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
The Senate failed to advance Sen. Patrick Leahy’s NSA reform bill last night. The U.S.A. Freedom Act fell two votes short of the 60 required to take up the legislation, following significant opposition from Senate Republicans. [Politico’s Burgess Everett] The decision to block the reform bill has only stalled the issue “by a matter of months,” and “will cloud the early days of a GOP-led Congress,” writes The Hill’s Julian Hattem.
Senate Republicans cited the threat posed by the Islamic State in arguing against limiting the powers of the NSA. [The Intercept’s Dan Froomkin]
Sen. Rand Paul, long-time NSA critic, voted against the measure, stating that the bill did not go far enough in protecting civil liberties. [National Journal’s Dustin Volz] The fight over NSA reform will now be “less about the agency and more about the presidential aspirations of Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz,” argue Tim Mak and Olivia Nuzzi. [The Daily Beast]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
The death toll has risen to five in an attack on worshipers in a Jerusalem synagogue yesterday, after a police officer succumbed to wounds sustained in a shootout. [Haaretz] The Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick et al provide a useful overview of the situation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to win a “battle for Jerusalem” following the deadly attack. [BBC] Barak Ravid criticizes Netanyahu’s use of “PR porn,” suggesting that instead of accusing the international media of supporting terrorism, the Israeli government should “examine themselves first.” [Haaretz]
Calling for greater cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, President Obama said that “there is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.”
Israeli police may further increase its presence in Jerusalem and officials are considering whether to ease gun controls for civilians. [Haaretz’s Gili Cohen]
A CNN reporter has come under fire over a headline on the synagogue attack, which described the attacks in terms of the Israeli police shooting dead two Palestinian civilians without detailing the circumstances of the shooting. [Israel National News’ Uzi Baruch and Tova Dvorin]
The Guardian editorial board urges leaders on both sides to prevent the escalation of tensions from turning into a “holy war,” as “Tuesday’s killers risk turning the conflict … into a battle of Muslim and Jew.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that a culture of hatred against Jews, fostered by Palestinian leaders, is the “main obstacle to peace,” not Jewish settlements in Jerusalem. And the New York Times editorial board calls the attack a “tragedy” for both sides, as the two communities appear “locked in a cycle of hatred and hopelessness” with little chance of attaining permanent peace.
The prospect of U.S.-brokered talks between Israel and Palestine seems highly improbable following the attack, as concerns deepen that tensions could spiral out of control, writes Carol Morello. [Washington Post]
“Disturbing signs of celebration” followed the synagogue attack in the Gaza Strip, highlighting the depth of difference in this “war of neighbors,” reports Jodi Rudoren. [New York Times]
Michael Tomasky explores the apparent differences in wealth and circumstances between East and West Jerusalem. [The Daily Beast]
Israeli forces destroyed the East Jerusalem home of one of the Palestinian men responsible for a suicide car attack in October that killed two people, amid clashes following yesterday’s attack. [Al Jazeera]
The Spanish Parliament “embraced” the goal of achieving Palestinian statehood yesterday, but emphasized that recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be conditional on reaching a peace accord with Israel. [Wall Street Journal’s Richard Boudreaux]
IRAQ and SYRIA
Suspected U.S. airstrikes targeted a Nusra Front-controlled town in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province overnight, according to two local activist groups. [AP]
A new UN report warns that the Islamic State has sufficient military arsenal to continue fighting for two years and that the U.S.-led campaign, even if successful in destroying vehicles and heavy weapons, “cannot mitigate the effect of the significant volume of light weapons” possessed by the group. The report recommends a new program of sanctions against the group in order to stem the flow of revenue from captured oil reserves. The report is to be considered by the Security Council today. [The Guardian’s’ Spencer Ackerman]
The Islamic State has expanded into Libya, with fighters loyal to the group now in complete control of the city of Derna, having rapidly expanded along the western coast amid the political chaos in the country. [CNN’s Paul Cruickshank et al]
The president of Iraqi Kurdistan has criticized the West for failing to supply enough heavy weaponry to assist the peshmerga forces in delivering a “decisive blow” to the Islamic State. [Reuters]
The Arab world should condemn the “monstrous” crimes of the Islamic State, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights said yesterday, while describing the group’s acts as a violation of international law and Islamic tenets. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]
The White House will not change its policy against paying ransom for U.S. hostages, and this position on ransom payments will not form part of the review ordered by the president on efforts to free American hostages abroad. Secretary of State John Kerry also expressed support for the policy, saying it is “heart-rending but absolutely necessary.” [Politico’s Lucy McCalmont and Kendall Breitman]
A second French citizen has been identified in the Islamic State beheading video released this weekend. [France 24] Tracy McNicoll analyzes the significance of the unmasked ISIS members featuring in the video, with experts agreeing that one of the video’s key roles was to “illustrate how far the group’s seductive reach is extending globally.” [The Daily Beast]
The New York Times editorial board urges Congress to “pass a new and separate authorization for the war against ISIS” as it is time for lawmakers to “exhibit some courage.”
The Washington Post editorial board calls on President Obama to reevaluate his “flawed Islamic State strategy,” cautioning that if he “continues to allow his ideological resistance to … the deployment of ground troops … he will ensure [the campaign’s] failure.”
RUSSIA and UKRAINE
Russia has demanded “a 100% guarantee” that NATO would not consider membership for Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson has told the BBC. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there were “no grounds for optimism” over the crisis in eastern Ukraine, during a news conference in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Lavrov has called for the “establishment of stable contacts” between Kiev and the separatists, stating that Moscow should not be treated as a party to the conflict. Ukraine rejected the call to talk directly to the “terrorists.” [Reuters]
The administration’s strategy in Ukraine “effectively amounts to an arms embargo on victims of aggression,” according to Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, renewing their calls for the U.S. and the EU to provide arms and related military support to Ukraine.
Senate’s report on CIA torture. Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein expects the report on the CIA’s post-9/11 program to be released by the end of the year, stating that negotiations over redactions are down to “essentially one … very sensitive and important item.” [Huffington Post’s Ali Watkins]
The American Nurses Association has expressed its support for a U.S. Navy nurse who refused to force-feed Guantanamo Bay detainees, in a private letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]
Nuclear negotiations resumed between Iran and the P5+1 yesterday, in what will be a week-long effort to conclude a comprehensive agreement ahead of next Monday’s deadline. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman] Ahead of the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that he hopes to “find a solution,” but clarified that Iran would be “resisting excessive demands.” [Reuters’ Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi]
The Secret Service has “fallen short” of its high standards, acting director Joseph Clancy will tell the House Judiciary Committee today, according to a copy of his prepared remarks [Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig]
Rep. Jason Chaffetz is the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, replacing Rep. Darrell Issa in the “most competitive” committee leadership race for the 114th Congress. [Government Executive’s Kellie Lunney]
The UN voted in favor of a resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights record yesterday and recommended the prosecution of its leaders at the International Criminal Court. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]
An exchange of fire in Egypt’s Sinai Pensinsula has killed seven people; the incident reportedly occurred amid heavy fighting by fighters and the Egyptian military. [Al Jazeera]
Kenyan authorities have conducted a raid on a second mosque in Mombasa as the country continues its search for weapons and supporters of Somalia based group, al-Shabaab. [Al Jazeera]
Thomas L. Friedman explores whether Dubai caused the Arab awakening, and argues that the U.S. role in the Middle East should be limited to “containment” and “amplification” as it is a region “we can neither fix nor ignore.” [New York Times]
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