Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Monday, October 2, 2017, 2:04 PM

A gunman killed over 50 people and injured hundreds of others at a concert festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night, the New York Times reported. Police have identified the gunman and confirmed that SWAT units found him dead on entering the 32nd-story casino room from where he fired automatic weapons at a crowd of festival-goers. It is one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. President Trump will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday, the Washington Post reported. Despite the Islamic State’s statement claiming responsibility for the attack, the FBI said the shooter has no connection to any international terrorist group, according to the AP. The Times has live updates.

President Trump said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time” after Tillerson revealed that the U.S. has maintained direct communications channels to North Korea, the Wall Street Journal reported. Tillerson described the existence of three channels to Pyongyang at a news conference in Beijing on Saturday, according to the Times. He said North Korean officials have not signaled that they are ready to engage in talks. On Sunday, a Trump tweet undercut Tillerson’s statement, saying, “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what needs to be done!” Politico Magazine wrote about whether Tillerson resign following this humiliation. The difference in negotiating stances came after the Post reported that months ago, Trump signed a directive authorizing a range of actions to put pressure on North Korea that led U.S. Cyber Command to target North Korean hackers. Cyber Command conducted a denial of service attack on North Korea’s military spy agency, preventing North Korean hackers from accessing the Internet.

U.S. and U.N. investigations revealed that a North Korean ship seized at the Suez canal carrying 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades was destined for Egypt’s military, the Post reported. U.N. investigators found that Egyptian businessmen secretly purchased the military hardware for the Egyptian armed forces. Formal diplomatic notification from the U.S. of the ship’s contents, which are banned under Security Council sanctions, caused Egyptian customs authorities to impound the vessel. The attempted purchase was one factor in the Trump administration’s decision during the summer to freeze or delay almost $300 million in military aid to Egypt.

An independence referendum in Catalonia left hundreds injured after clashes with police sent to shut down the vote, the Times reported. Despite declarations from the Spanish government that the referendum was unconstitutional, the Catalan government proceeded with the vote. Battles between police and pro-referendum supporters left over 800 injured as security forces attempted to close polling stations and to remove ballot boxes. Catalan authorities said the referendum results showed 90% support for independence, but the Spanish government said the results were disrupted. The result has not been independently verified.

The Supreme Court opens its October term today with a bevy of high-interest cases on religious discrimination, partisan gerrymandering, and privacy and technology. NPR’s Nina Totenberg previewed the docket. In Carpenter v. U.S. the justices will consider whether law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to get cell site information. At the D.C. District Court, the trial of Ahmed Abu Khattalah, the alleged mastermind behind the Benghazi attack in Libya, begins on Monday, the Times reported. Separately, the trial of Ahmad Rahimi, the man charged with attempting a bombing in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan will begin on Monday in federal district court, the Post reported.

An IED blast killed an American soldier in Iraq, the AP reported. The service member is the seventh American soldier killed in the fight against the Islamic State. Separately, the Times’ Rod Nordland wrote about the fate of captured Islamic State soldiers at the hands of unforgiving peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Secretary Tillerson said that last week’s Kurdish independence referendum was illegitimate, the Post reported. Tillerson called the “unilateral referendum” illegitimate and lent his support to the Iraqi government. Baghdad cut off a key supply road from Mosul to Kurdish-held Kirkuk on Friday and is coordinating with neighboring states as part of a push to isolate Iraqi Kurdistan from that region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the Islamic State captured a town in Homs province from government forces as part of a larger offensive in northwestern Syria, Reuters reported. The observatory also said that over 3,300 people had died in Syria during September, and that of that number, airstrikes from Russia, Syria, or the U.S.-led coalition killed 70%, according to the BBC.

A friendly-fire airstrike killed at least ten Afghan security personnel on Sunday, the Times reported. The incident comes amid heavy fighting in Afghanistan’s south as the Afghan government attempts to expand its area of control in Helmand province and neighboring areas. Dozens of soldiers and police officers have died in the Taliban counteroffensive.

State Department officials disagreed with a proposed Trump administration move to close the Taliban political office in Qatar, the Journal reported. A handful of State Department officials submitted a memo through the department’s “dissent channel” urging the administration to maintain the office and to undertake serious peace talks with the Taliban. The administration is considering adopting a “fight then talk” strategy that aims to deliver a battlefield blow against the Taliban before beginning significant negotiations.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a vehicle and knife attack in Edmonton a terrorist attack, the Times reported. A suspect stabbed a police officer and deliberately hit four other people with a U-Haul truck outside a football game. Canadian police arrested a refugee from Somalia in connection with the attacks.

French military police fatally shot an assailant who killed two women with a knife at a train station in Marseille, the Times reported. French authorities said they were opening a terrorism investigation but that the assailant’s motives were not clear. The Islamic State called the man one of its “soldiers.”

Yemeni Houthi rebels said they shot down a U.S. surveillance drone in Sanaa on Sunday, Reuters reported. The Houthi-run news agency said that Houthi air defenses shot down a U.S. MQ-9 drone flying over the Yemeni capital city.

The U.N. Human Rights Council agreed on a compromise measure to send a group of “eminent” experts to investigate human rights abuses in Yemen’s civil war, the BBC reported. The compromise passed after a group of Saudi-led Gulf states successfully lobbied against a stronger resolution to establish a formal “commission of inquiry” like that exists for the Syrian civil war.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) let a Russian defense agency review the source code of a cyber defense software system that the U.S. military uses to detect cyber intrusions, Reuters reported. HPE agreed to a review of the source code of ArcSight as part of an effort to win certification to sell in Russia’s public sector. Former U.S. intelligence officials and independent security experts said the review raises questions about potential vulnerabilities the Russians may have found in the software.

ICYMI: This weekend, on Lawfare

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, featuring audio from a Hoover Institution event at which Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro discussed their new book The Internationalists with Jack Goldsmith.

Julie Chernov Hwang argued in the Foreign Policy Essay that the revised Indonesian Anti-Terrorism Law will not only set back human rights in Indonesia but also exacerbate the terrorism problem.

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