Today's D Brief: Capitol security, in review; Podcasters and the 'Big Lie'; North Korean rocket; New Navy first; And a bit more.
Is Capitol Hill a safer place than it was one year ago? Lawmakers are looking into that and related questions about the future of the U.S. Capitol Police in a hearing this morning before the Senate’s Rules and Administration Committee. Police Chief J. Thomas Manger has been called to testify for the high-profile event, which is one of very few scheduled this week on Capitol Hill. Testimony began at 9:30 a.m. ET; catch the livestream here.
New analysis: “Prominent political podcasters played [a] key role in spreading the ‘Big Lie,’” Valerie Wirtschafter and Chris Meserole of the Brookings Institution reported Tuesday after months of reading through thousands of transcripts.
What they found: A last-minute surge of lies and carnival barking. Starting in August, more than a quarter of the top political podcasts promoted what Brookings calls “misleading electoral narratives.” But that rate rose substantially between November 3 and January 6. According to Wirtschafter and Meserole, “Podcasts that endorsed false narratives most frequently—such as The Sean Hannity Show, The Rush Limbaugh Show, and Steve Bannon’s War Room—were also those that produced the largest total number of post-election episodes. The trend is in keeping with Bannon’s stated Trump-era media strategy of ‘flooding the zone’ with inflammatory information, real or fabricated.”
Why this matters: For starters, podcasting has blown up as a medium over the past several years, with Apple and Spotify together claiming to reach more than 50 million Americans. But perhaps more urgently, “just one-third of all Republicans say they will trust the outcome of the 2024 presidential election results regardless of who wins,” Brookings’ Wirtschafter and Meserole warn, citing an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from November. “Without a better understanding of how the ‘Big Lie’ spread so widely in the weeks and months after last November’s election, similarly false narratives are likely to plague future elections as well, with dire consequences for American democracy.” Read over the full report from Brookings, here.
From Defense One
Facebook Hosted Surge of Misinformation and Insurrection Threats in Months Leading Up to Jan. 6 Attack, Records Show // Jeff Kao, Jeremy B. Merrill, Craig Silverman, and Craig Timberg, ProPublica: A ProPublica/Washington Post analysis of Facebook posts, internal company documents and interviews, provides the clearest evidence yet that the social media giant played a critical role in spreading lies that fomented the violence of Jan. 6.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson, with Jennifer Hlad and Caitlin Kenney. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here.
North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Wednesday, which was Pyongyang’s first such test in about two months, the Associated Press reports from Seoul.
Said Japan’s foreign minister: “We find it truly regrettable that North Korea has continued to fire missiles since last year.”
Said China’s FM spox: “All parties concerned should keep in mind the big picture [and] be cautious with their words and actions.”
For what it’s worth, the missile was launched “from the northern province of Jagang where [North Korea] claimed to have fired a hypersonic missile in September last year,” South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reports.
BTW: Japan’s military said Tuesday that it’s developing railguns designed to intercept hypersonic missiles. Nikkei Asia has more, here.
Panning out: Former diplomat and retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris has ideas about the way ahead for U.S.-North Korea relations. In short, “Dialogue and military readiness must go hand in hand,” he said at a Washington Times webinar on Tuesday. “Idealism must be rooted in realism,” he added. Yonhap has more here.
A new first for the U.S. Navy. The USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) returned to sea on Monday—bound for the Western Pacific—under the command of one Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, who is now the first woman to lead a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier while deployed, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Also aboard CVN-72: The first carrier deployment of a Marine Corps F-35C squadron (Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314).
And one more first: “The crew of the Lincoln, its air wing, and the crews of other ships in the battle group are 100 percent vaccinated,” the Union-Tribune reports, with Bauernschmidt saying that that’s “unlike previous carrier deployments.” A bit more, here.
The U.S. military struck several sites in Syria on Tuesday that the Pentagon says were used to launch rockets at American forces in the region.
Pentagon spox John Kirby: “One of the reasons these sites were hit was we had reason to believe that they were going to be used as launch sites for attacks on Green Village.” AP’s Robert Burns notes that the Green Village is located “just east of the Euphrates River [and] is an installation used by some of the several hundred U.S. forces in [eastern] Syria.” More from AP, here; and CNN, here. The BBC's Nafiseh Kohnavard has supporting imagery, here.
Related reading: “Katyusha rocket hits military base at Baghdad airport,” AP reports separately from Baghdad today, where no one seems to have been harmed in the attack.
This week in unsettling stateside trends: “The number of children and teenagers killed by gunfire has risen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic,” the New York Times reports in a special feature.
The 30,000-ft view: “Researchers describe the increase as a fatal consequence of rising nationwide homicide rates, untreated traumas of Covid-19, and a surge of pandemic gun-buying that is putting more children into close contact with guns—both as victims and shooters.”
At ground level, “Toddlers are discovering guns under piles of clothes and between couch cushions,” the Times’ Jack Healy reports, and notes that much of the violence is happening in bigger cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and Milwaukee. More here.
Nearly three dozen U.S. sailors refusing a COVID vaccine have won at least a temporary legal reprieve on Monday when a federal judge blocked (PDF) the Defense Department from punishing them over what they insist is an issue of religious freedom—under the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the Constitution, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“There is no Covid-19 exception to the First Amendment,” Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas wrote in his decision, adding, “There is no military exclusion from our Constitution.”
Bigger picture: More than 99% of active-duty sailors are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
A note on procedure: “The Defense Department's vaccine rules have been targeted by other lawsuits, but, before Monday’s ruling, none of those lawsuits had been successful in securing preliminary orders loosening the requirements,” CNN reports.
Up next: A likely appeal from the White House, Axios predicts. University of Texas national security law professor Steve Vladeck has thoughts on the case, which you can review in a short Twitter thread here.
Related reading: “Almost 50 Republicans back Navy SEAL lawsuit over vaccine mandate,” via Politico, reporting Dec. 20.
And lastly today: U.S. authorities arrested a man they say was involved in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise back in July. A former officer in the Colombian military, Mario Palacios, was charged with being part of the five-person group that killed Moise in his bedroom. He made his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Miami, Reuters reported Tuesday.
According to AP, he voluntarily told U.S. authorities that “the initial plan was for co-conspirators to don black hoodies, capture Moïse at the airport in June and take him away by plane.” Palacios says he didn’t learn about the plan to kill Moise until one day before the operation.
Now what? Palacios is back in court on Jan. 31, when his lawyer expects to enter a not-guilty plea. More at AP, here.