Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, August 25, 2021, 2:59 PM

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The pace of evacuations from the Kabul airport is picking up as the United States has flown 19,200 people out of Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, according to the New York Times. Officials say U.S. troops have evacuated 82,300 people from the airport since the Taliban takeover on Aug. 14. Thousands of American citizens are believed to still be in the country as President Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan approaches. The president has promised to stick to the exit strategy, but he has instructed Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to devise plans to extend the deadline if necessary.

The Supreme Court refused to block a lower court ruling ordering the Biden administration to reinstate a 2019 Trump-era immigration policy that forced people to wait in Mexico while seeking asylum in the United States, according to NPR. In an unsigned opinion from which the three liberal justices dissented, the Supreme Court ruled that the Biden administration had likely violated federal law when it rescinded the policy shortly after the president’s inauguration. Justice Samuel Alito had ordered a brief delay on the decision before the Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the case. The Department of Homeland Security said it “respectfully disagrees with the district court's decision and regrets that the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay” but promised to comply with the policy while appeals continue.

An intelligence report requested by Biden on the origins of the coronavirus pandemic is inconclusive, according to the BBC. Agencies are reportedly divided on whether the virus was first detected as natural spillover from animals to humans or was leaked from a laboratory in China. A report from the World Health Organization earlier this year concluded that the virus was transmitted from animals to humans at a market in Wuhan, but in May Biden ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to produce a report of their own that “could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion” on the origins of the pandemic. A summary of the report is expected to be published within days.

Beginning in November, Delta Airlines will require unvaccinated employees to pay an additional $200 for health insurance, reports the New York Times. The mandate is a part of a series of increasingly stringent requirements for employees of the airline, including a requirement to wear masks indoors starting immediately and weekly coronavirus testing starting Sept. 12. In a letter to employees, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the healthcare surcharge “will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company,” reporting that hospitalizations due to the coronavirus have cost the company an average of about $40,000 per person. Delta’s plan announcement comes as United Airlines and Frontier said they would require their employees to be vaccinated.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol submitted its first requests for records from federal agencies, reports the Washington Post. Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson announced the requests to the National Archives; Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Justice; FBI; National Counterterrorism Center and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The demands ask for information related to “communications within and among the White House and Executive Branch agencies during the leadup to January 6th and on that day.” They signal an expansive investigation not only into the events of Jan. 6 but also into the former president’s attempts to subvert the election results, as the requests include information on “attempts to place politically loyal personnel in senior positions across government after the election.” Thompson said, “Our Constitution provides for a peaceful transfer of power, and this investigation seeks to evaluate threats to that process, identify lessons learned and recommend laws, policies, procedures, rules, or regulations necessary to protect our republic in the future.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Associate Editor Bryce Klehm speaks with Geoffrey Cain, an investigative journalist and the author of the new book, “The Perfect Police State: An Undercover Odyssey into China's Terrifying Surveillance Dystopia of the Future.”

Paul Rosenzweig discussed the concerns of Apple’s client-side scanning system.

Elizabeth Threlkeld explained the limits of leverage in Taliban-led Afghanistan.

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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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