News Roundup and Notes: January 12, 2015

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.

PARIS ATTACKS

Around 1.5 million people joined a unity march in Paris on Sunday, joined by dozens of world leaders, in a considerable expression of solidarity following three days of terror attacks last week that left 17 people and 3 gunmen dead. [France 24]

The White House has been criticized for its absence from the unity rally. Attorney General Eric Holder was supposed to attend and was replaced by U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley. [The Hill’s Elise Viebeck]  Josh Rogin explores the potential reasons behind the noted lack of senior U.S. government officials at the rallies, both in Paris and Washington. [Bloomberg View]

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that he will travel to Paris at the end of the week to express U.S. solidarity with the French government’s struggle against terrorism. [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon]

France has mobilized 10,000 security forces to protect the population in the wake of last week’s attacks; the focus of the deployment will primarily be on sensitive locations. [AP]

Amedy Coulibaly claimed he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State. The gunman responsible for the attack on a Paris supermarket on Friday made the claim in a posthumously released video found at an apartment he rented in the run up to the attack. [New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi and Andrew Higgins]

The woman wanted in connection to the Paris attacks crossed into Syria from Turkey on Jan. 8, the Turkish Foreign Minister said today. [AP]

Yemen links. Michelle Shepard asks how the gunmen stayed off the radar for so long, despite Said Kouachi’s travels to Yemen, his al-Qaeda training while in the country, and communication with deceased U.S.-born cleric Anwar Awlaki. [The Star]  Adam Baron discusses Yemen’s “forgotten war” that “spawned” the Paris attacks, noting that once the attacks disappear from the headlines, “Yemen will return to suffering alone as the world turns a deaf ear” [The Daily Beast]  And Suleman Akhtar writes that to understand the attacks in Paris, one need only look to the Yemeni city of Ibb, arguing that the extremist threat is not the West v. Islam and never was. [Dawn]

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has received a “full briefing” on the terror threat facing Britain by security and intelligence officials in the wake of last week’s attacks in Paris. [BBC]

The Sunday political shows were dominated by discussion of the Paris attacks. Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Attorney General Eric Holder said that the attacks in Paris point to similar threats facing the United States. Senator John McCain criticized the White House saying that Obama has no strategy to defeat the Islamic State and suggested the U.S. is “leading from behind” on CNN’s “State of the Union.”  And Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Fox News Sunday that no al-Qaeda link has been established to the Paris attacks. [The Hill]

The leader of Hezbollah has spoken out, stating that Islamic extremists have done more harm to Islam than anyone else in history, but did not specifically mention the Charlie Hebdo attacks. [AP]

The greatest danger in the wake of the attacks, according to the New York Times editorial board, is that more Europeans will fear Muslim immigrants as “carriers of a great and mortal threat.”

IRAQ and SYRIA

At least 24 members of the Iraqi Kurdish security forces were killed by Islamic State fighters during a surprise attack in the country’s north on Sunday. [Al Jazeera America]

Suicide bombers in the Lebanese city of Tripoli killed at least seven people on Saturday; the attack was carried out by members of Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front. [Long War Journal’s Caleb Weiss]  The Nusra Front threatened action today against Lebanese soldiers it is holding captive after police stormed a Lebanese prison where Islamists are being detained. [Reuters]

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and Coalition forces carried out 22 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11. Separately, U.S. and Coalition military carried out a further 12 strikes against targets in Iraq during the same time frame. [Central Command: here and here]

A U.S.-led airstrike on Dec. 28 killed at least 50 Syrian civilians when the strike targeted an Islamic State headquarters in the north of Syria, according to a Syrian opposition human rights group. [McClatchy DC’s Roy Gutman and Mousab Alhamadee]

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will now refer to the Islamic State by its Arabic acronym, Daesh; Fred McConnell looks at the reasoning behind the decision. [The Guardian]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY, and TECHNOLOGY

The FBI plays an increasingly significant role in the government’s surveillance program, as detailed in a 2012 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general on the agency’s activities under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. [New York Times’ Charlie Savage]

The White House has prepared a policy package on promoting privacy and cybersecurity, with a range of executive actions and proposed legislation to be announced this week. [Politico’s Tal Kopan]  President Obama is expected to call for federal legislation requiring companies to inform customers about breaches of data, in a speech at the Federal Trade Commission later today. [New York Times’ Michael D. Shear and Natasha Singer]

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has nominated ministers for his cabinet today, following more than three months of delays caused by “wrangling” between Ghani and Chief Executive Officer, Abdullah Abdullah. [Reuters’ Hamid Shalizi and Mirwais Harooni]

Afghanistan is not able to track personnel and pay its police force despite billions of dollars of outside assistance, according to a new report from an independent U.S. government watchdog. The report finds that the U.S., UN and NATO bear responsibility for failing to resolve persistent weaknesses in the Afghan Interior Ministry’s management of the country’s police force. [Washington Post’s Missy Ryan]

Afghan and Pakistani militants pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and expressed their intention to step up operations in Afghan territory, during a 16-minute video released over the weekend. [Wall Street Journal’s Margherita Stancati and Habib Khan Totakhil]

NIGERIA

Two suspected child suicide bombers attacked a market in northeast Nigeria yesterday, killing at least six people. [Al Jazeeera]  The assault marks a week of escalated violence in the country, and follows a similar suicide bombing involving a 10-year old girl on Saturday that killed 16 people. [The Guardian’s Monica Mark]  The latest violence from extremist group Boko Haram was condemned by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. [UN News Centre]

Boko Haram’s territory nearly equals the Islamic State’s in Syria and Iraq, with the group having seized control of over two dozen towns in northeast Nigeria over the past six months. [The New Yorker’s Alexis Okeowo]

The Catholic Archbishop of Jos, central Nigeria, has accused the West of ignoring the escalating terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram, stating that the international community should show the same spirit as it has done following the attacks in Paris. [BBC]

DAVID PETRAEUS INVESTIGATION

Attorney General Eric Holder declined to confirm on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the Justice Department and FBI have recommended felony charges against the former CIA director, contending Petraeus provided classified information to his former mistress. In reference to Friday’s media report, Holder said:

“I will say that frequently those things that are leaked to the media are done by people who [are] not in the position of know and are frequently inaccurate.”

The leak to the media was criticized by Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham in a statement on Saturday, accusing the Justice Department of “grievously mishandl[ing]” the investigation. Politico’s Tarini Parti has more details.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY

The detention center is a “psychological scar” on American values, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said on Fox News Sunday. Dempsey called for the prison to be closed, but said that about a dozen prisoners would still need to be detained.

The president’s plan to close the prison “faces very long odds,” owing to a hostile Congress and renewed terrorism threats, reports Josh Gerstein. [Politico]

Protestors called for the shutdown of the detention center on Sunday, marking the 13th year since the first detainees were sent to Guantánamo. [Miami Herald’s Carli Teproff]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Cuba has released the 53 prisoners it had promised to free as part of the steps to normalize relations with the U.S., according to senior American officials. [Reuters‘ Matt Spetalnick et al]

President Obama announced the nomination of David Cohen, who has led the administration’s foreign sanctions policy, as the CIA’s Deputy Director. [CNN’s Laura Koran]

The 28 redacted pages of the Senate’s report on 9/11 “point a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as the principal financier” of the 9/11 hijackers, and should be released, according to former Sen. Bob Graham. [The Daily Beast’s Eleanor Clift]

The Pentagon will consolidate the agencies accounting for prisoners of war and those missing in action, after an internal report found that the existing programs were mismanaged and not functional. [AP; DoD News]

A planned summit on the eastern Ukraine crisis looks uncertain, amid fresh violence in the region. German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicated she would not attend the meeting later this week unless Moscow demonstrates serious commitment to the ceasefire efforts. [The Guardian’s Shaun Walker and Oksana Grytsenko]

The ICC has a “dismal record and appears to hold an animus toward the U.S. and Israel,” writes former attorney general Michael B. Mukasey, who is critical of how the Court is being used as a “political weapon.” [Wall Street Journal]

Suspected al-Shabaab gunmen shot a pastor in Kenya’s town of Mombasa, police said yesterday. [AP]

The new Sri Lankan government will probe a reported attempt by former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to stage a coup to remain in power after losing last week’s presidential poll. [Al Jazeera]

An important adviser to ousted President Mohamed Morsi, who was detained in July 2013, has been released by Egyptian authorities. The move does not appear to be part of any easing in the wider clampdown on Morsi’s supporters, reports David D. Kirkpatrick. [New York Times]

South Korea would be willing to hold a summit with North Korea without any pre-conditions, President Park Geun-hye said today, while stressing the need for anti-North security legislation. [Reuters’ Ju-Min Park]

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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