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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Friday, January 24, 2014 at 11:30 AM

The big news yesterday was the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s rather hefty report on NSA surveillance. If you didn’t catch Paul’s post yesterday on whether the PCLOB overstepped its charge in deeming the 215 program illegal, do check it out. The White House disagrees with the PCLOB’s conclusion. Ellen Nakashima writes in the Post, and Justin Sink writes at The Hill. And AG Eric Holder urged the legality of the 215 program on NBC.

Edward Snowden, meanwhile,  participated in an online Q&A over at FreeSnowden.is on Thursday. Here are highlights, as reported by CBS News. Brian Fung thinks Snowden can’t be too familiar with Congress, given that he spoke so confidently about its willingness to end certain NSA programs in the Q&A.

Attorney General Eric Holder says he’d engage in a conversation with Edward Snowden should he plead guilty to the U.S. government’s charges against him. Here’s the Huffington Post on that, and on the president’s remarks on the topic.

Kim Strassel’s column today in the Wall Street Journal considers the role of Congress in overseeing our intelligence community, and the legislature’s track record in that regard. Key quote from her column, which is consistent with Ben’s commentary on Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and the FISC’s mentions of Congressional oversight in its recent opinions:

Consider all those members hogging cable-TV time to complain they didn’t know about the breadth of the NSA programs. Missing is a forehead sticker that reads: “I don’t do my job.” Any member of Congress can request documents and briefings on any intelligence issue. Any member who feels a greater duty can work to be on the House or Senate intelligence committees.

The actual members of those committees have been behaving in rare and admirable form throughout the Snowden flap, publicly acknowledging they were fully briefed and defending the NSA’s work. Privately, they’ve simultaneously acknowledged that 95% of their colleagues have proven useless—never familiarizing themselves with the voluminous material the NSA provided, and only now fanning the flames about “privacy.”

The violence in Ukraine has prompted aggressive warnings from the United States.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney even dropped the “S” bomb—sanctions—in discussing the United States’ possible response, should the violence continue.  VP Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich over the phone and expressed the White House’s concerns.

Apropos of sanctions:  the Obama Administration is touting a recent $152M settlement with a Luxembourg banking subsidiary for violating Iran-related sanctions, the idea being to warn to businesses of the consequences of trying to skirt such restrictions. Rick Gladstone writes in the Times on remarks by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Congress will proceed on a deal to sell new military equipment to the Iraqi government, reports the AP. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez had held the proposal up previously. Also in the works is a plan for U.S. special forces to train Iraqi troops in Jordan, writes the AP.

The U.S. has designated the Deputy Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a specially designated global terrorist, notes David Barnett in the Long War Journal.

The U.S. is considering the death penalty in its prosecution of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Katharine Seely in the New York Times explains.

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed three suspected Al Qaeda militants, reports the AP.

Suicide bombers in Cairo have killed at least five people today, writes Reuters. A bomb also exploded near a French church in Rome today,  just hours before a meeting between Pope Francis and French President Francois Hollande. Here’s the Journal with details.

The trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in the ICC for his alleged role in the post-2007 election violence is delayed once more. The latest pause seemingly has to do with the withdrawals of two prosecution witnesses, one of which admitted to having given false evidence. Read more in the AP.

The Defense Science Board released a three-year study that concludes that the U.S. intelligence community is not yet fully equipped for detecting development of nuclear weapons by foreign powers. David Sanger and William Broad report in the Times.

The CIA, in response to a FOIA request, says it would “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records” addressing any agency agreement with that international rabblerouser and once-famed rebounder, Dennis Rodman. That’s standard CIA talk, but it made headlines at Government Executive anyway.

The U.S. is suing KBR Inc., a military contractor, for defrauding the U.S. military in Iraq. Reuters has details of the complaint.

China has dispatched surveillance planes to its air defense zone in the East China Sea, in response to remarks by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  The latter likened the faceoff between his country and China to that between Britain and Germany in World War One. Here’s a Reuters story, while the AP shares commentary about the tensions by Adm. Samuel Locklear, the U.S. commander in the Pacific.

Those up to speed in the 9/11 military commission case will recall last month’s decision to assess the mental competency of accused Ramzi Binalshibh to stand trial. Well, it seems he refused to meet with a mental health review board last week, as defense counsel for the accused told the AP.

Speaking of detainees: according to the Times, Polish investigators plan to follow up on recently-published Washington Post story about the “black site” operated in Poland, some years back, by the CIA.  Amrit Singh, counsel in a closely-watched human rights case involving the secret prison, has more analysis over at Just Security.

In Turkey, counterterrorism forces arrested Ibrahim Sen, a former GTMO detainee. The Long War Journal shares some background on Sen.

DoD-ers may rejoice at the news that their employer hasn’t agreed to any new Blackberry orders, but that announcement certainly won’t help the struggling tech company. Here’s the Post with more.

Sikh Americans are calling on the DoD to expand its allowance on religious wear to include turbans worn by male Sikhs. Kristina Wong writes in The Hill.

More big news for those in the United States military: soon you will be able to view Lawfare on Internet Explorer, Version 4.0. Comedy site Duffel Blog says it’s quite an improvement upon Netscape Navigator 6.

And that concludes what will likely be my last Lawfare news roundup. I’ve enjoyed sharing the day’s news and opinions with all of you, during the nearly three years I’ve written for this fabulous site.  Adieu!

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