Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Thursday, February 17, 2022, 1:28 PM

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Ukrainian soldiers and Russian-backed rebels accused one another of crossing a ceasefire line in Eastern Ukraine, writes Reuters. The Russian rebels allege that Ukrainian military forces opened fire on their territory multiple times over the past 24 hours. Meanwhile, Ukraine claims that the rebels fired shells into the country, including some that struck a kindergarten classroom. Ukrainian and Western officials previously stated that they believed Russia is looking to use an incident such as this conflict with the rebels as justification for an invasion of Ukraine.    

The U.S. sent F-35 fighter jets to Germany to strengthen NATO forces in Europe amidst building tensions surrounding Russia and Ukraine, reports the Hill. The U.S. Air Force Reserve Command announced that the jets were sent to Spangdahlem Air Base along with pilots, maintainers and other support personnel. The F-35A Lightning II jets are the most advanced jets owned by the U.S. and are reportedly capable of carrying out “a variety of missions to deter aggression and defend Allies should deterrence fail,” according to the Air Force. 

Ukraine accused Russia of launching a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) cyberattacks against government sites and critical services, according to Reuters. The DDoS attacks were reportedly the largest cyberattacks of their kind on Ukraine. The attacks disabled the web portal of the Ukrainian defense ministry and also disrupted banking and terminal services at large state-owned lenders. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said in a statement that “This attack is unprecedented, it was prepared in advance. And the key goal of this attack is destabilization, it is to sow panic, to do everything so that a certain chaos appears in our country.” The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the cyberattacks. 

U.S. security agencies announced that Russian state-backed actors hacked into the systems of American defense contractors and acquired sensitive information about the development and deployment of U.S. weapons, writes CNN. A public advisory released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency stated that the Russian government has been gathering this intelligence on U.S. weaponry over the last two years. The report details that Russian hackers were able to steal information about contractors supporting every U.S. military branch, including the Air Force, Army, Navy and Space Force. 

The Senate confirmed Celeste Wallander to serve as assistant secretary for defense for international security affairs in a vote of 83-to-13, according to the Washington Post. Wallander was nominated by President Biden and reportedly has expertise on Russia that is expected to be critical in the handling of the crisis in Ukraine. Wallander’s confirmation was previously delayed because she faced opposition from Sen. Josh Hawley who objected to a rapid confirmation process. Sen. Hawley is allegedly blocking or delaying the confirmation of Biden’s Pentagon nominees to protest the administration’s handling of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last summer. 

President Biden ordered the National Archives and Records Administration to release White House visitor logs to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, writes the Wall Street Journal. President Trump previously claimed that these records are protected by executive privilege and therefore should not be reviewed by the select committee. In a letter to the National Archives, White House counsel Dana Remus argued that Biden reviewed Trump's claims of executive privilege and rendered them moot. Remus wrote, “The President has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified, as to these records and portions of records.”

The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol requested the phone records of a security employee working for radio host Alex Jones, according to the Hill. The committee issued a subpoena to AT&T for the phone records of Timothy Enlow. Enlow is the security operations manager of Jones’s media company, Free Speech Systems, LLC. The committee reportedly requested phone calls and text messages made by Enlow between Nov. 1, 2020 and Jan. 31. 2021. 

France and other Western allies announced the beginning of a “coordinated withdrawal” of their military forces in Mali, reports the New York Times. The withdrawal of Western troops marks the end of increased military tensions with Mali’s ruling junta. Islamic state groups have spread across Mali and the country’s West African neighbors despite the efforts of Western and African militaries. French President Emmanuel Macron reported that France, its European partners and Canada have “taken the decision to withdraw their military presence in Mali” after fighting insurgents in the country for a decade. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast which featured audio of a Brookings event on the future of American democracy with Rep. Jamie Raskin. After the discussion with Rep. Raskin, a panel of Brookings scholars discussed Jan. 6 and Rep. Raskin’s reflections. The panel featured Brookings senior fellows Sarah Binder, Fiona Hill, Rashawn Ray, Molly Reynolds and Brookings fellow Quinta Jurecic. 

Chris Jay Hoofnagle and Simson Garfinkel explored both fantastic pro-social uses of quantum computing and an array of dangerous bad uses. 

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast which featured discussions about the government’s filing after the arrest of (alleged) Bitcoin Bandits and the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the European Court of Justice decision in the Schrems cases.

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which Jurecic, Alan Rozenshtein and Scott R. Anderson were joined by Dominic Bustillos to discuss the crisis in Ukraine and the Republican National Committee’s sanction of Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger. 

Alvaro Marañon posted a joint cybersecurity advisory on Russian cyber actors targeting U.S. contractors by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency. 

Katherine Pompilio announced next week’s Lawfare Live which will feature a Q&A with Roger Parloff about the petition to block Rep. Madison Cawthorn from the 2020 ballot as an "insurrectionist" under Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment and the upcoming first criminal trial of a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant. 

Roger Parloff discussed the petition to block Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s name from appearing on the 2022 primary ballot as an insurrectionist. 

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Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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