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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
U.N. GENERAL ASSEMBLY
President Biden outlined a U.S. foreign policy vision based on global unity and diplomacy, calling for an end to armed conflict, during his first address to the U.N. as commander-in-chief. Biden called for a shift away from armed conflict after two decades of war in Afghanistan and the Middle East. “As we close this period of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy,” he said. Andrew Restuccia and Ken Thomas report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Taliban have asked to address world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly this week in New York City. The Taliban have nominated their Doha-based spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, as Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador. A U.N. credentials committee is considering the request, according to a U.N. spokesperson, however the committee is unlikely to meet before the end of the current General Assembly session and until then, under U.N. rules, Ghulam Isaczai, who the Taliban have said “no longer represents Afghanistan,” will remain Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.N.. “No government has formally recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new government and for the U.N. to agree to its nominee for ambassador would be an important step towards international acceptance,” BBC News reports.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on allies to “focus on [the] big picture” amid the dispute between the U.S. and France over the Aukus pact. In an interview with the Associated Press at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly Stoltenberg “also was cool to the notion of developing a separate European military force and said NATO needs to give careful consideration to any future deployments to fight terrorism after the 20-year war in Afghanistan,” Jennifer Peltz reports for AP.
Biden in his address called for global cooperation against common threats, including climate change and Covid-19, emerging technology threats and the expanding influence of autocratic nations such as China and Russia. Biden insisted that the United States and its Western allies would remain vital partners and called for the world to make the use of force “our tool of last resort, not our first,” while defending the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Rick Gladstone report for the New York Times.
Myanmar’s permanent representative to the U.N., a holdover from Myanmar’s deposed civilian government, is attending the U.N. General Assembly this week, averting for now a potential clash between the U.S. and China over who should represent the country at the U.N. “The compromise allows Kyaw Moe Tun to participate in all U.N. functions after the annual ‘general debate’ ends next week, fending off a challenge by Myanmar’s military junta, which wants him replaced. The issue of who should represent the country in the long term is postponed to a future date,” Feliz Solomon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Iran’s new hard-line president Ebrahim Raisi delivered an angry rebuke of the U.S. during a prerecorded address to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, describing U.S. power in the world as both evil and irrelevant. Rasi criticized U.S. sanctions but did not appear to rule out a solution to the impasse on negotiating the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that Iran “is keen to have large-scale political and economic cooperation and convergence with the rest of the world.” Rick Gladstone and Farnaz Fassihi report for the New York Times.
Raisi, who is himself under U.S. sanctions over alleged human rights abuses, denounced U.S. sanctions as “crimes against humanity during the coronavirus pandemic” and as “the U.S.’s new way of war with the nations of the world.” “He used most of his time to denounce the U.S., saying that the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the January 6 attack on the Capitol proved that ‘the U.S. hegemonic system’ had no credibility inside or outside the country,” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
Iran’s foreign ministry yesterday said it would return to the talks in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal within the “next few weeks,” as Raisi signaled that Iran would take a tougher stance against the U.S. during his address to the U.N. General Assembly. “As previously emphasized, the Vienna talks will resume soon and over the next few weeks,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. “The Islamic Republic considers useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive sanctions,” Raisi said in his pre-recorded address to the U.N. General Assembly. Ivana Saric reports for Axios.
Russia’s chief of general staff, Valery Gerasimov, and his U.S. counterpart, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, met in Helsinki today to discuss risk mitigation in military activities, the RIA news agency has reported. The RIA “quoted the Russian defense ministry as saying the meeting was constructive,” Reuters reports.
Democratic lawmakers yesterday removed $1 billion in military funding for Israel to replenish its “Iron Dome” missile-defense system from a federal government funding bill after objections from liberals in the House of Representatives. However, leaders of the Appropriations Committee pledged that funding for the Israeli system would be included in a defense spending bill later this year and “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he would bring a bill to the House floor later this week that would fully fund the missile-defense system, and he expected it to pass,” Patricia Zengerle reports for Reuters.
Biden met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Iraqi President Barham Salih on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, following his speech to the U.N.. Biden’s meeting with Morrison comes amid fierce blowback from France to the Aukus defense pact between the U.S., U.K and Australia to counter China. In Biden’s meeting with Salih, the two leaders discussed deepening cooperation on diplomatic initiatives in the region. Biden emphasized the U.S.’s commitment to long-term stability for Iraq and, together with Saleh, “reaffirmed their respect for Iraq’s democracy, rule of law, and efforts to hold credible and transparent elections this October,” the White House said in a statement. Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
An errant U.S. drone strike on a vehicle in Kabul that killed 10 civilians has called into question the reliability of the intelligence that will be used to conduct future operations against Islamic State or al Qaeda threats in Afghanistan from afar. The U.S. intelligence was “wrong” in its believe that the vehicle posed an “imminent threat” to U.S. forces at Kabul airport, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., accepted last Friday. This error has raised further questions as to U.S. intelligence’s capabilities without U.S. forces on the ground. “The U.S. has a terrible record in this regard, and after decades of failed accountability, in the context of the end of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. should acknowledge that their processes have failed, and that vital reforms and more independent outside scrutiny is vital,” John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, has said. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.
The U.K. is expected today to call for China and Russia to agree a coordinated international approach to prevent Afghanistan becoming a haven for militants. Britain is expected to use the meeting today of foreign ministers from the U.K., China, Russia, the United States and France along with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres to call for greater cooperation to improve international security, with a particular focus on Afghanistan, according to a statement by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “If we want to avoid Afghanistan becoming a haven for global terror then the international community – including Russia and China – needs to act as one in its engagement with the Taliban,” Truss said in a statement ahead of the meeting. Reuters reporting.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned of the risk of a “civil war” in Afghanistan if the Taliban is unable to form an inclusive government. Khan said that if a civil war were to break out in Afghanistan it would “impact Pakistan,” saying that he was primarily concerned with the possibility of a humanitarian and refugee crisis. Al Jazeera reports.
The U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has raised further warnings about the impact on women of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Bachelet informed a high-level event on safeguarding 20 years of international engagement in Afghanistan that women have been ‘progressively excluded from the public sphere,’ prohibited from appearing without a male guardian and face increasing restrictions on their right to work. “There is real and palpable fear among Afghan women of a return to the Taliban’s brutal and systemic repression of women and girls during the 1990s,” Bachelet said. UN News Centre reports.
President Biden has said that the U.S. “has no closer or more reliable ally than Australia,” ahead of a bilateral meeting with Morrison at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly yesterday. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron made his first moves in response to the Aukus pact snub, speaking with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “in what appeared to be an effort to shore up a rival Indian-French alliance in the Indo-Pacific – and secure a pending profitable nuclear deal. The two leaders had vowed to ‘act jointly’ in the Indo-Pacific region, the French presidency said,” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
France’s E.U. partners have agreed to put the country’s security dispute with the U.S., Australia and the U.K. over the Aukus pact at the top of the bloc’s political agenda in coming months, including at an E.U. summit next month. “It’s definitely something that raised interest and will occupy us in the months to come,” Gasper Dovzan, Slovenia’s foreign affairs chief, told reporters after chairing a meeting of the bloc’s European affairs ministers in Brussels. Lorne Cook reports for AP.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that the FBI’s domestic terrorism caseload has “exploded” in size since spring of 2020. Wray made the comments during his testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, explaining that while the amount of homegrown violent extremists (those radicalized by foreign terrorist organizations and ideologies) has remained fairly steady over the past few years, the number of domestic violent extremists (those who are radicalized by racial hatred or anti-government sentiments) has “more than doubled” since the spring of 2020. Ivana Saric reports for Axios.
Wray also warned that the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan could inspire U.S.-based extremists, as National Counterterrorism Center Director Christine Abizaid also testified to the Senate committee that the terrorism threat to the U.S. is less “acute” than it was two decades ago. “Abizaid also said that U.S. officials have been monitoring how terror groups al Qaeda and ISIS could rebuild their forces and conduct an attack on the U.S.,” Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is preparing to issue immediate subpoenas to witnesses whom the panel expects to resist cooperation. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, told reporters that “in some cases, we’re making requests we think will be complied with…In other cases, we’re going straight to subpoenas where we think we’re dealing with recalcitrant witnesses.” Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
The hacking collective Anonymous has claimed to have stolen and leaked data held by Epik, a website hosting firm popular with far-right organizations like the Proud Boys as well as conservative media networks such as Parler and Gab. “The more than 150 gigabytes of data swept up in the breach shine a light on years of online activities from far-right groups, including those who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The breach also undercuts Epik’s pledge to customers that it can safeguard their anonymity, no matter what dangerous conspiracy theories they spread online,” Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
The House has cleared bipartisan legislation that would authorize payments to government employees injured by Havana syndrome health incidents while serving abroad. The Bill, which specifically authorizes the CIA and State Department to provide financial support to employees who have suffered brain injuries inflicted by the syndrome, now heads to President Biden’s desk for his signature after the Senate unanimously passed it in June. Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration has urged the Supreme Court to uphold a New York handgun restriction in an upcoming Second Amendment court clash. “The Department of Justice, in a brief filed on behalf of the administration, argued that the justices should defer to the longstanding legislative practice of placing limits on firearms to protect public safety,” John Kruzel reports for The Hill.
Days before lawyers allied with former President Trump promoted conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, his campaign had determined that many were false, court filings have revealed. At a news conference at the Republican Party’s headquarters the team of lawyers claimed that a voting machine company (Dominion Voting Systems), had worked with an election software firm (Smartmatic), the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Trump. However, by the time the news conference aired, Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo determining that the allegations were untrue, according to court papers filed as a motion in a defamation lawsuit brought against the campaign and others by a former Dominion employee. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
Former President Trump is suing the New York Times and his niece, Mary Trump, over a 2018 article that alleged that Trump was involved in “dubious tax schemes.” “The lawsuit, filed in New York, accuses Mary Trump and newspaper reporters of being ‘engaged in an insidious plot’ to obtain confidential documents. It alleges that Ms Trump, 56, breached a settlement agreement barring her from disclosing the documents,” BBC News reports.
President Biden’s administration has for the first time blacklisted a cryptocurrency exchange, SUEX OTC, to combat ransomware, heralding a new approach to firms found handling illicit payments. The Russian-owned cryptocurrency exchange was blacklisted for allegedly helping launder ransomware payments. “The Treasury Department also issued fresh warnings to the private sector that businesses risk penalties and fines for paying ransoms or handling such transactions, especially if they fail to report those activities to authorities,” Ian Talley and Dustin Volz report for the Wall Street Journal.
The FBI held back a ransomware decryption key that would have unlocked the computers of hundreds of businesses and institutions following the major ransomware attack on the IT company Kaseya, so that the FBI could continue its operation to target the hackers. The key was obtained by the FBI through access to the servers of REvil, the Russia-based criminal gang behind the attack on Kaseya. The FBI finally shared the key with Kaseya on July 21 — 19 days after Kaseya was hit. “Deploying it immediately could have helped the victims, including schools and hospitals, avoid what analysts estimate was millions of dollars in recovery costs. But the FBI held on to the key, with the agreement of other agencies, in part because it was planning to carry out an operation to disrupt the hackers…and the bureau did not want to tip them off. Also, a government assessment found the harm was not as severe as initially feared. The planned takedown never occurred because in mid-July REvil’s platform went offline — without U.S. government intervention — and the hackers disappeared before the FBI had a chance to execute its plan, according to the current and former officials,” Ellen Nakashima and Rachel Lerman report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. is preparing to nearly double the number of Haitians being deported from Texas starting today, raising alarm that the return of thousands of cash-strapped migrants will add a new dimension to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. There are also reports of detainees being shackled during transit, including on flights, with one deportee describing it as being chained “like a slave.” Widlore Merancourt, Anthony Faiola and Nick Miroff report for the Washington Post.
President Biden and the White House are facing increasing backlash and anger following the searing images of border agents treating Haitian migrants in Texas harshly, including chasing on horseback the migrants. Many immigrant-rights activists have concluded that Biden has failed to live up to his campaign promises to defend vulnerable foreigners seeking a better life in the United States and Biden has faced anger from Democratic party members who have sought to pressure Biden to ease his immigration policies. Sean Sullivan and Nick Miroff report for the Washington Post.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee yesterday grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the influx of Haitian refugees seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border and viral images of Customs and Border Patrol officials on horseback chasing migrants away. Mayorkas told the committee that he was “horrified” by the images and that there would be no tolerance for abuse of migrants. Rebecca Beitsch and Maggie Miller report for The Hill.
Mayorkas also pledged to ramp up deportations to Haiti and said that the Biden administration has no plans to cease flights to Haiti. “We are increasing the frequency and number of the repatriation flights each day,” Mayorkas told the Senate committee. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
U.K. counterterrorism police have charged a third man in the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in 2018. The charges are against a senior Russian military intelligence officer who entered the U.K. two days before Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter collapsed on a park bench in the English town of Salisbury. Michael Schwirtz and Cora Engelbrecht report for the New York Times.
Lithuania’s Defense Ministry has recommended that consumers avoid buying Chinese mobile phones and advised people to throw away the ones they have after a Lithuanian government report found the devices had built-in censorship capabilities. “Flagship phones sold in Europe by China’s smartphone giant Xiaomi Corp have a built-in ability to detect and censor terms such as ‘Free Tibet,’ ‘Long live Taiwan independence’ or ‘democracy movement,’ Lithuania’s state-run cybersecurity body said on Tuesday. The capability in Xiaomi’s Mi 10T 5G phone software had been turned off for the ‘European Union region,’ but can be turned on remotely at any time, the Defense Ministry’s National Cyber Security Center said in the report,” Reuters reports.
Suggestions of possible Russian involvement in an attempted assassination of a Ukrainian presidential aide “have nothing to do with reality,” a Kremlin spokesperson has said. “The head of president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s political party, Oleksandr Korniienko, said earlier that Russia could be behind the hit job targeting the Ukrainian leader’s principal aide,” Reuters reports.
A surge in fraud attacks on consumers since the Covid-19 has become a “national security threat” for the U.K., requiring government-coordinated action across industries, banking industry lobby group UK Finance has warned. Financial fraud has rocketed during the pandemic as more consumers shop online and try digital banking and investing. “Criminals stole 754 million pounds ($1.03 billion) through bank frauds in the first half of this year, up 30% on the same period in 2020… Bank losses from authorized push payment (APP) fraud – where a customer is tricked into a payment by a criminal – also leapt 71% in the first half, overtaking the amount stolen through card fraud for the first time, UK Finance said,” Iain Withers reports for Reuters.
A Tunisian military judge yesterday jailed two lawmakers from the Islamist Karama party amid growing concerns for human rights in Tunisia after the president seized governing powers in July. “The court jailed Nidal Saudi and Saif Eddine Makhlouf, a leader of the Karama party and a frequent critic in parliament of President Kais Saied, taking the total number of imprisoned MPs to five,” Reuters reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 42.41 million and has now killed over 678,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 229.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 4.71 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Brazil’s health minister has tested positive for Covid-19 at the U.N. General Assembly, where Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro spoke yesterday. Marcelo Queiroga, who has received at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, was accompanying Bolsonaro who is defiantly unvaccinated. Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
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.