Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Friday, September 8, 2017, 1:23 PM

The credit reporting agency Equifax announced on Thursday that hackers may have compromised the personal information of up to 143 million American customers, the New York Times reported. The company said hackers stole the credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers. Security experts said that this incident was one of the most severe breaches because of the amount of personal information exposed to hackers. Equifax has been separately compromised twice in the past year. Senator Mark Warner said in a statement that the hack “represents a real threat to the economic security of Americans.”

Donald Trump, Jr. said to congressional investigators that he accepted the meeting with a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton because he wanted to assess Clinton’s her fitness for office, the Times reported. In prepared testimony and in a five-hour interview with Senate Judiciary Committee staffers in which Senators were present but not allowed to ask questions, Trump Jr. answered inquiries about the June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya. The committee’s leaders have called on Trump Jr. to testify publicly about the meeting. Politico reported that government officials who reviewed Paul Manafort’s notes from the Veselnitskaya meeting said the notes do not appear damaging to the Trump family. Senate officials have had the notes in their possession, and officials who reviewed the notes said they are about the Magnitsky Act, not compromising information about Clinton. A Manafort spokesperson declined to comment. FBI Director Christopher Wray said he has detected no evidence of interference in the Russia investigation since taking over as FBI director last month, the Hill reported.

A New York Times investigation documented how Russia created social media bot networks to influence the 2016 election. The joint effort from the New York Times and the cybersecurity company FireEye found that thousands of fake social media profiles acted in concert to spread disinformation about Hillary Clinton. FireEye researchers linked hundreds of Twitter accounts to personas such as DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 which they concluded were linked to Russian hacking groups, including the group responsible for the DNC hack.

Syria said that Israeli airstrikes hit a military facility that nongovernmental observers said was a chemical weapons and advanced missile production site, according to the Washington Post. Nongovernment observers said that the targets were a military research center linked to Syria’s chemical weapons program and a storage site for missiles that could be sent to Hezbollah. Israel has attempted to curb Iran’s influence in Syria, along with the Iranian-linked Hezbollah and in recent weeks has accused Iran of building facilities in Syria to manufacture missiles. Simultaneously, Israel has begun its largest military exercises in 20 years, focusing on preparations for a potential war with Hezbollah, Foreign Policy reported on Thursday. Tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers will participate in war games in the northern part of the country. Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 in Lebanon and tensions have risen this year because of Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict in Syria.

Federal prosecutors in New York charged Turkey’s former economy minister with conspiracy to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, the Post reported on Thursday. In an indictment, federal prosecutors alleged that Mehmet Caglayan accepted millions of dollars of bribes as part of scheme with Turkish millionaire Reza Zarrab to launder money for Iran through Turkey. Zarrab is in U.S. custody. Caglayan remains in Turkey. In related news, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to block U.S. weapons sales to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail in response to the violent attack on peaceful protestors in Washington D.C. by Erdogan’s bodyguards this spring, according to the AP. The House passed a similar restriction in July as part of a defense authorization bill. The full Senate will vote on the amendment as part of a larger spending bill for the State Department.

The GAO raised concerns about the safety and readiness of U.S. Navy ships in the Pacific following several ship collisions in recent months, CNN reported. A GAO report found that more than a third of ships based in Japan had fallen behind on their training certifications. To support higher deployment rates overseas, the Navy has allocated less time for training. A total of 17 sailors have been killed in four Navy ship collisions this year.

Congressman Michael McCaul is a leading candidate for to replace John Kelly as the Secretary of Homeland Security, Politico reported on Thursday. McCaul, a Republican from Texas, is the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and is reportedly eager to serve in the administration. However, McCaul has publicly disagreed with the administration’s implementation of the travel ban and with the administration’s opposition to a path to legal status for immigrants. In related news, President Trump nominated a White House attorney to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the AP reported. The White House announced Gregory Katsas, the deputy White House Counsel, is the nominee to replace Judge Janice Rodgers Brown. Katsas clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas and has served in high-ranking roles in the Justice Department, including Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division and Acting Associate Attorney General.

The White House will not seek an updated Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Roll Call reported on Thursday. White House officials have concluded the United States has legal authority under the existing AUMF for the campaigns against Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic State. The news came shortly after Speaker Paul Ryan called for an updated AUMF. President Barack Obama requested a new AUMF in 2015; congressional Republicans refused to consider it.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted this week’s episode of Rational Security.

Sarah Grant, Matthew Kahn, and Shannon Togawa Mercer summarized documents released in August by ODNI related to the FISA Amendments Act Section 702.

Ben Buchanan analyzed the NOBUS approach to signals intelligence in his essay for the Hoover Institution’s Aegis Paper Series.

Josh Blackman defended his position that courts should maintain the ‘presumption of regularity’ when dealing with President Trump.

Liza Goitein replied to Tim Edgar’s book, “Beyond Snowden” and argued that the book falls short in making recommendations on the upcoming 702 reauthorization debate.

Russell Spivak summarized the Second Circuit’s opinion in Doe v. Hagenbeck, a case about West Point’s handling of sexual assault.

Matthew Kahn flagged Harvard Law’s upcoming conference on “populist plutocrats.”

Kahn posted the Justice Department’s brief opposing cert in Bahlul v. United States.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.