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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Iran has failed to provide information about the discovery of uranium particles at former undeclared sites in the country, with Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, calling on Tehran to provide answers “without further delay.” Al Jazeera reporting.
“It remains unclear whether Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do come back into compliance” with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and if it continues to violate the pact the less “breakout time” it will need to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon and it may “get down to a matter of weeks,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday. “Resuming [indirect peace] talks [in Vienna] on Thursday would leave only eight days to reach a pact before Iran’s June 18 election, which is likely to usher in a hardline president. Some delegates say that while a deal is possible by then, it appears increasingly unlikely,” Reuters reporting.
Taliban fighters are encircling Afghan law enforcement and military positions and encroaching on government-held territory, “positioning themselves for large-scale offensives against major population centers” amid a U.S. withdrawal which will see air support ending within weeks, hindering the Afghan government’s edge, reports Sune Engel Rasmussen for the Wall Street Journal.
Afghans who work with U.S. and NATO troops should not worry about their safety but should now show remorse for their actions, the Taliban, referring to themselves as the “Islamic Emirate,” said in a statement issued Sunday, citing the U.S. withdrawal as a reason why they have changed their approach toward the situation. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that the Biden administration is looking “at every possible contingency” to help thousands of Afghans who have assisted the U.S. during the long-running Afghan war and may be at risk of retaliation from the Taliban but his answers left lawmakers and advocates frustrated. Blinken said that “steps the administration is looking at include asking Congress to increase the number of visas for these Afghans and the possibility of humanitarian parole — a status that allows those under immediate threat to seek refuge in the U.S. … But Blinken didn’t offer a direct answer when lawmakers pressed him on the need to consider evacuating the thousands of Afghans waiting for Special Immigrant Visas to a third country where they could be safe as they waited for visas,” Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette and Michael Conte report for CNN.
A new audio recording reveals how Rudy Giuliani pressured and coaxed the Ukrainian government in 2019 to investigate conspiracies about then-candidate Joe Biden. The audio obtained by CNN is from a July 2019 phone call between Giuliani, U.S. diplomat Kurt Volker, and Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “During the roughly 40-minute call, Giuliani repeatedly told Yermak that Zelensky should publicly announce investigations into possible corruption by Biden in Ukraine, and into claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to hurt Trump. (These separate claims are both untrue),” Matthew Chance and Marshall Cohen report for CNN.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case about whether the FBI can invoke state secrets privileges against a lawsuit over its surveillance of Californian mosques. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2011, alleges that the FBI illegally surveilled mosques with a confidential informant and targeted Muslims based solely on their religious identity. Harper Neidig reports for The Hill.
The Supreme Court has declined to hear a lawsuit alleging that the U.S.’s all-male military draft amounts to unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sex. Three justices cited the Biden administration’s argument that the justices should turn away the bid since lawmakers are actively considering the scope of the national registration requirement, however they “seemed to indicate that they would be open to hearing the case if Congress fails to act,” John Kruzel reports for The Hill.
The number two Capitol Police official, who oversees uniformed officers, has resigned. The resignation comes as the department is being urged by watchdogs to shift from traditional policing to being more of an intelligence-gathering and protective agency for members of Congress, and as rank-and-file officers have expressed their dissatisfaction with top Capitol Police leadership. Nihcolas Wu and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
A drone has refueled a Navy fighter jet in midair for the first time, the Navy said on Monday, calling the event a “significant and exciting moment.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The Senate has passed a bill to provide financial support to U.S. diplomatic staff who have suffered brain injuries resulting from “Havana syndrome.” The mysterious set of syndromes, including dizziness, nausea, persistent headaches, is “thought to have already afflicted scores of U.S. personnel since 2016,” Kathryn Watson and Olivia Gazis report for CBS News.
The Justice Department will continue with its defense of former President Trump in a defamation suit brought by a journalist over allegations that the former president raped her in the 1990s. E. Jean Carroll made the allegation in an article published in New York Magazine in 2019. Trump replied to the allegations saying: “number one, she’s not my type. Number two, it never happened.” In response, Carroll sued Trump, saying he lied when he denied raping her. The Justice Department are arguing that Trump was acting within the scope of his duties as president when he denied the allegation. Byron Tau reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Oregon lawmakers, including Republican officials, are calling for the removal of a Republican lawmaker seen in footage apparently telling demonstrators how to enter the state Capitol. The video appears to show Rep. Mike Nearman talking to activists about how to enter the building, mentioning contacting him through a phone number he gave them. Marina Pitofsky reports for The Hill.
The Justice Department has announced that it has seized much of the ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline to a Russian hacking group DarkSide last month. Investigators traced 75 Bitcoins worth more than $4 million through at least 23 different electronic accounts belonging to DarkSide, before reaching one that a federal judge allowed them to break into. Katie Benner and Nicole Perlroth report for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that at their upcoming summit President Biden will tell Russian President Vladimir Putin “directly and clearly” that if ransomware attacks continue on U.S. soil, the U.S. will retaliate. During the interview with Axios, Blinken said that the U.S. “would prefer a more stable relationship” with Russia, “I can’t tell you whether I’m optimistic or not about the results,” he added, “I don’t think we’re going to know after one meeting, but we’ll have some indications … We’re prepared either way.” Mike Allen reports for Axios.
JAN. 6 CAPITOL ATTACK
U.S. Capitol Police leaders failed to act on threats that former President Trump supporters were discussing ways to infiltrate tunnels around the Capitol complex and target Democratic members of Congress on Jan. 6, according to a new Senate report. The report concludes that severe intelligence and security failures permitted the Jan. 6 attack, including that the Capitol Police force’s intelligence division, despite knowing about the threats “did not convey the full scope of known information to USCP leadership, rank-and-file officers, or law enforcement partners.” Ken Dilanian and Frank Thorp V report for NBC News.
The Senate Rules and Homeland Security committees’ report also recommended empowering the Capitol Police chief to ask directly for D.C. National Guard help in an emergency. “The current procedure requires the chief to get a Capitol Police Board emergency declaration first then Pentagon authorization, though board approval did not happen on Jan. 6,” Reuters reports.
In producing the report, “the senators secured only limited cooperation from key agencies, including the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the House sergeant-at-arms. Other agencies failed to meet deadlines to hand over documents,” Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos report for the New York Times.
White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan yesterday defended President Biden’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week, saying it is “vital” to protecting U.S. interests. “At the end of the day, what we are looking to do is for the two Presidents to be able to send a clear signal … to their teams on questions of strategic stability so we can make progress on arms control and other nuclear areas to reduce tension and instability in that aspect of their relationship,” Sullivan said during Monday’s White House press briefing. However, he then appeared to lower expectations for the summit, stressing to reporters that, “if you are going to wait for really significant deliverables, you could be waiting for a long time, conceivably.” Maegan Vazquez and Allie Malloy report for CNN.
Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will meet June 14 to discuss Syria, Afghanistan, and other regional issues as well as “significant differences” between Washington and Ankara, Sullivan said. Reuters reporting.
Biden yesterday invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit the White House in July, Sullivan confirmed. Maegan Vazquez reports for CNN.
Eritrea’s foreign minister has accused the Biden administration of “stoking further conflict and destabilization” in Ethiopia’s north throughout interference and intimidation, apparently to “resuscitate the remnants of the Tigray People’s Liberation Movement regime.” The accusation was made in a letter to the U.N. Security Council. Al Jazeera reporting.
Prosecutors yesterday opened their case against Tennessee scientists Anming Hu who stands accused of wire fraud and making false statements related to his work in China, the first such case taken by prosecutors. “The trial in Knoxville is the first after a slew of arrests of researchers and years of rising concerns among U.S. authorities that American taxpayers are unwittingly funding Chinese scientific development and boosting China’s drive for global pre-eminence,” reports Aruna Viswanatha reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. ambassador to Belarus, Julie Fisher, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in December but has been refused a visa by Belarusian authorities to enter the country, U.S. and European diplomats familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy. Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon report for Foreign Policy.
Vice President Harris has urged would-be migrants in Guatemala not to try to enter the U.S. illegally, warning of the dangers involved in the journey which would mainly benefit human traffickers. Harris made clear that: “I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.” “Both Harris and [Guatemalan President Alejandro] Giammattei said their dialogue, including Monday’s two-hour meeting at the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, has been frank and candid, with both sides directly addressing what they want and where their concerns lie,” reports Sabrina Rodriguez for POLITICO.
A new task force has been formed to combat human trafficking and smuggling groups operating in the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico, Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote in a memo to U.S. attorneys yesterday, which will see federal prosecutors partnering with Homeland Security officials. The Joint Task Force Alpha “will investigate and prosecute those who are criminally smuggling and trafficking individuals into the United States, with a particular focus on individuals and networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger those being smuggled, pose national security threats, or have links to transnational organized crime,” Garland wrote. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
More than 3,900 children were separated from their families between July 2017 and January 2021 under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Approximately 400 other children were sent back to their home countries and less than 60 families are currently in the process of being reunited. Mike Levine and Luke Barr report for ABC News.
More than 800 suspected criminals have been arrested worldwide after being tricked into using an FBI-run encrypted messaging app. “The operation, jointly conceived by Australia and the FBI, saw devices with the ANOM app secretly distributed among criminals, allowing police to monitor their chats about drug smuggling, money laundering and even murder plots,” BBC News reports.
Russia is building its first naval ship fully equipped with stealth technology, which will be armed with cruise missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and artillery, as well as being capable of detecting and destroying submarines, the RIA state news agency reported on Tuesday. “The hull of the Mercury naval corvette dubbed project 20386 has already been built and the vessel is expected to be delivered to the navy next year, RIA reported, citing two unnamed sources in the shipbuilding industry,” reports Reuters.
A U.N. court is due to rule on former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic’s appeal against his conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity. Mladic was jailed for life by the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 2017 for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak) men and boys. However, his lawyers have argued he was far away from Srebrenica when the massacre happened. BBC News reports.
Russia has banned nine senior Canadian officials from entering the country in response to similar measures from Canada over Russia’s treatment of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny. The Canadians impacted include Justice Minister David Lametti, Deputy Defense Minister Jody Thomas, and the commander of the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command Scott Bishop. Al Jazeera reports.
Assimi Goita, the Malian colonial who led the last two military coups in Mali, has been formally sworn in as interim president of the country. Goita, who had already been declared president by the constitutional court last month after he ousted the previous president Bah Ndaw, has said he will oversee a transition towards democratic elections in Mali. Reuters reports.
Israel’s parliament will hold a special session on June 13 to cast their vote of confidence in a new coalition government of right-wing, left-wing, centrist and Arab parties. Reuters reporting.
Peru’s polarizing presidential elections are still too close to call, with left-wing Peruvian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo taking a very thin but widening lead ahead of right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori. Fujimori raised allegations of “irregularities” and “signs of fraud” in the run-off polls, which Castillo’s Free Peru party rejected, calling on election authorities to “protect the vote” as ballots are counted and published. Al Jazeera reports.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has seen his power reduced in the mid-term elections in the country, where López Obrador’s party, Morena, lost its supermajority in the lower house of congress. The party still won enough seats to form a majority with allies, however as a result of the elections “the president might lose the aura of invincibility he’s enjoyed since coming into power three years ago in a landslide,” Mary Beth Sheridan reports for the Washington Post.
After years of conflict, Saudi Arabia is reportedly close to reaching an agreement on diplomatic normalization with President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. According to a senior official from the Syrian opposition Free Officer’s Movement, who maintains close contacts within the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and General Intelligence Directorate, “the political mood within the House of Saud has changed, many senior royals, particularly Mohammad bin Salman himself, are keen to reengage with Assad.” Matthew Ayton reports for Al Jazeera.
The Myanmar junta’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin has defended the junta’s plan for restoring democracy in the country, following a meeting with representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN expressed disappointment at the “very slow” progress made by Myanmar on its proposal for ending the turmoil, however state media cited Maung Lwin as telling the ASEAN meeting that the military had made progress on its own roadmap for the country unveiled after its coup. Reuters reports.
Chinese authorities are targeting suspects’ families in a crackdown on fraud from Myanmar. Since the Feb. 1 coup in Myanmar, economic collapse and lawlessness have resulted in an increase in criminal activity, especially in the northern border areas and by Chinese gangs. In response “Chinese authorities are trying to lure back fugitive fraudsters operating across the border in Myanmar by threatening to cut off pensions and other benefits for family members, according to social media postings by public security bodies,” Gabriel Crossley reports for Reuters.
Uyghurs are being deported from Muslim countries, raising concerns about China’s growing reach. CNN has collected more than a dozen accounts “detailing the alleged detention and deportation of Uyghurs at China’s request in three major Arab countries: Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” Jomana Karadsheh and Gul Tuysuz report for CNN.
A Muslim family in Canada were killed in a “premeditated” attack by a truck driver. A boy aged nine, the family’s only survivor, is in hospital with serious injuries. “It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” Det Supt Paul Waight told a news conference. BBC News reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.37 million and now killed close to 597,950 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 173.64 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.737 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A report by a U.S. national laboratory found that it was plausible that covid-19 leaked from laboratory in Wuhan China and the hypothesis deserved further investigation, according to sources familiar with the classified report. The report, which was prepared in May 2020 and was drawn on by the State Department during its inquiry into the pandemic’s origins, “is attracting fresh interest in Congress now that President Biden has ordered that U.S. intelligence agencies report to him within weeks on how the virus emerged,” Michael R. Gordon and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the world is facing a “two-track pandemic.” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO said that unequal distribution of vaccines has allowed the virus to continue spreading, increasing the odds of a variant emerging that could render the current vaccines ineffective. “Inequitable vaccination is a threat to all nations, not just those with the fewest vaccines,” he warned in his latest media briefing. UN News Centre reports.
A Covid-19 outbreak has shut down a Taiwan-based chip-testing company which could worsen the global chip shortage. King Yuan Electronics Co. shut down their main plant over the weekend, resuming operations on Sunday night at lower protection levels, after Taiwan’s government ordered 2,000 overseas workers at the company to enter a 14-day quarantine. Samson Ellis and Cindy Wang report for Bloomberg.
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.