Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Friday, July 7, 2017, 3:24 PM

Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin today at the G20 Summit, the AP reports. The meeting, originally slotted for 35 minutes, ran almost two hours long. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accompanied Trump and Putin, along with their translators.

According to Tillerson, Trump “rais[ed] the concern” of Russian interference in the 2016 election, The New York Times reports. Putin denied any Russian involvement. The two sides have presented conflicting reports of what was discussed: although Tillerson said that Russian election interference represented a hindrance to U.S.-Russia relationship, Lavrov stated that Trump accepted Putin’s denial of any Kremlin interference. Lavrov also announced that the two countries have agreed to set up a joint cybersecurity working group.

The U.S. and Russia have also reached a deal on a ceasefire in southwest Syria to take effect Sunday, with Tillerson declaring that the administration sees no long-term role for the Assad regime in Syria. In a press conference following the meeting, Tillerson also announced that Trump and Putin discussed the North Korean threat, adding that though Washington and the Kremlin disagree on tactics, both aspire to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

Hackers have penetrated the computer systems of nuclear power stations and other energy facilities in the United States since May, reports the Times. The information comes from a joint report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI marked with the second-highest threat sensitivity. However, the attacks seemed focused on the business and administrative networks rather than the operations of the facilities. The agencies said that there was no threat to public safety at this time, but did note that the hackers appeared interested in mapping out the system to launch a future attack.

Intelligence officials say that Russia has increased its surveillance activities in the U.S., CNN reports. The officials said that there has been a noted increase in suspected Russian intelligence agents entering the country under the auspices of other business. Many enter through temporary duty visas issued by the State Department, a point of contention with the intelligence community. It is believed that about 150 Russian intelligence officers currently operate in the United States

Concerned with the limited U.S. satellite coverage of North Korea, the U.S. government is working with private companies to develop and launch small satellites better able to provide radar detection from space, the Times reports. Developers originally created the technology for commercial use, but it may be able to provide more accurate and rapid intelligence on the North Korean threat if scaled up. Currently, the U.S. only has about one-third of North Korea under satellite surveillance at any one time, making difficult-to-monitor mobile-launched missiles an even greater threat.

Recent crackdowns on leaking and new restrictions on access to information in the intelligence community have worried officials and contributed to increased fear in the agencies, Politico reports. The Trump administration has experienced a steady flow of leaks since the beginning of its tenure, and Trump himself has frequently lashed out at the leaking of information to the press. Some fear that the administration is keeping increasingly close tabs on the official, and perhaps even personal, communication of federal employees.

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow warned that news organizations may be receiving falsified documents on the Russia investigation from a source aiming to scuttle media credibility on the issue. After being sent a likely fake “Top Secret” NSA document claiming coordination between a named member of the Trump campaign and Russia, Maddow announced that she wanted to sound the alarm for other news organizations. Maddow suggest a possible link to recent sourcing problems with stories at CNN and Vice both led to their retraction and in one instance the resignation of several journalists.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will visit the Guantanamo Bay detention center today, the Times reports. Sessions has frequently supported the continued use of the facility to hold terrorism suspects. A spokesman for the Justice Department said it was important for senior officials to understand the prison’s current operations. In the beginning of his administration, Trump circulated a draft executive order that would endorse keeping Guantanamo open and directing it to be used in the future. However, he has not yet signed a final version of the order.

Following the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii’s denial of Hawaii’s motion to clarify the Supreme Court’s ruling on the travel ban, the U.S. government can—for now—continue to prevent U.S. entry of individuals claiming family relationships it does not consider to meet the Supreme Court’s “bona fide” relationship standard, The Washington Post reports. On the grounds that the vague language at issue came from the Supreme Court, Judge Derrick Watson refused to intervene and said the petitioners should take the issue there instead. Hawaii has appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted the Rational Security podcast.

Bob Bauer argued that Trump’s tweets demonstrate a mercurial presidency, not a “modern” one as the president has argued.

Emily Chertoff and Zachary Manfredi examined the connection between the U.S. position on targeting “war-sustaining” objects and the recent strike on an ISIS prison in eastern Syria.

Susan Hennessey and Wittes announced a brand new partnership with Foreign Policy magazine called “Lawfare@FP.”

The two also cross-posted their inaugural Lawfare@FP column about collusion and its interactions with crime.

Andrew Keane Woods pushed back on concerns about the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision to enforce a global injunction against Google on listing specific content that violated Canadian law.

Matthew Kahn summarized the June 29 military commissions proceedings in the Abd al Hadi al Iraqi case.

Jane Chong summarized her reply to a critique of her recent piece on the Office of Legal Counsel and Comptroller General opinions on the Emoluments Clause.

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