Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Claudia Swain, Katherine Pompilio, Matt Gluck
Thursday, September 1, 2022, 3:37 PM

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Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers filed a response to the Justice Department’s opposition to Trump’s request for a special master to oversee the handling of items seized at Mar-a-Lago. In its filing, Trump’s lawyers assert that a special master is needed to evaluate executive privilege issues, in addition to those related to attorney-client privilege. Trump’s team also writes that the Justice Department’s filing “significantly mischaracterized” the June meeting between Justice Department officials and Trump’s lawyers. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon heard arguments on Thursday regarding the appointment of a special master but has yet to issue a ruling on this issue. Read Lawfare’s latest coverage on the Mar-a-Lago search here.

A team of United Nations (U.N.) inspectors visited the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant on Thursday to evaluate the conditions at the plant and take necessary measures to improve its safety. Most of the International Atomic Energy Agency officials left the plant after spending about four hours there, but five of the inspectors will stay behind until Saturday to continue to monitor the situation. Mortar shells struck the nuclear facility early Thursday morning, but there have been no reports of increased radiation levels in the surrounding area. The inspectors experienced significant shelling as they crossed the front line in Southern Ukraine on their way to the plant. 

Poland has announced it will demand from Germany 1.3 trillion euros in reparations for World War II. In a news conference Thursday, government officials argued that Poland has never been fully compensated for what it suffered during the Nazi German invasion and five-year occupation. In prior Polish calls for such reparations, German officials have argued that sufficient compensation was provided to Poland in the redrawing of Europe’s borders following the end of the war.

Mississippi has declared a state of emergency for the Jackson water crisis, and the White House has called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide the state with assistance. The city of Jackson, Mississippi has been without clean municipal drinking water for three days after the city’s water system “effectively collapsed” on Aug. 29. Jackson mayor Chockwe Antar Lumumba asserted that the problem stems in part from neglect in investing in the majority-Black city: “We have an infrastructure crisis in this country and, given the history of this country, it should come as no surprise that Black communities are the most starved for resources,” she said in an interview with CNN. Lumumba continued, “Our needs are never prioritized when it’s time to fund new pipelines and thus, our communities fall into disrepair.”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a 48-page report detailing the “serious human rights violations” committed against Uighurs and other Muslim groups in China’s Xinjiang region. According to the report, Beijing’s detention practices may violate international law and represent crimes against humanity. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has indicated it will provide $2.9 billion in aid to Sri Lanka over the next four years in response to the country’s ongoing economic crisis. The South Asian island nation is over $51 billion in debt; its economy is expected to shrink 8.7 percent this year; and its citizens have suffered monthslong shortages of fuel and other essential goods. If the aid package is approved by IMF management and the executive board, the money is expected to be used to raise social spending and replenish foreign exchange reserves, among other priorities. Earlier in August, Nilanthi Samaranayake wrote for Lawfare on what Sri Lanka’s troubles mean for wider Indian Ocean security. 

The Chinese government demanded the U.S. roll back new technology export controls that would limit the transfer of certain semiconductors to China, Hong Kong, and Russia. These calls come after the American software company Nvidia said the U.S. government notified it on Friday that the company needs a U.S. government license to send a certain class of processing chips to these three countries. 

Local law enforcement officials around the country have relied on an invasive cellphone surveillance tool that enables them to track individuals’ locations over an extended period of time, according to reporting by the Associated Press. The tool, Fog Reveal, has allowed police officers to scan records from 250 million mobile devices—sometimes without search warrants. Law enforcement has used the tool in criminal investigations since at least 2018, but it is rarely referenced in court records. 

New cybersecurity research finds that hundreds of Android and Apple apps contain a vulnerability that would allow hackers to gain access to sensitive data—including user data such as biometric fingerprint files—according to WIRED. Broadcom’s Symantec Threat Hunter team published a report Thursday detailing how security in mobile app cloud infrastructure is weaker than expected for 1,859 publicly available apps that store their app files and data in the cloud. Vulnerable apps include five mobile banking apps and 16 online gambling apps. 

The U.S. government will officially halt its supply of free covid tests on September 2, due to lack of funding from Congress. American citizens who wish to order more tests are encouraged to go to the relevant government website before the deadline.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Scott Shapiro and Benjamin Wittes announced a live online class on hacking and cybersecurity, available to material supporters of Lawfare.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Scott R. Anderson sat down with Leah Sottile to discuss her new book, “When the Moon Turns to Blood.”

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which Alan Rozenshtein, Quinta Jurecic, and Anderson talked through some of the week’s most significant national security news stories, including the Defense Department's newly released Civilian Harm Mitigation Action Plan, rising tensions around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, and more. 

Tia Sewell shared a response from former President Donald Trump's legal team in which Trump asserts he has standing to seek a special master. This response was in reply to the Justice Department's Aug. 30 filing opposing Trump's Motion for Judicial Oversight and Additional Relief.

Hyemin Han shared the annual digest from the United States State Department Office of the Legal Adviser, which provides a record of the U.S. government’s practices and perspectives in public and private international law from the past year. 

Anderson, Jurecic, and Wittes argued that the Justice Department’s filing in opposition to Donald Trump’s request for a special master illustrates the strength of the department’s evidence of the mishandling of sensitive information and increases the likelihood that the department may indict the former president. 

Mara Revkin reviewed Jason Lyall’s book,“Divided Armies: Inequality and Battlefield Performance in Modern War.” 

Elise Thomas and Dean Jones analyzed the Justice Department's indictment of Russian national Alexander Ionov. 

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