National Security

Up to 8,000 Chinese nationals came into US after Trump banned travel due to coronavirus: AP

Thousands of Chinese citizens have reportedly come into the U.S. since President Trump restricted travel on foreign nationals in January, arriving from China after the coronavirus outbreak. According to a recent report by The Associated Press, citing data it obtained regarding travel from the U.S. Commerce Department, as many as 8,000 Chinese nationals and foreign residents of Hong Kong and Macao have entered the U.S. over the last three months. More than 600 flights brought in travelers from these areas after Trump announced his travel ban in late January and it was enacted Feb. 2. Trump’s initial travel ban included any non-U.S. travelers coming from China, and excluded anyone coming from Hong Kong or Macau in late January. Travelers from Hong Kong and Macao also did not face the same scrutiny or screening processes as Americans or any foreign nationals coming into the U.S. after having been in Wuhan — where the coronavirus outbreak started. Flight records from FlightAware provided to The Associated Press showed that 5,600 Chinese and foreign nationals from Hong Kong and Macau arrived in the U.S. in February. More than 2,000 passengers from the same administrative zones arrived in March and an additional 150 in April, according to The AP report. There is no sufficient evidence to show people from these flights transmitted the coronavirus, but the National Security Council, the State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would not publicly comment on why these territories were exempt from the China travel ban. One administration official told The AP that the travel ban was instated after more than 12,000 people arrived in the U.S. through the two territories in January, according to Commerce records. The Trump administration said it would also require any Americans who have traveled through China and back into the U.S. to undergo a 14-day quarantine period. But according to data collected by The Associated Press, the system that was meant to track and monitor the people undergoing quarantine lost track of at least 1,600 Americans. Trump has touted his border closures, first from China, then European nations and Brazil, as the U.S.’s first line of defense against the coronavirus. In a tweet last week. the president said: “We did a great job on Coronavirus, including the very early ban on China.” “We saved millions of U.S. lives! Yet the Fake News refuses to acknowledge this in a positive way,” he added. Trump’s travel ban on China went into full effect on Feb. 2, at which time 15 people had already been confirmed with coronavirus in Hong Kong and seven people in Macau. The cases from Macau were later linked directly to Wuhan, the origin of the outbreak. The U.S. has reported more than 2.7 million cases of the coronavirus and nearly 130,000 deaths during the pandemic. Hong Kong has since banned all travelers from the U.S.

Russian spy unit paid Taliban to attack US troops, US intelligence says

A Russian spy unit paid members of Afghanistan’s Taliban movement to conduct lethal attacks on U.S. troops in that country, according to a classified American intelligence assessment, people familiar with the report said. The assessment of the role played by Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, in fostering attacks on American soldiers, comes as President Trump is pushing the Pentagon to withdraw a significant portion of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and as U.S. diplomats try to forge a peace accord involving the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The intelligence assessment regarding Russia’s actions in Afghanistan was delivered to the White House earlier this spring, and until recently had been known only to a handful of officials, a person familiar with it said. Its contents were reported earlier Friday by the New York Times. It couldn’t be determined whether Russian bounties paid to Taliban fighters resulted in any American combat deaths in Afghanistan. The White House, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon declined to comment. Russia’s Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. At issue is a secretive unit of the GRU that, according to Western officials, has conducted sometimes clandestine lethal operations against Moscow’s adversaries. The same unit, they said, was responsible for the poisoning in the U.K. of Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who defected to Britain, and his daughter. Russia has denied involvement.

Of course they have..  This cannot be allowed to stand.

North Korea: Redeploying troops, resuming military exercises at inter-Korean cooperation sites

North Korea said Wednesday it will redeploy troops to now-shuttered inter-Korean cooperation sites, reinstall guard posts and resume military exercises at front-line areas, nullifying the landmark tension-reducing deals reached with South Korea just two years ago. The announcement came a day after North Korea destroyed an inter-Korean liaison office in a choreographed display of anger that puts pressure on Washington and Seoul amid deadlocked nuclear diplomacy. The demolition was the most provocative act by North Korea since it entered nuclear talks in 2018, though the building in its border town of Kaesong was empty and the North had previously signaled plans to blow it up. The North’s General Staff said military units will be deployed to the Diamond Mountain resort and the Kaesong industrial complex, both just north of the heavily fortified border. Those sites, once symbols of inter-Korean cooperation, have been shuttered for years due to inter-Korean disputes and the economic sanctions imposed on North Korea because of its nuclear program. The North said it will resume military exercises and reestablish guard posts in border areas and and open front-line sites for flying propaganda balloons toward South Korea. It said it’ll upgrade front-line military readiness to “top-class combat duty system,” while citizens are ready to “launch the largest ever leaflet scattering with a blitz.” These steps would end September 2018 agreements reached during inter-Korean diplomacy that were aimed at lowering military tensions at border areas. Under those agreements, both Koreas halted live-firing exercises, removed some land mines and destroyed guard posts inside the world’s most heavily armed border. Some outside experts have said these moves undermined South Korea’s security more as the North’s nuclear weapons arsenal remain intact. South Korea’s government didn’t immediately respond to the North Korean military statement. Seoul’s Defense Ministry had said Tuesday it would strongly deal with future provocation by North Korea. Some outside analysts predicted North Korea would resort to provocation to wrest outside concessions because its economy has likely worsened under the persistent U.S.-led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. North Korea may also be frustrated because the sanctions prevent Seoul from breaking away from Washington to resume joint economic projects with Pyongyang. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday said the hard-line steps were taken to retaliate for South Korea’s failure to prevent activists from floating propaganda leaflets across the border. The building destruction was a “reflection of the zeal of our enraged people to punish human scum who challenged the noblest dignity and prestige of our country and those who sheltered the scum, perpetrators of shuddering crime.” It said the destruction was the first step in the retaliation and North Korea will set the intensity and timing for its additional steps while closely monitoring South Korean moves. “Under such an acute situation as now, shameless and reckless attitude and response of the South Korean authorities will lead to our tougher retaliation plans,” it said. The liaison office, built with South Korean money at a reported cost of $8.3 million, was opened days before the 2018 tension-reduction deals were reached. It was the first such office established between the Koreas since their 1945 division. Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, issued a separate statement saying North Korea had rebuffed a recent offer by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to send special envoys to Pyongyang to defuse animosities. She said Moon had offered to dispatch his National Security Director Chung Eui-yong and spy chief Suh Hun at the earliest possible date that North Korea would want. Moon’s office didn’t immediately confirm the North’s report. Kim Yo Jong, who has spearheaded the North’s recent fiery rhetoric against South Korea, called Moon’s offer “unrealistic” and “nonsensical.” “The (South Korean) chief executive greatly favors sending special envoys for ‘tiding over crises’ and raises preposterous proposals frequently, but he has to clearly understand that such a trick will no longer work on us,” Kim Yo Jong said. She said the current Korean crisis “can be terminated only when proper price is paid” for South Korea. South Korea on Tuesday expressed “strong regret” over the destruction of the liaison office the two Koreas had opened in 2018 when ties flourished. The statement also warned of a stern response if North Korea takes additional steps that aggravate tensions. North Korea’s moves have been a serious setback to Moon’s efforts at engagement. Moon champions greater reconciliation with North Korea, met Kim Jong Un three times and was a driving force behind the diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington, including the first summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018. Inter-Korean relations have been strained since the second Kim-Trump summit in early 2019 fell apart due to wrangling over the sanctions. Moon and Kim, after the first of their three 2018 summits, agreed to stop all forms of hostile acts against each other, including leafleting campaigns. But the agreement doesn’t clearly say civilian leafleting should also be banned. Jang Kum Chol, director of the inter-Korean affairs department at North Korea’s ruling party, said Wednesday that Seoul is responsible for the building’s destruction because activists and North Korean defectors in South Korea continued launching leaflets. “Therefore, there can be no exchange or exchange with (the South’s) government. No words will be exchanged at all,” Jang said.

Chinese military officer arrested while allegedly trying to steal US medical research

A Chinese military officer was caught trying to leave California with university research materials this week, after allegedly lying on an application to obtain a visitor visa for a work-study exchange program, the Justice Department announced. Xin Wang, a scientific researcher and officer with China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was arrested at LAX as he was attempting to board his flight to Tianjin, China, according to court documents unsealed this week. He faces visa fraud charges. Wang entered the U.S. on March 26, 2019, to conduct scientific research at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), according to his J1 non-immigrant visa application. The application, however, is said to have contained fraudulent statements — including claims that his service with the PLA had ended in 2016 — that were made to increase the chances that he would receive visa approval. Officials claim Wang revealed that he had instructions from the director of his military lab to observe the layout of the UCSF lab with the understanding that they wanted to try to replicate it in China. He was also accused of attempting to bring materials to China with him and had already emailed research. When interviewed by Customs and Border Protection this week, Wang purportedly admitted that he was currently a “Level-9” technician — which was equated to the rank of major — for the PLA, employed by a military university lab. He also allegedly said he had received compensation from the PLA and the China Scholarship Council. WeChat messages are said to have been wiped off of Wang’s phone the day he was expected to board his plane. If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

IF this is all true, that’s the least that should happen to him.  A clear message needs to be sent to the Communist Chinese Party (CCP), that we’re not putting up with their aggression towards us.  We need to counter them on every possible level.

Trump orders U.S. to develop polar ice-breaking fleet for Arctic, Antarctic regions

President Trump ordered his administration on Tuesday to develop a polar icebreaking fleet for the Arctic and Antarctic by the end of the decade, saying it’s necessary for national security. “To help protect our national interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to retain a strong Arctic security presence alongside our allies and partners, the United States requires a ready, capable, and available fleet of polar security icebreakers that is operationally tested and fully deployable by fiscal year 2029,” Mr. Trump said in the order. He also wants to identify two new bases in the U.S. for the fleet, and two international bases. Mr. Trump further ordered federal agencies to look into leasing options from “partner nations” as a bridge to a permanent U.S. fleet, due to the aging status of the U.S. Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, which was commissioned in 1976. The president directed Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, in coordination with the departments of State, Defense, Commerce, and the Office of Management and Budget, to “lead a review of requirements for a polar security icebreaking fleet acquisition program to acquire and employ a suitable fleet of polar security icebreakers, and associated assets and resources, capable of ensuring a persistent United States presence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions in support of national interests and in furtherance of the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy.” Defense News reported last month that the U.S. Navy is making regular trips to the Arctic Circle after an absence of 30 years, including a four-ship patrol sailing in the Barents Sea. Three of the four ships were destroyers based in Rota, Spain, in an operation spearheaded by the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet.

Trump Administration Bars Chinese Passenger Planes from Entry

As of June 16, President Donald Trump’s administration will bar all passenger planes originating in China from entry to the U.S. The order, announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation, applies to Air China, China Eastern Airlines Corp, China Southern Airlines Co, Hainan Airlines Holding Co, Sichuan Airlines Co, and Xiamen Airlines Co. Despite the agreement to restrict travel, airlines have continued to regularly ferry passengers from the origin point of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, both Delta and United have requested permission to resume flights to China, though the country “remains unable” to say when it will “allow U.S. carriers to reinstate scheduled passenger flights,” according to a formal order signed by the Transportation Department top aviation official Joel Szabat. In a statement on Wednesday, Delta said “we support and appreciate the U.S. government’s actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness,” while United said it looks forward to resuming passenger service between the United States and China “when the regulatory environment allows us to do so.” The decision will enforce a level of parity between both sides, eliminating the lopsided permissions currently in effect. “We will allow Chinese carriers to operate the same number of scheduled passenger flights as the Chinese government allows ours,” the department said in a separate statement. Additionally, China will no longer be allowed to use charter flights to “further [increase] their advantage over U.S. carriers in providing U.S.-China passenger services.”

This is smart, and in our best interests.  Kudos to the Administration for putting our health and safety first.

Pompeo takes aim at ‘obscene’ Chinese propaganda meant to exploit civil strife in U.S

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday denounced Chinese Communist Party propaganda aimed at fueling U.S. civil unrest and seeking to further divide Americans. “The Chinese Communist Party’s callous exploitation of the tragic death of George Floyd to justify its authoritarian denial of basic human dignity exposes its true colors yet again,” Mr. Pompeo said in a statement. “As with dictatorships throughout history, no lie is too obscene, so long as it serves the party’s lust for power. This laughable propaganda should not fool anyone.” Chinese diplomats and state-run media outlets in recent weeks have disseminated a steady stream of reports criticizing the U.S. government and Trump administration. Officials said the Chinese propaganda attacks are aimed at fueling racial and political tensions. The official Xinhua news agency and Global Times, the state-run hardline Communist Party newspaper, sent out numerous stories criticizing the Trump administration for its policies toward minorities. The propaganda is coming from the Chinese government that itself is under fire for imprisoning more than 1 million Uighurs in western China, along with other human rights abuses. Mr. Pompeo said in recent days Beijing “showcased its continuing contempt for the truth and scorn for law.” “The CCP’s propaganda efforts – seeking to conflate the United States’ actions in the wake of the death of George Floyd with the CCP’s continued denial of basic human rights and freedom – should be seen for the fraud that they are,” he said. “During the best of times, the PRC ruthlessly imposes communism,” he said. “Amid the most difficult challenges, the United States secures freedom.” Mr. Pompeo noted the stark contrast between the United States and communist-ruled China. “In China, when a church burns, the attack was almost certainly directed by the CCP,” he said, using the acronym for Chinese Communist Party. “In America, when a church burns, the arsonists are punished by the government, and it is the government that brings fire trucks, water, aid, and comfort to the faithful.” Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the officially-atheist government has cracked down on unofficial house churches that are frequently bulldozed to prevent gatherings of worshipers. Mr. Pompeo also said that peaceful protesters in China’s Tiananmen Square or in Hong Kong get clubbed by armed militiamen for simply speaking out, and reporters who cover the dissent are sentenced to long prison terms. In the United States, American law enforcement authorities bring rogue officer to justice. Peaceful protests are welcomed while looting and violence are shut down. “Our free press covers events wall to wall, for all the world to see,” he said. Also, doctors and journalists in China who warned of the dangers of the new coronavirus outbreak were silenced and imprisoned. The Beijing government also lied about death totals and the extent of the disease outbreak, Mr. Pompeo said. “In the United States, we value life and build transparent systems to treat, cure, and underwrite – more than any other nation – pandemic solutions for the globe,” he added. Chinese authorities imprison people who diverge from CCP ideology or place them in re-education camps, the secretary said. The secretary of state’s comment provide the first U.S. government acknowledgement that China is among the foreign actors seeking to further inflame racial tensions in the United States. Attorney General Bill Barr said earlier this week that he had evidence that among the protesters around the country there are “”foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence.” FBI Director Christopher Wray also said foreign elements had “set out to sow discord and upheaval.” A U.S. official said videos posted online recently showed what appeared to be Chinese embassy and consulates personnel taking a direct role in riots in Washington and California.

Our thanks to veteran D.C. columnist, and best-selling author, Bill Gertz for that excellent piece!     🙂

North Korea conducting massive cyber threats against US, other countries, reports say

North Korea is conducting a wide-ranging malicious campaign against the U.S. and global targets, according to several reports. Last month, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI and the Department of Defense released three reports on malware variants used by the North Korean government. This was preceded by an advisory in April from the State Department, the Treasury, and Homeland Security, and FBI on the North Korean cyber threat. “[It is] essentially a taxonomy of everything the [North Koreans] have been caught doing,” Mike Hamilton, chief information security officer of CI Security, told Fox News, referring to the May Malware Analysis reports. “Trying to summarize tactics, techniques, and procedures that everyone can watch out for,” added Hamilton, who also served previously as the chief information security officer for the city of Seattle. One of the driving forces is North Korea’s need to fund its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, the government’s April advisory said. The campaigns are insidious because they often appear as ordinary cybercrime. “The North Koreans are pioneers in the organized-crime false flag business,” Hamilton explained. “They are running ransomware extortion groups, which most people just assume comes from organized crime, not a nation-state.” Hamilton said the aim is cryptomining and financial targets, among other aims. “They show up as commodity, ‘shotgun blast’ types of untargeted attacks to scoop up CPUs [central processing units] for cryptomining,” he said, referring to the mining of digital currencies. “They also use research and targeting against the finance sector, and non-commodity malware that AV [anti-virus] vendors have never seen,” Hamilton added. North Korea-sponsored cyber actors include hackers, cryptologists and software developers who are engaged in espionage, theft from financial institutions and digital currency exchanges, and in politically motivated attacks against foreign media companies, according to the April advisory. For example, an investigation into dozens of suspected North Korean cyber-enabled heists revealed that as of late 2019, North Korea had attempted to steal as much as $2 billion worldwide. Then there are extortion and ransomware campaigns. “In some instances, DPRK [North Korea] cyber actors have demanded payment from victims under the guise of long-term paid consulting arrangements in order to ensure that no such future malicious cyber activity takes place,” the advisory said.

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White House establishing ‘central command center’ to combat riots as Trump issues warning

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced Monday the White House is establishing a “central command center” to monitor and combat riots following the death of George Floyd after President Trump posted a video on Twitter with the message, “Anarchists, we see you!” Gen. Mark Milley, chief of Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be involved, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General Bill Barr, McEnany said. “There will be additional federal assets deployed across the nation,” McEnany told reporters Monday. “There will be a central command center in conjunction with the state and local governments, that will include Milley, Esper and Barr, to deal with violence and looting.” McEnany, like Trump, called out local officials, accusing them of failing to act to control the crowds. “It is their responsibility to police their streets,” she said. McEnany’s announcement came after Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to send Special Operation Response Teams to Washington, D.C. and Miami to respond to violent protests and riots. Meanwhile, according to law enforcement officials, as a matter of process, local police make arrests during protests and riots, and then the FBI conducts interviews to review whether any federal crimes have been committed—such as the crossing of state lines to conduct violence, arson and possible domestic terrorism. Trump on Monday morning unloaded on governors, calling their response to violent protests “weak” and urging them to “dominate.” “Most of you are weak,” Trump said. “You have to arrest people. “You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time,” he said, according to a senior staffer in a governor’s office who was listening to the call. “They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.” “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again,” said Trump. “We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.”

82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force Headed to D.C. amid Riots

The Pentagon has ordered the 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force to deploy to the D.C.-area amid rioting across the nation, according to multiple sources on background. The force is the same one that deployed earlier this year to quell violent Iran-backed protests in Iraq. Sources told Breitbart News earlier on Monday that the forces were preparing their gear to deploy, but Pentagon officials would not confirm. A source also told Breitbart News that the 16th Military Police Brigade from Fort Bragg was also headed to D.C. The deployments to D.C. comes after rioters looted stores, defaced national monuments, and burned a historic church a block from the White House. Trump during a press conference on Monday announced he was dispatching military units in response to the riots. “My first and highest duty as president is to defend our great country and the American people. I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation, and that is exactly what I will do,” he said. “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily-armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” he added. Trump also spoke to governors earlier during a conference call in which he urged them to show strength and take back the streets from rioters. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), an Army veteran who is close to the Trump administration, said Monday morning that “anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight,” and suggested sending active duty forces. He added: “And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry — whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.” Trump had responded with: “100% Correct. Thank you Tom!”

Sounds like help is on the way!  Stay tuned…