Today's D Brief: Awkward in Anchorage; China’s missiles; Face-recognition’s future; Chow halls, rebranded; And a bit more.
It’s getting awkward in Anchorage. U.S. and Chinese officials “clashed” (Reuters) and “sparred” (Associated Press) on Thursday during their first face-to-face meeting since President Joe Biden took office.
Of particular concern to the U.S. delegation, which included Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan: recent “actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, and economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” Blinken said, adding, “That’s why they’re not merely internal matters and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.”
According to China’s delegates, “The Chinese people are wholly rallying around the Communist Party of China,” Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi said. “Our values are the same as the common values of humanity. Those are: peace, development, fairness, justice, freedom, and democracy.”
But things went off the rails shortly after that note of apparent unity. “We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world,” Yang continued in a 15-minute speech that turned into a bit of an uncomfortable finger-pointing session.
“I think the problem is that the United States has exercised long-arm jurisdiction and suppression and overstretched the national security through the use of force or financial hegemony, and this has created obstacles for normal trade activities, and the United States has also been persuading some countries to launch attacks on China,” Yang said.
And regarding cyber attacks believed to have originated in China, Yang had this rather blunt response: “Let me say that whether it’s the ability to launch cyber attacks or the technologies that could be deployed, the United States is the champion in this regard. You can’t blame this problem on somebody else.”
But that was not all. “China urges the U.S. side to fully abandon the hegemonic practice of willfully interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after Yang’s 15-minute retort. “This has been a longstanding issue and it should be changed. It is time for it to change,” he said.
“The international community is following very closely our dialogue for today and tomorrow,” Wang continued. “They’re watching whether our two sides will each demonstrate goodwill and sincerity, and they are watching whether this dialogue will send out a positive signal to the world.”
Said SecState Blinken in reply: “I have to tell you, what I’m hearing is very different from what you described.” He and NSA Sullivan then tried to steer the deliberations toward more shared interests, like space exploration and human rights.
Back stateside, Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse was livid over the Chinese delegation’s reactions Thursday, and his office released the following statement to illustrate that point: “The Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims is not an ‘internal matter.’ It is genocide, and the whole world knows it.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on Hong Kong is not an ‘internal matter,’” said Sasse, who sits on the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence. “It is a broken international commitment reflective of a reckless global power. I have many policy disagreements with the Biden Administration, but every single American should unite against Beijing’s tyrants. Secretary Blinken and National Security Adviser Sullivan were right to say ‘it’s never good to bet against America’ and should continue to hold firm exposing Chairman Xi’s fraudulent lies.”
New: The Chinese government just banned Tesla cars from use by its military, Bloomberg reports, and that ban also applies to other key agencies. Why? Because of “concerns that the data collected by the cars could be a source of national security leaks,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
What possible leaks? A range of activity including “when, how and where the cars are being used, and the contact list of mobile phones that are synced to the cars,” according to the Journal.
For those of us who do not own a Tesla: the “vehicles have eight surround cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and a radar for its autopilot system,” the Journal reports. “The Model 3 and Model Y vehicles also have a camera inside the cabin, installed above the rearview mirror. When enabled, this camera captures a short video clip and shares that with Tesla in the case of an accident” in an effort “to develop safety features.”
Company reax: “Tesla’s privacy protection policy complies with Chinese laws and regulations. Tesla attaches great importance to the protection of users’ privacy,” company officials said. Read a bit more at Reuters.
From Defense One
What Do We Know About China’s Newest Missiles? // Ma Xiu and Peter Singer: Much can be gleaned from open sources, from official announcements to commanders’ online bios.
How SecDef Austin Can Make the Most of His India Visit // Vikram J. Singh and Joe Felter: The defense secretary should pave the way for more and deeper defense trade and technology cooperation.
DARPA Aims to Boost US Manufacturing of Certain Chips // Mila Jasper, Nextgov: Better processes for converting general-purpose chips to specialized ones would pay big dividends, agency says.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. 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 2011, the French, UK and U.S. militaries launched airstrikes against forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, beginning NATO’s military intervention there, which would last nearly eight months and formally ended 11 days after Gaddafi’s death.
The FBI has stepped up its hunt for insurrectionists who assaulted police on Jan. 6. The bureau on Thursday released another tranche of suspects caught on video attacking police during the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building two months ago.
More than 65 of the 300 arrested so far “were arrested for assaulting law enforcement officers,” the FBI said Thursday. “However, some of the most violent offenders have yet to be identified, including the 10 seen assaulting officers in the video footage we are releasing today.”
There are 10 particularly violent people that the bureau is seeking, Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a statement.
“We know it can be a difficult decision to report information about family, friends, or coworkers,” D’Antuono said, “but it is the right thing to do, and the FBI continues to need your help to identify these suspects.” Review the videos of those assaults on police, here.
Related reading: “Some US troops view Capitol riots, racial protests equally, worrying Pentagon leaders,” from McClatchy’s Tara Copp, reporting Thursday.
One more thing: The University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats has updated its analysis of the insurrectionists, and you can find that analysis here. You can also hear our interview with CPOST’s lead researcher, Robert Pape, in our podcast from February here.
U.S., Russia, China, Pakistan urge Afghan parties to accelerate peace talks. Representatives of the four countries met Thursday in Moscow as part of “intensifying international efforts to end fighting ahead of a May 1 deadline for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops,” the Wall Street Journal reported. They “called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to reduce violence and begin discussions on sharing power,” and added that “they would not support the restoration of an Islamic Emirate under the Taliban, and that any peace settlement must protect the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities.” More, here.
NATO says Finland’s five female government leaders have become targets of worrisome “coordinated online harassment.” That’s the topline finding from a new report out of the alliance’s Latvia-based Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.
What’s going on: “The five- most targeted ministers, all female, were overwhelmingly victimised by misogynistic abuse attacking their values, demeaning their decision-making skills, and questioning their leadership abilities,” the report’s authors write. “This virtual vitriol can take many forms: it can be threatening, misogynistic, racist, vulgar, and so on.”
Quick note: Finland is not in NATO, but its military does occasionally exercise with NATO members. Finland does, however, border Russia; and concerns of possible Russian bot activity at least in part motivated this study. But to the authors’ mild surprise, very little evidence was found suggesting bots had driven the online harassment of Finland’s female leaders. It seemed, rather, to have been the uncoordinated work of individuals.
Particularly notable: “over half of abusive messages were sent by anonymous accounts,” and “Anonymity erases accountability online,” the authors write. This anonymity “can have the effect of emboldening users to voice their dissatisfaction with ministers through unfiltered, abusive messages.”
Topics eliciting the most abuse and hate speech: the ongoing pandemic, immigration, Finnish-EU relations, and left-wing politics.
Why this matters: “The targeting of women with gender- based abuse online, particularly women in positions of power, has become a global phenomenon...prevalent even in Finland, a country that ranks among the best in the world in terms of gender parity.” What’s more, harassment of this sort can “have the effect of discouraging participation in public service, particularly among women.”
And, of course, Finland’s not the only nation “navigating the complex relationship between freedom of speech and protection from harmful discourse, as online hate speech and abusive messaging have become increasingly recognised as socio- political issues.”
What to do about it all? At this point, raising awareness and triggering concerned discussion is about the best alliance members can hope for. Or, as the report concludes, “Continuing to shed light on the problem, which lacks comprehensive study, would raise public awareness of the extent of politically motivated abuse online and perhaps lead to creative solutions.” Find the full 71-page report here.
NASA’s next administrator could be the 78-year-old former U.S. senator and space shuttle astronaut Bill Nelson from Florida. The Verge first reported Thursday that President Biden will nominate Nelson to the post in the coming days.
Rewind: “Nelson represented Florida’s Space Coast as a state legislator in the 1970s and championed NASA through his time in Congress,” The Verge writes. “In 1986, he became the second sitting member of Congress to fly to space, riding aboard Space Shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist.”
For a bit more on outgoing NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, CNN has this.
Learn all about the past, present, and possible future of facial recognition technology in an illuminating #LongRead about the company Clearview AI from privacy reporter Kashmir Hill, writing in The New York Times Magazine this weekend.
“After I reported the existence of Clearview AI in January 2020,” Hill tweeted in an elaborating thread Thursday, “the company's world exploded: lawsuits, international investigations, letters from senators.”
One big reason all this matters: “Clearview is still attracting new customers and new funding,” Hill reports, “but it is under siege in Illinois, which has a law that says you can't use people's faceprints without consent.”
Also involved: Peter Thiel of Palantir, and Charles Johnson, who is “a conservative provocateur [that] played a pivotal role and has a stake in the company." What’s more, "After finding out Charles Johnson's contributions to Clearview would be reported in the story, the company amended its corporate filings such that any shareholder who violates ‘confidentiality obligations’ can be bought out at 20 percent of their shares' market value.” Full story here.
Finally this week: “Warrior restaurants” is what the U.S. Army wants soldiers to call the base cafeterias more widely known as “chow halls” and “DFACs,” Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.
What's really going on: The service is “rebranding its dining facilities, modernizing them and upgrading their offerings to prioritize fresh or frozen ingredients over heavily processed foods.”
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll catch you again on Monday!