Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Emily Dai
Thursday, December 23, 2021, 1:00 PM

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

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An investigation by the New York Times found that plainclothes agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) participated in racial justice protests in Portland following the presidential inauguration. The agents allegedly recorded and followed protesters and alerted local police of potential crimes. The scope of FBI involvement in Portland and other cities where federal teams were deployed at protests became a source of concern for some in the bureau who feared that the deployment jeopardized people’s First Amendment right to protest against the government. Bobbin Singh, executive director of the Oregon Justice Resource Center, said that the agents’ actions “[a]re all insidious tactics that chill First Amendment expression and erode trust with local officials” and an “alarming” misuse of resources. While the FBI has broad latitude to conduct surveillance when agents fear threats to national security, bureau guidelines state agents should avoid acts that may stifle lawful protest and prioritize less-intrusive methods.

In a joint advisory released Wednesday, federal agencies in the United States and top cybersecurity agencies in other countries that make up the Five Eyes intelligence alliance warned that hackers are “actively exploiting” a recently discovered weakness in Apache logging library log4j, writes the Hill. The vulnerability has swiftly become one of the most ubiquitous cybersecurity flaws in recent years, with security experts scrambling to deploy patches for a software that underlies the majority of organizations around the world. CISA Director Jen Easterly estimated that “[h]undreds of millions of devices in use around the world are potentially susceptible to the log4j vulnerability.”

Michael Greene, a member of the Proud Boys who was among the first to cross the police line at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, pled guilty to charges stemming from the riot on Wednesday and agreed to cooperate with the government, reports the New York Times. While Greene’s lawyer claims that he never set foot inside the Capitol building, he was “among the first wave” to rush up the Capitol steps after the police barrier was breached. Greene faces up to 25 years in jail for one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of an official process, but may face a sentence of 41 to 51 months since he agreed to help with investigators. According to the Justice Department, more than 700 people have been charged since the riot.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the second antiviral pill to treat the coronavirus, says NPR. The pill, molnupiravir, is taken twice a day for five days and is manufactured by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Merck claims that by the end of the month, 10 million packs will be available.

Michael Flynn’s request for a temporary restraining order to block subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot was denied by a federal court in Florida on Wednesday, according to NBC News. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven of Tampa said “there is no basis to conclude that Flynn will face immediate and irreparable harm” from complying with the committee’s subpoena, which he would have to demonstrate in order to get a restraining order. Flynn, who served as former President Donald Trump’s first national security advisor, sued Tuesday arguing the committee subpoena was too broad.

The most well-known monument commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre at a Hong Kong university was removed early Thursday, a move that several students see as a reflection of the erosion of the relative freedoms they had previously enjoyed, reports AP News. The statue was removed only days after pro-China politicians won a resounding victory in Hong Kong's legislative elections following modifications to election laws allowing the Chinese government to vet candidates for loyalty.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which David Priess spoke with Gerald Posner and Mark Zaid to talk about the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act, the work of the review board that the legislation set up, what is in these new documents and what comes next.

Jason Healey discussed why a more nuanced understanding of the offense-defense balance and innovations with leverage that works at scale across the internet is necessary to reverse the systemic advantage attackers have in cyberspace.

Paul Rosenzweig offered a Christmas song to Lawfare readers.

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which the hosts spoke with Michel Paradis to analyze the Defense Department’s vaccination mandate, a U.N. treaty banning the development and use of automated war machines and Trump’s use of the courts to strike back against both the Jan. 6 committee and New York state officials seeking to investigate him.

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. Check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

Emily Dai is a junior at New York University studying Politics and Economics. She is an intern at Lawfare.

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