Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By William Ford
Thursday, April 19, 2018, 2:00 PM

South Korean President Moon Jae In announced Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will no longer demand the removal of American troops from the Korean peninsula as a prerequisite for denuclearization, the New York Times reports. In so doing, Kim removes a significant obstacle to negotiations between Kim and President Donald Trump. For the past several decades, Pyongyang has demanded the removal of 28,500 American soldiers from South Korea and cited the presence of U.S. forces as a reason his government must develop nuclear weapons. If Pyongyang confirms Kim’s decision not to demand the removal of U.S. soldiers, the change in stance would greatly increase the likelihood that Trump would broker a deal with Kim. During a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, Trump qualified that the U.S. will withdraw from negotiations with the North Korean leader if the president does not believe they will prove “fruitful,” Politico reports. While the president remains optimistic that the talks will lead to meaningful progress toward denuclearization, he “will remain flexible.”

The European Union froze the assets of four individuals accused of engaging in “deceptive financial practices” which benefit North Korea’s nuclear program, Reuters reports. The EU also imposed a travel ban on the four people. The addition of the suspects, who remain unnamed, to the union’s blacklist increases the number of individuals on the list to 59. The list additionally targets nine entities with sanctions and asset freezes.

The House Judiciary Committee intends to subpoena the Justice Department for copies of the memos that former FBI director James Comey authored about his interactions with the president, Politico reports. Lawmakers and commentators have long speculated that the memos constitute important evidence in the special counsel’s ongoing investigation into whether the president attempted to obstruct the FBI’s probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Unless the Justice Department turns over the memos first, the committee might subpoena the agency for the documents as early as this week.

The Trump administration has already exceeded the number of cyber-attack attributions made under the Obama administration, Axios reports. During President Obama’s term in office, his administration attributed only four cyberattacks to foreign governments. Following an accusation on Monday that Russia had attacked internet infrastructure, the Trump administration’s tally of attributions reached six. Axios observes that attributions of cyberattacks to foreign governments are significant because they amount to accusations that a foreign government committed or attempted to commit a destructive crime outside of its sovereign territory.

Next month, Facebook will argue that only the European members of the platform fall under the European Union’s tougher data privacy regulations, Reuters reports. These tougher regulations, set by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, will take effect on May 25 and expose the platform to fines for misusing personal data without users’ consent. At the moment, all Facebook users outside of the United States in Canada—of which there are approximately 1.9 billion—are subject to the data regulations imposed by Facebook’s international headquarters in Ireland. Because Ireland remains a member of the EU, when the regulation takes effect, the social media giant could face fines from regulators across the world. By arguing that all users outside of Europe do not enjoy the protections of this regulation, Facebook hopes to reduce its exposure to potential fines and lawsuits. Doing so would reduce protections for many of the platform’s nearly 1.5 billion users in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Latin America.

Following the Assad regime’s brutal recapture of rebel-held eastern Ghouta, the Syrian government has focused its attention on defeating four less-populous rebel enclaves, Reuters says. The government has reportedly encircled these strongholds, leaving rebels with just their two main strongholds left, one in Syria’s northwest and the other in the country’s southwest.

The Wall Street Journal published an in-depth examination of North Korea’s cyber army, outlining in great detail the army’s transformation into one of the most formidable hacking forces in the world.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Matthew Kahn posted the Lawfare Podcast, a conversation between Megan Reiss, Benjamin Wittes, and Toomas Ilves, the former president of Estonia.

Susan Landau proposed three ways for the U.S. government to respond to the dangerous and evolving cybersecurity environment we now inhabit.

In response to the High Court of Ireland’s decision to refer questions about Facebook data transfers to the EU’s Court of Justice, Chris Mirasola summarized the history of the litigation, the current litigation, the questions referred to the Court of Justice, and the upcoming procedural steps.

Benjamin Wittes offered a few reflections on former FBI director James Comey’s new book, supplementing them with memories of his own interactions with the director, in an effort to point out what reviews of Comey’s book might not have focused on.

Wenqing Zhao and David Stanton posted this week’s SinoTech, which examined the U.S.-China trade war over technology, SenseTime becoming the highest valued AI startup in the world, and the further restrictions that the U.S. imposed on Chinese telecommunications companies.

William Ford posted the filing submitted by the ACLU in response to the government’s notice of intention to transfer John Doe, an American citizen detained in U.S. military prison in Iraq, to an unspecified third country.

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared a bonus episode of the National Security Law Podcast, in which the pair discuss the 2018 draft authorization for the use of military force, new developments in Doe v. Mattis, the Supreme Court’s per curiam opinion in U.S. v. Microsoft, and the president’s decision not to impose new sanctions on Russia.

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.