Church massacre in Texas; Saudi crown prince detains elites; Trump in Asia; Green Beret killed in Afghanistan; and just a bit more…

The largest mass-shooting in Texas history happened Sunday morning, killing 26 — including at least eight members of one family, and more than half of those present for worship. In a matter of hours, authorities identified a deceased U.S. Air Force veteran as behind the violence in Sutherland Springs, Texas — three years after the former airman was reportedly discharged from the service on “bad conduct” grounds, allegedly involving an attack on his spouse and child.

The search for a motive is ongoing. However, according to CNN, “The killer had in-laws who attended the church — but those in-laws were not present at the time of the massacre, the sheriff said.”

A sketch of what occurred was given by police on Sunday afternoon: the shooter, clad in body armor and dressed in all black, approached the church after exiting his vehicle and began firing from the outside. He then entered the church building and began shooting at close range. After he left the building, two nearby residents began to chase him, Reuters reports this morning. The shooter dropped his weapon, jumped in his car, and fled. He eventually crashed and was found dead inside his vehicle. Investigators this morning say he committed suicide inside the vehicle.

About the access question: The shooter was permitted to legally purchase his weapon — a Ruger AR-556 rifle acquired in San Antonio in April 2016. Had he been “convicted of domestic violence in the incidents that led him to be disciplined” while in the Air Force, he would not have been allowed to purchase a weapon, Business Insider reports. And, had he been dishonorably discharged, he would not have been to purchase a weapon, either. But his charges went just short of that.

Indeed, CNN reports: “There was no disqualifying information in the background check conducted as required for the purchase, a law enforcement official told CNN.”


From Defense One

Saudi Arabia’s Very Public, Very Risky Palace Intrigue // Krishnadev Calamur: The arrest of 11 senior figures, including one of the world’s richest men, is a sign of the crown prince’s consolidation of power.

Give ISIS Fighters Due Process // Nate Christiansen: ‘Even in victory and when stung by injury,’ we must hold to the law — lest we grant extremists a victory of their own.

DoD is Losing the Budget Endgame // John Conger: Lawmakers have prioritized tax cuts, and now there’s just one way left for the defense budget to recover.

US Army, Navy Cyber Commands Ready Far Ahead of Schedule // Joseph Marks: The components bring more than half of the 6,200 cyber troops that will make up a fully operational U.S. Cyber Command next year.

15 Things We Learned from the Internet Giants // Alexis Madrigal: The key takeaways from three days of testimony about Russia’s electoral mischief during the 2016 election.

3 Cities Making Downtowns Safe from Vehicle Attacks // Laura Bliss: After the truck attack in Manhattan, there’s no excuse for a limited imagination when it comes to safer streets.

Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free.


Everything about Saudi Arabia has become more interesting and fraught after a series of tumultuous moves — some planned, some not — throughout the kingdom this weekend.
To begin: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri “announced his resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, blindsiding his country’s political establishment” on Saturday morning, CNN reported. “In a televised address from Riyadh, Hariri said he feared an assassination plot and accused Iran of meddling in the region, causing ‘devastation and chaos.’” Hezbollah pushed back on that narrative, as BBC reports. (Hariri’s father, recall, was killed in an assassination in 2005 that many have pinned on Hezbollah.)
A little bit later: Nearly a dozen princes were arrested Saturday evening in what Riyadh called an “anti-corruption crackdown,” but which critics called a consolidation of power by Crown Prince Mohammed, “King Salman’s favored son and key adviser,” as the New York Times describes him.
Also rounded up: “both the kingdom’s richest investor, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and the most potent remaining rival to the crown prince’s power: Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, a favored son of the late King Abdullah.”

What to know: Crown Prince Mohammed “now appears to have established control over all three Saudi security services — the military, internal security services and national guard,” the Times reports.
And panning out more broadly, the Times warns, “Real reform of Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment could echo across the Muslim world.”
For what it’s worth, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius writes, “While accompanied by the rhetoric of reform, this weekend’s purge resembles the approach of authoritarian regimes such as China. President Xi Jinping has used a similar anti-corruption theme to replace a generation of party and military leaders and to alter the collective leadership style adopted by recent Chinese rulers.”
On top of this,MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.” More from Ignatius’s take, here.

Also on Saturday: the Saudis shot down a Houthi ballistic missile fired from Yemen, Patriot-maker Raytheon reminded its Twitter followers this weekend. That launch reportedly targeted an airport in Riyadh, CNN reports. “Yemen’s Defense Ministry said the missile attack ‘shook the Saudi capital’ and the operation was successful. The attack was conducted using a Yemeni-made, long-range missile called the Burqan 2H, it said.”
Worth noting: “The missile launch on King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh was the first time the heart of the Saudi capital has been attacked and represents a major escalation of the ongoing war in the region,” CNN writes. More here.

In response, the Saudis “temporarily close[d] all air, land and sea ports to Yemen to stem the flow of arms to Houthi rebels from Iran,” Reuters reports this morning.
Saving you a click: The Saudis blame Iran for the ballistic missile; President Trump blamed Iran for the ballistic missile; Iran says that’s nonsense, and said the Saudis are committing war crimes in Yemen. Read the rest, here.

One more note of tumult re: the Saudis — “A senior Saudi prince and seven other officials have been killed in a helicopter crash near the country’s border with Yemen,” the BBC reported. “Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Asir province, was returning from an inspection tour when his aircraft came down near Abha late on Sunday, the interior ministry said. It did not give a cause for the crash.” Story and photos, here.

Trump in Asia: “The era of strategic patience is over,” as regards North Korea, the U.S. president said at an afternoon press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, among the first official acts of a 5-country, 12-day swing through Asia. “The regime continues development of its unlawful weapons programs, including its illegal nuclear tests and outrageous launches of ballistic missiles directly over Japanese territory,” he said. “We will not stand for that.”
Abe said he agrees with Trump’s strategy of increasing pressure rather than dialogue with North Korea.
When Abe was asked by a reporter about news reports that Trump had suggested that the “samurai” nation should have shot down the North Korean missiles that flew over it before crashing into the Pacific Ocean earlier this year, the U.S. president jumped in: “He will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States,” Trump said. “The prime minister is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should. And we make the best military equipment by far.” All this and more from the Washington Post, here.

Another American Green Beret has died in Afghanistan: “Sgt. 1st Class Stephen B. Cribben, 33, a Special Forces communications sergeant, was killed in Logar province while his unit was engaged in ‘combat operations,’” the Washington Post reported this weekend. “Cribben, of Simi Valley, Calif., was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, at Fort Carson, Colo., and was just weeks into his third combat deployment when he was killed… [although] It was unclear whether his death was the result of hostile enemy contact or another event, such as a vehicle accident.”

More allegations of civilian casualties in Kunduz, Afghanistan — possibly as many as 60 “during a weekend ground and aerial offensive by Afghan and U.S. forces against Taliban insurgents,” the Associated Press reported from Kabul.  

Happening today: The U.S., South Korean and Australian navies are holding joint exercises off South Korea’s Jeju Island, which run through Tuesday, CNN reports. Explained a South Korean naval official: “This drill is to stop the shipment of North Korea’s nuclear and WMD (weapons of mass destruction) materials in and out through combined navy drill between allies, and to carry out the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) resolution against North Korea’s illegal actions of provocation.” More here.

Want to destroy North Korea’s nukes? That will require a ground invasion, according to a Pentagon report passed to lawmakers who recently asked the question. Read more from the Washington Post, here.

More light on the Trump campaign’s questionable meetings and communications with Russians. WaPo adds it up, reporting that “documents and interviews show there are at least nine Trump associates who had contacts with Russians during the campaign or presidential transition. Some are well-known, and others, such as [Trump foreign policy advisor George] Papadopoulos, have been more on the periphery.”
That’s not even counting the links exposed in the Nov. 5 dump of the Paradise Papers, some 13.4 million documents “from two offshore services firms as well as from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in jurisdictions that serve as waystations in the global shadow economy,” writes the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. “In all, the offshore ties of more than a dozen Trump advisers, Cabinet members and major donors appear in the leaked data.” Stand by for more news; last year’s similar Panama Papers dump spawned several thousand articles about shadowy global wealth.
More details about last year’s Russian theft of Democrats’ emails. The Associated Press studied a database of 19,000 malicious links recently shared by cybersecurity firm Secureworks, and reports: “It wasn’t just a few aides that the hackers went after; it was an all-out blitz across the Democratic Party. They tried to compromise Clinton’s inner circle and more than 130 party employees, supporters and contractors.” AP says the database indicates that the Fancy Bear hackers “were closely aligned with the interests of the Russian government” and “helps explain how a Russian-linked intermediary could boast to a Trump policy adviser, a month later, that the Kremlin had ‘thousands of emails’ worth of dirt on Clinton.” Read the deep dive, here.

Lastly today: some levity in the hunt for UXOs in Europe. “A man in Germany discovered what he thought was an unexploded WWII bomb in his garden,” Sky News reported this weekend. But what he found was nothing like what he thought he’d discover. We won’t tell you what it was, but we will remind you he found it in his garden. Watch here for more.

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