Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Wednesday, February 9, 2022, 3:02 PM

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The Justice Department seized over $3.6 billion worth of digital currency, according to the Wall Street Journal. The currency was allegedly stolen during a hack of a cryptocurrency exchange in 2016, in which almost 120,000 bitcoin was stolen from the platform Bitfinex. The hack initiated 2,000 unauthorized transactions, including the use of computer programs to quickly automate bitcoin movements and deposits to hide their origin. The Justice Department arrested two individuals who have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Although stolen funds were found in financial accounts tied to the individuals, they were not charged with executing the hack.

The White House approved a plan for U.S. troops in Poland to help evacuate Americans from Ukraine if Russia invades, writes the Wall Street Journal. American troops will begin setting up checkpoints, tent camps and other temporary facilities along the Ukrainian border to prepare to assist Americans fleeing the country. U.S. officials report that the troops are unauthorized to cross the border into Ukraine and are not permitted to evacuate Americans or conduct aircraft missions from inside the country. 

The “Freedom Convoy” of truckers protesting coronavirus restrictions in Ottawa, Canada, disrupted two U.S.-Canada border crossings, reports the Washington Post. The Royal Canadian Mountain Police say that protestors shut down lanes at both the Coutts and Ambassador Bridge crossings. The Coutts crossing links Alberta, Canada with Montana, and Ambassador Bridge connects Windsor, Ontario to Detroit. Ottawa remains in a state of emergency.

The Ottawa protests have inspired similar demonstrations by far-right anti-vaccine groups in New Zealand and Australia, writes the New York Times. In Wellington, New Zealand, hundreds of protesters that adopted the name “Convoy of Freedom” flooded the streets of the capital and camped outside the parliament building, according to BBC News. In Australia, the “Convoy to Canberra” of cars, trucks and caravans caused similar disruptions to those in Ottawa. Far-right activists in the United States are planning a copycat convoy of truckers from California to Washington D.C. 

New York and Massachusetts are easing coronavirus restrictions, reports Reuters. New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Wednesday that the state will stop requiring individuals to wear a mask or prove they were vaccinated when entering most indoor public places. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced that students, teachers and staff are no longer required to wear masks in schools. The loosening of restrictions in both states comes after a sharp decrease in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to fund the government through mid-March, according to the Wall Street Journal. The legislation is reportedly a temporary fix to give negotiators time to reach an agreement on fiscal spending for 2022. The House passed the bill 272-162, and the Senate is expected to address the legislation quickly to avoid a partial government shutdown. 

Sen. Mitch McConnell denounced the Republican National Committee (RNC) censure of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, reports the New York Times. McConnell also rejected the RNC’s characterization of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.” McConnell told reporters that the events of Jan. 6 were part of a  “violent insurrection with the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.” In regard to the RNC censure, McConnell said that it is “not the job of the RNC” to single out members of the Republican party with different views. He said, “Traditionally, the view of the national party committees is that we support all members of our party regardless of their positions on some issues.” 

Scientists in the U.K. announced they created a clean process to generate and sustain nuclear fusion, writes CNN. Nuclear fusion is the fusing of two or more atoms together to create a large amount of heat energy, which creates nuclear power. The current process for creating nuclear power is fission. Nuclear fission splits atoms rather than fusing them and creates waste that remains radioactive for tens of thousands of years. Fusion is safer than fission, produces little waste and requires minimal amounts of abundant, naturally-sourced fuel. Scientists used a giant “donut shaped” machine called a tokamak to generate a record-breaking 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy for over five seconds. The creation of this process presents a more eco-friendly alternative to generating nuclear power as the world transitions away from the use of fossil fuels.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Benjamin Wittes sat down with Susan Thornton and Jordan Schneider and discussed the America COMPETES Act, the prospects for reconciling it for the Senate bill and whether this is a real start or just window dressing.

William Loomis and Logan Wolff explained how the security of open-source development tools and infrastructure must be made a priority by federal cybersecurity policymakers.

Adam Chan discussed how the decision in Torres v. Texas Dep’t of Public Safety will not only determine if protections are available to hundreds of thousands of veterans against employment discrimination but also could have broader ramifications for the war powers doctrine and/or the state sovereign immunity doctrine.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast in which he discussed topics ranging from  the Open App Store Act to the recent Spotify-Joe Rogan controversy. 

Alvaro Marañon posted a criminal complaint released by the Justice Department against two individuals for an alleged conspiracy to launder billions of dollars in cryptocurrency.

Natalie Orpett posted a job announcement for the position of associate editor here at Lawfare.

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