More consideration of the laws of armed conflict are circulating as the US and Iran remain at loggerheads. US President Trump tweeted that he had fifty-two targets in mind (one for each of the hostages the Islamic Republic took after a mob stormed the US embassy to Iran in November of 1979) should Iran decide to retaliate violently for the US missile strike that killed Major General Soleimani last week. What raised eyebrows was the President's amplification of his original tweet that some of those targets were "at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD." Read literally, this seems to be a promise to destroy non-military targets of significant cultural value, and USA Today offers a pictorial spread on what such sites might be. Indeed, hitting such targets as a reprisal is clearly a war crime, proscribed by the Hague Convention of 1954, formally the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
US Defense Secretary Esper, in a press conference reported by Reuters, said explicitly that the US would follow the laws of armed conflict, which indicates that the National Command Authority doesn't read the President's tweets literally as orders. Are there circumstances under which a "cultural property" might become a legitimate target? Yes: if it's being used improperly by a belligerent for a military purpose, as Lawfire points out. Thus to place, say, an artillery missile battery in a historic university quadrangle that would otherwise be immune from attack would remove that immunity. But to destroy a cultural property just because it's an important cultural property, as ISIS destroyed the Roman ruins at Palmyra, and as the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan, that would be a war crime.
NBC News reports that the FBI has asked Apple to help it unlock two iPhones believed to have been owned by Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the individual believed to have been the shooter who murdered three people at Pensacola Naval Air Station last month before himself being shot dead by a responding law enforcement officer.
The US Department of Justice has announced that Hicham Kabbaj, formerly a senior manager at Rakuten Marketing (BleepingComputer identified the firm, which the Justice Department called simply "Company-1," a "global Internet company) took a guilty plea to one Federal count of wire fraud. He had bilked his former employer of some $6 million by submitting invoices from a shell company for goods and services never delivered. The shell company was his own, and the payments from Rakuten were quickly transferred to Mr. Kabbaj's personal account. IRS investigators caught him when they noticed that the metadata of some of the invoices prepared in Microsoft Word showed that Mr. Kabbaj himself had created the documents.