Today's Headlines and Commentary

Clara Spera
Monday, November 10, 2014, 10:08 AM
The United States carried out a series of airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria this weekend.

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The United States carried out a series of airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria this weekend. The New York Times reports that the strikes hit “a convoy of 10 armed trucks of the Islamic State … as well as vehicles and two of the group’s checkpoints near the border with Syria.” Per the AP, it is speculated that the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was wounded in the airstrikes, but there has been no confirmation of his condition. The Times also touches on the complexities of the U.S. offensive against ISIS. Gathering information about the whereabouts of ISIS leaders and operations has been exceedingly difficult, and the concern over civilian casualties has also limited the ability to hit many known targets. The Los Angeles Times reports that the United States will “double” the number of American troops in Iraq to fight alongside Iraqi Kurdish troops against the Islamic State.  The news follows the announcement last week that President Obama will ask Congress to approve $3.2 billion in additional funding for U.S. operations against the Islamic State. The Washington Post looks at the little-known American military presence at Al-Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates, a presence that is vital in the American offensive against ISIS. The Pentagon has not publicly acknowledged what’s going on in the UAE, but the Post explains that there are 3,5000 American soldiers stationed there. After the reshuffling of Congress last week, Senator John McCain (R. – AZ) is expected to become the new chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Times explains what kind of implications that move might have on President Obama’s national security agenda. Reuters discusses how, more generally, the midterm results will shift the national security dialogue in Congress. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to release its report on CIA interrogation practices this month. The LA Times reports that Washington is “bracing itself” for the highly controversial report. Republicans on the committee took no part in the report and plan to release their own separately, arguing that the other report, authored by the panel's Democrats, is biased. Reuters tells us that Germany and Brazil are teaming up to put pressure on the United Nations to take a stronger stance against the collection of metadata. Over at Forbes, a study shows that American consumers might not actually care about data privacy as much as they think they do. The survey showed that of those respondents who claimed to be “somewhat” or “very” concerned about third parties using their personal data, over three fourths of them also take party in loyalty card programs, which are notorious for being “treasure trove[s] of data.” Salon has a piece that is highly critical of the use of Suspicious Activity Reports by police departments, and how SARs relate to domestic terrorism surveillance. The Daily Beast has published a chapter of reporter Shane Harris’ upcoming book, @War. This particular chapter details the relationship between the National Security Agency and the military, arguing that when the two partnered when fighting in Iraq, warfare was changed “forever.” China has developed a weapon that can shoot down drones. CNN explains that the laser cannon technology can only reach low flying drones, such as miniature and commercial drones. North Korea released two American prisoners over the weekend. CNN describes the journey home for Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller. Currently, there are no other Americans that are known as being held by the North Korean government. The Times clarifies the circumstances of Bae and Miller’s release: President Obama sent Director of National Intelligence James Clapper instead of a diplomat to negotiate the handoff. President Obama has arrived in China for a three-day visit that will include an economic summit and various diplomatic meetings. The Times tells us that the “centerpiece” of the president’s visit will be his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which the two world leaders are expected discuss the evolving American-Chinese relationship. For our film buff readers: on Friday, someone at the CIA spent the day fact-checking Ben Affleck’s Argo; it turns out the movie has fans back at the agency. If you thought that was weird, even more bizarre is the revelation that the CIA had considered the idea of distributing heat-sensitive Osama bin Laden dolls “that turned into demons to scare little [children] away from joining al-Qaeda.” Gizmodo explains that the idea died pretty quickly, but not before three prototypes of the doll were completed, which are now being auctioned off for thousands of dollars apiece.

ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare:

Elizabeth Economy penned the most recent Foreign Policy Essay, arguing that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plans to transform China are not necessarily going as planned. Our latest podcast features Jack Goldsmith at an event over at the Hoover Institution, addressing President Obama’s war powers legacy. Paul Rosenzweig followed up on an earlier post about a recent Virginia case dealing with encryption and the mandatory unlocking of cell phones. Andy Wang reminded us of the 2007 Timberline scandal, during which the FBI “resorted to subterfuge” in an attempt to track down multiple bomb threats targeted to a Washington State school. Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us onTwitter 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.

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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