Biden Chooses Antony Blinken, Defender of Global Alliances, as Secretary of State

Formerly the State Department’s No. 2, Mr. Blinken is expected to re-establish the United States as a trusted ally ready to rejoin global agreements and court multilateral efforts to confront China.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #blinken-antony-j, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #national-security-council, #presidential-election-of-2020, #senate-committee-on-foreign-relations, #september-11-2001, #state-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations

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Here’s How Trump’s Stalling Risks Our National Security

I’ve seen my share of presidential transitions. The administration hurts the country by not cooperating with President-elect Biden.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #flynn-michael-t, #national-security-council, #presidential-election-of-2020, #presidential-transition-us, #trump-donald-j

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Who Are the Senior Officials at the Pentagon and the N.S.A?

The arrival of the new officials has prompted concerns. Their backgrounds offer insights into their policies.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #bolton-john-r, #central-intelligence-agency, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #cohen-watnick-ezra, #defense-department, #house-committee-on-intelligence, #miller-christopher-c-1965, #national-security-agency, #national-security-council, #nunes-devin-g, #patel-kashyap, #presidential-election-of-2020, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #tata-anthony-j, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-special-operations-command

0

A Biden Win Could Renew a Democratic Split on Trade

Democrats have been unified by their desire to oust President Trump. But if that happens, deep divisions on the issue of trade are likely to reappear.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #commerce-department, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #federal-trade-commission, #international-trade-and-world-market, #national-security-council, #north-american-free-trade-agreement, #organized-labor, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trans-pacific-partnership, #united-states-international-relations, #world-trade-organization

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Trump’s Sanctions on International Court May Do Little Beyond Alienating Allies

Critics say the administration has targeted a human rights lawyer with economic penalties meant for warlords, dictators and authoritarian governments.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #assad-bashar-al, #bensouda-fatou, #bolton-john-r, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #european-union, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #international-criminal-court, #khashoggi-jamal, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #national-security-council, #netanyahu-benjamin, #palestinian-authority, #pompeo-mike, #trump-donald-j, #united-nations, #united-states-international-relations, #war-crimes-genocide-and-crimes-against-humanity

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Russia Can Interfere Only if We Let It

Moscow’s operatives did not invent our crude tribal politics; they just exploited them.

#bolton-john-r, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #internet-research-agency-russia, #mcmaster-h-r, #national-security-council, #presidential-election-of-2016, #presidential-election-of-2020, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

A White House Long in Denial Confronts Reality

The infections were a byproduct, former aides said, of the recklessness and top-down culture of fear that President Trump created at the White House and throughout his administration.

#mason-jeff-journalist, #mcenany-kayleigh, #national-security-council, #stepien-bill, #trump-coronavirus-positive-result, #trump-donald-j

0

Trump Has Sold Off America’s Credibility for His Personal Gain

From China to Ukraine, this president has acted at odds with American foreign policy. Imagine what he could do with four more years.

#china, #kyiv-ukraine, #national-security-council, #presidential-election-of-2020, #putin-vladimir-v, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #ukraine, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vindman-alexander-s

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White House Accused of Intervening to Keep Bolton’s Book From Becoming Public

A career official said political appointees “commandeered” the prepublication review process.

#bolton-john-r, #books-and-literature, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #justice-department, #knight-ellen, #manuscripts, #national-archives-and-records-administration, #national-security-council, #the-room-where-it-happened-a-white-house-memoir-book, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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U.S.-Russia Military Tensions Intensify in the Air and on the Ground Worldwide

Recent altercations in Europe, the Middle East and off the coast of Alaska have heightened tensions between the two rival powers.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #central-intelligence-agency, #defense-department, #gerasimov-valery-v, #joint-chiefs-of-staff, #milley-mark-a, #national-security-council, #north-american-aerospace-defense-command, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #pompeo-mike, #putin-vladimir-v, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-air-force, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces

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U.S. Will Revive Global Virus-Hunting Effort Ended Last Year

A federal agency is resurrecting a version of Predict, a scientific network that for a decade watched for new pathogens dangerous to humans. Joe Biden has also vowed to fund the effort.

#africa, #avian-influenza, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #bolton-john-r, #carroll-dennis-public-health-adviser, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #disease-rates, #ebola-virus, #ecohealth-alliance, #epidemic-intelligence-service, #epidemics, #fauci-anthony-s, #frieden-thomas-r, #livestock-diseases, #national-security-council, #presidents-malaria-initiative, #presidential-election-of-2020, #republican-party, #state-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-agency-for-international-development, #united-states-politics-and-government, #wuhan-china, #ziemer-r-timothy

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Brother of Impeachment Witness Says His Firing Was a Whistle-Blower Reprisal

Yevgeny Vindman, Alexander S. Vindman’s brother, says he was fired in retaliation for his role in the impeachment inquiry and for raising ethics and legal concerns about the national security adviser.

#ethics-and-official-misconduct, #national-security-council, #obrien-robert-c-1952, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #vindman-alexander-s, #vindman-yevgeny, #whistle-blowers

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Trump Administration Plans Arms Sale to U.A.E. Despite Israeli Worries

The Trump White House is quietly planning sales of F-35 stealth fighters and advanced drones to the Emiratis as part of a wider plan to realign the Middle East, but Israel and Congress may object.

#arms-trade, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #defense-and-military-forces, #defense-department, #gantz-benny, #israel, #kushner-jared, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #national-security-council, #netanyahu-benjamin, #saudi-arabia, #state-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Pompeo Warned Russia Against Bounties on U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is said to have sternly discussed payouts and red lines in a telephone call with Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.

#afghanistan-war-2001, #central-intelligence-agency, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #lavrov-sergey-v, #national-security-council, #pompeo-mike, #putin-vladimir-v, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #shaheen-jeanne, #state-department, #taliban, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces

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U.S. Examines Whether Saudi Nuclear Program Could Lead to Bomb Effort

Intelligence agencies are scrutinizing whether the kingdom’s work with China to develop nuclear expertise is cover to process uranium and move toward development of a weapon.

#arms-control-and-limitation-and-disarmament, #central-intelligence-agency, #defense-and-military-forces, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #international-atomic-energy-agency, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #national-security-council, #nuclear-energy, #nuclear-nonproliferation-treaty, #nuclear-weapons, #obama-barack, #saudi-arabia, #schiff-adam-b, #state-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #uranium

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Trump’s Syria Sanctions ‘Cannot Solve the Problem,’ Critics Say

Without a broader diplomatic effort, the newest and toughest penalties will worsen a humanitarian crisis without forcing a leadership change, experts say.

#assad-bashar-al, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #humanitarian-aid, #national-security-council, #norwegian-refugee-council, #office-of-foreign-assets-control-united-states-treasury, #pompeo-mike, #state-department, #syria, #treasury-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-nations, #united-states-international-relations

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Trump Officials Reconsider Prosecuting ISIS ‘Beatles’ Without Death Penalty

American military officials in Iraq want two detainees taken off their hands and a British court has blocked sharing evidence for any death-penalty case. But other options are also getting a second look.

#barr-william-p, #detainees, #elsheikh-el-shafee, #emwazi-mohammed, #foley-james-1973-2014, #great-britain, #iraq, #islamic-state-in-iraq-and-syria-isis, #justice-department, #kidnapping-and-hostages, #kotey-alexanda, #national-security-council, #sessions-jefferson-b-iii, #syria, #terrorism, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces

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Trump Administration Plans to Bypass Arms Control Pact to Sell Large Armed Drones

The move has been opposed internally by arms control officials and lawmakers trying to limit the proliferation of such drones, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

#arms-trade, #civilian-casualties, #defense-and-military-forces, #defense-department, #drones-pilotless-planes, #general-atomics, #national-security-council, #navarro-peter, #pompeo-mike, #raytheon-company, #state-department, #trump-donald-j

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UK gov’t asleep at the wheel on Russia cyber ops threat, report warns

The UK lacks a comprehensive and cohesive high level strategy to respond to the cyber threat posed by Russia and other hostile states using online disinformation and influence ops to target democratic institutions and values, a parliamentary committee has warned in a long-delayed report that’s finally been published today.

“The UK is clearly a target for Russia’s disinformation campaigns and political influence operations and must therefore equip itself to counter such efforts,” the committee warns, calling for legislation to tackle the multi-pronged threat posed by hostile foreign influence operations in the digital era.

The report also urges the government to do the leg work of attributing state-backed cyber attacks — recommending a tactic of ‘naming and shaming’ perpetrators, while recognizing that UK agencies have, since the WannaCry attack, been more willing to publicly attribute a cyber attack to a state actor like Russia than they were in decades past. (Last week the government did just that in relation to COVID-19 vaccine R&D efforts — attacking Russia for targeting the work with custom malware, as UK ministers sought to get out ahead of the committee’s recommendations.)

“Russia’s cyber capability, when combined with its willingness to deploy it in a malicious capacity, is a matter of grave concern, and poses an immediate and urgent threat to our national security,” the committee warns.

On the threat posed to democracy by state-backed online disinformation and influence campaigns, the committee also points a finger of blame at social media giants for “failing to play their part”.

“It is the social media companies which hold the key and yet are failing to play their part,” the committee writes, urging the government to establish “a protocol” with platform giants to ensure they “take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously, and have clear timescales within which they commit to removing such material”.

“Government should ‘name and shame’ those which fail to act,” the committee adds, suggesting such a protocol could be “usefully expanded” to other areas where the government is seeking action from platforms giants.

Russia report

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) prepared the dossier for publication last year, after conducting a lengthy enquiry into Russian state influence in the UK — including examining how money from Russian oligarchs flows into the country, and especially into London, via wealthy ex-pats and their establishment links; as well as looking at Russia’s use of hostile cyber operations to attempt to influence UK elections.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson blocked publication ahead of last year’s general election — meaning it’s taken a full nine months for the report to make it into the public domain, despite then committee chair urging publication ahead of polling day. The UK’s next election, meanwhile, is not likely for some half a decade’s time. (Related: Johnson was able to capitalize on unregulated social media ads during his own election campaign last year, so, er… )

The DCMS committee, which was one of the bodies that submitted evidence to the ISC’s inquiry, has similarly been warning for years about the threats posed to democracy by online disinformation and political targeting — as have the national data watchdog and others. Yet successive Conservative-led governments have failed to act on urgent recommendations in this area.

Last year ministers set out a proposal to regulate a broad swathe of ‘online harms’, although the focus is not specifically on political disinformation — and draft legislation still hasn’t been laid before parliament.

“The clearest requirement for immediate action is for new legislation,” the ISC committee writes of the threat posed by Russia. “The Intelligence Community must be given the tools it needs and be put in the best possible position if it is to tackle this very capable adversary, and this means a new statutory framework to tackle espionage, the illicit financial dealings of the Russian elite and the ‘enablers’ who support this activity.”

The report labels foreign disinformation operations and online influence campaigns something of a “hot potato” no UK agency wants to handle. A key gap the report highlights is this lack of ministerial responsibility for combating the democratic threat posed by hostile foreign states, leveraging connectivity to spread propaganda or deploy malware.

“Protecting our democratic discourse and processes from hostile foreign interference is a central responsibility of Government, and should be a ministerial priority,” the committee writes, flagging both the lack of central, ministerial responsibility and a reluctance by the UK’s intelligence and security agencies to involve themselves in actively defending democratic processes.

“Whilst we understand the nervousness around any suggestion that the intelligence and security Agencies might be involved in democratic processes – certainly a fear that is writ large in other countries – that cannot apply when it comes to the protection of those processes. And without seeking in any way to imply that DCMS [the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] is not capable, or that the Electoral Commission is not a staunch defender of democracy, it is a question of scale and access. DCMS is a small Whitehall policy department and the Electoral Commission is an arm’s length body; neither is in the central position required to tackle a major hostile state threat to our democracy.”

Last July the government did announce what it called its Defending Democracy programme, which — per the ISC committee report — is intended to “co-ordinate work on protecting democratic discourse and processes from interference under the leadership of the Cabinet Office, with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Deputy National Security Adviser holding overall responsibility at ministerial and official level respectively”.

However the committee points out this structure is “still rather fragmented”, noting that at least ten separate teams are involved across government.

It also questions the level of priority being attached to the issue, writing that: “It seems to have been afforded a rather low priority: it was signed off by the National Security Council only in February 2019, almost three years after the EU referendum campaign and the US presidential election which brought these issues to the fore.”

“In the Committee’s view, a foreign power seeking to interfere in our democratic processes – whether it is successful or not – cannot be taken lightly; our democracy is intrinsic to our country’s success and well-being and any threat to it must be treated as a serious national security issue by those tasked with defending us,” it adds.

The lack of an overarching ministerial body invested with central responsibility to tackle online threats to democracy goes a long way to explaining the damp squib of a response around breaches of UK election law which relate to the Brexit vote — when social media platforms were used to funnel in dark money to fund digital ads aimed at influencing the outcome of what should have been a UK-only vote.

(A redacted footnote in the report touches on the £8M donation by Arron Banks to the Leave.EU campaign — “the biggest donor in British political history”; noting how the Electoral Commission, which had been investigating the source of the donation, referred the case to the National Crime Agency — “which investigated it ***” [redacting any committee commentary on what was or was not found by the NCA]; before adding: “In September 2019, the National Crime Agency announced that it had concluded the investigation, having found no evidence that any criminal offences had been committed under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 or company law by any of the individuals or organisations referred to it by the Electoral Commission.”)

“The regulation of political advertising falls outside this Committee’s remit,” the ISC report adds, under a brief section on ‘Political advertising on social media’. “We agree, however, with the DCMS Select Committee’s conclusion that the regulatory framework needs urgent review if it is to be fit for purpose in the age of widespread social media.

“In particular, we note and affirm the Select Committee’s recommendation that all online political adverts should include an imprint stating who is paying for it. We would add to that a requirement for social media companies to co-operate with MI5 where it is suspected that a hostile foreign state may be covertly running a campaign.”

On Brexit itself, and the heavily polarizing question of how much influence Russia was able to exert over the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, the committee suggests this would be “difficult” or even “impossible” to assess. But it emphasizes: “it is important to establish whether a hostile state took deliberate action with the aim of influencing a UK democratic process, irrespective of whether it was successful or not.”

The report then goes on to query the lack of evidence of an attempt by the UK government or security agencies to do just that.

In one interesting — and heavily redacted paragraph — the committee notes it sought to ascertain whether UK intelligence agencies hold “secret intelligence” that might support or supplement open source studies that have pointed to attempts by Russia to influence the Brexit vote — but was sent only a very brief response.

Here the committee writes:

In response to our request for written evidence at the outset of the Inquiry, MI5 initially provided just six lines of text. It stated that ***, before referring to academic studies. This was noteworthy in terms of the way it was couched (***) and the reference to open source studies ***. The brevity was also, to us, again, indicative of the extreme caution amongst the intelligence and security Agencies at the thought that they might have any role in relation to the UK’s democratic processes, and particularly one as contentious as the EU referendum. We repeat that this attitude is illogical; this is about the protection of the process and mechanism from hostile state interference, which should fall to our intelligence and security Agencies.

The report also records a gap in the government’s response on this issue — with the committee being told of no active attempt by government to understand whether or not UK elections have been targeted by Russia.

“The written evidence provided to us appeared to suggest that HMG had not seen or sought evidence of successful interference in UK democratic processes or any activity that has had a material impact on an election, for example influencing results,” it writes.

A later redacted paragraph indicates an assessment by the committee that the government failed to fully take into account open source material which had indicated attempts to influence Brexit (such as the studies of attempts to influence the referendum using Russia state mouthpieces RT and Sputnik; or via social media campaigns).

“Given that the Committee has previously been informed that open source material is now fully represented in the Government’s understanding of the threat picture, it was surprising to us that in this instance it was not,” the committee adds.

The committee also raises an eyebrow at the lack of any post-referendum analysis of Russian attempts to influence the vote by UK intelligence agencies — which it describes as in “stark contrast” to the US agency response following the revelations of Russian disops targeted at the 2016 US presidential election.

“Whilst the issues at stake in the EU referendum campaign are less clear-cut, it is nonetheless the Committee’s view that the UK Intelligence Community should produce an analogous assessment of potential Russian interference in the EU referendum and that an unclassified summary of it be published,” it suggests.

In other recommendations related to Russia’s “offensive cyber” capabilities, the committee reiterates that there’s a need for “a common international approach” to tackling the threat.

“It is clear there is now a pressing requirement for the introduction of a doctrine, or set of protocols, to ensure that there is a common approach to Offensive Cyber. While the UN has agreed that international law, and in particular the UN Charter, applies in cyberspace, there is still a need for a greater global understanding of how this should work in practice,” it writes, noting that it made the same recommendation in its 2016-17 annual
report.

“It is imperative that there are now tangible developments in this area in light of the increasing threat from Russia (and others, including China, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). Achieving a consensus on this common approach will be a challenging process, but as a leading proponent of the Rules Based International Order it is essential that the UK helps to promote and shape Rules of Engagement, working
with our allies.”

The security-cleared committee notes that the public report is a redacted summary of a more detailed dossier it felt unable to publish on account of classified information and the risk of Russia being able to use it to glean too much intelligence on the level of UK intelligence of its activities. Hence opting for a more truncated (and redacted) document than it would usually publish — which again raises questions over why Johnson sought repeatedly to delay publication.

Plenty of sections of the report contain a string of asterisk at a crucial point, eliding strategic specifics (e.g. this paragraph on exactly how Russia is targeting critical UK infrastructure: “Russia has also undertaken cyber pre-positioning activity on other nations’ Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has advised that there is *** Russian cyber intrusion into the UK’s CNI – particularly marked in the *** sectors.)”)

Most recently Number 10 sought to influence the election of the ISC committee chair by seeking to parachute a preferred candidate into the seat — which could have further delayed publication of the report. However the attempt at stacking the committee was thwarted when new chair, Conservative MP Julian Lewis, sided with opposition MPs to vote for himself. After which the newly elected committee voted unanimously to release the Russia report before the summer recess of parliament, avoiding another multi-month delay.

Another major chunk of the report, which tackles the topic of Russian expatriate oligarchs and their money; how they’ve been welcomed into UK society with “open arms”, enabling their illicit finance to be recycled through “the London ‘laundromat’, and to find its way inexorably into political party coffers, may explain the government’s reluctance for the report to be made public.

The committee’s commentary here makes particularly awkward reading for a political party with major Russian donors. And a prime minister with Russian oligarch friends

“It is widely recognised that the key to London’s appeal was the exploitation of the UK’s investor visa scheme, introduced in 1994, followed by the promotion of a light and limited touch to regulation, with London’s strong capital and housing markets offering sound investment opportunities,” the committee writes, further noting that Russian money was also invested in “extending patronage and building influence across a wide sphere of the British establishment – PR firms, charities, political interests, academia and cultural institutions were all willing beneficiaries of Russian money, contributing to a ‘reputation laundering’ process”.

“In brief, Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth,” it adds.

You can read the full report here.

#arron-banks, #boris-johnson, #central-intelligence-agency, #china, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #dcms, #dcms-committee, #disinformation, #election-law, #electoral-commission, #espionage, #europe, #european-union, #general-election, #government, #iran, #london, #national-cyber-security-centre, #national-security, #national-security-council, #online-disinformation, #online-harms, #policy, #political-advertising, #presidential-election, #putin, #rt, #russia, #security, #social-media, #social-media-platforms, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #united-nations, #united-states

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When China Met Iran

A growing partnership between America’s main Middle East adversary and Asia’s rising superpower bears careful watching in Washington.

#caucasus-russia, #china, #iran, #israel, #middle-east, #national-security-council, #rouhani-hassan, #russia, #southern-states-us, #united-states, #washington-dc, #xi-jinping

0

Army Officer Who Clashed With Trump Over Impeachment Set to Retire

The White House had made clear to Pentagon officials that President Trump did not want to see Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman promoted.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #defense-department, #esper-mark-t, #impeachment, #national-security-council, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-army, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #vindman-alexander-s

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Slotkin, Former Intelligence Briefer, Presses White House on Russia Reports

The first-term congresswoman’s experience as an intelligence official told her there was something very unusual in the way the White House handled disturbing reports on Russia.

#central-intelligence-agency, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #house-of-representatives, #national-security-council, #slotkin-elissa, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

Data on Financial Transfers Bolstered Suspicions That Russia Offered Bounties

Analysts have used other evidence to conclude that the transfers were likely part of an effort to offer payments to Taliban-linked militants to kill American and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #defense-department, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #gru-russia, #mcenany-kayleigh, #national-security-council, #ratcliffe-john-lee-1965, #russia, #taliban, #terrorism, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

Trump Got Written Briefing in February on Possible Russian Bounties, Officials Say

The investigation into Russia’s suspected operation is said to focus in part on the killings of three Marines in a truck bombing last year, officials said.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #central-intelligence-agency, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #house-of-representatives, #national-intelligence-estimates, #national-security-council, #office-of-the-director-of-national-intelligence, #pelosi-nancy, #russia, #senate, #taliban, #terrorism, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

Lawmakers Press for Answers on Russian Bounty Offers to Taliban to Kill U.S. Troops

Democrats asked for Trump administration intelligence officials to brief lawmakers on what they knew about a suspected Russian plot.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #central-intelligence-agency, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #house-of-representatives, #national-intelligence-estimates, #national-security-council, #office-of-the-director-of-national-intelligence, #pelosi-nancy, #russia, #senate, #taliban, #terrorism, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Spies and Commandos Warned Months Ago of Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops

The recovery of large amounts of American cash at a Taliban outpost in Afghanistan tipped off U.S. officials.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #central-intelligence-agency, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #defense-department, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #national-security-council, #russia, #taliban, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #united-states-special-operations-command

0

Biden Criticizes Trump Over Intelligence on Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops

The White House denied that President Trump was briefed on the classified assessment, even though his staff has been discussing the matter since March.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #defense-and-military-forces, #defense-department, #national-security-council, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #taliban, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

0

Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill U.S. Troops, Intelligence Says

The Trump administration has been deliberating for months about what to do about a stunning intelligence assessment.

#afghanistan, #central-intelligence-agency, #defense-and-military-forces, #defense-department, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #gru-russia, #national-security-council, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #state-department, #taliban, #terrorism, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Defense Secretary Faces White House Pressure on Aides and a Military Promotion

Senior Defense Department personnel who are perceived as White House critics are resigning or facing what is viewed as reprisal.

#defense-department, #esper-mark-t, #impeachment, #mccusker-elaine-a, #national-security-council, #rood-john-c, #senate-committee-on-armed-services, #shanahan-patrick-m-1962, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-navy, #vindman-alexander-s

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Judge Rejects Trump Request for Order Blocking Bolton’s Memoir

But the judge also sharply criticized the former national security adviser, suggesting his $2 million book advance may be in jeopardy.

#bolton-john-r, #books-and-literature, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #decisions-and-verdicts, #justice-department, #lamberth-royce-c, #national-security-council, #simonschuster-inc, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #the-room-where-it-happened-a-white-house-memoir-book, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Judge Weighs Administration Request to Order Bolton to Try to Pull Back Book

A lawyer for President Trump’s former national security adviser called the request “theater,” portraying it as legally and practically impossible.

#bolton-john-r, #books-and-literature, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #cooper-charles-j, #first-amendment-us-constitution, #freedom-of-speech-and-expression, #justice-department, #lamberth-royce-c, #national-security-council, #simonschuster-inc, #the-room-where-it-happened-a-white-house-memoir-book, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Targeting Bolton, Justice Dept. Again in Alignment With Trump’s Desires

Its request for an order blocking the publication of the former official’s memoir is the latest in a series of acts by the department to shield the president’s friends or pursue his critics.

#barr-william-p, #bolton-john-r, #books-and-literature, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #cooper-charles-j, #justice-department, #manuscripts, #national-security-council, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #the-room-where-it-happened-a-white-house-memoir-book, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Seizing the Presidency to Suit His Own Needs

In a new book, John R. Bolton portrays Donald Trump as a president who sees his office as an instrument to advance his own personal and political interests over those of the nation.

#bolton-john-r, #books-and-literature, #national-security-council, #presidential-election-of-2020, #the-room-where-it-happened-a-white-house-memoir-book, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

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What John Bolton and His Book Say About Trump’s Washington

He is a creature of the administration, not a critic of it.

#bolton-john-r, #books-and-literature, #national-security-council, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j

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Promotion in Jeopardy for Army Officer Who Challenged Trump on Ukraine

Military officials fear the White House may retaliate against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman for his testimony in the House impeachment inquiry.

#defense-department, #esper-mark-t, #impeachment, #national-security-council, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #trump-ukraine-whistle-blower-complaint-and-impeachment-inquiry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-army, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #vindman-alexander-s

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Justice Dept. Escalates Legal Fight With Bolton Over Book

The Trump administration asked a judge to order the former national security adviser to stop publication of his memoir even as explosive details emerged.

#bolton-john-r, #books-and-literature, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #justice-department, #national-security-council, #simonschuster-inc, #suits-and-litigation-civil, #the-room-where-it-happened-a-white-house-memoir-book, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Trump Administration’s Nominee for Development Bank Chief Breaks With Protocol

Mauricio J. Claver-Carone would be the first president of the Inter-American Development Bank from outside Latin America.

#appointments-and-executive-changes, #claver-carone-mauricio-j, #cuba, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #foreign-aid, #inter-american-development-bank, #latin-america, #mnuchin-steven-t, #moreno-luis-alberto, #national-security-council, #treasury-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #venezuela

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Trump and the Military: A Mutual Embrace Might Dissolve on America’s Streets

“There is a thin line between the tolerance we have witnessed from the military for three years and the point where it becomes intolerable,” said Douglas Lute, a retired three-star Army general.

#bush-george-w, #constitution-us, #defense-department, #demonstrations-protests-and-riots, #esper-mark-t, #flynn-michael-t, #george-floyd-protests-2020, #joint-chiefs-of-staff, #kelly-john-f-1950, #lute-douglas-e, #mattis-james-n, #mcmaster-h-r, #milley-mark-a, #mullen-michael-g, #murkowski-lisa, #national-guard, #national-security-council, #obama-barack, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces

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U.S. to Expel Chinese Graduate Students With Ties to China’s Military Schools

The move is the latest in the Trump administration’s efforts to impose limits on Chinese students. But many university officials say the government is paranoid, and that the United States will lose out.

#burr-richard-m, #colleges-and-universities, #communist-party-of-china, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #foreign-students-in-us, #national-security-council, #peoples-liberation-army-china, #rubio-marco, #state-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #visas

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Why Bombs Made in America Have Been Killing Civilians in Yemen

President Trump sees arms deals as jobs generators for firms like Raytheon, which has made billions in sales to the Saudi coalition. The Obama administration initially backed the Saudis too, but later regretted it as thousands died.

#arms-trade, #bannon-stephen-k, #civilian-casualties, #corker-robert-phillips-jr, #defense-and-military-forces, #defense-contracts, #esper-mark-t, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #kennedy-thomas-a, #khashoggi-jamal, #kushner-jared, #menendez-robert, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #national-security-council, #navarro-peter, #obama-barack, #pompeo-mike, #raytheon-company, #saudi-arabia, #state-department, #tillerson-rex-w, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #yemen

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The Appalling Damage of Dropping the Michael Flynn Case

It embeds into official U.S. policy a shockingly extremist view of law enforcement as the enemy of the American people.

#barr-william-p, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #flynn-michael-t, #justice-department, #national-security-council, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #sullivan-emmet-g, #trump-donald-j, #united-states, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Trump Officials Are Said to Press Spies to Link Virus and Wuhan Labs

Some analysts are worried that the pressure from senior officials could distort assessments about the coronavirus and be used as a weapon in an escalating battle with China.

#central-intelligence-agency, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #defense-intelligence-agency, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #grenell-richard, #laboratories-and-scientific-equipment, #national-security-council, #office-of-the-director-of-national-intelligence, #pompeo-mike, #pottinger-matthew, #rumors-and-misinformation, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #wuhan-china

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Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say

American officials were alarmed by fake text messages and social media posts that said President Trump was locking down the country. Experts see a convergence with Russian tactics.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #central-intelligence-agency, #china-central-television, #communist-party-of-china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #defense-department, #diplomatic-service-embassies-and-consulates, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #facebook-inc, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #homeland-security-department, #national-security-council, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media, #state-department, #trump-donald-j, #xi-jinping

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He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus

An examination reveals the president was warned about the potential for a pandemic but that internal divisions, lack of planning and his faith in his own instincts led to a halting response.

#azar-alex-m-ii, #birx-deborah-l, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #china, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #fauci-anthony-s, #health-and-human-services-department, #mnuchin-steven-t, #national-center-for-immunization-and-respiratory-diseases, #national-security-council, #navarro-peter, #obrien-robert-c-1952, #pence-mike, #pottinger-matthew, #presidential-election-of-2020, #quarantines, #redfield-robert-r, #shutdowns-institutional, #travel-warnings, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-economy, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Five Takeaways on What Trump Knew as the Virus Spread

An examination by The New York Times reveals that there were warnings from the intelligence community, national security aides and government health officials — even as the president played down the crisis.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #epidemics, #health-and-human-services-department, #mnuchin-steven-t, #national-security-council, #navarro-peter, #obrien-robert-c-1952, #pence-mike, #schwarzman-stephen-a, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #veterans-affairs-department

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Trump Adviser Peter Navarro Warned of Coronavirus Pandemic in January

A memo from Peter Navarro is the most direct warning known to have circulated at a key moment among top administration officials.

#coronavirus-2019-ncov, #epidemics, #fauci-anthony-s, #mulvaney-mick, #national-security-council, #navarro-peter, #pottinger-matthew, #presidential-election-of-2020, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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Coronavirus Outbreak: A Cascade of Warnings, Heard but Unheeded

Government exercises, including one last year, made clear that the U.S. was not ready for a pandemic like the coronavirus. But little was done.

#centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #defense-department, #disasters-and-emergencies, #epidemics, #federal-emergency-management-agency, #health-and-human-services-department, #homeland-security-department, #influenza, #klain-ronald-a, #monaco-lisa-o, #national-security-council, #obama-barack, #romney-mitt, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government

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US response to the COVID-19 coronavirus moves from ‘containment’ to ‘mitigation’

In interviews across major television networks on Sunday, U.S. officials all but admitted that efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, have failed and that the country now needs to move to mitigate the effects of the continuing spread of the disease on the nation’s health and economy.

“We now are seeing community spread and we’re trying to help people understand how to mitigate the impact of disease spread,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday.

Dr. Adams’ concerns were echoed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

“There comes a time,” Fauci said in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, “when you have containment which [sic] you’re trying to find out who’s infected and put them in isolation. And if and when that happens — and I hope it’s if and not when — that you get so many people who are infected that the best thing you need to do is what we call mitigation in addition to containment.”

The admissions are supported by data from Johns Hopkins University, which indicates that despite government efforts to contain the novel coronavirus from spreading in the U.S. there are now at least 474 people infected with the virus across at least 31 states.

Exact information is difficult to ascertain since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this week that it would no longer be able to provide an official tally of tests conducted or under investigation. The CDC made the decision because states and private institutions are now authorized to conduct their own tests — making it difficult for the agency to keep up with the latest information.

“We are no longer reporting the number of PUIs or patients under investigation nor those who have tested negative,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at the CDC. “With more and more testing done at states, these numbers would not be representative of the testing being done nationally. States are reporting results quickly and even — states are reporting results quickly and in the event of a discrepancy between CDC and state case counts, the state case counts should always be considered more up to date.”

A coronavirus (COVID-19) test kit from the CDC.

Mistakes were made

Faulty test kits and internal divisions over how to respond to the spread of the virus in the United States hamstrung early efforts to get an accurate picture of how rapidly the virus was moving through the population, according to multiple reports.

“They’ve simply lost time they can’t make up. You can’t get back six weeks of blindness,” Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and an Obama-era administration staffer involved in the government’s response to the spread of the ebola virus, told The Washington Post. “To the extent that there’s someone to blame here, the blame is on poor, chaotic management from the White House and failure to acknowledge the big picture.”

There is a world in which a coordinated U.S. response to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which the Chinese government first reported to the World Health Organization in late December, would have been led by the global health security team within the National Security Council, but that group was dissolved in 2018 by the National Security Advisor at the time, John Bolton.

In that world, perhaps the U.S. could have ramped up the production and acquisition of testing kits, provisioned facilities in communities deemed to be more at risk with the necessary equipment, and issued emergency authorizations to enable public institutions to administer tests without undergoing formal approval processes. In that world, the CDC would not have needed to impose severe restrictions on who could be tested for the virus, because they would not have needed to limit the number of tests they could conduct to only the most pressing — or obvious — cases.

Instead, as reporting in both The Washington Post and the New York Times indicates, a series of poor decisions, slow responses, and technological missteps limited the government’s ability to respond effectively to the threat.

The problems seem to have been threefold — the Centers for Disease Control did not move quickly enough to manufacture test kits at scale (either because of lack of funding or political will) nor did it open up testing options to other institutions that could have worked to develop tests — and because of the limited availability of tests, the CDC rationed how many tests were performed. Those issues were compounded by the initial release of faulty tests by the CDC in early February.

As former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official Scott Gottlieb wrote on Twitter in early February, “Since CDC and FDA haven’t authorized public health or hospital labs to run the tests, right now #CDC is the only place that can. So, screening has to be rationed. Our ability to detect secondary spread among people not directly tied to China travel is greatly limited.”

There are many reasons to have testing kits run through the CDC and state labs affiliated with the center. Chiefly, tests developed and distributed by the CDC can be conducted free-of-charge at public health labs, while corporate labs and private healthcare facilities can charge for the tests they develop.

(There has already been one story involving a man from Florida who was stuck with a $3000 bill for his decision to be pre-emptively tested for the coronavirus after returning from a trip to China.)

However, the inability of the CDC and federal public health officials to respond quickly enough was soon apparent throughout February.

A system for tracking travelers who were returning from China went down just as federal officials were directing state agencies to track their movements, according to a report in The New York Times.  Meanwhile, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, was estimating that the U.S. needed at least 300 million respirator masks for healthcare workers — the national emergency stockpile only had 12 million on hand, and many of those were expired, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, the CDC’s coronavirus test had a flawed component that led to inaccurate tests, which limited the testing efforts even further. And the limitations imposed on who could receive the tests have meant that there is still no accurate picture of how widely the disease has spread.

As recently as Friday, a nurse at a hospital in California was being denied access to the coronavirus test.

“I am currently sick, in quarantine, after caring for a patient who tested positive. I am awaiting permission from the federal government to allow for my testing even after my physician and county health professional ordered the test,” the nurse said in an issued statement. “The national CDC would not initiate the test. They said they would not test me, because if I was wearing the recommended protective equipment, then I wouldn’t have the coronavirus… Later they called back and now it’s an issue with something called the identifier number. They claim they prioritize running samples by illness severity and that there are only so many to give out each day. So I have to wait in line for the results. This is not a ticket dispenser at a deli counter, it’s a public health emergency…. I’m appalled at the level of bureaucracy that’s preventing nurses from getting tested. Delaying this test puts the whole community at risk.”

“When the CDC test was delayed, then the cases started appearing outside of China, there should have been a quicker response to get diagnostic testing going,” Melissa Miller, a director of the clinical molecular microbiology laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, told the Washington Post.

‘We have an epidemic underway here in the United States’

The Federal Government is now facing an epidemic, according to health experts, and the question now is how can it help states and local governments respond.

“We have an epidemic underway here in the United States,” said former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, in an interview on Face the Nation.

Gottlieb, who recently returned to his position as a managing partner at the venture capital firm NEA, has been monitoring the government’s response from afar and was once rumored to be a candidate for the position of “Coronavirus Czar” overseeing the Administration’s response to the outbreak.

“We have to implement broad mitigation strategies. The next two weeks are really going to change the complexion in this country. We’ll get through this, but it’s going to be a hard period. We’re looking at two months probably of difficulty,” said Gottlieb. “To give you a basis of comparison, two weeks ago, Italy had nine cases. Ninety-five percent of all their cases have been diagnosed in the last 10 days. For South Korea, 85 percent of all their cases have been diagnosed in the last 10 days. We’re entering that period right now of rapid acceleration. And the sooner we can implement tough mitigation steps in places we have outbreaks like Seattle, the- the lower the scope of the epidemic here.”

Part of mitigation involves continuing to track the spread of the disease, and Gottlieb has been encouraging the FDA to move quickly to get new tests approved for weeks. Already, the Gates Foundation and private companies are rushing to bring an at-home coronavirus test kit to market — and ways to share the results from testing with appropriate government agencies.

But testing alone isn’t enough, says Gottlieb. The U.S. needs to “[close] businesses, close large gatherings, close theaters, cancel events,” Gottlieb said.

Businesses have started to cancel large conferences and events, and universities like Stanford are turning to remote classes for the remainder of their winter term. No city or state has yet to take measures as drastic as Italy, which closed down the entire Northern region of the country over the weekend in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“I think we need to think about how do we provide assistance to the people of these cities who are going to be hit by hardship, as well as the localities themselves to try to give them an incentive to do this.”

His recommendations align with policy suggestions issued recently by the International Monetary Fund, which are all steps that the U.S. government could take should it choose to proactively approach its response to the virus’ spread.

Indeed, the over $8 billion coronavirus response package approved by Congress last week goes a long way to addressing the first suggestion from the IMF, which is to spend on the prevention, detection, control, treatment and containment of the virus.

Equally as important, according to the IMF, is to provide cash flow relief to the people and firms that are most affected — either in the form of wage subsidies, accelerated and expanded unemployment benefits, or tax benefits for companies affected by the virus outbreak.

“We’re going to end up with a very big federal bailout package here for stricken businesses, individuals, cities and states,” said Gottlieb. “We’re better off doing it upfront and giving assistance to get them to do the right things than do it on the back end after we’ve had a very big epidemic.”

Meanwhile, leadership in the U.S. at the highest level insists that there’s nothing to worry about.

#california, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #disease, #italy, #johns-hopkins-university, #national-security-council, #nea, #scott-gottlieb, #seattle, #south-korea, #tc, #viruses, #white-house, #world-health-organization

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Trump, His Eye on the Border, Overlooked the Coronavirus Threat

His insistence that the danger was overseas and could be kept out led officials to downplay the disease’s spread and the need for tests.

#bolton-john-r, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #ebola-virus, #epidemics, #food-and-drug-administration, #kirkland-wash, #klain-ronald-a, #national-security-council, #obama-barack, #travel-warnings, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-agency-for-international-development, #world-health-organization

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After 18 Years, Is This Afghan Peace, or Just a Way Out?

Afghanistan has gone from being the “good war” that the United States must win to the longstanding burden that, like the British, the Soviets and a series of others, it now seeks to unload.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #bin-laden-osama, #bush-george-w, #central-intelligence-agency, #defense-and-military-forces, #defense-department, #doha-qatar, #esper-mark-t, #ghani-ashraf, #national-security-council, #north-atlantic-treaty-organization, #obama-barack, #pompeo-mike, #state-department, #taliban, #trump-donald-j

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