Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Victoria Gallegos, Tia Sewell
Tuesday, March 23, 2021, 3:01 PM

Ten people were killed by a gunman after he opened fire at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado on Monday afternoon, reports the New York Times. The suspect, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, is in police custody and was charged today with 10 counts of first-degree murder.  According to law enforcement officials, the suspect’s identity was known to the FBI prior to the shooting, because he was connected to another individual currently under investigation. At this time, officials have given no indications about possible motives. 

Following the shooting in Colorado, President Biden called on Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to close background check loopholes, writes the Hill. Biden called on the Senate to “immediately pass” two bills that expand background checks for firearm sales, both of which have already passed in the House with some bipartisan support. Multiple reports on Monday’s shooting have indicated the suspect used an AR-15 type of assault rifle during the attack. 

The Justice Department is preparing to begin plea discussions with many of the suspects charged in the Capitol riot, writes the Washington Post. Plea deals are expected to be offered within the next week after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia creates a system to efficiently organize what they expect to be 400 criminal cases.  

Over the past few weeks, the Justice Department has also been weighing whether to file sedition charges against members of the Oath Keepers militia group who were involved in the Capitol attack, according to the Times. Federal prosecutors have charged about 400 people in connection with the Capitol storming so far—most of whom have been accused of illegally entering the federal building and assaulting law enforcement. But about two dozen people also face charges of conspiring to overturn the election, including members of the Oath Keepers, and federal officials have pursued a broad investigation into the militia group’s activities in the lead-up to Jan. 6. 

The Times notes that sedition charges related to Jan. 6 have received a swath of renewed attention this week following a “60 Minutes” interview in which Michael R. Sherwin, the outgoing interim U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia who has been leading the investigation, stated that the government could likely bring such a charge based on his knowledge of the investigation: “I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Sherwin said during the segment. “I believe the facts do support those charges.” Lawfare’s Jacob Schulz has covered the history of the seditious conspiracy statute in depth since January, including a look at the last time the government prosecuted a seditious conspiracy case (and lost) nearly 10 years ago.

An independent panel of infectious-disease physicians and ethics experts wrote a letter that expressed concern over AstraZeneca’s data on its coronavirus vaccine, which the panel calls “outdated and potentially misleading,” writes the Post. The panel’s letter to the U.S. government and AstraZeneca stated it “is concerned that AstraZeneca chose to use data that was already outdated and potentially misleading in their press release,” and that “[t]he point is clear to the board is that the [vaccine efficacy number] … they chose to release was the most favorable for the study as opposed to the most recent and most complete. Decisions like this are what erode public trust in the scientific process.” 

Today, U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced that it has teamed up with Omnispace, a communications provider, to develop a space-based 5G global network, reports Reuters. The network would provide connectivity to commercial and government devices regardless of environment or location. Last year, Lockheed CEO James Taiclet expressed interest in improving militaries’ autonomous capabilities through the construction of a robust 5G network.

A 55-year-old North Korean national has been extradited from Malaysia to face money laundering charges in the U.S.—marking the first time that the U.S. government has succeeded in extraditing a North Korean citizen, according to CNBC. Last Friday, North Korea responded to Mun Chol Myong’s historic extradition, stating that it would cut diplomatic ties with Malaysia after a Malaysian Court approved the transfer in custody. The Justice Department alleges that Mun defrauded U.S. banks, violated international sanctions and was affiliated with North Korea’s primary intelligence organization. He appeared in federal court in D.C. yesterday after two years of legal proceedings related to extradition following his initial indictment on May 2, 2019.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, in which Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes and Alan Rozenshtein spoke with Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, about the cases filed in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Jordan Brunner examined the designation of “Communist Chinese military companies” and Section 1237 of the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act. 

Robert D. Williams analyzed what’s next for U.S.-China relations, in the wake of last week’s meeting between American and Chinese diplomats in Alaska. 

Nicol Turner Lee shared an episode of TechTank, featuring an interview with Amanda Renteria, president and CEO of Code for America and Nick Sinai, venture capitalist and former deputy chief technology officer under President Obama, about creation of a digital service corps.  

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