Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Anna Salvatore
Monday, October 19, 2020, 3:51 PM

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

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UNICEF has announced that it will stockpile more than half a billion syringes to prepare for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, reports the New York Times. The organization’s advance stockpiling is part of a broader plan to collect one billion syringes by 2021, as well as to purchase five million safety boxes for used syringes and solar-powered refrigerators for storing vaccines. UNICEF is a member of the international Covax alliance that will distribute coronavirus vaccines to rich and poor countries alike. The Trump administration has refused to join the agreement.

The Times also writes that the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has become “a brutal war of attrition,” with dead fighters rotting on the front lines and civilians sheltering in their basements from surprise attacks. The article features photographs and testimonies from Stepanakert, the besieged capital of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has assembled a multi-million-dollar program to combat disinformation, according to the Washington Post. The team includes dozens of people who monitor harmful online trends—such as accusations that Biden is senile or socialist—and then blast counter-messaging to swing voters. “Trust in the election is [also] something that we are focused on,” said Rebecca Rinkevich, the campaign’s director of digital rapid response. “Right now, it’s super localized to far-right folks, but it’s something that we have every intention of focusing this program on, especially in the week leading up to the election.”

Thai police are restricting access to the messaging app Telegram and halting public transportation as anti-government protests roil Bangkok, writes Deutsche Welle. Tens of thousands of protesters are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who gained power last year in a potentially rigged election, as well as for re-writing the country’s military-drafted constitution. According to the Washington Post, many of the Thai protesters’ tactics echo last year’s demonstrations in Hong Kong.

In a sign of growing tensions between the U.S. and China, President Xi’s government has threatened to arrest American citizens if the Justice Department prosecutes detained Chinese scholars. The U.S. has arrested at least five scholars recently, the Times reports, on the ground that they didn’t disclose their Chinese military ties on visa applications and “might have been trying to conduct industrial espionage in research centers.”

The Justice Department has indicted six Russian intelligence agency officers for hacking into the 2018 Winter Olympics, the 2017 French elections and numerous other events. "No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously and irresponsibly as Russia," said Assistant Attorney General John Demers at a press conference today.

The Supreme Court agreed today to review two Trump administration policies on immigration: the construction of a border wall using military funds and the directive that asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their requests are processed. According to the Wall Street Journal, lower courts have held that both policies were unlawful. Should Biden win the presidential election in November, the government will likely withdraw its appeals and let the lower courts’ decisions stand.

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Elisabeth Cousens and Lise Morje Howard examined the failures and successes of the United Nations on its 75th anniversary.

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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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