A former member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) with suspected ties to a 1996 terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S servicemen was part of an Iraqi government delegation visiting the White House December 12. The meeting coincided with President Obama’s announcement of the official end of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. According to the Washington Times, Hadi Farhan al-Amiri, Transportation Minister in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “was part of the delegation that visited the White House to discuss Iraq’s future and Iran’s influence there, among other topics.”
The Times recalled that al-Amiri was a commander in the Revolutionary Guard’s Badr Corps, the leading edge of that nation’s military effort against Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein, and remained in that theatre throughout the late 1980s and ’90s. “The FBI linked the Revolutionary Guard to the attack on the Khobar Towers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on June 25, 1996,” reported the Times. “Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed by a bomb blast at the towers, which were housing American military personnel.”
Members of the House Homeland Security Committee unveiled legislation Thursday that would authorize the cybersecurity functions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and establish a quasi-governmental entity to coordinate cybersecurity information-sharing with the private sector. The bill, called the Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act (PrECISE), would station a national clearinghouse for information relating to potential attacks on critical infrastructure, such as electric grid, water facilities, and financial service systems.
"The risk of cyberattack by enemies of the United States is real, is ongoing and is growing," warned Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.). "The PrECISE Act, in line with the framework set forth by the Speaker’s Cybersecurity Task Force led by Rep. [Mac] Thornberry [R-Texas], protects our critical infrastructure without a heavy-handed and burdensome regulatory approach that could cost American jobs."
Under Section 226 of the bill, the Secretary of Homeland Security "is authorized to maintain the capability to act as the focal point for cybersecurity through technical expertise and policy development." Further, the Secretary is ordered to "coordinate cybersecurity activities across the Federal Government, designate a lead cybersecurity official within the Department of Homeland Security, publish a cybersecurity strategy and provide appropriate reports to Congress."
Critics of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have pointed to its provisions that permit the indefinite detention of American citizens, without charges and without trial. Additionally, the measure violates individual liberties in another way: by waging war on the Internet.
A major component of the criticism against the NDAA is that it labels all of the United States as a "battlefield" in the "War on Terror," thereby treating virtually all American citizens as potential terrorists. But in addition to that, buried deep in the massive paperwork of the bill is a provision that would allow the Pentagon to treat the Internet as a "battlefield" as well, in order to “defend our Nation, Allies and interests.”
U.S. forces will not be leaving Afghanistan when Afghan troops are scheduled to take responsibility for the country's security in 2014, American officials in Kabul have said.
“If you're waiting for us to go, we're not leaving,” Marine General John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces, said, according to a report in Monday's USA Today. The United States has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, along with 30,000 from NATO allies. By the end of next summer, the American troop level is expected to be reduced the 68,000. Americans will be training the Afghan Air force until 2016, but how many troops will remain or what additional roles they will play has not been announced and may not yet be decided.
"This is a work in progress," Allen said. "The continued work beyond '14 in terms of development of economic capability and governance will continue. We will also see, probably, a U.S. military capability beyond '14."
“I don’t know what we’re going to be doing in 2014,” Ryan C. Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan told journalists earlier this month. A continued American military presence would be contingent on the wishes of the government in Kabul, he said. “They would have to ask for it,” Crocker said. “I could certainly see us saying, ‘Yeah, makes sense.’ ” That request will likely be forthcoming, since Afghan leaders earlier this year called for continued political and military support for at least another decade. That would extend America's military involvement to 20 years from the time U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government in the fall of 2001.
North Korea’s official government-controlled media announced that the country’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-Il, died on Saturday at age 69 from “physical and mental overwork.” A teary-eyed TV anchorwoman claimed, “It is the biggest loss by the party … and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness … [but we must] change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties.”
Those "difficulties" can be traced back to at least the assumption of power by Kim Il-Sung in 1945 as he established a Stalinist totalitarian system in the country and enforced it with iron rule until his death in 1994. His son, Kim Jong-Il assumed the mantle of dictator after having been groomed for the position for years prior to his father’s death.
A “cult of personality” was firmly established by the “Eternal President” (a title given to Kim Il-Sung at his funeral service) and extended by his son: Portraits of them hang in every building and every North Korean wears a Kim Il Sung lapel pin.
Forty members of Congress have sent a letter urging the House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders to protest provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that would legalize the indefinite detention of American citizens. The NDAA first passed in the House of Representatives weeks ago but endured strong opposition from a handful of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate last Thursday, where the bill was passed but with the addition of an amendment that forced the measure to be reconciled and revised for a final vote. The revised version of the NDAA was finalized on Tuesday, and a vote on it is set to take place this week.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney has faulted President Barack Obama for requesting the return of an unmanned U.S. spy plane downed in Iran. Cheney said in an interview with CNN News that the United States should have taken military action to destroy the plane before the Iranians could gather critical intelligence and technological data from it.