Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Thursday, April 9, 2020, 1:23 PM

President Trump is preparing to announce a second, smaller coronavirus task force aimed at combating the economic crisis caused by the virus and focused on reopening the American economy, reports the Washington Post. The goal of the task force will be to get as much of the country as possible open by April 30, the current deadline Trump set for social distancing measures.

The head of the World Health Organization defended his agency’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic yesterday following criticism from President Trump, who suggested that Washington should review its funding for the body, writes Reuters.

10,000 additional National Guard troops are expected to be activated to help respond to the coronavirus crisis in the next two weeks, according to the Hill. About 28,400 members are currently deployed throughout the United States.

Top public health officials said they’re starting to see improvements in some of the U.S.’s worst coronavirus hotspots, reports Politico. They attributed the improvements to strong mitigation efforts that have been put in place, including shelter-in-place requirements and remote work.

Cybersecurity agencies in the U.S. and the U.K. yesterday issued a warning that cyber criminals are scaling up attacks on health care groups and those working from home, writes the Hill. The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre warned that the attacks often involve malicious phishing emails or ransomware attacks.

Italy, Austria and Denmark have begun preparations to ease lockdown restrictions and gradually unwind social distancing measures, according to the Wall Street Journal. Italy, which has faced one of Europe’s worst outbreak and has imposed the strictest measures to combat the virus, will be among the first to chart a path towards life after lockdown. Nonetheless, it could be at least another month before residents are allowed to freely leave their homes.

A French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is returning to home port after dozens of crew members showed symptoms of the novel coronavirus, reports NPR. Around forty sailors show signs of possible COVID-19 infection.

As the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has scaled back its presence in response to the novel coronavirus, the Islamic State has urged fighters to take advantage of the distraction and disruption caused by the pandemic, according to Politico. There have been small signs of Islamic State recovery in Iraq and Syria at the tactical level following the cessation of counterinsurgency operations targeting them.

Five rockets hit a U.S. air base in Afghanistan today in an attack claimed by the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, but there were no casualties, writes Reuters.

The Afghan government released 100 Taliban prisoners yesterday as a goodwill gesture after talks aimed at coordinating a prisoner exchange with the Taliban collapsed on Tuesday, reports the Washington Post. The Taliban withdrew from the talks and accused the government of “wasting time.”

According to a new report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Syrian government Air Force pilots dropped bombs containing poisonous chlorine and sarin nerve gas on a village in the country’s western Hama region in March 2017, writes Reuters. Up until now, the OPCW had only been authorized to say whether chemical attacks occurred, not who perpetrated them.

Saudi Arabia declared a two-week cease-fire in Yemen which is set to take effect today, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, Houthi officials yesterday dismissed the unilateral cease-fire plan for not going far enough to address their demands.

A bipartisan group of senators wrote a letter demanding that President Trump explain why he fired the intelligence community’s inspector general, reports Politico. The eight senators cited a 2008 law mandating that the president provide Congress with a detailed explanation of any decision to fire an inspector general.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security discussing the firing of two independent inspectors general, including the one who played a role at the beginning of the Ukraine scandal.

Patja Howell also shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring a discussion with members of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

William Ford and Margaret Taylor analyzed the decision by two Senate committees to adopt a paper hearing format to continue oversight hearings while maintaining social distancing.

Eric Halliday and Connor Veneski discussed what would happen if the Trump administration designated drug cartels as terrorist organizations.

Matthias Shulze argued that legal restrictions could decrease the flexibility and operational effectiveness of Germany’s military cyber command.

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