Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Jane Chong
Monday, February 10, 2014, 10:47 AM

Jack earlier flagged the day's lead story, from the AP: another American citizen might be targeted for a drone strike.

How's security looking at the Winter Olympics? The answer appears to hover somewhere between good and disastrous. “I’ve never seen a greater threat in my lifetime,” declared Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.) on Fox News Sunday. "[S]omething will detonate, something will go off." The Hill has details on McCaul's apparent inability to mince words. For her part, Janet Napolitano, head of the U.S. delegation to the Games, shared cautious words of optimism on the security front on CNN's "State of the Union."

Meanwhile the LA Times cites U.S. intelligence officials who have expressed frustration with the Russian government's failure to cooperate about threats to the Olympic Games coming from inside the country. But according to American ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, the U.S. is "quite satisfied" with the information being provided by Russian security officials.

Yesterday the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran has agreed to take seven new measures to allay suspicions that it has been designing an atomic weapon, reports Reuters. One of the measures: for the first time, Iran will provide information that will allow the IAEA to assess Iran's need for fast-functioning detonators, which have non-nuclear uses but could also be used to set off an atomic device.

The Israeli military executed an airstrike against a Palestinian militant accused of firing rockets into Israel, critically wounding him and injuring a bystander, reports the New York Times. The strike is the country's third against a particular militant in Gaza in three weeks and marks Israel's return to "targeted killing" since the beginning of a cease-fire more than 14 months ago.

A three-day ceasefire theoretically allowed hundreds of civilians to leave the Syrian city of Homs, but the evacuations took place amid fire, which the rebels and the Bashar al-Assad regime blamed on each other, says the BBC. More than 500 civilians were evacuated from the city yesterday, according to Reuters. Sunday marked a second day of attacks on a UN humanitarian convoy that attempted to deliver food to a besieged part of the city, reports the Wall Street Journal. Elsewhere, in central Syria, extremist Islamic rebels killed 20 civilians in an attack on an Alawite village, writes the Associated Press.

A new report released yesterday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan notes that civilian casualties increased by 14 percent in 2013, after declining in 2012, reports the Washington Post. Nearly seventy five percent was attributed to the Taliban, but responsibility for at least 27 percent was lost to the "fog of war."
The Obama administration is contemplating a $300 million aid package to support programs in Afghanistan ahead of troop withdrawal, said USAID chief Larry Sampler. That's the word from Pajhwok Afghan News.
Unidentified gunmen attacked a Sufi religious gathering in Karachi on Sunday, killing at least eight and wounding 10 more, writes the BBC. Another attack in Peshawar left four women dead and at least six people wounded, says Dawn.
Former Congolese rebel leader Bosco "The Terminator" Ntaganda appears before the International Criminal Court this week for pretrial hearings on 13 counts of war crimes and 5 counts of crimes against humanity. Here's the BBC on developments at The Hague.
Mali's Security Minister Sada Samake declared on state television on Sunday that terrorists had ambushed two civilian vehicles, killing 24. Here is the AP.
Illegal elephant slaughter is financing the operations of Al-Shabaab and the Lord's Resistance Army, writes Rob Portman of CNN, in an op-ed advocating for the passage of the Conservation Reform Act and reauthorization of the Saving Vanishing Species Stamp.
Pursuant to a new rule change announced last week by the Obama administration, the Department and Homeland Security is no longer automatically barring entry to the United States for people who are considered to have provided limited material support to certain classified groups. Al Jazeera reports.
More than 1000 records obtained by the AP through a FOIA request describe the disturbing impunity with which service members have committed sex crimes at U.S. military bases in Japan. The records show that suspects were unlikely to serve time even when found culpable; in about 30 cases, assaulters were issued only a letter of reprimand, says the AP. Check out a summary of the AP's findings here.
Clifford Sloan told Reuters this weekend that the Obama administration is in the best position in years to negotiate repatriation of Guantanamo detainees.
For the second time, North Korea has canceled its invitation for a U.S. envoy to visit the country to discuss the possible release of American missionary Kenneth Bae, who has been held in North Korea for 15 months. The AP has the story.
Colombian designers are working on an insole that will alert farmers and security forces to nearby landmines, a welcome innovation in a country blanketed with unexploded landmines that have injured or killed over 10,000 people in the last 25 years. Check out the video from Reuters.
The White House and Congress have made little progress in improving cybersecurity of the nation's vital assets, according to Politico, in a story noting that the administration has not yet detailed a plan to provide companies incentives to adopt new cybersecurity standards, and that Congress has passed no related legislation.
Coursera, a popular U.S. provider of free massive open online courses (MOOCs), has been forced to begin blocking students in Iran, Cuba and Sudan to avoid violating U.S. export laws. According to the Daily Beast, any sanctions regime that results in this kind of censorship is hypocritical for a country that purports to defend online freedom.  The piece quotes Dr. Ebrahim Afsah on some of the big-picture harms:
“The ultimate results, as has become very obvious with respect to MOOCs, are eminently counter-productive, harming the very people US foreign policy should be reaching out to: the young who are hungry for an education and yearning to link back to the global mainstream,” Afsah wrote in an email.
Intelligence officials say Edward Snowden used web crawler software to scrape data out of NSA's networks, an unsophisticated technique that the agency should have had no trouble detecting, according to the New York Times.
Stephen Carter decries government hack-back in the wake of Snowden revelations that show Britain's Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group conducted denial-of-service attacks on hacktivist groups in 2011. He writes in Bloomberg:

Contemporary technology promises a vista of freedom unlike anything in the human past -- freedom, in particular, to communicate ideas. The Internet, in its organic way, has stubbornly resisted efforts to control and restrict it. Nobody can be happy with everything that happens online, and much of what’s out there is destructive. The dilemma we face -- the discussion we should be having -- is whether we want those acting in our name to use the tools they condemn to halt the conversations they don’t like.

Matthew Harwood of Al Jazeera America says that the case of Brandon Mayfield, a former U.S. Army platoon leader that the FBI mistook for a terrorist and pursued under a FISA warrant, is a terrifying example of what is possible in an American surveillance state.
Oops. On Friday the Canadian government accidentally posted online some detailed architectural drawings---which revealed the mechanical and electrical specifications of a secret electronic eavesdropping station. The New York Times reports.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.