Today's Headlines and Commentary

Cody M. Poplin
Friday, December 19, 2014, 1:38 PM
Today, the FBI formally blamed North Korea for the cyberattack against Sony Pictures.

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Today, the FBI formally blamed North Korea for the cyberattack against Sony Pictures. Reuters reports that officials are confident North Korea was involved and that there may also be evidence of a Chinese link, either through collaboration with Chinese actors, or simply through the use of Chinese servers. The Wall Street Journal details the difficulties facing the White House as it looks for a response to the Sony hack. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the Obama administration is looking for a “proportional” response. “You don’t want to start a war on the Korean peninsula over this,” a former US intelligence official said. In Politico, Michael Hirsh calls this “North Korea’s finest hour,” wherein after 60 years of trying to get the world’s attention, “the strangest regime on earth finally succeeds.” According to Hirsh, Pyongyang may now be wondering if they were going the wrong way all these years with their nuclear program when “internet terrorism is much cheaper, safer -- and probably far more effective.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board is less charitable, calling for Sony to release the movie for free, selling it to the US government which could then release it into the public domain, allowing anyone to share the file online, burn it onto DVDs, or even re-edit into viral videos without violating copyright. They suggest the $44 million for production costs would be money well spent for the government. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey of Staff told a reporters yesterday that the US airstrikes have killed three top military leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in recent weeks. According to the Wall Street Journal, US strikes killed Abd al Basit, the head of ISIS’s military operations in Iraq, and Haji Mutazz, a key deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Another strike killed a midlevel commander and “governor” of Mosul, Radwin Talib. The New York Times carries more cautiously optimistic news, reporting that backed by 53 US airstrikes, Kurdish peshmerga fighters have advanced against ISIS, retaking a large swath of territory near Mount Sinjar. The two-day offensive, involving 8,000 fighters, was the largest to date in the war against the Islamic State. In the Wall Street Journal, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi writes that a united Iraq is pushing back the Islamic State, noting that as the government moves forward against the militants, it is also aiming to address “the discontents that give rise to terrorism.” Al Abadi asserts “exclusion breeds extremism” and outlines several new reforms meant to give every sect, religion, and ethnicity reason to fight for the survival of Iraq. More details are also surfacing on the failed race to save American Peter Kassig. The Guardian has a long read sharing “the story of an extraordinary effort to secure his release, which involved a radical New York lawyer, the US government, and the world’s most revered jihadi scholar.” As with so many other initiatives as of late, the New York Times divulges that US President Barack Obama will use broad executive power to lift restrictions on travel, commerce, and financial activities with Cuba. While Republicans will attempt to push back on Obama’s plans by refusing to lift the decades old embargo, the embargo will most likely be left as an empty shells, “a lot more holes than cheese.” Want to know more about the spy swap? The New York Times has the scoop on Rolanda Sarraff Trujillo, who is perhaps the most interesting story in all of this from a national security perspective. Five more Ukrainian soldiers have been killed after a week of relative calm, a Ukrainian miltiary spokesman official announced today. Speaking yesterday in his semi-annual state of the nation address, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Russians that the economy, which now stands on the brink of collapse, would rebound---but the isolated leader gave no details for his plan to remedy the financial crisis. Putin also said that Russia must diversify its economy, a proposal for which has had advocated for the duration of his 15 years in power, but still failed to move forward. The ruble slipped 2 percentage points as he spoke. The Pakistani military announced today that it had killed 62 militants in renewed fighting near the border with Afghanistan following a Pakistani Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar that killed 148 people. Dawn also reports that at least four suspects, including one woman, have been arrested in connection with Tuesday’s attack. Mobile SIM cards registered to the four people were used by terrorists during the attack. Pakistani leaders also moved to expedite the executions of prisoners accused of taking part in major terrorists attacks, with Army General Raheel Sharif, head of the country’s military, signing the death warrants for six “hard-core terrorists.” According to the Washington Post, these warrants cannot be appealed and the prisoners are expected to be hanged within days. Dawn reports that a US drone strike in the Nazyan district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province has killed at least eight suspected militants. According to Pakistani security officials, militants based in the Nazyan district planned the devastating attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that killed 132 children earlier this week. The BBC carries a special look at a secret CIA report recently released by Wikileaks that reviews the effectiveness of US targeting of senior Taliban leaders. Boko Haram militants in Nigeria have attacked a remote north-eastern village, killing 33 people and kidnapping as many as 200. The attack apparently occurred on Sunday, but news only just now comes as survivors reached the city of Maiduguri. The BBC has more. The Miami Herald reports that the State Department has designated former Guantanamo Bay detainee Ibrahim al Rubaysh as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for his activities with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The statement described him as a “senior advisor” of “operational planning” for the group known as AQAP. Al Rubaysh was released by the Bush administration in 2006. Parting Shot: Check out what the Economist had so say on the Cuban embargo as it was enacted in 1960. Here’s the kicker: “Dr Castro's supporters are already in an embattled frame of mind, which an atmosphere of siege can only stiffen.”

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Wells Bennett shared the news that Avril Haines will be the next Deputy National Security Adviser. Wells also made note of a district court decision to suppress pole camera surveillance footage. Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter 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.

Cody Poplin is a student at Yale Law School. Prior to law school, Cody worked at the Brookings Institution and served as an editor of Lawfare. He graduated from the UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012 with degrees in Political Science & Peace, War, and Defense.

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