remain largely, if not entirely, intact. Critics on the left call Obama "Bush lite"; meanwhile, Dick Cheney hammers him for aiding and comforting the enemy. So who's right? And what philosophy is the administration adopting as a guide in the war on terror?Neither criticism hits the mark. Dismantling the CIA's enhanced-interrogation program and shuttering Gitmo are substantive reforms that improve our global image. The counterterror policies that remain—including indefinite military detention and warrantless wiretapping—are now on firmer legal footing. Obama's lawyers have sought the input of Congress and the blessing of the courts...
  • Italy's Franco Frattini on AfPak and Berlusconi

    Now in his second stint as foreign minister under Silvio Berlusconi, Franco Frattini is easily Italy's most serious politician. From his suite in Rome, Frattini chatted with NEWSWEEK's Daniel Klaidman and Barbie Nadeau about Italy's willingness to use soldiers in Afghanistan and his government's renewed commitment to resettle Guantánamo detainees as a gesture of "solidarity" with the United States. Frattini, whose temperament has been called more Scandinavian than Italian, showed passion only in defending Berlusconi against a tabloid-alleged affair with an 18-year-old underwear model from Naples. Excerpts: ...
  • A Plan of Attack For Middle East Peace

    With Gaza in flames, the prospects for a Middle East deal seem minuscule. But there is a way out, and both sides know what they must do.
  • The Editor’s Desk

    Writing in The New York Times, columnist David Brooks lightly mocked the phenomenon as "O-phoria," the wall-to-wall coverage of Barack Obama's election—the insta-books, the quickie documentaries and, yes, the magazine covers. But it is hard to overstate the profound impact this election has had on the country. We in the media are, in some ways, giving voice to a collective expression of pride, a kind of national exclamation point, as if to say, "This really happened." The election of Obama hardly represents an eradication of racial prejudice; rather, it is an important milestone along a tortured road—an achievement in which all Americans, no matter whom they voted for, can take pride. But it is not a static event. The presence of an African-American family in the White House will force (allow?) all of us, no matter our skin color or ethnic background, to examine our biases and expectations.That is why we chose to explore the meaning of Michelle Obama this week. All First Ladies face...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    Magnanimous in victory, Barack Obama invoked the words of our greatest healing president. Under a clear night sky in Chicago's Grant Park on Nov. 4, Obama quoted Abraham Lincoln's first Inaugural Address: "We are not enemies, but friends … Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." Then, in a vernacular perhaps more fitting to our times, he echoed the sentiment. "And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn—I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too." It is a fairly safe bet that "44," who has been reading Lincoln's writings in recent weeks, will pay tribute to "16" at his next significant speaking engagement. On Jan. 20, from the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Obama will be able to peer west, across the Mall to the Lincoln Memorial. And with the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth drawing near (the theme of the Inaugural is Lincoln's "New Birth of Freedom"), many will see...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    In May, after Barack Obama got trounced in the West Virginia primary, our foreign editor, Nisid Hajari, had an idea for a story. Why not send one of our veteran foreign correspondents through the American South to take its pulse during this historic election? There's a journalistic tradition of bringing correspondents home to chronicle America as they might an exotic land. Seeing the country with the fresh perspective of having lived away can yield unusual clarity and insight. But there was a twist to this plan. The reporter Nisid had in mind, Christopher Dickey, has deep roots in the South. His mother's family hails from west Tennessee; his father, James Dickey, was also a Southerner—and the author of "Deliverance," the harrowing novel of the Georgia backwoods.As the campaign unfolded, a question kept emerging: could Obama, this son of an African father and Kansan mother—this political phenom—broaden his appeal to reaches of the country that had abandoned the Democratic fold two...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    Years ago, when I was a freshly minted foreign correspondent in Jerusalem, a colleague offered me a valuable insight into Israel's national psychology. The key word to know, he told me, was freier, which, loosely translated from the Yiddish, means sucker. For Israel, a country that rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust and a 2,000-year Diaspora, the national ethos was a gritty self-reliance and a determination never to be victims again. Countries have a way of weaving their historical lessons into the fabric of daily life. So in Israel, the injunction to never be a freier can color national-security judgments as well as affect the course of negotiations with your landlady.As China gets ready for its grand Olympic coming-out, its own historical sensitivities are much on display. The regime's herculean transformation of its blighted capital city will no doubt awe visitors. Beijing is, at least temporarily, greener than ever, and it sparkles with architectural gems. But the government...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    Five months ago, we sent Ramin Setoodeh to California to investigate the murder of a 15-year-old gay student by one of his classmates. The case, with its echoes of the Matthew Shepard killing, had made national headlines. Another hate crime inflicted on a kid because he was gay. But when Ramin came back from his trip, he said something I like to hear from reporters: the story was far more complicated than it had first appeared. The most compelling stories— the ones that provoke and make you think —are always multilayered and complex. That is certainly true of the sad case of Lawrence King, whose death is the subject of our cover this week. Ramin's deeply reported narrative is the tale of two troubled teens, Larry King and Brandon McInerney, whose paths crossed tragically in a California school gripped by conflicting social forces. In a culture that is far more accepting of gays than it once was, Larry was part of a growing phenomenon of children coming out at younger ages. But...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    It is never easy to discern a person's core spiritual beliefs. Even Barack Obama, who has written two acclaimed memoirs and speaks comfortably about his faith, remains opaque on the subject. Still, religious questions and controversies have drawn fierce attention throughout Obama's presidential campaign. There was, of course, the fallout from his relationship with his ex-pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., and the persistent false rumors that Obama is a Muslim. Lately, pundits and politicos have been analyzing his chances of tapping into the evangelical Christian vote. But it seemed to us that many of these issues served to obscure his religious convictions, not illuminate them. So we asked Lisa Miller, our religion editor, to pursue a straightforward but elusive question: what does Obama actually believe?What she discovered—the subject of our cover story, coauthored by Richard Wolffe—was a spiritual quest that is by turns unconventional and familiar. Born to a secular mother from...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    Presidential campaigns eventually settle into contrasting narratives of the candidates' biographies, character and ideology. The central fault line in the seemingly endless Democratic race has been change vs. experience. Hillary Clinton has argued relentlessly that her years in the White House and Senate have made her battle-hardened and best suited to be president. Barack Obama, by contrast, has questioned the value of Washington experience, contending that his wide-ranging background has imbued him with superior judgment. But the truth is that until recently, neither of them had run anything as unwieldy and unpredictable as a modern presidential campaign. Now they have, and as Obama stands poised to capture his party's nomination, we examine the organization he assembled and has quarterbacked for the last 18 months. Richard Wolffe, the coauthor of our cover story with Evan Thomas, has covered three White House campaigns starting with George W. Bush's in 2000. He knows that though...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    Many months ago, my boss, Jon Meacham, came into the morning meeting with a project in mind. He asked us to launch a cover story on the legacy of divorce in America. Divorce has been one of the more potent social forces in our postwar history, one that's rippled through our culture in ways that are both important and not always fully appreciated. Jon didn't know precisely how the story would turn out, but, as he likes to say, he knew there was a pony in there somewhere. So he asked us to find a compelling storytelling device that would help illuminate the larger story. We gave the assignment to David J. Jefferson, who found the perfect vehicle. David decided to return to his alma mater, Ulysses S. Grant High School in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, to find out how his class ('82) had been affected by divorce. The individual stories are mostly wrenching and occasionally heartwarming. But they all shed light on a generation that was reared on divorce and learned to cope with it. Here's...
  • The Editor’s Desk

    Periodically over the past five years I've gotten together with our Baghdad correspondents when they're back on brief home leaves. For most of that time, their reports from the front have been grim. So I expected more of the same when a group of us took Larry Kaplow out to lunch earlier this year. Larry is a circumspect reporter, not given to bold assertions unless they're backed up by lots of evidence. But as he began talking about a quietly dramatic shift in the way U.S. Army officers were approaching the Iraqi insurgency, it was clear he was on to something significant. For the first time he was seeing midlevel officers, often on their second or third tours of duty, displaying the kind of nuance and cultural understanding required to succeed at counterinsurgency. They weren't going soft, but rather had developed a pragmatic streak better suited to the murkiness of the conflict. Larry, who's covered the war since the invasion in 2003 (first for Cox Newspapers and later for...
  • Palace Revolt

    James Comey, a lanky, 6-foot-8 former prosecutor who looks a little like Jimmy Stewart, resigned as deputy attorney general in the summer of 2005. The press and public hardly noticed. Comey's farewell speech, delivered in the Great Hall of the Justice Department, contained all the predictable, if heartfelt, appreciations. But mixed in among the platitudes was an unusual passage. Comey thanked "people who came to my office, or my home, or called my cell phone late at night, to quietly tell me when I was about to make a mistake; they were the people committed to getting it right--and to doing the right thing--whatever the price. These people," said Comey, "know who they are. Some of them did pay a price for their commitment to right, but they wouldn't have it any other way."One of those people--a former assistant attorney general named Jack Goldsmith--was absent from the festivities and did not, for many months, hear Comey's grateful praise. In the summer of 2004, Goldsmith, 43, had...
  • Cheney in the Bunker

    As usual, Dick Cheney insisted on doing business behind closed doors. Last Tuesday, Senate Republicans were winding up their weekly luncheon in the Capitol when the vice president rose to speak. Staffers were quickly ordered out of the room--what Cheney had to say was for senators only. Normally taciturn, Cheney was uncharacteristically impassioned, according to two GOP senators who did not want to be on the record about a private meeting. He was very upset over the Senate's overwhelming passage of an amendment that prohibits inhumane treatment of terrorist detainees. Cheney said the law would tie the president's hands and end up costing "thousands of lives." He dramatized the point, conjuring up a scenario in which a captured Qaeda operative, another Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, refuses to give his interrogators details about an imminent attack. "We have to be able to do what is necessary," the vice president said, according to one of the senators who was present. The lawmakers listened...
  • Roberts: Ready For His Close-Up

    As interest groups and senators squabble over his old memos, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts has spent most of August sequestered in the Justice Department preparing for his September hearings. A small cadre of administration lawyers--several of whom are former Supreme Court clerks--have been quietly meeting to quiz Roberts on constitutional law. According to three sources familiar with the preparations (who would not be identified because of the confidential nature of the process), this week Roberts will formally start his "murder boards"--practice sessions before a team of outside legal and congressional experts playing the parts of Judiciary Committee senators. The mock hearings are taking place in extraordinary secrecy. White House officials won't disclose the names of outside participants or reveal particular lines of questioning. The questioners are mostly veterans of previous confirmation battles or experienced Supreme Court advocates, and even they have not been told much...
  • THE NOMINEE: ROBERTS AT THE REVOLUTION

    The memos were not exactly smoking guns, but they were sure to add fire to Judge John Roberts's confirmation hearings. When Roberts was nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court by President George W. Bush two weeks ago, he was initially described as a model of calm restraint. But then came the release of several thousand pages of memos and documents from Roberts's time as a lawyer in the Reagan White House and Justice Department in the 1980s. As portrayed in press accounts, Roberts seemed cocksure and to the right of even his conservative bosses. "With every passing day, it is becoming clearer that John Roberts is one of the key lieutenants in the right-wing assault on civil-rights laws and precedents," said Ralph Neas, president of the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way.The memos do show that Roberts was an eager spear carrier in the Reagan revolution. But they do not necessarily suggest that he would be a precedent-shredding conservative activist on the high court....
  • LOOK WHO'S NOT TALKING--STILL

    The Terrorist Threat Integration Center had an imposing name, and a tough mission to match it. Headquartered in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., the agency was created two years ago by President Bush as a critical line of defense against terrorist enemies. After so much criticism about the failures of the nation's intelligence agencies to get along, TTIC was to be a showcase of the government's new dedication to intelligence sharing. The new agency's mission was to "fuse" the various strands of information collected by the government's 15 intelligence arms, including the FBI, CIA, NSA and Homeland Security. Instead of competing, officials from each agency would work together inside the new office.At least, that's how it was supposed to work. But when members of a White House commission studying intelligence failures paid a visit to the threat center, they were dismayed by what they found. Far from a model of collegiality and collaboration, TTIC (which has since been renamed...
  • THE RIDDLE OF HIZBULLAH

    The street party in Martyrs' Square had dwindled to a few stragglers. By early last week, the thousands of young Lebanese protesters who had gathered in downtown Beirut were temporarily heading home. Some locals derided the stylishly dressed, mostly secular crowd as "Gucci revolutionaries." Still, they had won a real victory. The protests increased international pressure on Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, who announced a partial withdrawal of the 14,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon--a big step after 30 years of covert manipulation and overt military occupation.Within shouting distance of the square, however, the feel-good "Cedar Revolution" gave way to a more familiar kind of Arab uprising. Half a million angry Shiites, supporters of the Syrian regime, turned out, chanting, "Death to America! Death to Israel!" The counterprotest was the work of Hizbullah, the terrorist group that has become a potent voice in Lebanese politics. Many in the crowd had been bused in from distant...
  • CONDI'S CLOUT OFFENSIVE

    Just two years ago, Donald Rumsfeld was the big man on George W. Bush's campus--the "matinee idol," as the president once called him--and Condoleezza Rice was just another obstacle for the Defense chief to run through. Former staffers on Rice's National Security Council, some still bitter, describe Rumsfeld's contempt for the NSC, and his numerous end runs around Rice. One official recalls a day when Rumsfeld and other "principals" were at a White House meeting. Someone referred to the NSA. "What's that?" Rumsfeld asked mockingly. "That's the national-security adviser," came the answer. Rumsfeld shot back, "Who's that?" Rice leaned over and said, "Don, that would be me."Suffice it to say, Condi Rice doesn't need to remind Donald Rumsfeld where she is in the pecking order any longer. It's not just that two years ago was a time of war, of knocking things down, while now is supposed to be a time of diplomacy, of building things up--Arab democracy, renewed alliances, a new and improved...
  • TORTURE'S PATH

    The CIA had a question for the top lawyers in the Bush administration: how far could the agency go in interrogating terror suspects--in particular, Abu Zubaydah, the close-mouthed Qaeda lieutenant who was resisting standard methods? So in July of 2002 the president's chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales, convened his colleagues in his cozy, wood-paneled White House office. One by one, the lawyers went over five or six pressure techniques proposed by the CIA. One such technique, a participant recalls, was "waterboarding" (making a suspect think he might drown). Another, mock burial, was nixed as too harsh. A third, the open-handed slapping of suspects, drew much discussion. The idea was "just to shock someone with the physical impact," one lawyer explained, with "little chance of bone damage or tissue damage." Gonzales and the lawyers also discussed in great detail how to legally justify such methods.Among those at that first White House meeting was Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, who...
  • BROKEN FURNITURE AT THE CIA

    Until a few weeks ago, Patrick Murray was just another ambitious Capitol Hill staffer. As a top aide to Rep. Porter Goss, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, Murray had a reputation as a sharp-tongued partisan lawyer. When Democrats on the committee asked the CIA for information, Murray would cut them off, reminding the agency that only requests backed by the Republican majority should be honored. "He was just impossible," says one staffer who dealt with him. "He was sarcastic, snide and had this uncanny ability to push people's buttons." One former CIA official told NEWSWEEK that Murray leaned on him more than once to declassify information so he could use it to "embarrass the Democrats." Murray was irritated when the agency declined. He regarded much of the CIA as a nest of obstructionist bureaucrats, time-servers who had schemed to undermine the administration's policies--especially in Iraq.Now Murray is in a position to do something about it. When...
  • EXCLUSIVE - GONZALES'S VIEWS ON THE QUESTION OF T

    The confirmation hearings of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general will spotlight long-running disputes within the president's legal team over the conduct of the war on terror. Gonzales's precise position was often a mystery. "When everybody else in the room was arguing, he's sitting there silently," says one former colleague. But Gonzales ultimately signed off on all of the administration's most controversial legal moves--including declaring U.S. citizens "enemy combatants" without permitting them to see lawyers and authorizing unorthodox interrogation techniques that critics say set the stage for the Abu Ghraib scandal.One legal issue that worried Gonzales from the start, sources tell NEWSWEEK, was that U.S. officials--even those inside the White House--might one day be charged with "war crimes" as a result of some of the new measures. Gonzales first raised the issue in a Jan. 25, 2002, memo to President George W. Bush arguing against...
  • Al Qaeda's 'Pre-Election' Plot

    With an eye on striking America, bin Laden's network is hard at work. On the trail of its targets and tactics.
  • WHO WAS REALLY IN CHARGE?

    America was under attack, and somebody had to make a decision. Dick Cheney, huddled in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center under the White House, had just urged the traveling George W. Bush not to return to Washington. The president had left Florida aboard Air Force One at 9:55 a.m. on 9/11 "with no destination at take-off," as last week's 9-11 Commission report noted. Nor had Bush given any known instructions on how to respond to the attacks. Now Cheney faced another huge decision on a morning in which every minute seemed monumental. The two airliners had already crashed into the Twin Towers, another into the Pentagon. Combat air patrols were aloft, and a military aide was asking for shoot-down authority, telling Cheney that a fourth plane was "80 miles out" from Washington. Cheney didn't flinch, the report said. "In about the time it takes a batter to decide to swing," he gave the order to shoot it down, telling others the president had "signed off on the concept" during...
  • ENEMIES AMONG US

    John Ashcroft was in familiar form, part Sgt. Joe Friday, part Prophet of Doom. Standing by giant mug shots of seven terrorist suspects, the U.S. attorney general warned, "Be on the lookout... for each of these seven individuals. They all pose a clear and present danger to America. They all should be considered armed and dangerous." America, it seemed, faced a frightening summer. As exhibit A, Ashcroft cited a statement from an "Al Qaeda spokesman" that plans for an attack "to hit the United States hard" were "90 percent complete."...
  • SUSPECT MOTIVES

    John Ashcroft was in familiar form, part Sgt. Joe Friday, part Prophet of Doom. Standing by giant mug shots of seven terrorist suspects, the U.S. attorney general warned, "Be on the lookout... for each of these seven individuals. They all pose a clear and present danger to America. They all should be considered armed and dangerous." America, it seemed, faced a frightening summer. As exhibit A, Ashcroft cited a statement from an "Al Qaeda spokesman" that plans for an attack "to hit the United States hard" were "90 percent complete."But things are not always as they seem in the wilderness of mirrors known as the war on terror. The facts are a little less stark, the motives for airing them more mixed than Ashcroft's grim warnings would suggest. Once again it appears that politics and national security are bedfellows in post-9/11 America. That is not to say that Bush administration officials are crying wolf. It's just that they know less--and want more--than the attorney general...
  • THE ROAD TO THE BRIG

    In September 2002, just before the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a group of senior Bush administration officials convened for a secret videoconference to make a difficult decision: what to do with six Americans suspected of conspiring with Al Qaeda. The Yemeni-born men from Lackawanna, N.Y., were accused of training at a camp in Afghanistan, where some had met Osama bin Laden. The president's men were divided. For Dick Cheney and his ally, Donald Rumsfeld, the answer was simple: the accused men should be locked up indefinitely as "enemy combatants," and thrown into a military brig with no right to trial or even to see a lawyer. That's what authorities had done with two other Americans, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. "They are the enemy, and they're right here in the country," Cheney argued, according to a participant. But others were hesitant to take the extraordinary step of stripping the men of their rights, especially because there was no evidence that they had...
  • THE 9/11 COMMISSION: JUSTICE'S BLIND SPOT

    The FBI was on the case--or was it? According to the newly declassified Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) for Aug. 6, 2001, the FBI was conducting 70 "full field investigations" into Al Qaeda cells in the United States a month before the 9/11 attacks. That does not mean, however, that the FBI agents were capable of finding much suspicious activity or, if they did, that the information would ever make its way up the chain of command. It is well known by now, for instance, that at least one FBI agent in Phoenix reported in July 2001 that an unusually large number of Middle Easterners, some with Al Qaeda ties, had enrolled in flight schools. And that the next month, the FBI started looking for two Al Qaeda suspects who turned out to be 9/11 hijackers.But at the top, the FBI leadership was more concerned with squabbling with its supposed bosses in the Justice Department. Or so it may seem this week when top officials from the bureau and Justice testify before the 9/11 commission. After...