AQ bomb-maker, killed; Secret war for DoD’s huge cloud job; Night Stalker dies in Iraq; Russians spoofed US Senate websites; and just a bit more…

Al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker is believed to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, U.S. officials confirmed with confidence to multiple news agencies on Monday.

You’ve heard of this guy. His name is Ibrahim al-Asiri, and he “designed the so-called ‘underwear bomb,’ which nearly took down a U.S. airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009,” CBS News reports. “One year later, the Saudi-born al-Asiri nearly pulled off another audacious attack by hiding explosive devices in printer cartridges being shipped on cargo planes to the United States. The devices got through airport security in London, and were only discovered because of a last-minute tip.”

Where and when he (is believed to have) met his demise: Marib province, and some time last year — points that Fox News, the Associated Press and CNN reiterated in their follow-up reporting from Monday on al-Asiri’s presumed fate.

Cautions CNN: “al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has not released any statement acknowledging his death, nor a eulogy celebrating his martyrdom.”

AQAP’s reax: Release the second part of its “Why Are We Fighting America?” video, according to Yemen watcher Elisabeth Kendall. In this video, AQAP “warns USA to get ready as what’s coming is as big as 9/11. Laughs at mediators sent to convince them to stop #jihad,” Kendall tweeted on Monday.

AQAP’s message the day prior: It is still fighting ISIS in Yemen — whose fighters are “deluded” and whose “leaders deny fighters access to outside world & bully local tribes.”

Also out of Yemen: Some unfortunate timing. See this comparative tweet with a Lockheed Martin social media campaign which overlapped in an unplanned way with this CNN headline from Friday: “Bomb that killed 40 children in Yemen was supplied by the US

About that bomb that hit the bus, and really any others in Yemen right now: “The US is not investigating strikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition,” the Pentagon told Vox on Monday.

Hard to tell exactly how the war in Yemen is going otherwise. Pro-Houthi media would have them violently repelling hundreds of Saudi soldiers in the port city of Hodeida — whereas pro-Saudi media would have us believe the Saudis control significant portions of Hodeida.

And this weekend, separatists in the south attacked the key city of Aden, “the latest in a series of killings and bombings in the southern city, the temporary headquarters of the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was expelled from the capital Sanaa in 2014 by the armed Houthi group.”

Happening next month: U.N.-sponsored talks between the many warring Yemeni parties, Reuters writes — not that any of the previous talks have yielded anything of substance since the conflict officially began in March 2015. (Need a historical review? Listen to this.) Read on, here.


From Defense One

Someone Is Waging a Secret War to Undermine the Pentagon’s Huge Cloud Contract // Kevin Baron, Patrick Tucker, and Frank Konkel: The battle for the Defense Department’s $10 billion war cloud is getting a lot more interesting.

The Retired Admiral, the President, and the Military Profession // Capt. Michael Junge: How should a former four-star register his dissent? A Naval War College instructor points to an Aug. 13 memo by Defense Secretary Mattis.

The US Will Spend Billions in Syria—Just Not on Rebuilding It // Krishnadev Calamur: The Trump administration has ended a civilian aid program in the country, but the cost of the counter-ISIS fight far outweighs those savings.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief  by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1976, Operation Paul Bunyan was launched on the Korean DMZ three days after North Korean soldiers killed two U.S. Army officers trimming a Poplar tree. The BBC retells the story in nine minutes, here.  


A U.S. Army warrant officer from the Pacific Northwest is the soldier who died Monday when “his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, Iraq,” the Defense Department announced this morning.
His name: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington. His unit: the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), Fort Campbell, Kentucky — aka the Night Stalkers, aka the super aviators who flew the Bin Laden raid.
Galvin’s death marks the 11th American troop death in Iraq and Syria this year. And eight of those have been from helicopter crashes, Stars and Stripes reports.

Iran’s new fighter jet? It was teased yesterday. And now today we have photos and a little bit more about the aircraft, via CNBC.
The name: the domestically-built “Kowsar,” a fourth-generation fighter aircraft, according to Iranian state-run Tasnim News Agency. It purportedly has “advanced avionics” and multi-purpose radar.
Reports al-Jazeera from the spectacle today: “Footage of the Kowsar’s test flights was circulated by various official media. But live footage of the plane taxiing along a runway at the defence show was cut before it took off.” Read more, or see President Hassan Rouhani be dazzled in the Kowsar’s cockpit, here.

President Trump sat down for an interview with Reuters on Monday. And so far all we have are super short clips. (No transcript.) Some of those that fall under the national security umbrella:

  • Trump said he’s not reviewing an “Erik Prince plan” to privatize the Afghan war.  However, “I’m constantly reviewing Afghanistan and the whole Middle East. We never should have been in the Middle East. It was the single greatest mistake in the history of our country.”
  • On “denuclearizing” North Korea: “I met [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] three months ago. These guys have been working on it for 30 years. I stopped nuclear testing; I stopped missile testing. Japan is thrilled. What’s going to happen? Who knows. We’re going to see.”
  • Then there’s this bold step out, then subtle walk-back: “We’ve defeated ISIS. ISIS is essentially defeated.”

For what it’s worth, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was asked on August 7 how close he was to declaring victory over ISIS. His answer: “I don’t declare victory until it’s in the rear-view mirror. When there is hard fighting ahead, as I’ve said, as we close in what happens with ISIS is they become more concentrated, so there is — there is hard fighting ahead, that’s all there is to it.” Read more from that exchange, here.

UK’s new aircraft carrier is en route to the U.S. HMS Queen Elizabeth will pick up two F-35B jets — the kind that will eventually operate from the 65,000-ton carrier — and cruise offshore for 11 weeks while launching about 500 flights. (Via UK press release.)
U.S. sending hospital ship to help Venezuelan refugees. This fall, USNS Comfort will sail to Colombia to support a health-care system overwhelmed by the more than 1 million Venezuelans who have fled a deteriorating economic and political situation. USNI News, here.
‘Fat Leonard’: the scandal that keeps growing. USNI News: “A retired captain and former 7th Fleet official pocketed at least $145,000 in exchange for steering Navy ships to ports where a foreign defense contractor managed port husbanding services, a federal grand jury alleged in an indictment issued Friday in San Diego in the latest in the ongoing probe into Glenn Defense Marine Asia.” Read on, here.

Russian hackers targeted U.S. political groups, Microsoft says. Six fake sites were set up, the company says, apparently to trick people into clicking links to download malware and enable attacks. Washington Post: “Among those targeted were the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank active in investigations of corruption in Russia, and the International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonprofit group that promotes democracy worldwide. Three other fake sites were crafted to appear as though they were affiliated with the Senate, and one nonpolitical site spoofed Microsoft’s own online products.”
NPR interviewed the Post reporter, Elizabeth Dwoskin, here.
SAIS’ Thomas Rid offers a cautionary word: though Microsoft says this discovery illustrates a rising tide of such activity, Rid says it’s more likely that it more simply shows what happens when more organizations start to look for it. Thread, here.

Quick video: Frightening robots — like seriously, watch how this one walks — are here.
Update: Don’t worry after all. That video is a fake.

Finally: Keep quiet, deer. Three years ago, BuzzFeed News’ Jason Leopold FOIA’d for various CIA documents, including one entitled “Alleged Employee Misconduct and the Illegal Killing of Animal on Federal Property.” Citing national security, CIA refused to give it up. So he sued.
Take it away, Jason:LightLaw & I now claim a partial victory: CIA has now released to me the IG doc into probe of the illegal killing of an animal on federal property. IT WAS A DEER. CIA CLASSIFIED A DEER! CIA would not disclose any other info citing danger to natsec.” Read the entire thread, here. (Replies Mieke Eoyang: “I was hoping for a squirrel. A secret squirrel.)

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