Top of the Agenda: Brennan Defends Drone Strikes at Confirmation Hearing
John Brennan, nominee for the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was grilled for more than three hours by the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence during Thursday's confirmation hearings, which exposed deep skepticism (WaPo) of key aspects of the Obama administration's approach to fighting terrorism. Brennan, who served as the White House's top counterterrorism adviser for the past four years, defended the administration's drone campaign (NYT), saying it only took such actions "as a last resort, to save lives when there is no other alternative." The committee's chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said she would review proposals to create a court overseeing targeted killings.
"Almost despite the best efforts of the senators, the hearing saw the beginning of a long-overdue argument about the impact on global opinion of hundreds of death-dealing American drones circling far-off skies, and the need for America to demonstrate a much clearer legal basis for those strikes," writes the Economist.
"Then again, given how the CIA operates, one could fairly argue that Brennan's eagerness to deceive and his long record of supporting radical and unaccountable powers make him the perfect person to run that agency. It seems clear that this is Obama's calculus," writes Glenn Greenwald for the Guardian.
"The leaked document provides a legal justification for targeting some enemy American citizens, but that something is legal doesn't make it wise," says CFR's Matt Waxman in this video.
China Denies Japan's Radar Allegations
China's Defense Ministry denied on Friday Japan's allegation (KyodoNews) that Chinese naval ships had locked weapons-targeting radar onto a Japanese destroyer and helicopter in the East China Sea twice in January. The ongoing spat over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands reignited last September.
NORTH KOREA: North Korea reiterated its threat of war (Yonhap) on Friday after the South's top military officer hinted earlier this week at a preemptive attack.
Expert Victor Cha talks about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and the region's potential response in this CFR interview.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Afghanistan Paid Nearly $4 Billion in Bribes
A UN survey released Thursday revealed that Afghans paid around $3.9 billion--or twice the country's domestic revenue--in bribes last year (LAT), indicating deep corruption despite President Hamid Karzai's pledge to address the problem.
PAKISTAN: A lawyer, who was also a member of the UN Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was gunned down in Peshawar on Friday (Dawn).
Thousands Mourn Murdered Tunisian Opposition Leader
Thousands gathered Friday morning near Tunis to take part in the funeral of murdered opposition leader Chokri Belaid as Tunisia braced for a general strike Friday (al-Arabiya). Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali called for a nonpartisan technocratic government, which his party has rejected.
A suicide bomber attacked the Malian town of Gao, the most populous city in the north, in the country's first such case of suicide bombing (BBC) since France sent some 4,000 troops into the north in January to oust the militants.
KENYA: A U.S. official cautioned that the choice of Kenya's next president "would have global consequences," following President Barack Obama's call earlier this week for peaceful and fair elections (CapitalFM). Kenya's elections take place on March 4.
In this CFR report, Joel D. Barkan argues that the United States should take proactive measures to prevent a repeat of the electoral violence that broke out across Kenya in 2007.
EU Near Budget Deal
EU leaders are close to a 960 billion euro budget agreement, which, if approved, would represent the first ever decline (FT) in EU spending. Fiscal hawks, including the UK and Germany, appeared to prevail over member states seeking more spending.
CROATIA: Slovenia and Croatia are hammering out a solution to a twenty-year bank dispute (Reuters) that will allow Croatia to join the European Union as planned on July 1.
Mexican Boy Shot by U.S. Border Patrol
An autopsy report indicated a teenage Mexican boy who was apparently fatally shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in October was hit by at least eight bullets (AP).