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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.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House select committee examining the Jan. 6 attack has issued a new round of subpoenas demanding records and testimony from three individuals, including two advisers of former President Trump who helped with the Jan. 6 rally and a former White House official who helped draft the speech delivered by Trump prior to the attack. All three individuals were “involved in planning and preparations for the January 6th rally at the Ellipse,” the committee has said. Zachary Cohen, Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.
The Jan. 6 select committee has interviewed Ray Epps, a protester at the center of a right-wing conspiracy theory about who provoked the violence at the Capitol, the committee disclosed yesterday. Some Republican members of Congress and other supporters of Trump have promoted a theory that Epps was working for the FBI and encouraging the attack at the FBI’s direction. In a statement, the Jan. 6 committee said Epps told the panel that he is not an FBI informant and was not working at the direction of law enforcement agencies. Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik will sit for a voluntary interview with the Jan. 6 committee, Kerik’s attorney has said. Kerik was involved with Trump’s efforts to retain control of the White House. Kerik’s attorney said that Kerik previously planned to appear before the committee, but then walk out of a scheduled deposition on Thursday. The committee has since agreed to allow Kerik to appear outside of a formal deposition. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Tom Manger and House Sergeant at Arms William Walker are working to identify officers with extremist views. During a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Walker said that his office has developed a potential insider threat awareness program with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to uncover insider threats posed by employees “who do lose their compass.” At the same hearing, Manger said that he thinks “it all begins with the hiring process,” adding background investigations, polygraphs and social media investigations are critical to ensuring USCP is hiring suitable candidates. Whitney Wild reports for CNN.
President Biden has described the Jan. 6 attack as an attempted “coup” during a speech in Atlanta pushing for the passage of voting rights legislation. “That’s why we’re here today: to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup, a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people,” Biden said. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
Senior Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), are closing ranks behind Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) after he endured a scathing attack from Trump for acknowledging that Biden won the 2020 election. Manu Raju reports for CNN.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden endorsed changing Senate rules to pass new voting rights legislation yesterday. During his speech in Atlanta, Biden warned of a grave threat to American democracy if lawmakers did not act to “protect the heart and soul” of the country. “Biden did not go so far as to call for full-scale elimination of the filibuster, a Senate tradition that allows the minority party to block legislation that fails to garner 60 votes, but said he supported ‘getting rid of’ it in the case of voting rights legislation,” Katie Rogers reports for the New York Times.
Black activists are calling for an action plan from Biden on voting rights, saying that the time for speeches is over. Biden’s speech yesterday amounted to politics as usual for many in the voting rights movement, while voting restrictions continue to be passed by Republican lawmakers across the country. Emmanuel Felton and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report for the Washington Post.
The Justice Department is creating a prosecutorial domestic terrorism unit, the head of the department’s national security division, Matthew G. Olsen, said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Olsen explained that the number of FBI investigations of suspects accused of domestic extremism has more than doubled since the spring of 2020. “The national security division has a counterterrorism team, Olsen added, but a group of lawyers will now be dedicated to the domestic threat and ensure that cases will be ‘handled properly and effectively coordinated’ across the agency and federal law enforcement,” Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General is to probe how the military screens applicants for extremist behavior. The audit is expected to begin this month and will be performed in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. “The objective of this audit is to determine whether Military Service recruiting organizations screened applicants for supremacist, extremist, and criminal gang behavior, according to DoD and Military Service policies and procedures,” a memo from the watchdog states. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
A leader of a Neo-Nazi group has been sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in a plot to threaten and intimidate journalists and advocates who worked to expose anti-Semitism. Kaleb Cole, 25, the former leader of the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, was convicted in September of conspiracy, mailing threatening communications, and interfering with a federally protected activity, the Justice Department has said. “The group focused primarily on those who are Jewish or journalists of color,” the Justice Department said. Andrew Blankstein and Tim Fitzsimons report for NBC News.
The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on whether immigrants detained for long periods while they are fighting deportation are entitled to a bail hearing as their cases move forward. Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
North Carolina authorities are looking into the killing of a 37-year-old Black man who was shot Saturday by a White off-duty deputy. Authorities are questioning Cumberland County Deputy Sheriff Jeffrey Hash’s account that he shot Jason Walker on Saturday when Walker jumped on his truck. Lateshia Beachum reports for the Washington Post.
GUANTÁNAMO BAY DETENTION
A U.S. government review panel approved the release of five men who have been held for years without charge at Guantánamo Bay, it was announced yesterday. The individuals, which include three Yemenis and a Kenyan, were never charged. However, the Biden administration needs to find states that are willing to take the individuals before they can be released. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
Just Security published three pieces yesterday on the 20th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. Guantánamo Bay detention facility. Daphne Eviatar writes how ‘Defending the Rule of Law Requires Ending Guantanamo Detention’ and Shayana Kadidal writes on ‘Cutting Edge Issues in Year 20 of the Guantánamo Habeas Litigation’. Ian Moss’s essay on how ‘There Is a Way to Close Guantanamo’ has also been republished.
Senior NATO and Russian officials are meeting today in the first NATO-Russia Council meeting in more than two years, as tensions concerning Ukraine continue. Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Grushko and Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Alexander Fomin will lead Moscow’s delegation at the NATO-Russia Council. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will also be at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. AP reports.
Russia has threatened to halt security talks with the U.S. unless Washington swiftly accepts its demand that Ukraine and Georgia will not be allowed to join NATO. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov issued the warning, saying Moscow would soon decide whether there was “any sense” in continuing the talks. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
Peskov also said that there was little reason for optimism ahead of the NATO-Russia Council meeting. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has also said that the U.S.-Russia bilateral negotiations on Monday had made no progress towards fulfilling Russian President Vladimir Putin’s central demand of a limit on NATO’s expansion further east. Julian Borger reports for the Guardian.
One of the key grievances fueling current tensions is Moscow’s belief that the west broke promises made to the former Soviet Union at the end of the cold war that NATO would not expand east. Analysis of this belief and why it matters today is provided by Patrick Wintour, reporting for the Guardian.
The U.S. and its allies want Russia to take concrete actions to de-escalate tensions at the Ukrainian border, the U.S. envoy to NATO has said. Ahead of today’s meeting of the NATO-Russia council, Julianne Smith said the U.S. expects Russia to pull back the forces it has massed on Ukraine’s border and commit to engaging with the Minsk agreements, the 2014 diplomatic protocol intended to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
North Korea has said that it conducted another hypersonic missile test yesterday. North Korean state media said the missile, which was reported by South Korea and Japan, successfully made a turn before hitting its target in the sea some 1,000km (621 miles) away. The missile is North Korea’s third reported test of an alleged hypersonic missile. BBC News reports.
After watching the missile test, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un called for improvements to the country’s strategic military forces. Kim Jong-un urged military scientists to “further accelerate the efforts to steadily build up the country’s strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity and further modernize the army,” according to KCNA news agency. Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith report for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A huge blast has gone off in the Somali capital today on a road leading to the airport. Eyewitness reports say that it is not clear what caused the explosion with at least four bodies having been seen by witnesses. Reuters reports.
The head of Denmark’s foreign intelligence service, Lars Findsen, has been in prison for more than a month for allegedly leaking classified information, it was revealed on Monday. Findsen was named as one of four people arrested in December due to leaks of classified information, following what the Danish Security and Intelligence Service said was “a long investigation of leaks” within intelligence services. His name was made public after a court in Copenhagen lifted an order that prevented his identity from being revealed. The trial is being held behind closed doors and little is known about the case, including the nature of the alleged leaks. Antonia Mortensen and Ivana Kottasová report for CNN.
Russia and China have blocked the U.N. Security Council from supporting a decision by the Economic Community of West African States to impose new sanctions on Mali, after Mali’s military leaders delayed presidential and legislative elections for four years. A French-drafted Council statement endorsing the sanctions failed to be approved in closed-door consultations yesterday. Al Jazeera reports.
Italian Catholic and Jewish leaders have condemned an incident in which right-wing extremists put a Nazi flag on a coffin and performed Nazi salutes at a funeral outside a church. Rome’s Catholic archdiocese said in a statement that the priests at the parish had no idea what would happen outside the church on Monday. Reuters reports.
Hong Kong is to draw up its own “local” national security laws, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said. The current national security law in Hong Kong was imposed in June 2020 and outlaws what Beijing deems secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces. The proposed legislation will meet the requirements of Article 23 of Hong Kong’s constitution, which calls for the city to pass its own national security laws, Lam said. Al Jazeera reports.
Following violent protests in Kazakhstan, the U.N. Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) has requested “prompt, independent, impartial investigations” to determine whether “unnecessary and disproportionate use of force was made by security forces.” “We understand that the Ministry of Interior has announced that some 9,900 people are in detention as of the 11th of January,” said OHCHR spokesperson Liz Throssell. “Under international law, people have the right to protest peacefully and the right to express their opinions. And they shouldn’t be detained simply for expressing their opinions,” Throssell added. UN News Centre reports.
COVID-19 has infected more than 62.31 million people and has now killed over 842,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been more than 313.60 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.50 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report 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.