Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Wednesday, March 14, 2018, 11:52 AM

The U.K. expelled 23 Russian diplomats on Wednesday after the Kremlin ignored Prime Minister Theresa May’s deadline for Moscow to explain the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the New York Times reports. Addressing the House of Commons on Monday, May described the attempted assassination on British soil as “an unlawful use of force by the Russian state,” adding that the U.K. will mount a “full and robust response.” May and the British National Security Council agreed to halt all high-level communication between Britain and Russia, withdrew the government’s invitation for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit, and approved new powers to use to crack down on foreign agents in the U.K. Russia has demanded that Britain include it in the ongoing investigation into the nerve-agent attack on the Skripals and requested a sample of the nerve agent. The Kremlin has warned that it will retaliate against any punitive action.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) broke with the findings of his Republican colleagues on the House intelligence committee by confirming that Russia sought to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Politico reports. A source close to Gowdy relayed that the congressman does not believe there is any difference between opposing Clinton and supporting then-candidate Donald Trump; he “disagrees with the conclusion” that the intelligence agencies erred in their analysis. Republican lawmakers and staffers told Politico that their report was not a “wholesale refutation” of the intelligence community’s conclusions. Rather, the report contends that the spy community’s conclusion that Russia preferred President Trump lacked sufficient evidence.

A federal judge sentenced Muhanad Mahmoud al-Farekh, a U.S. citizen convicted of supporting al-Qaeda and conspiring to kill Americans, to 45 years in prison, the Washington Post reports. Joshua Geltzer, a former Obama administration national security official, noted that the case shows the power, speed and efficiency of federal courts in delivering justice to individuals convicted of terrorism. The sentencing comes as the Trump administration weighs whether to prosecute future terrorism cases at the slower-moving military commissions or to seek justice in civilian courts.

A grand jury indicted Jun Ying, the former chief information officer of Equifax’s U.S. Information Solutions, for insider trading, the Post reports. Ying sold his stock in Equifax for approximately $1 million before the company’s enormous data breach became public. Federal prosecutors allege that Ying received information concerning the data breach, which compromised the personal information of approximately $150 million Americans, in late August. Equifax announced the breach on Sept. 7, after which the company’s stock plummeted.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday that he will do everything in his power to prevent the nomination of CIA director Mike Pompeo to the post of secretary of state, Politico reports. Paul opposes Pompeo because of the director’s support for the Iraq war and stance on torture; he has not ruled out filibustering to prevent the nomination. If every Democrat on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee decides to oppose Pompeo’s nomination, with Paul’s support, the group could mount a significant offensive against the nomination. At the same press conference, Paul said he will oppose CIA deputy director Gina Haspel’s nomination to replace Pompeo due to her involvement in the CIA’s controversial interrogation programs during the early 2000s, Reuters adds.

The fitness app Strava announced Tuesday that it will restrict access to an online heat map that shows where the app’s users exercise and inadvertently exposed military bases and other sensitive installations, Reuters reports. The new version of the map launched by Strava prohibits access to “street-level data” to all but those users registered with Strava. Furthermore, the map will not display routes with little activity until several separate users post workouts in that same area. The app will update the map monthly to remove data its users have made private. The company noted that it does not track users’ workouts and locations without their knowledge. Sharing this information is the purpose of the app.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

J. Dana Stuster posted this week’s Middle East Ticker, which discussed America’s push for a cease-fire in Syria and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trip to Egypt, Britain and the U.S.

Adel Abdel Ghafar discussed a study he conducted for the European Parliament, which examined drivers of instability in Egypt, Egypt-EU relations, and how the EU can increase stability and prosperity in Egypt.

William Ford shared the livestream of and prepared testimony from the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. Central and Africa Commands.

Ford also posted live video of and prepared testimony from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Freedom of Information Act.

Shannon Togawa Mercer and Matthew Kahn explored the legal consequences of the president’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

Matt Tait decoded the signals in British Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech about Russia’s poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal.

Ashley Deeks examined the possible role of NATO in the U.K.’s response to Russia’s poisoning of Sergei Skripal and the variety of actions open to the U.K. in its response.

Ford posted the livestream of and prepared testimony from the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity hearing on the cyber posture of the services.

Scott Anderson and Quinta Jurecic considered the implications of President Trump’s dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the likely event that CIA director Mike Pompeo leads the department next.

Matthew Kahn flagged the president’s nomination of Ed Felten and Jane Nitze to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Robert Litt argued that there is no reason to believe that the article “Mueller Weighs Putting Off Trump Obstruction Decision” offers real insight into the special counsel’s thoughts.

Kahn posted the Russia investigation status report released by the minority staff of the House intelligence committee.

Stewart Baker posted the Cyberlaw Podcast, which included an interview with Amb. Nathan Sales, counterterrorism coordinator at the State Department. 

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.