Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Matt Gluck
Friday, July 31, 2020, 4:16 PM

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

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The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis collected information and assembled “intelligence reports” concerning content related to the protests in Portland, Oregon, published by two American journalists, Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare and Mike Baker of the New York Times, according to the Washington Post. The reports state that Wittes and Baker published leaked, unclassified information about Department of Homeland Security operations in Portland. After the Post story was published on Thursday evening, acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf ordered the Office of Intelligence and Analysis to stop collecting information on journalists and said there would be an investigation into the matter.

In a new proposed settlement agreement, the Department of Justice yesterday dropped its support for a gag order that would have prevented Michael Cohen from publishing his tell-all book, reports the Post. The settlement agreement was sent to U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein on Thursday after Judge Hellerstein ordered Cohen’s release from prison to home confinement last week, stating that the federal Bureau of Prisons wrongly attempted to restrict the President’s former lawyer from publishing his book as a condition of his release.

The Hong Kong government announced Friday that it will postpone its September legislative elections by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the New York Times. Hong Kong has recently experienced its worst surge of cases thus far—identifying more than 100 new cases each day this week—but pro-democracy activists claim that the government is using the pandemic as an excuse to prevent opposition candidates from taking power. On Thursday, the Hong Kong government barred 12 pro-democracy candidates from running in the September election.

The Trump administration announced Friday that it will sanction a Chinese paramilitary organization, Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), that operates in Xinjiang province, according to Axios. Human rights advocates have asserted that the XPCC assists the Chinese government in its operation of the mass internment camps in Xinjiang.

President Trump plans to announce Friday that he will order the Chinese company ByteDance to sell its ownership of the video-sharing app TikTok, according to Bloomberg. The U.S. has recently expressed concerns about the possibility of the Chinese government using the app to obtain information about American citizens.

One Marine died and two were injured in an accident during a routine U.S. Marine training exercise off the coast of California on Thursday, writes the BBC. The Marine Corps said Friday it is actively searching for eight marines involved in the incident who remain missing.

The confirmation hearing for a retired general, Anthony J. Tata, whom President Trump nominated to be undersecretary of defense for policy, was canceled Thursday, according to the Post. One defense official said the Trump administration learned Wednesday that Tata’s appointment had little support in the Senate. Civil rights leaders and lawmakers have opposed Tata’s appointment, citing his past comments targeting Islam and calling President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader.”

The Australian government said that a new law will require Facebook and Google to share revenue from news content with Australian media companies, according to Reuters. This announcement comes after Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, CEOs of Facebook and Google, respectively, testified before Congress on Wednesday in a hearing focusing on tech giants’ potentially anticompetitive behavior.

Several companies including North Face and sportswear maker Puma will resume marketing on Facebook after they previously stopped advertising on the platform to protest the presence of hate speech on Facebook, reports the Wall Street Journal. Other companies will continue their boycotts, contending that Facebook has not put forth a plan for meaningful change.

St. Louis County’s prosecutor, Wesley Bell, announced yesterday that he will not charge Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, reports the Associated Press. This is the third time prosecutors have investigated Brown’s case and decided not to bring charges against Wilson. Bell’s decision comes amid national protests against racial injustice and police misconduct.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told members of Congress on Friday that he believes the U.S. will have an effective COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020 or early 2021, reports the Times. This statement comes as pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline today announced an agreement with the U.S. government to supply the United States with 100 million doses of the firms’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

An anonymous U.S. security official said that Chinese government-backed hackers targeted the U.S. biotech firm Moderna, according to Reuters. China on Friday claimed that the accusation is false. Last week, the Department of Justice charged two Chinese individuals with spying on coronavirus research in the United States.

Ukraine said Friday that its initial discussions with Iran about the downing of a Ukrainian jet were productive, according to Reuters. In January, Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner claiming that it believed the plane was a missile during a period of elevated tension with the United States. Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kubela said that if negotiations fail, Ukraine is prepared to bring the case to international courts.

The case of former Islamic State fighter Shamima Begum, who is attempting to regain her U.K. citizenship, will go to the U.K. Supreme Court, writes the BBC. Begum left London in 2015 to join the Islamic State in Syria.

Nasa launched a new rover into space on Thursday which will search for signs of life on Mars, reports Reuters.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Elliot Setzer shared a livestream of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Department’s fiscal year 2021 budget request.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring a discussion with Jillian C. York, the director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about Facebook’s oversight board and why she thinks content moderation is broken.

Judd Devermont and Nilanthi Samaranyake argued the U.S. should employ the framework of its Quadrilateral Dialogue coalition to help Africa as the coronavirus surges across the continent.

Setzer also shared a livestream of a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s recommendations set forth in its March 2020 report.

Lester Munson shared an episode of the Fault Lines podcast covering Nord Stream 2, the acquittal of former Ivory Coast Head of State Laurent Gbagbo in the International Criminal Court and foreign policy in the post-Trump era.

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

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