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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Monday, December 19, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Ritika has decamped to an undisclosed location for a few weeks, so I have seized sole control of the Headlines and Commentary feature for a spell.  Please send noteworthy articles I may have missed to [email protected], and feel free to note any Ritika sightings in your messages as well.

Here’s today’s news:

Kim Jong Il is dead. No national security law-related issues pertaining to that–at least not yet.

For proof of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Wired’s Danger Room blog has this video captured by a drone documenting the last U.S. convoy leaving the country. Over the weekend, Ian Livingston, Michael O’Hanlon, and Amy Unikewicz published this op-ed in the New York Times with the final version of their States of Conflict chart.

As Bobby reported last week, the U.S. has handed over Ali Musa Daqduq to the Iraqi government. Read Liz Sly and Peter Finn’s coverage at the Washington Post here, and Josh Gerstein’s blog post here.

Lots of fallout from the passage of the NDAA conference report last week and President Obama’s  decision to remove his veto threat:

The AP’s Pete Yost discusses the detention questions remaining in the wake of the passage of the NDAA.

Jonathan Hafetz writes an op-ed in Al Jazeera arguing that the NDAA expands the war on terror, rather than scales it back.

Over at the Salt Lake Tribune, the editorial staff writes in opposition to the bill, arguing that the bill will “codify the vulgar idea . . . that the president may order, and the military may enforce, the detainment and indefinite custody of any person accused of being a member, agent, sympathizer or admirer of the al-Qaida terror network.” The LA Times editorial staff also voices opposition to the bill.

Geoffrey A. Manne and Seth Weinberger have this op-ed in The Hill, arguing that there are other reasons that the NDAA leaves much to be desired:

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a bad piece of legislation, but not for the reason most people think. The NDAA has set the political world alight over fears that it allows the U.S. government to arrest American citizens inside the U.S. and then ship them off as terrorists into indefinite military detention without trial.  Reasonable fears, to be sure–except they don’t arise from the NDAA; rather, the power to do just that likely already exists.

The real problem with the NDAA is that it does nothing to resolve the root, underlying threat to American civil liberties: Congress’ abdication of its responsibility to define the standards that govern for whom and when military detention is appropriate.

By passing a law that essentially abdicates responsibility for clarifying that ambiguity, Congress has failed in its basic responsibility to define and protect the legal rights of American citizens.  Senators Levin and McCain are right (if disingenuous) when they claim the NDAA doesn’t change existing law–but this is not something they should be proud of.

In the world of drone warfare, Human Rights Watch is challenging the U.S. to prove that using drones in targeted killings adheres to international law.

Air Force drone operators are reporting high levels of operational stress, but not in what many perceived as the most stress-inducing part of their job–reviewing video of their strikes after the fact. Long hours and frequent shift changes because of staff shortages were the biggest sources of stress. Read Elisabeth Bumiller’s piece over at the New York Times. Gregg Zoroya at USA Today also reports on this story. The AP (courtesy of the Post) reported over the weekend that Iran will be hard-pressed to exploit data collected by the U.S. drone it captured.

Simon Denyer at the Post covers the “Memogate” scandal in Pakistan in which the government is denying responsibility for an unsigned memo soliciting U.S. assistance to rein in the military and prevent a coup following the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Pakistani man whose father was killed in a U.S. drone strike has written to the U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague demanding that the British government provide details of its alleged involvement with drone attacks in Pakistan. Read Rory MacKinnon’s article in the Morning Star Online.

Recently, the U.S. has agreed to provide drones to Turkey to assist in its war against the Kurdish separatist P.K.K. Leon Panetta acknowledged in a statement late last week that Turkey has authorization to deploy those drones in Iraqi airspace.

There have been a few reports of terrorist organizations’ employing Twitter and other social media to spread their good news. Read Ernesto Londono’s latest in the Post on the Taliban’s Twitter war.

Closing arguments were held in the Mehanna case in Boston last week. The AP covered them on Friday.

Julie Tate at the Post reports on the testimony of Army investigators in the Bradley Manning case, and Josh Gerstein over at the Politico writes that the presiding officer has decided to allow the introduction of classified evidence and hold a secret session today.

For more interesting law and security-related articles, follow us on Twitter, and visit the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law’s Security Law Brief as well as the Fordham Law Center on National Security’s Morning Brief.

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