Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer
Wednesday, November 19, 2014, 1:12 PM

Yesterday, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)’s USA Freedom Act failed to pass the Senate. Intended to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) and limit government surveillance, the bill received fifty-eight votes, just two shy of the sixty necessary to block a filibuster. A number of Senate Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)---who will serve as Majority Leader when the 114th Congress convenes--argued that the measure would leave the U.S. vulnerable to terrorist attacks as it attempts to contain the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) also voted against the USA Freedom Act. He said that the legislation did not do enough. Still, Senator Leahy has promised he “will not give up the fight.” The Washington Post has more.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have yet to set a date for a vote on an authorization for U.S. operations against Islamic State extremists. The Associated Press reports that both Democrats and Republicans are complaining that the Obama administration is not prioritizing such a bill, as they have not received an outline of what the President wants and have not heard testimony from high-level officials.

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) writes, “The President is now operating outside the Constitution.”

The New York Times Editorial Board calls on congressional leaders to take action, leading toward an Islamic State Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Meanwhile, an overnight airstrike, believed to have been conducted by the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, hit a Syrian town controlled by al-Qaeda militants. The AP reports that there is no immediate information on casualties.

Over the past few weeks, the U.S. State Department has disputed a number of propaganda tweets that the Islamic State’s Twitter account, @Dawla_acountt, has shared. The Post considers this “Think Again Turn Away” Twitter campaign.

In a report released Monday, a U.N. monitoring team has recommended new international sanctions against the Islamic State. The Wall Street Journal has the story.

In an interview today, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani called on Western powers to increase the level of support they are providing to Kurdish Peshmerga forces. He noted, "The heavy weapons systems that we need, especially in terms of quality and quantity, for example the APCs (armored personnel carriers), the helicopters, the artillery we need for a decisive war against them (IS) – we have not received these types of weapons." Reuters has more on his statements.

Following a violent attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that resulted in the deaths of four people yesterday, the Post reports that any chance of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the near future has been dashed. Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, notes, “It’s not at all clear there is a diplomatic [solution]... That’s what’s probably the hardest thing for American officials to get their heads around: What can you do, given how incendiary the environment there is?”

According to al-Monitor, U.S. lawmakers are considering lifting restrictions on military aid to Egypt, which were put in place last year after the military removed democratically-elected President Mohammed Morsi from office.

In Afghanistan, corruption is “getting worse... Significantly worse,” according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko. The National Journal has details.

Defense News informs us that yesterday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that Russia has deployed “a very serious [military] build-up” inside Ukraine and on their shared border, further destabilizing the country despite an earlier negotiated cease-fire.

Russia has called on Ukraine to negotiate directly with the rebels in the eastern part of the country. Reuters reports that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk pushed back against this suggestion, telling Moscow to "stop playing games aimed at legitimizing bandits and terrorists."

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. of trying “to subdue us.” At a televised meeting yesterday, he also condemned the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union against Russia. The AP shares details.

A new report released by the Institute for Economics and Peace has found that the number of deaths due to global terrorism increased by sixty-one percent last year. The Post highlights the fact that five countries, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria, accounted for eighty percent of the 17,958 dead.

According to Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-MI), lawmakers will likely not have a chance to propose amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, given the practical difficulties. The Hill shares the story.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General has released its annual report on the Department’s management and performance challenges. According to the Post, DHS “is still struggling to smoothly integrate its 22 separate components into a ‘single, cohesive organization capable of fulfilling a broad, vital, and complex mission.’”

The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has chosen Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) to lead the House Armed Services Committee. Defense News notes that Rep. Thornberry is a “defense-sector ally.” The full Republican caucus votes on the nomination today.

McClatchy informs us that Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) will succeed Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Post reports that Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has been tapped to follow Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Yesterday, military Judge Captain J.K. Waits ruled that female guards at Guantanamo Bay prison “should continue to be barred from” handling detainee Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, whose Muslim faith dictates that he cannot be touched by women other than his wife. Reuters has the story.

Defense One shares an inside look at an Air Force Intelligence Center in Virginia.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Ben shared an animated video, which depicts the history of the Islamic State.

Wells provided dispatches from yesterday’s hearing in United States v. Abd Al Hadi Al-Iraqi.

Ben posted audio files from the American Bar Association's "24th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law CLE Conference."

Jane highlighted the D.C. Circuit Court’s per curiam order in Allaithi v. Rumsfeld.

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