Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Benjamin Pollard
Wednesday, August 17, 2022, 3:29 PM

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

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Chinese forces plan to conduct joint military drills with Russia, Tajikistan, Belarus, India, and Mongola, among other nations. The exercises will be held in Russia. The Chinese defense ministry said the drills are not connected to the “current international and regional situation.” The announcement came a day after a Chinese naval vessel arrived in Sri Lanka, drawing opposition from the United States and India.

Scott Morrison, former prime minister of Australia, secretly appointed himself to five ministries while he was the country’s leader during the coronavirus pandemic. Three of the ministers said they were not aware that they were sharing power with Morrison. Morrison claimed that he did not interfere with their work except in one instance related to a resources project. The former prime minister justified the decision by saying that only he “could really understand the weight of responsibility that was on (his) shoulders and no one else.”

The FBI interviewed former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin in its investigation into former President Donald Trump’s possession of classified materials at Mar-a-Lago after leaving office. It is not currently known when Cipollone was interviewed, but the New York Times reports that Philbin spoke with investigators in the spring.

A West Virginia judge dismissed plea deals for a former Navy nuclear engineer and his wife on Tuesday. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe admitted to attempting to sell nuclear secrets to foreign nations. In the rejected plea agreement, Jonathan Toebbe could have been sentenced to imprisonment for only 12-to-17 years, rather than for life. The judge said that the prison time sentence in the plea agreement was insufficient.

The website of Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency, Energoatom, experienced a cyberattack, which the agency says was executed by Russian hackers. The attack was unsuccessful. Officials in the spring also noted an unsuccessful attempt to disrupt the country’s energy system, which if successful would have left two million Ukrainians without power.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry released a statement denying that the country has imprisoned Austin Tice, a United States journalist. Last week, President Joe Biden called on Syria to release Tice, who went missing 10 years ago while reporting in the country. “We know with certainty that (Tice) has been held by the Government of Syria,” Biden said.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Matt Gluck sat down with Tom Karako to discuss the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Scott R. Anderson analyzed former President Trump’s declassification authority in light of the Mar-a-Lago FBI search and discussed whether classification matters from a legal defense standpoint.

Matthew Levitt discussed Iran’s foreign operations in light of the plot by a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to kill former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast in which he and David Aitel sat down with Michael Fischerkeller to discuss Fischerkeller’s book, “Cyber Persistence Theory: Redefining National Security in Cyberspace.”

Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck shared an episode of the National Security Law Podcast in which they sat down with Ryan Brown and Adam Goodrum to discuss the search warrant the FBI executed at Mar-a-Lago.

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Benjamin Pollard is a student at Brown University studying history and political science. He is a former intern at Lawfare.

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