Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Elliot Setzer
Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 1:47 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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Stay-at-home orders and other forms of social distancing are contributing to rapid drops in the number of fevers—a key symptom of the novel coronavirus—recorded across the U.S., according to new data, reports the New York Times.

An Army National Guardsman died over the weekend after testing positive for COVID-19, the first service member to die from the disease, according to the Hill.

Officials and the CDC are considering altering their official guidance to encourage people to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes the Washington Post. The new guidance remains under development, but it will ultimately make clear that the general public should not use surgical masks and N95 masks that are desperately needed by healthcare workers.

The Defense Department has signed an $84.4 million deal to buy a total of 8,000 ventilators from four companies. The companies are on track to deliver 1,400 of them to hospitals by early May, reports the Hill.

Migrants who illegally cross the U.S. southern border are being expelled to Mexico in an average of 96 minutes under emergency measures intended to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus, writes the Washington Post. Under the new rules, agents are processing migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras where they are apprehended rather than inside U.S. border patrol stations, where they would normally receive medical exams. The migrants are then brought back to the border and sent into Mexico.

U.S. spy agencies are struggling to gather information about the coronavirus outbreaks in China, Russia and North Korea, and have limited insight into the full impact of the pandemic in Iran, reports Reuters.

Facebook and Twitter said yesterday that they had ordered the removal of a video in which Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro falsely stated that the drug chloroquine phosphate was working against the novel coronavirus, according to NBC. The COVID-19 pandemic has led tech companies to more aggressively take down unfounded medical advice and false information that they say could lead to physical harm.

Government officials across the U.S. are using location data from millions of cellphones to track the movements of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Wall Street Journal. The federal government, through the CDC, state governments and localities have started to receive analyses about the movement of people from the mobile advertising industry. The aim is to create a portal for officials that contains geolocation data for what could be as many as 500 cities across the U.S..

North Korea said yesterday that it had no interest in dialogue with the United States because of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s continuous pressure on the country to give up its nuclear weapons program, writes the New York Times.

The Trump administration yesterday renewed several waivers on U.S. sanctions against Iran that allow Russian, European and Chinese companies to work on Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities without facing penalties, reports the Associated Press. The waivers are one of the few components that remain from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after the Trump administration adopted a hostile posture toward Iran.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today unveiled a proposal for lifting sanctions against Venezuela in exchange for the creation of a power-sharing transitional government that would include members of the opposition, according to Reuters.

Saudi Arabia has entered talks with the Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels and has invited Houthi representatives and the internationally recognized government in Yemen to peace talks in Riyadh, writes the Wall Street Journal. Experts see the Saudis as eager to extricate themselves militarily from Yemen, where more than 112,000 people have died, including 12,600 civilians, since it intervened five years ago.

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found widespread problems with the FBI’s process for ensuring that the claims the Justice Department makes to judges to get secret surveillance warrants are backed up by facts, reports Politico. The Office’s audit found broader failings in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process after reviewing 29 applications for surveillance on U.S. citizens. You can read the report here at Lawfare.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Stewart Baker shared the most recent episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast, discussing how to use mobile phone location services to fight the coronavirus.

Baker also argued that Singapore’s location tracking app could save American lives.

Lester Munson shared an episode of Fault Lines, discussing the implications of COVID-19 for American foreign policy.

Daniel Byman and Israa Saber examined the U.S.’s use of warlords to fight terrorist groups.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast, discussing the power of the federal government in relation to state public health directives and what data-gathering might occur in the coming weeks to support public health measures.

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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