Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Jane Chong
Monday, August 19, 2013, 9:52 AM

First stop, surveillance.

Make that stopover nine hours. The Guardian reports that Glenn Greenwald's partner was detained for the maximum time allowed under the UK's controversial Terrorism Act while en route to his home in Brazil. David Miranda was interrogated about Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras and stripped of his electronics, before being released without charges. Greenwald issued this statement yesterday condemning the officials for "profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism." Here is the New York Times.
Brazil has issued its own statement in protest, writes the BBC. Upsetting Brazil has become something of a U.S. routine. According to this Foreign Policy story, Brazil is rebuilding parts of the country's physical internet infrastructure in response to Edward Snowden's claims that the NSA has made Brazil the capital of its Latin America spying regime.
Is 2,776 a big number? NSA Compliance Director John DeLong says it's all relative. In a conference call with reporters on Friday, DeLong pointed out that the NSA makes 20 million queries a month of its databases, putting the thousands of mistakes the agency makes annually in intercepting surveillance in the "parts-per-million or parts-per-billion range." The number of errors made by all NSA offices combined remains unknown. But based on what is known, Jennifer Rubin of the Post points out the error rate is "virtually nonexistent": 2,776/(12 x 20,000,000) =0.00001156666.
Yesterday Ben noted the government's ham-fisted attempts to push back against allegations of systematic surveillance abuse. Chalking up the NSA errors to another kind of intelligence problem, Shane Harris laments that the NSA just "won't admit how dumb it is." The running gag is that we are all a typo away from being watched. Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have issued this statement calling for reform.
On Friday, the New York Times Editorial Board briefly shifted the spotlight from the NSA to the DOJ, calling for the department to release two memos containing official guidance for federal agents and prosecutors on how the Jones decision affects their ability to use tracking technology. Technically, the DOJ did release those memos in response to the ACLU's FOIA request---all 111 unreadable pages of them.
Meanwhile, uncharacteristically eager to appease, the CIA appears to be reaching deep into its ledger for arbitrary secrets to spill. Yesterday, the CIA openly acknowledged its role in the controversial 1953 coup that overthrew the Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh. The disclosure comes on the heels of the CIA's decision, to the grave disappointment of aliens throughout the galaxy, to declassify information revealing Area 51 to be a U-2 spy plane testing site.
Egypt continues to bleed.
The Times reports this morning that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been ordered released.
The Associated Press reports that at least 36 prisoners being transported by truck convoy were killed on Sunday, allegedly suffocated by tear gas. Morsi supporters put the number at 52 and say the detainees were slain.
On Saturday, Egypt's State Information Service (SIS) attacked foreign coverage of the the violence taking place in Egypt as biased in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here is the Atlantic; Robert Mackey at the Times has the SIS's statement. Saudi King Abdullah, key supporter of Egypt's military generals, is casting the crackdown as an Arab affair and calling for certain countries-that-will-not-be-named to mind their own business. See the Wall Street Journal's take here.
Everyone is unhappy with the U.S. approach to Egypt, says Michele Kelemen of NPR. Some descriptions: "feckless" (David Rohde of Reuters); "disaster" (Peter Beinart of the Daily Beast). Senator John McCain argues that the U.S. has "no credibility" in Egypt so long as we refuse to cut off aid and in other ways exert influence on the country. Rosa Brooks had a strongly worded op-ed last Friday in Foreign Policy claiming that the U.S. has no standing to condemn the killings in Egypt given the "disgraceful" opacity surrounding U.S. drone strikes.
Other stuff:
Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif is tentatively scheduled to address the country today on issues of national security and regional stability, says the Express Tribune.
An anonymous Taliban official claims that the Taliban may be relocating its Qatar office.
The AP writes that UN chemical experts have arrived in Damascus, finally beginning investigation into the role of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war. Noah Shachtman and Colum Lynch ask why we know so little about the country's nerve gas attacks. Syrian gunmen opened fire on a street early Saturday morning and killed eleven people, mostly Christians, in Homs province.
Why did Maj. Nidal Hasan fire on his fellow soldiers? Among the government's theories: "jihad duty."
Should atheist chaplains be banned from serving the military? The House of Representatives says yes. Jason Heap, an aspiring navy "humanist chaplain," says no. The LA Times reports.
The son of a man killed on 9/11 has anonymously donated 70 new books to the Guantanamo prison library. The Miami Herald has the story.
On Sunday, a Palestinian man hacked into Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook account---and left a polite wall post apologizing for the intrusion but noting that the Facebook security team has been ignoring his attempts to communicate the security vulnerability in play. The company's response: No vulnerability reward for you. Stay classy, Facebook.
Time correspondent Michael Grunwald made a bad joke on Twitter on the expendability of Julian Assange. Bad move, says the Twitterverse. The New Yorker's Amy Davidson tells us why drone-kills-reporter jokes fall flat.
Drones normally spell the end. What about beginnings? Some anecdotal evidence for the viability of marriage proposal by drone.
For more interesting law and security-related articles, follow us on Twitter, visit the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law’s Security Law Brief, Syracuse’s Institute for National Security & Counterterrorism’s newsroll and blog, and Fordham Law’s Center on National Security’s Morning Brief and Cyber Brief. Email Raffaela Wakeman and Ritika Singh noteworthy articles to include, visit the Lawfare Events Calendar for upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings at the Lawfare Job Board.