Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Emily Dai
Tuesday, September 21, 2021, 3:30 PM

North Korea warned that the new security agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia could trigger a nuclear arms race, according to The Washington Post. The three-nation pact, referred to as AUKUS, shares sensitive nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia. The announcement of the deal prompted swift backlash from the Chinese government, as it is perceived as a threat to the Chinese military. Although Australian officials said last week that the country has “no plans to acquire nuclear weapons,” a foreign ministry official in North Korea stated, “these are extremely undesirable and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger off a chain of nuclear arms race.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced officials will investigate an incident in which U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback allegedly attempted to grab Haitian migrants along the Rio Grande, according to The Washington Post. Calling the behavior displayed in the footage “extremely troubling,” a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Mayorkas has directed the DHS’s internal oversight office to be on-site full-time to monitor agents’ conduct. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz suggested that what many viewers took to be agents using whips were actually agents swinging their horses’ reigns. This incident comes as tensions at the makeshift camp in Del Rio, Tex., increased due to thousands of migrants crossing the river daily last week, overwhelming U.S. Border Patrol. In response to this sudden influx of undocumented migrants from Haiti—a country impacted by gang violence, the assassination of its president and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake—the Biden administration has begun a mass deportation of Haitians. President Biden stated that while his administration “is committed to developing safe, orderly and humane pathways for migration,” crossing the border is “not the way to do it.”

The Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it has imposed sanctions against Suex, a cryptocurrency exchange operating in Russia, for its role in ransomware attacks and other financial crimes, according to Politico. In response, the Treasury also plans to identify other exchanges tied to illegal activity and update its ransomware guidance for victims to include a warning advising companies not to pay any ransom demanded by hackers. These actions represent a significant step in the Biden administration’s efforts to mitigate the threat of ransomware gangs as they continue to target U.S. infrastructure. Given that cybercriminals often rely on digital currencies to carry out their ransomware attacks, several cybersecurity experts have called for extreme measures such as an outright ban on cryptocurrency. Ari Redboard, former senior adviser to the Treasury Department’s terrorism and financial intelligence unit, believes the Treasury’s most recent countermeasures show “that law enforcement and regulators can go after the illicit actors who take advantage of crypto without sort of going after the technology itself.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the FBI has more than doubled its domestic terrorism caseload since spring 2020, according to Reuters. During testimony before the Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Director Wray said the number of cases has “exploded.” Consequently, the FBI has dedicated more resources to domestic terrorism investigations, which has included, in the words of Director Wray, “increasing personnel by 260 percent last year.” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol had shown that white supremacists and militia groups were the greatest domestic security threat.

The House of Representatives is expected to consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) later this week, according to The Hill. On Monday, 56 anti-war groups urged lawmakers to use the NDAA to end all U.S. participation in the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. The letter provides implicit support of an amendment proposed by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), which was among more than 800 amendments that have been filed for this year’s NDAA. While U.S. lawmakers in both parties have been increasingly critical of U.S. involvement in the war, Congress has been unsuccessful in ending support for the Saudi coalition. President Biden has committed to ending military support for offensive Saudi operations, but critics contend that the administration’s continued logistical support still enables these operations. “U.S. taxpayer dollars still bankroll the maintenance and spare parts for Saudi warplanes raining down bombs on Yemeni men, women, and children amidst the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.,” Khanna and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a joint statement earlier this month.

President Biden is raising the refugee admissions cap to 125,000 for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, making good on his campaign pledge to do so, according to NPR. The White House said this change was made in light of an unprecedented number of displaced people around the world. The cap had previously been cut to a historic low of 15,000 by President Donald Trump. Several key groups, including Central Americans, Afghans affiliated with the United States, LGBTQ refugees and at-risk Uighurs, will be given particular focus by the administration. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) expressed that while he was disappointed with the projected number of refugees to be admitted in the next fiscal year, he “acknowledge[s] the challenges the Biden Administration inherited with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program due to the anti-immigrant actions of the previous Administration."

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Alan Rozenshtein spoke with Seth Stoughton on the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbit, a protester at the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Matthias C. Kettemann and Torben Klausa discussed how German law could provide clearer rules in content moderation practices.

Benjamin Wittes explained how John Durham’s case against Michael Sussmann is remarkably weak.

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.