Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, June 16, 2021, 3:07 PM

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

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President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed some good will after their in-person meeting in Geneva, but tensions between the nations remain clear, according to the New York Times. In a press conference following the meeting, Biden said, “The tone of the entire meeting was good, positive,” and Putin said, “There has been no hostility.” Putin, though, denied Russia’s role in recent ransomware attacks on U.S. infrastructure and was reluctant to engage in detailed talks on “guardrails” for such attacks. Biden said he pressed the Russian president on human rights issues and promised to continue to do so.

Israel launched an airstrike in Gaza on Wednesday in response to incendiary balloons sent into the country from Hamas-controlled territory, reports the Washington Post. Though no casualties have been reported, the Israeli Defense Forces claim to have struck a Hamas compound, promising that the group would “bear the consequences for its actions” and that Israel is “prepared for any scenario, including a resumption of hostilities.” The balloons reportedly entered Israeli communities near the border with Gaza on Tuesday after an Israeli ultranationalist march in Jerusalem, which Hamas called on Palestinians to “resist.” Wednesday’s airstrikes mark the first escalation in hostilities between Israel and Hamas since a May 21 ceasefire put an end to several days of violence that saw 240 Gazans and 13 Israelis killed.

North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, warned of a “tense” food shortage triggered by flooding, the coronavirus pandemic and sanctions, according to the New York Times. Supplies of other goods, including medicine, have also been impacted by the pandemic and North Korea’s consequent decisions to close its border with China and reject international aid in an effort to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak. The severity of the shortage and its impacts is difficult to ascertain because of North Korea’s seclusion, but, in a recent report, the UN Food and Agriculture organization advised that “households could experience a harsh lean period between August and October.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’s nonpartisan watchdog, decided that the decision to suspend construction of the border wall does not defy congressional spending rules, writes the Washington Post. The Biden administration has not canceled the construction of the barrier on the southern border but has paused the project, returning $2 billion to the Department of Defense and siphoning $1.9 billion from the Department of Homeland Security’s budget to address environmental issues produced by the project. The GAO differentiated between the decision to delay border wall construction and the Trump administration’s “withholding of Ukraine security assistance” by asserting that the former decision was taken to ensure compliance with “statutory prerequisites,” while the Office of Management and Budget did not provide such a justification for the latter.

China has flown 28 warplanes into Taiwan-controlled airspace, reports NPR. The flights are the largest of such incursions since Taiwan began publishing the incidents last year. The move came one day after NATO leaders expressed concern about China’s threat to security, pledged to combat its “non-market” economic policies and criticized its record on human rights. Chinese officials said the flights are routine and denounced European leaders’ criticisms.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, in which Benjamin Wittes sat down with Gabe Rottman of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, former FBI agent Pete Strzok, Lawfare senior editor Quinta Jurecic and Orin Kerr, Berkeley law professor and Lawfare contributing editor, to discuss the Justice Department’s seizure of records from journalists, several members of Congress and staffers, and even family members under Trump.

Rohini Kurup shared the National Security Council’s government-wide strategy for combating domestic terrorism, based on an assessment ordered by President Biden of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Donald Clarke argued that the Supreme Court of New Zealand’s decision to permit the extradition of a South Korean national wanted on murder charges in China if the Chinese government promises he will receive a fair trial and not be tortured presumes that China will not flout its international commitments.

Tasha Jhangiani and Graham Kennis argued that the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s 2020 report provides the answer to pressing questions about protecting critical infrastructure.

Ajay Sarma shared Department of Justice documents and communications released by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that demonstrate how Trump’s staff pressured the department to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in states where the former president lost.

Bobby Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast in which they discussed recent Supreme Court activity, use of force in Afghanistan after U.S. withdrawal and more.

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Ajay Sarma is a junior at Harvard College studying Social Studies. He is an intern at Lawfare.
Christiana Wayne is a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill studying history and English. She is an intern at Lawfare.

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