Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Monday, April 26, 2021, 3:17 PM

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced today that the Justice Department will open a pattern-or-practice investigation into the Louisville Police Department, writes ABC News. The Louisville police have faced heavy criticism in the aftermath of the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT who was killed in her own apartment during a botched drug raid. The investigation will review the Louisville department’s policies, systems of accountability and training practices to determine whether systemic issues exist in the department that constitute “a pattern or practice of constitutional or statutory violations.”

U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller, commander of U.S. forces Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, confirmed yesterday that “all of our forces are now preparing to retrograde,” reports the Hill. Biden announced earlier this month that the U.S. will withdraw all troops from the country by Sept. 11. Miller told reporters that throughout the withdrawal process, the foreign militaries in Afghanistan will maintain the “military means and capability” to ensure the protection of their troops and support the Afghan security forces. 

Miller further stated that the U.S. will seek to ensure that Afghan security forces are left “in the best possible security posture” and specifically discussed the provision of foreign military equipment for the Afghan government. “There's certain equipment that we must take back to our countries,” Miller stated. “That's a requirement. But wherever possible, if we do not have to, we're looking to ensure that the Afghan security forces have the bases, pieces of equipment, parts that are necessary for the functioning of the military.”

The Biden administration’s Afghanistan withdrawal decision has raised questions regarding the future of the Guantánamo Bay detention center, according to the Hill. When asked about the potential effects on Guantánamo, University of Texas law professor and Lawfare contributing editor Steve Vladeck said “I think the short answer is that we just don’t know.” He added, “It clearly provides the remaining Guantanamo detainees with a new ground on which to challenge the legal basis for their continuing military detention, and one that is not necessarily foreclosed by existing precedent … But it’s not at all clear that courts will be sympathetic to those arguments, not just because they haven’t been to date, but because the Executive Branch is likely to argue that the conflict with al Qaeda isn’t ending just because we’re leaving Afghanistan.”

The Supreme Court announced today that it will hear a case concerning a request from Guantánamo prisoner and terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida for more information about his CIA-sponsored torture, writes the Washington Post. The U.S. has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to oppose Zubaida’s requests for additional information about torture interrogations he endured while held at a CIA site in Poland. Then-CIA director Mike Pompeo stated the disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause serious, and in many instances, exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has begun taking steps to create the Foreign Malign Influence Center, a hub for multiple government agencies to combat hostile foreign meddling in U.S. affairs, reports Politico. The intelligence community will use the center as a clearinghouse to provide assessments on influence activities and disseminate warnings across agencies. Its creation follows last month’s ODNI joint assessment containing information on specific actions taken by different foreign actors—including Russia, China and Iran—to effectuate a particular outcome in the 2020 U.S. election.

The Pentagon has employed a company called Global Resource Systems LLC to manage a Pentagon-owned chunk of the internet amounting to 175 million addresses, according to the Washington Post. In a statement issued on Friday, the Pentagon stated that it intends to use the addresses to run a “pilot project” aimed at assessing and preventing “unauthorized use of DoD IP address space.” It is unclear why the Defense Department chose to entrust management of the address space to Global Resource Systems, a company that seems not to have existed until September and has no record of government contracts, nor web presence.

India is experiencing its most ferocious COVID-19 surge yet, with more than 314,000 new infections announced on Thursday—the world’s highest single-day spike in infections since the pandemic began, writes the Wall Street Journal. Politico reports that U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, yesterday and expressed support for the country’s crisis. In a statement, the White House said that the U.S. is working to provide immediate medical aid to India, including sources of raw material needed for India’s manufacture of the Covishield vaccine. According to the Washington Post, Indian officials have ordered Twitter to take down social media posts criticizing the government’s pandemic response.

President Biden recognized the Armenian genocide on Saturday, writes the Washington Post. Historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in a campaign perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire that began in 1915. In the past, U.S. presidents have avoided the designation for fear of political fallout with Turkey. Following Biden’s remarks, Turkey’s foreign minister tweeted that the Turkish government “entirely reject[s] this statement.”

Commercial data generated by phone applications that is then bought and sold to companies in bulk could present serious national security risks, such as providing sensitive information about U.S. troop movements to adversaries, reports the Wall Street Journal. At the Journal’s request, a data broker searched its database of phone signals at known U.S. military facilities in Syria and the Middle East, providing geolocation location information from devices that likely belonged to U.S. soldiers.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Ali Wyne explored whether the Biden administration will be able to shift U.S. focus away from the Middle East and towards Asia, arguing that the pivot is critical to advance U.S. interests. 

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