Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Vanessa Sauter
Thursday, September 28, 2017, 4:09 PM

The Trump administration temporarily waived the Jones Act, which had inhibited access to needed hurricane relief supplies, for Puerto Rico, according to the New York Times. The century-old law says only American-built, -owned and -operated vessels can ship goods transported within the United States. On Monday, eight members of Congress submitted a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting the temporary waiver, asserting that temporarily lifting the act would facilitate the transportation of supplies to the devastated island.

On Thursday, Chung Eui-young, South Korea’s national security adviser, stated that the country expects the United States could begin to more regularly send “strategic” military assets to the South by the end of the year, the Washington Post reports. The Pentagon has not yet confirmed the decision. While Chung did not specify what the “strategic assets” would be, the term likely refers to B-52 bombers, stealth warplanes, nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, as South Korean officials often suggest.

Yesterday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned of a response following the Trump administration’s restriction of Russian military flights over U.S. territory, Reuters reports. Both the United States and Russia have questioned the other’s compliance with the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement allowing “unarmed aerial observation flights” over territories of the participating states. On Tuesday, the United States announced it was restricting Russian military flights over U.S. territory after Moscow prohibited U.S. observation flights over Kaliningrad.

President Vladimir Putin announced that he oversaw the destruction of Russia’s last chemical weapons yesterday, while also rebuking the United States for not acting similarly, according to the Times. The event was broadcast on state television and presented an opportunity for Putin to assert the United States was not fulfilling its deadline to destroy its chemical weapons pursuant to the Chemical Weapons Convention. A State Department official retorted Putin’s claim, saying the United States “fully complies” with the treaty and remains committed to completely destroying its chemical weapons by 2023. The treaty, signed in 1993, had an initial deadline of 2007 before it was extended to 2012.

Chuck Rosenberg, acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), will resign on October 1, the Post reports. Rosenberg reportedly declined Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein’s suggestion that he serve as the presidentially appointed head of the DEA or in another Justice Department position. In July, Rosenberg notably criticized Trump’s comments concerning treatment of criminal suspects in an email to DEA employees. He has also been at odds with Justice Department officials over DEA requests to grow marijuana for research in an administration which supports stricter marijuana enforcement. Rosenberg’s replacement will likely address similar issues over marijuana enforcement and research, in addition to handling the opioid crisis.

On Thursday, Twitter participated in a closed-door hearing with House and Senate intelligence committee staff concerning Russia’s used of the social media platform and the 2016 election, CNN reports. Facebook participated in a similar hearing this month that revealed the tech giant sold more than 3,000 election ads to a Russian agency. Yesterday, the House committee stated they plan on holding an open hearing with the tech companies in the next month. In a related event, Mark Zuckerberg released a statement last night dismissing Trump’s accusation that Facebook was biased against the president, instead arguing the social media platform “will continue to work to build a community for all people.”

Reality Winner, the former National Security Agency contractor accused of leaking classified material, admitted she smuggled a classified report in her pantyhose, according to Politico. A transcript of Winner’s interrogation, which federal prosecutors filed on Wednesday, revealed the admission and other details related to the case. The 25-year-old linguist sent the report, which concerned Russian spearfishing attacks against U.S. voter registration databases, to The Intercept. Winner’s trial is currently set for March 1. If convicted, prosecutors say Winner would face at least nine years in prison under sentencing guidelines.


ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Bob Bauer argued that the president’s untruthful claims about the Russian investigation could have legal consequences. 

Robert Chesney unveiled a joint blog post series surrounding the Fifth Annual Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict.

Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted the latest National Security Law Podcast.

Nora Ellingsen provided a roundup of this month’s international terrorism prosecutions.