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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, January 11, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Lest you forget, today marks the nationwide release of “Zero Dark Thirty.” Surely you won’t miss that.

Ben already posted about Jen Daskal’s New York Times op-ed.  Jen argues against closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center, at least in the short run.  In case you missed Ben’s post, you can find the op-ed here.

Also in the Times: documentary filmmaker Lauren Poitras has this op-doc, or short film and column, about the death of Guantanamo detainee Adnan Latif.

The Bloomberg editorial team is concerned about Judge McMahon’s ruling in the New York Times/ACLU FOIA case.  (The lawsuit, you’ll recall, sought information regarding targeted killing and drone strikes by the CIA—including an OLC memo that allegedly set forth the legal rationale behind the killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki.) Their conclusion is simple enough:

Still, there’s legitimate concern about the precedent set by succumbing to FOIA requests for information on covert action. The way out of the puzzle is clear: The administration should voluntarily release the memo. If there are national security secrets involved, they can be redacted. Alternatively, the White House can issue a document to Congress that clearly delineates its legal thinking, just as the George W. Bush administration did with its warrantless wiretapping operation in 2005. The current administration has been far too quiet on its drone war for far too long.

Banks increasingly fall prey to cyber attacks and security breaches.  Thus they turn more and more to the National Security Agency for help—Cybercommand being up at Fort Meade and all.  That’s the word from Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post.

Opinions proliferate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be SecDef.  According to Jeremy Herb at The Hill‘s DefCon Hill blog, outgoing SecDef Leon Panetta called GOP attacks on Hagel’s stances on Iran, Israel and other foreign policy matters “unfair.”  In a related if unusual move, Chuck Hagel publicly has taken on his critics, as Darrell Samuelsohn of Politico notes. Given the ‘Israel factor,’  the Senate’s ultimate action on Hagel may hinge on one of Israel’s best friends in that body, New York Senator Charles Schumer, as Manu Raju and Maggie Haberman of Politico explain.  And Hagel is off to meet with would-be DoD staff, in order to articulate his stance on Iran and help shore up support over at the Pentagon.  That’s the scoop from Meghashyam Mali of The Hill.  Finally, National Journal’s Michael Hirsch assesses Hagel’s foreign policy record and provocatively explains why so many oppose his nomination.  Regrettably (!), Hagel staked out too many correct positions.  Here’s Hirsch:

In Washington, one is forgiven many things: sex scandals, massive errors of judgment. Being right is another matter. For too many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, it would be just too uncomfortable to have Hagel restored to power. He would be a living, nagging reminder of just how much they got wrong.

From Chuck Hagel, we move to the other big nomination in the national security world—that of John Brennan, Obama’s pick for CIA Director.  The latter apparently has a new nickname, “Mr. Drone.” Paul Harris of the Guardian collects the reactions of the anti-drone lobby to the President’s nomination; meanwhile, Amy Davidson in the New Yorker expresses her concerns:

What is troubling to many Americans—what Brennan must be asked about in any confirmation hearings—is where this battlefield, this war, and this killing authority begin and end. Brennan has helped construct and justify the Administration’s claim that it can kill people, including American citizens, abroad on its own authority, even when those people are not in countries with which we are at war. His speech in April was a sort of catechism, culminating in “targeted strikes are wise.” We have done it in Pakistan and Yemen; could we do it in London or Paris? How about in New Jersey, the subject of a number of jokes at Brennan’s introduction? (Brennan is a native; Obama referred to “that unique combination of smarts and strength that he claims comes from growing up in New Jersey. “)

Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First wants Brennan to correct the record regarding who, in this armed conflict against al Qaeda, is a legitimate military target.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama will sit down today, in order to discuss U.S. troop levels post-2014.  The two leaders might not meet eye-to-eye on that subject, according to this analysis by the New York Times trio of  Mark Landler, Michael Gordon, and Matthew Rosenberg.

Happily, I am not the only one who has noticed a spike in reporting about Pakistan and U.S. drone strikes.  The Post’s Greg Miller counts seven attacks in the first ten days of 2013.  Spencer Ackerman, of Wired’s Danger Room blog,  thinks nevertheless that Pakistan is “doing exactly nothing” in response to the surge in drone assaults.

Islamists in Mali have wrested control of Konna, a Malian town, from that country’s army.  This deals a significant blow to the embattled government’s efforts there, reports Adam Nossiter of the Times.  French troops have deployed to Mali, in order to provide seemingly necessary support.

The D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in a FOIA lawsuit seeking photos taken of bin Laden, shortly after the raid that killed him.  Politico’s Josh Gerstein has coverage; ditto Ann Marimow of the Post.

It seems piracy on the high seas may be winding down.  Or, at least, “Big Mouth”—real name Mohamed Abdi Hassan—is calling it quits.  The infamous, reputedly chatty Somali pirate announced his retirement this week.  From Big Mouth’s mouth: “[F]rom today on I will not be involved in this gang activity.” Here’s Harvey Morris of the Times on Hassan’s decision to step down.

Remember that ominous report about telecommunications failures during last June’s storm in D.C.? Well, the FCC has released its own report on the snafu. Brendan Sasso of The Hill updates us on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s remarks on the report’s findings.

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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