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Daily News Roundup

News Roundup and Notes: April 23, 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.

Drones in Yemen

CNN (Mohammed Jamjoom and Barbara Starr) reports that the U.S. “offered extensive assistance beyond drone strikes during a massive anti-terror operation in Yemen [last weekend], including flying Yemeni commandos to a site where they killed scores of suspected al Qaeda members,” according to a U.S. official. Yemeni officials said that DNA tests are being carried out to determine if alleged al-Qaeda bomb-maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri is among those killed, while U.S. officials say the operation did not directly target al-Asiri.

At Just Security, Ryan Goodman and Sarah Knuckey offer a line-by-line analysis of the New York Times story on the U.S. and Yemeni military operations in Yemen. And be sure to check out Daphne Eviatar’s and Steve Vladeck’s posts discussing the decision by the Second Circuit in New York Times v. Department of Justice, which, among other things, orders the disclosure of a redacted version of an OLC memo relating to the targeted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi.

Ukraine

Ukraine’s acting President, Oleksandr Turchynov has called on law enforcement agencies to renew their anti-terror operation in the country’s east, after reporting the discovery of two tortured bodies near the city of Slaviansk [CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark and Gul Tuysuz]. Ukrainian intelligence chief Valentyn Nalyvaichenko has said that up to a hundred Russian intelligence officers and special forces troops are leading the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine [Atlantic Council’s James Rupert And Irena Chalupa].

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the U.S. of “running the show” in Ukraine and said that Russia will respond if its interests in Ukraine are attacked [BBC].…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 22, 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.

Drone strikes in Yemen

Three suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed in a further drone strike in southern Yemen on Monday, according to Yemeni officials [AFP]. The Yemeni Ministry has said in a statement that the drone strikes over the weekend killed at least 55 al-Qaeda militants [Associated Press]. For further analysis, check out Ryan Goodman’s post at Just Security.

The New York Times’ Eric Schmitt reports on the U.S. and Yemeni joint operation, but notes that “it [is] unclear how the people targeted in the strike posed a threat to Americans.” White House press secretary Jay Carney has referred all questions about the strikes to the Yemeni government, and the Pentagon and CIA declined to comment. Some American officials said the drones were operated by the CIA, while others said “American Special Operations military personnel had supported the Yemeni operations on the ground with intelligence and possibly logistical assistance.”

The strikes have “brought into sharp relief divisions among [Yemen’s] rulers over how to rein in [the U.S. drones] program that they’ve long supported,” reports McClatchy DC (Adam Baron). A top Yemeni official told McClatchy last week that “[w]hen it comes to the current drone policy, there have been too many mistakes.”

Reuters (Mohamed Ghobari and Yara Bayoumy) reports that drone strikes “are unlikely to eradicate the threat [al-Qaeda] poses” as “[a] weak central government, a rivalry-ridden and poorly equipped security force, endemic poverty and corruption have made Yemen the ideal haven” for the group, according to analysts.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court has ordered the release of parts of a Justice Department memorandum providing the Obama administration’s legal justification for the 2011 drone strike in Yemen, which killed U.S.…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 21, 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.

Drone Strikes in Yemen

Over the weekend in Yemen, there were a series of drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda militants.  CNN reports that a high-level Yemeni government official called the strikes part of a “massive and unprecedented” operation targeted “high-level AQAP targets.”

The first strike, on Saturday, allegedly killed ten suspected Al Qaeda militants and three civilians in the Sawma’a area of the Yemeni province of al-Bayda [Reuters; BBC].  A second strike occurred Sunday, where twenty-five people suspected of being members of Al Qaeda were killed [Reuters]. Tribal members reported seeing a drone circling the area for two days.

Ukraine

Hours after the Ukraine government declared an Easter truce, three people were killed during a shootout at a checkpoint run by pro-Russian militants [New York Times; Washington Post]. The BBC reports that Ukraine has launched an investigation into the Easter-day shooting.

Ukraine and Russia blame each other for the shootout [Wall Street Journal], while Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. said Russia was “outraged” by the attack. [The Hill’s Erik Wasson]

Jamie Dettmer [Daily Beast] writes that the shootout could be used by Putin as the pretext to invade eastern Ukraine. While Luke Harding [The Guardian] says that the shootout “all but shred[s]” the agreement reached last week between the EU, Russia, the U.S., and Ukraine.

On NBC’s Meet the Press, Ukraine’s Prime Minister called Russia a “threat to the globe” and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has dreams to restore the Soviet Union.”  On that same show, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said that he believes “we are going to lose eastern Ukraine” [MSNBC].…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 18, 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.

Military Commissions

The Chief Prosecutor in the 9/11 case has appointed Justice Department lawyer Fernando Campoamore-Sanchez as Special Trial Counsel to investigate the alleged attempt by the FBI to recruit a defense team security officer as a secret informant [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg].  Independent defense counsel has also been appointed to advise two detainees on whether the alleged actions by the FBI have compromised their defense.

Although meeting for four days this week in the 9/11 case, the military commission held barely four hours of court time in total.  Pre-trial motions hearings have been ongoing for nearly two years, and while the prosecution seeks jury selection in early 2015, that date now seems unlikely given the recent delays [Associated Press].

Meanwhile, in the al Nashiri case, Judge Pohl has ordered the CIA to provide a detailed account of the detention and interrogation of Mr. al Nashiri in the agency’s so-called secret “black sites” [The Guardian].  Also see our coverage yesterday on the development.

Relatedly, the Miami Herald has updated their interactive timeline of the hunger strikes at Guantanamo.

Surveillance, Privacy, & Technology

The Washington Post has released an e-book of their complete, Pulitzer prize-winning coverage of the NSA surveillance programs, titled NSA Secrets.  Meanwhile, The Guardian has a new interactive feature “NSA Files Decoded” on what the NSA revelations mean to you as an individual.

In what some are calling a highly questionable decision [Washington Post], Edward Snowden participated in a live Q&A session with Vladimir Putin, asking the Russian President whether Russia intercepts communications of its citizens, to which Putin replied that his country does not conduct “mass-scaled, uncontrolled” surveillance.…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 17, 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.

Ukraine

Speaking in a televised show today, Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that Russian armed forces had been deployed in Crimea [New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn]. Putin also emphasized Russia’s historical claim to eastern Ukraine, stating that his parliament’s upper chamber has authorized the use of military force in the region if necessary. The Wall Street Journal (Lukas I. Alpert and Andrey Ostroukh) and Washington Post (Kathy Lally) also cover Putin’s address.

In the latest developments, pro-Russian separatists have attacked a Ukrainian base, with three separatists killed in the clashes, while Ukrainian, Russian and Western leaders arrived in Geneva for diplomatic talks on the crisis [Reuters’ Aleksandar Vasovic]. The Washington Post (David Nakamura and Karen DeYoung) reports that U.S. officials have “low expectations” of today’s diplomatic meetings.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced yesterday that the alliance will be implementing “further military measures to reinforce [its] collective defense and demonstrate the strength of Allied solidarity” in response to the Ukraine crisis. Rasmussen said NATO “will have more planes in the air, more ships on the water, and more readiness on the land.”

U.S. officials say that the administration is “close to authorizing a limited shipment of nonlethal supplies to Ukrainian forces, including medicine and clothes,” reports the Wall Street Journal (Adam Entous).

White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed yesterday that the administration has “additional sanctions prepared and … will impose them as appropriate” [The Hill’s Justin Sink]. The New York Times (David M. Herszenhorn) reports that Russia’s economy “worsens even before [new] sanctions” are imposed.…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 16, 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.

Al-Qaeda

CNN (Barbara Starr) reports on a new video showing what appears to be “the largest and most dangerous gathering of al-Qaeda members [in Yemen] in years.” The video features Nasir al-Wuhayshi—al-Qaeda’s No.2 globally and the head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—addressing more than 100 fighters. House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers told CNN’s “The Situation Room” (Wolf Blitzer) that the video shows the organization is “more diverse and more aggressive” than pre-9/11.

The Wall Street Journal (Siobhan Gorman) and Washington Post (Greg Miller) provide further details, with U.S. counterterrorism officials saying the video appears to be authentic and recently filmed.

Ukraine

Reuters (Gabriela Baczynska and Thomas Grove) reports that government forces in Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists “staged rival shows of force in eastern Ukraine [today] amid escalating rhetoric on the eve of crucial four-power talks in Geneva.” The Washington Post (Anthony Faiola) reports that pro-Russian gunmen stormed the city hall in Donetsk, while “a cluster of Ukrainian troops meant to be restoring order in the region apparently defect[ed] to the side of separatists.” The New York Times (Andrew E. Kramer) also covers how the military operation in Slovyansk “suffered a setback” this morning, when pro-Russian militia commandeered six armed personnel carriers from the Ukrainian Army. The BBC has more information on the latest developments.

In a conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the crisis in Ukraine “has grown significantly worse due to the use of force initiated by the Kiev authorities” and asked the UN and international community to “clearly condemn these anti-constitutional actions.” In a call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin noted that “the sharp escalation of the conflict essentially puts the nation on the brink of civil war.”

The Daily Beast (Eli Lake and Josh Rogin) reports that during his Kiev visit, CIA Director John Brennan met with the Ukrainian leaders “to discuss the formation of new, more secure channels for sharing U.S.…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 15, 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.

Military Commissions

Yesterday’s pre-trial motions hearings for the military commissions trial of the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators were abruptly stopped shortly after they began, following accusations by defense counsel that the FBI “tr[ied] to turn a defense team security officer into a secret informant” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg].

On Human Rights First’s blog, Adam Jacobson writes that difficulties like the one that delayed yesterday’s proceedings “seem built into the military commission system” and that “problems are the norm, and justice is an increasingly elusive ideal.”

The pre-trial motions hearings are scheduled to resume this morning at 9:00a.m.  For full coverage of the day’s proceedings, be sure to check out Lawfare’s Wells Bennett’s play-by-play analysis.

Surveillance, Privacy, & Technology

In response to the growing concerns surrounding the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, the NSA has released a fact sheet with suggested mitigations to address the vulnerability.  However, Julian Hattem [The Hill] writes that the new NSA policy announced in response to Heartbleed may contain “huge loopholes.”

Meanwhile, Brian Fung of the Washington Post’s technology and policy blog, The Switch, writes that Heartbleed “is about to get worse, and it will slow the Internet to a crawl.”

The Washington Post and The Guardian have each been awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their coverage and analysis of the NSA disclosures.  Politico’s Dylan Byers writes that the win is “certain to be interpreted as vindication of [Edward Snowden]’s efforts.”  In a statement, Snowden stated:

“Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government.

  continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 14, 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.

Ukraine

Ukraine’s interim president Oleksander Turchinov threatened military action this morning, after pro-Russian separatists occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine ignored his 9:00 a.m. deadline to surrender [Reuters’ Thomas Grove and Natalia Zinets]. Separatists have now seized government and security buildings in 10 cities. Russia’s foreign ministry has called the planned military operation a “criminal order” and has told the West to bring Ukraine’s government under control. The Kyiv Post has live updates.

The New York Times (Andrew E. Kramer and Andrew Higgins), Wall Street Journal (James Marson) and Washington Post (Kathy Lally) cover the weekend’s developments, which saw the conflict between Ukraine’s government and the pro-Russian activists escalate and turn bloody.

The UN Security Council met late yesterday in an emergency session over the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine, with the West and Russia blaming each other for the crisis, reports the Associated Press. A senior UN official warned the Security Council that “the situation in Ukraine has seriously deteriorated…and as of now, [Ukraine] teeters on the brink” [UN News Centre].

The State Department provides evidence of Russian support for the destabilization of Ukraine, and has issued a fact sheet countering “10 more false claims about Ukraine” from Russia. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Russia of “additional consequences”:

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has warned on ABC’s “This Week” of a “ramping up” of sanctions against Russia [The Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe].…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 11, 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.

Senate torture report

McClatchy DC (Ali Watkins et al.) has obtained a list of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings, including that the CIA’s interrogation went beyond what was authorized by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters, and that the agency obstructed effective White House and congressional oversight of its program. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein declined to comment on the findings, but said, “If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted.”

In the Washington Post, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller outline the origins of the committee’s CIA report, arguing that the “report should be judged on the accuracy of its findings and the quality of its conclusions, not on whether its information came from documents or interviews.”

And The Hill (Rebecca Shabad) reports that forty House Democrats have written to President Obama, urging him to declassify portions of the Senate committee’s report.

Ukraine

BBC reports that Ukraine’s interim prime minister has offered to devolve more powers to the country’s eastern regions, where pro-Russian activists continue to defy the government.

Itar-Tass has obtained the text of a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the leaders of 18 European countries, warning that, in accordance with the contract with Gazprom, “further violation of the conditions of payment [by Ukraine], will completely or partially cease gas deliveries.” The Wall Street Journal (Lukas I. Alpert et al.) has more details. Meanwhile, a Ukrainian minister has told parliament today that Ukraine will file a lawsuit with the Stockholm Arbitration Court regarding its gas contract with Russia’s Gazprom [Kyiv Post’s Evan Ostryzniuk].…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 10, 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.

Ukraine

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has said Ukraine will not prosecute the pro-Russian activists occupying official buildings in two eastern cities if they surrender their weapons [BBC]. The Washington Post (Will Englund) notes that a new regional poll shows limited support for the building occupations in eastern Ukraine, with “even pro-Russian party leaders [beginning] to suggest that the agitators should call it a day.”

Reuters reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused NATO of using “the crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary external threat … and to strengthen demand for the alliance.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hopes for a “positive outcome” at next week’s talks between Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and EU, but warned that Ukraine’s interim government should not do anything that could not “be fixed later” [The Guardian’s Shaun Walker]. Russia has also threatened to restrict supplies of natural gas to Ukraine, and reiterated that Ukraine owes it more than $16 billion in debts [New York Times’ David M. Herszenhorn].

Finance officials from the G-7 are meeting today to consider increasing sanctions against Russia, according to those familiar with the matter [Wall Street Journal’s Ian Talley and Lukas I. Alpert]. NATO’s top commander in Europe, Gen. Philip Breedlove has told the Associated Press he wouldn’t “write off involvement by any nation, [including] the United States,” when asked about deployment of troops to NATO countries closest to Russia. And in the U.S., The Hill (Kristina Wong) reports on calls from lawmakers for the administration to share U.S.…   continue »