22 October 2016

*** The Chinese Military is a Paper Dragon

In appearance it is very powerful, but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of—it is a paper tiger.—Mao Zedong on the United States, 1956
China’s rise over the past 30 years has been nothing short of spectacular.
After decades of double-digit growth, today China is the world’s second largest economy—and possesses an increasingly sophisticated military that’s among the planet’s most powerful. Despite China bordering a number of unstable countries, its borders are secure.
That wasn’t always the case. In 2,000 years, China has suffered invasions,revolutions and humiliations from the outside world—plus its own internal rebellions. It has been brutalized, conquered and colonized.
No longer. China’s defense spending has increased tenfold in 25 years. Beijing is building a powerful blue-water navy, developing stealth fighters and carefully experimenting with peacekeeping and expeditionary operations.
China’s military buildup, along with an aggressive foreign policy, has inspired a fair amount of alarm in the West. Some American policymakers consider Beijing to be Washington’s only “near-peer competitor”—in other words, the only country with the military might to actually beat the U.S. military in certain circumstances.

But they’re wrong. Even after decades of expensive rearmament, China is a paper dragon—a version of what Mao Zedong wrongly claimed the United States was … in 1956.
China’s military budget has grown by double-digits year after year, but inflation has eaten away at the increases. China’s army, navy, air force and missile command are wracked by corruption—and their weapons are, by and large, still greatly inferior to Western equivalents.
Yes, the People’s Liberation Army is slowly becoming more technologically advanced. But that doesn’t mean Beijing can mobilize its armed forces for global missions. Unlike the world’s main expeditionary powers—the United States and the U.K., to name two—China is surrounded by potential enemies.
Russia, Japan and India are all neighbors … and historic adversaries. China’s aggressive foreign policy targeting smaller states isn’t encouraging submission but resistance, as countries such as The Philippines and Vietnam ally with the United States, Japan and India.
China’s other neighbors are weak or failed states, such as Pakistan and North Korea. Their instability—or their outright collapse—could have serious security repercussions for China, and help explain why Beijing lavishes funds on its armed forces.

*** Indian and Chinese Covert Efforts

By Nicolas Groffman
21 Oct , 2016

The founder of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly, has commented that a surveillance society is inevitable – but that it should not be feared in itself. Surveillance, and by extension, espionage can bring benefits. There is no substitute for development of trust through tourism, trade and so on, but these cannot be forced. By analogy with Kelly’s theory, ignorance of each other’s behaviour leads to demonisation of the other side. Every step taken by the counterparty is interpreted in the worst light possible and used as a pretext to behave aggressively. Real friendship between the two countries is not yet possible, and so they need to obtain information about each other by other means. Those other means are efficient intelligence and espionage which both countries need to improve.

Strange as it may sound, China and India need a basis in espionage to improve their relationship…

Strange as it may sound, China and India need a basis in espionage to improve their relationship. The two countries are ignorant of each other’s strategies, with suspicion taking the place of intelligence just when understanding is critical. The two countries, both nuclear powers, have the world’s largest border dispute on their hands, at over 100,000 square kilometres. They tussle over sea routes in the Indian Ocean, spheres of influence in neighbouring countries and relations with Pakistan. They need to know each other better.

Neither country engages satisfactorily in normal people to people interaction. Only 175,000 Chinese tourists visited India last year, compared with 2.4 million to China’s arch-rival Japan. China’s investments in India total just $4 billion, less than its investments in Poland and India’s investments in China are smaller still. There is also a dearth of diplomatic exchange. India’s embassy in China has just 30 diplomats1. Only 9,200 Indian students study in China, with even fewer Chinese students studying in India. Surveys have shown that Indians and Chinese do not like each other very much.

** Cyber Attack On ATMs; Debit Cards Highlight Vulnerability Of Our Financial System

October 20, 2016

Our mad rush towards a digital future will be seriously damaged by a lackadaisical attitude towards cyber security.

While we cannot know who else apart from China, Russia, the US and Pakistan may be interested in discovering our cyber vulnerabilities, there is little doubt that we have to be super-vigilant against both China and Pakistan.

For a country racing towards the adoption of the most sophisticated payments system in the world and the gradual abolition of cash, India seems particularly cavalier about cyber security. Recent news reports, that 30 million debit cardsissued by the biggest banks in India – State Bank of India (SBI), HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Yes Bank – may have been compromised through malware introduced into ATM systems show how quickly confidence in technology-based systems can fall.

That banks knew about this some weeks ago and are still wary about quickly moving in to contain the damage is worrisome. The problem seems to haveoriginated in the Hitachi Payments System, which manages ATMs, point-of-sale machines and other bank services. While SBI has recalled lakhs of debit cards, Axis Bank has engaged multinational professional services firm EY to check if its main servers have been impacted. Yes Bank has said there has been no breach of its network, but is still looking into it. Axis Bank was apparently unaware of a breach, till a Kaspersky Lab official tipped off the bank. The card payment systems impacted include Visa, MasterCard and RuPay. Some of the card accounts hacked were apparently used from China.

** Kashmir is Indian. Is Tibet really Chinese?

By Claude Arpi
21 Oct , 2016

Comrades in the Middle Kingdom must learn from their history and be prepared. New Delhi can be ‘neutral’ but also side with the Tibetans, especially if Beijing continues to side with Pakistan’s terrorist activities

In April 2015, President Xi Jinping paid his first State visit to Pakistan.

The friendship between the two nations was ‘higher than mountains, deeper than oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel,” said the billboards in Chinese and English in Islamabad.

The Washington Post remarked: “Xi arrived in Islamabad bearing real gifts: an eye-popping $46 billion worth of planned energy and infrastructure investment to boost Pakistan’s flagging economy.”

It sounded like a Chinese Dream for Islamabad!

Beijing had decided to open a China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which would link up Xi’s pet project, the two New Silks Roads (also known as ‘One Belt, One Road’); through the Karakoram Highway, the Chinese-sponsored port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea would connect to the Xinjiang province in China’s Far West and Central Asia …and later Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The ‘corridor’ would have railways, roads, optical fiber cables, dams (to produce the necessary electricity), pipelines!

Pakistan was China’s perfect docile ‘partner’; it was geographically ideally positioned with an access to the sea in the South and to Central Asia in the North.

Crisis In India’s IT Sector: Job Offers Expected To Fall By 20%, Salaries To Remain Stagnant

Swarajya Staff
19 Oct, 2016

All is not well in India’s IT (information technology) sector. For the September 2016 quarter, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) reported a 1 per cent sequential growth in constant currency terms. Another IT giant, Infosys, slashed its annual revenue growth forecast for the second time in the last three months. This prompted Andy Mukherjee to pen the obituary of India’s IT sector. He writes inMint:

The dominant trio of Tata Consultancy, Infosys and Wipro between them had 1.5 times more workers doing digital stuff last year than Accenture. But the revenue they garnered was 40% less than what the latter chalked up from newer technologies. That makes the typical digital-tech employee of an Indian vendor 25% as efficient as his counterpart at the global consultant. This gap sets the clock back on Indian companies, which have taken years to narrow the productivity differential.

If the doubts about the strength of India’s IT sector are true, how would it impact jobs in the country, given that the sector is one of the largest job providers for the youth?

It is already impacting campus placements. We know the entry-level salaries in IT firms today are the same as what they were five years ago. Now it seems like the jobs may start shrinking.

The Business Standard reports today (19 October) that campus placement offers could dip by at least 20 per cent. Salary growth is also expected to remain flat at mid-level engineering colleges. The condition of low-level colleges is set to be worse. Hundreds of such colleges have already shut down in the past couple of years.

The Challenges That Remain In The Burgeoning Indo-US Defence Ties

October 19, 2016

India and the US have been forging a strategic relationship with each other, and defence is a critical component of it.

Even as the defence ties reach unprecedented levels, some challenges remain that have to be tackled.

This will propel the strategic relationship between the two into the long term.

India and the United States (US), and the emerging strategic partnership between the two, is directed with shared strategic logic, which includes the rise of China, Islamic fundamentalism and extremism and mutual agreements on various international issues. The two countries have been forging closer defence cooperation, which is one of the crucial engines of the strategic partnership. The US has emerged as the largest defence supplier to India in terms of value. A number of initiatives, agreements and forums have been designed and created in order to further boost military-to-military cooperation, defence co-production and co-development as well as collaboration in R&D in defence technology. The June 2015 Defence Agreement signed between US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar envisions further strengthening of the defence relationship.

There are, however, certain obstacles that have prevented full exploitation of the true potential of defence cooperation between the two strategic partners. Though the US has emerged as the largest defence supplier in terms of value, Russia continues to be India’s single-most important supplier of defence hardware as far as the number of units is concerned. Moreover, India remains wary of the reliability of the US as a defence partner because of historical suspicions. Americans, on the other hand, find it difficult to comply with India’s defence offset policy.

Pakistan Lawmakers Say They Fear The CPEC Could Turn Into Another East India Company

18 Oct, 2016

A number of lawmakers of Pakistan's upper house, the Senate, fear that the $51 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is an extension of China'sOne Belt One Road initiative will ultimately lead to the economic enslavement of Pakistan.

The Dawn, Pakistan's popular English daily, reported that Senators cutting across party lines apprehended that the CPEC could turn into another East India Company that paved the way for the colonisation of the Indian sub-continent by the British if Pakistan's national interests were not protected.

“Another East India Company is in the offing, national interests are not being protected. We are proud of the friendship between Pakistan and China, but the interests of the state should come first,” Senator Tahir Mashhadi, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Planning and Development, said when some committee members raised the concern that the government was not protecting the rights and interests of the people.

Following a briefing by Pakistan's Planning Commission Secretary Yousuf Nadeem Khokhar, a number of committee members voiced their fears over what they perceived as the utilisation of local financing for CPEC projects instead of funding from the Chinese or any other foreign investment. They also expressed concern over the fixing of power tariff for CPEC-related power projects by the Chinese.

A number of mega infrastructure projects are planned under the CPEC, including the linking of the southwestern Pakistani port city of Gwadar to China's northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via a vast network of highways and railways. A 1,100 km long motorway will be constructed between the cities ofKarachi and Lahore, while the Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and theChinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled.

Taliban and Afghanistan restart secret talks in Qatar

Sami Yousafzai, Jon Boonein Islamabad and Sune Engel Rasmussen in Kabul
18 October 2016

Exclusive: Senior sources say US diplomat was present for first known negotiations since Pakistan-brokered process broke down in 2013 

Smoke rises from a building where Taliban insurgents hide during a fire fight with Afghan security forces, in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Photograph: AP

The Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government have restarted secret talks in the Gulf state of Qatar, senior sources within the insurgency and the Kabul government have told the Guardian.

Among those present at the meetings held in September and October was Mullah Abdul Manan Akhund, brother of Mullah Omar, the former Taliban chief who led the movement from its earliest days until his death in 2013.

The two rounds of talks are the first known negotiations to have taken place since a Pakistan-brokered process entirely broke down following the death in a US drone strike of Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.

Doha has been a centre for Taliban diplomacy since the movement was granted permission to set up an office in the Qatari capital in 2013, although that initiative became one of the many attempts to start a peace process that ultimately came to nothing following complaints from the Afghan government.

Mullah Omar’s son, Mohammad Yaqoob, is expected to soon join the Doha group, a Taliban source said, in a move that would further bolster the authority of the office.

Inside Isis: how UK spies infiltrated terrorist leadership

Kim Sengupta
October 20, 2016

“They are afraid of a lot of things now. They are afraid of the bombing, they are afraid of the attack that’s coming and they are also really afraid of the foreignspies who are among them”. This was Rashid’s description of what was going on inside Isis. And the Western intelligence agency that has infiltrated Isis the most, claimed the Belgian jihadi, was the British.

Rachid is one of the thousands of foreign fighters who had gone to join Syria’s jihad, graduating in extremism among rebel groups to two years serving with Isis. But disillusioned, he says, with the Islamists and fearing what lay ahead, he has fled across the border to Turkey.

Rachid, a mechanic before he took up the gun in the name of Islam, was part of a small but steady flow of fighters leaving Isis as it faces an assault on Mosul, its last stronghold in Iraq and waited for the coming offensive against Raqqa, the capital of its “caliphate” in Syria.

The contact with Rachid came through an intermediary in Turkey after I wrote an article in The Independent last month about thousands of jihadis from who, with Isis facing defeat, will be seeking to return. The picture painted by him was of an “Islamic State” where the sense of omnipotence that came during the astonishingly quick advance through Syria and Iraq has been replaced by foreboding, divisions and desertions. And with it has come rising paranoia and violent retribution being exacted on those deemed to be traitors.

Rachid, who had trimmed his beard and burned the clothes and documents he had in Syria, was anxious to leave Urfa, the city where we met, as soon as possible. It has, despite being in Turkey, become a haven for Islamist extremists, including those from Isis.


OCTOBER 18, 2016

We recently became part of a growing insurgency. And like all good insurgents, we’re looking to spread the word to like-minded defense reformers.

Over Columbus Day weekend, your “Strategic Outpost” columnists traveled to Chicago to attend and speak at the annual conference of DEF, the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum. DEF is an eclectic movement of over a thousand rising young leaders with a unique mission: to help solve national security problems from the bottom up. A non-profit that was sparked three years ago by some creative work on disruptive thinking, DEF puts business innovators and social entrepreneurs in the same room with junior military leaders, veterans, and national security civilians, all of whom see themselves as change agents. According to Jim Perkins, an Army captain and DEF’s volunteer executive director, “The goal of DEF is culture change – we are an insurgency against the status quo.”

DEF represents a 21st-century view of the defense world, one common among millennials, but certainly not limited to them: that current Department of Defense processes and problem-solving means are painfully slow and entirely ineffective for a world moving at fiber-optic speed. The group’s members hold an unwavering belief that better solutions to American security problems can come from marrying creative outside thinking with networked “intrapreneurs” seeking change within the defense bureaucracy and community. They are convinced that change can be driven by (mostly) young innovators who may never reach general, admiral, or assistant secretary of defense. DEFers hold periodic major events around the United States and the world to connect members, as well as small monthly local get-togethers (called agoras) that meet in homes or bars. But, as a true grassroots organization, its most important work happens from the bottom up: members who stay connected through social media and self-organize to work on specific ideas and projects, often in response to Defense Department requests for help.

So, what did we learn? Here are our four key takeaways from the conference (which you can watch through its archived live stream).


OCTOBER 18, 2016

Recent on-the-ground reports from Northern Iraq, as well as statements from senior U.S. and Iraqi commanders, clearly telegraph the next phase of the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State: the battle to retake Mosul. As Iraqi forces, backed closely by U.S. advisors, prepare for the imminent clearance of the strategic city, they should heed the lessons learned from previous efforts to wrest control of Mosul from the Islamic State. When facing a major clearance operation, the group has often managed to go “underground” rather than fight a conventional military force head on. This age-old insurgent technique enabled the Islamic State’s predecessor, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), to surviveyears of robust, sustained U.S. and Iraqi counter-terrorism operations in Mosul from 2004 to 2009 and re-emerge when U.S. forces left the city in 2010.

As clearance operations get underway in Mosul, the Islamic State will likely replicate this approach, deactivating and dispersing its military units and reinforcing its intelligence, security, administrative, and financial groups. The coalition of Iraqi and U.S. forces must anticipate this adjustment, and prepare to execute a deliberate campaign targeting Islamic State “enabler” elements, which may operate just under the radar of coalition and Iraqi forces, but in plain sight of the all-important civilian population. If the coalition does not do this, the group could survive yet again – maintaining its stranglehold on Mosul through extortion, intimidation, and assassination only to resurface there once coalition forces shift their focus elsewhere.

The Coming Liberation?

Virtually every analyst and pundit agrees that retaking Mosul from the Islamic State is a necessary and important next step for the coalition of Iraqi-government backed forces, many of which are already positioned in areas east and south of the city, such as Qayyarah and Sharqat. However, much of the recent media coverage of the upcoming Mosul operation, in hyperbolic fashion, has characterized it as the pivotal battle against the Islamic State, despite the fact that the group continues to control considerable territory in Iraq and Syria.

How Well Educated Are ISIS Recruits?

by Felix Richter, Statista.com

-- this post authored by Niall McCarthy

According to to a report from the World Bank based on leaked internal documents from ISIS, the terrorist organization's aspiring foreign recruits are relatively well educated.

44.3 percent of them have a secondary school education while a quarter of them have studied at university level.

This chart shows the schooling attainment of foreign ISIS recruits.

You will find more statistics at Statista.

Fighting the Islamic State on Social Media

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL) has made headlines with its dramatic and effective exploitation of social media. The organization has drawn on a variety of social networking applications to promote its cause, including Facebook, Instagram, Tumbler, Ask.fm, and, most prominently, Twitter.

ISIL has used Twitter to disseminate slick yet violence-ridden propaganda videos, promote its religious ideology and state-building efforts, and make one-on-one connections with prospective recruits. Its social media prowess has quite possibly played a part in ISIL's enormous success in recruitment and in inspiring deadly attacks throughout the world. These successes have led to the perception that ISIL is "winning the war" on Twitter. However, the reality is a little more complicated.

While Twitter serves up ISIL propaganda and helps the group achieve its goals, it also gives the broader public a unique window into the social networks of extremist supporters and allows researchers to study the impact of extremist messaging. In addition to exposing ISIL supporters, Twitter provides an opportunity to assess the structure and messaging of ISIL opponents, since it is home not only to ISIL recruiters and advocates but also to many in the Middle East who do not support the Islamic State. ISIL supporters talk up themes of defending Islam, recruiting new fighters, promoting state-building efforts, and critiquing the West, while ISIL opponents fight back by accusing ISIL of subverting Islam, highlighting ISIL violence, and trumpeting its terrorist threat.

Countering ISIL in the real world also requires countering its messaging online.

Rolling Back the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL)

Iraqi soldiers fire a rocket toward Islamic State militants on the outskirts of the Makhmour south of Mosul, Iraq, March 25, 2016

Violent jihadist groups are orchestrating or inspiring a growing number of terrorist attacks across the world, sowing disorder and testing governments’ ability to protect their citizens. The Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL)—also commonly referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Islamic State (IS), and Daesh— is the most active group among Salafi-jihadists, waging a terrorist and insurgent campaign across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. ISIL has also orchestrated or motivated bloody attacks in the United States, France, Belgium, Australia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia—countries far from its nerve center in Syria and Iraq.

ISIL Support and Opposition on Twitter

A 2016 RAND report drew on publicly available Twitter data to better understand the networks of ISIS supporters and opponents on Twitter. Drag the slider to view the geographic location of ISIL opponents (green), and ISIL supporters (red).


OCTOBER 18, 2016

An attack on French special operators in Syria caught the world’s attention last week, with many wondering what this means for the future of warfare and, in particular, traditional advantages of states on the battlefield against non-state foes. Ulrike Franke was one of those who took on these questions at War on the Rocks. While providing a good summary of the current usage of drones by irregular groups, she concluded perhaps too optimistically, stating: “In the short term, they are unlikely to fundamentally change the fight.” I am less optimistic. It seems clear to me that cheap commercial drones flying today can and, in the near future likely will, dramatically change the character of conflict between state and non-state actors. Previously on this site, I discussed how this technology will change wars between states; and so here I will focus on how non-state actors can and will use drones.

At the tactical level, these “flying IEDs” will raise the cost of protecting forces in country by heightening the threat to bases and lines of communications. While one might take comfort in the small size, and hence small payload, of hobby drones, doing so is a serious mistake. Allied forces in Iraq became painfully aware of the destructive power of explosively formed projectiles (EFPs). These relatively simple devices place a copper cone at the end of a tube filled with explosives. As the embedded video demonstrates, when the explosive detonates the cone inverts and becomes aprojectile with devastating power.

In this video, an EFP with only 30 grams (.06 pounds) of explosive and a cone roughly one inch in diameter cleanly penetrated about a half inch of steel. If attacking from above, it would penetrate all but well armored vehicles. Since many inexpensive drones easily carry the GoPro mera system, they can clearly carry a small EFP. If the EFP is mounted on and aligned with the GoPro, the operator can aim it remotely.

The World Needs the American Military

OCTOBER 19, 2016

It’s fiction to pretend that the most powerful nation can ever be truly “neutral” in foreign conflicts. 

Is a better world possible without U.S. military force?

The eight years of the Obama presidency have offered us a natural experiment of sorts. Not all U.S. presidents are similar on foreign policy, and not all (or any) U.S. presidents are quite like Barack Obama. After two terms of George W. Bush’s aggressive militarism, we have had the opportunity to watch whether attitudes toward the U.S.—and U.S. military force—would change, if circumstances changed. President Obama shared at least some of the assumptions of both the hard Left and foreign-policy realists, that the use of direct U.S. military force abroad, even with the best of intentions, often does more harm then good. Better, then, to “do no harm.”

This has been Barack Obama’s position on the Syrian Civil War, the key foreign-policy debate of our time. The president’s discomfort with military action against the Syrian regime seems deep and instinctual and oblivious to changing facts on the ground. When the debate over intervention began, around 5,000 Syrians had been killed. Now it’s close to 500,000. Yet, Obama’s basic orientation toward the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has remained unchanged. This suggests that Obama, like many others who oppose U.S. intervention against Assad, is doing so on “principled” or, to put it differently, ideological grounds.


OCTOBER 20, 2016

“Speak truth to power” — the sacred and deep cultural oath of the CIA and broader intelligence community — reminds intelligence analysts of their responsibility to provide unvarnished, non-politicized assessments to policymakers. And yet, these days speak truth to power may ring hollow for many analysts, not because organizations and leaders in the U.S. system politicize intelligence, but rather because the onerous coordination and review process has too often resulted in watered-down and less impactful analysis. Unlike in the academic community where a diversity of views based on the same evidence is encouraged, the intelligence community actively admonishes against it in favor of a review process meant to build a consensus, even if one does not exist. The end product of this bureaucratic process, known as “the corporate product,” purposefully masks analytic disagreement in favor of presenting a united “analytic line” to the policymaker.

Indeed, the corporate product has been around for ages. However, it was reinvigorated in the 1980s by then-Deputy Director of the CIA Robert M. Gates, who in 1992 as Director of Central Intelligence told a CIA audience that “they must discard the academic mindset that says their work is their own, and they must take into account the views of others during the coordination process.” Scholar Richard Betts would later accurately observe that “intelligence products are supposed to represent the best judgments of whole organizations, not single authors.” Now considered standard practice throughout the intelligence community, the corporate product is designed to avoid “confusing” policymakers with too many disparate views. Moreover, rigorous peer and management review is believed to strengthen analysis. So why change anything?

U.S. Confident It’s Blocked Russia’s Hacking Paths

Cynthia McFadden, William Arkin and Robert Windrem
October 20, 2016

U.S. Confident It’s Blocked Russia’s Hacking Paths

U.S. officials are confident that defensive measures put in place will stop Russia from hacking more emails to influence the upcoming election — for now.

A high-level intelligence source said the U.S. and its allies have choked off cyber paths that the Russians have allegedly been using to steal emails from high-profile Democrats and other prominent Americans and make them public through WikiLeaks, DCleaks and Guccifer 2.0.

The Russians, both the state actors and their proxies, are some of the most sophisticated cyber actors in the world and so it won’t take them long to find ways of infiltrating and attacking new systems getting access to more data and certainly trying to use it for information, warfare or other purposes.

“I think it’s credible that the U.S. government is doing everything possible to stop the cyber bleeding,” said Juan Zarate, who was a top counterterrorism official from 2005 to 2009.

But, he added, it’s all but certain that the Russians will eventually find work-arounds.

“The Russians — both the state actors and their proxies — are some of the most sophisticated cyber actors in the world and so it won’t take them long to find ways of infiltrating and attacking new systems, getting access to more data and certainly trying to use it for information, warfare or other purposes.

The Apps They Carried: Software, Big Data, and the Fight for Mosul

OCTOBER 17, 2016

A variety of digital tech tools aim to provide coalition forces some sense of the dangers around the next bend. 

As Iraqi troops and their U.S. and coalition supporters move onISIS-held Mosul, they can expect to face homemade bombs and booby traps. But they will have something that U.S. troops patrolling the country’s second-largest city in 2007 did not have: new big-data tools to help detect and defeat IEDs. 

Many of these tools take the form of data analysis and visualization apps to help deployed forces instantly access information about IEDs they encounter.

Developed by the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Threat-Defeat Organization, or JIDO, they include Catapult, JIDO’s cloud data architecture, which ingests bomb data from more than 550 sources across all the combatant commands and the intelligence community. Another, Horizon, allows users to plot that IEDinformation on an interactive map. For soldiers in an environment with limited bandwidth and connectivity (like a modern urban war zone), the Voltron software suite helps troops retain access to the very most critical bits of signals intelligence. 

Another mapping app, BOOM, or Blast Origin Overpressure Modeler, can provide a Google Maps image showing how big an explosion from a particular IED will be. From a JIDO brochure: “BOOM is a web-enabled application that allows the user to define a blast model by four inputs-explosive, type weight, a [homemade explosive] mix (yield) and the center point of the last being modeled. The output is a Google Earth KML layer with eight overpressure and two fragmentation concentric circle rings.” 

NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett said the ability to analyze intelligence at scale is helping analysts understand the IEDthreats just around the corner. 

What's going on with Julian Assange and the Ecuadorean embassy?

OCTOBER 18, 2016 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his hosts at the Ecuadorean Embassy cut off his internet access. Why?

Rumors of Julian Assange’s death have been greatly exaggerated, but the Wikileaks founder truly is without internet after a “state party” severed his internet connection at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Mr. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy for four years, ever since rape allegations threatened to cause him to be extradited him to Sweden. Assange and his supporters say they believe that the charges are a pretense to bring him to trial in the United States for leaking diplomatic cables.

Ecuador says that it remains committed to its decision to grant Assange asylum.

"Faced with the speculation of the last few hours, the Government of Ecuador ratifies the validity of the asylum granted to Julian Assange four years ago,” wrote the foreign ministry in a statement, adding that:

"His protection by the Ecuadorean state will continue while the circumstances that led to the granting of asylum remain."

When Wikileaks first sent out a series of three cryptic tweets with lines of what looked to be code, rumors abounded as to the fate of founder Assange.

Could Obama’s Threat of Retaliation against Russia Lead to Cyberwar?

October 18, 2016 

Online attacks are unpredictable and hard to control, leading to worries that White House cyber rattling could quickly escalate

Late last week Obama administration officials used NBC News to send Moscow a cryptic threat: The U.S. government is “contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action” against Russia for allegedly interfering in the upcoming U.S. elections. Anonymous sources cited in the NBC story offered no details about what the U.S. might d, but said the White House has asked the CIA to cook up a “clandestine” cyber strategy “designed to harass and embarrass” Russian leadership, including Pres. Vladimir Putin.

The threat refers to the Obama administration’s contention that Putin is likely behind the cyber attacks on Democratic National Committee computers and the leak of more than 19,000 pilfered DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks just before the party’s July national convention. Additional e-mails from presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have since surfaced on WikiLeaks’ site, fueling concerns that Russia is trying to skew the election in favor of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The Obama administration’s very public threat to engage Russia in a cyber snowball fight is an unprecedented move with unclear consequences, given the unpredictability of online attacks. Even when China emerged as the most likely culprit in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management data theft last year, the White House stopped short of vowing cyber retaliation. Instead Washington promised economic sanctions against Chinese firms that benefited from the hacking of any U.S. entities.

The New Face of Law and Cyber Warfare

October 18, 2016

On October 3-4, 2016, I was privileged to be invited to attend and speak at the annual conference organized by the Staff Judge Advocate for USCYBERCOM, Colonel Gary Corn. I attended the two unclassified days of the conference (two days of classified discussion followed). Fellow Lawfare bloggers Bobby Chesney and Carrie Cordero were also in attendance. The conference was under Chatham House rules but with the organizer’s kind permission, I wanted to blog a few of the most salient insights (from my own idiosyncratic perspective) derived from the two days of discussion I observed: 

The degree to which cyber warfare is being rapidly operationalized is underappreciated outside of the military (and perhaps even inside it). Though I was fully aware that USCYBERCOM had been filling its billets and reached a full complement of more than 6000 troops I did not understand the full scope and nature of their activities. To summarize a wide-ranging survey in a short pithy way, American cyber combatants are increasingly capable of engaging in cyber conflict activities (not all of which rise to the level of armed conflict) across the globe. The troops are organized in 40-70 person teams that have both offensive and defensive capabilities and are, when authorized, readily deployed (in both the virtual and physical sense) under the command of Admiral Rogers, the USCYBERCOM Commander. 

Speaking of the Commander of USCYBERCOM—there was a refreshingly candid (albeit under Chatham House rules) split of opinion voiced on the gnawing question of whether USCYBERCOM should be completely removed from the NSA. The best argument I heard against the move was of the “it’s a question of when, not if, and we aren’t quite ready” variety. The best argument in favor was that continued connection was retarding the development of a clear “military cyber culture of conduct” that was independent of the influence of an intelligence community perspective. 

What Options Does the U.S. Have After Accusing Russia of Hacks?

OCTOBER 8, 2016 

President Obama and top officials are proceeding cautiously after formally accusing Russia of trying to meddle in the election. 

WASHINGTON — Now that the White House has formally accused Russia of meddling in the presidential election with cutting-edge cyberattacks and age-old information warfare, devising a response might seem fairly easy: unleash the government’s cyberwarriors to give the Kremlin a dose of its own malware.

Technologically, that would not be too difficult, American officials say. But as a matter of strategy and politics, formulating the right kind of counterstrike is not that straightforward.

President Obama’s options range from the mild — naming and shaming the Russians, as he did on Friday — to the more severe, like invoking for the first time a series of economic sanctions that he created by executive order after North Korea’s attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The Justice Department could indict the Russians behind the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and the email accounts of prominent individuals, as it did with members of China’s People’s Liberation Army, who have been charged with stealing industrial secrets.

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Cybersecurity chief supports splitting role with NSA, but in the right way

10/18/16 4:27 PM

"The challenge in my mind is what's the right time? What's the right process? So that we do it in the right way," Adm. Mike Rogers said. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Splitting leadership of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency into two separate roles is the right thing to do, according to the man who currently heads both of them. 

But while that might be true, Adm. Mike Rogers on Tuesday said the administration and lawmakers should look at how to do it at the right time and in the right way. 

"My position has always been it's the right thing to do in the wrong way," Rogers said at FedScoop's FedTalks 2016. "The challenge in my mind is what's the right time? What's the right process? So that we do it in the right way." 

The NSA and Cyber Command were put under one leader to allow the brand-new cybersecurity agency to use the progress already made by the intel organization. Six years later, the admiral said it's time to step up and reevaluate if assumptions that were made at Cyber Command's beginning are still accurate or if the threat environment is different. 

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The US Needs One Cyber Defense Agency—Not Three, a Top NSAOfficial Says

OCTOBER 19, 2016

With the job divided between NSA, FBI, and DHS, 'we need to rethink how we do cyber defense as a nation.' 

The U.S. government ought to consider forging stronger ties between agencies that manage cybersecurity, including possibly unifying their cyber defense components in a single agency, the National Security Agency’s top cyber defender said today.

Combining aspects of NSA, the FBI and the Homeland Security Department into one cyber defense organization would give cyber defenders a clearer picture of what they’re up against when government computer networks are breached and it would speed up response times, Curtis Duke, NSA’s deputy national manager for national security systems, told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute.

“I’m now firmly convinced that we need to rethink how we do cyber defense as a nation,” he said.

Currently, NSA defends the government’s national security systems against cyberattacks. DHS is in charge of defending non-national security systems and the FBI investigates the criminal aspects of cyberattacks.

DHS typically requests NSA’s help when the government is responding to a major attack such as the 2015 breach of sensitive records about 21.5 million people from the Office of Personnel Management. But it can take days or even a week before government officials complete the paperwork to get NSA on site, Dukes said. 

That means NSA investigators lose time and precious insights, he said.

Investigations are further delayed while the three major cyber departments figuring out who should take the lead and what their priorities are, he said.

The Apps They Carried: Software, Big Data, and the Fight for Mosul

OCTOBER 17, 2016

A variety of digital tech tools aim to provide coalition forces some sense of the dangers around the next bend. 

As Iraqi troops and their U.S. and coalition supporters move onISIS-held Mosul, they can expect to face homemade bombs and booby traps. But they will have something that U.S. troops patrolling the country’s second-largest city in 2007 did not have: new big-data tools to help detect and defeat IEDs. 

Many of these tools take the form of data analysis and visualization apps to help deployed forces instantly access information about IEDs they encounter.

Developed by the Pentagon’s Joint Improvised Threat-Defeat Organization, or JIDO, they include Catapult, JIDO’s cloud data architecture, which ingests bomb data from more than 550 sources across all the combatant commands and the intelligence community. Another, Horizon, allows users to plot that IEDinformation on an interactive map. For soldiers in an environment with limited bandwidth and connectivity (like a modern urban war zone), the Voltron software suite helps troops retain access to the very most critical bits of signals intelligence. 

Another mapping app, BOOM, or Blast Origin Overpressure Modeler, can provide a Google Maps image showing how big an explosion from a particular IED will be. From a JIDO brochure: “BOOM is a web-enabled application that allows the user to define a blast model by four inputs-explosive, type weight, a [homemade explosive] mix (yield) and the center point of the last being modeled. The output is a Google Earth KML layer with eight overpressure and two fragmentation concentric circle rings.”