Early Edition: April 27, 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

Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) harassed two U.S. Coast Guard ships on April 2 in the Persian Gulf, U.S. Navy officials said, the first such incident in a year. “After approximately three hours of the U.S. issuing warnings and conducting defensive maneuvers, the IRGCN vessels maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them,” said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokesperson for the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Gordon Lubold reports for the Wall Street Journal.

The Biden administration yesterday sanctioned Felipe Alejos Lorenzana, an elected delegate to the Congress of the Republic of Guatemala, and Gustavo Adolfo Alejos Cambara, the former chief of staff for the Alvaro Colom presidential administration, over allegations of corruption activity. “The sanctions were imposed under authorities of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world,” reports Laura Kelly for The Hill.

Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday announced the U.S. will send $310 million to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras “for humanitarian relief and to address food insecurity.” “$255 million will go to humanitarian relief and $55 million will go toward addressing food insecurity in the region,” report Paul LeBlanc and Jason Hoffman for CNN.

The U.S. will also train a Guatemalan task force responsible for protecting the country’s borders and addressing migration, it was agreed following a call with Harris and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. AP reporting.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to act on withdrawing Eritrean troops involved in the Tigray conflict “immediately, in full, and in a verifiable manner,” according to a statement. Reuters reporting.

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced yesterday that it will conduct a review of its processes for assessing extremism and White supremacy in its ranks as part of a larger effort by the government to combat extremist ideologies. “As part of the review, senior officials will establish an internal process for agents who are found to be associated with extremist groups or who espouse those beliefs online or while on duty, [said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas] … He added that the team would develop training and resources for employees, as well as hold listening sessions for officers and agents, similar to methods used by the Defense Department this year,” reports Zolan Kanno-Youngs for the New York Times.

Intelligence community chiefs are weighing a request from last year by nine 4-star regional military commanders for more intel to be declassified to assist with military operations and enable the U.S. “to win without fighting.” The commanders – who oversee U.S. military forces in Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, as well as special operations troops – sent a memo to then-acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire in January 2020, with the memo making “waves inside the Pentagon, the Intelligence Community, and on Capitol Hill over the past year, where it has come to be known as the ‘36-star memo.’ It wasn’t a command or an ultimatum; rather, it implored the Intelligence Community to make big changes,” report Betsy Woodruff Swan and Bryan Bender for POLITICO.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) re-approved the FBI’s use of powerful warrantless searches of Americans’ information in emails collected by the National Security Agency (NSA), despite FISA citing “widespread violations” by the bureau of rules intended to protect privacy. James E. Boasberg, the court’s presiding judge, said in the 67-page ruling that the violations occurred prior to the bureau improving its querying system and training program, and that the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted the government’s ability to monitor compliance. Judge Boasberg said he was willing to certify the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program to operate for a further year. “While the court is concerned about the apparent widespread violations of the querying standard,” Judge Boasberg wrote, “it lacks sufficient information at this time to assess the adequacy of the F.B.I. system changes and training, post-implementation.” “[Therefore,] “the F.B.I.’s querying and minimization procedures meet statutory and Fourth Amendment requirements,” he added. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear a case on whether the government can prevent a Guantánamo Bay detainee, Abu Zubaydah, from obtaining information from two former CIA contractors accused of torturing him on the ground that it would risk revealing state secrets. “Zubaydah, sought to subpoena the contractors, James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, in connection with a Polish criminal investigation. The inquiry was prompted by a determination by the European Court of Human Rights that Mr. Zubaydah had been tortured in 2002 and 2003 at so-called black sites operated by the C.I.A., including one in Poland,” report Adam Liptak and Carol Rosenberg for the New York Times.

Washington D.C. Police Department’s server has been hacked, with data appearing on the internet yesterday, the third police department to be targeted by cyberattacks in the past six weeks. A group called Babuk has claimed responsibility for the leak, known for ransomware attacks, holding victims’ data hostage until ransoms are paid. “In their post to the dark web, Babuk’s cybercriminals claimed they had downloaded 250 gigabytes of data and threatened to leak it if their ransom demands were not met in three days. They also threatened to release information about police informants to criminal gangs, and to continue attacking “the state sector,” including the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The information already released appeared to include chief’s reports, lists of arrests and lists of persons of interest,” report Nicole Perlroth and Julian E. Barnes for the New York Times.

Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) sent a letter to the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee calling for at least $400 million in additional funding for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) upcoming budget allocation. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.

Calls for the resignation of John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, are intensifying after reports say he discussed Israeli military operations with Iran’s foreign minister while he was serving as former President Obama’s secretary of State. Kerry rejects the claims as “unequivocally false.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.

Commanding general of Army Criminal Investigation Command, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, will be replaced following criticism over how her division handled the killing of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.

U.S. police killings of unarmed Black Americans amounts to crimes against humanity, and the International Criminal Court should initiate an investigation, chides an inquiry into police brutality in the U.S. by a large group of human rights lawyers from countries across the globe. The “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States,” 188 pages in length, accused the U.S., amongst other things, of: “violating its international human rights obligations, both in terms of laws governing policing and in the practices of law enforcement officers, including traffic stops targeting Black people and race-based stop and frisk; tolerating an ‘alarming national pattern of disproportionate use of deadly force not only by firearms but also by Tasers’ against Black people; operating a ‘culture of impunity’ in which police officers are rarely held accountable while their homicidal actions are dismissed as those of just ‘a few bad apples’,” reports Ed Pilkington for the Guardian.

Capitol Police arrested a Virginia man yesterday who they say breached perimeter fencing on the Capitol grounds on Sunday. Olafimihaan Oshin reports for The Hill.

JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK

The FBI was collecting information from at least four members of the Proud Boys regarding Antifa from as early as 2019, indicating that the agency could have done more to prepare for the Jan. 6 attack. Reuters reporting.

Rep. Liz Cheney, the No.3 House Republican, calls for a congressional review of the Capitol attack to focus on Trump-supporters – but not to look into more general anti-racist protests from 2020, which some Republican leaders have urged for. Speaking on the nationwide unrest last year, Cheney said: “That’s a different set of issues, a different set of problems and a different set of solutions.” Reuters reporting.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

Israel is committing the crime of apartheid, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published today, calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate “systemic discrimination” against Palestinians. “This is the starkest finding Human Rights Watch has reached on Israeli conduct in the 30 years we’ve been documenting abuses on the ground there,” said Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel and Palestine director. Oliver Holmes reports for the Guardian.

The Karen National Union (KNU), a prominent ethnic group in Myanmar, said it had captured an army outpost close to the Thai border, with the military later hitting back with air strikes, KNU and Thai authorities said. “The fighting took place as the junta, in a setback for diplomatic efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it would “positively” consider the bloc’s suggestions to end the turmoil in Myanmar but only when stability was restored,” Reuters reporting.

China introduces new regulations aimed at stemming espionages activities, with a senior official at the Ministry of State Security saying “overseas espionage and intelligence agencies and hostile forces have intensified infiltration into China, and broadened their tactics of stealing secrets in various ways and in more fields, which poses a serious threat to China’s national security and interests.” “The regulations create new responsibilities for a host of bodies – including ‘social groups, enterprises and public institutions’ – to keep a watch out for and prevent foreign espionage activity,” James Griffiths reports for CNN.

CORONAVIRUS

The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.12 million and now killed over 572,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 147.92 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.12 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

The U.S. will begin sharing around 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine with other countries in the coming months, the White House said. Shannon Pettypiece reports for NBC News.

President Biden is set to announce today that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for wearing masks outdoors, three people familiar with matter said. Kaitlin Collins and Kate Sullivan report for CNN.

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. 

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)