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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 12:09 PM

Going against U.N. Security Council orders, North Korea successfully tested a nuclear bomb today, reports just about every major news source. Here are the AP and the New York Times.

The bad news just keeps coming from Afghanistan: a government panel there confirmed the conclusions reached by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan that torture of detainees in Afghan-supervised facilities is widespread. Here’s Douglas Schorzman of the New York Times with those findings, and here’s the UNAMA report again for those who might not have had the time to read through all 120-odd pages of it yet.

The GAO released another report on Afghan preparedness once the U.S. withdraws, this one focused on the lack of capital. It estimates that the Afghan National Security Force needs $25B over the next six fiscal years, which it most certainly won’t have without significant donations from other countries. Here’s Carlo Munoz and the GAO report as well.  Meanwhile, Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post provides details on the Pentagon’s latest plan for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is a three-year phased-reduction. And the final decision on the number of troops that will withdraw by the end of this year (34,000) will be included in tonight’s State of the Union address, the New York Times reports.

In other ominous news, Tom Gjelten continues the NPR series on cybersecurity challenges, with today’s Morning Edition piece focused on the market for software flaws that can provide a back door into networks for hackers and those seeking to exploit insecure networks.

President Obama approved sending $50M to support the French military’s operations in Mali, writes Julian Pecquet in The Hill. At the International Herald Tribune, Harvey Morris considers the options for building a peaceful Mali once (and if) the violence stops.

Eric Schmitt takes a close look at AFRICOM’s ability to respond to and deal with its mission, particularly in light of the increasing dominance of Islamists on the continent.

So much for that “agreement” in the Senate about filibustering. Senator Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, says he’ll protest Chuck Hagel’s nomination for SecDef on the floor to prevent a final vote (Politico times two) if Senator Carl Levin goes through with a committee vote, which it seems like he’ll do, at least according to The Hill.

While Wells is still up at Fort Meade live-blogging, Peter Finn at the Washington Post reports, as does Charlie Savage of the New York Times, on the defense’s argument that a third party is listening in on privileged conversations with their clients. Richard Serrano of the Los Angeles Times notes that Judge James Pohl suspended the hearings temporarily Monday, as Wells and Sophie explained yesterday in their live coverage. The Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg notes the presence of two family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks at the hearings.

Jess Bravin, the Supreme Court correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, has this adapted excerpt from his forthcoming book, The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay, in The Atlantic. The piece discusses the departure of  Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, one of the military commission prosecutors.

Roger Cohen’s New York Times column today is focused on the portrayal of torture in “Zero Dark Thirty,” which he calls “truthful.”

Thailand has increased security measures at the U.S. consulate in Chiang Mai as a result of threats from domestic Islamist terrorist groups. Here’s the AP story on that.

The post-Brennan nomination fallout continues, with former CIA General Counsel John Rizzo saying at an event at Cardozo Law School that Mr. Brennan “never told—he never expressed any concerns to me” about the enhanced interrogation program. Megan Robertson and Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post report on Rizzo’s remarks.

And Mother Jones critiques remarks by Maine’s Independent Senator Angus King defending the targeted killing program on MSNBC’s Morning Joe last Friday. Senator King called the use of drones “more civilized” and “more humane” than other methods, but wants a FISA-like court to oversee the program when a U.S. citizen will be targeted. Here’s a video of the segment (Senator King’s remarks begin at about 8:30):

On Charlie Rose, former Vice President Dick Cheney said of the targeted killing program: “I think it’s a good program and I don’t disagree with the basic policy that the Obama administration is pursuing now in those regards.” Here’s The Hill on his interview.

Catherine Crump and Jay Stanley over at Slate at explain the American public’s opposition to the use of UAVs in domestic airspace, and propose federal law to protect privacy concerns and create high standards governing the use of drones by law enforcement agencies.

Another day, another network breach: a cybersecurity contractor for the Defense Information Systems Agency was compromised, reports NextGov. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy has announced a new funding opportunity (a total of $20M) for research that aims to improve the cybersecurity of the U.S. energy infrastructure.

Yes, the long-awaited cybersecurity executive order is likely to be released first thing tomorrow at an event at the Department of Commerce. And yes, it’s probably going to include a voluntary program for best standards, reports Jennifer Martinez of The Hill. Some are urging the President to use his State of the Union address this evening to encourage Congress to make further progress on the issue, including Republican Representative Jim Langevin, so writes Bloomberg BNA.

And CNOOC has received approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to purchase Canadian energy company Nexen. Approval by CFIUS was sought because about 8% of its output is in the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s Bloomberg’s story by Rebecca Penty.

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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