The coronavirus is spreading all across America, again. The country broke its single-day record of 77,640 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to NBC News. The previous high was 75,723 on July 29. Nationwide, new infections are rising in all but nine states, The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer reported Thursday. And hospitalizations have risen by at least 40 percent since mid-September. But “Unlike the past two waves” of infections, “this one has no epicenter,” he writes.
Big picture: Nearly one in every 1,000 Americans has tested positive so far, “and about two in every 100,000 Americans have died of it,” Meyer reports. More than 223,000 in the U.S. have died from related complications, according to Johns Hopkins University.
By the way: “The coronavirus pandemic has caused nearly 300,000 more deaths than expected in a typical year,” the Washington Post reported this week, citing a Tuesday update from the Centers for Disease Control, which gathered data from February through October 3.
How to proceed? Here’s one possibly new term for you: “safety lasagna.” And Slate’s Lizzie O'Leary flagged it this week after reading Brown University economics professor Emily Oster’s newsletter. Here’s O’Leary on why lasagna is a helpful metaphor: “Think layers of safety. Masks + distancing + testing + hand washing. There is no one thing, you have to have it all together. Like lasagna.” For Oster’s original take on the notion, read here.
President Trump is campaigning again in Florida today, where he’ll hold an afternoon rally at a polo club in The Villages, according to his public schedule. Then in the evening, he’ll hold a second rally at Pensacola’s International Airport before turning in at Mar-a-Lago.
From Defense One
‘Stunning’ Executive Order Would Politicize Civil Service // Erich Wagner, Government Executive: President Trump's new directive allows thousands of federal jobs now filled through competition to be turned into at-will positions.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Lockheed, Northrop boost 2020 projections; Teams form for next Army vehicle; $23.1B for military intel; and more...
The Head of US Intelligence Has Ceased to Be an Honest Broker // Emerson T. Brooking: The result has been grave damage to U.S. counterintelligence and electoral security efforts.
Preserve the Jones Act // Mike Stevens: China’s burgeoning fleets underscore the importance of legislation that bolsters our own.
Welcome to this Friday 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 1983, suicide bombers attacked U.S. and French troops in Beirut, killing nearly 300 people — including 241 American Marines — and wounding more than 100 others.
U.S. spies think they know Russia’s plan to interfere in the U.S. election, and part of that confidence comes from “watching Russia's FSB penetrate state and local systems,” the New York Times reported Thursday.
One concerning scenario: “American officials expect that if the presidential race is not called on election night, Russian groups could use their knowledge of the local computer systems to deface websites, release nonpublic information or take similar steps that could sow chaos and doubts about the integrity of the results, according to officials briefed on the intelligence.”
One fortunately less-concerning scenario: “Officials say Russia’s ability to change vote tallies nationwide would be difficult, given how disparate American elections are,” the Times reports. “The graver concern is the potential effect of any attack on a few key precincts in battleground states.” Read on, here. Or Politico has more on a possible hack-and-release plot from Russia, here.
New: The FBI says Russia is targeting “aviation networks” and “exfiltrated data from at least two victim servers” as part of its efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.
There’s not yet any evidence of damage to “aviation, education, elections, or government operations,” the FBI and CISA’s notice reads. “However, the actor may be seeking access to obtain future disruption options, to influence U.S. policies and actions, or to delegitimize [state, local, territorial, and tribal] government entities.”
So what’s the U.S. been doing about this election-disruption threat from Russia? “For months American military cyber-operators, aided by intelligence from the National Security Agency (NSA), have been targeting Russian spies to disrupt their plans by repeatedly knocking them off the Internet, confusing their planners and depriving them of their hacking tools. The goal is to prevent them from attacking U.S. voting systems,” the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Heads up: Trump’s campaign has been videotaping voters at ballot drop boxes in Pennsylvania. And that could count as “illegal voter intimidation,” the state’s attorney general said Thursday. The New York Times has more, here.
Here’s a weekend #LongRead: “Why 780 retired generals and former national security leaders spoke out against Trump,” via James Kitfield, writing in Yahoo News on Thursday.
What do we know about a Biden foreign policy plan? It begins with telling the world, “America’s back, you can count on us,” aides told the Washington Post on Wednesday. That includes plans to “to immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, the World Health Organization and other U.N. bodies,” as well as a “return to the Iran nuclear deal, if Tehran also returns to compliance.” Much more on that as well as how the Biden camp is thinking about China’s growing soft power across Europe and elsewhere around the globe, here.
What’s on SecDef Esper’s mind when it comes to NATO? He spoke to fellow members Thursday for the first day of an alliance-wide defense ministerial, the Pentagon said in a statement that evening. And there, Esper “discussed challenges posed by increased Russian aggression, including concerns over their growing missile capabilities,” as well as “the risks of depending on the People’s Republic of China for technology and critical infrastructure as they continue to undermine the international global order,” according to the Pentagon.
Explore several possible futures for NATO in 20 essays that seek to offer “bold ideas to reimagine the Alliance after the 2020 US election,” via the Atlantic Council think tank.
Far-right groups in the U.S. carried out two-thirds of “domestic terrorist attacks and plots so far in 2020,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday off new analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
By contrast, far-left groups accounted for just 20 percent of attacks and plots so far this year, according to CSIS, which excluded “movements like the boogaloo, which includes antigovernment extremists and some white supremacists, among others, who believe in a coming civil war.”
Why exclude the boogaloo? Extremism researcher Kathleen Belew says CSIS is wrong to do so. “This is incorrect in several different ways, and certainly throws off the count.” Find her Twitter thread unpacking CSIS’s findings, here.
Worth emphasizing: All varieties of U.S. “domestic terrorism only accounted for five deaths between January and August,” the Journal notes.
The bigger, more concerning trend is this: “[A]rmed extremists from far-right and far-left groups are confronting one another on the streets of U.S. cities at protests on racial and other social and political issues.” More behind the paywall, here; or check out the CSIS report for yourself, here.
And the threat from U.S. militias during the election? They’re most concerning in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Oregon, according to a new assessment of open-source data published this week by the folks at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. More fully, the authors write, “capitals and peripheral towns, as well as medium-population cities and suburban areas with centralized zones, in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Oregon are at highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period, while North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, California, and New Mexico are at moderate risk.” More to all that, here.
OPSEC alert: “The Police Can Probably Break Into Your Phone,” the New York Times reported Thursday. At least 2,000 different U.S. law enforcement agencies have the ability to access encrypted smart phones, “and they are using them far more than previously known.”
Meanwhile in America’s 19-year-old war: The U.S. is secretly helping the Taliban fight ISIS in Afghanistan, and most of it’s happening via signals intelligence and consequent drone strikes, Wesley Morgan reports in the Washington Post, ahead of the release of his upcoming book on Afghanistan.
Platoon, halt: The Army needs to more closely analyze the impact of its new fitness test more before making it an official evaluation in 2022, Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wrote this week in a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees. The Washington Post’s Missy Ryan reported on the letter Tuesday, and lays out the senator’s reservations, here.
Goldman Sachs will pay $2.9 billion in fines to settle the largest bribery case in U.S. history. The company and its Malaysian subsidiary have “admitted to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with a scheme to pay over $1 billion in bribes to Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials to obtain lucrative business,” the Justice Department announced Thursday. “Goldman Sachs will pay more than $2.9 billion as part of a coordinated resolution with criminal and civil authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and elsewhere.”
So what? DOJ officials customarily couch FCPA enforcement as a national security imperative. Here’s Leslie Caldwell, then-chief of DOJ’s criminal division, in 2014: “There are people who claim that taking aim at foreign bribery puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage in countries where bribery is just business as usual. The threats posed to the United States by international corruption, however, cannot be overlooked. Foremost, corrupt countries are less safe. Corruption thwarts economic development, traps entire populations in poverty, and leaves countries without a credible justice system. Corrupt officials who put their personal enrichment before the benefit of their citizenry create unstable countries. And as we have seen time and again, unstable countries become the breeding grounds and safe havens for terrorist groups and other criminals who threaten the security of the United States.” Read more from Mike Koehler, a law professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law, here.
And lastly this week: Drones are already delivering coffee in Ireland. But you can get other stuff, too — like “eggs and hot food,” according to Irish public media — as long as the total weight of your order is less than two kilograms (or just under four and a half pounds).
Oh, and currently this is only for rural Irish customers, since “The densely populated nature of towns and city centres means they are being ruled out for such deliveries at present.” Read on, here.