Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Elliot Setzer
Thursday, March 5, 2020, 3:06 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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The United States confirmed its 11th death from the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, reports the Washington Post. Last night President Trump downplayed worries, telling Fox News that a 3.4 percent mortality rate announced by the World Health Organization was “false.” California declared a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, writes AFP.

The House passed a roughly $8.3 billion emergency spending package yesterday for combating the coronavirus outbreak, allocating more than $3 billion for developing treatments for the virus, according to the Wall Street Journal. Multiple U.S. military branches are screening new recruits for the coronavirus as part of a sweeping effort to prevent the virus from spreading within the armed forces, reports CNN.

Coronavirus has spread to almost all of Iran’s provinces, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. The outbreak has swept through the senior ranks of Iran’s government, infecting about two dozen members of parliament, reports the Washington Post. The virus has killed 92 people inside the country. Meanwhile, Iraq reported its second coronavirus death on Wednesday in Baghdad, writes Reuters.

Italy closed all schools and universities and took other emergency measures yesterday to try to slow the spread of the virus, reports the BBC.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court yesterday released an opinion accepting changes the FBI has said it will make to its process for seeking national-security wiretaps, reports the New York Times. The court order also effectively bars FBI officials involved in the FISA request for former Trump advisor Carter Page from appearing before the court. You can read the opinion here.

A State Department linguist who worked as a translator for the military in Iraq was charged yesterday with providing highly classified information to Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia group, according to the New York Times. The contractor, Mariam Thompson, allegedly revealed to a Lebanese man with ties to Hezbollah the names of foreign informants and details regarding the information they provided to the United States. You can read the indictment here.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said yesterday that the United States has seen “mixed” results immediate aftermath of its peace deal with the Taliban, writes the Hill. Esper stated that the Taliban have refrained from attacking U.S. and coalition forces but have not substantially reduced the frequency of attacks. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, announced that he supports a Taliban demand for the release of thousands of their prisoners before they will take part in peace talks with the Afghan government, according to Reuters.

The International Criminal Court ruled today that its chief prosecutor could open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan committed by the United States military, Afghan authorities and the Taliban, reports the New York Times. The decision is the first from the court involving American forces, and the prosecutor has said the court has enough information to provide that U.S. forces had committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence. You can read the opinion here.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided Wednesday to block the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” plan in two states along the U.S. border, according to NPR. The court ban applies only to areas in its jurisdiction, namely Arizona and California.

The Trump administration has selected Marshall Billingslea, the current undersecretary for terrorism financing at the Treasury Department, as special envoy for nuclear talks, reports CNN.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer yesterday referred to Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, saying “You have unleashed the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” according to NPR. Schumer’s comments were condemned by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, will recommend that Benny Gantz form the next government when parties meet later this week with the Israeli President for consultations, writes Haaretz. If Gantz gets the first chance to form a coalition, it would increase the likelihood that opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu will be able to pass a bill barring an indicted individual from forming a government, which would apply to Netanyahu.

Turkish and Russian leaders will meet tomorrow to attempt to craft a deal that would avoid further conflict in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, reports the Washington Post.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security discussing John Ratcliffe’s nomination to be director of national intelligence and the Taliban peace deal.

Jen Patja Howell also shared a bonus edition of the Lawfare Podcast regarding a DC Circuit decision concerning the House’s efforts to compell Don McGahn to testify.

Elliot Setzer shared a document released by the Department of Justice outlining legal considerations for cyberthreat intelligence gathering.

Elliot Setzer also shared an indictment charging a defense department linguist with espionage for Hezbollah.

Lucia Radder analyzed a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on U.S. management of the coronavirus.

Lennart Maschmeyer argued that the U.S. offensive cyber strategy of persistent engagement rests on faulty assumptions that compromise the success of the strategy.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Elliot Setzer is a Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford Law School and a Ph.D student at Yale University. He previously worked at Lawfare and the Brookings Institution.

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