McMaster on ‘terrorism’ in Charlottesville; US offers N. Korea a way forward; Two Americans dead in Iraq; Hobby drone sneaks onto UK aircraft carrier; and just a bit more…

We can confidently call it a form of terrorism,” National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, said after a man drove his car into counter-protestors during an Aug. 12 protest march by white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., killing one person and injuring several others. McMaster spoke Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press. “What terrorism is is the use of violence to incite terror and fear, and of course it was terrorism.”

The morning march devolved quickly into mayhem, with white-nationalist and neo-Nazi protestors, many carrying riot shields and various weapons, clashing with counter-protestors for several hours in downtown Charlottesville. “Where are the police?” said one man, according to an eyewitness New York Times reporter. Story, plus photos from the melee, here.

McMaster’s take on the attack contrasted sharply with that of President Trump, who said around 3 p.m.: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” before going on to tout the unemployment rate and various renegotiated trade deals.

The president’s refusal to blame the white nationalists and neo-Nazis drew their applause and quick criticism from many other quarters, including some GOP senators. The New York Times: “White House officials… tried to clarify his comments on Sunday, as critics in both parties intensified demands that he adopt a stronger, more unifying message.”

Those damage-control efforts included McMaster’s NBC appearance, plus this: “A statement on Sunday — issued more than 36 hours after the protests began — condemned ‘white supremacists’ for the violence that led to one death. It came in an email sent to reporters in the president’s traveling press pool, and was attributed to an unnamed representative,” the Times added.


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Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Have something you want to share? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)


Dunford is in Seoul today; Beijing tomorrow; Tokyo later this week. President Trump’s top uniformed officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, is in the Asia-Pacific this week while the U.S. military “didn’t appear to be preparing for war” against North Korea, The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold reports, traveling with Dunford. There, he “is expected to examine the options the U.S. and South Korean militaries could execute if a conflict were to come to pass, officials said.”

Along with zero publicized escalation moves on the U.S. military’s part — no new troops, alerts, deployments of ships or subs — “the fact that Gen. Dunford and his wife, Ellyn, are traveling in the region this week reinforces the sense that there is no imminent threat of war,” the Journal writes. But officials are still very much keeping an eye on that U.S. intelligence estimate that North Korea may now be able to miniaturize a nuclear device to place atop its missiles.

SecDef Mattis and SecState Tillerson’s way forward. This one was also in the Journal on Sunday, where President Trump’s top military and diplomatic officials lay out a case for how negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Here are some of the highlights:  

  • “The object of our peaceful pressure campaign is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea.”
  • “China’s demand for the U.S. and South Korea not to deploy Thaad is unrealistic.”
  • “The U.S. is willing to negotiate with Pyongyang… incumbent upon the regime to signal its desire to negotiate in good faith… the immediate cessation of its provocative threats, nuclear tests, missile launches and other weapons tests.”
  • The bottom line: “North Korea now faces a choice. Take a new path toward peace, prosperity and international acceptance, or continue further down the dead alley of belligerence, poverty and isolation.” Read their take in full, (paywall alert) here.

Oh, by the way: “Less than half” of America’s bomber fleet is ready for a fight with North Korea, Military Times reported this weekend. “Of the nation’s 75 conventional and nuclear B-52s, only about 33 are ready to fly at any given time, according to Air Force statistics. Of the 62 conventional B-1s, only about 25 are ready. With the 20 nuclear B-2 stealth bombers, the number drops further. Seven or eight bombers are available, according to the Air Force.” However, what is available permits “the bombers [to] still meet the president’s call if needed, said Col. Robert Lepper, chief of the combat aircraft division at Air Force Global Strike Command.” Read on, here.

How did North Korea advance their missile program so quickly to ICBMs? A factory in Ukraine may be to blame, The New York Times reports this morning off “an expert analysis being published Monday and classified assessments by American intelligence agencies.”
Where investigators have turned their attention: “a missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine, on the edge of the territory where Russia is fighting a low-level war to break off part of Ukraine. During the Cold War, the factory made the deadliest missiles in the Soviet arsenal, including the giant SS-18. It remained one of Russia’s primary producers of missiles even after Ukraine gained independence.”
There’s already been a precedent for this, the Times reports. “Bolstering his conclusion, [Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies] added, was a finding by United Nations investigators that North Korea tried six years ago to steal missile secrets from the Ukrainian complex. Two North Koreans were caught, and a U.N. report said the information they tried to steal was focused on advanced ‘missile systems, liquid-propellant engines, spacecraft and missile fuel supply systems.’ Investigators now believe that, amid the chaos of post-revolutionary Ukraine, Pyongyang tried again.” Read on, here.

ICYMI #1: “Do not look at the flash or fireball — It can blind you.” That and other tips Guam has released for its citizens in the event of a nuclear attack by North Korea, over at the Washington Post, here.
ICYMI #2: China warned North Korea it would be on its own if it attacked the U.S. That, anyway, is the read from WaPo of an op-ed in the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper late last week. More, here.
And last week, China’s navy fired dozens of missiles near North Korea in what Popular Science called a “drill and potential warning” to Pyongyang.
All the while, “the Trump administration has been quietly engaged in back channel diplomacy with North Korea for several months,” the Associated Press reported on Friday. “People familiar with the contacts say the interactions have done nothing thus far to quell tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile advances, which are now fueling fears of military confrontation. But they say the behind-the-scenes discussions could still be a foundation for more serious negotiation.” That, here.

Two American servicemembers were killed and five others wounded in northern Iraq on Sunday. The circumstances behind the deaths is unclear; but U.S. Central Command said in a short statement, “Initial reports indicate the incident was not due to enemy contact.” ISIS, however, said Sunday their militants “fired Grad rockets on American troops east of Tal Afar, a town still under control of the militants west of Mosul,” Reuters reported — with almost as little detail as CENTCOM.

In Bahrain this weekend, the pilot of a U.S. F-18 ejected before his jet crash landed after engine problems on Saturday, AP reported. “The F-18 took off from the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier now in the Persian Gulf, said Cmdr. Bill Urban, a fleet spokesman. While in flight, the plane suffered an engine malfunction, forcing the pilot to divert, Urban said. The pilot initially tried to land at Sheikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain, but instead ended up at the island’s commercial airport, Urban said.” Story, here.

The U.S. Marines grounded all of their aircraft for 24 hours this weekend “after two recent crashes of Marine Corps aircraft” in Australia and Mississippi, NPR reported.

And in the UK, a drone hobbyist landed his UAV on the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth “without being detected,” The Telegraph reports. Said the pilot: “I was amazed that I was able to land on the aircraft carrier for two reasons, the first being that there was no one about to prevent it from landing although were security police around in small boats who were waving at the drone. The second reason was more technical. I received a high wind warning as I was videoing up and down the flight deck and my control system advised me to land… There was absolutely no-one around when I landed, it was like a ghost ship.” Full story — along with some muted outrage from current and former British military officials — here.

Wanna get current on the risks and potential of consumer drones? Here’s our 10-minute podcast on the topic.

Is a new Russian cyber weapon spoofing GPS in the Black Sea? That’s what New Scientist reports after “the US Maritime Administration filed a seemingly bland incident report” on June 22. “After checking the navigation equipment was working properly, the captain contacted other nearby ships. Their AIS traces – signals from the automatic identification system used to track vessels – placed them all at the same airport. At least 20 ships were affected.”
The BLUF: “While the incident is not yet confirmed, experts think this is the first documented use of GPS misdirection – a spoofing attack that has long been warned of but never been seen in the wild.” The intrigue continues, here.

#LongRead: Want an “active measures” primer on how Russia wages war without officially going to war? Wired has you covered, via author Garrett Graff (whose book “Raven Rock” is an excellent read, if you’ve not picked it up already).

Related reading: Counterintelligence and criminal investigations “can work at cross-purposes such that the guilty may walk free,” former CIA official, John Sipher, explains this morning over at Just Security. Sipher’s starting point: the July FBI raid on the home of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Begin reading, here.

Lastly today, from more than 70 years ago: “Americans will lose their country if they let fanaticism and hatred turn them into suckers.” That’s the message of this video from the U.S. War Department, produced in 1943, and more widely distributed in 1947. The title: “Don’t Be a Sucker.”

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