Last night, President Barack Obama gave his sixth State of the Union address.Throughout the speech, the Associated Press notes, the president returned to the theme of “turning the page,” both in domestic and foreign policy. In doing so, he touched on a number of issues of interest to Lawfare readers. Below, we have included relevant passages from the speech and paired them with the day’s news in those subjects.
“As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties, and we need to uphold that commitment if we want maximum cooperation from other countries and industry in our fight against terrorist networks. So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I have not.”
The European Union is considering a series of initiatives aimed at preventing further terrorist attacks, including a new data retention law that would authorize the collection and storage of large amounts of personal data. The Intercept notes that a similar law was struck down by the European Court of Justice last year as “suspicionless mass surveillance.” In France and Europe, government officials have demanded that US tech firms, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, police their websites and remove content that promotes terrorism. Otherwise, the Wall Street Journal reports, these countries have threatened to pass laws forcing the firms to do so.
“As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I have prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained.”
The New York Times reports that an internal CIA report commissioned in 2009 by former CIA director Leon Panetta found that the agency consistently inflated the value of intelligence gleaned through brutal interrogations. The CIA has publicly criticized the report, saying that its review of the relevant documents was shoddy and incomplete.
“No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families … So we’re making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.”
An annual report released by the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester reveals that almost all US weapons systems tested last year presented “significant vulnerabilities” to cyber attacks, according to Reuters. While the director credited the Department of Defense with working to address previously-discovered weak spots, this year’s tests revealed software problems and other vulnerabilities that left programs open to even basic hacking techniques.
“In Iraq and Syria, American leadership — including our military power — is stopping ISIL’s advance … Now, this effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL. We need that authority.”
The United Nations has stated that ISIS has committed dozens of executions in Iraq over the past month, the Times writes. These executions are often preceded by show trials serving no purpose other than to announce the accused’s crimes, and have targeted children, female professionals, and ISIS fighters themselves, among others. A new video from ISIS surfaced Tuesday, showing a masked man threatening to kill two Japanese hostages if Japan fails to pay $200 million in ransom. The Wall Street Journal reports that Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to use all diplomatic means available to secure the hostages’ release and that Japanese officials have stated that the nonmilitary aid Japan provides in the region is “not aimed at killing Muslims.”
In Iraq and Syria yesterday, the US-led coalition conducted 19 airstrikes, Reuters informs us. In Syria, attacks clustered around the now-symbolic border town of Kobani, while airstrikes in Iraq hit positions near a number of major cities.
Further clashes between Yemeni government forces and Houthi rebels erupted in the country’s capital of Sana’a Tuesday, Reuters reveals. According to the Wall Street Journal, Houthi forces captured the presidential palace. Reuters and the Daily Beast carry conflicting reports on whether or not Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was in the residence at the time of the attack. In the same Daily Beast piece, Jamie Dettmer details the complications that the upheaval creates for the US campaign against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, which had been presented as an example of the success of drone-strike counterterrorism.
The Times provides a brief look into the Houthis’ identity, noting the rebels are in conflict with AQAP, as well as the government, and are allegedly backed by Iran. Gregory D. Johnsen of Buzzfeed has a similar piece, tracing the rebels’ history from Yemen’s civil war in the 1960s to today.
“We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies.”
Reuters reports that Russia will seek an immediate ceasefire in the Ukrainian crisis during today’s multilateral talks with representatives from Ukraine, Germany, and France. Meanwhile, however, another Reuters report details accusations by the Ukrainian military that Russian regular forces have attacked Ukrainian army units.
“Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran, secures America and our allies — including Israel, while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict.”
The AP notes that a new confidential UN report credits Iran with thus far upholding its pledge to halt the expansion of its nuclear capabilities during multilateral negotiations on its nuclear program. However, Iran has signed a military cooperation deal with Russia in response to US “interference,” according to Agence France-Presse.
In Tel Aviv, 12 Israelis were stabbed by a Palestinian man on a city bus, Haaretz shares. Three victims were in critical condition after the attack, and the assailant was shot in the leg. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attack on the Palestinian Authority and its “venomous incitement against the Jews and their state.”
“Instead of sending large ground forces overseas, we’re partnering with nations from South Asia to North Africa to deny safe haven to terrorists who threaten America.”
Dominic Ongwen, a commander in the Lord’s Resistance Army recently handed over to the US military, has been transferred to the custody of the International Criminal Court, the AP reports. Ongwen surrendered to a rebel group in the Central African Republic, who in turn gave Ongwen to the US and is now attempting to claim the $5 million bounty placed on Ongwen by the US State Department.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
During President Obama’s State of the Union Address, Ben shared passages from the speech relevant to the Lawfare community.
Ben and Andy Wang took aim at the news media on two counts yesterday, criticizing major news outlets for ignoring the atrocities being perpetrated by Boko Haram in Nigeria and for misreporting the release of a memoir by a Guantanamo detainee.
Andy also brought us a broad overview of the recent National Research Council recent report that found no viable software-based alternative to the bulk collection of data.
Bobby flagged the news that two Yemeni members of al Qaeda were captured in Saudi Arabia and have been brought to New York to face a civilian trial.
Susan Landau responded to David Cameron’s recent proposal to ban encrypted communications to increase security by arguing that the biggest threat to a nation’s security is posed by less, not more, secure communications.
Paul Rosenzweig explored the security aspects of Passenger Name Records (PNR) systems, and wondered if the EU’s previous opposition to such tools would be reversed in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Stephanie Leutert looked into the nuances of deportation statistics and the intricacies of the administration’s deportation policies.
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