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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Today’s lead story is that National Security Adviser Tom Donilon is stepping down—and Susan Rice is taking his place—in one of President Obama’s more defiant gestures to Congress in recent memory. Samantha Power will replace Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Here are the stories from the New York Times and the Washington Post. David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy has this piece on Donilon’s legacy, saying that, while “remaining in the background whenever possible,” Donilon has been an “honest broker among the many senior national security voices clamoring for the president’s ear.”

Diplomacy has its limits: Lolita C. Baldor of the Associated Press reports that after years of politely asking the Chinese to knock it off, U.S. officials have begun raising their voices in public about cyberattacks—and Chinese officials are finally coming around and admitting there is a “problem.”

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the U.S. army psychiatrist accused of shooting thirteen people at Fort Hood, publicly stated during his hearing yesterday that he sought to defend the leadership of the Taliban. His remarks were the first time a motive for the incident had been articulated. Manny Fernandez of the Times has more, as does the AP.

According to the AP, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood last year, pleaded guilty. The BBC also has details.

Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial continues: Adrian Lamo—a former computer hacker who hacked the databases of companies including the Times—testified at Manning’s court martial. Lamo is the man who outed Manning to authorities in 2010, says Charlie Savage of the Times. Julie Tate and Ellen Nakashima of the Post also discuss Lamo’s testimony, as does Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast.

BBC tells us that the head of operations for Al Shabaab in Somalia’s north-east region of Puntland has been captured. The gentleman’s name is Abdikafi Mohamed Ali.

Ahmed Al-Haj of the AP has news we can be hopeful about: Yemeni officials reportedly launched an offensive today against Al Qaeda militants in the country’s southern region of Hadramawt with thousands of troops, tanks, helicopters, and jets.

Adam Entous of the Wall Street Journal reports that Gen. Joseph Dunford, top commander in Afghanistan, has still not publicly revealed the number of troops that will stay in the country after the drawdown begins next year. He wants to hold off on that number until he assesses how Afghan troops withstand the fighting this summer, and how the political situation shapes up this fall in the run-up to the Afghan election.

From the Department of It is Possible: U.N. investigators are saying things are worse in Syria than we thought. In a report to the Human Rights Council, a panel found that “[w]ar crimes, crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations continue apace,” and that there has been the “systematic imposition of sieges, the use of chemical agents and forcible displacement.” Nick Cumming-Bruce of the Times has the details. Caution: the second paragraph is not pretty.

The AP informs us that samples taken from the country and tested in France confirm that—as was disclosed earlier this year—sarin gas has been used in Syria on a repeated basis.

Tsk, Tsk. Government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight published a report from the Department of Defense’s Inspector General, which found that ex-CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, revealed top-secret information at a CIA awards ceremony in 2011. Mark Boal, screenwriter and producer of Zero Dark Thirty was at the gathering. Jeremy Herb of the Hill covers the news.

Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said at a press conference that the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay will continue “until they [the detainees] get tired of doing what they’re doing” and that ending the strike is “entirely in their hands.” Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald has an account of the general’s less-than-sensitive remarks.

And, Julian E. Barnes of the Wall Street Journal reports that a group of retired admirals and generals who have called for the closure of Guantanamo Bay met with National Security Council officials to discuss how that’s going. Check out Jack’s thoughts from this morning on this very subject.

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