Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response

Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response
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Happy Tuesday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: One police officer has died after a violent incident at a transit station outside the Pentagon on Tuesday, prompting the building to temporarily lock down.

Pentagon officials announced Tuesday evening that a police officer was killed, adding the officer would be identified pending notification of next of kin. 

Austin speaks out: "On behalf of everyone working at the Pentagon, and across the Department of Defense, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family, loved ones and colleagues of the Pentagon Force Protection Officer who died as a result of injuries he received this morning," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

Austin said the officer "died in the line of duty, helping protect the tens of thousands of people who work in -- and who visit -- the Pentagon on a daily basis. He and his fellow officers are members of the Pentagon family, and known to us all as professional, skilled and brave."

"This tragic death today is a stark reminder of the dangers they face and the sacrifices they make. We are forever grateful for that service and the courage with which it is rendered," he added.

Austin also said he would order flags to be flown at half-mast at the Pentagon to honor the officer.

What happened?: An investigation into the officer's death is underway, though The Associated Press, citing law enforcement officials, reported that the officer was stabbed during a burst of violence, though officials have not confirmed the circumstances surrounding his death.

Pentagon Police Chief Woodrow Kusse told reporters at a briefing Tuesday afternoon that the officer was attacked at the Metro Bus platform at about 10:37 a.m., and gunfire was exchanged.

He said there were “several casualties” but the scene was "secure" and there was "no continuing threat to our community."

Few details: Kusse and Pentagon press secretary John Kirby earlier Tuesday refused to confirm or deny reports that the officer was killed, or reveal information on how many people were injured in the incident, citing an “ongoing investigation.”

Kusse said the information he had was “preliminary” and could “evolve," adding it would be “premature” to reveal additional details at that point.

“The situation has been resolved but the investigation must continue and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the integrity of that process,” Kusse said.

When pressed for additional details on the incident, Kusse said he “can’t compromise the ongoing investigation right now.”

Read the full story here.

 

BIDEN OFFICIALS BACK REPEALING IRAQ WAR AUTHORIZATION

Biden administration officials on Tuesday argued in favor of repealing the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War, saying doing so would not have an effect on ongoing military operations or the ability to protect U.S. troops in Iraq.

Testimony from Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and the top lawyers at the State Department and Pentagon reiterated the stance on repealing the 2002 authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) the White House laid out in a written statement earlier this year.

A first: But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday provided lawmakers with their first opportunity to publicly question administration officials on the issue.

“The Biden-Harris administration believes the 2002 authorization for the use of military against Iraq has outlived its usefulness and should be repealed,” Sherman told senators.

“For the State Department, repealing the 2002 AUMF would not affect our diplomatic initiatives, and the administration has made clear that we have no ongoing military activities that rely solely on the 2002 AUMF,” she added.

Context: The hearing comes before the committee is scheduled to consider Wednesday a bill from Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) that would repeal the 2002 AUMF, as well as the 1991 AUMF that greenlighted the Gulf War.

Momentum has been building toward repealing the decades-old war authorizations since President Biden launched airstrikes on Iranian-back militias in Iraq and Syria in February and June. Biden cited his authorities under Article II of the Constitution, not an AUMF, but the action still spurred congressional efforts to rein in existing war authorizations.

In June, the House voted to repeal the 2002 and 1991 AUMFs, as well as a 1957 resolution that provided broad authorization for military action in the Middle East to protect against “armed aggression from any country controlled by international communism.”

Republican holdups: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was originally scheduled to consider the Kaine-Young bill repealing the 2002 and 1991 authorizations in June, but Republicans on the panel demanded Tuesday’s hearing, as well as a classified briefing held in July, before the committee took up the bill.

Most Republicans have been arguing that repealing the 2002 AUMF could hamstring U.S. counterterrorism missions and embolden the Iranian-backed militias that have been targeting U.S. forces in Iraq.

In particular, Republicans have been pointing to the Trump administration’s drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. The administration cited the 2002 AUMF as part of its legal justification.

Biden officials push back: But Caroline Krass, Pentagon general counsel, and Richard Visek, acting legal adviser at the State Department, stressed Tuesday that the 2002 AUMF was secondary to the Trump administration’s legal argument for the Soleimani strike, behind Article II authorities.

Sherman also shot back at Republican criticism that the Biden administration has not done enough to deter Iranian aggression in the Middle East, saying “nothing has stopped the attacks by Iran; the killing of Qassem Soleimani did not deter the Iranians from attacks.”

Visek, Krass and Sherman also held that the Biden administration believes it has sufficient authority under Article II to respond to any threats against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

BILL SEEKS TO CREATE NSC ROLE TO OVERSEE ‘HAVANA SYNDROME’ RESPONSE

A bipartisan group of senators is seeking to up the ante on addressing mysterious “Havana syndrome” attacks, pushing the White House to establish a point-person to lead a wide-ranging investigation while setting aside millions for U.S. personnel injured in the incidents.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and others would force President Biden to designate a senior official on the National Security Council to lead a whole-of-government response to the attacks, which are believed to have impacted some 200 Americans, many of them employed by the CIA or the State Department.

The goal: “As anomalous health incidents continue to wreak havoc in the lives of affected diplomats and intelligence officials, it is our responsibility to ensure that any response is commensurate with the arduous work and sacrifices that these individuals have made for our nation,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a release.  

“This legislation will ensure a coordinated, whole-of-government response to what unfortunately remains an ongoing threat to the people of our intelligence community, and to our national security,” he said.

The bill would set aside $45 million to support government response efforts — $30 million of which would go directly to medical care and other assistance to those impacted by the attacks.

What’s already been done: The CIA recently tapped an unnamed veteran of the agency’s effort to track down Osama bin Laden to lead its investigation into the attacks. But the incidents have impacted personnel across numerous agencies, including those working on U.S. soil. Officials are still investigating a possible attack near the White House.

The NSC has appointed a top official to oversee what it calls "anomalous health incidents."

Background on the attacks: The suspected attacks, which first occurred in Havana in 2016, have since surfaced in a number of countries, leaving U.S. diplomats and spies with neurological symptoms ranging from vertigo to insomnia to cognitive difficulties.

Some refer to them as “directed energy attacks” following a government-funded report by the National Academy of Sciences that determined they were most likely caused by microwave radiation. 

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz; acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker; and others will speak at Day 3 of the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Symposium, beginning at 7 a.m. 

Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization More Republicans call on Biden to designate Taliban as terrorist group Overnight Energy: Judge blocks permits for Alaska oil project MORE (R-Alaska); Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies; Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs; Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Stephen Biegun, former deputy secretary of state; Matt Pottinger, former deputy national security adviser; and more will speak at Day 2 of the virtual 2021 Aspen Security Forum, beginning at 8 a.m. 

The Atlantic Council will hold a virtual discussion on “Enhancing Security in the Black Sea: The Future of Security Cooperation,” at 10 a.m. 

The Center for a New American Security will hold a virtual discussion on “Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military,” with several of the review’s commissioners at 12 p.m.

 

ICYMI

— The Hill: Navy admiral criticizes defense contractors over lobbying efforts

— The Hill: Blinken presses Afghan president to accelerate peace talks, condemns Taliban attacks

— The Hill: Taliban captures 9 of 10 districts in capital of Helmand province

— The Hill: Pentagon lockdown lifted after reports of nearby shooting

— The Hill: Senate report finds major cybersecurity shortcomings among federal agencies

— The Hill: Incoming Iranian president vows action to lift 'tyrannical' US sanctions

— The Hill: South Korea says North wants sanctions lifted before restarting nuclear talks

— Stars and Stripes: Afghan official: Acting defense minister targeted in Kabul attack

— Military Times: New disability benefits for burn pit victims may still take months to process