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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.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – LEAKED INTELLIGENCE REPORTS
The Pentagon and some other elements of the intelligence community have moved recently to tighten access to classified information. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this week announced a 45-day “review and assessment” of the department’s information security procedures. John Hyten, former vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned there should not be an “overreaction” by over-restricting access to intelligence. Gordon Lubold, Vivian Salama, and Nancy A. Youssef report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Fox News has agreed to pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over Fox’s reporting of the 2020 presidential election. The last-minute deal spares Fox executives such as Rupert Murdoch from having to testify. Dominion argued its business was harmed by Fox’s false claims that the vote had been rigged against former President Trump. Bernd Debusmann reports for BBC News.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is investigating efforts by former President Trump to overturn the 2020 election, is urging the judge overseeing the matter to disqualify the lawyer representing ten false electors. Yesterday’s court filings reveal that Willis has conducted further interviews with false electors, who have described how other false electors may have violated Georgia state law. Willis argues that it is no longer tenable for ten fake electors to share the same attorney, given that they have implicated each other. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
Multiple people have been indicted on state charges that they intimidated others during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, according to a news release by attorney James Hingeley yesterday. While it is unclear how many will face charges, at least three individuals have so far been charged with one count each of burning an object with the intent to intimidate. The felony carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Eduardo Medina reports for the New York Times.
Heider Garcia is the latest election official to announce that he will resign after facing death threats from supporters of former President Trump. Garcia, who announced his resignation this week, oversaw elections in Tarrant County, Texas, where, in 2020, Trump became only the second Republican presidential candidate to lose in more than 50 years. Garcia detailed a series of threats he received as part of his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year. Neil Vigdor reports for the New York Times.
Federal authorities charged four Americans yesterday with roles in a malign campaign pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda in Florida and Missouri. The charges have been made against African People’s Socialist Party leaders Omali Yeshitela, Penny Joanne Hess, Jesse Nevel, and Augustus C. Romain Jr. This is part of an ongoing effort to “expose and prosecute those who sow discord and corrupt U.S. elections in service of hostile foreign interests,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said. Devlin Barrett reports for the Washington Post.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador accused the Pentagon of spying on his government yesterday and said he would begin classifying information from the armed forces to protect national security. Lopez Obrador’s comments come amid apparent tensions between Mexico’s Navy and the Army, revealed in online leaks of U.S. intelligence. Reuters reports.
U.S. prosecutors yesterday charged an alleged financier of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Nazem Ahmad, with evading U.S. sanctions imposed on him by exporting $440 million worth of diamonds and artwork. The Treasury Department also unveiled sanctions on a vast international money laundering and sanctions evasion network, targeting 52 people worldwide. Luc Cohen reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – U.S. RESPONSE
The United States has warned Russia not to interact with sensitive U.S. nuclear technology at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, according to a letter the U.S. Department of Energy sent to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy firm Rosatom last month. The Energy Department letter comes as Russian forces continue to control the largest nuclear plant in Europe. Natasha Bertrand and Tim Lister report for CNN.
A Russian court yesterday upheld the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being held on an allegation of espionage that the U.S. government vehemently denies. Ann M. Simmons reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
Russia has a program to sabotage wind farms and communication cables in the North Sea in case of a conflict with the West, according to a joint investigation by public broadcasters in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The report suggests that Russia has a fleet of vessels disguised as fishing trawlers and research vessels in the North Sea. Gordon Corera reports for BBC News.
British Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden is set to introduce new measures to support businesses “on the front line of our cyber defenses” in response to Russia-aligned hackers who seek to “disrupt or destroy” Britain’s critical infrastructure. Meanwhile, the National Cyber Security Centre will issue an official threat alert to critical businesses. Officials recommend that organizations, such as those behind the U.K.’s energy and water supplies, “act now” to protect themselves against the emerging cyber threat. BBC News reports.
Russia is buying Western military-use electronics via Armenia, Kazakhstan, and other countries, despite sanctions, according to senior tax and trade officials. U.S. officials argue that the sweeping sanctions they have imposed in partnership with 38 other governments have severely damaged Russia’s military capacity. While direct sales of chips to Russia from the United States and its allies have plummeted to zero, trade data shows that other countries have stepped in to provide Russia with some of what it needs, particularly China. Ana Swanson and Matina Stevis-Gridneff report for the New York Times.
Russia hopes to shore up support in Latin America for its war in Ukraine, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visiting Brazil before arriving in Venezuela yesterday as part of a four-country tour. Lavrov is also expected to travel to Nicaragua and Cuba. Luciana Magalhaes and Samantha Pearson report for the Wall Street Journal.
South Korea might extend its support for Ukraine beyond humanitarian and economic aid if it comes under a large-scale civilian attack, President Yoon Suk Yeol said. It is the first time that Seoul suggested a willingness to provide weapons to Ukraine, more than a year after ruling out the possibility of lethal aid. Soyoung Kim, Ju-min Park, and Hyonhee Shin report for Reuters.
GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS – CHINA
The Chinese military could soon deploy a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound, according to leaked intelligence reports. A document from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency shows the Chinese military is making technological advances that could help it target U.S. warships around Taiwan and military bases in the region. Christian Shepherd, Vic Chiang, Pei-Lin Wu, and Ellen Nakashima report for the Washington Post.
China is making “significant progress” in building the country’s fifth research facility in Antarctica, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. China has hailed the facility as a means to expand its scientific investigation in the Antarctic, but it could also be used to enhance the country’s intelligence collection. A 2022 Department of Defense report on China’s military notes that China’s “strategy for Antarctica includes the use of dual-use technologies, facilities, and scientific research, which are likely intended, at least in part, to improve [the military’s] capabilities.” Simone McCarthy and Sophie Jeong report for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Fighting in Sudan continued even after the rival generals agreed to a temporary cease-fire. The proposed 24-hour cease-fire was intended to allow Sudanese civilians trapped by the fighting to obtain necessities like food and water. According to the World Health Organization, citing Sudan’s Health Ministry, the fighting has left an estimated 270 people dead over four days. Barak Ravid and Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath report for Axios.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country has built its first military spy satellite and that he planned to launch it on an undisclosed date, state media reported today. Many experts question whether it has cameras sophisticated enough to use for spying from a satellite because only low-resolution images were released after past test launches. Hyung-Jin Kim and Kim Tong-Hyung report for AP News.
The European Commission yesterday announced a $1.2 billion plan to counter growing cybersecurity threats. “The EU Cyber Solidarity Act will strengthen solidarity at Union level to better detect, prepare for and respond to significant or large-scale cybersecurity incidents,” the E.U. executive said in a statement. Foo Yun Chee reports for Reuters.
The Virtual Global Taskforce, comprised of 15 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, accused Meta of making a “purposeful” decision to increase end-to-end encryption in a way that “blindfolds” them to child sex abuse. Jim Pickard and Hannah Murphy report for the Financial Times.