Early Edition: January 13, 2022 | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.

NORTH KOREA

President Biden’s administration has sanctioned eight people linked to North Korea’s weapons programs, following North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The Treasury Department said it was imposing penalties on five North Korean officials for their role in obtaining equipment and technology for North Korea’s missile programs. The State Department followed with measures targeting another North Korean, a Russian man, and a Russian company for their broader support of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction. Amanda Macias reports for CNBC.

The U.S. has also announced that it will seek new U.N. sanctions against North Korea for the country’s recent missile tests. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield tweeted yesterday that “the U.S. is proposing U.N. sanctions following North Korea’s six ballistic missile launches since September 2021, each of which were in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.” AP reports.

MIDDLE EAST

A German court has found Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan guilty of crimes against humanity at a prison in Damascus, and has sentenced him to life in prison. Prosecutors alleged that Raslan directed operations at the Al-Khatib facility in Damascus, where many protesters and others suspected of opposing Syria’s regime were detained. Raslan, a former high-ranking security service officer, was charged with 58 murders as well as rape and sexual assault, and was linked to the torture of 4,000 people between 2011 and 2012 at the prison. Raslan, 58, defected from the Syrian regime in 2012 and claimed asylum in Germany in 2014. Jenny Hill reports for BBC News.

Live updates on the German court’s finding are provided by the New York Times.

A car bomb in the rebel-held city of Azaz in northwest Syria has killed one civilian and wounded several bystanders, witnesses have said. Reuters reports.

The British Council has said that an Iranian employee who was detained and accused of spying by Iran has been released and returned to the U.K. Iran’s Supreme Court acquitted Aras Amiri of all charges following an appeal, the cultural organization said. Amiri was arrested in 2018 while visiting her grandmother. She was convicted of spying by a Revolutionary Court and sentenced to 10 years in prison, a spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary announced in 2019 – a charge that both Amiri and the British Council denied. BBC News reports.

Israel said it has broken up an Iranian spy ring that recruited Israeli women via social media. The women apparently agreed to photograph sensitive sites, gather intelligence and, in at least two cases, to encourage their sons to join Israeli military intelligence. AP reports.

An elderly Palestinian American has died following a brief detention by Israeli troops in a village in the occupied West Bank, prompting the U.S. government to call for an investigation. Omar Asad, aged 80, died of a heart attack after being detained, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement. The Israeli Army said in a statement that a Palestinian man “was apprehended after resisting a check” during an Israeli raid, before later being released alive. However, according to the village council leader, Asad was driving home when he was stopped by Israeli soldiers, pulled from his car, blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to a building site along with four other villagers, where he was later found dead after the soldiers left the area. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.

RUSSIA, UKRAINE

Negotiations with Russia on the Ukraine crisis are continuing today with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a 57-country grouping that helped to foster peace during the Cold War. The meeting will be the first time this week that Kyiv has had a seat at the negotiating table, having not been present at earlier negotiations in Geneva and Brussels. At the start of the meeting, current OSCE chair Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau proposed talks that would address Ukraine and ways to reduce military tensions between Russia and the West. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.

There is little optimism that the OSCE meeting today will reach a breakthrough with Russia, with the U.S. and NATO officials firmly rejecting Russia’s main demand for NATO to commit to not expanding further east. “It seems the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” OSCE’s chair said as he opened the meeting today. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.

Russia and NATO failed to resolve their differences during the NATO-Russia Council talks yesterday. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that significant differences remained with Russia but expressed hope that Moscow would agree to further talks, while Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko noted “a large number of differences on fundamental questions.” James Marson and William Mauldin report for the Wall Street Journal.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has warned Russia that it must choose either diplomacy or confrontation with the West. Speaking after the NATO-Russia talks yesterday, Sherman reiterated that the U.S. and other NATO members would never agree to veto Ukrainian admission. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said NATO could not cherry-pick Moscow’s demands. BBC News reports.

The Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, has said that Kyiv will “prepare for any case,” in a strong warning to Russia about the presence of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border. Eoin McSweeney and Bear Hutchison report for CNN.

Senate Democrats have unveiled legislation aimed at imposing mandatory sanctions on Russia should it invade Ukraine. The Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022 would also call on the State and Defense departments to bolster Ukraine’s defensive capabilities and enhance the delivery of security assistance to Kyiv. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.

OTHER U.S. RELATIONS

More than 100 House Republicans are calling on President Biden’s administration to withdraw from negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. In a letter the lawmakers asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken to instead enforce existing sanctions against Tehran that were imposed after the U.S. withdrew from the deal in 2018. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.

The Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of an American woman who joined the Islamic State (IS) and is seeking re-entry to the United States. Hoda Muthana grew up in Alabama and traveled to Syria to join IS in 2014. While she was abroad, authorities determined Muthana, as the child of a Yemini diplomat in the U.S., was not a U.S. citizen and revoked her passport. BBC News reports.

Federal agencies are warning of the risk of Russian hackers targeting critical infrastructure in the U.S. “The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, FBI and National Security Agency released a joint Cybersecurity Advisory on Tuesday detailing cyber operations sponsored by the Russian state, including commonly used tactics, techniques and procedures,” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS

A large explosion killed at least eight people and injured nine others in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, yesterday, according to the head of an ambulance service. The car explosion occurred just before noon on a road leading to Mogadishu’s international airport. The road also services a major police academy and a compound where United Nations and foreign government staff members and officials live. The bombing is the latest in a string of attacks blamed on the Al Shabab extremist group. Abdi Latif Dahir reports for the New York Times.

El Salvador’s leading news outlet, El Faro has announced that the phones of a majority of its employees had been hacked with Pegasus spyware from Israeli firm NSO Group. “According to Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School and Access Now…the spyware had been installed on the phones of 22 reporters, editors and other employees between July 2020 and November 2021. During that time, El Faro was investigating the Salvadoran government’s clandestine connections to the country’s gangs and corruption scandals,” Maria Abi-Habib reports for the New York Times.

The journalists were among at least 35 people in El Salvador whose iPhones were hacked with Pegasus spyware between July 2020 and November 2021, which also targeted human rights activists and reporters for other news organizations. Some devices were penetrated a dozen or more times, Citizen Lab and other groups also said. Mary Beth Sheridan and Craig Timberg report for the Washington Post.

The Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has begun to pull its troops out of Kazakhstan following its deployment to the country to help quell violent unrest. “Thanks to your arrival, Kazakh military and security forces were able to carry out their immediate task of locating and detaining bandits,” Kazakh Deputy Defence Minister Mukhamedzhan Talasov told CSTO troops at a departure ceremony today.  Reuters reports.

JAN. 6 ATTACK

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has refused a formal request for an interview from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. McCarthy was in close contact with former President Trump before, during, and after the violence, and has fought to shut down any investigation into Jan. 6. The panel said it was particularly interested in conversations that McCarthy had with Trump on the day of the attack. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, has said that the committee has not ruled out the possibility of subpoenaing McCarthy, suggesting that McCarthy is “clearly trying to cover up what happened” on Jan. 6, 2021. “We’re going to evaluate our options, but we will get to the truth,” Cheney told CNN. Morgan Rimmer reports for CNN.

The Jan. 6 committee has broached the possibility of witness tampering in relation to McCarthy. In his letter to McCarthy, Rep. Bennie Thomspon (D-MS), chair of the committee, noted that McCarthy’s view of Trump’s role in the events of Jan. 6 shifted over time, eventually becoming much more favorable to Trump – especially after McCarthy visited the former president on Jan. 28, 2021. The letter then directly asks McCarthy if Trump or his team had any bearing on McCarthy’s change of position. Aaron Blake Washington Post.

The Jan. 6 select committee is weighing whether they have the constitutional right to subpoena other House members, and, if so, if they have an enforcement mechanism that will ultimately lead to cooperation. “Well we are exploring it…And based off a meeting we will have later this week we will have an answer,” said Rep. Bennie Thomspon (D-MS). Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.

Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany sat down yesterday with investigators from the Jan. 6 select committee, following a subpoena from the Committee in November. CBS News reports.

Just Security has published an essay by Justin Hendrix on ‘TheDonald.win and President Trump’s Foreknowledge of the Attack on the Capitol’.

OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has laid out a legislative maneuver that allows the Senate to begin debate on the Democratic party’s elections legislation this week. Schumer’s plan does not “sidestep the main hurdles to passage of the bills, which would still remain subject to the 60-vote filibuster threshold for most legislation in the 50-50 Senate. But it does advance the bills to floor debate, a preliminary step that had been repeatedly blocked last year because of strong Republican opposition,” Siobhan Hughes reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has criticized Biden’s voting rights speech in Atalanta as “incoherent” and “profoundly unpresidential.” BBC News reports.

President Biden’s administration’s lawyers are arguing in federal court that migrant families separated at the border are not entitled to financial damages and their cases should be dismissed, despite Biden saying that the families deserve compensation two months ago. In the government’s first court filing in the lawsuits since settlement negotiations broke down in December, the government lawyers emphasized that they do not condone the former administration’s policy of separating the children of undocumented migrants from their parents, while arguing that the U.S. government is immune from the legal challenges. Maria Sacchetti and Sean Sullivan report for the Washington Post.

A former girlfriend of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) testified yesterday before a federal grand jury scrutinizing whether Gaetz broke sex trafficking laws, according to sources. The woman, a former Capitol Hill staffer, has been linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017 – a period of time when Gaetz has been accused of having sexual contact with another woman who was 17 years old at the time. David Shortell, Paula Reid and John Couwels report for CNN.

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected more than 63.20 million people and has now killed over 844,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been more than 317.25 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.51 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.





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