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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 3:51 PM

As Steve mentioned last night, a Department of Justice White Paper (not the famed OLC memo, that is) is now out. Here’s Charlie Savage and Scott Shane at the New York Times, Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post, NPR, the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer’s, a piece in the Huffington Post by Ryan J. Reilly, Joshua Hersh and Sam Stein, and The Hill’s Justin Sink.

Of course, the leak is well-timed to coincide with Senators calling for the OLC memo itself (this might be the best you’re going to get) as they begin considering John Brennan’s nomination as DCI. Here’s Greg Miller in the Post yesterday.

Michael Lewis, professor of Law and Ohio Northern University, makes the case in favor of drone strikes at theLA Times (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say he argues that drones are the least-worst option).

Over at the New York Times, a trio of reporters (Ginger Thompson, Randal Archibold, and Eric Schmitt) provides the fascinating details of the United States’ influence in the selection of Mexico’s defense minister. In short, U.S.  concerns that General Moisés García Ochoa “had links to drug traffickers” and “had misused military supplies and skimmed money from multimillion-dollar defense contracts” appear to have scotched his nomination:

After September’s Independence Day parade, senior American officials gathered in Mexico City for two days of meetings to assess their suspicions about the general, and to discuss whether or not to share those misgivings with their Mexican counterparts.

According to a Mexican official, the Americans eventually did share their concerns about the general, less than a week before Mr. Peña Nieto announced his cabinet appointments. The official said the American ambassador met in Mexico City with two senior aides to the incoming leader, including Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, who later became interior minister, and Jorge Ramírez Marin, a former national security adviser.

The official said Mr. Wayne, the ambassador, had discussed Washington’s concerns about the general, emphasizing that the allegations had not been corroborated.

“The timing was important,” the Mexican official said, “because Mexican presidents almost never replace the person they appoint as defense minister, so whoever was chosen would be involved with setting the terms of cooperation for the next six years.”

In the end, General García Ochoa did not get the job. Instead, it went to Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, who Mexican officials said had become close with Mr. Peña Nieto when he served as governor of the state of Mexico and General Cienfuegos commanded the area’s military base.

As for General García Ochoa, he was dispatched to a military base in the northern border state of Coahuila, a hotbed of cartel-related prison breaks, police corruption and political assassinations.

Whether Washington played a central role in how things turned out for the general remains unclear. Meanwhile, a column in the Mexican newspaper El Universal debated whether his dangerous new assignment was a demonstration of the government’s confidence in him, or a demotion aimed at forcing him to consider an early retirement.

The Ombudsman for PBS responds to complaints about the perception that NOVA’s program on drones last week was funded by Lockheed Martin, noted by Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola.

Over at the Washington Post, Craig Whitlock details the unsuccessful counterterrorism efforts in Africa by the United States over the years, including an opportunity back in 2003 to strike Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s camp that was never taken up because the ambassador to Mali at the time thought the strike was too risky.

Four individuals believed to be involved with a French extremist group fighting in Mali have been detained in France. According to this Times piece, other French extremists are also heading to Syria to aid in the anti-government forces there.

Another hearing on the Benghazi attack on the horizon, this time featuring outgoing SecDef Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Here’s Jeremy Herb of The Hill reporting that Panetta is expected to "satisfy the demands" of Senator Lindsey Graham, who threatened to place a hold on Hagel’s nominations if Panetta didn’t testify about the attack.

As the SecDef Panetta farewell tour winds down, he spoke over the weekend on "Meet the Press," and in commenting on "Zero Dark Thirty," he said that he thought the capture of bin Laden could have occurred without the use of enhanced interrogation.

Ellen Nakashima reports in the Post on the investigation led by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley into the FBI’s responsibility in surveillance abuses when Valerie Caproni served as the FBI General Counsel. The FBI GC’s office was in charge of national security letters and exigent letters used to receive access to phone and electronic records for U.S. citizens without a warrant. Caproni, currently GC at Northrup Grumman has been nominated by President Obama to become a Judge in the Southern District of New York.

Remember that ban instituted by the U.S. military on Afghanistan’s largest airline? Well, it’s been lifted, and the U.S. will share what it has on the company’s alleged connections to the opiate trade, reports Alissa Rubin of the Times.

Senate GOPers aren’t saying they won’t filibuster Chuck Hagel’s SecDef nomination, but at least two Republicans have expressed their intention to vote for him. Here’s Carlo Munoz and Jeremy Herb of The Hill on GOP members’ ruminations on his nomination hearing, and Justin Sink of The Hill reports on Republican Senator Inhofe’s prediction that Democrats will back out of their support of the former Republican Senator.

Reports indicate that a French-owned and Luxembourg-licensed oil tanker that disappeared off the Ivory Coast has been taken over by pirates, who are holding 17 sailors on board. Here’s Gerry Mullany of the Times with the news.

The Open Society Justice Initiative released a report today about the role of foreign countries in the U.S.’s interrogation and rendition programs in the aftermath of 9/11. Here’s Scott Shane on the gist of the report, and the report itself.

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