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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 11:45 AM

A U.S. Airways flight from Paris to North Carolina was diverted to Bangor, Maine, after a French passenger gave a flight attendant a note saying that she had a surgically implanted device. The whole affair turned out to be a hoax–and most passengers had no idea what was happening until the pilot told them about the emergency landing for “fuel,” says the Associated Press.

The BBC reports that a Pakistani court has sentenced Dr. Shakil Afridi to thirty-three years in prison for treason for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden—after he was held in custody for a year without an attorney. Both Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have called for his release, and the Washington Post tells us that “Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). . . has championed Alfridi’s case, submitting a bill to grant him U.S. citizenship.”

As I noted earlier this month, Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar told BBC Urdu that the “arrest is warranted. He should have given us the information instead of giving it to the Americans.”

The Hill’s Defcon Hill informs us that Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin firmly stated that he did not “plan to make any changes to the detainee language in the Senate’s defense authorization bill, which was recently struck down by a U.S. District Court in New York.” Sen. Mark Udall and Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein both plan to make changes to the provisions, and Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham might also jump on the bandwagon.

Coming soon to a theater near you: A movie about the Osama bin Laden raid—and based on true facts! Hollywood directors met with a Navy SEAL who was involved in the planning of the raid from the get-go. Good to know that the Pentagon doesn’t mind giving Hollywood access to information it denied the public and the press, says Josh Gerstein at the Politico.

The BBC reports that drones killed four suspected militants in Pakistan yesterday.

Wired magazine tells us that the NSA is “partnering with select universities to train students in cyber operations for intelligence, military and law enforcement jobs, work that will remain secret to all but a select group of students and faculty who pass clearance requirements.” Four universities got the go-ahead—and guess what? They’re not MIT and Cal Tech but Dakota State University, Naval Postgraduate School, Northeastern University and University of Tulsa. Reuters had the original story.

John Villasenor of UCLA and Brookings and Ryan Calo of Stanford Law lay out ten myths about drones in the Huffington Post.

Politico informs us that Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is hesitating to endorse President Obama for re-election after backing the president in 2008, partly because of Guantanamo. Said Powell:

I think he has been [transformational]. Not completely. There are some things that he has done I wish he had not done, for example, leave Guantanamo open. I would have closed that rapidly. He tried, he was stopped by Congress.

Speaking of the election, the Hill’s Defcon Hill discusses Mitt Romney’s silence on Afghanistan.

From the Frenemy Press: The Express Tribune, with help from Agence France Presse cover Dr. Afridi’s arrest, as does Dawn. I will check out the Urdu TV stations and include anything worthwhile our Frenemies are saying.

Meanwhile, in a story that has yet to make it to our press, Pakistan’s AAJ (Today) News reports that fifteen Afghan Taliban “laid down their arms and joined the government-backed peace process” today.

And here’s a threat to our military forces off the coast of Iran that we probably cannot solve with air strikes, but which raw presidential power—and a suspension of habeas corpus—might just solve. It’s too weird for words—and it’s today’s Moment of Zen.

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