Today's D Brief: ‘The most secure’ election; Syria ‘shell games’; China’s new joint ops doctrine; And a bit more.
“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” according to a joint statement Thursday from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, both of which are part of the Department of Homeland Security.
CISA’s statement continues: “Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double-checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result…There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Why that matters: Just hours earlier, President Donald Trump repeated a baseless claim on Twitter that a voting machine system “deleted 2.7 million Trump votes nationwide.” The subsequent statement from CISA “amounted to a remarkable corrective to a wave of disinformation that Mr. Trump has been pushing across his Twitter feed,” the New York Times writes.
Big picture, presently: “Trump Cries Election Fraud. In Court, His Lawyers Don’t,” is how the Wall Street Journal brings us up to speed on related legal issues this morning.
On the danger of energizing lies: Much of America’s election misinformation is spread across social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports. And both of those platforms “have upped their efforts to stem the flow but remain overmatched by users’ determination to spread it.”
The growing problem: “[I]n recent weeks, half or more of the most shared posts on Facebook have been from high-follower sources and users with a record of posting false or misleading information,” Tucker writes. “That presents Facebook with a growing dilemma.”
One sobering forecast: Some of the recent false narratives about vote tampering in the U.S. “will probably persist for years or even decades, unfortunately, because people are motivated to both participate in them and believe them,” said Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory Policy Center, during a webcast on the topic Tuesday. More here.
By the way: President-elect Joe Biden now leads Trump by more than 5 million votes, and the New York Times called the Arizona race for Biden on Thursday. (CNN made the same call Thursday, too.) And that would give Biden 290 electoral votes, which is well above the 270 needed to secure the presidency. More from the Times, here.
As for Trump, “He knows it’s over,” an advisor told the NYT’s Maggie Haberman on Thursday. Adds Haberman, “Trump is simply trying to survive from one news cycle to the next, seeing how far he can push his case against his defeat and ensure the continued support of his Republican base. By dominating the story of his exit from the White House, he hopes to keep his millions of supporters energized and engaged for whatever comes next.” Full story, here.
From Defense One
Outgoing Syria Envoy Admits Hiding US Troop Numbers; Praises Trump’s Mideast Record // Katie Bo Williams: ‘We were always playing shell games,’ says Amb. Jim Jeffrey, who also gives advice to President-elect Biden.
Myths About Vote Tampering Could Persist For Years, Say Experts // Patrick Tucker: The huge follower counts of dedicated misinformers appears to outweigh efforts by journalists, government officials, and the social media platforms themselves.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Stocks rise on Biden, vaccine news; Transition team named; Trump sacks defense leaders; and more....
A Nuclear Strike Should Require More than One Person’s Order // Steven Pifer: We should require a second voice when it comes to ordering first use of nuclear arms.
Pentagon Expands 5G Efforts as Lawmakers Raise Eyebrows // Mila Jasper, Nextgov: The Pentagon's acquisition chief said DOD will also release guidance on securing the microelectronics supply chain.
Most States Aren’t Ready to Distribute the Leading COVID-19 Vaccine // Isaac Arnsdorf, Ryan Gabrielson, and Caroline Chen, ProPublica: State officials don’t know how they’ll deal with difficult storage and transport requirements, especially in rural areas seeing a spike in infections.
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 2015, Islamic extremists carried out a series of complex attacks in Paris that eventually killed 130 people in Europe’s deadliest night of violence since the Second World War.
The coronavirus pandemic is “washing over every part of the nation,” the New York Times reports as the U.S. is breaking records for daily hospitalizations and new infections. The Daily Beast calls the current trends “previously unthinkable,” though the U.S. — like the rest of the world by now — has had several months to prepare.
Parts of Maryland are mandating mask-wearing while outdoors (except for those five years old and younger), which is a decision reportedly raising fear among business owners about staying afloat amid a dangerous new surge nationwide. In addition, “Gathering sizes will also be limited to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors, or one person or household per 200 square feet,” according to NBC4 out of Washington, D.C.
Russian forces off Alaska. “Russia has escalated its provocative encounters in the North Pacific this year, harassing boats in U.S. fishing waters and sending bombers toward Alaska’s shores,” the New York Times reports from Anchorage.
In the Bering Sea, “the surprise was how aggressive they got on our side of the maritime boundary line,” said Rear Adm. Matthew T. Bell Jr., the commander of the Coast Guard district that oversees Alaska.
Post-Cold War high? “In the air, U.S. jets in Alaska typically scramble to intercept about a half-dozen approaching Russian aircraft a year, outliers on the long-range nuclear bomber patrols that Russia resumed in 2007. But this year that number has risen to 14 — on pace to set a record since the Cold War era.” Read, here.
China reveals new joint operational doctrine. Dubbed “Outline of Joint Operations for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (Trial),” it’s the PLA’s first major doctrine update since 1999, and just its fifth overall, writes M. Taylor Fravel, who runs the MIT Security Studies Program and is the author of Active Defense: China's Military Strategy since 1949.
Several things can be gleaned, though the doctrine is classified and will in all likelihood remain so, Fravel writes:
- It is likely an indication that the PLA believes its sweeping reforms since 2015 have met success.
- It is a framework for new regulations for the individual service branches. “The ‘fourth generation’ of operational doctrine included 89 regulations. The "new era" doctrine will likely include even more.”
- A new doctrinal flexibility is suggested by the “trial” in the title. The PLA “may also abandon the focus on ‘generations’ of doctrine.”
- “The new joint operations outline also codifies the shift from campaigns (战役) to operations (作战) as the unit of analysis for China's operational doctrine, indicating a more nimble and refined approach to the use of force.” Thread, here.
Trump forbids U.S. investment in 31 Chinese military-linked firms. In the first major policy move since losing the election, the Trump administration on Thursday “unveiled an executive order prohibiting U.S. investments in Chinese companies that Washington says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military,” AP reports.
“The impact of Thursday’s order wasn’t immediately clear but it could add to pressure on companies including telecom equipment giant Huawei and video surveillance provider Hikvision that already face U.S. export bans and other sanctions.” Reuters has a bit more as well.
Also: China became one of the last major countries to congratulate U.S. President-elect Biden, AP reports.
Remember President Trump’s effort to ban the Chinese-owned app, TikTok? The U.S. Commerce Department backed down from that threat on Thursday as it works through its appeal of a recent judge’s order, the Wall Street Journal reported. Why? In large part because, in a preliminary injunction issued in October, that judge declared that the Trump administration's attempt to ban the app “likely exceeds the government’s authority under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the law the Trump administration has relied on to take action against TikTok,” the Journal reports. More here.
China’s foreign ministry hits back at SecState Pompeo over his Thursday remarks about Taiwan, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin saying today, “We solemnly tell Pompeo and his ilk, that any behaviour that undermines China’s core interests and interferes with China’s domestic affairs will be met with a resolute counterattack by China.” Wenbin did not explain further.
The trigger from Pompeo: “Taiwan has not been a part of China,” he said as a Thursday guest on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. “And that was recognised with the work that the Reagan administration did to lay out the policies that the United States has adhered to now for three-and-a-half decades.”
Taiwan foreign ministry piped up after Pompeo on Thursday, too: “The Republic of China on Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country, and not part of the People’s Republic of China,” said spokeswoman Joanne Ou, adding, “This is a fact and the current situation.”
Worth noting: “Taiwan officials will travel to Washington next week for economic talks, which have also annoyed Beijing,” Reuters reports. More, here. Or find a transcript of Pompeo’s interview at the State Department, here.
SecState Pompeo is leaving today for a seven-nation trip to Europe and the Middle East. And the secretary — who earlier this week made headlines for a Trump-like refusal to concede State Department resources to the Biden transition team — is headed to countries “where leaders have all congratulated former vice president Joe Biden for his victory,” AP’s Matt Lee reports in a preview. Those stops include France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. More from AP, here.
At least twice since July, the U.S. military has flown an ailing Middle East leader to America for medical treatment. The latest to receive care stateside was Bahrain’s late Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 84.
How the transit happened: “On Sept. 18, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III ‘flying hospital’ took off from Germany and landed in Rochester, Minnesota, the home of the flagship campus of the Mayo Clinic,” AP reports. And that “flying hospital” was then “followed to Rochester by a Boeing 767 owned by Bahrain’s royal family.”
The last time something like this happened was late July when Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, 91, was flown to Germany’s Ramstein Air Base before eventually stopping stateside at Rochester, Minn. That trip followed an unspecified surgery in Kuwait, according to AP. He later passed away on Sept. 29. More from that July U.S. Air Force transit, here.
The French military says it killed another al-Qaida-linked commander in Mali, Stars and Stripes reports. His name: Bah ag Moussa, and he was reported a “military chief for the RVIM Islamic extremist group,” which “was believed responsible for multiple attacks on Malian and international forces in the country,” a French military official said today.
FWIW: “The Malian army accused him of orchestrating attacks against Malian forces in Diabaly, Nampala and Dioura that killed dozens of troops.” More here.
Back stateside, there’s a new vehicle some Florida police departments want, and it’s basically a dramatically up-armored skid-steer loader (aka “Bobcat”). See an image of it via Jada Williams of ABC27 out of Tallahassee, via Twitter, here.
See for yourself: Trump’s border wall is, in places, a very porous thing. Catch that via video flagged by the Washington Post’s DHS reporter, Nick Miroff, also via Twitter, here.
And finally this week: Some levity from the satirists at the Duffel Blog, who joked Wednesday, “Defense Secretary Mark Esper has told his staff he won’t leave the Pentagon until he figures out the USAJOBS website.”
Said a nameless aide to the former secretary: “Esper is quickly learning that the stress of being in charge of the world’s most powerful military is nothing compared to overcoming the challenge, confusion, and headaches involved with navigating USAJOBS.” A little bit more, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!