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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
A wide-ranging investigation into 2.94 terabytes of leaked data, named the Pandora Papers, has revealed more information about tax havens and offshore accounts of billionaires and prominent politicians. Led by journalists from The Guardian, BBC Panorama, Le Monde, and the Washington Post, the investigation has revealed embarrassing secret financial information about Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, the family of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and the ruling family of Azerbaijan, as well as other global leaders. The files also suggest the U.S. is a leading tax haven. In particular, South Dakota may harbor billions tied to individuals accused of serious financial crimes. The Guardian investigations team reports for the Guardian.
The Pandora Papers also reveal how U.S. sanctions imposed on Russian oligarchs hit their targets. “The Pandora documents show the reach of sanctions at a time when they are the overwhelming weapon of choice in Washington’s combative relationship with Moscow. Oligarchs — targeted for sanctions because of what the U.S. Treasury has called ‘malign’ activity by Russia — have gone to great lengths to evade their effects, at times reconfiguring their holdings and shifting ownership of assets. Still, the measures took a toll on their targets and triggered losses that spread across the financial networks that include these Kremlin insiders,” the Washington Post reports.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein has secretly spent more than $100m on a property empire in the U.K. and U.S., according to the leaked Pandora Papers. “Leaked financial documents identify a network of secretly-owned firms used by Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein to buy 15 homes since he assumed power in 1999. They included houses in Malibu, and in London and Ascot in the U.K.. Lawyers for King Abdullah said he used his personal wealth to buy the homes and there was nothing improper about him using offshore firms to do so,” BBC Panorama Reporting Team reports for BBC News.
The publication of the Pandora Papers has sparked calls for the resignation of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan. “Khan was not named in the documents, however a number of his allies were, including Finance Minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin and the son of Khan’s former finance adviser. The papers also detail offshore dealings of Arif Naqvi, a prominent donor to Khan’s party…Khan, in a series of tweets on Sunday, made no mention of the calls for his resignation, but did vow to investigate officials who were named in the documents,” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
The family of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta secretly owned a network of offshore companies for decades, according to the leaked Pandora Papers. The Kenyattas’ offshore investments, including a company with stocks and bonds worth $30m, were discovered among hundreds of thousands of pages of administrative paperwork from the archives of 14 law firms and service providers in Panama and the British Virgin Islands and other tax havens. BBC News reports.
A guide to the Pandora Papers is provided by the BBC Panorama Reporting Team reporting for BBC News.
A Canadian man who narrated two propaganda videos that the Islamic State used to recruit Westerners and to encourage terrorism attacks has been flown to the U.S. to face terrorism charges. Mohammed Khalifa, who travelled to Syria in 2013 and later joined the Islamic State, was captured in Syria in early 2019 by a Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF handed Khalifa over to the FBI last week and he was flown to the U.S. Khalifa has been charged with material terrorism support that resulted in death, according to a criminal complaint made public on Saturday. He “appears to be the first foreign fighter to be prosecuted in the United States during [President] Biden[’s] administration. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court early next week,” Adam Goldman reports for the New York Times.
A press release from the Department of Justice states that “in addition to allegedly serving as an ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham] fighter, Khalifa allegedly served as a lead translator in ISIS’s propaganda production and the English-speaking narrator on multiple violent ISIS recruitment videos.” Khalifa is to be tried in the Eastern District of Virginia. “Khalifa not only fought for ISIS on the battlefield in Syria, but he was also the voice behind the violence,” Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia said according to the press release.
The U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is to warn China today that it is not complying with former President Trump’s Phase One trade deal. Thai is expected to declare today that an extensive review has found China is not meeting its commitments under the deal, “laying the groundwork for the Biden administration to keep in place [former President] Trump-era tariffs while considering other punitive actions,” Zachary Basu reports for Axios.
Tai’s speech today will also detail how China’s unfair trade practices have harmed U.S. workers and industries and given Beijing a leg up in the global trade system, a senior administration official has said. “Tai will also say that she plans to begin ‘frank conversations’ with her Chinese counterpart about Beijing’s performance under the phase one deal, which then-President Trump heralded as a major accomplishment,” the official said. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Paris this week, as President Biden’s administration continues to heal the rift with France over the security pact, known as Aukus, between the U.K., the U.S. and Australia. During his visit, Blinken is expected to meet with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who has sharply criticized the Aukus pact. On Friday, Karen Donfried, the newly confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, said that Blinken will focus on strengthening the relationship between the two countries, and between the U.S. and the European Union. Donfried said that repairing ties “will take time and will take hard work, and it will need to be demonstrated not only in words, but also in deeds.” Courtney McBride reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A blast at the entrance of the Eid Gah Mosque in Kabul yesterday killed several people and left 30 injured in the first major explosion in Kabul since Western forces withdrew in August. In response, the Taliban attacked a suspected Islamic State militia hideout. The attack happened outside during a ceremony in honor of the late mother of Taliban official and spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid. As of yesterday night, there has been no official claim of responsibility for the blast. Sudarsan Raghavan, Haq Nawaz Khan, and Jennifer Hassan report for Washington Post.
At least five civilians were killed in the Kabul bomb blast yesterday, a Taliban official has said. Samya Kullab reports for AP.
Following the bomb blast in Kabul, Taliban spokesperson, Mujahid, has said today that Taliban forces raided an Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP),operations center in the northern Kabul neighborhood of Khair Khana. The Taliban did not say how many ISKP insurgents were killed or whether any Taliban were injured in the operation. Associated Press reports.
Gunmen killed two Taliban fighters and two civilians, and injured two other civilians, on Saturday in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, a Taliban official has said. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but ISKP has a strong presence in the region and has previously claimed several attacks against the Taliban, including in Jalalabad. Associated Press reports.
The Taliban have also said that they raided a hideout of the Islamic State group north of Kabul on Friday, killing and arresting an unspecified number of militants. “Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi told The Associated Press that Friday’s raid took place in the city of Charikar in Parwan province. He did not provide more details and his statement could not be independently verified,” Associated Press reports.
Kabul could face an electricity blackout as the Taliban rulers haven’t paid Central Asian electricity suppliers or resumed collecting money from consumers. There are concerns that the Central Asian suppliers, particularly Tajikistan, whose relationship with the Taliban is rapidly deteriorating, could cut off Afghanistan’s state power monopoly, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, for non-payment. Yaroslav Trofimov and Saeed Shah report for the Wall Street Journal.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Adela Raz, has said that she does not think that President Biden cares about Afghan women and girls. Raz has also indicated that former Afghan’s President Ashraf Ghani’s escape from Kabul as the Taliban took over was more premediated than previously publicly known. Jonathan Swan reports for Axios.
Senior leadership at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attempted to politicize intelligence and pressured subordinates to illegally search phones during the racial justice protests in Portland last summer. DHS leaders attempted to connect the racial justice programs to antifa, a popular talking point for former President Trump. Open source intelligence collectors also created dossiers on protestors and journalists who had no clear connection to terrorism or concerns about homeland security. The revelations were released on Friday in a heavily redacted internal report released by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. Jonathan Levinson and Conrad Wilson report for OPB.
A former U.S. soldier has been arrested for breaching the Capitol grounds, wearing full tactical gear, during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Jeremy Brown, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who ran for Congress as a Republican in Florida in 2020, was arrested and charged on Thursday for his role in the Jan. 6 attack. According to the Department of Justice, Brown was charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds,” as well as engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct.” “The FBI’s complaint says that Brown was more than 100 feet inside the restricted grounds that police had delineated to protect the Capitol from the hundreds of Trump supporters rioting there on Jan. 6,” Sarah Ruiz-Grossman reports for Huffington Post.
The Department of Justice wants to extradite Frank Rafarci, the chief executive of the Multinational Logistics Service (MLS), from Malta. Rafarci allegedly stole at least $50 million from the U.S. Navy, which awarded to MLS $1.3 billion in contracts to resupply and refuel U.S. warships in the Middle East and Asia. Federal authorities also suspect Rafaraci engaged in money laundering and bribery. The allegations are similar to the “Fat Leonard” corruption scandal first reported in 2013 and suggest continued corruption in the Navy’s contract practices. Craig Whitlock reports for the Washington Post.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued emergency rules to bolster the cybersecurity of energy pipelines in response to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown earlier this year. The regulations require critical industry to develop an incident response plan and mandate an annual cybersecurity audit from either TSA or an independent inspector to help companies identify cyber-based weaknesses. The regulations were labeled “sensitive security information,” which limited their public distribution. Officials plan to engage in the rulemaking process with a full notice and comment period to establish permanent regulations after the emergency rules expire in one year. Aaron Schaffer and Ellen Nakashima report for the Washington Post.
Trump has asked a federal judge to restore his Twitter account, according to a court document filed last week. Trump’s lawyers wrote that Twitter “exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate,” and alleged that Democrats in Congress and the Biden administration have pressured the social media company to keep Trump’s account banned. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
The Supreme Court is gearing up for a significant term, with rulings likely on abortion, the carrying of guns outside the home, public funding for religious education, and considering a student’s race in college admissions. Pete Williams reports for NBC News.
A Texas man has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for threatening to blow up an Amazon Data Center, federal prosecutors have announced. “Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, pleaded guilty in June to malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive for threatening to blow up an Amazon Web Services center in Virginia. Pendley admitted to disclosing a plan to blow up an Amazon data center to a confidential source. In February, he told the source that a successful attack could ‘kill off about 70% of the internet,’ according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas,” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
The latest statistics appear to show that the majority of those who crossed the U.S.- Mexico border and arrived at the Del Rio camp in Texas, have been returned to Haiti or have turned back to Mexico, rather than being released into the U.S., according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials and examination of the DHS data, Nick Miroff reports for the Washington Post.
The U.S. National Security Council’s senior director, Juan Gonzalez, has apologized for how Haitian migrants were treated along the U.S.-Mexico border. During a two-day official visit to Haiti to talk with local leaders about migration and other issues, Gonzalez reiterated that the images of men on horseback corralling Haitian asylum seekers, is not how border officials or DHS behave. “I want to say that it was an injustice, that it was wrong,” he said. “The proud people of Haiti and any migrant deserve to be treated with dignity,” he added. Evens Sanon reports for AP.
CHINA AND TAIWAN
In a show of force, China sent nearly 100 fighter jets and bombers into Taiwan’s air defense zone over the weekend. The aerial show of force coincided with the 72nd anniversary of the Communist Party’s rule on Friday. China sent 38 warplanes to Taiwan on Friday, 39 on Saturday, and at least 16 more on Sunday. The warplanes included nuclear-capable H-6 bombers. U.S. officials described their commitment to Taiwan as “rock solid” as they expressed concern about China’s “destabilizing” military activity. Helen Davidson for The Guardian.
The record-breaking number of Chinese military planes into airspace near Taiwan, prompted Taiwanese fighter jets to scramble. “The flights did not suggest an imminent threat of war over Taiwan, said several analysts, but they did reflect Beijing’s increasingly unabashed signaling that it wants to absorb the self-ruled island and will not rule out military means to do so,” Chris Buckley and Amy Qin report for the New York Times.
Following the 93 Chinese military sorties near Taiwan, the U.S. Department of State reiterated its commitment to Taiwan in a statement on Sunday. The statement added that the U.S. was very concerned by the military activity near Taiwan and would continue to assist Taiwan to maintain a “sufficient self-defense capability.” Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said in a statement that it would strengthen cooperation with the U.S. to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Liza Lin and James T. Areddy report for the Wall Street Journal.
NORTH KOREA AND SOUTH KOREA
In a statement on Sunday to the U.N. Security Council, a North Korean official warned that the Council “better think what consequences it will bring in the future in case it tries to encroach upon the sovereignty” of North Korea. North Korea made these unspecified threats in response to a proposed statement circulated by France in an emergency closed-door council meeting. France’s statement criticized North Korea’s missile launches and called on the country to follow bans on ballistic missile firings. Multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from any ballistic missile activities; however, after a six-month hiatus, the country began testing missiles again in September. Associated Press reports.
North Korea has restored its communication lines with South Korea as a conditional olive branch. Officials from both Koreas exchanged their first phone call since August. BBC News reports.
North Korean liaison officers answered phone calls by their South Korean counterparts as the dormant communications hotlines were restored. “Long time no talk. We’re very pleased because the communication channels have been restored like this. We hope that South-North relations will develop into a new level,” a Seoul official said during a phone conversation with his North Korean counterpart, according to a video released by South Korea’s Unification Ministry. Hung-Jim Kim reports for AP.
Houthi rebels in Yemen fired three ballistic missiles on the government-held city of Marib on Sunday, wounding 32 people and killing two children aged 2 and 4. The missiles destroyed 10 houses in a residential neighborhood. Since February, Houthi rebels have tried to capture Marib to complete their takeover of the northern part of Yemen from the internationally recognized government, which has resulted in heavy Houthi casualties and several civilian deaths. Ahmed Al-Haj reports for the Associated Press.
Clashes among separatists in the port city of Aden in South Yemen have killed at least 10 people, including four civilians, security officials have said. The clashes were between Yemeni separatists, the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, backed by the United Arab Emirates and a rival splinter group, an armed religious group that was once part of the Council. The fighting took place in Aden’s residential neighborhood of Crater, where the presidential palace and other government buildings are located, the officials said. Ahmed Al-Haj reports for the Associated Press.
Iran has asked for the U.S. to unfreeze $10 billion of its funds as a condition for the resumption of nuclear deal talks, Iran’s foreign minister has said. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said during a TV interview yesterday that the unfreezing of the Iranian assets in foreign banks would be a sign of good will and would prove how serious the U.S. is about returning to the 2015 nuclear deal. Amirabdollahian said he had been approached by U.S. representatives during his trip to New York for the U.N. General Assembly last month. Reuters reports.
Germany has rejected Iran’s demands for the U.S. to unfreeze Iranian assets as a condition for nuclear talks to resume, Germany’s Foreign Ministry has said today. “Iran cannot set any further conditions for resuming the talks,” a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. Reuters reports.
Saudi Arabia’s government confirmed yesterday that it has been holding talks with Iran in an attempt to reduce long running tension between the two countries. Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said that a round of talks with Iran, including with its new president Ebrahim Raisi, took place last month, giving a date that indicated that they occurred during the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “These discussions are still in the exploratory phase. We hope they will provide a basis to address unresolved issues between the two sides and we will strive and work to realise that,” Farhan al-Saud said at a news conference. Reuters reporting.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been sworn in for a second five-year term as the civil war in Ethiopia continues. “Abiy’s Prosperity Party was declared the winner of parliamentary elections earlier this year in a vote criticized and at times boycotted by opposition parties but described by some outside electoral observers as better run than those in the past,” Associated Press reports.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres informed Ethiopia on Friday that it had no legal right to expel seven U.N. officials, after Ethiopia on Thursday announced the expulsion of the officials who Ethiopia accused of “meddling” in the country’s affairs. “In a new statement Friday, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry accused some U.N. staff of failing ‘to fulfill their mission independently and impartially’ and listing ‘grave violations’ including the alleged diversion of humanitarian assistance to Tigray forces fighting government troops. Guterres said in a letter informing the U.N. Security Council of the expulsions, which was obtained by The Associated Press, that Ethiopia’s decision to expel critical members of the U.N. leadership team ‘creates yet another obstacle to reaching Ethiopians, at a moment when all efforts should be focused on working together to save and protect lives, protect human rights and avert a humanitarian catastrophe.’ The Security Council held emergency closed consultations on Tigray’s humanitarian crisis and expulsion order but took no action,” Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Pakistan has said that the Pakistani Taliban have killed four Pakistani soldiers and one policeman near the Afghan border. In a statement Pakistan said that an operation was underway to strike back against the militants. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying it had ambushed a “raiding party” in the area on Friday. The military did not specify when the attack took place. Associated Press reports.
Libya is undergoing an unprecedented crackdown on migrants, with the number of migrants now rounded up exceeding 5,000 people, including hundreds of children and women, according to a U.N. tally dated yesterday. The crackdown, which Libyan authorities have described as a security operation against illegal migration and drug trafficking, began Friday in the western town of Gargaresh, a major hub for migrants in Libya. The raids have resulted in one migrant being shot dead and at least 15 others injured, the U.N. has said. Samy Magdy reports for AP.
Algeria has banned French military planes from its airspace, in the latest in the diplomatic discord between Algeria and France over visas and critical comments from French President Emmanuel Macron. France’s jets regularly fly over Algeria to reach the Sahel region of western Africa, where its soldiers are helping to battle jihadist insurgents. A French army spokesperson said Algiers’ decision had “slightly impacted” supply flights but “does not affect our operations” in the Sahel. The move from Algiers heightened tensions between the two countries “that had flared on Saturday when the Algerian government recalled its ambassador to France, citing ‘inadmissible interference’ in its affairs,” Agence France-Presse reports.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Brazil have been calling for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to be impeached. In cities and towns across Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasília, huge crowds took to the streets in a sign of growing discontent with Bolsonaro, “as surging inflation in essential goods like food and electricity have added to discontent about the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic,” Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has said that he plans to retire from politics and abandon his bid to become the country’s vice-president. Duterte previously planned to stand in the May election as a vice presidential candidate, an idea that was unpopular with Filipinos. Duterte indicated that he supports his daughter, Sara Duterte, who is currently the mayor of Davao and has previously said that she would not stand in a national election if her father planned to run, replacing him as president. Duterte previously announced his retirement from politics in 2015. Rebecca Ratcliffe reports for The Guardian.
Russia has said that it has successfully test launched a Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile from a submarine for the first time, a weapon President Vladimir Putin has lauded as part of a new generation of unrivalled arms systems. The Russian Ministry of Defence said that the Severodvinsk submarine had fired the missile while deployed in the Barents Sea and had hit its chosen target. Reuters reports.
The Palestinian president yesterday hosted two Israeli Cabinet ministers for a meeting, in a new sign of slowly improving ties between Israel and Palestine. “Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freij were the second group of Cabinet members to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since the new Israeli government took office in June. Defense Minister Benny Gantz also met with Abbas at his West Bank headquarters in August,” Associated Press reports.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad called Jordan’s King Abdullah II yesterday, the first conversation between the two leaders after a decade of strain over Syria’s civil war. “The Jordian royal court said the leaders discussed relations between the ‘brotherly countries and ways to enhance cooperation between them.’ Abdullah affirmed his country’s support for ‘efforts to preserve Syria’s sovereignty, stability, territorial integrity and people.’ Syria’s state news agency SANA said Assad called Abdullah to discuss bilateral relations and ‘reinforcing cooperation in the interests of the two countries and people,’” Associated Press reports.
The corruption trial of Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi has heard testimony from a former ally of Suu Kyi that he had handed to Suu Kyi large amounts of cash and gold. Supporters of Suu Kyi say that the corruption proceedings, being held in private, are meant to discredit her. Suu Kyi faces two charges of accepting bribes and two of conspiring to carry out corruption in connection with real estate transactions. A fifth corruption charge has not yet gone to trial. Associated Press reports.
Thousands of Tunisian citizens on Sunday rallied to support Tunisian President Kais Saied’s suspension of Tunisia’s parliament and promises to change the political system, acts which Saied’s critics are calling a coup, Tarek Amara reports for Reuters.
Fumio Kishida has formally taken office as Japan’s new prime minister, succeeding Yoshihide Suga who resigned after just one year in office. Kishida won the race to lead Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party last week. BBC News reports.
Kishida is set to dissolve Japan’s parliament next week and call an election for Oct. 31, according to Japan’s NHK broadcaster. “Kishida’s plan, amid widespread expectations for a poll in November, appears to be aimed at exploiting a traditional honeymoon period accorded to new governments and a sharp drop in the number of coronavirus infections,” Al Jazeera reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 43.68 million and has now killed over 701,100 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 234.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.80 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
During a closed-door intelligence briefing last week, Republican lawmakers sought to expose what they believe is bias against the Wuhan lab leak theory among experts consulted by President Biden’s administration in its investigation into the origins of Covid-19, sources have said. Frustrations boiled over at the briefing, according to the sources, which “highlights Republicans’ unwillingness to accept the inconclusive findings of the administration’s 90-day investigation to determine the origins of the pandemic,” Zachary Cohen and Katie Bo Williams report for CNN.
The majority of African nations have missed a goal of vaccinating 10% of their
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.