President Donald Trump is sending federal officers into Chicago — and to other cities soon. This follows the deployment of Border Patrol and other officers to Portland, Oregon, where protestors have been seized by unidentified combat-dressed men and taken away in unmarked vehicles. President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr announced Wednesday that the new deployments from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security are meant to fight violent crime, not quell protest, Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reported.
A similar force has already been sent to Kansas City, said AG Barr, who apparently lied about what they’ve been doing there. “Barr claimed feds in KC made 200 arrests in two weeks. That’s not even close to true,” ran the headline in the Kansas City Star. (Spoiler: It was one arrest.)
In Portland, feds tear-gassed the mayor on Wednesday as he stood with hundreds of protestors outside the federal courthouse. The Washington Post reports that Mayor Ted Wheeler “had come to the protest, he said, to stand with protesters in the face of what he has described as an ‘occupying force’ — federal agents who were deployed by President Trump to a city that the president has described as ‘worse than Afghanistan.’”
In Washington, questions about domestic surveillance. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the House lawmaker in charge of overseeing the intelligence community, is “demanding information about the Department of Homeland Security’s reported expansion of its own authorities to surveil protesters who threaten “monuments, memorials, and statues,” Williams reports.
By the way: The U.S. has now gone 471 consecutive days without a Senate-confirmed Director of Homeland Security, Steve Vladeck pointed out Wednesday. “There has *never* been a longer vacancy in *any* Cabinet position,” he tweeted. “And there hasn't even been a nominee at any point during that time—even though the President's party controls the Senate. That's nuts.”
Question for you, readers: Do you think it's sound practice for federal internal security troops in Portland to not wear name tags — when one of your D Brief-ers had to do precisely that (plus last four of SSN) while deployed to Afghanistan? The Washington Post's Iraq vet Alex Horton dives into the question with some rigor, here.
An American soldier died Tuesday in eastern Syria, and today we learned his name: 25-year-old Sgt. Bryan Cooper Mount from St. George, Utah, died in what the Defense Department says was a "vehicle rollover accident while conducting reconnaissance operations.”
“Mount was assigned to 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina,” the Pentagon said in a statement this morning. RIP, sarge.
From Defense One
Trump Sending ‘Surge’ of Federal Forces Into Chicago; More Cities to Come // Katie Bo Williams: Meant to quell crime, Attorney General Barr said Operation Legend would be different than last week’s crackdown on protesters in Oregon.
Top Intel Dem Demands Information On DHS Surveillance Of Protesters // Katie Bo Williams: Heavy-handed tactics by the DHS in Portland, where protests have gripped the city for almost two months, have drawn intense scrutiny in Washington.
Progressives Mount Assault on Defense Spending Ahead of Stimulus Package, Election // Marcus Weisgerber: During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, one Democrat questioned defense firms access to coronavirus stimulus money.
OCO Must Go // Brandon Valeriano, Eric Gomez, and Lauren Sander: Lawmakers should rally behind House appropriators' effort to eliminate a funding vehicle that allows the Pentagon to evade budget caps.
Nothing Can Justify the Attack on Portland // Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic, The Atlantic: The question of whether these arrests are appropriate has a clear answer—at least in a nation that purports to live under the rule of law.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 1972, the U.S. launched the first satellite in its Landsat program, which provided a trove of new data for researchers in fields as diverse as agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, surveillance (of course) and education. The satellite launched on this day would work for about five and a half years before its tape recorders malfunctioned and it was removed from service in January 1978.
Russia has allegedly put an anti-satellite weapon in space, U.S. Space Command says today. The weapon Russia purportedly released on July 15 “is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia maneuvered near a U.S. government satellite," Space Force’s Gen. John Raymond said in today’s statement.
You may remember the story of the Russian “inspector satellite,” which we discussed in our recent podcast on “War in space” from March.
So what’d it do just a few days ago? It’s unclear precisely, since Space Command called the event “a non-destructive test.” And that event, like the one from late January, involved a satellite that “injected a new object into orbit” rather like a Russian nesting doll.
And this is not exactly a first, according to Space Command: “The U.S. State Department raised concerns in 2018, and again this year, that Russian satellite behaviors were inconsistent with their stated mission and that these satellites displayed characteristics of a space-based weapon. According to the Department of State, this behavior is hypocritical and concerning.”
Not to get overly Tū quoque here, but Reuters space reporter Joey Roulette flags an interesting point in response to the U.S. allegations today. And it involves that super-secret mini-Space Shuttle the U.S. Air Force keeps sending into orbit on classified missions. That one’s called X-37B, and Space policy wonk Brian Weeden tweets this morning that it “did indeed secretly deploy satellites on both previous OTV-5 mission and the current OTV-6 mission.” And oh by the way, “The US has provided zero data on orbits or mission of any of those satellites.”
Related: Wanna review the history of anti-satellite weapons in space? Weeden is maintaining a spreadsheet of them all (the known ones, anyway) over on Google Sheets, here.
And don’t miss this new feature-length report about the Space Force from Bill Hennigan at Newsweek, just posted this morning.
Nine years after a failed mission to Mars, China is trying again. “A Long March-5 carrier rocket took off under clear skies around 12:40 p.m. from Hainan Island” today, AP reports from Beijing.
What to know about this launch: “China’s tandem spacecraft — with both an orbiter and a rover — will take seven months to reach Mars,” AP writes. “If all goes well, Tianwen-1… will look for underground water, if it’s present, as well as evidence of possible ancient life.”
Not to be overlooked: The UAE also sent a rover to Mars on Monday. That one took off from Japan. And the U.S. is sending “its most sophisticated Mars rover ever,” the Perseverance, to Mars possibly as early as next week. Read on, here.
The U.S. government is laying the groundwork for a roughly $40 coronavirus vaccine, Reuters reports today after "a $2 billion deal [was] announced on Wednesday with Pfizer Inc and German biotech BioNTech SE that will likely pressure other manufacturers to set similar prices.”
It’s not a done deal yet; but the effort is reportedly aimed at acquiring “enough vaccine to inoculate 50 million Americans for about $40 a person, or about the cost of annual flu shots, and is the first to provide a direct window into likely pricing of successful COVID-19 vaccines.”
An AP poll finds 3 out of 4 Americans are ok with wearing face masks publicly. And that includes a majority of Republicans (58%). It’s less of a news item in terms of Democratic support; that registered at 89% support for mask-wearing. But the change over time is notable, with now “86% of Americans say they’re [wearing a mask in public], compared with 73% in May.”
Another key takeaway from that poll: “about two-thirds of Americans disapprove of how President Donald Trump is handling the outbreak,” a finding AP calls “an unwelcome sign for the White House in an election year shaped by the nation’s battle with the pandemic.” More here.
Also not a great sign: Jobless claims are up for the first time since March. That also from AP, here.
And finally today: Russia is trying to rewrite recent Baltic history. And Baltic states — along with the U.S. — are having none of it.
What’s going on: Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote last month in a piece published in The National Interest that the 1940 Soviet takeover of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia “was implemented on a contractual basis, with the consent of the elected authorities.”
“We stand firmly against any attempts by Russia to rewrite history in order to justify the 1940 occupation and annexation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote today in a joint statement with the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian foreign ministers.
Reuters reminds us today that "In 1989, during the period of glasnost, or openness, under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Moscow denounced the secret 1939 Soviet-Nazi pact to carve up Poland and the Baltic states which allowed the Soviet Union to annex the region. Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia all won independence from the Soviet Union as it collapsed and now are members of both the EU and NATO." More here.