Today's Headlines and Commentary

Ritika Singh
Monday, July 29, 2013, 3:20 PM
A drone strike killed six militants and injured four in Pakistan as the men were crossing the border from Afghanistan; a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban was allegedly killed.

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A drone strike killed six militants and injured four in Pakistan as the men were crossing the border from Afghanistan; a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban was allegedly killed. Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud of the New York Times has more. Agence France Presse reports that six Al Qaeda militants were also killed by a drone strike in Mahfad, Yemen. The Right Honorable Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution argues in an op-ed in the Daily Beast that Al Qaeda in Iraq is “back with a vengeance” after the two jailbreaks that took place last week---and that the group’s resurgence will have serious consequences for Syria and the withdrawal in Afghanistan. In related bad news, Duraid Adnan of the Times discusses the wave of violence in Iraq over the weekend where 15 car bombs killed scores of people at a hospital, restaurants, and markets. Lt. General Thomas Waldhauser---convening authority in the case of the four Marines who are accused of urinating on Taliban corpses in 2011---said in a sworn statement that Gen. James Amos, head of the Marine Corps, told him he wanted the perpetrators discharged even before any charges had been brought. CNN’s Barbara Starr has details about whether Gen. Amos was, in fact, using command influence to affect the outcome of the case. Jonathan Weisman of the Times reports on the steady---and growing---drumbeat of discontent from lawmakers on Capitol Hill over the NSA’s surveillance programs. The Hill has Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) thoughts on the matter; he is in favor of greater oversight and reform of these programs. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), meanwhile, wants to keep the NSA’s phone data collection program just the way it is. David G. Savage of the Los Angeles Times talks about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and how its role has evolved since it began. Senior US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf penned this op-ed for the Boston Globe in which he discusses how, in light of Snowden’s leaks, the executive branch should “act judicially”---a principle put forth by the late and legendary attorney general Edward Levi (for whom Wolf used to work):
It is valuable to consider what it means for the executive branch to “act judicially.” Levi was not suggesting that any of the president’s powers be transferred to the judiciary. Rather, he was advocating that the president exercise those powers—particularly those that have to be exercised secretly—in a manner that emulates the judicial process. The judicial process considers, often balances, and ultimately decides among competing claims. Judicial decisions are made by independent arbiters, typically after the presentation of opposing evidence by adversaries in open proceedings.
The editorial board of the New York Times argues that the selection of FISA court judges should be different, which would make the court more independent. The Washington Post editorial board, meanwhile, discusses what parts of the NSA’s phone metadata program Americans should be concerned about:
The phone metadata effort does not appear to be an obviously unconstitutional abuse of civil liberties. Yet at least two things should bother Americans about it.First is that the government is gathering so much phone call information to track what should be a relatively small number of targets. Collecting and keeping the country’s phone records results in a very powerful surveillance tool that, if abused, could give government agents insight into how all sorts of Americans are conducting their lives.
. . .
Second, and related, are the justifications for amassing all of that information. Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain records, such as phone metadata, as long as they are relevant to a terrorism investigation. Government lawyers argue that detecting patterns of communications — those whom suspects call and even associates of those associates — has yielded information that has contributed to foiling potential terror plots. In order to produce those benefits, they say, they must have, somewhere, the whole universe of this sort of metadata, which communications firms don’t keep themselves.
The Hill’s Meghashyam Mali informs us that Glenn Greenwald has said that he will  reveal details this week on the access given to low-level analysts and contractors at the NSA. Aaron Blake of the Post has more on Greenwald’s remarks on ABC’s The Week, where Greenwald also explained how the programs work:


Greenwald will testify on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen.

Speaking of big, impending announcements, David Dishneau of the AP reports that military judge Col. Denise Lind will announce a verdict in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning tomorrow.

The Times reports that the Pakistani Taliban are increasingly gaining strength in Peshawar, one of Pakistan’s major cities.

State Department diplomats in Afghanistan are having a tough time monitoring U.S.-funded projects as the U.S. military begins to draw down in the country, according to Kevin Sieff of the Post.

William Lietzau, DoD’s head of detainee policy, is stepping down and going the military contractor route, Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal says.

Peace talks between Israel and Palestine begin tonight, after Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners. The talks will be brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and Brookings’s Martin Indyk, who was just appointed Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations. William Booth of the Post and BBC have the story.

And, big drone news: President Obama made a major announcement aimed at reducing civilian casualties---from The Onion, it’s Today’s Moment of Zen.

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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.

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