Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Jordan Brunner
Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 1:12 PM

The New York Times informs us that during a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Trump accused the media of downplaying the threat that ISIS poses, claiming that the media “have their reasons,” for doing so. After the speech, the White House released a document listing 78 attacks from September 2014 to December 2016 that had “not received the media attention they deserved.” The list included attacks in Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; San Bernadino, California; and Orlando, Florida, which were extensively covered for weeks by the media. The speech marks the second time that the president using an appearance before national security personnel to attack the media, with the first being his speech at CIA headquarters the day after his inauguration.

CNN reports that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the challenge to President Trump’s executive order on immigration. The issue in front of the Ninth Circuit, which has a reputation as one of the most liberal tribunals in the nation, is whether the nationwide injunction that was imposed by Judge James Robart of the western district of Washington will remain in place. The government is arguing that this was a lawful use of the president’s authority, because the executive has “broad discretion” to suspend “any class of aliens” into the United States. Amicus briefs have been filed by former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeline Albright, and 16 other states attorneys general in support of injunction.

The Washington Post tells us that federal prosecutors in Baltimore are expected to seek an indictment against Harold T. Martin III, the former NSA contractor who is accused of carrying out the biggest theft of classified information in U.S. history. The indictment is expected to include charges of violating the Espionage Act, along with charges already levied against Martin since October which include theft of government property and unauthorized removal and retention of classified information. Martin worked in the elite hacking unit Tailored Access Operations at the NSA during his time at NSA as a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor, and was able to make off with more than 75 percent of TAOs library of hacking tools. Martin’s attorneys have maintained that Martin merely took the files home to improve in his job, not to pass them to foreign governments.

Foreign Policy’s SitRep writes that the Pentagon is still seriously short of high-level staffers, a result of the ongoing fight between the White House and Defense Secretary James Mattis over who should fill positions. A major source of the dispute revolves around staffing the Pentagon with officials who signed “Never Trump” letters prior to the election—which Mattis has argued for, and which Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner have pushed back against.

CNN reports that three Chinese warships sailed past the contested Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, 12 nautical miles within Japan’s territorial waters and roughly 140 miles northeast of Taiwan. The expedition comes two days after Defense Secretary Mattis’s trip to Japan and South Korea, in which he vowed that the U.S. would continue to protect Japan, including its islands in the East China Sea.

NBC News informs us that the special operations raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians failed to capture or kill its target: Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Rimi has released an audio recording taunting Trump. “The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” he said, in an apparent reference to the January 29th raid.

Reuters tells us that experts from Russia, Turkey, Iran, and the U.N. held a technical meeting in Kazakhstan to discuss the implementation of the Syrian ceasefire agreement. A Russian negotiator is quoted as saying that the parties would meet again this month to sign an agreement regulating the work of a joint task force.

Reuters also writes that the Israeli Knesset passed a law yesterday retroactively legalizing about 4,000 settler homes built on privately held Palestinian land in the West Bank. The measure, which contravenes Israeli Supreme Court rulings and property rights, has drawn international concern and Palestinian condemnation. Israel's Attorney-General has vowed not to defend it at the Supreme Court, calling it unconstitutional. Political sources have said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu privately opposes the bill because it could open Israel up to prosecution in the ICC, despite assurances from the White House that it would oppose any such international legal action.

Haaretz reports that tensions have flared along Israel’s border with Gaza as Hamas fired rockets in the early morning and was met with six retaliatory attacks by the Israeli army. None were killed by the attack according to local reports, although some Hamas positions were destroyed and one man was wounded by shrapnel according to Palestinian sources.

CNBC tells us that the Pentagon recently released a memo listing exemptions to the White House-mandated hiring freeze, which included jobs in nuclear weapon safety and cybersecurity operations. Charley Snyder and Michael Sulmeyer highlighted how crucial the cybersecurity exemption is in Lawfare, explaining that without the exemption, the freeze would have “killed the momentum” of Congress’s new excepted service cyber civilian personnel system “right as it is getting of the ground.”

Politico notes that the United States has shared intelligence on Russian election with “several foreign governments,” in anticipation of upcoming elections in Germany, France, Norway, and the Netherlands. The United States is seeking to ensure that European governments don’t fall prey to the same Russian digital meddling campaign that rattled the U.S. 2016 presidential election, as reports indicate that the Kremlin is attempting similar interference measures in order to boost the rise of far-right politicians like French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. Le Pen has criticized existing security structures like NATO that counterbalance Russian influence, vowing to remove France from the alliance if she is elected.

The Hill reports that a bipartisan cadre of senators introduced the DOD Emergency Response Capabilities Database Enhancement Act of 2017, which would add a cybersecurity category to the database that tracks the capabilities of National Guard and Reserve forces. The hope is that by keeping track of capabilities, the Pentagon will be aware of valuable resources it already possess and tap into them. A copy of the bill is available here.

The Justice Department announced yesterday that Ryan J. Vallee, a 23-year-old New Hampshire man, was sentenced to eight years in prison for conducting a five-year sextortion campaign. From 2011 to 2016, Vallee hacked into teenage girls’ online accounts and blackmailed them into sending him sexually explicit photos.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Lisa Monaco presented the dangers of turning inward in response to transregional threats faced by United States faces.

Jack Goldsmith argued that either President Trump wants his refugee ban executive order to be struck down, or that White House Counsel Donald McGahn is incompetent.

Susan Hennessey provided the tip that journalists should look into threats against federal judges following Trump’s tweets.

Andrew Keane Woods examined the brief filed by over ninety Silicon Valley firms against Trump‘s refugee ban.

Quinta Jurecic explored the implications that Trump’s response to the Quebec terrorist attack has for the CVE program.

Barrie Sander reviewed Anti-Impunity and the Human Rights Agenda, edited by Karen Engle, Zinaida Miller, and D.M. Davis.

Charley Snyder and Michael Sulmeyer highlighted some issues from DoD’s memo exempting cyber from Trump’s hiring freeze.

Susan Landau flagged a paper she co-authored in the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology on electronic surveillance law.

Michael Linhorst described the rejection by FISC of the claim that the public has a First Amendment right to court decisions about bulk data collection.

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