Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Jane Chong
Monday, November 4, 2013, 12:38 PM
This weekend in the transnational NSA fallout:
On Saturday, the New York Times published a lengthy feature on NSA's domestic and international eavesdropping.  The piece overviews everything from NSA's interception of FARC rebel communications using a DoD plane 60,000 feet above Colombia, to the "communications fingerprinting" that allows the agency to filter international communications for messages tied to a particular target. Scott Shane writes:

Today’s N.S.A. is the Amazon of intelligence agencies, as different from the 1950s agency as that online behemoth is from a mom-and-pop bookstore. It sucks the contents from fiber-optic cables, sits on telephone switches and Internet hubs, digitally burglarizes laptops and plants bugs on smartphones around the globe.

In a conversation with Democracy Now, Shane discusses his Times reporting, which characterized NSA "as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities." The video is available here. The agency's dietary habits are making Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt very unhappy---Schmidt blasts the U.S. over allegations that NSA is spying on the company's data centers in this interview with Deborah Kan of the Wall Street Journal.
In an appearance yesterday on CBS's "Face the Nation," Senate and House Intelligence Committee heads Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich) rejected the idea of granting clemency to Edward Snowden. Meanwhile, fifty high-profile Germans have banded together to urge clemency, reports Philip Oltermann of the Guardian. The Guardian also reports that Germany's Green politician Hans-Christian Ströbele had a secret meeting with Snowden on Friday, renewing speculation as to whether Germany will grant Snowden political asylum pending the Bundestag's special session on NSA spying in two weeks.
NSA revelations may have Europe in an uproar, but China is a bright spot in otherwise souring U.S.-world relations, notes Paul Eckert over at Reuters.
The Snowden leaks will change how the NSA conducts surveillance, write Ken Dilanian and Jessica Guynn in the LA Times.
In non-surveillance developments abroad:
The Friday drone killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban's top man, has set off a round of condemnation from the country's political leaders despite his hand in the deaths of thousands of Pakistani civilians. Pakistan has summoned U.S. ambassador Richard G. Olson to register its protest, notes Voice of AmericaHere is Declan Walsh of the New York Times on the Pakistani response, and the American response to the response:

To some American security analysts, the furious reaction was another sign of the perversity and ingratitude that they say have scarred Pakistan’s relationship with the United States . . . . To many Pakistanis, though, it is the United States that is double-dealing.

Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf is out on bail as of Monday after six months under house arrest for his alleged involvement in the killing of a radical cleric and more than 100 others during a 2007 mosque raid. Here is the BBChere is the AP.

The U.S. has failed in the battle against Afghanistan's opium trade. The drug crisis has devastated the country---a recently released report estimates that 1.6 million people, or 5.3 percent of the population, are drug users, according to this story from Azam Ahmed of the New York Times. Ernesto Londoño of the Washington Post quotes Haroon Rashid Sherzad, Afghanistan’s deputy counter­narcotics minister on the security implications:

“The concern I have is whether the international community realizes the importance of this problem for global instability and security,” he said in an interview, singling out regional neighbors in particular. “They should understand that the drug economy is fueling terrorism, destabilizing the region and the global village. It is vanishing the achievements of the past 10 years.”

Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, argues in a New York Times op-ed that "talks with Iran have succeeded in the past — and they can succeed again." Meanwhile, Senator Marco Rubio has a piece over at Politico criticizing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for being thus far all talk and no walk, and urging the Obama administration to tighten sanctions---so as to ensure that Iran scraps its nuclear weapons program. Thawing Iran-U.S. relations have become a major point of contention in Iran. On Monday tens of thousands of protestors gathered outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran for the country's biggest anti-American rally in years, reports Al Jazeera America.
Karen DeYoung and Bob Woodward reported Saturday, in the Post, on Saudi Arabia.  It leads a contingent of Persian Gulf countries in increasing military support for Syrian rebels, independent of U.S. action.  (The group of Gulf states sees policy failure in President Obama's decision not to launch strikes against Syria.) In an apparent bid to soothe U.S.-Saudi ties, Secretary of State John Kerry made a brief visit to Saudi Arabia, during a whirlwind trip that also included stops in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. Here is Voice of America and here is the BBC on Kerry's efforts to downplay tensions.
Around 55,000 middle school children in the Gaza Strip are taking their history lessons from new Hamas-created revisionist textbooks, report Fares Akram and Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times.
The trial of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi has been delayed.  The ex-leader refused to don his prison uniform as part of his protest against the illegitimacy of the trial. Al Jazeera America has details.
UK law enforcement officials have lost track of Somali-born terror suspect Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed after he disguised himself in women's clothing on Friday, reports the Associated Press.
Kenyan officials have charged four Somali nationals for aiding in the Westgate Mall attack.  The men face a court hearing next week, writes the AP.
As for some news stateside:
A report by the Taskforce on Preserving Medical Professionalism in National Security Detention Centres has concluded that, at the direction of the CIA and Defense Department, doctors employed by the U.S. military participated in the torture of detainees. Sarah Boseley of the Guardian has the story.
Yesterday 60 Minutes aired Lesley Stahl's venture into Guantanamo. In the video, a prisoner can be heard yelling from his cell: "Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace, or either tell the world the truth. Let the world hear what's happening." The video is below; you also can read the CBS script of Stahl's exchange with Brigadier General Mark Martins here.
To end on a note of technological suspense: Julian Barnes has a story in the WSJ on the Pentagon's struggle to build its new long-range bomber without going broke. And as they mentioned this morning, our own Kenneth Anderson and Matthew Waxman have an op-ed in the WSJ today on the life-saving capabilities of autonomous weapons and the need to ensure their ethical and legal use.
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