NATO stands with Notre Dame: “Heartbreaking to see #NotreDame cathedral on fire. Our thoughts are with all those working to save this great symbol of European culture and with the people of France,” said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, during Monday’s catastrophic blaze. We agree. More below. Now on to today’s D Brief…
U.S. Air Force F-35A’s just arrived to the Middle East, service leaders announced Monday. F-35As from the USAF’s 388th and the USAF Reserve’s 419th Fighter Wings at Utah’s Hill Air Force Base arrived to Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, on Monday.
Find five photos of the F-35A arrivals, here.
While it is a first for the U.S. Air Force in the Middle East, these aircraft have been abroad already. Marine Corps F-35B’s have been to the region via the USS Essex. And, “The F-35A has previously deployed to Royal Air Force Lakenheath in April 2017, as well as the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility in the fall of 2017.” Israel, too, has its own F-35s (the -I model). More here, too.
Also in the Middle East, CENTCOM meets MbS: New commander, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie dropped by Riyadh on Monday, Reuters reports, per a super-slim release from the Saudi Press Agency. Saudi-run al-Arabiya noted “General McKenzie was also received by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday.” The National has a little bit more on the broader context — including the latest obstacles for that “Arab NATO” idea — here.
The Saudi Embassy released a few photos of McKenzie and his entourage’s meeting with King Salman, and you can find those on Twitter, here.
Pulitzers for Yemen coverage: Three journalists from the Associated Press just won the prestigious prize for their coverage of starvation and torture in Yemen. AP’s report.
The recipients: Reporter Maggie Michael, photographer Nariman El-Mofty and video journalist Maad al-Zikry. Their work involved reporting on “how famished people in parts of Yemen were reduced to eating leaves to stay alive while corrupt officials diverted international food aid,” in addition to “document[ing] civilian casualties of a U.S. drone campaign,” “evidence of torture by both Houthi rebels and U.S.-backed forces,” as well as work showing “the presence of child soldiers on the front lines.” A bit more, here.
For your eyes only: A newly-released “15-page classified report written by France’s DRM military intelligence agency includes maps that detail the positioning of French-made weapons inside Yemen and on the Saudi side of the border,” Reuters reported Monday after an apparent leak surfaced online.
The broader significance: “The leaked report will be awkward for President Emmanuel Macron and his government, which has said that as far as it knows French-made arms sold to Saudi Arabia are used solely for defensive purposes on the border.” Read the report at The Intercept, here.
Libyan Gen. Haftar tried (and failed) to stage a coup in Libya on Monday, according to the UN. How? By attempting to “issuing an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj,” Reuters reports from Tripoli, the city Haftar’s men are trying to take from al-Serraj and his UN-backed government.
Another 2,500 Libyans were displaced by Haftar’s Tripoli offensive on Monday, according to the UN. The death toll is staying at around 150. More from Reuters, here.
Who are the militias standing in Haftar’s way inside and around Tripoli? AP has a useful review that “rogue gallery,” which includes about a half-dozen groups, here.
From Defense One
The Trump-Putin Relationship, As Dictated by the Kremlin // Natasha Bertrand and Anna Nemtsova via The Atlantic: Why does the White House cede control of the narrative to the Russians?
Recycle Your Batteries, Before China Wins That Race, Too // Robert Kang: With global demand rising for critical and rare earth materials in new tech, it’s not too late for the U.S. to secure its own sources.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Kevin Baron with Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1946, the U.S. launched its first captured V-2 rocket at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, to an altitude of 18,000 feet.
A member of the MARSOC Raiders was killed over the weekend after a tactical vehicle accident during a training exercise on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine Corps Times reported Monday. Two other Raiders were injured in the accident, which involved a Polaris MRZR, an “ultra lightweight, all-terrain utility task vehicle [that] is capable of carrying several Marines and combat equipment.” As with all Defense Department deaths, “The identity of the Marine killed will be released after next-of-kin notification.”
Last Thursday, ICE deported the male spouse of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan, then reversed the decision after the Arizona Republic reported the story on Monday.
The spouse in question: “Jose Gonzalez Carranza, 30, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers last Monday on his way to his welding job and then deported to Nogales, Sonora, early Thursday morning,” his attorney told the newspaper. “Gonzalez Carranza was married to Army Pfc. Barbara Vieyra, who was killed on Sept. 18, 2010, while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. She was 22.”
For what it’s worth, “ICE officials did not immediately provide information on the case, but a spokeswoman for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said Sinema’s office had reached out to help.” Read on, here.
The Pentagon finally gets a spokesman in the form of a Trump official from DHS, ABC News reported Monday. “Jonathan Rath Hoffman served as the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Homeland Security. Over the weekend, he was offered a new role as assistant to the secretary of Defense for public affairs.” (Note, per form, the position is not an assistant secretary of defense, which would require Senate confirmation.)
A little bit about this official: He’s a major in the Air Force Reserve JAG Corps. He’s “served in several roles at DHS” and also worked “as the director of International Programs and Border Security Policy at the White House Homeland Security Council,” ABC writes. Hoffman was looking for a new post after DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen quit.
For the record: The last time the Pentagon held an on-camera briefing inside the building was more than 300 days ago when Hoffman’s predecessor, Dana White, did the honors on May 31.
But will the Pentagon’s camera blackout continue? “Secretary Shanahan is committed to turning the cameras back on in the Pentagon press briefing room,” said Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, spokesman for Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, to ABC News — and that’s on the record, folks.
Nyet! Malta has denied Russia permission to use its airspace to fly military planes to Venezuela, Buzzfeed News reported Monday. Malta, the tiny island between Sicily and North Africa, had approved a similar request about three weeks ago. “The new request from Russia was made by the Russian Embassy in Malta’s capital of Valletta last week, a senior diplomat said. It asked for clearance to fly two military aircraft between April 16 and 19, from Syria to Caracas, and back… Russia had also filed a request for military flights from Syria to Venezuela between April 12 and May 1, which was also rejected.”
Who was in Moscow on Monday? Alex Sceberras Trigona, a Maltese official in the prime minister’s office, Malta Today reported separately on Monday. Trigona’s Moscow guest: the deputy minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Alexander Grushko. Still no indication Malta will change its tune on airspace permission. Tiny bit more, here.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador “is throwing open the [country’s] spy agencies’ files, part of his promise of sweeping change,” Agence France-Presse reported Monday from the capital city in a report titled, “Inside the dark world of Mexico’s intelligence services.”
The process will take about four years, AFP writes, since there are about 12 million files to redact first. “The files — a small number of which had already been released for other reasons — reveal how Mexico spied on a huge range of figures, from comedians to presidents to the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.”
Also in there: Information on Lee Harvey Oswald, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and more. Continue reading, here.
Notre Dame suffers fire — and instant misinformation. In a spectacular tech fail, as the 674-year-old Paris cathedral burned, “A YouTube feature designed to combat misinformation offered some of its own” when it linked “the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral to the September 11 terrorist attacks,” CNN reported Monday evening.
What’s going on: “The feature is a tool designed to fact check topics that generate misinformation on the platform,” TechCrunch reported. “It adds a small info box below videos that provides third-party factual information from YouTube partners — in this case Encyclopedia Britannica.”
TechCrunch’s guess: “It’s possible that imagery of a tower-like structure burning triggered the algorithm to provide the 9/11 information, but we’ve asked YouTube for more details on what specifically went wrong here.”
“These panels are triggered algorithmically, and our systems sometimes make the wrong call,” a YouTube spox said in a statement to news outlets after the story began getting attention on social media.
In other tech-fail news, “hackers breached the web servers” of an FBI-affiliated nonprofit “and published the names and addresses of hundreds of law enforcement personnel and thousands of other people online,” NBC News reported late last week.
Included in the breach: “…names, job descriptions, email addresses and, in some cases, street addresses of more than 23,000 people in multiple databases,” as well as more than 1,000 “email addresses belong[ing] to the FBI.gov domain and the domains of other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.”
The story’s apparently not over yet. “The hacking group — which NBC News isn’t naming, along with other information that could lead to the materials — said it was in possession of even more sensitive information that it hoped to sell. In posts that continued on Sunday, the hackers also prominently promoted what they described as a ransomware encryption package that they hoped to provide to other hackers.” More from TechCrunch, here.
More ICYMI hacking shenanigans: Two New Jersey high school freshmen have been charged with jamming the school’s Wi-Fi to avoid exams, NJ.com reported early this month.
What’s believed to have happened: “The boys used a Wi-Fi interrupter program, or an app, to send so much traffic to the routers that the system would crash, which ultimately caused connection failures when students tried to log on, do class work or take exams on their computers,” students told NJ.com. “A junior at Secaucus High said she learned about the Wi-Fi disruption when a friend told her she had asked one of the boys to jam the signal during an exam… Some students said they were surprised kids their age were able to pull off such a stunt.”
Said one student: “They are messing with people’s education, but they aren’t harming anyone.” Kinda like David Lightman in 1983’s “Wargames,” right? How about a nice game of…
And finally today: Plan your summer trip to “Disneyland with guns” — also known as the Knob Creek gun shoot in West Point, Kentucky — where “the waiting list can be up to 10 years,” according to AFP, which dropped by for the two-day event known as the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot and Military Gun Show.
The whole thing “started in 1965 by Biff Sumner and a few friends who were having a cookout and firing off weapons for fun,” AFP writes. “It has evolved into the biggest private machine gun shoot in the world, attracting thousands of automatic weapons enthusiasts from around the United States and abroad.”
The place even stays open in the evenings, when you can fire off some tracer rounds with your rented machine gun (provided you’re over 18 and sign a waiver). You can even bring the kids along — those under 12 get in for just $5. Watch a short video from the place here. Or read about AFP’s visit, here.