Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Friday, August 7, 2020, 4:05 PM

Yesterday, at a Senate oversight hearing on the Department of Homeland Security, Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf told Congress that there will be a number of federal charges coming out against protestors within the next month. The federal government has already brought a number of prosecutions against demonstrators for alleged behavior connected with protests. Prosecutors have also been active at the state level. In the aftermath of protests against the police killing of George Floyd, over 2000 people have been arrested in New York City alone, reports the New York Times. The majority of these arrests have been made for low-level offenses, while some have been charged with more serious crimes.

In Nutley, N.J., a protestor named Kevin Alfaro is facing a felony charge for tweeting a photo of a masked police officer, according to the Washington Post. On June 19, Alfaro attempted to identify an officer for befriending a counterprotestor that had allegedly physically threatened Now, Alfaro and four others who retweeted his post are being charged with cyber harassment.

Rural communities are struggling to confront police brutality, where people are killed by law enforcement at about the same rate as in cities, writes the Times. In small towns, victim’s families say their calls for justice are not being heard.

The White House has deployed hundreds of federal agents to cities including Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit amid a sharp spike in violence, reports the Wall Street Journal. This surge, entitled “Operation Legend,” is a coordinated federal effort to curb violent crime. In yesterday’s hearing, Secretary Wolf distinguished Operation Legend as separate from the federal crackdown earlier this month on protests in Portland, Ore., that drew national criticism.

The death toll from this week’s explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, has risen to 154, according to the Journal. Lebanese security forces have since used tear gas to disperse demonstrations sparked by allegations of government negligence and incompetence leading up to the incident. The leader of Hezbollah, which the U.S. designates as a terror group, is slated to deliver remarks about Lebanese authorities’ response to the crisis today.

In an en banc ruling today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the House can sue former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a congressional subpoena, according to the Post. The decision overturns a panel decision from February 2020. Analysts have noted that the en banc reversal affirms Congress’s oversight powers and marks a victory for House Democrats. The decision does not ensure, however, that McGahn will immediately appear to testify on the Hill.

A U.S. intelligence and defense contractor has embedded its software into numerous apps, drawing location data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices worldwide, writes the Wall Street Journal. The Virginia-based company, Anomaly Six, was created in part to cater to national security agencies and was founded by two U.S. military veterans with backgrounds in intelligence.

Yesterday, senators questioned Louis Bremer, the Trump administration’s nominee to become assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict at the Pentagon, according to the Washington Post. Lawmakers pressed Bremer on his role at the Tier 1 Group, a firm intelligence officials have deemed responsible for training the Saudi hit team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

President Trump issued executive orders that will effectively ban the use of Chinese-owned TikTok and WeChat in 45 days, reports USA Today. The president cited national security concerns, claiming the apps collect private data on their users that could be acquired by the Chinese government. Microsoft has publicly announced it’s pursuing acquisition talks with TikTok for the U.S. operations of the video-sharing platform. If successful, such a deal would enable Americans to continue using the app.

Today, the U.S. sanctioned Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam for her complicity in Beijing’s efforts to subvert Hong Kong’s autonomy, according to Axios. The sanctions also targeted a group of other top Chinese officials. The new set of sanctions mark the toughest restrictions yet imposed on China for its subversion of independence in Hong Kong.

At least 24 Hong Kongers have been arrested for participating in a June 4 candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary of China’s 1989 deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen square, writes BBC.

A bipartisan group of senators yesterday introduced legislation to ban the sale of advanced drones to all nations except for close U.S. allies, writes the Hill. The measure is likely in part a response to a White House move that allows defense contractors to sidestep part of the Missile Technology Control Regime, an arms treaty designed to stop the proliferation of advanced military technology. The president’s move to bypass the treaty would effectively enable such sales to foreign governments, setting "a dangerous precedent that allows and encourages other countries to sell missile technology and advanced drones to our adversaries,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

A group of women leaders sent a letter to top news executives today warning against “stereotypes and tropes” in media coverage of presidential candidate Joe Biden’s upcoming announcement of his female running mate, according to Axios.

At least 1036 new coronavirus deaths and 57,128 cases were reported in the United States yesterday, reports the Times. COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge in the country.

The New York Times profiled Mr. Han (first name redacted for protective purposes), who was forced to work in North Korea as a prisoner of war for 40 years. Mr. Han recently scored a legal victory when the Seoul Central District Court ordered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to pay him damages for his time as a P.O.W. in the North. “When my lawyer held my hand and explained that we had won, tears came to my eyes,” he recalls in the interview.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Matt Gluck summarized a recent Department of Defense report which detailed substantive safety and security concerns in U.S. biology research labs.

Benjamin Wittes analyzed new documents from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) at the Department of Homeland Security, detailing how I&A was enabled to circumvent normal oversight.

Elliot Setzer shared a livestream of the Senate oversight hearing on the Department of Homeland Security, featuring testimony from Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf.

Nicol Turner Lee and Darrell West introduced TechTank, a new podcast series on technology policy from Lawfare and the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings.

Arindrajit Basu and Justin Sherman discussed two new democratic coalitions seeking to increase security and develop norms in cyberspace.

Jennifer Friedmann, VinhHuy Le, Michelle Ly, Christopher Maximos and Mohit Mookim assessed the challenges facing Ohio ahead of the presidential election, marking the latest installment of the Healthy Elections project.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast’s Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, featuring a conversation about the QAnon conspiracy theory with NBC News reporters Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny.

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