Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, June 23, 2021, 5:08 PM

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

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he supports the restructuring of military justice in an attempt to combat sexual abuse in the military, according to the Washington Post. Austin’s statement marks a turning point for the Pentagon, which has been reluctant to confront the issue. The acknowledgment came a day after the defense secretary received recommendations from an independent commission tasked with reviewing the issue. Austin said the commission’s work “provides us real opportunities to finally end the scourge of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.”

The Justice Department seized more than 30 web domains linked to Iran state media, reports the Washington Post. Several sites with U.S.-owned domains, including those for Iranian news channels Press TV and Al-Alam TV, posted notices saying they had been taken down by U.S. authorities. The seizures came during ongoing talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal and a day after Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said he was not interested in meeting President Biden and would not negotiate Iran’s ballistic missile program. Iran’s government has not responded to the actions.

Hong Kong’s first trial under a controversial national security law passed by China’s National People’s Congress for the special administrative region began on Wednesday, reports the BBC. Tong Yong-kit, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of inciting secession, terrorism and dangerous driving, will be tried without a jury and could face life in prison under the national security law. The law allows for trials concerning national security matters to be held in secret and without a jury. It also allows Hong Kong’s chief executive, who is accountable to the Chinese government, to select judges in such trials.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced one of its ships fired warning shots at a British warship in the Black Sea and that a jet dropped bombs in its vicinity, according to the BBC. A BBC reporter on board the HMS Defender reported that the Defender had been approached by Russian coastguard vessels and received warnings that it would be fired at and that a number of Russian jets were nearby. The British Ministry of Defence rejected Russian claims that warning shots were fired or that bombs were dropped, asserting that the Defender was passing through “Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.” Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and claims Crimean territorial waters as its own.

Four Saudi operatives who participated in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi were trained in the U.S., according to the New York Times. The group received paramilitary training at the Arkansas-based security company Tier-1 Group under a contract approved by the State Department. The company says the training was defensive in nature, focused on better protecting Saudi leaders. There is no evidence that American officials or Tier-1 Group executives knew the operatives were involved in the broad kidnapping and torture campaign launched by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to silence dissidents.

The Supreme Court ruled that school administrators did not have the power to punish a student for vulgar language about her school posted on social media from off campus, writes NPR. A federal appeals court had also decided in favor of the student, leading the school district to appeal the decision to the high court. Though the appeals court was broader in its limitations of school authority over student speech off-campus, the Supreme Court recognized that “public schools may have a special interest in regulating some off-campus student speech,” but that the speech at issue in this case was not disruptive enough to merit school restrictions.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Peter Martin, a defense policy and intelligence reporter at Bloomberg, discusses his new book, “China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy.”

Libby Lange and Doowan Lee discussed disinformation and cyber disruption as significant factors in the Chinese Communist Party’s possible annexation of Taiwan.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast which covers President Biden’s meeting with President Putin, the G7 Summit and more.

Vishnu Kannan summarized a declassified Nov. 2020 ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that granted the U.S. government’s request to continue collecting information under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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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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