Mike Flynn charged with lying to the FBI; America's drone war expands to Niger; Why the Army is rebuilding ammo from WWII; Are hobbyists’ drones spying for China?; and just a bit more...
Breaking: Michael Flynn charged. The Associated Press is reporting that Trump’s former national security adviser has been charged with making false statements to federal agents. Bloomberg adds that Flynn will plead guilty to the single count, which involves lies about his communications with Russia’s ambassador.
America’s drone war is officially expanding to Niger now that the Pentagon has gotten the green light from officials in Niamey, the country’s capital, in what The New York Times calls “a major expansion of the American military’s footprint in Africa.” Adds the Times up top: “Pentagon officials want to start the flights within days.”
There are already U.S. drones deployed to a Nigerien air base in Niamey. From there — according to a new memo of understanding between the two countries — they will be armed and moved to a different base in Agadez, nearly 1,000 kms NE in the central part of Niger. “Pentagon officials said the new mission likely would significantly increase the number of American troops in Niger, from the 800 who are there now,” the Times writes. “About 500 of those troops now deployed in Niamey would move to the base in Agadez.”
Notes Reuters, in a sort of obligatory caveat: “U.S. forces do not have a direct combat mission in Niger, but their assistance to its military does include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in their efforts to target violent Islamist organizations.”
And in case you were curious, “The Niger deployment would be only the second time that armed drones have been stationed and used in Africa,” according to the Times. “Drones now based in Djibouti are used in Yemen and Somalia... [while] Drones used in Libya fly from Italy.” Read on, here.
FWIW: America’s top special operator, Lt. Gen. Austin Miller of Joint Special Operations Command, reportedly landed in Cairo on Thursday, the same day a new agreement was reached between Russia and Egypt to base Moscow’s jets in-country — and shortly after Egypt’s Sisi said he wants terrorists cleared out of the Sinai peninsula in three months.
Extra reading: American “Special Operators Are the New American Way of War,” writes Time magazine’s Bill Hennigan. You’ve probably heard the overall arc of the story before; but Hennigan fleshes it out in a way that makes for good weekend reading. Get started, here.
Elsewhere in Africa, Blackwater founder Erik Prince pitches counter-migration ops for Libya, The Guardian reported Thursday.
Said Prince to Defense One’s Patrick Tucker: I’m not advocating for a "private police" force, just contractors to do training with the police force.
Back stateside: “A private company has proposed that the US government pay it millions to undertake intelligence and covert operations,” including what Buzzfeed News’ Aram Roston describes as “a private ‘rendition’ and spy network.”
What to know: “One of the proposals would involve hiring a private company, Amyntor Group, for millions of dollars to set up a large intelligence network and run counterterrorist propaganda efforts... Another proposal presented to US officials would allow individuals affiliated with the company to help capture wanted terrorists on behalf of the United States.” Dive into that story — featuring yet another business from Whitefish, Montana, here.
Pivoting back to the Middle East, the USS Teddy Roosevelt flattop is now in the Persian Gulf for the ongoing war on ISIS. Details from U.S. Naval Institute News, here.
CIVCAS latest: The U.S. military updated the number of civilians it believes to have been killed from the war on ISIS, bringing the declared total to 801, the Associated Press reports off the latest monthly tracker. Worth noting, as always: an additional source. However, according to the London-based Airwars organization, “Since August 2014, more than 5,000 civilians have been killed as a result of coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.” Read on at Military Times, here.
One more thing about the war on ISIS: Life in Mosul is getting better and better, NPR’s Jane Arraf reports from the city after speaking to two sisters who attend the re-opened Mosul University.
Newsflash: The Saudis say they’ve intercepted another ballistic missile fired from Yemen, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday. “The missile targeted the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, with authorities reporting no casualties, just hours after the rebels threatened to retaliate over a crippling blockade on Yemen... The Huthi-run Al-Masira television channel said Thursday's missile hit a military target inside Saudi Arabia, but the coalition contradicted that claim.” More here.
Also from Riyadh: The first defense contractor up in the Saudis’ new $20 billion arms deal with the U.S. is Lockheed Martin, signing a deal for almost $23 million to build a “quartet of frigates,” USNI reports. The contract calls for “modify[ing] the design of the existing Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship class for a more heavily armed, ‘Multi-mission Surface Combatant.’” Details, here.
From Defense One
The Promise and Peril of Trump's Cyber Strategy // Joseph Marks: Continuity on most cyber policies masks a growing erosion of global cyber norms.
Hey, @Twitter, It's Time to Talk about President Trump // Mieke Eoyang: The president's amplification of the things he finds in his mentions is putting national security at risk.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Budget shutdown countdown; $41B in foreign arms sales in 2017; Trump talks F-35, again; and a lot more.
North Korea Says It Has 'Completed' Its Nuclear Program. What Does That Mean? // Uri Friedman: Pyongyang's message boils down to 'it's no use shutting the gate after the horse has moved on.'
Islamophobia No Longer Needs Terrorism as a Justification // Peter Beinart: Conservatives are finding new justifications for anti-Muslim sentiments—and embedding them more deeply in America's political terrain.
Welcome to this December 1 edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD1969: The U.S. holds the first draft lottery since World War II.
White House floats plan to fire Tillerson, install Cotton at CIA. Anonymous administration officials told the New York Times Thursday that CIA director Mike Pompeo might replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson within a few weeks, and be replaced with Sen. Tom Cotton, R.-Ark.
Cotton’s proposed appointment did not sit well with former intelligence professionals, who noted the freshman senator’s lack of intel experience, his mocking of the IC’s consensus that Russia meddled in last year’s elections, support for torture, and his spearheading of a 2015 Congressional letter to Iran warning its leaders not to sign a nuclear deal pushed by the Obama administration.
As if “cyber” wasn’t confusing and opaque enough, NATO is considering what they call “offensive defense” in the cyber realm, Reuters reported Thursday. But what does that even mean? “[U]sing cyber attacks to bring down enemy networks,” alliance officials told Reuters. Lots of scene-setting, but far fewer juicy details than you might prefer, here.
Against the (Chinese) drones. U.S. officials believe the world’s top consumer dronemaker, China’s DJI, has programmed their aerial drones to send data back to mainland China, The New York Times reported Wednesday. This news comes in response to an August memo (find that here) from the Los Angeles office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.
The allegations: “Los Angeles assesses with moderate confidence that Chinese-based company DJI Science and Technology is providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government. [The Special Agent in Charge Intelligence Program] Los Angeles further assesses with high confidence the company is selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within these sectors to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.”
DJI calls the allegations “based on clearly false and misleading claims.” But August was also the month when the U.S. Army announced their own ban on DJI drones, citing an unspecified “cyber” threat. More from the Times, here.
The world’s largest lithium-ion battery is now live in the Australian Outback, USA Today reports. The project is another brainchild of Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “Tesla says the battery has the capacity to power 30,000 homes for up to an hour in the event of a severe blackout, but is more likely to be called into action to boost supply during peak demand periods.” Story and photos, here.
The U.S. military says it would ban its old cluster bombs, but it needs to build more replacements first. Reuters has the story, here.
This week in “terrifying and amazing” apps: ProPublica built one for us “that shows the locations of all the hazardous and toxic waste states across the U.S. that the military has on record.” While it is an app, it’s still probably best viewed on a desktop browser — there’s lots of data to dig into. Get started, here.
Weekend reading: 1) “Bad Ideas in National Security.” Todd Harrison leads off a new series from CSIS with an argument against cutting BAH — that is, the housing stipend paid to troops based on rank, location, and number of dependents. “Like a zombie in a low-budget horror film, a bad idea that keeps coming back to life is the proposal to scale back the military housing allowance.” Read it, here.
2 and 3) “#MeToo Is All Too Common in National Security.” Two recent pieces — one from former Pentagon policy advisor Rosa Parks and one from journalist Kate Brannen — describe life as a woman in national security.
Lastly this week: old weapons made new again (more out of necessity than innovation). The U.S. Air Force is repurposing old WWII-era 40mm shells for its AC-130U gunships, The Drive reported this week, writing the work “speak[s] to the continued importance of both the AC-130U and its 40mm Bofors cannon.completely.”
Your D-Brief-er can confirm these are awesome and frightening weapons when your SOF and Afghan commando comrades are exfil-ing from a hot LZ after a clearance op at 1 a.m. in, say, southern Afghanistan’s Shah Wali-Kot region. Check out what some of those ops looked like from the bird in this video. Then read the rest of The Drive’s report here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll catch you up again on Monday!