Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Matt Gluck
Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 4:43 PM

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

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The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee released a report Tuesday detailing significant links between the Trump campaign and Russia in the time leading up to the 2016 election, according to the New York Times. Similar to the Mueller probe, the Intelligence Committee’s report found that although the Trump campaign did not participate in a coordinated effort to collude with Russia, there was extensive contact between Trump campaign advisers and individuals connected to the Kremlin.

The Justice Department arrested and charged a former CIA officer, Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, with providing classified U.S. information to Chinese intelligence officers for almost a decade, according to the Washington Post. The FBI affidavit alleged Ma was captured on video in Hong Kong in 2001 revealing sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officials as he counted $50,000 in cash; and that as a Chinese linguist for the FBI, Ma would gather classified documents and turn them over to his handlers when he traveled to China. The Justice Department has charged several U.S. citizens with spying for China in the last few years.

Newly-released Defense Department data shows that the U.S. has distributed approximately $2 million in condolence payments to civilians in Afghanistan over the last five years, according to the Washington Post. The data also includes outlays for “battle damage” and “hero” payments, which the military provides to families of Afghan soldiers. After facing criticism in 2018 from outside groups for allegedly underestimating civilian casualties, the U.S. military developed new policies seeking to better prevent and address civilian deaths.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and one other Postal Service official will testify before Congress next Monday, according to the Associated Press. The Postal Service has recently faced criticism from Democratic lawmakers after the mail service said that most states would likely face delivery delays that could compromise the integrity of mail-in-voting in the 2020 election. Dejoy reportedly plans to announce Tuesday that the Postal Service will pause operational changes until after the upcoming election.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in a virtual briefing Tuesday that it will be critical for countries to take a globalized approach to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus around the world, according to Reuters. And another WHO official said that younger individuals, many of whom do not know that they are infected, are “increasingly driving the spread” of the coronavirus.

The Belarus government acknowledged Tuesday that law enforcement officers were quitting their jobs after opposition figures called for them to abandon their posts, reports Reuters. Earlier in the day, controversial Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko awarded medals to police officers who helped quell the mass protests calling for his resignation.

Some Justice Department lawyers are reportedly concerned about the department’s plans to move quickly in bringing an anti-trust lawsuit against Google, according to the Wall Street Journal. These staffers reportedly believe the department’s case against Google is not yet ready, and lawyers need more time to evaluate the tremendous volume of documents obtained by the government.

The Trump administration said Monday that it would prevent Chinese tech titan Huawei from purchasing certain chips developed with American software and equipment, reports the New York Times.

After an article published last week in the Wall Street Journal indicated that Facebook favored the ruling party in India, opposition lawmakers in India want to question the social media giant about extremist content and hate speech on its platform, according to the Journal.

A United Nations-backed court convicted one individual linked to Hezbollah of conspiring to murder former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik-al Hariri in 2005, according to Reuters. The tribunal found no evidence that Hezbollah leadership or the Syrian government played a role in Hariri’s assassination. And the court acquitted three individuals who were allegedly connected to Hezbollah.

A former teacher at a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) school, Cai Xia, was expelled from the party Monday after recently condemning the Beijing government, according to the New York Times. Last month, the CCP punished two dissenters after they denounced Chinese President Xi Jinping’s policies.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

David Priess and Benjamin Wittes announced Lawfare’s publication of the book written by Jack Goldsmith and Bob Bauer, “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency.” Bauer and Goldsmith consider necessary reforms to the presidency in areas such as conflicts of interest, abuse of the pardon power, FBI investigations and executive branch vacancies.

Sean Quirk discussed the recent developments in the South China Sea and rising naval tensions between the U.S. and China.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring a discussion with Lawfare’s Scott Anderson, Suzanne Maloney, acting head of the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings; Natan Sachs, the director of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy; and Hady Amr, senior fellow at Brookings, about last week’s deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. They discussed how the deal could impact regional dynamics and domestic politics within Israel, Iran and the United States.

Lester Munson shared a discussion on Fault Lines about nuclear developments in the Middle East and the recent Belarus election, among other topics.

Daniel Byman considered how a new administration might collaborate with other countries and social media platforms to combat white supremacist violence.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared a discussion on the National Security Law Podcast covering President Trump’s decisions regarding Chinese tech platforms TikTok and WeChat and the legal issues raised by the president’s directives concerning coronavirus-related relief, among other topics.

William Ford discussed the recent proxy voting ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and analyzed its implications for Congress moving forward.

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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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