Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 2:17 PM

The Chinese government announced Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing from Sunday to Wednesday, AP reports. The unofficial trip marked Kim’s first known excursion out of the country since he assumed power in 2011. Analysts note that Kim would have sought advice from China, his closest ally, before sitting for talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and U.S. President Donald Trump. Trips by past North Korean leaders to China have been similarly shrouded in secrecy, with Beijing only confirming reports of visits after North Korea’s leaders safely crossed the border back into their country by train.

In China, Kim affirmed his commitment to denuclearization and meeting with American officials, Reuters adds. But the North Korean state press has yet to confirm the country’s commitment to denuclearization and talks with the U.S. Kim reportedly informed the Chinese Foreign Ministry that North Korea will denuclearize “if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace.” Following the meeting between Xi and Kim, China reiterated that it will uphold its friendly relations with Pyongyang.

A document released Tuesday by the special counsel investigation reveals that former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates communicated repeatedly with a businessman he knew to have links to Russian intelligence during the final weeks of 2016 election cycle, the Wall Street Journal reports. During September and October 2016, Gates frequently spoke on the phone with an individual the FBI believes had ties to GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. The special counsel document identifies the individual as “Person A” and describes the individual as someone with ties to both Gates and Paul Manafort. The Times remarks that the document’s description of Person A matches the profile of Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked alongside Manafort in Ukraine for years.

A Justice Department inspector general’s report reveals that the FBI failed to determine conclusively whether it could unlock a terrorist’s iPhone before requesting a court order to compel Apple to unlock it, the Washington Post reports. The report blamed the bureau’s failure to exhaust its technical capabilities to unlock the iPhone prior to the court order request on the lack of coordination and effective communication between various FBI units. The report noted that, consistent with then-FBI director James Comey’s testimony before Congress, the FBI did lack the ability to unlock the iPhone in February and early March 2016. The smartphone in question belonged to the San Bernadino shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook, and included encrypted messages the bureau sought to access. The case highlights the technical challenges federal law enforcement faces in accessing the encrypted data of suspects even when it has a lawful warrant.

The FBI has assigned 54 staffers to the task of preparing the documents requested by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R.-Va.), chairman of the House judiciary committee, the Post reports. Goodlatte subpoenaed the bureau last week for documents concerning the firing of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, Hillary Clinton’s private email server, and the Steele dossier. The subpoena complained that the bureau had turned over only a “fraction” of the documents requested by the committee. FBI director Christopher Wray committed the bureau to expediting the production and dissemination of relevant documents to the House panel.

On Wednesday, Facebook announced changes to make user privacy settings easier to locate, Politico reports. The changes consist of a new “Privacy Shortcuts” menu, which includes descriptions of each option; an “Access Your Information” mechanism that lets users delete former posts and likes; and a feature that allows users to download (purportedly) all the information gathered by Facebook on them. In a post on the social media platform explaining the changes, Facebook’s legal and privacy executives note that the changes display users’ privacy settings in one interface, whereas previously the platform displayed the settings “across nearly 20 different screens.” The newly instituted changes follow intense public outcry over the Cambridge Analytica data breach that exposed more than 50 million Facebook users’ personal data to harvesting by the third-party app. Politico argues that the reforms announced Wednesday are unlikely to satisfy Facebook’s outspoken critics.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Daniel Byman contended that the Middle East will remain broken—or the situation in the region might even worsen—after the collapse of the Islamic State.

Benjamin Alter argued that the increasing importance of sanctions as a tool to respond to international crises presents Congress with the opportunity to exercise more authority in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy.

Ashley Deeks and Shannon Togawa Mercer outlined the costs and benefits of using facial recognition software.

J. Dana Stuster posted this week’s Middle East Ticker, which examined ongoing debate over the Iran nuclear deal, the Turkish offensive beyond Afrin, and the Egyptian presidential election.

Stewart Baker shared the Cyberlaw Podcast, which included an interview with Michael Page, a policy and ethics adviser at OpenAI.

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, in which Jack Goldsmith interviews Niall Ferguson about Ferguson’s new book, “The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Power.”

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

John Bellinger argued that the U.S. and the International Criminal Court should both take action to avoid unnecessary collision once John Bolton becomes President Trump’s national security adviser.

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