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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Over the weekend, the United States continued its offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Reuters tells us that U.S.-led air strikes are reported to have destroyed oil refineries in Syria.

President Obama spoke on the continuing developments in Syria and Iraq as he sat for an interview with “60 Minutes” which aired last night. The president says that the United States misjudged the power of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and recognized that the Iraqi army was not sufficiently equipped to handle the threat. The Washington Post covered President Obama’s remarks.

The BBC reports that al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda offshoot, has denounced the U.S.-led offensive against ISIS, and declared the U.S.’ actions as “a war against Isam”.  The group issued an online statement that encouraged its supporters to violently target the U.S. and its allies in the offensive, including neighboring Arab countries.

While the offensive against ISIS continues, Hassan Hassan of the Guardian points out that airstrikes against the militant organization may actually lend it legitimacy among local populations. Though the strikes may be successful in weakening ISIS’ physical capabilities, the airstrikes may help the group to reinforce anti-American sentiment in parts of Syria and Iraq.

President Obama isn’t just targeting ISIS through airstrikes: he’s put together a team to directly combat the group’s financing sources.  The Los Angeles Times reports that the president has gathered an “interagency team, led by the Treasury Department to track down Islamic State’s foreign donors, crack down on its smuggling, and identify individuals and institutions that help the group transfer or hide its money.”

NPR spoke with a Yazidi woman who was captured by ISIS forces in Kurdish Iraq. The woman, Dudu, managed to escape from the clutches of her captors, and she recounts the horrifying story of her kidnapping and eventual escape.

The Times reports that the Iraqi army has been able to persuade deserters to rejoin the country’s military forces by focusing on the need to fight against ISIS.

James Zogby, at the Huffington Post argues that the news surrounding American-led airstrikes in Syria and Iraq have led us to ignore the situation in Lebanon. The ISIS threat is real and imminent in Lebanon, which is currently home to 1.2 displaced Syrians, who now make up nearly 25% Lebanon’s population. Small but lethal sectarian attacks plague parts of the country on a daily basis.

The Guardian reports that four suspected militants were killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan yesterday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has arrived in Afghanistan as part of a delegation of governors.  The Times explains that the governors will receive “briefings on counterterrorism and security issues”.

Outgoing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that his biggest regret during his tenure at NATO is the development of Russia’s adversarial relationship with NATO. USA Today covers Rasmussen’s remarks.

NPR reports that the Russian parliament has passed a bill that would limit foreign ownership of Russian media to less than 20 percent.  The bill, if signed into law by President Putin (which he is expected to do without hesitation), would allow the Russian government to exert even more power over information in the country.

American intelligence officials are keeping a close watch on developments in Congress concerning bids for a federal contract essentially to “act as the air traffic controller for the nation’s phone system.” National security issues could be implicated if a foreign company wins the bid. Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security, has helped to draft a document on behalf of American-based Neustar, lobbying the government to keep the contract with the company. The Times has the story.

Word on the Hill is that a “narrowly tailored” Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) could pass through Congress. The Hill reports that the AUMF to combat ISIS could pass, but we shouldn’t expect it to happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, the White House still wants the 2002 AUMF repealed. The Hill explains that President Obama wants to see the 2002 measure replaced with an authorization to combat ISIS. But, until then, and as we’ve talked about here, a lot, the president is still relying on in the 2002 AUMF (among other things) in the meantime to justify airstrikes in Iraq and Syria to fight against ISIS.

As if you had any doubt: CIA officers are just as caffeine-addicted as the rest of us. The Post takes us inside the most covert Starbucks in the country at the CIA headquarters at Langley.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us onTwitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.



On Glenn Greenwald’s Skepticism on Threat Claims About the Khorasan Group

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Glenn Greenwald has a skeptical takedown of the factual basis for the attacks on the Khorasan Group (KG) in Syria, and the American Press’s complicity, based on anonymous USG sources, in spreading war-mongering exaggerations about KG’s imminent threat to the American public.  Greenwald concludes:

So after spending weeks promoting ISIS as Worse Than Al Qaeda™, they unveiled a new, never-before-heard-of group that was Worse Than ISIS™. Overnight, as the first bombs on Syria fell, the endlessly helpful U.S. media mindlessly circulated the script they were given: this new group was composed of “hardened terrorists,” posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S. homeland, was in the “final stages” of plots to take down U.S. civilian aircraft, and could “launch more-coordinated and larger attacks on the West in the style of the 9/11 attacks from 2001.””

As usual, anonymity was granted to U.S. officials to make these claims. As usual, there was almost no evidence for any of this. Nonetheless, American media outlets – eager, as always, to justify American wars - spewed all of this with very little skepticism. Worse, they did it by pretending that the U.S. Government was trying not to talk about all of this – too secret! – but they, as intrepid, digging journalists, managed to unearth it from their courageous “sources.” Once the damage was done, the evidence quickly emerged about what a sham this all was. But, as always with these government/media propaganda campaigns, the truth emerged only when it’s impotent.

Greenwald is on solid ground in saying that American people have almost no access to actual threat information, and to a great extent must trust the U.S. government, and the U.S. press, for its information about new and emerging threats.  Greenwald is also (obviously) right that we should not reflexively accept what the USG says.  It is also true that some people in the USG sometimes push tendentious threat information to the public, though I think they typically do so not to mislead on purpose, but rather because all persons and institutions (including Greenwald, and I) have a natural tendency to read facts in a self-serving way.  When one faces terrorist threat information, and is responsible for the consequences of that threat, and for building support for the President, one sometimes over-reads the threat facts.  And in the short run, journalists, desperate for access and scoops, sometimes report this information uncritically.  I have no idea if this is what happened with KG, but Greenwald is once again right that the coverage of KG’s imminent threat was initially uncritical and then – a few days after the bombing had begun – became more nuanced and skeptical as last week progressed.  (Here is a notable and interesting exception to the lack of skepticism that runs in the other direction: Andy McCarthy agrees that KG is an invention, but argues that it was invented to cover for the fact that core al Qaeda, contrary to the President’s representations, is still alive and very well.)

There are some interesting puzzles raised by this episode.

One is why President Obama’s claims about newly emerging terrorist threats are not greeted with greater skepticism.  One often hears these days that if President Bush had done these things, there would be much more (and faster) doubt and outrage.  Three factors might explain this.  First, war fever induced by the beheadings might lead many more people than usual not to question the basis for the current airstrikes.  Second, Obama is acting against his perceived natural disposition as anti-war, and thus can act in this direction with fewer questions than could President Bush, who had the opposite reputation.  Despite his pretty relentless war unilateralism, the President is still widely viewed as a reluctant warrior, and thus when he goes to war there is less skepticism (compared to even the pre-Iraq Bush) about its basis.  It’s the “Nixon Goes to China” phenomenon.  (Here is a famous academic paper about it.)  A similar phenomenon with the opposite impact was in play when President Bush got no grief for releasing GTMO detainees or trying terrorists in civilian courts, yet Obama receives much grief for the same things. Third, the politics line up in ways that tamp down skepticism of the President’s war motivations, since his natural critics, Republicans, are generally more belligerent than he is, and the Democrats, while more skeptical of war, don’t want to unduly hurt the President.

A second puzzle is about what an Executive branch can do if it cares to gain more credibility about its terrorist threat reports.  This is a hard problem.  In theory the President could show the public the information on which the threat reports are based.  But this would reveal sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would alert our enemies to how we are watching them, and thus make doing so (and thus our security) harder.  A different solution – explained in this terrific paper by Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule – is to have an adverse and to some degree independent institution study the information and report on its veracity.  The American Press is supposed to serve this role, and I think that it does over time.  But Greenwald might be right that in a quick run-up to war against a supposedly new terrorist threat, journalists are inadequately skeptical and adverse.  One might think that Congress would be skeptical and adverse, especially members of the opposite party on the Intelligence Committees.  But as just noted, in the current context – hawkish Republicans and a seemingly war-weary Democratic President – Congress does not serve this role well.

I thus think this is a situation where presidential credibility about a new terrorist threat can only be tested over time, through ex post scrutiny, by journalists and others who can take more time to verify claims, and also from leakers.  In theory, a rational president will anticipate ex post scrutiny and not mislead in the short term in a way that will be politically harmful later.  President Bush’s credibility about threat reports plummeted, and never really recovered, after it became clear that Saddam Hussein did not possess WMD.  That said, I tend to doubt that Obama will get much ex post political heat if his administration has in fact exaggerated the imminence of the KG threat.  This is a significant advantage that flows to President Obama from his preference for pinprick war from a distance (drones, manned airstrikes, cyber) with little possible harm to U.S. troops: It invites much less ex post scrutiny at home, compared to a large footprint and body bags.

Securing Phones – and Securing US

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Apple has encrypted its iPhone6 for real, that is, removing the backdoor for government warrants. The FBI is erupting, claiming that that this will create problems for law enforcement, raising the specter of not being able to investigate terrorist activities, solve murder cases, and arrest child pornographers. In fact, Apple’s decision to remove the backdoor on the iPhone’s encryption, and Google’s decision to have Android encryption on by default, is long overdue. It is the only sensible decision for security.

During the 1990s, we fought the Crypto Wars. The NSA and FBI opposed public use of strong cryptography. Using export controls, the government essentially prevented domestic use. But in a nation — and world — increasingly dependent on electronic communications, preventing the use of encryption made no sense. That’s why eighteen years ago, a National Academies report on cryptography policy observed that, “On balance, the advantages of more widespread use of cryptography outweigh the disadvantages,” and concluded, “No law should bar the manufacture, sale, or use of any form of encryption within the United States.”

Fourteen years ago the US government, with NSA’s concurrence, ended export controls on products including strong forms of cryptography. The result was the flourishing of Internet commerce. And — at least a decade later than they should have — US companies began putting security protections into software and hardware products.

The FBI opposed the ending of cryptography controls in 2000, and it now opposes the widespread use of cryptography. But the crime-fighting agency has never really understood that the widespread use of cryptography is essential in a world for which, increasingly, the most important assets are electronic.

Threats to the US come in many forms: nation states stealing US industrial and military secrets, terrorists attacking outside the US and seeking to do so within, criminals using new-fashioned methods to break into government, corporate, and people’s accounts. For the better part of a decade, we’ve been hearing about cyberthreats. In 2010 Deputy Director of Defense William Lynn wrote that the threat to intellectual property — products and processes, business plans, etc. — “may be the most significant cyberthreat that the United States will face over the long term.” Read more »

Diane Webber on the ECHJ Opinion in Hassan

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 7:58 AM

Diane Webber, a British lawyer who recently did a lengthy study of detention law in a variety of countries, writes in with the following account of the European Court of Human Rights decision earlier this month in Hassan v. United Kingdom (ECHR Application No. 29750/09, Judgment of Grand Chamber, September 16, 2014):

In an important decision this month, the European Court of Human Rights has interpreted how international human rights law should coexist with international humanitarian law (IHL) in a new way that appears to give primacy to certain elements of human rights law. When Contracting Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights arrest and detain suspected combatants or civilians suspected of being a threat to security in a situation of international armed conflict, they should ensure that the arrests and detentions are lawful, meaning within the spirit of the fundamental purpose of the right to liberty enshrined in Article 5 of the Convention—to protect individuals from arbitrariness.

On April 23, 2003 British forces arrested Tarek Hassan, who was found on the roof of the home of his brother (an Al-Quds General), armed with an AK-47 machine gun. Hassan was detained in a British-controlled section of the U.S. operated Camp Bucca in Iraq. The arrest was on the grounds that he was a suspected combatant or a civilian posing a threat to security. Hassan was interrogated by U.K. and U.S. authorities. Within a few days, he was determined to be a non-combatant who did not pose a threat to security and he was ultimately released from Camp Bucca on May 2, 2003. His body, which displayed marks of torture and execution, was found on September 1, 2003 approximately 700 km away from Camp Bucca, in an area not controlled by British forces.

The question before the European Court of Human Rights was whether Hassan’s arrest and detention were arbitrary and unlawful, lacking in procedural safeguards, and whether British authorities had failed to carry out an investigation into the circumstances of the detention, ill-treatment and death.

Read more »

Will the Supreme Court Take Up Mehanna?

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 7:30 AM

Does translating “radical” Arab texts and videos amount to material support for terrorism? That is the question that would face the Supreme Court, should they decide to take up Mehanna v. United States. (For full background and facts on the case, see our extensive prior coverage here.)

The basic facts of Mehanna are simple. The 1996 “material support” provision, 18 U.S.C. § 2339, criminalizes the providing of “material support or resources” to a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). In turn, providing “material support or resources” can mean the providing of “any property . . . or service” to the FTO. In Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 130 S. Ct. 2705 (2010), the Court held that speech activities may be a “service” constituting “material support” for terrorism. The Court also required that the speech activities be “coordinated” with a FTO. But the Court did not further define what type of coordination, or how much of it, was needed to fulfill the service prong of § 2339.

Which brings us to the case of Tarek Mehanna. He provided English translations of “radical” Arab texts and videos for “At Tibyan,” an online forum that FTOs frequent. The government succeeded in convicting him under the material support provision, and the First Circuit affirmed the conviction. Mehanna petitioned for a writ of certiorari; now, all the briefs are in and have been distributed for the Supreme Court’s conference today. Below, I review the arguments advanced by the parties in their cert-stage briefs.

Read more »

The Week That Will Be

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Event Announcements (More details on the Events Calendar)

Monday, September 29th at 9 am: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy will hold a symposium on America and the Challenges of a Turbulent Middle East: Looking Backward, Looking Forward. Two panels will precede William Burns’s keynote address at 12:30 pm. RSVP here.

Monday, September 29th at 9 am: The United States Institute of Peace will also tackle the crises in the Middle East and North Africa, looking at the nexus of Islam, Democracy, and Extremism. Robin Wright will moderate a conversation with Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi, who will discuss the current political and security crisis in the region, including how Tunisia’s democratic transition and experience can be drawn upon when seeking solutions to these protracted crises, and can show how dialogue and compromise can pave the way for national unity and reconciliation. More information here

Monday, September 29th at 2 pm: Continued threats emerging from ungoverned spaces underline the need to address the relationship between weak states and international terrorism – a need that has grown significantly in the past three years. At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Brookings Institution will hold a conversation on the Evolving Risks of Fragile States and International Terrorism. Jaen-Marie Guehenno, Sarah Cliffe, and Bruce Jones will speak. Register here.

Monday, September 29th at 3 pm: At the Elliott School of International Affairs, Michael Chertoff, Robert Nichols, David Fagan, and Frank Cilluffo will address a symposium on Cybersecurity for Government Contractors. RSVP here.

Tuesday, September 30th at 5:30 pm: At Johns Hopkins SAIS, Svante Cornell,  S. Frederick Starr,James Sherr,  Stephen Blank,  Richard Weitz,  Johan Engvall,  and Mamuka Tsereteli will discuss the launch of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and Silk Road Studies Program’s new book, Putin’s Grand Strategy: The Eurasian Union and Its Discontents. For speaker bios and more information, visit the SAIS website

Read more »

Readings: Marc Sageman on Stagnation in Terrorism Research

Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 10:17 PM

Marc Sageman probably needs no introduction to most Lawfare readers. Author of two of the past decade’s most influential books on the conceptualization of transnational terrorists and terrorist groups, Understanding Terrorist Networks (2004) and Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century (2008), he has been a leading participant–both inside and outside of government–in efforts to understand the etiologies of terrorism and terrorists.  His brief biography (from the Foreign Policy Research Institute website where he is a senior fellow):

Sageman obtained an M.D. and a Ph.D. in sociology from New York University. After a tour as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Navy, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1984. He spent a year on the Afghan Task Force then went to Islamabad from 1987 to 1989, where he ran the U.S. unilateral programs with the Afghan Mujahedin, and New Delhi from 1989–91. In 1991, he resigned from the agency to return to medicine. Since 1994, he has been in the private practice of forensic and clinical psychiatry.  As an expert on Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations, he has consulted with various branches of the U.S. government and has lectured at many [US] universities … He has also consulted with foreign government (France, Australia, Spain, Canada, Germany, and Britain) and lectured extensively at foreign universities.

Sageman is also a long-time member of the editorial board of the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence,  and TPV‘s current issue leads off with a new essay by him, “The Stagnation in Terrorism Research.”  (Vol. 26, Issue 4, Sep-Oct 2014; open access, online and pdf versions.)  It’s provocative, even polemical, and it’s accompanied by responses from five leading terrorism experts, all of whom express themselves vigorously, in plain, non-jargon-ridden language (and unfortunately not open access). The respondents are: Max Taylor (Penn State), Alex P. Schmid (Terrorism Research Initiative, Austria), David H. Schanzer (Duke University), Clark McCauley (Bryn Mawr) and Sophia Moskalenko (U Maryland), and Friend-of-Lawfare Jessica Stern (Harvard).  Additionally, an open access podcast interview with Sageman by TPV editor Max Taylor is available at the journal home page, in which Taylor raises some of the respondents’ objections to Sageman’s essay (there’s also a helpful pdf transcript).

Sageman’s essay is well worth reading (even without the benefit of his respondents; and for that matter, I have a number of points of difference). He raises timely questions about our understanding, or rather mostly non-understanding, of how and why individuals take up political violence, terrorism, and jihad–more exactly, he raises timely questions about the methodologies by which we study, research, and prioritize those questions.  The article was written before the public breakout of The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq this past summer, but if anything those events have made the methodological and framing questions about terrorists, terrorism, and etiology rather more pressing than less. Abstract below the fold. Read more »

Islamic State Reconciling with Jabhat al-Nusra, and Strengthening President’s 2001 AUMF Argument

Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 4:34 PM

The Guardian reports that USG bombing of Jabhat al-Nusra, the al Qaeda group (or AQ-affiliated group) in Syria that has been at odds with the Islamic State for a year or so:

Air strikes continued to target Islamic State (Isis) positions near the Kurdish town of Kobani and hubs across north-east Syria on Sunday, as the terror group moved towards a new alliance with Syria’s largest al-Qaida group that could help offset the threat from the air.

Jabhat al-Nusra, which has been at odds with Isis for much of the past year, vowed retaliation for the US-led strikes, the first wave of which a week ago killed scores of its members. Many Nusra units in northern Syria appeared to have reconciled with the group, with which it had fought bitterly early this year.

A senior source confirmed that al-Nusra and Isis leaders were now holding war-planning meetings. While not yet formalised, the addition of at least some al-Nusra numbers to Isis would strengthen the group’s ranks and further its reach at a time when air strikes are crippling its funding sources and slowing its advances in both Syria and Iraq.

Al-Nusra, which has direct ties to al-Qaida’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, denounced the attacks as a “war on Islam”, in an audio statement posted over the weekend. A senior al-Nusra figure told the Guardian that 73 members had defected to Isis last Friday alone and that scores more were planning to swear allegiance in coming days.

There is necessarily some artificiality and judgment in determining which fighters are members of and/or associated with al Qaeda for purposes of deciding which individuals and groups fall under the 2001 AUMF.  And the description from the Guardian does not make clear – because it is no doubt too soon to tell – exactly what relationship is developing between Nusra (or its fighters) and the Islamic State.  Nonetheless, the closer ties between the two groups significantly strengthen the President’s argument – now, but not last week – that the 2001 AUMF covers IS.  It also shows, yet again, how flexible and amorphous the 2001 AUMF is, and why Congress should do something to make the process of identifying groups that are enemies of (and thus targetable by) the United States more rigorous and regularized.  Here is one proposal for that by four Lawfare writers, and here is another one by Harold Koh,    I have no  reason to think anything like these proposals will be enacted any time soon.

In Spate of New ATS Decisions, Courts Are Divided About Meaning of Kiobel’s “Touch and Concern” Standard

Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 2:17 PM

During the last several weeks, four different federal courts have issued decisions in high-profile and long-running ATS suits against U.S. corporations, all addressing whether the conduct of the defendants in the United States satisfies the amorphous “touch and concern” standard enunciated by the majority in the Supreme Court’s Kiobel decision. In brief: the Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the suit against Drummond Corporation relating to its actions in Colombia; Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California dismissed a suit against Cisco Systems relating to its sale of network security software to the Chinese government; Judge Lamberth of the DC District Court allowed plaintiffs to amend their complaint against ExxonMobil relating to the oil company’s actions in Indonesia in order to try to meet the “touch and concern” standard; and the Ninth Circuit issued a lengthy opinion explaining in greater detail the reasoning behind its cursory order last December permitting plaintiffs to amend their complaint against Nestle USA, Archer Daniels Midland, and Cargill relating to their alleged facilitation of child labor in the Cote d’Ivoire.

It is clear from these decisions that the courts remain uncertain about what domestic conduct is necessary to “touch and concern” the territory of the United States and whether the conduct of corporate defendants inside the United States must itself violate the law of nations. In particular, there already appears to be a circuit split between the 9th and 11th circuits regarding whether the Supreme Court intended lower courts to apply to ATS cases the “focus” test in Morrison v. Australian National Bank, where the Supreme Court concluded that, in considering whether conduct that occurs both inside and outside the United States violates a statute without extraterritorial application, the courts should determine whether the conduct that is the “focus of congressional concern” occurred inside or outside the United States.  I discuss the decisions in more detail below.

Read more »

The Foreign Policy Essay: The Islamic State’s War Machine

Sunday, September 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Editor’s Note: The recent killing of Al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane is only one of the most recent U.S. attempts to disrupt Al Qaeda and associated movements by targeting their leaders. Although the Obama administration has aggressively embraced this tactic, arguments persist over whether or not it is succeeding. Austin Long, an assistant professor at Columbia University, contends that the critical factor that determines whether this tactic will be successful in achieving long-term strategic success is institutionalization: not all terrorist groups are organized equally, and some have procedures and structures in place that enable them to absorb severe losses and continue fighting.


As the Obama administration rolls out its new strategy for combating the Islamic State, it is time to reflect on leadership targeting, one of the major U.S. tactics in combating terrorism. Leadership targeting relies on a combination of advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities (e.g., drones, signals intelligence, data fusion) with precision firepower and in some cases highly capable special operations forces to kill or capture the leadership of terrorist organizations. The tactic has had mixed results best characterized as operational success without strategic success. Although literally thousands of terrorists and other militants have been killed or captured, many of the organizations they belonged to continue to pose a threat to the United States and its interests.

Policymakers should take stock and reflect on why this tactic has been unable in many instances to achieve decisive effects. The reason is that combat organizations, whether formal armies or well-organized insurgencies, are designed to function despite the loss of leadership. Although some terrorist organizations or insurgencies are destroyed before they develop the necessary traits to survive the loss of leadership, once these organizations reach a critical threshold of institutionalization, leadership targeting is unlikely to defeat them.

Long photoNowhere is this clearer than in the case of the Islamic State. Its advance into Iraq has been blunted by a combination of Iraqi and Kurdish forces supported by U.S. airpower, but it remains potent. Indeed, the achievements of the Islamic State over the past three years have been nothing short of remarkable. It has successfully balanced war on multiple fronts against adversaries ranging from the Iraqi and Syrian state security forces to fellow rebels in Syria and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq. As a result, even after the recent reverses in Iraq, the group now has a declared capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa and has de facto control over significant portions of Iraq and Syria.

These achievements are all the more remarkable in light of the fact that the Islamic State’s organizational predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), had been targeted for years by a massive campaign to capture or kill its leadership. According to Task Force Black, Mark Urban’s account of the U.S. and U.K. special operations task forces hunting militants in Iraq, AQI lost thousands of mid-level and senior leaders between 2003 and 2009. This included the founding leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in 2006, and then successors Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (not to be confused with the current leader of IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) and Abu Ayyub al-Masri in 2010.

Yet AQI survived this blistering assault, as well as counterinsurgency operations conducted by coalition and Iraqi troops along with a revolt by Sunni Arab tribes and insurgents against its leadership (often referred to as the “Sunni Awakening”). Although it was pushed underground and to the fringes of Iraq, it nonetheless survived and was eventually revitalized by a combination of the war in Syria and Sunni disenfranchisement in Iraq. The Islamic State’s success is thus built on the resilience of AQI. Read more »

The Lawfare Podcast, Episode #93: Hardcore Dan Carlin

Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 1:55 PM

A few weeks ago, I began listening to a podcast called Hardcore History, which is the brainchild of a fellow named Dan Carlin. Carlin was doing a series of episodes on World War I, and Hardcore History is—let’s just say—a different sort of podcast. The episodes are very long, very involved, and to me at least, completely riveting. Honestly, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Carlin, a former radio talk show host, also runs a podcast called Common Sense, which focuses on contemporary political issues and features Carlin’s eclectic political views—many of which I disagree with intensely.

Unlike the Lawfare Podcast, which reaches around 1,000 folks a week, these podcasts are big time. Literally millions of people are downloading Carlin’s lectures on World War I and other major events in mostly military history. And Carlin’s thoughts on NSA surveillance and US military operations overseas—both of which he opposes intensely—reach a great many more people than does either this site or its podcast.

I caught up with Carlin this week to discuss the World War I series, Hardcore History more generally, and his views on matters surveillance, ISIS, and overseas intervention.

Drone Dance

Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Austrian drone-swarm dance with lights. Very cool.

The Week That Was: All of Lawfare in One Post

Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 9:55 AM

News broke two days ago that US Attorney General Eric Holder is stepping down. Ben posited that the White House should consider David Kris as his replacement, in part because Kris possesses the “granular experience in the national security space” that the job now requires.

Jennifer Daskal, Ashley Deeks, and Ryan Goodman asserted that the international legal justification for strikes against ISIS is not the same as that for strikes against Khorasan, and unpacked some of the key divergences.

Jack noted Charlie Savage’s recent New York Times report on the Obama administration’s legal theory for the use of force against ISIS, and argued that while the theory is on relatively strong legal footing, the administration should have asked Congress to authorize this latest campaign.

Jack also wondered why the administration continues to keep Congress in the dark about its “covert” training of Syrian rebels.

noted that President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly this week mentioned the structural factors underlying transnational terror in the Middle East, and delineated what some of those factors might be.

Ben and Ken flagged the recent release by the Hoover Institution of Chapters 4 and 5 of their serialized book, Speaking the Law: The Obama Administration’s Addresses on National Security Law.

Ben shared a video of a recent event at the Heritage Foundation entitled, “The Legal Basis for Military Action Against ISIS,” featuring Cully Stimson, Bobby Chesney, Steve Vladeck, and Steve Bradbury.

Cody noted that the UK Parliament authorized airstrikes in Iraq on Friday by a vote of 524-43.

Ben responded to Jeff Stein’s recent Newsweek article entitled, “What Will US Forces do with ISIS Prisoners?” He noted that if the US campaign remains largely air-driven, this question will answer itself, but if it grows to include a ground component, the US will probably transfer the vast majority of detainees to local ground forces, a plan which did not work well in Afghanistan. He also offered a few thoughts on Jessica Schulberg’s recent article at the New Republic on the financial costs of Guantanamo.

Wells noted that the DC Circuit recently ordered the US government to respond to detainees’ petition for en banc rehearing in Hatim v. Obama.

Cody flagged a recent Congressional Research Service report entitled, “Judicial Activity Concerning Enemy Combatant Detainees: Major Court Rulings.”

Lauren Bateman noted that the Department of Justice filed a motion last week to “intervene, stay, and dismiss” a private lawsuit against an NGO using the state secrets privilege. She also summarized the particulars of the case, which involves the organization United Against a Nuclear Iran.

Relatedly, Ken tipped Lawfare’s readership off about Ashley Deeks’ recent article entitled, “An International Legal Framework for Surveillance,” which has garnered a significant amount of attention on SSRN.

Jane shared the government’s response-and-reply brief in Klayman v. Obama, which was filed last Friday. In addition to summarizing its main arguments, she noted that the ACLU moved to participate in oral argument.

investigated how the Chinese government has consolidated and strengthened its internet regulatory agencies over the past few months, and outlined how the recent centralization drive could impact the “open internet” ideal globally.

Paul Rosenzweig noted how more and more companies are utilizing encryption software, mostly because of “the business necessity of appearing resistant to government surveillance.” He also delineated some of the legal and practical implications of this encryption transition.

Stewart Baker provided this week’s Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, which featured Julian Sanchez, senior fellow at the Cato Institute. The conversation focused on Apple’s recent announcement that it would no longer “decrypt iPhones for law enforcement,” among other topics.

Sanchez was popular on Lawfare this week; Ben flagged another interview featuring the Cato Institute scholar, in which he spoke on the NSA controversies and surveillance reform.

Bobby shared the most recent installment in the Transatlantic Dialogue series, which featured Professor Guglielmo Verdirame opining on the implications of IHRL’s “expansion into the armed conflict setting.”

Ben flagged Jason Leopold’s recent article on the FBI investigation of al Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan, who was killed in a 2011 CIA drone strike alongside Anwar al Awlaki.

In this week’s Lawfare Podcast, Cody provided an address Ben gave at Kenyon College for Constitution Day entitled, “A Constitution Under Chronic Stress.” In the speech, Ben examined the post-9/11 debate in the US over civil liberties and argued how the US’s unique Constitutional framework has shaped its response to topics as varied as drone strikes and cyber security. Ben also announced that the Lawfare Podcast now has its own Twitter feed, which you can follow by clicking here:

For this week’s Foreign Policy Essay, C. Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, explained why al Qaeda announced a new affiliate in South Asia and why the group might find success there.

And Wells discovered that Lawfare attracts some unlikely readership demographics.

And that was the week that was.



Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast, Episode #35: An Interview with Julian Sanchez

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 3:30 PM

For those who think the podcast is best when we have a guest from the opposite end of the political spectrum, episode 35 should be a treat.  (We’re late this week, but it will be well worth the wait.)

Our guest is Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who studies surveillance and other issues at the intersection of technology and civil liberties.  He is a founding editor of the policy blog Just Security, and recently debated another of our guests, Orin Kerr, on Apple’s recent announcement that it would no longer be able to decrypt iPhones for law enforcement.    We dig into that issue in detail, asking such questions as how often encryption has actually stymied an investigation, whether “hacking” the phone is a substitute for help from the company, what this means for corporate users of iPhones, the implications for Apple (and Google) in other countries, and whether Google/Apple run a risk under current US law of lawsuits by prosecutors or by crime victims.

Our news roundup begins with some of the first good news NSA has received in months.  It looks as though Snowden fatigue may finally be setting in abroad as well as here.  Last week, Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and Internet multimillionaire Kim Dotcom teamed up to “close one of the Five Eyes” by driving New Zealand’s government out of office in national elections.  They combined strategic leaks, a Snowden attack on the prime minister as a liar, and Dotcom’s multimillion dollar campaign war chest.  Well, the elections are over, and the Anti-NSA Dream Team was trounced.  In less good news, NSA Director Mike Rogers admits to having missed more than he’d like about ISIS’s rise.  We debate how much the political furor over the agency contributes to these problems.

In other news, we discover that auto-forwarding someone else’s email is a wiretap – and why suing for privacy violation is much better than seeking alimony. Meanwhile, the Home Depot case sets a new record, and the Neiman Marcus data breach case gives comfort to class action defense lawyers all across the country.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tells us that the constitution may protect upskirt photos.

And, finally, we speculate whether the whole privacy law thing will finally melt down over health data, especially now that concerns about HIPAA are stifling innovation by app companies, spurring a turf war between the FTC and HHS, and, most of all, getting in the way of rapid response by government agencies accused of wrongdoing.

Finally, we announce a new feature of the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast:   feedback.  Send your questions, suggestions for interview candidates or topics to [email protected]If you’d like to leave a message by phone here’s the number: 202.862.5785. We may play your message on the podcast if it’s particularly insightful or entertainingly abusive.

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By and
Friday, September 26, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Earlier this afternoon, the U.K. Parliament authorized British airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS by a vote of 524-43. Earlier reports noted that British operations could begin as early as this weekend.

The Brits are not the only country signing up for action: so too are the Danes. Earlier this morning, Denmark’s government said it plans to join the U.S.-led military campaign, sending seven fighter jets to target ISIS in Iraq. Like other traditional European allies, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that Denmark would not participate in operations in Syria.

Having trouble keeping up with who’s in and who’s out? Thankfully, the Washington Post has a run down of the contributions from each member of the now 62-nation coalition.

At the same time, airstrikes in Iraq and Syria continue, but the mission has shifted to targeting oilfields controlled by ISIS. U.S.-led forces also hit ISIS bases in eastern Syria, reports the New York Times. Yesterday, the Pentagon updated its costs of the strikes, estimating that the campaign against ISIS costs somewhere between $7 and $10 million each day. So far, the United States has conducted 198 airstrikes in Iraq and 20 in Syria. The Hill has more.

Happening now: Reuters is reporting that Islamic State fighters are tightening their siege of Kobani, a strategic town on Syria’s border with Turkey. Indeed, as the battle approaches the Turkish borders, witnesses on the ground claim two shells have landed inside Turkish territory. As of today, more than 140,000 Kurds have fled from the town into Turkey.

The Washington Post brings us news that two rebel groups fighting in Syria have abandoned their bases, fearing that US strikes could target them next. The initial bombing in Syria, which targeted not only ISIS, but also the Khorasan group, has added uncertainty to the question of exactly who the US might target and sowed further chaos.

Even so, the Wall Street Journal notes that the pace of the air campaign in Syria is expected to slow in the coming days as many high-value targets are eliminated. Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby noted that “the kinds of attacks that we’re conducting in Syria are strategic-level,” targeting oil fields and organizational infrastructure, whereas those in Iraq are more tactical and aimed at helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces advance.

McClatchy reports that many on the group feel airstrikes are not doing enough; commanders for rebel groups that are part of the CIA-approved program say that they still need arms, ammunition, and other material support.

Yesterday, Iraq’s new prime minister made waves saying that his government had uncovered a plot by the Islamic State to attack subways in Paris and the United States. The claim elicited skepticism from U.S. intelligence officials, who quickly made clear that they had no credible intelligence of a specific or imminent plot. It is not clear why the prime minister chose to mention the attack, and some Iraqi officials have questioned his comments, suggesting it was based on “ancient intelligence.” Reuters has more.

More troubling news from Iraq: the New York Times reports that an Iraqi women’s rights activist, Sameera Salih Ali al-Nuaimy,  was tortured for several days and eventually executed publicly by ISIS militants on Monday. Ms. Nuaimy was convicted of apostasy by an Islamic State court for Facebook posts condemning ISIS activity, including the destruction of mosques and shrines in Mosul.

Today, the Post also weighs in on the president’s legal standing for strikes in Iraq and Syria, suggesting that he should secure both a Security Council and Congressional authorization for force against ISIS. However, both of those seem increasingly unlikely, at least this year. Politico quotes Speaker John Boehner, who now believes that voting “with a whole group of members on their way out the door” would not be the “right way to handle this.”

The FBI believes it has now identified the ISIS militant behind the decapitation of two American citizens and a British aid worker. However, FBI Director James Comey says authorities will not reveal the man’s name or nationality at this time.

And, in a sign of the deteriorating security dynamics in Sanaa, the United States has ordered some diplomats to leave Yemen. Certainly, we hope that this is not part of the model solution for Iraq.

Reuters tells us that Interpol is continuing to expand its foreign fighter database, which has grown to include over 1,300 names from 33 countries. Meanwhile, Spain and Morocco arrested nine people suspected of belonging to an ISIS-linked cell on the northern coast of Africa.

Shifting to the once-again forgotten war, Reuters reports that hundreds of Taliban fighters have stormed the strategic district outpost of Ajrestan in an Afghan province southwest of the capital. The latest official reports suggest that the fighters are close to capturing the field after killing dozens, including by beheading some.

In the Washington Post, Greg Miller and Kevin Sieff remind us that while the United States gears up for a long war against ISIS, much remains unfinished in the fight against al Qaeda and in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan.

A federal court in New York has issued a summons to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is set to arrive in the United States tomorrow for a series of high-profile meetings, including a White House dinner. The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Modi committed a series of human rights abuses in connection with the 2002 religious riots in the state of Gujarat, where he was Chief Minister at the time. The New York Times has more on the case, which is unlikely to affect Mr. Modi’s visit, but could complicate diplomatic issues.

The New York Times reports that the Ebola epidemic is only worsening in Sierra Leone, prompting government officials there to extend quarantines, which now cover over a quarter of the country and approximately 1.5 million people. Ominously, infection rates have been increasing in the densely-populated capital, Freetown. So far, according to the WHO, there have been 2,917 deaths from Ebola amid 6,242 reported cases.

The Wall Street Journal reports that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has raised the possibility of reworking Ukraine’s newly ratified trade pact with the EU in response to Russian pressure. While Ukrainian President Poroshenko has declared the worst of the war in Ukraine is over, this recent statement may “intensify Russian pressure on” Ukraine as it seeks to integrate itself economically with the trade bloc. According to Reuters, Ukraine has set 2020 as a deadline for entering the EU.

Chinese state media now report that more than 40 have been killed in a terrorism-related crackdown in the country’s restive Xinjiang province. After a series of deadly blasts by separatists on Sunday killed six people and injured over 50 others, a “police operation” killed 40 “rioters,” “either by police gunfire or suicide blasts.” The Wall Street Journal has more.

In Hong Kong, Reuters reports that hundreds of children are joining the pro-democracy protests there. Secondary school students organized a one-day “class boycott,” and over 13,000 of them attended a rally to demand greater democracy for the specially administered territory. The campaign is stretching into its second week.

Indonesia’s parliament passed legislation early on Friday that abolished the direct election of local leaders, including provincial governors, district chiefs, and mayors. According to the Guardian, these moves reverse a “key post-dictatorship reform” in the world’s third-largest democracy that “have been credited with producing a handful of promising new leaders unconnected to the old elite,” including Indonesia’s President-elect, Joko Widodo. According to opinion polls, over 80% of Indonesia’s population is opposed to the legislation, which was passed by a coalition of parties “led by Prabowo Subianto,” who lost the recent July presidential election to Jokowi.

State media in North Korea officially acknowledged that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is suffering from ill health by politely stating that he is suffering from “discomfort.” Speculations abound about what kind of health problems the young leader has, fuelled by his conspicuous absence from public view since September 3rd. Reuters has more.

Reuters also carries a poll published on Thursday showing the Brazilian presidential race is deadlocked between incumbent Dilma Rousseff and main challenger Marina Silva. Rousseff attracted 42% support, while Silva had 41% support, a statistically insignificant difference.

The imminent resignation of US Attorney General Eric Holder continues to attract commentary from around the political spectrum and “reignited” the often partisan battles over his legacy. The Washington Post has more reactions from Capitol Hill. Among possible candidates for Holder’s replacement “are Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.; Jenny Durkan, who is stepping down as US attorney in Seattle next week; Tony West, who recently stepped down as associate general; former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler; Loretta E. Lynch, the US attorney in Brooklyn; and Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan.” Bloomberg also speculates as to Holder’s replacement.

Bloomberg analyzes the departure of President Obama’s “heat shield,” who often took “the worst from Republicans, the media and the black community, and what his resignation portends for the remaining two years of the Obama administration.

47-year-old radical Islamist Anjem Choudary is among the nine arrested by UK police in wide-ranging raids conducted yesterday in London. Authorities arrested the firebrand preacher on suspicion of being a member of a “proscribed organization, or supporting a proscribed organization, as well as encouraging terrorism.” According to the Guardian, Choudary was a “former spokesperson for the extremist or radical group Al-Muhajiroun,” which has since been banned in the UK.

On Thursday, FBI Director James Comey expressed concern that Apple and Google were building phones that “cannot be searched by law enforcement.” The Wall Street Journal has more on his press conference with reporters, including this quote: “‘What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.’”

On Thursday, a California jury convicted two men, Sohiel Omar Kabir and Ralph Deleon, of conspiring to “support terrorists and kill Americans overseas.” According to ABC News, both face life sentences.

Defense One writes that the Office of Naval Research of the US Navy is interested in using cloud computing and data fusion in the warfighting environment. The office recently began a 5-year, $12.3 million operation to build a tactical cloud for the Navy.

Finally, Medium has a series of photographs detailing the recent US airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

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. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Heritage Event on “The Legal Basis for Military Action against ISIS”

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 12:37 PM

Featuring Cully Stimson, Bobby Chesney, Steve Vladeck, and Steve Bradbury. Here’s the video:

Update: UK Parliament Authorizes Airstrikes in Iraq

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Debate has ended and the British Parliament has authorized airstrikes in Iraq by a vote of 524-43.

Who Should Replace Eric Holder? David Kris

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 10:45 AM

The biggest surprise I’ve had in this job is how much time the national-security issues take. Those are the primary things that I have to deal with in a post-9/11 world. From an eight-thirty meeting every morning, to the threat screen for the last twenty-four hours, to meetings during the course of the day. And almost inevitably there’s something that I take home at night that is national-security related. Our National Security Division didn’t even exist when I was last here!

Eric Holder, 2010

Eric Holder is a decent man. Many of the attacks on him during his tenure have been scurrilous and I don’t want to join them or give the “Fast and Furious” crowd aid and comfort. That said, this quotation, which Holder gave to GQ magazine, is instructive as to some of the important deficiencies in his tenure as attorney general. And it is instructive as well about the qualities of the person who should replace him.

Holder came into office with the stated priority of restoring the department’s Civil Rights Division. He was, by his own account, surprised and unprepared for the degree to which national security issues now dominate his job. Many of the problems of his tenure stem directly from this lack of tactile familiarity with national security matters: from the bungled effort to bring the 9/11 conspirators to New York, to the announcement that he would seek legislative tweaks to Miranda requirements and the subsequent abandonment of that idea, to his public disparagement of military commissions, to his nearly complete absence from the discussion of signals intelligence programs that his department oversees and represents in court. The list goes on and on. Holder has never found his footing on national security matters.

The nature of the job of attorney general has changed—irrevocably. And we should never again have an attorney general, of either party, capable of expressing surprise at the role that national security issues now play in the life of the Justice Department or in the role of its chief. We should never again have an attorney general capable of saying virtually nothing as the law of major intelligence programs and the integrity of his department’s work in overseeing these programs are assailed over a protracted period of time.

The next attorney general, rather, should be someone with granular experience in the national security space, someone capable of charting a course between the wild pendulum swings of public opinion, which demands simultaneously and unselfconsciously that we do far more against ISIS while doing far less intelligence collection.

Several of the options supposedly under consideration by the White House—to one degree or another—meet that criterion. In particular, Preet Bharara has a great mix of relevant experience. Others, however, manifestly do not. Kamala Harris? Jennifer Granholm? Tom Perez? Sheldon Whitehouse? Really?

Here’s a suggestion I haven’t seen yet in the press that the White House ought to consider very seriously: David Kris.

The White House thinks hard about political constituencies in making senior-level appointments and there’s nothing wrong with that. These considerations, however, do not favor Kris. Nothing can acquit him of the iniquitous crime of being a white guy, for example. Nor does he appeal in other politically useful ways to particular constituencies—other than national security professionals, that is. But Kris, who served as assistant attorney general for national security earlier in the administration and is widely respected in both parties, would be easy to confirm. And more importantly, his career reflects a unique mix of deep academic thinking about security and law and practical management of bureaucracies that have to do national security under the rule of law. Kris is a good friend, so you can take my opinion on this with a grain of salt if you like. But nobody knows more. Nobody has better, steadier judgment. Nobody, in short, is less likely to be caught flat-footed by the role that national security has come to play in the life of the department and its leader.

Readings: An International Legal Framework for Surveillance, a New Article by Ashley Deeks

Friday, September 26, 2014 at 7:44 AM

Lawfare’s own Ashley Deeks (University of Virginia School of Law) has released a new article, “An International Legal Framework for Surveillance,” available on SSRN and forthcoming in the Virginia Journal of International Law (Vol. 55, 2015).  The article unsurprisingly has been receiving considerable attention since its release on SSRN, and I wanted to be sure that Lawfare’s community (beyond the academics who stay abreast of SSRN) had an opportunity to hear about it as well.  I’ll defer saying more about it so that Ashley can present the article if she likes–except to say that this is an impressive, timely attempt to synthesize an international framework for surveillance issues. Here is the SSRN abstract:

Edward Snowden’s leaks laid bare the scope and breadth of the electronic surveillance that the U.S. National Security Agency and its foreign counterparts conduct. Suddenly, foreign surveillance is understood as personal and pervasive, capturing the communications not only of foreign leaders but also of private citizens. Yet to the chagrin of many state leaders, academics, and foreign citizens, international law has had little to say about foreign surveillance. Until recently, no court, treaty body, or government had suggested that international law, including basic privacy protections in human rights treaties, applied to purely foreign intelligence collection. This is now changing: several U.N. bodies, judicial tribunals, U.S. corporations, and victims of foreign surveillance are pressuring states to bring that surveillance under tighter legal control.This article tackles three key, interrelated puzzles associated with this sudden transformation. First, it explores why international law has had so little to say about how, when, and where governments may spy on other states’ nationals. Second, it draws on international relations theory to argue that the development of new international norms regarding surveillance is both likely and essential. Third, it identifies six process-driven norms that states can and should adopt to ensure meaningful privacy restrictions on international surveillance without unduly harming their legitimate national security interests. These norms, which include limits on the use of collected data, periodic reviews of surveillance authorizations, and active oversight by neutral bodies, will increase the transparency, accountability, and legitimacy of foreign surveillance.This procedural approach challenges the limited emerging scholarship on surveillance, which urges states to apply existing — but vague and contested — substantive human rights norms to complicated, clandestine practices. In identifying and valuing new, objectively verifiable, neutral norms, the article offers a more viable and timely solution to the perils of foreign surveillance. (PDF file: 72 pages, posted 1 September 2014.)

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By and
Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 2:48 PM

In breaking news this morning, US Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that he will resign his office. Holder will remain in office until his successor is nominated and confirmed, perhaps remaining in office into the new year, the New York Times reports.

Carrie Johnson at NPR has more on Mr. Holder’s tenure and his decision to resign. President Obama is expected to address Holder’s resignation at 4:30 pm. On Tuesday, Holder gave a full interview to Katie Couric, in which he covered many of the international and domestic challenges that will define what will be his final months at the Justice Department.

Turning towards ISIS: Yesterday, speaking at the United Nations, President Obama pressed the world to consolidate in action against the Islamic State. Obama called on leaders to destroy this “network of death” through direct action, arguing that “the only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.” In a strong warning, the President told those who have joined with the Islamic State to “leave the battlefield while they can.” The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have more on Obama’s remarks and the rest of the day’s events at the UN General Assembly.

In Lawfare, Benjamin Bissell analyzes the president’s comments on the structural nature of transnational terror. You can read the president’s full remarks, as delivered, here.

In what the AP describes as a “rare move”, the president also chaired a meeting of the U.N Security Council where the 15 members unanimously adopted the U.S. draft of a resolution requiring all countries to prevent recruitment, transport, financing, and assistance to would-be foreign fighters attempting to join ISIS. AFP notes that the special session was only the sixth time the Security Council has convened at the level of heads of state. The BBC covers the resolution and maps the flow of foreign fighters into Syria. Taj Moore analyzed the resolution a few weeks ago for Lawfare.

While potentially a positive step in stemming the flow of foreign fighters into the region, the New York Times editorial board notes that the resolution “has no real enforcement measures and relies on the countries to follow through.”

The United States also stepped up its financial war on ISIS, with the US Treasury Department designating 11 individuals and one entity as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Meanwhile, the United States and allies continued to pummel the Islamic State from the air, taking aim at a key source of revenue as the US led strikes targeting ISIS-held oil sites in Syria. According to the New York Times, ISIS is believed to control 11 oil fields in Iraq and Syria, netting more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, theft, and extortion. Elsewhere, strikes targeted checkpoints, compounds, training grounds, armored vehicles, and a building used by militants as an Islamic court in northern and eastern Syria. In all, a CENTCOM press release states that the US, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates conducted 13 airstrikes.

Near the Turkish border, Syrian Kurdish fighters reported that three airstrikes had hit near the town of Kobani, or Ayn Arab, which has been under siege by ISIS militants. However, a spokesman for the fighters said that the strikes has not been effective in turning back the militants. Writing in Foreign Policy, Mohammad A. Salih explains why the Kurds keep calling on Washington to authorize more strikes against ISIS.

In Bloomberg, Tony Capaccio notes that the U.S. has dropped almost as many bombs and missiles on ISIS positions in Syria in the past few days as were used during the entire first month operations against the group in Iraq.

According to CENTCOM, two other airstrikes hit west of Baghdad, destroying two ISIL armed vehicles and a weapons cache. Further north, two more strikes occurred southeast of Irbil.

At the same time, French fighter jets also executed strikes in Iraq. The attacks followed the beheading of a French tourist, Herve Gourdel, in Algeria as retaliation for French involvement in the US-led coalition. And, perhaps as a result of the murder of Mr. Gourdel, France is now considering expanding its operations into Syria. Saying that “this crime will not remain unpunished,” French President Francois Hollande will meet with senior cabinet members to discuss the option today, the Washington Post reports. Earlier this week, France’s Foreign Minister was quoted as saying there was no “legal obstacle” to airstrikes in Syria.

The Associated Press reports on the Algerian forces mission to find the extremists responsible for Mr. Gourdel’s murder. In Foreign Policy, Shane Harris raises the chilling proposition that ISIS brutal tactic of beheadings could be replicated around the world by other extremists sympathetic to the cause of the Islamic State. Indeed, it would seem that Mr. Harris is onto something, as a Philippine Islamist militia has now threatened to kill two German captives unless Germany stops supporting U.S. action against ISIS. Reuters has more on the story.

The Wall Street Journal has the scoop on how backroom maneuvering clinched a deal with the Saudis that paved the way for airstrikes in Syria by Arab states. In a moment that set the course for action in Syria, King Abdullah promised to back the US initiative, saying “we’ll provide any support you need.”

As the coalition grows, the Dutch government has also announced that it will contribute F-16 jets to fight ISIS in Iraq. In addition, British Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled Parliament for a vote to authorized British airstrikes in Iraq. According to the Guardian, Cameron said that Britain must not be so “frozen with fear” of repeating past mistakes in Iraq that it fails to take on the “psychopathic, murderous, brutal” forces of ISIS. The Guardian notes that Cameron has support from the leaders of the Labour party and from the Liberal Democrats, increasing the chances that Britain could join coalition strikes as early as this weekend.

Defense One has a map of the coalition against ISIS.

The New York Times covers the story of Khorasan, a terror cell that seems to have purposely avoided the spotlight, while in Politico, Matthew Levitt has an overview of the group and why he thinks we should be thankful Obama went after them. The Washington Post reports that the strikes against the group killed at least one of its senior operatives, but it remains unknown whether Mushin al-Fadhli, the group’s top-commander was killed. However, Reuters reports that a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said “We believe he is dead.” US intelligence agencies continue to access information from the strikes.

And in a stunning act of bravery, a Syrian woman from Raqqa has recorded a secret video showing what life is like inside ISIS’s homebase in northern Syria. The Telegraph has the video.

In Foreign Policy, Colum Lynch writes that the Islamic State has made electronic surveillance “respectable” again.

According to the Financial Times, London’s Metropolitan Police conducted pre-dawn raids today that searched 18 residential and commercial properties and arrested 9 individuals suspected of belonging to terrorist organizations and encouraging terrorism. The raids stretched across the entirety of the UK capital, and were said to be the a part of ongoing investigations into Islamist related terrorism, unrelated to any direct terror plot, nor to the murder and kidnapping of UK citizens by Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria.

Dov S. Zakheim of Foreign Policy argues that despite vows to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, the United States government will be unable to do so because it is not willing to commit ground troops to the cause and because it has proven inept at training other countries’ ground forces.

According to the New York Times, US officials believe that the new Afghan administration will ratify a new security agreement allowing American forces to remain in Afghanistan after 2014 immediately following its inauguration. The agreement, while widely expected, is an important step in allowing American forces to legally advise Afghan ones.

Reuters reports that Israeli officials on Wednesday accused Iran of secretly testing technology that could only be used for exploding a nuclear weapon at its Parchin base. Israel has long accused Tehran of using nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 to stall until it perfects its nuclear weapon capabilities.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk urged world leaders to not lift sanctions against Russia until his government reasserts control over all Ukrainian territory, including Russian-annexed Crimea. Yatsenyuk also called for Russia to start “real talks” with his country and to “stop the supply of Russian-led terrorists.” The Washington Post has more.

The Associated Press writes that in the wake of recent victories by the Nigerian military against militant Islamist group Boko Haram, hundreds of Islamic extremists have surrendered in the country’s northeast. In addition, the Nigerian Defense Ministry asserts that it has killed hundreds of militants recently, including several militant commanders. However, it remains unclear whether the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, was killed in the fighting; an earlier photo released by the Cameroonian military purporting to show his corpse has been dismissed by the Nigerian government, who claims the body is that of his double. The government is trying to arrest a Boko Haram surge from taking Maiduguri, the provincial capital of Borno state.

A US drone strike today in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal zone killed 10 Uzbek and local militants. The AP writes that the missiles hit the vehicle when it was only 500 yards away from the Afghan border.

AP reports that in the trial of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Judge George O’Toole last night granted the defendant a two-month delay, but rejected a change in the venue from Boston to Washington, DC, as Tsarnaev’s lawyers requested. In asking for the trial to be moved to DC, the defendant’s lawyers cited “extensive media coverage…in Boston,” as well as “evaluations of public sentiment by their experts.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday, Jonathan Hafetz argues that despite the crimes of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, allegedly the mastermind of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the US should not execute Mohammed, in part because he was the victim of “blatantly illegal treatment,” including water-boarding.

Relatedly, the Miami Herald reports that Obama administration officials have confirmed that if the US were to capture suspected ISIS insurgents, they would not be held at Guantanamo.

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. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.