Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer
Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 12:46 PM

Reuters informs us that the U.S. has closed its embassy in Yemen to the public, amid turmoil in that country following the resignation of pro-Western President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Yesterday, a CIA drone strike in Yemen killed three al-Qaeda militants. The New York Times calls this recent attack “a signal that the United States will continue its counterterrorism operations there despite the apparent takeover by Houthi fighters.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy considers how the U.S. will proceed with counterterrorism operations in Yemen, now that we will not be able to rely on the assistance of U.S. trained Yemeni special forces.

The Associated Press informs us that today, President Obama leads a delegation of U.S. officials to Saudi Arabia, where they will pay their respects to the late King Abdullah and congratulate the new King Salman. Among others, the trip includes current Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and James Baker, former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft, Sandy Berger, and Stephen Hadley, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ).

The Times points out that the appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia may indicate a shift in the country’s foreign policy toward a more “assertive” international role.

Although Kurdish troops claimed yesterday that they had taken full control of the northern Syrian border town of Kobani, fighting with the Islamic State continues today outside of that city. Reuters has the story.

Meanwhile, while training Kurdish troops in Iraq, Canadian special forces have over the past few days engaged in three firefights with Islamic State militants. The Washington Post notes that “the incidents come as the United States and its partner nations in the campaign against the Islamic State grapple with how much danger to expose their troops to while advising Iraqi and Kurdish units.”

The Wall Street Journal reports on the “failings” of the CIA mission to arm moderate Syrian rebels.

Yesterday, jurors in a federal district court convicted former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling of nine criminal counts related to his disclosure of classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen. The Post has the story. Yishai Schwartz shared the news here at Lawfare.

Charlie Savage of the Times shares 2007 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) orders that enabled the National Security Agency (NSA) to, before obtaining judicial sanction, collect from U.S. networks the emails and phone calls of foreigners. The rulings demonstrate the legal basis for such surveillance prior to the passage of the Protect America Act.

The Wall Street Journal describes the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s new license-plate tracking program.

At 3 AM on Monday, a recreational drone flew over the White House lawn before crashing near the “southeast corner of the property.” Although the vehicle’s operator claims he did not mean to direct it over the White House grounds, the incident “exposed a security gap... that the Secret Service... has so far been unable to fix.” The Post shares more.

Meanwhile, fighting in eastern Ukraine continues. According to a Kiev military spokesperson, rebels have killed nine Ukrainian servicemen over the past day. Reuters has details.

According to the Times, the U.S. is putting pressure on Thailand to lift its martial law. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel R. Russel traveled yesterday to Bangkok, where he “delivered harsh words to the junta.”

Breaking Defense offers five rules that U.S. lawmakers can use in evaluating defense spending proposals.

The Post reports on Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, whose confirmation hearings to become the U.S. Attorney General begin before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Wells noted the opening of a week-long hearing in the military commission case, United States v. Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi.

He also flagged the Chief Prosecutor’s statement on the case.

Wells shared video of a Harvard University event, featuring a discussion between Bruce Schneier and Edward Snowden.

Raha Wala analyzed the underlying policy debate surrounding the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Yishai Schwartz noted two pieces of spy news.

Ben responded to posts by Steve Vladeck and Raha Wala regarding the “Close Guantanamo” debate.

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