Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Thursday, March 31, 2022, 1:50 PM

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

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Subscribe to receive this newsletter directly to your inbox.

Russian military officials called for a one-day temporary humanitarian cease-fire in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine, reports the Washington Post. According to Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the cease-fire is “purely for humane purposes” and is meant to provide the opportunity for refugees in Mariupol to flee to the nearby city of Zaporizhzhia. In a video update posted Thursday morning, Ukrainian officials confirmed that the cease-fire and evacuation efforts were underway. 

Ukrainian and Russian diplomatic officials will resume peace talks on Friday, writes the Washington Post. The negotiations will be discussed online via video chat because Russian officials refused to meet in-person anywhere that was not Belarus or Russia. Russian officials reportedly refuse to meet in-person at a different venue until a more coherent draft peace agreement is established. Some Ukrainian and Western officials are skeptical about the talks because they are wary of Russia’s sincerity in peace negotiations. Many believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is strategically using the talks as a way to buy Russian forces time to regroup and re-strategize in Ukraine.  For example, Ukrainian lawmaker Ivanna Klympush-Tsinsaid that “ It is difficult to negotiate with someone when the gun is being [pointed] at your head.” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also expressed her suspicion about Russian intentions, telling BBC that Putin was playing “a smoke-and-mirrors game of trying to claim that he is seeking peace.” 

Reports on military activity in Ukraine indicate that Russian military forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas of the country at least 24 times since the beginning of the invasion on Feb. 24, according to U.N. News. Cluster munitions are forms of air-dropped ground-launched explosives that eject smaller submunitions, writes Human Rights Watch. Often, after the initial blast from the larger explosive, the submunitions fail to explode—effectively becoming de-facto land mines. These submunitions are often scattered over a wide area which pose a great threat to the safety of civilians who often stumble upon the explosive devices on the ground and inadvertently detonate them, which can lead to severe injury or death. 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen announced a unilateral cease-fire, reports the New York Times. The coalition’s cease-fire overlapped with a cease-fire declared by the Houthis last weekend. Analysts studying the conflict hope that individual decisions to establish cease-fires signal a more diplomatic, peaceful approach to conflict in the seven-year war that has significantly threatened the security of and caused a humanitarian crisis in the Persian Gulf. 

The Justice Department has widened its investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to include a broad range of pro-Trump figures who allegedly were involved in the former president’s plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election, reports the New York Times. Federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into the involvement of officials in alleged efforts to use fake electors to illegally obstruct the certification of Electoral College votes for the election. The investigation will also look into the officials involved in the planning of rallies near the Capitol that preceded the attack on Jan. 6. Prior to this expansion of the scope of the investigation, the Justice Department was largely focused on prosecuting rioters that allegedly entered the Capitol building—an effort that has led to more than 700 arrests. 

The Justice Department announced that it will investigate a prescription drug trafficking network that allegedly sold hundreds of millions of dollars of unauthorized or fake medications including HIV treatments, writes the Wall Street Journal. The Justice Department will reportedly probe at least a dozen pharmaceutical companies such as Gilead Sciences Inc, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s ViiV Healthcare. The unauthorized and fake drugs were reportedly most often dispensed by the companies to low-income patients at little to no cost through Medicare and Medicaid or via free-programs for individuals without insurance. The HIV medications under scrutiny include Gilead’s Biktarvy, which costs $3,584 a month and Johnson & Johnson’s Symtuza, which costs over $4,000 a month. 

Apple and Meta turned over an unknown amount of user data last year to hackers posing as U.S. law enforcement officials, according to Bloomberg News. The hackers pretending to be law enforcement officials submitted fake “emergency data requests” to the companies. Real emergency data requests submitted by law enforcement to technology companies generally do not require court approval like warrants or subpoenas. The companies reportedly gave hackers access to user information such as addresses, phone numbers and IP addresses. 

The House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation that is intended to improve how the federal government tracks, measures and analyzes cybercrime, writes the Hill. The Better Cybercrime Metrics Act—which passed in a vote of 377-to-38—reportedly works to help law enforcement and intelligence agencies better identify cyber threats, prevent attacks and prosecute cybercrimes. Rep. Abigail Spanberger—who sponsored the bill—said on the House floor, “Our nation is under constant attack from cyber criminals. And with a range of new threats emanating from adversaries around the world—including the Russian Federation, Congress has an obligation to move legislation forward that can better protect the American people, their data, their finances, and their personal information.”

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Jacob Schulz sat down with Daniel Byman to discuss foreign fighters in Ukraine. They talked through the history of foreign fighters in different conflicts, how to think about the inflows into Ukraine and what the downsides might be of the phenomenon of foreign fighters traveling to Ukraine.

Andrew Mines argued that there is a growing problem of extremism in the U.S. military. 

Laura Thornton explained how democracies can respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Howell also shared an episode of Rational Security in which Alan Rozenshtein, Quinta Jurecic and Scott R. Anderson were joined by Benjamin Wittes to discuss the week’s big national security news such as President Biden’s remarks calling for the removal of Putin. 

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.

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

Subscribe to Lawfare