News Roundup and Notes: December 5, 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.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Car bombings in Iraq killed at least 37 people yesterday. Three attacks took place in Shi’ite neighborhoods of Baghdad while a fourth attack targeted a Kurdish area in the northern city of Kirkuk. [AP]

The Islamic State has seized a village close to a strategic government airbase in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor. [Al Jazeera]

U.S. officials have warned of the risk of an extremist attack inside Turkey on the offices of the Western-backed Syrian opposition group in Gaziantep. [New York Times’ Sebnem Arsu]

The White House and Congress appear to be playing a “waiting game” on new authorization for operations against ISIS, each waiting for the other to act first. Lawmakers remain divided over what the measure should include and what role the administration should have in formulating the text, reports Karen DeYoung.  [Washington Post] 

Sen. John McCain dismissed the possibility of an Islamic State war authorization passing through the lame duck session of Congress. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong and Martin Matishak]

Sen. Rand Paul’s “declaration of war” measure gives the Islamic State “exactly what it wants” by conferring legitimacy on the organization, not as a terrorist group but as an “enemy state,” writes Sam Kleiner. [New Republic]

A French charity is accused of being a front for financing terrorism in Syria. Two senior leaders from the Pearl of Hope charity have been arrested on charges of financing terrorism and the organization has been shut down. [New York Times’ Dan Bilefsky and Maia de la Baume]

A German citizen was sentenced to almost four years for terrorism related activities in Syria–the first trial in Germany of a “home-grown jihadi” accused of joining the Islamic State. [Reuters]

The Washington Post editorial board argues in favor of a de facto safe zone along the Turkish border in Syria, outlining a number of potential benefits.

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, and TECHNOLOGY

The NSA has spied on hundreds of international organizations, not limited to countries hostile to the U.S., in order to identify security weaknesses in cellphone technology that the agency could manipulate for surveillance. The operation, codenamed Auroragold, monitored the content of emails of more than 1,200 accounts associated with cellphone network operators, intercepting confidential material that enables the NSA to hack into phone networks, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden. [The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher]

Sen. Patrick Leahy has called on Obama to end the NSA’s mass surveillance program by not seeking its reauthorization by the FISC, but acknowledged that doing so “would not be a substitute for comprehensive surveillance reform legislation.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

AFGHANISTAN

The Obama administration will keep hundreds of extra troops in Afghanistan on a temporary basis at the end of the year, until the allied nations have finalized the number of NATO troops to be contributed to the training mission. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]

The U.S. and allied nations pledged to continue support for Afghanistan following the withdrawal of troops at a conference attended by over 60 nations in Brussels yesterday. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon]  James Robbins explores Afghanistan’s “uncertain future” following the withdrawal of foreign troops. [BBC]

Pentagon completes investigation into first U.S. General killed in Afghanistan. The investigation criticized Afghan officials for failing to cooperate and found that the gunman who killed Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene acted alone and not on behalf of the Taliban. [New York Times’ Rod Nordland]

YEMEN

The timing of a U.S. raid in Yemen has come under scrutiny. A raid last month carried out in an attempt to rescue American journalist Luke Somers was a failure, although it led to the release of eight other people. U.S. officials have cited delays in the planning and approval of the operation as well as incomplete intelligence as reasons for the failed mission. Somers appeared in a video released by the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen late Wednesday in which they threaten to kill him. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes et al]

“Hostage rescues are difficult.” Adam Taylor outlines the history of “failed attempts” to rescue U.S. citizens. [Washington Post]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

Islamist insurgents launched an attack in the Russian republic of Chechnya yesterday, leaving at least 20 people dead after a 12-hour gun battle with the police. The attack came only hours before President Vladimir Putin’s state of the nation address. [Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum] The attack has raised the “specter of ISIS influence” in Russia, according to some analysts, reports Anna Nemtsova [The Daily Beast]

Putin accused the West of starting the crisis in the region by fueling the coup in Ukraine, as part of his annual address in Moscow. [New York Times’ Neil Macfarquhar]

Rebels in eastern Ukraine have mounted attacks against Ukrainian forces from within residential homes, but the practice is being discontinued, according to a top separatist commander. [AP]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

President Obama will announce his pick for defense secretary today, according to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. [AP] Dan Berman notes that the president’s “own credibility on national security — and his relationship with the military — is on the line as never before,” as he recruits his fourth defense chief, expected to be Ashton Carter. [Politico]

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki suffered a “hot mic” moment following a press briefing during which she criticized the department’s talking points on the Egyptian court’s decision to drop charges against former president Hosni Mubarak. [ABC News’ Ali Weinberg]

Nigerian forces repelled an attack yesterday by gunmen on a factory in the country’s northeast, where authorities are trying to contain a Boko Haram uprising. [AP]

Recent jihadist attacks in Kenya “underscore [its] state of dire insecurity and its inability to come to grips with [al-Shabaab],” writes The Economist.

“Do Americans intrude in Israeli politics?” Aaron David Miller offers an inside story on U.S. “meddling” in Israeli elections. [The Daily Beast]

A suicide attack in Indian Kashmir left eight soldiers and three policemen dead today. [Al Jazeera]

A Danish-Moroccan man has been sentenced to four years for supporting and inciting terrorism through Facebook posts by a court in Denmark. [Reuters] 

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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