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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, September 6, 2013 at 1:11 PM

It’s a little quieter on the Syria front today. A few items of interest before the weekend:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution—which passed 10-7 earlier this week—on the Senate floor. He will set up a vote to end debate by next Wednesday, reports the Hill.

U.S. officials have intercepted an order, sent from the leader of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force to militants in Iraq. The message said to target the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and to be prepared to respond with force after a U.S. strike in Syria. Julian E. Barnes and Adam Entous have the news in the Wall Street Journal.

Speaking of possible retaliatory action from neighbors in the region, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly of the Post inform us that a partial evacuation has been ordered of the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Ditto the U.S. consulate in southern Turkey. Ditto Lebanon, says the Journal.

President Obama held a press conference during the G-20 summit today, where he conceded that international support for a military strike on Syria was lackluster at best, reports the New York Times. Even France, which does support a strike, said it will wait for the results of the UN inspection before making a decision. The president will deliver a national address on Syria on Tuesday.

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said that the President had “neither [the] desire nor [the] intention” to strike Syria should he not receive Congressional authorization to do so. The Hill discusses his remarks on NPR this morning.

Waiting for Congressional authorization has given President Bashar al-Assad’s regime time to move troops and equipment. The Pentagon, now, is expanding and refining its target list, according to David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt of the Times.

Alex De Waal and Bridget Conley-Zilkic of the World Peace Foundation at the Fletcher School have an op-ed in the Times about what one Sir William Harcourt, a British parliamentarian, would do about Syria—based on his arguments about whether Britain should intervene in the American Civil War.

Russia has delivered a 100-page report to the UN, which lays out evidence that a chemical weapons attack was carried out in March by—drumroll, please—Syrian rebels. Matthew Schofield of McClatchy has the news.

Be sure to take this Times quiz on Syria. In case you’re interested, I got a 10/12.

NSA news is back on the front pages. Edward Snowden-leaked documents reveal that the NSA, “using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion,” is able to break through most Internet encryption technologies. The Times says:

The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated.

The N.S.A. hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. In some cases, companies say they were coerced by the government into handing over their master encryption keys or building in a back door.And the agency used its influence as the world’s most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world.

The Post has more, as does Paul.

Tal Kopan of Politico has details about the upcoming NSA document release I mentioned yesterday. That will happen on Tuesday.

Pakistani Rangers have arrested 185 suspected terrorists in Karachi, reports Al Jazeera.

Six suspected militants have been killed by a drone strike in North Waziristan, according to Salman Masood of the New York Times. The top Haqqani Network commander in the region was one of the casualties. Reuters also covers the strike.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction released the results of an audit of USAID, which found that:

Despite financial management deficiencies at the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) continues to provide millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in direct assistance with little assurance that the MoPH is using these funds as intended.

Omar Hammami, an Alabama native-turned-terrorist, says he has renounced his ties to Al Shabaab. He says both of his wives have been captured, and Al Shabaab’s leader, Moktar Abu Zubayr, is trying to kill him. Voice of America interviewed Hammami.

And, from Jane, comes this Onion article about the form of military action Americans really want in Syria: it’s Today’s Moment of Zen.

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 the Roundup Team 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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