Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Matthew Kahn
Friday, January 19, 2018, 2:15 PM

Congress sent the bill to reauthorize Title XII of the FISA Amendments Act to the president’s desk on Thursday, says the New York Times. The bill extends the provisions, set to expire Friday at midnight, until Dec. 31, 2023. The bill, which contained modest reforms but fell short of privacy advocates hopes, passed the Senate 65 to 34. Read Emma Kohse’s summary of the bill for Lawfare.

Senior officials say the Trump administration aims to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem by 2019, the Times reports. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to reporters that the U.S. would move the embassy in 2018, but the president suggested that wasn’t his intended timetable. The State Department has decided to convert the U.S. consulate building in West Jerusalem into an embassy, saving money and shortening the timeline for the move. The expedited time-frame may indicate that the administration’s concerns over backlash in the Arab world are diminishing.

A U.S. spy plane took photographs of a Hong Kong-flagged ship transferring 600 tons of oil to a North Korean freighter in the East China Sea, says the New York Times. The transfer is believed to be in violation of U.S. sanctions on refined petroleum products entering North Korea. The Wall Street Journal details several other such transfers involving ships linked to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

Jerry Chun Shing Lee, the ex-CIA officer arrested this week as a suspected turncoat, had links to figures within Chinese intelligence both in his official capacity on behalf of the agency as well as under more suspicious circumstances, reports the Times. Colleagues at Japan Tobacco International, where Lee worked after leaving the CIA, distrusted him, in part because of those contacts, and fired him as a result. Executives at the firm notified the FBI of their suspicions in 2010. Lee’s alleged betrayal is believed to have contributed to the death and arrest of members of the agency’s network of contacts in China beginning that year.

Several Republican lawmakers are demanding a classified memo that they believe contains evidence of political bias within federal law enforcement in connection with the Russia investigation, the Hill reports. The report, collated by House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, found support from several members of the Republican caucus. Ranking member Adam Schiff challenged the report as a political attempt to undermine confidence in the bureau: “Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read,” said the congressman, “this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI.”

For Defense One, Magnus Nordenman described strategies the West can take to respond to Russian submarine activity near undersea cables. Though completely severing communications is a remote, if impossible, scenario, he argues for “resilience and rednancies, along with better monitoring of Russian sub-surface operations in the North Atlantic and elsewhere by NATO and the United States.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Ed Stein reviewed the next round of Russia sanction deadlines.

Jack Goldsmith and Susan Hennessey described the merits of supporting 702 reauthorization.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted this week’s episode of the National Security Law Podcast.

Yishai Schwartz published his review of “Harpoon: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters” by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Samuel Katz.

Benjamin Wittes posted this week’s Rational Security: the “Are You Suuure?” edition.

Matthew Kahn flagged Judge Tanya Chutkan’s order that the government not transfer the John Doe military detainee in Iraq.

Emma Kohse summarized the 702 reauthorization bill that Congress sent to the president’s desk.

Vanessa Sauter posted the transcript of Fusion GPS CEO Glenn Simpson’s interview with the House intelligence committee.

Bobby Chesney analyzed Judge Chutkan’s order.

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