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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By and
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 1:54 PM

Jack flagged the morning’s stories about a debate within the Obama Administration over ordering a drone strike against another American citizen associated with Al Qaeda. The Guardian reports that the coverage has led to renewed pressure on the administration from human rights and civil liberties activists.

Afghanistan: The government there has ordered the release of 65 of 88 “dangerous” detainees from the Parwan Detention Facility—against the wishes of the U.S. military.

Two civilian contractors were killed yesterday in a suicide bombing carried out by members of Hezb-e-Islami, an Afghan militant group. The militants attacked a NATO convoy as it exited a nearby prison close to Kabul. According to the New York Times, it was the first successful attack on NATO personnel since December.

Meanwhile, the American military is making contingency plans for President Hamid Karzai’s continued refusal to sign a security pact. The new plan will delay the U.S. troop draw down, and allow President Obama to wait for a new Afghan government, before finalizing precisely what kind of security role the United States will play in the country. The Wall Street Journal has the story.

Ahrar ul Hind, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, could care less about ongoing peace negotiations between the Pakistani government and their “brothers.” Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal has more on the aims of the militant group.

A second round of Syrian peace talks is underway in Geneva. Thoroughly unsurprisingly, Reuters reports that opposition figures, regime representatives, and Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations mediator, all agree that not much progress has been made.   

Despite the negotiations, UN convoys seeking to bring relief to civilians in the city of Homs came under fire this past weekend. According to the Times, Russia and China didn’t show up to a UN Security Council meeting yesterday on a draft resolution to the continuing humanitarian crisis.

Happy Anniversary! Iranian President Hassan Rouhani marked the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution with a speech dismissing the possibility of Western military action against Iran, and pledging to continue scientific research “including peaceful nuclear technology.” Al-Jazeera has the story.

Turkey and Israel are finally closing in on an official rapprochement allowing for the restoration of diplomatic relations, reports the Journal. Normal relations broke down four years ago after violent resistance to Israel’s enforcement of its Gaza naval blockade resulted in the deaths of several Turkish activists.

In Foreign Policy, Jacopo Ottaviani has a map tracking the civilian toll of war and violence in Iraq over the past decade. 2013 was the bloodiest year since 2008, and for those who consider the war to be over, the map is a sobering reminder of the reality on the ground.

The Washington Post has released video of the October capture of Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, a wanted Al Qaeda terrorism suspect, outside his family’s home in Tripoli, Libya. The arrest was conducted by a joint operation between the CIA, FBI and the U.S. Army’s Delta Force.

Earlier today, the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony from Directors James Clapper (DNI) and Michael Flynn (DIA) about global threats to the United States.

Congress has released a(nother) Benghazi report. This one, from House Armed Services Committee Republicans, is sharply critical of the White House for the security failure that led to the deaths of four Americans; here are Politico and the Post.

The minority staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee prepared a report entitled “The Federal Government’s Track Record on Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure.” Drawing on interviews and over forty audits, the document outlines the failure of six government agencies to take basic steps to secure their networks and protect their information.

Secrecy News analyzes Former State Department contractor Stephen Kim’s sudden decision to plead guilty to the charge that he unauthorized disclosure of national defense information to a Fox News reporter. The conclusion: The fault mainly lies with Fox News.

Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill yesterday launched The Intercept, a website that (among other things) will feature reporting and analysis of Snowden-leaked documents.

And, the Associated Press reveals that Adm. Bill McRaven, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, had ordered his subordinates to destroy all photos of Osama bin Laden’s body eleven days after Bin Laden was killed.  The directive reportedly postdated the filing of a FOIA request for materials surrounding the Bin Laden raid.

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