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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 12:40 PM

And I thought all those Google alerts about drones taking over the world were annoying.  Well, they’re nothing compared to the reactions to the Justice Department’s White Paper on the lethal targeting of a “U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force.”  Let’s be accurate: this document is not the classified Office of Legal Counsel Memo that we heard so much about back in 2011.  The White Paper does not scrutinize the legality of proposed executive branch action, as OLC typically does.  Instead, as the White Paper itself says, it sets forth a “legal framework” applicable to a particular situation, full stop.  In a similar vein, the White Paper also:

does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful; nor does it assess what might be required to render a lethal operation against a U.S. citizen lawful in other circumstances, including an operation against enemy forces on a traditional battlefield or an operation against a U.S. citizen who is not a senior operational leader of such forces.

Here are some articles on the White Paper, many of which unfortunately mischaracterize it as a legal memo: the National Journal, Politico’s Josh Gerstein, Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Wired, U.S. News and World Report, the American Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie, Scott Shane & Charlie Savage at the New York TimesGlenn Greenwald at the Guardian, Reuters, the AP, and the New York Times Conversation.

And of course, no coverage would be complete without a New York Times Editorial. Here’s one, about the White Paper and its “coy” description of the underlying OLC memo.  Hey, at least it described the documents appropriately.

James Downie, the Washington Post’s Day Editor, writes over at the PostPartisan blog about the White Paper.  He is quite unhappy:

The summary memo [SIC] is a chilling document, full of twisted definitions, gaping loopholes and hints that the White House still isn’t sharing its full justification for killing citizens without due process.

Greg McNeal boils down what he considers the key takeaways from the White Paper here, saying that “there were not very many surprises” to those who’ve been paying attention to the administration’s remarks on the topic.

And David Cole has this New York Review of Books op-ed discussing what the white paper fails to address besides the legal framework that’s in the OLC memo.

Some find significance in the timing of the White Paper’s appearance, given that the “principal coordinator” of the Administration’s drone strikes, John Brennan, will appear before the Senate later this week for his nomination hearing. Raise your hand if you think Brennan’s hearing will be even more unfriendly than Chuck Hagel’s. Here’s a Times piece by Robert Worth, Mark Mazetti, and Scott Shane drawing the linkages, and a Washington Post piece by Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung.  Also note:  now we know the location of the drone base from which the al-Aulaqi strike was launched–Saudi Arabia.

Here’s what else is up.

Two more government agencies reporting cyber attacks: the Department of Energy, late last week, according to Times reporter Nicole Perlroth; and the Federal Reserve, over the weekend, according to Dow Jones Newswire.

Speaking of cybersecurity, a report from the GAO gives the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) a less-than-stellar review of its “Enhanced Secured Network” project—a cybersecurity plan adopted after a breach back in September 2011.  Here is Josh Hicks of the Post with his summary of the report, which you can read in full here.

The FCC has its hands full, as it brainstorms how to prevent phone and internet blackouts that occurred during Hurricane Sandy.  Brian Chen of the Times reports on solutions-seeking meetings between the Commission, public utilities and communications providers.

Oh yeah, drones aren’t just for death and destruction–the FBI used them for surveillance in their rescue of the 5-year old hostage in Alabama.  Check out CNN.com‘s story on YouTube.  (CNN, during that same story, the news ticker referred to the DOJ White Paper a “memo.” Stop!).

And finally, Charlottesville, Virginia has taken a stand against the infiltration of drones into our domestic airspace. Read the U.S. News and World Report story on a 3-2 vote in Charlottesville’s city council.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States says that the CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan are “a clear violation of our sovereignty and a violation of international law,” raising doubts about just how much cooperation and agreement there is between the United States and Pakistan. Here’s Karen DeYoung in the Post on the Ambassador’s remarks.

Civil Rights lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department, and alleged the latter’s unlawful surveillance of Muslim communities in the City. Here’s a Guardian story on the lawsuit.

Jeremy Herb reports over at The Hill on the Second Circuit’s decision to grant Senators McCain, Graham, and Ayotte time at the upcoming oral argument in the Hedges case. The Senators plan to defend the 2012 NDAA’s detention provisions, which the plaintiffs have challenged as unconstitutional.   Wells is quoted in the story; he wrote earlier about the Senators’ amicus filings.

There were more clashes in Mali, but France remains steadfast in its promise to withdraw “within weeks.” Here’s Scott Sayare and Alan Cowell in the Times.

Congressmen Ruppersberger and Rogers will have another go at their cybersecurity bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).  Earlier, it was all but ignored by the Senate, attacked by the internet freedom community, but supported by the private sector. CISPA would reduce legal barriers between companies and the intelligence community, and speed up information sharing. Here’s Jennifer Martinez of The Hill on the news.

Some more scary statistics about cybersecurity vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure comes from Infosecurity Magazine.  It says that that’s such vulnerabilities have increased some 600% since 2010.

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.