Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh
Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 2:53 PM

News from the big, bad National Security Agency never seems to cease. This time, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani of the Washington Post reveal Edward Snowden-leaked documents that show that the NSA  "has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world." Cue: Uproar from the public, lawmakers, and the companies.  The project, called MUSCULAR, is run jointly with the British GCHQ. Here is an annotated version of the documents, and Andrea Peterson discusses why the NSA chose to go this route when it was already using the PRISM program.

We saw a vigorous defense of the NSA's surveillance practices at yesterday's House Intelligence Committee hearing. Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, stated that claims that the Agency had spied on U.S. allies---and the White House's supposed ignorance of said claims---were false. He also said that the Europeans had provided the NSA with the very information they were outraged the Agency had. And, according to DNI Clapper, it was a no-brainer that European officials, too, spy on U.S. leaders; Greece certainly did in the 1990s.

Foreign Policy tells us about the politicking on all sides about the U.S. spying on its European friends. Rep. Mike Rogers, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, all but claimed that the White House and Congress knew what was going on, and that the anger from European leaders was just for the benefit of their citizens. Many on Capitol Hill and in the NSA are still buzzing about Sen. Dianne Feinstein abruptly switching lanes.

Ms. Feinstein's 180 degree pivot led the Guardian's editorial board to argue that the British government needs to thoroughly review its surveillance and intelligence programs.

David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy talks about the White House's response (or non-response) to the NSA scandal, saying that it should do what Sen. Feinstein called for this week, and "stop chasing this story and get ahead of it."

Despite her vocal opposition to NSA surveillance practices, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to delay a law protecting the data privacy of European citizens at last week's EU Summit. The New York Times has the story.

The European Parliament released this report about the impact of PRISM and FISA on the rights of EU citizens.

The Times editorial board takes a look at America's dismal relations with many of its allies---no, not the European ones, but the Saudis, Turks, and Israelis.

Meanwhile, Washington is also talking about Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's visit to the United States this week. He wrote an op-ed in the Times asking for increased security cooperation with America:

It has been almost two years since American troops withdrew from Iraq. And despite the terrorist threats we face, we are not asking for American boots on the ground. Rather, we urgently want to equip our own forces with the weapons they need to fight terrorism, including helicopters and other military aircraft so that we can secure our borders and protect our people. Hard as it is to believe, Iraq doesn’t have a single fighter jet to protect its airspace.

Sens. John McCain, Carl Levin, James Inhofe, Robert Menendez, Bob Corker, and Lindsey Graham aren't having it. The group sent a strongly-worded letter to the President expressing disapproval with Prime Minister al-Maliki's record and his "mismanagement of Iraqi politics." Here's the Post on that.

David Petraeus has a lengthy and important piece in Foreign Policy about how the United States "won in Iraq"---from the surge, to the Sunni Awakening, to the development of Iraqi military and civilian forces, to detainee operations---and what lies ahead for the country.

Josh Hicks of the Washington Post reports that Sens. Claire McCaskill, Susan Collins, Heidi Heitcamp, and Kelly Ayotte are introducing legislation today that would increase the number of background checks on federal employees and contractors with security clearances.

Afghan peace envoys will meet the Afghan Taliban's former deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar for peace talks, reports the Wall Street Journal. Baradar was released by Pakistani authorities earlier this year in the hopes that he could kick start peace negotiations as the U.S. prepares to withdraw next year.

Members of Congress heard from the family of Mamana Bibi, the 67 year old woman who was allegedly killed by a U.S. drone strike while picking okra in the family garden in North Waziristan---and whose case Amnesty International shed light on in its report last week.

Barbara Starr of CNN informs us that U.S. special forces were poised to launch a covert operation in Benghazi to capture Ahmed Abu Khattalah, a top operative of Ansar al-Sharia, the group believed to be behind the last year's attack on the U.S. consulate there. But the mission never materialized because of the outcry over the capture of Abu Anas al-Libi in Tripoli and concerns about the stability of the Libyan government.

And the Congressional Research Service has a report on promoting global Internet freedom with information about legislation and hearings on the topic from the 113th and 112th Congresses.

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