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, SYRIA, and THE ISLAMIC STATE
Dozens of US diplomats are calling for American airstrikes against the government of Syrian president Bashar al Assad. In what the Wall Street Journal calls a “scathing internal critique of a longtime U.S. policy,” 51 State Department employees signed an official “dissent channel cable” calling for airstrikes and regime change in light of the near-collapse of this year’s ceasefire agreement. The dissent channel is an official mechanism for State Department employees to voice opposing views to government policy, and the cable featuring an unusually large number of signatures may be an attempt to shape the foreign policy of the next presidential administration, one official tells the WSJ.
Iraqi government forces have fought their way to the center of Fallujah. The Iraqi military announced today that its troops reclaimed a government compound the center of the city that has been under Islamic State rule for two years. This victory however, does not mark the end of the battle for Fallujah. Iraqi forces must now push outward from the center to retake the rest of the city from the Islamic State, according to CBS News.
CIA Director John Brennan gives the war against the Islamic State an F grade. Brennan said the organization is undiminished despite losing territory and thousands of fighters in two years of military action against it by a host of nations and that it will likely conduct more attacks in the west, report Kimberly Dozier and Nancy Yousef in The Daily Beast. “Our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday.
US-led airstrikes continue in Iraq and Syria. Central Command update here.
The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan will likely recommend increasing the numbers of US troops deployed there to train the Afghan security forces. The recommendation is expected to be made as part of a report from US Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, who took over as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan three months ago, on the situation in Afghanistan and what it will take to defeat the Taliban. [Lynne O’Donnell, AP]
TECHNOLOGY, SURVEILLANCE, and CYBERSECURITY
The hacker who penetrated DNC networks is a Russian speaker with an affinity for the Soviet era, claims ARS Technica after reviewing metadata from fake documents containing malicious software that were emailed to DNC staffers.
The FBI has access to hundreds of millions of images of American’s faces that it can scour with facial recognition software. In addition to more than 30 million civil and criminal mugshots, the bureau is able to comb through the State Department’s visa and passport databases, 16 states’ drivers license databases, and the Pentagon’s biometric database, totaling more than 411.9 million images, according to a May GAO report made public this week. The report criticizes the bureau’s program for a lack of accountability and accuracy. Read more here.
Despite recent years’ revelations about massive US government surveillance programs, the FBI’s investigative infrastructure isn’t big enough to deal with the threat of lone wolf terrorists, argues Garrett Graff in Politico Magazine.
We can’t keep the bad guys out and more surveillance won’t help. At FP, Rosa Brooks has nine uncomfortable truths about terrorism that nobody wants to hear.
Japan and India may build an undersea “wall of microphones” to track Chinese submarines. The supposed wall of hydrophones will be places between India’s southernmost tip and Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, according Quartz.
The US has sent a detachment of electronic warfare jets to the Philippines. The deployment of four Navy EA-18 Growlers is a sign of the Pentagon’s renewed presence in the Pacific nation aimed at countering China’s aggressive moves in the region. Via Forbes.
Facebook to predict terrorist attacks. Physicists at the University of Miami are trying to develop an algorithm that can predict the likelihood of a terrorist attack by scanning social media for pro-Islamic State content. Meanwhile, counterterrorism experts remain skeptical, cautioning that the “actions of terrorist groups are extremely difficult to anticipate,” writes Pam Belluck in the New York Times.