Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tara Hofbauer
Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 1:21 PM

According to the Pentagon, Iraqi security forces have demonstrated progress in their efforts to maintain control of the oil refinery outside the northern Iraqi city of Baiji. The Wall Street Journal reports that Iraqi troops and Shia militias have fought through an Islamic State defensive line and successfully established a supply route to the besieged refinery, which is the country’s largest.

Defense One reports that the Islamic State has begun building and using tunnel networks to transport munitions and carry out deadly attacks. The strategy effectively prevents American and coalition intelligence-gathering tactics via drones and manned jets; such underground attacks were part of the Islamic State’s successful takeover of Ramadi.

According to the Washington Post, instead of destroying ancient artifacts it comes across, the Islamic State is now looting and selling some of the smaller antiquities in order to help finance its operations.

Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have introduced an amendment to the State Department policy bill authorizing the use of military force against the Islamic State. According to the Hill, the measure, which would sunset after three years, would act as “the sole statutory authority for U.S. military action against ISIS.”

Last week, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John Brennan traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, and other Israeli intelligence officials. According to Haaretz, the secret meetings centered on the continued P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The Post shares an interview with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, revealing how the agency is working to ensure the privacy and security of American consumers and their data from the machinations of private companies.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) has an op-ed in Politico, in which he offers a full-throated defense of the proposed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). President Obama has threatened to veto the bill due to mandatory sequestration cuts that have forced a reduction in the Pentagon’s base spending. Legislators have come up with a procedural work-around - funding routine activities through the Overseas Contingency Operations account - but the President wants Congress to come up with a long-term solution that applies to domestic spending, as well.

The Post reports that Army Secretary John McHugh intends to retire from his post by Nov. 1; the government has not offered a reason for Secretary McHugh’s departure. According to Defense News, President Obama will likely nominate Eric Fanning, Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s current chief of staff, to replace McHugh.

Yesterday, a hack by the Syrian Electronic Army, a group loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, prompted the U.S. Army to take down its webpage. The Military Times shares details.

In Defense One, Brad Carson, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness describes the Pentagon’s upcoming personnel overhaul, which is intended to transform the Department from a “hierarchical, linear organization” to a strategic “talent management system... which capitalize[s] on... innovative thought, technology, and speed of execution.”

It has now been two years since the first publication of news articles based on disclosures made by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. Over at Defense One, David Fidler, a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, considers whether we are better off, concluding that “history’s arc is longer than two years” and whether or not the current state of affairs is an improvement remains heavily debated.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Bobby Chesney noted his top five favorite “little-noticed provisions” in the House’s Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2016.

Paul Rosenzweig explained how the recent hacking of personnel information from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) constitutes effective offensive counterintelligence.

Bobby shared his thoughts on the New York Times’ SEAL Team 6 article.

Ken Anderson noted Alexandra H. Perina’s new paper “Black Holes and Open Secrets: The Impact of Covert Action on International Law.”

Sean Mirski described the history that underlies the current dispute among Asian nations in the South China Sea.

Sean also summarized key points from yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court in Zivotofsky v. Kerry---which Jack Goldsmith characterized as a significant victory for the executive branch.

Bobby considered how the detention of Umm Sayyaf may serve as a prototype for future captures of Islamic State militants.

Jane Chong explained what the latest Edward Snowden disclosures actually say.

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