Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Gordon Ahl
Wednesday, October 9, 2019, 2:22 PM

In a letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone to House Democratic leaders on Tuesday, the White House announced its intention to not cooperate with the ongoing congressional impeachment inquiry, reports the New York Times. Cipollone said that the inquiry violated precedent and the president’s due process rights and called the inquiry “partisan” and “unconstitutional.” 

The Times also reports that a White House official who listened to the July phone call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine described it as “crazy,” “frightening” and “completely lacking in substance related to national security,” according to a memo from the whistleblower.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan announced on Twitter the start of military operations in northern Syria to create a “safe zone” to allow for the return of Syrian refugees. CNN reports that the spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces alleged that warplanes had already begun carrying out airstrikes on civilian areas following Erdogan’s announcement. The Turkish operation comes days after Trump declared a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region.

Two opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review were disclosed on Tuesday that reveal instances of improper use of database searches for information on American citizens by the FBI, according to the Washington Post. One violation included queries of over 70,000 email addresses or phone numbers of FBI contractors and employees in March 2017. The filings further show that the FBI has now changed protocol to address the concerns.

The Senate Intelligence Committee released volume two of their report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, says the Wall Street Journal. This volume focused on social media and criticized U.S. tech giants, including Google and Youtube, for helping spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election. The committee also recommended that the Trump administration publicly emphasize the dangers of foreign election interference in the 2020 election.

An analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has been charged with leaking classified information regarding a foreign country’s weapons system to two journalists, according to the Washington Post.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new visa restrictions on certain Chinese officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and other minority groups, reports CNN.  Reuters reports that China is planning tighter restrictions for U.S. nationals tied to anti-China groups. Reuters adds that these developments could negatively impact U.S.-China trade talks scheduled to resume Thursday.

At least two people have been killed in shootings near a synagogue in the German town of Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, reports CNN.

Security officials from several Western countries now consider a series of past Russian operations in Europe as part of a coordinated and ongoing campaign from an elite unit within the Russian intelligence system, according to the New York Times. The aim of the group, known as Unit 29155, appears to be the destabilization of Europe.

 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell posted this week’s episode of Rational Security, in which Tamara Cofman Wittes, Shane Harris, Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes discuss the release of text messages alleging the Trump administration pressured Ukraine, Trump’s blocking of Amb. Gordon Sondland’s deposition related to the impeachment inquiry and Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.

Howell also shared an episode of The Lawfare Podcast featuring Benjamin Wittes in conversation with Jim Baker and Susan Landau on a new paper entitled “Moving the Encryption Policy Conversation Forward.”

Jennifer Daskal and Peter Swire commented on the positive new developments from the release of the first U.K.-U.S. data sharing agreement as envisioned under the 2018 CLOUD Act.

Patrick McDonnell discussed the newly proposed rules from the Treasury Department on investment and real estate transactions that fall within the scope of a CFIUS review.

Quinta Jurecic posted the letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone indicating that the president “cannot participate” in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

Mikhaila Fogel shared the second volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian active measures in the 2016 election, which focuses on Russia’s use of social media.

Fogel also posted several documents released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s ruling that some FBI protocols on data queries of U.S. citizens were inadequate.

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