Military Skill and Terrorist Technique Fuel Success of ISIS - NYTimes.com

"At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.

He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army.”
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"Political changes after the American invasion accelerated their rise. Members of Mr. Hussein’s Baath Party were barred from government positions, and the political dominance of Iraq’s Shiite majority made many Sunnis feel disenfranchised.

“After 2003, what did these guys have to do but get more radical?” Mr. Knights said.”

Gov't Resists Court Review of State Secrets

Secrecy News
Gov’t Resists Court Review of State Secrets
Posted on Aug.27, 2014 in Judicial, state secrets privilege by Steven Aftergood

"It is “not appropriate” for a court to conduct its own independent review of evidence that the government asserts is protected by the state secrets privilege, attorneys for the government argued last week."

ISIS in Perspective | The National Interest Blog

"The extent of any terrorist threat to the United States does not depend on killing any one organization. It will depend partly on those political processes in countries such as Iraq and Syria. It also will depend on how well the United States, in going after any one monster, does not create other ones. In that regard we cannot remind ourselves often enough—especially because this fact seems to have been forgotten amid the current discussion of ISIS—that ISIS itself was born as a direct result of the United States going after a different monster in Iraq."

Congress and Iraq - NYTimes.com

"Every participant in the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, understood that only Congress was empowered to authorize the initiation of war."

Nine Heroes Who Stood Up Against Torture | Human Rights First

"Thanks to Senate Intelligence Committee’s soon-to-be-released report, torture is front-page news again. Some defenders of torture claim the participation of U.S. military personnel and intelligence officers indicates that it was necessary and legal. In fact, there was real-time opposition to torture in every agency, at every level. Many Americans refused to go along with the program because they understood—and, in some cases, saw firsthand—the disastrous moral and strategic costs of torture. And they usually paid a price for acting on their principles.

Here are just some of the courageous men and women who said no to torture and yes to American ideals.”

thepoliticalnotebook:

This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.
Journalist James Foley was beheaded on video by an Islamic State militant on Tuesday. Foley, who had been captured in November of 2012, was murdered by a man with a British accent, prompting rapid investigation into the militant’s identity. 
The video also showed and threatened the life of another captive journalist - Steven Sotloff. Read more about him here. As Richard Engel reports, IS has been buying, trading, and stealing hostages from other Syrian groups.
Journalist James Rohde, himself a former Taliban prisoner, wrote in a piece for The Atlantic that US unwillingness to negotiate with IS or pay a ransom for the release of captured journalists failed Foley. 
The Pentagon has said a Delta Force rescue was attempted over the summer, to no success.
Also at issue is the widespread use of freelancers in war zone reporting an experience written about last summer by Italian freelancer Francesca Borri.
Jon Lee Anderson comments in The New Yorker: “Yesterday’s guerrillas have given way to terrorists, and now terrorists have given way to this new band, who are something like serial killers”
Read a selection of Foley’s reporting for GlobalPost.
The lawyers for three Al Jazeera staff jailed in Egypt have filed an appeal.
Tunisia and Egypt halted flights into and out of Libya over security concerns related to militia fighting.
Shots were fired in the Liberian capital of Monrovia during protests over an Ebola quarantine in West Point slum.
Boko Haram seized a police academy.
Clashes in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, between the militia and peacekeepers have intensified — killing five, including a Red Cross worker. Last weekend, 34 were killed in Bangui when members of the Seleka rebel group conducted a series of armed raids. As a result, the UN is increasing the number of peacekeepers in the country.
Egyptian peacekeepers will be sent to support UN efforts in CAR, Mali and Sudan.
Conflict over territorial disputes between Rezeigat and Maaliya tribes in Darfur has left 70 dead.
An Israeli airstrike killed 3 Hamas commanders in Gaza and airstrikes continue.
According to Haaretz, Germany, France and Britain have begun work on a Security Council resolution intended to end fighting in Gaza — granting the Palestinian Authority control over Gaza, internationally supervised reconstruction with the aim of preventing Hamas from re-arming and peace talks based on pre-1967 boundaries.
Rights activists say Lebanese media freedoms are at risk.
The estimated number of dead in the Syrian conflict is now 191,000, according to the UN.
The US says it has completed destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal.
In Iraq, US weaponry intended for the Iraqi army has fallen into IS hands.
New Jersey-born Sharif Mobley is charged with murder in Yemen (downgraded from terrorism suspicions), yet his lawyers don’t know where he is.
A photojournalist held in Iran has been released, but Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian remains in custody.
The Afghan government expelled and banned New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg from the country for reporting it found threatening.
Matthieu Aikins writes in Rolling Stone about times changing for the worse for the expat community in Afghanistan.
The US has released 9 Pakistani prisoners from Bagram.
The US is offering $30m for information on Haqqani leadership.
Long-running border disputes in India’s northeastern Assam state have erupted in clashes, resulting in a dozen dead and 10,000 displaced. 
Street battles and heavy shelling in Donetsk, Ukraine have killed dozens — and the overall civilian/combatant death toll in the ongoing conflict is more than 2000.
The first trucks of a massive, 270-truck Russian aid convoy have cleared customs in eastern Ukraine.
A rocket strike on a refugee convoy in eastern Ukraine and killed 15 refugees. 
Over the past couple of weeks, a number of the pro-Russian rebel leaders have stepped aside.
An interview with photojournalist Mauricio Lima, who has been on assignment for the New York Times in Ukraine for the past month.
Kosovo arrested 40 men suspected of having fought in rebel groups in Syria and Iraq.
At The New York Times, Ravi Somaiya and Christine Haughney write on the increased global targeting of journalists.
The Guardian and the Texas Observer have teamed up to produce a four part series of reports on the humanitarian/immigration crisis at the US-Mexican border and in Central America.
Mexico says 22,322 people have “disappeared" since the drug war began in 2006.
The US says it plans to amend the process by which people can challenge their inclusion on the no-fly list. 
I encourage you to donate something to the Committee to Protect Journalists in Foley’s name, so they can continue to work to protect reporters in danger around the world. (Other organizations that support and protect journalists include the Rory Peck Trust, RISC and Reporters Without Borders.)
Photo: Gaza Strip. Two men, Adel and Mohammed, in the only room left in their house not utterly destroyed. August 16. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty.

thepoliticalnotebook:

This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.

I encourage you to donate something to the Committee to Protect Journalists in Foley’s name, so they can continue to work to protect reporters in danger around the world. (Other organizations that support and protect journalists include the Rory Peck Trust, RISC and Reporters Without Borders.)

Photo: Gaza Strip. Two men, Adel and Mohammed, in the only room left in their house not utterly destroyed. August 16. Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty.

Domestic Terrorism Again a Priority at DOJ, and More from CRS

Domestic Terrorism Again a Priority at DOJ, and More from CRS
Posted on Aug.21, 2014 in CRS, Terrorism by Steven Aftergood

"The threat of domestic terrorism is receiving greater attention at the Department of Justice with the reestablishment in June of the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee, the Congressional Research Service noted last week.

“The reestablishment suggests that officials are raising the profile of domestic terrorism as an issue within DOJ after more than a decade of heightened focus on both foreign terrorist organizations and homegrown individuals inspired by violent jihadist groups based abroad,” CRS wrote. See Domestic Terrorism Appears to Be Reemerging as a Priority at the Department of Justice, CRS Insights, August 15, 2014.

Other new or updated CRS products include the following.”

Neither Obama Nor Congress Seems Eager for a Vote on Military Action in Iraq - NYTimes.com

Only the Constitution is demanding a congressional vote - David C. Unger

“Guys, you can’t have it both ways here,” Mr. Obama told the group, according to Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. “You can’t be ducking and dodging and hiding under the table when it comes time to vote, and then complain about the president not coming to you” for authorization.”

Troops in Iraq Rout Sunni Militants From a Key Dam - NYTimes.com

More mission creep - David C. Unger

"Mr. Obama, who interrupted a family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to meet Monday with his national security team in Washington, maintained that the airstrikes around the Mosul Dam were within the constraints of what he initially characterized as a limited campaign meant to break the siege of stranded Yazidis on Mount Sinjar and protect American personnel, citizens and facilities in Iraq. Administration officials repeatedly painted that second directive — the protection of Americans in Baghdad, 290 miles away — as the justification for the intense air campaign over Mosul Dam, seized two weeks ago by militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
But such a definition gives the White House wide latitude to support Iraqi forces in a sustained military offensive against ISIS across the country. The president hinted that more help from the United States and international partners would come if Iraq’s Shiite majority governed in a more inclusive way.”