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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Monday, November 26, 2012 at 2:27 PM

Welcome back. Let’s begin our monster news roundup with drones. As Matt already noted, Scott Shane of the New York Times tells us about efforts to codify drone policy in the run-up to the election, when the Obama "administration accelerated work . . . to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two administration officials." Critics of targeted killing, however, remain unsatisfied.

The Times has this editorial calling on President Obama to renew his commitment to closing Guantanamo and to veto this year’s NDAA if it maintains the transfer restrictions from last year’s bill.

If Mr. Obama is serious about fulfilling his pledge—and we trust he is—he needs to become more engaged this time around and be willing to spend political capital. Republicans, and some Democrats, who have helped to prevent the closing of the Guantánamo prison are implacable, and dedicated to a propagandistic argument that military justice for terrorists is somehow tougher and more reliable than civilian justice. The opposite is true, but the administration has made the case poorly.

Matthew Hay Brown of the Baltimore Sun reports that Pfc. Bradley Manning—the accused Wikileaker—will ask the judge to “dismiss all charges against him” because he alleges he was “punished. . . [w]hile being held at Quantico pending trial.” Fat chance of that.

Alan Cowell of the Times has a fascinating account of one of the biggest unsolved national security mysteries of all time: a code attached to the skeleton of a WWII carrier pigeon found in a chimney in England—which Britsh cryptographers have yet to crack.

Over at The Hill, Jeremy Herb writes about Sen. Rand Paul’s amendment restricting U.S. citizen detention under last year’s NDAA.

The Associated Press reports that the Kansas Supreme Court has disbarred Matthew Diaz, the former Navy lawyer convicted in a court martial of leaking classified material about Guantanamo to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Benjamin Weiser of the Times reports that a federal judge in New York has shown considerable leniency in sentencing men convicted in a Mali-related terrorism case.

Daniel Klaidman profiles John Brennan in the Daily Beast, describing him as the presumptive favorite to replace David Petraeus as CIA director—if he wants the job.

Paging all Yemen nerds: check out this piece by Robert F. Worth in the New York Review of Books entitled “The Jihadis of Yemen.”

Serge F. Kovaleski and Brooks Barnes have an in-depth story in the Times about Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s path to the “Innocence of Muslims” film. Spoiler: Nakoula’s a nut.

Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, and Frederick Kagan of AEI argue in this Washington Post op-ed that at least 68,000 American troops must stay in Afghanistan until 2014. They say:

The United States can stabilize Afghanistan if it maintains around 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into 2014, dropping to over 30,000 thereafter (about what we have in Korea). The idea that the war is inevitably lost is a convenient mask behind which decision-makers hide to deflect responsibility for pulling out troops who are making a real difference.

We have argued that the current defeatism about Afghanistan is overdrawn and unfounded. But it is more important for Americans to internalize a simple fact: We must either stabilize Afghanistan at this minimum level or abandon the fight against al-Qaeda and its allies in South Asia. Any alternative “light footprint” strategy is a dangerous mirage.

Speaking of how many troops should stay in Afghanistan, both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal report this morning, with no apology to either Kagan, that the White House is considering leaving only approximately 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for several recent attacks against Shi’a Muslims over the long weekend as the group celebrates the religious festival of Ashora. Al Jazeera has more.

Somini Sengupta of the Times discusses the continuing legal “wrangling over whether and when law enforcement authorities can peer into suspects’ cellphones.”

According to Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room, Army Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley—who received an administrative reprimand for advocating “total war” against Islam in the class he taught at the Joint Forces Staff College—has been reassigned to a paper-pushing job in a dark, windowless room somewhere far, far away.

Meghashyam Mali of The Hill reports that GOP Rep. Peter King will step down as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee in the next Congress.

Check out Foreign Policy’s list of 100 Top Global Thinkers for 2012. No Lawfare people among them, and I’m personally insulted I was left off. But numbers 56 and 57 are people we mention on the site quite often.

L’Express, a French newspaper, has accused the U.S. government of hacking into computers in Nicolas Sarkozy’s offices at the Elysee Palace. The powerful “Flame” virus was found on several machines, BBC reports.

And because I love you all, and Thanksgiving break was so, so long, today’s is a Moment of Cosmic Zen—though not for the easily-offended. Yes, it is France’s most excellent protest against the burka ban law, from the self-described “Niqabitches,” who say: “To put a simple burka on would have been too simple.”

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.