Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Thursday, February 22, 2018, 4:20 PM

The Pentagon is reviewing options that would enable President Trump to move national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster from his current role back to the military, CNN reports. The Defense Department is specifically searching for a “four-star military job suited for McMaster” so that the change in positions would amount to a promotion for the three-star general. Some within the Pentagon believe that the national security adviser has become politicized, however, and do not want him to return to the department in a prominent role. Discussions about removing McMaster follow months of increasing personal tension between the national security adviser and the president. The pair’s differences came on public display this weekend when President Trump derided McMaster on Twitter for failing to mention, in his acknowledgement of Russian interference in the 2016 election, that “the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems.”

The Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that Defense Secretary James Mattis intends to provide President Trump with his recommendations concerning transgender service members “sometime this week,” the Hill reports. During the summer, the president issued a memo announcing his plan to ban transgender persons from enlisting in the military and using military funds for surgeries related to gender transition. The memo gave the defense secretary six months to determine what to do with transgender persons already serving in the military. In the intervening months, Mattis assembled a panel to advise him on how to proceed.

The prosecution at the Guantanamo Bay military commissions filed a single paragraph notice on Wednesday indicating that he will appeal a military commissions judge’s decision to place an indefinite hold in United States v. al-Nashiri, the Miami Herald reports. The prosecution team in al-Nashiri’s case intends to bring the appeal before the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review, but Miller offered no explanation for the appeal. Col. Vance Spath, the military judge for the trial, placed a hold in the al-Nashiri proceedings last Friday after failing to secure the return of three civilian defense lawyers who resigned from the case. Al-Nashiri is accused of planning the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.

Facebook’s content filters struggle to identify misinformation formatted as altered images, the Wall Street Journal reports. Russian trolls and propagandists exploited this loophole to devastating effect during the U.S. presidential election in 2016, as last week’s special counsel indictment of Russian individuals and entities showed. Facebook and Google remain heavily dependent on users to report potentially false information and posts; the companies remain years away from having algorithms capable of autonomously and accurately recognizing indications that posts or images have been falsified or maliciously taken from their original context.

Sweden has taken steps to prevent Russian interference in its upcoming parliamentary elections, the Washington Post reports. Local election workers have trained to identify and combat foreign influence, and the country’s major news outlets have joined forces to defend against fake news. Political parties across the country are closely monitoring their email servers for vulnerabilities. Swedish officials claim that these efforts have already discouraged Russian interference; the Nordic country’s readiness to detect interference means that hackers risk the “exposure of their methods,” the head of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency notes. The Washington Post observes in the article the stark contrast between Sweden’s comprehensive and cooperative approach to combating election interference with the “bitterly partisan discussion in Washington.”

Saudi Arabia joined China and Turkey in their attempt to block an American-led effort on Wednesday to add Pakistan to a global watch list of terrorist financiers, the Journal reports. The Gulf kingdom’s decision to stand with Pakistan comes in the wake of Islamabad’s commitment to send upwards of 1,000 troops to Saudi Arabia to augment the kingdom’s forces and influence throughout the Middle East, and it was a rare instance of disagreement between Washington and Riyadh. France, Germany, the U.K. and other countries stood by America’s push to add Pakistan to the watch list at a meeting of the Financial Action Task Force in Paris. U.S. officials noted that they could bring another vote “on action against Pakistan” as early as Thursday.

Dalibor Jaukovic, a former Serbian soldier, threw a bomb into the U.S. embassy compound in Podgorica, Montenegro, before killing himself, the Associated Press reports. The attack occurred around midnight on Wednesday, and the U.S. embassy confirmed in the early hours of the morning that no American personnel were injured. An American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the assailant acted alone. The Montenegrin police stated that the attack was not an act of terrorism.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Bobby Chesney and Danielle Citron dissected the looming threat of “deep fakes,” dangerously realistic digital manipulations of images, sound, and video used to impersonate people.

Dakota Rudesill argued against President Trump’s proposed military parade, stating that the president and other elected officials must work to restore civil-military norms.

Emily Whalen argued that Lebanon’s upcoming elections will transform the relationship between the Lebanese people and their elected officials.

Hilary Hurd noted that U.S. officials postponed the repatriation of Ahmed al-Darbi, a Guantanamo Bay detainee who was set to return to his native Saudi Arabia on Feb. 20 to serve the remainder of his sentence.

William Ford posted the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran.

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