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This week’s news was unsurprisingly dominated by the release of a series of memos alleging communications between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and an effort by the Kremlin to collect “kompromat” on Donald Trump. Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic laid out their point of view on the documents and why Lawfare chose not to publish them. Ben and Susan also examined why the allegations spelled out in the memos are being taken seriously even though they haven’t been substantiated. On Rational Security, the gang devoted the entire episode to talking about the “Golden Bombshell” (so to speak):
Even before CNN and Buzzfeed broke the story on the Trump memos, Russian interference in the presidential election was the topic du jour following the release of the intelligence community’s unclassified report on Kremlin meddling and a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the matter.
On the Lawfare Podcast, Susan and Matt Tait discussed the existing evidence of Russian interference and Trump’s bizarre response:
And the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast weighed in on Trump and Russian interference as well:
Rebecca Crootof argued that the Kremlin’s hacking and leaking operation demonstrates the need for an international legal regime on deterrence specific to cyberattacks. And Jack Goldsmith offered some contrarian thoughts on election interference, suggesting that “cutting a deal” with China and Russia on cyberoperations may be the best way to go.
In the "Foreign Policy Essay," Joshua Rovner asked what lies ahead for the intelligence community under Donald Trump. Quinta Jurecic wrote that Trump’s use of Twitter to incite online harassment raises serious questions about state action in stoking abuse. And Susan told us that we should consider Trump’s failure to abide by ethics rules as a threat to national security.
This week saw a string of confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet appointees, including hearings for Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. James Kraska responded to Tillerson’s controversial statement that the United States should prevent Chinese access to the artificial islands that Beijing is constructing in the South China Sea, while Chris Mirasola reviewed Beijing’s response to Tillerson in "Water Wars." Speaking of appointments, Paul Rosenzweig noted an alarming story that the Trump transition team has asked the Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard to step down right in the middle of the inauguration.
Susan and Ben flagged a report that President Obama is considering clemency for Chelsea Manning in his last week in office and argued that her sentence should be commuted. Jane Chong and Alice C. Hill took a closer look at the exit memos issued by Obama’s cabinet, noting their focus on issues of resilience and climate change.
Meanwhile, it seems that the controversy over FBI Director James Comey’s public disclosure of information in the ongoing Clinton email investigation is far from finished. Jane let us know that the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice is launching an investigation into DOJ and FBI’s pre-election actions.
On Thursday, the Obama administration released a memo on new procedures for the sharing of raw signals intelligence under Executive Order 12333. Jane ran through the procedures that the memo puts in place.
Ben and Emma Kohse presented a new paper on the “privacy paradox,” examining empirical data on how many people experience the privacy benefits of technologies often considered as privacy threats. Regarding data and privacy across the pond, Robert Carolina responded to Ariel Teshuva’s post on the European Union’s failure to issue data protection adequacy determinations.
Paul submitted a cybersecurity “bleg,” asking for help on a knotty security question, and flagged a successful military test of microdrones. He also noted Hamas’s use of Facebook trolling against the Israeli military. Also on the topic of social media and terrorism, Ben posted yet another material support lawsuit against Twitter for allegedly giving support to ISIS.
Nora Ellingsen updated us on recent counterterrorism prosecutions, this time including cases not only involving ISIS but also FARC and the KKK as well.
Russell Spivak examined the Islamic State’s use of human shields in the battle for Mosul. Suzanne Maloney reflected on the death of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. And J. Dana Stuster provided us with the "Middle East Ticker."
Paul examined the Obama administration’s change to the longstanding U.S. “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” policy on Cuban refugees, and Peter Spiro reviewed Michael Glennon and Robert Sloane’s new book, Foreign Affairs Federalism: The Myth of National Exclusivity.
Thomas Reed Willemain pondered the NSA’s prepublication review process, describing what went right and wrong in his own experience.
Quinta brought us Military Commissions Chief Prosecutor Mark Martin’s statement on what was originally set to be a week of pretrial hearings in the Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi case. Helen Klein Murillo covered Monday’s hearing, which turned out to be the only session convened before the court headed back into recess.
And that was the week that was.