Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ritika Singh, Nick Basciano
Thursday, December 12, 2013, 1:50 PM

In what the New York Times is calling a “major step towards transparency,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel publicly acknowledged the presence of U.S. forces at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center at Al Udeid air base in Qatar. The base is the main location for tasking and operating the U.S. military’s vast fleet of air and space-based resources in the region. Walter Pincus in the Washington Post has more on the tactical details of the U.S. presence in Qatar, including a new air defense radar system and other seemingly permanent installations.

Protests in Ukraine continue: The Post reports that riot police stormed the main square in Kiev last evening, but pulled back ten hours after failing to disperse protesters. The BBC tells us us that the U.S. warned Viktor Yanukovych’s government against deploying military force against the protesters, a move that has the potential to provoke U.S. sanctions. Michael Weiss in Foreign Policy explains that the demonstrations are more about “protesting against the hegemonic protectionism of Moscow” and the dictatorial example of Belarus than they are about a trade agreement with the EU.

Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) has forced the United States to reassess its original December 31 deadline for the agreement. Anne Gearan and Ernesto Londoño of the Post have the story.

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza discusses why Obama won’t reign in the NSA's surveillance programs, and takes an in-depth look at Senator Ron Wyden's intellectual trajectory on the topic over the years.

Leaders of the intelligence community testified once again before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. NSA Director Keith Alexander warned that ending collection of telephony metadata, a dataset that has only been queried 200 times in 2013, would eliminate the only method to “connect the dots” in threats to the homeland and bring us back to a “pre-9/11 moment.” Here’s coverage from the Post and the Associated Press.

The NDAA will soon pass the House, a move that could happen as early as today, according to The Hill.

In more Congress news, the excellently-named Tom Hamburger tells us that Alejandro Mayorkas's nomination as the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has advanced to the full Senate for consideration.

The Hill reports that the Treasury and State departments, in an attempt to enforce sanctions against Iran, have targeted companies that have violated the sanctions and supported the Iranian nuclear program in some capacity.

Speaking of Iran sanctions, Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday briefed Senators---who are mulling new sanctions legislation---on the nuclear deal with Iran. Politico has more.

Kerry will hold another round of talks today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on all things security in the West Bank, says the Wall Street Journal.

Turkey closed its border to Syria on a temporary basis, citing increasing violence as the reason. Read more at CNN.

Gen. Salim Idris, leader of the Free Syrian Army, has fled the country after Islamist forces seized a major warehouse of supplies, says the Journal.

Thirteen news organizations, from the New York Times to the BBC, want reassurances from opposition fighters in Syria that their reporters won't be kidnapped.

Al Jazeera reports on a “media-blackout” put in place to block specific details of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay from going public.

Notable runners-up for TIME magazine’s Person of the Year, who ended up being Pope Francis, include Edward Snowden, Bashar al-Assad, and Hassan Rouhani, and Barack Obama. Snowden also made Foreign Policy’s list of 100 Global Thinkers for 2013. Shane Harris posted the statement Snowden sent in lieu of his attendance, which he attributed to “a bit of passport trouble.”

Adam Fisher has a piece in the New York Times Magazine on Luc Vincent, the man behind Google Maps. He also investigates the evolution of location-based services, and how Google’s indispensable Street View came about, among other topics.

And, Edward Snowden has offered to help the Obama administration with the biggest thorn in the president's side---from Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker, it's Today's Moment of Zen.

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