Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Cody M. Poplin
Monday, June 1, 2015, 3:49 PM

At 12:01 am this morning, the U.S.

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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At 12:01 am this morning, the U.S. government’s authority to conduct the vast telephony metadata collection program authorized by the Patriot Act expired. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked an extension of the program during an unusual Sunday session in the Senate. However, the New York Timespoints out that while Senator Paul’s stand may have forced the temporary expiration of parts of the program, the rest of the Senate signaled that it will most likely pass the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In the New York Times, Charlie Savage explores some of the work-arounds the intelligence community may invoke until the gaps in surveillance authority are filled. Shane Harris does the same in the Daily Beast, explaining that other existing authorities may provide the loopholes the intelligence community needs to continue necessary investigations.

In Iraq, Shiite militias are advancing near Ramadi, having seized a series of smaller towns and villages southeast of the city. The militias and Iraqi warplanes have also attacked Fallujah over the last three days, killing 31 people and wounding more than 82 others. With the yellow-and-green flags of the Kitaeb Hezbollah lining the roads and checkpoints, the Washington Post notes that the militias are leaving “no doubt as to who is leading the fight.” According to the Post, the shift towards Iran-backed fighters has left the United States “struggling to assert influence in the Iraqi military it spent $25 billion to build.”

In Syria though, ISIS continues to advance. On Sunday, the group captured the town of Soran Azaz and two other nearby villages in northern Syria. The capture of the towns threatens the supply route of rival insurgents in a group called the Levant Front. This latest advance by ISIS comes as the Daily Beastreports that another Syrian rebel group is considering dropping out of the U.S. fight against ISIS on account of the U.S. government’s demand that they avoid using any of their newfound weaponry against the forces of Bashar al-Assad.

Houthi rebels operating in Yemen have taken at least four U.S. citizens hostage, according to U.S. officials. The Washington Post reports that the Americans are thought to be located in Sanaa; however, it remains unclear exactly where in the capital they are being held, or even if they are being held together. The Yemeni capital has been under constant barrage since the beginning of the Saudi-led bombing campaign in late March.

Over the weekend, world powers continued negotiations with Iran over a comprehensive deal to curtail its nuclear program. The Associated Press’ Bradley Klapper carries a roundup of the major events from the discussions.

Boko Haram has executed a string of attacks over three consecutive days, killing at least 42 people in northeast Nigeria. The attacks were timed to coincide with the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office on Friday. The Wall Street Journal has more.

Reuters shares news that the United States tried to deploy a Stuxnet-type computer virus to attack North Korea’s nuclear weapons facilities five years ago, but that the program ultimately failed because of the “extreme isolation” of the DPRK’s communications systems. For Lawfare, Paul Rosenzweigbreaks down what we know about the reported attack and how it compares to the real Stuxnet that hit Iran.

The United States announced over the weekend that it will bring Japan under its cyber defense umbrella, according to Reuters. The report notes that the Japanese military’s cyber defense unit has around 90 members as compared to the Pentagon’s 6,000 people.

A German court has rejected a complaint by three Yemenis demanding that Berlin prevent Washington from using Ramstein Air Base to conduct targeted killing operations. According to AFP, The Court ruled that the German government is “under no obligation to prohibit the United States” from using the base “to conduct drone strikes in Yemen.”

The New York Times reports that the government of Qatar has agreed to extend the travel restrictions on the five members of the Taliban exchanged last year for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

In more GITMO news, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined on Friday to get involved in the ongoing legal dispute over whether the government will be forced to release videotapes of a Guantanamo Detainee being force-fed. The Court determined that it was “without jurisdiction” to issue orders at this point.

Also on Friday, the United States formally dropped Cuba from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, reports Reuters. The removal ends the formal prohibition on several forms of aid and cooperation with the Cuban government; nonetheless, most of the sanctions will remain in place due to the wider U.S. economic embargo that is still in effect.

The United States Supreme Court today invalidated the conviction of a Pennsylvania man over perceived threatening statements he made over Facebook toward his wife. The man’s Facebook posts, which talked about killing his wife and a female federal police officer, were written in the form of rap lyrics. In its decision, the Court determined that it is not enough that a reasonable person would interpret remarks as threatening, criminal intent is also a necessary component for conviction. Reuters has more on the case.

Parting Shot: The NSA is set to launch its own version of USAJobs.

ICYMI: This Weekend, on Lawfare

Ashley Deeks provided a field report and overview of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence’s annual Cyber Conflict conference in Tallinn, Estonia.

In this week’s Foreign Policy Essay, Rachel Stohl asks, “Just how effective is the U.S. drone program anyway?”

Tim Edgar outlined several of the reasons why without the USA Freedom Act, the NSA could resume bulk collection if the Patriot Act provisions expire.

Finally, Ben shared the Lawfare Podcast, which features a conversation between FBI Director James Comey and former General Counsel to the Director of National Intelligence Benjamin Powell.

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.

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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