Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Friday, February 26, 2021, 3:42 PM

The U.S. has carried out an airstrike targeting Iran-backed militia members in Syria in retaliation for three separate rocket attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, according to Reuters. While the exact death toll remains unknown, Iranian state television has reported that 17 militia fighters had been killed, reports the New York Times. The strike marks President Joe Biden’s first major military move as commander-in-chief, an operation complicated by the White House’s ongoing efforts to return to a nuclear agreement with Iran. “He is kind of putting his first red line,” Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, told the Times. “It is sending a message: The bottom line is that we won’t tolerate this and will use military force when we feel you’ve crossed the line.” 

The Biden administration today released a long-classified intelligence report that concludes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assasination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, writes Politico. The White House chose not to penalize the crown prince directly, given concerns about such a move’s implications for the U.S.’s strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia and related security interests in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the decision to release the report puts further pressure on an already strained U.S.-Saudi relationship.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has seized former President Trump’s tax returns and other financial records spanning eight years, writes the Washington Post. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s attempt to shield the information—compelling Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, to finally comply with the New York prosecutors’ subpoena after 18 months of delay.

ByteDance has agreed to pay $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit stemming from 21 separate complaints last year that allege the company unlawfully harvested teenage TikTok users’ data, reports the Wall Street Journal. The proposed settlement could end long-running disputes over accusations that TikTok collected sensitive information about minors, including scans of the young app users’ faces.

Armed militants kidnapped 317 girls from a boarding school in northwest Nigeria today, according to the Journal. The abduction is the latest in a series of kidnappings of high school students in the country. As a result of growing insecurity in the country’s northern region, more than 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria—the highest in the world.

While tech giants have typically refrained from working with the Pentagon in recent years, many small tech startups in Silicon Valley are increasingly working with the military and intelligence communities, writes the Times. Palmer Luckley, an outspoken entrepreneur in the valley, has shrugged off concerns about potential militarization of his company Anduril’s latest big product: a self-piloting drone called Ghost. “Most engineers want to engineer. They want to get stuff done,” Luckley said as, the article notes, artillery fire echoed from a nearby range. “Most people have a pretty practical view.”

The Times profiled Arora Akanksha, the 34-year-old United Nations auditor running for U.N. Secretary General.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Rohini Kurup announced next week’s Lawfare Live, an event co-hosted with Brookings’ Governance Studies program on restoring federal government ethics and the rule of law.

Alvaro Marañon shared a livestream of the House Financial Services Subcommittee’s hearing on thwarting domestic terrorism funding.

William W. Burke-White argued that while the Biden administration’s re-entry into various international treaties has been significant progress, these moves alone are insufficient to restore U.S. diplomatic leadership in the aftermath of the Trump years.

Jen Patja Howell shared this week’s edition of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series on disinformation, featuring an interview with Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the director of the Reuters Institute, about the fight between Australia and Facebook over compensation for news content.

Lester Munson shared the latest episode of Fault Lines, entitled “JCPOA Redux and FacePlant in Australia.”

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