Early Edition: April 13, 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. RELATIONS

The U.S. will station an additional 500 troops in Germany, a move that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says shows that the U.S. “support NATO in the fullest extent.” Ian Rogers and Aggi Cantrill report for Bloomberg.

Austin yesterday ordered an Army review of an investigation conducted by U.S. Africa Command into the deadly January 2020 militant attack on the Manda Bay military base in Kenya that killed three Americans and wounded three more. Results from the Africa Command probe have not publicly been released, nor has anything been said on what the initial investigation lacked. The review will be conducted by Gen. Paul Funk, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command. AP reporting.

The Taliban has rejected calls for it to attend a U.S.-backed peace conference planned for next Friday in Turkey, a spokesperson for the militia confirmed, saying that the U.S.-proffered peace agreement was still being discussed. “No new date for the Turkey conference was set but time is running out on a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan in keeping with a deal the Trump administration made with the Taliban more than a year ago,” AP reporting.

The lawyer for Turkish-owned bank Halkbank has urged the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to end a U.S. prosecution that accuses the bank of assisting Iran evade U.S. sanctions, arguing that as a state-owned bank the U.S. government has no basis to assert criminal jurisdiction because the bank was “synonymous” with Turkey for the purposes of immunity from prosecution. Jonathan Stempel reports for Reuters.

The U.S. and China deployed aircraft carriers in the South China Sea over the weekend. “China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, entered the South China Sea on Saturday after completing a week of naval exercises around Taiwan; meanwhile, a U.S. Navy expeditionary strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island, conducted exercises in the region the day before, along with two flat-top warships were joined by a cruiser, destroyers and smaller amphibious ships. Brad Lendon reports for CNN.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION NOMINATIONS

President Biden nominated three women to top terrorism, Army and DEA roles: Christine Abizaid to head the National Counterterrorism Center, Christine Wormuth for Secretary of the Army, and Anne Milgram as DEA director. Rachel Levy and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.

Kenneth Polite, former U.S. attorney in New Orleans under President Obama, was also nominated to serve as the assistant attorney general to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division. Dylan Tokar reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Two Trump critics were nominated to top border and immigration roles: Tucson, Arizona Police Chief Chris Magnus to be commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Ur Mendoza Jaddou to be director of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Rebecca Beitsch and Rafael Bernal reports for The Hill.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken named Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the State Department’s newly created chief diversity and inclusion officer. Nick Niedzwiadek reports for POLITICO.

POLICE USE OF FORCE

One of the police officers, Joe Gutierrez, accused of using excessive force during a “disturbing” traffic stop of Second Lt. Caron Nazario, a mixed race Black and Latino man, has been fired following an investigation. “The Windsor officers pointed guns at, pepper sprayed and pushed a Black US Army officer to the ground during the traffic stop last December. During the stop, the police officers believed the Army officer was missing a license plate on his new SUV,” report Ronnie Glassberg and Gregory Clary for CNN.

The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed unarmed Black man Daunte Wright apparently intended to use her taser but instead made an “accidental discharge” of her gun, contended Police Chief Tim Gannon. Yesterday saw the second night of protests and vigils in the area, despite the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul each announcing 6.p.m curfews. Kim Bellware, Andrea Salcedo, Sheila Regan, Jared Goyette and Meryl Kornfield report for the Washington Post.

What to know about the police shooting of Daunte Wright is explained by the New York Times.

OTHER U.S. DEVELOPMENTS

Special counsel John Durham, who is investigating the origins of the 2016 FBI probe into former President Trump and Russia, has subpoenaed documents from the Brookings Institution related to Russian researcher Igor Danchenko who helped gather intel that contributed to the Steele Dossier, according to people familiar with the move. “By asking about the dossier, Mr. Durham has come to focus at least in part on re-scrutinizing an aspect of the investigation that was already exposed as problematic by a 2019 Justice Department inspector general report and led to reforms by the F.B.I. and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.

Domestic extremism-related incidents in the United States have surged to numbers not seen in the last 25 years, driven mainly by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far-right, according to a Washington Post analysis of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Far-right attacks and plots greatly outnumbered those from the far-left, and caused more deaths, data shows, with incidents peaking in 2020. “Since 2015, right-wing extremists have been involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities, the data shows. At the same time, attacks and plots ascribed to far-left views accounted for 66 incidents leading to 19 deaths,” report Robert O’Harrow Jr., Andrew Ba Tran and Derek Hawkins for the Washington Post.

U.S. District Court Judge John Bates granted the pre-trial release of former State Department official and Trump-appointee Frederico Klein who was charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, overturning an earlier decision by Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui who directed Klein remain detained following his arrest in March. Bates said that although he was disturbed by Klein’s disloyalty, such did not establish that he was too risky to be released from jail awaiting trial. “His conduct does not approach the high end of the spectrum of violence that occurred and was threatened that day,” the judge wrote in a 28-page order issued yesterday afternoon. “What future risk he does present can be mitigated with supervision and other strict conditions on his release,” he added. Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) vows to legally challenge the constitutionality of metal detectors set up outside the House chambers after he was fined for refusing to abide by the rule. Clyde’s appeal was denied by the House Ethics Committee, which he says gives him legal standing to take the issue to court. He also suggested that he intentionally violated the ruled brought in by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack in order for him to then challenge it. Nick Niedzwiadek reports for POLITICO.

Mexico has doubled its detentions of migrants attempting to cross its northern and southern borders, with over 10,000 Mexican troops deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said yesterday. “Reuters reported in March that Mexico had launched enforcement operations for rounding up immigrants transiting illegally toward the U.S. border, and stepped up its efforts along its border with Guatemala … The operations include members of the National Guard, a militarized police force, along with soldiers and members of the navy and immigration officials. Mexico said on March 22 that it had close to 9,000 troops from the defense ministry, Navy and National Guard on its northern and southern borders,” Reuters reporting.

A Facebook whistleblower reveals how a company loophole has repeatedly allowed world leaders and politicians to use its platform to deceive the public or harass opponents. “The investigation shows how Facebook has allowed major abuses of its platform in poor, small and non-western countries in order to prioritize addressing abuses that attract media attention or affect the US and other wealthy countries. The company acted quickly to address political manipulation affecting countries such as the US, Taiwan, South Korea and Poland, while moving slowly or not at all on cases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mongolia, Mexico, and much of Latin America,” reports Julie Carrie Wong for the Guardian.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 31.26 million and now killed over 562,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 136.74 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 2.94 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

U.S. federal health agencies have urged the immediate pause of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine after concern over rare blood clots in six recipients in the U.S. “The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control will stop using the vaccine at federal sites and urge states to do so as well while they investigate the safety issues,” Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere and Carl Zimmer report for the New York Times.

Foreign spying and interference in Canada, particularly led by Russia and China, last year reached highs not seen since the Cold War, due in part to vulnerabilities caused by the coronavirus pandemic,the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said in a report released yesterday, adding that threats such as violent extremism, foreign interference, espionage and cyberattacks surged in 2020 and “in many ways became much more serious for Canadians.” David Ljunggren reports for Reuters.

Ireland will limit the use of AstraZaneca vaccines to over 60s only, according to the country’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). BBC News reporting.

A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. 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.

IRAN NUCLEAR FACILITY

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed Israel for the attack on its Natanz nuclear facility and vowed “revenge,” but said talks in Vienna would continue. “Now they think they will achieve their goal. But the Zionists will get their answer in more nuclear advancements,” the diplomat was quoted by state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as saying during a private meeting with lawmakers on Monday. “If they think our hand in the negotiations has been weakened, actually this cowardly act will strengthen our position in the talks,” he said, adding, “Other parties to the talks must know that if they faced enrichment facilities that used first-generation machines, now Natanz can be filled with advanced centrifuges that have several times the enrichment capacity.” Al Jazeera reporting.

“The Zionists want to take revenge on the Iranian people for their success in lifting the oppressive sanctions, but we will not allow it and we will take revenge on the Zionists themselves,” Zarif also said, adding, “If it was authorized, Israel wants its name to be connected to the attack and to gain something, either vis-a-vis Iran or the U.S. If it’s unauthorized, it’s a security breach problem, but either way, it’s a problem,” he said. “It’s not healthy to brag, but you also force your opponent to do something, and I’m sure they will,” according to IRNA. Karen DeYoung, Shira Rubin and Kareem Fahim report for the Washington Post.

“The U.S. was not involved in any manner,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in response to questions on the attack. “We have nothing to add on speculation about the causes or the impacts.” Nandita Bose and Arshad Mohammed report for Reuters.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE RELATIONS

Ukraine yesterday accused the Kremlin of ignoring a March. 26 request to hold talks about the build-up of Russian troops near its border and the ongoing tensions in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin but the request had not been answered as of yesterday, Iuliia Mendel, a spokesperson for Zelenskyy, told The Associated Press. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday that he hadn’t seen any requests from Zelenskyy “in recent days.” APreporting.

G-7 foreign ministers yesterday released a statement urging Russia to “cease its provocations” on the Ukraine-Russia border, stating thaty they were “deeply concerned by the large ongoing build-up of Russian military forces on Ukraine’s borders and in illegally-annexed Crimea.” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.

Zelenskyy visited the war-hit Donbas region, eastern Ukraine, April 9, reports Matthew Chance for CNN.

The U.S. placed restrictions on its sale to Ukraine of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 launchers in 2018 as well as the State Department approval of 150 missiles and 10 launch units in late 2019; however, “while Washington urges Kyiv to use the Javelins only for defensive purposes and requires that the weapons be stored in a secure facility away from the conflict, “there are no geographic restrictions on the actual deployment of the missiles, U.S. officials said, which means that Ukrainian forces can transport, distribute and use them at any time,” report Lara Seligman and Natasha Bertrand for POLITICO.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

There are “reasonable grounds to believe” that a Syrian air force military helicopter dropped chlorine gas on a Syrian town in 2018, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a report Monday. “It is the second time that the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team has concluded that Syrian government armed forces likely were responsible for a gas attack. Last year, the team also found reasonable grounds to believe that the Syrian Arab Air Force was responsible for attacks using chlorine and the nerve agent sarin in March 2017 in the town of Latamneh,” AP reports.

Canada yesterday suspended export permits for drone technology to Turkey after concluding that the equipment had been used by Azeri forces against Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said. Reuters reporting.

Interim Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday affirmed their commitment to a controversial 2019 maritime agreement. “Erdogan pledged to support to Libya’s unity, its reconstruction and its military. Turkey would also be sending 150,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses and well as manage a pandemic hospital in Tripoli to help the North African country battle its outbreak, Erdogan said,” APreporting. 

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)