The Early Edition: March 8, 2016

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 Justice Department has appealed last week’s ruling by a Brooklyn federal judge in favor of Apple, saying that the judge erred in concluding that prosecutors lacked the legal authority to force Apple to unlock a drug dealer’s iPhone. [New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Joseph Goldstein; Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett]  The Justice Department’s appeal is available here.

CIA Director John Brennan appeared to support the FBI yesterday in its efforts to compel Apple to write software bypassing its security mechanisms on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. Speaking at a State Department event on global partnerships, Brennan said: “If the bureau has the opportunity to gain some insights … is there not some obligation on the part of the product developer to ensure that the government can fulfill its responsibilities.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

“If it succeeds, cyborgs will be a reality.” The American military is committing millions of dollars to the development of an advanced implant which would facilitate direct communication between the human brain and computers. [CNN’s Ryan Browne]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Syrian opposition groups are “still undecided” on whether to attend UN-mediated peace talks this week. As the cease-fire largely holds into its second week, would-be negotiators are accusing the Syrian government, and its Russian allies, of violating the truce. [Wall Street Journal’s Nour Malas]

An Iraqi political party and militia force have registered to lobby Washington officials in an effort to “bypass perceived obstacles in Baghdad.” The move follows a similar strategy by minority Sunni Muslims in Iraq, who “lobbied Washington for direct support after feeling shut out by the Shia-dominated central government.” [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out six strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on March 7.  Separately, partner forces conducted a further 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [US Central Command]

LIBYA-TUNISIA BORDER

Fighting between Tunisian security forces and unidentified militia from Libya has sparked fears that the gunmen were Islamic State fighters and that Libya’s “political chaos” is spilling over the border. [Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley and Radhouane Addala]  The death toll is now at 54, including 36 militants. [New York Times’ Farah Samti and Declan Walsh]  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the attacks, reiterating “the commitment of the United Nations to stand with the people of Tunisia.” [UN News Centre]

Following the attacks, the border between Libya and Tunisia has been closed by Tunisia’s government. A curfew has also been imposed in Ben Gardane. [Al Jazeera]

The Pentagon has presented military options to the White House which include numerous airstrikes in Libya. The plan will not be considered, however, while the Obama administration pushes for the formation of a unity government in Libya. [New York Times’ Eric Schmitt]

SOMALIA

US airstrikes have hit an Islamic State training camp in Somalia, killing around 150 militants. It is believed the fighters were gathering for a “graduation ceremony,” a prelude to “an imminent attack against American troops and their allies in East Africa.” [New York Times’ Helene Cooper]  Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement yesterday that the “removal of these fighters degrades al-Shabaab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia.” The full results of the operation are still being assessed. [DoD News]

Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for a bomb at an airport in the central Somalia town of Beletwein on Monday. Six people were wounded by the explosion. [New York Times’ Mohammed Ibrahim]

GUANTANAMO BAY

Another former Guantánamo Bay detainee is believed to have engaged in terrorist activity post-release and seven more have been added to a list of those considered likely to do so, according to data released yesterday. No names or locations have been disclosed. [New York Times’ Charlie Savage]

Guantánamo’s oldest inmate will go before the parole board today. The 68-year old Palestinian, Saifullah Paracha, denies involvement with al-Qaeda, his attorney pointing out, in a statement released by the Pentagon last night, that he will not be able to demonstrate remorse for things he says he has not done. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “abruptly” canceled a trip to Washington, a decision that has been “quickly interpreted as the latest evidence of a lingering rift” between the two leaders, whose relationship has been viewed as “strained” for some time. Netanyahu had been due to attend the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israeli group. [New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis]  Vice President Biden is due to arrive in Israel today to “patch up” relations between the White House and Netanyahu. Discussions will focus on a multi-billion dollar military aid package. [Washington Post’s William Booth and Carol Morello]

The Obama administration is working to revive Middle East peace negotiations before President Obama leaves office, including a potential UN resolution outlining a deal between Israel and Palestine. Options include asking both sides to “compromise on key issues,” something both Israel and the US have opposed in the past. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E Lee and Rory Jones]

Israel should engage with Hamas, argues Saskia Marsh, in order to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Doing so would recognize that “the pathway towards peace is a long, tortuous process – and a process that is only effective if all key players, including those with “blood on their hands,” are included.” [Al Jazeera]

IRAN

Iran has test-fired several ballistic missiles, in defiance of recent US sanctions. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ website stated that the test was meant “to show Iran’s deterrent power.” [Reuters]

An intercepted consignment of weapons is believed to have been headed to Yemen from Iran. More than 200 pieces of weaponry were seized by an Australian naval ship after it intercepted a stateless fishing vessel off the coast of Oman. [CNN’s Joshua Berlinger]

The UN will be monitoring nuclear activities in Iran as part of its 2016 plan, the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency announced yesterday. Iran is “invited to participate in the full range of Agency activities.” [UN News Centre]

US DRONE STRIKES

The number of people killed in US drone strikes abroad will be released after an assessment has been carried out, the Obama administration announced yesterday. The decision is part of an effort to “bring greater transparency to one of the most controversial aspects of the war on terrorism.” [Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau; The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux]

President Obama must not leave office without imposing restrictions on “the summary killing of suspected militants and terrorists” via drone strikes, a power he “made emphatically his own” after taking over from President Bush, write the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman. [New York Times]

NORTH KOREA

South Korea is to impose new sanctions against North Korea, and will ban ships that try to enter its waters via North Korea. Although there is overlap with the UN sanctions, the decision on the part of South Korea underlines its intention to make the North “pay the heavy price for their actions” in conducting nuclear tests. [Washington Post’s Anna Fifield; Reuters]

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has accused the North of hacking senior government official’s smartphones. Text messages, contact information and voice conversations have been stolen, according to the spy agency. [New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Islamic State is planning “enormous and spectacular” attacks on the UK, Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, Mark Rowley, has warned. Rowley, who leads police counterterrorism efforts, told a news briefing yesterday that the terrorist group’s attraction for some UK citizens is not being undermined by government efforts and that there are signs that the group will target “western lifestyle” rather than focus narrowly on police and military targets. [The Guardian’s Vikram Dodd; The Daily Beast]

Belgian police made “no specific errors” leading up to the Paris attacks a report has found, though it adds that there is room for improvement in data sharing between Belgium and France. The report was released by committees tasked with investigating the police’s handling of information it received about a jihadi network based in the suburb of Molenbeek in the years leading up to the attack. [Politico’s Laurens Cerulus]

Turkey has negotiated the outlines of a “new, broader accord aimed at stemming the flow of migrants pouring into Europe” with the EU, the details of the deal to be discussed next week. The EU has agreed to increase funding to Turkey, in return for which Turkey will take back migrants who leave it to travel on to Greece. For Syrian refugees, the deal is that EU countries will take one Syrian refugee from Turkish camps in exchange for every Syrian person Turkey receives back from Greece. The aim is to “ensure there is only a legal, organized channel for Syrian migration” to Europe. [Wall Street Journal’s Valentina Pop and Laurence Norman]

“China is not the United States, and China cannot possibly become another United States.” Speaking at his annual news conference, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi made reference to China’s history as he attempted to allay the perceived fears of US citizens that China is attempting to replace the US on the international stage. Wang said that it was natural for the countries to clash in some areas, but that they managed to work together on others. [Reuters]

The Egyptian student in California whose visa was canceled after he posted “threatening” comments aimed at Donald Trump on Facebook has agreed to return to Cairo. Emadeldin Elsayed was granted a “voluntary departure” by a judge last week. [New York Times’ Liam Stack]

The death toll in the bomb attack by Taliban-affiliated group Jamat-ul-Ahrar in  northwest Pakistan yesterday has risen to 17 after 6 who were wounded died overnight. [AP]

Clashes between armed groups in Bambari in the Central African Republic have killed ten. The violence appears to have been precipitated by the murder of two Muslims by “unidentified assailants” on March 2. [Al Jazeera]

“Absolutely not.” Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton told Fox News on Monday that neither she nor her lawyers  have been informed directly by the FBI that she is subject to investigation over her use of a private email server while in office. [The Hill’s Mark Hensch]

Donald Trump is seeking “a war crime” in calling for US military forces to “go kill the innocent,” according to former CIA Director General Michael Hayden. He was speaking to Fox News. [The Hill’s Mark Hensch]

The UN will be trying out its new election process at the end of this year, when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s term expires, which includes allowing candidates to publicly make their case, rather than the entire process happening behind closed doors. [NPR’s Michele Kelemen] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE