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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, April 12, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Charlie Savage of the New York Times shares our disappointment that the Al Nashiri military commission hearings slated for next week have been postponed. So does Peter Finn of the Washington Post.  Judge Pohl ordered the delay after defense counsel learned that court personnel had disclosed confidential emails to prosecutors, and further that defense documents had disappeared from ostensibly secure servers.

Now that the U.N. General Assembly has approved the Arms Trade Treaty, how quickly will the U.S. join it? The Stimson Center’s Rachel Stohl makes the case for swift presidential signing and Senate approval, in this New York Times op-ed.

A formidable trio of current and former diplomats take a stand against what they see as the marginalization of the U.S. Foreign Service. In this Washington Post op-ed, Susan Johnson (president of the American Foreign Service Association), Ronald Neumann (former Ambassador to Afghanistan), and Thomas Pickering (former Undersecretary of State) say foreign service officers are “being relegated to a secondary status” and providing “staff support to political elites.”  The increasing reliance on nominating political appointees—rather than promoting career diplomats—wastes the Foreign Service’s vast human capital, in the authors’ view.

Turkish police have revealed evidence collected in February, in connection with an al Qaeda plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. According to this Times story by Sebnem Arsu, 50 pounds of plastic explosives equipped with detonation devices, six laptops, and other items were scooped up from two homes—along with a dozen suspects, too.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has added one Babak Morteza Zanjani, an Iranian businessman, and several of his companies to its Specially Designated Nationals list.  That’s government-speak for economic sanctions, imposed here because of the group’s alleged sales of oil on behalf of Iran.  Rick Gladstone of the Times reports.

A clash between the Taliban and Afghan security forces along the eastern border with Pakistan killed 13 soldiers. The AP has the story.

Bird Flu Watch 2.0 update: China’s agricultural minister refutes allegations that Chinese public health officials hid warning signs of a new strain’s outbreak. Keith Bradsher reports on the reaction from the World Health Organization.  His Times story also cites some grim numbers: 38 people sick from thew new flu, called H7N9, and 13 dead.  The Times’ Denise Grady also writes about H7N9’s severity, citing early data about people who contracted it initially.

We’ve heard over and over again that China is likely to blame for the volume of cyberattacks on U.S. public and private entities in recent years.  But Xinhua wants you to know that China is a victim of cyberattacks: 12,388 websites were “tampered with” by hackers in 2012, it claims.

The New York Times has another story on Bitcoin.  It seems the Winklevoss twins (yes, those Winklevoss twins) have quite the stockpile of the online currency—an estimated $11M—and believe that “virtual currencies are here to stay.”

Eric Chabow of GovInfo Security explains privacy amendments that were adopted during the House Intelligence Committee’s markup of CISPA, its cybersecurity bill.  Meanwhile, Salon.com’s Natasha Lennard points out a few that weren’t adopted, to the privacy community’s dissatisfaction.  She says the bill, now headed to the House floor, remains “controversial.”

The Hill’s Jennifer Martinez writes that a trade association, TechNet (the members of which include Google, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Oracle), signaled support for CISPA in a letter to the House Intelligence Committee. To see the full list of TechNet’s members, check out its website.

Perhaps less noticed amidst this week’s torrent of activity on Capitol Hill: a bill that would call on the United States to promote a “global Internet free from government control and to preserve and advance the successful multi-stakeholder model that governs the Internet.” Brendan Sasso has a write-up on the legislation, which a House subcommittee recently approved, at The Hill.

South Carolina’s state Senate has blessed a cybersecurity bill that would increase oversight of government computing systems. The AP has the details about the proposal.

James Fallows at The Atlantic eases the minds of otherwise nervous air travelers.  At a tech conference, a hacker had claimed that an Android app could take control of a commercial aircraft, mid-flight.  Count Fallows as skeptical:

1) You don’t need instruments to control a plane. . . .[and]

2) Every non-drone airplane flying anywhere in the sky is equipped for “manual flying.”

In an article for Foreign Policy, Georgetown Law Professor Rosa Brooks lists ten ideas to improve oversight of the targeted killing program.

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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