Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Wednesday, November 1, 2017, 11:59 AM

A driver killed eight people on Tuesday evening by driving a truck down a bike path in New York City, shouting “God is great” in Arabic before a police officer shot him, the New York Times reported. Twelve more pedestrians and cyclists were injured in the deadly rampage. New York’s mayor declared the incident a terrorist attack. Law enforcement officials are investigating the driver’s background, the Washington Post reported. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, said Sayfullo Saipov was “radicalized domestically” and that Saipov drew inspiration from the Islamic State group. Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, had previously come to the attention of federal authorities, according to the Times. President Donald Trump blamed the attack on immigration policies promoted by Democrats, the Times also reported.

Uzbekistan’s president promised to assist in investigating the attack, the Wall Street Journal reported. The attack has focused attention on Central Asia as a source of violent extremism, also according to the Journal. Uzbek nationals have traveled in large numbers to fight for the Islamic State group in the Middle East. In 2015, federal prosecutors in New York charged a group of Uzbeks with plotting to join the Islamic State.

George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to deceiving the FBI on Monday, was in regular contact with senior campaign officials, the Post reported. Following a tweet from Trump that Papadopoulos was a “low level volunteer,” emails from the campaign showed the adviser repeatedly told senior Trump campaign officials about his contacts with Russian government representatives. Papadopoulos’ campaign supervisor, Sam Clovis, has testified before a grand jury in the special counsel investigation, Politico reported. Clovis—Trump’s nominee for the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist post—is also a “cooperative witness” in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s own Russia investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller will interview Hope Hicks, White House communications director, according to Politico.

The FBI is investigating Brexit proponent Nigel Farage as a “person of interest” in the Russia investigation, the Guardian reported. Farage’s connections to the Trump campaign and to Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, aroused the FBI’s interest. Farage denied that he had connections to Russia. Separately, Aaron Banks, a key financial backer of the Brexit campaign, denied that Russia funded the pro-Brexit camp, according to Reuters. Britain’s election commission is looking into whether Banks violated campaign finance laws during the 2016 referendum.

South Korea’s president said South Korea would never seek its own nuclear weapons, the Post reported. On Wednesday, Moon Jae-in rebuked some South Korean lawmakers who have proposed that the country develop its own nuclear program to counter the North Korean threat. As the crisis with North Korea continues, U.S. diplomats are pursuing direct diplomacy with Pyongyang through side channels at the U.N., Reuters reported. A U.S. negotiator confirmed that he has been in contact with North Korean diplomats at their U.N. mission. The talks have expanded from their narrow focus on political prisoner exchanges to include Pyongyang’s nuclear tests. To respond to North Korea’s provocations, the U.S. is considering scheduling military exercises with its three aircraft carriers now sailing in the western Pacific, the Journal reported. If conducted, the exercises would be the first in the area since 2007 to involve three U.S. carriers.

Iran’s supreme leader limited the range of its ballistic missiles to 2,000 kilometers, the AP reported on Tuesday. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to restrict its missile ranges to only reach regional Middle East targets. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran on Wednesday to discuss the Iran nuclear deal and the Syrian civil war, Reuters reported. Russia will host talks next month aimed at reaching a political settlement in Syria between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups, according to the Post.

The chief prosecutor at the Guantanamo Bay military commissions stopped holding press conferences, abandoning a long-standing practice, the Miami Herald reported on Wednesday. A Pentagon spokesperson said the move was part of a shift in public affairs strategies for the military commissions.

A Navy report said that collisions between U.S. ships were “avoidable” and a result of human errors, the Times reported on Wednesday. Seventeen sailors died in crashes between Navy destroyers and commercial ships earlier this year. The report blamed the accidents on poor judgement from the commanding officers and the crews’ lack of preparation.

The Congressional Budget Office said a plan to modernize the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal would cost $1.2 trillion, the AP reported. The plan, developed under President Obama, would accumulate the costs over a 30-year period.

Hamas began transferring control of Gaza border crossings to the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The move started the implementation of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

John Yoo wrote at the New York Times that even though President Trump has the power to pardon Paul Manafort, he should not for the good of democracy.

Moira Whelan argued at Foreign Policy that the State Department should reconsider its promotion of Facebook given the platform’s use by anti-democratic forces.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker, covering the resignation of Iraqi Kurdistan’s president, the capture of a suspect in the Benghazi attacks, and Saudi Arabia’s pitch to investors for its economic reform plan.

Evelyn Douek analyzed the impact of Germany’s new law to regulate online hate crimes and fake news.

Stewart Baker shared the Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring an interview with Chris Painter, former lead cyber diplomat at the State Department.

Sarah Grant summarized Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling blocking the Trump administration’s order banning transgender military service members.

Garrett Hinck posted the video and testimony of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing with experts, including social media executives on extremism, Russian disinformation and the 2016 elections.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, featuring their discussion of the Mueller indictments, ACLU v. Mattis, the captured Benghazi suspect, and developments in the al-Nashiri case.

Shannon Togawa Mercer posted the government’s memo in the case against Paul Manafort Jr. and Richard Gates III asking the court to set conditions on their release, designate the case as complex and notify the defendants the government intended to use specific foreign bank records.

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