Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Vanessa Sauter
Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 3:45 PM

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s team is investigating a number of financial transactions between Russian officials and individuals in the United States, BuzzFeed reports. Citibank reported a series of transactions, including $120,000 that Sergey Kislyak received 10 days after Trump’s election, to the Treasury Department’s financial crimes unit, which delivered the suspicious activity reports to the FBI. The reporting notes that suspicious activity reports are not evidence of a crime and often document lawful-but-unusual activity, though such reports can help investigations.

Mueller's team subpoenaed Stephen Bannon, the former White House strategist and head of Breitbart, to testify before a grand jury, according to the New York Times. This instance is the first public reporting of a grand jury subpoena issued in the special counsel’s investigation. On Tuesday, Bannon testified for 10 hours before the House intelligence committee, which also issued a subpoena to compel the former strategist to answer questions. He refused to answer many questions, citing executive privilege.

On Tuesday, the FBI arrested Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a CIA officer who left the agency in 2007, for helping the Chinese government undermine American informant networks in China, the Times reports. He is charged with unlawful retention of government information under the Espionage Act. The arrest follows a yearslong FBI investigation into the collapse of the CIA’s spy network in China. The Chinese government had imprisoned or killed over a dozen CIA informants since 2010. In May, the Times reported on the what was believed to be one of the worst intelligence failures in decades; officials say the losses of informants was on par with those resulting from Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen’s leaking of classified information to the Soviet Union and Russia. The arrest undermines support for the alternative theory that some intelligence officers believed: that Chinese intelligence has infiltrated covert CIA communications systems. In 2012, investigators uncovered handwritten notes in Lee’s possession containing classified information, including the real names and phone numbers of CIA informants and undercover agents.

The Senate invoked cloture late Tuesday night on the bill to reauthorize Title XII of the FISA Amendments Act, including Section 702, before the Senate votes later this week, Politico reports. The 60-38 vote followed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s stated opposition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to limit debate on and amendments to the bill. Title XII will expire on Jan. 19 without reauthorization.

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced survey results on Tuesday that suggest nearly three-quarters of U.S. terrorism convictions involve foreign-born individuals, the Washington Post reports. The departments conducted the survey at the direction of President Donald Trump in his travel-ban executive order last March. Critics of the report have called it misleading, given the survey only accounts for attacks inspired by international terrorist groups, thereby excluding incidents of domestic terrorism. Under this categorization, those who are extradited and brough to face trial in the United States are included in the same category as those who emigrated and later faced terrorism-related charges.

Commanders Bryce Benson and Alfredo J. Sanchez, along with three other servicemembers, will face criminal charges that include negligent homicide following the respective collisions of USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain last year, the Post reports. Four others will receive administrative discipline. The collisions left 17 dead. An international investigation of the incidents revealed both collisions were preventable and caused by procedural failures of multiple service members.

North and South Korea will parade together at Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony in February, according to the Post. Although the International Olympics Committee will still need to approve the decision, the step signals a warming relationship between the two countries. The agreement includes marching under a “unification flag” during the opening ceremony and allowing a joint women’s ice hockey team.

ICYMI, Yesterday on Lawfare

Lisa Daniels, Nora Ellingsen and Benjamin Wittes critiqued the DOJ-DHS report on foreign-born individuals and terrorism.

Ashley Deeks warned that the United States needs to start thinking about how to address pervasive domestic surveillance in other states, including China.

Josh Blackman analyzed Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ letter to the Department of Homeland Security about DACA.

Laurie Blank addressed whether shovels used during war are lawful weapons.

Stewart Baker posted this week’s Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring an interview with Shane Harris.

Matthew Kahn shared the arrest affidavit of Jerry Chun Shing Lee.

In this week’s Middle East Ticker, Dana Stuster discussed the Iran sanctions waiver, Turkey’s plan to attack U.S.-backed forces in Syria, and the U.N.’s considered accusation that Iran is providing missile to Yemeni rebels.

Vanessa Sauter posted the livestream of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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