Morning Security Brief: Drone Strikes, National Security Letters, and Cell Phones

By Sherry Harowitz

► Attorney General Eric Holder has written that the President does hypothetically have the authority to authorize the use of lethal drone strikes within the United States, reports NPR. But Holder emphasized that the administration has no history of doing so and no intension of doing so, and that it was, therefore, “unlikely to occur” except in an extreme event like 9-11 or Pearl Harbor--and even then, only after the legal question of the authority to do so was more closely considered. The letter was sent in response to letters of inquiry Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) sent to nominee for CIA director John Brennan about domestic drone use.

► Forbes reports that Google has at least partially lifted the veil of secrecy that by law surrounds National Security Letters (NSLs). "In a new section of its bi-annual Transparency Report on government censorship and surveillance of its data, Google on Tuesday issued its first ever accounting of how many NSLs it has received for the last four years along with how many users were affected, albeit in extremely broad terms," Forbes writes. Google worked with U.S. officials, the story says, to do this in a way that does not violate the secrecy requirements of the law. The disclosures, according to the Forbes report, suggest that NSLs may be more common than previously thought.

► Also in the news, the Federal Communications Commission says that consumers should be able to unlock cell phones, reports the New York Times. And Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has introduced a bill called the Wireless Device Independence Act, which would make that the law, reports CNET.



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