Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic, Cody M. Poplin
Wednesday, June 10, 2015, 4:02 PM

The Obama administration plans to send up to 450 additional US troops to Iraq to assist in the fight against ISIS--a decision likely influenced by the recent fall of Ramadi. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, emphasized that the troops will be working as military advisors to assist and train the Iraqi army. The advisors will be stationed near the town of Habbaniya in Anbar Province, from which they are expected to advise on the recapture of Ramadi. Though the New York Times characterizes this as a “major shift of focus” in US policy on ISIS, General Martin Dempsey of the Joint Chiefs of Staff describes the plan as simply a recognition of recent setbacks in US efforts.

For those keeping track of the number of boots on the ground in this ostensibly ground troop-less war, the number of U.S. personnel has come to 3,550. Josh Rogin at Bloomberg also brings us the rather unsurprising news that the ISIS war authorization recently introduced yesterday by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) was dead on arrival in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here’s your evergreen tweet from Rogin: “The episode bodes poorly for future Congressional oversight of President Barack Obama’s war.”

Despite American airstrikes (and leaflets), ISIS’s recruitment continues unabated, with Foreign Policy reporting that anti-ISIS airstrikes have actually become a recruitment tool for the militant group. The Times also sees ISIS’s resilience to airstrikes reflected in the group’s attacks yesterday near Baghdad and Surt, in northern Libya.

The Wall Street Journal and BBC report on the “transformation” of Mosul since the city fell under ISIS control one year ago exactly. Descriptions of harsh punishments, strict prohibitions on certain goods, mandatory dress codes for both men and women, and bans on travel all combine to characterize a “trapped” city.

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed three suspected members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula earlier today. The strike occurred in the south of the country, near the port of Mukalla. A local official told the AFP that the strike killed a “leading figure.”

Elsewhere, the New York Times reports that in its fight for power, the world’s most infamous terrorist organization has adopted a new tactic: al Qaeda is sharing power with locals on ground. In an attempt to challenge the Islamic State’s model of jihad, al Qaeda’s branches in Yemen and Syria are “making common cause with local groups on the battlefield,” while presenting a more moderate face. They are also turning away from the key strategy outlined by the group's founder, Osama bin Laden, of focusing on the “far enemy,” or the United States, instead of attempting to directly fight the rulers of countries in the Middle East.

The Guardian examines the recent use of “anti-radicalisation software” in British schools. The software monitors students’ internet use in search of keywords that may point to radicalization, including terms like “jihobbyist” and “YODO” (short for “you only die once”).

From the Wall Street Journal---itself relying on the work of the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab---we learn that a virus which recently attacked Kaspersky Lab may also have been used to spy on nuclear negotiations with Iran. While no fingers have officially been pointed, reporting indicates that Israel may be responsible. Wired provides a detailed account of the functioning and detection of the virus, which appears to be related to the same Duqu malware that made a splash in 2011.

The Chinese military conducted air and sea drills near Taiwan and the Philippines earlier today, passing through the Bashi Channel. China’s Defense Ministry noted that the drills were routine planned exercises. Al Jazeera has more on the drills, which occurred in the hotly contested South China Sea. (Apropos, Lawfare’s Sean Mirski has provided a legal primer on that dispute.)

In Defense One, Steve LeVine places the fight over the contested islands in context, explaining how China is building the biggest commercial-military empire in history. It’s a “latticework” of infrastructure, financed by the Chinese government and protected by Chinese security forces.

India and Bangladesh signed an agreement swapping “enclaves” of territory along the two countries’ shared border late last week when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh. The agreement will allow those stateless individuals who live in the enclaves to choose either Indian or Bangladeshi citizenship. Meanwhile, skirmishes continue along the Indian-Burmese border between insurgent groups and the Indian military.

In a rare move, the FISA Court heard outside arguments on the reauthorization of NSA bulk surveillance under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Though the USA Freedom Act allows bulk collection under that authority to continue for 180 days, the court’s authorization of the program expired on June 1 and has yet to be renewed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his plans to use debate on the National Defense Authorization Act to spearhead cybersecurity legislation through the Senate. The measure, which would incentivize information-sharing on cyberattacks between companies and the government, faces opposition from both privacy advocates and those who feel its security measures do not go far enough.

Also in NDAA news, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have introduced an amendment that would formally codify prohibitions against torture. Speaking of torture, over at the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins ponders just what happened to the eye that Abu Zubaydah lost while in CIA custody from 2002-2006

In Wired, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) --- who is currently waging a war to reform the Pentagon ---outlines how the Defense Department can recruit Silicon Valley to help it maintain its advantage in military technology.

The Times reports on the burgeoning use of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 by U.S. attorneys to prosecute foreign citizens for terrorist acts committed outside the US. According to Karen J. Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law, the United States has become “the jailer, the military front and now the prosecutor” of global crimes. The Times notes that if her leadership in Brooklyn is any indicator, Attorney General Loretta Lynch will use her new platform to continue going after criminals on the other side of the globe.

A new Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans believe anti-terrorism programs should not violate civil liberties, as opposed to those who believe that the government should be less concerned with civil liberties when security is on the line. These figures have held roughly steady since 2002.

The Center for a New American Security released a new report on the “World of Proliferated Drones” today. The report examines the level of proliferation of drones to states, non-state actors, and individuals, and what drones with various capabilities will enable each to achieve.

Parting Shot: Rudolph beware! Sam’s Club plans to do its part in proliferating that technology this holiday season. The Journal reports that the box store giant is betting that drones will “fly off the shelves.” Marketing plans include an “interactive” drone and in-store drone-flying demonstrations.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Sean Mirski brought us a legal primer on the developing dispute in the South China Sea.

Guantanamo Bay detainee Mukhtar Yahia Naji al Warafi’s filed a supplemental memorandum to his “end of war” motion against the Obama administration. Taj Moore brings us the story.

Paul shared an update on the bipartisan agreement taking shape in the House over the IANA transition.

Jack wrote on the “dizzying” endorsement of Zivotofsky by the New York Times editorial board, which among other things, vindicated signing statements.

Paul Stephan also covered Zivotofsky, writing that the opinion is “about the court itself as much as it is about foreign relations law.”

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