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Today's Headlines and Commentary

Clara Spera
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 10:15 AM
The Times is reporting that an American drone has hit an Islamic seminary in northwest Pakistan early this morning. This is the first American drone strike outside of Pakistan's more turbulent tribal regions.

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The Times is reporting that an American drone has hit an Islamic seminary in northwest Pakistan early this morning. This is the first American drone strike outside of Pakistan's more turbulent tribal regions. According to the Times, the strike "killed six people, including several militant commanders, and wounded five, according to a senior Pakistani security official." It is understood that the seminary in question has strong ties to the Haqqani network, which is believed to be "one of the most lethal elements of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan." Various Pakistani officials have offered different reports of how many individuals targeted by the strike were associated with the Haqqani network. The attack comes as Pakistani officials have been increasingly critical of the continuing American drone strikes. Yesterday, Ritika highlighted recent developments in a security deal between Afghanistan and the United States.  Things have indeed moved quickly: the United States and Afghanistan have completed a draft of bilateral agreement that would extend American presence in the country through 2024. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Afghanistan released a draft of the agreement yesterday, which was the fruit of negotiations spearheaded by Secretary of State Kerry and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. This document is reportedly final, and differs, in key ways, from a prior draft deal between the two countries, which was released in July. Most significantly, the latest agreement states bluntly that “unless otherwise mutually agreed, United States forces shall not conduct combat operations in Afghanistan.” In a letter to President Karzai, President Obama vows to continue to respect “Afghanistan’s independence, territorial integrity, and national unity” under the newly proposed security agreement. The Afghan President has said he wouldn’t want to sign the agreement before the Spring of 2014. What would an update be without more on the Snowden leaks? The Guardian reports: more Snowden documents reveal that the United States and the United Kingdom “struck a secret deal” in 2007, one that would allow the NSA to keep cell phone numbers and email addresses of British citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing. The document also states that the material gathered by the NSA was to be put in databases where it would be made available to other members of the U.S. intelligence and military community. No surprise here: a poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC says that the majority of Americans say that the documents leaked by Edward Snowden have damaged U.S. national security. A House bill “aimed at restoring trust” in the NSA is being catapulted directly to the floor of the House of Representatives, skipping the committee process, according to the Hill.  There isn’t much information on the bill yet, but it is was meant to be debated this morning in session by the House Intelligence Committee; that discussion was cancelled at the last minute, by the Republican leadership. The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committees, Representative Rogers (R-Mich.) and Representative Ruppersberger (D-Md.) authored the bill. Speaking of surveillance: information derived from activities conducted under the---you guessed it---Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was used in the prosecution of Mohamed Osman Mohamud.  The latter was convicted in January, of trying to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon.  NPR reports on prosecutors disclosure, on Tuesday, that FISA surveillance played a role in the case. The AP tells us that an 85-year old American citizen, Merrill Newman, has been detained in North Korea, according to the man’s son. Newman, a veteran of the Korean War, was allegedly forced to deplane from an aircraft that was prepared to leave North Korea on October 26. Neither the North Korean government nor the United States Special Representative for North Korea policy have confirmed that Newman is being held in the country. There has been more violence in Bahgdad. The Times reports that at least 32 Iraqi citizens are dead after a bomb exploded in a crowded market in the northern area of the Iraqi capital. The government of the Central African Republic claims that it has been negotiating with Joseph Kony, the infamous Ugandan warlord and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony is understood to be in the CAR but will not give himself up to international authorities unless his safety is guaranteed. The exact whereabouts of the LRA leader are still unknown, but President Djotodia claims to be in somewhat regular contact with him and is encouraging him to surrender himself to the international community. The Department of Energy has released an Evaluation Report of its “Unclassified Cyber Security Program.” The report points to efforts to confront security issues that were identified in a similar report one year ago; nevertheless, the latest evaluation “found that significant weaknesses and associated vulnerabilities continued to expose the Department's unclassified information systems to a higher than necessary risk of compromise.” Some of the shortfalls are attributed to weak technologies and programs, while others are a result of officials not “always follow[ing] program or site-level patch management policies and procedures to ensure security updates were applied in a timely manner.” Google updated its “transparency report” last week. The tech giant reports says the number of government requests for user information has doubled over the past three years.  Google has been notoriously open, when it can, about court orders for information---it started reporting its transparency practices all the way back in 2010. The United States ambassador to China, Gary Locke, has resigned. Locke has served as the ambassador since 2011, and his announcement came as a shock to many on his staff.
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Clara Spera is a 3L at Harvard Law School. She previously worked as a national security research intern at the Brookings Institution. She graduated with an M.Phil from the University of Cambridge in 2014, and with a B.A. from the University of Chicago in 2012.

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