Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Victoria Gallegos, Tia Sewell
Thursday, January 21, 2021, 4:22 PM

President Biden used his first full day in office to focus on combating the coronavirus, according to the New York Times. His administration outlined its federal response strategy around seven goals, which include rebuilding public trust, increasing vaccinations and stalling virus spread. The plan asks Congress for $1.9 trillion for pandemic relief and sets a goal for 100 million vaccine doses by the end of April. On Inauguration Day, Biden signed numerous executive actions articulating policy directives to confront COVID-19, which Lawfare is tracking here.

Biden will keep Christopher Wray as FBI director, writes the Wall Street Journal. Wray has been the subject of recent criticism regarding the bureau’s failure to anticipate and respond to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Former President Trump appointed Wray to lead the FBI in 2017, meaning he has about six years remaining in his 10-year term as FBI director.

President Biden is working to extend the New START U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control treaty for another five years, reports the Washington Post. The treaty is set to expire on Feb. 5a fast approaching deadline for the new administration, which is simultaneously preparing to impose new costs on the Kremlin for its aggressive actions over the past few years. President Trump tried and failed to secure a shorter extension of the treaty in the final months of his term. If the deadline for renewal passes, Moscow and Washington will face no constraints in the number of nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and missiles each country can deploy, which experts fear could spur a new arms race.

Federal law enforcement arrested Joseph Randall Biggs, a self-described organizer for the far-right group the Proud Boys, for his involvement in the Capitol breach, according to the Journal. Biggs was charged with entering the Capitol unlawfully, engaging in disorderly conduct and obstructing an official U.S. legislative proceeding. An FBI affidavit also alleges that Biggs posted a message online encouraging other Proud Boys members to attend the rally in the nation’s Capitol occurring on the day of Congress’s official 2020 election certification. He is among the more than 100 suspects who have been arrested so far in a far-reaching federal probe into the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot that left five people dead.

Facebook has referred its decision to indefinitely suspend former President Trump’s account to the company’s independent oversight board, writes Politico. The decision is the highest-profile case yet to come before the reviewing panel, which was established last year as an external accountability mechanism and has the power to overturn Facebook’s content moderation actions. Evelyn Douek, who encouraged Facebook to allow oversight on Trump’s suspension in an article posted to Lawfare last week, today argued that the referral could signal a substantial change in how the platform approaches content moderation moving forward.

Twitter locked the account of the Chinese Embassy in Washington today after the delegation posted a tweet defending Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority population in Xinjiang, reports the Hill. Twitter removed the tweet and froze the account, citing a violation of the company’s “policy against dehumanization.” Earlier this week, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled Beijing’s repressive campaign against the Uighurs a genocidea statement that Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told senators he agreed with during his confirmation hearing.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee today asked the FBI to investigate the role of Parler, a popular app for far right groups, in the Jan. 6 violence reports Reuters. Committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney requested a “robust examination” of the social media site, including a review of its alleged ties to Russia. Parler was recently removed from Amazon Web Services, and Apple and Google app stores, all citing inadequate moderation policies.

A twin suicide bombing killed 32 people in Baghdad earlier today, writes Reuters, possibly signaling a reactivation of the Islamic State. Suicide attacks in the Iraqi capital have been less common since the defeat of the Islamic State in 2017.

Russia was found guilty today of human rights violations during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war by the European Court of Human Rights, reports Reuters. The landmark judgment comes 13 years after the 5-day conflict and one week after a separate ruling in which judges found the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea to be unlawful.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security, “The Let’s Never Do That Again” edition, featuring commentary on former President Trump’s final days in office and President Biden’s first.

Howell also shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Alan Rozenshtein’s interview with Jeff Kosseff, an assistant professor at the United States Naval Academy Cyber Science Department, about fighting digital child exploitation within constitutional bounds.

Jacob Schulz discussed previous conspiracy and sedition cases which may set precedent for the 2021 Capitol riots, including the 1954 Capitol storming by radical Puerto Rican nationalists.

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