COVID rises in 22 states; US drops 200 Iraqi terps; Russia sentences former Marine; How to hack DC; And a bit more.
Now 22 states have rising coronavirus cases, “particularly in the Sun Belt and the West, as thousands of Americans have been sickened by the virus in new and alarming outbreaks,” the New York Times reported Sunday. “Arizona, Texas and Florida are reporting their highest case numbers yet.” And just those three states altogether host nearly four dozen U.S. military bases.
- “There is ample reason to tie the latest surge of infections to relatively early reopenings…but they do not explain the broader pattern.”
- “[O]fficials in places like Arizona and Florida say the increase in cases may be explained, at least partly, by the growing availability of tests.”
- And there’s also this: “In places where masks are standard and people are adhering to social distancing — both recommended by public health experts — transmission may be slower.”
About those masks: COVID spreads mostly through the air, according to a new peer-reviewed National Academy of Sciences paper that appears to place an important brick in the foundation of knowledge about the still-largely-mysterious disease. Read, here.
From Defense One
Milley Is Trump's Latest Reluctant Enabler // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: Maintaining the balance between serving the president and protecting the Constitution is impossible over time.
Why Soldiers Might Disobey the President’s Orders to Occupy US Cities // Marcus Hedahl and Bradley Jay Strawser, The Conversation: Because it might be their duty to do so. Two ethicists at Navy schools explain.
Terrorists Aren’t Staying In Jail as Long as You Might Think // NDU’s Elena Pokalova: Most convicted of terror offenses stay just a few years, and receive far too little rehabilitation support before and after they leave.
What the World Could Teach America About Policing // Yasmeen Serhan, The Atlantic: Examples abound of reforms that are seen as “radical” in the United States.
What Big Tech Wants Out of the Pandemic // Franklin Foer, The Atlantic: The firms are all too eager to help the government manage the coronavirus crisis.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1940, allied troops began evacuating France under Operation Aerial.
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was convicted of espionage today and sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison, according to a ruling from a court in Moscow. CNN reminds us that “Whelan — who is also an Irish, British and Canadian citizen — was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was involved in an intelligence operation. He has been in Lefortovo prison in Moscow since and the trial was held behind closed doors.”
“Whelan has insisted on his innocence, saying he was set up,” AP reports. And “The U.S. Embassy has denounced Whelan’s trial as unfair, pointing out that no evidence has been provided.”
SecState Pompeo tweeted about the ruling today, writing that he is "Outraged by the decision today to convict Paul Whelan on the basis of a secret trial, with secret evidence, and without appropriate allowances for defense witnesses. Paul’s treatment by Russian authorities continues to be appalling, and we demand his immediate release."
The Danes just pulled out of one key Iraq training mission, ending an effort that began six years ago, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq announced this weekend. During their time on this particular job, the Danish army — aka “Task Force Dragon” — is credited with training “more than 19,500 members of the Iraqi Border Guard Forces,” most recently out of Al Asad Airbase.
That mission now passes to Iraqi troops, “who will continue to train their own forces to ensure the enduring defeat” of ISIS, according to the coalition’s statement.
But the Danes aren't pulling out entirely. In fact, they're keeping some 285 "staff officers and planning support" troops for "high-level advising, intelligence sharing, and air support."
Said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod in his own statement on Thursday, “By strengthening our contribution to stabilizing Iraq, we both reduce the risk of new refugee crises while increasing our protection against the threat posed by terrorist groups such as ISIS.”
Also in Iraq: America has laid off roughly 200 of its Iraqi interpreters; and now they fear for their lives, NPR’s Jane Arraf reported Friday as the war on ISIS continues to slowly wind down.
What’s going on here, according to the U.S.-led coalition: "the military Coalition repositioned military and civilian personnel out of several Iraqi bases. As our operational mission reduced, the requirement for contracted staff reduced." That includes several employees hired in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
And the coalition’s response to concerns about their former terps’ safety: "CJTF-OIR has neither policy nor recommendations for linguists regarding how to deal with threats associated with their Coalition work."
What’s reportedly worse, a local manager for the Virginia-based contractor at the center of this story, Valiant, allegedly “warned [two now-laid-off interpreters] that anyone who spoke to journalists about their concerns or retained a lawyer would be blacklisted from future jobs with Valiant.”
According to Valiant, COVID is to blame — “and not U.S. withdrawals from bases, the reason cited by the U.S. military,” Arraf reports.
For what it’s worth, “Valiant was created by former executives of Supreme Group, a U.S. military contractor, after the company was fined $434 million in 2014 for major fraud in supplying food and water to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It was one of the biggest judgments ever against a U.S. contractor. Supreme's former president and chief counsel, hired by Supreme after the fines were imposed, founded Valiant after buying most of Supreme's contracts.”
Oh, and the interpreters? Some of them "have gone into hiding. All are trying to keep a low profile." More here.
There are lots of events in D.C. this week. Here’s a starter list, which will grow tomorrow:
- Monday, 10 a.m. ET: How to Hack DC, a discussion of “the future of cyber threats” with the co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission — Sen. Angus King, I-Maine; and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., led by Peter W. Singer of the New America think tank and Nicole Perloth of the New York Times. Bonus: an interactive “map” of the 10 biggest looming cybersecurity vulnerabilities of a city like Washington, D.C, as it’s rewired into the emergent Internet of Things. Find that here.
- Monday, 1 p.m. ET: The New 2020: Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber leads a discussion about COVID’s effect on militaries and the global defense industry, from the U.S. to China. Panelists include the UK’s Minister Counsellor for Defence, a IISS China scholar, and analyst Roman Schweizer. Get details and watch the livestream, here.
- Tuesday, 11 a.m. Genius Machines: AI on the Battlefield. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker brings together leaders from the JAIC, Army, Navy, and Brookings to talk about how AI is reshaping everything from intelligence to tactics. Details and livestream, here.
- Tuesday, 1 p.m.: Day One of the 3-day Defense One Digital Tech Summit kicks off with a discussion about the Pentagon’s network-everything vision of future war, featuring top leaders from the Army, Air Force, SOCOM, and DARPA. Don’t miss Eric Schmidt, late of Google and currently running a natsec commission on AI, on Wednesday. Get full details about the 3-day event, which is powered by the Virtuoso virtual-event platform, and includes networking opportunities powered by and a virtual version of the ever-popular D Lab. Register and watch.
- Tuesday, 2 p.m. Serious Games: Dive into the world of strategy and hypotheticals a panel discussion led by the Center for a New American Security on “How the Pentagon Uses Wargames to Develop Ideas and Inform Decisions.” Former Deputy SecDef Robert O. Work will join the discussion, along with four other CNAS fellows and associates — including Becca Wasser, whom you may have heard on our own podcast all about wargames back in the fall. RSVP, here.
And much more. We’ll see you again tomorrow for the rest.