Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Monday, November 27, 2017, 1:55 PM

Egyptian security forces targeted militants in the Sinai peninsula after an attack on a mosque in a local village killed 305 people, the New York Times reported. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pledged to get vengeance against a group of 25-30 armed men that Egyptian authorities said carried an Islamic State flag during their massacre at the mosque in Bir al-Abed. According to Egyptian security officials, warplanes struck vehicles associated with the fighters. The attack is the latest escalation in the long-brewing conflict in Sinai, where the Egyptian military has struggled to contain an insurgency that took hold after the 2013 coup in which President Sisi took power.

Pakistan’s justice minister will step down after accusations of blasphemy against him sparked protests and violence from Islamic fundamentalist groups, the Times reported. After Zahid Hamid, the law minister, attempted to change religious language in an oath that Pakistani lawmakers take upon entering parliament, protests erupted that have paralyzed Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, for weeks. Following military-led negotiations, Hamid agreed to step down, and a hard-line Islamic party promised not to issue an edict of blasphemy against him, an accusation that has led to killings in the past.

Pope Francis met the head of Myanmar’s military during an official visit, as the pontiff faces pressure to address the violence against the Rohingya Muslim population, Reuters reported. The pope discussed religious freedom and the country’s transition to democracy with General Min Aung Hlaing. Advisers have warned the pope against even using the word “Rohingya,” as Myanmar’s government says they are not a separate ethnic group. The pope will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, on Tuesday.

Michael Flynn’s lawyers told President Donald Trump’s legal team they were halting their correspondence about the special counsel’s investigation, according to the Times. Flynn’s lawyers cancelled an agreement concluded between Trump and Flynn’s legal teams to share information about the investigation and their responses. Trump’s lawyers said this development suggested Flynn was working on a deal with the special counsel. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is looking into Flynn’s work on a Turkish documentary film, the Wall Street Journal reported. Flynn paid consultants to create a currently unfinished film attacking exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. The FBI is probing Flynn’s business connections to the Turkish government in connection with the film. Separately, Congressional officials referred allegations about Flynn’s role in a scheme to provide nuclear power to Middle East countries to the special counsel’s investigation, the Washington Post reported. Rep. Trey Gowdy sent a letter to Mueller referring congressional democrats’ concerns about Flynn’s sponsorship of a plan to build nuclear reactors across the Middle East while he was in office.

The U.S. will cease arming Kurdish fighters in Syria, CBS News reported. President Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the U.S. would stop its arms shipments to the YPG, a Kurdish group that forms an integral part of the U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Turkey has called the YPG a terrorist organization because of its connections to rebel groups in Turkey’s eastern mountains. The White House did not explicitly confirm the change in policy, but Turkish officials called on the U.S. to uphold its pledge, according to Reuters.

Aid shipments entered Yemen for the first time in the weeks since the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels blockaded major ports, the Times reported. A shipment of flour reached the seaport at Al Hudaydah and aid planes landed at Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. The U.N. said the Saudi coalition must continue to allow supplies to arrive as Yemen faces a devastating famine and health crisis. A cholera epidemic has threatened vulnerable members of Yemen’s population  as over 17 million people lack reliable access to food. 

The FBI failed to inform dozens of current and former U.S. officials that the Russian hacking operation Fancy Bear had targeted their email accounts, the AP reported. Of more than 80 officials whose emails the Russian group aimed to compromise, the FBI notified only two of the potential threat. Many former intelligence and military officials learned about the attempted hacking only when journalists contacted them about the matter.

The head of the European Parliament asked the Polish government to take steps to ensure the security of Polish parliamentarians after far-right groups staged mock hangings of the politicians, Reuters reported. Extremists hanged the portraits of Polish representatives to Brussels who backed a resolution condemning a Polish far-right march in early November as fascist. The head of the European Parliament asked the Polish government to condemn the attacks on the politicians.

The Pentagon is likely to admit that there are over 2,000 U.S. soldiers in Syria, revising upwards its previously estimate of 500 troops on the ground, according to Reuters. The Department of Defense is expected to announce the revised number to reflect a more accurate accounting of troops present in Syria and not to announce an increase in troop commitments.

 

ICYMI: This holiday weekend on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted the “Mother May I Launch a Missile” edition of Rational Security.

Orin Kerr argued that the Fourth Amendment does not guarantee a general right to be secure against government surveillance.

Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview between Alina Polyakova and Arkady Ostrovsky on Russia’s far east.

In the Foreign Policy Essay, Kim Cragin argued that foreign fighters who are transferred to third countries that are not their homes are a major security risk.

 

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.