Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore
Tuesday, October 20, 2020, 2:56 PM

Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today that President Trump wasn’t serious when he tweeted on Oct. 6, “I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to... the Russia Hoax.” According to Meadows, the president’s tweets were not “self-executing declassification orders” and don’t require the release of interviews conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Meadow’s filing came after Jason Leopold, a Buzzfeed News reporter seeking the release of Russia probe documents, cited Trump’s tweets as evidence that parts of the Mueller report should be declassified.

After more than a year of fast-tracked preparation, the Justice Department announced today that it will sue Google for amassing illegal monopoly power over search engines and search advertising in the United States. TechCrunch describes the antitrust suit as “the most aggressive action the U.S. government has taken in decades” against a technology company’s anti-competitive practices. In the lawsuit, which you can read here, Justice Department lawyers argue that Google has paid billions of dollars to ensure that it’s the default search engine on smartphones. Only Republican state Attorneys General signed onto the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court held last night that Pennsylvania may count mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, rejecting an emergency appeal from Republican lawyers. According to the Washington Post, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the four more liberal justices to keep the state’s voting procedures in place.

The United Kingdom will soon inject young, healthy volunteers with COVID-19 for controversial vaccine trials known as “challenge trials.” Participants in the UK study will reside in a quarantine ward of a London hospital, inhale a dose of the novel coronavirus and then endure close monitoring by scientists and doctors. ABC News writes that although challenge trials present obvious health risks, they can be finished much more quickly than other late-stage options.

Four years ago, dozens of American diplomats and spies stationed in the Havana, Cuba embassy reported dizziness, headaches and memory loss after hearing strange sounds. The New York Times reports that although American officials and their families experienced similar symptoms in 2018 while serving in Guangzhou, China, the State Department has declined to investigate the recent incidents and has tried to minimize the idea of foreign interference. According to six American officials, “State Department leaders realized that pursuing a similar course of action as they had in Cuba — including evacuating missions in China — could cripple diplomatic and economic relationships.” Julia Ioffe reports for GQ that some Americans have experienced similar symptoms on U.S. soil as well.

The National Security Agency (NSA) warned today that government-backed Chinese hackers are exploiting U.S. defense networks. The Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA pointed to 25 flaws in Microsoft, Cisco and other technologies that Chinese hackers have targeted with malicious cyber activity.

The Washington Post writes about a frightening new trend in artificial intelligence: free software that has transformed more than 100,000 pictures of women into nude photos. Without women’s consent, the artificial intelligence service matches their skin tones and generates fake nude bodies. “The fact is that now every one of us, just by having a social media account and posting photos of ourselves and our lives publicly, we are under threat,” said Giorgio Patrini, chief of a cybersecurity company called Sensity.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Anoush Baghdassarian explained the history behind the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Alvaro Maranon shared the Justice Department’s indictments of six Russian intelligence officers for computer hacking.

Brett Raffish suggested that the Monell doctrine—a theory which governs lawsuits about police misconduct—may be due for reform.

Jacob McCall, Matthew Simkovits and Haley Schwab examined the rules that govern election observing in the United States.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of The Lawfare Podcast entitled, “An October Surprise from the New York Post.” Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic spoke with Thomas Rid, a professor at Johns Hopkins and author of “Active Measures,” and Evelyn Douek, co-host of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, about the merits of the New York Post’s recent story on Hunter Biden.

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