News Roundup and Notes: June 3, 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. 

SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY, and PRIVACY

President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act into law, a few hours after the Senate passed the House-approved reform measure aimed at limiting government surveillance powers. Yesterday’s Senate vote was a significant defeat for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose proposed amendments were blocked by lawmakers on both sides. [New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman]

The USA Freedom Act transfers considerable “national security power” to phone companies, report Damian Paletta and Gautham Nagesh, who consider the implications moving forward. [Wall Street Journal]

Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell emerged as “the big losers,” while the NSA “arguably chalk[ed] up a win,” reports Shane Harris, commenting on the passage of the bill. [The Daily Beast]

What’s in, what’s out? The Washington Post offers a breakdown of the USA Freedom Act.

The passage of the bill is “a milestone in the post-9/11 world.” Ellen Nakashima reports on the significance of congressional action on the issue. [Washington Post]  And The Economist writes that the measure “remains a worthwhile attempt at reform,” despite concerns of rights advocates that the restrictions are “still too loose.”

The FBI is behind dozens of surveillance aircraft—hidden behind fictitious companies—circling U.S. cities and equipped with technologically advanced cameras and sometimes, cellphone tracking technology, according to an AP report from Jack Gillum et al.

A secret report has advised the British government to negotiate a new international treaty forcing the cooperation of American tech giants in sharing user data with British authorities, The Guardian’s Alan Travis reports.

IRAQ and SYRIA

The Iraqi prime minister called for more assistance from the international coalition during talks in Paris yesterday. [France 24] The U.S. pledged 2,000 antitank missiles, half of which have already arrived in Iraq, but the meeting did not bring about any key changes to the strategy to defeat the Islamic State. [Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Karen DeYoung] Tom Kutsch comments on the “long-standing divisions and differing priorities” among the coalition members that has made it challenging to find a united strategy. [Al Jazeera America]

More than 10,000 ISIS militants have been killed since the start of the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria nine months ago, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on France Inter radio. [Reuters]

Around 22,000 foreign fighters from 100 countries are now fighting with the Islamic State, according to a State Department official, who said: “This is something the world has never seen on this scale.” [New York Times’ Alissa J. Rubin]

The Islamic State has gained more territory from Syrian rebel groups near the Turkish border in Aleppo province. [Al Jazeera] Syrian opposition leaders are accusing the Syrian regime for facilitating the Islamic State’s advances, while some rebels are blaming the U.S. for failing to provide adequate air support in the region. [New York Times’ Anne Barnard]

The Syrian government is under increasing pressure following key military losses to the Islamic State and other rebel groups, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. [Reuters’ Sylvia Westall]

A growing number of hackers are helping the Islamic State’s online propaganda, through targeted attacks on media organizations and market outlets, says security company FireEye. [BBC]

YEMEN

The Saudi-led coalition targeted the Yemeni capital of Sana’a this morning, striking Houthi-held military bases in an air attack. [Reuters] Coalition airstrikes on Tuesday killed at least 16 fighters supporting President Hadi and allied with the Saudi-led alliance, according to witnesses. [New York Times’ Shuaib Almosawa]

Saudi’s King Salman has “shaken up” the kingdom’s foreign policy, adopting a more assertive approach in the region, including the Yemen crisis, report Erin Cunningham and Brian Murphy. [Washington Post]

The continuing violence in Yemen has forced thousands to flee, many of whom have journeyed to Somalia’s breakaway region, Somaliland. [Al Jazeera’s Hamza Mohamed]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The CIA employed a broader range of sexual abuse and torture than that detailed in the Senate report published last year, according to lawyers for Majid Khan, a Guantanamo detainee who served as a government witness. [Reuters’ David Rohde]

A Boston terror suspect was killed in a police shooting yesterday; the armed suspect had been under surveillance for suspected Islamic State radicalization. [ABC News’ Mike Levine and Aaron Katersky]

Live anthrax may have been brought into the Pentagon itself; the department is investigating whether the recent shipment contained any live spores, reports Barabara Starr. [CNN]

Former TSA leaders decried the “abominable failure” in the recent undercover tests at airports, citing complacency for the drop in standards. [Politico’s Adam B. Lerner]  Patrick Tucker discusses “how not to fix” screening at airports, warning against adding layers to security and the screening of more passengers. [Defense One]

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is due to sign defense agreements with India, in an apparent effort to strengthen the Indian navy to counter China’s possible expansion into the Indian Ocean. [Politico’s Philip Ewing and Jen Judson]

The “least transparent administration.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments on how the Obama administration blocks FOIA requests. The Hill’s Megan R. Wilson reports on the House Oversight Committee hearing on the FOIA, during which the administration was criticized for adopting a memo that has had a “chilling effect” on the disclosure of records. 

House Republicans are threatening to block some State Department funding until officials accelerate their cooperation with the House investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attacks. [Politico’s Rachel Bade and Lauren French]

Families of Americans detained in Iran appealed to U.S. lawmakers, calling for more assistance in securing their release ahead of the June 30 deadline for a nuclear agreement. NPR’s Michele Kelemen provides more details.

A bomb blast targeting a market in Maiduguri, Nigeria, killed at least 50 people yesterday; no group claimed responsibility but blame fell on Boko Haram. [Al Jazeera]

The leader of an extremist Islamist splinter group in Gaza was shot dead in a clash with Hamas, part of a Hamas campaign to suppress radical jihadists. [New York Times’ Majd Al Waheidi and Isabel Kershner]

Two senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been arrested by Egypt’s authorities. [Reuters] And the Washington Post editorial board comments on the “depths of Egypt’s human rights crisis.”

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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