Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Jane Chong
Monday, September 23, 2013, 10:34 AM
It's been a dark weekend across the globe.
The Westgate mall in Nairobi remains a war zone after al-Shabab militants opened fire on shoppers on Saturday, killing at least 62 and wounding almost 200. Here is the Associated Press on the revised death toll and on Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku's statement this morning as to the deaths of two gunmen. Hostages are st

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It's been a dark weekend across the globe.
The Westgate mall in Nairobi remains a war zone after al-Shabab militants opened fire on shoppers on Saturday, killing at least 62 and wounding almost 200. Here is the Associated Press on the revised death toll and on Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku's statement this morning as to the deaths of two gunmen. Hostages are still being held inside the mall, where gunfire and explosions sounded early Monday, reports Reuters, although most are free after Kenyan military forces moved in yesterday, writes the Washington Post. The Guardian has live updates.  The Wall Street Journal says that Twitter has suspended the accounts of militants attempting to use the platform to broadcast their goals.
Two suicide bombers killed 81 people in a historic church in northwestern Pakistan yesterday in one of the deadliest attacks on the country's Christian minority,Voice of America reports. The Jundullah arm of the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, says the AP. Reuters reports that Pakistani Christians have taken to the streets to protest in the wake of the blast.
A bombing attack on Shiite mourners at a funeral in Baghdad killed dozens of people and injured at least 100 on Saturday. Here is NPR; here is Reuters. The next day, a suicide bomber killed 16 people and wounded 35 others at a Sunni funeral in Baghdad's southern neighborhood of Dora, reports the AP.
Pakistan has freed Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former Afghan Taliban deputy commander, to "further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process," according to Pakistan's Foreign Ministry. Here is the BBC. Baradar's whereabouts, however, remain unknown, says Pajhwok News.
Tomorrow President Obama is scheduled to deliver his fifth annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly, during which he is expected to urge the world to take a tough stance on Syrian chemical weapons use. On CBS's "Face the Nation," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested all might still work out on the Syrian front, if chemical weapons procurement goes as planned. "Then at the end of the day, however tortuously we arrived at this conclusion, it will have served the interest of the world." Colum Lynch of the Washington Post pushes back on characterizations of the President's "topsy-turvy" approach to Syria: "[E]xperts say Obama’s approach has been consistent with that of his predecessors, many of whom extolled the United Nations in theory while treating it with ambivalence in practice."
Lynch also has a piece in Foreign Policy on the difficult position Samantha Power finds herself in as the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to the UN: "[A]s one of the country's most influential advocates of humanitarian intervention, Power now finds herself burdened with the challenge of practicing what she has long preached: wielding America's power on behalf of the world's human rights victims, in this case Syrians."
Western efforts to supply moderate Syrian rebel factions with U.S. weapons are being undermined by a steady stream of private cash donations to Islamist extremists, reports Joby Warrick of the Post. And that's not the worst of it, observes Warrick:
What is more worrisome, officials say, is a new tendency among fundraisers to seek influence over the Syrian paramilitary groups they support. Some have adopted their own rebel militias and sought to dictate everything from ideology to tactics. Officials at one gulf-based organization, which calls itself the Ummah Conference, have helped promote a campaign to recruit thousands of Muslim volunteers for Syria while openly calling for a broader struggle against secular Arab governments and what one of its leaders terms “American terrorism.”
historic U.S.-Iran meeting may still be on the table as the President heads to New York and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes his UN debut. Stephen Walt of FP asks whether Rouhani is really interested in a nuclear deal. Elias Groll, also at FPoffers 20 signs suggesting Rouhani is sincere. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not convinced, observes the New York Times. In a Times op-ed, Kenneth Pollack argues that if a diplomatic deal with Iran fails, the U.S. should seek to contain the threat rather than than launch military operations.
At yesterday's memorial for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard Shooting, President Obama called for a series of critical improvements---to the security of military facilities, mental health services, and gun control legislation. The New York Times has the video. ABC notes that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, avoided gun control in their remarks.
In the Wall Street Journal, Gordon Crovitz declares that the most recently released FISA court ruling demonstrates that NSA surveillance is limited and legal. Over at the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald offers a roundup of the most recent NSA stories from around the world. In the wake of the Snowden leaks, terrorist groups are changing how they communicate, and agency leaders are expediting reforms to prevent future leaks, notes Toms Gjelton of NPR. And on Saturday, the New York Times Editorial Board declared encryption back doors a "terrible idea, another example of the intelligence community’s overreach."
Cybersecurity is hot. So writes Jim Finkle of Reuters, after cybersecurity company FireEye saw its shares leap 80 percent on Friday. And this past weekend, 1800 teams of hackers competed in the "world's largest-to-date hackathon." The 72-hour tournament---hosted by the Polytechnic Institute of NYU and cosponsored by Google, Facebook and the Department of Homeland Security---rounded out NYU-Poly's Cyber Security Awareness Week.
As for what's not hot enough: The military has failed to lead the charge in developing self-driving vehicles, writes John Markoff of the New York Times, preferring to funnel money into their flying counterparts.
At a recent military-oriented trade show at the Washington Convention Center, sleek Predator-style surveillance planes, robotic helicopters and hovering coffee table-size quad-copters could be spotted just about everywhere. But only a handful of unmanned ground systems were shown, and they were based on technology half a decade old.
 Check out Beina Xu's brief overview of the U.S.-Japan security alliance, published on Friday by the Council on Foreign Relations.
WikiLeaks has published a full critique of the Fifth Estate, a film on Julian Assange that debuted this month at the Toronto International Film Festival. Greg Mitchell of the Nation sums up the Wiki grievances: Assange does not bleach his hair, did not join a cult, and did not endanger 2,000 government informants.
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Jane Chong is former deputy managing editor of Lawfare. She served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and is a graduate of Yale Law School and Duke University.

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