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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 1:31 PM

In the New York Times, Scott Shane updates us on the Bradley Manning hearings, including some juicy details about evidence the prosecution plans to introduce: among other things, Wikileak-ed cables that bin Laden sought to review personally.

Steve shared the government’s supplemental brief in Al Bahlul and theorized on its plans for further court review of controversial conspiracy and material support for terrorism charges.  Apropos, here’s Charlie Savage’s latest Times piece on developments in the case; Peter Finn also discusses the supplemental filing and quotes Steve in an article for the Washington Post.

“Zero Dark Thirty” wasn’t going to let a little political protest and human rights group outrage dampen its Oscar campaign. Here’s the story, courtesy of the L.A. Times.

David Bercuson, a distinguished research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, argues in this Globe and Mail op-ed that, in contemplating a future role in Mali, Canadian leaders should consider lessons learned from Afghanistan:

Canada should insist on full disclosure from its military allies on what operational and strategic plans they’re making and should have a say in shaping those plans. Whether Canada sends 10 people or 500, all those Canadians are Ottawa’s responsibility and all need to be protected against their misuse by our allies or against poor strategic decision-making.

Ottawa should make very sure of the human and physical geography of the area that Canadian troops might be operating in and know what dangers (such as open borders offering sanctuary to an enemy) lie in the offing.

Ottawa should also realistically assess the costs of the operation and how those costs will be paid for. The government must not take the funds for any new military mission out of the Department of National Defence’s already stretched budget.

An amnesty program in Afghanistan, which sought to rehabilitate members of the Taliban who renounced violence against the government, doesn’t seem to be proving very effective.  That’s the scoop from the Times’ Azam Ahmed. The latter interviews Afghan men who joined the program, but who nevertheless express regret for “joining the peace process,” and—more ominously—plan to “go back to the mountains, rearm . . . and fight.”

And more details are emerging about the White House’s strategy, during its conversations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai this week in Washington. Carlo Munoz of The Hill reports that the administration is pursuing a fast-track for peace talks with the Taliban.

Wells shared an opinion by U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer, in a habeas case brought by Guantanamo detainee Wali Mohammed Morafa.  In essence, the court permitted the government to withhold certain “Top Secret” discovery from habeas counsel—who held only “Secret” level clearances.  Judge Collyer herself had reviewed the concededly detainee-helpful information, and concluded both that it was too sensitive to disclose in its original form.  Here’s the AP story on her ruling.

Another drone strike occurred in the northwest of Pakistan.  The attack killed at least 5 militants, reports CBS News.

Did someone say “drone strike?” The Detroit News interviewed Ben about targeted killing and the use of unmanned aircraft.

I bet you thought we were past debate over WMDs in Iraq and Saddam Hussein’s alleged ties to the 9/11 attacks, didn’t you? Carlo Munoz of The Hill tells us that Rep. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, revived the debunked theory during an appearance on CNN.

Nicholas Kristof might not be able to assure all those Hagel-weary GOP Senators of their former colleague’s fitness for the SecDef post—but he sure tries his hardest. Kristof’s Times op-ed concludes:

As a journalist who spends a good deal of time in the field, I am often alarmed that Washington policy-making can become an echo chamber reinforcing the prejudices of whoever is in charge without giving weight to inconvenient complexities on the ground. With his combat experience, Chuck Hagel would offer not an echo but a thoughtful and independent voice.

Speaking of confirmation politics, over at Wired’s “Dangerroom” blog, Spencer Ackerman and Noah Schachtman summarize the Senate’s three-point agenda for questioning DCIA nominee John Brennan: “Leaks! Torture! Drones!” They also conclude that, notwithstanding their professed skepticism, a majority of senators still will vote to confirm Brennan.

And last but certainly not least: we missed this important story from December, which comes to us from a little-known Afghan town called Trekh Nawa.  It was the site of a so-called “blue-on-red” attack, according to the prestigious news source Duffel Blog:

The incident, originally reported by an Afghan human rights group called the Taliban, started when a squad of US Marines came upon several dozen Afghan men engaged in the traditional Afghan sport of badal, consisting of launching several ceremonial mortar rounds at Combat Outpost Hanson.

According to local officials, the men had also spent the morning digging holes around the combat outpost to fill with explosives so the Marines would not suffer from any rodent infestations.

Upon seeing the Marines, the Afghans began celebratory firing in the air with their AK-47′s and several RPG’s. Due to high wind velocity, most of the rounds were accidentally blown in the direction of the Marines.

Without giving the Afghans time to explain their actions or brew a warm welcoming cup of tea, the Marines immediately went on a murderous rampage, shooting over twenty-five.

There are also hints that the Marines had a long-running dispute with the victims regarding the role of radical Islam in the governance of rural Afghanistan.

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