Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Thursday, March 1, 2018, 4:06 PM

During his state of the nation address on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia has designed nuclear weapons capable of circumventing missile defense systems, the Washington Post reports. The Russian president also announced plans to augment the country’s weapons arsenal with nuclear-powered cruise missiles that can strike any point on earth, adding that Moscow successfully tested one such missile last year. The nuclear engine fueling the missile endowed it with an effectively unlimited range; according to the president, its erratic flight pattern and ability to fly close to the ground render conventional missile defense systems useless. Putin framed these advances as a response to both America’s construction of missile-defense systems intended to challenge Russian capabilities and Washington’s unwillingness to take Russia’s nuclear might seriously. The Russian president voiced his doubts about the “future of arms-control agreements between the United States and Russia,” noting that American attempts to contain his country had resoundingly failed. 

The Senate intelligence committee concluded that House intelligence committee Republicans leaked private text messages between Sen. Mark Warner and a Russia-connected lawyer last month, the New York Times reports. The House Republicans leaked the messages mere days after the release of the controversial Nunes memo. Fox News then published the messages, which it received by way of a “secure messaging application.” Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Warner, the ranking member, were so disturbed by the leak and the revelation that House Republicans committed it that they met with Speaker Paul Ryan to voice their concerns about the direction of the House intelligence panel under the leadership of Rep. Devin Nunes. The texts exchanged between Warner and the Russia-connected lawyer, Adam Waldman, concerned Christopher Steele—the author of the now-infamous Steele Dossier and a man viewed by the Senate intelligence committee as a key witness in its ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Warner attempted for several weeks to secure a meeting with Steele through Waldman. As Sen. Marco Rubio noted in a tweet after the leak of Warner’s messages, the the vice chairman disclosed his exchange with Waldman to the committee four months before. It had no impact on the panel’s work.

The special counsel is investigating President Trump’s apparent efforts in July to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Post reports. The special counsel has taken an interest in these efforts as he works to determine whether they are part of a larger pattern of attempts to obstruct justice and replace Sessions with an attorney general who would exercise more control over the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. On Wednesday, President Trump attacked the attorney general again, this time for requesting that the inspector general investigate claims of government surveillance abuses made in the controversial Nunes memo.

President Trump announced on Thursday that he will impose harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the Times reports. The sanctions include a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum. For months, Defense Secretary James Mattis and other administration officials have argued against the trade barriers, noting that they could undermine American security and economic ties. The president has justified his decision to impose the tariffs anyway by characterizing steel and aluminum imports as threats to American national security. This claim finds credence in a Commerce Department report released last month that concluded that steel and aluminum imports imperil U.S. national security by “degrading the industrial base.”

The Financial Action Task Force returned Pakistan to an international watchlist of terrorist financiers, the Times reports. The decision came after China and Saudi Arabia, countries that had blocked U.S.-backed action against Pakistan, withdrew their support for Pakistan. America’s push to return Pakistan to the international watchlist stems from the Trump administration’s anger over Islamabad’s refusal to crack down on two organizations—Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniyat—suspected of being fronts for the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Placement on the watchlist imperils Pakistan’s ability to repay the $3 billion in debt that is due this summer.

The European Commission announced Thursday that sites such as Facebook, Google and Twitter should remove “terror content” within one hour after law enforcement or Europol flag it, the Wall Street Journal reports. The commission added that the companies should involve humans in the removal process, and not solely rely on automated tools, to ensure that content takedown does not become excessive. While the commission’s announcement was only a recommendation, not a binding legal obligation, the Journal notes that it “can be used in courts as a legal reference.” The European Union stated that it would institute formal legal regulations mandating the expedient takedown of terror content and delineating the nature of this takedown if tech companies failed to heed the commission’s suggestion.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Idit Shafran Gittleman argued that the debate around an amendment to the IDF’s “Joint Service Order” reflects a larger national struggle over the role of women in Israeli society.

Robert Loeb and Sarah Grant argued that the decision of the Eastern District of Virginia in Al Shimari, et. al. v. CACI underscores the need for Supreme Court guidance concerning the Alien Tort Statute.

Julian Ku discussed the implications of the U.K.’s declaration of support for U.S. Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea and its intention to conduct its own.

Brenna Gautam summarized a Commerce Department report on the impact of steel and aluminum imports on national security and a Government Accountability Office report on its adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework.

Paul Rosenzweig argued that Broadcom’s Mar. 6 attempt to take over Qualcomm could pose a threat to U.S. national security. 

Jonah Force Hill and Matt Noyes discussed a paper they wrote for New America introducing a new framework for data flow controls.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.