Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Christiana Wayne
Wednesday, September 15, 2021, 2:54 PM

Lawfare’s daily roundup of national security news and opinion.

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One in 500 people in the United States have died of the coronavirus, according to the Washington Post. The U.S. coronavirus death toll reached 663,000 this week, and infections show the virus’s disproportionate impact on minority communities. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, said of the deaths, “We can’t think that we’re going to test and vaccinate our way out of this deep pain and hurt.”

Beginning on Oct. 1, the United States will require new immigrants to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the New York Times. The coronavirus vaccine joins the list of inoculations required, including those for measles, mumps, rubella, polio and hepatitis A and B. The new policy is in line with Biden’s recently announced mandates for federal employees, active-duty military personnel and others.

Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley promised Chinese Gen. Li Zuocheng that the United States would not strike China, according to the Washington Post. The secret calls, first reported in a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, occurred just before the 2020 U.S. presidential election and just after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Milley was concerned by intelligence suggesting that China believed the U.S. was planning an attack and by then-President Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China. Milley, who believed Trump had suffered a mental decline after the 2020 election, pledged to alert Gen. Li in the event of a U.S. attack. Sen. Marco Rubio has called for President Biden to dismiss Milley in light of the revelations, but Biden told reporters he has “great confidence” in Milley, the Post reports.

Top U.S. intelligence officials warn that al-Qaeda could rebuild inside Afghanistan in one to two years, according to the New York Times. “The current assessment probably conservatively is one to two years for Al Qaeda to build some capability to at least threaten the homeland,” said Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit. Some al-Qaeda members have been reported to have returned to Afghanistan after the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban in August.

The Justice Department is launching an investigation into civil rights violations in Georgia prisons, according to the Washington Post. The investigation will focus on prisoner-on-prisoner violence and the targeting of LGBT inmates by prison staff. In a press conference announcing the probe, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the department found “significant justification” for the investigation, citing public reports of homicides, beatings, smuggled weapons, stabbings and gang activity in the face of extreme staff shortages. The Justice Department said 26 people have died in state prisons in confirmed or suspected homicides last year. Georgia officials denied systemic violations in the state’s prisons.

North and South Korea tested ballistic missiles within hours of each other, according to the BBC. North Korea’s tests, coming after talks between South Korea and China over their neighbor’s nuclear issue, are a violation of United Nations resolutions. South Korea President Moon Jae-in said the country now has “sufficient deterrence to respond to North Korea's provocations at any time.” The United States and South Korea said they were investigating the type of missile the North used.

Haiti’s chief prosecutor said there was evidence linking the country’s acting prime minister to the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, according to the New York Times. Phone records show Prime Minister Ariel Henry spoke to Joseph Badio, the leading suspect in the killing, hours before the attack. The prosecutor issued a police summons for Henry to testify about his contacts. Henry has removed the prosecutor from his post. So far at least 40 people have been arrested in connection with the assassination, including three Haitian Americans.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson shuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, according to CNN. The most high-profile change was moving Dominic Raab from foreign secretary to deputy prime minister and justice secretary. Raab, who was on vacation when the Taliban took hold of Kabul, has received harsh criticism for his handling of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Liz Truss will replace him as foreign secretary and retain her role as minister for women and equalities.

The United Nations will withdraw Gabon’s contingent of 450 peacekeepers from the Central African Republic amid sexual abuse allegations, according to Al Jazeera. “In recent weeks, exceptionally serious acts that go against military ethics and the honour of the armed forces, committed by certain elements in the Gabonese battalions … have been reported,” Gabon’s defense ministry said in a statement released today. The U.N. announced it would open an investigation into its mission in the Central African Republic, established there in 2014 following civil unrest and political turmoil.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Samuel Moyn responded to John Fabian Witt’s critique of Moyn’s new book, “Humane.”

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Lawfare Associate Editor Bryce Klehm talks to experts on Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, South Korea and Japan about U.S. security commitments after the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Rohini Kurup posted a livestream of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Stewart Baker shared an episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast which covers the lawsuit between Epic and Apple, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s new regulations on social networks and more.

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Christiana Wayne is a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill studying history and English. She is an intern at Lawfare.

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