Ben kicked off the week by giving us a virtual tour of “Strategic Jerusalem,” a photo essay chronicling his tour of the flashpoints for conflict that surround the city. The “tour,” he writes, is a “visual introduction to the strategic problems of Jerusalem for both Israelis and Palestinians,” making clear the strategic and moral complexities posed by the unique geography of the area. He also told us about his meeting with Sheikh Abdullah Nimar Darwish, an Israeli Islamist and the founder of the Israeli branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose thinking is deeply interesting on the matter of what it means to be a Palestinian Arab and a Muslim while a citizen of Israel.
Speaking of Israel and Palestine, Daniel Reisner brought us Part 1 of his reflections on the U.N.’s Gaza report. He questions the report’s characterization of the origins of the conflict and its argument that Israel is unambiguously an occupying force in Gaza under international law. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3.
Clint Watts provided this week’s Foreign Policy Essay, on the provocative topic of whether the United States should negotiate with terrorists. His answer? “No. And also yes.” The best path forward for the United States in Syria, he argues, is to first fragment the Al Nusra Front and then negotiate with splinter groups who disavow the Taliban and Al Qaeda as a proxy ground force for the United States.
On the Jihadology Podcast, Aaron Zelin discussed “Palestinians and Global Jihad” with Samar Batrawi:
Mai El-Sadany gave us a rundown of Egypt’s alarming new counterterrorism law, which includes many of what she identifies as “substantive and procedural areas of legal concern.” The law institutes harsh penalties for vaguely-defined acts of terrorism, creates a separate criminal court for terrorism crimes, and fines journalists exorbitantly for contradicting official government reports on terrorist attacks or counterterrorism operations. Meanwhile, Alex Loomis considered a recent New York Times op-ed that criticized U.S. military aid to Egypt, given the Egyptian government’s poor human rights record, and argued that the Times’ understanding of the aid program as illegal is misguided.
The gang reunited on this week’s Rational Security Podcast to discuss the U.S. decision to transfer Umm Sayyaf to Iraqi Kurdish custody, whether the bloom is off the rose for big-name leakers like Edward Snowden, and the strategic complexities of the Jerusalem landscape. Also, Ben showcases a prized possession of mine in Object Lessons.
Also on the topic of Snowden, Timothy Edgar weighed in on a blockbuster Times story on AT&T’s collaboration with the NSA, revealed in newly released documents from the Snowden trove. Edgar points out that this type of collaboration is the very paradigm of a “dog-bites-man story,” and that the real news buried in the Times piece is that the NSA may not have had access to Internet backbone. Instead, the documents suggest that the NSA obtained data from the backbone through telecommunications providers such as AT&T.
On the Lawfare Podcast, Carrie Cordero interviewed Mike Janke of the encrypted communications provider Silent Circle on the topic of “going dark.”
Paul posted a “bleg” (blog + beg) for help in puzzling out a report that the FBI was able to successfully crack information protected using the TrueCrypt encryptions system, which Paul (and the man arrested by the FBI) had previously believed to be essentially uncrackable. Does the story render moot everything we thought we knew about “going dark”?
Paul also let us know that the Department of Commerce has delayed giving up control of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority for another year. The Department hopes that the delay will enable a smoother transition.
Bruce Schneier noted that the NSA appears to consider the advent of quantum computers to be imminent, given that the agency is transitioning away from “quantum-vulnerable” algorithms. And Ben brought us news of something else that you can now do with computers: hack a “smart” sniper rifle. Be afraid; be very afraid.
I took a look at another frontier in high-tech violence: drone strikes. Lawfare has spent a good deal of time examining the legal and policy questions behind the Obama administration’s use of drone warfare as a counterterror strategy, but the administration also justifies the targeted killing program in the language of morality and just war theory. For that reason, I provide a literature review of the moral theory relevant to the ongoing debate over drone warfare and targeted killing.
For those of us still looking a thriller to serve as your August beach read—and also for those of us looking for something a little more substantive—Major General Charlie Dunlap reviewed Ghost Fleet, by Peter W. Singer and August Cole. The novel is an “often disturbing yet plausible—make that possibly plausible—scenario of a high-tech war set in the not-too-distant future,” less a novel than a tech-heavy war game but still a useful addition to any Lawfare reader’s repertoire.
And that was the week that was.