‘When Everything is Classified, Nothing is Classified’

Happy Friday! On this day in 1970, John Lennon came up with, wrote, and recorded “Instant Karma” in a matter of hours, essentially launching his solo career.

Impressive. But as impressive as putting together a 2,700-word newsletter on over-classification in an evening? We’ll leave that for you to decide.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The inspector general’s office at the Department of Health and Human Services issued a 64-page report Thursday, finding the National Institutes of Health—and more specifically, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—failed to properly monitor a grantee that collaborated on research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the Chinese city where the COVID-19 pandemic began. The report does not include any evidence the WIV or the grantee—EcoHealth—were responsible for the virus that’s killed millions in recent years, but it does say the NIH did not follow its own progress reporting protocols, nor did they refer the research to their review committee meant to evaluate the risks of pathogen experimentation. “Based on these findings,” the inspector general report reads, “we conclude that NIH missed opportunities to more effectively monitor research. With improved oversight, NIH may have been able to take more timely corrective actions to mitigate the inherent risks associated with this type of research.”
  • The Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products committee voted unanimously on Thursday in favor of retiring Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech’s original COVID-19 vaccines and replacing them with a version of the pharmaceutical companies’ bivalent booster shots, which were specifically designed to protect against the Omicron variant. A Centers for Disease Control study published this week found people who received the updated booster were about half as likely to develop symptomatic COVID-19 from the now-dominant XBB/XBB.1.5 subvariant as people who received two to four doses of the original, monovalent vaccine. The FDA and CDC must officially adopt the change before it can go into effect, but the agencies are expected to do so.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Thursday the United States’ real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at a 2.9 percent annualized pace in the fourth quarter of 2022, down from 3.2 percent annualized growth in Q3. The numbers bested economists’ predictions of 2.6 percent growth, despite the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates to cool growth in a bid to slow inflation.
  • Days before it was set to expire, the Biden administration on Thursday extended the Deferred Enforced Departure for Certain Hong Kong Citizens program, which allows Hong Kongers to overstay their visas without fear of deportation. The program was first adopted in August 2021 in response to growing political repression in Hong Kong; Hong Kongers may now remain in the U.S. until January 2025. 
  • The Justice Department announced Thursday it has “dismantled” Hive, a Russia-linked ransomware gang accused of hacking hospital, school, and private firm computer systems. U.S. agencies collaborated with European authorities to hack the Hive servers over seven months, before disabling them and seizing control of the group’s website. Attorney General Merrick Garland said officials have not made any arrests or seized any assets, and the investigation is ongoing. 
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed yesterday U.S. forces killed Bilal al-Sudani—a high-ranking ISIS leader and “key facilitator for ISIS’s global network”—in Somalia earlier in the day. According to Austin, no civilians or U.S. troops were hurt in the helicopter raid that also killed other ISIS members.
  • Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California announced Thursday he is running for U.S. Senate, hoping to succeed incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who at 89 has not yet announced whether she plans to run for reelection. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter entered the race earlier this month, and Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee is expected to join the field as well. Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, meanwhile, announced he will run for reelection in 2024, rather than pursuing a rumored presidential bid.
  • Shelby County, Tennessee District Attorney Steve Mulroy charged five former Memphis police officers with second-degree murder for the death of Tyre Nichols, a black man who died days after the five officers, who are also black, left him in critical condition after a traffic stop on January 7. The five men were also charged with aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. Mulroy said officials will release video footage of the altercation this evening, and U.S. Capitol Police are beefing up security in preparation for any protests or riots that erupt over the weekend. 
  • The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 6,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 186,000 last week, reflective of a still-tight labor market despite layoffs at a number of high-profile companies.

Three Can Keep a Secret

Inside of a filing cabinet containing confidential documents

Pittsburgh, 1984. Thirteen-year-old Kristin Preble’s social studies class was having show-and-tell, so she brought in something her dad had found in a hotel room a few years before: a 4-inch stack of federal government documents labeled “Classified, Confidential, Executive.” Preble’s teacher confiscated the documents and turned them over to the FBI after perusing the briefings on Iran, Libya, and other countries. 

The 8th grader got a “B” on the assignment.

This content is available exclusively to Dispatch members
Try a membership for full access to every newsletter and all of The Dispatch. Support quality, fact-based journalism.
Already a paid member? Sign In
Comments (381)
Join The Dispatch to participate in the comments.
Load More