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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 21, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: France Reacts to Latest NSA Revelations

The French government summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain a report in Le Monde that revealed the U.S. National Security Agency swept up 70.3 million French telephone records in a thirty-day period (AP). Prosecutors in Paris opened a preliminary inquiry into a different NSA program in July and may expand their investigation to include the latest revelations (Guardian). German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that the NSA has intercepted communications of the Mexican government for years, including the text messages and phone calls of its current president (Spiegel).


"It used to be that 'checks and balances' referred to one branch of the government checking and balancing the other branches—like the Supreme Court deciding whether laws are constitutional. Now the NSA, the CIA and the White House use the term to refer to a secret organization reviewing the actions it has taken and deciding in secret by itself whether they were legal and constitutional," writes Andrew Rosenthal in the New York Times.

"The French already know the power of these surveillance programs—because according to Le Monde they've been running a similar surveillance program themselves; though perhaps only focused on its own nationals," writes Christian Fraser for the BBC.

"'Journalist changes jobs' is not usually the kind of headline that merits much attention. But the news that Glenn Greenwald is moving from The Guardian to a new media venture, funded by a Hawaii-based billionaire with libertarian views, is something that the British and American governments have reason to worry about," writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times.


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China Seeks Clearer View of Government Debt

The Chinese government is expected to release the total amount of loans that local governments have borrowed from banks and investors over the past few years, a figure that could range from $2.5 trillion to nearly $5 trillion (WSJ).

SOUTH KOREA: China and South Korea are planning to establish a new consultative body of diplomats and defense officials to address the growing threat of a nuclear North Korea (Yonhap).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Six Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear program.



Pakistan's Military Approved U.S. Drone Strikes

A UN report released on Friday indicated there is "strong evidence" that senior Pakistani intelligence and military officials approved drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas between 2004 and 2008 (Dawn).

CFR's Daniel Markey proposes a new drone deal for Pakistan in this op-ed.

AFGHANISTAN: More than half of the twenty-six registered candidates for president in Afghanistan are expected to be rejected by the Independent Election Commission (Tolo News). A preliminary list of candidates will be released Tuesday.



Libya's Struggles Continue Two Years After Qaddafi's Death

Libyan prime minister Ali Zidan said he is "swimming against the current" in his efforts to build a government that can control nearly two hundred thousand militiamen (AP). Sunday marked the second anniversary of longtime strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi's death.

IRAQ: A suicide bomber in a minibus blew himself up outside a cafe in Baghdad on Sunday, killing over thirty people. More than five thousand civilians have been killed in Iraq in 2013 (AFP).



Vigilantes Push Back Boko Haram

A network of informers and vigilantes paid $100 monthly by the government in Nigeria's Borno State have driven out militants from Boko Haram, Nigeria's Islamist insurgency (NYT), from the state capital from which the militant group emerged.

SOUTH SUDAN: More than forty people have been killed in attacks on villages in South Sudan, allegedly by members of the David Yau Yau rebel group (BBC).



Ukraine Close to Shale Gas Deal

Ukraine plans to sign a shale-gas deal with Chevron next month as Kiev continues its efforts to find alternatives to imports from Russia's Gazprom (FT). The deal has been delayed for months over environmental concerns related to hydraulic fracturing.

This CFR Backgrounder explains hydraulic fracturing.



JP Morgan Reaches $13 Billion U.S. Settlement

JP Morgan Chase & Co. reached a $13 billion tentative settlement with the U.S. government that would free the country's largest bank from civil disputes over its mortgage-bond sales, but would leave the lender exposed to future criminal inquiries (Bloomberg).

BRAZIL: More than a thousand soldiers have been deployed to a hotel where an auction of exploration rights for an offshore oil field is being held (Euronews). Employees of the state-run oil firm have been on strike since Thursday to protest the sale.



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