News Roundup and Notes: July 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.

Surveillance, privacy, and technology

According to a Washington Post (Barton Gellman et al.) investigation, roughly nine of 10 online accounts intercepted by the NSA over a four-year period did not include the intended foreign surveillance targets. Based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, the “incidental” third parties include American citizens and residents, and despite being deemed useless by analysts, the files, which have “a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality,” were retained.

The Obama administration has sought to downplay the new revelations [New York Times’ David E. Sanger and Matt Apuzzo]. ODNI General Counsel Robert Litt said that the reports “simply discuss the kind of incidental interception of communications that we have always said takes place under Section 702.”

Meanwhile, the most recent U.S. spying allegation, involving a German intelligence employee accused of spying for the U.S. [Deutsche Welle], is threatening to worsen America’s already strained relationship with Germany [New York Times’ Alison Smale; Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola]. According to reports, the member of the German intelligence agency is suspected of providing the U.S. with information about the ongoing German parliamentary inquiry into the NSA’s surveillance activities.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that if the reports are proved correct, this would be a “serious case” and “a clear contradiction” to what is expected of a trusting relationship between partners [Reuters’ Andreas Rinke].

Derek Scally [Irish Times] covers the testimony of two former NSA agents-turned-whistleblowers at the German parliamentary inquiry into the agency’s surveillance last week.

Iraq and Syria

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, made a rare public appearance on Friday in the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to a video whose reliability was confirmed by experts and witnesses [New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin].

The Washington Post (Abigail Hauslohner) reports that warplanes carried out multiple airstrikes in Mosul on Sunday, but it is unclear what force was responsible for the bombing raids. Naharnet reports that ISIS has demolished ancient shrines and mosques in and around the northern Iraqi city.

The Wall Street Journal (Matt Bradley) covers how Islamic militants have seized advanced weaponry from Iraq’s U.S.-supplied army, with the weapons turning up in Iraq and Syria.

Iranian state media has confirmed the death of an Iranian pilot in Iraq, evidence of Iran’s involvement in the Iraqi battle against ISIS [Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian].

Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham have warned that the threat to the U.S. from Islamic extremists is real and necessitates a policy shift by the Obama administration [The Hill’s Vicki Needham].

The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl argues why President Obama’s unity government plan in Iraq is “just a mirage.”

And in neighboring Syria, Danya Chudacoff [Al Jazeera] reports that a “water war” threatens Syria’s lifeline, with water supplies dropping dramatically in a number of key areas.

Israel-Palestine

Haaretz has live updates on the tense situation in the region. Among other developments, Hamas has threatened to retaliate against the Israeli strikes in the Gaza strip, which killed nine Palestinian militants overnight, including seven Hamas members. Meanwhile, three of the six Israelis arrested for the murder of the Arab teenager in a revenge attack last week have confessed to the crime.

The 15-year-old Palestinian-American cousin of the slain Arab teen said he was arrested and beaten by the Israeli police, after a video surfaced showing the incident [Washington Post’s Swati Sharma]. The State Department has confirmed the American teenager’s arrest and called for “a speedy, transparent and credible investigation” into the reports.

The Washington Post (Ruth Eglash et al.) reports that the arrests in Israel could help in easing the dangerous rise in Palestinian anger.

And in an opinion piece in Haaretz, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls for “justice, not revenge,” describing the current situation in Israel and Palestine as “one of the most challenging and volatile [he has] seen in [his] time as United Nations Secretary-General.”

Ukraine

BBC reports that Ukrainian forces have retaken two more rebel-held cities, Artemivsk and Druzhkivka, in the east of the country from pro-Russian militants. Kyiv Post covers developments in Sloviansk, where government troops forced out separatists from the rebel stronghold over the weekend.

Meanwhile, pro-Russia rebel forces appear to be readying themselves for a last stand in eastern Ukraine, preparing to fight for Donetsk, the proclaimed capital of the rebels’ breakaway republic [Wall Street Journal’s Alan Cullison].

Other Developments

The Hill (Kristina Wong) reports on the national security concerns that are complicating the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation techniques.

According to Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, U.S.-Mexican border security is now an “existential” threat to the U.S. [Defense One’s Molly O’Toole]. He stated, “Many argue these threats … do not challenge our national security. I disagree.”

NBC News (Hasani Gittens) notes that the first trial arising out of the Boston Marathon bombing, involving a friend of the accused suspects who has been charged with obstruction, is about to get underway with opening statements expected today.

As part of the enhanced security measures at certain overseas airports, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson last week, the Transport Security Administration will not be allowing powerless electronic devices, including mobile phones, on board certain aircrafts coming into the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal (Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil) reports that Afghan government forces are intensifying a counterattack against the Taliban, in an attempt to regain a critical territory in the south of the country. Five Afghan police officers were killed in an insurgent attack in the country’s west earlier this morning [Associated Press]. And in a separate development, Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has preemptively rejected last month’s election results due to be released today [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham].

Saeed Shah at the Wall Street Journal reports that the Pakistani Defense Minister has vowed to target all militant groups in its operation in the North Waziristan tribal area, including those who target neighboring Afghanistan, in what is said to be a major shift in policy.

Naij News reports that about 63 women and girls who were abducted last month by Boko Haram militants in Borno State have escaped. Meanwhile, Nigerian soldiers killed at least 50 insurgents yesterday, as security forces repelled an attack on a military base in the northeast of the country [Associated Press]. And the BBC has learned that three women have been arrested in Nigeria on suspicion of recruiting female members for Boko Haram.

Reuters reports that two suspected al-Qaeda militants have blown themselves up in a government building in southern Saudi Arabia.

Somali al-Shabaab militants have claimed responsibility for attacks in eastern Kenya on Saturday night that reportedly killed at least 22 people [Wall Street Journal’s Heidi Vogt].

The Associated Press reports that dozens have been killed in Yemen in clashes between Shiite rebels and government allied tribesman, in some of the worst fighting the country has seen in months.

An Egyptian court has sentenced the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, as well as 36 other Islamists, to life in jail [BBC].

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).