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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, October 11, 2013 at 9:48 AM

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The O.P.C.W. was founded in 1977 and was recently deployed to Syria after chemical weapons killed hundreds of people outside of Damascus on August 21, 2013. The organization is tasked with implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention.

There is, however, still trouble in Syria. Syrian rebels have been accused of perpetrating potential war crimes. A Human Rights Watch report suggests that rebels killed as many as 190 civilians and seized more than 200 hostages during a military offensive in August. The report comes from an on-site investigation that took place in September, and suggests that the rebels are organized and capable of carrying out coordinated and planned attacks. The AP, the Times and BBC all have the story.

The Guardian has breaking news: Skype is under investigation in Luxembourg over links to the National Security Agency.  Skype is headquartered in Luxembourg and will be subject to its data-protection laws.  Reuters has a useful outline of the European country’s data protection and privacy rules, which include specific inform-and-consent requirements.

It turns out that—as we learn from the Times—Edward Snowden was on the CIA’s radar in 2009, but no one seemed to notice. After leaving a CIA post in 2009, Snowden’s supervisor wrote a derogatory report concerning the analyst’s work habits and attitudes. His supervisor suspected that Snowden had been trying to access classified information on the CIA’s servers, which he cited as the main reason for Snowden’s dismissal from the post. Somehow, the NSA was either unaware of or did not pay much attention to the report, and Snowden was later hired as an NSA contractor. The rest, as they say, is history.

After the State Department’s announcement that the United States will be cutting off certain types of aid to Egypt, anti-U.S. sentiment has grown, according to an AP piece.

Ashton Carter, the Deputy Defense Secretary, has announced that he is stepping down from his post at the Pentagon.  Carter did not cite a specific reason for his departure, saying instead that “it is time for [him] to go.”

The United States is opening a drone facility in Germany—-solely for training drone operators and not for spying purposes, according to the government.   

The Hill is reporting that the Commerce Department will be unable to release a draft of a set of new cyber-security rules because of the government shutdown. This will disappoint General Keith Alexander, Director of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, who just made remarks about the need for improved cyber-security legislation. The Verge has more coverage of Gen. Alexander’s comments

The United States has taken Latif Mehsud, an influential commander in the Pakistani Taliban, into custody. The Afghan government is accusing the U.S. of forcibly snatching Mehsud from Afghan custody, which would be a blow to the lengthy and meticulous operation that led to Mehsud’s original capture at the hands of Afghan forces. The Post has the story.

Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into emerging technologies that make it possible for companies to track users across multiple devices, like smart phones, tablets and computers.

A key story from this week continues to develop.  You likely know that Prime Minister of Libya was kidnapped from his bed by Libyan militiamen early Thursday morning. The militiamen had been calling for Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s resignation from his position; the kidnapping was a way to show Zeidan their power, and perhaps to protest Libya’s seeming consent to the United States’ grabbing of suspected terrorist Abu Anas Al-Liby. Zeidan was released a few hours later, but the damage to the image of the central government has been done. The Times has the story.

Variety reports that broadcasters are planning to petition the Supreme Court to review lower court rulings in favor of the Internet video service Aero. Broadcasters claim that Aero is stealing copyrighted content by delivering local TV channels to costumers over the internet. In April, a federal appeals court in New York upheld a ruling in favor of Aero.

The Brennan Center for Justice has released a new report, “What The Government Does With American’s Data.” The report looks at five intelligence agencies, and reveals that “non-terrorism related data can be kept for up to 75 years or more, clogging national security databases and creating opportunities for abuse.”  The Brennan Center thus recommends multiple reforms that seek to tighten control over the government’s handling of Americans’ information. This info-graphic provides a good overview of the report’s contents.

The Post takes a look at the leadership and vision of the the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group which seeks to protect online privacy rights, mostly through litigation efforts. The big question on the EFF’s mind: should it, and can it, take its fight to Washington—where the organization resided during the nineties?

Someone has taken credit for this billboard, which stands near San Francisco.  That would be BitTorrent, a technology company which created a peer-to-peer file-sharing software and promotes the philosophy of an open Internet. NPR has the story.

Billboard

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