Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines Commentary

By Clara Spera
Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 9:14 AM

In response to “extensive” pressure on the administration, the Department of Justice will release a 2011 memo that provided the legal justification for the killing of American terrorist suspects overseas. The Washington Post reports that DOJ ultimately decided not to appeal a court order to disclose the memo. There is no official word on the exact date of the release of the memo, but a DOJ official has claimed it will be released in a “matter of weeks.” The New York Times also has the story.

The Times has a piece on NSA surveillance, but from a different angle than most. Rather than looking at how and how often the U.S. government collects data from companies or government agencies abroad, David Sanger of the Times considers perhaps a more compelling question: why does the NSA do it, and what does protecting “national security” interests really mean? The answer, Sanger concludes, is difficult to pin down and varies on a case-by-case basis, but the broad message from the piece is that NSA surveillance goes beyond eavesdropping on terror cells and those tenuously linked to them.

[T]he government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of its broad definition of how it protects American national security. In short, the officials say, while the N.S.A. cannot spy on Airbus and give the results to Boeing, it is free to spy on European or Asian trade negotiators and use the results to help American trade officials---and, by extension, the American industries and workers they are trying to bolster.

Ladar Levison, the founder of an encrypted email startup, has written a piece for the Guardian revealing the steps the U.S government took to install surveillance software to his program and limit users' privacy. The site, Lavabit, by definition, was meant to ensure privacy to its users---among them, Edward Snowden---but government intervention ultimately caused Levison to shut down the service.

Russian President Putin has gone to China, the BBC reports, to reaffirm Russian-Chinese relations and to negotiate what would be a major natural gas deal. It’s not quite clear what was said or what was agreed upon between President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, with different news outlets reporting different outcomes.  The Times reports that the two nations have agreed to build a pipeline that would bring gas from Siberia to China, but that the precise details of the agreement remain unclear: there is no report of an actual contract between the two governments, or if the agreement was just the beginning of a longer process of negotiations. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is much more positive in its report of the meeting, claiming that the two nations “signed” an agreement. The BBC follows that report up, claiming that the agreement is a solid and definitive one. More to follow on this, we’re sure.

The United States has slapped a new set of sanctions against ten Russians. The Post reports that the Russian individuals in question have links to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, whose death highlighted the depth of human rights abuses in Russia.

Qusai Zakarya, a Syrian journalist who survived a chemical weapons attack in August of last year is hoping to raise awareness of the Syrian crisis in the United States. He has recorded a powerful video describing the attack; that’s over at Al Jazeera.

The Egyptian presidential campaign is quickly approaching, but the front-runner, Abdulfattah el-Sisi, is finding it difficult to campaign. The Telegraph reports that Sisi has not made any personal appearances for fear of assassination.

The United States is preparing for possible evacuations in Libya, as a response to the increased civil unrest in the country. The Hill reveals that the U.S. is increasing the number of Marines and aircraft in Sicily that would help to evacuate Americans from Libya.

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