Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Thursday, January 25, 2018, 4:06 PM

President Trump declared that he is willing to speak under oath to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Times reports. Trump, responding to questions from reporters, added that his campaign did not collude with the Russians to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and that he did not obstruct the investigation into possible collusion with the Russian government.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department characterized Republicans’ push for the release of Rep. Devin Nunes’s classified memo on alleged government abuses of surveillance as “extraordinarily reckless,” the Times reports. Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, noted in a letter to Nunes that he could not understand why House intelligence committee Republicans would work to make sensitive information public without first consulting with “the relevant members of the intelligence community.” Republicans rebuffed attempts by the Justice Department and the FBI to obtain copies of the memo, including a personal request from FBI Director Christopher Wray to view the document. Boyd also wrote that Nunes himself had not inspected the underlying intelligence on which his report is based. This revelation comes as Democrats on the intelligence committee continue to characterize Nunes’s memo as misleading and threaten to ask the committee to release their rival memo to the full House on Monday.

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog said on Thursday that it recovered five months of missing text messages exchanged between senior FBI agent Peter Strzok and senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Reuters reports. Inspector General Michael Horowitz has granted the Justice Department permission to share the formerly missing text messages with congressional committees. Fox News reported on Wednesday that the glitch behind the temporary loss of the Strzok-Page messages affected thousands of other phones at the FBI, too. Senior officials at the Justice Department say they are “taking steps” to recover these messages, adding that they are working to locate the physical cell phones affected by the glitch in order to subject these phones to a forensic review.

A White House statement says that during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, President Trump called on Turkey to “de-escalate” and “limit” its military operations in northern Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports. One senior U.S. official stated that the administration made clear to Ankara that there would be consequences if Turkish forces continue to move toward the Syrian town of Manbij, an action that would bring Turkish forces dangerously close to U.S. troops in the region. The administration also instructed its Kurdish allies in Syria, the YPG, not to engage Turkey; it threatened to sever U.S. support for the YPG if the group fails to comply.

In Davos on Thursday, British Prime Minister Theresa May claimed that the kingdom is recognized as first in its preparedness to “bring artificial intelligence into government,” BBC reports. May qualified that she seeks to ensure that the British government—and all those that use AI—employ the technology safely and ethically; she declared that the U.K. should lead the world in defining these parameters. The prime minister additionally noted that the U.K. will join Davos’s forum on artificial intelligence.

On Wednesday, the U.S. imposed sanctions on six North Korean ships, nine companies, and 16 people that it claimed had helped advance North Korea’s weapons programs, the Washington Post reports. The sanctions constitute an important part of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to isolate Pyongyang and compel Kim Jong Un to halt the regime’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

SAP, Symantec and McAfee—tech companies that provide software to departments and agencies throughout the U.S. federal government—permitted Russian officials to search for vulnerabilities in their software, a Reuters investigation finds. According to experts, this possibly jeopardizes the security of computer networks throughout the U.S. government, including those used by the Pentagon, the State Department, NASA, and the intelligence community. SAP, Symantec and McAfee reportedly allowed a Russian defense agency to inspect the source code of some of their products in order to sell these products on the Russian market. While some security experts claim that hackers are more likely to invade foreign computer systems by other means than exploiting a system’s source code, the Pentagon and private sector experts on cybersecurity worry that exposing source code to Russian review might reveal unknown flaws that could be exploited to circumvent U.S. software defenses.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Responding to Judge Chutkan’s ruling in Doe v. Mattis, Bobby Chesney agreed with the judge’s decision not to enjoin the transfer of the detainee but voiced concerns about the way in which the judge discussed the Valentine precedent in her ruling opinion.

Colin Clarke argued that the U.S. should devote considerable resources to developing its own gray zone strategy in Syria in order to counteract Iran’s growing influence there.

Chesney and Steve Vladeck posted this week’s National Security Law Podcast.

Susan Hennessey and Shannon Togawa Mercer argued that it would be reckless for House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes to release the memo on alleged government surveillance abuses that he and his staff authored.

Sabrina McCubbin summarized Jewel v. NSA and the most recent development in the case, reported by Politico last week, that the NSA accidentally deleted surveillance data directly related to Jewel in violation of a 2014 temporary restraining order in that case.

Matthew Waxman reviewed Noah Feldman’s “The Three Lives of James Madison” and discussed Madison’s beliefs about congressional and executive war powers in the first essay of a three-part series.

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