Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Matt Gluck
Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 3:36 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion.

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In his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr staunchly defended the federal government’s response to the demonstrations around the country against racial injustice, reports the New York Times. The attorney general also denied claims that political motivations influenced his handling of the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn cases. Democrats accused Barr of assisting President Trump in his effort to stoke fear in voters over the issue of mail-in ballots, and Barr repeated his concerns about “wholesale mail-in voting.” Barr also refused to commit to waiting until after the election to release a report, conducted by U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham, about the Russia investigation.

Gregory T. Monahan, acting U.S. Park Police chief, said in his Tuesday testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee that he was “notified earlier in the day” on June 1 that President Trump would visit Lafayette Square, but asserted that the visit was unrelated to the clearance of protesters from the area that evening, reports the Washington Post. In his testimony regarding that evening, Maj. Adam D. Demarco, a member of the D.C. National Guard, said the Park Police used excessive force to suppress nonviolent protesters.

A bystander video shows several New York Police Department officers dressed in shorts and t-shirts pulling a protester into an unmarked van on Tuesday evening, according to the Post. In a tweet, the New York Police Department said the officers were assaulted as they took the demonstrator into custody. This comes as the federal government has recently faced harsh criticism for its deployment of unidentified federal officers to Portland, Oregon to quell protest activities.

Americans’s support for the nationwide protests against racial injustice has declined significantly since George Floyd’s killing on May 25, finds a Reuters-Ipsos poll.

The House Antitrust Subcommittee is hearing testimony Wednesday from tech CEOs Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai, writes the Wall Street Journal. The hearing is expected to cover anti-trust issues and the platforms’s content moderation policies.

Turkish lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that would significantly increase the government’s authority to regulate content on social media platforms, writes the Times. The legislation also threatens to penalize American tech giants, such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, if they do not open offices in Turkey.

Congo is facing a new outbreak of Ebola as the coronavirus continues to surge across the country, according to the Wall Street Journal. This comes as a prior Ebola outbreak in Congo, which killed approximately 2,300 people, was coming to an end. The Congolese government has not paid healthcare workers in three months, causing strikes across the country. The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has raised less than 20 percent of the money that will be necessary to effectively respond to this crisis.

For the first time, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched ballistic missiles from underground on Tuesday as part of an annual military exercise, reports Reuters. The U.S. military condemned the drill, which reportedly caused two U.S. military bases in the Persian Gulf to enter heightened alert. This comes amid a period of elevated tension between the U.S. and Iran in the Gulf.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration said it will limit work permits granted to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were children to one year rather than two, reports the Post. This decision comes after the Supreme Court in June blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because the administration had not provided appropriate legal justification for eliminating it. Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said that the department will block new DACA applications as it considers whether to terminate the program.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee said Wednesday in a formal legal report that governments have the authority to restrict protest activities due to concerns over the coronavirus, writes Reuters. When asked whether compulsory mask orders are human rights violations, Christof Heyns, who wrote the report, said, “It’s understandable and acceptable that for health reasons there may be limits on your rights.”

Several Republican Senators, including Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, asked the Trump administration Tuesday to evaluate potential election interference by TikTok, the Chinese video-sharing platform, reports Reuters. In their warning about Tik Tok’s influence, the legislators cited allegedly pro-China content moderation decisions on the app. A TikTok spokesperson said, “TikTok already has a strict policy against disinformation” and is “proactively investing to safeguard… [the] app.”

Hong Kong authorities are reportedly considering postponing a city legislature election due to concerns about the coronavirus, writes Reuters. The vote would be the first in the territory since China’s imposition of a new national security law directed at Hong Kong, a law which some experts have claimed seeks to undermine Hong Kong’s status as an autonomous region.

On Tuesday, the European Union sanctioned China over the mainland government’s treatment of Hong Kong, writes the Journal. EU countries also said they will ease visa restrictions for Hong Kong residents. A Chinese official criticized the move, directing the EU “to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any way.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert has tested positive for the coronavirus, reports Politico. Gohmert participated in-person in Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing covering Justice Department conduct. Before testing positive, Gohmert was scheduled to fly to Texas with President Trump on Wednesday.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring a discussion with Bobby Chesney, Lawfare co-founder and professor of law at the University of Texas; Vera Mironova, a research fellow at Harvard; and Leah West, a lecturer at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University and a fellow at the McCain Institute, about the detention of Islamic State combatants in Iraq and Syria.

Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman argued that the Schrems II ruling provides the U.S. with an opportunity to rethink national security policy concerning global data networks.

Elliot Setzer shared a livestream of Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Todd Carney discussed U.S. interests in the Kosovo-Serbia conflict in light of the recent indictment of Kosovar President Hashim Thaci.

Jordan Schneider shared his discussion with Kevin Xu, author of the Interconnected newsletter, on ChinaTalk. They discussed whether the U.S. should ban TikTok and why tech plays a unique role in U.S.-China relations.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast covering Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, House Democrats’s claims of election interference and the Justice Department’s most recent indictment of Chinese hackers, among other topics.

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.

Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

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