Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Tuesday, September 4, 2012, 10:33 AM

Lots of coverage of the drone-tracking app that Apple blocked on its App Store. Steve Henn of NPR interviewed the app developer whose program was blocked for "excessively objectionable or crude content." CNNMoney is conducting an online poll on the issue as well.

A lot of violence over the long weekend:

A drone strike in Yemen that was intended to hit Al Qaeda suspects there ended up killing 13 civilians (3 of whom were women), writes Hakim Almasmari of CNN.

A drone killed at least five militants on Saturday in North Waziristan, according to the AP.

Saturday there were twin suicide bombings at a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan that killed 8 civilians and four Afghan policemen. Fifty others were injured.  The Hill's Elise Viebeck reports.

On Monday a suicide bomber in northwestern Pakistan drove his vehicle into a U.S. government-owned SUV. There are conflicting reports on casualties, with the U.S. saying that two Americans and two Pakistani employees of the U.S. consulate were injured and Pakistani officials reporting two deaths and 13 injuries from the attack, writes the New York Times.

And U.S. forces have decided to suspend training new Afghanistan Local Police recruits to focus on vetting current members of the police forces, which number 16,000. Meghashyam Mali of The Hill reports.

Despite the deadliest day for Australian military forces in Afghanistan, troops from Down Under will "stay the course" because it is "absolutely the right thing to do," said Defense Minister Stephen Smith. Agence France-Presse reports.

Karen DeYoung of the Post writes on the Obama administration's rapidly-approaching congressional deadline of September 9 to designate the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. Doing so may push the administration to take action against the organization.

Read this lengthy piece by Greg Jaffe in the Washington Post on SecDef Leon Panetta and his approach to managing the military amidst budget cuts.

James Ball in the Post writes that some in the computer security industry are calling for increased oversight on what is now an unregulated trade in "zero-day" exploits, which seize upon flaws in computer systems and anti-virus software to gain access to systems (like the Stuxnet virus).

Josh Gerstein of Politico reports that the Democrat's 2012 platform includes closing Guantanamo Bay detention center. It reads:

We are substantially reducing the population at Guantánamo Bay without adding to it. And we remain committed to working with all branches of government to close the prison altogether because it is inconsistent with our national security interests and our values...

Meanwhile, Spencer Ackerman gripes at Wired's Danger Room blog that a weakness of Obama's national security policies has been in "articulating an end to the 9/11 Era Bush began." He writes:

On the one hand, the Obama team contends, credibly, that al-Qaida is practically a spent force as the result of drone attacks and commando raids stretching from the Horn of Africa to the Pakistani tribal areas. But on the other, it argues that those attacks have to continue indefinitely. Senior Obama counterterrorism professionals concede they actually haven’t figured out how they’d even know if the terrorist movement is actually beaten. Obama can truthfully tell voters that he got U.S. troops out of Iraq---although maybe he should credit Bush with acquiescing to the Iraqis’ demand for that in 2008---and will end direct U.S. combat in Afghanistan by 2014. But he can’t truthfully tell Americans that their unhappy experiment as a global counterterrorist force is finished as long as Predators loiter over Mirin Shah.

Similarly, Obama has said absolutely nothing for four years about rolling back expansive surveillance programs---whether by the National Security Agency or the FBI---that arose after 9/11. While that surveillance state was supposed to be a temporary response to an emergency, dismantling it remains a marginal political position, since politicians don’t want to be smeared as terrorist fellow-travelers. It’s gotten to the point where maintaining the wartime government apparatus---sometimes  by design, sometimes by inertia---isn’t even a partisan issue. GOP Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, has become one of the Senate’s leading voices for civil liberties, and for it has been demagogued by the Democratic Senate leader. A majority of Americans want to end the Afghanistan war, yet relatively few Washington politicians heed them. (No wonder Obama will emphasize the end of his surge in Charlotte, rather than the surge itself.) If Obama wanted to change the politics of national security, the GOP convention has provided only his latest opportunity to do so.

Here's the New York Times' Janet Maslin's review of No Easy Day, the book by the Squealing Seal, and Jeremy Herb of The Hill reported late last week that Mark Owen's attorney responded to Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson's threat of legal action, saying that Owen did not violate his non-disclosure agreement.

The University of Kentucky's Paul Thomas Chamberlin has this op-ed in the New York Times today arguing that the U.S. should take a more nuanced approach to negotiating with organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah:

The lesson of America’s reaction to Munich is that the blanket charge of terrorism, coupled with absolute nonrecognition, is too unwieldy a tool for dealing with multiple complex political organizations. For violent groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, which have unshakable commitments to destroying Israel or re-establishing the Islamic Caliphate, a forceful approach may be appropriate. But Washington shouldn’t rule out alternatives when dealing with groups that may have more limited long-term goals, like Hezbollah and Hamas.

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