Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Yishai Schwartz
Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 2:04 PM

Events in Ukraine continue to dominate today’s national security conversations. The New York Times reports on Vladamir Putin’s first public remarks on the Crimean crisis, remarks that struck a defiant tone and insisted that Russian forces had been deployed only to protect innocents from Fascist militants. Meanwhile, Secretary Kerry has landed in Kiev and already pledged 1 billion in loan guarantees and technical support to key government ministries, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session, and spouted plenty of recriminations---but also took no formal actions. Interestingly, both Putin and Russia’s UN ambassador seem to be paying lip service to international law as they frame the Russian invasion in terms of self-defense and as a response to a Ukrainian request. At Opinio Juris, Chris Borgen considers the latter claim. (For more on the international law implications of the conflict, see Lauren’s and Ashley’s recent posts here on Lawfare.)

In Foreign Policy, Dan Lamothe analyzes the strength of Ukrainian armed forces and concludes (unsurprisingly) that they would be vastly outmatched by the Russian army. Things might not be so simple, however. Here at Lawfare, Paul observed that Ukrainian cyber capabilities are fairly extensive. And Army Times reports that a former general familiar with the Ukrainian military, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, believes that Ukrainian forces would fight back tenaciously.

There are, of course, other countries of national security concern. South Korean military officials report that North Korea recently tested rocket launchers with a range long enough to strike major American and South Korean military bases, and to hit Seoul from beyond the range of South Korea’s recently deployed Spike missiles. The Times suggests that the tests may be a response to South Korean and American joint military exercises.

Also from the Times: the death count among Afghan forces is actually far greater than previously thought.  According to an official report, more than 13,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed during the war---and the tempo of the violence appears to be increasing as coalition forces draw down.

In Pakistan, at least eleven people, including a senior judge, were killed when suicide attackers opened fire and blew themselves up in Islamabad yesterday. Al-Jazeera has the story.

The Journal reports on Chinese authorities’ moderated, calibrated approach to the recent mass knife-attack at Kunming's train station. According to the Journal, authorities are anxious to avoid vigilante violence against Uighurs and riots.

The Times reports on the start of the criminal trial of Kuwaiti-born cleric Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden, in a Manhattan Federal courtroom. From public reports, it appears that the defense strategy will be to portray Ghaith’s role in al-Qaeda as negligible.

The Hill reports that earlier today at a Georgetown event, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse criticized NSA for compounding the harm done by Edward Snowden in failing to react swiftly and effectively, and hesitating to “put the true story out there.”

Following last week’s revelations of mass webcam image collection by British intelligence, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has commissioned a review to examine the “proportionality of the data gathered for surveillance purposes and the legal framework in which this happens.” The review comes on the heels of Clegg’s failure to convince Prime Minister Cameron to support new restrictions on the British intelligence community. The Guardian has the story.

A lengthy piece in the National Journal by Michael Hirsh and James Oliphant argues that President Obama's failure to revise the post 9/11 AUMF will lead to an institutionalization of an "extremely odd" war and vastly extended executive authority. The authors suggest that "rather than developing a 'code' for future presidents" as he intended, President Obama may leave his successor "an open-ended license to conduct permanent drone warfare, or to place American boots on the ground anywhere in the world."

The Journal has an interview with Jason Weinstein and Steven Chabinsky, senior officials from the Justice Department and FBI. In the interview, the two urge greater use of private sector resources in fending off cyberattacks.

In response to a loosening of restrictions by the Justice Department, Verizon has updated its January transparency report to provide more information on national security orders issued in 2013.

Whoa. Facebook is currently negotiating the purchase of Titan Aerospace, a drone manufacturer, with the goal of using the drones to bring the internet to various parts of the un-networked world. Techcrunch has the story.

Reuters reports that at least four suspected al Qaeda militants were killed in airstrikes yesterday in Yemen.

And for those who wish to know about these strikes in real time: last month Apple made public an iPhone app, metadata+, that sends an alert to your phone every time the United States conducts a drone strike.  Policymic has the story.

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