Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 1:18 PM

The U.N. General Assembly will hold an emergency session on Thursday to vote on a draft resolution calling for the U.S. to revoke its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Reuters reported. The U.S. vetoed the same resolution at the Security Council on Monday. The General Assembly vote would be non-binding, but it would carry political significance, as the Palestinian-backed resolution is expected to have widespread support in the General Assembly. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the U.S. would “take note” of which states back the resolution on Monday after the Security Council vote.

The U.S. presented declassified intelligence to the Security Council as part of its case for the body to designate 10 North Korean ships as sanctions violators, the Wall Street Journal reported. The intelligence includes photos of the ships smuggling petroleum and coal to and from North Korea. The U.S. push to blacklist the ships is part of a strategy to ratchet up economic pressure on Pyongyang with Chinese cooperation. In other developments from the Korean peninsula, South Korea has asked the U.S. military to postpone annual joint exercises until after the 2018 Winter Olympics amid concerns that North Korea will try to interfere with the games, the Washington Post reported. The exercises are normally conducted each spring; The U.S. military command in Seoul said it is considering the request. The Winter Games begin on Feb. 9.

Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen will allow Hodeidah, a Houthi-held port, to remain open through the next month to allow humanitarian aid shipments, Reuters reported. Saudi forces had originally imposed the blockade in response to a missile strike on the Riyadh airport. The coalition will keep the port open despite a second Houthi missile attack on Riyadh on Tuesday. Separately, Jennifer Newstead, the nominee to be the State Department Legal Adviser, told Congress in written testimony that the Saudi blockade may violate U.S. laws that prevent assistance to countries that restrict humanitarian aid, Foreign Policy reported. Differing from current State Department policy, Newstead said reports about the blockade “raise a substantial question” about whether Riyadh’s actions violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. Newstead promised to review the matter immediately upon taking office.

South Sudan’s military captured the headquarters of a major rebel group as negotiators convened in Ethiopia for another round of peace talks, the New York Times reported. The fall of Lasu, the southern headquarters of the SPLA-IO, further fractured rebel groups that have lost significant ground the government in recent months. However, President Salva Kiir’s government is far from reaching any negotiated peace deal to end the intermittent conflict that began in 2013.

The South Korean coast guard fired nearly 250 warning shots over Chinese fishing vessels that surrounded a South Korean patrol vessel, according to Reuters. The fishing boats swarmed around the coast guard ship and attempted to ram it. China and South Korea have frequently clashed over disputes between Chinese fishing vessels in South Korean waters and the use of force by South Korea’s coast guard. South Korea said the boats were fishing illegally.

The European Commission invoked a previously unused sanctions measure to penalize Poland over changes to its judicial system that Brussels says undermine Poland’s rule of law and separation of powers, the Journal reported. The sanctions respond to a push from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party to sharply curb the powers of Poland’s top court to rule on the constitutionality of legislation. Following the sanctions procedure, European Union members will likely vote early next year that Poland is violating EU values regarding democracy and human rights. If Poland’s government does not reverse the laws, the sanctions measures could go as far as revoking its EU voting rights.

The House of Representatives will vote on Thursday on a bill to reauthorize the NSA’s authority to collect electronic communications of overseas foreign targets from U.S. companies under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008, the Post reported. The bill is a modified draft from the House intelligence committee that requires the FBI to obtain a warrant to review information from the collected communications to use it in criminal cases. Representatives from the House Judiciary Committee are expected to oppose the bill because it lacks privacy protections they included in their own version of the reauthorization, the USA Liberty Act. The Section 702 program’s authority under FISA expires at the end of the year.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Matthew Green responded to Nick Weaver’s piece on whether Apple is complying with law enforcement wiretap orders to the fullest extent possible.

Philip Bobbitt argued that North Korea has misunderstood the United States’ disincentives to push for regime change in Pyongyang.

Michael Sulmeyer discussed the role of cybersecurity in the 2017 National Security Strategy.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast, covering the Abu Khatallah verdict, the presidential transition team emails, Section 702 and ACLU v. Mattis.

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