Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Raffaela Wakeman
Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 11:58 AM

Judge Reggie Walton, the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ("FISC"), has ordered the Obama administration to conduct a declassification review of another order from that court----a 2008 ruling directed at Yahoo!, which compelled the company to turn over user data.  Carol Leonnig reports in the Washington Post, and here's the order itself.

Also in the Post, Jerry Markon asks whether the Snowden saga has bolstered constitutional claims against classified surveillance programs like PRISM.  Adam Liptak suggests an answer to that question over at the New York Times, reflecting on the U.S. government's arguments in Clapper v. Amnesty International, and prosecutors' practices in handling classified material.

Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch wrote in CNN on the economic impact of the NSA leaks.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut penned an op-ed in Politico over the weekend, advocating for reform of the FISC. Here's the gist:

My proposal, which I plan to introduce this month, will bring transparency to the process for selecting FISA court judges and ensure a broader diversity of views on the bench. It also will ensure that FISA court rulings are the product of a process in which both sides have the opportunity to be heard, a process designed to keep the government honest and allow for balanced consideration of difficult issues. This process will include a special advocate with the power and responsibility to ensure that privacy rights are considered in FISA court opinions, and an opportunity for civil society organizations to weigh in before the court issues a ruling that substantially alters the balance between liberty and security in federal policy.

House Republican Justin Amash wants to defund the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.  He may have a tough time doing that. It is whispered that the Rules Committee will impose strict floor consideration procedures, in order to maintain control over the amendment process for the coming year's Defense Appropriations bill.

The House Judiciary Committee has a high-profile hearing planned for this week, a discussion of the Obama administration's application of FISA. Headliners will be:

Panel I

  • Mr. James Cole,United States Department of Justice
  • Mr. John C. Inglis, National Security Agency
  • Mr. Robert S. Litt, Office of Director of National Intelligence
  • Ms. Stephanie Douglas, FBI National Security Branch

Panel II

  • Mr. Stewart Baker, Steptoe & Johnson, LLP
  • Mr. Steven G. Bradbury, Dechert, LLP
  • Mr. Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Ms. Kate Martin, Center for National Security Studies

Our last nugget of Snowdenia: the Post's Josh Hicks has the text of an email sent out to DHS employees, warning them against peeking at a particular story in that very newspaper, which apparently contains classified information.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will focus its efforts this week on whether and how to arm Assad regime opponents in Syria, Jeremy Herb of The Hill tells us.

There's a huge story in the U.S./Central America drug war.  The head of the Zetas, one of the most violent drug cartels in Mexico, was captured by Mexican police near the border with Texas.  Guess what Miguel Angel Trevino Morales had on him at the time of his arrest? $2M in cash and weapons, it seems.  Randal C. Archibold discusses the significance of Morales's capture in this New York Times story.

The Washington Post's Nick Miroff penned this story.  It delves into the dangers facing illegal Central American migrants, when they travel by train to the U.S.A.

Edith Lederer of the AP reports on U.N. Security Council deliberations over whether Iran violated U.N.  sanctions---by launching ballistic missiles. It seems the Council is divided on that point.

Russia has conducted a war game---the largest, according to the AP, since the country was called the USSR.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved President Obama's nominee B. Todd Jones to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and sent the nomination to the Senate floor for consideration.  The agency hasn't had a Senate-approved leader in seven years.  Sari Horwitz of the Post reports on the partisan showdown that awaits Jones's nomination.

Choe Sang-Hun writes in the Times that South Korea has officially blamed North Korea for a spate of June cyberattacks.  These took down many of the South's private and government-run websites.

The Department of Homeland Security may soon have a cybersecurity chief:  Sources tell The Hill's Jennifer Martinez that McAfee's CTO Phyllis Schneck may be the president's pick.

Walter Pincus focused his Monday column on Judge Royce Lamberth's order last week.  The latter barred genital searches of GTMO detainees, among other things.

Al Jazeera this week noted a DOJ filing in various GTMO habeas cases. It seems 100 bins' worth of detainee documents were collected from Camp 6 in February and April. It is unclear who the items' owners are. A "Habeas Privilege Review Team" will examine them, and determine ownership---though, according to the Al Jazeera piece, this may mean reviewing legally privileged materials.

Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin interviewed GTMO Sufiyan Barhoumi, who was captured in the same raid that caught Abu Zubaydah. Barhoumi really just wants to be charged with a war crime.  Bravin's story captures the essence of the detainee's legal status:

In a sense, Mr. Barhoumi is caught between two legal frameworks. To convict Mr. Barhoumi of a war crime, the Pentagon must prove to a military commission his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—the same high standard that applies in federal court. As an enemy combatant, however, the government need only show by a preponderance of evidence—in other words, with 51% certainty—that Mr. Barhoumi belonged to a force associated with the Taliban or al Qaeda.

Federal courts have found the government's evidence meets that test. In 2009, a federal judge, later upheld by an appeals court, concluded that Mr. Barhoumi "became a fighter against U.S. forces" and "was properly detained."

Which author's books are counted as contraband down at GTMO? Until quite recently, even John Grisham's were.  That's according to another Journal report by Jess Bravin.

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