Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Ajay Sarma, Christiana Wayne
Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 2:51 PM

A Senate investigation found that the U.S. Capitol Police had intelligence foreshadowing potential violence at the Capitol as early as Dec. 21, reports the Washington Post. The report—issued by the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees—maintains that in the weeks preceding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Capitol Police intelligence knew that demonstrators planned to “bring guns” as part of an attempt to storm the Capitol and ensnare lawmakers. Capitol Police underestimated or disregarded the potential for violence as “remote” or “improbable,” with knowledge of the planned attack not reaching officers, impeding the police response on Jan. 6. The report, according to CNN, steers clear of discussing the role of former President Trump or labeling the events of Jan. 6 as an insurrection.

A coordinated effort between the FBI, Australian police, and other law enforcement agencies culminated in the arrest of at least 800 people worldwide, writes the New York Times. According to unsealed court documents, Operation Trojan Shield involved the use of modified cellphones with the encrypted communications technology, Anom. An informant recruited by the FBI facilitated the development of the modified devices and their distribution throughout organized crime networks, allowing intelligence agencies to intercept communication and make arrests. Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, claims that in addition to the 800 arrests, operations in recent weeks have led to hundreds of house searches and seizures of drugs, luxury vehicles, firearms and $48 million across 16 countries. 

The Justice Department will require its federal law enforcement officers to wear body cameras in certain circumstances, reports the Washington Post. The directive mandates that the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives formulate body camera policies for planned arrests and serving search warrants within 30 days. While the memo, issued by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, does not stipulate when body camera footage must be made public, it does state that each new policy should have “procedures for the expedited public release of recordings involving serious bodily injury or death.”

A panel of U.N. judges denied Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic’s appeal of his genocide conviction, according to Reuters. In 2017 a lower tribunal convicted Mladic of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. His crimes included terrorizing civilians during a 43-month seige on Sarajevo and killing more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys during a massacre in Srebrenica. The panel sentenced him to life in prison, but he appealed the sentence and the verdict. The appeals panel “dismisses Mladic appeal in its entirety ..., dismisses the prosecution's appeal in its entirety ..., affirms the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on Mladic by the trial chamber.” This decision marks the end of trials at the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a predecessor to the permanent International Criminal Court.

CNN announced it obtained the audio of a July 2019 phone call between Rudy Giuliani, U.S. diplomat Kurt Volker and an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Giuliani’s alleged violations of lobbying laws are currently the subject of a criminal probe. In the recording acquired by CNN, Giuliani urges the advisor to ensure Zelensky’s public announcement of an investigation into President Biden’s activities in Ukraine, insisting that “Someone in Ukraine’s gotta take that seriously.” Giuliani suggested that this pronouncement would bring about improvements to the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. 

During her trip to Guatemala on Monday, Vice President Harris told prospective undocumented migrants to the United States, “Do not come,” reports the New York Times. Harris also announced the deployment of U.S. homeland security officers to Guatemala in an effort to train local officials. Emphasizing the anti-corruption stance of the United States, the vice president highlighted the creation of a Justice Department and State Department task force to investigate instances of corruption tied to the U.S. and Guatemala and train Guatemalan prosecutors. Harris followed up her visit to Guatemala with today’s meeting with Mexican President Andres López Obrador in Mexico, according to CNN. The two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding promising a “strategic partnership to cooperate on development programs in the Northern Triangle.”

The Justice Department will continue to defend former President Donald Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, a writer who says the president sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, reports NPR. The suit has been caught up in litigation since the Trump-era Justice Department sought to make the government the defendant in the case rather than the then-president. In a new filing in the case, the current department under Biden continues to defend Trump as an employee of the government while trying to distance itself from his alleged behavior. If the department’s strategy succeeds, legal experts say the case would end because the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.

Colonial Pipeline CEO Roy Blount defended his company’s handling of the ransomware attack on its systems last month during a Senate hearing, according to the Washington Post. Blount said that the hackers gained access through an account that did not have multi-factor authentication. He also justified his decision to pay the $4.3 million ransom, saying, “I believe that restoring critical infrastructure as quickly as possible, in this situation, was the right thing to do for the country.” Blount said individual companies have limited ways to prevent these attacks and recommended a single point of contact to help coordinate federal response to future attacks. The full video of the hearing is available here.

An outage at the cloud computing service Fastly caused dozens of websites including the New York Times, CNN and Britain’s government’s homepage to go offline briefly, writes the Associated Press. Sites soon came back online, and Fastly confirmed that the disruption was caused internally. Fastly is one of the few companies that forms the internet’s centralized foundation, and the effect of its outage highlights the relative fragility of this architecture.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Managing Editor Jacob Schulz, Senior Editor Alan Rozenshtein and Contributing Editor Susan Landau discuss the failure of digital contact tracing methods during the coronavirus pandemic.

Joshua Busby, Archit Oswal and Steve Slick discussed public opinion on the U.S. intelligence community based on a new report of polling data from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Steven M. Bellovin and Adam Shostack argued that the new Cyber Security Review Board is a good step, but additional action could capitalize on the board’s potential.

Christiana Wayne shared the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a challenge to the military draft’s male-only registration. In a statement accompanying the denial of certiorari Justice Sonia Sotomayor emphasized the court’s deference to Congress on this policy.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk in which he interviews Dr. Yan Zheng, senior technical staff specializing in microelectronics at In-Q-Tel, about CIA investment in startups, how anti-Asian violence has affected the research community and more.