Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Tia Sewell
Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 1:03 PM

Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that the Justice Department will open a broad investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, according to the New York Times. In brief remarks, Garland stated that the probe “will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force including during protests.” The announcement comes on the heels of yesterday’s verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The jury convicted Chauvin on all three charges he faced for the death of George Floyd, including second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree murder.

Private cybersecurity firm FireEye has announced a suspected ongoing intrusion by the Chinese government hacking group APT5 that has compromised dozens of U.S. government agencies and defense contractors, writes the Washington Post. FireEye stated that while its investigation is still in early stages, the hacking operation was “very advanced,”  seeking information of value to Beijing. There is evidence that the hackers breached sensitive defense companies, which was not the case with Russia’s SolarWinds hack or the separate Chinese cyberattack targeting Microsoft Exchange servers. “This looks like classic China-based espionage,” said Charles Carmakal, the chief technology officer of Mandiant, a division of FireEye. “There was theft of intellectual property, project data. We suspect there was data theft that occurred that we won’t ever know about.” 

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an annual address today, during which he warned that any nation that threatens Russia’s security will “regret their deeds,” reports the New York Times. The speech comes at a point of heightened tension for Moscow, as Russia currently has about 100,000 troops stationed on its border with Ukraine, while Putin’s domestic opponents have called for protests across the country in support of jailed opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. Some analysts had speculated that Putin may use the annual address to announce new military moves regarding Ukraine, but the Russian president instead focused primarily on domestic issues such as the hardships of the pandemic and attacks against the West. He did not reference Navalny at any point in the address.

Russian police have arrested more than 200 demonstrators in cities across the country today, writes the Hill. Two of Navalny’s associates, his personal spokeswoman and a top ally, were detained before the protests began today after authorities accused them of organizing the demonstrations against President Putin.

The Justice Department has formed a task force to combat ransomware cyberattacks, according to the Wall Street Journal. In an internal memo issued this week, Acting Deputy Attorney General John Carlin called on the task force to increase training, improve intelligence sharing across the department and identity “links between criminal actors and nation-states.” Carlin told the Journal that “By any measure, 2020 was the worst year ever when it comes to ransomware and related extortion events” and further noted “if we don’t break the back of this cycle, a problem that’s already bad is going to get worse.”

Pfizer has identified the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of its COVID-19 vaccine in Mexico and Poland, writes the Journal. Authorities seized the vials in separate investigations. In Mexico, about 80 people who paid approximately $1,000 for a dose received the fraudulent vaccine, though none appear to have been harmed. The Polish counterfeits, which Pfizer said were likely filled with an anti-wrinkle treatment, were seized at a man’s apartment before any individuals received the fake shots.

European lawmakers have proposed a bill that would limit police use of facial recognition and ban the use of certain kinds of artificial intelligence systems, reports the Journal. The legislation would also examine and create a list of “high-risk uses” of AI such as critical infrastructure, college admissions and loan applications that would be subject to heightened oversight.

As the Biden administration is participating in discussions to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to block Biden’s ability to lift sanctions on Tehran, according to the Hill. Today, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will join members of the Republican Study Committee to unveil the Max Pressure Act, which seeks to codify the Trump administration’s imposition of some 1,500 sanctions on Iran.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

David Forscey argued that Americans should treat the cloud computing sector like the critical infrastructure it has become.

Adam Teslik discussed the role that the World Trade Organization could play in mitigating the escalating U.S.-China tensions over the future of high-tech industries.

Rohini Kurup shared a petition from civil liberties groups requesting that the Supreme Court review whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court should make its legal opinions public.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast, featuring Jack Goldsmith’s interview with Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, and Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, to discuss their new book about the legacy of the Pentagon Papers case.

Stewart Baker shared the latest episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast entitled “Cybersecurity Issues on the Congressional Agenda.”

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk featuring an interview with Logan Wright of Rhodium on what Huarong is and why it explains the core issues within China’s financial system. 

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