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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.
SUDAN – POLITICAL SITUATION
Sudan’s military leadership has seized power, with military chief Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan declaring, “this is a new Sudan.” Al-Burhan was scheduled to surrender his position on the Sovereignty Council, which was overseeing Sudan’s democratic transition, in weeks. He instead dissolved the Sovereignty Council, but has promised to hold elections in July 2023. Sudan’s civilian leaders are skeptical of this vow. Declan Walsh, Abdi Latif Dahir, and Simon Marks report for the New York Times.
Al-Burhan has vowed in a television statement that Sudan will be led by “an independent technocratic government where people of Sudan from all walks of life will be represented.” Al Jazeera reporting.
Sudan’s Ministry of Information posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying that Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok “is still the legitimate transitional authority in the country.” The statement also noted that only the prime minister can declare a state of emergency under the transitional constitution, and that the military’s actions are criminal. Ruba Alhenawi reports for CNN.
Al-Burhan sought to justify the seizure of power and the dissolution of the country’s transitional government by saying infighting between the military and civilian parties had threatened the country’s stability. “The armed forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government,” al-Burhan claimed in a statement, adding that the country’s constitution would be rewritten and a new legislative body formed. Peter Beaumont and others report for the Guardian.
Al-Burhan also announced the suspension of several articles related to the constitutional document governing Sudan’s transitional period to democracy and elections. The articles suspended include those related to the formation of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, the powers of the Sovereignty Council, the formation of the transitional cabinet and the dissolution of the military council. A look at the articles suspended by al-Burhan and the potential significance of the move is provided by Al Jazeera.
The military has dissolved the committees managing Sudan’s trade unions, al-Burhan has announced. Al Jazeera reports.
Just Security has published a piece by Rebecca Hamilton outlining key short-term indicators for Sudan’s democratic survival.
SUDAN – PROTESTS
At least 7 people have been killed and 140 injured as thousands of people have gone into the streets to protest, in Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman. Protestors faced gunfire near the military’s headquarters in Khartoum. Al Jazeera reports.
Protests against yesterday’s military coup have continued in Khartoum, with the BBC reporting a higher number of “at least 10 people” reported killed and dozens injured, many of them as a result of soldiers opening fire on protesters. BBC News reports.
Protestors chanting and waving flags have continued to block the roads in Khartoum with makeshift barricades and burning tires. Samy Magdy reports for AP.
“Troops are reported to have been going house to house in Khartoum arresting local protest organisers. The city’s airport is closed and international flights are suspended. The internet and most phone lines are also down. Central Bank staff have reportedly gone on strike, and across the country doctors are said to be refusing to work in military run hospitals except in emergencies,” BBC News reports.
SUDAN – INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE
The U.N. Security Council is due to have an emergency closed-door meeting today to discuss the crisis in Sudan, diplomats have said. Diplomats said that the consultations were requested by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Norway and Estonia. AP reports.
“We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House deputy principal press secretary. She said, “the United States continues to strongly support the Sudanese people’s demand for a democratic transition in Sudan.” Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has “strongly” condemned the actions of Sudanese military forces. In a statement Blinken said that the U.S. “firmly reject the dissolution of the civilian-led transitional government and its associated institutions and call for their immediate restoration. The arrest of Prime Minister Hamdok and other civilian leaders is unacceptable.” The statement also said that the U.S. is “gravely concerned by reports that Sudanese security forces have used live ammunition against peaceful protesters.” Peter Beaumont and others report for the Guardian.
The U.S. is pausing $700 million in economic assistance meant for promoting democracy, in response to the military takeover in Sudan, State Department spokesperson Ned Price has said. “The U.S. has provided an estimated $377 million in humanitarian assistance for fiscal year 2021, making it the single largest donor of such aid,” Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
The U.S. Embassy in Sudan is advising Americans to shelter in place amid the apparent military coup and has warned that flights from the country are grounded. The embassy also warned of potential violence occurring amid protests against the military takeover. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has condemned the “ongoing military coup” in Sudan, saying Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and all other officials, “must be released immediately.” In a statement, a spokesperson for Guterres said that “Sudanese stakeholders must immediately return to dialogue, and engage in good faith to restore the constitutional order and Sudan’s transitional process.” UN News Centre reports.
President Biden is expected to participate in a virtual summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this week, marking the first time since 2017 that the U.S. has participated at a presidential level. Biden is expected to focus on Covid-19 collaboration and reassure ASEAN that recent U.S. engagement with India, Japan, and Australia is “not intended to supplant ASEAN’s central role in the region.” David Brunnstrom and Ain Bandial report for Reuters.
The annual ASEAN summit has begun without Myanmar, after Myanmar’s military refused to send a representative to the three-day meeting in protest over the bloc’s exclusion of Myanmar’s top general. Neither ASEAN’s chair nor its secretary-general made a mention of Myanmar’s no-show in their opening remarks at today’s virtual meeting. “In an unprecedented move, ASEAN on October 15 agreed to bar Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing, who toppled a civilian government on February 1, over his failure to implement a peace plan he agreed with ASEAN in April towards ending a bloody political crisis triggered by the coup,” Al Jazeera reports.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met yesterday with representatives of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), set up by opponents of army rule, the White House has said. “In the virtual meeting, Sullivan reiterated continued U.S. support for the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar and discussed ongoing efforts to restore the country’s path to democracy…the White House said in a statement. Sullivan expressed concern over the military’s violence and said ‘the U.S. will continue to promote accountability for the coup,’ according to the White House,” Reuters reports.
Recognizing Myanmar’s junta as the country’s government would not stop the growing violence in the country, the outgoing U.N. special envoy on Myanmar has said. Christine Schraner Burgener warned that such a move would in fact push the country further toward instability and becoming a failed state. “I hope that the international community will not give up,” Burgener told Reuters. Michelle Nichols reports for Reuters.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the appointment of former U.N. Under-Secretary-General Noeleen Heyzer of Singapore as the new U.N. special envoy for Myanmar. Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
The threatened expulsion of ten Western ambassadors, including the U.S. ambassador, from Turkey, for advocating the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, has been averted. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said, “a step back was taken from this slander against our country and our nation.” Turkey and its Western allies climbed down from a full-blown diplomatic crisis yesterday after foreign embassies said that they abide by diplomatic conventions of non-interference. Tuvan Gumrukcu and Jonathan Spicer report for Reuters.
The State Department was testing diplomats for “directed energy exposure” on foreign soil as a possible source of U.S. diplomats’ mysterious brain injuries more than two years before detailing those suspicions were revealed to members of Congress, according to two victims’ disclosure forms for the examinations. Both of the victims’ test results led to their immediate return to the United States. One of those victims has accused the State Department of covering up the source of his and other diplomats’ ailments and withholding information from Congress. Andrew Desiderio and Lara Seligman report for POLITICO.
Funding for victims of the mysterious “Havana syndrome” is to be included in the Department of Defense appropriations draft bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has said that she has secured funding in the draft bill to implement the recently passed HAVANA Act, a federal law that includes assistance for U.S. officials impacted by mysterious health incidents that some argue are targeted attacks. The potential level of funding has not been disclosed as it is included in the classified annex of the appropriations draft bill like other funding for the intelligence community. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
Israel is sending an envoy to Washington amid a deepening rift with President Biden’s administration following Israel’s outlawing of six Palestinian rights groups. “Israel last week designated the prominent Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations, sparking international criticism and repeated assertions by Israel’s top strategic partner, the United States, that there had been no advance warning of the move….The State Department has said it would seek more information on the decision. Joshua Zarka, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, told Israeli Army Radio the envoy would ‘give them all the details and to present them all the intelligence’ during his visit in the coming days. Zarka said he personally updated U.S. officials on Israel’s intention to outlaw the groups last week, and said he believed Washington wanted a more thorough explanation of the decision,” Tia Goldenberg reports for AP.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The White House has rejected another claim of executive privilege from former President Trump regarding an unidentified subset of documents requested by the Jan. 6 select committee. White House counsel Dana Remus wrote in a letter that Trump’s assertion of privilege was “not justified.” Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Congressional investigators from the Jan. 6 select committee have questioned Dustin Stockton, a conservative activist linked to Steve Bannon. Stockton was involved with Bannon’s We Build The Wall effort, and he heavily promoted Jan. 6 rallies leading up to the event. Betsy Woodruff Swan, Heather Caygle and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
Organizers of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol have detailed “dozens” of planning meetings they participated in with members of Congress and White House staff, to coordinate contesting the election results and plan the rallies that preceded the Jan. 6 attack. Some of the organizers of the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington, D.C. before the Jan. 6 attack have started communicating with congressional investigators, including detailing allegations that multiple members of Congress, including Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Mo Brooks (R-AK), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC, Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent. Two sources who spoke to Rolling Stone also claimed that they interacted with members of Trump’s team, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who they describe as having had an opportunity to prevent the violence. Hunter Walker reports for the Rolling Stone.
Democratic lawmakers are renewing calls to expel members of Congress implicated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, following the reports that witnesses recently informed congressional investigators of their coordination with lawmakers. Many of the Republican lawmakers listed in the piece by the Rolling Stone have denied involvement, but the report led to a flood of calls from their Democratic colleagues to remove from office anyone found to be involved in the attack. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
The U.S. Capitol Police division tasked with protecting congressional leaders was understaffed, did not have the right kind of equipment, including the proper ballistic vests “to meet its mission,” and lacked a comprehensive plan during the Jan. 6 attack, a new department watchdog report says. According to the report, circulated by Inspector General Michael Bolton, “the Dignitary Protection Division was ‘exceptional’ in evacuating members of Congress but still warranted a series of recommendations to be better prepared moving forward…The report recommends an overhaul of the division’s training program and stresses the need for additional staff, equipment and planning ahead of large events,” Whitney Wild and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The State Department is to form a new bureau for cyberspace and digital policy, as part of an effort to strengthen diplomats’ cyber expertise, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced in an email to State Department employees. The email stated that Blinken will formally announce the formation of the bureau during a speech tomorrow. “The bureau will focus on three key areas: international cybersecurity, international digital policy and digital freedom, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday. The department also plans to appoint a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology, Price added,” Kylie Atwood, Zachary Cohen and Sean Lyngaas report for CNN.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee has released a report finding that around 60 Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents posted inappropriate comments in a Facebook group, but only two were fired. Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said she was “deeply troubled by CBP’s broken disciplinary process.” A CBP spokesperson said that the agency is developing social media training for employees, as well conducting a review to “identify and terminate intolerable prejudice.” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
In Charlottesville, the trial has begun against the organizers of the 2017 Unite the Right rally. The plaintiffs in the federal civil trial have invoked the reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 in making the claim that the organizers engaged in a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence. Jury selection has started and the trial is expected to last until November 19. Ellie Silverman reports for the Washington Post.
Internal documents have revealed Facebook’s years-long struggle to crack down on its platforms’ facilitation of human trafficking. Facebook has been aware of human traffickers’ use of its platforms since at least 2018, and took emergency action to address it when Apple threatened to pull the Facebook and Instagram apps from the App Store. Clare Duffy reports for CNN.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen encouraged U.K. lawmakers yesterday to pass legislation to rein in social-media platforms. Haugen explained to a parliamentary committee considering the U.K. Online Safety Bill, which aims to curb harmful online content, that Facebook struggles to curb misinformation and hate speech in many languages and dialects, including British English. Sam Schechner and Stu Woo report for the Wall Street Journal.
Facebook’s own researchers have repeatedly warned that the company is ill-equipped to address issues such as hate speech and misinformation in languages other than English. According to internal Facebook documents, which are part of disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel, Facebook’s moderation teams are often not equipped to handle all languages and dialects spoken in many of countries the company refers to as “at risk.” This means that a large amount of hate speech and misinformation still slips through, potentially making users in some of the most politically unstable countries more vulnerable to real-world violence. Rishi Iyengar reports for CNN.
Facebook employees repeatedly sounded the alarm to curb the spread of posts inciting violence in “at risk” countries such as Ethiopia, but the social media giant did little in response, internal documents reveal. The documents disclosed to the SEC reveal that Facebook’s moderation efforts were no match for the flood of inflammatory content relating to Ethiopia. The documents “show employees warning managers about how Facebook was being used by ‘problematic actors,’ including states and foreign organizations, to spread hate speech and content inciting violence in Ethiopia and other developing countries, where its user base is large and growing…The documents also indicate that the company has, in many cases, failed to adequately scale up staff or add local language resources to protect people in these places,” Eliza Mackintosh reports for CNN.
CHINA, TAIWAN AND HONG KONG
The U.S. has “few credible options” to respond if China were to seize a set of islands administered by Taiwan in the South China Sea, according to the results of a war game conducted recently by foreign policy experts in Washington and the Asia-Pacific region. In a report published today by the Center for a New American Security, the think tank examined the scenario where Chinese forces invade the Pratas islands, capturing the 500 Taiwanese troops who are based there and establishing a military outpost. The report underscored the need for Washington and Taipei to build deterrence “against limited Chinese aggression,” and “regular planning exercises between Taiwanese and U.S. personnel.” Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
A Hong Kong court has convicted activist Ma Chun-man of inciting secession based on his use of pro-independence slogans at protests. Ma was convicted under Hong Kong’s national security law. Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
“Greenhouse gas concentrations hit a new record high last year and increased at a faster rate than the annual average for the last decade despite a temporary reduction during pandemic lockdowns,” according to a report by the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization. The report found that the Amazon region, which used to be a sink for carbon, is now a source of carbon dioxide due to deforestation. Jamey Keaten and Frank Jordans report for AP.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has said in the lead-up to the COP26 global climate summit, he is “extremely worried because [he has] not seen the movement and the ambition that is necessary to reach targets” to keep post industrial global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius. Guterres expressed support for President Biden’s proposed measures to reduce emissions, but also said that “the U.S. has not yet assumed what would be its fair share in relation to support to developing countries.” Brady Dennis reports for the Washington Post.
Australia, a leading global coal and gas supplier, has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison however said the plan would not include ending Australia’s fossil fuel sectors and Australia will not set ambitious targets for 2030 — an objective of next month’s COP26 summit. BBC News reports.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has announced the lifting of a yearslong nationwide state of emergency. The state of emergency allows Egyptian authorities to make arrests and search people’s homes without warrants. The measure has been in place since the April 2017 bombings of two Coptic Christian churches by an affiliate of the ISIS armed group that killed more than 40 people and wounded dozens more. Al Jazeera reports.
Critics have called the move by el-Sisi a superficial change that will not fundamentally alter the repressive system in Egypt. Other than a few years’ respite in the years after the 2011 revolution, Egypt has been in a state of emergency since the assassination of former leader Anwar Sadat in 1981. In a statement on his social media accounts yesterday evening, el-Sisi said he was not extending the state of emergency, which technically expired on Saturday, because the country had finally achieved enough “security and stability” to do without it. “While rights advocates cautiously welcomed the announcement, they warned that ending the state of emergency would not mean braking repression in Egypt, where thousands of dissidents are in detention, the press and social media are tightly controlled by the state, and public criticism and protests are all but nonexistent,” Vivian Yee reports for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Ugandan authorities have said that a suicide bomber was behind an explosion on a bus in the capital, Kampala, yesterday. The attacker was “on a wanted list” and was a member of the Islamist militant group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which operates from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, a police spokesperson also said. Several passengers were injured in yesterday’s blast. BBC News reports.
The U.K.’s spy agencies, M15, M16 and GCHQ, have given a contract to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host classified material in a deal aimed at boosting the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for espionage. The high-security cloud system will also be used by other government departments, such as the Ministry of Defense, during joint operations. The agreement, estimated by industry experts to be worth £500m to £1bn over the next decade, was signed this year, according to sources familiar with the discussions. “Although AWS is a U.S. company, all the agencies’ data will be held in Britain, according to those with knowledge of the deal. Amazon will not have any access to information held on the cloud platform, those people said,” Helen Warrell and Nic Fildes report for the Financial Times.
Mali has expelled the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc’s representative in the country as pressure mounts on Mali to provide a definitive timeline on its transition to civilian rule. Hamodou Boly was notified of the government’s decision “declaring him ‘persona non grata’ in view of his actions [that are] incompatible with his status,” a statement on state media said. Mali was suspended from ECOWAS in May after the interim leader, Col Assimi Goïta, carried out a second coup in less than a year, and Mali has been at loggerheads with the regional body over demands to hold elections in February. BBC News reports.
A German court has convicted a woman married to an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter for “‘crimes against humanity and attempted war crimes’ in the aiding and abetting of the murder of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl.” Jennifer Wenisch, a 30-year-old German citizen, has been sentenced to ten years in prison. Wenisch was a convert to Islam who traveled from northwest Germany to Syria to join ISIS in 2014. Sofia Diogo Mateus and Vanessa Guinan-Bank report for the Washington Post.
Wenisch might never have been caught for the crime, had it not been for the cooperation between the FBI and the German Police. After her return to Germany, Wenisch wished to return to ISIS and in 2018 she disclosed that she was a member of the ISIS hisbah (ISIS’s brutal morality police), that she had owned an enslaved Yazidi woman and the girl’s murder to an FBI informant who she thought was a fellow ISIS supporter. Anne Speckhard reports for The Daily Beast.
The leaders of Pakistan and China have urged the international community to swiftly send humanitarian and economic aid to Afghanistan. “A government statement said Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed Afghanistan by phone, saying afterward that people there need international help ‘to alleviate their suffering, prevent instability’ and rebuild…The latest development came a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the Taliban representatives in Qatar to discuss a range of issues,” AP reports.
Syria has accused Israel of carrying out an attack in the south of Syria. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an early morning attack happened in the southern Quneitra province and targeted two government military outposts on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. An Israeli warplane targeted the outposts leaving behind material destruction, the war monitor said. There were no reports of casualties. AP reports.
A North Korea organization has described as “malicious slander” a report by a U.N. rights investigator into the country. The report released this month expressed concerns about human rights abuses and the humanitarian situation in the country. Reuters reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 45.54 million people and has now killed over 737,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 244.11 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.95 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Facebook and YouTube have removed from their platforms a video by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in which the far-right leader made a false claim that Covid-19 vaccines were linked with developing AIDS. Both platforms said that the video violated their policies on medical disinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Al Jazeera reports.
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.