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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.
NATO has expelled eight Russian diplomats who were members of Russia’s delegation to the military alliance, alleging they were working as spies. “We can confirm that we have withdrawn the accreditation of eight members of the Russian Mission to NATO, who were undeclared Russian intelligence officers,” NATO said in a statement yesterday. NATO has also cut the maximum size of the Russian delegation to NATO in half, from 20 to 10. The diplomats must leave Brussels, where NATO is headquartered, by the end of the month, and no immediate clear explanation was given for the decision. “This decision is based on intelligence, and we are not going to comment on intelligence,” the statement said. Lorne Cook reports for AP.
Russia has denied NATO’s allegations, saying that Russia would retaliate with “asymmetric” measures. “Leonid Slutsky, a Russian lawmaker who chairs the international affairs committee in the lower house of the country’s parliament, denied the NATO allegations in an interview with state media and said Russia’s Foreign Ministry would retaliate,” Reis Thebault and Isabelle Khurshudyan report for the Washington Post.
Russian authorities are investigating allegations of torture and rape in their prison system after a Belarusian whistleblower leaked over a thousand videos depicting prisoners being abused to the human rights group Gulagu.net. According to the organization’s founder, Vladimir Osechkin, the videos are the first time human rights defenders have obtained such a large amount of evidence showing “the systematic nature of torture in Russia.” The Federal Penitentiary Service, which oversees Russia’s prisons, sent an investigatory team to the Saratov prison to verify the videos while prosecutors investigate the claims. BBC News reports.
Russian’s prison service also said yesterday that it had fired four officers, including the head of a prison hospital in the southwestern city of Saratov, following the reports of torture. Russian law enforcement opened criminal investigations into the reports of torture and the Kremlin said that if the reports were confirmed it would lead to a serious probe. Georgi Kantchev reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The expulsion of the eight Russian diplomats will likely worsen the already tense relations between Russia and NATO since 2014 when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. “NATO’s policy towards Russia remains consistent,” the statement from NATO said. “We have strengthened our deterrence and defense in response to Russia’s aggressive actions, while at the same time we remain open for a meaningful dialogue.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak has said that certification of the Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline, which is awaiting clearance from Germany’s regulator, could reduce the increasing gas prices in Europe. Gas prices have risen sharply in response to a recovery in demand, particularly from Asia, with storage levels low. Novak also said that an increase in gas sales on Gazprom’s electronic sales platform could also calm prices, which Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with, adding that Russia should meet its domestic gas needs first. Vladimir Soldatkin reports for Reuters.
The Supreme Court yesterday asked the Government to consider whether a detainee held without charge in Guantánamo Bay and who was subject to brutal interrogation by the CIA, including at a so-called CIA “black site” in Poland, could provide testimony himself to a Polish criminal investigation. Abu Zubaydah had sought to subpoena two CIA contractors, who were instrumental in the interrogations, in connection with a polish criminal investigation, which was prompted by a determination by the European Court of Human Rights that Zubaydah had been tortured in 2002 and 2003 at secret sites operated by the CIA, including one in Poland. The U.S. government invoked the state secrets doctrine to bar the contractors from testifying and the three justices proposed a “novel solution” of allowing Zubaydah himself to testify. “By allowing him to describe what he had endured, the justices suggested, the court could sidestep the question of whether the government had to allow the CIA contractors to appear.” The Government lawyers were unable to give a direct answer, but “promised to give the court a more considered response, presumably in a letter, after consulting with other government officials,” Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
The Supreme Court also considered whether information that is widely known can still be covered by the state secret doctrine. Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher said that information previously released about the CIA’s “black sites” program “was carefully negotiated between the executive and legislative branches, and the location of detention sites and what went on there were not part of that. Those sites were established, he said, with the promise that they would not be officially revealed by the United States,” Robert Barnes reports for the Washington Post.
An ex-CIA officer turned whistleblower against torture has called for the release of Zubaydah, saying that the torture and imprisonment of the al-Qaeda suspect has been “more than adequate punishment.” “I think that whatever it is Abu Zubaydah did, he’s certainly paid a very heavy price,” said John Kiriakou, who in 2007 blew the whistle on CIA torture and was later imprisoned for leaking the name of a covert operative involved in the interrogations to a reporter. Bernd Debusmann Jr., Tara McKelvey, and Anthony Zurcher report for BBC News.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Richard Donoghue, formerly the number two at the Department of Justice, appeared for a closed-door interview on Friday with the select panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Donoghue took notes on a Dec. 27 call between former President Trump and acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen where Trump pressured Department of Justice officials to call the 2020 elections “corrupt” and “illegal.” Betsy Woodruff Swan and Nicholas Wu report for POLITICO.
The Jan. 6 House select committee is considering how to respond to former President Trump’s allies who refuse to comply with subpoenas, including threatening to hold them in criminal contempt. This comes after Trump publicly threatened to invoke executive privilege to avoid turning over records to the Committee. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), one of two Republican members serving on the select panel, emphasized that failing to comply with a subpoena from Congress is a crime and the Committee would consider a variety of civil and criminal remedies to compel compliance. Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen, and Annie Grayer report for CNN.
A pro-Trump social media influencer and a speaker at the Jan. 5 rally prior to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct during the attack. “Brandon Straka, 44, a former New York City hairstylist, admitted in plea papers to recording himself during the Capitol breach in front of a mobbed entrance, urging a crowd to wrest away a riot shield from a police officer and shouting: ‘Take it! Take it!’ At another point, according to plea papers, Straka stood behind a crowd of people trying to push their way in, yelling, ‘Go! Go!’,” Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
An interim report prepared by the Senate Judiciary Committee about former President Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department in the final weeks of his presidency has provided the most complete account yet of Trump’s plans to overturn the election and describes how officials fought them off. The report fleshes out how Trump pursued his plan to install a loyalist as Acting Attorney General to pursue unfounded reports of election fraud, including a White House meeting on Jan. 3 with top leaders of the Justice Department who warned Trump that they and other senior officials would resign en masse if Trump followed through with his plan. “This report shows the American people just how close we came to a constitutional crisis,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “Thanks to a number of upstanding Americans in the Department of Justice…Trump was unable to bend the department to his will. But it was not due to a lack of effort.” Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, along with seven former Pentagon chiefs, has warned Congress that a debt default would damage U.S. national security and harm military families. “If the United States defaults, it would undermine the economic strength on which our national security rests,” Austin said in a statement. In a separate letter sent to Congress on Wednesday, six former Defense secretaries made a similar plea, asking lawmakers “to work together to raise the statutory debt limit and avoid catastrophic consequences for the Defense Department, our military families, and our position of leadership in the world.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
A Saudi Arabian court has upheld a 20-year prison term, followed by a 20 year travel ban, imposed on a Saudi aid worker who had criticized the Saudi government on Twitter, drawing a rebuke from the U.S. The U.S. State Department, which does not often comment on individual cases of Saudi human rights activists, said in a statement yesterday that it was disappointed the original sentence was upheld, saying that “the peaceful exercise of universal rights should never be a punishable offense.” “We have closely monitored his case and are concerned by allegations that [Abdulrahman] al-Sadhan was subjected to mistreatment, that he has been unable to communicate with family members, and that his fair trial guarantees were not respected,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. Al-Sadhan’s identity may have been leaked to Saudi authorities by two Twitter employees who have been accused in a federal case and FBI investigation as spying for Saudi Arabia. Aya Batrawy reports for AP.
The U.S. has 3,750 nuclear warheads in stockpile and 2,000 nuclear weapons waiting to be dismantled, according to the Department of State. The disclosure comes as the U.S. prepares for a meeting for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in 2022. As part of the treaty, the U.S. has agreed to work to reduce its stockpile of warheads. Chandelis Duster and Nicole Gaouette report for CNN.
Canada invoked a 1977 treaty that obligates the U.S. to allow oil to flow uninterrupted between the two countries. Canada’s actions come after talks between Michigan and the country broke down over an order by Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer to close down the Line 5 pipeline, which crosses beneath an environmentally sensitive area of the Great Lakes, the Straits of Mackinac. The treaty compels the two countries to enter arbitration. Leyland Cecco reports for the Guardian.
Idaho’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin deployed the state’s National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border while Idaho’s Republican Governor Brad Little met with other Republican governors in Texas to discuss border security. McGeachin also broadened the scope of Little’s executive order banning vaccine passports to include banning schools and universities from requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test for students. Idaho’s constitution allows the lieutenant governor to assume the powers of the governorship while the governor is out of the state. Carma Hassan and Josh Campbell report for CNN.
President Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping virtually for their first summit this year, U.S. officials have announced. The announcement came after a six-hour meeting between National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his closest Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, Beijing’s top diplomat. American officials had sought an in-person meeting however Xi has not left Chinese territory for such meetings in nearly two years, and will not be at the Group of 20 summit in Rome this month. It is not clear exactly when the summit will be held. David E. Sanger reports for the New York Times.
Sullivan and Jiechi had a candid conversation that was direct and wide-ranging when they met in Switzerland yesterday, a U.S. official briefing reporters said after the meeting. “Sullivan, the American official said, objected to the Chinese effort to condition its cooperation on issues in which both nations have a strong national interest — for example, countering global warming or nuclear proliferation — on American concessions in bilateral disputes…The official offered few details about what was said on Taiwan, other than a reiteration of previous American statements,” David E. Sanger reports for the New York Times.
The White House statement on Sullivan’s meeting with Jiechi states that the meeting followed on from Biden’s Sept. 9 phone call with Xi, and that Sullivan “raised areas where the United States and the PRC [People’s Republic of China] have an interest in working together to address vital transnational challenges, and ways to manage risks in our relationship. Mr. Sullivan raised a number of areas where we have concern with the PRC’s actions, including actions related to human rights, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and Taiwan,” the statement says.
ISRAEL AND IRAN
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is scheduled to travel to the U.S. next week to discuss Iran in meetings with top U.S. administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Vice President Harris. Lapid will be in Washington from Oct. 12 to Oct. 14. Israel is pressing President Biden’s administration to develop a “Plan B” in case talks in Vienna with Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear deal fail and “Israeli officials say Lapid wants to pass on Israel’s messages about Iran at the highest level before the Vienna talks resume,” Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
U.S., European and Israeli defense officials have repeatedly pointed to Iran, and its allies across the Middle East, as being behind a number of recent drone attacks, including bases housing U.S. troops in Iran and the recent deadly attack on an Israeli oil tanker. Officials have said that “Tehran’s rapidly developing ability to build and deploy drones is changing the security equation in a region already on edge. The drones themselves are often made with widely available components used in the ever-growing commercial drone market and by hobbyists, the officials say. Some mimic the designs of Israeli and American military drones,” Benoit Faucon and Dion Nissenbaum provide analysis for the Wall Street Journal.
Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a soldier who criticized the U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, has formally been charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and has been referred to a special court-martial, a Marine Corps spokesperson has said. Scheller rose to national fame when he posted a video on LinkedIn and Facebook of himself, in his Marine Corps uniform, calling for senior leaders in the Department of Defense to be held accountable for their failures in Afghanistan. “In a general sense not specific to any case, posting to social media criticizing the chain of command is not the proper manner in which to raise concerns with the chain of command,” Capt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for Training and Education Command said. Philip Athey reports for the Military Times.
A secret back entrance into Kabul airport was opened by the CIA in the final days of the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan and kept secret from the Taliban. The, previously unreported, gate was initially “used to smuggle out priority cases for the CIA, including intelligence assets, local agents and their families and a list of high-importance cases sent from the White House. Later, the entrance was expanded to become the main conduit for State Department efforts in the final 48 hours of the civilian evacuation mission to help vulnerable Afghans who worked at the U.S. Embassy and others who could not make it through Taliban checkpoints blocking access to the airport…. The CIA later opened a second secret gate along the northern perimeter. The CIA declined to comment. The CIA’s role in operating the gate was described by current and former U.S. officials, along with nonprofits involved in evacuation efforts,” Jessica Donati reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Islamic State in Khorasan Province suicide bomber who carried out a terrorist attack at Kabul airport in August had been released from a prison near Kabul just days earlier when the Taliban took control of the area, according to three U.S. officials. The terrorist attack at the airport killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans. Two U.S. officials, as well as Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) who said he had been briefed by national security officials, “said the suicide bomber was released from the Parwan prison at Bagram air base. The U.S. controlled the base until it abandoned Bagram in early July. It had turned over the prison to Afghan authorities in 2013,” Oren Liebermann and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) has said that it will pay the salaries of Afghan health care workers and provide money to the health care system, to avoid a looming humanitarian crisis in the country which has been cut off from virtually all of its funds since the Taliban took power. “The payments to health care workers, and other operational support for health services, were halted when the World Bank, along with the International Monetary Fund, the United States, Europe and virtually every other donor and lender stopped paying the bills on Aug. 15, the day the Taliban entered Kabul. UNDP’s assumption of responsibility for the direct payments, a task outside its normal development wheelhouse, was facilitated last week when the Biden administration issued special licenses allowing ‘certain international organizations’ to engage in ‘authorized transactions’ in Afghanistan,” Karen DeYoung reports for the Washington Post.
Russia is to invite representatives of the Taliban to international talks on Afghanistan in Moscow on Oct. 20. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan did not provide further details on the planned talks in comments that have been carried by Russian news agencies. Reuters reporting.
The Ethiopian government used the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s flagship commercial airline, to smuggle weapons to and from Eritrea during the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to a CNN investigation. Experts have said that the flights would constitute violations of international aviation law, which forbids the smuggling of arms for military use on civil aircraft, and the atrocities committed during the conflict in Tigray likely violate the terms of a trade program that Ethiopian Airlines uses to access U.S. markets. Ethiopian Airlines has denied involvement in weapons smuggling. Nima Elbagir, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polgalse, and Barbara Arvanitdis report for CNN.
In response to the allegations against Ethiopian Airlines, President Biden’s administration repeated its warning to Ethiopia that it could impose sanctions if the conflict in the Tigray region continues. U.S. sanctions would hurt Ethiopia and its airline, which signed a deal earlier this month with Boeing to expand aviation training, development, and manufacturing in the country. The sanctions would also threaten Ethiopian Airlines participation in the Star Alliance partnership. The transport of arms by the state-owned carrier could also violate the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the senior administration official said. Justin Sink and Samuel Gebre report for Bloomberg.
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to address the recent expulsion of 7 U.N. officials from Ethiopia. The U.N. believes Ethiopia’s action is illegal because it violates several articles of the U.N. charter to declare U.N. officials “persona non grata.” This was the second emergency meeting of the council to discuss the expulsion in a week. Yahoo News reports.
At the meeting, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told the U.N. Security Council that as many as 7 million people in Tigray, Amhara and Afar need food assistance and other emergency services. He said an estimated 400,000 people in Tigray are thought to be living in famine-like conditions, and he described the Ethiopian government’s decision last week to expel senior U.N. officials as “particularly disturbing.” David Wainer reports for Bloomberg.
At the Council meeting, Ethiopian Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie laid out newly detailed claims about the expelled U.N. officials, including accusing them of inflating the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis and taking sides in the war in Tigray. Selassie alleged, without providing evidence, that the officials had “inflated the number of needy people by 1 million, cheered the Tigrayan forces who are fighting the government, invented a dozen deaths in a camp for displaced people, and helped channel Ethiopian migrants from Saudi Arabia to another African nation ‘for training and preparation’ to fight with the Tigrayans, among other accusations…A surprised Guterres responded that he had known nothing of these allegations and that he had twice asked Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to send him details on any concerns about the impartiality of U.N. staffers,” Jennifer Peltz reports for AP.
More Qemant refugees in disputed territories in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, just south of Tigray, have accused the Ethiopian military and civilian mobs of ethnic cleansing. Alleged extremists from the Qemant ethnic group have been accused by the Ethiopian government of joining the forces of Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the governing party of the nearby Tigray region. The Ethiopian government says its officials are in the region to look for suspected rebels and do not target civilians; although, reports from the region suggest this may not be true and Qemant civilians are being targeted en masse. Zecharias Zelalem reports for Al Jazeera.
The Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is to speak to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as soon as today. Haugen, who testified before a Senate commerce subcommittee on Tuesday, released thousands of documents that she says shows Facebook knows its platforms are used to spread hate, violence, and misinformation. The Jan. 6 select committee is interested in hearing from Haugen because she could provide an insight into how Facebook was used to facilitate the violence that occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Pamela Brown, Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer, and Donie O’Sullivan report for CNN.
Facebook failed to respond in response to warnings from a Snopes reporter about violent rhetoric on the platform ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The reporters notified Facebook employees about specific groups, including QAnon activity from The Alamo City Trump Train Facebook group, that were perpetrating violent rhetoric and organizing real-world events. Facebook, however, did not appear to take any major action on the matter before Jan. 6. Reporting since Jan. 6, including by the New York Times, has linked the warnings from Snopes to acts that were carried out at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Snopes reports.
Haugen’s testimony could bring in tech’s “Big Tobacco” moment, lawmakers have said, galvanizing members from both parties to unify behind sweeping proposals targeting social media companies. Multiple lawmakers have said Haugen’s testimony arguing that Facebook systematically placed profits over users’ well-being, marks a turning point in Congress’s long-running efforts to enact barriers for large social media companies. “This time feels distinctly different…The public has been engaged and outraged in a very different way,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), chair of the Senate Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee, said in an interview. Cat Zakrzewski reports for the Washington Post.
Just Security has published the second part in a series examining the fallout from the Facebook Files series recently published by the Wall Street Journal: “A Whistleblower’s Testimony – Fallout from the Facebook Files, Part 2” by April Falcon Doss. See also the recently published Just Security piece by Justin Hendrix on “How Facebook is Misleading the Public About Its Role in January 6”.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is creating a national cryptocurrency enforcement team to bolster investigations and prosecutions of criminal misuses of cryptocurrency and to recover the illicit proceeds from these crimes, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco has said. “The National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, which would be under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr., will focus on crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges and mixing and tumbling services, the DOJ said in a statement. The team also would help trace and recover assets lost to fraud and extortion, the DOJ said,” Mengqi Sun reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Monaco also said that the DOJ is launching a Civil Cyber Fraud Initiative, whereby the DOJ will go after federal contractors that fail to report cybersecurity incidents to the U.S. government. Monaco said the initiative will allow the DOJ “to use its authorities under the False Claims Act to fine government contractors that ‘fail to follow required cybersecurity standards,’” Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is going to impose new cybersecurity mandates on the railroad and airline industries, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced yesterday. As part of a forthcoming “security directive,” that will be issued by the end of the year, “TSA will require higher-risk railroad and rail transit entities to report cyber incidents to the federal government, identify cybersecurity point persons and put together contingency and recovery plan in case they become victims of cyberattacks,” Geneva Sands reports for CNN.
Immigration authorities have cut the frequency of deportation flights to Haiti, as the number of Haitian migrants trying to the U.S. across the Mexico border has declined sharply, administration officials have said. Most of the Haitians who were at a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas have also now been processed by immigration authorities and far fewer Haitians have crossed since the camp’s closure on Sept. 24. These changes have meant that while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operated as many as seven flights per day to Haiti last week, returning more than 700 migrants daily, on Tuesday, the agency only returned 57. Nick Miroff reports for the Washington Post.
The U.S. was aware “in July in that thousands of Haitians were heading to the U.S. border, but a failure to share intelligence and an internal debate over whether to increase deportations left immigration officials ill-equipped to handle the 28,000 who converged on a Texas bridge last month, three U.S. officials [have] said,” Julia Ainsley reports for NBC News.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The World Health Organization has endorsed the first ever vaccine to prevent malaria, a deadly infectious disease that kills about half a million people each year, more than half of whom are children. The vaccine is made by GlaxoSmithKline and works in children to prevent the deadliest strain of malaria, Plasmodium, which is also the most prevalent malaria pathogen in Africa. The vaccine has an efficacy rate of 50% against severe malaria in the first year, according to clinical trials. Apoorva Mandavilli reports for the New York Times.
A U.N. rights investigator has called for U.N. sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear and missile programs to be eased, to help address the risk of starvation faced by the most vulnerable in the country. “Sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council should be reviewed and eased when necessary to both facilitate humanitarian and lifesaving assistance and to enable the promotion of the right to an adequate standard of living of ordinary citizens,” Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said in a final report to the U.N. General Assembly, which is to be presented on Oct. 22. Stephanie Nebehay reports for Reuters.
The U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, has been urged to broaden negotiations to end Yemen’s seven-year civil war and include the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council (STC) and other factions. Grundberg’s current mandate – based on a U.N. resolution passed in 2015 – focuses on the internationally recognised Yemen government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the leadership of the northern-based Houthi leadership. However, the head of the STC foreign affairs directorate, Mohammed al-Ghaithi, has said that the U.N. must recognise that outdated security council resolutions were restricting their efforts and “many observers say the conflict has long stopped being a battle confined to two forces within Yemen but involves a variety of actors, making a single national solution harder to achieve,” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
A U.K. Court said in a judgment yesterday that the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum committed “serial breaches of [U.K.] domestic criminal law” when he hacked the phone of his ex-wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, and her solicitors during their divorce custody case. The Court described Sheikh Mohammed’s actions as an “abuse of power” by a head of state and a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Sheikh Mohammed used Pegasus software produced by Israeli cyber company NSO Group to hack his ex-wife’s phone and collected 265MB of data from her phone alone, according to court documents. Princess Haya’s legal team says she fears for her life and the security of her children. Frank Gardner reports for the BBC News.
The U.K. judgment and the hacking through the use of the Pegasus software brings to light the complicated “snarl of Arab royal family conflicts, diplomacy and the world of highly secretive companies that sell expensive hacking technologies to governments around the world, which can use them as they see fit,” Megan Specia and Ben Hubbard report for the New York Times.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry has said that Germany and Denmark have brought home 11 women and 37 children from a camp in northeastern Syria where suspected Islamic State members have been held. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that the children bear no responsibility for their situation and “it is right that we do everything to make possible for them a life in safety and a good environment.” “The mothers will have to answer to criminal justice for their actions,” Maas added. Associated Press reports.
Guinea’s military junta leader has announced that a senior international civil servant, Mohamed Beavogui, will serve as prime minister as Guinea’s government transitions to civilian rule following the military coup last month. Col. Mamady Doumbouya, who was sworn in as interim president on Friday, announced Beavogui’s new position on State TV yesterday. “As Guinea’s transitional prime minister, Beavogui will be responsible for coordinating government action and implementing the transition charter that aims to work toward a civilian government,” Boubacar Diallo reports for AP.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday that the long process for the Western Balkans states to join the E.U. was causing “impatience” and “frustration” and “jeopardizing [Europe’s] standing and leverage in the region.” She went on to say that while Europe wanted the Balkans in the E.U., there was still more to be done to fight corruption and reform the economy in the Balkan nations. The E.U. lists Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia as nations with “candidate status” and Bosnia as a potential candidate to join the E.U.. Jessica Parker reports for BBC News.
Wooden barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum were vandalized Tuesday with anti-Semitic inscriptions, the memorial has said. “Such an incident — an offense against the Memorial Site — is, above all, an outrageous attack on the symbol of one of the greatest tragedies in human history and an extremely painful blow to the memory of all the victims of the German Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp,” the memorial said in a statement on Twitter. Allison Prang reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Austrian prosecutors said on Wednesday that they are investigating Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz over claims that he used government funds to ensure positive coverage in a tabloid newspaper. Raids have been carried out at two government ministries and several other locations. Prosecutors believe that an unnamed media company received money from the finance ministry to pay for manipulated opinion polls that benefited Kurz’s right-wing People’s Party. Al Jazeera reports.
Singapore tested out patrol robots for three weeks in September that blasted warnings to people engaged in “undesirable social behavior,” fuelling privacy concerns. Singaporean officials have long desired a tech-driven “smart” nation, but critics of the country have long accused them of violating civil liberties in pursuit of their goal. Agence France-Presse reports.
The Australian government announced on Wednesday that it would stop processing asylum-seekers at detention centers in Papua New Guinea, a practice that has been criticized by human rights groups. Instead, Australia plans to send all asylum-seekers to the island Nauru. Human rights groups have criticized the policy and believe that detaining migrants offshore is a violation of international rights law. Isabella Kwai reports for the New York Times.
The coronavirus has infected over 44.06 million and has now killed close to 707,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 236.58 million confirmed coronavirus cases and close to 4.83 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley, and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
During a private and off-the-record call on Sept. 27, prominent doctors and scientists outside of President Biden’s administration urged top public health officials to abandon plans to provide booster shots to all previously vaccinated adults. Biden’s chief medical advisor, Anthony Fauci, was on the call along with White House policy adviser Cameron Webb, and the heads of the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fauci pushed back, arguing that it was incorrect to argue that science did not support giving boosters to all adults and that the administration’s booster roll-out plan did not mean the U.S. would need to choose between a robust U.S. booster campaign and donating vaccines to countries in need in other parts of the world. Erin Banco and Adam Cancryn report for Politico.
Texas, Idaho, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, and North Carolina have 15% or less of their ICU capacity available despite a nation-wide decline in coronavirus cases. Over the last week, coronavirus-related hospitalizations have declined by over 1,400 a day. Only 56% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Madeline Holcombe reports for CNN.
A 40-year-old Texas man has been sentenced to fifteen months in federal prison for posting two messages to Facebook in April 2020 that falsely claimed he paid someone infected with Covid-19 to “lick items at grocery stores in the San Antonio area to scare people away.” Christopher Charles Perez was convicted of two counts for violating a federal law that criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons. Aya Elamroussi reports 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.