Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer
Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 1:41 PM

President Obama confirmed today that Kayla Mueller, a U.S. aid worker who had been held hostage by the Islamic State, has been killed. Over the weekend, the militant group sent photos of Mueller’s body to her family, and the FBI has confirmed the authenticity of the images. According to Mueller’s parents, “Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace.” The Islamic State claims that the aid worker died as a result of a Jordanian fighter jet bomb, which struck the building where she was being held. Officials in Amman have disputed that account. The Washington Post has more.

Yesterday, the militant group released a video featuring its “last known Western hostage,” John Cantlie. Cantlie, a British photojournalist, has appeared in a number of broadcast-type clips produced by the Islamic State. McClatchy examines the evolution of the journalist’s dress and demeanor in the video series and notes that “Cantlie’s talents as a news presenter have made him more valuable to the Islamic State than just another soon-to-be-executed hostage.”

Reuters considers the psychology behind the jihadist group’s strategy of violently killing hostages.

Bloomberg View reports that President Obama will soon ask Congress for authorization to use military force against the Islamic State. The White House proposal, which would apply to the Islamic State and associated jihadist groups without imposing geographic limits, prohibits “enduring offensive ground operations,” though a number of exceptions apply. The legislation would provide authorization for only three years, and the commander-in-chief, whoever that may be at the time, would not have authority to unilaterally extend it. Finally, the proposal would repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, though the 2001 AUMF would remain in force.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reports that Bahrain has pledged its assistance to Jordan in the fight against the Islamic State.

The Post informs us that the United Arab Emirates has renewed its air campaign against the militant group.

The Wall Street Journal reports that China appears to be stepping up its involvement in Afghanistan. This “move toward the role of mediator signals a foreign policy shift” for a country that has previously been focused on domestic issues. According to Franz-Michael Melbin, the European Union envoy to Afghanistan, however, the Chinese “have been looking for an area to expand their foreign policy toolbox, but also doing it in a way that would not be seen strategically threatening to the U.S.”

According to the New York Times, President Obama will wait until the conclusion of Minsk peace talks before reaching a decision on whether to arm the Ukrainian military in its fight against pro-Russian separatists. Yesterday, he noted, “If, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I’ve asked my team to do is to look at all options. What other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin’s calculus? And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined.”

Defense One highlights a recently released Brookings paper that offers ideas for how the U.S. can assist Ukraine militarily without actually arming it.

In a speech yesterday, President Obama made clear that, if nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group do not result in the approval of a basic framework by the March deadline, he sees no point in “a further extension.” Reuters shares more.

The Post’s David Ignatius proposes that, if nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran fail, “at least initially, both sides would be wise to do nothing.”

Meanwhile, disagreements between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue to play out. Yesterday, President Obama noted that the March speech, which Netanyahu plans to give before Congress, risks injecting “partisan politics” into the U.S.-Israel relationship. However, according to the Times, Netanyahu affirmed yesterday that he is still “determined to travel to Washington and to present Israel’s position before the members of Congress and the American people.”

The Times also informs us that Saleh Ali al-Sammad, the senior Houthi leader in charge of the Yemen, has announced his intentions of creating a power-sharing government in Sana. He also hopes to maintain close relationships with the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Today, the Obama administration will announce the launch of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, a new government agency which will “analyze cyber threats and coordinate strategy” across the many bureaucratic offices that handle U.S. cyber operations. The Post has more.

Wired shares details from a report released by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) on the cybersecurity issues associated with automobiles. Here at Lawfare, Paul considered solutions to the problem.

Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 25-0 in favor of confirming Ashton Carter as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense. Reuters has the news.

Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone examines what the Pentagon is hoping to do with unmanned aerial vehicles, given its FY 2016 budget request.

Pretrial hearings in the 9/11 military commission case abruptly recessed yesterday after defendants claimed that they recognized their courtroom translator as having previously worked at a CIA “black site.” Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald shares the news. Wells covered yesterday’s proceedings here at Lawfare.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Ben shared data from the Pew Research Center on investigative journalists’ perceptions of government surveillance.

Wells covered the proceedings of yesterday’s motions hearing in the 9/11 military commission case.

Jack highlighted the release of “an unusually good issue” of the Harvard National Security Journal.

Paul offered solutions to the insecurity issues associated with the wireless technology built into automobiles.

Paul also noted news about Memex, a search engine developed by DARPA to allow law enforcement and intelligence officials to search the Dark Web.

Lauren Bateman provided an overview of the implementation of PPD-28 at the NSA, CIA, and FBI.

Yishai Schwartz considered whether the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to join the ICC trigger (or will trigger) the cutoff of U.S. financial support.

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