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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
A member of CIA Director William Burns’ team reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome during Burns’ trip to India earlier this month, sources have said. The staff member had to receive medical attention, with the incident setting off alarm bells within the government and leaving Burns “fuming” with anger, according to one source. Kylie Atwood reports for CNN.
Two veteran Republican campaign operatives have been charged in a new federal indictment with funneling $25,000 from a Russian national into former President Trump’s 2016 campaign. The grand jury indictment alleges that Jesse Benton and Doug Wead “worked together to accept $100,000 from an unidentified Russian national in order to get the foreigner a meeting with then-candidate Trump at a fundraiser in Philadelphia on Sept. 22, 2016…Neither Trump nor his campaign are mentioned by name in the indictment, but details in the 19-page document make clear that the scheme involved seeking the donation in connection with the Trump event and an opportunity to get face to face with him…For example, the indictment’s reference to a $25,000 donation on Oct. 27, 2016, to a political committee by Benton — allegedly to cover up the foreign source of the money — lines up with a donation of the same size and date to Trump’s political committee attributed to a ‘Jesse Bentor,’ which prosecutors said is a garbling of Benton’s name,” Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
According to the indictment, Benton and Wead “concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal regulators, and the public,” Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. has added Guatemalan Attorney General Consuelo Porras, a top aide of Porras and five Salvadoran Supreme Court judges on a list of “undemocratic and corrupt” officials. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the move on Twitter with El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, responding on Twitter that “it’s clear the list has NOTHING to do with ‘corruption,’ it’s pure politics and the lowest kind of interference.” Reuters reporting.
A drone strike has killed at least one person in a rebel-controlled area of northwestern Syria. The drone hit a vehicle travelling on a rural road in the area, killing one unidentified individual, rescue workers and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have said. Spokesperson Col. Wayne Marotto said that the U.S. coalition was not behind the attack. However, U.S. Central Command later announced that U.S. forces conducted a “kinetic counterterrorism strike” near Idlib province targeting a senior al-Qaeda leader. “Initial indications are that we struck the individual we were aiming for, and there are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike,” the statement said. “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said the vehicle carried a militant from one of the radical groups operating in the province. The Observatory didn’t identify the group but said it was linked to al-Qaeda,” AP reports.
Agriculture group New Cooperative group was hit by a ransomware attack from Russia-linked ransomware group BlackMatter over the weekend. The attack potentially endangers the operations of a company key to the agricultural supply chain and appears to test President Biden’s terms that Russia-based hacking groups should steer clear of 16 critical sectors of the U.S. economy, which include “food and agriculture.” In messages with Bloomberg News, however, BlackMatter said that it has rules for how it operates its ransomware operation and the hack on New Cooperative did not violate Biden’s mandate as “the volumes of their production do not correspond to the volume to call them critical.” William Turton reports for Bloomberg.
President Biden intends to defend the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan at a speech to the U.N. today and to argue that it was needed to pivot U.S. policy to focus on a global challenge from China and climate change. Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland report for Reuters.
56 anti-war groups are urging lawmakers to use the annual defense policy bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to end all U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s civil war. In a letter sent yesterday the organizations wrote that “by suspending the sale of arms and ending U.S. participation in the Saudi coalition’s war and blockade, Congress can prevent a humanitarian catastrophe from spiraling further out of control as it reasserts its constitutional authority on matters of war and peace.” Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has launched an investigation into U.K. Ministry of Defense data breaches involving the email addresses of hundreds of Afghan interpreters who worked for British forces in Afghanistan. More than 250 people seeking relocation to the U.K. – many of whom are in hiding – were mistakenly copied into an email from the Ministry of Defense, with their email addresses, names and some associated profile pictures, being visible to all recipients. The U.K. Ministry of Defense has apologized in a statement. Phil Kemp, Lucy Manning and Ed Campbell report for BBC News.
The Taliban have expanded their interim Cabinet and have announced a list of deputy ministers, failing to name any women. The all-male deputy ministers were announced, despite an international outcry when the Taliban presented their all-male Cabinet earlier this month. At a news conference today, Taliban government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid held out the possibility of adding women to the Cabinet later but gave no specifics. Kathy Gannon reports for AP.
Among the deputy minsters appointed, two veteran battlefield commanders from the movement’s southern heartlands were named as deputies in important ministries. Taliban spokesperson Mujahid said Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir will be deputy defense minister, while Sadr Ibrahim was named deputy minister for the interior. Reuters reports.
The Taliban have said that there is no evidence of Islamic State or al Qaeda militants being in Afghanistan, despite Islamic State recently claiming responsibility for bomb attacks in the eastern city of Jalalabad. “We do not see anyone in Afghanistan who has anything to do with al Qaeda,” Taliban spokesperson Mujahid told a news conference in Kabul. “We are committed to the fact that, from Afghanistan, there will not be any danger to any country,” he added. Reuters reports.
The Taliban administration is working towards reopening high school education for girls in Afghanistan, Mujahid has said, giving no time frame for action. The Taliban last week that they would open schools for high school-aged boys but not girls. “The Ministry of Education is working hard to provide the ground for the education of high school girls as soon as possible, work is under way on the procedure, and it is hoped that this will be done, God willing,” the Taliban spokesperson told reporters. Reuters reporting.
Nearly three metric tons of heroin with a street value of $2.7 billion from Afghanistan have been seized from Mundra Port in the western Indian state of Gujarat in a major bust, officials have said. The consignment – with one container carrying nearly 2,000kg of heroin and another holding nearly 1,000kg – originated from Afghanistan and was shipped from a port in Iran to Gujarat. The Guardian reports.
E.U. officials are demanding answers and an apology from Australia over its treatment of France following the Aukus security deal between Australia, U.S. and U.K. which resulted in Australia pulling out of a prior submarine deal it had made with France. The fallout from the Aukus pact has threatened to delay a free-trade agreement that Australia has been hoping to enter with the E.U., with E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying that Australia had some explaining to do first. “One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we want to know what happened and why,” von der Leyen said in an interview with CNN. “Therefore, you first of all clarify that, before you keep on going with business as usual,” she said. Amy Remeikis reports for the Guardian.
The E.U.’s top leaders have accused President Biden of disloyalty to the transatlantic alliance, and demanded he explain why he misled France and other E.U. partners in forging the Aukus pact. “With the new Joe Biden administration, America is back. What does it mean America is back? Is America back in America or somewhere else? We don’t know,” European Council President Charles Michel told reporters in New York. “The elementary principles for an alliance are loyalty and transparency,” Michel said, adding: “we are observing a clear lack of transparency and loyalty.” David M. Herszenhorn reports for POLITICO.
Germany has joined France today in criticizing the U.S. for negotiating the Aukus pact with Australia and the U.K., which cost France the lucrative submarine deal, saying Washington and Canberra have damaged trust between allies that would be difficult to rebuild. Further, “in a concrete signal of the bloc’s outrage, E.U. ambassadors postponed preparations for an inaugural trade and technology council on Sept. 29 with the United States, a gathering that was trumpeted as a major advance in the transatlantic alliance,” Philip Blenkinsop and Robin Emmott report for Reuters.
The Philippines has said that it is backing the Aukus pact and hopes that the defense alliance can maintain the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region, a view that contrasts sharply with Indonesia and Malysia. “The enhancement of a near-abroad ally’s ability to project power should restore and keep the balance rather than destabilize it,” the Philippines’ foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, said in a statement. Reuters reporting.
The chair of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Bennie Thompson (D-MS), has said that the select committee will likely send out subpoenas to companies and individuals who have not complied with the committee’s records requests “within a week.” The select committee requested records from a variety of government agencies and social media companies over August and earlier this month the committee told social media companies that it still needs “much more information” and would use any available means to compel them to cooperate. Thompson would not go into detail on which companies have been cooperating or resisting the requests but said that “we will probably as a committee issue subpoenas either to witnesses or organizations within a week.” Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.
House Democrats are planning to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power today, seeking to strengthen checks on the presidency and addressing the ways that former President Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act, however it is likely that the Act may be taken up in a piecemeal way in the Senate giving the previous support from Republicans to only certain of its reforms. The changes proposed include making it “harder for presidents to offer or bestow pardons in situations that raise suspicion of corruption, refuse to respond to oversight subpoenas, spend or secretly freeze funds contrary to congressional appropriations, and fire inspectors general or retaliate against whistle-blowers, among many other changes,” Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
A Pentagon appeals panel has overturned a ruling by an army judge who found that evidence obtained during the torture of a defendant could be considered in determining pretrial matters in a death-penalty case at Guantánamo Bay. “‘The issue of admissibility of such evidence is not ripe or ready for judicial review,’ the Court of Military Commission Review ruled in a six-page decision that essentially left to another day the overarching issue of whether prosecutors can in some instances use evidence obtained through the torture of a prisoner,” Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who was arrested for carrying a gun at Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rightwing rally at the U.S. Capitol will not be prosecuted. “Generally, under federal law, law enforcement officers are given reciprocity to legally carry their weapons in other states, even those with restrictive gun laws. But the law has an exemption for government property or military bases where it is illegal to carry a gun, like the U.S. Capitol. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington said prosecutors were ‘not moving forward with charges’ but did not provide additional information about the decision,” Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker and Colleen Long report for AP.
Lawyers for the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have asked a judge for more time to prepare their defense, saying that they are reviewing millions of pages of documents and that prosecutors may file further indictments against other people. Since Weisselberg’s indictment, his defense team has received more than six million pages of documents from prosecutors, which they need additional time to review, his lawyers said. “We have strong reasons to believe there could be other indictments coming…we are shooting at a moving target,” Bryan Skarlatos, a lawyer for Weisselberg, also told the New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan yesterday. Prosecutors did not respond in court to Skarlatos’s comment about further expected indictments. Corinne Ramey and Deanna Paul report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Manhattan criminal court judge tentatively scheduled Weisselberg’s trial for the end of summer 2022. The proposed time frame would overlap with the closing stretch of the 2022 midterm campaign season, potentially influencing the impact of Trump on the midterms. Jonah E. Bromwich and Kate Christobek report for the New York Times.
A lawyer working with Trump’s legal team tried to convince then-Vice President Pence that he could overturn the 2020 election results on Jan. 6 when Congress counted the Electoral College votes by throwing out electors from seven states, according to the new book “Peril” from journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The scheme was outlined in a two-page memo, obtained by Woodward and Costa and subsequently CNN, which “provides new detail showing how Trump and his team tried to persuade Pence to subvert the Constitution and throw out the election results on Jan. 6,” Jamie Gangel and Jeremy Herb report for CNN.
According to Woodward and Costa’s new book, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mike Lee (R-UT) agreed separately to consider Trump’s election fraud claims, with both senators remaining unconvinced. The new book reveals how far the two Republicans, who both ultimately voted to certify the election results, went in examining the former president’s fraud claims, including getting briefed on the details, involving their senior staff and calling state official throughout the country. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports for the Washington Post.
Photos and video have emerged showing Border Patrol agents chasing and grabbing immigrants while on horseback, with the Department for Homeland Security (DHS) announcing an investigation into the footage. The images show the Border Patrol agents attempting to grab migrants and use their horses to push them back towards Mexico. One agent is heard on video shouting an obscenity as a child jumps out of the horse’s path. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters in Del Rio, Texas, that the DHS would look into the incident, with the department announcing more formal inquiries yesterday evening. “The footage is extremely troubling and the facts learned from the full investigation, which will be conducted swiftly, will define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken,” the DHS said in a Tweet. Nick Miroff and Felicia Sonmez report for the Washington Post.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki yesterday called the pictures that appeared to show a Border Patrol agent on horseback with a whip to deter migrants “horrific” and that she could not imagine “what context would make that appropriate.” Psaki declined to confirm yesterday what the consequences would be for the agent’s actions, saying “we just have to get more information on that” before she could comment further. Dareh Gregorian reports for NBC News.
The DHS has asked the Pentagon for help in moving migrants waiting asylum processing in Del Rio, Texas, to other processing facilities, Department of Defense (DOD) press secretary John Kirby said yesterday. Kirby said that the DOD support, which will be on a reimbursable, temporary basis, will conclude on or before Oct. 20 and can “be provided at minimal risk to current DOD missions.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
President Biden’s administration has said that the U.S. will raise the cap on refugee admissions to 125,000 next year, fulfilling an earlier pledge from Biden to raise the cap that had been cut to a historic low by former President Trump. “The White House set the proposed annual cap in a report to Congress, saying there was unprecedented number of displaced people around the world because of conflict, humanitarian crises and climate change,” AP reports.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has one the most seats of any party in Canada’s parliamentary elections, but Trudeau’s gamble to win a majority of seats failed. According to the unofficial results, “Trudeau’s Liberals were leading or elected in 156 seats — one less than they won 2019, and 14 short of the 170 needed for a majority in the House of Commons,” AP reports.
President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party has maintained its tight grip on the Russia’s parliament following three-day elections, according to election results announced by the Central Election Commission. The turnout, at 51.68 percent, for the elections surpassed the 2016 turnout of 47.88 percent, which was the lowest in Russian history. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
The elections in Russia have been criticized by opposition parties and independent observers of mass fraud, ballot stuffing and tampering. “Pre-vote surveys had suggested that discontent over years of faltering living standards and corruption allegations would dent United Russia’s support. In the event, near final official results showed it securing around only 4% less than the last time a similar election was held in 2016. The U.S. State Department said the election conditions had not been conducive to free and fair proceedings, Britain’s foreign ministry called the vote a setback for democratic freedom, and E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc noted reports of serious violations,” Andrew Osborn and Polina Nikolskaya report for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Sudanese government has said that military officers and civilians linked to the deposed regime of longtime president Omar al-Bashir had attempted a coup today but have been brought under control. Over 40 officers have been arrested, including the leaders of the failed coup, and interrogations of suspects involved in the attempted coup is due to begin. Arwa Ibrahim provides live updates for Al Jazeera.
Russia was responsible for the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found today. Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who became a British citizen, was fatally poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in London in 2006. A U.K. public inquiry which concluded that the killing was “probably approved” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Litvinenko’s widow took the case against Russia to the ECHR, which has agreed with the U.K. inquiry’s conclusion. BBC News reporting.
The Kremlin has rejected the “unsubstantiated” ruling from the ECHR that found Russia was responsible for the 2006 poisoning of ex-KGB officer Litvinenko. “The ECHR hardly has the authority or technological capacity to possess information on the matter. There are still no results from this investigation and making such claims is at the very least unsubstantiated,” a Kremlin spokesperson has said. Reuters reporting.
The annual “Freedom on the Net” report by U.S. think-tank Freedom House paints a grim picture of online rights declining globally in 2021 for the 11th year in a row. Internet users in a record number of countries have faced arrest and physical attacks for their posts over the past year, the report states, with internet shutdowns in Myanmar and Belarus being particular low points. Al Jazeera reports.
Just Security have published a piece titled “Revenge of the State: Freedom House Finds Tech Increasingly Serves Authoritarian Ends” by Justin Hendrix, which unpacks some of the Freedom on the Net report’s broader themes and considers the report’s findings in regard to the U.S., India and China.
A Rwandan court has convicted Paul Rusesabagina, a U.S. resident immortalized by Hollywood for saving more than 1,200 people during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. Rusesabagina was found guilty of at least a dozen charges spanning from terrorism to financing and founding armed groups, murder, arson and conspiracy to involve children in militancy. Rusesabagina, one of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s sharpest critics, has described the trial as politically motivated to silence him. Nicholas Bariyo reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A New York man has been arrested for threatening to kill the Dominican Republic President Luis Abinader after he tracked down Abinader in New York City where he is staying for the U.N. General Assembly, federal authorities said yesterday. Enrique Figueroa, a self-proclaimed QAnon supporter, made repeated threats on social media in recent weeks, depicting a growing violent obsession with Abinader and putting him on the radar of law enforcement officials in New York. Shayna Jacobs and Samantha Schmidt report for the Washington Post.
The coronavirus has infected over 42.28 million and has now killed over 676,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 229.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.70 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.