Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Anna Salvatore
Thursday, September 17, 2020, 4:16 PM

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

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A whistleblower in the National Guard has contradicted the Trump administration’s claims about why federal law enforcement forcibly removed protesters from Lafayette Square in June, reports The Washington Post. Maj. Adam D. DeMarco has written to lawmakers that protesters were not violent, law enforcement officers used tear gas and demonstrators were not given ample time to disperseall contrary to statements made by Attorney General Bill Barr. In sworn testimony to Congress, DeMarco added that in the early days of protests in D.C., the Defense Department sought to use a heat device that simulates the feeling of burning skin on its targets. The White House opted not to use this device against asylum seekers in 2018 due to humanitarian concerns. 

Senate Democrats presented a bill today that allocates $300 billion to support American technology research, writes The New York Times. The bill’s authors, Reps. Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez, aim to counteract China’s growing dominance in the tech field and to fund the U.S.’s burgeoning semiconductor industry. Their legislation provides for $125 million in defense spending in the Pacific region, where China has broken international law to build island settlements, and it requires the president to impose sanctions on individuals who detain and profit from the oppressed Uighur population. 

Attorney General Bill Barr suggested last week that federal prosecutors should charge violent protesters with sedition, according to The New York Times. Sedition is an extraordinary charge that involves a conspiracy to use force against or overthrow the government. Barr’s suggestion came on a private call in which he also suggested that prosecutors consider trying protestors on charges of rioting, racketeering, and use of explosives. Shortly after Barr mentioned sedition on the call, his top deputy interjected that some parts of the country have not seen  violent protests and thus don’t necessitate aggressive prosecution. 

The Justice Department announced indictments today against three allegedly state-sponsored Iranian hackers. According to the press release, the hackers were part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and sought to steal intellectual property from companies worldwide. Their campaign allegedly targeted companies involved in satellite and aerospace technology in the U.S, Australia, Singapore, Israel and the United Kingdom. 

A District Judge for the Southern District of New York rebuked U.S. prosecutors yesterday for hiding exculpatory evidence in their attempt to enforce sanctions against an Iranian businessman, reports Politico. “No responsible Government lawyer should strategize how to ‘bury’ a document that was not, but should have been, previously disclosed to the defense,” wrote Judge Allison Nathan in an unusual 34-page opinion. 

President Trump has told advisers he dislikes Oracle’s potential purchase of TikTok, according to the Wall Street Journal. The president has expressed concerns about the app remaining primarily under control of a Chinese company, a sentiment that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows echoed today in a meeting with reporters. The Journal noted yesterday that the Trump administration is trying to ensure that American investors have a majority share of Oracle so that users’ information won’t be shared with the Chinese government. 

The drugmaker Moderna has released a 135-page report explaining the status of its late-stage vaccine trial for COVID-19, writes The New York Times. The document notes that trial data may not be analyzed until late December, although later analyses are scheduled for March and May 2021. Moderna’s experimental vaccine is in a Phase Three trial right now in which the company has managed to enroll 25,000 of the target 30,000 volunteers. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security entitled “The Trump Trolls Edition.” Shane Harris, Susan Hennessey, Benjamin Wittes and Tamara Cofman Wittes discussed the recent Washington Post story about a pro-Trump organization running a troll farm. 

Tia Sewell shared the Department of Justice’s charges against five Chinese nationals for hacking into over 100 organizations worldwide. 

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck released a new episode of the National Security Law Podcast in which they discussed the latest news from the federal courts, the Justice Department and the White House. 

Samuel Rebo argued that a recent lawsuit against Facebook is a good opportunity to review the platform's different approaches to identifying and labeling foreign media. 

David Priess and Benjamin Wittes explained why Lawfare has published “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency,” the new book from Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith. 

Stewart Baker shared a new episode of The Cyberlaw Podcast entitled “Jane’s Fighting Nerds.” He spoke with Bruce Schneier, Sultan Meghji, Nate Jones and Cory Doctorow about the latest news in cybersecurity.

Brandon Kirk Williams asserted that as China and Australia clash over cybersecurity, the U.S. has an opportunity to pressure China and strengthen an important alliance. 

Jen Patja Howell released an episode of The Lawfare Podcast in which David Priess sat down with Chris Whipple, a journalist and filmmaker, about Whipple’s new book: “"The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future.”


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Anna Salvatore is a rising freshman at Princeton University. She previously served as the editor in chief of High School SCOTUS, a legal blog written by teenagers. She is now a fall intern at Lawfare.

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