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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, January 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM

For the first Friday in January, it’s quite a prolific news day.

The New York Times published this editorial on the FOIA case that it and the ACLU just lost in the Southern District of New York. The Times’s stance, unsurprisingly, is that the decision should be overturned on appeal and that President Obama should release that famous OLC legal memo that Charlie Savage wrote about shortly after Anwar al-Aulaqi’s death in 2011—even though the government prevailed in the suit. Key snippets:

[The government’s] selective and self-serving “public relations campaign,” as the judge termed it, should have been deemed a waiver of the government’s right to withhold its legal rationale from public scrutiny. Moreover, disclosing the document would not have jeopardized national security or revealed any properly classified operational details. The ruling, which is inconsistent with the purpose and history of the information disclosure law, richly deserves overturning on appeal.

President Obama, who pledged more government transparency in his first campaign and early days in office, should heed those sentiments and order the legal memo released along with other information that would shed light on the government’s legal reasoning and the evidence leading to Mr. Awlaki’s killing.

It is past time he did so.

And David Kravetz of Wired writes on the Threat Level blog about the decision, as does Reuters.

As Ben mentioned, President Obama signed the NDAA yesterday. The ACLU wrote this press release reiterating its displeasure with the administration’s failure to close Guantanamo, Charlie Savage of the New York Times wrote this story on the bill’s enactment, and Peter Finn—who is back at the Washington Post after a bit of hiatus—did as well. David Jackson of USA Today wrote about the ACLU’s reaction as well, and Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times calls the detention provisions in question “odious”.

The Economist writes this week on the FISA Amendments Act passage as well as the New York Times/ACLU FOIA decision, characterizing the week as a victorious one for secrets and the “imperial presidency.” It concludes:

Mr. Obama first ran for office five years ago promising to roll back some of his predecessor’s more outrageous violations of civil liberties. He has done nothing of the sort. Mr. Obama signed the FISA extension into law on December 30th, and he won the right to keep his rationale for killing Americans secret three days later. He deserves full measures of opprobrium for both, but this is no more about him than the Patriot Act was about his predecessor. The extension lasts for five years, by which time Mr. Obama will no longer be in office. This is about America’s imperial presidency and the fourth amendment, which it has trampled into irrelevant ink smudges.

Matthew Rosenberg of the Times interviews one of the culprits of insider attacks against U.S. military forces in Afghanistan (on May 11th, killing one soldier and wounding two others), an Afghan soldier who reached out to the Taliban seeking refuge if he turned on his American military counterparts.

A U.K. judge has approved the extradition to the U.S. of Abid Naseer, the alleged leader of the Al Qaeda plot to set off a bomb in Manchester, U.K. U.S. authorities argued that while there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him in the U.K., they have enough to charge him as a part of a larger conspiracy to attack New York, as well as Manchester. Here’ s the BBC on that decision.

So yeah, General John Allen did send proposals for post-2014 troops levels in Afghanistan, but the DOD says that we shouldn’t draw any “grand conclusions” about final troop counts from those proposals. Here’s Carlo Munoz of The Hill on the Pentagon’s disclaimer.

Reuters reports that the chief of Benghazi’s criminal investigations unit, in the midst of an investigation into the death of a former police chief, was seized by a group of armed men on Wednesday.

A ruling in the 9/11 case on the release of unclassified evidence about interrogation techniques from back in December has finally been made public. Judge James Pohl, who is presiding over the 9/11 cases in Guantanamo, ruled that sensitive but unclassified information could be withheld in a protective order. Here’s an LA Times story on that ruling, the ruling by Judge Pohl, and the protective order.

Well, the 113th Congress has been sworn in, and if you’re like me, you can’t wait for the flurry of legislative activity that is sooooo likely to take place, now that we have some real problem-solvers on the Hill. Stephanie Gaskell of Politico discusses the defense-related national security-related legislative initiatives on the agenda in this new Congress.

Senators Feinstein, Levin and McCain remain concerned about the implications in Zero Dark Thirty’s portrayal of torture in the hunt for UBL, writes Jeremy Herb of The Hill. I, by contrast, remain concerned that ZDT is still not playing Washington.

Those drones strikes we noted on Thursday in Pakistan ended up killing 13 individuals, including Maulvi Nazir, a militant commander who had a peace agreement with the Pakistani military.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross writes in the Globe and Mail on developments since the U.N. Security Council resolution in favor of intervention in Mali.

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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