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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.
Twitter has major security problems that pose a threat to its users’ personal information, to company shareholders, to national security, and to democracy, according to a whistleblower complaint from the company’s former security chief. The complaint, which was sent by Peiter Zatko to Congress and federal agencies last month, paints a picture of a chaotic and reckless environment at a mismanaged company that allows too many of its staff access to the platform’s central controls and most sensitive information without adequate oversight. It also alleges that some of the company’s senior-most executives have been trying to cover up Twitter’s serious vulnerabilities, and that one or more current employees may be working for a foreign intelligence service. CNN and the Washington Post report.
The phones of several top Trump-era Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were deactivated and likely wiped when they left their positions, a newly released court filing has shown. The revelation came in a public records dispute between ICE and watchdog group American Oversight, which has sought emails and text messages from former acting ICE directors Thomas Homan, Matthew Albence and Ronald Vitiello in a controversial immigration-related case. It follows recent controversies over wiped government phones and erased text messages, including the potential loss of information relevant to investigations into the Jan. 6 attack. Geneva Sands reports for CNN.
Sensitive election files obtained by attorneys working to overturn President Trump’s 2020 election defeat were shared with election deniers, conspiracy theorists and right-wing commentators, records have shown. A Georgia computer forensics firm, hired by the attorneys, placed the files on a server, where company records show they were downloaded dozens of times. Plaintiffs in a long-running federal lawsuit over the security of Georgia’s voting systems obtained the new records from the company, Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler, under a subpoena to one of its executives. A series of data leaks and alleged breaches of local elections offices since 2020 has prompted criminal investigations and fueled concerns among some security experts that public disclosure of information collected from voting systems could be exploited by hackers and other people seeking to manipulate future elections. Jon Swaine, Aaron C. Davis, Amy Gardner and Emma Brown report for the Washington Post.
A new group led by a prominent conservative lawyer has received $1.6 billion from one donor. This represents the largest single contribution to a politically focused nonprofit that’s ever been made public. The nonprofit, Marble Freedom Trust, received the contribution in the form of stock and then funneled more than $200 million to other conservative organizations last year, a tax form CNN obtained from the IRS shows. Marble Freedom is led by Leonard Leo, the co-chairman of the conservative Federalist Society, who advised former President Trump on his Supreme Court picks and runs a sprawling network of other right-wing nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors. The donation has been connected to Barre Seid, a low-profile 90-year-old Chicago electronics company executive and philanthropist. Casey Tolan, Curt Devine and Drew Griffin report for CNN.
The U.S. attorney general’s office and the Justice Department Civil Rights Division are set to investigate a viral video which shows Arkansas law enforcement officers beating a man outside a convenience store. The three officers were suspended Sunday following widespread outrage over the video, in which one of the officers repeatedly punches a shoeless man’s head and smashes it into the pavement, while another knees him and a third holds him down. In a press conference yesterday Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the conduct of the officers “reprehensible,” before adding that “the U.S. attorney and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice will be conducting a separate investigation.” Janelle Griffith reports for NBC News.
The federal magistrate judge who signed the warrant authorizing the search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence issued a formal order yesterday directing the government to propose redactions to the sealed affidavit used to justify the search. In issuing the order the judge, Bruce E. Reinhart said that whilst he remained inclined to make portions of the affidavit public, the government could still persuade him to keep it sealed. He also warned that an extensively redacted version might result in what he described as “a meaningless disclosure.” Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
Trump filed a lawsuit yesterday seeking the appointment of a special master to review the materials seized by the FBI during this month’s search of his Mar-a-Lago residence. Trump’s lawyers wrote that the appointment of a special master is “the only appropriate action” and that the U.S. should be ordered, “to cease review of the seized materials immediately.” The lawsuit, which was assigned to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Trump appointee, also alleges that the “decision to raid Mar-a-Lago, a mere 90 days before the 2022 midterm elections, involved political calculations aimed at diminishing the leading voice in the Republican party, President Trump.” A special master is a third party, usually, a retired judge, who reviews evidence to determine whether it is protected by attorney-client privilege, executive privilege, or similar legal doctrines. Jan Wolfe and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
The National Archives retrieved 150 documents marked as classified from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in January, igniting concern at the Justice Department. The previously unreported volume of the sensitive material found in the former president’s possession helps explain why the Justice Department moved so urgently to hunt down any further classified materials he might have. The government has now recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings from Trump since he left office, including a set provided by Trump’s aides to the Justice Department in June and the material seized by the FBI when they searched his Mar-a-Lago residence earlier this month. Maggie Haberman, Jodie Kantor, Adam Goldman and Ben Protess report for the New York Times.
The U.S. and South Korea yesterday began their largest joint military exercise in five years. The drills were postponed during President Trump’s administration in an attempt to sway North Korea toward nuclear disarmament. The war games, now known as Ulchi Freedom Shield, will run until Sept. 1. In a joint statement, the two militaries said the drills would “bolster combined readiness” and were a response to an “increased volume and scale of [North Korean] missile tests” in the past year. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Iran has dropped some of its main demands on resurrecting the 2015 nuclear deal, bringing the possibility of an agreement closer, a senior U.S. official has revealed. “They came back last week and basically dropped the main hang-ups to a deal,” the official told Reuters. This includes Iran’s insistence that international inspectors close some probes of its atomic program. “We think they have finally crossed the Rubicon and moved toward possibly getting back into the deal on terms that President Biden can accept,” the official added. “If we are closer today, it’s because Iran has moved. They conceded on issues that they have been holding onto from the beginning.” Steven Holland and Arshad Mohammed report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
American intelligence agencies believe Russia is likely to increase its efforts to attack civilian infrastructure and government buildings in Ukraine. Yesterday, the U.S. government declassified an intelligence warning to ensure that concerns about the threat reached a broad audience. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv then issued a security alert and once more urged American citizens to leave Ukraine. “The Department of State has information that Russia is stepping up efforts to launch strikes against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and government facilities in the coming days,” the alert said. Julian E. Barnes and Jeffrey Gettleman report for the New York Times.
The Pentagon is sending new weapons and equipment to Ukraine that will better prepare its military to fight Russian troops at closer ranges. This potentially signals that Kyiv and its backers see an opportunity to retake lost grounds after weeks of grinding artillery duels along front lines. Ukrainian officials have been openly discussing an offensive on the Russian-held strategic port city of Kherson, but there is little evidence along the front lines that Ukraine is prepared to execute an operation that would require large numbers of troops, armored vehicles and powerful close-range weapons to overcome the numerically superior Russian military. The latest package appears to be a first step toward addressing some of the shortfalls in the weaponry Ukrainian forces would need to launch a counterattack, particularly across mined areas in the approach to well-entrenched Russian positions. Alex Horton reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting today at the request of Russia to discuss the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, where nearby fighting has raised the risk of a nuclear accident. Russia is expected to base its argument on a letter its mission to the United Nations circulated among Council members last week. In the letter, Russia made the claim without evidence that Ukraine was attacking the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, and that the U.S. and Ukraine were planning to cause a minor accident at the nuclear plant and blame Russia. The U.S. and Ukraine have denied those allegations as baseless and accused Russia of spreading disinformation. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
The U.N. has a team ready to investigate the killing of Ukrainian prisoners in an explosion at a prison camp in Olenivka. However, the fact-finding mission cannot begin until Russia and Ukraine provide safety assurances, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters yesterday. “We need the assurances, not only for their safety but free access to people, places and papers for them to do their work free of any interference by any of the parties. Once that happens, obviously, they will do their utmost to complete the report as soon as possible,” Dujarric said. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda arrived in Kyiv today for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his office said in a Twitter post. The two leaders and their delegations would discuss the situation in Ukraine including “support in the military, economic and humanitarian dimension, and bilateral cooperation,” the post said. Sarah Dean reports for CNN.
The Japanese government has said it will continue to work with the Group of Seven (G7) and other related countries to impose sanctions against Russia and provide assistance to Ukraine. “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a situation that shakes the very foundations of the international order, and Japan is taking decisive measures, including unprecedented strong measures against Russia, in close cooperation with the G7,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said. Junko Ogura and Idris Muktar report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, issued a statement yesterday blaming Ukraine for the killing of Daria Dugina, the ultranationalist daughter of a prominent Russian supporter of the invasion. In the statement, the FSB accused Ukrainian intelligence agencies of preparing and committing the attack. Ukraine has denied having anything to do with the car bombing which killed the 29-year-old. However, Russia’s claim has raised fears of a further escalation in the conflict. Anton Troianovski reports for the New York Times.
Preparations for the trial of Ukrainian soldiers captured at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant are nearing completion, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told Russian state television yesterday. Ukrainian officials have said the trials could begin as early as Wednesday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that holding such trials would mean an end to all negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow. Ian Lovett and Mauro Orru report for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 93.64 million people and has now killed over 1.04 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 596.288 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.45 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine rollout 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.