A Chinese woman has been charged with illegally entering Mar-a-Lago on Saturday while President Trump was visiting this past weekend, according to federal court records released Tuesday afternoon.
Her name: Yujing Zhang, age 32. And “resort officials allowed her on the property on the assumption she was related to a member” with the same last name, Reuters reports. She then told screeners she was merely on her way to the pool.
The problems began quickly after she advanced through that first layer of security, The New York Times writes. Because once inside, Zhang “said she was there to attend a United Nations Chinese American Association event later in the evening. But no such event existed.” And the invite she claimed to have for the UN event was written in Chinese. It’s at this point that the Secret Service escorted her off the property, which she didn’t like at all and became “verbally aggressive,” according to the charging document. From there she was detained and moved to the Secret Service’s West Palm Beach facilities. That’s where officials found what she was carrying all the while.
In her possession: Two Chinese passports, four cell phones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive, and a thumb drive with malicious software. “She did not have a swimsuit,” AP writes in its report on the incident.
Also a part of her story: An alleged Chinese friend of hers named Charles, who she claimed “told her to travel from Shanghai, China, to Palm Beach, Florida, to attend this event and attempt to speak with a member of the President’s family about Chinese and American foreign economic relations,” the Washington Post reports. But federal agents could find no further information on this Charles fellow. However, there is a Charles Lee who is an “event promoter who runs a group called the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association,” the Post notes.
Yujing’s current status: “She remains in custody pending a hearing next week,” AP writes. “Her public defender, Robert Adler, declined comment.”
Said the Chinese foreign ministry when asked about the episode today in Beijing: “I have no understanding of the situation you mention.”
For what it’s worth, Trump was golfing while all this transpired.
Big picture worry: With porous security like this, how truly safe is the president, or top officials at Mar-a-Lago? And about that thumb drive, how safe are the computer networks at Mar-a-Lago?
Reminder, via the Post: “In early 2017, Mar-a-Lago Club guests watched in surprise as the president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe huddled with aides at a dinner table as they discussed a ballistic missile test North Korea had just conducted. Trump was criticized afterward for what critics called his loose attitude toward information security.” A bit more from Reuters, here.
From Defense One
Installing Chinese 5G Gear is Dangerous — and Probably Inevitable: NATO Report // Patrick Tucker: Alliance members should look to mimic Britain, which created an entire government office to scrutinize Huawei’s products for security problems.
It’s Time To Make Data Strategic For Our Navy // Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations: The U.S. Navy’s future lethality depends on a new digital culture.
3 Ways Europe Is Looking at a Fraying NATO // Karen Donfried: A close look at France, Germany, and Poland reveals important divisions in the 70-year-old alliance — and suggests a way forward.
On NATO’s Eastern Frontier, Let’s Not Lose a War Before It Starts // Gillian Evans: The alliance needs more forces in Poland — and the logistics and enabling capabilities that will allow them to operate effectively.
Livestream: ‘NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70’ // Defense One Staff: Watch the 2019 ‘NATO Engages’ summit, with VP Mike Pence, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and more, live from Washington, D.C.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1948, President Truman signed legislation that would become known as the Marshall Plan, which would eventually provide more than $12 billion for the economic recovery of Western Europe.
Happening today: NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70 events continue in Washington. The idea: “In conjunction with NATO ministerial meetings in Washington, the summit will bring together NATO leaders, European and U.S. officials, and foreign policy and defense experts for a day of discussion on the state and future of the NATO alliance on its 70th anniversary.”
On today’s lineup:
- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks at 1:30 p.m. EST
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at 3 p.m.
- Foreign ministers from Turkey, Lithuania, Georgia, Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia, Latvia, Poland and more.
Find the complete agenda for the day — including Defense One’s Kevin Baron moderating a lunchtime event — right here.
We know about India’s successful anti-satellite test on March 27. But this week we learned it wasn’t India’s first try. New Delhi attempted to shoot down a satellite back in February — and failed, Ankit Panda of The Diplomat reported Tuesday. And that we’re only finding out about that first test now suggests U.S. intelligence officials are pretty good at watching and saying nothing. But it also suggests a number of other points as well, Brian Weeden wrote in an insightful Twitter thread, here.
A few thoughts from Weeden’s quick analysis: Perhaps “the US isn’t really interested in halting (or trying to halt) the proliferation of counterspace capabilities. Maybe they’ve decided that there really isn’t anything that can be done and they have zero power to influence the behavior of other countries (and yet still can deter?)”
His bottom line: “The reality is for 10+ years norms of behavior for space are being created by others and the US seems to be just a bystander.” Read on for a bit of applicable precedent from China’s anti-satellites tests 13 and 12 years ago, here.
By the way: Last week, U.S. Air Force Space Command’s Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson told lawmakers, “At this point in time, the International Space Station is not at risk” from debris scattered in space thanks to that March 27 ASAT test.
But NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine offered a different, updated assessment during a town hall meeting on Monday, Gizmodo reported yesterday.
Quick read on the orbiting dangers: “NASA has identified approximately 400 pieces from the destroyed satellite, of which 60 are larger than 10 centimeters (4 inches) wide—large enough to be tracked by the U.S. military’s ground radars,” Gizmodo writes. “Troublingly, some of these pieces have reportedly entered into orbits equal to or higher than the International Space Station, potentially putting the base at risk.” More from SpaceNews, here.
One more thing before we leave India this morning: “Fake News Runs Wild on WhatsApp as India Elections Loom,” The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend. More behind the paywall, here.
- January: After long delays, the first KC-46 tanker is delivered to the U.S. Air Force.
- February: Tools and other foreign objects found in USAF KC-46s. All the planes are grounded for a week.
- Feb. 28: KC-46s return to flight.
- March: USAF stops accepting the tankers.
- March 11: USAF resumes accepting them.
- April 2: USAF has stopped accepting KC-46s again, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told lawmakers, after more foreign objects were found in the planes. Air Force Times has a bit more, here.
Acting SecDef holds out hope that Turkey will still get F-35, Al-monitor reported Tuesday. “The Pentagon announced Monday that it had suspended the delivery of parts for Turkey’s F-35 jet program amid concerns that the Russians could use their S-400 to spy on the aircraft. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, [acting defense secretary Patrick] Shanahan said he retained confidence that Turkey will ditch the Russian system and instead use the US Patriot air defense system, lifting any misgivings about transferring the F-35 to Turkey.” More, here.
FWIW: EUCOM’s prospective next commander says it won’t happen if Ankara goes through with plans to buy Russia’s S-400 air-defense system. “At his Senate Armed Services Committee nomination hearing to lead U.S. European Command, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters called the co-location of the F-35 and the S-400 ‘absolutely unsustainable,’” Defense News reported Tuesday.
The U.S. Navy wants a fleet of 10 “large unmanned surface vessels,” starting with two in fiscal 2020 for $400 million, Military.com reported off budget documents. Not much else is known, and Navy officials were tight-lipped in testimony Tuesday on the Hill.
BTW: Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has reported on the Navy’s earlier experiments with robot ships, e.g., here, here, and here.
ICYMI: The Navy’s Vice CNO has a call to digital arms for sailors. To fully seize the opportunities of the network era — and stay ahead of adversaries who are trying to do the same — Adm. Bill Moran writes in Defense One that “we need to look less at the technologies we covet and more in the mirror about our own data structures and culture.” He’ll be out and about in coming days to talk to various stakeholders in the process. Read, here.
Artificial intelligence could be on its way to the U.S. medical industry after the FDA announced this week it’s developing new rules for AI in medicine. StatNews reported Tuesday that the FDA’s “outgoing commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, released a white paper that sets forth the broad outlines of the FDA’s proposed approach to establishing greater oversight over this rapidly evolving segment of AI products.”
What kind of applications could be coming? One could involve “algorithms to identify breast cancer lesions on mammograms and learns to improve its confidence, or identify subgroups of cancer, based on its exposure to additional real world data.” A bit more, here.
In other emerging tech news, Boston Dynamics has made a robot to ease the burden of warehouse work, WIRED reported Tuesday.
Story behind the story: BD just “acquired a Silicon Valley startup called Kinema Systems, which builds vision software that helps industrial robot arms manipulate boxes.” That software is helping improve the efficiency of “a Segway-on-mescaline called Handle [which gets] around picking up and stacking boxes with a vacuum arm.”
See a 97-second video of Handle at work, here. And read the rest of WIRED’s report on BD’s arsenal of increasingly smart and useful robots, here.
And finally today: The Somali army may have prevented another car bombing in Mogadishu, local Garowe news reported Tuesday. Somali army troops reportedly “seized a tanker truck loaded with explosives in Sabiid village of Lower Shabelle region on Monday… Sabiid lies about 40 kilometres [25 miles] southwest of the capital, Mogadishu. The foiled attack was described as ‘the largest bombs’ ever made by the AlQaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab group in history.” More here.
Heads up: Our next Defense One Radio episode is all about the future of Somalia. If you have questions about America’s counterterrorism policy there, or if you think something is missing from the overall debate on the U.S. military’s work in and around Somalia, drop us a line at email@example.com.