Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Elliot Setzer
Monday, March 16, 2020, 12:39 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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President Trump declared a national emergency Friday in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and on Saturday the House passed a bill to provide billions of dollars to help sick Americans and to bolster the economy, reports the New York Times. Trump said his emergency declaration would free up $50 billion for state and local governments to cope with the outbreak. The relief deal would allow for two weeks of paid sick leave for some workers and up to three months of medical leave for those affected by coronavirus. The new regulations, however, apply only to employees of companies of fewer than 500 workers.

Trump highlighted partnerships with private companies, including Target, Walmart and Google, as a means to facilitate quicker coronavirus testing for Americans, writes Politico. Target and Walmart will allocate parking lot space for makeshift testing sites, and Google pledged to set up a website to help American determine whether they need testing, and where test sites are located. But Trump inflated the status of the Google project, falsely claiming that “Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now” and stating that “they’ve made tremendous progress,” according to the Times.

President Trump ordered travel into the United States to be suspended from the United Kingdom and Ireland, increasing the scope of his travel ban as the United States seeks to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, reports the Hill. The U.S. military said on Friday that it will halt domestic travel for service members, Department of Defense civilians and their families, according to Reuters. And roughly 1000 National Guard members were activated over the weekend in six states—Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island and Washington—to help combat the spread of COVID-19, writes the Hill.

Israel authorized the Shin Bet security agency to use surveillance capacities, previously used to track the movements of Palestinian militants, to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus, writes the Washington Post. The new plan would use cell phone tracking technology to give a precise history of an infected person’s movements before they were diagnosed and identify people who might have been exposed—a technology which Prime Minister Netanyahu said had never previously been used on civilians.

The Trump administration offered a large sum to a German firm developing a possible vaccine for coronavirus in order to get the firm to move its research to the United States, reports the New York Times. In response, Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, emphasized that the coronavirus had become “a question of national security,” amidst fears that Trump was trying to ensure that any inoculation would be available first in the United States.

The Department of Health and Human Services was hit with a cyberattack on Sunday night that appeared aimed at slowing down the department’s systems, writes Reuters.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin today formally asked opposition leader Benny Gantz to form a new government, reports the Wall Street Journal. Gantz has support from 61 members of the 120-member Knesset and now has four weeks to form a government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial in three corruption cases has been postponed for over two months, until May 24, due to emergency measures to counter the spread of coronavirus, reports Haaretz.

Several Americans were wounded when rockets struck the al-Taji military base in Iraq on Saturday, the second rocket attack in a week, according to CNN.

President Trump tweeted yesterday that he is “strongly considering” a pardon for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, writes CNN.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Eric Woods described how right-wing extremists are manufacturing their own firearms to evade detection by law enforcement.

Charlotte Butash analyzed President Trump’s COVID-19 national emergency announcement and how it derives its authority from the National Emergencies Act and the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast discussing coronavirus with Josh Sharfstein, vice dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

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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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