Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford, Quinta Jurecic
Monday, January 22, 2018, 5:35 PM

The National Security Agency destroyed surveillance data it promised to preserve, and failed to protect the data as it told a federal court it had, Politico reports. According to recent court filings, the data destroyed were relevant to pending lawsuits facing the agency. Backup tapes from which this data might have been recovered were erased in 2009, 2011, and 2016 as part of a broader “housecleaning effort aimed at making space for incoming information.”

Following the start of a Turkish offensive in northwestern Syria over the weekend, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson jointly requested that Turkish forces exercise restraint against Kurdish fighters, The Wall Street Journal reports. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan disregarded the plea of his NATO allies, stating that he intends to stay in Syria until “the business is done.” This latest attack on the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds is part of Turkey’s ongoing push to force the Kurds away from the country’s southern border.

Standing before the Knesset, Vice President Mike Pence announced today that the U.S. would move its embassy to Jerusalem next year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Pence’s announcement comes at the end of his delayed trip to the Middle East, during which he met with the leaders of Jordan and Egypt. King Abdullah of Jordan, a close ally of the United States, expressed his displeasure to Pence over President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel, a sentiment America’s European Union allies mirrored.

The FBI failed to retain the text messages exchanged between two senior Bureau officials involved in the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, The Washington Post reports. In a congressional letter released over the weekend, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, pressed the FBI to explain in more detail why it failed to collect messages exchanged between December 14, 2016, and May 17, 2017. The Justice Department’s inspector general is reviewing the text messages as part of an investigation into the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email probe.

Although it cited the Department of Homeland Security as the source of its data, a recent Trump administration report on terrorism claiming that three-fourths of international terrorism convicts were immigrants did not include contributions from any DHS analysts, The Daily Beast reports. The office of Attorney General Jeff Sessions allegedly assembled the report’s statistics. Some terrorism experts consider these statistics “highly misleading” and subsequently released studies of terrorism came to markedly different conclusions. Those who contest the report’s statistics and critics of the Trump White House see this latest report as another attempt by the president to strengthen the case for his travel ban and wrongly associate immigrants with terror.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced today that the United States plans to send a team to Europe to discuss the future of the Iran nuclear deal, Reuters reports. According to Tillerson, the officials plan to explore how the United States and its European allies can both improve the deal and counter Iranian activities in the Middle East. This diplomatic endeavor is the latest in the Trump administration’s ongoing review of the Iran Deal.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Paul Rosenzweig argued that the government shutdown is distracting America from addressing more pressing issues, such as Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

Sabrina McCubbin explained why the shutdown will not affect the Mueller investigation.

Audrey Alexander and William Braniff posited that taking down terrorist-linked propaganda and accounts on the Internet is not enough to stop the propaganda’s effectiveness.

Quinta Jurecic argued that we should view Rep. Devin Nunes’s classified memo on alleged government abuses as one more effort to distract from the Mueller investigation.

Shaun Walker, The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, discussed his new book “The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past” on the Lawfare Podcast.  

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