- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

America and its Eastern European allies

Helle Dale rightly asserts that waiving visa requirements for our allies in Central and Eastern Europe is indispensable (“Building strategic relationships,” Op-Ed, Wednesday). The visa-waiver program is a building block in the security structure of the region.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the restoration of sovereignty to the nations of Eastern Europe validated Western values. It soon became apparent, however, that Russia had not reconciled its loss of empire and would seek to influence the region, although less directly than by dispatching tanks as it had done during the Cold War.

Quickly reintegrating Central and Eastern Europe into Western institutions, and thereby strengthening democracy, was the best means to advance both the geostrategic interests of the United States and the aspirations of the nations of the region. The prescience of the United States in enlarging NATO to include the former Soviet satellites and the Baltic countries became apparent as Russia began to aggressively assert itself.

In order to prevent any backsliding, the United States must continue to exercise leadership by remaining fully engaged in the region. Relatively simple steps taken to further this engagement will pay handsome dividends. These include reaching out not only to governments and the former ruling nomenklatura, but also to the people of the region, especially those who at great sacrifice helped topple the Communist regimes.

Extending the visa-waiver program to the citizens of our new allies, including Hungarians, is a critical way of shoring up their friendship toward the United States and reversing a growing cynicism caused by a feeling that America is ignoring them after the initial euphoria following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The United States needs genuine and staunch friends. Visa waiver extends the hand of friendship to our new allies.

FRANK KOSZORUS JR.

Co-president

American Hungarian Federation

Great Falls

Standing on shaky ground

As a lawyer and a soldier (Air Defense Artillery), I was astounded at the concept that Gregory D. Foster of the National Defense University advanced in his letter “Fallon’s fall” (Monday). In my civilian and military education, I have never come across the concept that the military had a right to act as a “check and balance” on civilian authority. While this concept has long been accepted in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and many banana republics around the world, I know of no writings that would indicate it is part of U.S. military history or doctrine.

Indeed, it would be nice if all civilian leaders were “strategically literate” and not “impetuous,” but to advance the notion that there is a “social contract” that would guarantee this to the military is unsupported by the Constitution or any legal precedent.

COL. THOMAS E. COLLINS

Army (retired)

McLean

Campus safety and privacy

For too long, campus counselors and other mental-health professionals have walked a fine line between maintaining confidentiality and ensuring student and campus safety. The U.S. Department of Education’s decision to clarify the confusing privacy regulations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a positive move to reassure college officials that they are legally protected should they report concerns about students with mental-health difficulties or related health concerns (“Clarifications eyed to laws on student privacy,” Nation, Tuesday).

Still, the ultimate responsibility lies with campus administrators to ensure that college officials have the proper tools in place to review, discuss and report students deemed to be “at risk.”

Institutions of higher education need to establish offices of mental health. Such offices would be overseen by mental-health experts and include school administrators, legal counsel, campus security and others from various clinical and educational campus disciplines. The creation of a mental-health office can provide additional campus support in reviewing institutional policies and procedures, providing training and education across all disciplines and overseeing safety and security programs. Ensuring the steady flow of information in and ongoing stream of communication back out addresses the wide range of complicated legal, clinical, ethical and educational mandates that all personnel of a college or university may face.

Campus mental-health professionals have long faced a tough balancing act between adhering strictly to confidentiality requirements and ensuring campus safety. These new proposed regulations coupled with a centralized mental-health office that serves a broader base of issues than crisis or behavioral intervention teams would go further to meet the needs of all on our campuses.

CAROLYN REINACH WOLF

Senior Partner

Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Greenberg, Formato & Einiger, LLP

Founder

Campus Behavioral Health Risk Consultants, LLC

New York

Risky GPObusiness

I would like to thank you for Bill Gertz’s excellent article on the risks posed by outsourcing the printing of U.S. passports (“Outsourced passport work poses risk,” Page 1, Wednesday). This is another outrageous example of how not doing essential government work in-house, with government employees, or at least in the United States and employing Americans, imperils our national security. When will we ever learn that some jobs are inherently governmental and should be done by government employees? The buck we “save” by outsourcing essential functions to another country will only cost us more in the long run in other costs (transportation fees, shipping time and increased security needs).

In addition, I am very concerned about the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips in passports (which we now find out are even foreign-made and -programmed). This means that Americans are being required to carry an official identity document that we can’t entirely read ourselves. If I, as the bearer, can’t decode the entire passport, how can I be sure what it says and even if the information on it is really correct and about me?

The use of such devices subjects American citizens to possible harm by those who can pick up such signals, whether they be terrorists or possible identity thieves. When traveling abroad, I don’t look forward to being forced to walk down the street broadcasting my name, identify information and nationality to anyone who manages to get or make the appropriate reader. There are many places where proclaiming you are an American makes your trip much more dangerous. Anyone who has followed the development of new technologies, especially computer-based ones, knows that hackers will quickly figure out how to defeat them, no matter what they are.

Now Mr. Gertz informs us that the passport I can’t read is being sent to two other countries to be manufactured. With the recent incidents of contract employees improperly accessing passport data, who can guarantee that this won’t happen in this convoluted, lengthy and foreign manufacturing process?

What are the State Department and the Government Printing Office thinking? This is definitely an ill-thought-out idea that endangers Americans and our country in the name of false efficiencies.

ANN LOIKOW

Washington

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