Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening

 

It's Tuesday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

A Department of Defense (DOD) watchdog will launch a new review of how the military screens applicants for extremism.

We'll also explore action the Navy will take to empty tanks at an underground fuel storage facility after a November leak that contaminated drinking water and U.S. demands for Russia to deescalate with Ukraine.

For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. Write me with tips at jwilliams@thehill.com.

Let’s get to it.

Pentagon inspector general launches review

The Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Inspector General will be examining how the military screens applicants for extremist behavior. 

“The objective of this audit is to determine whether Military Service recruiting organizations screened applicants for supremacist, extremist, and criminal gang behavior, according to DoD and Military Service policies and procedures,” a memo from the watchdog, dated Jan. 3, states.

The audit is slated to begin this month and will be performed in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

New rules on extremism: The Pentagon itself began investigating the issue of extremism in the military last year following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. 

The DOD issued a new set of rules last month meant to combat extremism in its ranks. Among the rules, service members cannot actively engage in extremist activities and could be punished for advocating for extremist content online.

Military members aren’t explicitly prohibited from membership in extremist organizations under the new guidance. However, advocating to overthrow the government, raising money for extremist groups and “liking” or reposting extremist content online is not allowed.

Link to Jan. 6 riot: Scores of the more than 700 defendants who have been charged in connection with the riot had either current or prior links to the military, with one CBS report from December finding that 81 defendants had military ties.

After the riot, Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — White House raises new alarm over Russia GOP lawmakers press administration on US weapons left behind in Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation MORE ordered a force-wide “stand-down” to address the issue.  The Pentagon in April took steps toward screening procedures to weed out extremists that included the military services updating their accession screening questionnaires to gather specific information about current or extremist behavior.

Read the full story here

Navy to comply with Hawaii facility order

The Navy will comply with an emergency order to empty the tanks at a fuel storage facility following a leak in November.

The Hawaii Department of Health finalized the order last week to empty the underground tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The Navy had 30 days to appeal the order, which was first handed down on Dec 6.

Rear Adm. Blake Converse, deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness on Tuesday that the Navy will comply with the order.  

“Yes, we are in receipt of the emergency order issued by the Hawaii Department of Health, and we are taking action because it is a lawful order to comply with,” Converse said. 

About the order: The Navy was ordered to submit a plan to safely defuel the tanks at the facility and install water treatment systems on the contaminated shaft.  

Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Samuel Paparo issued directives last Friday to begin efforts to comply with the order, Converse said, adding that the Navy began complying with “many facets” of the order earlier through directives from the secretary of the Navy.

Converse said he didn’t have information on whether the Navy will contest the order later. 

Navy officials face lawmakers: Converse and several other Navy officials testified before the Readiness panel specifically about the November release. 

The leak may have been due to operator error, Converse said, adding that the Navy is investigating whether the incident is related to an earlier spill on May 6. The Navy has already spent “well over” $250 million after the spill, Converse told the panel. 

Read the full story here

US DEMANDS RUSSIA PULL BACK TROOPS

The American envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said on Tuesday that the U.S. and its allies want Russia to take concrete actions to de-escalate tensions on Ukraine’s border, amid fears that Moscow is prepared to launch a large-scale invasion of the former Soviet state. 

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, said the U.S. expects Russia to pull back the forces it has massed on Ukraine’s border and commit to engaging with the Minsk agreements, the 2014 diplomatic protocol intended to end fighting in eastern Ukraine.  

“We want to see the full implementation of the Minsk agreements with Russia pulling back its forces. But if Russia pursues confrontation, there will be serious consequences,” Smith told reporters during a briefing from Brussels, ahead of a meeting of the NATO-Russia council and set for Wednesday.   

‘Prepared for the conversation’: Smith’s comments come a day before the U.S. and allies are slated to participate in a meeting of the NATO-Russia council. The meeting is the second of three engagements happening in Europe this week and in response to what the U.S. and its allies say are Russian threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Smith said that the U.S. and its NATO allies are heading into the Wednesday meeting “prepared for the conversation” and in lockstep with a commitment to dialogue, but are resolved to impose consequences on Russia should it launch further aggression inside Ukraine.   

These include sanctions on Russian financial institutions, export controls that target key industries, enhancement of NATO force posture on allied territory in eastern Europe and increased security assistance to Ukraine.  

“I think all of us are feeling like we're prepared for the conversation tomorrow,” Smith said, but stressed that “no one has a crystal ball, and we'll have to wait to see what the outcome of the NRC is tomorrow.” 

The U.S., led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, first met Russian officials in a bilateral dialogue in Geneva on Monday, called the Strategic Stability Dialogue.

Sherman will lead the U.S. side in the talks between NATO and Russia on Wednesday and will join the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for a third meeting with Russian officials on Thursday.

Read the full story here 

High-value Gitmo prisoner cleared for transfer

Guled Duran, who was been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2006 without being charged, was approved for transfer in November, making him the first high-value prisoner at the facility recommended for release, The New York Times reported.

Duran's lawyer told the Times his client was informed on Monday of the decision by the Periodic Review Board at Guantánamo Bay. 

According to a document obtained by the Times verifying Duran’s transfer clearance, "continued law of war detention is no longer necessary to protect against continuing significant threat to the security of the United States."  

It added that “vigorous efforts will be undertaken to identify a suitable transfer location ... outside the United States, subject to appropriate security and human treatment assurances.” 

About Duran: Duran, who is from Somalia, was detained in Djibouti in 2004 and spent more than two years in CIA custody before being sent to Guantánamo Bay, where he has been held without charge since September 2006. 

Duran is one of 39 detainees still being held at Guantánamo. The Biden administration has transferred one detainee thus far. 

Read the full story here  

OMAR: CLOSE GUANTÁNAMO BAY

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSenate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Overnight Defense & National Security — DOD watchdog to review extremism screening Omar calls for closure of Guantánamo Bay prison after 20 years of 'lawlessness and cruelty' MORE (D-Minn.) penned an op-ed piece published in Teen Vogue Tuesday calling for the Guantánamo Bay detention facility to be shut down 20 years to the day of its opening. 

The Minnesota representative wrote that she would rather not refer to Jan. 11 as an "anniversary" as it implied a celebration. 

"Today is a day to reflect, and to act," wrote Omar. 

"I reflect on what scores of men lost when the United States tortured them, systematically dismantling their identity and humanity. I reflect on what the families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks lost — any possibility of fair and impartial justice — when the United States decided to trade away decency and the rule of law for torture and indefinite detention. And I reflect on our refusal to hold anyone meaningfully accountable for these acts," she wrote. 

Read more here 

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