Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh, Yishai Schwartz
Tuesday, February 18, 2014, 2:08 PM

The United States has not forgotten you, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The Obama administration wants to resume talks with the Afghan Taliban and has offered to trade five of its members, who are held at Guantanamo Bay, for the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, who was kidnapped by the Haqqani Network in 2009.

Things aren’t so hot with the other Taliban. The latest negotiations between the Pakistani government and the Pakistani Taliban, which began a few weeks ago, completely disintegrated yesterday after the militants said they had killed 23 Pakistani soldiers in revenge for the army’s operations in the FATA.

President Obama has asked for different policy options on Syria. Samuel R. Berger, Bill Clinton’s national security advisor, outlines a few in this op-ed in the Post.

Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia and Iran of undermining the latest round of peace talks on the Syrian civil war; and the Assad regime of “stonewall[ing].” The UK and France agree with him; Chief UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi apologized to the Syrian people for the failure of the talks.

The first round of talks aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program through a final status agreement began this morning in Vienna. According to the Wall Street Journal, senior American and Iranian officials have expressed “increasingly divergent views” on the negotiations, with Iran’s Supreme Leader adopting a particularly uncompromising stance.

The thorniness of the situation is underlined in a Breaking Defense interview with International Atomic Energy Agency Chief Yukiya Amano. Amano explains that Iran’s refusal to allow IAEA inspectors to new sites is a major hurdle to progress, but praises the Iranian negotiators as “prudent, cautious and intelligent.”

Speaking of negotiations galore, Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute had an op-ed in the Washington Post about the dangers of engaging rogue regimes.

Yesterday, the military trial of Abd Al Rahim Al Nashiri was stopped abruptly, if only for two days. Defense counsel Richard Kammen explained that his client may want to replace him. Wells covered the hearing in real-time, and Carol Rosenberg has a story in the Miami Herald.

Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, another Guantanamo Bay detainee, has been charged with conspiracy, as Wells and Steve discussed.

Four bombs went off in Baghdad yesterday, killing 25 people and wounding dozens more.

American drone bases will likely relocate from Afghanistan to Central Asia if NATO troops are forced to withdraw completely from Afghanistan by the end of this year, the LA Times reports.

The Singapore Airshow, a multi-day event where major players in the Southeast Asia weapons market hawk their wares, concluded this past weekend. According to the New York Times, drones were center stage.

In an interview with Eli Lake of the Daily Beast, DNI James Clapper reveals that the NSA should have been more transparent about the 215 program from the start. Here’s more.

Mayer Brown, the Chicago-based law firm that, according to Snowden-related articles, was allegedly the subject of Australian surveillance, has issued a somewhat cryptic statement. The Chicago Tribune has the story. Earlier, Ben and Jane reacted to a Times article on this story here and here.

Iranian hackers were far more successful in their infiltration of a U.S. Navy computer network than had initially been thought, and were able to remain within the system for nearly four months. The Wall Street Journal expects the man who led the military response---current NSA director nominee Admiral Mike Rogers---to face tough questions on the topic at his confirmation hearings.

Newark International Airport is getting a new hi-tech system of cameras and sensors, in order to help streamline management and security. Privacy advocates are already worried. The Times has the story.

CNN’s lead story today discusses why retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus are hesitating to beef up cybersecurity.  The reason? Financial incentives exist in the opposite direction. As these companies wish to collect and store as much data on consumers as possible and to make that collection process cheap and frictionless, they are unlikely to improve security as long as they continue to self-regulate through the Payment Card Industry Council.

A Government Accountability Office report has found data on the extent and cost of the use of private contractors in the Intelligence Community to be unreliable. As a result, the agencies are “not well-positioned to assess the potential effects of relying on contractor personnel.” Secrecy News has the story.

Benjamin Weiser of the Times has the latest developments in the trial of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son in law. His lawyers have moved closer to being able to use testimony from one Khalid Sheik Mohammed; prosecutors, meanwhile, plan to call a member of the Lackawanna Six to testify.

Earlier today, a police advance broke through protest barricades in Kiev and protesters set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Party of the Regions. Street violence continues amid political wrangling between government, opposition and foreign powers with no solution in sight.

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