Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 3:49 PM

In an interview on Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Russia is already meddling in the U.S. ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Fox News reports. Tillerson added that the U.S. is not prepared to counteract this interference, and must continue to confront the Russians about their illicit activity. The secretary believes the U.S. must emphasize to Moscow that its continued efforts to influence the U.S. and American election outcomes will be met with consequences.

While testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the U.S. could use one of the two new nuclear arms the military hopes to develop as a bargaining chip with Russia, the Washington Post reports. Mattis added that the Pentagon’s decision to reintroduce submarine-launched cruise missiles to the military’s arsenal came in response to Russian infidelity to the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an agreement signed by Washington and Moscow in 1987. The Defense Department hopes that U.S. diplomats can use its decision to develop submarine-launched missiles once more as a bargaining chip to bring Russia back into compliance with the treaty, which aims to eradicate medium-range missiles.

Hundreds of U.S.-backed Syrian fighters who fought alongside the American-led coalition against the Islamic State have started leaving the front to push back against the Turkish offensive targeting the Kurds in Syria’s north, the Wall Street Journal reports. In light of this, U.S. officials have reiterated their strong concerns that Turkey’s offensive will distract from and damage ongoing coalition efforts to annihilate the little of ISIS that remains in Syria. According to messages on social media verified by U.S. military officials, Kurdish fighters—essential to the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa—also plan to send reinforcements to their brethren in Afrin. The U.S. has threatened to sever support for its Kurdish allies in Syria if they fight Turkey, America’s NATO ally.

Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, will attend the Winter Olympics, raising the possibility of high-level talks between North and South Korea, and even the United States, the Journal reports. Kim Yo Jong is the first vice director of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. Analysts believe her to be one of Kim Jong Un’s closest advisors and the head of North Korean propaganda efforts. Her presence at the Olympics seems to indicate the North’s desire to ease the significant tensions on the Korean peninsula. This presents an opportunity for the South Korean government, which favors engagement with the North, to establish a meeting between Kim Yo Jong and U.S. officials. Vice President Mike Pence, en route to the Olympics, has not ruled out talks between the U.S. and North Korean officials at the games.

Thirty percent of people believe the contents of the Nunes memo are “mostly true,” 22 percent believe the contents are “mostly false,” and 48 percent are not sure what to believe or have no opinion, new Politico/Morning Consult polling finds. Among Republicans, the polling found that skepticism of the Russia probe and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are particularly pronounced. Just 25 percent of Republicans believe the investigation has been handled fairly and only 22 percent view Mueller favorably. Voters across the political spectrum divide evenly on the question of the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Russians. Forty percent believe the campaign colluded while 40 percent do not. Twenty percent of the people polled remain undecided.

Chinese police officers have added facial-recognition glasses to their surveillance arsenal, the Journal reports. The new eyeglasses, capable of “highly effective screening of crowds,” connect to officers’ mobile devices and give Chinese law enforcement officials visual access to locations that conventional security cameras do not reach. While officials have marketed the eyeglasses as a way to catch fugitives or criminals, critics worry that the technology will make it easier for Chinese authorities to track down political dissidents and target ethnic minorities. China leads the world in its use of “cutting-edge surveillance technologies based on artificial intelligence.”

For the second day in a row, the Pentagon refused to explain why Defense Secretary Mattis fired Harvey Rishikof, the overseer at the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, and his legal adviser Gary Brown, the Miami Herald reports. Defense Department spokesman Tom Crosson confirmed, however, that the Pentagon is not investigating Rishikof or Brown.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Sophia Brill argued that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) could clear up whether it was misled—as the Nunes memo alleges it was—by the FBI and the Justice Department when they sought orders to surveil former Trump operative Carter Page.

Matthew Kahn posted the New York Times’ filing made with the FISC requesting the release of the applications and orders sanctioning the surveillance of Page.

Carrie Cordero assessed the potential unintended consequences of the release of the Nunes memo.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared this week’s National Security Law Podcast, in which the two discuss President Trump’s treason remarks, the Nunes memo, military commissions, and the Doe v. Mattis status report.

Stewart Baker interviewed Susan Landau about her new book “Listening In: Cybersecurity in an Insecure Age” in this week’s Cyberlaw Podcast.

Hayley Evans summarized the ruling handed down by the U.K. Court of Appeal on Section 1 of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act and explained what’s next for the act.

David Kimball-Stanley summarized the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the lower court’s dismissal of Fields v. Twitter.

Sarah Grant addressed the recent personnel changes made by the Pentagon to the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.

Andrew Keane Woods and Peter Swire argued that the CLOUD Act could solve the regulatory problem of which country’s law enforcement officials should be able to access Internet data in the cloud.

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