14 January 2015

Vatican Denies That It Has Received Intelligence Warnings of An Impending Terrorist Attack

January 12, 2015

Pope Francis celebrates a solemn mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican January 11, 2015.

(Reuters) - The Vatican denied press reports on Monday that it had received specific warnings from Israeli and U.S. intelligence services that it was a probable next target of an Islamist attack.

La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera and other Italian papers reported on Monday that the CIA and Mossad had warned Italian and Vatican authorities that the Vatican may be a target. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said there were normal contacts among security services but the Holy See had been given no “concrete and specific” information over any risk.

Pope Francis on Monday condemned last week’s killings by Islamist militants in Paris and urged Muslim leaders to denounce interpretations of religion that use God’s name to justify violence.

"Violence is always the product of a falsification of religion, its use a pretext for ideological schemes whose only goal is power over others," the pope said in an annual meeting with diplomats from 180 countries accredited to the Vatican, a speech informally known as his "State of the World" address.

Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began on Wednesday when gunmen attacked the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

"I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion that attempt to justify such acts of violence," the pope said.

"Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext," he said.Francis has repeatedly condemned Islamic State fighters who have killed or displaced Shi’ite Muslims, Christians and others inSyria and Iraq who do not share the group’s ideology.

In other sections of his speech, he denounced human trafficking as “an abominable trade” and condemned last month’s attack by Taliban militants in which more than 130 Pakistani schoolchildren were killed.

He held up last year’s agreement by the United States and Cuba to re-establish ties, which the Vatican helped broker, as an example of how diplomacy and dialogue can build bridges.

Recent Terrorist Activity in US, Europe, Australia and Canada, and the Govermental Responses

January 12, 2015

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The threat of Islamic extremism has justice officials balancing tougher law enforcement against the need to protect civil liberties, and that balance is struck in myriad ways around the world. The FBI’s collection of demographic data on U.S. communities has drawn criticism from civil liberties groups, while Australia has been accused of reversing the onus of proof by demanding that travelers prove they have legitimate reason for visiting a terrorist hotspot.


—Dozens of Australians are suspected of fighting in the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, then coming home. It’s illegal for Australians to fight in foreign militias, but authorities have had difficulty proving such charges.

—Shotgun-wielding Man Haron Monis took 18 people hostage in a Sydney cafe in December; his 16-hour standoff ended when police stormed the cafe. Monis, 49, and two hostages died. In September, 18-year-old Numan Haider was shot dead after stabbing two police officers. Both men had come to authorities’ attention before the attacks: Haider’s passport had been canceled and Monis was on a terror watch list for a time after writing hate mail to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The government has ordered an inquiry into why Monis was dropped from the list.

—Australia’s main counterterrorism agency, Australian Security Intelligence Organization, says it regularly disrupts terrorist plots.


—A new law bars Australians from traveling to places the foreign minister declares to be “terrorism hotspots,” unless they provide a legitimate reason for visiting. Only one hotspot has been declared: the Syrian province of al-Raqqa, an Islamic State movement stronghold.

—The foreign minister has canceled more than 70 passports of Australians suspected of fighting in Iraq and Syria or attempting to do so, and recently gained the power to suspend passports quickly.

Syria in 2015: Political Stalemate Again, or Compromise?

Yezid Sayigh 

2015 has started with three new proposals to resolve the Syrian conflict. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura continues to put flesh on his “Aleppo freeze” proposal, which the U.S. and European Union have endorsed, through consultation with various Syrian parties—including the regime, principal political opposition, and rebel groups—and with concerned external actors. Russia will host formal talks, dubbed “Moscow-1,” between the Assad regime and a broad opposition delegation at the end of January. And as the international Arabic daily al-Hayat recently revealed, several of the most important opposition coalitions have agreed a joint blueprint for transition in Syria, based on a diplomatic framework involving all key external actors, notably including Iran, which the opposition had previously insisted on excluding because of what is seen as its direct military role in support of the Assad regime. 

The renewal of diplomatic activity should be a good sign for Syria. Some opposition figures suspect that the “Aleppo freeze” and “Moscow-1” initiatives will merely suspend the conflict in a way that leaves Assad in power. But the new opposition “roadmap for the salvation of Syria” does not explicitly call for Assad’s immediate departure either, in line with the proposal originally presented by the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces at the at Geneva-2 peace talks on February 9, 2014. Instead, the “roadmap” focuses on the broad contours of power sharing between the regime and the opposition, with a monitoring role for unaligned civil society representatives.

However, the gap between positions remains fundamental. In theory, new developments on the ground could change this, by forcing one side or the other—or both—to accept serious compromises. But the precedent of 2014 shows that much can change on the geo-political and military levels—in some respects dramatically—yet leave the conflict dynamic unchanged and the political stalemate unbroken. 

The sharp deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations over the Ukraine crisis was the most notable development geo-political development of 2014: nearly a year of diplomatic cooperation over Syria ended with the failure of the Geneva-2 peace talks in February, leaving no prospect of joint diplomacy. Similarly, the year started with considerable optimism over the P5+1 talks with Iran over its nuclear program, but hopes that a successful outcome would ease other regional tensions—especially in Syria—were dashed when a comprehensive agreement could not be reached by November. 

Satellite Imagery Suggests That Syria Working on Building a Nuclear Weapon, Report

Erich Follath
January 10, 2015
Source Link

For years, it was thought that Israel had destroyed Syria’s nuclear weapons capability with its 2007 raid on the Kibar complex. Not so. New intelligence suggests that Bashar al-Assad is still trying to built the bomb. And he may be getting help from North Korea and Iran.

At 11 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2007, 10 F-15 fighter bombers climbed into the sky from the Israeli military base Ramat David, just south of Haifa. They headed for the Mediterranean Sea, officially for a training mission. A half hour later, three of the planes were ordered to return to base while the others changed course, heading over Turkey toward the Syrian border. There, they eliminated a radar station with electronic jamming signals and, after 18 more minutes, reached the city of Deir al-Zor, located on the banks of the Euphrates River. Their target was a complex of structures known as Kibar, just east of the city. The Israelis fired away, completely destroying the factory using Maverick missiles and 500 kilogram bombs.

The pilots returned to base without incident and Operation Orchard was brought to a successful conclusion. In Jerusalem, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his closest advisors were in a self-congratulatory mood, convinced as they were that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was seeking to build a nuclear weapon and that Kibar was the almost-completed facility where that construction was to take place. They believed that their dangerous operation had saved the world from immense harm.

But they also wanted to prevent the situation from escalating, which is why they didn’t even inform the US of their plan prior to the bombing run. Olmert only called Washington once the operation had been completed. Orchard was also to remain secret in Israel so as to avoid anything that smacked of triumphalism. Nor did they want it to become known that North Korean nuclear experts had been spotted in Deir al-Zor helping out with the construction of the reactor. They hoped to provide Assad an opportunity to play down the incident and to abstain from revenge attacks.

And that is in fact what happened. Assad complained about the violation of Syrian airspace and the bombing of a “warehouse,” but the official version also claimed that the Syrian air force chased away the attackers. The public at the time did not learn what had really taken place.

Saudi Arabia's Oil Strategy: "Chill, Not Kill" America's Energy Revolution

January 13, 2015 

Oil prices are plunging to levels not seen since the great recession of 2008-09.While there is wide debate over why this is happening, one thing is clear: there will be an impact felt across the globe. For those who are heavily dependent on oil imports, the impact is obvious—a massive stimulus for their economy. For those who have economies driven by oil production—like Russia and Saudi Arabia—big problems could lie ahead. And for America—a nation that consumes large amounts of oil and is now a player in oil production, thanks to its shale revolution—we certainly will find out.

To get to the bottom of these important questions, TNI Executive Editor Harry Kazianis interviewed Ian Bremmer, a TNI contributing editor and president of the Eurasia Group on where sustained, lower oil prices could take nations like Russia, America and others.

Kazianis: Oil prices seem to be falling with each passing day. The geopolitical ramifications, as well as economic ramifications seem immense. Who is the big winner when it comes to lower oil prices?

Bremmer: The single biggest beneficiary in the world is Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Whereas in the United States, lower oil prices are an economic good-news story that functions like a direct tax break for consumers at the pump, in China, the political ramifications are the biggest boon. Lower oil prices already are generating increased economic activity by growing household disposable incomes and facilitating corporate investments in a range of sectors from manufacturing to logistics. That helps reduce the need for more aggressive stimulus to prop up the economy, and most importantly, it buys Xi Jinping more time to implement his reform agenda.

European Energy Security and Turkmenistan

By Sarah Lain
January 13, 2015

With Russia cancelling the South Stream gas pipeline to Europe, Turkmenistan could benefit. 

Early last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that South Stream, a proposed gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, would be cancelled. One country that could benefit from the cancellation is Turkmenistan. A country that holds almost 10 percentof the world’s gas reserves, and is home to the globe’s second largest gas field, Turkmenistan certainly has enough gas to supply more markets. After various gas supply disputes with Russia, and a general weakening in geopolitical relations, there is no doubt European energy security would benefit from a boost in supplies from Central Asia.

Recent steps indicate Turkmenistan is showing renewed signs of interest. In November 2014, Turkmengassigned a framework agreement with Turkey to supply the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline project (TANAP), a section of the Southern Gas Corridor project, set to be completed by 2018. The project proposes to transport 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey, aiming to reach a capacity of 31 bcm by 2026.

There are very few details in the public domain about the Turkish-Turkmen deal. And it all sounds a bit familiar. It is not the first time that such a Turkish-Turkmen agreement to cooperate has been signed, and it is unclear if anything concrete has actually been decided.

Moreover, there are many challenges to Turkmenistan’s participation in the project, the key one pertaining to the longstanding dispute over the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Turkmenistan’s involvement in the TANAP project would mean building a pipeline through the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. The Caspian littoral states, including Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran, are yet to decide on the Caspian Sea’s status as either a sea or a lake, which in turn determines the extent of each state’s access to the body of water and, more importantly, the rich resources contained within. Even at the recent Caspian Summit in Astrakhan in September 2014, Putin was only hopeful that a formal agreement would be signed at the next summit, the timing of which has not yet been decided. Iran and Russia have expressed their opposition in particular to a pipeline running through the Caspian, citing both the status question and environmental concerns. More recently, Russia’s opposition has been more directly targeted towards Europe, accusing Europe of interfering in Caspian Sea affairs, presumably referring to discussions over TANAP.


January 12, 2015

What a great book! Most Americans know the history of the Civil War by the roll call of its bloody battles — Bull Run, Antietam, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor. While good books continue to be written about the war, by now the basic American narrative is pretty well set.

In The Cause of All Nations, though, Don Doyle has brought a whole new perspective to our “second American revolution” by contextualizing the war in the international currents of republicanism and liberalism sweeping through the Atlantic nations in the 1840s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. After the rise of liberalism in Europe and the failure of the European revolutions of 1848, the American Civil War became the cause of human rights and self-government advocates in the Atlantic world. Friends and foes alike saw it as a critical test of republican democracy and of human rights. Its outcome had profound international repercussions.

Initially, Lincoln believed, the war was fundamentally a test of whether government “of the people, for the people and by the people” (as Giuseppe Mazzini said in 1851) could long survive. In the Europe of the 1860s, torn between monarchy and the rising tide of liberal republicanism, the nobility and ruling classes — and especially those of Great Britain and France — rejoiced at the war’s proof that republicanism was doomed to failure. Liberals, like those in England agitating for expanding the voting franchise, and Italian revolutionaries like the great Giuseppe Garibaldi, an international hero, saw it as the great test of their time.

5 Russian Weapons of War America Should Fear

January 13, 2015 

Even with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and heightened tensions, it is very unlikely that the United States will ever directly face off against Russia. A shooting war with Russia would almost certain end poorly for all concerned.

Modern Russia is not the Soviet Union, but it is still possesses a very formidable arsenal of both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. Moreover, given the uneven state of Russia’s conventional forces—which have greatly atrophied since the Soviet collapse—the country relies much more heavily on its strategic deterrent to ward off enemies than the USSR ever did. Indeed, in November 1993, Russia dropped the Soviet Union’s pledge not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into any conflict. Instead Russia reserves the right to use its nuclear weapons under a doctrine that it paradoxically calls "de-escalation."

The bottom line is that the United States is not going to engage Russia in a war—however it might face Russian weapons during a conventional conflict where those weapons have been sold abroad. Therefore, the article won’t address the most obviously dangerous Russian weapons—such as nuclear weapons or nuclear-powered submarines—but will instead focus on systems that American forces may realistically face in combat one day.

Here is a selection of five of the most potent Russian weapons that U.S. forces might face.

Soviet Leader Gorbachev: Europe-Russia Tensions Could Lead To War


Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned that tensions between Russia and European powers over the Ukraine crisis could result in a major conflict or even nuclear war, in an interview to appear in a German news magazine on Saturday.

"A war of this kind would unavoidably lead to a nuclear war," the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner told Der Spiegel news magazine, according to excerpts released on Friday.

"We won't survive the coming years if someone loses their nerve in this overheated situation," added Gorbachev, 83.

"This is not something I'm saying thoughtlessly. I am extremely concerned."

Tensions between Russia and Western powers rose after pro-Russian separatists took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea in early 2014.

The United States, NATO and the European Union accuse Russia of sending troops and weapons to support the separatist uprising, and have imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Mike Nudelman/Business InsiderMap depicts the larger confrontation between Russia and NATO and the possible return to Cold War power dynamics in Europe.

Enough Is Enough: Obama's Keystone Obstructionism Must End

January 12, 2015

Last week, President Obama vowed he would not let the Keystone XL pipeline project go forward until the process played out. Days later, it did again (and not just in the Congress).

The White House had seized on a court challenge to the project, working its way through the Nebraska court system, as its latest excuse for obstructionism. On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision in the case, clearing the way for the new Governor, Pete Ricketts, to approve the pipeline’s route through the Cornhusker country. Ricketts campaigned as a staunch supporter of the project and handily defeated his anti-pipeline opponent, Chuck Hassebrook, 58 percent-39 percent, in last year’s election.

Mr. President, the process is played out. It’s been played out. It’s time to approve Keystone XL.

That’s certainly the view in Congress. Even before members of the 114th Congress had been sworn in, the new Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), announced that the Upper Chamber’s first order of business would be a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline (A promise which he appears to make good on, as the bill.

Building the northern leg of the pipeline offers many advantages: jobs, economic growth and 830,000 barrels of oil per day from a friendly, reliable trading partner—Canada. As for potential downsides, the State Department has commissioned five major studies of the project (four of them on Mr. Obama’s watch), and each determined that the pipeline would pose minimal environmental risk and have virtually no effect on global warming.

The only logical decision would seem to be: green light the project. Yet last week President Obama threatened to veto any Keystone XL bill that reaches his desk. Top of form White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest tried to justify the president’s position by inferring that, if lawmakers were to approve the project now, they would somehow be cutting procedural corners and recklessly rushing to judgment. There’s a “well-established process in place” for approving projects like Keystone XL, Earnest said. He would have been more accurate to say there was a well-established process in place. And it’s been followed to a tee.

The Flip Side of Low Oil Prices: Some U.S. States Will Feel the Pain

January 12, 2015

“All economics are local” the saying (almost) goes. Few people’s economic fortunes move in lock step with the United States as a whole, but most feel the push and pull of the local economy. This is where much of the talk about oil has failed. Texas and North Dakota get all the headlines. But other U.S. states will suffer, and possibly much, much more when it comes to falling oil prices.

The vast majority of states do not rely on mining (in GDP reports, “mining” is the accounting line for oil and gas extraction along with more traditional mining activities) to contribute anything significant to their growth. But there are a handful that rely heavily on it. These are the extraction states, and they have been largely overlooked in the discussion of the oil-price bust.

Yes, oil’s decline will hurt Texas. But Texas is a big state with a somewhat-well-diversified manufacturing base and other industries that should cushion the blow. In 2013, only about 14 percent of the economic growth in Texas was directly related to mining. Depending on the multiplier effect, the slowdown should be manageable. With one of the nation’s largest economies, Texas should be able to absorb much of the blow, though certain areas of previous rapid growth will be severely distressed.

The “multiplier effect” is critical for a thorough understanding of how severely. The multiplier is how much the indirect effects of oil money help, or hurt, the broader economy. And there is not a consensus on precisely how much that is. Estimates for the U.S. oil multiplier range from the relatively modest 1.2x to a powerful 2x and can even vary from field to field. It is difficult to be confident in an exact figure, but the takeaway is the same, regardless—there are broader effects on the real economy than simply the exact contribution of mining to the economy. If all the Texas economy needed to overcome was a downturn in oil, the 14 percent growth contribution would only be a small bump. However, if the multiplier turns out to be closer to 2x than 1x, the economics of lower oil become far more interesting.

"In the Eye of the Beholder: How Leaders and Intelligence Communities Assess the Intentions of Adversaries"

Keren Yarhi-Milo

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev gestures while talking with President Ronald Reagan after the two men signed a treaty eliminating intermediate-range missiles during a White House East Room ceremony, Dec. 8, 1987.

"In the Eye of the Beholder: How Leaders and Intelligence Communities Assess the Intentions of Adversaries"


How do policymakers infer the long-term political intentions of their states' adversaries? A new approach to answering this question, the "selective attention thesis," posits that individual perceptual biases and organizational interests and practices influence which types of indicators a state's political leaders and its intelligence community regard as credible signals of an adversary’s intentions. Policymakers often base their interpretations on their own theories, expectations, and needs, sometimes ignoring costly signals and paying more attention to information that, though less costly, is more vivid (i.e., personalized and emotionally involving). In contrast, intelligence organizations typically prioritize the collection and analysis of data on the adversary's military inventory. Over time, these organizations develop substantial knowledge on these material indicators that they then use to make predictions about an adversary's intentions. An examination of three cases based on 30,000 archival documents and intelligence reports shows strong support for the selective attention thesis and mixed support for two other approaches in international relations theory aimed at understanding how observers are likely to infer adversaries’ political intentions: the behavior thesis and the capabilities thesis. The three cases are assessments by President Jimmy Carter and officials in his administration of Soviet intentions during the collapse of détente; assessments by President Ronald Reagan and administration officials of Soviet intentions during the end of the Cold War; and British assessments of Nazi Germany before World War II.

Full Text (188K PDF)

CENTCOM Twitter Feed Hacked This Morning by ISIS Sympathizers

January 12, 2015

A computer screenshot shows the U.S. Central Command Twitter feed after it was apparently hacked by people claiming to be Islamic State sympathizers January 12, 2015.

(Reuters) - The Twitter feed for the U.S. military command that oversees operations in the Middle East was hacked on Monday by people claiming sympathy to the Islamic State militant group being targeted in American bombing raids.

U.S. officials said that the U.S. Central Command Twitter account and its YouTube account were suspended after being compromised. Two U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the hacking was an embarrassment but did not appear to be a security threat.

The White House said it was monitoring the extent of the hacking incident.

"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, the CyberCaliphate continues its CyberJihad," the Centcom Twitter feed said after being hacked.

The Twitter feed had several messages from hackers, including one telling American soldiers to “watch your back,” and the YouTube account had two videos that appeared to be linked to Islamic State.

The Twitter account published a list of generals and addresses associated with them, titled “Army General Officer Public Roster (by rank) 2 January 2014.”

Subsequent posts read, “Pentagon Networks Hacked! China Scenarios” and “Pentagon Networks Hacked. Korean Scenarios.”

"We can confirm that the CENTCOM Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised earlier today. We are taking appropriate measures to address the matter," Central Command said in a statement.

President Barack Obama is preparing to outline new proposals to protect the United States from cybersecurity threats.

After the hacking, the heading of the Central Command Twitter account showed a figure in a black-and-white headscarf and the words “CyberCaliphate” and “I love you ISIS,” using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

Central Command’s YouTube account featured videos posted by the U.S. military of air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq. It apparently was hacked to add two videos titled “Flames of War ISIS Video” and “O Soldiers of Truth Go Forth.”

Central Command is based at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida and handles American military operations covering the Middle East and Central Asia. Central Command oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is managing the U.S. air strikes against Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria.

Misreporting the News

January 12, 2015 

The catastrophe engulfing eastern Ukraine and the immense scale of collateral damage to the Russian economy, as well as the lesser but still significant impact on Europe, has produced some of 2014’s most tendentious news coverage. If two reports in the New York Times over the past week are anything to go by, we can expect more of the same in 2015.

First up is the December 30th Times report “How Putin Forged a Pipeline Deal That Derailed.” Its message is simple: The cancellation of the South Stream pipeline project is a strategic defeat for the Russian president, brought on by his revanchist designs on Ukraine. Reading more like a sinister conspiracy theory than a piece of news analysis, the report asserts that the pipeline project was the key to one of Putin’s goals—that of “further entrenching Russian influence in fragile former Soviet satellite states as part of a broader effort to undermine European unity.” The report purports to show the “hidden hand” of the Kremlin in Bulgarian politics. But for his “fundamental miscalculation” in Crimea, South Stream would have become a reality, thereby prolonging Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.

It’s not a particularly novel thesis. But what makes the report notable is that it is at odds with reality; readers are treated to an in-depth survey of Mr. Putin’s machinations on the continent, his Kremlin’s funding of far-right political parties and anti-fracking campaigns, all with an eye towards expanding and securing Russia’s ostensible energy monopoly in Europe. Towards the end of the piece, almost as an aide, readers are informed that a delegation led by John McCain traveled to Sofia in June. Days later, Bulgaria pulled the plug on South Stream. Yet, rather than focus on, say, that fact that we are witnessing the 21st century’s iteration of the Great Game between the United States and Russia in Eastern Europe, the Times weaves a dark tale of Russia in Bulgaria and beyond.

The article does its best to minimize the very legitimate reason other European countries besides Bulgaria were in favor of South Stream. Readers are told that “In the winter of 2009, Bulgarians were left shivering for two weeks when Russia shut off the gas to teach Ukraine a lesson.” Not a word of historical context; no mention of the fact that, as the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Pierre Noel has written, “The European gas-supply crises of 2006 and 2009 were triggered by Ukraine making good on its implicit threat to steal Europe-bound gas from transit pipelines if Russia demanded that Kiev pay the market price in the long term.”

Authoritarianism's Assault on Free Speech Goes Global

January 12, 2015 

The recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures serves as a potent reminder that authoritarian regimes are hostile to the exercise of civil liberties both at home and abroad. North Korea’s cyberattack and threats of real-world attacks on movie theaters showing The Interview is certainly the latest and most egregious example of one country working to prevent the exercise of free expression in another, but such efforts are not uncommon.

Pyongyang more frequently focuses its efforts on South Korea, demanding that Seoul put a stop to protests aimed at the North and ban media from engaging in negative coverage of the Kim Jong-un regime. For example, following a spring 2013 protest in which demonstrators burned effigies of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong-un issued a statement threatening “retaliatory action” against the perpetrators and “just military actions” in defense of “the dignity of the supreme leadership,” while demanding an apology from Seoul and a halt to future such demonstrations. Although such attempts at intimidation have been by and large unsuccessful, there are those in South Korea who believe Koreans should censor themselves to avoid needlessly antagonizing the Kim regime.

Troublingly, the Kim regime is not the only one looking to curtail free speech abroad. China is even more active in this regard, and potentially more successful. When it was announced that The 10 Conditions of Love, a film about Uyghur dissident Rebiya Kadeer, was to be shown in Taiwan at a Kaohsiung film festival in 2009,Beijing ordered Chinese tourists to cancel their hotel reservations. To appease hotel managers, the showing was rescheduled for prior to the festival. Taiwan’s government later even denied Kadeer a visa. Earlier that year, Beijing also demanded the film not be shown at an Australian festival, but to no avail.

When the Nobel Foundation awarded the 2010 Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Beijing responded angrily, putting a stop to nearly all high-level diplomatic exchanges and imposing economic sanctions, notably on Norwegian salmon. Beijing knows very well that the Nobel Foundation is an independent, nongovernmental organization. China apparently hoped its pressure on the Norwegian government would lead Oslo to stifle the activities of persons and organizations critical of the People’s Republic of China.

America Has a Much Bigger Cyber Problem on Its Hands

January 12, 2015 

North Korean agents. Russians. Disgruntled employees. Hacktivists. Whoever really orchestrated last month’s cyberattacks against Sony may be beside the point. That’s because a growing chorus of security experts is revealing the most significant flaw in the U.S. government’s defense against future cyberattacks: an utter lack of credibility.

The doubters are not Internet trolls, but many of the world’s leading cyberspecialists who share their views in tightly guarded e-mail lists. Their trust in the U.S. government matters because they will be crucial allies in future cyberconflicts, where the stakes will be far higher than the delayed release of a comedy like The Interview. From identifying and responding to serious attacks to finding ways to collaborate with industries (such as enabling law enforcement access to encrypted iPhones), the goodwill of the private sector is vital to U.S. national security.

The government’s response to the Sony attack represented a tipping point for this goodwill, which was already in short supply after the Snowden leaks and CIA torture report. Now, it’s at an absolute nadir, which makes America ill-prepared to face down the next—and potentially much more dangerous—cyberattacks.

Many technical experts began fairly early on to question the evidence availableconnecting the attacks with North Korea. Parts of the hackers’ message suggested their native tongue was Russian, rather than Korean—raising the specter of Moscow’s involvement. Others argued that malicious employees at Sony itself were the most likely culprits.

Hell in a Very Small Place The Ten Commandments of the Plans Staff

My first day as a planner was memorable. Deep in the bowels of the old G-2 shack at Fort Campbell, we settled into our seats in the SCIF for an introductory “pep talk” from the division chief of staff, then-Colonel Mike Oates. He surveyed the group intently and said simply, “Who are my new SAMS guys?” A couple of us looked at one another, waiting to see who would be the first to speak.

I stood up and responded, “Right here, sir.” Famous last words.

Without missing a beat, his eyes lasered in on me and he delivered a verbal throat punch that I would feel for years to come: “Look here, Clausewitz, I don't want to hear about any of that shit you learned last year. You don't need to convince them how smart you are, you don’t need to convince me, and you sure as hell don’t need to convince the CG. If you just shut up and do your job, we'll all get along fine.”

As I soon learned, I was following the quintessential Blue Falcon in my position, someone known for spotlighting during briefings with the commanding general, purposely “tanking” planning sessions at the eleventh hour, and generally creating a lot of extra work in an already overworked plans staff. There are unwritten rules that guide the actions of the planners. He broke all of them.

Over the course of the next twelve months, I would come to learn each of those rules, to appreciate how important they were to the synergy and camaraderie needed among a very small group of very high-performing individuals. When you tend to spend your days (and nights) in dimly-lit rooms that reek of stale fast food and body odor, you need more than trust and a dark sense of humor. You need inviolable rules. And like the tablets Moses carried down from Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments of the Plans Staff are sacrosanct.

Army Takes On Its Own Toxic Leaders


Hollywood has portrayed military leaders as monsters in movies such as 1987's Full Metal Jacket about Marines during the Vietnam War. Army leaders wonder if this kind of toxic leadership is hurting its soldiers.Warner Bros/The Kobal Collection 

Top commanders in the U.S. Army have announced publicly that they have a problem: They have too many "toxic leaders" — the kind of bosses who make their employees miserable. Many corporations share a similar problem, but in the Army's case, destructive leadership can potentially have life or death consequences. So, some Army researchers are wondering if toxic officers have contributed to soldiers' mental health problems. 

One of those researchers is Dave Matsuda. In 2010, then-Brig. Gen. Pete Bayer, who was supervising the Army's drawdown in Iraq, asked Matsuda to study why almost 30 soldiers in Iraq had committed or attempted suicides in the past year. 

"We got to a point where we were exceptionally frustrated by the suicides that were occurring," Bayer says. "And quite honestly feeling — at least I was — helpless to some degree that otherwise good young men and women were taking their lives." 

Matsuda might seem like an unconventional choice to study Army suicides. He's an anthropologist; the Army hired him to advise U.S. commanders on how to understand what was really going on below the surface in Iraq. But Bayer says those skills are what prompted him to ask Matsuda to look below the surface of the suicide problem in the Army. 

"What we valued about [Matsuda], as well as a few others who worked for us, was he didn't wear a uniform. He wasn't one of us, so to speak," Bayer says. 

Whenever a soldier committed suicide, Bayer says, a team of Army investigators would essentially ask the same questions: What was wrong with the individual soldier? Did he or she have a troubled childhood or mental health problems? Did the soldier just break up with a partner or spouse? Was he or she in debt? The answer was often "yes." But Bayer says he felt part of the puzzle was missing. 

Experts agree:The world cannot be made safe from terrorists

By Matthew Schofield
January 11, 2015

PARIS (Tribune News Service) — The terrorism crisis still unfolding in Paris on Saturday was the one security officials were prepared for. The suspects were known to be suspicious. The primary target was known to be a primary target.

Police had assigned extra protection to the offices of the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which in the past had often enraged Islamist organizations with its cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. French police followed, photographed and listened in on the suspects, and at least some of their terrorist contacts were known well. The men reportedly were on the U.S. no-fly list.

And yet on Wednesday, they broke into the offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed 10, including five well-known cartoonists and two police officers there to protect them.

So the question being asked in Paris, around Europe and around the rest of the world, is ‘how did it happen?’ If known suspects can hit known and protected targets, how can unknown targets be protected from unknown attackers?

The simple answer, anti-terrorism experts agree, is they can’t be. The world is not a safe place, and the reality of surveillance falls far short of the image portrayed by Hollywood.

Mark Singleton, director of the International Center for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague, Netherlands, said that in the end, it comes down to numbers. An estimated 600 to 1,000 French citizens are “jihadi tourists” who have traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with the Islamic State or other terrorist organizations for a short time, before returning to their homes and lives in France.

In addition, there are homegrown and self-radicalized threats, and each year an estimated 40 terrorists are released from French prisons and could require monitoring.

“For every individual who should be monitored, approximately 20 staff are needed,” he wrote in an email response to questions.

A Belgian military intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he works undercover, described the problem his country faces.

Jinglue Haiyang: The Naval Implications of Xi Jinping’s New Strategic Concept

January 9, 2015

In studies of Chinese expansion in the near seas of East Asia, one topic that has been almost entirely ignored is the concept of jinglue haiyang, recently endorsed by the Party-state as a facet of China’s maritime power strategy. The word jinglue is not in common usage; indeed, most dictionaries do not define it. It is a verb combiningjing, the character for manage or administer, with lue, the character for strategy or stratagem. According to the 1979 edition of theCihai Dictionary, it means “handling an issue on the basis of prior planning.” A useable translation might be “strategically manage,” with the full phrase rendered as “strategic management of the sea.”

Chinese official and quasi-official sources, the naval press in particular, now regularly cite this new concept, often identifying it as a cornerstone of Chinese President and Commander-in-Chief Xi Jinping’s strategic thought. Given the exoticism of the term and its obvious importance for understanding Chinese maritime strategy, it is worth examining in greater detail. A close reading of Chinese texts suggests that the concept favors an expansive view on the use of sea power in peacetime, perhaps shedding light on the current leadership’s apparent preference for a more active and systematic pursuit of maritime dominance, especially in the waters of the South China Sea.

The Path to Endorsement

The notion of strategic management of the sea is in fact not novel. In a paper published in the Pacific Journal (Taipingyang Xuebao) in 1996, Luo Ruyu, a retired People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Senior Captain and Director of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), advocated for the concept to sit at the core of China’s maritime strategy. Luo’s understanding of the term, now nearly 20 years old, remains valid:

Jinglue haiyang falls within the scope of national strategy. It primarily means using political, military, technological and diplomatic means to engage in high level and comprehensive management of national interests and security in the maritime domain, and to adopt forceful measures to accelerate marine development and exploitation, to strengthen comprehensive management of the sea, and to defend the motherland’s maritime rights and interests in every respect. [1]