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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 11:54 AM

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Snowden coverage, and commence instead with some important legislative activity that might otherwise have gone under the radar: the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry held a hearing on the Smithfield Foods/Shuanghui International transaction, which is currently under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The witnesses included a professor from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, a professor from West Virginia University, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the president and CEO of Smithfield Foods, Larry Pope.  Here are the New York Times’s recap by Edward Wyatt, and an NPR story.  (I recently interviewed Covington & Burling partner Mark Plotkin about CFIUS and other matters for the Lawfare Podcast.  Mark discussed his views on the national security implications of the Smithfield transaction—and of an older CFIUS deal that has since become the model for security agreements, involving a company called Global Crossing.  The latter is also in the news, having appeared in a  Washington Post story last weekend.)

With that out of the way, we resume with our regularly-scheduled programming. Peter Wallsten collects remarks by Members of Congress regarding the administration’s candor—or lack thereof—regarding surveillance programs and intelligence collection. That story is in the Post. Over at AEI’s Ideas Blog, meanwhile, Gary Schmitt says Wallsten’s story is fabricating a scandal where none exists.

You can add Latin American countries to the list of U.S. allies displeased to discover, via leaks, U.S. surveillance of their officials. Read the Reuters story about that.

Ben noted this Quinnipiac University poll already on Edward Snowden, and Scott Shane reviews the poll in the Times.

The Washington Post’s editorial team wrote today about the need, in light of the Snowden leaks, to update the arcane Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  They write it should better protect email, cloud servers and other personal materials. From the editorial:

Almost no one used e-mail then, the online cloud didn’t really exist, and storing personal information for long periods of time with a third party such as Google didn’t seem to make any sense. So, the law says, if users keep e-mail on a third-party server for more than 180 days, they’ve abandoned the material and law enforcement can look at it — armed merely with a subpoena, not a warrant from a judge.

The Bradley Manning defense team has rested its case, Charlie Savage writes at the Times.

Senator Rand Paul announced that he will place a hold on James B. Comey’s nomination until he gets answers to his queries about domestic use of drones by the government. Is another Paul filibuster on its way? The AP’s Bradley Klapper has this story.

Chinese news agency Xinhua’s positively assessed U.S.-China cyber-talks, which began yesterday, but American media reports are not as rosy.  David Sanger talks about the parties’ divergent views on intellectual property theft in the Times. At the Wall Street Journal, Ian Talley writes about the discussion’s beginning.

Apropos of China, Jane Perlez reports in the Times on China’s and Russia’s joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan this week.

Congress may be all over CFIUS activities and surveillance leaks, but it certainly isn’t doing much else.  Members can’t agree on an aid package to Assad regime opponents, as Karen DeYoung tells us in the Post, and House Republicans differ from their Senate counterparts, who recently supported the immigration reform proposal.  Ashley Parker and Jonathan Weisman have that story in the Times.

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Durbin  wrote to the President about the GTMO hunger strike. In their letter, the pair picked up on Judge Gladys Kessler’s suggestion, in her memorandum order rejecting jurisdiction over forced-feeding policies at GTMO, that President Obama has the authority to alter force feeding policies. Here are Josh Gerstein in Politico and Carol Rosenberg in the Miami Herald.

GTMO detainees aren’t the only prisoners carrying out a hunger strike: California prison inmates don’t like their conditions, either. NPR did a Morning Edition report on their protest.

There’s also some GTMO news from the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.  In its coming annual report, the Working Group will adopt a legal clinic’s opinion that GTMO detainee Obaidullah’s detention is indefinite and arbitrary.

The spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban has been tossed out of his job, for “creating mistrust” between his contingent and its Afghan counterpart. Who brought about the fellow’s ouster is not entirely clear, though, Declan Walsh and Ismail Khan write in the Times.

And to wrap up today’s roundup, I bet you have wondered, just how did the CIA try to mitigate damage wrought by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s harsh interrogation techniques, all those years ago?  Thanks to Adam Goldman of the Associated Press, we have an answer: KSM used his engineering know-how to design a vacuum cleaner. Yes, that’s right—a vacuum cleaner.

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.