Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Ritika Singh
Monday, June 10, 2013, 2:05 PM
Let’s begin with all things Edward Snowden. The self-identified source of the NSA leaks explains his motives in this interview with the Guardian.

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Let’s begin with all things Edward Snowden. The self-identified source of the NSA leaks explains his motives in this interview with the Guardian. He also spoke with the Washington Post, and the New York Times reports on the story too. The Associated Press has five things to know about the whole fiasco. Ben and Bobby have many thoughts in this New Republic article. Robert O’Harrow Jr. deliberates in the Post on the pros and cons of outsourcing intelligence analysis to security contractors, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, where Snowden was last employed. The Times also covers the growth of private security firms post-9/11, and the close links between the companies and the U.S. government. Moving from the leaker to the substance of the leaks, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told ABC News yesterday that she was open to holding public hearings about the programs Snowden disclosed, according to the Times. She also said that the intelligence programs in question helped to thwart at least two gentlemen---David Headley and Najibullah Zazi---from perpetrating terrorist attacks, reports the Post. And the AP discusses whether, and to what extent, the program indeed contributed to the Zazi investigation. Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, meanwhile, argues that all of the branches of government “performed badly. . .by misrepresenting the scope of official surveillance, misgauging public concern and evading public accountability.” Shane Harris of Washingtonian magazine (though apparently not for long!) explains why the metadata of phone records is much “more invasive and a bigger threat to privacy and civil liberties” than the NSA’s PRISM system:
According to current and former intelligence agency employees who have used the huge collection of metadata obtained from the country's largest telecom carriers, the information is widely available across the intelligence community from analysts' desktop computers. The data is used to connect known or suspected terrorists to people in the United States, and to help locate them. It has also been used in foreign criminal investigations and to assist military forces overseas. But the laws that govern the collection of this information and its use are not as clear. Nor are they as strong as those associated with PRISM, the system the NSA is using to collate information from the servers of America's tech giants.
Timothy B. Lee asks in the Post whether the United States has become the kind of country dissidents need to flee from. Answer: If by dissidents you mean people who blow highly sensitive intelligence programs in knowing violation of the Espionage Act . . . probably. Speaking of fleeing, Elias Groll writes in Foreign Policy that Snowden’s decision to hole up in a Hong Kong hotel is a legally risky one. Former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey argues in this Wall Street Journal op-ed:
The Constitution and U.S. laws are not a treaty with the universe; they protect U.S. citizens. Foreign governments spy on us and our citizens. We spy on them and theirs. Welcome to the world. . . .Every time we tell terrorists how we can detect them, we encourage them to find ways to avoid detection.
David Rhode in the Atlantic describes the responses from all corners---the media, lawmakers, the administration, and the president himself---to the leaks about the surveillance programs, and concludes: “The president is trying to have it both ways. Two weeks ago, Obama called for a scaling back of the ‘war on terror.’ On Friday, he defended the vast post-9/11 state surveillance system whose only justification is to wage it.” Eric Posner of the University of Chicago and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU duel it out about you-know-what in the New York Times’s Room for Debate. Apparently, transparency means different things to different members of Congress. Josh Gerstein of Politico informs us that the Obama administration provided thirteen briefings to lawmakers on the Hill about the surveillance programs we’ve all been oh-so-shocked about. In other news---yes, there is other news---Taliban militants attacked Kabul International Airport this morning. Ernesto Londono of the Post has the story. The Times also covers the attack, saying that Afghan security forces managed to quell it, leaving only the militants dead. According to Reuters, President Karzai has given the U.K. two weeks to hand over the approximately ninety Afghan detainees being held at a British base (Britanamo Bay?) in the south of the country. Two American troops and one American civilian were killed in Afghanistan over the weekend in a green-on-blue attack, says Daniel Strauss of the Hill. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain took a field trip to Guantanamo Bay this weekend, along with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and issued this statement calling for the closure of the prison. Not to be outdone, Sen. Jim Inhofe issued this rebuttal, Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald reports. The White House will discuss arming the rebels and a possible no-fly zone over Syria this week, says Elise Labott of CNN. Al Jazeera has obtained a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra Front, ruling against the merger of the two groups. Gen. John Allen, ex-commander of ISAF, is now a Distinguished Fellow at the Brookings Institution. And, I highly recommend that you check out #NSAkidsbooks, where, according to the Guardian, you’ll find the covers of such classic children’s literature as “The Listening Tree,” by Shel Silverstein, and “Charlotte’s Webcam,” by E.B. White: it’s today’s Moment of Zen. For more interesting law and security-related articles, follow us on Twitter and check out the Lawfare News Feed, 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.

Ritika Singh was a project coordinator at the Brookings Institution where she focused on national security law and policy. She graduated with majors in International Affairs and Government from Skidmore College in 2011, and wrote her thesis on Russia’s energy agenda in Europe and its strategic implications for America.

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