Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Alex Potcovaru
Tuesday, August 8, 2017, 2:53 PM

U.S. analysts believe that North Korea has produced miniaturized nuclear warheads capable of fitting inside its missiles, The Washington Post reports. Intelligence officials reached the conclusion in a confidential assessment dated July 28. Whether Pyongyang has successfully tested the warheads is unknown, although the regime claimed to have done so last year. The finding may put further pressure on President Donald Trump, who has vowed North Korea will never be permitted to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons. Additionally, alarmed allies Japan and South Korea are exploring the possibility of deploying more powerful weapons, according to The New York Times.

North Korea said it would mobilize all of its resources to take “physical action” as retaliation for recent U.N. Security Council sanctions, The New York Times reports. Just yesterday, the North fiercely criticized the decision, and today’s statement appears to indicate the regime plans to engage in another nuclear or missile test. Though not by name, North Korea seemed to criticize allies China and Russia for supporting the sanctions resolution, which the Security Council passed unanimously.

The Defense Department is considering a plan to use armed drones to conduct airstrikes in the Philippines in the fight against ISIS, NBC reports. Philippine forces, alongside a small group of supporting U.S. forces, continue to battle ISIS-affiliated insurgents in the country’s southern islands. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was providing the Philippines government with “intelligence capabilities,” trainings, and guidance. He also said he does not see a conflict between helping the country fight ISIS and U.S. concerns over President Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights record related to counternarcotics operations.

As ISIS loses control over major parts of its territory, the group could revert to a more flexible insurgency and retreat into the illicit economy to fund its operations, the Post notes. Leaders of the group may shift towards economic models similar to organized crime, seeking to launder money, control underground flows of illegal goods, and extort local businesses. Relationships with non-ISIS smugglers are complex and pragmatic, meaning that these individuals could both hinder or advance ISIS’ ambitions depending on the financial incentives ISIS offers them.

The White House is weighing a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to transfer major responsibilities in the war in Afghanistan to private contractors, USA Today reports. The plan would integrate 5,500 contractors into the Afghan forces along with about 90 aircraft. Trump has grown increasingly frustrated with the stalemate in the 16 year war, but has also resisted Pentagon proposals to increase troop levels. Critics have raised significant concerns about the strategic and legal wisdom of employing the mercenary forces.

Three victims of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program will face the psychologists who created the program in court, The Guardian reports. Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, along with the late Gul Rahman, filed a civil suit in Washington State against the two men accused of designing the program, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen. The case, which has progressed the furthest of any lawsuit on the matter, will go before a jury on September 5.

The U.S. is considering further sanctions on Venezuelan individuals connected to President Nicolas Maduro in response to the country’s worsening crisis, working to muster support for a stronger regional response, Bloomberg reports. A group of 11 Latin American countries, alongside Canada, will make an announcement this afternoon about their next step. Violent protests against the regime and worsening economic conditions have plagued the country for the last four months.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Former Deputy Director of NSA Rick Ledgett argued that the government should not release all the digital vulnerabilities of which it is aware.

Ashley Deeks previewed her forthcoming article on the use of secret commitments between states in contemporary practice, noting that a majority of those commitments that have been revealed have complied with the U.N. Charter.

Luis Moreno Ocampo reviewed Catherine MacKinnon’s new book Butterfly Politics.

Merritt Baer and Chinmayi Sharma examined theories of harm in data-breach litigation.

Bobby Chesney analyzed the Government Accountability Office’s recent report that covered separating NSA and CYBERCOM. He suggested caution when evaluating the evidence the report uses to make its claims.

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