Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Tia Sewell
Thursday, April 29, 2021, 4:05 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion

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U.S. officials are investigating at least two possible incidents on U.S. soil that appear similar to previous mysterious, invisible attacks on CIA and State Department personnel that occurred abroad, reports CNN. The suspected condition—sometimes called “Havana syndrome” in reference to an unexplained illness U.S. officials experienced in Cuba in 2016—includes symptoms such as ear popping, vertigo, pounding headaches and nausea, sometimes with an unidentified “piercing directional noise.” One of the incidents is believed to have occurred on the south side of the White House after one National Security Council official became sick in November of last year. Defense officials briefed Congress on the matter earlier this month, stating Russia or China might be responsible for the attacks, though they did not have enough information to say conclusively.

The White House confirmed today that U.S. troops have officially begun withdrawing from Afghanistan, according to the Hill. President Biden had said that the withdrawal would begin by May 1, which was the deadline for a full U.S. withdrawal under the Trump administration’s 2020 agreement with the Taliban. Earlier this month, Biden extended the date of a full withdrawal to Sept. 11.

Brendan Hunt, a Trump supporter on trial for threatening to assault and murder prominent Democrat lawmakers, was found guilty after a three-hour jury deliberation on Wednesday, writes the Washington Post. Hunt issued the death threats days after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. He faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Biden delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress yesterday evening, reports Politico. This morning, Bryce Klehm and Rohini Kurup compiled sections of the president’s speech relating to national security on Lawfare.

A federal grand jury indicted three men on hate-crime and attempting kidnapping charges yesterday in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot and killed while jogging last year in Georgia, according to the Post. The three men indicted are already awaiting trial on murder charges for Arbery’s death. They were not arrested until months after Arbery’s death when a video of the shooting filmed by one of the defendants went viral.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines today told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Beijing would find a change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan “deeply destabilizing,” writes the Hill. “From our perspective, if we were to see a U.S. shift from strategic ambiguity, as you’ve identified it, to clarity over a willingness to intervene in a Taiwan contingency, the Chinese would find this deeply destabilizing,” she stated. Haines added that “already Taiwan is hardening to some extent towards independence as they're watching, essentially what happened in Hong Kong, and I think that is an increasing challenge.”

During an interview with Fox News yesterday, former President Trump defended his personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani and denounced the FBI raid of Guiliani’s home, reports Politico. “It’s a very, very unfair situation,” Trump said of the federal investigation into Guiliani’s dealings in Ukraine during Trump’s presidency.

Chinese financial regulators have ordered 13 Chinese technology firms, including Tencent and ByteDance, to change their financial business practices, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Chinese government has stated that many online platforms have been operating without licenses, inadequately managing their accounts and engaging in practices of unfair competition. The move comes amid Beijing’s increasingly heightened scrutiny of China’s tech sector.

Facebook said it blocked posts containing #ResignModi for several hours yesterday, then reinstated them, citing an unspecified error, writes the Journal. Earlier this week, the Indian government ordered U.S. social media platforms to block posts criticizing its handling of the pandemic as India continues to grapple with an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared this week’s episode of Rational Security, “The ‘Oops! Rudy Did It Again’ Edition.”

Mark MacCarthy and Kenneth Propp examined the EU’s new artificial intelligence initiative, finding that the proposal has several important innovations, as well as some surprising gaps.

Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Benjamin Wittes sat down with Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and former CTO of CrowdStrike, and Alex Iftimie, a former Justice Department official, to discuss the Biden administration’s response to recent major cyberattacks.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk featuring an interview with Enzo Chen and Caiwei Chen on all things podcasting in China and Taiwan.

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.

Tia Sewell is a former associate editor of Lawfare. She studies international relations and economics at Stanford University.

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