Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Elliot Setzer
Wednesday, April 1, 2020, 12:33 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion


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Top public health officials estimated on Tuesday that the novel coronavirus could kill 100,000 to 240,000 Americans despite social distancing measures that have helped to slow the spread of the virus, reports the New York Times. Dr. Anthony Fauci displayed the projection at a White House briefing and pledged to do everything possible to achieve a better outcome than it predicts.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said yesterday that states have the option of using the National Guard to enforce stay-at-home orders, writes the Hill. Last weekend, the National Guard in Rhode Island began going door-to-door to enforce quarantine orders, but many locales say they do not expect to use such tactics to impose their orders.

The federal Bureau of Prisons said yesterday that it would keep thousands of inmates at facilities across the country locked in their cells, with limited exceptions, for the next 14 days in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to the Wall Street Journal. One prisoner has died of the disease, and more prisoners and staff have tested positive.

China and Russia continue to spread false reports and other online disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report by EU officials, writes Politico.

Britain, France and Germany have introduced a financial mechanism to allow goods to be exchanged between Iranian companies and foreign ones, reports the New York Times. The mechanism enables trade with Iran without running afoul of American sanctions. The new company, which avoids direct financial transactions with Iran or use of the American banking system, is an effort to encourage Iran to keep compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that President Trump pulled out of last year. European countries closed their first transaction with the Islamic Republic yesterday, exporting medical goods to Iran, writes the Wall Street Journal.

In other Iran news, hardliners in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have recently clashed with the government over the response to the novel coronavirus, according to the Journal. While President Hassan Rouhani has struggled to contain one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19, the Revolutionary Guard has worked at cross-purposes, offering to send desperately-needed medical supplies to the U.S. and propagating the theory that the coronavirus is an American-made biological weapon.

Germany has announced it will launch a smartphone app within weeks to help trace coronavirus infections using location data, reports the New York Times. German leaders have argued that adopting an approach pioneered by Singapore can be effective without invading citizens’ privacy. Meanwhile, European scientists and technologists will launch a joint initiative tomorrow to develop applications that can support contact tracing efforts while complying with the region’s privacy laws, writes Reuters.

Senators criticized the House’s decision to leave Washington last week without temporarily extending key domestic surveillance provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that expired in mid-march, according to Politico. Both the House and Senate aren’t scheduled to return until April 20.

U.S. airstrikes in Somalia killed two civilians and injured three in February, according to a new report from Amnesty International, writes the New York Times.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jeremy Gordon summarized the justice department inspector general’s memorandum on FBI compliance with FISA procedures.

Ben Wittes analyzed the implications of the inspector general’s new FISA memo.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview with the New York Times’ Ben Hubbard on “MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman.”.

Amanda Sloat discussed the implications of coronavirus for Brexit

Hilary Hurd analyzed Britain’s coronavirus response.

Dustin Lewis and Naz Modirzadeh examined whether a U.N. counterterrorism body can and should authoritatively interpret and assess compliance with international humanitarian law.

Elliot Setzer shared the Justice Department inspector general’s memorandum that found a broad pattern of errors in FISA applications.

Manal Cheema and Ashley Deeks explained the legal basis for prosecuting purposeful coronavirus exposure as terrorism.

Richard Altieri and Hayley Evans looked into the examples that the Supreme Court cited as precedent for its postponement of oral arguments in light of coronavirus.

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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