Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Thursday, June 26, 2014, 11:54 AM

We start with the current crisis in Iraq. The New York Times reports that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has its sights set on the second largest dam in the country, the Haditha Dam. Destruction of the structure, which sits 120 miles northwest of Baghdad on the Euphrates River, would cause crippling floods throughout the country.

Over at the Huffington Post, by way of the AP, we learn that Syrian warplanes bombed Sunni militants inside of Iraq. And, as Tara relayed to you yesterday, Iran is helping the Iraqi government by supplying intel and arms. The AP notes the “unusual twist" of the U.S., Iran and Syria all vying for a common goal: stabilizing Iraq’s government.

Although it is Sunnis who affiliated with ISIS, the Times explains that, within Baghdad, it is the Shiite majority that is responsible for most violence. The capital's Sunnis are “trapped” within their neighborhoods, frightened by the newly emboldened Shiite militias and government forces. Worse still, because of heightened sectarian tensions, Baghdad’s Sunnis are sometimes wrongly suspected of colluding with violent militias.

Kirk Johnson has penned an opinion piece in the Times.  He argues that the United States has abandoned Iraqis who helped the U.S. during its prior military campaign, among other things by serving as drivers and interpreters. Such Iraqis already were having a hard enough time trying to acquire visas to come to the States; but now that the embassy in Baghdad has been evacuated, they have nowhere to turn for protection. Some have fled the country for fear of persecution, while others have stayed and been targeted as traitors.

Vestiges of the last Iraq war are coming alive in Washington, where four former Blackwater contractors face trial for the killing of 14 Iraqis in 2007, in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. The Times covers the trial's beginning.

According to TIME, Taliban militants in Afghanistan have been increasing the number of attacks in the south of the country. The increased violence highlights the deteriorating security situation, which is itself further complicated by Afghanistan's recent and still unresolved presidential election.  (There is still no announced winner.) The Washington Post also covers the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan.

A busy shopping center in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, was attacked by bomb yesterday; more than twenty people were killed. The BBC reports that no group has claimed responsibility for the attack---but many suspect Boko Haram was involved.

Representatives of Ukraine's government and separatist leaders have agreed to attend peace negotiations this Friday, and extended the cease-fire between the two groups. The Wall Street Journal has more.

As Tara pointed out yesterday, the Supreme Court delivered a huge victory to privacy groups in its Riley v. California ruling. Over at Politico, Josh Gerstein points out that the decision could put more weight behind lawsuits challenging NSA programs. Gerstein:

Roberts’s opinion is replete with rhetoric warning about the privacy implications of access to data in individuals’ smart phones, including call logs, Web search records and location information. Many of the arguments parallel, or are virtually identical to, the ones privacy advocates have made about the dangers inherent in the NSA’s call metadata program.

The German government has canceled its contract with Verizon over fears that the company is letting the NSA collect data on confidential and official conversations. The AP has the story.

And, the NSA continues to insist that Edward Snowden never complained about NSA surveillance to superiors---despite his claims to the contrary. Tech Crunch informs us that the NSA responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiry yesterday, and said that “there are no documents indicating that Mr. Snowden contacted agency officials to raise concerns about NSA programs.”

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