Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Garrett Hinck
Friday, September 29, 2017, 12:46 PM

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the U.S. citizen captured fighting for the Islamic State is being held in a detention facility in Iraq as an unlawful enemy combatant, the AP reported. U.S. military officials confirmed that they had notified the Red Cross of the man’s detention and that the humanitarian organization will meet with him soon, according to the Miami Herald. The Pentagon has declined to provide further details about the man’s identity or the circumstances of his capture. U.S. officials said that the Department of Defense has several options in this matter, including turning the man over to the Justice Department or delivering him to Iraqi authorities for prosecution on war crimes charges. It is unclear whether the administration is considering transferring the man to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Lawmakers criticized Twitter for what they termed its “inadequate” disclosure of information related to Russian-linked fake accounts and influence operations on its platform in presentations to congressional investigators on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported. Twitter only identified 201 accounts that were linked to fake accounts that Facebook discovered and disclosed to Congress last week. Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Twitter had failed to deeply examine Russian activities on its platform. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Twitter faced a complex task given the ease of creating anonymous accounts on its site but also noted Twitter lagged far behind Facebook in the progress of its investigation.

Iraq’s parliament asked its prime minister to deploy troops to the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk and seize the nearby oil fields, Reuters reported. In the aftermath of an independence referendum in Kurdistan that Baghdad and states across the Middle East strongly opposed, Iraq’s government is moving to curb Kurdistan’s autonomy. Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government have contested the control of Kirkuk since Kurdish peshmerga forces moved in and then held the city against Islamic State forces in 2014.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the service of active-duty military officers on the Court of Military Commission Review (CMCR), SCOTUSblog reported. The justices consolidated three cases that involve petitioners challenging the legality of active-duty military officers simultaneously serving on the CMCR and on other military appeals courts. The cases implicate the CMCR’s effectiveness as the intermediary appellate body between the military commissions conducting terrorism prosecutions for detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the D.C. Circuit.

The State Department will withdraw more than half of its embassy staff in Cuba after determining that U.S. diplomats in Havana were at risk of health problems stemming from unknown causes, the New York Times reported. The U.S. will also issue a travel advisory for Cuba warning Americans that they could face unusual risks while in the country. The State Department will not demand that Cuba reciprocally reduce the number of its diplomats in Washington D.C. Twenty-one U.S. embassy staff members have reported health problems, including hearing loss, headaches, nausea, and brain trauma since later 2016. The Cuban government denied that it carried out any attacks against U.S. diplomatic personnel and said that it had not yet found the cause of the diplomats’ health problems.

South Korea’s president promised to strengthen South Korea’s preemptive strike and missile defense capabilities and also pledged to make the South Korean military more independent from the U.S., the Times reported. President Moon Jae-in said he wants to renegotiate terms in the U.S.-South Korean alliance that currently put the South Korean army under the control of American commanders in case of war with North Korea. Moon’s push for greater military independence has gained greater support in South Korea after  erratic signals from President Trump on U.S. commitment to the alliance.

Russian-backed Syrian government forces have almost entirely encircled the Islamic State in Deir al-Zour, the Washington Post reported. International observers said that pro-government forces are fighting the extremist group in a village on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river, near the positions of U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Separately, the Islamic State released audio of a speech it said was given by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, contradicting reports that he was killed in a Russian airstrike, according to the Journal. In the audio file, the speaker attempts to reassure Islamic State fighters that despite their losses in Libya and Iraq their enemies will be defeated. U.S. military officials said they were not able to independently verify that the speaker was Baghdadi but also said there was no reason to think it was not him.

A U.S. airstrike aimed at stopping an insurgent attack on the Kabul airport inadvertently killed civilians, the Post reported. The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan said that one of its missiles malfunctioned in the course of airstrikes on insurgents firing mortars and rockets at the plane of visiting Defense Secretary James Mattis. A coalition said in a statement that the militants used civilians as human shields during the attack.

A U.N. draft resolution to investigate human rights abuses in Yemen failed after Saudi Arabia convinced the U.S., Britain, and France to not support the measure, the Post reported. The Netherlands and Canada dropped the resolution after it became clear it would fail against the diplomatic heft of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that are fighting in the civil war in Yemen against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. International observers, including the U.N.’s human rights chief, have called for an inquiry into the grievous human rights abuses committed by Yemeni and Saudi forces. Separately, a bipartisan group of House members introduced a bill that would stop U.S. military assistance to the Gulf coalition in Yemen, according to Foreign Policy. The legislation would require the U.S. to remove forces from any role in the conflict unless Congress authorizes the assistance.

Defense lawyers for Abd al Hadi al Iraqi asked a federal judge to intervene in his medical care at Guantanamo Bay after Navy doctors conducted two spinal surgeries on him in less than a month, the Miami Herald reported. Al Iraqi’s lawyers asked a district court judge to appoint an independent medical expert to oversee al Iraqi’s treatment. They allege that military doctors and prison officials have deliberately neglected al Iraqi’s medical care. There is no precedent of judges ordering outside doctors to manage care at Guantanamo Bay. 

 

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted a transcript of his remarks at the Muslim Public Affairs Council after receiving the Empowering Voices award.

Wittes shared the “Lady, You Can Drive Your Car” Edition of Rational Security.

Rick Pildes outlined the options for congressional lawmakers who want to protect the Mueller investigation by law.

Sabrina McCubbin posted the court documents from the consolidated cases under Dalmazzi v. U.S., the case involving active-duty military officers on the Court of Military Commission Review.

 

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