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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
The White House has released a first-ever national strategy devoted solely to fighting domestic terrorism. The strategy, which for many analysts was long overdue, comes after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and a resurgence in far-right violent extremism, which prompted President Biden to request a comprehensive review of the government efforts to address domestic terrorism. “The 32-page strategy seeks to coordinate efforts across the government in law enforcement and prevention, some of which were already underway. It calls for new spending at the Justice Department and FBI to hire analysts, investigators and prosecutors; greater information-sharing between the federal government and state and local partners as well as with tech companies; and addressing the factors contributing to the problem, such as systemic racism,” Hannah Allam and Ellen Nakashima report for the Washington Post.
“Domestic terrorism is not a new threat in the United States, yet it is a threat Americans have endured too often in recent years,” a fact sheet on the National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism says.
The FBI has warned lawmakers of the potential for more acts of violence from online QAnon conspiracy theorists, following the Jan. 6 attack. The shift of QAnon followers from “digital soldiers” to taking action in the real world “is fueled by a belief among some of the conspiracy’s more militant followers that they can no longer ‘trust the plan’ set forth by its mysterious standard-bearer, known simply as ‘Q,’ according to an unclassified FBI threat assessment on QAnon sent to lawmakers last week, which was obtained by CNN,” Zachary Cohen and Whitney Wild report for CNN.
Former President Trump pressed former attorney general Jeffrey A. Rosen, former attorney general William P. Barr’s replacement, to take up his claims of election fraud, even before Rosen took up office. Emails turned over by the Justice Department to investigators on the House Oversight Committee show how Trump pressured Rosen “to put the power of the Justice Department behind lawsuits that had already failed to try to prove his false claims that extensive voter fraud had affected the election results,” Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Former congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said Monday that he was among the crowds protesting outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 but did not join others in storming the building. “I marched to protest, and I thought the election was fraudulent and it should be investigated, and I wanted to express that and be supportive of that demand,” Rohrabacher said in the interview with the Portland Press Herald. “But I was not there to make a scene and do things that were unacceptable for anyone to do.” Felicia Sonmez reports for the Washington Post.
Attorney General (AG) Merrick Garland yesterday pledged to toughen the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s policies on when law enforcement officials can obtain records from lawmakers, their aides and reporters, amid backlash over the department’s efforts during the Trump administration to secure the data of members of Congress, journalists and even former White House counsel Don McGahn. Garland issued a statement announcing that he had directed Deputy AG Lisa Monaco to “evaluate and strengthen the department’s existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the Legislative branch,” and noted that she was “already working on surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high-level review.” Following the statement, Garland met leaders from the New York Times, CNN and Washington Post after it was revealed phone records of reporters at each outlet were seized. Matt Zapotosky reports for the Washington Post.
“There is an important difference” between DOJ’s seizure of reporters’ vs. lawmakers’ records: seizure of the former’s data centered on calling logs, whereas there is no sign that the grand jury subpoena to Apple could have provided investigators with the type of metadata necessary for systematic look at the lawmakers’ contacts with others, reports Charlie Savage for the New York Times. “According to law enforcement officials, prosecutors cannot use a grand jury subpoena to obtain email logs. Instead, they obtain court orders if they want to seize the information logging senders and recipients of emails and other types of electronic messages … Apple, which is not a phone company and does not generate traditional calling logs, has said it turned over only “account subscriber information” in response to the grand jury and that it “did not provide any content such as emails or pictures,”
John Demers, assistant AG of the DOJ’s national security division, is resigning from his position and will leave the department by the end of next week, temporarily replaced by Mark Lesko, the acting U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York. It is unclear why Demers is resigning; his division played a role in the leak investigations which are now under public scrutiny, although some officials said that he had been planning for weeks to leave at the end of June. AP reporting.
The Senate Judiciary Committee started its investigation into subpoenas initiated under the Trump-era DOJ, urging the department to hand over mounds of documents and justify targeting two House Democrats. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
DOJ officials told media outlet executives at yesterday’s meeting that journalists were not actually being targeted, according to a readout of the meeting. “According to the meeting recap, the DOJ reiterated its promise not to use a ‘compulsory processes’ to obtain information from reporters doing their job. Garland agreed with the media representatives ‘on the need for strong, durable rules, according to the meeting readout … Garland also promised to develop and distribute a memo to DOJ field offices spelling out the current policy and committed to working with the media to translate that policy into formal DOJ regulations,” reports Thomas Moore report The Hill.
The DOJ yesterday urged the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty against the Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev following the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit’s vacation of the death sentence last year. A 48-page brief by the department asks the justices to reverse the Boston-based federal appeals court’s decision, an apparent break from President Biden’s opposition to capital punishment. John Kruzel reports for The Hill .
China’s growing military power is presenting NATO with challenges that must be addressed, the 30-nation Western alliance said Monday in a communiqué, the first time it has portrayed Beijing’s power as such a threat to global security. “We will engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the Alliance. We are increasingly confronted by cyber, hybrid, and other asymmetric threats, including disinformation campaigns, and by the malicious use of ever-more sophisticated emerging and disruptive technologies. Rapid advances in the space domain are affecting our security. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the erosion of the arms control architecture also undermine our collective security. Climate change is a threat multiplier that impacts Alliance security. The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend our territories and our populations against attack, and we will address all threats and challenges which affect Euro-Atlantic security,” the communiqué reads. Steven Erlanger and Michael D. Shear report for the New York Times.
China, in response to the communiqué, said its defense and military modernization is “justified, reasonable, open and transparent,” and urged NATO to “stop taking China’s legitimate interests and rights as an excuse to manipulate bloc politics, create confrontation and fuel geopolitical competition.” BBC News reporting.
Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan say they had a “positive,” “productive” and “sincere” meeting, “much of it one-on-one.” “Despite their publicly optimistic tone, neither provided any details on how exactly they would mend the relationship or lay out steps that would help ease tensions between the NATO allies,” Reuters reporting.
Russian mercenaries have been accused of being connected to the torture and killing of civilians in the Central African Republic in February. “Russian mercenaries, supported by at least one combat helicopter, attacked the neighbourhood [of Bambari] as they hunted for rebels known as the Seleka. But according to multiple witnesses, they opened fire indiscriminately against civilians, many of them hiding at the al Taqwa mosque,” report Tim Lister, Sebastian Shukla and Clarissa Ward for CNN.
Tomorrow’s summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is not likely to result in any concrete deals between the U.S. and Russia, although the talks will nonetheless the be useful, said Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, adding that apart from the final communiqué, the agenda for the meet was confirmed with White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan on Monday. Reuters reporting.
The fate of two detained U.S. former Marines in Russia – Trevor Reed, 29, and Paul Whelan, 51 – rests on the upcoming summit. “Reed, who served as a presidential guard at Camp David during the Obama administration, was detained in 2019 on charges of assaulting a police officer during a drunken episode and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison last July. His family says that his arrest was politically motivated and suspect the Russians jailed him as a pawn in hopes of extracting something from the United States. Reed says he does not remember the incident … Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence at a Russian labor camp after being accused and convicted of spying, a charge that he and his family vehemently deny. Whelan, who is also a Canadian, British and Irish citizen, was detained in Russia in December 2018. He says that he was set up,” reports Morgan Chalfant for The Hill.
Biden’s meeting with G7 leaders and NATO helps him “build momentum” ahead of his meeting with Putin, reports Brett Samuels, Morgan Chalfant and Laura Kelly for The Hill.
Biden describes Putin as “a worthy adversary.” When asked whether he still thinks Putin is a killer, as he has previously commented, Biden laughed for several seconds and then said: “I believe he is, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was, there were certain things that he would do or he did do … But look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered it honestly. I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.” Anita Kumar and Myah Ward report for POLITICO.
An incisive piece on why Biden and Putin must restart talks on strategic stability and nuclear arms control, addressing what is at stake and what can be done to reduce the risk of dangerous nuclear stockpiles and a nuclear war by Daryl G. Kimball for Just Security.
President Biden’s administration is not planning to carry out airstrikes against the Taliban after U.S. troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan, however the policy may need to be revisited if militants threaten security at key U.S. and allied diplomatic facilities in Kabul, U.S. officials have said. Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, the chief of U.S. Central Command, said in an interview that U.S. plans call for airstrikes in Afghanistan after the withdrawal only in circumstances involving threats to the “homeland” of the United States and its allies and partners. Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
NATO leaders have committed to moving forward with training for Afghan security forces after the U.S. military withdraws its troops from Afghanistan. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the NATO leaders during the meeting in Brussels “reaffirmed their commitment to continue to stand with Afghanistan with training and financial support for Afghan forces and institutions.” NATO “also addressed Afghanistan in its Brussels Summit Communiqué, writing that the group will “open a new chapter” in its relationship with Afghanistan,” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Separate attacks targeting two polio vaccination teams in east Afghanistan have killed five people and injured at least four. No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. Kathy Gannon and Tameem Akhgar report for AP.
The U.N. is preparing for a likely further displacement of Afghan citizens after U.S. and other international troops leave the country, according to the U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi. Grandi pointed to the deadly attack on the international demining organization last week saying that “this is a tragic indicator of the type of violence that may be resurfacing in Afghanistan and with the withdrawal of the international troops this is possibly or likely going to become worse.” “We are doing contingency planning inside the country for further displacement, in the neighboring countries in case people might cross borders,” he added. Michelle Nichols reports for Reuters.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is proposing that the Biden administration leave 1,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to prevent a security vacuum after the military withdrawal. The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Biden “could leave a small force of about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan until at least the spring of 2022.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The ending of Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule as prime minister provides President Biden with a “chance for better ties,” although Iran and Palestine could test the president’s relations with the new coalition government. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Bennett’s office said he considered the American president ‘a great friend of the State of Israel” and planned on “strengthening ties between the two countries,’” reports Michael Crowley for the New York Times.
Israel’s coalition government gave its first glimpse of its priorities yesterday, announcing its intention to repair relations with the U.S. Democratic Party and the Jewish diaspora, investigate the stampede at a religious festival in northern Israel in April, and permitting a far-right march through Jerusalem today that some fear could lead to violence. Patrick Kingsley and Adam Rasgon report for the New York Times.
Today’s march by Jewish ultranationalists will pass by the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, where in April and May Palestinian protesters clashed with police over restrictions on public gatherings during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, sparking fears of renewed hostilities if the march goes ahead. “Cancelling the march would have opened the prime minister, Naftali Bennett, and other right-wing members of the coalition to intense criticism from those who would view it as a capitulation to Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers … Hamas has called on Palestinians to ‘resist’ the march,” AP reporting.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
President Biden has said that Ukraine must “clean up corruption” before it can become a full member of the NATO alliance. “In the meantime, we will do all that we can to put Ukraine in the position to be able to continue to resist Russian physical aggression,” Biden added. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pushing for membership of the NATO alliance, telling news outlets earlier that he was looking for a clear “yes” or “no” from Biden. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has again suspended his decision to terminate a key defense pact with the U.S. Duterte has asked the United States to provide more aid and Covid-19 vaccines in exchange for retaining the accord, which allows the entry into the Philippines of large numbers of American forces for joint combat training with Philippine troops and lays down the legal terms for their temporary stay. However, Duterte has suspended the abrogation of the accord for another six months to allow both sides to address his concerns, according to Filipino Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. Jim Gomez reports for AP.
Iran’s judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, who in 2019 was sanctioned by the U.S. for human rights abuses, is a front runner for Iran’s presidency. Reuters reporting.
A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier group, led by the USS Reagan, has entered the South China Sea as part of a “routine” mission. The carrier group will be “conducting maritime security operations, which include flight operations with fixed and rotary wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units,” the US Navy has said. Reuters reporting.
The White House is backing a bill from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) that would repeal the 2002 authorization for the Iraq war. The bill is due to be voted on in the House this week. “The administration supports the repeal of the 2002 AUMF [authorization for the use of military force], as the United States has no ongoing military activities [that] rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis, and repeal of the 2002 AUMF would likely have minimal impact on current military operations,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
28 Chinese air force aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Tuesday, the Taiwanese government said, the largest reported incursion to date, reports Reuters.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s government arrested five more opposition leaders over the weekend. The arrests, which bring to at least 12 the number of opponents detained since June 2, “suggest Ortega has moved beyond arresting potential rival candidates in the Nov. 7 elections, and has begun arresting any prominent member of the opposition,” AP reports.
The arrests of opposition in Nicaragua present a further problem for President Biden’s administration. A State Department spokesperson said that “the United States condemns this ongoing campaign of terror in the most unequivocal terms and considers President Ortega, Vice President Murillo, and those complicit in these actions responsible” and will “continue to use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support Nicaraguans’ calls for greater freedom and accountability, and free and fair elections.” José de Córdoba and Ismael Lópe report for the Wall Street Journal.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has called for an investigation into suspected crimes against humanity during a crackdown on drugs directed by the government of the Philippines. Thousands of civilians are known to have died under the campaign, including reports of extrajudicial killings, and Bensouda, who leaves the office this week, has said that she has “determined there was reasonable basis to believe that murder had been committed, and she asked judges on the war crimes court to authorize a full investigation under her replacement,” BBC News reports.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will never cooperate with the possible ICC investigation into the thousands of killings under his anti-drug crackdown, his spokesperson has said. The spokesperson called the international inquiry as insulting to the Philippine’s justice system. Jim Gomez reports for AP.
Immediate action in Mali is required to initiate critical reforms and ensure credible elections, the Head of the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, has told the U.N. Security Council. Wane warned that “Mali is at a critical juncture and we cannot allow it to slide into further instability, with drastic consequences for the sub-region and beyond.” UN News Centre reports.
Roman Protasevich, the journalist who was detained by Belarusian security forces after the plane he was travelling on was diverted, has appeared at a press conference claiming to be in a good mood and in good health, and voicing admiration for leader of Belarus. Similar statements by jailed activists, apparently made under duress, have been common in Belarus and members of the Belarusian opposition have said that Protasevich’s appearance on Monday was made under duress. Ivan Nechepurenko reports for the New York Times.
An Egyptian court has upheld death sentences for 12 people involved in a sit-in protest in 2013 by Islamists, including leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to state media. The court also overturned death sentences for 31 others in the same case, giving them life imprisonment instead. The individuals were convicted and sentenced in a mass trial in 2018 for involvement in the sit-in protest that was violently dispersed by security forces in an operation that left hundreds of people dead. AP reports.
Russian police have removed Belarusian opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya from their wanted list at the initiative of Belarusian authorities. Tsikhanouskaya went into exile last year after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko launched a crackdown on protesters who accused him of rigging the 2020 election. Reuters reporting.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s deposed civilian leader, appeared in court on Monday for the start of a weeks-long trial. The trial is happening behind closed doors, with information released only through her attorneys or state media. “Khin Maung Zaw, head of Suu Kyi’s legal team, said the hearings began Monday about 10:30 a.m. and went on for roughly six hours. Several prosecution witnesses were brought forward to testify,” Shibani Mahtani reports for the Washington Post.
At least 15 army recruits have been killed in suicide attack at a military training camp in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. Al Jazeera reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.47 million and now killed over 599,900 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 176.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.81 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A leading Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli has denounced the Wuhan lab Covid-19 origin theory as baseless and said there is no evidence to back it up. In an impromptu telephone call with the New York Times, Dr. Shi argued “how on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence?” Amy Qin and Chris Buckley report for the New York Times.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has apologized for comparing vaccine and face mask requirements to the Holocaust. Greene when asked why she did not apologize earlier “blamed the House’s three-week recess and dismissed the notion that her apology came because Democrats are now pursuing possible disciplinary action,” Melanie Zanona and Sarah Ferris report for POLITICO.
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.