The president signed H.R. 2048, the so-called USA Freedom Act of 2015, into law about 9 p.m. EDT last night. The bill’s passage shifts the storage of Americans’ phone records and metadata to private companies; government agencies will need to get special federal court permission to access the databases for new investigations. The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer and Jonathan Weisman have more.
Want a bit more on what’s exactly in the bill? National Journal’s Dustin Volz explains here.
The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group has killed more than 10,000 ISIS fighters, the State Department’s Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken told partners in Paris yesterday. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi repeated his requests for more weapons (some 2,000 anti-tank rounds are already en route to Iraq, the Pentagon said yesterday), more surveillance flights, and a more responsive airstrike campaign from the coalition, Reuters’ John Irish reported early this morning.
Meanwhile, the White House’s envoy for its counter-Islamic State campaign, retired general John Allen appealed to regional partners’ wider sense of security at conference in Doha yesterday, calling ISIS “a regional problem trending towards global implications.” But it’s far from clear that key partners like Saudi Arabia, which has taken a more active security role in the region, particularly inside neighboring Yemen, will up their efforts against ISIS.
ISIS is attacking the northeastern Syrian Kurdish city of Hasakah, reportedly launching an assault with some five suicide car bombs, and drawing the attention of Bashar al-Assad’s air force. AP reports as a battle to take control of a nearby prison continues to rage this hour.
The gloves are coming off for Jeb Bush, sort of. After falling behind in the polls, the former governor and 2016 GOP (unofficial) hopeful Bush took a few swings at his Republican colleagues on the campaign trail in the perennial battleground state of Florida yesterday. The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and Jenna Johnson report (amid a great deal of folksy posturing we can expect more of): “In a chaotic bilingual exchange with reporters, Bush said that [Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand] Paul was ‘wrong about the Patriot Act’ surveillance provisions and more aligned with Democrats than Republicans on national security. He also delivered his most personal swipe yet at [fellow GOP-er and Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio in response to the senator’s suggestions earlier in the day that Republicans should elect younger leaders.”
A WaPo/ABC News poll released yesterday showed Bush tied with Rubio for third place, behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Paul. Bush led the poll by eight points in March.
From Defense One
How not to improve airport security. After a truly alarming internal investigation by the Transportation Security Administration, Homeland Security Department Chief Jeh Johnson ordered expanded “covert” testing and random equipment checks. Unfortunately, as Tech Editor Patrick Tucker explains, TSA is undermining one of the tools that was actually helping things.
In a surprise move, the House Appropriations Committee inserted an amendment declaring that Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and decide whether to authorize military force against ISIS. Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole has this latest wrinkle in the ambiguous territory the U.S. finds itself in, 10 months into another war in Iraq.
Washington’s Middle Eastern partners are an eclectic, oddball bunch, to put it mildly. But few are as unpredictable and unsettling to D.C. salon-watchers than Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The Council on Foreign Relation’s Steven Cook investigates the durability of the on-again-off-again Washington-Cairo relationship.
Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson with Brad Peniston. Why not pass this puppy on to a friend? You’ll find our subscribe link here. (Want to read it in your browser? Click here.) And feel free to send us what you like, don’t like, or want to drop on our radar right here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pentagon’s anthrax problem is going viral. The probable recipients of a U.S. Army lab’s live sample of anthrax now include the Pentagon’s police force and Canada. “The material had been irradiated at the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, but for some reason the bacteria was not rendered inactive as intended…Samples from that material have been transported to at least 28 labs in at least 12 US states. And officials said that the number is likely to go up as an internal inquiry progresses,” AFP’s Dan De Luce reports.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter is spending three days in India, where he’s expected to close deals aligning the U.S. defense industry more closely with New Delhi’s navy. “India has two carriers, bought used from Britain and Russia, respectively, but it wants a new class of larger ships designed and built at home. Washington hopes American shipbuilders, contractors and aerospace vendors get a chance to do some of that work,” Politico’s Phil Ewing and Jen Judson report.
South Korea just launched a missile its president proudly declared “can strike all parts of North Korea swiftly, and with precision, in the event of armed aggression or provocation.” Reuters has more from Seoul.
Afghanistan’s north has seen more Taliban attacks than usual this year, and one former Afghan general and current governor is taking swipes at Kabul for ignoring his warnings.
And through the lens of one legendary 37-year-old Afghan general, here’s a great read from NYT’s Mujib Marshall on the shifting power dynamics facing Kabul with the rise of President Ashraf Ghani and his administration, some of which are more radical departures from his predecessor than those in power may have supposed months ago.
The good folks at Brookings are scheduled to talk abotu “Afghanistan: A mid-2015 assessment” at 9:30 a.m. EDT in Washington. Details here.
A “new and unusually intense round of fighting” erupted overnight in eastern Ukraine. Kiev said “200 separatist militants attacked Ukrainian positions and there was an exchange of fire for six hours. It denied reports that 25 Ukrainian soldiers were wounded or that their positions were surrounded,” CNN reports this morning.
Want to understand Vladimir Putin’s head? “Forget the NSA intercepts or spy satellite imagery…Read Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, and Bulgakov,” writes former NATO commander and retired admiral James Stavridis in Foreign Policy. (Your D Brief-er’s favorite is Dostoevsky’s appearance on the list here with Crime and Punishment, though Demons has applications here, too. We’re not holding our breath that Putin will have a Raskolnikov-like moment and be shipped off to Siberia.)
Back stateside, the Senate will begin work on its defense authorization bill months earlier than usual, The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports: “The Senate had been expected to take a cloture vote Tuesday on a motion to proceed to the House-passed defense bill, which the Senate will use as a vehicle for its own legislation. But senators said Tuesday that the procedural vote had been called off, and they had agreed instead to proceed directly to the bill on Wednesday.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is no fan of the White House’s veto threat of his Senate Armed Services Committee’s draft of the bill. The Hill’s Kristina Wong, describes McCain’s anger: “As a recent White House policy statement said, ‘the President has been very clear, he will not fix defense without fixing non-defense spending,’ McCain said. ‘Such intransigence reveals a troubling misalignment of priorities on the part of the White House…[and] would be a deliberate and cynical failure to meet our constitutional duty to provide for the common defense.’”
The Air Force wants a U.S.-made propulsion system to help it decrease its reliance on Russian rockets to get U.S. equipment into space. Air Force Times’ Brian Everstine has more.
DARPA and the Air Force plan to have their new hypersonic vehicle off the ground by 2023. Here’s the latest on how that’s shaking out from Military.com’s Kris Osborne.
Should the U.S. develop a sort of “cyber” Maginot Line to defend itself from this new threat? American University’s Dave Barno and Nora Bensahel lay out five steps the U.S. can take to set its cyber civil defense on a solid foundation, and it begins with educating the public. That one from War on the Rocks.
Your Wednesday Tech Tip: The best way to stop the next Snowden could be by making digital files impossible to tamper, according to Guardbot, an Estonian technology company. “Using the same ideas that underpin the digital currency Bitcoin, the company says it can ensure no one can alter digital files, not even an organization’s most senior executives or IT managers. The idea is to stop the next Snowden in his tracks by making it impossible to tamper with data, such as the NSA log files, in secret.” You’ll find that one over here in Wired.
When is Robert Irvine’s restaurant going to open in the Pentagon? We’re told Fresh Kitchen should be up and running soon, but it appears the bureaucratic red involved when doing any type of business with the federal government has delayed the opening. “There is still some back and forth discussion with the Pentagon on renovations,” said Dan McLean, Irvine’s marketing director. Fresh is supposedly moving into the former Market Basket above the main food court. As of last week, the space was still vacant, occupied only by the old Market Basked buffet stations. While they wait for construction to begin, Irvine and his crew are refining the menu options. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to build out and move in soon,” McLean said. Have any menu suggestions? Send them to email@example.com.