Early Edition: March 31, 2021

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A curated guide to the latest major national security news and developments:

IMMIGRATION

For the first time on Tuesday, the Biden administration allowed journalists inside its main border detention facility for migrant children in Texas. The visit revealed “a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 people, including children and families, were crammed into a space intended for 250 and the youngest were kept in a large play pen with mats on the floor for sleeping,” Elliot Spagat and Nomaan Merchant report for the AP

President Joe Biden plans to allow Trump’s H1-B visa ban to expire. “The moratorium, which affected H-1B visas used by technology companies to hire foreign coders and engineers, was imposed last June,” Jordan Fabian and Genevieve Douglas report for Bloomberg

Fourteen Republican state attorneys general, led by Ken Paxton of Texas, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow them to take over the defense of the so-called “public charge” rule issued by the Trump administration. The Biden administration decided to drop the government’s legal defense of the regulation, which would bar immigrants likely to require government benefits from obtaining legal permanent residency, Lawrence Hurley reports for Reuters

CORONAVIRUS 

French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to make a primetime television address tonight as COVID cases are rising sharply in the country and hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. While a third national lockdown is being weighed, “more likely choices include a further tightening of measures in the worst-hit areas, including the closure of schools, and a widening of restrictions to cover more parts of France,” Adam Plowright reports for AFP

The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is extremely effective in adolescents 12 to 15 years old, the companies reported this morning. “No infections were found among children who received the vaccine in a recent clinical trial, the drug makers said; the children produced strong antibody responses and experienced no serious side effects,” Apoorva Mandavilli reports for the New York Times

Non-standardized paper cards are the only proof of vaccination for millions of Americans. These cards will become even more important as countries and businesses are preparing to make proof of vaccination a requirement for entry/participation. Plus, there is worry that these cards can be easily faked, especially as no standard form is being used across states and local governments. Julie Wernau reports for the Wall Street Journal

Republicans have picked vaccine passports as their new front in the pandemic culture wars. Annie Linskey, Dan Diamond, and Tyler Pager report for the Washington Post

The United States has all of the tools it needs to stop a fourth surge but if it doesn’t act quickly a more deadly variant of the virus, called B.1.1.7, will have the opportunity to kill those who have yet to be vaccinated. Zeynep Tufekci writes for the Atlantic

The head of the World Health Organization still believes a Chinese lab leak as the least likely hypothesis for the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, but he said on Tuesday that it had been insufficiently investigated. “This requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference. Shane Harris, Emily Rauhala, Ben Guarino, and Chris Mooney report for the Washington Post

STATE DEPARTMENT

At Tuesday’s rollout of the State Department’s yearly Human Rights Report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected the idea, put forward by the Trump administration, that some human rights were more important than others. Nahal Toosi reports for POLITICO

The 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices can be found here

Russian hackers are believed to have stolen thousands of State Department emails last year, according to congressional sources. The hackers accessed emails in the department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Natasha Bertrand report for POLITICO

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is headed to India and the United Arab Emirates in the coming days for climate talks ahead of an international climate summit President Biden is hosting next month. Timothy Puko and Jessica Donati report for the Wall Street Journal

MYANMAR

On Tuesday, the State Department ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats and their families to leave Myanmar. There is also a travel advisory in place, warning Americans not to travel to the country due to COVID but also because of violence and civil unrest. The AP reports

Ethnic armed groups are siding with those protesting the military coup, bringing new fighting to Myanmar’s borderlands. Poppy McPherson and Panu Wongcha-um report for Reuters

BRAZIL 

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has replaced six cabinet ministers, and the military’s top leaders are now out too, as the country’s COVID crisis grows more dire. “Brazil must now face what public health analysts say could be the darkest weeks of the pandemic with a raft of new officials and an incoherent national strategy,” Heloísa Traiano and Terrence McCoy report for the Washington Post

Tuesday’s resignations by the commanders of the Brazilian army, navy, and air force came after Bolsonaro unexpectedly fired Defense Minister Gen Fernando Azevedo e Silva on Monday. “General Fernando’s exit shows us that there is a significant wing of the armed forces – in the army, navy and air force – who do not accept authoritarianism, coups and the violation of the constitution,” Eliane Cantanhêde, a prominent Brazialian journalist said. Tom Phillips reports for the Guardian.  

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Two U.S. Capitol Police officers who say they were injured on Jan. 6 are suing former President Donald Trump for inciting the crowd. “Each of the officers are seeking at least $75,000 in damages. They accuse Trump of aiding and abetting their assaults and directing his supporters to assault them, according to their new complaint,” Marshall Cohen and Katelyn Polantz report for CNN

A new Human Rights Watch report says Lebanon’s military intelligence “forcibly disappeared and allegedly tortured” people who protested against lockdown measures and the deteriorating economy in the northern city of Tripoli, Al Jazeera reports

The Honduran president’s brother was sentenced to life in prison in a U.S. federal court on Tuesday after he was convicted for what prosecutors described as “state-sponsored drug trafficking.” “Assistant US attorney Matthew Laroche told the judge that Hernández for 15 years fueled a flood of cocaine shipments into the United States by paying millions of dollars to top Honduran officials like his brother,” the Guardian reports

Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered a review of how the Justice Department can best fight hate crimes amidst a surge in incidents targeting Asian Americans. Michael Balsamo reports for the AP

Lawmakers would like to see the Biden administration send over more nominees for some of the Pentagon’s top jobs, including the service secretary positions, saying these important roles should not sit vacant for so long. The White House selected its top three leaders, but hasn’t nominated anyone else to serve in the Defense Department since January, Connor O’Brien reports for POLITICO

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is struggling to keep up with multiple competing crises, Eric Geller reports for POLITICO

Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, a private military contractor, have committed recent human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, while fighting alongside government forces, according to a group of independent UN experts. The Russian contractors also work closely with the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. Luke Harding and Jason Burke report for the Guardian

A new report from the United Nations says that a Jan. 3 airstrike in Mali killed civilians attending a wedding, contradicting French claims that there had been no collateral damage. The report said five members of an armed Islamist group were among the guests at the wedding, but among the 22 killed, only three were militants. The other two had left before the strike. France called the findings unsubstantiated. Ruth Maclean reports for the New York Times.   

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About the Author(s)

Kate Brannen

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