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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By and
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Edward Snowden delivered a fiery speech by video-conference at South by Southwest in Texas. Snowden denounced mass surveillance for damaging both privacy and security (as it distracts from the targeting of specific individuals) and he urged the audience to take measures to protect the privacy of their communications. NBC, the Washington Post and many others have the story.

The Associated Press informs us that U.S. intelligence officials are going to use an electronic monitoring system to spy on those with clearances who might be looking to go rogue—a la Edward Snowden.

The New York Times takes a careful look at the current state of NSA and Director nominee Admiral Mike Rogers in advance of today’s nomination hearings, asking: is he ready?

In the Atlantic, Bruce Schneier analyzes the eroding distinction between peacetime cyber espionage and actual cyberattacks.

As Lauren noted last night, a federal judge in San Francisco issued an order compelling NSA to retain its telephony metadata (at least through March 19th), contradicting the existing ruling of FISC Judge Reggie Walton. Politico’s Josh Gerstein, Time’s Nate Rawlings and Bloomberg’s Kelly Gullo have some follow up: The Justice Department has announced that it will abide by the ruling of the district court in San Francisco. This should please the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the filers of the San Francisco retention order.

Unlikely allies, Carrie Cordero and Elizabeth Gotein have a joint opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal pushing back against the President’s suggestion that metadata be housed by a third party, likely a private corporation. Although they differ on bulk collection in generally, they agree that a third-party holding the material is the worst of all options.

Congress may be growing more assertive in the level of oversight it seeks to have over intelligence expenditures. Steve Aftergood reports on statements from a number of members of Congress advocating for a more itemized intelligence budget.

Similarly, in Foreign PolicyShane Harris and John Hudson take a closer look at the simmering tensions between the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence and the CIA. Senate staffers and CIA officials continue to trade accusations of improper action, and the fracas was the subject of a notable floor speech earlier this morning by Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  She accused the CIA of improperly snooping on SSCI staffers, according to this Times piece by Mark Mazzetti, and this Washington Post piece by Ed O’Keefe.  Odds are good that fraying CIA-SSCI relations will come up this morning, during a Council on Foreign Relations event with Andrea Mitchell, of NBC News, and CIA Director John Brennan; or perhaps at this afternoon’s closed SSCI hearing.

Meanwhile, in the Christian Science Monitor, Dan Murphy analyzed the recently released DNI report on recidivism rates of Guantanamo Bay detainees. He argues that the numbers are decreasing and that the threat posed by the releases is really not significant.

In the latest installment from Suleiman Abu Ghaith’s trial: Saajid Badat, who conspired with shoe bomber Richard Reid and was convicted in London, will testify via video.

This year’s Boston Marathon will see a significant uptick in security measures, reports the Times. These measures will include thousands more uniformed and plainclothes officers, bomb-sniffing dogs, and surveillance cameras and new prohibition on the kinds of bags that can be carried.

The Guardian reports that the UK’s fleet of Reaper drones will be moved to Africa and the Middle East, rather than returned to Britain, after the end of hostilities in Afghanistan. The piece is based on an interview with UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson, who released a report on drone use, which we noted last week.

As it tightens its military and political control of Crimea, Russia is also pushing back against Western proposals for the rest of Ukraine. The New York Times reports that Russian diplomats have deemed American recognition of the “coup” in Kiev to be unsatisfactory, and introduces us to the oligarchs who would be most effected by American financial sanctions.

Relatedly, the Journal reports that Secretary of State John Kerry postponed his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is now unclear when the two will meet.

DNI James Clapper asserted during an interview yesterday that the Ukraine situation was not an intelligence failure on the United States’ part.

As Jane mentioned yesterday, in true undemocratic fashion, the Taliban is threatening violence against voters in the run-up to the Afghan presidential election. The Wall Street Journal has this handy interactive graphic of the frontrunners in the election, which is scheduled to take place next month—be sure to check it out.

Also be sure to check out Rod Nordland’s story of Afghanistan’s very own Romeo and Juliet.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades and the Al Nusra Front, two Al Qaeda affiliates that have gained notoriety with their operations in Syria, have claimed responsibility for attacks on Hezbollah—which is backed by Iran and President Bashar Assad. The Long War Journal has more.

The Times reports on the convictions of three Parisian men who were trying to join the Syrian rebels.

Majid Ravanchi, Iran’s number three diplomat, told the Journal that the country will meet its pledge to have all of its nuclear activities inspected by the international community if a nuclear deal is struck.

Frederic Grare of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has an op-ed in CNN about Pakistan’s very complicated relationship with the Pakistani Taliban in the context of its Afghanistan policy.

Here’s another Congressional Research Service report to add to your week’s reading: Critical Infrastructures: Background, Policy, and Implementation.  It discusses:

in more detail the evolution of a national critical infrastructure policy and the institutional structures established to implement it. The report highlights two primary issues confronting Congress going forward, both in the context of cybersecurity: information sharing and regulation.

Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs, sat down with Ray Kelly, former New York City Police Commissioner to talk counterterrorism. The video and transcript are available here.

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