News Roundup and Notes: November 20, 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

Extending the NSA’s metadata collection program. A provision of the Patriot Act may allow President Obama to extend the Section 215 program, contrary to the expectation that without further congressional action, the program will shut down next June, when its legal basis expires. Obama is unlikely to use this power, but the “mere existence” of this option “could recast the [surveillance reform] debate,” writes Charlie Savage for the New York Times.

Sen. Rand Paul is facing criticism from civil liberties advocates for his vote against advancing the U.S.A. Freedom Act on Tuesday. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

CIA Director John Brennan is considering widespread organizational changes, including the creation of hybrid spying and analysis centers focused on geographic regions and specific national security issues, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials. [Washington Post’s Greg Miller]

The CIA plan to delete older emails of “non-senior” officials is facing resistance from the Senate Intelligence Committee; Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss outlined their opposition in a letter to the National Archives yesterday. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

A $3 billion DHS cybersecurity program to protect federal computer networks from hacking has stalled due to disagreement over who will be held legally liable if the system fails. [Politico’s David Perera]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Airstrikes in Syria and Iraq continue. U.S. and partner national military forces conducted six airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria Monday through Wednesday, and the U.S. conducted one separate strike against the “Khorasan Group.” U.S. and partner nations conducted 24 airstrikes in Iraq during the same time period. [Central Command]

The most recent airstrikes highlight “another trend” whereby the U.S. is attacking construction equipment controlled by militants, reports Dan Lamothe. [Washington Post]

The use of drone strikes against the Islamic State fundamentally changes the nature of warfare, especially in Syria where U.S. troops have no presence, limiting the availability of intelligence. [McClatchy DC’s Nancy A. Youssef]

The UN Security Council has adopted a statement calling on all countries to hinder foreign jihadists who attempt to join the Islamic State, the Nusra Front and other groups; the statement reflects the recommendations put forward by a UN panel in a report released yesterday. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

The Islamic State has released footage showing jihadists burning French passports and urging others to commit terrorism in the European country. [The Guardian’s Shiv Malik]

A suicide attack in the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital of Erbil killed four people yesterday, shattering the “relative calm” in the semi-autonomous region. [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley]

The battle for Kobani has become a publicity war as “the fate of the obscure border town has become the defining battle of the broadest contest with the Islamic State – to solidify, or roll back, its borders and ambitions,” writes Tim Arango. [New York Times]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli defense officials have advised against the deployment of further troops in East Jerusalem due to fears that soldiers would be too ready to fire at protestors or exaggerate threats when employing riot control measures. [Haaretz’s Amos Harel]

“[A] sense of alarm is spreading” across Jerusalem following the deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday, as the “reality [of the] religious subtext to the violence has become increasingly difficult to ignore.” [The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont]

The Washington Post editorial board argues that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders know how to avoid a “third intifada;” they must “refrain from inflammatory statements and hold off on provocative acts.”

Creede Newton reports on the “radicals” responsible for Tuesday’s synagogue attack, as the “question of who orders attacks, and who carries them out, has become a crucial new challenge for any effort to restore order.” [The Daily Beast]

IRAN

Secretary of State John Kerry is “crisscross[ing] Europe” in an attempt to foster a united front between the U.S. and key European and Arab allies on nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 ahead of the deadline this coming Monday. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon et al]

Republican senators warned President Obama not to “circumvent” Congress, in a letter signed by 43 senators, stating: [Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray]

“Unless the White House genuinely engages with Congress, we see no way that any agreement consisting of your administration’s current proposals to Iran will endure in the 114th Congress and after your presidential term ends.”

Iran has failed to provide explanations about suspected nuclear weapon research, according to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. [Reuters]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

A convoy of OSCE monitors was shot at by “uniformed personnel” in Ukraine’s east, the organization said today. [AFP]  OSCE’s envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group on the Ukraine crisis said that prospects for peace in the east are “bleak.” [Reuters]

Meeting with the new American ambassador to Russia, President Vladimir Putin appeared to adopt a softer tone yesterday, stating that Moscow was ready for “practical cooperation” with America based on “mutual respect and pragmatism.” [New York Times’ Andrew Roth]  The AP explores the “tough job” facing John Tefft, the new U.S. ambassador, in Moscow.

The crisis in Ukraine has “reached an impasse,” writes the New York Times editorial board, suggesting that the West should make any assistance to Kiev conditional on “serious” domestic economic and political reform.

Donetsk “is turning into a little neo-Soviet state,” and many see Moscow’s influence in this development, explains Jamie Dettmer. [The Daily Beast]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A U.K. court has held that a Pakistani man can sue the British government over claims he was unlawfully detained and tortured by British soldiers in Iraq, before being handed into U.S. custody and held for 10 years without charge. [BBC]

The UN Security Council has blacklisted the Ansar al Sharia group in Libya, adding it to its al-Qaeda sanctions list. [The Long War Journal’s Thomas Joscelyn]

A man was arrested by the Secret Service close to the White House yesterday after a rifle and ammunition were found in his car. [ABC News]

No agreement was reached on extending Congress’s terrorism insurance program between Sen. Charles Schumer and the House Financial Services Committee Chairperson Jeb Hensarling at a meeting on Tuesday. [The Hill’s Kevin Cirilli]

A failed suicide bomb attempt in an international zone in Kabul killed four Taliban suicide bombers, the latest assault aimed at foreign targets. [Reuters’ Hamid Shalizi and Mirwais Harooni]

Thousands of Palestinians are stranded on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza, following Egypt’s decision to close the Rafah border crossing. [Reuters’ Nidal Al-Mughrabi]

A U.S.-Somali citizen has been shot and killed by al-Shabaab militants in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. [AP]

North Korea threatened to increase its military capability yesterday, saying it would conduct a fourth nuclear test, in response to the passage of a UN resolution recommending the country’s referral to the International Criminal Court. [AP]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security