Putin directed election hacking; How to lose the AI race with China; A timeline of Syrian escalation; Paris Air Show wrap; and just a bit more...
Vladimir Putin was directly involved in hacking the 2016 election, the Washington Post reports, leading off an 8,000-word deep dive into what the U.S. intelligence community knew and what then-President Barack Obama tried to do about Russian efforts to “to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race” and, in fact, to “defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.”
WaPo: “The White House debated various options to punish Russia, but facing obstacles and potential risks, it ultimately failed to exact a heavy toll on the Kremlin for its election interference.”
If you don’t want to read the whole thing, the Post lays out the main findings in a list, here.
Meanwhile, hacking of 2016’s state and local elections databases was more extensive than we thought. TIME reports that it included “at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers.” Current and former officials tell TIME that a county voter database had been manipulated “but the alterations were discovered and rectified”; investigators don’t yet know whether the hackers were Russian agents. But the theft of nearly 90,000 Illinois voter records is being blamed on Russia. Now, “Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign.” Read, here.
From Defense One
How Not to Win an AI Arms Race With China // Patrick Tucker: A lawmaker's proposal to curb Chinese investment in U.S. artificial-intelligence firms has more than a few critics.
America's Best Partner in Middle East HUMINT Needs Help // Cameron Reed: Jordan's spies set the standard for the boots-on-the-ground intelligence sharing that is crucial to U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Anti-Terrorist Technology Has a New Target: Immigrants // Alvaro M. Bedoya: In a trend begun under Obama, the use of gear designed for foreign battlefields is increasingly coming home.
Global Business Brief, June 22 // Marcus Weisgerber: Networking in Paris; F-35's debut — and ungrounding; Russia sets aircraft goals; and a lot more.
Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. #OTD1942: A Luftwaffe pilot mistakenly lands Germany’s new FW 190 fighter in Wales. Got tips? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Russia cancels Syria talks with U.S. officials because it doesn’t like new sanctions from the U.S. Treasury Department. Reports the Associated Press: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert “said the sanctions that were expanded on Tuesday ‘didn't come out of nowhere’ and would remain in place until Russia honors the peace deal for eastern Ukraine and stops occupying Crimea.” Presidents Trump and Putin are expected to meet next month on the sidelines of the G20 summit, AP adds. More here.
Russia’s military just launched some more cruise missiles into Syria, Moscow’s defense ministry announced this morning. “The ministry said in a statement that two frigates and a submarine launched six cruise missiles on IS installations in Syria’s Hama province, destroying command centers and ammunition depots,” AP reports separately. “It did not say when the missiles were launched.”
Oh, and Russia is still trying to claim it killed the leader of ISIS—as before, not offering anything by way of proof. More from AP on those two angles, here.
Speaking of portrayals of Russia’s military, American film director Oliver Stone appears to have been taken for the proverbial ride by Moscow’s disinformation operations. Watch why, here. Or if you really want to, you can read more about the apparent con—about which Stone remains in denial—here.
AUMF-ers would like a word. U.S. lawmakers want to know why President Trump’s military shot down a Syrian jet without a proper war authorization, The Hill reported Thursday. “The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has formally requested the Trump administration’s legal justification for the U.S. military recently shooting down a Syrian jet and other confrontations between U.S. forces and those loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad,” a committee aide told The Hill.
A timeline of escalation in Syria, posted Thursday evening by Just Security, here.
Qatar's neighbors want the regional media outlet al-Jazeera gone—and then they want some extra money for even having to worry about it. “In a 13-point list — presented to the Qataris by Kuwait, which is helping mediate the crisis — the countries also demand an end to Turkey’s military presence in Qatar,” the Associated Press reports.
“Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke ties with Qatar this month over allegations the Persian Gulf country funds terrorism — an accusation that President Donald Trump has echoed. Those countries have now given Qatar 10 days to comply with all of the demands, which include paying an unspecified sum in compensation.”
Tough crowd. “Only a day earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had warned the demands must be ‘reasonable and actionable,’” AP writes. “The U.S. issued that litmus test amid frustration at how long it was taking Saudi Arabia and others to formalize a list of demands, complicating U.S. efforts to bring about a resolution to the worst Gulf diplomatic crisis in years.” Read the rest, here.
Turkey’s reax: Send soldiers and food to Qatar. “Turkey sent its first ship carrying food aid to Qatar and dispatched a small contingent of soldiers and armored vehicles there on Thursday, while President Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Saudi Arabia's leaders on calming tension in the region,” Reuters reported. “The number of Turkish soldiers sent to the Gulf state could eventually reach 1,000.” Story, here.
Speaking of Turkey: Ankara is sending more of its troops to northern Syria as part of a de-escalation deal reached with Russia. Reuters: “Under their May 4 accord, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to establish four separate de-escalation zones in Syria for at least six months. The largest of the planned zones includes Idlib province, which neighbors Turkey, and adjoining districts of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces. The other three zones are in northern Homs province, the Eastern Ghouta region east of the capital Damascus and along the Jordanian border in southern Syria.”
A few Asia-Pacific quick links:
• North Korea tested another rocket engine on Thursday, “possibly for an ICBM,” Reuters reports.
• South Korea test-launched a Hyunmoo-2 ballistic missile with an alleged range of up to 800 km. Korea Herald, here.
• “China has deployed its newest anti-submarine aircraft and stepped up unmanned aircraft deployments to Hainan island on the fringes of the South China Sea,” Defense News reported.
• And a Japanese warship took “Asian military guests” on a gun show cruise in the South China Sea, upsetting China. Reuters, here.
The American military continues to hunt terrorists in Yemen, killing “a top commander for the al-Qaida affiliate there and two of his associates,” AP reported Thursday. “U.S. Central Command says the strike in Shabwa province killed Abu Khattab al Awlaqi, the emir of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. says he was leading efforts to fuel instability in southern Yemen and to plan attacks on civilians, and was closely linked to AQAP leaders. The U.S. military has conducted at least 80 airstrikes this year targeting AQAP, which the U.S. considers one of the most dangerous terrorist threats to America and the West.”
Taliban leader’s new message to America is the same as the old one: Leave or we will not stop fighting you. “The remarks by Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah came in a message ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan — something the Taliban do every year to rally followers,” AP reports.
And a car bomb in Taliban-held Helmand province Thursday killed nearly three dozen people. The attack “targeted Afghan troops and government workers waiting to collect their pay ahead of the holiday,” AP writes. More here.
Pakistan complains about U.S. drone strikes on its territory. “Our position is that drone strikes are counter-productive and violate the sovereignty of Pakistan," foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria told Reuters Thursday.
Adds Reuters: “Islamabad has repeatedly condemned such strikes in public, but U.S. diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks in 2011 suggested the Pakistani military tacitly approved of the drone program. U.S. drone strikes have slowed to a trickle in the past 18 months.” Story, here.
Also in Pakistan: a bombing in the southwest killed nearly a dozen people this morning. “The explosion near the police chief’s office in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, was powerful enough that it was heard across the city, shattering windows on nearby buildings...Hours after the attack, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the bombing. Asad Mansoor, the militants’ spokesman, said the bombing was part of their campaign aimed at enforcing Islamic laws in the country. He vowed more such attacks.” More from AP, here.
And finally this week: the Marine Corps has grounded 14 of its F-35B fighter jets because of glitches in the latest version of the planes’ logistics software. Via CNN, here. Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!