Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Elliot Setzer
Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 1:23 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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The novel coronavirus has infected more than 115,000 people—including at least 1,000 cases in the U.S.—and killed over 4,200 worldwide, reports CNN. New York set up the United States’ first “containment area” in New Rochelle around one of the largest clusters of cases in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many colleges have told students not to return to campus this spring, and both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden canceled campaign rallies in Ohio on Tuesday.

President Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi began initial talks on Tuesday over a legislative package to avert disastrous economic impacts from the novel coronavirus, writes Politico. The Trump administration is likely to extend the April 15 tax deadline as part of the effort to mitigate the effects on U.S. households and businesses, reports the Journal. Trump also proposed on Tuesday to dramatically reduce the payroll tax through at least the end of the year, but the proposal was not received favourably by Republicans or Democrats, according to the Washington Post.

The head of national counterintelligence told Congress on Tuesday that the intelligence community does not yet have evidence that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to benefit a particular candidate, reports the Post. In the House, Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff challenged the briefer on what struck them as an effort to downplay the assessment given last month by Shelby Pierson, the Intelligence Community Election Threats Executive, according to the New York Times. Pierson had informed the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had “developed a preference” for Trump in 2020.

House leaders on Tuesday reached a bipartisan deal to overhaul the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with substantial changes just days before key measures were set to expire, reports the Times. The changes would install new privacy protections, including expanding the appointment of skeptical amicus curiae to secret court deliberations when the FBI wants to eavesdrop on Americans under certain circumstances. You can read a copy of the draft bill here on Lawfare.

President Vladimir Putin endorsed a proposal to reset the Russian Constitution’s term-limit clock to zero, allowing him to serve for an additional two six-year terms when his tenure expires, reports the Times. The proposal was passed by the lower house of Parliament just hours after it had been introduced, but must still be approved by Russia’s Constitutional Court and a nationwide referendum in April.

U.S. and Canadian air force fighter jets on Monday intercepted two Russian aircrafts entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, writes the Hill. The Russian aircraft came as close as 50 nautical miles to the coast but did not enter U.S. or Canadian airspace.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani plans to release 1,500 Taliban prisoners in coming days to pave the way for direct talks with the insurgent group aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan, reports Reuters. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie said on Tuesday that Taliban attacks against Afghan forces are “not consistent” with the deal the insurgents signed with the United States, writes the Hill.

The Justice Department will be compelled to release secret grand jury evidence from the Mueller report to congressional Democrats who are seeking the materials pursuant to ongoing investigations into President Trump, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled yesterday, reports the Washington Post. You can read a copy of the divided ruling here on Lawfare.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Quinta Jurecic shared a copy of draft legislation to reauthorize portions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Margaret Taylor and Benjamin Wittes argued there is no good reason why the Capitol is still open to the public.

Additionally, Taylor examined whether it is time to reform the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Alan Rozenshtein argued that the revised EARN IT Act proposes a better process for encryption policy.

Rozenshtein also discussed how Judge Reggie Walton’s ruling demanding in camera review of the unredacted Mueller report underscores how much the Trump administration has squandered the executive branch’s goodwill with the judiciary.

Jen Patja Howell shared the latest episode of the Lawfare Podcast discussing the congressional response to coronavirus.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast featuring an interview with NSA’s former general counsel Glenn Gerstell.

Pamela Falk and Jacques Singer-Emery analyzed the U.N. Security Council vote in support of the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement.

Elliot Setzer shared a livestream of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Afghan peace deal.

Elliot Setzer shared a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on community perspectives on coronavirus preparedness.

Setzer also shared a D.C. circuit ruling that the Justice Department must share grand jury materials from the Mueller Investigation with the House.

Bruce Riedel argued that Mohammed bin Salman’s impulsive policies have been a poor match for dealing with the novel coronavirus in Saudi Arabia.

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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