Today's Headlines and Commentary

Clara Spera
Friday, October 25, 2013, 10:59 AM
The Guardian reports that the NSA monitored the calls of 35 world leaders, according to classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden. An unnamed United States official reportedly handed the Agency 200 phone numbers, which included those of 35 unidentified world leaders.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

The Guardian reports that the NSA monitored the calls of 35 world leaders, according to classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden. An unnamed United States official reportedly handed the Agency 200 phone numbers, which included those of 35 unidentified world leaders. The report in question notes that "little reportable intelligence" came of this surveillance. Many European leaders are unhappy after allegations this week that the United States listened in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. It's unsurprising, then, that the NSA surveillance program turned out to be the main agenda item at the meeting of the European Union summit in Brussels yesterday. Germany and France are pushing for new transatlantic rules that would force the United States to rein in its foreign surveillance activity.  The Economist notes the "controlled anger" of most European leaders at the Summit, noting that most of governments in question rely on American surveillance and intelligence gathering for their own national security efforts. Roger Cohen of the Times puts the situation more bluntly: The United States has annoyed and alienated all of Europe. Ingrid Weurth of Vanderbilt Law School wrote in from Berlin with thoughts on the "diplomatic disaster." Edward Snowden released a statement yesterday through the American Civil Liberties Union in an attempt to gin up support for a rally being organized by Stop Watching Us, an advocacy group that---you guessed it!---strongly opposes the NSA’s surveillance programs. Snowden directly criticized Senator Dianne Feinstein's USA Today op-ed from earlier this week; The Hill has the story. A panel of privacy and national security experts gathered today to examine the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance program. The panel was put together by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, a "non-partisan organization that studies the impact of technology on legislation and public policy." Lawfare Contributing Editor Steve Vladeck moderated the panel, which included frequent Lawfare guest poster and Director of National Security Studies at Georgetown University Law Center Carrie Cordero, Jim Harper of the Cato Institute, Greg Nojeim from the Center for Democracy & Technology; and Ross Schulman, Computer and Communications Industry Association. The full video of the panel is available at C-SPAN. Mark your calendars: The heads of British intelligence agencies---MI5, MI6 and GCHQ---will testify in public for the first time in each organization’s history on Thursday November 7. Their public testimony before Parliament’s intelligence and security committee will be webcast almost-live. NPR has a good---albeit reductionist---article: “5 Things to Know About The NSA’s Surveillance Activities”. Michael Hayden, former Director of the NSA, is not too pleased that a passenger riding on the same Amtrak Acela train live-tweeted Hayden’s off the record conversation. Yesterday, I linked to a major story in the Washington Post about private cooperation between the Pakistani and American administrations regarding US drone strikes in Pakistan. The cooperation was detailed in---you guessed it again!---documents disseminated by Edward Snowden. It now seems that Pakistan isn’t the only country that has been secretly cooperating with the United States.  The Post is reporting that some of the documents Snowden took “contain sensitive material about collection programs against adversaries such as Iran, Russia and China. Some refer to operations that in some cases involve countries not publicly allied with the United States.”

In light of this discovery, US officials are alerting some foreign intelligence services that Snowden could release these documents, and compromise the operations in questions or, at the very least, embarrass countries that do not want to be seen as (and often flatly deny) cooperating with the United States.

Speaking of the documents revealing Pakistan’s knowledge and implicit approval of US drone strikes, Michael Kugelman argues in a Politico opinion piece that that cooperation is not evidence for a diplomatic turnaround between the two countries. The “main sources of tension remain” and the author is not confident that there will be much more cooperation between the two countries in the future. The Times has a story on the paradoxical relationship between drone strikes and drone advocacy---although the pace of American drone strikes is the lowest it's been in the past five years, demands for increased transparency of the program are more frequent and louder than ever. Former State Department official Nabeel Khoury has written a piece for The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. In it, he argues that for every US drone strike in Yemen, 40-60 new enemies to America are created. He opposes the use of drone strikes primarily because they spur such intense anti-American sentiment. Meanwhile, there has been a  role-reversal in US-Russian relations. An unnamed US intelligence official has accused Russian intelligence operatives of attempting to recruit Americans using espionage tactics, such as intelligence and surveillance analysts. Russia vehemently denies these accusations and says they are an attempt to hurt diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Times discusses the difficult conditions for Syrian refugees who remain in the country. While two million Syrians have fled their homeland in search of refuge, more than four million are still inside Syria's borders. Speaking of the conflict in Syria, Norway has declined requests by the international community to destroy 500 tons of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal on it's soil. After a period of consideration, the government determined that doesn't have the capabilities for the task and that the time frame for the destruction of the weapons is too tight. Iran vehemently denounced a recent United Nations report that highlighted the country's history of human rights violations. A spokeswoman for Iran's foreign ministry called the report "unfair" and that it was colored with "political motivations."
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. 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.

Subscribe to Lawfare