Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Victoria Gallegos, Tia Sewell
Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 3:55 PM

President Biden’s nominee to be director of the CIA, Amb. William Burns, began his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, reports CNN. In his testimony, Burns emphasized that intelligence must not be political, and stated his top priorities are “people, partnerships, China and technology.” He has served under both Democratic and Republican presidents and is expected to have bipartisan support for his confirmation.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Budget Committee postponed votes to confirm Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, signaling there may not be enough votes for confirmation, writes the Wall Street Journal. In order to be confirmed, Tanden will need at least one Republican to support her, after Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin stated he would oppose her nomination.

Amnesty International revoked jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s “prisoner of conscience status” after it received a wave of requests to “de-list” Navalny because of his prior xenophobic comments, reports the BBC.

Iran said yesterday that it is considering whether to engage in negotiations concerning its nuclear program, as suggested by EU officials, writes the Journal. The acceptance would mean that Tehran would meet Washington at the negotiating table for the first time since 2018when the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement designed to inhibit Iran’s capacity to produce a nuclear weapon. But yesterday, Iran also followed through on a previous threat to block U.N. inspectors’ daily access to monitor its nuclear facilities, citing the Biden administration's failure to lift sanctions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran against further escalation, stating that “with or without agreements—we will do everything so that you will not arm yourselves with nuclear weapons.”

A German court sentenced a former Syrian intelligence officer to four and a half years in prison for abetting the torture of civilians in the Syrian civil war, according to Reuters. This is the first trial of crimes against humanity committed during the Syrian conflict.

Indonesia will hold talks between members of the Myanmar military and representatives of the ousted civilian government, reports Reuters. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with the military-appointed Foreign Minister of Myanmar, Wunna Maung Lwin in Bangkok on Wednesday. Marsudi emphasized the need for “an inclusive democratic transition process.”

Facebook has pledged to spend at least $1 billion over the next three years to pay media organizations for news that appears on its platform, writes the Journal. Governments around the world have recently criticized Facebook for failing to adequately compensate news publishers for their content. Yesterday, Facebook struck a deal with the Australian government to restore news to the platform in exchange for additional measures governing the tech giant’s business dealings with traditional news outlets.

Biden is slated to sign an executive order today designed to address semiconductor supply-chain problems related to an international shortage of computer chips, according to the Journal. The chips rely on rare-earths materials, a market that China currently dominatesalthough Beijing still largely relies on imports for the manufactured chips. “Right now, semiconductor manufacturing is a dangerous weak spot in our economy and in our national security. That has to change,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said yesterday. “We cannot rely on foreign processors for the chips. We cannot let China get ahead of us into production.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Brian C. Kalt analyzed how the second Trump impeachment trial could be a precedent for future late impeachments.

Benjamin Wittes analyzed the hearing of Merrick Garland.

Zia M. Faruqui, Jessie K. Liu and Noha K. Moustafa examined the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 and how to interpret the expanded government authority.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, in which Alexandra Klass, law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and expert on energy law and policy, discussed the Texas energy crisis and future of energy policy.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast, titled “NSA’s Prehistory is a Love Story.”

Michael Garcia and Patrick Shilo argued federal laws and grants are not enough to combat cyber threats.

Tia Sewell shared a livestream of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Rules and Administration Committee joint hearing on the Jan. 6 attack.

Sewell also shared a livestream of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on the SolarWinds breach.

Matthew Kahn announced a conference on race and intersectional critiques of national security law co-hosted by the Harvard National Security Journal and the Lieber Institute for Law and Land Warfare at West Point.

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