Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Matt Gluck
Thursday, May 27, 2021, 12:57 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion.

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The Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that companies that operate pipelines must notify the government when they experience cyberattacks, reports Politico. Under the new regulation, these companies are also required to preemptively evaluate their cybersecurity positions for gaps that may leave the door open for breaches. The rule announced Thursday is the first federal cybersecurity mandate for pipeline operators—which previously only had voluntary guidance.

President Biden’s upcoming budget request will include a proposal to expand Cyber Command’s primary digital military force—Cyber Mission Force—over the next two years, according to Politico. The force—which focuses on safeguarding U.S. computer networks and assisting military commands around the world—is currently composed of approximately 6,200 individuals from the military branches. Biden’s proposal would add about 600 people to the force.

Work was halted for the second time in two weeks at the same Amazon construction site in Windsor, Connecticut, after another noose was found one day after work had resumed from the last stoppage over the same issue, writes the Washington Post. It’s the eighth noose found in a month at that site. The FBI and Connecticut State Police are working with the Windsor Police Department to investigate the incidents—which are being handled as hate crimes.

A top Wisconsin state lawmaker, Robin Vos, said Wednesday that he is hiring retired police officers to conduct a probe into the state’s voting procedures in the 2020 election, according to the Associated Press. Vos said an attorney would oversee the investigation and that its purpose is to obtain evidence pointing toward the need for changes to election laws.

The Taliban are negotiating Afghan troop surrenders at an unprecedented pace as American troops withdraw from the country, reports the New York Times. Since May 1, at least 26 bases and outposts in four Afghan provinces have reportedly been surrendered to the Taliban. These surrenders are obtained by Taliban Invitation and Guidance Committees—which step in after insurgents cut off outposts’ access to roads and supplies. Leaders in the committees or high-level Taliban military officials contact base commanders and offer to save their lives if they agree to give up their outposts, weapons and ammunition. These negotiated surrenders are one piece of a broader offensive effort this spring in which Taliban forces have surrounded at least five provincial capitals, according to a Defense Department inspector general report released on May 18.

Several European social media influencers say they were offered money to spread misinformation about the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to discourage their followers from getting the vaccine, writes the Washington Post. The agency reportedly behind the effort goes by the name Fazze and refers to itself as an “influencer marketing platform.” French counterintelligence authorities are conducting a probe into potential Russian involvement in the disinformation effort.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it would impose sanctions on a U.S. citizen, Johnnie Moore, who served on the U.S. government’s commission on international religious freedom, reports the Hill. The move appears to be in retaliation for the U.S.’s blacklisting of former Chinese official Yu Hui over his persecution of religious minorities.

Uighur Muslims in China and Pakistan are being targeted in surveillance operations by those who may be “Chinese-speaking” hackers using phony email addresses pretending to belong to the U.N and a fake human rights organization, writes the Hill. The hackers are apparently seeking to install a back door into Microsoft Windows software that would allow them to obtain information and conduct additional breaches. The attacks are believed to be ongoing.

Mali’s interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were freed from military detention overnight after resigning while detained, reports France24. The two men were tasked with leading a return to civilian control of the government following a coup last August. They were detained on Monday in what has been labeled a military coup by the international community. The U.S. and the U.N.—along with other international entities—have repeatedly called on Mali’s military to release the leaders over the last few days.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast featuring a conversation about the Endless Frontier Act—a bill that seeks to strengthen U.S. research and development and improve U.S. competitiveness with China. Jordan Schneider, host of the ChinaTalk podcast and analyst with the Rhodium Group, and Molly Reynolds, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and senior editor at Lawfare, joined Jacob Schulz, Lawfare’s managing editor, to discuss the legislation and its bumpy traverse through Congress.

Susan Landau discussed the effectiveness of coronavirus contact tracing apps around the world.

Bryce Klehm shared the 2019 memo released by the Justice Department this week advising then-Attorney General William Barr on how to manage the Mueller report’s description of potential obstruction of justice crimes committed by former President Trump.

Abby Lemer and Eleanor Runde explained the recent developments in U.S.-China national security relations and technology news.

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security covering the convening of a grand jury in the Trump criminal investigation, the skyjacking in Belarus and the potential disclosure of information by a former Saudi intelligence official in a U.S. court.

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Matt Gluck is a research fellow at Lawfare. He holds a BA in government from Dartmouth College.

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