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Today’s (and Yesterday’s) Headlines and Commentary

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Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Headlines and Commentary took a vacation yesterday to focus on the Supreme Court’s health care oral arguments and, of course, the War of 1812. I’m sure you were doing the same. So lots of news to catch up on today.

Prosecutors in Poland, as Bobby had noted, have charged the former head of that country’s intelligence services for his alleged role in setting up secret prisons for the CIA, reports Reuters and the New York Times.

Our friends Down Under have confirmed that they are considering permitting U.S. drone programs to be based on its Cocos Islands, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Bangkok Post, and the Australian.

Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland at CNN.com tell us that the number of drone strikes has decreased significantly; they cite 21 in the first three months of 2011, compared to only 11 this year. Meanwhile, Adam Ashton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes on the use of drones for defense, as well as offense, in Afghanistan. Apparently, troops are using them to help identify incoming threats.

Micah Zenko writes over at Foreign Policy how the Afghan government might decide when the U.S. asks to launch drone strikes from the country. He ruminates over similar decisions faced by other countries.

More details have emerged in the investigation into the shootings that killed civilians in Afghanistan a few weeks back. The Times reports on how Robert Bales could have escaped his base and the Washington Post discusses Bales’ PTSD-like symptoms.

Former Guantanamo detainee Sherif El Meshad, who was transferred and released to Albania after being detained for eight years, wants to go back to Egypt. But the Albanian government isn’t letting him. Llazar Semini of the Associated Press has the story.

Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Retired General John F. Phillips has this op-ed in The Hill on Kuwait’s unsuccessful efforts to secure the transfer of the last two Kuwaiti detainees held at Guantanamo. The efforts have included the building of a new rehabilitation center in a Kuwaiti prison. The matter is particularly frustrating for the Kutaitis, because the U.S. is simultaneously negotiating with the Taliban for the transfer to neihboring Qatar of several Taliban detainees.

Somehow this slipped through the cracks over the weekend: Charlie Savage wrote in the New York Times on the continuing bureaucratic delays in transfering Omar Khadr, a now-convicted Guantanamo detainee, to Canada. It appears that the big delay comes from across the border, where Canada’s minister of public safety has yet to formally ask for Khadr. A spokesman for the minister say “The file has not come to the minister’s office for review yet. . . . Where it is in the system, I don’t know.”

The ACLU has released records obtained from the FBI that detail the San Francisco office’s efforts to use Muslim outreach to collect intelligence on the community’s religious practices. The ACLU says that activity is prohibited by the U.S. Privacy Act, and the FBI has more or less conceded that the notes in question are inappropriate. The AP covered this. Michael Schmidt and Charlie Savage also tell us that the FBI has removed language from training manuals that said that agents had the “ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others.”

In response to recent polls showing a continuing decrease in support for the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, SecDef Panetta has said that polls do not change U.S. policy. Jeremy Herb at The Hill covered his remarks in Canada yesterday. Conor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic contemplates what impact, if any, declining U.S. support will have on President Obama’s reelection prospects.

Brendan Sasso at The Hill reports that FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau chief James Barnett has indicated his support for the regulatory provisions of the Lieberman-Collins cybersecurity bill. Meanwhile, Keith Alexander, who heads up U.S. Cyber Command, said Tuesday at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that U.S. cyberattacks on enemies should require presidential authority and that the Pentagon is drafting rules of engagement for cyberattacks. Ellen Nakashima at the Washington Post reported as well as Carlo Munoz at The Hill.

Over in Europe, the European Commission has proposed the creation of a new cybercrime center, writes Harvey Morris at the International Herald Tribune.

Earlier this week, the Blog of Legal Times reported on a court filing by DOJ lawyers in a case over the State Department’s designation of an Iranian resistance group as a foreign terrorist organization.

Speaking of cybersecurity, Symantec is dissolving its partnership with the Chinese company Huawei Technologies; Nicole Perlroth and John Markoff at the New York Times discussed the decision with two sources who indicated that the move was timed to coincide with efforts by the U.S. government to share more cyberthreat intelligence with the private sector.

Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald noted that Abd al Rahim Al Nashiri is likely to be called as a witness next month in pretrial hearings in order to describe his interrogation sessions in an attempt by his lawyers to prevail in their motion that he be unshackled during his meetings with his attorneys:

The most interesting and significant testimony at the war court so far — a Saudi captive’s account of how CIA agents interrogated him while shackled in secret custody — is likely to be unseen and unheard by the public when pre-trial hearings reconvene in the USS Cole case at Guantánamo next month.

Defense lawyers write in a motion unsealed Monday that they’ll call Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 47, as a witness to describe the trauma of his CIA interrogations in their bid to win a court order that he be unshackled during prison camp meetings with his attorneys.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly has granted a government motion to bar victims of 9/11 from claiming funds belonging to Al Qaeda member Abu Tayyeb that have been frozen by the feds. The AP reports.

For more interesting law and security-related articles, follow us on Twitter, visit the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law’s Security Law Brief, Fordham Law’s Center on National Security’s Morning Brief, and Fordham Law’s Cyber Brief. Email us noteworthy articles we may have missed at [email protected] and  [email protected].