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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.
President Biden has called the military takeover in Sudan “a grave setback,” and said that the U.S. “will continue to stand with the people of Sudan and their non-violent struggle.” In his statement, Biden called for the military to allow peaceful protests and to restore the civilian-led transitional government. Khalid Abdelaziz and Doina Chiacu report for Reuters.
The Sudanese military will appoint a technocrat prime minister to rule alongside it within a week, Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhanhan, the Sudanese general who seized power in the coup, has said. In an interview with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news agency published today, Burhan said the new premier will form a cabinet that will share leadership of the country with the armed forces. “We have a patriotic duty to lead the people and help them in the transition period until elections are held,” Burhan said. Noha Elehnnawy reports for AP.
Violent abductions by army officers are targeting Sudanese civilians who have opposed the coup, including politicians, journalists and activists. “In the space of barely a week, dozens of individuals selected by the army for detention, or who have spoken out against the coup, have been swept up, including ministers and journalists, as well as activists in the ‘resistance committees’ who have been involved in organising street protests,” the Guardian reports.
The U.N. Security Council, in a statement approved by all 15 members, has expressed “solidarity” with the Sudanese people and “called upon all parties to exercise the utmost restraint.” The statement also called for the release of detained officials. The statement “went through several revisions, diplomats said, mainly to address objections from Russia, which did not want to ‘condemn’ the military takeover as originally proposed.” Al Jazeera reports.
Sudan’s envoys to the U.S. and several other countries, including the E.U. and France, have been fired after condemning the military’s takeover, a military official has said. “The diplomats had pledged their support for the now-deposed government of Prime Minister Abddalla Hamdok. Also fired by Gen Abdel-Fattah Burhan late Wednesday were the Sudanese ambassadors to Qatar, China and the U.N. mission in Geneva, according to the official,” Sam Magdy reports for AP.
President Biden will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in an opportunity to address France’s concerns after a dispute over the Australian submarine deal with Paris that fell through following the U.S., U.K. and Australia AUKUS pact. The U.S. is expected to “bolster France’s counterterrorism efforts in Africa,” and give “guarded backing to a European military force that is separate from NATO.” Roger Cohen and Helene Cooper report for the New York Times.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that he expects the meeting between Biden and Macron on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in Rome to be “constructive and deeply substantive.” Sullivan said that Biden and Macron will cover a range of issues facing the U.S. and France from “counterterrorism in the Middle East to great power competition to economic, trade and technology issues.” “Sullivan said a ‘forward-looking’ statement is expected to be released following the meeting, which will touch on areas of cooperation, counterterrorism, the Indo-Pacific, energy and technology,” Maegan Vazquez reports for CNN.
An envoy for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will plead not guilty to money laundering charges he is facing in the U.S., his lawyer has said. Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman, is accused of using a low-income housing project in Venezuela to gain $350 million in personal wealth. He was extradited to the U.S. earlier this month and will appear in court on Nov. 1. Alexandra Ulmer and Luc Cohen report for Reuters.
The second most senior U.S. general, outgoing Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Hyten, has said that the pace at which China’s military is developing capabilities is “stunning,” while U.S. development suffers from “brutal” bureaucracy. Hyten echoed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s characterization of China as a “pacing threat,” and warned that “the trajectory [China is] on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it,” while also calling Russia the most imminent threat. “Although we’re making marginal progress, the Department of Defense is still unbelievably bureaucratic and slow…We can go fast if we want to but the bureaucracy we put in place is just brutal,” Hyten said. “Hyten declined to elaborate on what’s known about China’s hypersonic missile test over the summer, simply confirming that a test occurred and ‘it’s very concerning,’” Alex Marquardt and Oren Liebermann report for CNN.
The U.S. is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan, Sandra Oudkirk has said, amid heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing. Yimou Lee reports for Reuters.
The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on two Lebanese businessmen and a lawmaker, “saying they have profited from corruption while the country struggles through its worst economic crisis in modern history,” Bassem Mroue reports for AP.
The U.N. special envoy on unilateral coercive measures has urged the U.S. to end sanctions against Zimbabwe which she said have worsened the country’s humanitarian crisis, and she urged dialogue to end the impasse between the U.S. and Zimbabwe. Alena Douhan has been in Zimbabwe for nearly two weeks investigating the impact of sanctions. “The U.S imposed travel and financial sanctions on Zimbabwe’s political, military and economic elite as well as companies linked to the state about two decades ago. This followed violent mass seizures of white-owned land and alleged vote-rigging and human rights violations by the late authoritarian President Robert Mugabe. In her preliminary findings, Douhan said the U.S should “’cease the state of national emergency regarding Zimbabwe.’ She said the sanctions have ‘exacerbated the pre-existing economic and humanitarian crisis, inhibiting the building of essential infrastructure and international and inter-institutional cooperation,’” Farai Mutsaka reports for AP.
The Biden administration is working with international partners to prepare further sanctions against Nicaragua that could be levied in response to Nicaragua’s Nov. 7 election, U.S. officials have said. The upcoming elections have been denounced by Washington as a sham organized by President Daniel Ortega, who has arrested several opposition figures. “The U.S. government has also begun a review of Nicaragua’s participation in a Central America free trade agreement and have already halted support for any ‘trade capacity building’ activities seen as benefiting Ortega’s government, a senior State Department official told Reuters,” Matt Spetalnick reports for Reuters.
CIA BLACK SITES
For the first time a detainee has openly described the torture he experienced at CIA “black sites.” Speaking to a military jury Majid Khan, who was an alleged Al Qaeda courier, has become the “first former prisoner of the black sites to openly describe, anywhere, the violent and cruel ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that agents used to extract information and confessions from terrorism suspects…For more than two hours, he spoke about dungeonlike conditions, humiliating stretches of nudity with only a hood on his head, sometimes while his arms were chained in ways that made sleep impossible, and being intentionally nearly drowned in icy cold water in tubs at two sites, once while a CIA interrogator counted down from 10 before water was poured into his nose and mouth. Soon after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, Khan said, he cooperated with his captors, telling them everything he knew, with the hope of release. ‘Instead, the more I cooperated, the more I was tortured,”’ he said,”’ Carol Rosenberg reports for The New York Times.
Khan has been held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and was speaking at the first day of a sentencing hearing at the U.S. base. “A panel of military officers selected by a Pentagon legal official known as a convening authority can sentence Khan to between 25 and 40 years in prison, but he will serve far less because of his extensive cooperation with U.S. authorities. Under a plea deal…Khan’s sentence by the jury will be reduced to no more than 11 years by the convening authority, and he will get credit for his time in custody since his February 2012 guilty plea,” AP reports.
U.S. prosecutors have alleged that Vladimir Dunaev, a Russian man extradited from South Korea, was part of a transnational criminal group that stole millions of dollars using a malicious software called Trickbot. Dunaev was arraigned in federal court in Ohio and entered a not guilty plea in his first appearance yesterday. Trickbot has had a key role in some ransomware attacks on U.S. companies. Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed the Secure Equipment Act, which will “further crack down on the use of telecommunications products from companies deemed to be a national security threat, such as those based in China.” The legislation would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission “from considering or issuing authorization of products from companies on the agency’s covered ‘list,’” which includes Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. The bill is now headed to President Biden for signature. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
National Cyber Director Chris Inglis has outlined the steps taken to confront the increase in cyber threats against the U.S. in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, as Inglis’s office published its first strategic intent document. The strategic intent document “explains how the newest U.S. agency will help execute the Biden administration’s agenda for cyberspace: not only to help our nation protect itself from malicious actors, but also to deliver the expected benefits of the digital era,” Inglis explained. “Cybersecurity is a team sport requiring collaboration among agencies, sectors and nations,” Inglis concluded in his op-ed.
The strategic intent document issued by the White House, sets out the Biden administration’s focus on prioritizing issues such as strengthening key critical infrastructure groups, enhancing federal cybersecurity efforts and improving public-private coordination. The document underlines the urgency of the moment and the need to enhance federal cyber coordination. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has said that cyberattacks pose larger risks than conventional warfare. During an interview with The Hill, Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, cited the recent SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline hacks as examples of a “dramatically” different security environment that has taken shape over the past decade. Warner “warned that attacks would continue to occur if countries like Russia and China continue pursuing cyberattacks as a way to target the U.S.,” Zach Schonfeld reports for The Hill.
A lawyer representing Julian Assange said that U.S. government promises that the WikiLeaks founder would not face harsh prison conditions if extradited to the U.S. are not enough to address concerns about his fragile mental health and high risk of suicide. The U.S. is seeking in the U.K. High Court to overturn an earlier ruling by a lower U.K. court that refused a request, on the basis of Assange’s suicide risk, to extradite Assange to the U.S. “Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said during a two-day hearing at Britain’s High Court that the Australian was too mentally ill to be extradited to the United States to face trial on espionage charges,” Sylvia Hui reports for AP.
Lawyers for Assange have cited new allegations that the CIA plotted to kidnap or kill Assange as “grounds for fearing what will be done to him” if he is extradited. Assange’s lawyers also said in written legal argument that there were “unique and special reasons” that led to a psychiatrist, in a previous report relied on by the lower court, not to identify Assange’s partner and to exclude the fact that he had fathered two children in the U.K. These reasons included the security risks posed to Assange, including an alleged plan to poison or kidnap Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy and even steal a nappy from one of his sons to gather DNA, Assange’s lawyers said. Ben Quinn reports for the Guardian.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and former aide to former President Trump Dan Scavino have been granted postponements by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Clark had been scheduled before the committee today but was given a postponement after he parted ways with his lawyer and is retaining new counsel, a committee aide said. Scavino has been granted a brief postponement from responding to his subpoena and is continuing to “engage” with the committee, the aide said. Ryan Nobles reports for CNN.
66 former lawmakers, among them 24 Republicans, have signed onto a legal brief contending that “no possible argument about executive privilege could overcome Congress’s need for documents to probe the violent attack on the Capitol.” They write in the brief that “the efforts to overturn the election were not the official acts of a President.” Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
Chief Judge of the Washington, D.C. federal district court Beryl A. Howell has “unleashed a blistering critique of the Justice Department’s prosecution of Capitol rioters, saying the fiery rhetoric about the event’s horror did not match plea offers to minor charges.” Howell interrogated prosecutors about their decision to allow Jack Jesse Griffith to plead guilty to parading inside the Capitol, the same charge faced by nonviolent protestors who disrupt congressional hearings. Howell expressed that “probation should not be the norm,” but ultimately sentenced Griffith to 36 months of probation so that he would not be punished more than others who engaged in similar conduct. Rachel Weiner reports for the Washington Post.
A police planning memo from Jan. 5 has further demonstrated how unprepared the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) were for Jan. 6. According to the internal USCP document, officers were told to be ready for potential attacks on police lines and the police made plans for plainclothes officers to monitor protesters. However, the preparation turned out to be not nearly enough, with the document opening with the line that “at this time there are no specific known threats related to the Joint Session of Congress Electoral College Vote Certification.” The document also details the force’s concerns about counter protesters, which turned out to be unwarranted. The document “shows that in some ways, the department was prescient about the violence that would unfold, but didn’t deploy enough defenses to counter the riots,” Betsy Woodruff Swan and Daniel Lippman report for POLITICO.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden’s administration is in talks to give migrant families separated under former President Trump’s policies potential payouts of $450,000 per person. The American Civil Liberties Union “has identified about 5,500 children separated at the border over the course of the Trump Administration,” but the number of eligible families is expected to be smaller depending on how many families come forward. So far, Biden’s administration “has reunited 52 families and is in the process of reuniting about 200 more,” Michelle Hackman, Aruna Viswanatha, and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been charged with a misdemeanor complaint for “groping a female aide’s breast.” Brittany Commisso “had previously accused Mr. Cuomo of groping her breast while they were alone in the [Executive] mansion late last year.” The complaint was filed by county sheriff Craig Apple, which “caught many in the state capital by surprise,” including Albany District Attorney David Soares. Cuomo and his personal lawyer have denied the allegations. Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jonah Bromwich report for the New York Times.
Doors on Capitol Hill are shutting on Facebook’s lobbying attempts, as the company seeks to recover from the revelations of whistleblower Frances Haugen. “Several congressional aides involved in efforts to regulate the tech companies say they are fed up with Facebook’s government relations strategy…Some offices on the Hill have started to either ignore the company’s outreach or ban its representatives altogether,” Emily Birnbaum reports for POLITICO.
Leaders of the U.S. oil industry refused to concede that their companies had ever misled the public about the link between burning fossil fuels and global warming during a tense hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee yesterday. The heads of BP, Exxon, Shell and Chevron, along with key lobbying groups the American Petroleum Institute and the Chamber of Commerce, testified before the House Committee yesterday. The executives also avoided accepting Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)’s pledge that they would “no longer spend any money either directly or indirectly to oppose efforts to reduce emissions and address climate change.” Zack Budryk and Rachel Frazin report for The Hill.
The leaders of the four major oil and gas companies touted their support for a transition to clean energy, and while acknowledging that the burning of their products was driving climate change and citing their internal targets for cutting emissions, the leaders told lawmakers that fossil fuels are not about to disappear. The company heads also refused to say that they were willing to tell the powerful trade groups, which the companies pay to represent their interests in Washington, to stop funding advertisements against electric vehicles and other climate policies. Democratic lawmakers responded with frustration and forceful language in the more than six-hour hearing. However, Republicans on the House Committee, including Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), “questioned the premise of the hearings, calling it a distraction from more important problems facing the nation and said the oil executives should be thanked for decades of keeping homes warm and lights blazing,” Hiroko Tabuchi and Lisa Friedman report for The New York Times.
President Biden’s $555 billion climate package consists of tax credits, grants, and other policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to White House documents and independent experts, the legislation “will reduce U.S. annual carbon dioxide emissions by about a gigaton, nearly a sixth of its current annual emissions,” Steven Mufson and Sarah Kaplan report for the Washington Post.
Leaders from the Group of 20 (G20) major economies are split over phasing out coal and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. The world leaders, including leaders from the U.S., China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia, are gathering in Rome this weekend, and the G20 meeting is expected to set the tone for talks at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow starting immediately afterwards. However, “officials [have] said forging consensus on policies to achieve this remains difficult given the G20’s competing interests and that few concrete proposals are likely to come out of the summit,” Sha Hua and Max Colchester report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
An Ethiopian military airstrike yesterday on the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region has killed 10 people, including children, according to a doctor and a Tigray spokesperson. “Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu told The Associated Press the new airstrike targeted a site in Mekelle city used by Tigray forces to make and repair weapons…Tigray spokesperson Nahusenay Belay denied that the airstrike hit a military target and said it struck a ‘civilian residence.’ Three children were among the dead, he said. Hayelom Kebede, former director of Tigray’s flagship Ayder Referral Hospital, said 10 people were killed and 21 injured, and he expected the toll to rise,” AP reports.
Philippine forces have killed one of the country’s most-wanted Muslim militant leaders and his wife. Salahuddin Hassan, the head of the militant group Daulah Islamiya, and his wife were aligned with the Islamic State group and were blamed for deadly bombings, other killings and extortion in the south for more than a decade, the military said. Army and police forces raided a hideout of the militant group, and assault rifles, ammunition and rebel documents were seized by troops, regional military commander Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy said. AP reports.
The E.U. Commission suspended funding to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following concerns over the WHO’s handling of a sexual abuse scandal. An independent commission found last month that 83 aid workers, a quarter of whom were employed by WHO, “were involved in sexual coercion and abuse during Congo’s 10th Ebola epidemic,” Stephanie Nebehay and Francesco Guarascio report for Reuters.
The U.K. has summoned France’s ambassador to the U.K. as a post-Brexit fishing row between the two countries escalates. Two U.K. Royal Navy patrol vessels have also been put on a state of “high readiness” to tackle potential port blockades by French fishing boats. “The dramatic moves followed French threats to clog British exports in red tape over a lack of fishing licences for their fishing vessels and inflammatory claims that Downing Street had made a ‘political choice’ to damage the country’s coastal communities,” Daniel Boffey and Dan Sabbagh report for the Guardian.
France has said that it could stop British boats from landing if the dispute with the U.K. over fishing licences is not resolved by Tuesday. The comments come after a British trawler was seized by France and another fined during checks off Le Havre yesterday. The U.K. Environment Secretary George Eustice has said that the language used by French officials is“inflammatory” and has warned that the U.K. would respond if France went ahead with threats, saying “two can play at that game.” Katie Wright reports for BBC News.
The African Union mission in Somalia (Amisom) has denied it supported government troops in recent clashes with the Ahlu Sunna wal Jama’a Sufi militia in the central town of Guriel. Ahlu Sunna had accused Amisom of siding with the Somali national army in the battle for the control of Guriel. In a statement, Amisom said that the allegations were “false, toxic and malicious,” and were “deliberately intended to cause disaffection between Amisom and Somali communities.” BBC News reporting.
In a phone call French President Emmanuel Macron has told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the scrapping of the submarine contract, following the AUKUS pact, “broke the relationship of trust” between France and Australia and said Canberra should propose “tangible actions” to heal the diplomatic rift. Macron also encouraged Morrison to adopt a more ambitious climate policy, including a commitment “to cease production and consumption of coal at the national level and abroad,” a French government readout of the conversation said. Daniel Hurst reports for the Guardian.
The coronavirus has infected over 45.80 million people and has now killed over to 743,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 245.59 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.98 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The U.S. Air Force is set to be the first branch of the U.S. military to face troops’ rejection of the Pentagon vaccine mandate, as up to 12,000 Air Force personnel have rejected orders to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and officials say it is too late for them to do so by the Tuesday deadline. “The vast majority of active-duty airmen, more than 96 percent, are at least partially vaccinated, according to data from the Air Force. But officials have warned that, barring an approved medical or religious exemption, those who defy lawful orders to be fully immunized are subject to punishment, including possible dismissal from the service, or they could be charged in the military justice system. The challenge now confronting Air Force leaders — how to address potential large-scale dissent in the face of a top health priority that has been deeply politicized — is a bellwether for the dilemma in store across the military’s other services,” Alex Horton reports for the Washington Post.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.