Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Monday, July 19, 2021, 3:09 PM

The United States, United Kingdom, NATO and other allies accused the Chinese government of several cyberattacks, including one attack against Microsoft's email server software in March, according to the Washington Post. The number of countries amounts to the largest condemnation of China’s cyber aggression, but the statements stop short of coordinating any policy that punishes China for its alleged actions. A statement from the White House accused China’s Ministry of State Security and affiliated criminal groups of the attack on Microsoft and a broad array of other malicious cyber activities, declaring the behavior “inconsistent with its stated objective of being seen as a responsible leader in the world.”

The Biden administration repatriated a detainee at Guantanamo Bay to Morocco, reports the Washington Post. Abdul Latif Nasir is the first inmate that has been transferred during the Biden administration, leaving just 39 detainees at Guantanamo Bay which, at its peak, held more than 700 prisoners. Former President Trump halted resettlements when he took office in 2017. In a statement, the Pentagon said the U.S. is “extremely grateful for the Kingdom’s willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility.”

A memorandum from Attorney General Merrick Garland announced limitations on federal prosecutors secretly obtaining reporters’ records, writes the Washington Post. Monday’s memo clarifies that the Department of Justice “will no longer use compulsory legal process for the purpose of obtaining information from or records of members of the news media acting within the scope of newsgathering activities.” Reporters’ records will still be sought in matters such as criminal investigations and if they are an agent of a foreign government. 

The United Kingdom has lifted nearly all legal restrictions on social interactions after one of the longest coronavirus lockdowns in the world, according to the New York Times. “Freedom Day,” as the British media have labelled it, comes as coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom are at the level of their previous peak in January. However, more than half of the population is vaccinated, so this surge has resulted in a fraction of the hospitalizations seen in previous waves. Even as the restrictions have been lifted, several hundred thousand people are still undergoing mandatory 10-day quarantines after exposure to the virus, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced into self-isolation after exposure, only hours before the national restrictions ended.

Afghanistan removed its ambassador and diplomats from Islamabad, Pakistan after the ambassador’s daughter was kidnapped in Pakistan, according to Al Jazeera. Silsila Alikhil, the daughter of ambassador Najib Alikhil, was on her way to Islamabad when she was seized and held by unknown criminals before being released and receiving medical care for her injuries. Pakistan authorities say they are investigating the incident. The Afghanistan diplomatic withdrawal is another setback to an already fragile peace process.

An investigation by the Washington Post and other media organizations revealed that spyware licensed by an Israeli firm to governments was used in hacks and hacking attempts on 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, activists and others, writes the Washington Post.  Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International shared a list of 50,000 phone numbers around the world, with analysis of some of the 37 phones where forensics indicated surveillance. The stated purpose of the Pegasus spyware, licensed by NSO Group, is monitoring suspected terrorists and other criminals. 

Claude Joseph, who acted as interim prime minister of Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, has stepped down in favor of his challenger, reports the Washington Post. His challenger, Ariel Henry, was appointed to the premiership by Moïse days before his death and largely has the backing of the international community. 

Paul Allard Thompkins, a man arrested for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, was sentenced to eight months in prison, reports the Associated Press. Thompkins’ sentencing is the first sentencing in a felony case related to the Capitol insurrection. Hopkins pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding after he breached the Senate chamber carrying a Trump campaign flag. Prosecutors asked that Thompkins receive 18 months in prison. At the hearing, Thompkins expressed remorse and shame over his actions at the riots. Judge Randolph Moss said the attacks “left a stain that will remain on us … on the country for years to come.”

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Alexandra Stark assessed President Biden’s policy toward Yemen to encourage peace and stability.

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