The Early Edition: June 7, 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.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Allegations of human rights violations are emerging on both sides in the fight for Fallujah. While Islamic State is reportedly firing on civilians attempting to leave the city. Meanwhile hundreds of civilians bearing “marks of torture” were released outside the city after being held by Shiite militias yesterday that are part of the government-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces. [AP’s Susannah George]

Civilians attempting to flee the besieged city are facing harrowing and potentially deadly journeys. When they do make it out, to camps in government-controlled areas, they are met with “shortages of food, medicine and clean water,” reports Tim Arango. [New York Times]

At the same time, the US is watching while Syrian people starve, writes the Washington Post editorial board, accusing the government of inaction despite the fact it’s been almost six months since the UN passed a resolution calling for an end to the bombing of civilians in Syria and the provision of immediate humanitarian aid, and despite statements from Secretary of State John Kerry insisting on immediate action.

Western Islamic State recruits are becoming increasingly disillusioned and are contacting their governments for help getting home, reports Maria Abi-Habib. [Wall Street Journal]

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is anticipated to defend his decision to join the invasion of Iraq as the publication of the results the Chilcot inquiry report, July 6, finally approaches. He is expected to urge his critics to “think through the consequences for stability in the Middle East had Saddam Hussein been left in power” and to “argue that the ultimate cause of the long-term bloodshed in Iraq was the scale of external intervention in the country by Iran and al-Qaeda.” [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour] 

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out eight airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on June 5. Separately, partner forces conducted 14 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The FBI will be given authority to access people’s Internet browsing history and other electronic data without a warrant under amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act being sought by the Obama administration. A similar attempt was made six years ago, but abandoned over concerns raised by privacy advocates and the tech industry itself. Privacy advocates are similarly critical this time round. FBI Director James Comey insists that the legislation is intended to fix a “typo” in the Act, which has allowed some tech firms to refuse the data they are supposed to be providing. [Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima]

Federal agencies face deadlines to deliver reports related to the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, a law passed as part of last year’s omnibus that makes it easier for companies to share information about cyber attacks against them with the government. The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are required to report guidelines covering the way in which federal agencies will protect privacy and civil liberties when sharing cyber threat indicators. Meanwhile, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Management and Budget must produce a report on the ways in which an enemy might access classified information by exploiting unclassified information, by Thursday. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]

CHINA

Chinese military leaders have vowed to ignore the impending verdict of the UN tribunal on China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, says the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Admiral Guan Youfei, director of foreign affairs for China’s defense ministry, dismissed the arbitration as illegal, and Admiral Sun Jianguo stated that China is being bullied by its smaller neighbors and the US, since the arbitration case was brought by the Philippines. Both were speaking at the Sharngri-la security conference in Singapore.

China and the US fully intend to enforce sanctions against North Korea, Secretary of State John Kerry said today at the end of high-level talks in Beijing. [Reuters’ David Lawder and Ben Blanchard]

The talks are otherwise “showing the limits of cooperation” between China and the US, report Lingling Wei and Felicia Schwartz. Disputes being dealt with include cybersecurity and China’s new security laws and regulations. [Wall Street Journal]

EUROPE

French police and emergency services are staging “doomsday” terrorist scenarios in the run-up to Euro 2016, the Europe-wide soccer tournament due to be hosted by France from June 10. As 2.5 million ticket-holders, and millions of others, are expected to arrive shortly, the French government is preparing the “heaviest sports security operation in recent history.” [The Guardian’s Angelique Chrisafis; CNN’s Tim Lister]

The man arrested by Ukrainian police yesterday on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks on Euro 2016 was attempting to smuggle explosives and firearms for use in such an attack, Ukrainian officials have said. He was apparently angered by the surge of Muslim immigrants into Europe and intended the attacks as a “sign of protest.” [Washington Post’s Andrew Roth]

Anti-Islam is on the rise in Europe, observes Anthony Faiola, drawing parallels with the conditions which led to the rise of Adolf Hitler.  The shift to the far-right is most “startling” in Germany, he writes. [Washington Post]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY

Top State Department official Steven Mull “can’t recall” discussing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as her executive secretary from 2010-11, he said during a deposition on Friday. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein; The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The FBI is asking a federal judge to accept “additional details” relating to the way in which it conducted its search for records requested under a FOIA request relating to the probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The details are intended to show that it conducted a “reasonable search,” but will remain secret under FOIA exemption for ongoing government investigations and enforcement actions. [Politico’s Josh Gerstein]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Survivors and victims’ family members of the 9/11 attacks have written to the White House asking Obama not to waste time releasing the 28-pages, the last remaining classified portion of a 2003 report, believed to contain details of Saudi Arabia’s implication in the attacks. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

The UK’s nuclear warhead Trident is being upgraded in secret, according to a report from the Nuclear Information Service. Work is being undertaken to upgrade it to “Mark 4A,” which will be more accurate and have greater destructive power. [The Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor]

Congress has passed an “increasing number of ‘secret laws’” over the past 30 years, according to a recent study, by Ohio State University Professor Dakota Rudesill. Rudesill found that more and more bills passed by Congress include provisions containing “secret elements,” which US citizens do not see before they become law. Other secret laws come about because of the three huge budget bills that get renewed every year. [Vocativ’s Kevin Collier]

Another extrajudicial killing of a Palestinian by Israeli soldiers took place just before the well-publicized on-camera execution of a wounded Palestinian man in March, which led to an indictment of the soldier for manslaughter, according to a report by an Israeli rights group. The video captures the first victim, already dead, the report says. Witnesses to the attacks say the man was shot before they could press record on their phones. [The Intercept’s Robert MacKey]

A car bomb attack targeting a riot police bus in Istanbul, Turkey, has killed 11 and wounded 36 this morning, Istanbul’s governor has said. There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. [AP]

Jordanian police have arrested one person in relation to the attack on a Palestinian refugee camp near Jordan’s capital, Amman, yesterday, in which five people were killed. [New York Times’ Rana F Sweis]

The EU’s foreign policy chief has urged the UN to adopt a resolution allowing an EU maritime force to help enforce an arms embargo on Libya, in addition to its current charge of intercepting migrant-smuggling vessels. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]  The UK has circulated a draft UN resolution that would authorize the EU naval force, expected to be voted on next week provided Russian concerns have been overcome. [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour]

The UN removed the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen from its blacklist of government forces that commit grave violations of children, pending “the conclusions of the joint review,” following “vehement protest” from Saudi Arabia. [AP’s Edith M Lederer]  Minutes after the UN’s announcement, Saudi’s ambassador to the UN insisted that the removal was “unconditional and irreversible.” [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]

UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic have been implicated in the “grisly murders” of twelve people dating back to 2014, whose remains have been unearthed by aid workers. [Washington Post’s Kevin Sieff]

South Africa’s government has refused to heed warnings that Islamic-State-related attacks are likely during the month of Ramadan from the US and the UK. [Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa]

The deaths of NPR photojournalist David Gilkey and translator Zabihullah Tamanna in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan “underscore new risks in Afghan coverage,” writes Tim Craig for the Washington Post . According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 27 journalists or media workers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. Gilkey, however, was the first foreign journalist to be killed since 2014.

The death toll following Sunday’s attack by gunmen on the north-western Kazakh city of Aktobe has reached 19, a police spokesperson has said today. [Reuters’ Olzhas Auyezov and Dmitry Solovyov]

North Korea appears to have restarted its nuclear facility at Yongbyon, originally shut down in 2007, the International Atomic Energy Agency has said, having made an assessment of satellite images. [BBC] 

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About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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