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Halkbank Hits the Supreme Court

In 2019, the U.S. government took a step that it had never taken before. It brought criminal charges against a foreign state-owned bank, Turkiye Halk Bankasi, or Halkbank, which is majority-owned by the country of Turkiye (until recently known as Turkey), for evading U.S. sanctions on Iran. Turkiye in turn argued that such a move was not only unprecedented but prohibited by the legal immunities it is entitled to under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, or FSIA. Yesterday, those arguments reached the U.S. Supreme Court where both sides seemed to agree on just one thing—that the court's eventual decision could well have major consequences for the United States and its foreign relations.

To talk through oral arguments in Halkbank, Lawfare senior editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with two leading sovereign immunity experts: Professor Chimène Keitner of the University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, and Professor Ingrid Wuerth of Vanderbilt Law School. They discussed how each side reads the FSIA and other related statutes, whether any of the justices seemed particularly persuaded, and where the court—as well as the broader issue—seems likely to go from here.

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2/5/2023

Chatter: M. Todd Bennett on the Secretive Story of the Glomar Explorer

A sunken Soviet submarine. A secret CIA plan to lift it from the bottom of the ocean with a giant claw. And reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. It sounds like the makings of a Netflix series—and it should be. But the story of the Glomar Explorer is the stuff of fact, even if it has long been shrouded in secrecy.  In his new book, intelligence historian M. Todd Bennett pierces the veil surrounding this most improbable of intelligence operations and surfaces a riveting tale of underwater espionage and high-stakes foreign policy. The sub-salvage mission, which the CIA codenamed AZORIAN, was green-lit at a time of remarkable daring and ingenuity by the spy agency, which enjoyed only minimal oversight from Congress. But journalists brought the Glomar operation to light in another era, when scandals and excesses led lawmakers to rein in the intelligence community.  Shane Harris talks with Bennett about his book, “Neither Confirm nor Deny: How the Glomar Mission Shielded the CIA from Transparency,” which shows how the exposure of the secret program led to a public backlash against disclosures of classified information and helped reinforce the culture of secrecy that envelops the CIA’s work. The phrase “neither confirm nor deny,” which Bennett tells Harris has become a kind of coy cliche, originates from attempts to uncover the facts of the Glomar mission. Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.