Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Monday, January 29, 2018, 3:52 PM

The fitness app Strava inadvertently exposed the locations of American military bases and personnel through a global “heat map” of user activity, the New York Times reports. Among the exposed locations are the whereabouts of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, countries in which few local people use “exercise tracking devices.” While many of the exposed bases were already public, Strava’s heat map also highlights locations where the U.S. government is suspected to maintain installations, despite not acknowledging them publicly. The map also shows thin illuminated lines that seem to connect bases, potentially revealing the exact routes that U.S. forces follow when moving between locations. These breaches of highly sensitive information led the Pentagon to revise its guidelines for the “use of all wireless and technological devices on military facilities,” the Washington Post reports. The military forbade the use of Strava and equivalent technologies at certain sites where the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State operates. The U.S. Central Command press office in Kuwait added that the military had urged all its commanders to enforce the rules governing the use of technology and applications carefully in order to maximize “force protection and operational security.”

FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe will leave the bureau on “terminal leave,” effective immediately, and retire officially in March, CBS News reports. McCabe’s retirement follows a period of intense scrutiny and criticism from congressional Republicans about the deputy director’s conduct, as well as concerted pressure from the president and the attorney general on FBI director Christopher Wray to remove McCabe from his post. While one source says that McCabe was pressed to step down, sources at the bureau contend that the decision was “largely” McCabe’s own.

The House intelligence committee might vote on Monday evening to release a classified memo that Chairman Devin Nunes authored, detailing alleged government surveillance abuse, the Hill reports. The committee will hold a business meeting at 5:00 pm on “consideration of pending committee business and other matters,” during which committee members could vote to release the controversial memo. The Justice Department characterized the prospect of this release and the declassification of sensitive information as “extraordinarily reckless”; Democrats on the committee hold that the memo’s conclusions are gravely misleading. Both oppose the release of the memo. Sunday night, the Times reported that the memo says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized an application to continue surveillance of former Trump campaign operative Carter Page. Such applications, which the Justice Department makes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court and which the court only approved based on a probable cause showing that a target is an agent of a foreign power, are highly classified.

Intel alerted a small contingent of its customers, including Chinese technology firms, to flaws in its processors before it notified the U.S. government, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company’s decision to alert select Chinese firms before the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security raises concerns among security researchers that crucial information about the chip flaws could have fallen into the hands of the Chinese government prior to Intel’s public disclosure of the failures. Despite these concerns, researchers have found no evidence that the information was misused.

Documents reveal that the Trump administration is considering nationalizing the development of a 5G network infrastructure, Axios reports. The administration prefers this plan to waiting for wireless providers to build their own 5G networks. Waiting for privately developed infrastructure would be more expensive and take longer than nationalizing those efforts, the documents argue. Furthermore, nationalization would provide the U.S. with greater protection from increasing Chinese threats to the American economy and cybersecurity. Every member of the Federal Communications Commission, key stakeholders in the wireless communications industry, and high-profile Republican lawmakers oppose the nationalization of 5G network development, Axios reports.

Writing for the Diplomat, Joseph Bosco disagrees with Henry Kissinger’s advice to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy towards North Korea.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, in which Steve Vladeck and Scott Anderson discuss the complexities of United States v. Dalmazzi, the importance of the case, and Vladeck’s experience arguing before the Supreme Court.

Jack Goldsmith wondered whether there’s any coincidence in the recent spate of stories painting Don McGahn in a different light.

C. Christine Fair argued that given the level and nature of support for political Islam in Bangladesh, the U.S. should pay closer to attention to violent extremism there.

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