Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Wednesday, March 30, 2022, 3:28 PM

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

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Ukraine and Russia reportedly made some progress in negotiations toward ending the war, reports the Wall Street Journal. Representatives from both countries met in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss possible scenarios for the establishment of a peace treaty. Ukrainian negotiators presented a proposal for a neutral status and a guarantee of international security. Additionally, Russian negotiators said that Russia would limit operations near Kyiv and also that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy for talks. Despite these proposals, a spokesperson for the Kremlin later downplayed what many believed was progress toward peace. The spokesperson said “No one said that the sides have made headway. We can’t point to anything particularly promising.”

The Defense Department suspects that Russia’s claims to scale back military operations in Kyiv and Chernihiv is really just Moscow “repositioning” troops to other parts of Ukraine rather than a withdrawal of forces, writes the Hill. According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, “We ought not be fooling — and nobody should be fooling ourselves by the Kremlin's recent claim that it will suddenly reduce military attacks near Kyiv or any reports that it’s going to withdraw all of its forces.” Kirby added, “We believe this is a repositioning, not a real withdrawal, and that we all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine. It does not mean the threat to Kyiv is over.” 

Some media outlets in India are promoting claims that the U.S. provoked Russia into attacking Ukraine and that Americans are developing biological weapons into Ukraine, according to the Washington Post. For example, the anchor of India’s top-rated news channel reported that “The American media, the American establishment wants to conceal this: They don’t like this charge of having anything to do with biological weapons.” The anti-American criticisms may not directly represent the policy of the Modi administration, however, which reportedly regards India as a partner to the U.S. has largely remained neutral throughout the conflict in Ukraine. 

Representatives from the U.S., China, Russia and Pakistan will meet this week to discuss economic and humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, reports Reuters. China has also invited representatives from the Taliban to engage in the talks. The multinational meeting in Tunxi, China comes amid the Taliban’s recent decision to not allow girls in the country to attend public high schools. Afghanistan is also in the midst of a humanitarian crisis that was worsened by an international financial aid cutoff after the Taliban took control of the country’s government. 

Gangs in El Salvador went on a killing spree on Saturday that resulted in the deaths of at least 62 individuals, writes the New York Times. In what marked the bloodiest day in El Salvador’s history since the end of its civil war 30 years ago, gang members took to the streets to randomly shoot and kill street vendors, bus passengers and market goers. In response to the violence, the government declared a state of emergency, which will last for 30 days. Under emergency rule, the government holds the power to suspend some civil liberties of Salvadorans, loosen conditions for arrest, restrict free assembly and intercept the communications of citizens. Since Sunday, Salvadoran authorities report they have detained at least 576 people suspected of participating in the violence. 

Meta—the parent company of Facebook—paid a large Republican consulting firm to promote a nationwide campaign to influence public opinion against TikTok, according to the Washington Post. To target its largest competitor, Meta conspired with the consulting firm to place op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets to prompt to promote stories about TikTok trends that allegedly originated on Facebook. Meta also aimed to garner the support of local politicians and political reporters. 

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will question Jared Kushner—Trump’s son-in-law and former White House aide, reports ABC News. Kushner is expected to appear before the select committee virtually as early as Thursday. The Biden administration announced that it will not assert executive privilege over any aspects of Kushner’s testimony, writes the Hill. 

President Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022 into law, according to CNN. The legislation—named for the 14-year-old Black boy murdered by a group of white men in Mississippi in 1955—makes lynching a federal hate crime. At a ceremony celebrating the signing of the bill, Biden said “Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone ... belongs in America, not everyone is created equal. Terror, to systematically undermine hard-fought civil rights. Terror, not just in the dark of the night but in broad daylight. Innocent men, women and children hung by nooses in trees, bodies burned and drowned and castrated. Their crimes? … Simply being Black.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Juliette Kayyem and David Priess discussed Kayyem’s new book, “The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters.” They talked about the traditional focus of the disaster framework; the paradox of preparedness; and a variety of disasters and what we can learn from them. 

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast in which Baker, Michael Ellis, Paul Rosenzweig, Nick Weaver and Alex Stamos discuss topics ranging from the European Digital Markets Act to whether Elon Musk and Grimes could be prosecuted for computer crimes. 

Benjamin Wittes analyzed Judge David Carter’s March 28 opinion on Donald Trump and John Eastman in Eastman v. Thompson and pondered how the most devastating legal opinion ever written about an American president may not trigger a federal criminal investigation.

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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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