Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Monday, March 18, 2013, 1:52 PM

Tomorrow is a significant day—the ten-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Here’s NPR’s All Things Considered’s story, including an interview with Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one-third of the Three Amigos, says he’s going to “make life difficult” in the Senate if he isn’t provided with access to the survivors of the Benghazi attack. He voiced his threat on Fox News last Friday; here’s Carlo Munoz of The Hill’s take on all of that.

This week’s print edition of The Economist has this review of a study by Harvard PHD student Rich Nielsen into the career trajectories of Salafi imams, a study which aims to identify the factors contributing to radicalism. The study found that weak academic networks (i.e., failing to get a job at a state institution), not poverty or the ideology of their teachers, was the main factor.

Not that we didn't see this coming or anything: Eric Schmitt points out in this New York Times story that once most of the French troops withdraw from Mali, the country may yet become a hotbed for terrorists---again.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the car bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on Monday that killed at least seven people, speculation points to Al Shabab, writes the AP.

And over in northwestern Pakistan, militants attacked a court complex in Peshawar, killing at least four and injuring at least 30 (including the female judge presiding over a case at the time). Here’s Declan Walsh’s story in the Times.

Meanwhile, the LA Times reported over the weekend that the CIA has begun collecting targeting intelligence regarding Islamist militants’ participating in the conflict in Syria (on the rebel side), according to “officials.” Targeting for what, you ask? Drone strikes. That actually wouldn’t be altogether unprecedented, given the 2008 raid by special operations forces that bled into eastern Syria from Iraq and resulted in the death of Al Qaeda leader Abu Ghadiya, the article reminds us.

Secrecy News reports on the latest appointment to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court: Judge Rosemary Collyer of the D.C. District Court has been appointed to the FISC by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Forbes featured this op-ed by Thane Rosenbaum, which argues that the decision to try UBL’s son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith in federal court confirms the inconsistency of U.S. policy on punishing terrorists. Rosenbaum writes:

Which leaves us with no consistent policy on how to prosecute and punish terrorists, whether they be American citizens or foreign born? It’s a dizzying game of Three-card Monte, with disparate choices not always consistently applied: military commissions, of which there have been fewer than ten, and thus suspected terrorists are detained indefinitely without any resolution; civilian trials, of which there have been many with a nearly 90 percent conviction rate, but these proceedings are predictable, lack transparency, and the verdicts don’t necessarily match the severity of the crimes; and, of course, targeted assassinations, which guarantee finality and might ultimately achieve just deserts, but provide little in the way of due process or historical justice, since drone strikes yield no truth-seeking or findings of fact.

This week the U.N. will be considering the Arms Trade Treaty, which is aimed at restricting the flow of weapons to conflict zones, and the National Rifle Association is not pleased at all on the impact it might have within the U.S. Here’s Peter Finn of the Washington Post, and Rick Gladstone of the Times on what is expected.

The AP’s Eric Talmadge provides an update on the six Chinese Uighurs who were transferred in 2009 from Guantanamo to the South Pacific island of Palau. One has since made it to Turkey, while the other five are still in Palau because no country is willing to take them in. The Uighurs point the finger at China for pressuring other countries to refuse resettlement to the former GTMO detainees.

Here’s a report by Jennifer Martinez of The Hill pondering whether all the recent attention to cybersecurity vulnerabilities and reform is just hype, or whether we've reached a tipping point. Senator John McCain thinks we have.

From hanging chads to cyber attacks: NBC News reports on a cyberattack against a Florida county elections office during its August 14th primary election:

The case involved more than 2,500 “phantom requests” for absentee ballots, apparently sent to the Miami-Dade County elections website using a computer program, according to a grand jury report on problems in the Aug. 14 primary election. It is not clear whether the bogus requests were an attempt to influence a specific race, test the system or simply interfere with the voting. Because of the enormous number of requests---and the fact that most were sent from a small number of computer IP addresses in Ireland, England, India and other overseas locations---software used by the county flagged them and elections workers rejected them.

And Marjorie Censer of the Washington Post reports on the defense industry’s response to cybersecurity issues: converting their internal cyber systems into services for hire.

Following up on last week’s arrest of a social media editor at Reuters for helping with Anonymous’s activities, this New York Times story delves into what the punishment for his alleged involvement with hacking the LA Times website might be under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and arguments in favor of reforming the law.

Newly-minted (no pun intended) Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will be in China this week meeting with government leaders, and on the agenda is cybersecurity. Here’s Agence France Presse on that.

The New York Times posted this video/story over the weekend about drones: university research into them and the economic implications of their proliferation here in the U.S., in particular.

Bill Keller’s New York Times column over the weekend dealt with the next-gen of weaponry---fully autonomous weapons---and the ethical implications of their use.

Meanwhile, one of the House Republicans, Kevin McCarthy, wants to subpoena the Obama administration for its targeted killing OLC memos, since it’s only the Senators (plus one staffer per Senator) on the Intelligence Committee who've been allowed to view them thus far. Bloomberg gives us the details.

A bill with bipartisan support in the Washington state legislature that sought to regulate the use and purchase of drones by law enforcement agencies has died in committee. Which significant employer in the state opposed the bill and thus may have contributed to its failure, you wonder? Boeing, of course. Here’s the AP on that.

The detainee hunger strike at Guantanamo is real, the U.S. military acknowledged last week. Fourteen detainees are participating in this latest hunger strike, but the problem is not a “widespread phenomenon,” GTMO spokesman Navy Capt. Robert Durand said. Here’s Carol Rosenberg’s story. More on the strike, as well as a general update on detainees, lawyers, and human rights advocates' frustration with the situation at the Washington Post.

Last week, Thomas Drake, the NSA whistle blower delivered a speech at the National Press Club about transparency and government secrecy. Firedoglake has the video and excerpts of his remarks.

National security meets human interest: the LA Times has this fascinating story about a California man, Fernando Jara, who dropped out of community college to try to infiltrate the Taliban after September 11. According to the report, he sent an email to the CIA arguing that his limited Arabic language skills and recent conversion to Islam made him better-situated to track Americans who joined terrorist organizations and collect intelligence on Islamist militants. Jara acknowledges he breached his nondisclosure agreement with the government in talking to the newspaper.

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