Today's Headlines and Commentary

Tia Sewell
Tuesday, September 29, 2020, 5:34 PM

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

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U.S. intelligence officials are warning that violent domestic extremists pose a threat to the November presidential election, writes Reuters. Internal threat assessment memos from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security say that domestic extremist attacks on election-related targets will likely increase as the presidential election draws near.

A hacker released sensitive information about students in a large Las Vegas public school district after officials refused to pay the attacker a ransom to unlock the district’s compromised servers, reports the Wall Street Journal. The illegally-published documents contained the students’ Social Security numbers, grades and other private information. As schools nationwide have become heavily reliant on online learning amid the pandemic, the threat of cyberattacks now poses an escalated threat to educational institutions.

The Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland has reached a $20 million settlement with the family of William H. Green, an unarmed Black man who was killed by law enforcement in January, reports the New York Times. Green was shot six times by Cpl. Michael Owen Jr., who has since been charged with second-degree murder.

Former intelligence officials say the president’s debts and foreign deals revealed in the Times’ story on Trump’s tax records pose a national security risk, according to the Washington Post. The newly-uncovered documents reveal that Trump has continued to profit off foreign investments and projects during his presidency and that despite this revenue, the president is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt—all of these factors would raise alarm about potential compromise of an employee in a government agency. “From a national security perspective, that’s just an outrageous vulnerability,” said Larry Pfeiffer, former chief of staff at the CIA.

Legal experts warn that recent Justice Department moves to share certain sensitive materials signal an intensifying effort to use the federal government to support President Trump’s reelection campaign, writes Politico. “These actions are not typical,” said William Jeffress, a veteran defense lawyer who represented former President Richard Nixon after he left the White House. “Tradition is that politically sensitive actions by DOJ go dark at least 60 days before an election.”

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan today emphasized that he is not a “rubber stamp” in the Justice Department’s bid to dismiss the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, reports the Washington Post. Judge Sullivan is set to hear final arguments in the Flynn criminal case today. Flynn previously pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have rejected international pressure to commence peace talks, according to Reuters. The two countries each report receiving fire from the other side across their shared border, which signals further escalation of a conflict already on the brink of all-out war. On Sunday, fighting broke out between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Two new wildfires in California are burning out of control, reports the Times. The Zogg Fire and the Glass Fire burned more than 67,000 acres and killed three people by Monday night. This year marks one of the worst fire seasons on record for the West Coast, leaving at least 40 people dead and over five million acres scorched in California, Oregon and Washington.

Yesterday, the global coronavirus death toll surged past one million, writes the Times.

TikTok announced today that it is piloting a new in-app elections guide, writes Axios. The popular Chinese-owned app, which has been shrouded in controversy amid security concerns about U.S. user data, pledged to connect users with credible information about the upcoming U.S. elections.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at Facebook for removing fake accounts that supported his policies, according to the Times. As Facebook continues to grapple with the influence of disinformation campaigns on its platform, the company has faced confrontations from populist and authoritarian leaders who take issue with Facebook’s content moderation policies.

Roughly 26 percent of U.S. adults get news by watching YouTube videos, reports TechCrunch. The findings come from a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center, which examined the video platform’s growing influence over news distribution and consumption in the United States.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Bobby Chesney explained a recent preliminary injunction that allows TikTok to remain in U.S. app stores.

Jack Goldsmith suggested how to respond to the president’s tax disclosures.

Diana Cao analyzed Florida’s presidential primary election and presented considerations for conducting a successful general election in November.

Tia Sewell shared a public service announcement from the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency that warns of the potential threat posed by foreign actors spreading disiformation about U.S. election integrity.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring a run-down on TikTok, WeChat and Trump with Jordan Schneider, the voice behind ChinaTalk, along with two of Lawfare’s co-founders, Benjamin Wittes and Bobby Chesney.

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.

Tia Sewell is a former associate editor of Lawfare. She studied international relations and economics at Stanford University and is now a master’s student in international security at Sciences Po in Paris.

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