Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
Mossack Fonseca was the victim of an external hack, one of its founding partners said yesterday. Ramon Fonseca added that “we have a theory and we are following it,” though he did not elaborate. [Reuters’ Elida Moreno and Enrique Pretel]
Mossack Fonseca “missed multiple red signals” and was even “slow to close down some of the companies” belonging to alleged insiders in Zimbabwe’s Mugabe regime who were eventually blacklisted by the UN and Europe, the Panama Papers have revealed, allowing them to continue to do business for years after questions were first raised, reports Juliette Garside et al. [The Guardian]
China has censored news of the Panama Papers, authorities sending out instructions to various media sites on Monday to remove the story. The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggests that this is a sign that the Chinese government has something to hide.
President Obama has called for international tax reform following the leak during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room yesterday. [The Guardian’s Rupert Neate and David Smith]
Americans are conspicuously absent from the leaked papers, writes Jon Schuppe, who sets out the possible explanations for this. [NBC News]
The leaked Panama Papers reveal a “sprawling web of corruption,” writes the New York Times editorial board. “Politicians, dictators, criminals, billionaires and celebrities” have managed to amass vast wealth and then conceal it. The question is, “after these revelations, will anything change?”
IRAQ and SYRIA
Russia’s claims that its airstrikes in Syria targeted Islamic State are “inaccurate on a grand scale,” according to a report released by the US-based Atlantic Council on Tuesday. The report says that minimal damage was inflicted on Islamic State during almost six months of airstrikes, and suggests that the actual focus of Russian intervention was on pushing back rebel groups in support of the Assad government. [The Guardian’s Ewen McAskill; Al Jazeera]
The Syrian government and its allies launched a large attack on insurgents south of Aleppo overnight, aiming to recapture the town of Telat al-Eis. It has been described as the heaviest attack in the area since the ceasefire came into effect in February. [Reuters]
While the ceasefire in Syria has officially lasted for five weeks now, it is important to remember what the accord has failed to accomplish, say the Washington Post editorial board. Offensives by the Assad regime against rebel forces continue, and access by humanitarian aid continues to be blocked.
Eric Fair, a US army veteran who was involved in the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Fallujah, Iraq, responds frankly to questions on that experience by The Daily Beast’s Matt Gallagher.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out six airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on April 5. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 19 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
What secrets does the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, now unlocked, actually hold? This is a question the FBI’s top lawyer has not shed much light on while the examination is on-going. While he told privacy professionals in Washington on Tuesday that data had been extracted, he would not say whether the data had proved useful. [New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau; Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett]
The Pentagon’s “Cyber Command” has been given its first assignment: online attacks to disrupt Islamic State, according to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. [Financial Times’ Geoff Dyer]
Whatsapp has announced it will introduce end-to-end encryption from Tuesday, a move that has been welcomed by free speech campaigners but is likely to aggravate law enforcement agencies, particularly the US Department of Justice, given recently expressed concerns over “unreachable” information on devices, suggests the BBC.
EU privacy regulators are due to produce an opinion next week on the Privacy Shield agreement which concerns US-EU data flow and would permit Facebook, Google and a host of other companies to continue to legally handle Europeans’ data. [The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams]
Legislation was introduced by GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte yesterday that would permanently prohibit the closing of Guantánamo Bay by making the ban on transferring detainees to US soil permanent and introducing a ban on releasing them to other countries. [The Hill’s Jordain Carney]
Six former Guantánamo Bay detainees’ conduct in Uruguay has been “abysmal,” former president Jose Mujica, who oversaw their resettlement in 2014, told reporters yesterday. He did not provide details, but stated that their conduct had damaged efforts to resettle others in South America. [AP]
EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT
France’s President Hollande has urged Germany to assign greater resources to its military and to intervene outside Europe, telling reporters at German paper Bild that France and Germany must “not rely on another power, even a friendly one, to do away with terrorism.” [Reuters]
Terrorists may have infiltrated Europe by hiding among asylum seekers, EU border force Frontex’s annual risk analysis has warned, echoing previous observations and citing as evidence the November Paris attacks. Two of the perpetrators of that attack came to Europe via a smuggling boat from Turkey. [The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley]
HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY
State Department lawyers are attempting to limit the sorts of questions watchdog group Judicial Watch can ask former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her former aides in relation to her use of a private email server, asking a federal judge yesterday to grant the group “limited discovery.” [The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris]
Conducting the investigation well comes before finishing it promptly, FBI Director James Comey told local law enforcement representatives in Buffalo, New York, on Monday. There is therefore no guarantee that it will be wrapped up before the political conventions this summer, reports Eliza Collins. [Politico]
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to meet his Armenian counterpart on April 8 in Moscow. [Reuters]
Exiting the nuclear deal with Iran could prompt Tehran’s return to its nuclear weapons program, which could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, a State Department official warned yesterday in response to GOP presidential candidates’ repeated criticism of the deal. [CNN’s Nicole Gaouette]
NATO could do more to support countries’ counter-radicalization programs, the alliance’s top representative in the UK General Sir Adrian Bradshaw has told reporters. He said that part of NATO’s approach should involve promoting efforts in countries such as Jordan to prompt other countries to follow similar strategies. [BBC]
The National Salvation government, one of Libya’s rival governments, has resigned, a move that will benefit the UN-backed unity government as it attempts to assert itself in the capital, Tripoli. [AP; BBC]
A police colonel has been killed in Saudi Arabia in a shooting attack by the Islamic State. This is the latest in a series of attacks in Saudi Arabia by the militant group. [New York Times’ Ben Hubbard]
Italy will take “immediate and proportional” measures against Egypt if it fails to discover the true reasons behind the death in Cairo of Italian student Giulio Regeni, in February, Italy’s foreign minister declared yesterday. [New York Times’ Declan Walsh and Nour Youssef]
Despite the fact that al-Shabaab is “not having a good week,” analysts are unsure whether the current strategy of airstrikes by the African Union and the US will prove effective in destroying the group, which has a ready source of replacement fighters, reports Jeffrey Gettleman. [New York Times]
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe defended the Japan-US alliance as contributing to the “peace and stability” in the South China Sea and in Japan. Prime Minister Abe stated that he “cannot conceive” of any point in the future when a US military presence in Japan “wouldn’t be necessary.” He also warned against the “naked nationalism” touted by presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has recently questioned US military policy in Japan. [Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker and Peter Landers]
“These people don’t deserve to be our citizens.” Turkish President Erdogan told lawyers in Ankara that Turkey should consider stripping PKK supporters of their citizenship. He ruled out reviving peace talks with the PKK on Monday. [BBC]
The new Taliban leader has sought to bring dissenters into line by appointing critics to senior leadership council positions, including the brother and son of the movement’s founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar, two of the group’s “most influential skeptics.” [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal and Taimoor Shah]
The ICC has dropped its case against William Ruto, deputy president of Kenya, who was charged with crimes against humanity in respect of the 2007-8 post-election violence. The ICC cited “a troubling incidence of witness interference and intolerable political meddling” as the causes of the mistrial. [New York Times’ Marlise Simons and Jeffrey Gettleman]
Osama bin Laden was a “gold bug,” a 2010 letter uncovered as part of the trove of documents, seized from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011 and declassified last month, reveals. The letter shows that he instructed al-Qaeda’s general manager to set aside a third of a $5 million ransom the group had obtained for purchasing gold bars, out of a belief shared by many US financial experts at the time that the price of gold was set to rise. Matthew Rosenberg discusses this glimpse into al-Qaeda’s financial management. [New York Times]
North Korea has developed a multiple rocket launch system and could use it to attack South Korea, South Korea’s defense minister stated today. This comes a day after South Korean officials warned that they believe the North is now capable of attaching nuclear warheads to medium-range missiles. [Washington Post’s Anna Fifield]