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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Senator Robert Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, and President Obama were sent envelopes that tested positive for ricin—a known toxin. More tests will be conducted on the materials.Here are NPR and the New York Times on Senator Wicker’s envelope, and the Washington Post on President Obama’s.

More details emerge about the bombs used in Monday’s attack in Boston: Joby Warrick and Sari Horwitz at the Washington Post say the weapons—which were fashioned from everyday pressure cookers—cost as little as $100 to make.  Heather Timmons and Hari Kumar at the New York Times describe pressure cooker bombs, explain why terrorists use such devices, and tell us when terrorists have done so in the past.

And a suspect can be discerned from a video taken from the department store Lord & Taylor. Boston’s Channel 5 news reports.

NPR discusses the thinking that went into President Obama’s invocation of the word “terrorism,” in describing the Boston bombings.  The Economist wonders whether Americans have become “complacent” when it comes to terrorism, citing a number of polls and a recent Washington Post story on the subject.

Having Monday’s events in mind, the Post’s Matt Miller reflects on a 2005 Atlantic Monthly piece by Richard A. Clarke entitled “Ten Years Later.” In the latter, Clarke imagined certain future terrorism scenarios, and likely U.S. responses. The Boston attack also shows how our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq have improved preparedness, according to Mark Thompson of Time’s Battleland blog: both improved the military’s readiness, the treatment of traumatic injuries, and general emergency responsiveness—all of which were on display after the bombings.

David Ignatius’s Post column highlights what Monday’s attack says about intelligence detection and threat alert capabilities.  He says that, despite our advances—technological as well as human—the nation’s capacity to predict and prevent remains limited.

Today’s New York Times’s editorial advocates for the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s still-classified, 6,000 page report on interrogation and detention after 9/11.  As support, the Times cites the Constitution Project’s new report on those topics.

The same newspaper’s Charlie Savage summarizes the DoD’s account of events leading up to last week’s violence at GTMO, where detainees have protested camp conditions by refusing food. Guards had trained for a raid on detainee facilities for three weeks, Savage writes; the goal was to force detainees from a communal area into individual cells.  Certain detainees also offered to end the hunger strike, by relinquishing their Korans in exchange for assurances that the holy books would not be searched.  But GTMO personnel refused the offer, apparently believing that other detainees might be improperly peer-pressured into relinquishing their Korans.

Lisa Monaco, John Brennan’s successor as the President’s counterterrorism advisor, has a lot of people’s attention these days.  She is reportedly being considered as a possible successor to FBI Director Robert Mueller.  Sara Sorcher provides more details about Ms. Monaco in National Journal.

As Paul pointed out yesterday, the House Rules Committee decided upon the chamber’s floor procedure for a significant cybersecurity bill, CISPA. Essentially, The Hill tells us, a dozen amendments will be considered on the floor—but privacy amendments sponsored by Dems Adam Schiff and Jan Schakowsky won’t be among them.   (The pair, both members of the House Intelligence Committee, unsuccessfully sought approval for those amendments during the committee’s markup.) For the Congress geeks among us, here’s the rule itself.

Heritage’s David Addington has some concerns with CISPA. Specifically, he says the bill’s privacy protections should be more stringent; its requirements must not sunset after five years; and it should permit the government a freer hand to use information furnished by the private sector.

CISPA sponsor Mike Rogers has derided the legislation’s opponents as “14-year old Tweeter[s] in the basement.” At the same time, he cites the bill’s many supporters—including several leading tech companies—as evidence of the CISPA’s desirability.  His co-sponsor, Dutch Ruppersberger, predicted the White House’s veto threat—which came yesterday.

Meanwhile, the House passed a trio of other cyber-related bills yesterday. A bill to amend the Federal Information Security Management Act passed in a 416-0 vote. That legislation, if approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama, would require the U.S. to more actively assess federal defenses against cyber attacks. Another proposal, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, deals with cyber-focused research and grants and passed on a 402-16 vote.  The third bill, Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act, was approved by 406 votes to 11; it requires a periodic assessment of funding levels for cyber research and development. Pete Kasperowicz of The Hill explains all of that.

Wells noted the Supreme Court’s decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. Here’s Robert Barnes of the Post explaining today’s ruling. The Court’s lead opinion concluded that the presumption against extraterritoriality applies to the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”)—and that nothing in the statute’s text or history rebutted that presumption.  So what’s left of the ATS? You’ll be hearing a lot about that question in the coming days.

In the Wall Street Journal, Michele Flournoy (former under secretary of Defense) and Michael O’Hanlon (of Brookings) penned an op-ed about the international community’s role in Afghanistan’s national politics.  There’s a presidential election coming in Afghanistan. Regarding it, the authors identify four tasks: respecting the Afghan political process, working to ensure the election’s independence and integrity, paying attention to the campaign, and providing support to Afghan political parties.

SecState Kerry testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today. He will discuss the State Department’s efforts to implement recommendations of a Benghazi review board, the Post’s Karen DeYoung reports. Watch the hearing here, too.

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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