Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Victoria Clark
Wednesday, June 20, 2018, 2:28 PM

The U.S withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, citing anti-Israel bias, reports BBC. U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley called the body a “cesspool of political bias” and said that it “makes a mockery of human rights.” Haley criticized the group for granting membership to countries like Venezuela, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and China, which she called some of the “world’s worst human rights abusers.” U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the U.S.’s announcement was “disappointing, if not really surprising.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the U.S. for its “courageous decision.” The council was formed in 2006 and is made up of 47 nations that meet three times a year to discuss the human rights records of all U.N. member countries. The U.S. joined the body under the Obama administration in 2009 and is the first nation to voluntarily withdraw, although Libya was suspended in 2011. Israel is the only nation that remains a permanent topic on the council’s agenda; last March, for example, the council adopted five resolutions against Israel.

Amazon shareholders are asking the company to stop selling facial-recognition technology to law enforcement, according to the New York Times. In their letter, shareholders said that while Rekognition, Amazon’s name for their software, “may be intended to enhance some law enforcement activities, we are deeply concerned it may ultimately violate civil and human rights.” Microsoft also came under fire for its government partnerships, reports the Times: More than 100 Microsoft employees posted an open letter asking that the company end its $19.4 million contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Tuesday evening, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent an email to all company employees clarifying that “Microsoft is not working with the U.S. government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border,” calling the practice “cruel and abusive.”

Tensions flared on the Gaza border as Hamas launched dozens of rockets at Israel and Israeli air power targeted 25 Hamas-controlled areas, reports Reuters. Neither side of the border had any reported fatalities. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a military graduation that “Force will be stepped up as much as required.” A Hamas spokesperson reiterated the group’s policy of “bombardment for bombardment.”

A former Senate staffer charged with lying to FBI agents is seeking a gag order against President Trump and senior Justice Department officials, according to the Wall Street Journal. Attorneys for James Wolfe, who is accused of lying to federal investigators about his contact with reporters, claimed that Trump’s comments and the comments of other officials were “highly prejudicial.” Trump called Wolfe a “very important leaker” and said “you cannot leak classified information.” Though the factual stipulations about Wolfe’s actions allege that he leaked classified information, prosecutors have not charged him with doing so. Wolfe’s lawyers argued these statements threaten his right to a fair trial and “must be prevented in the future.” The trial saw another development after federal prosecutors announced they will not subpoena reporters. According to the Washington Post, the announcement suggests that prosecutors will focus on Wolfe’s misleading comments to the FBI rather than the information he provided to journalists. Wolfe’s lawyers did not rule out the possibility of subpoenaing reporters.

A member of Germany’s intelligence service said the Islamic State could conduct a ricin attack at any time, reports Reuters. Last week, German police arrested a Tunisian man named Sief Allah H. on suspicions of creating the toxin for an “Islamist-motivated attack.” According to the German intelligence officer, an Islamic State handbook contains clear instructions on how to manufacture ricin, and militants have experimented with the toxin in the past.

Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has no intention of allowing Special Counsel Robert Mueller to interview Trump, according to the Post. When asked by Fox News host Sean Hannity if there was any possibility Trump might appear before the special counsel, Giuliani responded, “Do I look crazy?” He also referred to the investigation as a “kangaroo court.”

The rising violence in Nicaragua threatens negotiations between President Daniel Ortega and opposition groups, reports the Times. Two months ago, protests broke out across the country demanding that Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is married to Ortega, step down from power. Although the two have refused to resign, Ortega has entered negotiations with a disparate bloc of opposition groups. The violence of the last few weeks threatens to undercut those talks. One former Nicaraguan official said, “I am worried about a slow climb in violence that could turn into low-intensity armed conflict.” Violent outbreaks have already killed more than 200 people.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Bob Bauer analyzed former FBI director James Comey’s commitment to a “higher loyalty.”

Mark Greenberg and Harry Litman criticized President Trump’s corrupt use of the pardon power.

Victoria Clark posted the livestream of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s testimony before two House committees.

Carrie Cordero outlined the legal considerations of the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border.

Michael Neiberg reviewed Lawrence Freedman’s book “The Future of War: A History.”

Matthew Kahn posted the superseding indictment against Joshua Schulte for his alleged theft of CIA hacking tools.

Stewart Baker posted the latest Cyberlaw Podcast, featuring an interview with Megan Stifel.

Jen Patja Howell posted Tuesday’s episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring a panel on the national security implications of artificial intelligence.

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