Early Edition: February 16, 2021

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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

U.S. CAPITOL ATTACK

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces plans for a 9/11 Commission-style panel to examine the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Two days after former president Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate of inciting the deadly attack, Pelosi (D-Calif.) signaled in a letter to Democratic colleagues that the House would soon consider legislation to form a commission to ‘investigate and report’ on the attack and interference in election proceedings, as well as an appropriation to pay for enhanced security features on the Capitol grounds,”  Meryl Kornfield, Karoun Demirjian, and Mike DeBonis report for the Washington Post

You can read Pelosi’s full letter here

There is growing bipartisan support for such a commission, with prominent Republican lawmakers calling for one over the weekend. On ABC News Sunday, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who was one of the few Republicans who voted to convict Trump, called for “a complete investigation” including “what was known” and “who knew it” so “this never happens again in future.”  Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump’s who voted to acquit him, told Fox News Sunday that he too supported a commission to “find out what happened” and to “make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time.” Jack Brewster reports for Forbes

CNN reviewed additional radio and video footage from Jan. 6 and reports that it shows how little rioters feared the police and how much restraint law enforcement showed that day. One surveillance tape shows “nine men in matching tactical gear move as a unit inside the Capitol, at about the same time the FBI says members of the militant right-wing group the ‘Oath Keepers,’ one of several groups that federal authorities have implicated since the riots, made their way inside,” Whitney Wild, Jeremy Herb, and Tom Foreman report for CNN.  

Parler came back online yesterday after major tech platforms stopped doing business with it in January when it became clear that participants in the attack on the U.S. Capitol had organized on the platform and were continuing to incite violence on it. “In addition to bearing an apparently redesigned logo, the site also links to a new community guidelines document that explains the company ‘will not knowingly allow itself to be used as a tool for crime, civil torts, or other unlawful acts.’” Still, it’s clear the platform is still pitching itself as a place where people can expect unrestricted speech. Its new homepage read: “Speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.” Brian Fung reports for CNN

Six men who guarded Roger Stone also participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The men all appear to be associated with the group the Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government militia. A New York Times investigation that combed through hundreds of videos and photos tracked the security team that went from guarding Stone on Jan. 5 and 6 to storming the Capitol later that day. Christiaan Triebert, Ben Decker, Derek Watkins, Arielle Ray, and Stella Cooper report for the Times

U.S. Capitol police gave a vote of no confidence in their leadership, even after the police chief in charge on Jan. 6 resigned. “The U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, the union that represents thousands of U.S. Capitol Police officers, announced that 92% of Capitol Police officers voted that they had no confidence in Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman, and substantial majorities also voted no confidence in six other top leaders in the department.” Kathryn Watson reports for CBS News.

IMMIGRATION

Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill are expected to unveil an immigration reform bill later this week. Called the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021,” the new legislation is expected to include an earned pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, an expanded refugee resettlement program and the deployment of more technology to the U.S. southern border. To make sure the new legislation doesn’t fail like past attempts at immigration reform, the Biden administration has signaled it is open to breaking the bill into smaller pieces if it will help getting them passed. Geoff Bennett, Julia Ainsley, and Jacob Soboroff report for NBC News.  

6,000 unaccompanied immigrant children attempted to cross into the United States last month, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “That sudden spike is still relatively modest compared to huge figures from fiscal year 2019, when Border Patrol apprehended more than 76,000 unaccompanied children, a trend that reached its zenith that spring. But unlike in past years, the Office of Refugee Resettlement – which cares for those kids – has had to slash its housing capacity nearly in half in light of Covid-19,” reports Alexandra Villarreal for the Guardian

CORONAVIRUS

Newly reported coronavirus infections in the United States continued their steep drop, with the seven-day average dipping below 90,000 a day for the first time since early November. Paul Schemm, Erin Cunningham, and Jacqueline Dupree report for the Washington Post

As millions receive their vaccines against COVID-19, the U.S. government system meant to track any adverse reactions to the shots is still in development. Sheila Kaplan reports for the New York Times

A Connecticut patient who has not travelled recently is the first known case of the South African variant of coronavirus in the tri-state region. NBC New York reports

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is asccusing Israel of holding up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Gaza, where Palestinians have yet to receive any doses. When the PA tried to send 2,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from the occupied West Bank to Gaza on Monday, the shipment was stopped. Rami Ayyub and Nidal al-Mughrabi report for Reuters. 

Israel is legally obligated to ensure the population in the West Bank and Gaza are vaccinated, Eyal Benvenisti wrote for Just Security in January. 

People living in poverty are still at risk of food shortages around the world due to the ongoing pandemic, warns Agnes Kalibata, the special envoy to the UN secretary general for the food systems summit 2021. Fiona Harvey reports for the Guardian

To push back against rumors and allegations about how the COVID-19 outbreak began, China launched its own disinformation campaign, “using its growing presence on Western social media to seed and spread stories suggesting the U.S. created COVID-19 as a bioweapon,” according to a new AP investigation by Erika Kinetz. 

MYANMAR

Myanmar police have filed a second charge against former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. “She has already been charged with importing walkie talkies, but lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told local media she was facing a second charge of violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law” for allegedly interacting with a crowd during the pandemic, Reuters reports

Aung San Suu Kyi’s closed-door trial began today. Her lawyer was told at the last minute that “his client was appearing via video conference in a court in Naypyidaw, the capital,” Hannah Beech reports for the New York Times

Protests against the military coup continue despite the military stepping up its presence in the streets and internet outages across the country. Richard C. Paddock reports for the New York Times

Myanmar’s military junta has rushed through a series of changes to its Penal Code, in an effort to target the anti-coup protests, Sebastian Strangio reports for The Diplomat

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Guinea officials are racing to contain a new Ebola outbreak, Emmanuel Akinwotu reports for the Guardian

A non-U.S. civilian contractor was killed and a U.S. service member was wounded when coalition forces in Erbil, Iraq, were struck by “indirect fire,” from a rocket attack, Mustafa Salim reports for the Washington Post

Further escalation of hostility between Turkey and the Biden administration was averted on Monday after Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss the recent killing of 13 Turkish hostages in Iraq. Turkey was initially outraged over a U.S. statement that condemned the killings but suggested the involvement of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, had yet to be confirmed. According to a State Department readout of Blinken’s call on Monday, he told his Turkish counterpart that “PKK terrorists bear responsibility” for the killings. Biden himself has yet to have a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kareem Fahim and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post

The Taliban are closing in on several Afghan cities, including Kandahar, where they have moved “closer to taking the provincial capital than they have in more than a decade,” Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Taimoor Shah report for the New York Times 

About the Author(s)

Kate Brannen

Editorial Director of Just Security; Follow her on Twitter (@K8brannen).