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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Reuters informs us that Ayman al-Zawahri has released a document describing Al Qaeda’s desire to establish an Islamic caliphate and instructing Muslims to live according to Sharia law.

Khalid Aldawsari, a Saudi national who came to Texas to study, has been sentenced to life in prison for plotting to attack George W. Bush’s home, among other targets. The BBC has the story.

Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project, argues in The Atlantic that the vast, convoluted intelligence community needs to become more streamlined:

President Obama can reverse this trend. He needs to bring the IC back to its roots. The counterterrorism mission can and should continue, but it should be placed in the context of the IC’s traditional focus on the long term prospects of regions and countries of concern. By fusing deep local knowledge with the vast technological capabilities built over the last decade, the IC can generate the knowledge it needs to inform the President about how to make smart decisions that secure America’s interests for the long term.

The IC can go back to the basics by prioritizing the kind of information it wants: by focusing less on the daily grind of counterterrorism missions and more on the social, political, and economic currents that are driving change across the Middle East and around the world. By developing a more holistic picture of the foreign policy challenges facing the country in the next four years, smart choices can fill in the knowledge gaps and make future surprises less likely.

The moment we have all been waiting for has arrived. President Obama has signed a policy directive enabling the military to thwart cyberattacks on the United States. Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post has the scoop on Presidential Policy Directive 20.

Jeremy Herb and Justin Sink of the Hill report that General Petraeus has agreed to testify before Congress. No, no, don’t get too excited, he won’t be talking about what you think he’ll be talking about—he is merely cooperating with the Congressional investigation into the security failures that led to the Benghazi attacks.

As if the military didn’t have enough on their hands, General William “Kip” Ward, ex-head of the U.S. Africa Command, was demoted “for spending thousands of dollars on lavish travel and other unauthorized expenses. . . .He will also repay the government $82,000,” says Mark Thompson of Time.

Al Jazeera reports that Israel and Palestine have stepped back from the brink after reaching a tacit peace deal, brokered by Egypt. Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner of the New York Times tell us that the Israeli military killed Ahmed al-Jabari, a top Hamas commander, in an airstrike—an indication of just how fragile the peace deal may be.

The Congressional Research Service has released a report entitled “Government Transparency and Secrecy: An Examination of Meaning and Its Use in the Executive Branch.” Check it out.

The prosecution for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the man accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, is seeking the death penalty, reports Kirk Johnson of the Times.

Pakistan has released Afghan Taliban prisoners in its first real step towards a reconciliation effort with the Afghan government, says Mahreen Zahra-Malik of Reuters.

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, Syracuse’s Institute for National Security & Counterterrorism’s newsroll, and Fordham Law’s Center on National Security’s Morning Brief and Cyber Brief. Email Raffaela Wakeman and Ritika Singh noteworthy articles to include, visit the Lawfare Events Calendar for upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings at the Lawfare Job Board.