Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Friday, February 11, 2022, 1:44 PM

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Some documents improperly taken by former President Trump from the White House were clearly marked as “classified,” reports the Washington Post. The identification of classified–some even “top-secret” level–documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence is likely to intensify legal pressure potentially faced by Trump and his staffers, and also raise suspicions about why the documents were unlawfully removed from the White House. It is not yet confirmed exactly how many classified documents were among those received by the National Archives and Records Administration. 

A letter declassified by Sens. Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich shows that the CIA has been collecting data in bulk, without a warrant, that has the potential to affect Americans’ privacy, writes the New York Times. The nature of the data remains censored by the CIA. A report received by the Senate Intelligence Committee from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on the data named “Deep Dive II” will also remain classified. After reading the report, Wyden and  Heinrich urged the CIA director to declassify the activity and any internal rules about querying the data for information about Americans. In the letter, the senators call for new transparency about bulk surveillance conducted by the CIA, according to a press release by Wyden. 

A U.S. government review panel approved the release of a Saudi prisoner at Guantanamo Bay with security guarantees, writes the New York Times. Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi was captured in Pakistan and held at Guantanamo as a suspected bomb maker for nearly 20 years. The Periodic Review Board reported that al-Sharbi has unspecified “physical and mental health issues” and that with rehabilitation and security measures, could be transferred into the custody of another country. Al-Sharbi is cleared for transfer and is waiting for U.S. diplomats to make security agreements with countries willing to take him in. 

The inspector general for the U.S. Capitol Police agreed to investigate claims from Republican lawmakers that the Capitol Police is spying on them and their visitors, reports the Hill. Republicans claim that the Capitol police force is encroaching on their privacy via surveillance under the guise of bolstering security measures. In a letter, the Capitol Police denied any wrongdoing and detailed their system of conducting background checks at the request of lawmakers on those who attend events with elected officials.  The Chief of Capitol Police J. Thomas Manger wrote, “The [United States Capitol Police] does not conduct any ‘insider threats’-related surveillance or intelligence gathering on Members, staff, or visitors to the Capitol Complex.”

An executive order issued by President Biden invoked emergency powers to consolidate and freeze all $7 billion of the total assets the Afghan central bank kept in New York, writes the New York Times. The Biden administration also reported that it would ask a judge for permission to move $3.5 billion into a trust fund to support needs in Afghanistan amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis and also to compensate victims of the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks.

Afghan refugees held in the United Arab Emirates staged demonstrations protesting the “prison-like” conditions at a facility in Abu Dhabi, according to the Wall Street Journal. The refugees awaiting resettlement in the United States have been held at the facility for months after being evacuated from Afghanistan. On Thursday, thousands of Afghans reportedly gathered outside of a U.S. diplomatic office shouting and holding signs that read, “We want freedom,” “Six months life in prison” and “I am suffering mentally.” 

Russia and Belarus began large-scale joint military exercises near Ukraine, reports the Wall Street Journal. Western officials fear that the military exercises will escalate the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. To conduct the exercises, Moscow sent 30,000 new troops in addition to the 100,000 already amassed along the Ukrainian border. Russia and Belarus reported that the purpose of the exercises is to test the readiness of their forces in neutralizing military threats and securing borders.

Libya’s parliament named a new prime minister despite the incumbent’s refusal to step down, writes Reuters. Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Ddeibah rejected the parliament’s decision to name former interior minister Fathi Bashagha as new prime minister. Al-Ddeibah’s refusal to  step aside until there is a national election threatens to push Libya’s government into a division between two parallel administrations at war. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Ashley Carman about the controversy involving the Joe Rogan Experience and Spotify over coronavirus misinformation and content moderation.

Ben Keith explained how a draft law approved by the Kazakhstan Parliament allows the government, already infamous for its persecution of political opponents, to limit criticism of itself.

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter Podcast in which Shane Harris talked with journalist Erich Schwartzel about one of the most intense arenas of the great power competition between the United States and China: the movies.

Alex Zerden published a book review of Jessica Davis, “Illicit Money: Financing Terrorism in the 21st Century” (Lynne Rienner, 2021).

Quinta Jurecic announced that Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth podcast series now has its own feed!

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