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News Roundup and Notes: September 2, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.


U.S. military forces launched an operation against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia yesterday. Defense Department press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the Pentagon is “assessing the results of the operation,” but did not provide any further information.…   continue »

International Law on Airstrikes against ISIS in Syria

The administration is actively considering the option of using military force against ISIS in Syria. As the New York Times editorial board states today: “The United States, however, has not been invited into Syria, and the Obama administration has not articulated a legal justification for crossing the border.”

So what might be the justification under international law?…   continue »

Why (Some) Secrecy is Good for Civil Liberties

A few weeks back, Ben Wittes wrote a controversial post over at Lawfare on the latest Snowden disclosures, arguing that, “If you’re okay with dumping in the lap of a journalist 160,000 of the most personal conversations a signals intelligence agency can collect, then stop whining to me about ‘bulk’ or ‘mass’ collection.”  As Ben subsequently clarified, his point was not to criticize Snowden for possibly violating the Privacy Act, but to flag what he perceived as the hypocrisy of various media outlets and privacy and civil liberties groups in not criticizing these disclosures—and in thereby appearing to endorse the view that transparency of secret government programs is an unmitigated good.…   continue »

The PCLOB Report and Eight Questions About Section 702

Note: The views expressed below are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of PCLOB or its other Board members.

On July 2, Professor Jennifer Granick posed the question: “Did PCLOB Answer My Eight Questions About Section 702?” She concludes that her questions went largely unanswered in the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board’s report (hereinafter, “PCLOB report”) issued earlier that day, on the surveillance program operated under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.…   continue »

Nine to One, Baby, One in Nine: Surveillance by the Numbers

There’s a great deal of interesting material in this weekend’s big Washington Post story on collection of Internet communications under §702 of the FISA Amendments Act.  But in a way, the single fact that has gotten the most attention—that 90% of §702-acquired communications in a trove provided by Edward Snowden were sent by someone other than the target—is also the least surprising. …   continue »