Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Clara Spera
Thursday, December 5, 2013, 9:52 AM

At least 29 people are dead and more than 70 are hurt after a series of attacks on Yemen’s defense ministry early this morning. The attacks were two-pronged: a suicide bomb blew open the gates and front entrance of the ministry’s complex in Sanaa’s Bab al-Yaman district, while armed attackers on foot opened fire inside. The Times and Al Jazeera also have the story.

Yesterday, Ritika told you about the Washington Post’s breaking news that the NSA collects “5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” Today, the WaPo helps us to understand the mechanisms by which the NSA collects this data and the implications of such collection. Check out this informative info-graphic and this interview with Ashkan Soltani, one of the reporters who broke the story.

NPR has a great piece on “Why FISA Court Judges Rule The Way They Do.” NPR’s Morning Edition brought in the opinions of Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, and Elizabeth Goiten, co-director of the National Security Program of the Brennan Center for Justice, as well as Michael Mukasey, former federal judge and U.S. Attorney General. The big question: can FISA judges actually control the NSA?

The Post walks us through the United States’ heavy trade regulations sanctions on Iran. Even with the newly agreed upon deal over Iran’s nuclear plan, there is no “letup in the new requirement that companies whose stock trades on U.S. exchanges keep track of even the tiniest interactions with the Islamic republic.”

In this opinion piece, the Post’s George Will considers the future of the U.S – Iran relationship after the recent deal. Will argues that the deal won’t curtail Iran’s long-term nuclear aspirations. He turns to Brookings’ own Ken Pollack in suggesting that containing a nuclear Iran is certainly a better option than going to war with the Islamic republic.  (For more on Pollack’s argument, check out his recently published book, Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb and American Strategy.)

The New York Times takes a look at the ways that big internet companies are changing their priorities: nowadays, technological advances are targeted on security more than ever before, and adding trendy apps has become a side project. In what is being informally dubbed as the “Snowden Effect”, most major internet companies---from social media to search engines---are ramping up their security protocols, even if it means a slightly slower connection.

The conflict in Syria is spreading across borders. The Wall Street Journal reports that jihadists returning home after time spent in Europe are posing threats to national security. The United Kingdom and France have both recently made terror-related arrests of individuals with suspected links to Syria. The United States is confronted by the same problem, and a U.S. government official has said that returning jihadists are perhaps the biggest threat posed by the Syrian civil war.

In Libya, gunmen have killed an American chemistry teacher.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to confront issues in Afghanistan. Over the past few weeks, there has been a steady back-and-forth between the Obama and Karzai Administrations over a potential security deal. The United States is annoyed that President Karzai, who seemed just about ready to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement two weeks ago, has backed out and has made new demands. The U.S.' new tactic: maybe President Karzai doesn't have to sign the agreement, after all. The U.S. is exploring options of having another Afghan official sign the agreement in President Karzai's stead. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel seemed optimistic: "The issue of who has the authority to speak for the sovereign nation of Afghanistan, I suppose the lawyers can figure that out... Whether it’s the minister of defense or the president, someone who has the authority to sign on behalf of Afghanistan,. . . I suspect that would fulfill the kind of commitment we need."

Guantanamo, very recent past and near future:  Raffaela earlier alerted you to the Defense Departments' announcement that two detainees have been transferred off the island to Algeria.  And detainee Noor Uthman Mohammaed has completed his military commission sentence and will be returned, apparently sometime soon, to his home country of Sudan.  The Times' Charlie Savage reports.

Vice-President Biden has been in China this week to negotiate with the Chinese government over its new air defense identification zone. It reaches into the highly contested East China Sea, raising tensions with many, including Japan. Biden is said to have been very direct with the Chinese, insisting that "the United States regarded [the establishment of the zone] as illegitimate and a provocation." The Times has more on this story.

Perhaps you read about some radioactive, maybe dirty-bomb-ish material, which had been earlier stolen from a shipping truck in Mexico?  According to The Post, the stuff has been found, but the thieves have not---though authorities suspect the fugitives will die from exposure.

On Tuesday, the Obama Administration announced that it plans to review the privacy implications of facial recognition technology. Tech companies and privacy advocates have joined the Administration in examining the issue---the Software and Information Industry Association (which includes Apple, Google and IBM) has signed on to help with the process.

Times columnist Maureen Dowd isn't convinced that the Amazon drones are such a good idea.

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