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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Monday, June 4, 2012 at 12:14 PM

The news round-up might well be divided into three groups: “drones,” “cyber,” and “everything else.”

First with the drones.

Coverage and commentary naturally followed two big reports from the world of targeted killing.  The first, by  Jo Becker and Scott Shane, described President Obama’s personal involvement in drone targeting decisions; we learned further details from a published excerpt of Dan Klaidman’s upcoming book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency. 

(Speaking of Klaidman, the Telegraph also ran a second excerpt, in which David Axelrod and the Attorney General exchanged some sharp words; the conflict had to do with Holder’s allegedly having complained publicly about the Axelrod’s political meddling in Justice Department matters.)

The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf says the the “Kill List” (which Becker and Shane described) should be an important issue in the upcoming contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for the presidency.

You’d think list would carry some political weight, given this Post piece by Greg Miller.  The latter focuses on a drone strike that apparently did not take out two Yemeni brothers who happened to be Aulaqi’s in-laws.  The extent of the threat posed by the brothers is disputed; but the strike, along with a review of other drone attacks in Yemen, reflects the Administration’s embrace of a “broader definition of what constitutes a terrorism threat that warrants a lethal response.”

But Predators and Reapers are extraordinarily accurate, and their use helps to minimize civilian casualties!  Such rejoinder is part of a broader defense of drone strikes, mounted by Canada’s Defense Minister and described by the Miami Herald

Now on to cyber, the Lawfare readership also having learned last week, courtesy of David Sanger and the New York Times, of “Olympic Games” - that is, the Stuxnet worm jointly fashioned by the Americans and the Israelis, that temporarily dismantled uranium centrifuges in Iran.   To this, you can also add “Flame,” the malware that reportedly is mucking up Iran’s computers.

Sanger followed up his piece in yesterday’s Times, with an analysis of “Mutually Assured Cyberdestruction.”   The newspaper’s pages also featured an op-ed, in which the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, urged business to take greater steps to prevent cybercrime.

Bharara’s advice is timely indeed, at least judging by this Washington Post article by Robert O’ Harrow, Jr.  His piece profiles “Shodan,” the cyber-search engine that reportedly enables users to access exceedingly sensitive, computer-controlled technologies like the cyclotron at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.    The Post’s investigative unit also has a graphic history of the Stuxnet worm and Shodan here; the editorial board’s views on cyber “Code Wars,” can be found here.

Stuxnet and Flame may have changed the way war is fought, but neither has changed the “Art of War,” as described by Sun Tzu.  That’s the argument advanced by Dominic Basulto, anyway, over at the Washington Post’s “Innovations” blog.

We’ll save a possible downside of Stuxnet for last: it might be reverse- engineered by the United States’ enemies.  You can read about the disadvantage in this piece from the Christian Science Monitor.

And at last, there’s “everything else.”  It’s a grab bag, really.

The transfer of Bagram to Afghan control has worried some in Afghanistan; the concern, described in this NPR segment, is that “the Americans may have created a Guantanamo-style administrative detention regime that is against Afghan law.”

The Long War Journal reports that Tuareg rebels in Mali have opted to break off their less-than-one-week old, formalized-by-contract association with an Al-Qaeda affiliate.  It just wasn’t going to work out.  The affiliate had tried to ban smoking, for starters.

The Miami Herald also recounts the anxieties of Israeli national security reporters.   Israel’s government reportedly will indict an investigative journalist who allegedly exposed classified information regarding the killing of Palestinian militants.

China has arrested one of its officials, a secretary to a deputy defense minister, whom it has accused of spying on behalf of the United States.  That’s the word from the L.A. Times. 

In Denmark, four men were convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to twelve years apiece, according to the Associated Press, via the New York TimesProsecutors had alleged a conspiracy, in which the group plotted to kill staffers at a newspaper that had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed.

In other sentencing news, former Egyptian President Mubarak will spend the rest of his life in prison.  That was the ruling of an Egyptian court, as described by David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times.  The life sentence concerns the charge that Mubarak failed to stop the killing of civilians, during civil protests.

Despite that stiff penalty, the Miami Herald says prosecutors will appeal the entire verdict, against Mubarak and other defendants.  (Mubarak and his brothers were acquitted on corruption charges, and Egyptian legal rules require an appeal on all counts.)

Do recent military defeats portend the end of Al-Shabab power in Somalia?  So asks this Miami Herald account.

On Friday, the United States announced its new air cargo partnership with the European Commission and Switzerland.   The Transportation Security Administration’s written release said, among other things:

Effective June 1, TSA and the EU will mutually recognize their respective air cargo security regimes. While TSA has recognized other countries as having equivalent air cargo security, today’s announcement marks the first time TSA has recognized a union of nation states.

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].