Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Friday, May 30, 2014, 10:09 AM

As Ritika mentioned in yesterday’s news coverage of the Williams-Snowden interview, the latter claimed that he initially sought to alert NSA officials to his concerns---among other things by emailing the NSA’s general counsel. On that point, the Washington Post reports that government officials yesterday released an April 2013 email from Snowden inquiring about legal authorities but “raising no concerns” about the NSA’s activities. The Post then got in touch with Snowden after the email's release.  The former NSA contractor claims that the e-mail represents but a part of a so far incomplete universe of written and other complaints.  Here’s the Post’s accompanying coverage.

There’s been a lot of coverage of President Obama’s speech yesterday at West Point. The New York Times focuses on America’s changing tactics when it comes to counterterrorism, one in particular:  more and more, the U.S. is using proxies, especially in combat situations. Eli Lake of the Daily Beast warns us that just as American troops are preparing to pull out of the country, al-Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan is on the rise---despite President Obama's suggestion otherwise in his speech. If the situation is as bad as Lake's reporting implies, President Obama will be in an impossibly difficult situation: does he continue with his recently outlined plan, effectively allowing al-Qaeda to reestablish itself in Afghanistan, or does he break his promise to end America’s longest war?

On the subject of Afghanistan, the Times highlights a seemingly interesting documentary: the “Hornet’s Nest” follows journalist Mike Boettcher as he covers anti-terror operations in Kumar Province.

The AP informs us that Russian troops are leaving the Ukraine border. The withdrawal is not fully complete, with a “couple of thousand” troops remaining, but that’s down from an estimated 40,000. It is unclear if the withdrawal was a result of continued pressure from the United States.

The move comes after a group of pro-Russian rebels shot down a Ukrainian government helicopter yesterday in the city of Sloviansk, killing 12 people.  In response, President-elect Petro Poroshenko has vowed revenge. The BBC covers that story.

But peace may nevertheless be on the horizon. The Times breaks the news that Russian and Ukrainian officials will be meeting today in Berlin for talks over gas supplies. Gas is a crucial issue in the current conflict, as Ukraine depends on Russia for its energy.  Almost half of the gas that Russia supplies to Europe is delivered through Ukraine. Brokering peace between the two countries is essential to maintaining energy stability in the region.

The Times reminds us of the threat that Syrian jihadists pose to the West. Over 3,000 Westerners are believed to have gone to Syria to fight, and over 11,000 foreigners in total. Experts say that even those who go to Syria for humanitarian reasons “end up being radicalized.”

As its war wages on, Syria is preparing for a presidential election. The Post explains: even though an international consensus dismisses the election as almost farcical, the Syrian government nevertheless is pushing ahead with the vote and preparing for a decisive Assad victory.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has responded to pressure from the Obama administration on the issue of Guantanamo transfers. The Times explains that Hagel told reporters yesterday that he will be deciding “soon” on whether to approve the transfer of six detainees to Uruguay.  According to Hagel, this will be an important, precedent-setting decision; he says he isn't rushing into anything.

This morning, the House rejected a bid from Jim Moran (D–Md.) to allow for the transfer of GTMO detainees to the United States.  The Hill has the story.

Over at the Hill, a story about a country that isn’t covered enough in the news: Lebanon. Faysal Itani posits that the United States is inadvertently helping Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Politico has obtained a copy of Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book, “Hard Choices.” To no one’s surprise, Clinton has included a lengthy chapter on Benghazi.

Apropos of voting, international observers have called Egypt’s recent presidential election undemocratic. The Times explains that a group of European Union observers thought the election unfair; they noted the effective monopoly held by the victor,  Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, over financial resources and media time.

The BBC has an interesting story about the Iraq Inquiry, a British oversight body looking into the United Kingdom’s involvement in Iraq from 2001-2009. Yesterday the Inquiry's Chairman said he had reached agreement with the UK government to release confidential information---one that would enable the release of the Inquiry report on the war. But the deal has displeased many: once released, the final report will not include full details of correspondence between then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush. The buzz around the Inquiry and its final report has been generating for years, and people want to see it released as soon as possible; that may not happen in time for the 2015 election.

Yesterday, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki publicly apologized for widespread mismanagement and long treatment delays at V.A. hospitals.  Read more in the New York Times.  

Boko Haram continues to terrorize the people of Nigeria. CNN reports that yesterday the terrorist organization raided three villages in the northeast of the country, killing 35 people.

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