Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 3:03 PM

There was an attack today on the headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence agency. At least one person has been killed, say Kevin Sieff and Sayed Salahuddin of the Washington Post. Azam Ahmed of the New York Times also reports.

The French military is moving north in Mali and preparing for another battle with Islamist forces there, write Adam Nossiter, Eric Schmitt and Alan Cowell in the Times.  Meanwhile, the U.S. considers whether to provide additional military support to the effort, according to the Post's Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock.  And, in the latest Times Room for Debate Blog chat, participants ask how Mali can avoid becoming the next Afghanistan. Check out the conversation here.

Also today, in nearby Algeria, Islamist militants claiming ties to Al Qaeda attacked a gas field.  According to this Reuters story, the group kidnapped and killed foreigners.

On January 23, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify about the Benghazi attack, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  That's the word from Jay Solomon at the Wall Street Journal.

Speaking of Benghazi, Italy has closed its consulate there after a Saturday attack on its consul.  (A rain of gunshots reportedly did not puncture the diplomat's armored vehicle.)   Here's the New York Times on the incident.

Ellen Nakashima writes in the Washington Post on a recent Kaspersky Labs report about"Red October"---a cyber-espionage operation that targets European diplomatic and government agencies.  Included is this unsettling map detailing the victims of Red October. Here's additional, BBC coverage of the Kaspersky report.

And if Red October wasn't eye-opening enough, try this closer-to-home development: a division of the  Department of Homeland Security---its ominously-named "Industrial Control Systems Cyber Response Team"---released this report on cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.  Last year, attacks in the energy sector apparently took place at an "alarming rate." Read Zack Colman of The Hill.

Even though New York Senator Chuck Schumer has given his blessing to Chuck Hagel's nomination, skepticism still lingers about the President's pick for SecDef. Over at the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens criticizes Colin Powell for his description of Hagel's infamous "Jewish lobby" remarks; and in the Post, Jennifer Rubin considers the endorsement a threat to Schumer's reputation as Israel's best friend in the Senate.

In this Boston Globe op-ed, Evelyn Krache Morris of the Kennedy School's Belfer Center argues for more transparency and input from Congress on the administration's drone strike policy.  She presumes that John Brennan alone, and not some larger group of advisers and experts, who makes the key targeting decisions.  Morris:

The use of a controversial weapon should not be governed by an individual’s particular understanding of its capabilities and limitations. The power, for example, to order a mission that would do lasting damage to US-Pakistani relations should not reside in one person. No matter how capable and thoughtful Brennan, or anyone else, is, the responsibility for drone operations cannot remain with an individual. Given the proclivities of large bureaucracies such as the CIA, it will not.

Outgoing SecDef Leon Panetta's farewell tour included a stop in the Azores Islands.  (Reminder for the geography-rusty: the Islands are a Portuguese territory).  The U.S. has decided to reduce the size of its air base there; thus Panetta reassured concerned locals about the coming departure of 1,000 U.S. troops and their families---and the possible impact on the Islands' economy.  Craig Whitlock reports on the visit in the Post.  Panetta also stopped by for a visit with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. Whitlock covers that meeting,  the third for a Secretary of Defense and a Pope, as does Elisabeth Bumiller in the Times.

Bloodshed in Iraq: Iraqi legislator and former Awakening Movement leader Efan al-Essawi was killed in a suicide bombing, according to this story by Duraid Adnan of the Times. Adnan also reports on car bombs at the Kurdistan Democratic Party's offices in Kirkuk, which killed at least 20 .

Yonathan Melaku is a former Marine who plead guilty to firing a gun at the Pentagon and other buildings in 2010.  A diagnosed schizophrenic, Melaku elected to forgo an insanity defense.  He was sentenced to 25 years in prison as part of his plea deal. Here's NPR with the news.

News of Aaron Swartz's suicide has MIT looking into its role in his prosecution.  Many members of Congress also are displeased with DOJ's handling of the case; at the same time, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has proposed to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and wire fraud statute.

Up in Canada, a human rights group determined that American-made software was used by over a dozen foreign governments---some with feel-good human rights policies and records, like Saudi, Syria, and China---to aid in their surveillance and censorship efforts.  Here's John Markoff of the Times, describing the report presented by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.

Janet Napolitano will be sticking around as SecDHS. Check out The Hill for the latest Cabinet headcount.

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