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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
CIA Director Williams Burns has tapped David Marlowe to serve as the new deputy director of operations. “Mr. Marlowe, whose position does not require congressional confirmation, will run a directorate at the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters that oversees undercover officers who recruit foreign spies, ranging from foreign government officials to businessmen to disgruntled members of terrorist networks. The operations directorate also conducts covert actions abroad when directed by the president,” reports Warren P. Strobel for the Wall Street Journal.
Former National Security Agency (NSA) Deputy Director Chris Inglis has been approved to serve in the newly created national cyber director role at the White House and former NSA official Jen Easterly will serve as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), following unanimous approval by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee yesterday. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Senators have drafted a bill that would require a range of public and private entities to report cyber breaches within 24 hours. The bill was drafted by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Marco Rubio (R-FL), the committee’s top Republican, and Susan Collins (R-ME). “The bill circulating in Washington, obtained by CNN, would apply to U.S. government agencies, as well as federal contractors and critical infrastructure owners and operators, such as businesses in the manufacturing, energy and financial services sectors. Industry representatives and trade groups have already received copies of the discussion draft,” report Brian Fung and Alex Marquardt for CNN.
The U.S. Marshals Service does not have the resources it needs to keep federal judges safe, according to the new report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) which says the agency lacks sufficient capabilities to monitor threats made on social media and that home security system it provides offers “limited or outdated equipment.” The IG report says the agency needs to hire 1,200 more deputy U.S. marshals to meet its responsibility of ensuring the protection of over 32,000 judges, prosecutors and court officials. Betsy Woodruff Swan report for POLITICO.
Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.), one of the lawmakers who voted against awarding police officers the Congressional Gold Medal for their bravery in protecting the Capitol against insurrectionists, yesterday refused to shake hands with D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, according to two lawmakers. Report Colby Itkowitz and Peter Hermann for the Washington Post.
Attorney General (AG) Merrick Garland yesterday vacated a pair of Trump-era rulings that had limited asylum eligibility for immigrants fleeing gangs or gender-based attacks, which the Trump administration characterized as “private” forms of violence that did not constitute membership in a persecuted social group. “The decisions return U.S. asylum processing rules to pre-Trump standards. U.S. law allows immigrants to seek asylum if they fear persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinions or membership in a ‘particular social group.’ The latter category is subject to debate between those who want a narrower definition of ‘social group, and others who assert it should include victims of gangs and domestic violence. Garland’s decisions say these questions should be subject to the federal rule-making process with opportunity for public comment,” Nick Miroff reports for the Washington Post.
The DOJ said Garland’s moves were a follow-up to a February executive order Biden issued giving federal officials nine months to issue new regulations governing the interpretation of when an asylum applicant faces danger of persecution based on their membership in a “particular social group.”“Garland’s actions mean that in the meantime immigration judges will be free to again grant asylum to individuals based on threats of domestic abuse or violence from drug gangs that control large swaths of Central America. Some whose claims were already denied could benefit from a Justice Department review of the cases of individuals who went to federal court after being turned down based on” the pair of decisions that Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued in 2018, reports Josh Gerstein for POLITICO.
See Associate AG Vanita Gupta’s comments on the vacation in a memo to the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday requested a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit it filed last June, nearly to the date, aimed at clawing back profits made from a book by former President Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton and also closed a grand jury investigation into whether Bolton criminally mishandled classified information, according to a court document filed yesterday. By dismissing the case, both sides agreed to pay their own legal costs. “Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency, declared in a court affidavit that a limited portion of the Bolton’s draft manuscript ‘implicates’ information classified at the highest level. He said the ‘compromise of this information could result in the permanent loss of a valuable [signal intelligence] source and cause irreparable damage to the U.S. [signal intelligence] system.’ Such intelligence is derived from electronic systems used by foreign targets, such as communications,” reports Spencer S. Hsu and Josh Dawsey for the Washington Post.
Although the DOJ hasn’t specified why it dropped its suit, POLITICO had sight of a 6-page settlement that indicates the review process of the book was not conducted properly and says: “the Parties … agree that the pre-publication review process must be conducted in an impartial manner and should not be used by the Government to delay or block publication of information that is not covered by the terms of applicable non-disclosure agreements out of concern that it could be embarrassing to or critical of the Government,” adding, “while the pre-publication review process is ongoing, the Government should engage with the author actively and transparently regarding further steps in the review process and the time expected to be needed for its completion. … Under this process, an author may not unilaterally disseminate or publish the work before the pre-publication review process concludes.” “In the agreement, Bolton does not concede that he violated any law or rule, and attorneys for the Government acknowledged that ‘Bolton, in accordance with his prepublication review obligations, worked closely over several months with government officials to revise his manuscript before publication,’” report Myah Ward and Josh Gerstein for POLITICO.
The settlement benefitted Trump and the DOJ officials he apparently pressured into taking forward proceedings against Bolton. “It will shield the former officials from being forced to answer questions under oath about how they handled Mr. Bolton’s book and how Trump pressured them to prosecute Bolton. A federal judge had given Bolton’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, approval to begin deposing those officials, but the settlement ends that litigation. The DOJ has pledged to never to attempt due him, and “Bolton told the department that if he writes another book, he will submit his materials to a process designed to ensure that classified information is kept secret,” report Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner for the New York Times.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding the DOJ to hand over an unredacted version of an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe that is said to have cleared Trump of criminal wrongdoing. “A group of Democrats on the committee had written to Garland last month urging him not to fight a district court judge’s order to release the document … But the DOJ ultimately filed an appeal weeks after Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a decision blasting it and former Attorney General William Barr, accusing them of making misrepresentations about the memo and the ultimate Mueller report … The DOJ often fights to keep OLC memos from public view. The office is tasked with providing the executive branch with legal advice on policy decisions, but it has been widely criticized over its lack of transparency and for acting as a rubber stamp on controversial decisions,” reports Harper Neidig for The Hill.
President Biden and President Vladimir Putin held their first summit yesterday, which lasted only a few hours, consisting of a number of sessions, where Biden apparently pressed his Russian counterpart on alleged hacking, human rights abuses and other matters of concerns, including the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the letter of which Putin deflected by raising issues with the policing of the Black Lives Matter protests as well the Jan. 6 attack. Neither man invited the other to visit Moscow or Washington. Anne Gearan, Ashley Parker and John Hudson report for the Washington Post.
In a joint statement after the summit, Biden and Putin said they had agreed to resume a dialogue on strategic stability on nuclear arms control: “today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” adding that the two countries intend to use the dialogue to “lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Putin said that the countries’ ambassadors will return to their respective posts in Washington and Moscow, although he gave no timing. Biden did not mention it in his conference and the White House has yet to comment. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
“We spent a great deal of time on cyber and cybersecurity. I talked about the proposition that certain critical infrastructure should be off limits to attack, period, by cyber or any other means,” Biden said to reporters, adding that he had given Putin 16 “specific entities,” including the energy sector and water systems, that the U.S. views as critical infrastructure. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
“As far as cybersecurity is concerned, [the US and Russia] agreed that we would begin consultations on that issue,” Putin said during his conference. “What we need is expert consultations between us. We agreed to that in principle, and Russia is prepared for that.” Martin Matishak reports for POLITICO.
On Navalny, Biden said that if he were to die in prison: “I made it clear to him that I believed the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia.” Betsy Klein and Maegan Vazquez report for CNN.
Biden did not secure a commitment from Putin to renew a U.N. cross-border aid operation into Syria which Russia has previously questioned the importance of, a senior administration official said ahead of an expected showdown over the issue at the U.N. Security Council next month. “The U.N. Security Council first authorized a cross-border aid operation by U.N. and nongovernmental organizations into Syria in 2014 at four points. Last year, it reduced that access to one crossing point from Turkey due to opposition from Russia and China over renewing all four,” reports Reuters.
Key takeaways from the Biden-Putin summit by The Hill, Washington Post and CNN
Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) vowed that the Senate will vote on repealing the 2002 Iraq War authorization for the use of military force (AUMF). Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced that it will vote next week on legislation from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) to repeal the 1991 and 2002 AUMFs, the former paving the way to the way for US military’s action in the first Gulf War. The House is also voting this week to repeal the 2002 Iraq War AUMF. The White House announced in a statement its support for bill. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.
In that statement, the White House noted that the U.S. “has no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF as a domestic legal basis,” and that getting the law off the books “would likely have minimal impact on current military operations.” Andrew Desiderio reports for POLITICO.
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) warns of blood on President Biden’s hands if he does not speedily evacuate out of Afghanistan Afghans that helped the U.S. during the war. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
Iran prepares to vote tomorrow for a new president. AP reporting.
What to know about Ebrahim Raisi, the front-runner in Iran’s presidential election by Miriam Beger for the Washington Post.
The Israeli military has said that “except in exceptional circumstances,” it is halting its controversial practice known as “intelligence mapping” which involves conducting late-night raids on Palestinian homes in the West Bank aimed at gathering information about the houses and their inhabitants.“Under the practice, soldiers would rouse families in the middle of the night to document the dimensions and inhabitants of homes in the occupied territory. Rights groups said the raids, conducted in homes where no one was suspected of illegal activities, served no strategic purpose and caused deep psychological trauma,” AP reporting.
A village in central Myanmar was on Tuesday torched by the military junta after clashes with opponents, killing at least two people and burning to the ground about 200 homes, residents have told local media. “MRTV state television said the blaze on Tuesday at Kin Ma, a village of about 800 people in the Magway Region, was caused by ‘terrorists’ and that media who reported otherwise were ‘deliberately plotting to discredit the military’ … The Reuters news agency was unable to independently verify the cause of the blaze. A military spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment,” reports Al Jazeera.
The International Criminal Court (ICC)’s new chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, was sworn in yesterday and pledged to build “stronger cases” and improve the court’s track record. Al Jazeera reporting.
The coronavirus has infected close to 33.49 million and now over 699,650 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 177.07 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.833 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson 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.