“At the invitation of the Indonesian government, we are sending airborne assets to assist in the search for the missing submarine,” he said.
He added that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has plans to speak with his Indonesian counterpart Friday “to discuss how else the United States can be of assistance.”
Indonesia’s diesel-powered submarine KRI Nanggala-402 disappeared during a training exercise Wednesday with 53 people, more than the boat is built to carry, on board. It is unclear at this time what the exact status of the missing submarine is.
The Indonesian navy has said it believes that the submarine, a 1,400-ton vessel made by Germany in the late 1970s and refitted in 2012, may have sunk to a depth of roughly 2,000 feet, putting the vessel beyond the reach and possibly past the point where the hull can withstand the crushing pressure of the water around it.
But, on the chance that this is not the case and it has survived, the search is a race against time given that the vessel will run out of oxygen by early Saturday morning. The boat only had 72 hours of breathable air available.
The US is investigating what appears to be directed-energy attacks on US troops, and the Pentagon suspects Russia is behind them, Politico reported.
Four national-security officials involved in the investigation told Politico that the Department of Defense has been investigating the incidents of suspected attacks since last year.
Two sources told Politico that this included incidents in Syria, where troops developed flu-like symptoms last fall.
Politico also reported that the Defense Department has briefed lawmakers on intelligence about the suspected attacks.
But a Pentagon spokesperson told Politico that the Defense Department wasn’t aware of directed-energy attacks against troops in Syria.
Directed-energy attacks involve directing energy towards a particular target, and could involve methods like lasers. It can involve directing microwave energy towards people, which harms people’s health.
The Biden administration is requesting $753 billion in spending on the US military in its first, $1.5 trillion budget blueprint, disappointing progressives and prompting “serious concerns” from the chairman of the Senate committee that will ultimately decide just how much to appropriate.
In a proposal released Friday, the White House requested a 1.7% increase in national security spending, including $715 billion for the Department of Defense. Accounting for inflation, that is roughly the same amount that Congress approved in 2020.
But liberal Democrats had been hoping for more. Last year, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus pushed for a 10% cut in defense spending, arguing that the money – over half of US discretionary spending – could be put to better use funding social programs, especially amid a pandemic.
‘A budget is about priorities’
Sen. Bernie Sanders said the request bothered him.
“I have serious concerns,” Sanders, an independent from Vermont who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement Friday. “At a time when the US already spends more on the military than the next 12 nations combined, it is time for us to take a serious look at the massive cost over-runs, the waste and fraud that currently exists in the Pentagon.”
That concern was echoed by Sanders’ liberal colleague, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February.
“A budget is about priorities, and we continue to overinvest in defense while underinvesting in public health and so much more that would keep us safe and that would save lives,” Warren said.
That comment came during questioning of Dr. Kathleen Hicks, the Biden administration’s pick for deputy secretary of defense. Hicks, for her part, said the Pentagon could get by on less money, but that would require “hard choices” the White House does not appear willing to tackle in its first spending proposal.
In 2020, the Pentagon failed its audit for the third year in a row. It does not expect to pass a comprehensive review of its assets until at least 2027.
Biden administration defends proposal
A White House official, speaking on background with reporters on Friday, sought to assuage progressive critics.
“A large chunk of that increase is to pay for the pay raise for men and women in uniform and the civilians that support them,” they said.
According to the federal formula for military pay increases, service members should expect a 2.7% increase in their salary, the Military Times reported last December.
The Biden administration will release a more detailed spending proposal in the coming months.
The coiffed hair, the squint, the jaw clench, and even the signature cackle – it all looks and sounds virtually indistinguishable from the real Tom Cruise.
But the uncanny lookalikes that went viral on TikTok last month under the handle @deeptomcruise were deepfakes, a collaboration between Belgian visual-effects artist Chris Ume and Tom Cruise impersonator Miles Fisher.
The content was entertaining and harmless, with the fake Cruise performing magic tricks, practicing his golf swing, and indulging in a Bubble Pop. Still, the videos – which have racked up an average of 5.6 million views each – reignited people’s fears about the dangers of the most cutting-edge type of fake media.
“Deepfakes seem to tap into a really visceral part of people’s minds,” Henry Ajder, a UK-based deepfakes expert, told Insider.
“When you watch that Tom Cruise deepfake, you don’t need an analogy because you’re seeing it with your own two eyes and you’re being kind of fooled even though you know it’s not real,” he said. “Being fooled is a very intimate experience. And if someone is fooled by a deepfake, it makes them sit up and pay attention.”
The good news: it’s really hard to make such a convincing deepfake. It took Ume two months to train the AI-powered tool that generated the deepfakes, 24 hours to edit each minute-long video, and a talented human impersonator to mimic the hair, body shape, mannerisms, and voice, according to The New York Times.
The bad news: it won’t be that hard for long, and major advances in the technology in recent years have unleashed a wave of apps and free tools that enable people with few skills or resources to create increasingly good deepfakes.
Nina Schick, a deepfake expert and former advisor to Joe Biden, told Insider this “rapid commodification of the technology” is already is wreaking havoc.
“Are you just really concerned about the high-fidelity side of this? Absolutely not,” Shick said, adding that working at the intersection of geopolitics and technology has taught her that “it doesn’t have to be terribly sophisticated for it to be effective and do damage.”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is well aware of this diverse landscape, and its Media Forensics (MediFor) team is working alongside private sector researchers to develop tools that can detect manipulated media, including deepfakes as well cheapfakes and shallowfakes.
As part of its research, DARPA’s MediFor team mapped out different types of synthetic media – and the level of skill and resources an individual, group, or an adversarial country would need to create it.
Shick said the Facebook-fueled genocide against Rohingya Muslims also relied mostly on these so-called “cheapfakes” and “shallowfakes” – synthetic or manipulated media altered using less advanced, non-AI tools.
But deepfakes aren’t just being used to spread political misinformation, and experts told Insider ordinary people may have the most to lose if they become a target.
Last month, a woman was arrested in Pennsylvania and charged with cyber harassment on suspicion of making deepfake videos of teen cheerleaders naked and smoking, in an attempt to get them kicked off her daughter’s squad.
“It’s almost certain that we’re going to see some kind of porn version of this app,” Shick said. In a recent op-ed in Wired, she and Ajder wrote about a bot Ajder helped discover on Telegram that turned 100,000 user-provided photos of women and underage children into deepfake porn – and how app developers need to take proactive steps to prevent this kind of abuse.
Experts told Insider they’re particularly concerned about these types of cases because the victims often lack the money and status to set the record straight.
“The celebrity porn [deepfakes] have already come out, but they have the resources to protect themselves … the PR team, the legal team … millions of supporters,” Shick said. “What about everyone else?”
As with most new technologies, from facial recognition to social media to COVID-19 vaccines, women, people of color, and other historically marginalized groups tend to be disproportionately the victims of abuse and bias stemming from their use.
To counter the threat posed by deepfakes, experts say society needs a multipronged approach that includes government regulation, proactive steps by technology and social media companies, and public education about how to think critically and navigate our constantly evolving information ecosystem.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas claimed that the US military is launching “political attacks to intimidate” Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and has demanded a meeting with top military officials to discuss the issue.
In a letter posted on Twitter and addressed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Cruz accused the Pentagon of launching “systematic, public attacks against television host Tucker Carlson” in the last week “that in substance, tone, and political resonance are inexplicably inappropriate.”
Cruz in the letter accused the military of undermining its neutrality in domestic political debates “for the sake of left-wing ideology and political expediency.”
“This spectacle risks politicizing the military after several centuries of efforts to keep military officials out of domestic affairs,” he wrote in his letter. “This kind of behavior, while perhaps typical in a military-controlled Third World country, is completely unacceptable in the United States of America.”
Last summer, Cruz had defended then-President Donald Trump’s threat to deploy US troops to quell domestic anti-racism protests, in what was widely decried as a violation of the US military’s political neutrality.
Cruz’s intervention in Carlson’s rift with the Pentagon came Carlson used his top-rated Fox News show to taunt the military over new flight suits for pregnant servicewomen, accusing the Biden administration of seeking to make the US military “more feminine” and claimed that “pregnant women are going to fight our wars.”
“The bottom line is it’s out of control, and the Pentagon’s going along with this. Again, this is a mockery of the US military and its core mission, which is winning wars,” Carlson said.
“What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host,” Kirby said in a statement.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, also tweeted: “F— Tucker Carlson.
Over the weekend a US Marine force Twitter account withdrew a tweet that pushed back against Carlson’s comments, and issued an apology. The now-deleted tweet, addressed to Carlson, said: “Get right before you get left, boomer.”
The II Marine Expeditionary Force apologized on Twitter on Saturday, saying: “We are human and we messed up. We intended to speak up for female Marines and it was an effort to support them. They are a crucial part to our corps and we need them to know that. We will adjust fire and ensure the utmost professionalism in our tweets.”
“Would anybody have marched on the Capitol, and tried to overrun the Capitol, without the president’s speech? I think it’s pretty much definitive that wouldn’t have happened.”
Shortly before a pro-Trump mob descended on the Capitol complex, Trump spread falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election and told a large crowd of his supporters that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Trump encouraged the crowd to march over to the Capitol make their voices heard, telling them that they have to be strong because “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.”
Amid that aggressive rhetoric, Trump said that demonstrations and protests of congressional efforts to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election should be peaceful and patriotic. What followed was far from peaceful, though, and has been described as an “insurrection” as rioters sought to stop the election certification and tried to find top lawmakers and even Vice President Mike Pence.
Rioters were already inside the Capitol by the time Trump finally urged his supporters to go home.
Five people were killed during the riot, including one Capitol Police officer, and numerous others were injured when rioters violently forced their way into the Capitol.
Miller said that some of Trump’s comments were “concerning” in his interview with Vice News. “The question is, did he know he was enraging people to do that? I don’t know,” he said.
Miller, who became the acting secretary of defense after Trump fired Mark Esper in November, has faced criticism for the military’s delayed reaction to riot. He has described such criticisms as “complete horses–t.”
Miller again rejected criticisms of his response to the riot at the Capitol during his chat with Vice News. The former Pentagon chief also indicated that there was no external pressure from the president regarding the response to the riot, and he said that he was not worried about an illegal order.
He did say, though, that there were a number of things during his time as the acting defense secretary that made him look closely at his “ethical, moral, and legal red lines.”
“I knew that I was not going to cross any of those lines, and if asked, I would resign,” he told Vice News. “If it’s antithetical to the Constitution or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, it is an illegal order and you don’t follow it.”
The top Pentagon spokesman said Thursday that the defense secretary is disgusted by Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s comments claiming that President Joe Biden is making the military “more feminine” and that doing so is a “mockery.”
Speaking to reporters during an off-camera discussion at the Pentagon, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby characterized Carlson’s recent remarks as “ridiculous,” adding that the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “shares the revulsion of so many others to what Mr. Carlson said.”
“We still have a lot of work to do to make our military more inclusive,” he said, according to reporters present. “What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk-show host or the Chinese military.”
Kirby added that “maybe those people think they have something to prove.”
Following Biden’s remarks on International Women’s Day highlighting efforts to make the military more accommodating for women service members, Carlson accused the president of feminizing the US armed forces while overlooking other pressing challenges, like China.
“So we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits,” Carlson said. “Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the US military.”
Carlson added that “while China’s military becomes more masculine as it’s assembled the world’s largest navy, our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, more feminine.”
The Pentagon is looking for a new way to screen social media as part of its background check process, in an effort to prevent extremist behavior in the ranks.
The Defense Department “is examining a scalable means of implementing social media screening in conjunction with background investigations,” Pentagon officials said in suggested training materials distributed for a stand-down to discuss extremism. The military-wide pause in operations was ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
The reference appears in a “common questions and answers” section, in which the Pentagon anticipated troops might ask about checking social media belonging to service members, civilian DoD employees and prospective recruits.
The suggested response notes that when service members and DoD civilians submit an SF-86 form to begin a background investigation process, they consent to having their publicly available social media information reviewed. The FBI now screens social media for extremism and criminal activity, the document states.
But Anthony Kuhn, an attorney with the law firm Tully Rinckey who specializes in security clearance issues, said in an interview Tuesday that the Pentagon’s statement indicates it plans to take a much more aggressive and methodical approach to monitoring troops’ social media in the wake of the January 6 ransacking of the Capitol by a violent mob.
The military doesn’t really have a formal process for doing so now, he said. Typically, a service member draws attention for extremist or other problematic social media posts after a third party sees them and alerts the military.
Kuhn said he represents several people who have had their security clearances jeopardized due in part to social media posts, so the military does look at it in at least some cases. But he added that the momentum for doing so will probably keep growing.
Troops are allowed to have and express their own political opinions, Kuhn said, as long as they follow certain guidelines, such as not doing so on duty or in uniform.
But the training materials spell out how service members’ activities can run afoul of the military’s standards, such as by advocating for violence or sedition against the government.
Service members are not allowed to “actively advocat[e] supremacist, extremist or criminal gang doctrine, ideology and causes,” the training materials state. They also cannot actively participate in organizations that “advance, encourage or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity or national origin,” or “the use of force, violence or criminal activity” to deprive people of their civil rights.
Extremist groups often try to recruit current or former service members for their skills and to gain legitimacy for their cause, according to the training materials.
“It’s about extremist ideology, and that can take many forms,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a gaggle with reporters Tuesday. “It’s not just about white supremacy, but about extremist ideologies, including [those of] a criminal nature.”
In the new Pentagon training materials, officials said that, while troops have First Amendment rights to speak freely and assemble peaceably, the military must still assess their character, honesty, discretion, judgment and trustworthiness when deciding whether they are reliable enough to have access to classified or sensitive information.
Actions that could disqualify service members include supporting, being involved or associating with, or expressing sympathy for those attempting, training for, or advocating sabotage, espionage, treason, terrorism or sedition against the United States, the training documents state.
Those who associate or sympathize with people or organizations seeking to use force, violence, or other illegal or unconstitutional means to overthrow the federal or state government; prevent federal, state or local government personnel from performing their official duties; to gain retribution for perceived wrongs caused by the government; or to prevent other from exercising their legal or constitutional rights, could also find themselves disqualified, according to the training materials.
“Any doubt is resolved in favor of the national security,” officials said.
Kuhn said the Pentagon’s language suggests it might add social media checks to its continuous evaluation process, which already uses computers and investigators to track clearance holders and flag any financial trouble, criminal arrests, or emerging drug or alcohol problems.
Tracking violations of DoD regulations’ Guideline A, which requires “allegiance to the United States,” has been difficult to monitor, he said.
“That could be anything from liking a comment on a social media post that’s buried somewhere on the internet, all the way through openly advocating violence against the government or a government official,” Kuhn said. “They’re trying to figure out a system to track that kind of behavior, those types of red flags. Right now, there isn’t one.”
Service members who like and interact with posts by extremist groups such as the Three Percenters, a paramilitary organization that opposes federal government intervention in local affairs, could find that activity flagged by screening, Kuhn said.
Due process still applies, and the service member wouldn’t automatically lose their clearance, he said, but there would likely be an investigation.
“I think that’s going to be very common, moving forward,” Kuhn said.
This could mean automated scanning of accounts on Facebook or Twitter, or even sites such as Parler that do not ban users who post extremist content, he added.
And while the military could start by only periodically reviewing social media posts when troops need background checks, Kuhn said he expects that, before long, it would be expanded into a practice of real-time monitoring to catch whether troops are involved in emerging threats.
“They will be using whatever technology they have available to them at this point to be able to monitor, in real time, social media posts and groups they have concerns about,” he said. “I’m sure they’ve already started” working on a continuous monitoring system after the shock of the January 6 Capitol attack, and the apparently disproportionately large number of rioters with military backgrounds.
Kuhn also expects that background investigations or periodic reinvestigations for renewals of security clearances will include closer looks at social media.
The commander of the DC National Guard said Wednesday that it took military leaders in former President Donald Trump’s Pentagon three hours from the time Capitol Police called for backup to tell him to send in troops to respond to the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Maj. Gen. William Walker, the commanding general of the DC National Guard, told senators at a congressional hearing Wednesday that shortly after receiving a call for support, he was ready to send roughly 150 Guard troops to the Capitol. He said they could have been there in about 20 minutes, but he needed approval from Pentagon leadership.
At 1:49 pm on Jan. 6, “I received a frantic call from then Chief of US Capitol Police Steven Sund, where he informed me that the security perimeter at the Capitol had been breached by hostile rioters,” he said.
In his testimony, Walker recalled that “Sund, his voice cracking with emotion, indicated that there was a dire emergency on Capitol Hill and requested the immediate assistance of as many Guardsmen as I could muster.”
Walker said that he immediately relayed the request for National Guard support to senior Army leadership and quickly readied available forces.
He did not get approval to deploy Guard troops from Army leadership until 5:08 pm, hours after the violent mob had breached the Capitol. He said that once he finally received approval, he was able to get troops to the Capitol in 18 minutes.
The commanding general said that he had troops “ready to go shortly after the phone call” at 1:49 pm, but while he was ready to respond, he had to wait for approval.
Asked about the potential impact of those Guard forces had they been deployed sooner, Walker said they “could have made a difference,” adding that they “could have extended the perimeter and helped push back the crowd.”
The Pentagon’s timeline of events on Jan. 6 states that although acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller approved the full activation of the DC National Guard at 3:04 pm, the decision to authorize already available DC Guard troops to move in to support Capitol Police was not made until 4:32 pm.
That timeline shows that troops already available to respond did not depart the National Guard Armory to support Capitol Police until after 5 pm.
A Department of Defense official who testified before Congress on Wednesday was unable to explain why it took over half an hour for someone to notify the DC Guard commander.
The defense official, Robert G. Salesses, a senior official performing the duties of the assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security, acknowledged that the communications breakdown was a “problem.”
Acting Defense Secretary Miller, a last-minute Trump administration appointee, told Vanity Fair in January that allegations that the Pentagon dragged its feet responding to the Capitol riot were “complete horse—t.”
“I know for an absolute fact that historians are going to look…at the actions that we did on that day and go, ‘Those people had their game together,'” he said.
US President Joe Biden ordered the military to carry out airstrikes against the assets of “Iranian-backed militant groups” in Syria on Thursday evening, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The strikes come after militants last week fired rockets that hit an Iraqi airbase used by the US military. That attack killed a US military contractor and wounded nine others.
The Iranian government supports a number of militant groups in Iraq and Syria and has pledged continued retaliation for the January 2020 killing of its general, Qassim Suleimani. That assassination came after Iraqi militant groups, days earlier, had killed another US military contractor in a rocket attack.
Thursday’s strikes, according to defense officials, were primarily aimed at the militants’ “infrastructure,” not necessarily their personnel.
“Specifically, the strikes destroyed multiple facilities located at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kait’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kait’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS),” the Pentagon said. The groups have deployed in Syria to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Tehran.
“The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq.”
The incident comes as the Biden administration is also seeking to engage Iran in diplomacy as part of an effort to restore the 2015 nuclear deal scuttled by former President Donald Trump. Last week, the US State Department said it would attend multiparty talks “to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program.”