The Early Edition: March 30, 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.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Apple v. FBI. After learning that the US government has succeeded in breaking into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters without Apple’s assistance, the tech giant is now faced with the challenge of discovering how this was achieved, and of remedying the vulnerability. Katie Benner et al report. [New York Times]

The abrupt end to the legal dispute between the Justice Department and Apple could intensify the overall debate on data privacy, report Daisuke Wakabayashi and Devlin Barrett, commenting on the undefined threat now facing iPhone security, which risks providing criminals with the same access if Apple is not informed of the method used by the authorities to get into the phone. [Wall Street Journal]

Israeli firm Cellbrite assisted the FBI to hack the iPhone, reports NBC News, citing an official source.

“Whichever way you look, this feud is far from a road to freedom in the digital environment.” Julia Powles and Enrique Chaparro explicate some of the “uncomfortable truths” arising from the Apple v. FBI debate, noting that “technology fragility and corporate power remain unaddressed.” [The Guardian]

A legal dispute between Apple and the Justice Department is ongoing in Brooklyn; the government will disclose over the next two weeks whether it wishes to pursue its attempt to compel the tech company to assist in accessing an iPhone in a Brooklyn drug case. [Reuters’ Dan Levine]

President Obama has expanded on an earlier statement regarding the growing number of cyberattacks on the US, which pose an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.” The notice extends the national emergency declared on April 1, 2015 beyond April 1, 2016. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

The head of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has resigned. David Medine’s decision to step down from the independent body tasked with evaluating the risk posed to Americans’ constitutional rights by federal counterterrorism programs was unexpected. [The Intercept’s Jenna McLaughlin]  Medine’s term was due to end in 2018. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT

France’s President Hollande has discarded plans to change the French constitution to allow those convicted of terrorism to be stripped of their French nationality. The proposal to do so was made following the November Paris attacks, and met with fierce opposition. [BBC]

A second assailant is suspected of taking part in the attack on the Brussels metro last week, Belgian and American officials saying that the search for a second attacker continues. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes and Valentina Pop]

The FBI informed Dutch authorities that the el-Bakraoui brothers were wanted by Belgian authorities less than a week before the two blew themselves up in the Brussels attacks, the Dutch interior minister has said. One of the brothers, Ibrahim, was deported from Turkey to the Netherlands in July 2015; it is unclear why he was not deported to Belgium. [The Guardian’s Jennifer Rankin]

The Brussels attackers searched for information about the home and office of Belgium’s prime minister, according to reports, details having been found on a computer left in a trash bin following the attacks. [BBC]

Have “blunders hampered” the investigation into the Brussels attacks? The BBC explores the errors admitted by Belgian authorities “before, during and since” the attacks.

PAKISTAN

A joint military and police operation has so far resulted in the arrests of over 200 suspected militants in Punjab province, Pakistan, following the bomb attack in Lahore on Sunday. [Washington Post’s Annie Gowen and Shaiq Hussain]

“Let Nawaz Sharif know that this war has now reached the doorstep of his home.” Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the militant group claiming responsibility for the massacre in Lahore this week, have issued a threat to Pakistan’s prime minister via Twitter.  The group also released a picture of the man they say carried out the attack, identifying him as Salahuddin Khurasani. [Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah]

IRAQ and SYRIA

President Obama is facing pressure to push harder for an agreement to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by Syrian opposition leaders who fear that, if a political transition isn’t reached soon, the US will become distracted by its presidential elections. There is also the fear that Assad’s recent victory in taking back the emblematic city of Palmyra will strengthen his position and undermine the Obama administration’s arguments against him. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

President Assad also asserted that his renewed success against Islamic State will “hinder a settlement” because those states who wish to see him removed from power are “betting on our defeat on the battlefield in order to enforce their terms.” He was speaking to Russia’s RIA news agency, in an interview published yesterday. [Reuters’ Vladimir Soldatkin and Dominic Evans]

Islamic State has left dozens of landmines around the ancient ruins of Palmyra as booby-traps for Syrian forces as they move into the city following its recapture last weekend, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported yesterday. Russia is sending 100 mine clearance engineers and bomb-sniffing dogs to help to clear the city. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone and Hwaida Saad]

Russia has shipped more to Syria than it has brought back in the two weeks since President Putin announced he would partially withdraw from Syria, reports Maria Tsvetkova, observing the recent movements of Russian ships while acknowledging that this provides only a “partial snapshot.” [Reuters]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out four strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq on March 29. [Central Command]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Hamas are digging tunnels 19 months after the last war between Israel and Gaza, a fact confirmed by both the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and Israel’s military, a senior official stating that Hamas’ digging has been seen from observation posts and that they “aren’t trying to hide it,” report Harriet Sherwood and Hazem Balousha. The official confirmed that they are not aware of any tunnels having crossed the border so far. [The Guardian]

“Gross violations of human rights.” US lawmakers have urged Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate reports of extrajudicial killings by Israeli and Egyptian security forces in a letter dated February 17. Among the senators is Patrick Leahy, whose name is on a law that conditions US military aid on whether a country’s security forces are committing abuses. [Politico’s Nahal Toosi]

A military court in Israel has extended the detention of an Israeli soldier caught on camera shooting a Palestinian man as he lay injured in occupied West Bank for a further two days while investigations continue. The presiding judge held that the evidence gathered so far is inconclusive, though there is “reasonable suspicion” that an illegal shooting took place. The identity of the soldier is subject to a gagging order. [Haaretz’ Gili Cohen]

YEMEN and SAUDI ARABIA

“I can tell my people with confidence that we are working hard to restore peace.” Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, president of Yemen, sets out his plans for rebuilding the country now that a ceasefire is anticipated to begin on April 10 in the lead-up to peace talks. [New York Times]

A Canadian law professor has filed a lawsuit seeking to halt a $15 billion sale of light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia, reports Murtaza Hussain, citing it as “part of a growing international movement to stop arms sales to the Saudi government over its alleged war crimes in Yemen.” [The Intercept]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Pentagon has made plans to station NATO troops, tanks and armored vehicles full-time along NATO’s eastern borders in an effort to deter Russian aggression. The plan is an escalation of last year’s proposal, and would be the first deployment of this kind since the Cold War ended. [Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Julian E Barnes]

Hundreds of US citizens have been ordered to leave Turkey amid increasing security concerns, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. Family members of military and diplomatic personnel are expected to leave the country over the coming days. [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum]

The European Court of Human Rights is due to rule today on the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was fatally shot by British police on July 22, 2005 when he was mistaken for a suicide bomber in the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings and the subsequent attempted attacks of July 21. [The Guardian’s Alan Travis]

The US and its allies called for a UN Security Council meeting to respond to Iran’s ballistic missile tests, a report obtained by the Associated Press has disclosed. Action is unlikely as Russia is likely to exercise its veto power. [AP]

“Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors,” according to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has spoken in support of the Revolutionary Guards, who are responsible for Iran’s recent missile tests. [Reuters]

There is a “risk of overuse” of US foreign sanctions which may lead to a weakening of both sanctions and the US economy, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned last week. David Ignatius recounts the strengths and weaknesses of these “cheaper and more effective” alternatives to military intervention. [Washington Post]

Stockpiles of nuclear bomb-grade fuel around the world remain vulnerable to theft by terrorists despite progress made by President Obama over the past six years. World leaders are due to meet at the Nuclear Security Summit this week. [New York Times’ David E Sanger and William J Broad]

The office of the president of the UN General Assembly has been found to be lacking in “transparency and accountability,” strapped for cash and a risk to the UN’s reputation, in a report released by a UN task force yesterday. The report, which is not legally binding, also made a number of recommendations including the introduction of a code of conduct. The investigation was ordered following the arrest of former president John Ashe on allegations of accepting bribes from a Chinese billionaire. [Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi]

Judicial Watch is entitled to further details of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, a federal judge has ruled. The judge held that the conservative group, one of several pursuing litigation involving Clinton’s use of email while in office, may pursue legal discovery in its claims that the State Department did not respond properly to a FOIA request filed in 2014 for records relating to the attacks on US facilities in Benghazi in 2012. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]  In his order, Judge Royce Lamberth stated that there was “evidence of government wrong-doing and bad faith” and described Clinton’s email arrangement as “extraordinary.” [Reuters]

Donald Trump’s foreign policy. “Donald Trump might use nuclear weapons to go after Islamic State terrorists. Or maybe not.” The New York Times editorial board argues that Trump’s assertion that he wouldn’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons to combat Islamic State last week, even though he subsequently took a more measured stance, “could make it easier for other nuclear-armed states to think about that possibility.”

Trump has also recently referred to NATO as “obsolete,” prompting the Wall Street Journal editorial board to defend the organization’s contributions in Aghanistan and elsewhere.  The Pentagon has also felt compelled to release a statement defending the transatlantic alliance. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Gunfire and explosions were heard over Tripoli, Libya, this morning according to reporters in the area. The cause of the firing is not yet clear. [Reuters]

A Mississippi woman has pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State, it was announced yesterday. She and her fiancé were arrested at an airport in Mississippi while attempting to fly to join the militant group in Syria. [CNN’s Joshua Berlinger and Catherine E Shoichet] 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Nadia O’Mara is Policy and Campaigns Officer at UK-based civil liberties and human rights organization, Liberty. She was previously the Assistant News Editor at Just Security. Follow her on Twitter (@NadiaMay_1)

Zoë Chapman

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