The Week That Was

The Week that Was: All of Lawfare in One Post

By Quinta Jurecic
Saturday, July 25, 2015, 12:20 PM

Iran continued to dominate Lawfare this week in the wake of the nuclear deal. The U.N. Security Council voted in support of the deal on Monday, and Cody provided us with a link to the resolution. Meanwhile, John Bellinger considered whether the resolution places binding commitments on the United States under international law, and answered in the negative. Staley and I assisted the discussion on the deal by posting a comprehensive timeline of sanctions lifted, and nuclear restrictions imposed and relaxed, under the terms of the deal and the Security Council Resolution.

Jack continued his discussion of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, pointing out that the Act plays no role in limiting Congress’s ability to turn down the deal. Instead, he points to (among other factors) the emphasis placed on presidential discretion by the pre-existing sanctions regime. Also on the topic of sanctions, Miles Kahler examined the theoretical effectiveness of renewed multilateral sanctions as an alternative to accepting the nuclear deal.

Benjamin Bissell noted the presence, much discussed on Twitter, of a Mercedes with Saudi license plates in Tel Aviv this Friday. It’s one manifestation, he writes, of a shift in regional alliances as Iran’s neighbors try to come to terms with the nuclear deal. But “only time will tell what that Mercedes, and whoever was in it, was doing in Tel Aviv.”

Finishing up this week’s coverage of Iran, Yishai argued that the current debate over Iran should, in fact, be understood as two debates on Iran, which have become unfortunately confused. The first debate concerns whether Congress should vote in support of the nuclear agreement—whether, at this point, it would be better to go forward with the deal or back away from it. The second debate concerns whether the P5+1 negotiators might have been able to reach a better deal. In other words, to argue that we should support the deal as it is, need not be to argue that we should ignore the specter of the deal as it might have been.

Yishai also reviewed Michael Oren’s much-discussed memoir Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide. Oren’s memoir, which chronicles his time as Israel’s ambassador to the United States, has recently made waves with its splashy publicity and the advancement of its publication date to coincide with argument over the deal with Iran. In Yishai’s view, the book is “largely scoop-free” and an awkward blend of personal reflection and political analysis.

This week saw not one, but two, episodes of the Jihadology podcast, featuring Aaron Zelin’s two-part conversation with Don Rassler on ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Aaron also provided us with two translations: one, a statement from foreign fighters in Syria “About the Baghdadi Group,” and two, the transcript of a video of former AQAP leader Nasir al Wihayshi on “Understanding the Implementation of Islamic Law. Al Wihayshi was killed in a U.S. drone strike this June.

Cody posted the Lawfare Podcast, this week on Russia’s nuclear threats. How seriously should we take President Vladimir Putin’s show of muscle? Is it time to duck and cover?

Ben Bissell noted what he believes to be a “sea change” in the rule of law in China, most visible in the new Chinese National Security Law. The law, Ben writes, is a “power grab” in the guise of protecting national security, and may soon be joined with a cybersecurity law and legislation controlling foreign NGOs.

Gordon Adams and Richard Sokolsky provided Part 2 of their Foreign Policy Essay on U.S. assistance to foreign security sectors. Part 1 focused on the failings of the current U.S approach, and Part 2 examines how to change it.

Despite the best efforts of the Obama administration, the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay remains open—as Wells reminded us with the news of pre-trial motions in United States v. Al Hadi al Iraqi. Yet in what’s become an unfortunately familiar routine, the motions hearing was delayed from Monday to Wednesday, then delayed indefinitely. Wells filled us in.

On this week's Rational Security, which Ben has actually not yet posted to Lawfare (he promises to do so this afternoon, so consider this a rare scoop for a weekend roundup column that doesn't usually get to round up things that haven't happened yet), Gitmo closure was also a major subject of discussion. Ben also brought “going dark” to the table, discussing his ongoing work with Zoe Bedell on the question of civil liability in the case of end-to-end encryption. Might companies like Apple be liable if extremists use their encrypted technology to plan an attack without law enforcement’s being able to crack their communications?

Also on the topic of going dark, Ben linked us to Marshall Erwin’s essay on the subject over at Just Security.

Herb Lin noted a New York Times story on the potential weaknesses in U.S. cybersecurity, despite a recent push to increase security in the wake of the OPM hack. Herb points out that demands that the government be both more secure and more efficient ignore the “efficiency-security tradeoff”: “if we want to improve security, we will have to accept a lower level of efficiency, at least temporarily.”

Stewart Baker posted the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast. This week: a joint interview with Peter Swire and Annie Antón of the Georgia Institute of Technology:

I pondered the connections between the new DOD Law of War Manual and the Civil War-era Lieber Code, particularly on the matter of direct participation in hostilities. The history of the laws of war in the United States, I argued, show a surprising amount of continuity in terms of what activity is sufficient to strip away the protections enjoyed by civilians in wartime.

Ben linked to a series of videos from this year’s Aspen Security Forum, featuring FBI Director James Comey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, NSA Director Michael Rogers, and others.

And that was the week that was.