Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
NORTH KOREA AND SOUTH KOREA
North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles across its east coast, South Korea’s military has said. The tests would be North Korea’s first ballistic missile test in six months and would be a breach of U.N. resolutions. BBC News reports.
South Korea said hours after North Korea’s ballistic missile launch, that it has carried out a successful test of a submarine launched ballistic missile. The rival launches intensify the arms race between North Korea and South Korea and will likely give fresh impetus to the effort to end the diplomatic standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs. “The underwater-launched ballistic missile test makes South Korea only the eighth country known to have developed such a weapon, joining its rival to the North as well as the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and India,” Jennifer Jet reports for NBC News.
The foreign ministers of South Korea and China held talks in Seoul today amid concerns over North Korea’s recent missile test and stalled denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. South Korea’s Chung Eui-yong met Wang Yi, who is also a state councilor, on the second day of a two-day visit, Seoul’s foreign ministry has said. “Chung vowed to continue fostering peace with the North, expressing hopes that the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing could provide a chance to kick-start that effort,” Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said that the North Korea missiles flew from a central inland area towards the waters off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast and that further analysis with U.S. officials was under way to determine which types of missiles were used. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has called the launch “outrageous,” and condemned the action as a threat to peace and security in the region. The Guardian reports.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has said in a statement that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory or allies. However, the statement said that the missiles highlight “the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] illicit weapons program.” CNBC reports.
Three former U.S. intelligence officials have admitted to working as illegal mercenary hackers for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Justice Department announced yesterday. The hackers’ work included developing sophisticated spyware capable of tapping into mobile devices without any action by their users. The men have been charged with conspiracy to violate U.S. military export control and computer fraud and “were allegedly part of a clandestine effort that helped the UAE spy on targets around the world, using servers and computers and evading detection by providers of compromised devices, including in the United States,” Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
The three former U.S. intelligence officers have admitted to the hacking crimes and violating U.S. export laws that restrict the transfer of military technology to foreign governments, according to court documents. The three men, who worked for DarkMatter, a company that is effectively an arm of the Emirati government, admitted violating U.S. laws as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. “If the men comply with the agreement, the Justice Department will drop the criminal prosecution. Each man will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The men will also never be able to receive a U.S. government security clearance,” Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
The former U.S. operatives have agreed to pay more than $1.68 million to settle the federal mercenary hacking charges. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate said yesterday that there has been “no indication” that the Russian government has taken steps to stop the activities of cyber criminals engaging in ransomware attacks against U.S. organizations, despite outreach efforts by President Biden’s administration. During a panel at the Intelligence and National Security Summit, Abbate explained the U.S. has had no help from Russia following requests for assistance with cracking down on ransomware attackers who are based in Russia and who the U.S. has indictments against. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, has promised that he is mounting a “surge” of efforts to respond to the mounting ransomware attacks on critical U.S. organizations. Nakasone made the comments during an interview with the Associated Press and “described ‘an intense focus’ by government specialists to better find and share information about cyberattacks and ‘impose costs when necessary.’ Those costs include publicly linking adversarial countries to high-profile attacks and exposing the means by which those attacks were carried out, he said,” Nomaan Merchant reports for AP.
The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, twice called his Chinese counterpart in the final months of former President Trump’s administration to reassure him that Trump had no plans to attack China in an effort to remain in power and that the U.S. was not collapsing. The revelations are made in a new book, “Peril,” by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. “Things may look unsteady,” Milley, told Gen. Li Zuocheng of China on Jan. 8, two days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and in the second of two such calls. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes,” Milley said, according to the book. Michael S. Schmidt reports for the New York Times.
The first call between Milley and his Chinese counterpart occurred on Oct. 30 2020, four days before the 2020 election that unseated Trump. The authors write that the call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting that the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack, and was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea and deepened by Trump’s rhetoric toward China. “General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told his Chinese counterpart. According to the book, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport that they had established through a backchannel. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports for the Washington Post.
Milley took further secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a military strike or launching nuclear weapons, according to “Peril,” including calling a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on Jan. 8 to review the process. Milley instructed the senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved. “No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I‘m part of that procedure,” Milley told the officers, according to the book.. Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart report for CNN.
Trump has criticized the reporting about Milley as “fake news.” “Trump said the account written by Woodward and Costa in their book ‘Peril,’ which is set to be released Sept. 21, was ‘concocted by a weak and ineffective General together with two authors who I refused to give an interview to because they write fiction, not fact,’” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
An amendment has been proposed to the 2022 defense bill that would pressure the Biden administration to sell or transfer new air and missile defense systems to Ukraine, including potentially sending an Iron Dome battery currently being operated by the U.S. Army; a move that would likely increase tensions with Moscow. The Biden administration has kept up Washington’s shipments of weapons and training to the Ukrainian military, however “included in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2022 defense policy bill is an amendment requiring the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress outlining options for potentially selling or transferring ‘existing systems’ to Ukraine that are likely not going to be deployed in the near-term,” Paul McLeary reports for POLITICO.
The new head of the U.N. nuclear test ban treaty organization has said that his goal is to have the treaty enter into force, which would require ratification by eight countries: the U.S., China, Iran, Israel, Egypt, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has 196 member states: 185 have signed the treaty and 170 have ratified it. However, the CTBT has not entered into force because it requires ratification by the eight non-ratifying nations that had nuclear power reactors or research reactors when the U.N. General Assembly adopted the treaty in 1996. Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Justice Department has opened an investigations into allegations of unconstitutional and civil rights abuses of prisoners in Georgia. The investigation will focus on prisoner-on-prisoner violence and the targeting of LGBT inmates by prisoners and staff, federal officials said yesterday. “The Justice Department found ‘significant justification’ to open the investigation, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a video news conference Tuesday, citing public reports of dozens of homicides, stabbings and beatings, scores of smuggled weapons, and open gang activity inside state-run prisons, along with extreme staff shortages,” Paulina Villegas reports for the Washington Post.
As part of the moves announced yesterday, the Justice Department has also “limited whether and how federal law enforcement officers can use tactics that have been widely criticized for their role in the deaths of Black people at the hands of the local police, including neck restraints like chokeholds and unannounced searches for evidence,” Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Woodward and Costa’s new book “peril” documents how Republicans struggled to manage former President Trump’s exit from the White House, while also trying to convince him to help the party down the road. “Filled with scenes of backbiting, temper tantrums, and expletive-filled phone calls, the book depicts a GOP in chaos, desperately trying to preserve its relationship with Trump,” Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart report for CNN.
A Florida-based woman who threatened to kill Vice President Harris in six threatening videos, has pleaded guilty to six counts of making threats against the vice president. Niviane Petit Phelps now faces five years in prison, with her sentencing scheduled for Nov. 19. Julian Mark reports for the Washington Post.
UPCOMING SEPT. 18 RALLY
Washington D.C. officials are preparing for a demonstration of far-right protestors in support of those who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, this Saturday, however, officials think the demonstration will prove to be a small gathering, attracting no more than a few hundred people. Officials are however concerned that those that do attend may bring firearms illegally, increasing the risks of potential clashes with other groups and demonstrations, in an area where multiple different events are scheduled. Julie Zauzmer Weil reports for the Washington Post.
The White House yesterday said that federal and local law enforcement agencies are in a “heightened state of alert” ahead of Saturday’s expected rally in Washington D.C. White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that officials “hope Saturday remains peaceful. To the extent needed, executive branch law enforcement agencies are postured, prepared, and ready to assist Capitol Police.” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Roughly 700 people are expected to attend the “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday, according to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official. The DHS expects that although several demonstrators connected to the Jan. 6 attack are expected to return for the rally this Saturday, the expected crowd will likely be far less than the thousands of protesters who attached the Capitol on Jan. 6. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
AFGHANISTAN – U.S. DEVELOPMENTS
U.S. intelligence agencies are seeing early signs that al Qaeda militants have begun to return to Afghanistan, Central Intelligence Agency Deputy Director David Cohen said yesterday. “We are already beginning to see some of the indications of some potential movement of al Qaeda to Afghanistan,” Cohen said at a conference. “But it’s early days and we will obviously keep a very close eye on that,” he added. Courtney McBride and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.
Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, “Peril,” details how President Biden overruled the attempts of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a slower withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The new book details how Biden was determined to not let the military stop him from withdrawing from Afghanistan, in the way he believed they did for former President Obama. CNN.
Afghan evacuation flights to the U.S. have remained paused indefinitely due to cases of measles, leaving thousands waiting in bases abroad until the flights can resume. “Out of an abundance of caution and pursuant to CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance, we have recently temporarily paused flights coming to the United States because of six diagnosed cases of measles among Afghan nationals who recently arrived in the United States,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
AFGHANISTAN – INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY, AID AND SUPPORT
The chief of the U.N. refugee agency has said that the international community and the Taliban will need to find a way to deal with each other for the sake of stabilizing Afghanistan. In an interview with the Associated Press Filippo Grandi said that the world faces a difficult choice. “The international community will have to balance pragmatism, the need to keep Afghanistan stable and viable, and the political considerations that that would mean supporting a government led by the Taliban,” he said. Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
A U.N. official has said that four million Afghans are facing “a food emergency.” The majority of those in crisis live in rural areas where $36 million is urgently needed for the coming months to ensure the planting of winter wheat, feed for livestock, and cash assistance for vulnerable families, the elderly and disabled, Rein Paulsen, director of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, told reporters yesterday. Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
The E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has told the European Parliament that the E.U. has no choice but to engage with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and will maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul. Borrell said the E.U. could only influence future developments in Afghanistan by engaging with the Taliban. “The embassies of the member states have been closed and they are not going to reopen but we still have a delegation that can be seen – just not an embassy, as we are not a state,” Borrell said. “[It] can be used if the security conditions are met in order to discuss with the government in a closer way than through video conferences or through messages,” he added. Daniel Boffey reports for the Guardian.
Afghanistan Taliban governor of the Helmand province has urged western nations to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate leaders. Talib Mawlawi has insisted that the time for fighting is over and has asked the U.K., and the rest of NATO, to recognize the Taliban as legitimate leaders of Afghanistan and then return to the country with money and not guns. “All those foreign countries invaded and killed our women and our children and our old people, and destroyed everything…now the international community should help us with humanitarian aid and focus on developing education, business and trade,” Mawlawi said in an interview with reporters. Emma Graham-Harrison reports for the Guardian.
Humanitarian flights to Kabul have restarted, having being stopped following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said yesterday that the return of the flights to Kabul was a turning point in the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan. The WFP-led Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has completed three cargo flights since the reopening of the air link to Kabul on Sept. 12, bringing in medical supplies on behalf of the World Health Organization. However, much more is needed, and aid agencies have been “scrambling to meet massive needs before it is too late,” a WFP spokesperson said. UN News Centre reports.
AFGHANISTAN – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
A major row broke out in the presidential palace in Kabul between leaders of the Taliban just days after they set up a new government in Afghanistan, senior Taliban officials have said. Supporters of two rival factions reportedly fought over who did the most to secure victory over the U.S. and how power was divided up in the new Taliban cabinet. The Taliban have officially denied the reports of a fight. The Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, has disappeared from view for several days and the Taliban officials said Baradar left Kabul after the argument. “One Taliban source told BBC Pashto that Baradar and Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani — the minister for refugees and a prominent figure within the militant Haqqani network — had exchanged strong words, as their followers brawled with each other nearby,” Khudai Noor Nasar reports for BBC News.
Afghanistan’s new foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, said yesterday that the Taliban remain committed to not allowing militants to use Afghanistan to launch attacks. Muttaqi however refused to say when or if the Taliban would create a more inclusive government with other political factions and women. Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
Iranian security guards physically harassed several female U.N. atomic agency inspectors at a nuclear facility over the past few months, diplomats have said. The incidents at Iran’s main nuclear facility allegedly involved inappropriate touching of female inspectors by male security guards and orders to remove clothing. The U.S. has demanded that Iran stop the behavior immediately. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has said that Israel would be willing to accept a return to a U.S.-negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, however Israeli officials are also pressing the U.S. to prepare a “serious demonstration of power” in case negotiations with Tehran fail. During an interview with Foreign Policy, Gantz also threatened military action were Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. Neri Zilber reports for Foreign Policy.
A leading Haitian prosecutor asked a judge yesterday to charge Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry in connection with the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The prosecutor, Bed-Ford Claude, told Judge Garry Orélien in a letter that there was enough evidence to order the immediate indictment of Henry. “There are sufficient compromising elements…to prosecute Mr. Henry and to demand his outright indictment,” Claude wrote. José de Córdoba and David Luhnow report for the Wall Street Journal.
Hours after Claude asked a judge to charge Haiti’s Prime Minister, Claude was replaced and a new chief prosecutor was sworn in. It is unclear when exactly Henry dismissed the chief prosecutor and if he was officially removed before he made the request to the judge. Sources have also said that it is not the prime minister’s remit to dismiss the prosecutor. “The Associated Press obtained a letter dated Monday in which Henry told Claude that he was being fired for an undefined ‘serious administrative fault’ and that the decision was effective as soon as he received the document,” AP reports.
In his two-page request submitted yesterday, Claude claimed Henry had spoken to the former justice ministry official Joseph Felix Badio for at least seven minutes following Moïse’s 7 July shooting. Badio is one of the chief suspects in the investigation and is thought to have been speaking from somewhere near Moïse’s residence. Badio has yet to be apprehended and his current whereabouts are unknown. Tom Phillips reports for the Guardian.
Claude also requested yesterday that immigration authorities keep Henry from leaving Haiti, and there are reports that the Haitian Prime Minister has been banned from leaving the country. BBC News reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least nine people, including civilians, have died, and 11 other people have been wounded, in a suspected suicide bombing in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, police and witnesses have said. The Al-Shabab armed group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Other police officer sources have said that the death toll stands at 11. Al Jazeera reports.
China’s new ambassador to the U.K. was banned from the U.K.’s Parliament yesterday, in the latest mark of mounting tensions between Beijing and London. “The decision to bar the diplomat, Zheng Zeguang, was issued by the speakers of the House of Commons and the House of Lords after complaints from a group of British lawmakers placed under sanction by China,” Adam Taylor and Annabelle Timsit report for the Washington Post.
Nine Hong Kong activists and ex-lawmakers have been handed jail sentences of up to 10 months over their roles in last year’s banned Tiananmen Square candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The vigil had been banned by officials in both 2020 and 2021 citing Covid-19 measures, however critics believe the decision was part of a push to silence the opposition. 12 people have pleaded guilty to participating in the event in 2020 where, despite the ban, thousands of people tuned up to light candles and sing songs. Three were given suspended sentences, while others were given prison sentences. BBC News reports.
Guinea’s opposition leaders have voiced support for the country’s new military rulers, as a four-day summit, which is aimed at chartering Guinea’s future following a military coup just over a week ago, began today. The opposition party leaders publicly backed the military coup and said that the country’s ousted president is to blame. “Pressure, though, is expected to mount this week for Col. Mamady Doumbouya to set a timeframe for holding new elections. Regional mediators and the international community are calling for the junta to hand over power to a civilian-led transitional government,” Boubacar Diallo and Krista Larson report for AP.
An ex-Kosovo pro-independence fighter has denied war crimes, as a special tribunal in The Hague investigating allegations of atrocities committed by Kosovo pro-independence fighters opened its first case today. The commander, Salih Mustafa, is accused of torturing prisoners during the 1998-1999 conflict with Serbia. “I am not guilty of any of the counts brought here before me by this Gestapo office,” Mustafa told judges. Stephanie van den Berg reports for Reuters.
The 76th U.N. General Assembly has begun at the U.N. Headquarters in New York. In a heartfelt speech before closing the 75th Assembly’s final meeting, outgoing President Volkan Bozkir noted that his tenure took place amidst a “tumultuous, historic, transformative, unequal, challenging and ground-breaking year.” Newly sworn in General Assembly President, Abdulla Shahid of the Maldives, then opened the new 76th session. Shahid spoke of near-universal “collective anxiety” and hopelessness, not all of which is pandemic-related, saying that “the narrative must change.” and that the General Assembly “must play a part in this.” UN News Centre reports.
Taiwan Fighter jets have practiced road landings in a drill practicing skills that would be needed in the event of an attack from China. “In exercises overseen by President Tsai Ing-wen, three aircraft – an F-16, French-made Mirage and a Ching-kuo Indigenous Defence Fighter plus an E-2 Hawk-Eye early warning aircraft – landed in rural southern Pingtung county on a road specially designed to be straight and flat for rapid conversion into a runway,” Reuters reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 41.36 million and has now killed close to 664,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 225.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 4.65 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.