Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 3:19 PM

The U.S. has launched a new government website where Americans can request free, at-home rapid coronavirus tests, writes Axios. According to the website, every home in the U.S. is eligible for up to four tests. The website is in its beta phase and is currently operating at a limited capacity to address troubleshooting and “ensure a smooth” launch. The official launch of the website is scheduled for mid-morning on Wednesday. 

Despite looming challenges for Democrats, the Senate will begin to debate new voting rights legislation, writes the New York Times. The legislation, which combines the Freedom to Vote Act  and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, is likely to be blocked from coming to a final vote on the Senate floor by a Republican filibuster. Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin pose challenges for their own party by standing firm in their positions against changing filibuster rules for voting rights legislation. Without a change in filibuster rules, it is almost certain that the legislation will “die” in the Senate. 

U.S. major airlines have warned that the expansion of 5G could cause a “catastrophic” aviation crisis, according to the South China Morning Post. In a letter to the Biden administration, CEOs of major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers wrote that the new C-Band 5G service could ground planes, affect sensitive instruments and low-visibility ground operations and strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas. The letter stressed that if the new 5G service were to take effect “the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.” The letter to the administration comes only days before AT&T and Verizon are set to deploy their next generation 5G services. 

The FBI has launched a terrorism investigation into an attack on a Texas synagogue, reports the Washington Post. On Saturday, Malik Faisal Akram took a rabbi and three congregants hostage  and held them at gunpoint for 11 hours. All four victims survived the attack. The terrorism investigation has expanded to the U.K. because the now-deceased Akram was a British citizen. Britain’s counterintelligence and security agency had previously investigated Akram in 2020 and placed him on a watch list as a “subject of interest” but determined he did not pose a threat. 

U.S. athletes heading to Beijing for the Winter Olympics have been advised to use disposable or “burner” phones instead of their personal devices for the duration of their time in China, according to the Wall Street Journal. The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has cited the reason for this advisory to be potential surveillance and malware attacks. The guidance  sent from the committee to Team USA warned that “every device, communication, transaction and online activity may be monitored. Your device(s) may also be compromised with malicious software, which could negatively impact future use.”

Microsoft has discovered destructive malware on multiple Ukrainian government and private-sector computers, reports the Washington Post. Microsoft’s threat intelligence team reported that the malware, if triggered, wipes computers of data which makes them unable to operate properly. The discovery of the malware coincides with a cyberattack that hacked the websites of Ukrainian government agencies last week, for which Ukrainian officials believe Russia is to blame. Microsoft has not yet determined who was responsible for the malware. 

Russia has sent troops to Belarus for joint exercises near the Ukrainian border, says the Associated Press. The Russian deputy defense minister reported that the purpose of the drills is to practice a joint response to external threats. Ukrainian officials are wary about the drills in addition to the continued buildup of Russian military assets along their borders. Officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine from multiple directions, including from Belarus. 

Russia has begun slowly evacuating citizens from its embassy in Ukraine, says the New York Times. A Ukrainian security official reported that 48 Russian citizens have boarded buses back to Moscow. Diplomats at two other Russian consulates have also been instructed to leave Ukraine. Ukrainian and U.S. officials believe that the emptying out of the Russian embassy may be Russian propaganda, preparation for a looming conflict and/or an act of deception.  

The U.K. is sending Ukraine short-range anti-tank missiles to defend themselves against a possible Russian invasion, writes BBC News. Britain’s defense secretary announced that the U.K. would also send a small team of troops to provide training to the Ukrainian military, citing “legitimate and real cause for concern” about the 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. Russian officials have denied any plans for invasion. 

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Benjamin Wittes sat down on Lawfare Live with Alina Polyakova of the Center for European Policy Analysis; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (ret.), the Pritzker Military Fellow at Lawfare; Ambassador William Courtney, who served as ambassador to Kazakhstan; and Dmitri Alperovitch, founder of the Silverado Policy Accelerator. They discuss the recent developments in Kazakhstan, the failure of the diplomatic process in Geneva and the impending war in Ukraine.

Nick Beecroft analyzed insurance exclusions for cyber-war and nation state cyber operations.

Scott R. Anderson, Quinta Jurecic, Rohini Kurup, Natalie K. Orpett and Alan Z. Rozenshtein outlined what to make of the recent indictment of 11 Oath Keepers for their role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

J. Andres Gannon, Erik Gartzke, Jon Lindsay and Peter Schram explored how the escalation of Russia’s gray zone conflict in Ukraine demonstrates the limits of and ineffectiveness of gray zone warfare. 

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