Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 1:38 PM

France will be departing Mali "quickly," according to the French foreign minister, as quoted in this AP report.

Now that John Kerry has been confirmed (New York Times story here, and Washington Post story here) as the next Secretary of State, attention returns to the still-presumably-uphill battle Chuck Hagel has to becoming the next Secretary of Defense. Senator Lindsey Graham says he'll put a hold on Hagel's nomination, unless outgoing SecDef Leon Panetta testifies about the DoD's reaction to the Benghazi attack.

Wells' and Sophie's excellent coverage (not that we're biased, of course) of hearings in the 9/11 case pointed out Monday's now-notorious censorship mishap.  Ditto many other news sources. Finally, Paul Pillar has this piece in The National Interest; he writes of GTMO's "strangeness," noting that even "the presiding judge seemed not to know" why Monday's blackout occurred.

Apropos of GTMO, the State Department has shuttered an office uniquely dedicated to detainee resettlement and the detention facility's closure.  But the Obama administration is still committed to getting detainees off the island.   A senior State Department official was pretty clear who we ought to blame for the White House's inability to close the place: the United States Congress, naturally.   Read more in Julian Pecquet's story over at The Hill.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acknowledges Congress's responsibility for the detainee transfer gridlock, while also claiming, according to this HuffPo article---and we'll let you figure out how this makes sense---that it is "nobody's fault"  Guantanamo remains open.  Context might or might not help to glean the Majority Leader's meaning, but you can always have a look at the 2013 NDAA's detainee provisions.

The outlook for Afghanistan remains pessimistic.  The latest to express doubts? None other than General John Allen, as he leaves the helm of ISAF/U.S. command in the country. Here's Kevin Sieff of the Post, on both the General's efforts during his leadership and Allen's remarks about the future; and Maria Abi-Habib of the Wall Street Journal, on Allen's recommendations for the size of U.S. forces after 2014.

The U.S. military blacklisted Afghanistan's largest private airline company, Kam Air, late last week.  The reason? According to a Wall Street Journal  report (and unnamed sources cited therein, of course) the airline is involved in drug trafficking.  An angered Afghan government doubts the U.S. position, and insists on proof of Kam's illicit activity.  For their part, U.S. officials cited certain evidence of Kam's misdeeds---which remains, well, classified.  The move blocks Kam from bidding on U.S. government contracts, in any case.

Dina Timple-Raston reported, on NPR's All Things Considered, about how the trend in attacks by radical Islamists (robbing banks, taking hostages, and laundering money) indicate that their traditional sources of financial backing are running out. Meanwhile, over at the Journal, Drew Hinshaw notes that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb is having human resources troubles.  The group hasn't been as successful in recruiting supporters, in parts of Mali where it once experienced no difficulty.

Perhaps a private sector reporting role for cybersecurity issues might not be as distant a hope as many think. Siobhan Gorman of the Journal reports on the response by Fortune 500 CEOs to a letter from Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller in favor of voluntary reporting standards. Gorman points out a possible disconnect between the actual leaders of these companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's, who aggressively opposed a voluntary standards proposal late last year. Who knew that asking companies directly what their thoughts were would actually generate a consensus? Here's an oldie from The Hill on the Senator's letter, and the letter itself.

Google has added its name to a list of organizations noting a significant uptick in government requests for personal data. Here's the New York Times story on the statistics, and an interview with Google's Chief Legal Officer. In addition, Google also has added some new content to its Maps app---geographic details for Pyongyang, North Korea.

Israel is opting out of a U.N. review of its human rights practices. For those who don't keep track of such things, the New York Times says Israel is the first country to delay participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process. Elsewhere in that same paper, George Bisharat, professor at UC Hastings, argues in an op-ed that, now that the United Nations considers Palestine a nonmember state, the latter should take Israel to the International Criminal Court---and pursue international crimes Israel may have committed since 2002.  

Just when you thought our "Zero Dark Thirty" reaction coverage was waning: here's AEI's Jennifer Marsico in the National Review.  She argues that the Academy Awards didn't nominate Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director because, by deciding to include torture scenes in the movie, Bigelow condoned the practice (although we all know she doesn't)---and the Academy can't have anything to do with that.

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