Today's D Brief: Continuous vetting for US troops?; US weapons for sale in Kandahar; CIA's security problem; And a bit more.
All troops, DoD employees now subject to “continuous vetting.” The new system will raise flags when new information arrives that might affect an individual’s security clearance, such as being arrested, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports.
A decade in the making. In 2011, the Obama administration issued an executive order to improve the security-clearance process, which featured an initial investigation but little followup for five or more years. A decade later, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency has announced that various pilot efforts now cover all department personnel.
Social-media monitoring may be next. Screening troops’ and DOD employees’ social-media posts for extremist views or behavior will become part of the vetting, said William K. Lietzau, who has led the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency since March 2020. Lietzau said several pilot programs are intended to help determine how useful it might be to track social-media activity in various ways.
The announcement comes amid efforts to grapple with extremism in the ranks. Read on, here.
From Defense One
Pentagon Begins ‘Continuous Vetting’ of All Troops for Insider Threats, Extremism; Social Media May Come Next // Patrick Tucker: Automatic alerts will flag records or activities of concern among all Defense Department personnel.
The 9/11 Commission Said National Security Vacancies Were A Problem. Biden’s Pentagon Is ‘Far Worse’ // Jacqueline Feldscher: The Senate is “falling far behind” as Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees consider 14 nominees this week.
America’s First Exascale Supercomputer Is ‘On Track’ for 2021 Deployment // Brandi Vincent: Next-gen systems like Oak Ridge's latest are expected to drive unprecedented innovation.
More Than Just Subs: AUKUS Will Change Pacific Air Ops as Well // Col. Douglas D. Jackson, Council on Foreign Relations: For example, U.S. air forces will be able to practice and refine the burgeoning agile combat employment, or ACE, concept.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Brad Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1945, Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Dwight Eisenhower arrived at The Hague after traveling from Frankfurt in what used to be Hitler’s train.
Raytheon’s CEO will join other business leaders in a visit to the White House this afternoon as concerns over the U.S. economy grow increasingly urgent while Republican lawmakers shun compromise during debt ceiling talks with Democrats, hoping to pin future economic pain on their opposition (despite the circumstances largely stemming from Trump-era spending and tax cuts).
Also attending: CEOs of Nasdaq, J.P. Morgan, Intel, Citibank, Bank of America and more.
Meanwhile across the Potomac, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosts his Polish counterpart, Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak, at the Pentagon around 1:30 p.m. ET.
The former chief of Britain’s Royal Marines was found dead Saturday of a suspected suicide, the Independent reported Monday. His name is Maj. Gen. Matthew Holmes, age 54, and just this past April, “he left his role as Commandant General half-way through what is usually a three-year position,” the Independent writes.
For the record, “His death is not being treated as suspicious, but the cause is unknown.” However, according to The Times, Holmes “had talked to colleagues about how he was struggling to cope with the withdrawal from Afghanistan in the weeks before he committed suicide.” Some UK veterans are hoping the tragic events will help reduce the stigma of talking about mental health issues. Read more, here; or read a remembrance of Holmes at the BBC, here.
By the way: The British sent a delegation to Kabul to speak with Taliban officials on Tuesday. The officials reportedly chatted about “humanitarian aid, Afghanistan’s frozen assets and the economic situation” across the country. Tolo News has a bit more, here.
- For your eyes only: “In the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Signs of a Return to Hard-line Islamic Rule,” via Sune Engel Rasmussen and the Wall Street Journal’s video production team.
For sale on the streets of Kandahar: “American-made pistols, rifles, grenades, binoculars and night-vision goggles,” the New York Times reported Tuesday. Perhaps unsurprisingly, several “soldiers and police sold their weapons and ammunition before they negotiated their surrenders,” especially since a single Beretta M9 could fetch about $1,200, which is “far more than a soldier’s monthly salary.” Otherwise, “American M4 carbines sell for about $4,000, the dealers said, especially if equipped with a laser sight or under-barrel grenade launcher...Pistols that NATO forces supplied to Afghan police officers sell for about $350.” More here.
CIA informants around the world are being killed or captured at alarming rates, the New York Times’ Julian Barnes and Adam Goldman reported Tuesday after an agency-wide alert flagged the escalated security threat last week. In short, “The cable reminded C.I.A. case officers to focus not just on recruiting sources, but also on security issues including vetting informants and evading adversarial intelligence services.”
Why now? For one thing, “Artificial intelligence, biometric scans, facial recognition and other technology has made it far easier for governments to track American intelligence officers operating in their country,” Barnes and Goldman write. “That has made meeting and communicating with sources far more difficult.” But in other known instances, breaches have developed across the CIA’s network of informants in both China and Iran. Read on, here.
Taiwan’s leaders sound increasingly concerned about a possible invasion by China. The latest headline comes from its defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, who estimates Beijing could pull off “a full-blown attack on Taiwan with minimal losses by 2025,” according to the Wall Street Journal reporting today from Taipei.
“It is capable now, but it has to calculate what it would cost, and what kind of outcome it would achieve,”Chiu said. But after 2025, “it would have lowered the cost and losses to a minimum.” Read on, here.
Related reading: “Taiwan and the Fight for Democracy: A Force for Good in the Changing International Order,” via President Tsai Ing-wen, writing in Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.
Meet Russia’s new quietly effective global influencer, Maxim Shugaley. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Malsin and Thomas Grove profiled Shugaley — a sociologist and noted ally of “Putin’s chef,” Yevgeniy Prigozhin, financier behind Wagner mercenaries’ work in places like Syria, Ukraine, Libya, and several other places across Africa.
Why does this guy matter? For one thing, he recently spent a week in Afghanistan for discussions with top Taliban officials. But more broadly, like Wagner operatives, his “unusual career path...provides an insight into how Moscow seeks to make friends and influence governments in places where America’s sway is fading,” Malsin and Grove write. Together with Prigozhin, “they form one of most effective pairings of freelancers advancing Mr. Putin’s strategic foreign-policy objectives.”
Bonus trivia: “He was imprisoned in Tripoli for over a year on espionage charges during a sojourn there and became the subject of an action movie, ‘Shugaley,’ that premiered on Russian television while he was locked up.” Read on, here.
The U.S. saw its largest year-over-year homicide spike “in modern history” in 2020, CNN reports off new metrics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 30% jump from 2019 to 2020 “confirms through public health data a rise in homicides that so far had been identified only through crime statistics,” More behind that, here.
Related reading: “Threats against members of Congress are skyrocketing. It’s changing the job,” via the LA Times’ Sarah Wire, reporting on Sept. 20.
ICYMI: Robots are now patrolling the streets of Singapore, where they’re reportedly warning people of “undesirable behavior,” according to CBS News.
And lastly today: Idaho’s lieutenant governor tried and failed to order National Guard to the Mexico border, the Associated Press reported Tuesday — while fellow Republican Gov. Brad Little was out of state, effectively putting his lieutenant in charge until his return.
The message to the Idaho Guard: “As of Wednesday, my constitutional authority as Governor affords me the power of activating the Idaho National Guard,” Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin told Idaho Guard Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak in a letter Tuesday. “As the Adjutant General, I am requesting information from you on the steps needed for the Governor to activate the National Guard.”
The Guard’s response: We are not a law enforcement agency.
The governor’s response: This was not coordinated with me in any way, Gov. Little essentially tweeted Tuesday in his own message of dissent from McGeachin. Read more at AP, here.
NEXT STORY: Active-Duty Suicide Rate Hit Record High in 2020