News Roundup and Notes: October 9, 2013

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.

U.S. raids in Libya and Somalia

Libya’s top political authority, the General National Congress has adopted a statement calling for the “immediate surrender” and return of Abu Anas al-Liby, the alleged al-Qaeda operative seized by the U.S. last Saturday [AFP]. Condemning the U.S. operation as a “flagrant violation” of Libya’s sovereignty, the statement also called for the “need to allow the Libyan authorities and their families to get in touch with [al-Liby] and guarantee them access to a lawyer.”

The Libyan government is also reported as having “summoned” the U.S. Ambassador Deborah Jones yesterday to answer questions about the U.S. raid [Voice of America]. CNN (Michael Pearson and Eliott C. McLaughlin) reports that according to senior State department officials, the meeting with Libya’s Justice Minister was “all very cordial albeit with concerns.” And the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has claimed that this issue will not affect the ties between his country and the U.S. [BBC].

Meanwhile, some U.S. officials have maintained that the Libyan government had tacitly approved of the raid, but had not been told beforehand when the operation would take place [New York Times’ Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt]. Allegedly, the Libyan government approval extended to two operations, one to capture al-Liby, and the other to seize a militia leader, Ahmed Abu Khattala suspected of being responsible for last year’s attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. The U.S. embassy in Tripoli also told the BBC that Ambassador Deborah Jones had been “in regular contact with the Libyan government, including the Libyan ministry of foreign affairs.”

Yesterday, the chief federal public defender in New York, David E. Patton called for the appointment of a lawyer for al-Liby [New York Times’ Benjamin Weiser]. Writing to judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who is presiding over al-Liby’s conspiracy case, Patton stated that al-Liby was entitled under the law to be taken “without unnecessary delay” before a magistrate judge, which could be conducted by video teleconference.

On the other hand, some Republic lawmakers are calling for al-Liby to be transferred to Guantanamo Bay, highlighting the opportunity to obtain intelligence from “the highest value target…captured in years” [The Hill’s Carlo Muñoz].

On the operation in Somalia, the New York Times (Nicholas Kulish and Eric Schmitt) reports that “imperfect intelligence,” such as discovering many more civilians in the al-Shabaab compound than expected, hindered the U.S. raid, according to officials.

CNN’s Josh Levs questions whether the two U.S. raids reveal anything about President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine. McClatchy DC (Hannah Allam) discusses whether holding al-Liby at sea violates international law. And Al Jazeera analyzes whether Libya is turning into “a safe haven for al-Qaeda.”

Egypt

The Obama administration will be announcing cuts in military aid to Egypt in the next few days, according to U.S. officials [Anne Gearan and Scott Wilson in the Washington Post]. The decision, which will come three months after the military coup in Egypt, marks a significant shift in U.S.-Egypt ties.

Reuters reports that according to officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, the administration is leaning toward withholding most military aid, except that used to aid in counterterrorism efforts.

Jennifer Epstein notes that while National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden denied earlier reports that all military assistance to Egypt would be halted, Hayden did not negate Reuters’ follow up story that “most” military aid would be cancelled [Politico].

Government shutdown

In a statement released yesterday, CIA Director John Brennan stated that the CIA will begin recalling “employees who are necessary to carry out CIA’s core missions of foreign intelligence collection, all-source analysis, covert action, and counterintelligence” [Al Jazeera America]. He said that maintaining staffing at reduced levels “would pose a threat to the safety of human life and the protection of property.”

At Politico’s Cyber 7 event in Washington, panelists, including top cyber experts, warned that the shutdown was impeding American cybersecurity (Philip Ewing).

House Republicans are drafting legislation that will enable the Pentagon to make death benefit payments that have been suspended during the government shutdown [The Hill’s Jeremy Herb].

Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that the DC Circuit rejected a request from lawyers to halt the case on the use of force feeding procedures on Guantanamo prisoners due to the government shutdown.

NSA surveillance

At Politico’s panel discussion yesterday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich) indicated that his reform legislation on the NSA would preserve the majority of the department’s powers [The Hill’s Brendan Sasso and Kate Tummarello].

Yochai Benkler, in The Guardian, argues that the “NSA gets negligible intel from Americans’ metadata” and that the bulk collection program should be abolished if the NSA “cannot show real, measurable evidence of its effectiveness.”

NPR (Howard Berkes) reports that according to a NSA spokesperson, the failures during the testing of equipment at the department’s new data center in Utah “have been mitigated.”

In the U.K., new MI5 chief, Sir Andrew Parker launched a strong defense of surveillance by GCHQ, the country’s spying agency, in his first speech since taking up the position [The Guardian’s Nick Hopkins]. Without mentioning Edward Snowden’s name, Parker attacked information leaks, stating “’it causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques” and helps terrorists [BBC’s Frank Gardner].

Iran

The Wall Street Journal (Jay Solomon) reports that Iran is preparing a “serious package” of proposals on limiting its nuclear program ahead of next week’s negotiations in Geneva, according to officials. The speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani also told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that his country is serious about resolving the nuclear issue “in a short period of time,” but that the West must accept Iran’s right to enrich nuclear fuel for civilian purposes.

Foreign Policy’s The Cable (John Hudson) reports that a bill being sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) aims to authorize a U.S. military strike against Iran by providing President Obama with “all options” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability. There is concern over the timing of this bill, which some foreign policy observers believe may threaten negotiations with Iran scheduled for next week.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Israel has condemned the UN for selecting Iran as a rapporteur of the General Assembly’s Committee on Disarmament and International Security as “inconceivable,” given Iran’s sanctions related to its nuclear program [AP].

In a significant diplomatic move, the U.K. and Iran have discussed the possibility of reopening their respective embassies in Tehran and London [The Guardian’s Ian Black]. U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague announced the latest development through Twitter:

Syria

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has announced that it will be deploying a second team of experts to Syria:

The Wall Street Journal (Naftali Bendavid) and New York Times (Ben Hubbard) have more on this story.

On the ground, Al Jazeera America covers the continuing violence between government and opposition forces for control of the country’s largest city, Aleppo. France 24 discovers that rebel forces have to rely on homemade weapons due to a chronic lack of arms.

And at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Russian and Chinese presidents congratulated each other for their successful effort toward preventing a U.S. military strike on Syria [Al Jazeera America].

Drones

The Financial Times (Geoff Dyer) reports that despite increasing reliance on drones by the Pentagon and the CIA, the U.S. drone market is under threat as the industry faces backlash over privacy worries regarding the domestic uses of unmanned aircrafts.

In Europe, EU politicians and industrialists are concerned that Europe is lagging behind Americans and Israelis in “the large UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] market” [Wall Street Journal’s David Pearson].

Other developments

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced the appointment of Paul Lewis as the department’s special envoy for closing Guantanamo Bay [Al Jazeera].

Despite criticisms leveled against the U.S. and NATO by Afghani President Hamid Karzai, the Obama administration is optimistic that a deal between the two countries could be finalized in the next few weeks, reports the AP.

Secretary of State John Kerry will be shifting focus from trade to regional security at the ASEAN summit in Brunei beginning today [Wall Street Journal’s James Hookway].

In a pre-trial hearing yesterday, lawyers for Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law argued that their client had been disoriented during his interrogation due to being forced to wear a hood, black-out goggles and ear muffs [Fox News’ Jonathan Wachtel]. As a result, the defense team claimed that evidence obtained during the rendition flight should be excluded.

In a report to the UN, the International Criminal Court has called for greater support from the Security Council to enforce the Court’s decisions [UN News Centre].

Reuters reports that human rights lawyers will be filing a suit in a New York District Court against the UN on behalf of Haitian victims of a cholera epidemic, which they allege was caused by UN peacekeepers.

South Korea’s intelligence agency confirmed yesterday that North Korea has restarted a nuclear reactor in its main nuclear complex, reports the New York Times (Choe Sang-Hun).

A French national of Algerian origin, suspected to be an “important” al-Qaeda leader, has been deported from Pakistan to France [France 24’s Leela Jacinto].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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