Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Elina Saxena
Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 4:51 PM

More than two weeks after a Russian plane crashed over the Sinai Peninsula, Russian officials have confirmed that a bomb was responsible for bringing down the plane. The head of the FSB, Russia’s security service, stated that they “can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act.” In response to the discovery, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed that “[the Russian] air force's military work in Syria must not simply be continued," but that it “must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable." So far, seventeen people have been detained in Egypt in relation to the attack, two of whom are suspected of providing aid to those who placed the bomb on the plane.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, France has declared a state of emergency and mobilized 115,000 security personnel. French forces carried out over 128 raids between Monday and Tuesday. Dozens of weapons have been seized, and a total of 23 suspects have been detained, including three individuals previously known to Belgian authorities. Police continue to search the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, a suspected center of Islamist activity, and the New Yorker writes that “the focus of the terror investigation has shifted to Brussels.” All seven Belgians arrested in connection with the Paris attacks hailed from Molenbeek. The Guardian profiles the terror cell that committed the attacks in Paris.

In response to the recent attacks, Russia and France are escalating strikes against the Islamic state, targeting the group’s stronghold of Raqqa. While Russia and France are not pursuing coordinated operations, the Kremlin acknowledged that "Putin spoke to Hollande by telephone and had ordered the Russian navy to establish contact with a French naval force heading to the eastern Mediterranean, led by an aircraft carrier, and to treat them as allies." The two leaders are set to meet next week. Putin announced that Russian ships would cooperate with French strikes. Though Washington has continually rejected coordination in Syria, Russia alerted the United States to its strikes on Raqqa. Russia struck the ISIS stronghold using sea-launched cruise-missiles, and for the first time in the conflict, long-range bombers, the Wall Street Journal tells us.

On Monday, French president François Hollande declared that “France is at war” with the Islamic State. French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian invoked European Union's mutual assistance clause as expressed in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty for the first time on Tuesday, “asking [France’s] partners for military help and other aid in missions in the Middle East and Africa after the Paris attacks.” Meanwhile, Vice News tells us why France can’t put enough boots on the ground to defeat ISIS, pointing to the challenges involved in counterinsurgency efforts.

The Associated Press reports that the United States will increase intelligence sharing with France. The new intelligence sharing arrangement is “designed to more readily and quickly allow joint military planning in the campaign against the Islamic State.” Speaking at the G20 Summit, the Times writes that President Obama “vowed ‘an intensification’ of appropved tactics, but vigorously rejected calls to go further, dismissing critics as "playing ‘political games’ or offering shallow solutions.”

Brookings' William McCants writes that the Islamic State is "a leading state sponsor of terrorism, and it's expanding its reach to targets across the globe" in a declaration of war on the world.

Indeed, the attacks have sparked concerns about future ISIS operations against the West. CIA Director John Brennan warned on Monday that the attacks in Paris were likely not a “one-off event.” He explained those attacks had likely been planned for months and shed light on a strained European intelligence community overwhelmed in its tracking of Europeans returning to the continent after fighting in Syria. Brennan also said that the Islamic State was pursuing an “external operations agenda,” as they have begun to plan and execute attacks outside of their sphere of traditional operations.

In his remarks, Brennan also “criticized new privacy protections enacted after Edward Snowden’s disclosures about U.S. government surveillance practices,” pointed to speculation surrounding the possible use of encrypted messaging apps to coordinate the Paris attack. While there is no definitive public evidence of the use of encryption, the New York Times highlights the “range of encryption technologies over the past year and a half” used by the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Wired challenges arguments against encryption in light of the attacks. Defense One explains how the ongoing investigation of the Russian plane crash could also impact debates on encryption.

Live updates on the latest from France and the international response against the Islamic State are provided by the BBC, le Monde, and the Guardian.

In addition to provoking renewed backlash against Islam in France, the attacks in Paris have sparked resentment and fear of Syrian refugees. In the United States, 27 governors have announced they will bar the entry of Syrian refugees into their states. The Wall Street Journal writes that “high-ranking Republicans in Congress also are considering ways to stop the efforts to settle migrants, and a number of GOP presidential candidates on Monday took a similarly hard line.” In response to the backlash, McClatchy sheds light on the process involved in permitting Syrian refugees to enter the country.

Foreign Policy reports that “the gloves are coming off in the U.S. war against the Islamic State’s oil” as a "U.S. aerial assault that tore through 116 ISIS oil tankers parked near an Iraqi border crossing Sunday night." Oil reserves in Iraq contribute significantly to the group’s financing, with black market oil sales generating some $2 million a day. The U.S. is also working with Turkey to secure Syria’s northern border. Meanwhile, as the Syrian government pushes forward against opposition forces, Syrian forces captured a village in Western Syria from ISIS militants.

Tunisia arrested seventeen militants, thwarting an attack on Sousse, a resort town attacked by ISIS earlier this year. Tunisian authorities seized Kalashnikov rifles, explosives, and a bomb belt during the arrests.

Israel has approved lifting the freeze on the “marketing of land for the construction of 454 homes in two settlements in East Jerusalem.” The creation of housing units in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo was approved in 2012 but halted in efforts to avoid conflict with Washington. As tensions and violence continue across the country, the Palestinian Authority has condemned the plan as a "flagrant violation of international law." The New York Times reports that Israel has also “outlawed a leading Islamic group it accuses of inciting Arabs to violence in its latest attempt to quash a deadly two-month wave of unrest.”

Meanwhile, Spain has issued a warrant for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to the 2010 attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

Yemeni president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi returned to Aden to "supervise" the Yemeni troops and Saudi-led coalition as they prepared to launch their offensive to retake the Taez province, which is largely controlled by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Hadi has been intermittently exiled in Saudi Arabia for months despite repeated attempts to return to Yemen.

Amid ongoing disputes in the South China Sea, the New York Times writes that President Obama has pledged military aid to countries in Southeast Asia. Beginning his five day visit to Asia in the Philippines, Obama sent a message to China by announcing that “the United States would spend an additional $250 million over the next two years to help ensure maritime security for countries in Southeast Asia.” For its part, China suggests that it has showed “great restraint” in the South China Sea by not claiming additional islands.

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy delayed his return to the country from South Korea, after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Accused of defamation, Rainsy fears his return and potential arrest could trigger violence across the country.

Former German intelligence agent Markus Reichel admitted that he spied for the CIA and even passed along information to Russian intelligence. Charged with treason, he claimed that he was motivated by dissatisfaction in his work for the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND)

Politico reports that the D.C. Court of Appeals granted a stay that will allow the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program to continue through November 29th. The move came in response to a previous injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon last week that ordered the NSA to halt its collection of a California lawyer's telephone data.

Parting shot: Security at the G-20 Summit in Turkey this weekend wasn’t all that it could have been, it seems, as these cool cats had no problem breaking through and strolling on stage with the likes of Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Yes, we mean literal felines.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Lawfare introduced its new managing editor, Susan Hennessey. Find Susan on Twitter and join us in welcoming her (back) to the Lawfare team!

Ben asked what role encryption played in the attacks that swept through Paris on Friday.

Jack explored President Obama’s national security legacy after Paris.

Aaron Zelin shared an emergency Jihadology Podcast, featuring a conversation with Timothy Holman on French and Belgian jihadi networks and the background to the Paris attacks.

Ben noted that the Pentagon has transferred five more Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Later, Ben highlighted remarks from CIA Director John Brennan at CSIS.

Ken Anderson reviewed Cyberwar: Law and Ethics for Virtual Conflicts, an edited volume that is much more than the sum of its individual parts.

Finally, Elina pulled the relevant national security discussions from Saturday’s Democratic presidential primary debate.

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.