Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Friday, March 5, 2021, 12:02 PM

The Biden administration has imposed temporary limits on drone strikes targeting suspected terrorists outside of war zones in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, according to the Washington Post. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan quietly imposed the new restriction on Jan. 20, the first day of Biden’s presidency. The new temporary guidelines require the military and CIA to seek direct approval from the White House before attempting to kill or capture suspects in places where the U.S. has a small military presence, such as Somalia, Yemen and Libya—a tightened standard compared to Trump administration years, where such authorization could be obtained from the U.S. ambassador to the country where the counterterrorism operation was to take place. 

President Biden intends to work with Congress to repeal decades-old authorizations for military force and replace them with a new “narrow and specific framework” designed to protect Americans while reigning in the president’s broad authorizations to make decisions in the U.S.’s foreign military engagements, writes Politico. Two days ago, in the fallout over Biden’s decision to launch airstrikes against Iran-backed militia groups in Syria without congressional approval, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to repeal the 1991 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.

Yesterday, Sen. Ron Johnson called for a full reading of the 628-page coronavirus relief bill in order to delay passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, reports the New York Times. It took Senate clerks nearly 11 hours to read the plan aloud. Today, the Senate will debate the plan and vote on amendments—a process that, like yesterday, will likely be drawn out and could stretch long past midnight. Although Republicans are expected to continue their united opposition to the bill given its high price tag, GOP efforts to slow action in the chamber are not expected to ultimately change the final legislation.

The U.S. Capitol Police have requested a 60-day extension of National Guard protection activated in response to security threats in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 assault on Congress, writes the Washington Post. About 5,200 members of the National Guard are on duty in the Washington D.C. now, where they staff a perimeter around the Capitol building. If the extension request is not authorized, the troops’ mission will end on March 12.

The FBI has arrested a former Trump administration State Department aide on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, according to Politico. The aide, Frederico Klein, was designated as a “Schedule C” political appointee at the State Department, where he had served as a special assistant in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Klein is the first known Trump appointee to face criminal charges in connection with the insurrection at the Capitol, although further details on the charges remain unclear.

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court alleging that Donald Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other allies of the former president are “responsible for the injury and destruction” of the deadly Capitol siege, writes Reuters. Swalwell served as one of the House managers during Trump’s second impeachment trial before the Senate last month. The lawsuit draws on evidence from the impeachment trial.

An independent market monitor has accused the Texas power grid-operator of overcharging residents $16 billion for electricity during the state’s cold weather crisis, reports the Wall Street Journal. The monitor found that Texas extended peak prices for more than a day longer than necessary and encouraged a retroactive reversal of the charges.

ByteDance—the Chinese company that owns TikTok—is working to develop a new Clubhouse-like audio social media app for China, according to Reuters. Beijing blocked Clubhouse in early February after a surge of users flocked to the app to discuss topics that are typically censored in China, such as the government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims and Hong Kong independence. Clubhouse-like apps in China are expected to accommodate censorship and government oversight.

Biden has named Tim Wu, a prominent critic of tech giants, to a position on the White House National Economic Council, writes the Journal. Wu will serve as special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Simon Young dissected the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeals’s ruling in the Jimmy Lai case, arguing that the decision carefully enabled the continued protection of fundamental rights while maintaining the court’s independence and defending against executive backlash.

Jessica Rich proposed five reforms for the Federal Trade Commission to bolster the agency’s efforts to fight fraud and protect U.S. consumers.

Abby Lemert examined the available public comments submitted to the Facebook Oversight Board concerning the suspension of Trump from Facebook’s platform and explored why the comments show a surprising pro-ban consensus.

Shayan Karbassi explained how the Biden administration’s invocations of the Defense Production Act are likely to be the first of many steps in addressing the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic.

Jen Patja Howell shared this week’s episode of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series, featuring an interview with Emily Bell, the founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, on the role of cable news in spreading disinformation.  

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.