Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh, Yishai Schwartz
Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 12:06 PM

Let's take a break today from Ukraine woes, the Russian role, the and possible Western response---though don't miss Putin's fake secret diary.

At NPR, Carrie Johnson reports on a the very quiet departure of Virginia Seitz, a senior Justice Department official who led the Office of Legal Counsel for the past two and a half years. She stepped down nearly two months ago with little fanfare and publicity.

In the Daily Beast, Eli Lake gives us a profile of DNI James Clapper. The largely laudatory piece notes the toll that the Snowden leaks and subsequent criticism have taken on Clapper.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel unveiled his five-year budget blueprint yesterday, which proposes deep cuts to military personnel, benefits, and equipment. The cuts will bring the military back to "pre-WWII levels," says NBC News. As expected, the proposed changes have unleashed protests from lawmakers. Here's Senator John McCain's response.

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that President Obama's proposal to move the NSA's metadata program out of government hands into private ones will have a very hard time clearing his committee.

The New York Times reports that Israeli warplanes struck near the Lebanese-Syrian border. Precise details are still emerging, but Israeli planes have struck Syria three times this past year in order to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hizballah, the Assad-aligned Lebanese terrorist group, and this strike is assumed to be similarly motivated.

David Sanger, in the Times, analyzes why the Obama administration has refrained from attacking Syrian military installations by means of cyberwarfare and suggests that fears of a global cyber escalation are holding the US back. Jack commented on the story this morning.

The Telegraph reports that former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg was one of four people recently arrested for Syria-related terrorism offences. Begg was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan on suspicion of being a member of Al Qaeda and was held at both Bagram and Guantanamo before his release in 2005. Begg is a prominent activist for British Muslim rights and has published a book entitled Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey To Guantánamo And Back.

Reuters and the Times discuss the latest from Pakistan, where the military has launched air strikes at militants in Shawal, an area bridging North and South Waziristan. At least thirty alleged militants have been killed, and thousands have fled the region as rumors abound that the Pakistani military is poised for a stronger offensive against militants in the region.

A suicide bomber blew himself up near the home of the Iranian consul general in Peshawar, Pakistan. Two security guards were killed, and eleven others were injured.

Ahmed Rasheed reports on an arms deal between Iran and Iraq. The former has agreed to sell the latter $195 million worth of goodies---in direct violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that places an arms embargo on Iran.

Andy Greenberg has an exciting story in Forbes previewing Shape Security’s upcoming first public appearance at the RSA security conference this week. The ex-Google builders of the new web security appliance, Shapeshifter, have already raised over 60 million in investments and are emerging from stealth mode with a splash.

Relatedly, the MIT Technology Review reports on the new ultrasecure “Blackphone” that recently made its debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. The phone is the first of its kind to make privacy its top priority, and strongly encrypts all communications and blocks the tracking of your Web browsing and search terms.

Check out the eighth installment of the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast featuring Stewart Baker, Michael Vatis, Jason Weinstein with guest commentators Stephen Heifetz, Stephanie Ro and Ed Stroz.

Ben noted recent developments in the Sulaiman Abu Ghaith trial; Benjamin Weiser in the Times has an interesting profile of Zoe J. Dolan, one of his lawyers.

Matt Danzer pored through the transcripts of yesterday’s military commissions motions hearing in U.S. v. Al-Nashiri. Here’s  a high-level analysis from Carol Rosenberg. Wells will be back at Ft. Meade tomorrow after today’s closed session.

And, as one of us noted almost a year and a half ago, it turns out lost drones and lost puppies have a lot in common these days: It's Today's Moment of Zen.

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