Early Edition: May 4, 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

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley has reversed his objection to a proposal to take decisions on whether to prosecute sexual assault out of the chain of command. “Milley … stopped short of endorsing the changes recommended by an independent review panel. But in an interview with The Associated Press and CNN, Milley said he is now open to considering them because the problem of sexual assault in the military has persisted despite other efforts to solve it,” reports AP.

The Supreme Court yesterday refused to depart from a 70-year-old precedent that restricts legal action against the government when the alleged injuries arise from military service, turning down an appeal by a former West Point cadet who sought to sue the military academy’s leadership over her alleged sexual assault. Robert Barnes reports for the Washington Post.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering contracting with outside firms to monitor extremist chatter by Americans online. DHS is limited in how it can monitor citizens online, namely via unprotected information on social media sites, and cannot assume false identities to gain access to private messaging groups; the proposal would allow such limitations to be circumvented. “A source familiar with the effort said it is not about decrypting data but rather using outside entities who can legally access these private groups to gather large amounts of information that could help DHS identify key narratives as they emerge,” reports Zachary Cohen and Katie Bo Williams for CNN.

Attorney General Merrick Garland will today ask House Appropriations subcommittee to support the Justice Department’s request for more funding to help investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism and strengthen civil rights enforcement. “Garland will highlight proposals for a $45 million increase in funding for the FBI for domestic terrorism investigations, and a $40 million increase for U.S. attorneys to manage the ensuing caseloads, according to a written copy of his opening statement. He will also note that the department is seeking to increase civil rights funding by $33 million, according to the statement,” reports Matt Zapotosky for the Washington Post.

Directed-energy attacks on U.S. government personnel worldwide are “an act of war” and the Biden administration must “get to the bottom of” them, urged former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. Lara Seligman and Andrew Desiderio report for POLITICO.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) have urged Garland to investigate potential violations of antitrust laws by Amazon in the Pentagon’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract recently awarded to Microsoft Corp. “We are concerned that Amazon may have attempted to monopolize one or more markets relating to government and/or commercial cloud computing services by improperly influencing the [JEDI] procurement process,” the letter says. Dana Mattioli reports for the Wall Street Journal.

An armed suspect was shot by at least one FBI agent outside CIA headquarters yesterday after he “emerged from his vehicle with a weapon,” FBI Washington Field posted on Twitter. Matt Zapotosky reports for the Washington Post.

Facebook’s independent oversight board will announce tomorrow its decision on whether to uphold the indefinite suspension of former President Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Cristiano Lima reports for POLITICO.

RUDY GIULIANI

Government sources gave media outlets, including the Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC News, incorrect information that the FBI briefed Rudy Giuliani that he was the target of a Russian disinformation campaign aimed at damaging President Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election. An explanation on how media got the story wrong is provided by Paul Farhi for the Washington Post.

Legal adviser to Giuliani, Alan Dershowitz, said he hopes Trump will join a court battle with federal prosecutors over seizures of material Giuliani argues is protected by attorney-client privilege. Paula Reid and Erica Orden report for CNN.

U.S. IMMIGRATION

President Biden yesterday raised the refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for the remainder of the fiscal year but said admissions would realistically fall short of that mark. Sean Sullivan reports for the Washington Post.

In order to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants in the country, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is speaking with lawmakers about the possibility of attaching a revision of immigration laws to Biden’s infrastructure measures and passing it via a process called budget reconciliation. “The move would allow the measures to pass the evenly divided Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes, shielding them from a filibuster and the 60-vote threshold for moving past one, which would otherwise require at least 10 Republican votes,” reports Luke Broadwater for the New York Times.

During April, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered an average of slightly under 6,000 people daily at the southern border, according to a Homeland Security official, which is in line with the March average of approximately 5,560 people daily. Geneva Sands reports for CNN.

PROUD BOYS

Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, yesterday wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking whether the bureau had adequately utilized its sources within the Proud Boys to understand the group’s plans before the Jan. 6 attack of the Capitol. “Durbin’s letter came after Reuters reported last week that the FBI had received information from at least four sources in the Proud Boys over the years since 2019. The Judiciary Committee has oversight of the FBI,” reports Reuters.

“There is officially no longer any Proud Boys in Canada,” the group said in a statement posted on social media, three months after Canada designated the group as a terrorist entity. Amanda Coletta reports for the Washington Post.

U.S. RELATIONS

At least four rockets hit the Iraqi military air base of Balad, north of Baghdad, which houses some U.S. contractors, although no casualties have been reported, Iraqi military officials said on Monday. AP reporting.

“What we’ve seen are some small harassing attacks [in Afghanistan] over the course of the weekend that have not had any significant impact, certainly not on our people or our resources there, and bases,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters yesterday. Rebecca Kheel report for The Hill.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will join a virtual U.N. Security Council meeting Friday chaired by China’s foreign minister which will address strengthening global cooperation and the key role of the United Nations in tackling global conflicts and crises, China’s U.N. ambassador said. AP reporting.

The Biden administration is weighing changes to Trump-era rules which sought to bar China-based companies with links to China’s military from U.S. stock exchanges, revealed comments from a Justice Department attorney in court yesterday. “The comments from DOJ lawyer Joseph Borson came during D.C. District Court arguments over a challenge to the Pentagon’s move last year to impose a prohibition on securities transactions in companies found to be affiliated with China’s communist government and military. Two of the listed companies targeted by the action have sued in response, and the lawsuits have become a growing problem for Biden’s Justice Department,” reports Kellie Majdrich for POLITICO.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to visit Singapore next month for the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit held from June 4-5, organizers said. Reuters reporting.

Diplomatic engagement on denuclearization with the U.S. is in North Korea’s hands, Blinken said during a news conference in London: “I hope that North Korea will take the opportunity to engage diplomatically, and to see if there are ways to move forward toward the objective of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” Reuters reporting.

Samantha Power, chief of U.S. Agency for International Development, indicates that the U.S. will steer away from Trump-era isolationism: “With the world battling a different plague, Americans see what you all have long understood: that this country’s fate is inextricably linked with the rest of the world’s,” said Power. Reuters reporting.

AZERBAIJAN AND ARMENIA 

The Biden administration has notified Congress that it is extending a waiver allowing U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan which was originally restricted following the conflict with Armenia and tension over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that such assistance would not “undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.” “The decision is drawing condemnation from the Armenian American community as a betrayal following Biden’s historic decision to recognize last month, for the first time, the Armenian Genocide,” reports Laura Kelly for The Hill.

Russia’s military has occupied two new sites in southern Armenia near the Azeri border as an “additional security guarantee” following last year’s conflict, Russian news agencies reported. Reuters reporting.

MYANMAR

A junta-appointed local administrator was stabbed to death in the city of Yangon, domestic media reported. Reuters reporting.

Five killed in a blast from at least one parcel bomb, including an ousted lawmaker and three police officers who had joined an anti-military coup movement group. Reuters reporting.

CORONAVIRUS 

The novel coronavirus has infected over 32.47 million and now killed over 577,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 153.59 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.21 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to grant expanded emergency use authorization of Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine for adolescents aged between 12 and 15 years by early next week. Carolyn Y. Johnson reports for the Washington Post.

Moderna will supply the World Health Organization-backed COVAX program with up to 500 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine starting at the end of the year, the U.S. drugmaker announced yesterday. Emily Rauhala and Erin Cunningham report for the Washington Post.

E.U. proposal to allow vaccinated people outside the bloc to enter Europe by the end of June. Michael Birnbaum reports for the Washington Post.

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)