Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 4:40 PM

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday in Ziglar v. Abbasi that a group of Arab men who were detained by federal law enforcement after the September 11th attacks cannot sue government officials that ordered or oversaw their detention, reports the Times. The court ruled in a 4-2 decision that a Bivens action, which allows plaintiffs to sue federal officials for certain constitutional violations even if Congress has not created statutory relief, could not apply to the Fifth Amendment violations alleged in this case. The Atlantic has more on what this means for the Bivens doctrine and its potential implications for the ongoing Travel Ban litigation.

A Russian fighter jet came within several feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea yesterday, ABC News reports. The pilot deemed the interaction unsafe, and said that the Russian aircraft was moving at a high rate of speed, making erratic movements, and at one point flew beneath the U.S. plane.

Tensions continue to rise in the Syrian conflict. Today the New York Times reports that the U.S. shot down a pro-Assad regime drone after it displayed what the Pentagon described in a statement as “hostile intent.” The Iranian-made drone advanced on coalition forces near al-Tanf, a border region near Iraq and Jordan that the U.S. uses to train local partners. This development comes after the U.S. shot down a Syrian fighter jet on Sunday after it attacked U.S.-backed forces. The incident prompted a strong reaction from Russia, which threatened to target aircraft west of the Euphrates and to halt communication channels designed to de-escalate potential conflict. In response, CNN reports that Australia has now suspended all air operations in Syria as a precautionary measure.

Google will take on a more ambitious effort to limit the spread of extremist videos and propaganda on YouTube, reports ABC News, including the expansion of artificial intelligence well as the number of independent reviewers assigned to monitor and flag content. Other tech companies such as Facebook are taking similar measures as well, driven by criticism connected to easy access to violence-promoting content and recent attacks in the U.K. and U.S.

Donald Trump met with top U.S. technology leaders at the White House yesterday and called for an overhaul of the federal government’s computing systems, reports the Wall Street Journal. Trump cited both better services for citizens and increased cybersecurity as driving factors for the shift. However, the Journal also reports that the highly fragmented structure of the government’s systems and a lack of oversight may make the task difficult.

The AP reports that Robert Mueller will meet with top members of the Senate Judiciary committee, including chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), on Wednesday to ensure that the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election does not conflict with congressional inquiries.

Reuters reports that the FBI team investigating the lobbying work of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is focusing on Flynn’s former business partner Bijan Kian. Kian played a key role in securing a contract with Netherlands-based company Inovo, which is controlled by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. The FBI is examining whether Flynn lobbied on behalf of Turkey without making the proper disclosures after Inovo paid Flynn’s consultancy over $500,000 for opposition research on Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government blames for the failed coup attempt last summer.

Wired has an in-depth look at how Russia has bombarded Ukraine with cyberattacks, possibly using the neighboring country as a testing ground for attacks that could target the U.S., especially its crucial infrastructure. Hackers successfully plunged 250,000 Ukrainians into a blackout in December 2015 through a cyberattack on the power grid. A video shows a hacker remotely controlling a Ukrainian power grid computer in an attempt to disrupt the system. Last week, the Daily Beast reported on CrashOverride, a program that could make these types of attacks possible.

Today, voters go to the polls in Georgia’s Sixth District congressional election, widely seen as a bellwether for upcoming midterm elections in 2018 when Democrats hope to take back the House, reports the Times. The contest is the most expensive House race in history, and a win for either side could infuse significant momentum moving forward on both political and policy issues like healthcare. The Hill offers five things to watch, and Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has an in-depth look at polling predictions and the implications of the vote.

Today, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing on congressional authorizations for the use of military force. The current congressional authorizations for the use of force are over 15 years old. The prepared testimony John Bellinger is available here and the testimony of Kathleen Hicks is here.

Otto Warmbier, the UVA student who was recently sent back to the U.S. in a coma following his detainment in North Korea, has died, Foreign Policy reports. Trump released a statement reaffirming the administration’s resolve to preventing similar tragedies and condemning the brutality of the North Korean regime. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested that any Americans wishing to travel to North Korea should have to sign a waiver recognizing the risks they are assuming. Three Americans remain in North Korean detention, potentially complicating any future negotiations with Pyongyang.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Peter Margulies wrote that to contain Iran, the U.S. will need to make tangible gains on the ground while also gaining moral legitimacy based on international norms.

Julian Ku discussed the potential legal and diplomatic consequences if the U.S. takes a more aggressive stance on deterrence against Chinese military domination in the South China Sea.

Udi Greenberg reviewed The Emergence of Globalism: Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950 by Or Rosenboim.

Bob Bauer examined if the president can be indicted while in office, and how the 25th Amendment could help resolve an “incapacitated presidency.”

Ed Stein provided a comprehensive review of the new and noteworthy aspects of the Senate’s recently passed Russian sanctions amendment.

Stewart Baker posted the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast.

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