Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Tuesday, September 19, 2017, 3:52 PM

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and labeled Iran a “rogue nation,” the New York Times reported. In remarks at the summit of world leaders, Trump called the North Korean regime “a band of criminals” and said the U.S. would act unilaterally to defend itself against North Korea if necessary. Trump also denounced Iran as a “corrupt dictatorship” and a supporter of terrorism in the Middle East and called the Iran nuclear deal “an embarrassment.” Furthermore, Trump said the U.S. was “prepared to take further action” to respond to violence and repression in Venezuela. In the speech, the president emphasized an “America First” approach to foreign policy to the audience of foreign leaders and diplomats.

The FBI wiretapped Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants before and after the election, CNN reported on Monday. The FBI obtained a FISA warrant to surveil Manafort for a 2014 investigation into consulting firms working for Ukraine’s former ruling party, the Party of Regions, which was linked to Russia. Last year, investigators discontinued that surveillance because of a lack of evidence. However, the FISA court granted the FBI a new warrant in fall 2016 to resume monitoring of Manafort in connection with the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and elements linked to the Russian government. The surveillance continued into this year. Separately, the Times reported that during a raid on Manafort’s house in July, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team warned Manafort that they planned to indict him.

Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi evaded accusations that her government is carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim population, the Washington Post reported. In her first public statement since the crisis began on August 25, Suu Kyi said that Myanmar’s government condemned all human rights violations, but she did not acknowledge any responsibility for the actions of Myanmar’s armed forces, which U.N. officials have described as atrocities. She pledged to investigate claims of abuse but also defended the government’s development efforts in Rakhine state, where the most of the Rohingya population live. Although Suu Kyi said that a majority of Muslims in Rakhine have not left the country, over 400,000 refugees have crossed the border to Bangladesh since August. Satellite images showed over 200 Rohingya villages that have been incinerated since March, according to the Times.

The Trump administration rejected a U.S. government study that found that refugees brought economic benefits, the Times reported on Monday. A draft of a study prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services this year showed that refugees had a net positive impact of $63 billion to government revenues over a 10-year period. But Trump administration officials cut these conclusions out of the final version of the report sent to the White House this September. That version said that the cost of refugees for the H.H.S. was higher than the cost of ordinary Americans but did not mention any of the revenues that refugees contribute.

The Senate approved the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on Monday in an 89-8 vote, the Post reported. The bill includes a government-wide ban on using Kaspersky Lab software and raises the level of defense spending to approximately $700 billion. Senators failed to include amendments reversing President Trump’s ban on transgender military service members or increasing sanctions on North Korea. The Senate bill authorizes about $40 billion more in spending than President Trump’s proposed defense budget, according to the Wall Street Journal. Lawmakers will now work out a compromise between the Senate bill and a version passed by the House in July.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is considering closing its embassy in Cuba to protect the health of diplomats who have reported hearing losses and brain trauma, the Times reported. Twenty-one Americans associated with the embassy in Havana have experienced a range of health problems over the last six months, including mild traumatic brain injury, loss of balance, and severe headaches. American officials have said that a sonic attack or misconfigured surveillance system may have caused the injuries. Cuba’s government has offered to let the FBI investigate. On Sunday, Secretary Tillerson said that the step of closing the embassy was being considered not as a political statement but as a measure to protect the health of employees. American and Cuban officials met on Friday to discuss the ongoing investigation into the incidents.

Japan moved a missile interceptor to a military base near the aerial paths of recent North Korean missile tests that crossed over the northern island of Hokkaido, the Post reported. The Japanese Defense Ministry announced it deployed on Tuesday a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor unit to a base in southern Hokkaido “as a precaution.” Japan’s constitution only allows its defense forces to shoot down missiles heading to Japan or causing debris to fall on Japanese territory.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Jesse Goldhammer and Zach Graves argued for the creation of a Cyber Workforce Incubator to bring private-sector cyber talent to Washington D.C.

Sarah Tate Chambers summarized the latest developments in cybercrime prosecutions in the Cybercrime Roundup.

Matthew Kahn celebrated the 70th birthday of the National Security Act of 1947.

Susan Hennessey, Shannon Togawa Mercer, and Benjamin Wittes analyzed the latest revelations about the investigations into Paul Manafort and the Trump campaign.

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.