News Roundup and Notes: June 24, 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, PRIVACY, and TECHNOLOGY

The NSA spied on at least three French presidents, in addition to other senior French officials and politicians, according to documents obtained by WikiLeaks and published by Mediapart. The documents confirm NSA surveillance of France’s leadership between 2006 and 2012. A National Security Council spokesperson responded to the reports, stating:

“We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande.”

The U.S. ambassador to France has been summoned to the French foreign ministry. [France 24]  And French President Hollande is convening an emergency meeting with top security officials over the eavesdropping reports. [AP’s Angela Charlton and Raphael Satter]

OPM HACK

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM)’s inspector general issued a “flash audit alert”, highly critical of the agency’s management, prior to the questioning of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee yesterday. [Washington Post’s Joe Davidson]  Despite indicating her anger and remorse regarding the hack, senators left the hearing unsatisfied with the director’s testimony. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

The OPM’s security system is unable to thwart sophisticated breaches, according to current and former officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments on the latest revelations, arguing that the administration “may have allowed a cyber 9/11 at home.”

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The U.S. will send military equipment to Baltic countries to counter growing Russian aggression, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed yesterday. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold]

NATO is holding a two-day meeting in Brussels with focus likely to remain on remodeling the alliance in light of current crises. [AP’s John-Thor Dahlburg]  NATO is changing its strategy to refocus on Moscow, report Eric Schmitt and Steve Lee Myers. [New York Times]

NPR’s Corey Flintoff profiles former Georgian president and Russian opponent, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is the current governor of the Ukrainian city of Odessa.

IRAN

The P5+1 are willing to engage in “Civil Nuclear Cooperation” with Iran, providing it with heavy-duty equipment if it curbs its nuclear production, according to confidential draft documents seen by the AP.

Iran’s supreme leader has made controversial remarks, undermining key aspects of the emerging nuclear agreement, with only a week left before the June 30 deadline. The New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink and David E. Sanger examine the implications.

“Plan B for Iran.” Michael Crowley reports on the alternatives if nuclear diplomacy fails, including the military option. [Politico]

An agreement with Iran would be a milestone for John Kerry, after several setbacks during his tenure as Secretary of State. [Reuters’ Arshad Mohammed and Waren Strobel]

President Obama’s claim on Iran’s “breakout time” is “false,” writes Alan J. Kuperman in a New York Times’ op-ed.

IRAQ and SYRIA

A “handful” of Iran-linked Shiite militias are stationed at a base alongside U.S. troops in Anbar province, the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday, after a Bloomberg View report from Josh Rogin and Eli Lake on the development. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

U.S.-led coalition forces continue to attack ISIS targets, carrying out three airstrikes in Syria and a separate 14 airstrikes in Iraq on June 22. [U.S. Central Command]

A UN panel released its latest paper on Syria, noting that indiscriminate attacks targeting civilian-areas “are committed across the country by most, if not all, of the warring parties.” [UN News Centre]

The Islamic State has reportedly issued its own currency. BBC’s Lucas de Jong reports on the “Islamic Dinar.”

The latest ISIS propaganda video shows fighters targeting men suspected of assisting the U.S. and its allies, and appears to be an effort to quell resistance. [New York Times’ Ben Hubbard]

ISIS fighters have destroyed two shrines in Palmyra, the historic city in central Syria. [Reuters]

YEMEN

Houthi rebels were forced to relinquish a border crossing with Saudi Arabia, after it was seized by militants loyal to Yemeni President Hadi. [Reuters]

There has been an increase in violence in southwestern Yemen, and speculation that newly trained Southern fighters are set to join the fighting in Aden this week. [Asharq Al-Awsat’s Arafat Madabish]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

The Palestinian Authority intends to file documents with the ICC tomorrow on alleged Israeli violations in three areas, building on the momentum from the recent UN report on last summer’s conflict. [Haaretz’s Jack Khoury]

The New York Times editorial board expresses pessimism over the UN report on the 2014 Gaza conflict, concluding that more war “seems inevitable” without “some kind of peace agreement.”  CNN’s Oren Liebermann summarizes the report’s main conclusions and reactions from Israel and Palestine.

The Israeli military hit a target in the northern Gaza Strip, in response to a rocket attack believed to be launched by a Salafi group in Gaza. [Haaretz’s Shirly Seidler et al]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Details of how individuals are targeted in drone strikes, and how strikes can occasionally go wrong, are documented in files provided by Edward Snowden. [New York Times’ Scott Shane]  The Guardian’s Alice Ross and James Ball also report on these documents, noting new questions over the British spy agency’s complicity in the U.S. drones program, including a fatal 2012 strike in Yemen.

U.S. hostage policy reform. The White House will announce that families of American hostages will be allowed to communicate with and pay ransom to terror groups without the threat of criminal prosecution. [AP’s Julie Pace and Eric Tucker]  Rep. Duncan Hunter has said the review is “nothing more than window dressing.” [BuzzFeed News’ Hayes Brown and Gregory D. Johnsen]

Human rights groups are calling for an independent prosecutor’s inquiry into CIA torture, arguing that the Senate Intelligence Committee report offers new evidence of “serious federal crimes.” [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

Defense Secretary Carter is “not confident” that the Guantanamo prison can be closed before President Obama leaves office, but remains hopeful, the Pentagon chief said in an interview with CBS News.

American officials criticized China for undermining cybersecurity in general, during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, but maintained public silence on China’s alleged role in the OPM hacks. [New York Times’ Jackie Calmes]

Japan and the Philippines flew a joint surveillance mission over the contested South China Sea, for the second day in a row, despite Chinese warnings. [AFP]

A 12 year-old Nigerian female bomber has killed at least 10 people in a suicide attack in northeastern Nigeria, following another such assault earlier this week. [Al Jazeera]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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

Sarika Arya

Former Summer Fellow at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@sarika_arya).