Today's D Brief: US COVID deaths pass half a million; Sailors to retake oath; Flightline breaches; And a bit more.
U.S. Navy sailors will re-affirm their oath to the Constitution during an upcoming anti-extremism stand-down. They will also "discuss what actions betray that promise during the virtual or in-person learning sessions that must be held by April 6,” Military.com reports. The Navy is the first service to reveal how it will handle the stand-downs ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, in which dozens of veterans and service members were arrested.
One idea: Educate every servicemember about the Constitution at various points in their career. “We can’t assume they know enough about what they’re swearing to support and defend,” writes retired Air Force one-star-turned-SAIS prof Paula Thornhill. She lays out five ways to do so in a Defense One oped.
How can we undermine extremists? There are a number of tested approaches and framing techniques available, and WNYC’s “On the Media” podcast reviewed several of them in the newest episode entitled “No Silver Bullets.”
About that episode title: Here’s what New America’s Peter Singer told us on pretty much the very same topic during an interview for our recent podcast on the future of tech policy: “Just like traditional cybersecurity, just like public health, there is no one silver bullet solution” to online extremist messaging of the sort that fed the Jan. 6 attack. “There's no silver bullet, there's no one action to take; there's a wide variety of actions to take. And that's why we need an overall strategy for it. But there's also not going to be a solution. As long as we have the internet, as long as we have people, there will be attacks online, there will be attempts to shape what people think, [and] how they behave. And so what you're really after is risk management — ‘How do I drive down the number and the success rate and the severity of those attacks?’”
BTW: The Senate this morning is probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Both the Homeland Security Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration are looking into the events of that day. The hearing started at 10 a.m. ET. Catch a livestream at either of the committee links above.
Later today on Capitol Hill: “Emerging Technologies and Their Impact on National Security.” Microsoft’s CEO Brad Smith, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt (who has released his written testimony), and retired four-star Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle (now President and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association) are testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. That started at 9:30 a.m. ET. Catch the livestream here.
Today in public Pentagon leaders: Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, headlines a digital event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The theme: “Missile Defense and Defeat: A Conversation with the Vice Chairman.” That’s scheduled for 3 p.m. ET. Details and registration here.
Update: More than 500,000 people have died of COVID in the United States so far. President Biden marked their passing with a moment of silence on the White House steps. The New York Times has published a timeline of deaths since the first one on Feb. 29, 2020.
From Defense One
How China’s Digital Silk Road Is Leading Countries Away from the United States // Patrick Tucker: Beijing is using technology products, markets, and training to secure influence with U.S. security partners, a IISS report finds.
The Biden Administration Is Taking Steps to Stay in Iraq Forever // Bonnie Kristian: A recent UN briefing reveals expansive goals for the U.S. war effort.
The One Area Where the US COVID-19 Strategy Seems to Be Working // Olga Khazan, The Atlantic: By spending lots of money and not worrying about liability, America is beating Europe in the vaccine race.
The Border Mess That Trump Left Behind // Juliette Kayyem, The Atlantic: Reversing the previous administration’s cruelties isn’t the same as an unconditional welcome.
Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1954, school children at Pittsburgh’s Arsenal Elementary School were the first to be inoculated against polio with the Salk vaccine.
Remember when that guy broke into the flightline at Joint Base Andrews and boarded a plane back on Feb. 4? Similar events have happened at Air National Guard bases at least 13 times already this year, which is about one incident every four days, Air Force Magazine reported Monday.
Speaking of base security: Saudi Arabia is being sued by the surviving family members of three U.S. sailors who were killed by a Saudi Air Force trainee at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Dec. 2019. “The complaint, which was filed on Monday in a federal court in the city of Pensacola, alleged that Saudi Arabia had known about the gunman being radicalized and that it could have prevented the killings,” Reuters reports.
House lawmakers will turn their attention to the so-called Solar Winds data breach publicly discovered in December. The House Committees on Oversight and Reform and Homeland Security will hold a joint hearing Friday morning “examining recent cybersecurity incidents affecting government and private sector networks, including the supply chain attack targeting SolarWinds Orion Software and other cyberattacks,” the two committees announced Monday.
Related reading, from Andy Greenberg at WIRED, reporting Monday about on intrusion that involved Lockheed Martin network monitoring: “China Hijacked an NSA Hacking Tool in 2014—and Used It for Years”
Bad robot productions. Some artists have pissed off the company behind the robotic dogs we’ve seen doing human-like things in web videos for the past couple years. The robot in question is affectionately known as “Spot,” and the public relations team from its makers at Boston Dynamics alerted the world to a controversial art project that sort of launched on Monday — but the real show is scheduled for today at 1 p.m. ET.
What’s going on: A few artists pooled their funds to buy a Spot (for about $74,500) and dress it up with a .68-caliber paintball gun. But then they wired Spot in such a way that internet users (via this webpage) can take randomized turns controlling the robot for a few minutes as it roams through a room filled with objects to shoot.
Why? “Spot is an empathy missile, shaped like man’s best friend and targeted straight at our fight or flight instinct,” the artists write on their site, adding wryly, “When killer robots come to America they will be wrapped in fur, carrying a ball.”
Said one of the artists in an email to The D Brief: “This is performance art and we want people to really think about it.”
If this bad robot idea seems a little familiar — e.g., like the ones in that terrifying 2011 “Black Mirror” episode — we thought so, too. Read more from the artists’ “manifesto,” and/or participate in the randomized lottery this afternoon (cell phone required), here.
Lastly today: It wasn’t all that long ago that the Swedish military believed Russian nuclear submarines began swarming their waters ahead of an invasion. (Spoiler alert) With hindsight as our guide now, we know that the Swedes were actually detecting the sounds of fish farting. But don’t quit on this Cold War tech tale just yet, because this “is actually a story about military intelligence and culture,” tweeted Grant Gordon of the International Rescue Committee. Get the rest of the story from WNYC’s “Radiolab” podcast, here.