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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013 at 11:47 AM

This weekend’s first big counterterrorism event, the capture of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was carried out by Delta Force. Carlotta Gall has further details—supplied by al-Ruqai’s son—over the  at the New York Times. By the way, Peter Bergen reminds us, let us breathe a sigh of relief that those special forces guys weren’t furloughed.  I presume catching terrorists is considered “essential,” so those FBI and CIA individuals involved must have been deemed so.

It seems interrogators must be deemed essential, too.  Charlie Savage and Benjamin Weiser answer your questions about the details of the questioning of al-Ruqai aboard the U.S.S. San Antonio. So too does NPR.

Democratic Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger says that al-Ruqai “will have all the legal rights” that other civilian defendants are afforded in federal court, and that “he will be treated like anybody else.”

On to the weekend’s other dramatic military operation.  A Navy SEAL team backed off of its Somalia raid, which targeted Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir.  Apparently the hesitation had to do with new counterterrorism guidelines signed by President Obama this year.  These limit the use of lethal force to situations in which there is a “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.”  Karen DeYoung explains in the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Somalia has indicated that it approves of the raid, despite perhaps not knowing of the United States’ plans in advance.  Contrast this with Libya’s reaction: according to this piece by Julian Pecquet, Libya says the al-Ruqai snatch-and-grab violated its sovereignty.

Ari Shapiro’s All Things Considered piece Monday evening focuses on the symbolism of the two weekend raids in the midst of the government shutdown. Sara Sorcher of National Journal looks at what the operations say about President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy:

The twin raids are a sign that Obama is trying to change course, after strong hints from the president and his team that policy changes are coming. In May, Obama spoke out against the appeal of drone strikes—which he said presidents may be tempted to view as a terrorism “cure-all.” After broadly interpreting executive authority to expand the scope of the covert drone war for years, now in his second term Obama is clearly looking ahead to set a precedent for limiting presidential power when it comes to push-button combat.

The Post wonders whether government contractors will receive back-pay when the government resumes its business.  Jeremy Herb of The Hill notes that one such employer, Lockheed Martin, has trimmed the number of furloughed employees by 600.

Ben noted this already, but Carol Rosenberg reports in the Miami Herald that Paul Lewis, minority counsel for the House Armed Services Committee, will fill the vacant DoD position responsible for closing down Guantanamo Bay.  Read the Pentagon’s official press release confirming those reports. The appointment comes on the heels of a letter from civil liberties and other human rights organizations, which urged President Obama to fill that position.

And John Knefel writes at Rolling Stone about the public’s waning interest in the hunger strike at GTMO. Perhaps the drop in interest has something to do with … this?

U.S. military personnel overseas will be glad to know that their access to sports programming will be turned back on.  The Armed Forces Network staff—responsible for contributing to the “morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness for service members”—has been deemed “essential.”  Watching sporting events with real athletes must be more interesting than watching ideologically extreme members of Congress fighting over the Affordable Care Act.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai once more taken to lashing out against the United States for its activities in his country.  Here’s a tidbit from Matthew Rosenberg’s Times piece:

“They could leave,” [Karzai] said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday.

The focus of the war, Mr. Karzai said, should have been insurgent training camps and safe havens across the border in Pakistan, not “in Afghan villages, causing harm to Afghan people.”

Nadine Marroushi writes in Slate about the Egyptian’s military campaign in the North Sinai.  The latter seems to be targeting civilians, she concludes.

Undoubtedly there will be others going on the record about the United Nations’ assigning Iran to its Disarmament Committee.  For now, we have House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers’ reaction:

Iran has been a sponsor of terror for decades, has threatened a key American ally with annihilation, conducts aggressive cyber attacks against the U.S. and our allies, and tried to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, D.C.  This is a country that has centrifuges actively spinning in an effort to obtain a nuclear weapon. The selection of Iran to serve on the United Nations’ Committee on Disarmament and International Security is outrageous and puts a fox in charge of the hen house.  Placing a patron state of Syria on this committee as the U.N. begins disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons is a further blow to the credibility of the United Nations.

In Pakistan, the campaign against eradicating polio (yes, you read that correctly) continued on Monday.  A bombing outside of a health care facility providing polio vaccines killed at least two police officers and injured a dozen, reports Ismail Khan in the Times.

Over in India, attacks at the Pakistani border killed seven “infiltrators” and the Indian Army collected a cache of arms from the fighters. Hari Kumar has a story in the Times.

Last week, the FBI announced the arrest of the founder of Silk Road, a black market website accessible only through Internet browser Tor.  Federal investigators also shut down the site. It seems that the bitcoin- and drug-laced trail spans the Atlantic, as the British National Crime Agency has arrested four men believed to be involved with Silk Road, too.

Some additional details on the recent decision by Judge Royce Lamberth to order the release of Ibrahim Idris out of Guantanamo Bay: Reuters says it has to do with mental illness, as does Firedoglake.

Geek alert: NPR shows off the latest development in robotics from MIT’s CSAIL lab, modular robots that self-assemble.

Check out this UAV-video of the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert (h/t NB):

But wait, you may wonder—what about the FAA’s still-in-the-works rules about the widespread use of UAVs in civilian airspace? Here’s what the festival’s team had to say about that:

The festival is keeping the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration abreast of developments, along with Nevada’s law enforcement agencies and the state’s Bureau of Land Management: “The FAA is looking at rules for civilian use of drones in the United States, and we just happen to be a testing ground for them right now. The BLM is going to send in their aviation person to talk with our drone pilots,” says Jim Graham, Burning Man’s director of communications.

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