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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Monday, December 10, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Ismail Khan of the New York Times (not to be confused with the Afghan warlord with the same name) reports that a senior Al Qaeda commander by the name of Abdel Rehman al-Hussainan was killed by a drone strike in North Waziristan over the weekend. Mr. al-Hussainan had allegedly replaced Abu Yahya al-Libi, who met the business end of a Hellfire missile last June, and some even say he was second in command to Ayman al-Zawahri himself. In less cheerful news, his wife also appears to have been killed in the strike and his daughter injured.

The Associated Press reports that Taliban representatives will attend a meeting in Paris to talk about the future of Afghanistan, but “will not discuss peace and reconciliation.” So what’s the point? Well, the croissants are great. Perhaps that explains why representatives from the Afghan government and other political parties, including even militant groups like Hezb-e-Islami, are also sending delegations.

Put down that croissant and brace yourself—this could get ugly. Reuters reports that Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that last week’s suicide bombing that wounded the country’s intelligence chief, Asadullah Khalid, was planned in Pakistan. Al Jazeera, meanwhile, has this profile of Mr. Khalid.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for an attack on a police station that killed at least eight people in Bannu, Pakistan, says the BBC.

According to Julie Tate of the Washington Post, Pfc. Bradley Manning’s pretrial hearing on the conditions of his detention at Quantico is expected to end this week.

The Post’s editorial board argues in this editorial that the plan for taking on terrorist groups in Mali is too little and is going to take way, way too long.

On Friday, I posted the first of an exclusive four part series on Jihad Jane by John Shiffman of Reuters. Here are parts two, three, and four.

Qadir Sediqi of CNN.com reports that a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in an operation to rescue a kidnapped American doctor in Afghanistan.

The Times tells us about the Nusra Front, a Syrian rebel group that is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the most effective fighting force against President Bashar al-Assad. Jack discusses the story here.

A review of ethics standards for senior military officers ordered by Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey after certain recent, uh, unfortunate incidents has found that—you guessed it—ethics training is insufficient, and needs to “start earlier and continue to be reinforced more frequently throughout officer’s careers.” CNN has the story.

For those interested in participating in the next Lawfare Drone Smackdown, the latest from DARPA on UAVs and depth perception should give you a few ideas—though Ben tells me he is not promising a repeat.

The Associated Press informs us that lawyers for New York City asked a federal judge on Friday to dismiss the June lawsuit filed by civil-rights group called Muslim Advocates over the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities post-9/11.

Just in case the ability to not use your cell phone for the 20 minutes before your plane takes off and lands has been giving you extreme heartburn, the Federal Communications Commission has sent a letter to the FAA urging it to rethink its policies. The Hill has more. You can also just defy the flight attendants, as everyone does on every flight I’ve been on.

Now kids, don’t try this at home: Matt Schroeder, a researcher with the Federation of American Scientists, learned that Iraqi insurgents mounted rocket launchers on their heads, says Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room. Ouch!

Lee Ferran of ABC News reports on comments made by Robert Clark, an operational lawyer for U.S. Army Cyber Command, at a conference in the UAE about the legal framework for America’s cyber capabilities:

“Articles that talk about cyber warfare and [say] that rules of engagement aren’t evolving as fast as [the cyber attacks], it’s just not true,” Clark said. “We have the law of armed conflict applying to any type conflict and it applies to cyberspace operations also… It’s just not the Wild West out there.”

For most of his presentation, Clark spoke in generalities about the legal aspects of American cyber capabilities because despite the months-old admission from U.S. Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander that the military is developing a “pro-active, agile cyber force,” and the oft-cited New York Times report on America’s role in developing Stuxnet, the devastating cyber weapon that hit an Iranian nuclear facility in late 2009, no current American officials have gone on record claiming responsibility for an offensive cyber attack.

However, emboldened by a government colleague’s praise of Stuxnet earlier this year, Clark couldn’t resist using it as a hypothetical example.

He said that before a weapon like Stuxnet would be launched, the same legal criteria would be considered as if it were a physical military attack. Is there an imminent threat from the target? Does it absolutely have to be taken out? Will the attack cause casualties or collateral damage that could and should be avoided?

Answering his own question about casualties, Clark echoed comments from colleague Air Force Col. Gary Brown when he noted the impressive restraint of the worm. Though Stuxnet was discovered on thousands of computers around the world in 2010, cyber researchers quickly realized that it was something of a smart bomb. It would spread harmlessly from computer to computer until it found itself on the exact system configuration — a control system at an Iranian nuclear facility — it was meant to target.

“Stuxnet,” Clark said, “was a very discriminant weapon.”

And, from Alan, comes this excellent story about a prank email to the Navy in advance of this weekend’s Army-Navy game: today’s Moment of Zen. Be sure to check out the pictures.

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.

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