Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 2:33 PM

Kim Jong Un told a delegation from South Korea that his regime is willing to commence negotiations with the U.S. aimed at eliminating the country’s nuclear arsenal, the New York Times reports. Kim committed to halting North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests during the talks, as well. While reports of Kim’s willingness to denuclearize came from South Korean officials and not the North Korean leader himself, if Kim confirms his willingness, it will mark the first time Pyongyang has indicated that it will consider surrendering its nuclear arsenal in exchange for guarantees of security from the United States. During the meeting between Kim and the South Korean delegation, the parties also agreed to hold a summit meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-In and Kim on the border of the two countries in April. The South Korean statement released in the wake of the two-day meeting said that the two Koreas would immediately begin preparations for the April summit. The statement included nothing that indicated the North would suspend its nuclear or missile programs anytime soon. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley expressed serious doubts that North Korea would follow through with denuclearization, Reuters adds. President Trump welcomed the “possible progress” in discussions between North and South Korea, Politico reports.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels to Africa this week to discuss counterterrorism and growing Chinese influence with top officials in Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria, the Wall Street Journal reports. The trip’s clear emphasis on security distracts from the current American diplomatic void in Africa: President Trump has yet to nominate a chief diplomat for Africa or U.S. ambassadors to eight African countries, among them South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. The State Department noted that career staffers are capable of handling leadership responsibilities at these locations until the administration, in conjunction with the department, nominates candidates for the positions.

U.N. investigators have connected Russia to a possible war crime in Syria, the Times reports. Investigators implicated Russia in the bombing of a Syrian market last year that killed at least 84 civilians and wounded more than 150. While the attack might not have deliberately targeted civilians, Russia’s use of unguided blast bombs in a densely populated area constitutes a war crime. The investigators’ report drew its conclusions from more than 500 interviews and included a damning account of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on a school in the province of Raqqa last March. Investigators discovered that the coalition airstrikes killed between 150 and 200 civilians housed in the school building; the report rejected the notion that there was sufficient evidence to reinforce the coalition’s claim that Islamic State fighters occupied the building. Because the U.S.-led coalition did not intend to kill civilians, investigators did not charge the U.S. with a war crime, though they did note that the coalition violated international law by failing to ensure through the adequate procedures that the occupants of the building were, in fact, combatants.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that individual Russians accused of interfering in U.S. elections could be prosecuted in Russia if they are found to have broken Russian laws, Reuters reports. Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency broke the story first.

The Senate intelligence committee intends to question Reddit and Tumblr about reports that Russia exploited the sites to spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post says. A report released by the Daily Beast last week found that 21 Tumblr accounts had links to the Internet Research Agency, a disinformation initiative that Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted last month. The Daily Beast report and Reddit’s acknowledgment on Monday that it eliminated hundreds of suspicious accounts in 2015 and 2016 piqued the intelligence panel’s interest in examining the two tech companies. According to staffers on the Senate panel, the committee will hold a briefing on Tumblr soon and will continue to investigate the propaganda spread through Reddit’s topic pages, termed subreddits, related to candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, indicated that he will likely cooperate with the special counsel investigation, Politico reports. After spending most of Monday emphasizing his plans to defy the special counsel’s subpoena in interviews with CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post, Nunberg told the Associated Press and the Atlantic on Monday evening that he would end up complying with the special counsel. The Times reports that the special counsel’s subpoena seeks Nunberg’s communications with and documents related to Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, President Trump, Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, and Steve Bannon from November 2015 to the present.

In a letter to Qualcomm and Broadcom concerning Broadcom’s looming attempt to seize control of the American company, Aimen Mir, the deputy assistant treasury secretary for investment security, identified Broadcom’s links to foreign entities as a possible threat to U.S. national security, Reuters reports. The letter, released by Qualcomm on Tuesday, said that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States plans to investigate the risk of an unidentified “actor” working through Broadcom to harm U.S. national security. The committee worries that Chinese companies, especially tech-giant Huawei Technologies, would exploit all available openings and links to Broadcom to seize an early lead in 5G network development. A source instructed Reuters on Monday that the U.S. military remains concerned that in 10 years “there would essentially be a dominant player in all of these technologies and that’s essentially Huawei.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Garrett Hinck evaluated the threat Russia poses to undersea communications cable networks.

Jack Goldsmith flagged a new collection of essays, Can It Happen Hear? Authoritarianism in America, and his contribution to it, “Paradoxes of the Deep State.”

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared the National Security Law Podcast.

Paul Rosenzweig relayed that Qualcomm’s March 6 shareholders’ meeting has been postponed, marking a win for the American technology company in its ongoing struggle to avert a Broadcom takeover.

Lawfare’s editors announced the next Hoover Book Soiree on March 13, when Jack Goldsmith and Amy Chua will discuss Chua’s new book, “Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.”

Mieke Eoyang, Ben Freeman, and Benjamin Wittes analyzed the most recent polling data on public confidence in in government institutions on national security matters.

Quinta Jurecic and Wittes reflected on Susan McDougal’s experience defying a special prosecutor during the Whitewater investigation of President Clinton.

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.