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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, November 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Would a cyber attack on the most vulnerable nodes of the U.S. power grid paralyze us, or would we be prepared? That’s what 10,000 war gamers tried to assess in a simulation this week. Have a glimpse through a New York Times story, by Matthew Wald.

What other cybersecurity threats do we face? Bloomberg talked to former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff about that.

Charlie Savage and Mark Mazetti write on yet another data trove the U.S. government is purportedly utilizing in intelligence collection: international money transactions. The Wall Street Journal talks about this story too. (Can you see now why bitcoin’s third-partyless-ness concerns government regulators?)

I can’t possibly be the only person who isn’t surprised by the volume of government requests for data from technology companies. Here’s the Times roundup.

Let’s shift topics—to piracy. Four Somali pirates have been sentenced to multiple life sentences for a February 2011 siege that resulted in the deaths of four Americans. Here are the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia’s press release and the summary of the sentencing:

Somali nationals Ahmed Muse Salad, a/k/a “Afmagalo,” 27, Abukar Osman Beyle, 33, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 31, who were previously found guilty of piracy, murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, violence against maritime navigation, conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, kidnapping resulting in death, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, and multiple firearms offenses, were sentenced this week. Salad, Beyle, and Abrar were all sentenced to 21 life sentences, 19 consecutive life sentences, two concurrent life sentences, and 30 years consecutive, for their roles in the February 22, 2011 murders of four Americans aboard the sailing vessel Quest. The victims included: Scott Underwood Adam, Jean Savage Adam, Phyllis Patricia Macay, and Robert Campbell Riggle.

More non-NSA surveillance news: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor won’t appeal the court decision to permit Libya to try its former spy chief under the Qaddafi regime. Reuters has this story.

The next questions confronting the international community regarding Syria’s chemical weapons cache: how to destroy the weapons, and where to do so. Alan Cowell lays out the debate at the New York Times.

A long-running program to transfer civilian nuclear fuel made from Soviet weapons to the United States is reaching its end: the last of the materials, crafted from 20,000 nuclear warheads, is heading to the United States. Here’s Andrew Kramer writing in the Times on the impact of that program on the U.S. nuclear market (and potentially, your utility bill).

Another big hearing besides the one on Senator Franken’s FISA bill that Paul testified at took place on Thursday on the Hill. This one was before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and featured:

Here’s video from that hearing for ya’ll:

And here’s a recap in the LA Times. Query when that same committee will act on Jeh Johnson’s nomination.

And what’s this I hear? The Senate may begin its work on the NDAA? Settle down, everyone: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture on the motion to proceed to debate the bill, which means at least 60 senators have to agree to start talking about the defense authorization on the floor before anything else happens. Here’s more from Jeremy Herb and Carlo Munoz at The Hill.

No big surprise here: Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Kelly Ayotte want to add more restrictions to the GTMO transfer policy, since they doesn’t like the Senate Armed Services Committee-approved plan.

Law360 says that a contractor is suing the U.S. Army for the military service’s rejection of its bid to teach GTMO detainees in favor of another company in the Court of Federal Claims. They say the decision to pass over its bid was arbitrary and capricious.

Lockheed Martin is trimming its workforce by 4,000, on account of the slow in government contract work, reports USA Today.

Is cybersecurity legislation dead on Capitol Hill? Perhaps, but the financial industry is pushing hard to prevent it from going that way, reports the Journal. Lobbyists sent a letter to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee this week. Letter here, press release here. One part of the letter is particularly interesting; it discusses ad hoc action the industry is undertaking despite congressional stalemate to address cybersecurity threats:

While Congress considers much needed legislative action, our associations and industry have taken major steps to address this critical issue. The financial services sector has and is investing in our infrastructure, has improved coordination among institutions of all sizes, and is continually enhancing our partnerships with government. This progress allows us to address, in real-time, the threats we face every day. Steps taken include enhancing our Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), taking civil action to dismantle malicious botnets, organizing sector resiliency exercises, and actively engaging in the implementation of the Administration’s Cybersecurity Executive Order. Much of the advancement we have made as an industry is the result of a voluntary, robust information sharing framework improved by
necessity, which provides an environment for sharing among financial sector firms and with the government.

This progress, however, is ultimately inadequate without Congressional action to enhance, facilitate, and protect threat information sharing across sectors and with government. We support your efforts to develop legislation that further strengthens the ability of the private sector and the Federal government to work together to develop a more effective information sharing framework to respond to cyber threats, providing liability protection while balancing the need for privacy protection. Such legislation must acknowledge and enhance existing relationships to leverage the experience of existing information sharing programs.

Prepare yourselves, Washington, D.C. residents. This weekend the Global Drone Summit will be in town, writes CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin in the Huffington Post.

The Snowden effect is reverberating everywhere. The latest place? U.S. tech businesses operating  in China, explains Reuters.

Some Friday fun: a DOD next-gen weapons development program dubbed “The Lightsaber” has been tossed. The always-humorous Duffel Blog penned this quote from a senior DoD official on their reasoning: “we did not anticipate the unintended consequences. Apparently, when you give soldiers a weapon they’ve dreamed about their entire lives, their intelligence drops to the level of a retarded monkey.” May the force otherwise be with you.

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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