22 June 2016

***Confidential Report Shows Hired Hackers Able to Take Control of Computer Network of Palantir Technologies

William Alden
June 19, 2016

How Hired Hackers Got “Complete Control” Of Palantir

Palantir Technologies has cultivated a reputation as perhaps the most formidable data analysis firm in Silicon Valley, doing secretive work for defense and intelligence agencies as well as Wall Street giants. But when Palantir hired professional hackers to test the security of its own information systems late last year, the hackers found gaping holes that left data about customers exposed.

Palantir, valued at $20 billion, prides itself on an ability to guard important secrets, both its own and those entrusted to it by clients. But after being brought in to try to infiltrate these digital defenses, the cybersecurity firm Veris Group concluded that even a low-level breach would allow hackers to gain wide-ranging and privileged access to the Palantir network, likely leading to the “compromise of critical systems and sensitive data, including customer-specific information.”

This conclusion was presented in a confidential report, reviewed by BuzzFeed News, that detailed the results of a hacking exercise run by Veris over three weeks in September and October last year. The report, submitted on October 19, has been closely guarded inside Palantir and is described publicly here for the first time. “Palantir Use Only” is plastered across each page.

It is not known whether Palantir’s systems have ever been breached by real-world intruders. But the results of the hacking exercise — known as a “red team” test — show how a company widely thought to have superlative ability to safeguard data has struggled with its own data security.

The red team intruders, finding that Palantir lacked crucial internal defenses, ultimately “had complete control of PAL’s domain,” the Veris report says, using an acronym for Palantir. The report recommended that Palantir “immediately” take specific steps to improve its data security.

“The findings from the October 2015 report are old and have long since been resolved,” Lisa Gordon, a Palantir spokesperson, said in an emailed statement. “Our systems and our customers’ information were never at risk. As part of our best practices, we conduct regular reviews and tests of our systems, like every other technology company does.”
ID: 8914182

*** Why India Trails China

June 19, 2013 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — MODERN India is, in many ways, a success. Its claim to be the world’s largest democracy is not hollow. Its media is vibrant and free; Indians buy more newspapers every day than any other nation. Since independence in 1947, life expectancy at birth has more than doubled, to 66 years from 32, and per-capita income (adjusted for inflation) has grown fivefold. In recent decades, reforms pushed up the country’s once sluggish growth rate to around 8 percent per year, before it fell back a couple of percentage points over the last two years. For years, India’s economic growth rate ranked second among the world’s large economies, after China, which it has consistently trailed by at least one percentage point.

The hope that India might overtake China one day in economic growth now seems a distant one. But that comparison is not what should worry Indians most. The far greater gap between India and China is in the provision of essential public services — a failing that depresses living standards and is a persistent drag on growth.

Inequality is high in both countries, but China has done far more than India to raise life expectancy, expand general education and secure health care for its people. India has elite schools of varying degrees of excellence for the privileged, but among all Indians 7 or older, nearly one in every five males and one in every three females are illiterate. And most schools are of low quality; less than half the children can divide 20 by 5, even after four years of schooling. 

*** Who Are the Biggest Threats in Cyberspace?

June 20, 2016

U.S. Cyber Command Chief on What Threats to Fear the Most

Over the past few years, cyberattacks on businesses have led to huge losses and diminished consumer confidence. But cyberattacks are also happening on the national scale as the internet becomes another arena for global conflict. 

To get a picture of this emerging battlefield, The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Blumenstein spoke with Lt. Gen. James K. “Kevin” McLaughlin, deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. 

Here are edited excerpts of the conversation. 

Cyberwar on terror MS. BLUMENSTEIN: If we’re fighting ISIS on the ground in Syria, how surprised are you now at their capabilities, their cybercapabilities? Are you needing to invest a lot of money to keep up with them? Can you give us a sense of how important this is on the ground right now? 

LT. GEN. MCLAUGHLIN: ISIL’s a very dangerous foe. All you have to do is read the paper over the last six or eight months. You can see the threat they pose to the United States as well as our allies.

On the cyber side, they have lots of aspirations to be a cyberactor. And this is an area you can buy and create capabilities. So we do pay attention to it.

*** Why China is Playing a Tougher Game on the NSG This Time Around

The Shaheen-III missile is displayed during the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 23, 2016. A portrait of Pakistan’s national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal is seen in the background. Credit: REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Nearly eight years ago, after being left in a minority of one, China backed down under intense pressure from the United States and acquiesced to the exemption for India in the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). With India’s membership up for consideration this week at the NSG’s plenary meeting in Seoul, an outright repeat of these events appears unlikely. In contrast to 2008, when Beijing hid behind other opponents until each and every one of them had been peeled off, this time China has made its position clear. Unless a deal is done in the coming days, most observers are betting that China will stick to its guns. What has changed? And how far is Beijing’s opposition likely to go?

On Monday, China responded to the Indian external affairs minister’s statement that Beijing was not opposed to Indian membership. “The inclusion of non-NPT members has never been a topic on the agenda of NSG meetings. In Seoul this year, there is no such topic,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said. “We have stressed that the NSG is still divided about non-NPT countries entry into the NSG and under the current circumstances we hope that NSG will make thorough discussions to make a decision based on consultation.”

*** The Problem with the State Department Dissenters

By George Friedman
June 20, 2016

If the Assad regime was destroyed, what would take its place?

Last week, approximately 51 State Department officials filed a protest against the American policy in Syria. They called for airstrikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime, which they claimed has been in constant violation of all ceasefire agreements. On the surface, this is a completely reasonable demand. Bashar al-Assad and his father Hafez al-Assad have maintained power in Syria since 1970 through oppression and periodic reigns of terror. Resting on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, they created a military and security force that has violated all standards of human decency.

In 1982, Hafez suppressed protests in Hama by killing between 10,000 and 20,000 people. Bashar conducted an equally brutal repression following the uprising in 2011, initiating the civil war that is now raging.

There is no question that the world would be a better place without the Assads. Bombing Damascus until the regime is destroyed is morally desirable. And if bombing it would force Assad to change his policy toward the rebels, that would be of enormous value.

The problem is threefold. First, would such bombing work? Second, how many innocent civilians would be killed in the bombing, and how would the uprising’s supporters and others demanding action to stop Assad’s brutality respond to these inevitable civilian deaths? Finally, and most important, if a massive air campaign forced Assad out, what would the situation be like after the attack?

** A Defense Technology Revolution Could Happen Sooner Than You Think

By Sandra I. Erwin 

The Pentagon has been battered by criticism that it is falling behind in the technology arms race. Skeptics point to rising powers and terrorists finding new ways to exploit military weak spots. Hundreds of pages of legislation have been written to prod the Defense Department to innovate.

Amid downbeat talk now comes new data that shows glimmers of a potential technological revolution that could reshape the Pentagon’s weapons arsenal in both subtle and significant ways. 

An explicit innovation roadmap was unveiled in the latest Pentagon budget request, which seeks $18 billion over five years for so-called “third offset” technologies. The phrase officially entered the defense lexicon in November 2014 and it has since been used as an umbrella term for technologies the Pentagon believes it needs to stay ahead of enemies. 

The first offset in the 1950s was about the overwhelming advantage of having nuclear weapons. Precision-guided weapons in the 1980s became the second offset that gave the United States a huge battlefield edge. So far it’s unclear exactly how the Pentagon will parlay the $18 billion third offset strategy into game-changing weapon systems.

According to analysts from the big data and analytics firm Govini, the third offset will have ripple effects across many military weapons programs for years or decades to come. Some of the clues are obvious from the Pentagon’s budget. The company dug deeper, however, using big-data analysis to start painting a broader picture of where defense technology investments might be headed

*Robots, swarming drones and ‘Iron Man’: Welcome to the new arms race

June 17 

In his quest to transform the way the Pentagon wages war, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has turned to Silicon Valley, hoping its experimental culture, innovation and sense of urgency would rub off on the rigid bureaucracy he runs.

Carter has made several trips to the Valley and appointed Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google’s parent company to an advisory board. And recently he sat down at the Pentagon with Elon Musk to see what suggestions the billionaire founder of Tesla and SpaceX might have to make the nation’s military more efficient and daring.

Musk’s answer? “Having an incentive structure that rewards innovation is extremely important,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s economics 101. Whatever you reward will happen.”

The Pentagon finds itself in a new arms race, struggling to keep pace with forms of combat that are fought with bytes as well as bullets.

The technological advancements disrupting established business sectors are now shaking up the world of war — where robots, swarming drones and weapons enhanced by artificial intelligence might one day rule the skies and seas. And just like in industry, the advantages may be fleeting.

Non Alignment version 3.0: The new doctrine of Modi Regime

By Subhranil Basu Ray
21 Jun , 2016

Non-Alignment has its roots in Mr Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy. However it has undergone change under successive prime ministers, mainly because of the change in Environment and to maintain India’s importance, relevance in the comity of nations.

The pro-Soviet tilt of Nehru and his successors including Indira Gandhi has been questioned by several Foreign Policy experts. They ask the questions – Did India really benefit?

The time span from first tenure of Mr J Nehru till beginning of NDA government in 1998 can be classified as period of Non-Alignment version 1, while Mr Vajpayee’s tenure and Mr Manmohan Singh’s first innings as Prime Minister (UPA-1) saw India follow Non-Alignment version 2 while under Mr Modi it is Non-Alignment version 3.

Non Alignment version 1.0

When Mr Nehru initiated this doctrine the idea was that India should be unaligned with the objective that she would have an Independent Foreign policy. The were two power blocs at that time namely NATO led by USA and Warsaw Pact led by Soviet Union. Joining either of the two blocs would have meant that India would have almost no independence in terms of Foreign policy.

China's Cynical Realpolitik: India Needs to Review NSG Stance

By Commodore C Uday Bhaskar
21 Jun , 2016

China has just tipped its hand in relation to India ahead of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary in Seoul on June 24. 

An op-ed in the Global Times (June 14) titled ‘India mustn’t let nuclear ambitions blind itself’ gravely noted: “Beijing insists that a prerequisite of New Delhi’s entry is that must be a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, (NPT) while India is not. Despite acknowledging this legal and systematic requirement, the Indian media called China’s stance obstructionist.” This brief comment is the first semi-official articulation of China on the NSG and predictably obfuscates the issue.

In making this assertion about the NPT, Beijing is being characteristically innovative and artful in how it first distorts and then presents various facts specific to the nuclear domain. Having based its objection to India’s admission to the NSG on the charge that India is a non-signatory to the NPT, the op-ed (and by extension Beijing) glosses over the fact that there is a precedent which could be cited to advance the Indian case.

The NSG was conceived in November 1975 as a response to India’s peaceful nuclear explosion of May 1974 and the original seven participating governments (not members) were Britain, Canada, France, Japan, the Soviet Union, the United States and West Germany. At the time, France was not a signatory to the NPT though it was a nuclear weapons state but was part of the NSG. And, for the record, Paris formally acceded to the NPT only in August 1992.

Talwar Frigates: Stealth Ships That Could Sink Pakistan

By Rakesh Krishnan Simha
21 Jun , 2016

The Talwar class frigates will play a key role in India’s new Maritime Strategy 2015 that aims to dominate the blue waters and strike on land.

High octane defence deals are often the most exciting part of India-Russia summits. Not surprisingly, global attention is focused on the S-400 missile defence system and the PAK-FA stealth fighter during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s current visit to Moscow. However, if India ever goes to war, the first strike is likely to be dealt by the Krivak III (Talwar) class stealth frigates.

India and Russia are circling around a $3 billion contract for new Talwar class frigates. In line with the Modi government’s Make in India push, the production of these frigates will involve an Indian partner, most likely Pipavav Shipyard owned by the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.

Sword Arm of The Navy

Frigates are small when compared with top of the line destroyers, but as the Russian Navy proved in its ongoing war against the Islamic State, small ships armed with long-range missiles can deliver a knockout blow early on in a conflict.

The Talwars have a displacement of just 4000 tons – the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya has a displacement of 45,000 tons – but with a speed of 32 knots they are among the fastest vessels in the ocean. They are capable of accomplishing a wide scale of missions in the ocean, primarily, finding and eliminating submarines and large surface ships.

Says Defence News:

Sorry, Mr Jinnah, we had to ruin your beloved Pakistan

April 20, 2016 

You wanted Pakistan to be a state where we would be free; free to go to our mosques, temples and churches, but today it is a country where many are free to bomb places of worship. PHOTO: PAK ARMED FORCES 

You wanted Pakistan to be a state where we would be free; free to go to our mosques, temples and churches, but today it is a country where many are free to bomb places of worship. You said there would be no difference between Hindus, Christians and Muslims, but today Pakistan’s Muslims are killing each other (as well as Hindus and Christians) because they cannot tolerate those whose beliefs are different from theirs.

Your Pakistan would have been a model democracy, but 10 years after your death, a military dictator took over the reins of the country, and we hailed him as a saviour. After the first free and fair elections in 1970, we watched helplessly as a demagogue refused to accept the winner of the polls as prime minister, which led to the dismemberment of your beloved country. Later, other dictators came and did their best to damage the country you created.

You created Pakistan because you feared that Muslims would have no rights in a Hindu-dominated India. But today, the country is ruled not by Hindus, but by a feudal class which considers itself above the law and flagrantly refuses to pay its due share of taxes (but decides how much tax honest taxpayers should pay).

More Drone Strikes Indicates That the U.S. Is Back in the Middle of the War in Afghanistan

Jack Serle
June 20, 2016

US drones hit Taliban more than terrorist networks despite end of Afghan war

The majority of US airstrikes in Afghanistan in 2016 have been in support of ground troops including Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, rather than targeting suspected terrorists.

An investigation by the Bureau reveals that more than 200 strikes, the majority by drones, have been conducted to defend ground forces battling a rising insurgency, despite the fact that combat missions came to an end in 2014. These strikes represent more than 60% of all US airstrikes in the country.

Since the US ended combat operations against the Taliban at the end of 2014, leaving that to Kabul’s security forces, the American military presence in Afghanistan has been largely confined to a support role.

They are there to “train, advise and assist” Afghan soldiers and police as part of Nato’s US-led, non-combat mission. US rules of engagement do allow force to be used against the Taliban, but only in self-defence.

US combat operations have continued in Afghanistan but only as part of a separate, smaller counter-terror mission targeting al Qaeda and Islamic State.

But the extent of US air attacks conducted outside the counter-terror remit, revealed by the Bureau today, suggests the US has been drawn quietly yet significantly into fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.

China's Reckless South China Sea Strategy Won't Work

June 18, 2016

The Arbitral Tribunal in the Philippines-China case will likely release its much-awaited judgment in the next few weeks. For the Philippines—a veritable David to China’s Goliath in terms of economic, political and military might—a favorable decision serves as the best form of “lawfare” and will be an international legal validation of its main submissions, which are solidly anchored in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provisions and general principles of international law. Unfortunately, victory in this case will likely not lead to closure for a country that has pinned so much hope on its outcome. The obvious problem is that China has refused to participate in the arbitral process, and has even gone so far as to denounce the whole thing as “illegal.” Even though the tribunal has neatly disposed of China’s arguments pertaining to jurisdiction, it continues to insist that the dispute must be exclusively settled via bilateral negotiations. Perhaps to prove its point, China has in the meantime been doing its absolute best to reshape the status quo in a way that makes its possible loss in the arbitration virtually irrelevant and beside the point.

China has been rapidly and unabashedly changing the physical characteristics of the South China Sea (SCS) via its massive island-building program in the Spratlys, which began in early 2014. In just under two years, China was able to transform the uninhabitable to the habitable: Mischief Reef, Cuarteron Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson South Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, the Gaven Reefs and Subi Reef are now unrecognizable as the reefs and rocks that they once were. China’s Foreign Ministry has sought to frame the island building as a force for regional good—that it would help China fulfill its international legal obligations in maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine scientific research, meteorological observation, environmental protection, navigation safety, fisheries production and other endeavors. However, this is a situation where motive clearly takes a backseat to audience impact. Chinese force projection is on everyone’s mind as China continues to convert SCS features into mid-ocean outposts for its military and nonmilitary assets. One cannot help but be skeptical of China’s rhetoric when, so far, the newly built “islands” have only resulted in generating widespread concerns about their marine environmental impact, their effect on fisheries access and their ramifications on freedom of navigation in the disputed area.


JUNE 20, 2016

Earlier this week, David Barno and Nora Bensahel laid out the ways the United States can step up its efforts to counter assertive Chinese actions in the South China Sea. We agree with their assessment that China is in large part responsible for an escalation of tensions in the region and that the actions the U.S. government has taken in response have thus far had little effect. And we believe that a number of their policy proposals — such as a focus on U.S. military ties with the Philippines and Vietnam, which we are already seeing — would be helpful in countering China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea. However, their argument that the U.S. Coast Guard should have a more visible presence in the region highlights a misunderstanding of coast guard roles, overestimates U.S. Coast Guard capacity, and risks increasing the chance of conflict with China in the South China Sea.

Barno and Bensahel highlight that China has been adept in using “commercial and coast guard-like vessels to advance its claims and intimidate its regional neighbors in the South China Sea.” This is a concerning development, and recent expansion of the Chinese Coast Guard threatens to make the situation worse. However, the authors misread the biggest challenges offered by Chinese Coast Guard activity in the South China Sea. From the standpoint of regional governments, coast guard cutters offer a softer touch. But from the perspective of civilian mariners operating in contested waters, the Chinese Coast Guard is much more threatening because its legal authorities give it the ability to board civilian vessels, confiscate goods, and detain crews—all of which are things the Chinese Coast Guard could do based on their territorial claims. The tacit acceptance of this activity by other governments will be far more influential in an ultimate legal resolution of competing South China Sea claims than simply having more ships—PLAN or coast guard—sailing through the region.

3 Reasons China Fears Brexit

June 19, 2016 

China’s economic opportunities in Europe would vanish with Britain’s departure.

No doubt, the United States stands to lose a great deal from a Brexit. In recent months, countless commentators, as well as the Obama administration, have emphatically made this point. But few analysts have noted that the same holds true for China. Britain’s departure from the EU would be a costly economic and political blow to China, which worries Beijing. Thus, China has quietly but firmly opposed a Brexit, a message which President Xi Jinping personally delivered during his October 2015 visit to the UK. During the visit, in an unprecedented break with its official policy of noninterference in other countries’ domestic affairs, Beijing also issued a statement declaring that “China hopes to see a prosperous Europe and a united EU.” The message is clear.

But why is China so deeply concerned by the prospect of Brexit? To answer this question, it is crucial to understand why China puts such great importance on its relations with the UK. There are three reasons.

First and foremost, Beijing hopes to use its increasingly close relationship with Britain to influence the EU’s China policy. Faced with pressure from the United States and Japan in Asia, China has increasingly turned toward the EU to pursue economic opportunities, a turn that has been one of the chief drivers behind Beijing’s One Belt, One Road strategy. Against this background, China has cultivated an increasingly close political and economic relationship with Britain, with the hopes of building up the UK as its chief partner and advocate within the EU. China’s leadership has made special efforts to woo the UK’s ruling Conservative Party, which is staunchly protrade, especially Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, a potential successor to Prime Minister David Cameron.

How China has modernized their navy to dominate the South China Sea and beyond

Jun 17, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets navy personnel in Sanya. PLA reform will boost the navy's role relative to the army's.

A recent report from the US Congressional Research Service details how China's navy, the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), has undergone a stunning modernization push that puts it near parity with the US. In fact, China's military posture and prowess in the Western Pacific presents the US with a challenge unseen since the end of the Cold War.

By perfecting deadly ballistic and cruise missiles, by buying and designing submarines, planes, and surface ships, by cracking down on corruption and improving internal organization and logistics, the PLAN presents US naval planners with plenty to think about going forward.

Though few expect a military conflict to emerge between the world's two biggest economies, China's brinkmanship in the South China Sea have lead observers to describe their strategy of escalation as a kind of "salami-slicing," or steadily taking small steps to militarize the region without taking any one step that could be viewed as a cause to go to war over.

However, the US military, with it's global network of allies, doesn't have the luxury of choosing which conflicts to get involved in, and therefore must take every threat seriously.

In the slides below, see how the PLAN has shaped into a world-class navy capable of dominating the South China Sea, and even the entire Western Pacific if left unchecked.

China's naval mission


JUNE 20, 2016

While the frontline with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) lies only 4.5 kilometers south of Sinjar, a potentially more dangerous threat looms much closer to home. Parts of northern Sinjar — a district separated by the now-infamous 70-kilometer-long mountain — were liberated in December 2014. The district center south of the mountain was cleared of ISIL in November 2015. A mixture of forces — independent Yezidis, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Peshmerga — took part in both operations, but ISIL still occupies the southern villages of Sinjar.

As I discovered during a number of visits to the town over the last 18 months, Sinjar is rapidly becoming a playground for proxy struggles between regional rivals fighting zero-sum confrontations. Amid these battles, local Yezidis – a religious minority group numbering around 500,000 in Iraq which makes up the large the majority of the population of Sinjar – are being forced to choose sides. These dynamics are common across many of the territories liberated from ISIL, as competing factions push and pull local populations in their struggle for power. Within Sinjar, these forces risk igniting an internecine conflict among Yezidis that could be just as dangerous as the ISIL invasion of their territory in August 2014.

Is the US Intelligence Community’s Analytic Capabilities Any Better Than It Was Before 9/11?

Peter Mattis
June 18, 2016

Why Tradecraft Will Not Save Intelligence Analysis

Since the failure to disrupt the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the wild overestimate of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, the U.S. intelligence community embarked on a quest to remake analytic doctrine. The focus of this effort addressed concerns about analytic tradecraft, the methods and techniques by which intelligence analysis is produced. Fifteen years on, improving analytic tradecraft became an industry feeding off intelligence services from Washington and Ottawa to Canberra and Bucharest as well as corporations everywhere. However, focusing on analytic tradecraft distracts from the uncomfortable truth that intelligence is not about its producers but rather its users: the ones who rely upon it to make decisions. Kicking the tires of the analytic enterprise is a good thing, but, just as with a car, tires will not help if the problem is the engine. Tires may bound a car’s performance in some basic ways, but they are hardly the most important determinant of how well a car can perform.

Former intelligence officials and scholars of intelligence have long criticized the fixation on organizational reforms whenever intelligence fails, because organizational changes do little to address underlying problems that can derail the intelligence process. Improving analytic tradecraft is much the same. Like structural reforms, analytic tradecraft is internal to an intelligence system. The problem and the solution are manageable without having to go beyond the boundaries of the organization or adopt a different government-wide approach to decision-making. Yet, just because it can be done with minimal fuss does not make it right.

The best analytic tradecraft that neutralized biases, systematized knowledge, and delivered a precise analytic product to decision-makers still cannot save intelligence from decision-makers.. The effort that many all-source intelligence outfits placed on improving analytic tradecraft demonstrates some fundamental misunderstandings of the intelligence process and how decision-makers use intelligence.

Mexico’s Cartels Are Much More Dangerous To Americans Than ISIS

Both are brutal and bloodthirsty—but the cartels are a greater, more immediate security risk, and they’re already deeply embedded inside the United States.

Mexico is a place of many rumors and much chisme, or gossip. One of the most frightening rumors you hear these days—especially given the tragic, ISIS-inspired shooting in Orlando—is that members of the so-called Islamic State have infiltrated the cartels, seeking to recruit hardened sicarios, hit men, to their cause. 

ISIS’s nefarious motive, naturally, would be to use the cartels’ drug shipping networks and smuggling tunnels to ferret terrorists, or even weapons of mass destruction, across the U.S. border.

Fortunately such tales remains nothing but chisme—and not very plausible rumor mongering at that. 

Although some far-right media outlets in the U.S. have presented the unholy alliance of jihadist warrior and Aztec assassin as likely, if not inevitable, so far there’s absolutelyno evidence behind such claims. 

(Full disclosure: I spent eight months out of the last year reporting up close with both law enforcement and the cartels in Mexico and, after much searching for just such a headline-grabbing, cartel-ISIS link, was unable to find so much as a prayer rug. Or anybody who knew what a prayer rug was.)

How to Minimize Future Terror Attacks

June 18, 2016

Attackers in Orlando, Brussels, San Bernardino, Paris, and Boston share a stark commonality with each other and with other terrorists: They already had come to the attention of law enforcement or intelligence agencies before they killed. In each instance, authorities decided that despite radical leanings and prior offenses the suspects would not commit acts of mass violence, and so discontinued investigations or did not share information across jurisdictions.

Omar Mateen of recent Orlando infamy had been on the U.S. terrorist watch list and was interviewed by the FBI about his extremist connections. Ethno-nationalist Anders Breivik, whose hatred for Muslim immigrants spurred him to attack in July 2011, had come to the attention of Norway’s security agency one year earlier after having purchased an explosives primer. No precautionary actions were taken in either case. These and other instances suggest that a major means of preventing attacks is to better monitor persons who have already triggered warning signals by displaying the motives and acquiring the means to perform terror acts.

Certain people -- police, military, and other government officers, journalists, scholars, and aid workers -- have legitimate reasons to routinely visit extremist websites and interact virtually or in person with proselytizers and practitioners of violence. Curious members of the public and people with relatives in conflict-ridden areas seek similar information. In many countries, including the United States, this is not illegal.

Russia's Newest A2/AD Sphere: The South Caucasus?

June 19, 2016

While NATO is resolute in efforts to deter Russian assertiveness in its eastern flanks, Russia has embarked on creating a joint regional air-defense system with Armenia, in response to the Atlantic alliance’s movements in the eastern periphery of the Black Sea. The agreement of the United Regional System of Air Defense in the Caucasian Region of Collective Security was designed to enhance Russia’s air denial and control capabilities. The document constitutes the subordination of Armenian air-defense assets under the operational strategic command of Russia’s Southern Military District.

The establishment of a joint air-defense system emerges as a complementary element to reinforce the Russian anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy in the Black Sea domain. Such approach has been adopted in light of the deterioration of the relationship with NATO following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. In terms of contestation with the West, Putin’s A2/AD strategy refers to the potential use of antiaircraft and antiship weapons to impede the movement of NATO forces in reinforcing Allied territory.

How Hitler Made Russia a Superpower

June 18, 2016

After suffering more than twenty million military and civilian deaths in World War II, Russia has little cause to thank Hitler.
But with Wednesday, June 22 marking the seventy-fifth anniversary ofOperation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, it is time to recall one of history’s greatest ironies. Adolf Hitler was obsessed with turning Russia into a vast German colony and the Russian people into slaves. Instead, half of Germany was occupied by the Red Army, its people subjects of the Russian empire. When four million Nazi soldiers crossed the Soviet border in the early hours of June 22, 1941, they dreamed of seeing the spires of the Kremlin. Instead they unleashed a chain of consequences that still shape the world today.

To claim that Russia was not a great power before Hitler would be silly. Abundant in territory, resources and population, Russia has been a heavyweight since at least the eighteenth century, a behemoth strong enough to destroy the army of Napoleon (who also thought Russia would be easy prey). Yet three-quarters of a century later, it is hard to appreciate just how different the global balance of power was back then.

A Nuclear Weapon That America Doesn’t Need

JUNE 17, 2016

PRESIDENT OBAMA spoke last month in Hiroshima about charting a course to a future free of nuclear weapons. He discussed the “persistent effort” necessary to eliminate the threat of nuclear war.

To advance that goal, the president should reconsider the Defense Department’s effort to develop a new nuclear weapon called the Long-Range Standoff Weapon.

The Air Force is set next year to accelerate the development of this new nuclear cruise missile. It would carry an upgraded W-80 nuclear warhead and be able to penetrate the world’s most advanced air-defense systems.

We agree that a safe, reliable nuclear stockpile is needed. Our backgrounds, voting records and entire careers show that we understand and value the deterrent effect of our nuclear stockpile. However, building new nuclear weapons like this one could be unnecessary, costly and dangerous.

Like our current nuclear cruise missile, the Long-Range Standoff Weapon could strike an adversary’s territory from great distances. But there are compelling reasons not to introduce a cruise missile that could increase the risk of nuclear war.

German FM Warns Against "Saber-Rattling" Toward Russia

June 19, 2016
Source Link

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Germany's foreign minister has warned against relying on "saber-rattling" in the wake of military exercises aimed at demonstrating NATO's resolve to defend members in eastern Europe against Russia if that becomes necessary.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted by the Bild newspaper's website Saturday as saying that a "symbolic tank parade on the eastern border of the alliance" would not ensure security.

He argued for "embedding Russia in an international partnership of responsibility" through cooperation on arms control, the Middle East, and efforts to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Some 31,000 troops from 24 NATO and partner nations last week rehearsed defensive operations in Poland and Lithuania. German troops were among them.

Russia's conflict with non-NATO member Ukraine has led to financial sanctions against Moscow and more attention to military readiness, but Western governments sometimes differ on how tough a stance to take.

The 28 European Union member countries last week extended for another year sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region barring imports from there. A different and tougher set of sanctions limiting Russian companies' access to Western capital markets is up for renewal in coming days. The EU and U.S. have said lifting the sanctions depends on implementation of a peace deal agreed in 2015.

Books are back. Only the technodazzled thought they would go away

13 May 2016

The hysterical cheerleaders of the e-book failed to account for human experience, and publishers blindly followed suit. But the novelty has worn off 

‘Waterstones switched shelf-space to books and saw a 5% rise in sales.’ Photograph: Alamy 
At last. Peak digital is at hand. The ultimate disruptor of the new information age is … wait for it … the book.

Shrewd observers noted the early signs. Kindle sales initially outstripped hardbacks but have slid fast since 2011. Sony killed off its e-readers. Waterstones last year stopped selling Kindles and e-books outside the UK, switched shelf space to books and saw a 5% rise in sales.

Amazon has opened its first bookshop.

Now the official Publishers’ Association confirms the trend. Last year digital content sales fell last year from £563m to £554m. After years on a plateau, physical book sales turned up, from £2.74bn to £2.76bn.

Department of Defense's 'Hack the Pentagon' Program Nets 138 Issues

June 20, 2016

The Department of Defense is going to be expanding how it treats vulnerability disclosures as a result of the success of Hack the Pentagon. 

Hack the planet? Tough. Hack the Pentagon? Easier, but still fairly tough. Yet, that didn't stop more than 250 hackers from taking part in the Department of Defense's first-ever bug bounty program. The pilot, which ran from April 18 to May 12—less than a month—netted 138 vulnerabilities that the Defense Department determined to be "legitimate, unique and eligible for a bounty."

Though the bug bounty program ended up costing the federal government around $150,000, officials believe it was money well spent.

"It's not a small sum, but if we had gone through the normal process of hiring an outside firm to do a security audit and vulnerability assessment, which is what we usually do, it would have cost us more than $1 million," said Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense, as reported by the DoD.

The Department of Defense seems pleased by the results, as it also announced that it's now planning to expand its bug bounty program and introduce other policies designed to help bolster DoD security. That includes the creation of a new vulnerability disclosure policy that will allow anyone to submit information about potential vulnerabilities in DoD systems, networks, applications, or websites. 

Air Force Developing New Access Control Model for JIE

by Tobias Naegele
Jun 2, 2016

Securing its networks from external attack has been the Defense Department’s top priority as it rolls out the Joint Information Environment (JIE) to the services and defense agencies. That’s the role of its Joint Regional Security Stacks.

The next piece is securing the network internally. JIE aims to make defense systems, applications and databases accessible and sharable across the vast defense enterprise, whether back in the U.S. or overseas. The key to that will be access control.

An Air Force pilot program at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., aims to settle how access control will work across the JIE. The system is in development now and this summer will be tested with about 10 applications selected by the military services. If successful, it will be rolled out to other applications and across the enterprise beginning next year.

The Department of Defense Strategy for Implementing the Joint Information Environment, published in 2013, declared that “Identity and Access Management (IdAM) is fundamental to the security of data and secure information sharing with mission partners.” From the start, the aim was to eliminate cumbersome local controls and replace those with a centrally controlled, consistent and largely automated system that would: 
Ensure timely and secure access to mission-essential data and services, regardless of users’ locations. 
Identify and monitor the users on defense networks at all times – as well as what they are doing. 
Block adversaries from freely moving from network to network within the joint enterprise; if an intruder would gain access to one part of the network, the system would block access to other parts. 

Intel Chiefs Eye Social Media for Internal Security Risks

May 4, 2016

Social media profiles may not be part of security clearances today, but they will be in the future.

“We’re about to push out a social media policy for security clearance professionals,” said William Evanina, director of the National Counter Intelligence and Security Center (NCIC) in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Timing is not set and details are scant. Some agencies have already run pilots to see what social media monitoring might produce. Others include social media checks in their insider threat programs..

“People are ok with giving financial [data],” Evanina said during an April 28 Insider Threat Symposium presented by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. “But there’s still great reluctance to show what we do online.”

How social media will be measured and exactly what will be observed is still being worked out, but it’s likely to figure into both security clearance reform and insider threat monitoring. The two are not the same.

Security clearances focus on external data, such as self-reported financial information, credit reports and interviews with colleagues, family, friends and neighbors. By contrast, insider threat programs focus on actual behavior. They watch patterns, like arrival and departure times and computer usage, such as which files you access and download, which internet sites you visit and how often you use a given application.

Both have interest in social media activity.

Carrie Wibben, director for security and policy oversight within the office of the undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, said the Pentagon is “convinced of the value of social media” and what such intelligence it can convey.