The Early Edition: March 2, 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.

IMMIGRATION 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday that migrant families separated by the Trump administration will have the option to be reunited in the United States or in their countries of origin. “If, in fact, they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States and to address the family needs,” Mayorkas said. Lawyers for the families have “argued that without special protections, parents are forced to choose between bringing their children back to dangerous conditions in their home counties or remaining separated,” Jacob Soboroff, Julia Ainsley and Geoff Bennett report for NBC News

Speaking at a White House briefing, Mayorkas said the Trump administration had “dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety.” He told reporters that the Biden administration is working to build it back. “When I started 27 days ago I learned that we did not have the facilities available or equipped to administer the humanitarian laws our Congress passed years ago,” he said. He noted that families and single adults trying to enter the United States still face COVID public health restrictions and are being returned to Mexico. Graeme Massie reports for the Independent

Mayorkas said the growing number of unaccompanied minors at the border is a “stressful challenge,” but pushed back on former President Donald Trump’s criticism of the administration over the weekend. Last week, the government opened  a tent facility in South Texas to shelter minors arriving without a parent and has plans to open another one. “The influx of migrants at the border has become the most immediate issue for Biden as he delivers on campaign promises to reverse Trump’s deterrent policies,” reports Nick Miroff for the Washington Post.

U.S. CAPITOL ATTACK

In the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, some of the most prominent far-right groups that participated in it, including the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, are splintering. “The shake-up is driven in part by the large number of arrests in the aftermath of the Capitol riot and the subsequent crackdown on some groups by law enforcement. As some members of the far right exit more established groups and strike out on their own, it may become even more difficult to track extremists who have become more emboldened to carry out violent attacks,” Neil MacFarquhar reports for the New York Times

The U.S. government is alleging the Proud Boys planned to break into the Capitol on Jan. 6 from as many points as possible and that a Washington state leader of the group was nominated to take charge of the attack. “In a 24-page filing Monday, U.S. prosecutors asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to keep Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle, in jail pending trial, appealing a lower court’s Feb. 8 release order,” Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.  

CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS

FBI Director Christopher Wray is appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today at 10 a.m. He is expected to face questions about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, including on the state of the investigation and whether the FBI missed any warning signs. Ken Dilanian and Pete Williams report for NBC News

Former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) today about “global security challenges and strategy” at 9:30 a.m. More info on the hearing here

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is holding a confirmation hearing for Wendy Sherman to be deputy secretary of state Brian McKeon to be deputy secretary of state for management and resources at 10 a.m. Sherman served as the under secretary of state for political affairs during the Obama administration and was the lead U.S. negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal. More info here

And, on Thursday, SASC is holding a confirmation hearing for Colin Kahl to be undersecretary of defense for policy at 9:30 a.m.

CORONAVIRUS

The head of the CDC issued a stark warning Monday about the threat posed by new variants of coronavirus. “Please hear me clearly: at this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Dr Rochelle Walensky said. “These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress.” She urged states not to roll back public health measures too quickly. BBC News reports

Scientists have their eye on a third worrying variant, which arose in Brazil, not just because it led to a surge in cases in the Amazonian city of Manaus, but it also seems to have “gained the ability to infect some people who had immunity from previous bouts of Covid-19.” Carl Zimmer reports for the New York Times

The global number of new coronavirus cases rose for the first time in nearly two months, the World Health Organization said Monday. Erin Cunningham reports for the Washington Post

Anthony Fauci said the United States is sticking to its plan to give Americans two doses of coronavirus vaccine instead of shifting to a single-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. In the United Kingdom, officials are opting to delay the second dose in order to administer more shots to more people more quickly. Dan Diamond reports for the Washington Post

Johnson & Johnson has begun shipping out nearly 4 million doses of its vaccine and plans to further scale up supply in the weeks and months to come. Racheel Treisman reports for NPR

Twitter is taking new steps to tackle misinformation about the COVID vaccine on its platform. “It’s going to start labeling Covid vaccine misinformation and warns repeat violators will face permanent bans, just like with violations of its civic integrity policy,” CNN’s Brian Fung reports

Trump and former First Lady Melania quietly got their shots while still in the White House in January but chose not to publicize it. The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman reports

The Senate is expected to vote on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this week. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill

SAUDI ARABIA

The United States urged Saudi Arabia on Monday to disband its Rapid Intelligence Force, an elite unit controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), which Washington sanctioned over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. RFI reports

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. government “is  focused on future conduct and that is part of why we have cast this not as a rupture, but as a recalibration.” Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis report for Reuters

Meanwhile, the government says it will not publicly identify any of the 76 Saudis it says it is barring from entering the United States as part of its punishment over the murder of Khashoggi. Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO

The Biden administration is facing widespread criticism for not going far enough in punishing MBS for Khashoggi’s murder. “Republicans and Democrats in Congress called the response insufficient and urged the Biden administration to directly punish the crown prince. Human rights groups pushed for a broader freeze on weapons to Saudi Arabia until the crown prince faces justice. A torrent of criticisms came in from prominent columnists and editorial boards, including The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi wrote columns, which said Biden granted ‘what amounts to a pass to a ruler who has sown instability around the Middle East.’” John Hudson and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post

MYANMAR

Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared to be in good health when she appeared at a court hearing via video conferencing on Monday. Two more charges were filed against her, in addition to those she already faces. Reuters reports

Protesters continued to take to the streets in Yangon on Monday to protest the coup, despite security forces killing at least 18 people on Sunday. AP reports

The White House said on Monday that the recent killing of protesters represents “an escalation” and that the Biden administration is preparing further costs to impose on those responsible for the violence and the military coup. Reuters reports

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday that she plans to push for more “intense discussions” on Myanmar at the U.N. Security Council this month. Michelle Nichols reports for U.S. News and World Report

Rebecca Barber writes for Just Security that the U.N. Security Council is limited in what it can do because of China’s and Russia’s veto power. She outlines potential steps the U.N. General Assembly can take to counter this lackluster response. 

Myanmar’s military has high tech surveillance tools to target opponents of the coup, including “Israeli-made surveillance drones, European iPhone cracking devices and American software that can hack into computers and vacuum up their contents.” How did it obtain such items? Critics say it “used the facade of democracy to enable sensitive cybersecurity and defense purchases,” Hannah Beech reports for the New York Times

At least 10 media workers have been detained amid the anti-coup protests, including Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw, who was covering a protest in Yangon when he was taken into custody on Saturday. AP reports

AFGHANISTAN

An in-depth look at the peace talks with the Taliban and what the prospect of an American withdrawal means for Afghanistan. Dexter Filkins reports for the New Yorker

China has pledged to deliver 400,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Afghanistan. Abdul Qadir Sediqi reports for Reuters

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The United States is imposing sanctions to punish Russia for the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexi Navalny. “The sanctions are largely symbolic, but represent the first Biden administration action against Russia,” Anne Gearan reports for the Washington Post.

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) warned Monday that nuclear monitoring should not become a “bargaining chip” in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. IAEA monitors lost “their right to call snap inspections and visit key installations last month when Iran suspended the agency’s so-called Additional Protocol.” A European draft resolution that was circulating Monday calls on Iran to “fully cooperate” with the monitoring agency. Meanwhile, Iran “has threatened to tear up a temporary understanding with IAEA inspectors if Europe and the U.S. pursue a formal rebuke.” Jonathan Tirone reports for Bloomberg

The Biden administration is falling short on some expectations of increased transparency. While it plans to release White House visitor logs, a practice the Trump administration halted, it does not intend to “divulge the names of attendees of virtual meetings, which are the primary mode of interaction until the coronavirus pandemic eases,” Anita Kumar reports for POLITICO.  

A group of nearly 300 girls who were kidnapped from a school in Nigeria last week have been released. BBC News reports

The Pentagon said the U.S. strike on a Syria compound last week killed one fighter and wounded two more. Paul Sonne reports for the Washington Post

The Ethiopian military has detained a BBC reporter and translators for Agence France-Presse and the Financial Times. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports

Hundreds gathered to protest outside a court in Hong Kong on Monday “in a rare act of defiance after 47 of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy politicians and activists were arrested.” Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to a year in prison. “Given that short prison sentences in France can typically be waived, it is unclear whether Sarkozy would have to spend any time in prison even if the appeal were to fail. He could also request to serve the sentence at home, subject to electronic monitoring,” Rick Noack reports for the Washington Post

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday advanced Merrick Garland’s nomination to serve as President Joe Biden’s attorney general. “Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking member of the committee, as well as Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, joined all Democrats on the panel in support of the nomination,” Rebecca Shabad reports for NBC News

State prosecutors in Manhattan who are investigating former President Donald Trump and his business are sharpening their focus on the Trump Organization’s  long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. “The increased focus on the executive,, could step up pressure on him to cooperate with the investigation if the prosecutors unearth evidence of wrongdoing on his part,” Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times 

About the Author(s)

Kate Brannen

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