What happened in Helsinki? Just about everyone in national security except President Trump and Russia are trying to figure out what the two leaders discussed and decided at their closed-door summit on Monday. That includes the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.
“I don’t know what happened in that meeting,” DNI Dan Coats told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on stage at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday. Reports Defense One’s Kevin Baron from Aspen, Coats said the format of a one-on-one meeting, with interpreters, was not what he would have recommended, but it was the president’s choice. “It is what it is.”
Surprise! Putin’s coming to DC. “Coats was again surprised when interviewer Mitchell read aloud that the White House announced Putin would visit Washington in the fall. ‘Say that again? Did I hear you –’ the director said. Coats let out a big sigh, and said, ‘Okaaaaay.’ Read on, here.
Flashback to last Friday, when Coats said, “The warning lights are blinking red again” about cyberthreats. “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.” The DNI added that “if he was meeting the Russian president, he would deliver a sharp message that the United States knows what the Russians are doing and that Mr. Putin’s government is responsible for the cyberattacks.”
From Defense One
US Spy Chief: ‘I Don’t Know What Happened’ in Helsinki // Kevin Baron: Director of National Intelligence Coats got another surprise Thursday: Putin is coming to town.
Chinese Hackers Targeted Internet-of-Things During Trump-Putin Summit // Patrick Tucker: A spike in attacks sought access to devices that might yield audio or visual intelligence.
Pompeo’s Choice: Denounce the McFaul Handover, or Lose the World’s Trust // Josh Kirshner: The world is watching to see if he has the courage and the political savvy to truly be a leader in his Department, in this administration, and around the globe.
Trump’s Worst Blow To NATO Came at Home // Ivo H. Daalder and Philip Gordon, The Atlantic: After threatening to withdraw from the alliance, the president is now simply, and devastatingly, suggesting the U.S. won’t come to its allies’ aid.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: What we learned at Farnborough; One-on-one with Raytheon CEO; Planes and lots more.
Think Before You Pledge Not to Build Military AI // Sam Bernstein: Like self-driving cars, which also kill, autonomous weapons should be considered in a suitably complex context.
The Helsinki Move That Could Save the INF Treaty // Zack Brown: Putin offered suggestions for strategic stability. The U.S. should respond with proposals to revive verification.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. OTD1969: Former Navy Lt. (j.g.) Neil Armstrong, with a lot of help, became the first human to walk on the Moon. Watch a real-time recreation of the day’s TV broadcast by Walter Cronkite, starting at 4:10 p.m. EDT, here.
DoJ to send alerts about attacks on U.S. democracy. Washington Post: “The Justice Department plans to alert the public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy under a new policy designed to counter hacking and disinformation campaigns such as the one Russia undertook in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election.” More, here.
Trump was told about the 2016 attacks. DOJ’s announcement came a day after the New York Times reported that President-elect Trump had received a detailed classified briefing from the U.S. intelligence community laying out why they had concluded that Russia had attacked the 2016 election. “Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.” Read on, here.
China targeted Internet-of-Things in Finland in runup to summit. Seeking access to anything that might be able to send audio or video back to Beijing, Chinese hackers ramped up attacks on internet-connected devices in a four-day wave before and during the Trump-Putin summit, according to a July 19 report by Seattle-based cyberdefense firm F5. Read that, and see a chart of the activity, in Patrick Tucker’s article, here.
McFaul fallout: The U.S. Senate found it desirable to affirm, 98-0, to reject a proposal made Monday by Vladimir Putin and taken under consideration by the Trump administration. Putin had proposed a swap of sorts — U.S. access to the dozen Russian military officials indicted just last Friday for attacking the 2016 presidential election, in exchange for Russian access to former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. Bloomberg wrote that the Senate vote was “giving voice to growing unease over the president’s shifting policies toward his country’s biggest adversary after his summit with Vladimir Putin.”
Pompeo under pressure: Mike Pompeo took over as Secretary of State with a measure of goodwill afforded by a diplomatic workforce that was largely relieved to see his predecessor out the door, and an international community pleased to welcome a top U.S. diplomat with experience in government. But Pompeo’s first three months on the job have yielded no discernable progress in their highest-profile effort — convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Nor has the former CIA director been able to dissuade Trump from pursuing trade wars, knocking U.S. allies, or making efforts to accommodate Russia. Now, writes Josh Kirsher in Defense One, the McFaul proposal — anathema to the U.S. diplomatic corps, an affront to Americans, appalling to its allies — puts Pompeo on a career-defining spot: Can he convince Trump to loudly denounce Putin’s proposal? Or will he knuckle under and lose whatever goodwill he has left? Read, here.
Do you doubt it? Here’s a currently serving U.S. diplomat on the McFaul proposal, as quoted by The Daily Beast: “It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government.”
R.I.P., Adrian Cronauer. The Air Force DJ memorably portrayed by Robin Williams in “Good Morning, Vietnam!” has died at age 79. Task & Purpose: “The former sergeant became an outspoken veterans advocate after leaving the Air Force, serving on the board of directors of the National D-Day Memorial and as a trustee for the Virginia War Memorial.” Here’s Cronauer’s obituary.