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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
Federal agencies responsible for securing the Capitol failed to adequately share intelligence about potential violence ahead of Jan. 6, 2021, leaving law enforcement unprepared to respond to the attack. This is according to a new report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. The report was particularly critical of the FBI, saying that the bureau didn’t consistently follow policies for processing information. The report also highlighted how the ongoing FBI review of its actions in the weeks preceding the Jan. 6 attack has not included any assessment of how it processed information during this time. C. Ryan Barber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
House Republicans plan to allow a broad group of media outlets to view security camera footage from the Jan. 6 attack. This is according to House Majority Leader Steve Scales (R-LA), who said that steps are being taken to make sure sensitive information isn’t publicly broadcast by news outlets. The decision comes about a week after Fox News host Tucker Carlson said he had been granted access to the tapes. Over the past week, Democrats and some Republicans have expressed concerns about Fox News having exclusive access to the footage. Andrew Ackerman and Siobhan Hughes report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. officials yesterday briefed lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee about the classified documents that ended up in the possession of President Biden and former President Trump. According to a statement from the panel’s chair Mark Warner (D-VA) and vice chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the meeting with officials from the Just Department, FBI, and intelligence community “helped shed some light on these issues.” The panel will “continue to press for full answers to our questions,” the statement added. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to testify before the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee today. The committee will likely ask Garland about the special counsel investigations into the mishandling of classified documents by Biden and Trump. Garland will also make a statement to the committee which will touch on the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the rise of violent crime and hate crimes, work to protect reproductive rights, and the department’s accomplishments in partnering with the Ukrainian government against Russian aggression. Devan Cole and Hannah Rabinowitz report for CNN.
Twitter announced yesterday that it is rolling out a new policy to mitigate violent speech on the platform. The new “Violent Speech Policy” states that users may not “threaten, incite, glorify or express desire for violence or harm” while using the platform. Accounts that violate the policy will in most cases be permanently suspended, however, temporary suspensions may be applied in “less severe cases.” Lauren Sforza reports for The Hill.
Iran could make enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in “about 12 days,” a top U.S. Defense Department official said yesterday, a feat that would have taken over a year while the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was still in effect. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl added, about the 2015 nuclear deal, that “it is better than the other options.” The U.N. atomic agency confirmed yesterday that its inspectors had found traces of near weapons-grade nuclear material in an Iranian underground facility. Reuters reports.
Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador said yesterday that his country is more democratic that the U.S.. His comments come as U.S. officials took note of the public debate in Mexico over López Obrador’s controversial electoral reforms, which critics allege could weaken democracy in the country. López Obrador railed against U.S. comments, even though State Department spokesperson Ned Price was careful to say in a statement on Monday that the U.S. “respect(s) Mexico’s sovereignty.” AP reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Pentagon leadership assured lawmakers that weapons sent to Ukraine are not being smuggled to the black market. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl told lawmakers that “if some of these systems have been diverted it’s by Russians who have captured things on the battlefield, which always happens.” Republicans, who control the House, are contending with a vocal minority opposed to further funding for Ukraine. Connor O’Brien reports for POLITICO.
16 lawmakers from both parties signed a letter yesterday pressuring President Biden to send F-16s or similar jets to Ukraine. The letter was sent after the top U.S. and NATO commander in Europe, Gen. Christopher Cavoli told lawmakers that F-16s and long-range missiles could bolster Ukraine’s defenses, during the Munich Security Conference last week. Connor O’Brien reports for POLITICO.
RUSSA UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Ukraine will become a member of NATO in the “long-term,” but needs to remain independent in the face of the Russian invasion, says NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for fast-track accession. It is unclear whether alliance members will consider full membership even after the war is over, despite pledges of support. Alexandra Fouché reports for the BBC.
Finland has begun constructing a 124-mile security fence along its border with Russia: the longest E.U.- Russia border. Finland will also vote on a bill to speed up the country’s bid to join NATO today. Only Turkey and Hungary have yet to approve Finnish and Swedish bids to join NATO. George Wright reports for the BBC.
Denmark’s parliament voted to cancel a public holiday to boost its defense budget by an additional $427 million. The cancellation will allow the governing coalition to raise the defense budget to the NATO target of 2% of GDP by 2030, rather than 2033 as previously planned. George Wright reports for the BBC.
Switzerland’s ban on exporting and re-exporting weapons to conflict zones is blocking European NATO members from sending Ukraine their stocks of Swiss-made weapons. Following pressure from NATO and its member states, the Swiss parliament is debating amendments to allow some countries to re-export its sought-after weapons and ammunition. Bojan Pancevski reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China is spending billions on global pro-Russia disinformation campaigns, even outspending Russia, a U.S. special envoy has said. James Rubin, a coordinator at the Global Engagement Center tasked with exposing and countering foreign propaganda and disinformation, said yesterday that “in the communication space, the alignment between China and Russia is near complete.” Rubin has called for Western unity and said its response has, so far, been “slow.” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
RUSSA UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The Russian defense ministry reported downing 2 drones in southern Russia yesterday, in what was likely an attempt to target civilian energy infrastructure. While Ukraine has not claimed responsibility, it would be the closest attempted drone attack to Moscow since Russia’s invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday instructed the security services to intensify their activity against an alleged increase in espionage and sabotage by Ukraine and the West. George Wright reports for the BBC.
The Russian parliament is considering new amendments today to strengthen the country’s censorship laws. If passed, the proposals would impose up to 15 years in jail for discrediting the armed forces and paramilitary organizations such as the Wagner Group. Russian prosecutors have, so far, opened more than 5,800 cases against people for discrediting the armed forces. Reuters reports.
Russian combat deaths in its war on Ukraine have exceeded the combined death toll of all of its wars since World War II. The death toll is between 60,000 and 70,000, according to new research from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Including injuries, Russia has suffered as many as 250,000 casualties in the last year of warfare. Julia Mueller reports for the Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A passenger train in Greece collided with an oncoming freight train yesterday night, killing 32 and injuring at least 85, officials said. At least three cars burst into flames and multiple derailed after the collision near the town of Tempe. The cause of the collision has not been determined. Costas Kantouris and Derek Gatopoulos report for eKathimerini.
Nigeria’s ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu has been declared the winner of the disputed presidential election. Both opposition parties have dismissed the election as a sham and demanded a rerun. Independent observers also raised concerns about whether the election was free and fair, although they did not accuse the governing party of rigging the election. Nduka Orjinmo reports for the BBC.
19 Chinese air force planes have been spotted in Taiwan’s air defense zone in the past 24 hours, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry today. The aircraft did not cross the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait, which previously served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides but which China’s air force has been crossing on a near daily basis since conducting military exercises near Taiwan in August. Reuters reports.
Belgium’s cyber security agency has linked China-sponsored hackers to an attack on a prominent Belgian politician who wrote a resolution to warn of “crimes against humanity” against Uyghur Muslims in China. European governments are increasingly willing to challenge China over its alleged cyber offenses. The repeated complaints of cyber attacks from Europe have “become harder for China to ignore,” said Christopher Ahlberg, co-founder of cyber intelligence firm Recorded Future. Yuan Yang reports for the Financial Times.
Accounts are emerging of massacres committed by Eritrean forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in the week before the Nov.2 peace deal. More than 300 villagers were massacred over the course of a week, according to accounts from family members of victims and those who witnessed the killings or their immediate aftermath. Satellite images reviewed by the Washington Post show that at least 67 structures in the area where the massacres are reported to have taken place were severely damaged during the time period of the killings. Katharine Houreld and Meg Kelly report for the Washington Post.
The FBI Director Christopher Wray said yesterday that the COVID-19 pandemic was probably the result of a laboratory leak in China. This is the first public confirmation of the FBI’s classified judgment of how the virus emerged. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said earlier this week that President Biden supports “a whole-of-government effort” to understand the origins of the pandemic, but added, “we’re just not there yet.” Michael R. Gordon and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 103.422 million people and has now killed over 1.12 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 675.354 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.87 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.