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Daily News Roundup

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 »

News Roundup and Notes: April 9, 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 Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has warned pro-Russian activists in the country’s eastern cities of Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv to enter talks to find a political solution or face “force,” in a 48-hour ultimatum [BBC]. The Ukrainian Security Service has secured the release of 56 individuals from the state agency’s headquarters in Luhansk, but negotiations with the armed pro-Russian separatists are still continuing [Kyiv Post]. And senior officials from the U.S., EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet next week to discuss the ongoing crisis [Agencies].

Speaking before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry warned of “tough new sanctions on those orchestrating [these actions] and on key sectors of the Russian economy.” Kerry noted that the pro-Russian protestors were “Russian provocateurs and agents” sent to “create chaos,” and said that the events in eastern Ukraine “could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea.” The Hill (Peter Sullivan) has more details on the committee hearing.

The Daily Beast (Eli Lake) is reporting that U.S. intelligence agencies “now have detailed information that Russia has amassed the kind of forces needed for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” but that the Obama administration has not shared details with Ukraine.

CNN (Barbara Starr) reports that a U.S. Navy warship will enter the Black Sea by Thursday, “as part of the latest U.S. military effort to demonstrate support for Eastern European allies.” And the Pentagon said it would cut the number of U.S. submarine and bomber-launched nuclear weapons, “implementing its part of an arms-reductions treaty with Russia despite rising tensions between the Cold War adversaries,” reports the Wall Street Journal (Julian E.…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 8, 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

Kyiv Post (Olga Rudenko) reports that Ukrainian police have taken control of the government center from pro-Russian separatists in Kharkiv, and have arrested around 70 suspects. Pro-Russian groups are still holding buildings in the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. In response to Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov’s pledge of launching “anti-terrorist measures,” the Russian Foreign Ministry has called on Kiev to stop the operation, warning that it “could lead to an outbreak of civil war” [Al Jazeera]. And pro-Russian protesters in Luhansk and Donetsk demanded that referendums be held on whether to join Russia [Reuters’ Richard Balmforth and Lina Kushch].

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, noting that the developments in eastern Ukraine “do not appear to be a spontaneous set of events.” Kerry called on Russia “to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs, and provocateurs … [and] to refrain from agitation in Ukraine.” He also made clear that “any further Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine will incur further costs for Russia.”

White House spokesperson Jay Carney also suggested that “outside forces, not local forces, were participating in the effort to create [the] provocations” in eastern Ukraine [ABC News’ Jane Cowan]. Carney noted, “What’s clear is that this is a result of increased Russian pressure on Ukraine.”

The Wall Street Journal (Matthew Karnitschnig) covers how the German government “is quietly pursuing a more conciliatory course with Russia, a shift that reflects a strategy to protect national business interests and assuage a public increasingly wary of antagonizing Moscow.” The Washington Post (Griff Witte and Anthony Faiola) reports that the “showdown with energy-rich Russia” has increased calls in Europe to start fracking.…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 7, 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

The New York Times (Mark Mazzetti) reports on the delays in the effort to refocus the CIA from its drone program, with “bureaucratic turf fights, congressional pressure and the demands of foreign governments” contributing to this delay. For further analysis, check out Ryan Goodman and Marty Lederman’s posts at Just Security.

A federal trial judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the relatives of three American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlak, who were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen [Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin].

Syria

According to Seymour M. Hersh’s new report in the London Review of Books, Turkey was responsible for supplying Syrian rebels with the sarin used in the August chemical weapons attack. According to a former intelligence official, “We now know [the attack] was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line …  They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors were there.” For Just Security coverage, check out Ryan Goodman’s earlier post dissecting Hersh’s previous report alleging the rebels were responsible for the chemical attack in Ghouta.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group has told Lebanese newspaper, As-Safir that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime is no longer under threat of collapse [Al Jazeera America]. The comment came as at least 60 people were killed across Syria in continuing battles between regime troops and rebels.

Ukraine

Kyiv Post (Olga Rudenko) is reporting that pro-Russian separatist groups continue to control key administration buildings in Ukraine’s eastern industrial cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, while there are conflicting reports about developments in Kharkiv.…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 4, 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

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted yesterday to declassify portions of its report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation and detention programs [Washington Post’s Greg Miller and Adam Goldman].  The findings will now be sent to the White House and the CIA, “putting the agency in the awkward position of having to declassify a document that delivers a scathing verdict on one of the most controversial periods in its history.” For more coverage, check out posts from Just Security’s Meg Satterthwaite and Thomas Earnest, and a guest post from Zachary Goldman.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein welcomed the vote, stating:

“The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation. It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.”

And Sen. Saxby Chambliss, vice chairman of the Committee, said:

“Despite the report’s significant errors, omissions, and assumptions—as well as a lot of cherry-picking of the facts—I want the American people to be able to see it and judge for themselves. In addition, this study has been an expensive, partisan distraction that has hindered the committee’s ability to provide oversight of current national security issues, including NSA reforms, cybersecurity, Russia, Syria, and Afghanistan. I hope we can put this behind us and focus on the national security challenges at hand.”

Meanwhile, McClatchy DC (Ali Watkins et al.) is reporting that the panel’s report has concluded “CIA officers subjected some terrorism suspects … to interrogation methods that were not approved by either the Justice Department or their own headquarters and illegally detained 26 of the 119 in CIA custody.”

Ukraine

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told Reuters (Natalia Zinets et al.) that his government will stick to austerity measures “as the price of independence,” as Russia increases pressure on Ukraine “to destabilize it, including by raising the price of gas.”

Russia has recalled its ambassador to NATO, following NATO’s decision to suspend cooperation with Russia [CNN’s Marie-Louise Gumuchian et al.].…   continue »

News Roundup and Notes: April 3, 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.

Fort Hood shooting

A soldier has killed three fellow soldiers and wounded 16 others, before killing himself, at Fort Hood, Texas [DoD News]. The New York Times (Dave Montgomery et al.), Wall Street Journal (Ana Campoy et al.) and Washington Post (Rajiv Chandrasekaran) provide more details. The shooter has been identified as an Iraq war veteran, who had some behavioral health and mental health issues and was being evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this morning that Russia wants answers from NATO regarding its activities in Eastern Europe, after the alliance pledged to bolster defenses for its eastern members [Reuters]. Ukraine’s security chiefs say that the killing of anti-government protesters in Kiev in February took place “under the direct leadership” of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych [Reuters]. And Ukraine has moved to grant more autonomy to its pro-Russian eastern regions, aimed at countering Moscow’s assertion that Russia is acting to protect ethnic Russians who are allegedly under threat [Al Jazeera America].

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that Russia could move into Ukraine “within 12 hours” of getting an order. General Breedlove said that there are around 40,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern border, along with “all of the pieces necessary should there be a choice to make an incursion into Ukraine.”

In his first interview since fleeing to Russia, Viktor Yanukovych told the Associated Press and Russia’s state NTV television that the takeover of Crimea is “a major tragedy.” However, Yanukovych maintained that the Crimean vote in favor of joining Russia was a response to threats posed by the “radical position” of the current rulers in Ukraine.…   continue »