The D Brief: Facebook’s authoritarian aid; DoD’s AI chief fires back; Al-Shabab, ‘strongest’ in years; Raytheon & vaccines; And a bit more...

Facebook leaders ignored staffers’ Jan. 6 pleas to block incitement, disinformation. “Facebook employees have long understood that their company undermines democratic norms and restraints in America and across the globe,” The Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance writes. “But the events of January 6 proved for many people—including many in Facebook’s workforce—to be a breaking point.”

Thousands of pages of company documents from 2017-21 were recently obtained by The Atlantic and more than a dozen news organizations through former Facebook engineer Frances Haugen, who testified before Congress earlier this month. 

“The documents are astonishing for two reasons,” LaFrance writes. “First, because their sheer volume is unbelievable. And second, because these documents leave little room for doubt about Facebook’s crucial role in advancing the cause of authoritarianism in America and around the world.”

They “show staffers sounding alarms about the dangers posed by the platform—how Facebook amplifies extremism and misinformation, how it incites violence, how it encourages radicalization and political polarization. Again and again, staffers reckon with the ways in which Facebook’s decisions stoke these harms, and they plead with leadership to do more. And again and again, staffers say, Facebook’s leaders ignore them.” Read on, here.

Speaking of Jan. 6: two “planners of the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington” have begun talking with congressional investigators, Rolling Stone reports. One of them told the magazine that Republican lawmakers were involved in planning meetings: “I remember talking to probably close to a dozen other members at one point or another or their staffs.” More, here.


From Defense One

Pentagon AI Chief Responds to USAF Software Leader Who Quit in Frustration // Patrick Tucker: Lt. Gen. Groen concedes culture must change, but says faster development is already on the way.

Raytheon: Vaccine Mandate Will Likely Add to Supply Chain Disruptions // Marcus Weisgerber: But CEO Greg Hayes says his business will boom if everyone would just get the shot.

Taiwan Emerges as a ‘Pre-eminent Issue’ For CIA’s New China Directorate // Patrick Tucker: A takeover might look like Russia’s takeover of Crimea and might be coordinated with the Kremlin.

‘History Will Not Judge Us Kindly’ // Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic: Thousands of pages of internal documents offer the clearest picture yet of how Facebook endangers American democracy—and show that the company’s own employees know it.


Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston, Jennifer Hlad, and Ben Watson. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. OTD 1597: Thirty Korean warships turn back a Japanese invasion flotilla of more than 100 vessels. 

Lawmakers are again assessing America’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan in a hearing that began this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The committee, which has already looked at Afghanistan three separate times over the past five weeks, will head behind closed doors for more sensitive testimony later in the afternoon. 

Today’s witnesses:  Colin Kahl, defense policy undersecretary; and Army Lt. Gen. James Mingus, the Joint Staff’s operations director.

Al-Shabab is the “strongest” it’s been in years, even as the CIA runs kill-or-capture missions against its bomb makers across Somalia. That’s according to the New York Times, which on Sunday published an interesting feature about remote justice, insurgent-controlled logistics, and America’s “decade-old shadow war” in the horn of Africa. 

One curious detail: “In contrast [to U.S. aid to Somalia], Turkey donates less money but spends it on high-profile projects—new roads, mosques and hospitals—that are promoted with the Turkish flag. Turkey is hugely popular in Somalia.” Worth the click, here.

Sudanese military seize power in coup, derailing democratic progress. New York Times: “Sudan’s military and civilian leaders have been sharing power for over two years in a tense, uneasy arrangement negotiated after a popular uprising ousted Sudan’s longtime dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, in 2019. It was supposed to lead to the country’s first free vote in decades. But on Monday, the military shredded that deal, turned on the civilian leadership and declared that it alone would rule.” Read on, here.

The U.S. on Monday cut off $700 million in emergency aid to Sudan in light of the coup, Forbes reports. The payments were meant to “support the country’s democratic transition, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

U.S. troops escaped an Iran-backed attack in Syria last week. Fox reports that roughly 200 U.S. troops boarded C-130s and evacuated the al-Tanf garrison before the arrival of five munitions-laden drones. The troops were tipped off; Fox reports, and “U.S. officials believe Iran authorized and resourced the attack using proxy forces.” A bit more, here.

Black Sea quandary. Loud support for nations in the Black Sea region notwithstanding, the Biden administration “has struggled to articulate how it intends to turn the United States’ alliances into a successful plan for repelling” rising Russian aggression, the Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian reports.Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week traveled to Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine and urged Russia “to end its destabilizing activities in the Black Sea,” yet despite the “great rhetoric…the details aren’t there,” one expert told Demirjian. More, here.

President Joe Biden is dropping in on the annual U.S.-ASEAN Summit today, which is a virtual event and one Biden’s predecessor skipped each year after 2017. 

On POTUS46’s agenda for the day: “the United States’ enduring commitment to ASEAN centrality,” the ongoing pandemic, climate change and economic growth, according to the White House. Reuters has a preview, here.

The State Department is adding a bureau of cyberspace and digital policy to help coordinate things like ransomware responses and negotiations with allies, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. 

Also involved: A “Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large and a new, separate special envoy for critical and emerging technology,” including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Both officials “will report directly to Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman,” the Journal’s Dustin Volz reported. Read on, here.

China sent a classified satellite into orbit on Saturday. Its ostensible purpose is to “test and verify space debris mitigation technologies,” according to state-run Xinhua. However, “The classified nature and lack of transparency regarding the intentions and actors involved in the Shijian-21 mission could spark concern,” SpaceNews reported Sunday: “The same capabilities to rendezvous with and attach to a satellite for refueling and repair could also be used to disable spacecraft of adversaries.” Read on, here.

Lastly today: the Marine Corps explained why troops refusing a vaccine can expect to be kicked out and maybe even owe money, Task and Purpose reported Monday. That, anyway, could be their fate if they can’t produce a viable exemption (or have one pending) by the Navy’s Nov. 28 active duty deadline. Details here.

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