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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, June 21, 2013 at 12:12 PM

For those wondering how exactly the FBI acquired authorization to use drones for domestic surveillance, the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock has the answer, through some FAA documents released in response to a FOIA request. Don’t get too excited, though. The documents have no more information than was already provided by outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller in testimony this week on the Hill.

Speaking of the FBI, we learned that the White House will announce James B. Comey as the administration’s nominee for FBI Director today. Carrie Johnson of NPR has a piece, as do Michael Schmidt and Charlie Savage of the New York Times.

What’s the latest with regard to Taliban-U.S.-Afghanistan peace talks? Practically nothing, according to Saeed Shah and Nathan Hodge in the Wall Street Journal. The Taliban removed a plaque and flag on display at its Qatar office, but hasn’t yet agreed to talk with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Meanwhile, the U.S. team has postponed its meeting with the Taliban as well.

It seems, in fact, that the initial fate of peace negotiations with the Taliban may turn on a prisoner exchange: five GTMO detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdal, who’s been held by the Taliban since 2009. Read the Times’s Charlie Savage and The Hill’s Jeremy Herb.

The Washington Post and the Guardian shared more classified NSA documents that explain the requirements for holding onto data related to U.S. citizen and legal residents: only if the communications contain “significant foreign intelligence” or evidence of a crime may the spy agency keep them.

And the contractor who was responsible for Edward Snowden’s 2011 background check is under investigation by OPM for its activities around the time of Snowden’s background check, said Senator Claire McCaskill yesterday. Here’s The Hill’s report on that disclosure and more.

Time‘s Courtney Subramanian wrote this piece about the U.S. government’s complicated relationship with computer programming types like Edward Snowden.

James Risen and Nick Wingfield discuss at the New York Times the increasingly close ties between the NSA and Silicon Valley.

Reuters’ John Shiffman and Kristina Cook take a look at the FISC’s current roster of judges.

Eric Schmitt has an interesting piece in today’s Times about a battle brewing over the implications of a 1997 law authored by Senator Patrick Leahy that prohibits the U.S. from providing training or equipment to foreign militaries that commit “gross human rights violations.” Leahy’s adversaries are Adm. William H. McRaven, who heads up Special Operations Command, and military commanders in Africa and Latin America.

Scientists have yet to confirm that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, as Colum Lynch and Joby Warrick explain at the Post. The Economist has a lengthy piece in its print edition reflecting on the implications of the United States’s decision to get involved in the conflict.

Georgetown Law’s Rosa Brooks discusses the legality, or lack thereof, of a U.S. intervention in Syria at Foreign Policy.

Rolling Stone’s John Knefel apparently is down at GTMO, and authored this piece earlier this week about a tour of the detention facility.

For more interesting law and security-related articles, follow us on Twitter, 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.