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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard member, is facing two counts related to the leaking of hundreds of classified documents on a gaming chat server. Read the full criminal complaint against Teixeira.
Sarah Bils, 37, a prominent pro-Russia blogger and former U.S. Navy noncommissioned officer, played a crucial role in the spread of leaked intelligence reports. On Apr. 5, the Telegram account that Sarah helps administer posted four leaked documents to its 65,000 followers. This post led several large Russian social media accounts to pick up on the documents. Yaroslav Trofimov and Bob Mackin report for the Wall Street Journal.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN. 6 ATTACK
District Court Judge Tim Kelly yesterday held that prosecutors neither withheld nor “suppressed” Jan. 6 security footage from the Proud Boys on trial for seditious conspiracy. Kelly said defendant Dominic Pezzola had timely access to the footage, which is not exculpatory in any case. Kelly rejected Pezzola’s “bizarre” allegations, including that prosecutors had destroyed evidence related to the case, that they coerced false guilty pleas from other Proud Boys, and that they doctored at least one report from an informant to obscure an FBI agent’s involvement. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
Federal Judge McFadden on Friday sentenced Patrick McCaughey, 25, to over seven years in prison after finding him guilty in September of assaulting police and obstructing Congress’s certification of the 2020 presidential election results. McCaughey’s sentence is among the lengthiest handed down to Jan. 6 attackers, though it was less than half of the nearly 16 years that the Justice Department sought. While McCaughey was a “poster child of all that was dangerous and appalling” about the Jan. 6 Attack, McFadden noted the defendant’s participation marked a “strange aberration” from an otherwise law-abiding life. C. Ryan Barber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Four people have been killed and 28 injured during a shooting at an Alabama birthday party on Saturday. Philstavious Dowdell, a Dadeville High School senior, organized the party for his sister Alexis. Sgt. Jeremy Burkett of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency did not say if a suspect was in custody or if investigators knew about any motivation. Jeff Amy and Kim Chandler report for AP News.
Two people have been killed and four others injured after a shooting at a park in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday, the police said. Police are still looking for the shooter and said they were unsure if there was more than one. Officers were still trying to determine a motive. Eduardo Medina reports for the New York Times.
The Dominion Voting Systems defamation case against Fox News has been delayed until tomorrow as both parties discuss a settlement, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. A settlement could help Fox avoid potentially embarrassing courtroom testimony from some of its biggest stars. The case is being heard in Deleware, the state where Dominion is incorporated and which voted overwhelmingly for President Biden, one of the state’s most popular politicians. Rosalind S. Helderman, Sarah Ellison, and Jeremy Barr report for the Washington Post.
Montana’s House on Friday voted 54-43 in favor of a bill banning the social media app TikTok from operating in the state. The move serves as a testing ground for a national ban on TikTok that many national lawmakers envision due to concerns over potential Chinese spying. The measure now goes to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who declined to say if he plans to sign it into law. TikTok spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter promised a legal challenge over the measure’s constitutionality. Amy Beth Hanson and Haleluya Hadero report for AP News.
Four sons of the notorious Mexican drug lord, El Chapo, have been indicted for leading their imprisoned father’s empire and moving vast quantities of fentanyl into and throughout the United States, said Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday. Federal indictments in Manhattan, Chicago, and Washington have also charged more than two dozen other people in what Garland described as a global fentanyl manufacturing and distribution operation run by the Sinaloa drug cartel. The charges noted that the fentanyl business causes as many as 200 U.S. deaths daily. Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met in Beijing on Friday in defiance of U.S. foreign and trade policy. “We will work to expand trade and balance world geopolitics,” da Silva wrote on Twitter after meeting with Xi. Da Silva’s visit is an effort to deepen ties with his country’s largest trading partner following a period of relative isolation under his right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro. Austin Ramzy and Samantha Pearson report for the Wall Street Journal.
South Korea, the United States, and Japan staged joint naval missile defense exercises today to deepen security cooperation and improve their response to North Korea’s evolving missile threats. During talks in Washington on Friday, the three nations agreed to hold regular missile defense and anti-submarine exercises to boost diplomatic and military cooperation. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
The warship USS Milius passed through the Taiwan Strait yesterday, days after China ended its latest war games around the island. The U.S. Navy described it as a “routine” transit. The U.S. Navy sails warships through the strait around once a month and regularly conducts similar freedom of navigation missions in the disputed South China Sea. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
The Russian operators of disinformation accounts on social media boast that they are detected by social networks only about 1 percent of the time, according to leaked intelligence reports. The Russian government has become far more successful at manipulating social media and search engine rankings than previously known. These disinformation campaigns boost lies about Ukraine’s military and the side effects of vaccines with hundreds of thousands of fake online accounts. Joseph Menn reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed into law a measure allowing for electronic draft notices, making it harder for conscripts to flee a summons. Last month, Putin also signed a decree authorizing a routine spring conscription effort to call up about 147,000 citizens for service. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
Chinese components are being found in Russian weapons used in Ukraine, Vladyslav Vlasiuk, a senior adviser in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office, told Reuters. Because of Western sanctions, there are fewer Western-made components, leaving a gap that China is filling, Vlasiuk said. Matthias Williams and John O’Donnell report for Reuters.
India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said today that his government was in “advance agreement” on a trade treaty that Russia’s Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov said would guarantee bilateral investment. A free trade agreement would further deepen commercial ties that have flourished since the war broke out in Ukraine. Russia, a traditional defense equipment supplier, displaced Iraq last month to become India’s top supplier of crude oil. Reuters reports.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – CHINA
Taiwan officials have said only half of Taiwan’s aircraft are fully mission capable, and they doubt their air defenses can “accurately detect missile launches,” according to leaked intelligence reports. China’s tactic of using civilian ships for military purposes has also eroded U.S. spy agencies’ ability to detect a pending invasion. Ellen Nakashima, Christian Shepherd, and Cate Cadell report for the Washington Post.
The Group of 7 foreign ministers agreed that they “oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, as well as to reaffirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” during a summit in Japan today. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi “emphasized the importance of continuing dialogue” while urging Beijing to “act as a responsible member of the international community,” according to a Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Japan statement.
The Chinese defense minister, Li Shangfu, yesterday said China is ready to deepen its partnership with Russia to “make new contributions to stability and security” globally. These comments, made during a three-day visit to Moscow, come amid growing Western concern that China is ready to provide lethal aid to Russia. Christian Shepherd reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Nearly 100 civilians have been killed in Sudan and hundreds more injured as clashes between the army and a rival paramilitary group continue for a third day. The fighting has been triggered by a power struggle between the army headed by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, president since October 2021, and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, Sudan’s vice president and commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Andres Schipani report for the Financial Times.
Senior Saudi officials are meeting with leaders of the Palestinian militant and political group Hamas this week to discuss renewing diplomatic ties. Re-establishing ties between Iran-backed Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, and Saudi Arabia would mark a setback for the U.S. and Israel. Summer Said, Dov Lieber, and Aaron Boxerman report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. Central Command today said its forces targeted and likely killed a senior leader of the self-styled Islamic State militant group, who it said was involved in “planning terror attacks in the Middle East and Europe.” Central Command said neither U.S. troops nor civilians were wounded in the attack. U.S. Central Command stated on its Twitter account.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was evacuated unharmed from a public event on Saturday after an apparent smoke bomb was thrown at him. The police said yesterday that a 24-year-old suspect detained at the scene had been carrying a knife and a possible second explosive device. The motivation for the apparent attack is still unclear. Mattea Bubalo reports for BBC News.
Vojislav Buzakovic, an alleged Serbian war criminal who spent 16 years on the run, has been deported from Ireland to Croatia after police discovered him in February. Croatian officials have accused Buzakovic of abusing civilians during the war in Yugoslavia between 1991-1992. Local media reported that he triggered an alert on an E.U. database of wanted suspects during an altercation with officers. Matt Murphy reports for BBC News.