Morning Security Brief: Drone Policy, Border Funding, Caliphate Declared, and NSA Interview

By Mark Tarallo

► The Stimson Center’s Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy has issued a new report critiquing key aspects of current U.S. drone strike practices. The report was authored by former military and government officials, including Gen. John Abizaid (U.S. Army, retired), former commander of U.S. Central Command. The report finds that that U.S. drone practices may erode international norms on state sovereignty, increase anti-U.S. sentiment, create blowback, widen wars, and increase political instability. “We are concerned that the Obama administration’s heavy reliance on targeted killings as a pillar of US counterterrorism strategy rests on questionable assumptions, and risks increasing instability and escalating conflicts,” the authors write in the report. Ultimately, the report offers eight recommendations, including suggestions for overhauling drone strategy; improving oversight, accountability, and transparency; and developing international norms for the use of lethal force in nontraditional settings.

► President Barack Obama is seeking more than $2 billion to respond to the surge in children and other migrants from Central America who are illegally crossing the U.S. border, and is asking for new authority to return them home more quickly, the White House said Sunday. Together, the requests represent a significant escalation in the Obama administration's response to the recent increase in migrants crossing the Southern border, which has presented a logistical, political, and humanitarian crisis. While the administration already has signaled it will need more money to confront the volume of migrants, this marks the first time the White House is asking for the power to deport children faster, according to the Wall Street Journal. Obama plans to make the requests soon in a letter to Congress, according to a White House official. 

► The radical Sunni militant breakaway group fighting in Iraq and Syria declared an Islamic caliphate in areas under its control in an attempt to consolidate its power and erase the border between the two conflict-ravaged countries. The movement, which has changed its name from the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) to simply the Islamic State, defined its caliphate as stretching from Aleppo in northern Syria to the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, according to an audio recording purportedly by its spokesman posted on Web sites and forums linked to radical Islamists. The group named its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as head of the caliphate, Bloomberg reported. Meanwhile, Russian military advisers helped to prepare Iraq’s air force to use five newly delivered combat planes in its campaign to recapture some of the territory in the declared caliphate area.

► The newly installed director of the National Security Agency says that while he has seen some terrorist groups alter their communications to avoid surveillance techniques revealed by Edward Snowden, the overall damage done by a year of Snowden’s revelations does not lead him to the conclusion that “the sky is falling.” In an interview with the New York Times, Adm. Michael Rogers, who has overseen the agency for almost three months, described the series of steps he was taking to ensure that no one could download the trove of data that Mr. Snowden gathered—more than a million documents. But Rogers cautioned that there was no perfect protection against a dedicated insider with access to the agency’s networks. “Am I ever going to sit here and say as the director that with 100 percent certainty no one can compromise our systems from the inside?” Rogers said. “Nope. Because I don’t believe that in the long run.”


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