Lebron to Miami; The NSA Speaks; Cyber Advances; SWIFT Justice


The Night Beat pauses to note that LeBron James is joining the Miami Heat.

BULLETIN: A ruling on California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, is expected shortly from Judge Vaughn Walker. Today, the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Massachusetts. Short term: good for gays. Long term: "the kindling is there" for a backlash, says Jonathan Capehart. Americans accept civil unions; the courts won't go far ahead of the public. 

THE BURNS BRIDGE: Hours after Russia officially denied accusations that it had run a network of illegals in the U.S., members of its national security cabinet opened the door to a potential spy swap with the U.S. Negotiations began almost immediately, according to U.S. officials. The "swap" -- a relic of the Cold War -- involves the 10 arrested last week and four Russians who allegedly spied for Western powers and had been imprisoned in Russia, including former Russian intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal, who had been recruited by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, Aleksandr Zaporozhsky, Igor Sutyagin, and Gennady Vasilenko, each of whom allegedly spied on Russia on behalf of the U.S. The Russian spies pled guilty in court today and began to leave the country. Vicky Pelaez, a U.S. citizen, agreed to leave the U.S. forever unless the attorney general agrees to let her back in. The U.S. made sure to include a proviso requiring the Russian spies to hand over any profits they make from selling the rights to their stories.

NSA SPEAKS!: The National Security Agency responded, on the record, to a story in today's Wall Street Journal about its "Perfect Citizen" industry assistance program. From spokesperson Judith Emmel: 

Today's Wall Street Journal article by Siobhan Gorman, titled "US Plans Cyber Shield for Utilities, Companies," is an inaccurate portrayal of the work performed at the National Security Agency. Because of the high sensitivity surrounding what we do to defend our nation, it is inappropriate to confirm or deny all of the specific allegations made in the article. We will, however, provide the following facts: PERFECT CITIZEN is purely a vulnerabilities-assessment and capabilities-development contract. This is a research and engineering effort. There is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor. Specifically, it does not involve the monitoring of communications or the placement of sensors on utility company systems. This contract provides a set of technical solutions that help the National Security Agency better understand the threats to national security networks, which is a critical part of NSA's mission of defending the nation. Any suggestions that there are illegal or invasive domestic activities associated with this contracted effort are simply not true. We strictly adhere to both the spirit and the letter of U.S. laws and regulations.
CYBER ADVANCES: Some news and nuggets out of today's Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's cyber conference in Washington:

-- The Department of Homeland Security is still finishing its national cyber incident response plans. That means, in essence, that if there's an attack tomorrow, there's no formal checklist in place to determine who responds and how.

-- The Center for Strategic and International Studies, which produced a very influential report on cyber security two years ago, will soon release an update. According to someone who has been briefed on its content, it will include a recommendation that internet service providers start to segregate users who bring malware and viruses onto their networks. 

REID'S THE HERO: Discussions between the staffs of the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee continue in the hopes of coming to an agreement about a unified cyber security bill. Prodding these staffs along: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has asked each committee chair to figure out what the bills have in common, where they differ, and what problems need refereeing. Reid's influence has been enormously gratifying to members of the committees. How did Reid get interested in cyber security? It's not entirely clear, but he did read an early draft of Richard Clarke's latest book on the topic. I'll have more on the cyber legislation tomorrow.

OVERLOOKED: In February, the European Union rejected a new Terrorist Tracking Program Treaty, cutting off U.S. access to the SWIFT banking transaction system in Brussels on the grounds that the U.S. needs to do more to protect the financial privacy of European citizens. Five months' worth of intense negotiations conducted at high levels of government produced a breakthrough: on August 1, the U.S. will regain its SWIFT access, albeit with new privacy protections. European courts will get some veto power over the use of SWIFT evidence, and the EU will send an official to Washington to monitor the U.S.'s use of the data. The U.S. was represented primarily by John Brennan, the President's chief counterterrorism adviser, and

Stuart Levey, the undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes. Also, according to an administration official, VP Joe Biden's May speech to the European Parliament was critical in convincing its members that the U.S. understood the privacy issues and was committed to working out language that resolved them.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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