Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh, Yishai Schwartz
Thursday, February 6, 2014, 2:45 PM

The Sochi Olympics begin today. While you’re all intimately familiar with the dire living conditions, the reporting difficulties, and the stray dogs, maintaining security is no easy feat. Rep. Bill Keating has urged Americans to “be careful what you say,” and the threat of a toothpaste bomb going off is not zero.

Speaking of Russia, the Associated Press tells us that the country has opposed a new United Nations Security Council resolution on humanitarian aid in Syria. The resolution was put forth after the failure of the recent Geneva II peace conference, which this cartoon sums up excellently.

There has been little calm in the fighting in Syria. The Washington Post reports a sharp increase in government air attacks on rebels in Aleppo. And as civilians flee the city en masse, the regime missed another deadline for the destruction of its chemical weapons arsenal.

The Post editorial board urges President Obama to do more on Syria, saying that options that "fall well short of the use of U.S. ground forces" do, in fact, exist.

Meanwhile, Craig Timberg writes about a new generation of powerful security cameras that have the capability of detecting---and deterring---huge numbers of crimes over a wide area. The cameras track location over time in a 25 mile wide area; the developers have sought advice from the ACLU.

The New York Times’ lead story: an analysis of the recent uptick in jihadist violence in Egypt. Egypt’s strict military regime had long preserved the country as an island of stability in a tumultuous region, but the recent political turmoil and the influx of experienced jihadists from overseas could change this dynamic.

The Turkish Parliament just passed legislation enabling government telecommunications officials to block access to Internet sites within hours of receiving complaints about privacy violations. The European Union has denounced the bill and critics warn that the policy is intended to quash public discussion and information about corruption charges currently engulfing Prime Minister Erdogan’s administration.

Remember Fallujah, the city that American forces took from Iraqi insurgents after a costly battle in 2004? Well, the Sunni city was retaken by jihadist militants primarily belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria---which was itself an Al Qaeda affiliate until recently. Now, the Iraqi army is preparing for an assault to retake the city, but also plans to allow loyal Sunni tribes to lead the assault in order to avoid exacerbating sectarian tensions.

In a House Foreign Affairs committee hearing yesterday, members of Congress discussed options to provide American support to Iraqi forces to reclaim the western part of the country from ISIS militants. CNN reports.

Lawyers for Sulaiman Abu Ghaith---the son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden on trial in New York---are seeking access to Guantanamo detainee Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, claiming his testimony would be exculpatory for their client. Benjamin Weiser has the story in the Times.

Yesterday, Secretary Chuck Hagel met privately with the top uniformed and civilian officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and discussed recent ethics scandals plaguing the U.S. military. Following the meeting, a Pentagon spokesperson told the press that Hagel had urged officials to "put renewed emphasis on developing moral character and moral courage in our force" and act with “more urgency" in combating problems.

Steptoe Cyberblog has another installment of its podcast series featuring Michael Vatis and Jason Weinstein.  The pair discuss Snowden, FISA reform, data breaches and more.

On Tuesday, Naureen Shah wrote in an op-ed in Reuters.  She says this year may be the best chance to pass reforms to America’s drone program--- which, Shah argues, allows the government “to kill without accountability for who is killed and why.” She urges the administration and Congress to “end the secrecy” and calls for greater transparency.

But Shah isn't the only person worried about drones. Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura has announced that he has left the United States and is now “off the grid…so that the drones can’t find me.” Whatever that may mean, the guy was simply awesome in "Predator."

The Afghan Taliban has captured, and is holding hostage, a member of U.S. forces. They’ve really outdone themselves this time.

As Wells and Clara mentioned yesterday, the drone scale-back in Pakistan coincides with (and is likely motivated in part by) the start of negotiations between the Pakistani government and Taliban leadership. Here’s more from the Wall Street Journal. Peace talks began today in Islamabad, and according to the BBC, the first round lasted for about three hours.

The Treasury Department has frozen the assets of three suspected militants tied to the Pakistan-based Haqqani network.

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