Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Vanessa Sauter, Matthew Kahn
Friday, August 25, 2017, 1:56 PM

In Kiev, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that the United States was considering providing defensive weapons to Ukraine, reports the New York Times. In a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Mattis said, “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you are an aggressor, and clearly Ukraine is not an aggressor since it is their territory where the fighting is happening.” The Obama administration had passed on the option of arming Ukraine for fear that such a step would provoke retaliation from the Kremlin. Officials at the Departments of State and Defense have advised that the U.S. provide anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons to raise the costs of Russian invasion, but President Trump has yet to take up the matter.

Director Mike Pompeo has instructed the CIA Counterintelligence Mission Center, which has played a key role in the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, to report directly to him, and center officials have been watching him closely in turn, according to the Washington Post. Pompeo has publicly downplayed Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which has reportedly concerned some in the agency’s upper ranks. The FBI works more closely with the Counterintelligence Mission Center than any other branch of the CIA; the center provided information about contacts between Russian individuals and Trump campaign associates that helped trigger the investigation into possible collusion. Pompeo has also reportedly drawn attention from those in the agency who think he is overly willing to participate in political activity for the President.

American diplomats and others associated with the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba suffered hearing loss and other injuries during tours in Havana, the Post reports. The problems began at the end of the Obama administration and continued into the early months of 2017. The State Department says that those affected may have been the victims of an “acoustic attack,” though the FBI and State Department are still investigating the specific cause, which remains unknown. The Cuban government denies targeting the diplomats and is cooperating with U.S. investigators. According to documents that CBS News reviewed earlier this week, doctors have diagnosed brain injuries linked to nausea, hearing loss, headaches, and balance problems.

On Thursday, a judge approved a modified warrant requiring DreamHost, a web hosting firm, to turn over data about a customer website that organized protests during the 2017 inauguration, reports Reuters. The warrant is narrower than one previously approved by a different judge and includes specific privacy provisions. Now, Chief Judge Robert Morin of the D.C. Superior Court will approve a list of all of the data that the government is requesting, and the government must justify why data should be included in the warrant. Reuters also reports that DreamHost was targeted in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on Thursday, shortly after the company began hosting Punished Stormer, the successor to the popular white supremacist forum The Daily Stormer. The website had been denied hosting by GoDaddy, Google, and others after the violence at white nationalist protests in Charlottesville earlier this month. The DDoS attack burdened DreamHost’s networks, which host over 1.5 million websites, for hours.

Mirgayas Shirinskiy, the Russian ambassador to Sudan, is the seventh Russian diplomat to die since November, the Post reports. Shirinskiy’s death was announced on Wednesday after his body was found floating in his swimming pool. Russian state-run media suggested his death resulted from an acute heart attack, and the Sudanese police ruled out a possible assassination attempt. A possible connection among the string of deaths remains contended.

The White House issued a policy requesting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to evaluate the “deployability” of transgender service members, the Wall Street Journal reports. The two and a half page memo also directs the Pentagon to halt admitting transgender people and spending on medical treatment regimens for current transgender service members. The president initially announced the policy in a series of tweets on July 26, eliciting bipartisan opposition and widespread concern from military leaders on effectively executing the decision.

On Monday, the FBI arrested a Chinese national for allegedly using malware linked to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack in 2015, according to the Post. The hack exposed millions of sensitive U.S. records using a malicious software tool known as ‘Sakula.’ While court papers filed against Yu Pingan suggest a connection to the OPM hack, Yu faces charges from earlier alleged computer breaches of three U.S. companies. U.S. officials consider the Chinese government responsible for the OPM hack.

Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the U.S. National Security Agency, released a statement on Thursday indicating that Section 702, a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act scheduled to expire at the end of this year, helped the U.S. investigate Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, Reuters reports. The provision allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on foreigners using communications that pass through American phone or internet providers. The White House favors a straight reauthorization of the provision, while some members of the U.S. House of Representatives seek to renew the law with some reforms.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted this week’s episode of Rational Security, the “Everything Old Is New Again” edition.

Bob Bauer argued that pardoning Joe Arpaio would mark a fateful step for the Trump presidency.

Nora Ellingsen summarized Judge Cooper’s ruling denying Abu Khatallah’s Motion to Suppress, ruling that the Miranda waiver he gave before making statements FBI intefrviews was valid.

Matt Bishop challenged the idea that using open source software will guarantee election security.

Sarah Tate Chambers explained how two recent cases of cybercrime highlight a stark contract in rehabilitation and recidivism.

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