Today, we start with Syria and – for once – some constructive news. The United States, Russia, UK, China and France have come to an agreement in the United Nations Security Council that “would require Syria to dismantle its once-secret chemical weapons program.” The UNSC resolution, passed unanimously in committee, does not specify particular or immediate consequences if Syria fails to comply. The diplomatic advance in the UN might altogether quell fears of a possible US-backed military intervention in the civil war torn country. The New York Times and the Washington Post have the story. The Times Editorial Board expresses cautious optimism at the progress made yesterday. The Post has an informative info-graphic that helps us understand Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.
Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee held its first open hearing on FISA. The full video is here. The Associated Press reports on the growing tension between General Alexander, Director of the NSA, and some Senators. The Post focuses on Chairwoman Feinstein’s vision for the NSA: she would “change, but preserve” the NSA’s practice of bulk telephony metadata collection. The Guardian, Reuters and the Legal Times all have coverage of the hearing.
Meanwhile, Britt Snider, former inspector general of the CIA, and Charles Battaglia, former staff director of the Senate intelligence committee, have written an Op-Ed in the Post calling for an independent inspector general for the NSA. They call for a model similar to one employed by the CIA, and argue that such a change would encourage more public support of the NSA.
Over in the United Kingdom, discussions of changing surveillance laws are also taking place. The Guardian reports on a proposal by John King, Baron King of Wartnaby, former Defence Secretary and former Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. He is urging Parliament to revise its surveillance legislation, so as to make sure that the country’s defense systems can cope with more advanced technology and communications software.
Yesterday, we covered a story in which Somali President Hassan Mohamud warned the United States that Al Shabab, the terrorist organization responsible for the attacks in Nairobi, could be targeting the United States for an attack. Attorney General Holder has reacted to those claims, seriously questioning Al Shabab’s capacity to carry out any attack in the United States.
The Attorney General also called into question reports that any Americans were involved in the attack in Kenya, challenging the credibility of many reports that stated that American citizens were either killed or harmed. So far, there is no verification of such claims.
The New York Times has a piece on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s week in the United States, and his welcome, moderate message. President Rouhani has pledged to end Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West, denounced Nazism, and met with a dozen American business leaders. But Rouhani’s call to Israel to disarm its nuclear weapons has some political strategists worried that his policies are much more similar to former President Ahmadinejad’s, just veiled with a “charm offensive.”
Times are tough for imprisoned Pinochet-era military officials in Chile. President Pinera has announced that his administration is finally shutting down the luxury Cordillera prison. The facility, which holds perpetrators of crimes against humanity, torture, killings and other abuses, offered its inmates private cabins with en-suites and hot water, a tennis court, frequent barbeques and a pool. Don’t forget that the Pentagon rejected a $200 request for Guantanamo upkeep, including funding to build a cafeteria.
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