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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will begin work today, hearing from four police officers who were on duty on Jan. 6. The officers “are expected to testify about their experiences that day, including the physical and verbal abuse they were subjected to as hundreds of people swarmed the Capitol,” the Guardian reports.
House Democratic party members will attempt to move past the partisan rancor that has engulfed the Jan. 6 select committee, including by giving prominent roles to the two panel Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) during the committee’s inaugural hearing, and highlighting what they expect to be emotional testimony from police officers. Cheney has been allowed to deliver an opening statement at the inaugural hearing today, along with the panel’s chair. Jacqueline Alemany and Marianna Sotomayor report for the Washington Post.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) the chair of the Jan. 6 select committee has cast the net wide on witnesses, saying that the select committee won’t hesitate to subpoena members of Congress or former President Trump and will try to enforce the subpoenas in court if necessary. “Anybody who had a conversation with the White House and officials in the White House while the invasion of the Capitol was going on is directly in the investigative sights of the committee,” Thompson said. Lindsay Wise reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Five key things to watch as the Jan. 6 select committee begins its work, including how Cheney and Kinzinger will work with the Democrats on the panel and manage the fire from their own party, are set out by Cristina Marcos and Rebecca Beitsch for The Hill.
The House has rejected an effort by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to seat his preferred members for the Jan. 6 select committee. McCarthy is protesting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’s refusal to seat two of the three Republicans McCarthy nominated to the panel, Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) over their attempts to cast doubt on the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 investigation and their close ties to Trump. “The two-page resolution offered by McCarthy formally ‘condemns the refusal’ of Pelosi to seat all five of his chosen members to the select committee and urges her to do so. ‘Speaker Pelosi’s refusal to seat all five Republican members directly harms the legitimacy, credibility and integrity of the proceedings of the select committee,’ the resolution states,” Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill.
Tech accountability groups are urging Congress to “dig deeper” into the role that Facebook played leading up to the Jan. 6 attack ahead of today’s House hearing about the attack. The group are sending a report, composed of publicly available information and the groups’ previous findings of how Facebook was used ahead of the attack, to House and Senate leadership offices, as well as members of the House select committee formed to investigate the attack. Rebecca Klar report for The Hill.
Just Security have recently published a piece by Ryan Goodman, Barbara McQuade and Joyce Vance considering what Questions the January 6 Select Committee Should Ask Its Witnesses.
CHINA AND HONG KONG
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with Chinese officials in the Chinese port city of Tianjin yesterday, and despite trading barbs there were some indications that both sides wanted to dial down the temperature in the U.S.-China conflict. According to State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, “Sherman affirmed the importance of cooperation on a range of issues including the climate crisis, counter narcotics, North Korea and Iran,” Sherman Eva Dou reports for the Washington Post.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that he is committed to having a constructive relationship with China and working on common challenges as he laid out his vision for ties with Beijing during a speech in Singapore. “We will not flinch when our interests are threatened. Yet we do not seek confrontation,” Austin said, according to excerpts of his speech. “I am committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China, including stronger crisis communications with the People’s Liberation Army [China],” he added. Idrees Ali reports for Reuters.
The first person charged and tried under Hong Kong’s national security law has been found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession. Tong Ying-kit, 24, had pleaded not guilty to the charges, which relate to crashing his motorcycle into three riot police, and of inciting secessionism for carrying a flag on the motorbike with the protest slogan “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” Tong now faces possible prison terms ranging from several years to life and it is likely that the ruling will set a precedent for future cases brought under the law. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.
The U.S. State Department called Sherman’s meetings with Wang and other officials in Tianjin, China “frank and open,” while Beijing described the talks as “in-depth and frank.” “The Deputy Secretary underscored that the United States welcomes the stiff competition between our countries—and that we intend to continue to strengthen our own competitive hand—but that we do not seek conflict with” China, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. Nicole Gaouette and Kylie Atwood report for CNN.
Beijing has provided a long list of demands to the Biden administration, showing limited signs of toning the harsh rhetoric against the U.S. The requests included revoking sanctions on Communist Party officials, lifting visa bans for students, making life easier for state-affiliated journalists and reopening the door for Confucius Institutes. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng also said that “the U.S. side is in no position to lecture China on democracy and human rights,” adding that the U.S. was once “engaged in genocide against Native Americans.” China has not yet released details of Wang’s meeting with Sherman. Sher Stuart Lau reports for POLITICO.
President Biden’s administration’s strategy for confronting China on points of dispute, while leaving the door open for cooperation against global threats, has met resistance at the negotiating table. Talks with Sherman “began with a barrage of public criticism from the Chinese side and ended with little sign that the two combative powers were closer to narrowing their disagreements,” Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers reports for the New York Times.
China appears to be digging a new field of what appears to be 110 silos for launching nuclear missiles, the second such field discovered by analysts studying commercial satellite images in recent weeks. However, it is unclear if the silos signify a vast expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal or a “creative, if costly, negotiating ploy,” William J. Broad and David E. Sanger report for the New York Times.
Longtime former President Trump associate and ex-advisor Thomas Barrack has pleaded not guilty to charges relating to foreign lobbying. “Barrack, 74, and his co-defendant Matthew Grimes, 27, were arraigned Monday in federal court in Brooklyn, where they are charged with failing to register as agents of a foreign government while covertly working on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. Barrack, who is also accused of lying to the FBI, is free on a $250 million bond,” Shayna Jacobs reports for the Washington Post.
Four Democratic party members have suggested blacklisting the Israeli cyber firm NSO Group that licensed the Pegasus spyware used by governments to hack the phones of journalists, human rights activists and business executives. “Enough is enough. The recent revelations regarding misuse of the NSO Group’s software reinforce our conviction that the hacking for hire industry must be brought under control,” Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Katie Porter (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) said in a joint statement. Cristiano Lima reports for the Washington Post.
The Senate has confirmed President Biden’s nomination for Air Force secretary Frank Kendall, formerly the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer during former President Obama’s administration. Kendall’s nomination stalled in the Senate after several senators placed holds on him, which have now been lifted. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration is planning to speed up deportations for some migrant families who cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security said yesterday. “Certain families will now be subject to the fast-track deportation procedure known as ‘expedited removal,’ which allows immigration authorities to remove an individual without a hearing before an immigration judge. The procedure will apply to families who are not swiftly expelled under a pandemic-related border policy,” Priscilla Alvarez reports for CNN.
Software company Kaseya has strongly denied paying hackers for a decryption key following the ransomware attack on the company that impacted up to 1,500 organizations earlier this month. “Kaseya decided after consultation with experts to not negotiate with the criminals who perpetrated this attack and we have not wavered from that commitment,” the company wrote in a statement released yesterday. “As such, we are confirming in no uncertain terms that Kaseya did not pay a ransom – either directly or indirectly through a third party – to obtain the decryptor.” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The Cuban Embassy in Paris was attacked with gasoline bombs, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry has said. The Foreign Ministry’s International Press Center said that the attack occurred around midnight when three Molotov cocktails were thrown, with two hitting the embassy and starting a fire. Cuban diplomats extinguished the blaze as French firefighters and police arrived at the scene. It his tweet announcing the incident Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez put the blame on Washington. “I hold the U.S. Government responsible for its continuous campaigns against our country that encourage these behaviors and for calls for violence, with impunity, from its territory,” he said. AP reports.
A police source has said that an investigation is under way into the attack, adding that the motives behind the incident were not known, while the Cuban Foreign Ministry has said on Twitter that “those directly responsible for these acts are those who incite violence and hatred against our country.” Reuters reporting.
The U.S. has joined a coalition of 20 other countries in condemning the arrests of protesters in Cuba. In a joint statement issued yesterday, the nations called on Cuba “to respect the universal rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, including the free flow of information to all Cubans.” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
19 Republican lawmakers have written to President Biden requesting a meeting to discuss the ongoing situation in Cuba, which has escalated in recent weeks following anti-government protests. The coalition, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in their letter requested the meeting to discuss how Congress and the administration “can work together to bring an end to the oppressive communist regime in Havana and liberate the Cuban people.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
President Biden has said that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will conclude by the end of 2021, but that U.S. military will continue to work with Iraqi forces in their fight against the Islamic State militant group. The announcement was made at the start of a White House meeting yesterday with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. “We are not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” Biden said, adding that U.S. military forces would “be available to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS.” Ken Thomas and Michael R. Gordon report for the Wall Street Journal.
The announcement of the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq is seen as an attempt to help the Iraqi Prime Minister address criticism about the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. There are currently 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq helping local forces counter what remains of the Islamic State group, however political parties aligned to Iran have demanded the withdrawal of all forces from the U.S.-led global coalition against Islamic State. BBC News reports.
A group of Senate Democratic party members have called on the Biden administration to condemn reported human rights violations in Philippines as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s five-year war on drugs. “In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, nearly a dozen Democratic senators raised concern about U.S. military support to the Philippines and called on the administration to clarify its policy toward the South Asian country and Duterte’s crackdown on opposition politicians and journalists,” Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
Tunisia’s democracy is verging on collapse as Tunisia’s President Kais Saied takes control of the country. Troops surrounded Tunisia’s parliament and blocked its speaker from entering yesterday after Saied suspended the legislature and fired the prime minister and other top members of government. “Some demonstrators cheered the firings, shouting with joy and waving Tunisian flags. But others accused the president of a power grab, and the country’s overseas allies expressed concern that it might be descending again into autocracy. In a move sure to fuel those worries, police raided the offices of broadcaster Al-Jazeera and ordered it shut down,” Ben Bouazza reports for AP.
Saied has imposed a month-long curfew and has banned gatherings of more than three people in public places. “The new restrictions, announced by presidential order late on Monday, prohibit the movement of people between cities outside times of curfew, except for basic needs or for urgent health reasons,” The Guardian reports.
Saied has been accused by Tunisia’s main political parties of staging a coup, while Saied says he acted in accordance with the constitution, as countries call for open dialogue to resolve any disputes. “In a telephone call on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Tunisian president to ‘maintain open dialogue with all political actors and the Tunisian people,’ according to his office. The U.N. said ‘all disputes… should be resolved through dialogue,’ while the E.U. urged all sides involved to respect the rule of law and avoid violence. There were similar appeals from the Arab League, Russia and Qatar,” BBC News reports.
Saied has responded to critics who called his actions a coup by telling them to “review your constitutional lessons,” and framing his actions as a constitutional and popular response to years of economic and political paralysis. “The president was also keen to reassure the business community saying: ‘we do not have any problems with businessmen,’ shortly after credit ratings agency Fitch warned Tunisia would need to retain its reserves to avoid another rating downgrade,” Reuters reports.
U.S. Officials are undertaking a last-minute push to get Afghan informants who worked for the CIA out of Afghanistan before the U.S. military complete their withdrawal from the country. Many of the Afghan spies, whose work for the United States in some cases became publicly known in Afghanistan, face the possibility of a deadly reprisal from the Taliban once the U.S. troops leave. Emma Loop reports for Foreign Policy.
Pakistan has reopened an Afghanistan border crossing now held by the Taliban on the Afghan side, Pakistani customs officials have said. The Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing, a key crossing for Afghanistan, had been closed by Pakistan since fierce fighting for control of the crossing erupted between the Taliban and Afghan forces earlier this month. Gul Yousafzai and Asif Shahzad report for Reuters.
The resurgent Taliban have taken more territory in Afghanistan in the last two months than at any time since they were ousted from power in 2001. In recent weeks the Taliban have been emboldened by the withdrawal of U.S. troops and have retaken a number of districts from Afghan government control. BBC News reports on the fluctuating picture of who controls which areas in Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that he has spoken to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to reassure him that NATO will continue to support Afghanistan. “NATO will continue to support Afghanistan, including with funding; civilian presence; and out-of-country training,” Stoltenberg wrote on his Twitter account today. Reuters reporting.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea and South Korea have restored their once-severed hotline as part of efforts by the two countries’ leaders to rebuild strained ties and restart communicating. South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s press secretary has said that Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged multiple letters since April and agreed to reconnect the hotlines as the “first step” in the process to “recover relations.” “They have also agreed to regain trust as soon as possible and foster progress on relations again,” the press secretary added. Reuters reporting.
France’s foreign ministry has said that Iran is endangering the chance of concluding an accord with world powers on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal if it does not return to the negotiating table soon. “If it continues on this path, not only will it continue to delay when an agreement to lift sanctions can be reached, but it risks jeopardizing the very possibility of concluding the Vienna talks and restoring the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action],” the foreign ministry spokesperson said. Reuters reporting.
Iran has said that its security forces have arrested a network of agents working for Israel and that it has seized a cache of weapons it said were intended for use during recent unrest and protests sparked by water shortages in Iran, state media has reported. “Mossad [Israel’s intelligence agency] operatives intended to use the equipment in urban riots and assassinations,” an Intelligence Ministry official reportedly said. There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials. Reuters reports.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is to visit France this week to discuss the Pegasus spyware sold by Israeli cyber firm NSO Group that was allegedly used to target French President Emmanuel Macron. Other topics on the agenda include “the crisis in Lebanon and the developing agreement with Iran,” an official Israeli statement said. Reuters reports.
Authorities in Haiti have arrested a top security official who served as general security coordinator when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated. Jean Laguel Civil joins more than two dozen suspects arrested by Haiti National Police as the investigation in the assassination continues. Civil’s attorney called the arrest politically motivated; it was not immediately clear whether Civil had been charged. Evens Sanon reports for AP.
Nicaraguan police have placed under house arrest a seventh presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. Following opposition leader Noel Vidaurre’s arrest, all those who could have challenged Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in the upcoming Nov. 7 elections have now been detained. AP reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 34.50 million and has now killed close to 611,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 194.70 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.15 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.