Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Rachel Bercovitz
Thursday, August 10, 2017, 10:58 AM

The U.S. government expelled two diplomats from the Cuban embassy in Washington in May, the Associated Press reports. The move followed findings that an estimated five U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana sustained severe hearing loss as a result of a covertly deployed advanced sonic weapon. Sources close to the FBI and Diplomatic Security Service investigation report that the weapon operated at an inaudible range and was deployed at the diplomats’ residences. Investigators are believed to be examining whether the attack was carried out by a third state actor such as Russia without Cuba’s involvement or knowledge.

The New York Times assesses the legality of a preemptive U.S. strike against North Korea, following reports that Pyongyang intended to launch four ICBMs into waters off the coast of Guam.

Meanwhile, analysts have questioned U.S. preparedness in the event of a missile attack, noting that the recent Missile Defense Agency (MDA) test, while successful, failed to approximate real-world conditions. The May 30 test was judged the “most difficult and challenging test MDA has done” but was conducted during daytime and intercepted only one missile. MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves noted that the tests are designed in reference to the “threats we expect our adversaries could employ.” The next MDA test, in 2018, will aim to intercept more than one warhead, the Pentagon said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will meet with U.N. officials in Vienna this month to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, Reuters reports. The meeting with officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to occur as part of the Trump administration’s review of Iran’s compliance with terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement. In April, President Trump ordered an inter-agency assessment of whether lifting sanctions on Iran pursuant to the accord was in U.S. national interests. U.S. and European officials have expressed alarm over Iran’s ballistic missile testing, most recently after Iran’s July 27 launch of a Simorgh missile capable of delivering satellites into a low-earth orbit.

During a meeting with commanders of the South Korean armed services, South Korean President Moon Jae-in called on Wednesday for a “complete defense reform” to bolster the South’s military defenses. In a phone call with President Trump on Monday, Moon sought support for a proposal to increase South Korea’s ballistic missile payload to at least one ton. Last month, the Trump administration agreed to open negotiations with the South to adjust terms of the 1979 bilateral guidelines that limit South Korean missiles to a range of 497 miles and a payload of half a ton.

Provisional election results show Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta leading opponent Raila Odinga by nearly 10 percentage points in the first-round presidential vote on Tuesday. Odinga on Wednesday contested the results as fraudulent, alleging that hackers used the identity of Chris Msando, the electoral commission’s IT manager, who was found dead on July 31, to compromise a server and rig the tally in Kenyatta’s favor. Chief Electoral Officer Ezra Chiloba rejected Odinga’s claim of election interference. At least five people have been reported killed in post-election violence, intensifying widespread concern of a repeat of bloodshed that followed the 2007 presidential vote, which left an estimated 1,300 dead and more than 600,000 displaced.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes drew parallels between L’Affaire Russe and the new Netflix documentary "Icarus."

Dipali Mukhopadhyay and Omar Sharifi assessed the state of state-building in Afghanistan and urged U.S. support for Afghan institutions critical to addressing the country’s ongoing challenges.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted the latest episode of the National Security Law podcast.

Bob Bauer replied to Rick Pildes’s Aug. 3 argument that a judicially enforceable codification of regulations on the DOJ special counsel would be constitutional.

Quinta Jurecic posted the writ of mandamus issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in the 9/11 case.

Wittes and Susan Hennessey posted excerpts from their Foreign Policy piece weighing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s announcement that the Justice Department would scale up investigations into intelligence leaks.

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