Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Matthew Kahn
Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 1:20 PM

Yesterday, the New York Times published a stunning report that in February, President Trump requested that recently-fired FBI Director James Comey end the FBI investigation into his former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Comey reportedly wrote detailed memos documenting each conversation he had with the president, many of which remain classified. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz tweeted that his committee will request copies of all communications between Comey and the president and will issue subpoenas if necessary. Some Republican lawmakers are beginning to call for an independent commission or special prosecutor, according to Reuters.

The Times reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin is offering members of Congress a record of Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Putin’s offer comes in response to Monday’s Washington Post story reporting that President Trump shared classified information received from a foreign intelligence partner with Russian diplomats. The Times also reported that Israel provided the intelligence disclosed to Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

President Trump will visit Israel and Saudi Arabia during a regional visit scheduled to begin this weekend. He is expected to discuss regional security and a renewed peace process. President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who International Criminal Court wants to try for war crimes, is invited to a summit that President Trump will host in Saudi Arabia, reports the AP.

Officials at the National Security Agency raised questions about whether the Agency should have disclosed the powerful vulnerability that led to the WannaCry ransomeware attack to Microsoft sooner. According to the Washington Post, NSA employees recognized the potential danger but ultimately decided to continue to use the EternalBlue tool, which relied on the vulnerability, because of the “unreal” intelligence value. The Shadow Brokers, a hacking group, disclosed dozens of NSA software exploits online last month, including those exploited by the WannaCry malware which has affected thousands of computers across Europe and Asia since Friday. According to The Hill, Shadow Brokers will create a monthly subscription service for its remaining undisclosed exploits. A “low-grade panic” has set in at NSA over the recent disclosures, the Times reports.

As to who is responsible for the actual WannaCry attack, evidence is pointing towards a collective of North Korean-linked hackers. The suspects, called the Lazarus group, were also connected to attacks on major banks and the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures. The Times reports that the hackers deliberately targeted China, North Korea’s most important ally.

Chelsea Manning has been released from a military prison at Fort Leavenworth today. Manning has served seven years of a 35 year sentence for leaking classified information to the public. Former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence before leaving office in January. The New York Times has more on Manning.

Despite anticipated tension over the U.S. decision to arm Syrian Kurds, the Times reports that the meeting between the Turkish and American presidents concluded cordially. Following the meeting, President Erdogan’s bodyguards clashed with pro-Kurdish protesters in Washington outside the Turkish Embassy. Nine people were injured and two were arrested. The Guardian has that story. In other news out of Turkey, ABC reports that Germany is seeking alternative countries for its base of operations against the Islamic State in response to Turkey’s ban on German lawmakers being allowed to visit soldiers deployed to the Incirlik military base.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck published Episode 18 of the National Security Law Podcast: Disclosing Secrets to the Russians Makes Me WannaCry.

Jane Chong summarized the oral arguments heard in the Ninth Circuit in Hawaii v. Trump on Monday.

Peter Margulies analyzed the arguments made in the Hawaii hearing by both sides regarding the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Josh Blackman argues that even if the government does not prevail in either the Ninth Circuit or Fourth Circuit cases regarding the revised immigration executive order, it may find victory at the Supreme Court.

Amira Mikhail and Russell Spivak rounded up public statements addressing President Trump’s disclosures of classified information.

Dana Stuster wrote in the Middle East Ticker about Russia’s plans in Syria, the civil war in Yemen, and the Iranian election.

Nicholas Weaver posted about the Shadow Brokers’ decision to release their remaining NSA exploits through a subscription service.

Selina MacLaren provided a typology and overview of the different kinds of leak investigations.

Dan Byman summarized the importance of intelligence liaisons in counterterrorism campaigns against global terrorist groups.

Susan Hennessey argued that though Merrick Garland seems uninterested in becoming FBI Director, it would be in line with precedent for a respected federal judge to take the position.

Helen Murillo, Jack Goldsmith, Susan Hennessey, Quinta Jurecic, Matthew Kahn, Paul Rosenzweig, and Benjamin Wittes provided initial thoughts on President Trump’s request that Comey close the investigation into Michael Flynn.

Keith Whittington argued that impeachment should not be a partisan affair.

 

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