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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, January 25, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Today is another whopper of a news day and something of a Lawfare milestone:  the 350th Edition of Today’s Headlines and Commentary! Ritika and I will be graciously accepting flowers and gifts.

In leak news, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was sentenced to thirty months in prison, in conformity with a plea deal he had reached with prosecutors.  Judge Leonie Brinkema said the term was too lenient, but she approved it nonetheless.   The New York Times‘ Michael Schmidt reports.

Bio-scary: in 2011, scientists had developed a seemingly more resistant and deadly strain of the H1N1 virus, one potentially more contagious in mammals.  Concerned that the research could be exploited and possibly lead to a pandemic (or a terrorist attack), scientists called for a temporary pause in the research.  But now, because the moratorium’s goals have been attained in some nations, the avian flu research is picking up once more.  (Among other things, some states allegedly have bucked up their biosecurity programs.)  Here’s the scientific community’s official letter explaining the work’s resumption, as published in Science magazine;  a story on  NPR; and another one in the Times.

News from Down Under: Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has announced the establishment of the Australian Cyber Security Center (“ACSC”). According to the Global Times, the new organization’s responsibilities will include:

[A]nalysing the nature and extent of cyber threats, leading the government’s response to cyber incidents. It will work closely with critical infrastructure sectors and key industry partners to protect Australia’s most valuable networks and systems. It will also provide advice and support to develop preventative strategies to counter cyber threats.

The ACSC will be the hub of the government’s cyber security efforts. It will include, in one place, cyber security operational capabilities from the Defence Signals Directorate, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Attorney-General’s Department’s Computer Emergency Response Team Australia, Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission.

A single government office dedicated to cybersecurity threats? How novel. ComputerWorld also has coverage, on both the cost of the initiative ($1.46B AUS, or $1.54B USD), and on private industry’s ringing approval. Matthew Warren, an information systems professor at Deakin University, also applauds the ACSC’s creation.

The Aussies aren’t the only ones with new cybersecurity initiatives.  Italy’s government will follow suit, by establishing a permanent support and emergency management unit for cybersecurity. Here’s the Reuters story. The EU likewise is developing legislation that would require member states to collaborate in their responses to cyber attacks. Read the Deutsche Welle report on that.

Meanwhile, a codebreaking competition amongst UK universities has students vying for the title of “University Cipher Champion.”  The contest was dreamed up by cyber professionals at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.  May the best cipher win.

Apropos, ECPA reform and cybersecurity remain part of the agenda on Capitol Hill. Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has put both issues on the committee’s to-do list, as Bloomberg BNA reports. And Democratic Senators have already introduced a bill, the Cybersecurity and American Cyber Competitiveness Act of 2013. Read the (very short) proposal for yourself here.

And hey, at least one state is standing up a Cyber Threat Response Team within its National Guard—Missouri. Here’s Fox News in St. Louis on the announcement.

In the wake of last December’s International Telecommunications Union (“ITU”) conference in Dubai, many remain displeased with the updated ITU treaty, particularly in the United States and Western Europe.  Congress has passed resolutions expressing disappointment with the accord, and an advocacy group is now campaigning to eliminate U.S. funding for the ITU, a U.N.-affiliated organization.  The Times reports on the effort.

InformationWeek has this report, authored by PWC’s Gadi Evron and Savid Technology’s Michael Davis. The pair argue that cyber professionals should shift from a defensive to an offensive posture.

In appointments news, Senator Kerry’s hearing before his soon-to-be former colleagues on the Hill was a piece of cake. Here’s Anne Gearan in the Washington Post reviewing his testimony. And Chuck Hagel finds more supporters in the Senate, having recently added another three Dems to his list of “aye’s”: Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Here’s Jeremy Herb of The Hill on the latest rundown of the Hagel lovers and haters.

We mentioned earlier in the week that AQAP’s #2 might have been killed in a drone strike.  The Times Mark Mazetti now confirms, the official word apparently having come from the Yemeni government.

Remember those surveillance drones, that the UN Security Council had wanted to authorize for use in the Democratic Republic of Congo?  They have been approved. Here’s Reuters with the news.  Apropos, Firedoglake‘s Kevin Gosztola wasn’t enamored of NOVA’s “Rise of the Drones” program, which aired on Wednesday night.  Kevin perceives a conflict of interest—the program having received funding from the David Koch Foundation for Science, “viewers like you” (naturally), and . . . Lockheed Martin, maker of drones.

France is running up against some significant challenges in Mali, including a weak Malian government; confusion about who is considered a “civilian” and thus not lawfully targetable; how to handle negotiations with new militia groups; and ethnic tensions. Here are Sudarsan Raghavan and Edward Cody of the Post, on how the French are dealing with these conundrums; and the BBC. on allegations that, in the midst of its campaign against Islamist extremists, the Malian Army has been carrying out summary executions and targeting Arabs and ethnic Tuaregs.

Lydia Polgreen reports in the Times about the weaknesses rampant in the Malian army itself.

Here’s an NPR story mulling over what U.S. involvement in Mali says about AFRICOM’s own role in the African continent.  Relatedly, in this Huffington Post op-ed, John Tirman of MIT’s Center for Security Studies critiques Susan Rice’s argument in favor of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali.  Tirman:

A half-hearted or poorly designed intervention can create more problems than it solves, so this is something to think through carefully. The disfavor for intervention among American politicians and the public is understandable and a good restraint. But occasionally making a stand against atrocity and extremism, particularly when it’s in danger of spreading, is a worthy goal for a great power. Mali just might be the place.

In The Atlantic, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is thinking ahead about where militants in the Malian conflict should be detained, and who should detain them. His conclusion:

Put simply, noncriminal detention should be reintroduced to Western nations’ arsenal for combating violent non-state actors. The conflict in Mali shows that, though the criminal justice system may be satisfactory for handling terrorists who are captured under normal conditions, situations will arise where the quantity of combatants captured necessitates a different approach. At some point we will need to formulate a principled method for dealing with the unique problems that arise pertaining to noncriminal detention where the war is not state-to-state, but rather consists of a state (or states) fighting non-state actors. Especially because America is not playing a lead role, Mali is a good place for this discussion to begin.

And let’s not forget about those protests in Iraq against the al-Maliki government. At least 6 people are dead after the Iraqi Army opened fire on protestors outside of Falluja. Read Duraid Adnan of the Times.

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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