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Tuesday July 28, 2020 Newsletter Content 
It's Tuesday.

We have an inside look at the Justice Department's national security priorities today as well as insider tips on how a CIA Analyst spots fake news.


  • Washington deploys more federal agents to Portland as Attorney General prepares to testify
  • Chinese authorities take control of US consulate in Chengdu
  • Tehran moves mock aircraft carrier to Strait of Hormuz amid tensions with U.S.
  • UN warns of significant risk of regional war in Libya
  • Israel thwarts Hezbollah infiltration attempt along Lebanon border
  • UN reports more than 60 people killed by militants in Sudan's Darfur region
  • China's gold mine purchase in Canadian Arctic draws concern
  • Seoul confirms defector fled back to North Korea, possibly bringing COVID-19
  • Berlin rejects a US proposal to allow Russia back into G7
  • EU negotiator says he's confident deal over Brexit is achievable
  • Chinese shipbuilder plans new amphibious assault ship
  • Separatists in Ukraine accused of breaking ceasefire within hours of implementation
Your OPEN SOURCE stories are below

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AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT'S NATIONAL SECURITY PRIORITIES -- Last week, the Justice Department brought an indictment against two individuals accused of working with China’s Ministry of State Security to conduct a decade-long cyber intrusion campaign.

  • DOJ says the two individuals were targeting the private sector some of which included research institutions working on coronavirus treatments. But there is another side to this story.
  • The suspects were reportedly also using their criminal expertise to conduct side operations for personal gain as the MSS looked the other way. If true, this marks a significant change in Chinese tactics when it comes to separating nation state activities from cybercrime. 

The Cipher Brief spoke last week with Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers about what the shift in strategy means and about his other top national security priorities going into November’s presidential election.

Read A Look Inside the Justice Department's National Security Priorities exclusively in The Cipher Brief


HOVAKIMIAN'S QUEST FOR APPROVAL -- "President Trump’s nominee for the top legal job in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Patrick Hovakimian, gave limited answers to questions from Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing last Wednesday, writes Senior National Security Columnist Walter Pincus.

  • "Currently an Associate Attorney General at the Justice Department, Hovakimian’s approval would place a top aide to Attorney General William Barr in a key legal position under Trump-appointed Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist and former Republican House member."

Read Hovakimian's Quest for Approval in this week's Fine Print exclusively in The Cipher Brief


HOW A CIA ANALYST SPOTS FAKE NEWS --  A new book out today by former CIA Analyst Cindy Otis, True or False:  A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News takes a crack at sharing the kind of analytical thinking and investigative instincts that helps you know what you’re reading online and on your social media channels.

The Cipher Brief's UnderCover book editors spoke with Otis about the current state of disinformation, how it’s being used to affect national security, and how you can spot it in your own feeds.

Read How a CIA Analyst Spots Fake News exclusively in The Cipher Brief
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KEEPING CONTRACTORS EMPLOYED DURING A PANDEMIC -- Contractors working in the IC who are not able to take their classified work home are getting support from INSA to urge Congress to extend CARESAct benefits that so far, have kept many of them from losing their jobs. INSA sent a letter to Hill leaders asking that Section 3610 be extended through December 31. Larry Hanauer, INSA’s Vice President for Policy, says “Section 3610 has enabled national security contractors to keep cleared employees ready to return to work rather than lay them off, which would cost tens of thousands of jobs and undermine national security.”

WE'RE LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD INTERNS  -- As the world figures out how to deal with getting students back on campus in the age of COVID-19, The Cipher Brief is looking for motivated, national security-focused interns for virtual internships for fall semester.  If you love security issues and welcome the chance to research, write and edit with some of the most influential leaders in the national and global security space, send your bio along with three references to:

(Have a job move, promotion, birthday or event announcement to share?  Something smart you've posted to your LinkedIn account?  Send us details at:


    Open Source Collection 

 Your Daily Rundown of Global Security Headlines 

Produced in partnership with the University of Mississippi's Center for Intelligence and Primer
The Americas

United States: Washington Deploying More Federal Agents to Portland.  Federal agencies are sending additional officers to Portland, Oregon.  The U.S. Marshals Service is planning to send 100 deputy marshals while the DHS plans to send 50 Customs and Border Protection personnel. The agents are being deployed primarily to quell protests and protect federal property.  Al Jazeera Reuters
Canada: China’s Gold Mine Purchase in the Canadian Arctic draws Concern.   A Chinese state-run company’s purchase of a gold mine in the Canadian Arctic is triggering alarms for the Canadian government over China’s expanding presence in a region that is growing in strategic importance.  “This purchase should not go forward.  They are clearly adversaries, and I think we have to take that into account every time they seek to buy something.” Richard Fadden  national security adviser to both PM Trudeau and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.  The opposition has urged the Prime Minister to block the deal and discourage China from acquiring any more assets in the Arctic after the United States warned that China could be aiming to assert its importance in sensitive and important regions such as the Arctic, similar to the South China Sea dispute.  The Wall Street Journal WION
Venezuela: Guaido’s Venezuela seeks Embassy in Jerusalem.  Venezuela under acting President Juan Guaido on Monday said it wants to establish an embassy in Jerusalem.  The Venezuelan Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus held its inaugural meeting on Monday as a part of the Israeli Allies Foundation’s faith-based diplomacy network of 43 legislative caucuses around the world.  Venezuela next week  plans to launch a website to serve as a virtual embassy to Israel.  More than 50 countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s president, while 20 recognize Nicolas Maduro.  Jerusalem Post

Western Europe
Germany: Berlin Rejects Proposal to Allow Russia back into G7.  Germany rejected a proposal by the United States to invite Russia back into the Group of Seven (G7) most advanced economies.  "The reason for Russia's exclusion was the annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine.  As long as we do not have a solution there, I see no chance for this,” Heiko Maas, Germany's foreign secretary, said.  Russia was expelled in 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.  Business Insider Reuters
European Union: BREXIT Negotiator Confident a Deal with Britain is Achievable.  The European Union's Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, expressed confidence at a closed-door meeting with national envoys to the bloc that a new deal with Britain was possible.  In discussions among representatives of the 27 E.U. member states about fisheries and the latest on Brexit, the Dutch envoy quipped that a deal would eventually "come swimming across Channel.”  MSN The New York Times Reuters
United Kingdom: London Considers Imposing Travel Restrictions on Germany and France.  The United Kingdom is closely watching rises in coronavirus cases in other European destinations such as France and Germany since imposing a 14-day quarantine on travelers from Spain.  “If we see rates going up in a country where at the moment there is no need to quarantine, if we see the rates going up, we would have to take action because we cannot take the risk of coronavirus being spread again across the U.K.,” junior health minister Helen Whately said.  France has reported 5,858, the United Kingdom has reported 4,662 and Germany has reported 3,932 new cases in the past week.  Reuters WHTC
United Kingdom: U.K. Issues Warning over Non-Essential Travel to Spain.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) updated its advice against all non-essential travel to Spain to include the Balearic and Canary Islands following a rise in coronavirus cases.  "We have considered the overall situation for British nationals traveling to and from the Balearic and Canary Islands, including the impact of the requirement to self-isolate on return to the U.K., and concluded that we should advise British nationals against all non-essential travel to the whole of Spain,” a FCO spokesperson said.  The amended advice came after calls for clarity from travel companies and as airlines announced sweeping flight cancellations.  The change is in addition to the self-isolation policy that began on Sunday.   BBC MSN
Central and Eastern Europe

Ukraine: Separatists Accused of Breaking Ceasefire Within Hours of Implementation.  Ukraine’s army on Sunday accused pro-Russian separatists of violating the ceasefire shortly after it came into effect.  Volodymyr Kravchenko, the Ukranian forces commander, said that troops received fire near the towns of Uzhivka and Novomykhaylivka.  The separatist forces denied the accusations, calling them "yet another act of information provocation by the Ukrainian side, aimed at destabilising the situation."  While major fighting ended in 2015, there have been occasional clashes throughout the region.  Deutsche Welle The Moscow Times Reuters
Russia: Annual Navy Day Parade Displays Military Strength.  Russia’s fourth annual Navy Day parade and celebrations were held on Sunday in locations including St. Petersburg, Sevastopol, and Vladivostok, showing off the country’s naval capabilities including 46 newly-built combat ships and the nuclear submarine Orel.  Missiles were fired from many ships in a display of military strength, and President Vladimir Putin said that the Navy will soon have hypersonic nuclear strike weaponry and underwater nuclear drones.  Putin established this tradition in 2017, and plans for modern ships to make up 70 percent of Russia’s Naval fleet by 2027.  The Jamestown Foundation The Moscow Times Reuters


China: Authorities Take Control of U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.  Chinese officials on Monday seized the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu after ordering its closure last week as a response to Washington closing the Chinese Consulate in Houston. “Competent Chinese authorities entered through the front entrance and took it over,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.  The U.S. flag was lowered as consulate staff evacuated the compound.  The closure comes amid heightened tensions between the United States and China.  Al Jazeera The Guardian Reuters
China: Chinese Shipbuilder Plans New Amphibious Assault Ship Design.  The China Shipbuilding Group is planning to build an amphibious assault ship that is more powerful than China’s current amphibious assault ships.  “The combat role would focus on the high seas when China is facing territorial challenges from rival claimants in the region” a Chinese naval expert said.  The ship would be similar in many ways to China’s current amphibious assault ship the Type 075 but would also feature an electromagnetic catapult to operate large drones and potentially fighter aircraft.  The ship would have an estimated displacement of 40,000 tons making it the third largest amphibious assault ship in the world after the American Wasp and America class assault ships.  South China Morning Post
Singapore: Chinese-American Denies Recruitment of Singaporean Spy.  Huang Jing, professor in Beijing, on Monday denied claims of recruitment of accused Singaporean spy Jun Wei Yeo.  Huang was one of Yeo’s Phd advisors in Singapore before he was expelled from the country over accusations that he tried to influence foreign policy for an unknown government.  On Friday Yeo pled guilty to one count of acting within the United States as an illegal foreign agent.  Yeo was allegedly providing information to Chinese intelligence and recruiting others to do the same.  Yeo is in custody and is set to be sentenced on 9 October. The South China Morning Post The Straits Times
India: French Built Fighter Jets to be Delivered to India This Week.  The first five of a total order of 36 French built Dassault Rafale fighter jets are expected to arrive in India on Wednesday of this week.  “The Rafales bring tremendous capabilities to the table.  We should now wait and watch how the fighter evolves in the Indian environment,” a former Indian Air Force chief said.  The delivery of the first five aircraft was hurried after tensions with India and China rose after a deadly clash along the two countries border.  The delivery of all 36 aircraft is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.  Al Jazeera Hindustan Times
South Korea: Seoul Confirms Defector Fled back to North Korea, Possibly Bringing COVID-19.  South Korean authorities on Monday confirmed that a North Korean defector swam back to the North after being accused of rape in South Korea.  North Korean officials issued a state of emergency on Sunday after stating that the defector had been infected with COVID-19; however, South Korean officials were unable to confirm his status.  Although the defector had never been tested for the virus, South Korean officials said that two individuals he was with both tested negative.  The defector’s current location is unknown.  BBC The New York Times

The Middle East and North Africa

Iran: Tehran Moves Mock Aircraft Carrier to Strait of Hormuz Amid Tensions with the U.S.  Iran has moved a mock U.S.-style carrier to the Strait of Hormuz due to heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington.  Satellite photographs show the mock aircraft carrier which resembles the Nimitz-class carriers the U.S. Navy routinely sails to the Persian Gulf.  Iranian state media and officials have yet to acknowledge the presence of the ship in the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.  The Jerusalem Post Yahoo News
Israel: IDF Thwarts Hezbollah Infiltration Attempt Along Lebanon Border.  Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Monday announced it foiled an attempt by Hezbollah to infiltrate Israel.  The IDF ordered all residents near the border to remain indoors for an hour after an exchange of artillery fire between the two sides.  Hezbollah denied any clashes or open fire.  “Everything claimed by the Israeli media and the IDF about a Hezbollah infiltration is an attempt to invent false Israeli victories,” Hezbollah said.  Monday’s clash came less than a week after a Hezbollah fighter was killed in an airstrike attributed to Israel.  Haaretz Reuters The Washington Post
Libya: U.N. says Significant Risk of Regional War in Libya.  Acting U.N. envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams on Monday warned of a significant risk of direct confrontation between major foreign powers in Libya.  “The risk of this turning into a pure proxy war is very serious indeed.  The overall picture is one of continuing foreign intervention,” Williams said.  The U.N. also condemned an “alphabet soup” of foreign countries who are currently violating international arms embargoes, including Turkey, Russia, the UAE, and Egypt, who are all very active within Libya.  Financial Times

Iraq: Two Dead After Protests in Baghdad.  At least two Iraqi citizens were killed, and many more injured, during clashes between protestors and security forces in Baghdad on Monday.  Protests have been raging in Iraq for weeks over deteriorating economic conditions and a lack of electricity in some provinces.  Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi condemned the deaths and defended the protests as “a legitimate right and the security forces do not have the permission to fire even one bullet in the direction of the protesters.”  Al Jazeera Reuters

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan: More Than 60 Killed in Darfur Region.  The United Nations said another wave of violence has struck Sudan’s Darfur when approximately 500 armed militants attacked the village of Masteri burning houses and killing more than 60 people.  Sudanese Prime MInister Abdalla Hamdok on Sunday stated that the government would send military reinforcements to quell the violence in the area “to protect citizens and the farming season.”  This attack was a continuation of the recent increase in violence between the Masalit and other regional Arab tribes.  Al Jazeera Deutsche Welle
Mali: Economic Community of West African States Begins Summit on Malian Political Crisis.  The African leaders that make up the regional bloc ECOWAS have begun a summit on the crisis between Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and an opposition coalition called the June 5 Movement.  News of the summit comes after failed mediation attempts by Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal that took place in Bamako, the capital of Mali.  Thus far, ECOWAS has proposed a four-point plan to solve the crisis, including re-doing some dubious local elections and creating a government of national unity.  The bloc’s leaders also suggested appointing new judges to the Constitutional Court, which had essentially been dissolved by Keita in an attempt to calm civil unrest.  ECOWAS leaders have stated that they wish the plan to be implemented within 10 days.  Al Jazeera Reuters
Tanzania: Opposition Leader Returns from Exile.  Tundu Lissu, a prominent opposition figure in the Tanzanian government, has returned from his exile in Belgium after being shot in 2017.  Lissu is vice chairman of Chadema, the main opposition party in the Tanzanian government, and plans to try for the presidency in October’s upcoming general elections.  Chadema’s chairman, Freeman Mbowe, dropped out of the race after he and other members of Chadema failed to pick and return nomination forms.  Lissu is a popular candidate in urban areas and has a significant following despite his time in exile.  The New York Times Reuters

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