Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Monday, November 24, 2014, 10:32 AM

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will step down from his post, according to the New York Times. Hagel will do so "under pressure" from the administration, but the exact reasons are still unclear. Per the Times:

The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.

The Washington Post reports that President Obama has signed off on a continued American presence in Afghanistan even after combat operations end. While the number of American troops in Afghanistan will be dramatically diminished, at least 1,000 military personnel are expected to remain in Afghanistan through 2016.

Khamma Press, the Afghan news agency, reports that a drone strike killed six militants in Nuristan province on Sunday.  The drone strike followed a bloody exchange between militants and soldiers and soldiers of the Afghan National Army at a military base on Saturday.

The Times takes a look at the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. In many rural areas surrounding Kabul, the government and army forces have been rendered obsolete, the Taliban instead reigning in those parts. Though American forces have been working hard to “flush” the area of insurgents, the Afghan Army has proved to be a somewhat lackluster partner in the efforts.

America’s partnership with the Afghan Army isn’t the only worrisome one. The Times reports that the U.S. effort to combat the Islamic State in Iraq is being undermined by the Iraqi army’s lack of organization and potential corruption within the ranks.

The United States will furnish Sunni tribesmen in Iraq with powerful artillery weapons to help in the push against the Islamic State. Reuters explains that the Pentagon will spend $24.1 million on arming the Sunni groups. That amount is but a small fraction of the $1.6 billion that is being requested to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces. You can see a breakdown of the proposed budget here.

Of all the issues the Pentagon is dealing with, now it can add semantics to its list. The LA Times explains that its operation name for the U.S. mission against the Islamic State, “Operation Inherent Resolve,” has been the butt of many jokes in the media.

The Hill tells us that Senator Rand Paul (R. – Ky.) is calling for the United States to formally declare war on the Islamic State. Here on Lawfare, Jack has already addressed Paul’s move. He’s not impressed.

Vice President Biden apparently has begun to mend American-Turkish relations. The Post reports that after a fruitful visit to Turkey, President Biden pledged more than $100 million in humanitarian assistance to help feed and care for the thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey. Though no other formal agreement was made between Biden and Turkish President Erdogan, officials from both governments were optimistic about a long term relationship and shared interests in addressing the ongoing crisis in Syria.

It seems the talk will go on: negotiators plan to extend talks on the future of Iran's nuclear program.  The New York Times reports.

After all the conspiratorially-flavored talk about the attack on the American compound in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, the Republican-led House committee report found "no wrongdoing by Obama administration officials," according to the AP.  The latter tells us that the House Intelligence Committee report was released relatively quietly on Friday evening, reinforcing many of the findings of the six previous reports on Benghazi.

In surveillance news, Motherboard profiles the experiences of Michael Ossmann, a famous researcher in the hacker community.  After Der Spiegel published leaked, classified information regarding surveillance  gadgets produced by NSA's Advanced Network Technology (ANT) division, Ossman reportedly to to work---that is, he quickly learned how to replicate some of the gadgets, which he now sells on his website.

But fear not.  If all that publicly available spygear has increased your privacy woes, then there's help. Tech2 has released a primer on how best to protect your privacy using different web browsers.

On Friday, we relayed the news that five Guantanamo detainees were transferred to Georgia and Slovakia. On Saturday, the Pentgaon announced the release of one more detainee, Muhammed Mursi Issa al Zahrani. The Times reports that al Zahrani, a Saudi citizen, is being transferred back to his home country. The Pentagon has indicated that the public should anticipate more prisoner releases in the coming weeks. There are 142 men left at Guantanamo.

And Russia's recent provocations have Finland asking: should we join NATO? Read about it in the Washington Post

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Peter Marguiles addressed President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration.

Jack also weighed in on the confusing immigration situation, and how the immigration debate is reflective of a wider shift in the administration’s attitude towards executive power.

In this week’s Foreign Policy Essay. Victor Asal, Richard Legault, Ora Szekely and Jonathan Wilkenfeld discuss the “buffet” of options that political groups have when choosing to engage with the state and why some groups pick violent over nonviolent action.

For our 101st podcast episode,  we posted a recording of a debate between Bob Litt, general counsel to the DNI, Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU, and Bill Banks of Syracuse University law school on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us onTwitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board