Foreign Relations & International Law

The Cyberlaw Podcast: Trump’s Multiple Re-Entry China Policy Vehicles

Stewart Baker
Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 9:16 AM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Another week, another Trump administration initiative to hasten the decoupling from China. As with MIRV warheads, the theory seems to be that the next administration can’t shoot them all down. Brian Egan lays out this week’s initiative, which lifts from obscurity a DoD list of Chinese military companies and excludes them from U.S. capital markets.

Our interview is with Frank Cilluffo and Mark Montgomery. Mark is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and senior advisor to the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Previously, he served as policy director for the Senate Armed Services Committee under Sen. John S. McCain—and before that served for 32 years in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear trained surface warfare officer, retiring as a rear admiral in 2017. Frank is director of Auburn University’s McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security. He also chaired the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s subcommittee on economic security. We talk about the unexpected rise of the industrial supply chain as a national security issue. Both Frank and Mark were moving forces in two separate reports highlighting the issue, as was I. So, if we seem suspiciously agreed on important issues, it’s because we are. Still, as an introduction to one of the surprise hot issues of the year, it’s not to be missed.

After our interview of a Justice Department official on how to read Schrems II narrowly, it was only a matter of time. Charles Helleputte reviews the EDPB’s effort to give more authoritative and less comfortable advice to U.S. companies that want to keep relying on the standard contractual clauses. Still, the Justice Department take on the topic manages to squeak through without a direct hit from the privacy bureaucrats. Still, the EDPB (and the EDPS even more) makes clear that anyone following the DOJ’s lead is in for an uphill fight. For those who want more of Charles’s thinking on the topic, see this short piece.

Zoom has been allowed to settle a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proceeding for deceptive conduct (claiming that its crypto was end to end when it wasn’t, and more). Mark MacCarthy gives us details. I rant about the FTC’s failure to ask any serious national security questions about a company that deserves some.

Brian brings us up to speed on TikTok. Only one of the Trump administration penalties remains unenjoined. My $50 bet with Nick Weaver that CFIUS will overcome judicial skepticism that IEEPA could not is hanging by a thread. Casey Stengel makes a brief appearance to explain how TikTok might win.

Brian also reminds us that export control policymaking is even slower and less functional on the other side of the Atlantic, as Europe tries, mostly ineffectively, to adopt stricter limits on exports of surveillance tech.

Mark and I admire the new Aussie critical-infrastructure cybersecurity initiative, mostly for its clarity if not for its political appeal.

Charles explains and I decry the enthusiasm of European courts for telling Americans what they can say and read on line. Apparently, we aren’t allowed to use Facebook to call politicians “fascists”; but don’t worry about our liability.

So, in retrospect, how did we do in policing all the new cyber-ish threats to the 2020 election? Brian gives the government credit for preventing foreign interference. I question the whole narrative of foreign interference (other than the hack and dump operation against the DNC) in 2016 and 2020, noting how conveniently it serves Democratic messaging (Hillary only lost because of the Russians! Ignore Trump’s corruption allegations because it’s more Russian interference!). Mark and I wonder what Silicon Valley thinks it’s accomplishing with its extended bans on political advertising after the election. They’re going to find out it’s almost always election season somewhere (see, e.g., Georgia). DHS’s CISA produced a detailed rumor control site that may have corrected one too many of the President’s tweets. Chris Krebs, familiar to Cyberlaw Podcast listeners, may be on the chopping block. That would be a shame for DHS and CISA; for Chris it’s probably a badge of honor. Frank Cilluffo and Mark Montgomery weigh in with praise for Chris as well.

And more.

Download the 338th Episode (mp3)

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The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.

Stewart A. Baker is a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe & Johnson LLP. He returned to the firm following 3½ years at the Department of Homeland Security as its first Assistant Secretary for Policy. He earlier served as general counsel of the National Security Agency.

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