Lawfare News

Today's Headlines and Commentary

Ritika Singh, Yishai Schwartz
Thursday, January 30, 2014, 1:15 PM
Directors from five intelligence agencies appeared yesterday to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Although nothing earth-shattering was revealed at the public hearing, there were some testy exchanges with critical senators and ominous warnings about the cost of Snowden’s revelations and the threat of cyber-attacks.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Directors from five intelligence agencies appeared yesterday to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Although nothing earth-shattering was revealed at the public hearing, there were some testy exchanges with critical senators and ominous warnings about the cost of Snowden’s revelations and the threat of cyber-attacks. DNI James Clapper’s written testimony suggested North Korea is once again expanding its nuclear program. And noting Snowden’s recent claim that he has “accomplished” his mission, Director Clapper called on “[Snowden] and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed to prevent even more damage to U.S. security.” Here is the threat assessment and video of the hearing. As if on cue: Politico Magazine features a story by Edward Lucas about the damage Snowden has done, and the lack of any real justification behind the disclosures. Peter Swire, a member of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, has an opinion piece in the Washington Post discussing the strong disagreement over Edward Snowden and NSA releases. He explains that a vast cultural divide exists between the technology sector and the intelligence community, and that the President is working to reconcile the two views. The Wall Street Journal presents some recent Pew research indicating that a majority of Americans, regardless of income, education, or age, believe it is “more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if doing so intrudes personal privacy.” In Denver, terrorism suspect Jamshid Muhtorov challenged the constitutionality of NSA collection in a motion filed with the aid of the ACLU. Muhtorov is seeking to learn more about how NSA surveillance was used in his case, and to exclude the evidence from his trial. California’s state assembly passed a bill that would create some of the strictest standards for the state’s use of drones. The bill, which was passed overwhelmingly over the objections of law enforcement, would require warrants, public announcements, and the quick destruction of collected data. Lenovo’s purchase of Motorola and takeover of IBM’s low-end server unit means that the Chinese company will have to apply to the Treasury Department for clearance. Given current U.S.-Chinese relations and concerns over espionage, some are doubtful Lenovo will make the cut. Six suicide bombers stormed the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation in Baghdad today, killing at least 24 people. Reuters has the story, as does Agence France Presse. The death toll in Iraq in the first four weeks of 2014 has already topped 900---likely the most depressing news you’ll hear all week. In a Wednesday speech to the German Parliament, Chancellor Angela Merkel leveled her harshest criticism yet at the United States for its surveillance programs. The United States informed its NATO allies that Russia has been testing missiles in violation of a Reagan-era treaty since 2008, and the Times reports that Russian officials have been stonewalling in response to questions from State Department personnel. According to analysts, any hope of further missile-reduction treaties is disappearing rapidly. Two highly critical audit reports, on the billions in American aid sent to the Afghan government, were released today. The reports were prepared three years ago, but they found corruption so pervasive that the U.S. government has been blocking the documents' release out of fear of diplomatic repercussions from the Karzai government. The Times has the story. Meanwhile, the Journal suggests that continuing tensions between the U.S. and Karzai have led to the empowerment of hardliners within the Taliban. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced the creation of a new commission to initiate reconciliation talks with Pakistani Taliban. The Commission seems to have been put together hastily, and will operate alongside continued Pakistani military operations against the Taliban. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution discusses whether Al Qaeda could resurface in Pakistan after American forces draw down in Afghanistan this year---just like the group resurfaced in Iraq after the end of the war there. Because you haven’t been hit over the head with it enough times, here’s another story about the uncertainty surrounding the foreign military presence in Afghanistan post-2014---the uncertainty arising from, among other things, a still-unsigned Bilateral Security Agreement. The Times reports on a glimmer of hope at the Syria talks in Geneva, but the Journal is much less optimistic. The Times also notes that the supposedly ragtag and disorganized Syrian rebels appeared far calmer than the bombastic representatives of the Assad regime. The rebels may have gained some international credibility, but it remains to be seen whether the two sides’ respective performances will make any difference. Meanwhile, the Assad regime is poised to miss a deadline for destroying its chemical weapons cache. As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to unveil an official American position on the ”framework” of a Palestinian state, the Times explains that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is struggling to navigate conflicting forces within his fractious right-of-center coalition. The current hullaballoo centers around whether a future Palestinian state can be trusted to protect the safety of its Jewish citizens. In Egypt, twenty al-Jazeera journalists have been charged with conspiring with terrorists and broadcasting false images. Read Laura Dean’s recent “Cairo Diary” for more on the tenuous position of journalists in Egypt. Kathryn Alexeeff writes in Foreign Policy about instability in Bangladesh, where months of political violence leading up to the national election have not abated, and could spiral into a military coup or a civil war.
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.

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.
Yishai Schwartz is a third-year student at Yale Law School. Previously, he was an associate editor at Lawfare and a reporter-researcher for The New Republic. He holds a BA from Yale in philosophy and religious studies.

Subscribe to Lawfare