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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, May 31, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Let’s begin with some good news about terrorists for a change.

Mansour J. Arbabsiar, the Iranian-American man who was accused of plotting to hire Mexican assassins to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison, reports Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times.

Carol Cratty of CNN tells us that Sami Samir Hassoun, a Lebanese gentleman living in Chicago, has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for attempting, in 2010, to detonate what he believed was a bomb. He will be deported afterward.

Stephen Castle of the Times says that Michael Adebowale, the man suspected of stabbing a British soldier to death in London, has been charged with murder and possession of a firearm.

Speaking of that attack, the latest issue of Inspire—no surprise here—praises it. The Al Qaeda publication also extols the Boston marathon bombings, and encourages readers to follow the Tsarnaevs’ example. However, the quality of the magazine’s English seems to have deteriorated, reports CNN’s Security Clearance blog.  Samir Khan’s death in a drone strike might have had something to do with that.

Tamar Birckhead, one of Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s defense attorneys, has this piece in the Nation about being a federal public defender—and what it was like to defend Shoe Bomber Richard Reid. Check out Alan’s podcast with Miriam Conrad, one of Birckhead’s colleagues who represented Reid and also now represents Tsarnaev.

Michael S. Schmidt and Ellen Barry of the Times inform us that Ibragim Todashev—who investigators questioned because of his connection to Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev—threw a table at an FBI agent and rushed at him with a metal pole, before the agent shot and killed Todashev. Will Englund of the Washington Post also reports on the events surrounding Todashev’s death, as well as the press conference that the deceased’s father held in Moscow.

The Post editorial board argues that more information is needed about the circumstances surrounding Todashev’s death.

Scientists speak out in favor of domestic drones at the International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Atlanta this week, saying that the national furor over the technology is misplaced. They argue, according to Liz Goodwin of Yahoo News, that drones can be used to

take images clear and comprehensive enough to help farmers design irrigation systems for their crops, or create the most efficient system for fighting a wildfire, or conduct search-and-rescue missions. The camera-equipped drones are also useful for determining the health of a river’s vegetation or finding out how much of a wetlands area is destroyed after a new road is built.

Josh Begley, a graduate student at NYU, has created this website (using the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s data) in an attempt to add a visual and interactive component to information about drone strike casualties.  Begley experiments with a few different interfaces; one allows users to search for specific drone strikes, while another allows users to filter through all the strikes.

Akbar Ahmed, Islamic Studies chair at American University and the former government administrator in South Waziristan, has this op-ed in the Times arguing that U.S. drone strikes have devastated tribal structures in the FATA.  That, in turn, has led to greater instability and violence in the region.

The Pakistani Taliban has officially acknowledged the death of its second-in-command, Wali ur-Rehman. Trouble is already brewing: six commanders aligned with the late ur-Rehman announced a successor—but without the approval of the Taliban leadership, according to the Times. Unsurprisingly, the Pakistani Taliban also has called off peace talks, reports Saeed Shah of the Wall Street Journal.

The Times discusses the nature of the confirmation hearings Jim Comey is likely to face when President Obama publicly announces him as his pick for next FBI director.

Garrett M. Graff, editor of Washingtonian magazine, describes the unlikely friendship between current Bureau Director Robert Mueller and Jim Comey. As Ben noted, Graff also has this op-ed in the Post arguing that Comey could be “the antidote the Justice Department needs to restore its moral compass.”

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 blog, 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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