Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Elliot Setzer
Monday, April 27, 2020, 3:43 PM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing a legal argument that the U.S. remains a “participant state” in the Iran nuclear deal that President Trump has denounced, writes the New York Times. In the administration’s strategy,the semantic assertion serves to help the U.S. to pressure the U.N. Security Council to extend an arms embargo on Tehran that will expire next October. If the arms embargo is not renewed, the United States would cite its right as an original member of the agreement to invoke a “snapback” that would restore the strict U.N. sanctions on Iran that were in place before the adoption of the agreement in 2015.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday cautioned against using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials, reports NBC. President Trump and others had claimed the antimalarial is an effective treatment for coronavirus.

Top Pentagon leaders are divided over whether to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier, after top Navy leaders recommended that the fired aircraft carrier captain be put back in command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, writes Politico. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is seeking a broader investigation that would delay a final decision on reinstating Crozier—who was fired after writing a letter outside the chain of command detailing the coronavirus outbreak on board his ship.

President Trump’s efforts to sideline the World Health Organization (WHO) go beyond a temporary funding freeze, raising concerns that the organization will be permanently weakened as a result of U.S. action, according to the Washington Post. State Department officials have stripped references to the WHO from virus fact sheets, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has instructed officials to reroute the U.S.’s WHO funds to other nongovernmental public health organizations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the efforts to delete references to the WHO “dangerous,” reports NPR.

South Korean officials are cautioning against rumors that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be ill or is being isolated, reports Reuters. South Korea’s Unification Minister said the government has the intelligence capabilities to determine with confidence that there have been no unusual movements in North Korea.

U.S. Africa Command is acknowledging in a report today that an American military strike in Somalia in 2019 killed two civilians and injured three others, writes the Associated Press.

Following pressure from Beijing, European Union officials softened their criticism of China this week in a report on state-sponsored COVID-19 disinformation, according to the New York Times. Senior officials ordered a rewrite of the document to dilute the focus on China—and removed a sentence about China’s “global disinformation” campaign—after Beijing moved to block the document’s release.

More than two million Australians have downloaded a COVID-19 contact tracing appjust hours after its release, reports Reuters. The app uses Bluetooth signals to log when people have been close to one another

Apple and Google recently announced additional privacy protections that will be included in their contact tracing technology, which will be offered to developers starting in mid-May, according to CNET.

Efforts by the firms to create the technological infrastructure for contact tracing may lead the companies to a showdown with U.S. states over the collection of sensitive GPS location data, reports Reuters. Google and Apple have sought to build public trust by ensuring that tracing apps will not tap phones’ GPS sensors. But the states pioneering adoption of the apps—North and South Dakota, and Utah—say that allowing public health authorities to use GPS is necessary to make the system viable.

Israel’s Supreme Court today banned its intelligence agency from tracing the location of those infected with COVID-19 until new laws are passed authorizing the program, according to the BBC. Isreal’s phone location tracking currently relies on emergency powers granted by the cabinet without parliamentary approval.

The German government yesterday abandoned a prototype for a contact tracing app developed by dozens of European institutions, writes the Financial Times. The country will instead move to integrating the privacy-protecting approach being developed by Google and Apple. The European protocol would have stored contracts on a central server in order to facilitate the work of health officials, rather than on individual devices.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from France’s ruling party yesterday accused their own government of withdrawing a vote on a planned coronavirus contact tracing app in order to avoid addressing privacy concerns about the proposed “StopCovid” smartphone software, reports Reuters.

Meanwhile, privacy advocates across the continent have been frustrated by a lack of enforcement and poor funding for Europe’s online privacy law, which was enacted nearly two years ago, writes the New York Times.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jacob Stokes discussed how the United States can cooperate while competing with China.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast discussing a case study of how pandemic control measures intersect with federalism issues and supply chain continuity and security.

Matthew Waxman and Samuel Weitzman argued that FDR’s Montgomery Ward seizure is a stark reminder of what unleashing wartime government power over industry has actually looked like.

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