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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Nerd alert: For those pining for more about unmanned technologies, tune in to PBS tonight for NOVA’s latest undertaking, “Rise of the Drones.” Check out the preview here, and Mike Hale’s review of the program over at the New York Times.

Haven’t heard enough about the U.S. draw down in Afghanistan? The Rand Corporation studied the issue and reached bleak conclusions, according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal (caution: paywall).  The gist: a faster-than-expected pullout of U.S. forces could bring about the collapse of the Afghan Police—and thus potentially endanger local leaders who challenged the Taliban.

Word on the street is that the deputy leader of AQAP,  Abu Sufyan al-Azdi, has been killed—although Yemeni Defense Ministry officials and AQAP itself said that there is no evidence to confirm the death. Here’s CNN.com on the rumors.  Was al-Azdi the victim of a drone strike?

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified today before two Congressional committees, and reiterated her statement taking responsibility for the Benghazi attack. Here are her prepared remarks, and stories from NPR, the Washington Post, and the Times.

Speaking of Benghazi, a senior Algerian official said yesterday that there may be some perpetrators common to the Benghazi attack as well as the gas plant siege in Algeria last week. Adam Nossiter reports on that bit of news.

Dina Temple-Raston tells us about a video posted by Al Qaeda’s Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claiming responsibility for the In Amenas gas plant attack. Read this story in the Times about a Romanian worker’s harrowing escape from the Algeria plant, and this one (also in the Times) about security procedures in place there. And the Post’s Joby Warrick writes about the public relations boost afforded to AQIM—among militant Islamists, anyway—as a result of both the Algeria gas plant assault and the group’s operations in nearby Mali.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the implications of France’s decision to intervene in Mali, and Thom Shanker writes in the Times that the U.S. has begun airlifting a French battalion there.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “at least things are relatively calm in places other than Mali and Algeria.” Not so much: an advisory appearing in an Indian government newspaper recommends that families in Kashmir prepare for a nuclear war. The agency responsible for the advisory, the Civil Defense and State Disaster Response Force, disclaimed any intention to provoke.  Instead, the agency says, the advisory was meant only to commemorate the CDSDRF’s one year anniversary. (It’s just a coincidence that recent clashes between Pakistan and India happen to be the worst since the two countries’ 2003 cease-fire.)  Here’s Gardiner Harris of the Times on that story.

And if a Pakistan-India nuclear face-off doesn’t have you quivering in your boots, consider North Korea’s latest hints that it might conduct a third nuclear test, despite international sanctions now levied against the country by the U.N. Security Council. Choe Sang-hun of the Times has the story.

Over at the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog, Jacob Gershman interviews former DOD General Counsel Jeh Johnson. Asked for his views on the depiction of torture in “Zero Dark Thirty,” Johnson said: “It very deliberately did not try to answer the question of whether information obtained as a result of enhanced interrogation techniques led to the courier and his whereabouts.”

Ellen Nakashima wrote in the Post over the weekend about the FISA court, and a three year-old effort to determine which, if any, of the court’s opinions could be safely redacted and released—while. of course, preserving enough of the underlying analysis to still be informative to the public.

Another Gitmo-related anniversary is here (that pesky Obama executive order about closing it), as Jackie Northam reminds us over at NPR. She scored interviews with our own John Bellinger III, Ben Wittes, and Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch.

Former DNI Dennis Blair spoke with CFR’s Micah Zenko about U.S. drone strike policies yesterday. Here’s the transcript.

Over at the New York Times‘ Dealbook blog (a place we don’t frequently link to), Keith Bradsher writes about national security concerns over China’s interest in the U.S. aerospace industry. A sampling:

In aerospace, the Chinese deal-makers have deep ties to the military, raising additional issues for American regulators. The main contractor for the country’s air force, the state-owned China Aviation Industry Corporation, known as Avic, has set up a private equity fund to purchase companies with so-called dual-use technology that has civilian and military applications, with the goal of investing as much as $3 billion. In 2010, Avic acquired the overseas licensing rights for small aircraft made by Epic Aircraft of Bend, Ore., using lightweight yet strong carbon-fiber composites — the same material used for high-performance fighter jets.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to take a close look at the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, largely in response to the death of Aaron Swartz, and to the internet freedom community’s outrage over the way law enforcement handled his prosecution. Here’s Jennifer Martinez of The Hill on the plans; and if you haven’t read the Times‘ piece on how MIT caught Aaron Swartz while using its computer network to download 4.8 million documents, do so.

I can’t believe it got past our Google alerts, but the taxpayer-subsidized soccer field at JTF-GTMO isn’t the only  amenity available to detainees there. They also now qualify for veterans’ benefits (h/t WL).

For more interesting law and security-related articles, follow us on Twitter and check out the Lawfare News Feed, 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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