Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Helen Klein Murillo
Friday, April 28, 2017, 2:36 PM

The National Security Agency will end “about” collection under Section 702, involving the collection of emails and text messages to and from U.S. persons and people overseas that mention targeted foreigners, reports Charlie Savage in the New York Times. The halt in collection appears to be due to the Agency’s difficulty in complying with regulations imposed by the FISA Court. The Daily Beast adds that the FISC may shortly be releasing a ruling on the matter.

Meanwhile, CNN reports that Dana Boente has been appointed acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s national security division, where he will oversee the DOJ Russian investigation. As CNN explains, prosecutorial decisions will be referred to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as Attorney General Sessions has recused himself from the investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed Friday that his recusal extends to any investigation into Michael Flynn, Politico reports.

The crisis on the Korean Peninsula persists. President Trump said a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is a possibility, in interview with Reuters yesterday. In that interview, Trump reiterated that 27-year-old North Korean leader Kim Jong Un taking over the country as a young age is “a very hard thing to do,” adding that he has no opinion on whether the North Korean leader is rational but hopes that he is. The Washington Post reports on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s calls yesterday at a special sessions of the United Nations Security Council for “painful” measures against North Korea to force the end of its nuclear program. At the New York Times, David Sanger notes that Trump’s comments come just after Tillerson seemed to open the door to negotiation with the regime, revealing persistently uncoordinated messaging from the Trump Administration. Politico reports that the House will vote on new sanctions against North Korea next week.

Meanwhile, President Trump indicated that he’d like South Korea to pay for the $1 billion missile defense system currently being built on its northern border—a comment the New York Times indicates “surprised the [South Korean]government, leaving it scrambling to figure out the intentions of a close ally.” The New York Times reports that the Thaad missile defense system is nearly operational. Trump is likewise threatening to withdraw from the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement, according to the Washington Post. This comes just one day after President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA after speaking with Mexican and Canadian leaders, conversations he described in an interview with the Washington Post yesterday. According to that interview, the President had planned on terminating the agreement on Saturday, his 100th day in office, but his staff was divided on the idea and he was convinced to instead agree to renegotiate. South Korean officials made clear they have no plans to renegotiate the U.S. trade agreement or to pay for the missile defense system, according to reporting today by the AP.

Two U.S. servicemembers died Wednesday night in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation against ISIS in the Nangahar province of eastern Afghanistan, reports the Post. The servicemembers were identified Thursday by the Pentagon as Army Rangers 22-year-old Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers and 23-year-old Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, members of an elite Army Ranger unit specializing in raids. Theirs mark the second and third U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan this year. The U.S. military has launched an investigation into their deaths, indicating the sergeants may have been killed by friendly fire during an extended confrontation with ISIS fighters.

Rep. Adam Schiff introduced a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Taliban, according to CNN. Schiff’s statement can be found here. The legislation would sunset the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs, replacing them with similar authorities but requiring more robust reporting to Congress.

Reuters reports that U.S.-backed forces continue a campaign in Syria to push ISIS forces from the city of Raqqa. Those forces have regained control of several neighbors in a town bordering on Raqqa. Meanwhile, U.S. Central Command announced continuing coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

According to the Post, Defense Secretary James Mattis wields substantial influence in national security issues. The Post indicates that his standing in President Trump’s cabinet means he has broader influence than many former defense secretaries.

The Pentagon has launched an investigation into former National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s receipt of money from foreign governments, the Washington Post reports. As the Post explains, because retired military officers may be called up into service, they are subject to the foreign emoluments clause and must receive advance permission to accept such payments pursuant to Department of Defense guidelines. David Ignatius argues in the Post that Flynn’s carelessness after leaving his government post reflects a broader challenge for national security professionals who re-enter the private sector.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic reported on another day of pretrial motions hearings in the military commission of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.

Jane Chong argued that inaccurate reporting on President Trump’s sanctuary cities executive order and policy compounds the misinformation problem.

Elena Chachko detailed Israeli efforts at cyber reform—designing cybersecurity agencies and reworking related authorities.

Bruce Schneier examined possible theories of who is behind the recent publishing of NSA and CIA secrets and tools.

Quinta posted the documents released yesterday by Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Elijah Cummings related to former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s acceptance of payments by the Turkish and Russian governments.

Aaron Zelin argued that countering violent extremism (CVE) is a necessary complement to counterterrorism given the changing terrorism threat of past five years.

Ashley Deeks detailed the possible U.S. charges against Wikileaks’s Julian Assange and the substantial obstacles to his extradition to the United States.

Benjamin Wittes posted the latest episode of Rational Security, the “SF-86’ed” Edition, in which the team discusses the latest revelations on Mike Flynn, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Russia investigation, and ongoing criticism of FBI Director James Comey.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted a new episode of the National Security Law Podcast, in which they discuss possible charges against Julian Assange, the latest on Mike Flynn, the annual FOIA report, and more.

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