News Roundup and Notes: March 24, 2014

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

The New York Times (David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth) and Der Spiegel are reporting that the NSA targeted China’s government as well as Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei, which American officials have long considered a security threat. According to documents provided by Edward Snowden, NSA targets also included former Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Chinese Trade Ministry, cellphone networks and banks. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has demanded an explanation from Washington over the latest reports [Reuters].

Glenn Greenwald provides some clarification and facts about how NSA stories are reported [The Intercept].

The New York Times (Claire Cain Miller) covers the economic ramifications of the NSA’s spying revelations on U.S. tech companies.

And House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers has restated his concern that Snowden is “under the influence of Russian intelligence services today” [NBC’s “Meet the Press” with David Gregory].

Ukraine

Russian troops took control of a Ukrainian marine base in Crimea early this morning, “overrunning one of the last symbols of resistance left after Moscow wrestled the peninsula away from Kiev” [Reuters’ Aleksandar Vasovic]. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government has ordered troops to withdraw from Crimea [AP].

The Hill (Justin Sink) and Politico (Jennifer Epstein) report on plans for President Obama’s trip to Europe this week, where Obama is likely to discuss at a meeting of the G-7 leaders the possibility of permanently excluding Russia from the group.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia said on ABC’s “This Week” (George Stephanopoulos) that chances of war with Russia were “becoming higher” with the buildup of Russian troops along the border, but noted that Ukraine is “ready to respond.”

NATO’s military commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove has issued a warning over the “very sizeable” and “very, very ready” Russian forces stationed at the Ukrainian border [BBC].

The UK government has issued a response to Putin’s address to the Russian parliament last week, countering Putin’s arguments on the situation in Ukraine. And Afghanistan joined Syria and Venezuela this weekend by publicly backing Russia’s annexation of Crimea [New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg].

White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken maintained on CNN’s “State of the Union” (Candy Crawley) that Russia’s economy is suffering from U.S. sanctions. The Hill (Russell Berman and Erik Wasson) reports that this week, Congress “will try to get its act together on bolstering Ukraine and condemning Russia, as the House and Senate struggle to reconcile divergent approaches.”

House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers has complained that U.S. rhetoric on Russia does not match “the reality on the ground” [NBC’s “Meet the Press” with David Gregory]. Rogers said, “You can do noncombatant-military aid in a way that allows [Ukrainians] to defend themselves.” And Mitt Romney told CBS’s “Face the Nation” (Bob Schieffer) that Obama’s “naiveté” on Russia invited the Ukraine crisis.

The Wall Street Journal (Adam Entous et al.) reports that U.S. intelligence officials are concluding that in Crimea, “Russian planners might have gotten a jump on the West by evading U.S. eavesdropping.” The New York Times (Peter Baker) covers how “[f]or 15 years, Vladimir V. Putin has confounded American presidents as they tried to figure him out, only to misjudge him time and again.” The Washington Post (Anne Gearan) notes how Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak “has remained publicly silent and out of sight over the past two weeks as the crisis [with Russia] has worsened.” And the New York Times (Andrew E. Kramer) reports on Russia’s increased economic pressure on the new government in Kiev.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael A. Mcfaul discusses how to confront Putin’s annexation of Crimea. Mcfaul notes the two differences that weaken U.S. influence, as compared to the last century: the U.S. “does not have the same moral authority as it did” as well as its “drift of disengagement in world affairs.”

Writing in the Washington Post, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia calls on the world to reject Russia’s “anschluss” in Crimea. The Economist explains the American, European and Russian sanctions. And The Daily Beast (Jamie Dettmer) considers how “[o]rganized crime helped Putin grab Crimea, and may open the way for him to take more of Russian-speaking Ukraine.”

Senate Intelligence Committee–CIA

Politico (Burgess Everett) reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee “is poised to send” its report on the CIA’s interrogation practices to President Obama for approval or redaction. Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said she has the required support, with a vote expected sometime this week.

The Washington Post (Greg Miller) covers CIA Director John Brennan’s note to the agency’s workforce, praising the Senate Intelligence Committee and pledging to cooperate on the release of the Committee’s torture report.

Syria

Turkish military shot down a Syrian warplane yesterday, after it allegedly strayed into Turkish airspace during fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces, in which a relative of President Bashar al-Assad was killed [Washington Post’s Liz Sly].

BBC covers the “fresh clashes” in Lebanon’s Beirut between supporters and opponents of the Assad regime in Syria.

A new UN report from the office of the Secretary General blames the Syrian government as well as fighting among rebel groups for delays in the supply of humanitarian aid [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta]. 

Al Nusrah Front has confirmed the death of Sanafi al Nasr, a senior al-Qaeda leader who was killed in Syria’s Latakia province [The Long War Journal’s Thomas Joscelyn].

Other developments

Uruguay’s President has asked the U.S. to free three Cuban prisoners, in exchange for receiving five Guantánamo Bay detainees [AP]. President Jose Mujica said he wants to help close the detention center, calling it “an embarrassment on humankind.”

The U.S. is stepping up efforts to track down warlord Joseph Kony, doubling the number of American troops in Uganda and dispatching advanced aircraft to the region, according to Pentagon officials [Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum].

The Washington Post (Kevin Sieff) covers how Russia is “ramping up its investment in Afghanistan” as the U.S.-led war in the country “winds down.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discussed his “deep concern” over reported comments by his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Yaalon on U.S. policy toward Iran last week. During the phone conversation, Yaalon “clarified his remarks by underscoring his commitment to the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” according to a Pentagon press release.

The U.S. government has nominated Columbia Law School Professor Sarah H. Cleveland to serve as the independent expert on the UN Human Rights Committee.

An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death on charges of one murder and other acts of violence, “in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement” [Al Jazeera].

The Center for National Security Studies, in partnership with the ABA Center for Human Rights, has published a paper outlining where U.S. targeted killings are legal under the laws of war.

Japan is reportedly set to announce that it will hand over control to the U.S. a portion of its nuclear stockpile, according to American and Japanese officials [New York Times’ Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger].

The New York Times (Jodi Rudoren) reports on “a showdown—and possible breakdown” of the Israel-Palestine peace talks this week, over the anticipated release of a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners.

The Economist reports on the deepening rifts between Iraq’s three main communities, as the country’s election draws near.

Two gunmen attacked a church near the Kenyan city of Mombasa yesterday, killing at least six people [Al Jazeera].

North Korea has test-fired 16 short-range rockets into the sea, according to the South Korean military, “in apparent protest at joint drills between Seoul and Washington” [AFP].

If you want to receive your news directly to your inbox, sign up here for the Just Security Early Edition. For the latest information from Just Security, follow us on Twitter (@just_security) and join the conversation on Facebook. To submit news articles and notes for inclusion in our daily post, please email us at news@justsecurity.org. Don’t forget to visit The Pipeline for a preview of upcoming events and blog posts on U.S. national security. 

Filed under:
About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

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