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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Seven years of negotiations yesterday came to a close, when the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Arms Trade Treaty (“ATT”).  Colum Lynch of the Washington Post says the NRA will do its damnedest to stop the Senate from signing off on the pact.  In the meantime, executive agencies  will review its text; afterwards, and if appropriate, President Obama may elect to sign the ATT. Only then will the treaty be presented to the Senate for its endorsement (or rejection). Will the ATT go the way of the Law of the Sea treaty, which has languished in the Senate since U.N. passage in 1982?  Only time, and the world’s greatest deliberative body, will tell, writes Julian Pecquet of The Hill.  Here are SecState Kerry’s remarks on the ATT’s blessing by the U.N.:

The United States is pleased that the United Nations General Assembly has approved a strong, effective and implementable Arms Trade Treaty that can strengthen global security while protecting the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade.

The Treaty adopted today will establish a common international standard for the national regulation of the international trade in conventional arms and require all states to develop and implement the kind of systems that the United States already has in place. It will help reduce the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes, including terrorism, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. At the same time, the treaty preserves the principle that the international conventional arms trade is, and will continue to be, a legitimate commercial activity that allows nations to acquire the arms they need for their own security.

By its own terms, this treaty applies only to international trade, and reaffirms the sovereign right of any State to regulate arms within its territory. As the United States has required from the outset of these negotiations, nothing in this treaty could ever infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution, including the Second Amendment.

Speaking of international organizations, Marlise Simons of the New York Times writes about the United States’ recent engagement with the International Criminal Court. The U.S. obviously is not an ICC member state.  But the Obama administration nevertheless proactively assists the Court: U.S. diplomatic personnel handed over Bosco Ntaganda, after he turned himself in at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda in March.  Moreover, the State Department has announced a $5M award for information leading to the arrest of fugitives in ICC war crimes cases.  In this respect, the Obama Administration carries forward the policy of its predecessor.  As this 2008 Wall Street Journal report noted, in its second term the Bush Administration accepted the “reality” of the court as an international institution, and agreed to assist the court in its work.

Uh oh. There’s a new strain of bird flu circulating in China, and it has killed at least six people. Here’s hoping it doesn’t turn into the nightmare H5N1 that killed hundreds of people about a decade ago. David Barboza of the Times reports.

A diplomatic Twitter-spat arose yesterday between the U.S. and Egypt.  At issue was the investigation, by Egyptian authorities, into the Jon Stewart-like comedian Bassem Yousef. Kareen Fahim has the blow-by-blow at the Times.

Here’s a new one: at the Heritage’s The Foundry blog, Dr. Derek Scissors proposes reforms to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”).  Scissors would have CFIUS: 1) specifically address cyber espionage matters during its review, and 2) evaluate “greenfield” transactions (those not involving any American company) and equipment sales—two kinds of deals that are not, according to Scissors, within CFIUS’ jurisdiction right now.  I claim no special expertise in CFIUS matters, but isn’t #1 a little weird?  That is, doesn’t CFIUS screen for cyber-threats already?

Fifty gunmen attacked four independent Iraqi newspapers earlier this week.  It’s unclear in this AP story how many casualties there were.

Over at the Times, Thom Shanker discusses U.S. military plans to rely upon Special Operations forces around the world.  This, despite the public’s increasing war fatigue.

And Senator John McCain, on a trip to Bamako, Mali, called for a larger DoD investment in Mali. Here’s Carlo Munoz of The Hill with the Senator’s remarks.

Meanwhile, a DoD Inspector General’s report found that Army-issued mobile phones are not secure. Read the Information Week story.

The Hill’s Justin Sink relays Rep. Pete King’s views on unchummy relations between the United States and North Korea. King’s recommendation? Consider a preemptive strike, he said on CNN:

“I don’t think we have to wait until Americans are killed or wounded or injured in any way,” he continued. “I’m not saying we should be rushing into war, don’t get me wrong, but if we have solid evidence that North Korea’s going to take action, then I think we have a moral obligation and an absolute right to defend ourselves.”

And the Post has this piece by Anne Gearan and Chico Harlan, on the Obama administration’s efforts to contain North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions.

The question for participants in a live debate over at the The Economist: is industrial cyber-espionage the most significant threat to U.S.-China relations? Duncan Clark of BDA China, and Minxin Pei of Claremont McKenna College sketch their respective answers here.

For those concerned about domestic drones, here’s an interesting statistic: much more often than not, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection opts not to fly its remotely piloted aircraft—even in situations when it could, all other things being equal.  Here’s Evan Perez and Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal with details on the drone-related costs borne by the agency.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will hear the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Worldwide Threat Assessment next Thursday. On the witness list? DNI James Clapper, DCIA John Brennan, Lt. Gen. and DDIA Michael T. Flynn, and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The L.A. Times’ W.J. Hennigan reports on NASA’s latest drone mission: exploring volcanoes in Costa Rica.

Ain’t SecDef Hagel a man of the people? He’ll take a sequester-caused, 14-day pay cut—the same one that has been forced on DoD’s civilian employees, according to Carlo Munoz of The Hill.

The Hill’s Brent Budowsky thinks David Petraeus should lead a bipartisan task force, with the goal of “dramatically downsizing the Guantánamo detention center to detain only the 15 to 20 remaining high-value detainees, or — even better — closing it entirely.” Count me skeptical.   Congresspeople of both parties already have voted, in essence, to keep Guantanamo open at all costs.  So why would Congress change course now?  And why would Petraeus take this gig, to signal his return to public life?

The Taliban raided government buildings in Afghanistan’s Farah province, killing at least seven and wounding many others. Here’s Sayed Salahuddin of the Washington Post with the details, and more from Azam Ahmed of the Times.

Pakistan is walking away from Afghan-led peace talks with the Taliban, says Carlo Munoz of The Hill.

The Wall Street Journal informs us that the head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security is back in Kabul.  He has recovered from injuries sustained during an assassination attempt late last year.

Paul noted his signature on a letter submitted to the House Judiciary Committee.  Paul and his fellow signatories  oppose certain proposed reforms to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Here’s The Hill’s Jennifer Martinez with more.

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 Singhnoteworthy 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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