Early Edition: March 12, 2021

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

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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

Former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller says that “it’s pretty much definitive” that former President Trump’s “Save America” rally speech incited rioters. Miller told “VICE on Showtime” that: “Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened,” adding, “It seems cause-and-effect … The question is, did he know he was enraging people to do that? I don’t know.” Jacob Knutson reports for Axios.

Capitol rioters detained in Washington D.C. on charges connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack are being treated as “maximum security” prisoners and held in “restrictive housing,” District officials said. “During a hearing in the case of Lisa Eisenhart, who has been held in pretrial detention for weeks, District of Columbia officials told U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth that this determination was meant to protect Capitol riot suspects from potential altercations in the general prison population. It’s unclear how many of the alleged participants in the Capitol siege are currently being held in the D.C. jail,” reports Kyle Cheney for POLITICO.

The Justice Department and FBI are actively gathering evidence in an effort to build a huge conspiracy case against members of the Oath Keepers militia for their roles in the attack, according to people familiar with the probe. Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu, Aaron C. Davis and Tom Jackman report for the Washington Post.

Newly confirmed Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the Capitol attack is his top priority, and shortly after being sworn-in yesterday he directed FBI Director Chris Wray and national security officials to brief him on ongoing investigations. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.

A Marine One veteran was arrested and charged last month with two felonies in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and has pleaded not guilty to those charges. John Daniel Andries, 35, of Piney Point, MD, served in the Marines from 2004 to 2009, although his records don’t include any combat deployments. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.

IMMIGRATION

A congressional delegation of House Democrats is expected to visit the southern border during the March/April recess in order to make its own assessments of the nation’s growing immigration crisis, according to a House aide who said that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) is to lead the delegation. News of the planned trip follows other reports that Republicans are planning two separate trips to the border. “The group of House members plans to visit the same tent facility for unaccompanied minors in Carrizo Springs, Texas that White House and Department of Homeland Security officials toured over the weekend … A final itinerary for the Democratic trip hasn’t been established, and it could be postponed, the people said,” Kadia Goba reports for Axios.

The Department of Homeland Security’s 2019 Trump-era “public charge” rule has been rescinded, a policy which makes seeking U.S. residency much more difficult, requiring petitioners and applicants for certain immigration benefits to disclose information about their receipt of public benefits and, for some people, detailed financial information. “The latest development also comes after the Supreme Court on Tuesday granted Biden’s request to drop a Trump administration appeal that sought to revive the immigration restrictions,” reports John Kruzel for The Hill.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 29.28 million and now killed over 530,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 118.67 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.63 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

President Biden yesterday signed into law a $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. BBC News reporting.

Biden also instructed all states to ensure that all adult Americans are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by May 1. Michael Shear reports for the New York Times.

The U.S. is holding onto tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in manufacturing facilities while it awaits results from its U.S.-led clinical trial  meanwhile others countries that have authorized use of the vaccine are pleading for access. Noah Weiland and Rebecca Robbins report for the New York Times.

Video-sharing platform YouTube has since October removed around 30,000 videos it says spread Covid-19 vaccine misinformation. Chris Mills Rodrigo reports for The Hill.

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

U.S. 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.

OTHER U.S. DEVELOPMENTS

During the Trump administration, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made at least 33 requests for the unmasking of American citizens, permanent residents or companies referenced in intelligence reports, records indicate, with the State Department making at least 285 requests. Pompeo’s first request appears to have been on Aug. 23, 2019; the requests then increased in frequency, with several per week in late April and May 2020. Pompeo “made requests as Trump leveled criticism of Obama-era queries, records show,” reports Josh Gerstein for POLITICO.

An intruder was last month able to roam “unencumbered” more than five hours at Joint Base Andrews that houses Air Force One, even boarding a plane designated for senior officials, due to a string of security flaws at the Maryland military installation, the Air Force Office of the Inspector General said in its report. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., who is leading the criminal investigation into Trump’s finances, has announced that he will not seek reelection for a fourth term in office, which would have started January 2022. Amanda woods reports for the New York Post.

The District Judge presiding over the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin charged in the death of George Floyd yesterday reinstated a third-degree murder charge in the case, following a Minnesota Supreme Court decision Wednesday that refused to considers Chauvin’s appeal that the third-degree murder charge should not be added to the indictment that already includes first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter. Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill initially dismissed the additional charge, but prosecutors then appealed to the Court of Appeals, which ordered Cahill to reinstate the charge. The case was then appealed by Chauvin to the state’s top court, which Wednesday delivered a blow to the officer’s appeal. Holly Bailey reports for the Washington Post.

The House yesterday passed a pair of bills aimed at strengthening national gun laws, including expanding background checks for gun sales and transfers, as well as extending the time the FBI has to conduct checks on those flagged by the national instant check system. “The House voted 227 to 203 to approve the expansion of background checks, and 219 to 210 to give federal law enforcement more time to vet gun buyers,” reports Catie Edmondson for the New York Times.

U.S. RELATIONS

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is “lifting the [Trump-era] blanket suspension” on aid to parts of war-torn Yemen occupied by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, according to those briefed on the matter, with USAID notifying Congress and partner agencies that it would be restoring funding for the region based on a set of monitoring requirements. “USAID said benchmarks had already been “clearly communicated” to the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and requirements were also given to aid partners for releasing the assistance,” reports Katrine Manson for the Financial Times.

President Biden will meet today with leaders of Australia, India and Japan, expected to discuss matters related to Indo-Pacific security cooperation, particularly concerns over China’s growing power, the fight against Covid-19, economic growth and cooperation, and climate change. “I do believe that there will be an honest, open discussion about China’s role on the global stage,” said one senior U.S. official. David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina report for Reuters.

“The Biden administration is willing to take a calculated risk to end America’s longest war” in Afghanistan, including efforts to push out the current government and work with Russia, Iran and other powers to “finalize a peace agreement” and create a power-sharing interim government, David Igantius writes in an op-ed for the Washington Post, adding that Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent three-page letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, confirming that the U.S. is “considering the full withdrawal of our forces by May 1st,” could “perhaps” pressure the Ghani to resign before his term ends in 2024.

U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL FORUM

The U.S. and a dozen other countries today called on Russia to release Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from prison, during a statement read out by Poland to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. Reuters reporting.

The U.S. also condemned China’s human rights abuses by China of Uighur and other ethnic minority Muslim communities. Mark Cassayre, U.S. charge d’affaires, in a speech to the Human Rights Council, said that those abuses included “crime against humanity and genocide.” “We condemn Hong Kong authorities’ detention of democratic activists for exercising their rights and freedoms and call for their immediate release,” he added. Reuters reporting.

During the same Geneva forum, Western counties, including the U.S., urged “Egypt to guarantee space for civil society — including human rights defenders — to work without fear of intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention or any other form of reprisal,” Finland’s ambassador Kirsti Kauppi said, reading out the statement. “That includes lifting travel bans and asset freezes against human rights defenders —including EIPR staff,” Kauppi added. Stephanie Nebehay reports for Reuters.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Israeli forces have “bombed a dozen ships carrying Iranian oil or weapons in the past two years” that were en route to Syria, over concern that oil profits are funding extremism in the Middle East, U.S. and regional officials said. “Since late 2019, Israel has used weaponry including water mines to strike Iranian vessels or those carrying Iranian cargo as they navigate toward Syria in the Red Sea and in other areas of the region. Iran has continued its oil trade with Syria, shipping millions of barrels and contravening U.S. sanctions against Iran and international sanctions against Syria …  Some of the naval attacks also have targeted Iranian efforts to move other cargo including weaponry through the region, according to U.S. officials … The attacks on the tankers carrying Iranian oil haven’t been previously disclosed. Iranian officials have reported some of the attacks earlier and have said they suspect Israeli involvement,” report Gordon Lubold,  Benoit Faucon and  Felicia Schwartz in a Wall Street Journal exclusive.

Around 30 students were kidnapped from a forestry college in northwest Nigeria near a military camp, students said Friday. Garba Muhammad reports for Reuters. 

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)