Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Jordan Brunner, Quinta Jurecic
Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 12:46 PM

The New York Times reports that President Obama has commuted the bulk of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. Manning, who was set to serve a 35-year-sentence for leaking military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks while she was in the Army, will be released on May 17th of this year. Top Congressional Republicans expressed their anger at the decision according to Fox News, and The Hill reports that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also opposed the commutation. Commuting Manning’s sentence has been the subject of a great deal of discussion here at Lawfare.

Along with Manning, General James Cartwright and Oscar Lopez Rivera will also have their sentences commuted. Cartwright, a retired Marine General and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pled guilty to lying to F.B.I investigators about his conversations with reporters about the cyberattack on Iran involving the virus known as Stuxnet. Rivera was convicted of “seditious conspiracy,” for his violent attempts to gain Puerto Rican independence as part of Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional. The Guardian has more on Rivera.

The Times informs us that the Russian government has extended Edward Snowden’s residence permit “for a couple of years,” according to a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman. Snowden has been in Russia since 2013, when his passport was canceled while he was stuck in a Russian airport.

With days until the inauguration, concerns remain over the state of the Trump national security team. The Washington Post covers the fear that many “Never Trump” national security Republicans are having that they may have been “blacklisted” by the incoming administration and thus shut out of influential positions in government. The New York Times explains that Trump’s transition has “barely engaged” with the Obama administration’s national security team, with delays heightened by chronic disorganization within the transition and a lack of security clearances among possible appointees. Numerous senior directorial positions within the National Security Council remain empty or unannounced.

On a similar note, David Ignatius of the Post profiles outgoing CIA Director John Brennan’s controversial “modernization” of the agency, and asks whether it will withstand Trump’s hostility towards Brennan and intelligence community. Trump has accused the CIA (and Brennan personally) of spreading “fake news” about him in reference to the 35-page dossier alleging communication between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence agencies, along with compromising personal information on Trump purportedly held by the Russian government. In a press conference yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin—whom both the intelligence community and the dossier report to have been directly  behind Russian efforts to influence the election in favor of Trump—claimed that the accusations in the dossier are “completely fake.” The Times has more.

In response to President-elect Trump’s claims that NATO has become “obsolete,” Foreign Policy tells us that French Air Force General Denis Mercier shares the same sentiment. Mercier, who is the highest-ranking French general in the NATO alliance, stated that “NATO has failed to look at the strategic background,” and that NATO has “some structures that are obsolete.” Mercier’s criticisms differ a bit from Trump’s, however: While Trump claimed that NATO was not doing enough on counterterrorism, Mercier actually critiqued NATO for focusing too much on countries like Afghanistan in fighting the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, instead of on their other missions.

Hurriyet reports that the gunman who killed 39 people on New Year’s Day in Istanbul’s Reina nightclub told police that he was acting on the orders of ISIS. Abdulgadir Masharipov, who was captured yesterday by police, confessed that he switched his target from Taksim square to the nightclub due to daunting security measures at the square. Reuters has more.

The BBC tells us that Turkey and Russia have launched their first joint strikes against the Islamic State in Syria, with a Russian military spokesman calling the joint action “highly effective.” The Times examines President Obama’s options of either arming Syrian Kurds in the last days of his administration, or leaving the decision to the Trump Administration, which would leave an unclear path for seizing Raqqa. Meanwhile, CNN explains that the Pentagon is readying to provide Trump with military options to accelerate the war against ISIS as soon as he steps into office. Among the options is a plan to put hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of additional troops on the ground, a plan the Obama administration has continually rejected.

Reuters reports that Iraqi special forces have ousted ISIS from all districts of eastern Mosul they were tasked with capturing. CNN tells us that the Iraqi army is now preparing the western offensive, which it is confident will be an easier task than securing the city’s eastern half.

Al Jazeera informs us that a unity government has been created between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and Hamas after three days of talks in Moscow. The new National Council will also include the Islamic Jihad group, which had not previously been included.

In Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reports that gunmen attacked the state prosecutor’s office in Cancun. Four people were killed in the attack, which has raised renewed about security in one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations. The attack comes on the heels of another attack in a nightclub nearby the night before.

The United States has identified the ten Guantanamo detainees transferred to Oman yesterday. The Miami Herald explains that several of the detainees released to Oman temporarily were victims of mistaken identity and had been cleared for release as far back as 2009.  

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Jane Chong suggested that we are living in a world of informational asymmetry which favors President-elect Trump, and proposed how to handle it.

Paul Rosenzweig flagged a summary of President Obama's cybersecurity legacy by NextGov.

J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker.

Benjamin Wittes presented six thoughts in defense of FBI Director James Comey.

Julian Ku discussed the legality of Trump ending the “One China” policy and stationing troops in Taiwan.

Geoffrey Corn wrote a review essay of Jean Renoir’s film La Grande Illusion.

Cameron F. Kerry and Alan Raul argued that PPD-28 should not be terminated by the new administration.  

Ben and Susan Hennessey wrapped up their discussion of the Manning case by commending President Obama on commuting Manning’s sentence.

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