US protective gear is running low again; DoD mulls Confederate flag ban; Georgia calls up NG; Counter-drone network? And a bit more.
America’s supply of personal protective gear is running low again, the Associated Press reports this morning. “We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” said Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, who cited results from a survey of the union’s members. “They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.”
New: International students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall, under new guidelines from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, AP reported Monday.
The order is “horrifying,” according to the American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, because it coerces colleges to hold in-person classes regardless of the health effects. Many colleges “depend on tuition revenue from international students, who typically pay higher tuition rates.”
And it’s a potential setback for America’s ability to attract and retain the world’s best talent. Defense One has explored the effects of immigrants on national security here, here, here, and here. (See also: “Great Power Rivalry Is Also a War For Talent” by Elsa Kania and Emma Moore.)
Bigger picture: As the U.S. climbs toward 3 million cases of COVID-19, USA Today notes that “Florida alone is averaging more than 8,000 cases per day over the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That’s more than twice the daily rate of the entire European Union, which consists of about 450 million people.”
From Defense One
Build a National Counter-Drone Network / Zak Kallenborn: Defensive drones stationed at airports and other likely points of attack could be teleoperated from one or more central facilities.
The US Pioneered Digital Contact Tracing. Why Aren't We Using It to Fight COVID-19? // Bhaskar Chakravorti, The Conversation: Other countries' experience with tracing apps helps explain why.
Defund Facial Recognition // Malkia Devich-Cyril, The Atlantic: I’m a second-generation Black activist, and I’m tired of being spied on by the police.
Mozambique Is Emerging As The Next Islamic Extremist Hotspot // Patrick Tucker: A terror group affiliated with the Islamic State has been stepping up tactics and claiming bigger targets.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and 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 2016, a U.S. Army veteran ambushed Dallas police, killing five of them and injuring nine others. A standoff would last through the evening, and led to the first case of a police robot killing a suspect — in this instance by delivering a bomb.
White House, DOD are reportedly on a collision course over the Confederate flag. That’s because a “draft” Pentagon policy that would ban the flag on all military bases “has been circulating for the last week at the highest levels of the Pentagon,” CNN’s Barbara Starr reported Monday on Twitter.
“It was not clear what, if any, input the White House had on the plan, or if Trump would object to it or move to stop it,” AP’s Lita Baldor reported Monday as well. She adds “The Pentagon draft says the ban applies to public displays of the flag on installations and facilities that are under department control, and would not apply to things like license plates or monuments not governed by the Pentagon.” Tiny bit more, here.
Georgia’s governor activated up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a violent weekend that saw five people killed and 30 wounded in shootings, AP reports today from Atlanta.
Their National Guard’s job in Georgia: “provide support at certain locations including the Capitol and governor’s mansion, freeing up state law enforcement resources to patrol other areas,” AP writes.
A West Virginia woman was arrested in Mexico City trying to pass top secret information to the Russians, according to a summary of charges posted Monday by the Department of Justice. The episode happened almost exactly one year ago, and even involves charges of “international parental kidnapping.”
What happened: Elizabeth Jo Shirley, a 47-year-old from Hedgesville, West Virginia, decided to mark 25 years of service in a variety of capacities inside the Defense Department by “mak[ing] contact with representatives of the Government of Russia to request resettlement in a country that would not extradite her to the United States.” This was in July 2019. Shirley brought her six-year-old daughter with her to Mexico; and according to the charges, she missed a date to bring that daughter back to the states, which gave Mexican authorities the justification they needed to arrest her in Mexico City on August 13, 2019. The U.S. Marshals Service tagged along for that arrest; but it was the FBI that hit the classified jackpot while rummaging through Shirley’s belongings.
Here’s a short list of the various places Shirley used to work: the Air Force Reserves, the Navy Reserves, the Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, the Department of Energy, the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, and “at least five different cleared defense contractors.”
What the FBI found:
- "a National Security Agency (NSA) document containing information classified at the TOP SECRET/SENSITIVE COMPARTMENTED INFORMATION (TS/SCI) level relating to the national defense that outlines intelligence information regarding a foreign government’s military and political issues";
- "an Office of Naval Intelligence PowerPoint presentation containing information classified at the SECRET level";
- "and messages Shirley had drafted to Russian Government officials while in Mexico, the latter of which the Central Intelligence Agency has determined to include information classified at the SECRET level."
She also admitted to removing top secret paper and digital documents from her work as early as the 1990s, according to her plea deal.
Which all means now “Shirley faces up to ten years of incarceration and a fine of up to $250,000,” DOJ said. She also faces “up to three years of incarceration and fine of up to $250,000 for the kidnapping charge.” Read the full sheet, here.
For what it’s worth: The German government has paid $1.1 billion (982.4 million euros) “to cover costs related to the stationing of U.S. troops” there over the past 10 years, Berlin's finance ministry said today. About two-thirds of that went into construction work.
Reminder: According to AP, which noticed the figure after German media reported it in response to a lawmaker’s query, “Germany is spending about 1.38% of GDP on its defense budget,” and “Berlin aims to hit 1.5% by 2024 and insists that this level of spending allows it to meet NATO’s defense planning goals.”
By contrast, “The U.S. — at around 3.4% of GDP — spends more on defense than all 29 other allies combined,” AP writes, citing NATO stats. Tiny bit more, here.
This may be a good time to point out the White House still has not worked out a deal for hosting U.S. troops in South Korea this calendar year (which is, of course, already more than halfway done). And that tab has been rising steadily over the past three years. According to The Hill, reporting in June, "The Trump administration last year attempted to get South Korea to pay about $1.6 billion to house U.S. troops but later agreed to $1 billion with the understanding that the [deal] would be negotiated for 2020." Stars and Stripes at the time noted, "The two countries also failed to meet the deadline in 2018 but agreed retroactively to a one-year compromise in which South Korea increased its contribution by 8.2% to nearly $1 billion."
Reuters reported back in November the White House wants Seoul to cough up $5 billion for calendar year 2020. And according to former National Security Advisor John Bolton, President Trump told him last August, "Get out of there [South Korea] if we don't get the five billion-dollar deal.” That, via RoK’s Yonhap News agency on June 22, here.
The U.S. military unlawfully killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a human rights investigator for the U.N. said on Monday, Reuters reported. Now what? The lead investigator “is due on Thursday to present her findings to the Human Rights Council, giving member states a chance to debate what action to pursue.” And oh by the way, “The United States is not a member of the forum, having quit two years ago.” A bit more, here.
Related: Russia, Syria and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham have all committed war crimes in NW Syria, UN investigators said today. “The report, covering Nov. 2019 until June 2020, was based on overflight data and witness testimony,” Reuters reports today. “It examines 52 ‘emblematic attacks’ in northwest Syria, including 47 attributed to the Russian-backed Syrian government.”
Middle East influencer alert: A writer named Raphael Badani is not who you think he is. Long story short: “Conservative sites like Newsmax and Washington Examiner have published Middle East hot takes from ‘experts’ who are actually fake personas pushing propaganda,” The Daily Beast’s Adam Rawnsley reported Monday. Badani is one of them.
Do you or your kids like TikTok? It could be banned soon in the U.S., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a recent interview with Fox News. However, greater detail will have to wait since Pompeo said he doesn’t want to get ahead of President Trump on this call. More from Reuters, here.
- Question for you: What are your concerns when it comes to China? We’re putting together a podcast about what we mean when we in the national security community talk about “China,” especially in terms of the 2020 U.S. general election and the future of U.S. security. And we’d love to hear from you. So email us here and let us know what’s on your mind.
That’s it for us today. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you again tomorrow.