Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Cody M. Poplin
Monday, January 19, 2015, 1:07 PM

Newspapers around the world lead off with new articles on NSA and GCHQ spying techniques today. David Sanger and Martin Fackler report that the NSA breached North Korean networks before the Sony attack. In 2010, the agency drilled into the Chinese networks that connect the DPRK to the rest of the world, selected connections in Malaysia used by North Korean hackers, and “penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korean and other American allies.” The program included an ambitious effort to place malware on the systems used by the North’s hackers in order to create an “early warning radar” for malevolent cyber activity directed by Pyongyang. Even so, it remains unclear why US intelligence agencies were unable to warn Sony about the severity of the pending attack.

German magazine Der Spiegel carries a story by Jacob Applebaum, Laura Poitras, and others on the digital arms race occurring as the NSA preps America for the future battle in cyberspace. According to newly released documents from the the archive of Edward Snowden, the NSA is planning for “wars of the future in which the internet will play a critical role, with the aim of being able to use the net to paralyze computer networks and, by doing so, potentially all the infrastructure they control.”

And, according to the Guardian, the GCHQ has captured emails of journalists from several top international media outlets including the BBC, New York Times, and more. They write that the communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in less than 10 minutes on a single day in November 2008.

The Guardian also reports that the absence of a political process alongside the continuing air strikes in Iraq may push Sunni communities to consider allying with ISIS. According to Iraq’s Vice President for Reconciliation Iyad Allawi, “the Baghdad belt demonstrates the lack of strategy and reconciliation,” where ethnic cleansing is spreading as militias roam unimpeded. And, as the last “Awakening” left tribal leaders with little long-term benefit, many are resisting requests to take the lead against ISIS today.

While internal politics and sectarianism are limiting success in Iraq, the Washington Post divulges that plans to expand the air campaign in Syria have stalled amidst a diplomatic disagreement between the United States and Turkey. The Post describes the situation well: With “effectively two separate wars and at least three sets of combatants in Syria,” Turkey believes that the focus of airstrikes “should be as much, or more, on aiding to opposition against Assad.” So far, the Obama administration has refused to target the Assad regime.

Elsewhere, Reuters reports that an Israeli air strikes in Syria has killed six members of Hezbollah, including a commander named Mohamad Issa as well as Jihad Moughniyah. Iran has claimed that leaders of the Revolutionary Guard were also killed in the strike, but the charge is yet to be confirmed.

Finally, even amid the chaos of war, oil prices dropped again on Monday as Iraq announced record oil production.

The Wall Street Journal brings us news that Belgian authorities have asked Greece to extradite one of the four people arrested in Athens in connection with a suspected foiled plot to attack police across Belgium. The request comes after Belgian police killed two people as part of a suspended anti-terrorism raid on Thursday. The European Union’s counterterrorism chief announced that the terrorists had planned to launch the attack on Friday. The crackdown is part of a broader European response to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo that killed 17. However, in Foreign Policy, non-resident Brookings Fellow J.M. Berger argues that terrorism will not be the casualty of these operations, but instead, our civil liberties.

The New York Times shares news that violence continues in Niger as protests against Charlie Hebdo spread. Demonstrators set fire to two churches and attacked a police station in Niamey after protests were banned by the state following the death of as many as 10 people during previous protests.

David Kirkpatrick of the Times brings us tentatively good news from Libya: the main factions fighting the country have agreed to a provisional cease-fire in response to pressure from the United Nations Security Council. However, with caveats including the right to continuing to fight “terrorists,” some experts worry that the wording may only lead to renewed fighting.

And in Yemen, Houthi rebels kidnapped a senior aid to Yemen’s president early on Saturday.

Finally, Reuters reports that over the weekend, Ukrainian troops recaptured most of the critical Donetsk airport from pro-Russian rebels. However, today Reuters shares that separatists have launched a new attack on the airport after Russian authorities called the Ukrainian assault a “strategic mistake.” A Ukrainian military spokesman said that over the past 24 hours, 3 soldiers have been killed while another 66 have been wounded.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Bruce Schneier brought us the newest cache of documents released by Edward Snowden on the offensive cyberoperations conducted by the NSA.

Paul Rosenzweig shared the latest cyber news in his “Bits and Bytes.”

In Sunday’s Foreign Policy Essay, Brookings Fellow Jeremy Shapiro warns that an overreaction in the name of counterterrorism could cause far more harm to France than the attacks themselves.

This week’s Lawfare Podcast featured Daniel Reisner, former head of International Law Branch of the Israeli Defense Forces who spoke on law, security, and peace in the Middle East.

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