Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Monday, January 7, 2013, 11:45 AM

To the surprise of few who've been reading the news the last month, President Obama is expected to nominate Republican former Senator, Chuck Hagel, as the Secretary of Defense, and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan as the new CIA Director today; here's the Washington Post, Politico, more Politico, NPR, the New York Times, and more New York Times. The latest commentary on the Hagel nomination: David Axelrod's defense, Josh Gerstein's take on which interest groups could slow down that train, and Republicans in the Senate's final warning of their, shall I say, concern over the nomination process for their former colleague.

In other news, Greg Jaffe reviews General Stanley McChrystal's new book, My Share of the Task, over at the Washington Post. The book highlights McChrystal's efforts to redefine JSOC. General McChrystal was on CBS over the weekend, and on the "Today Show" today. Mike Lillis of The Hill notes that General McChrystal took responsibility for that infamous Rolling Stone article.

There was another drone strike along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border over the weekend, which killed at least 9 militants. Here's USA Today and Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal.

John Kiriakou is the first (yes, really) CIA official to face prison time for a national security leak (he sent the name of a covert CIA officer to a reporter). Here's the New York Times' Scott Shane on all of that.

Jose Rodriguez, head of the CIA's NCTC from 2002-2004, wrote this Washington Post op-ed on his reaction to Zero Dark Thirty. He says he alternated between "repulsion and delight." Also, a little bird told me that Zero Dark Thirty is finally coming to D.C. theaters  this Thursday. He sets the record straight on some significant moments in the search for bin Laden:

Some of those objecting to the movie are doing so not because of how the interrogations are depicted, but because of what the movie implies came out of them. The film suggests that waterboarding directly contributed to obtaining vital information about bin Laden’s courier — a break that eventually led to the al-Qaeda leader. Opponents of the CIA are quick to insist that waterboarding played no role in tracking him down. Both the movie and those critics are wrong.

The first substantive information about the courier came in 2004 from a detainee who received some enhanced interrogation techniques but was not waterboarded. Although we had heard the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, until that time we were unaware of the central role he played in bin Laden’s communications. Subsequently, as we always did, we checked out this information with other detainees. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who had been waterboarded, was by then cooperating with us to some extent. He denied any knowledge of the courier, but so adamantly that we knew we were on to something. We then intercepted secret messages that Mohammed was sending to other detainees, ordering them to say nothing about al-Kuwaiti.

After obtaining this essential lead on the courier, years of meticulous intelligence work followed. Having the black sites and compliant terrorists allowed us to repeatedly go back to the detainees to check leads, ask follow-up questions and clarify information. Without that capacity, we would have been lost.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is on his way to Washington with his list of demands, included among them being a complete handover of authority over the Parwan military detention facility. You may recall that the U.S. military had initially approved a plan to turn over the detention center entirely to the Afghans, but they changed their minds when news surfaced of a plan to release certain prisoners. Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post reports.

Speaking of the Parwan prison, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said on Friday that 400 prisoners in Parwan under Afghan authority are being released. Here's the AP story on that announcement.

Here's the New York Times editorial today focused on the U.S. draw down in Afghanistan. Its conclusion?

If Mr. Obama cannot find a way to go to zero troops, he should approve only the minimum number needed, of mostly Special Operations commandos, to hunt down insurgents and serve as a deterrent against the Taliban retaking Kabul and Al Qaeda re-establishing a safe haven in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama will want to discuss all these issues with Mr. Karzai. The United States cannot go forward if Afghanistan opposes a residual force or puts undue restrictions on those troops.

Mr. Karzai, a deeply flawed leader who is expected to leave office next year, has his own agenda, which includes requests for updated American aircraft, surveillance equipment and longer-range artillery to modernize his army. Those requests cannot be taken seriously when Afghan security forces are increasingly murdering Americans and the Afghan government remains so profoundly corrupt.

Just as President Karzai is heading here, Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed are on their way to Afghanistan. Here's Carlo Munoz of The Hill on that trip.

An LA Times editorial over the weekend focused on the new NDAA, griping about the Obama administration's failure to veto the bill.

Mitch Joel writes about all the positive ways drones used domestically can contribute over at the Harvard Business Review.

Kristine Huskey of Physicians for Human Rights participated in a HuffPost Live video chat on Friday afternoon, where she argued that indefinite detention can itself be torture. Watch the video here.

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