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Morning Brief - 4/2/12

The U.S. and its international partners will meet with Iranian negotiators over its nuclear program on April 13-14 in Istanbul, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this weekend. “It will soon be clear whether Iran’s leaders are prepared to have a serious, credible discussion . . . to start building the trust we need to move forward,” Clinton said, speaking from a security conference held in Saudi Arabia. Clinton said the international community will need to see concrete evidence that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. (WaPo, WSJ, AP)

In an LA Times op-ed, Doyle McManus asks “why does Iran always seem to be about 18 months away from a nuclear bomb, at least in the eyes of U.S. officials?” (LA Times) Also in the LA Times, Alan Kuperman argues that the counterargument against war with Iran has been that Iran is a rational actor - and won’t use nuclear weapons offensively. The problem with that argument “is that Iran does not always act quite so rationally.” (LA Times) In Time, Tony Karon asks: With the diplomatic window closing, what would success in Iran look like? (Time)

The United States
NPR reports that Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the top prosecutor at Guantanamo, has asked the military to retire after he completes his assignment there. “I’ve decided to request that this be my last assignment in the military,” Martins tells NPR in an interview. “That will afford a measure of continuity of the commissions process which has had a total of seven prosecutors. It will enable me to stay at least until November 2014. In order to do that I needed to forego consideration by a promotions board and request that this be my final assignment in uniform. We need to have continuity in my job.” (NPR)

Iran intel and the CIA: James Risen reports in the New York Times that when it comes to intelligence on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, “the ghosts of Iraq are never far away.” (NYT)

Surveillance: The New York Times reports that local police departments are increasingly using cellphone tracking and surveillance as a routine tool, often “with little or no court oversight.” (NYT)

Conflict Zones
The Washington Post uncovers new details about the Afghan police recruit and Taliban sleeper agent who apparently drugged his colleagues and shot them in the head while they slept last Friday in Afghanistan. The police officer known as Asadullah reportedly “spent years as a Taliban fighter, targeting men he called infidels and crisscrossing the Pakistani border with teams of insurgents. But his first collaboration with the insurgency was the one his neighbors still find the most egregious: He granted the Taliban permission to kill his father, Ehsanullah.” (Washington Post)

In other news, the Wall Street Journal reports that a program to give jobs to former insurgents is breeding mistrust of the Afghan state among ordinary Afghans. (WSJ) Elsewhere, Afghanistan has named a general to take over control of Bagram prison from the U.S. (Reuters)

Arab leaders meeting at a Friends of Syria conference have pledged millions of dollars in monthly “salaries” to Syrian opposition fighters, and the U.S. and other countries announced they are increasing humanitarian aid to the country. On Monday, Kofi Annan is due to deliver a status report to the U.N. Security Council on the status of a proposed ceasefire, as reports emerge of continued clashes across Syria. (Washington Post, AP)

Pakistan: Osama bin Laden’s three widows and two of his daughters have been sentenced to 45 days in jail for illegally staying in Pakistan. (Reuters) Business Insider speculates on the house where bin Laden reportedly stayed in Haripur before moving to Abbottabad. (Business Insider)

Yemen: The LA Times reports that as the drone war escalates in Yemen, “the distinction may be blurring between operations targeting militants who want to attack Americans and those aimed at fighters seeking to overthrow the Yemeni government.” (LA Times)

Kenya: Kenyan officials believe al Shabab militants were behind Saturday’s blasts in Mombasa that killed one and injured more than 30 people. (Reuters)

World News
UK: A government proposal to give the security services the ability to monitor the phone calls, emails, text messages and Internet use of every person in the country has encountered loud protests since it was revealed by the Sunday Times. (NYT, Guardian)

Arguments, Editorials, and Must Reads
Brian Fishman on why NYPD oversight will keep us safe: “I have no doubt that most of what the NYPD does is decent and intelligent police work,” writes Fishman in the New York Daily News. “But at the same time, I believe that over the long run, that work depends on having a strong relationship with New Yorkers. And I sense a growing fear, in neighborhoods that need to be cooperating with cops, that the police have gone too far. The key question is how to keep New York and the country safe. The terrorist threat to New York City is not going away, which means the NYPD’s counterterrorism programs must be sustainable. And to be sustainable, the people of New York must be confident the NYPD’s work advances national security in accordance with American freedoms. The only way to reassure them is with healthy oversight. Unfortunately, there is no suitable mechanism currently in place to provide that oversight of the NYPD’s intelligence activities.”

Steven Erlanger on how the French fight homegrown terrorism: “France and the United States have different notions of liberty, equality and fraternity, though the words look roughly the same in both languages. Methods of combating homegrown terrorism — another French word dating from 1789 — are also quite different, stemming from different histories, legal systems and conceptions of the state,” writes Erlanger in an analysis piece for the New York Times. “Partly because of their history and partly because of more limited budgets, the French rely more on human contacts, local intelligence and human resources and less on automated phone tapping and surveillance than the Americans do. That can make the French well informed but less systematic, less able to “connect the dots” than the Americans, who have tried to learn from their own failure to uncover the 9/11 plot before it happened.”

The Wall Street Journal on Obama’s missing detainees: “President Obama fights terrorists by killing them, and it’s hard to argue with the results,” writes the Wall Street Journal in an editorial. “The U.S. has eliminated Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, and unmanned drones have pummeled terror sanctuaries in Pakistan. But there's an asterisk to this otherwise successful record: Targeted killing has come at the expense of capturing and interrogating terrorists.”