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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Ike Skelton, defense policy expert and former Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has died.

Today is the re-scheduled House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on NSA surveillance programs. Catch it here around 1:30.

Perhaps the hearing witnesses will be asked about the latest proposal to address NSA surveillance programs, unveiled by Senator Patrick Leahy and Rep. James Sensenbrenner today. At the Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima compares the Leahy-Sensenbrenner bill to a competitor bill, authored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss, the Chairman and Ranking Member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively.

A pair of editorials address the latest allegations that the U.S. has been spying on European leaders: the New York Times expresses its exhaustion with the whole affair, while the Wall Street Journal proposes that the U.S. oppose efforts at the U.N. to extend U.N. privacy protections to include the Internet:

Expanding the law won’t stop Chinese or Russian or Syrian hacking. But it will make it more difficult for the U.S. and other democracies to conduct intelligence in one area in which they usually have technical advantages over their foes. The alternative is more Western unilateral disarmament in a world in which cyber crime, cyber attacks and cyber terror are becoming more effective and ubiquitous.

Of course, most people have heard about Senator Feinstein’s announcement on Monday.  The Senator said that she knew nothing about surveillance of foreign allies’ heads of state; that her committee will conduct a review of all intelligence collection programs,; and that it will put a stop to whatever spying-on-our-allies is taking place now. President Obama may ban the activity outright first, though, write Mark Landler and David Sanger in the Times.

With that storyline out of the way, let’s discuss a different, depressing one: the downward spiral that is the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship.  U.S. Special Forces’s grabbing, earlier this year, of Latif Mehsud, a senior Pakistan Taliban militant, was more than your average raid-and-kidnap job: it was also a U.S. attempt to prevent the Afghan government from forging a truce with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Read Matthew Rosenberg’s Times piece.

A U.S. missile strike, conducted by U.S. special operations forces in Somalia, took out Ibrahim Ali, a member of Al Shabab who specializes in explosives. Here’s a Times story.

More Special Operations forces news: this must-read piece by Post writer Rajiv Chandrasekaran details the U.S. military’s collaboration with African forces to track down and catch Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Over to Syria: international chemical weapons inspectors are 21/23rd’s (!) of the way through their review of weapons arsenal sites. The two remaining places to be searched, writes the Times, lie in civil war-ravaged, not visit-able locations. The Post notes the inspectors’ announcement that Syria’s attack launch capabilities have been significantly reduced at this point.

The Washington Post finds SecState John Kerry’s remarks last week regarding Syria on Foreign Policy to be full of . . . nothing.

Here’s a crisis in the works: ten people, apparently babies and toddlers, in northeast Syria have polio.  Another dozen with polio-like symptoms are awaiting lab test results. The AP reports on the World Health Organization’s unsettling announcement.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is threatening to block all of President Obama’s nominations until congressional investigators are granted access to the U.S. survivors of the Benghazi attacks. That story is over at The Hill, by Jeremy Herb and Justin Sink.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged a Brit, Lauri Love, with conspiracy to access and damage U.S. government agency computer networks. The Guardian has details.

On the topic of cybersecurity, the president will meet with CEOs today to discuss the subject, says USA Today.

Now that the FBI has successfully gotten control of the $28M in bitcoin previously belonging to Ross Ulbricht, the world is wondering once more: what is bitcoin?  USA Today tries to explain the virtual currency (I personally think this piece is better), while the Journal notes the rise, and then dramatic fall, of bitcoin’s value post-FBI raid. Apparently Canada is playing host to the first bitcoin “ATM”, which might be more accurately described as a currency exchange machine: users insert their Canadian dollars, and the value in bitcoins is transferred to their digital wallets, as Wired explains. Meanwhile, over in the U.K., the Financial Times reports that a new bitcoin exchange will bar customers from the United States from joining, so as to avoid U.S. regulations.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

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