Today's D Brief: Ransomware shuts US pipeline; Budget hearing that wasn’t; 85 killed in Afghanistan; Jan. 6 fallout; And a bit more.
Gas prices are rising a bit today after a ransomware attack shut down a major U.S. pipeline system over the weekend. The Colonial Pipeline, which connects Gulf Coast refineries to New York and New Jersey, has been shut since Saturday, the Associated Press reports.
Reuters calls it “one of the most disruptive digital ransom schemes ever reported.” The 5,500-mile pipeline system carries about 45% of the fuel used on the East Coast.
Company officials halted pipeline operations on Saturday to deal with the threat. “It appears to have been carried out by an Eastern European-based criminal gang — DarkSide, according to a U.S. official and another person familiar with the matter,” the Washington Post reported. “Federal officials and the private security firm Mandiant, a division of FireEye, are still investigating the matter, they said.”
“Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society,” the alleged hackers said without specifying a desired amount of money, according to Reuters.
About those gas prices: Gasoline futures have risen a few percent, but so far it’s not clear how much of the rise is due to the attack, how much to the pandemic recovery, and how much to the typical rise this time of year, AP reported.
In unrelated cyber developments, the chief of the Pentagon’s Defense Digital service says he’s stepping down at the end of June, Politico reports this morning.
JEDI update: The Pentagon is considering pulling the plug on its JEDI cloud-computing contract, citing delays from an Amazon lawsuit claiming undue influence from former President Donald Trump. The Wall Street Journal has a bit more; or you can read a bit more from NextGov’s Frank Konkel, here.
From Defense One
At House Hearing, Defense Appropriators Discuss Everything But the Budget // Tara Copp: The Biden administration has yet to submit a 2022 budget request, limiting Congress’ ability to oversee defense spending.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: M&A falls in 2020; Hypersonic planemaker secures factory; GM Defense names new president and more.
Narcissism and National Security // Elisabeth Braw: A century ago, the doings of ordinary citizens barely mattered to national security. Today, they matter a great deal more.
The US Needs to Impose Costs on China for Its Economic Warfare // Annie Fixler and Maj. Jared Thompson: The linchpin of a more effective deterrence is developing a more effective way to hurt the Chinese Communist Party if it will not stop hurting the United States.
America Needs Competitive Intelligence // Itai Shapira: Agencies ought to be thinking about how to bring U.S. capabilities to bear on adversaries’ vulnerabilities, in competition as well as in conflict.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1922, the U.S. annexed Kingman Reef, which is located in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Hawaii and the Samoa Islands.
The Taliban announced a three-day ceasefire to mark the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, capping the holy month of Ramadan. That won’t begin until at least Wednesday. Meantime, a police chief in Logar province was shot dead today, Tolo News reports, and a roadside bomb killed 11 people when it detonated beneath a bus today in the east, according to AP.
85 people were killed — mostly schoolgirls — and 147 were wounded in a series of bombings on Saturday near a girls’ school in Kabul. CNN reports so far no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which hit “a large community of Shiites from the Hazara ethnic minority, which has been targeted in the past by Islamic State, a Sunni militant group.”
Afghanistan’s President met with Pakistan’s army chief and Britain’s military chief today in Kabul. The three discussed “[t]he peace process, Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan, Pakistan’s role in the peace process and [an] end of violence in Afghanistan,” Ghani’s administration announced.
Scenes from a retrograde: Take a look at the U.S. military as it scraps what it can on the way out the door in Bagram Air Base. AP’s Kathy Gannon dropped by and filed this report today.
President Joe Biden with VTC this morning with NATO’s “eastern flank Allies,” the White House says in its public schedule. That will involve what’s known as “the Bucharest Nine,” which includes Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Russian pressure on Ukraine is expected to dominate today’s meeting, which is at least partly why Biden’s message will be one of “closer cooperation with our Allies in Central Europe and the Baltic and Black Sea regions,” the White House says without a great deal of elaboration.
A preview of what’s to come: “The meeting of the nine central and eastern European nations comes ahead of a full NATO summit on June 14 in Brussels, where the alliance has its headquarters,” AP reports from Romania.
Jan. 6 fallout continues this week. Former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller is scheduled to testify Wednesday at a House Oversight Committee hearing titled, “The Capitol Insurrection: Unexplained Delays and Unanswered Questions,” AP reported Friday. That’s just one of four hearings scheduled this week on the Jan. 6 riot.
The first of those hearings happens today on the Hill when the Committee on House Administration assesses the “Capitol Police Threat Assessment and Counter-Surveillance Before and During the Attack.” That’s slated for 3 p.m. ET, and will involve the Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton. Details and livestream link here.
Meanwhile in court, at least a dozen of the rioters are making “dubious claims” regarding their role in the failed insurrection, AP reports separately today. For example, “The most frequent argument is that they can’t be guilty of anything, because police stood by and welcomed them inside, even though the mob pushed past police barriers, sprayed chemical irritants and smashed windows as chaos enveloped the government complex.”
One snapshot of brazen criminality on that day: “Three officers were able to handcuff one rioter,” AP reports. “But a crowd swarmed the group and took the arrested man away with the handcuffs still on.” Read more here.
By the way, DHS employees are now screening Americans’ social media posts in the hopes of stopping a future event like what happened on Jan. 6, NBC News reports this morning.
“We are looking at what narratives are resonating and spreading across platforms,” a senior U.S. official told NBC. “From there you may be able to determine what are the potential targets you need to protect.”
And finally: America’s Army leaders are speaking this afternoon at the Atlantic Council. That means Acting Army Secretary John Whitley and Army Chief James McConville will be available via livestream (on YouTube here) as they discuss the service’s goals “and posture in light of emerging security threats and a potentially difficult budget.” That gets started at 1 p.m. ET. Details here.