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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:15 PM

As we’ve been explaining, there’s drama in the U.S. Senate.  It’s not just your usual partisan bickering, either. Yesterday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–CA) took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of searching through computers used by staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Washington Post has more; and NPR has a great breakdown of the circumstances that led Feinstein, the Committee’s Chair, to make such a strong show yesterday. According to NPR, the Senator’s impassioned remarks have caused a split in the Senate between those who take her accusations very seriously (like Rep Mike Rogers (R-Mich)) and those who are much more skeptical (like Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl). Keep returning to Lawfare for more analysis on this developing story.

Apropos of surveillance: in the TimesCharlie Savage and Laura Poitras have a piece that describes how a 2002 ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “weakened restrictions on sharing private information about Americans[.]”  Their article also recounts how the FISC’s role changed over time.

The Wire explains why it is so difficult for Congress to come together on the issue of the Ukrainian crisis. The House has passed an aid package, but now the Senate is sitting on it over disagreements on the best way to approach the situation. The Hill also highlights the difficulties American lawmakers are facing in the lead up to a recess which will begin on Friday.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Russia is refusing to talk to Ukrainian government officials—or so the acting Ukranian president, Oleksandr Turchynov, is saying. Turchynov is also saying that he expects the Russians to falsify the results from Sunday’s referendum in the Crimean peninsula on whether it should secede from Ukraine.

Swedish reporter Nils Horner was shot and killed in broad daylight in Kabul yesterday. The New York Times explains that the “assassination-style” killing raises questions about the safety conditions in Afghanistan for foreign nationals. No arrests in connection with the murder have been made as of yet.

Yesterday, mourners gathered to honor the life of Afghan Vice President Marshal Qasim Fahim. Public Radio International explains that Fahim’s death—of natural causes, at age 56—leaves a critical gap in the upcoming presidential elections.  (Current President Karzai cannot seek a third term.) Nils Horner was in the area of Kabul where Farhim’s funeral was taking place when he was shot and killed.

The Hill reports that the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has said that Al-Qaeda has spread throughout Afghanistan. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford told a Senate Armed Services Committee panel that he believes a U.S. presence in Afghanistan after 2014 will still be necessary to prevent Al-Qaeda from “regenerating degraded capabilities.”

The crisis in Syria is far from over. The Guardian reports that after months of deadlock, a new push to remove President Bashar al-Assad is under way. The United States is spearheading a recharged effort to fund the moderate, secular opposition, particularly in the south west of the country, in order to open up a road to Damascus.

The Times reminds us not to forget about the ongoing conflict in Libya, and highlights the ongoing political assassinations that take place “systematically” there.  The targets are usually opponents of local leadership. Libyans worry that their country will never build a “stable, functioning, democratic” nation.

A bomb has exploded in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Al Jazeera reports that the embassy had not been in use for over two years because of previous attacks.

In what surely boggled the minds of election watchers everywhere, Kim Jung Un was reelected in an uncontested election to North Korea’s parliament yesterday with 100% of the vote. Voter turnout was also impressive: 100% of eligible voters came to cast a vote for their Supreme Leader.

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