Early Edition: September 9, 2020

Curated summary of up-to-the-minute national security developments at home and abroad.

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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.

US DEVELOPMENTS

The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday filed court documents seeking to represent President Trump in a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who claimed he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. The DOJ argued in its filing to a federal court in Manhattan, N.Y., that Trump had been acting within the scope of his office as President when he denied during interviews last year that he had raped Carroll in a New York Department store, thus could be defended by government lawyers and therefore funded by taxpayer money. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.

The Air Force yesterday awarded a $13.3 billion contract to Northrop Grumman to build the US military’s next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), dubbed by the Pentagon as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, which will replace the long-used Minuteman III missile. The project is expected to take over eight years, with the missile in operation by 2029, Northrop said in a statement. The announcement has been met with criticism for being a waste of resources and finances and potentially dangerous. AP reporting.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said yesterday his state has “found potentially 1000 cases of double voting” in this year’s primary elections, although when questioned further he accepted that there was not yet evidence of intentional double voting. Raffensperger said that the voters in questions may have used absentee ballots and then voted in person, although others have said inaccurate counting may be to blame for what appears to be double votes. Miles Parks and Stephen Fowler report for NPR.

The Republic of Palau has asked the Pentagon to build ports, bases and airfields on the island, defense officials have said, which will enhance the U.S. military’s presence and expansion in Asia. The request was the result of a visit last week by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the first visit by a top Pentagon official to the island nation. Celine Castronuovo reports for The Hill.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected close to 6.33 million and killed close to 190,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there is more than 27.59 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 898,000 deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The Senate yesterday revealed its new scaled-back GOP coronavirus relief bill, which will be voted on tomorrow. The package is expected to be around $500 billion, nearly half of the $1.1 trillion previously introduced in July, and will include: a $300 per week federal unemployment benefit until the end of 2020; additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program; and liability protections for schools and businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. It also includes over $100 million for schools and an additional $16 billion for testing. Marianne Levine and John Bresnahan reports for POLITICO.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is set to terminate its coronavirus task force as of today, according to an internal note sent to staffers. The note confirmed that the responsibilities once assigned to USAID will be given to other bureaus and independent offices. A spokesperson for the agency, Pooja Jhunjhunwala, said USAID will set up a “Covid-19 Readiness Unit” to deal with “issues related to personnel safety” and “other issues related to the agency’s continuity of operations.” Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO.

UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca has paused all Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials it is developing with the University of Oxford after a participant in the UK part of the study suffered a suspected serious adverse reaction. The drugmaker said it had voluntarily paused its trials to allow an independent review to take place. “This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials,” AstraZeneca said in an emailed statement. BBC News reporting.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the US is available at the New York Times.

US and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.

PROTESTS AND RACIAL INJUSTICE REFORM

Multiple top Rochester, NY, police officials yesterday resigned, or were demoted, following growing unrest about their department’s treatment of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died in police custody while suffering a mental health crisis after police placed a mesh hood over his head as he knelt naked and restrained on the street. Among those who have suddenly stepped down are police chief La’Ron Singletary, deputy chief Joseph Morabito and another leading commander, all of which have opted to retire. Edgar Sandoval and Michael Wilson report for the New York Times.

Top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have urged Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to schedule a hearing into the violence and “civil unrest seen in Democrat-run cities” during nationwide protests over systemic racial injustice and police brutality. In a letter sent to Nadler, Republicans argued that Democrats have failed to adequately prevent violence or condemn far-left activist groups, and called for a firmer stance to be taken to ensure cities’ safety and prevent property damage. Juliegrace Brufke reports for The Hill.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS          

Over 37 million people have been displaced as a result of the US-led “war on terror” since Sept. 11, 2011, according to a “Costs of War” report published by Brown University yesterday. The report claims to be the first extensive research on the number of people affected by U.S. military involvement in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria. The report makes clear that 37 million is a “very conservative estimate” and predicts the total “could be closer to” 48 million to 59 million. Also, the research does not include U.S. combat operations in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Justine Coleman reports for The Hill.

US troops will be reduced from 5,200 to 3,000 in Iraq, Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said yesterday. Reuters reporting.

Israel and the UAE will sign their historic deal normalizing relations at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15, officials said yesterday. Senior delegations from both countries will be led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of the U.A.E. crown prince. AP reporting.

Iran has begun to build a new centrifuge production center in the “heart of the mountains,” the country’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, confirmed yesterday, following a fire at its Natanz nuclear site in July. “Due to the sabotage [at Natanz], it was decided to build a more modern, larger and more comprehensive hall in all dimensions in the heart of the mountain near Natanz,” Salehi said, according to state TV. Reuters reporting.

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met Monday with the head of the Taliban’s new negotiating team tasked with finalizing a long-awaited peace deal with the Afghan government. Khalilzad met with Abdul Hakim Haqqani and the head the Taliban’s political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Doha, with final negotiations expected to take place later this week after the agreed prisoner swap is completed. Reuters reporting.

A roadside bomb in Kabul targeted Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh this morning, a spokesperson said, although he escaped without serious injury. The bomb did, however, kill ten people and leave over 30 injured. AP reporting.

UK officials have accepted that to implement new Brexit plans they will need to “break international law” but only in a “limited way.” When asked whether the newly-proposed legislation, which has been criticized as altering parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, would potentially breach international treaties or arrangements, Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said that it does, in a limited way, adding, “we are taking the powers to disapply the E.U. law concept of direct effect required by Article 4 in a certain, very tightly defined circumstance.” Luke McGee reports for CNN. 

About the Author(s)

Siven Watt

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK. Follow him on Twitter (@SivenWatt)