11 August 2016

*** A fleeting opportunity

August 10, 2016

Putting heads together: “The INDU proposal was not only meant to augment existing Professional Military Education capacities, but to provide the intellectual underpinnings for “jointness” among the different services.” File photo from the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun.

The current design for the National Defence University falls far short of the original ambition.

The draft bill for the proposed Indian National Defence University (INDU) has been recently placed in the public domain. While the intent to seek comments is a good sign, the draft bill is a stark illustration of deeper infirmities in thinking about both national security and higher education.

The idea for creating a National Defence University was first proposed by the Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1967 but it was only after the 1999 Kargil war that this idea was taken seriously when the government created a Committee on the National Defence University (CONDU) headed by the late K. Subrahmanyam. This committee submitted its report in 2002 and provided the rationale for creating a National Defence University. In 2010 the Cabinet gave an “in principle” approval for setting up the Defence University in Binola, near Gurgaon. Subsequently a public sector undertaking EdCIL (India) Limited was tasked with preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR), a blueprint explaining the physical construction of the university, its act and statutes, plans for faculty development and the overall intellectual approach. After some internal discussions (spearheaded by former National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon) on an initial draft, the final DPR was submitted in February 2013.

Trouble with silos

J&K Conundrum: Ambiguous War with Unambiguous Objectives

By Brig Narender Kumar (Retd.)
10 Aug , 2016

In 2001, I was posted in North Kashmir and one day my friend local Kashmiri asked me, “Sir why don’t you kill the militants in Pakistan before they cross over to Kashmir”? He further explained the logic behind his advice and said, “Sir if you kill militants in Pakistan, neither we will lose our soldiers nor it will cause any collateral damage to civil population. The loss and pain will be of Pakistan in all respect”. I thought he is a civilian and doesn’t understand the nuances of proxy war, so I chose to remain quiet. I remembered the words of my friend when I heard the Defence Minister on Vijay Diwas (26 July 2016) when he assured the nation that the armed forces are fully prepared to deal with the terrorists as and when they attempt to cross into J&K. If we evaluate both the statements, my Kashmiri friend advocated taking war into enemy territory and make Pakistan pay the price for waging a proxy war. Whereas political leadership has chosen to adopt a low risk but high cost option to deal with the proxy war, where loss in all respect is of the Indian state and Pakistan is an outright gainer. In fact India’s strategy to fight proxy war within Indian Territory has emboldened Pakistan to expand the area of operations from J&K to the rest of India without being made to pay for the war crimes.

China Wants India’s Help on SCS – Who Are We Kidding?

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
10 Aug , 2016

As a precursor to the three day visit by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to India commencing August 12, our media reports that Chins seeks India’s “help” on the SCS. Nothing could be more naïve unless the idea is to keep the reality away from the public at large.

It is Chou en Lai who suggested to Pakistan to prepare for prolonged battle and raise a militia that would fight behind enemy’s (Indian) lines.

Referring to India, Chou en Lai meeting a Pakistani delegation to Beijing was far back in 1966 clenched his fist and said, “This is capable of delivering a forceful blow, but if you cut off one finger, the fist loses its power, not by one-fifth, but by fifty percent. If you wipe out a couple of hundred thousand of the enemy spread over a long front, its impact is not as great as wiping out an entire battalion or a brigade – the enemy’s morale is dealt a devastating blow. We know this from practical experience.” It is Chou en Lai who suggested to Pakistan to prepare for prolonged battle and raise a militia that would fight behind enemy’s (Indian) lines.

During Prime Minister Modi’s last visit to China, an Op-Ed in China’s Global Times (CPC’s official mouthpiece) stated, “Due to the Indian elite’s confidence in their democracy, and the inferiority of its ordinary people, few Indians are able to treat Sino-Indian ties accurately, objectively and rationally.” Notice the idiotic reference to Indians as “inferiority of its ordinary people” as if the Chinese were fathered by aliens – which may well be the misconception as dealt with later in this article.

China is a Bigger Threat to India than Pakistan

By Jai Kumar Verma
10 Aug , 2016

The Indian security planners have to analyze whether Pakistan is a bigger threat or China is a larger menace to the security of the country. There can also be a scenario of two-front war, when India has to face the combined might of China and Pakistan. India has had three full-fledged wars with Pakistan and one war with China. Besides these wars, there were several clashes of big and small magnitude with both the countries however so far, both the countries have never joined hands to fight India. 

Analysts mention that China has no specific animosity with India and its interests are restricted to border dispute mainly at Arunachal Pradesh and maintain that India should not provide any assistance to Tibetans living in India and Nepal so as to create disturbances in Tibet. They claim that China has no interest in the disintegration of India or disturbing the law and order situation of the country. China may not like to fight with India again as India is a lucrative market for consumption of Chinese products.

On the other hand, Pakistan, which was created on the name of religion, has an in-built abhorrence towards India. Pakistani army which enjoys several privileges will never allow cordial relations between India and Pakistan. The army controlled Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has created several terrorist groups to carry out terrorist activities in India, including Jammu and Kashmir.

Danger In North East: Christian Terror On One Side, Islamist On The Other

August 08, 2016

In the North-Eastern states there is a pattern to secessionist terrorism and these forces are animated by the dangerously flawed Marxist theory of linguistic racism.

The sustained campaign against the Modi government with exaggerated and false claims of violence against the minorities provide the perfect justification for the terror groups to interlink and launch major terror attacks in Assam

The terrorists entered the market and started firing indiscriminately, and before anyone could know, dead bodies were scattered around and cries of carnage filled the air.

That would describe what happened in the Kokrajhar market attack on 5 August in Assam, or any recent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-style lone-gunman operation. However, it also draws similarities with the massacre carried out by the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) at the Singicherra Bazaar in Tripura in 2002. NLFT – a Christian secessionist outfit had issued diktats against the celebration of Makar Sankranthi – the pan-India harvest festival. To punish those who dared to celebrate, NLFT terrorists entered the Singicherra market and shot dead 16 villagers. (16 shot dead by NLFT in Tripura – PTI, 13 January, 2002)

The Kokrajhar attack shows the revival of the old tactics by the North-Eastern secessionist outfits. It may also be indicating some new dynamics in the present changed political milieu of Assam. And it needs serious attention.

Why We Can’t Be Friends

August 09, 2016

Two books, one by an American academic and the other by a Pakistani diplomat, address the issue of the insecure mindset of the Pakistani military and politicians, though from very different perspectives.

I just can’t find it.

I spent the last two days looking in vain for my copy of Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States: A Dinner Party Approach To International Relations.

The reason for my frantic search, which has left my tiny apartment resembling a bookshop hit by a typhoon, was that the author, Chris Fair, (that’s how she’s marked on the cover) is the same C. Christine Fair who’s written Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War. The same Christine Fair who, responding to criticism about her support for American drone strikes, once tweeted: “I don’t care if you think I’m a Rambo bitch. Do you know why? I AM a Rambo bitch.” The same Christine Fair who can, and does, boast of having “…savoured the lovely cardamom tea (that I imagine the Taliban quaffing in their caves) above Peshawar’s bustling Thieves Market,…dined with soldiers in the Khyber Pass”, and so on.

Cuisines is probably not one of her better known books, and it definitely suffers from some laboured writing, with forced alliterations and multi-syllabic words that make one wince. But the recipes are genuine, and at a few places, so is the satire.


I write about the broad intersection of data and society. 

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. 

This past March Bloomberg offered a compelling look inside the world of election hacking in which campaigns and their supporters hack into their opponents and steal or destroy data, saturate the online space with fake messaging and otherwise attempt to skew the election in their favor. Given the subsequent unveiling of the successful hack of the DNC here in the United States and the previous hacks of both campaigns in 2008, the article appears all the more prescient.

Indeed, this past April the head of the US Cyber Commandtestified before Congress that there was growing concern that hackers of the future will not simply steal data, but will instead penetrate computing systems and subtly change critical data in-place in such a way that the victim can no longer trust any of its data and doesn’t know what’s real or what has been changed.

NBC today published a fascinating look at how cyberwarfare has expanded beyond the purely digital realm to mission critical physical systems like GPS. Tracking systems based on GPS and using cellular backhauls have become commonplace in tracking valuable cargo, corporate vehicles and in police surveillance. However, the NBC article notes that GPS jammers have now become so commonplace that they can be purchased for a few tens of dollars online and plugged into a vehicle cigarette lighter jack, with criminals now routinely deploying them on the off chance that their stolen cargo might be carrying a tracker. Even enterprising employees are beginning to deploy them in an attempt to avoid their corporate office being able to track their vehicle.

Chinese PLA SIGINT Collection Operations Against Taiwan: A Profile

August 9, 2016

PLA Eastern Theater Command Army SIGINT Operations Targeting Taiwan

One should assume that any electronic transmission on, into, and out of Taiwan – military or civilian – is subject to Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) signals intelligence (SIGINT) monitoring. The Eastern Theater Command (ETC) Army manages the PLA’s largest enterprise responsible for monitoring Taiwan’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, reconnaissance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) networks.

Before 1985, the SIGINT enterprise opposite Taiwan was designated as the Fuzhou Military Region (FZMR) 3rd Bureau. After the FZMR’s dissolution in 1985, the organization was incorporated into the Nanjing Military Region (NJMR) and designated as the NJMR 2nd Technical Reconnaissance Bureau (TRB). The NJMR was dissolved in January 2016, and supplanted by the ETC. The 2nd TRB (Unit 73630) has been reassigned to the ETC Army. It remains unknown if the unit retained its bureau (ju 局) designation. For the purposes of this discussion, the unit will be referred to as the ETC 2nd TRB.


The ETC Army 2nd TRB is a division leader grade organization headquartered in a fairly large compound within Fuzhou’s Cangshan District. Senior Colonel (SCOL) Zhou En (周恩) was assigned as director of the 2nd TRB in 2015, replacing Xu Yonggen (徐永根). SCOL Yang Longxi (杨龙溪; b. 1966) was assigned as political commissar in 2014. He previously served as political commissar of the Jinhua Military Sub-District (2013-2015) and deputy political commissar of 31st Group Army’s 86th Motorized Infanty Division. He replaced Zhai Weiping (翟卫平), who transferred to serve as political commissar of the ETC Army’s Sanjie Training Base.

China's Permanent Conflict Strategy Is A Stroke of Genius

August 9, 2016 

Permanent conflict in alternating areas, not war, best suits Beijing’s interests.

Tokyo lodged a series of protests over the weekend regarding renewed Chinese activity in the disputed East China Sea. Japan has claimed that China recently installed a radar on a Chinese offshore gas platform.

Japan’s protests occurred after incursions by as many as 230 Chinese fishing vessels and six coast guard ships in contiguous zones surrounding the Senkakus on Saturday, and intrusions by two Chinese coast guard vessels into the territorial waters around the islets on Sunday. On Friday, eight Chinese fishing and coast guard vessels also reportedly entered territorial waters around the Senkakus. Tokyo, which administers and claims ownership over three of the Senkaku islets—Uotsuri, Kitakojima and Minamikojima—has been locked in a longstanding dispute with Beijing over the area, which is also claimed by Taiwan.

Japan’s foreign ministry has also revealed that China had installed an ocean radar system and surveillance cameras on one of the sixteen gas-drilling platforms it currently operates in international waters in the East China Sea. Tokyo has accused Beijing of breaking a bilateral cooperation agreement on co-exploration of gas reserves in the East China Sea by unilaterally developing the area. The foreign ministry said the radar, which Japan claims is similar the type normally found on patrol vessels, was discovered in June and called for the immediate removal of the equipment.

Beijing has refused to comment on the matter.

If confirmed, the radar facility could have military applications and echo similar moves by China in the South China Sea, where civilian-purpose installations have gradually been militarized.

Multiple-front logic

China’s red line on South China Sea

August 9, 2016

From all indications, after warning Japan repeatedly not to interfere in the South China Sea disputes, Beijing decided enough is enough and to signal its displeasure.

Tokyo took it upon itself to go the extra league to needle Beijing by not only expressing solidarity in words (and actions) with the Southeast Asian countries on the South China Sea, but also inciting them.

Tokyo’s statement on the recent Arbitration Tribunal award was perhaps the most strongly worded, out of all countries who voiced opinions on the issue.

Only last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the U.S., Japan and Australia were “fanning the flames” of regional tensions after they released a joint statement urging China not to construct military outposts or reclaim land in the disputed waters in the South China Sea.

After successfully weathering the diplomatic fallout of the Arbitration Tribunal award – recent ASEAN meet and ASEM summit didn’t say a word about it – Beijing has turned to Japan to give Tokyo a taste of how it feels to be provoked.

Hundreds of Chinese fishing boats with over a dozen coast guard vessels flanking them have been spotted in the weekend around the islands in the East China Sea, disputed by China and Japan, which are in the latter’s possession.

Mr Wang, Reopen Demchok

In my previous post, I mentioned the railway lines which will soon reach Purang/Taklakot, north of Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand and Yatung in the Chumbi Valley, sandwiched between Sikkim and Bhutan.

In this connection, The China Daily published a couple of days ago, an intriguing article entitled Tibet envisioned as hub of Himalayas.

What does it mean?

Is China unilaterally planning to open/reopen the Himalayan passes which were closed in 1962, without informing India?

Today, only three passes have been reopened for trade: Shipki-la in Himachal Pradesh, Lipulekh-la in Uttarakhand, and Nathu-la in Sikkim.

According to The China Daily: “Tibet could become the cultural, economic and humanitarian hub of the Himalayas and so build a peaceful, cooperative relationship with its South Asian neighbors.”

It conveniently quotes some ‘experts’ who attended the Sixth International Forum on Tibetan Studies in Beijing.

Note that it has never been difficult for Beijing to find ‘experts’.

The article explains:

The end of coal-fired growth in China

Qi Ye and Jiaqi LuThursday
August 4, 2016

When will China reach its coal peak? Most analysts have predicted that China’s coal consumption will peak somewhere between 2020 and 2040. In an article recently published inNature Geoscience, however, we argue that China’s economic growth has already decoupled from its coal consumption growth.

China’s coal consumption grew from 1.36 billion tons per year in 2000 to 4.24 billion tons per year in 2013, an annual growth rate of 12 percent. As of 2015, the country accounts for approximately 50 percent of global demand for coal. In other words, China’s economic miracle was fueled primarily by coal. This tremendous coal combustion creates air pollution and carbon emissions that threaten China, its neighbors, and the rest of the world.

However, China’s coal consumption decreased by 2.9 percent in 2014 and 3.6 percent in 2015, and the economy has maintained a moderate speed of growth. This indicates that there is a decoupling of economic growth from the growth in coal consumption. China’s coal consumption might have in fact already peaked.

Over the past 35 years, coal powered the engine of China’s rapidly developing economy. Coal represented 75 percent of overall energy consumption. This number decreased to 64.4 percent in 2015—the lowest in China’s modern history—as the country’s energy intensity decreased by 65 percent relative to 35 years ago. In fact, though rarely noticed until the recent peak, this has been part of a fundamental shift in the Chinese economy’s relationship with coal.

Cover: War with ChinaRead Online War with China Thinking Through the Unthinkable

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Research Questions 
What are the alternative paths that China and the United States might take before and during a war? 
What are the effects on both countries of each path? 
What preparations should the United States make, both to reduce the likelihood of war and, should war break out, to ensure victory while minimizing losses and costs? 

Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored. Thus, while neither state wants war, both states' militaries have plans to fight one. As Chinese anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) capabilities improve, the United States can no longer be so certain that war would follow its plan and lead to decisive victory. This analysis illuminates various paths a war with China could take and their possible consequences.

Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other's forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first. This implies fierce early exchanges, with steep military losses on both sides, until one gains control. At present, Chinese losses would greatly exceed U.S. losses, and the gap would only grow as fighting persisted. But, by 2025, that gap could be much smaller. Even then, however, China could not be confident of gaining military advantage, which suggests the possibility of a prolonged and destructive, yet inconclusive, war. In that event, nonmilitary factors — economic costs, internal political effects, and international reactions — could become more important.

Chinese cyber blitzkrieg against the Philippines and Vietnam-lessons for India

August 8, 2016

A worrisome development is taking place in the South China Sea region amidst the rising tension in the area, particularly between China on the one side and Vietnam and the Philippines on the other side. Since the declaration of the verdict by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, China has been expressing her anger over the decision and has made clear that she has no intention of recognising this judgement. On predictable lines, China has criticised the verdict on several grounds-the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no jurisdiction over the issues considered by it, the composition of judges was flawed and no objective decision could be accepted by them, that the Philippines’ approaching the Permanent Court for the ruling was wrong, etc.

The behaviour of China is understandable as her several decades of efforts to establish hegemony in this region has been nullified by this verdict. Not only the Chinese claim in the region under the nine dash lines was declared as having no legal basis but it was also clarified that the features occupied by China cannot be considered islands under the UNCLOS Article 121 and therefore are not eligible for claiming extra limit of territorial waters and placed the blame on China for spoiling the maritime environment by her activities.

The recent Chinese cyber-attacks against the Philippines and Vietnam presage a grim picture. These attacks needs to be seen in a wider perspective of the Chinese game plan to bolster her claims in the area in the nine-dash line, reject the demand for the implementation of the verdict, conveying a strong message to those are pressing for its implementation and indicating that China would go to war if need be to protect her claims. The cyber-attacks by China against the Philippines and Vietnam are not a new thing. In the past these countries were subjected to the Chinese cyber-attacks and were linked to episodes like Scarborough Shoal crisis, Oil rig deployment in the Vietnamese EEZ region.

How ISIS Is Shaking Up Transatlantic Views on Surveillance and Counter-Terrorism

AUGUST 5, 2016

France's heightened security didn’t prevent a bloody July. Why not?

France is now nine months into a state of emergency set to last for an unprecedented 14-and-a-half months. The measures involved are supposed to make the country safer. But after a bloody July mourning more than 80 deaths in Nice on Bastille Day, then the killing of a priest in the middle of mass on July 26, the question seems inevitable: Are they working?

The emergency laws enabling heightened army and police presence, warrantless searches, house arrests, and restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly have retained broad political support since first imposed after the November 2015 Paris attacks. But two security analysts and one human rights-advocate I talked to suggested that, whatever the perception, the state of emergency likely won’t do much on its own—in fact, to combat terrorism in France and elsewhere in Europe, coordinating existing procedures might be more effective than these temporary measures suspending elements of due process.

“Essentially all the [terrorist] networks, whether in France, Germany, or wherever, what they do is they take advantage of the soft underbelly of the European legal system—systems, actually,” said Florence Gaub, a senior analyst with the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris, in a phone interview. She pointed to two major issues: the 26-country Schengen area’s permeable borders with other member states—criticized and to some extent curtailed in the past year during the migrant crisis—and the general barriers built into most Western legal systems when it comes to targeting people based on a potential threat rather than an actual offense. “The system is geared to people who don’t move around much within the European system, don’t use these multiple exit and entry points, and of course are already convicted of a crime. So if you’re radicalized and haven’t acted yet, then the system will simply not be able to apprehend you because it’s not wired that way.”


AUGUST 9, 2016

Has the United States learned from its failed reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan?

To be sure, progress has been slow and halting. But in the past weeks, U.S. commanders in both Iraq and Afghanistan have discussed gains in their respective theaters. In Iraq particularly, U.S. forces and their masters in Washington are focused on territory regained from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

As ISIL is rolled back, commanders are turning much of their attention to a key question: What next? What comes after ISIL has withdrawn and national and coalition forces have retaken cities and districts?

The discussion has turned to reconstruction. Drawn from classic counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, the theory is that rebuilding and restoring infrastructure, facilities, and institutions that support good governance and a reasonable amount of economic activity will secure the gains of the central governments’ fighting forces, bring stability, and win the support of local populations in reclaimed territories.

Yet we tried to move from this theory to practice before in both Iraq and Afghanistan and the results were far from impressive. What are the lessons of the failed reconstruction efforts in Operations IRAQI Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF), and have we learned them? What can be done differently this time to achieve an environment of relative stability, reasonably effective governance, and an economy that creates jobs in Iraq to support the efforts of local security forces to resist the return of ISIL.

The role of the 'dark web' in the trade of illicit drugs


1.4 MB 

The Internet has fundamentally changed ways of doing business, including the operations of illegal markets. RAND Europe was commissioned to investigate the role of the Internet in facilitating the drugs trade, particularly in the Netherlands.

From War to Tug-of-War: The Global Fight for Connectivity

April 19, 2016 

Today's superpowers thrive on economic supply chains, not military might.

It wasn’t long after the collapse of the Soviet Union that American defense strategists had identified the new World War III scenario: Taiwan. Nearly a quarter century later, Taiwan remains on the tip of the geopolitical tongue. Theelection of the nationalist DPP in January has rattled cross-Strait relations. Beijing called on Taipei to abandon any “hallucinations” of independence. With tensions already flaring over the disputed South China Sea, this could be the beginning of the escalation spiral towards World War III many have feared for so long.

Taiwan isn’t the only World War III scenario experts have warned about in the past twenty-five years. India and Pakistan went nuclear in 1998, with theKargil crisis ensuing a year later. Without a personal intervention by President Bill Clinton, many believe one or both of the South Asian rivals might indeed have pulled the trigger. More recently, China and Japan have come close to the brink several times, such as in 2010, when Japanese patrol boats rammed a Chinese trawler, and subsequently when the governor of Tokyo agreed to buy three of the disputed Senkaku Islands from their private owner, sparking enraged Chinese citizens to attack Japan’s embassy in Beijing. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spent much of 2014 traveling from Davos to DC, warning the world that 1914 was playing out all over again. In 2015, Japan’s parliament lifted the country’s long-standing ban on overseas military operations, while the country weighs reviving its nuclear weapons program.

Every month also seems to bring some provocation by the pathologically erratic North Korean regime, whether a missile launch or maritime altercation. And then there’s Iran. Who can forget John McCain humming “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” in 2007? In mid-2015, he took to the Senate floor to all but advocate an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.


Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first installment in our new series, “Course Correction,” which features adapted articles from the Cato Institute’s recently released book, Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role. The articles in this series challenge the existing bipartisan foreign policy consensus and offer a different path.

Foreign policy has certainly featured heavily in this election season, but there has been little true debate on the future direction of America’s global role. Though Hillary Clinton advocates increased global commitment, polls show thatonly a minority of Americans (27 percent) believe that the United States does too little globally, while 41 percent of Americans think the United States does too much around the world. Donald Trump may have benefited from this popular dissatisfaction with the state of U.S. foreign policy, but his own wild pronouncements are lacking in substance or even basic common sense. This election is unlikely to provide the robust debate on America’s foreign policy choices so urgently needed.

Worse yet, that lack of debate is not new: Policymakers and political candidates typically embrace the status quo in foreign policy. Among these elites, there is solid bipartisan support for extensive alliance commitments, frequent military intervention, and higher defense spending. Debates tend to focus on which specific actions the United States should take, only rarely asking whether the United States should be involved, militarily or otherwise, in various global crises.

A secret group bought the ingredients for a dirty bomb — here in the U.S.

The clandestine group’s goal was clear: Obtain the building blocks of a radioactive “dirty bomb” — capable of poisoning a major city for a year or more — by openly purchasing the raw ingredients from authorized sellers inside the United States.

It should have been hard. The purchase of lethal radioactive materials — even modestly dangerous ones — requires a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a measure meant to keep them away from terrorists. Applicants must demonstrate they have a legitimate need and understand the NRC’s safety standards, and pass an on-site inspection of their equipment and storage.

But this secret group of fewer than 10 people — formed in April 2014 in North Dakota, Texas and Michigan — discovered that getting a license and then ordering enough materials to make a dirty bomb was strikingly simple in one of their three tries. Sellers were preparing shipments that together were enough to poison a city center when the operation was shut down.

The team’s members could have been anyone — a terrorist outfit, emissaries of a rival government, domestic extremists. In fact, they were undercover bureaucrats with the investigative arm of Congress. And they had pulled off the same stunt nine years before. Their fresh success has set off new alarms among some lawmakers and officials in Washington about risks that terrorists inside the United States could undertake a dirty bomb attack.

The Myth of the Olympics

by Nigel Spivey 

Oxford University Press, 273 pp., $28.00 

by Panos Valavanis 

Getty Museum, 448 pp., $75.00 

by Alexander Kitroeff 

Greekworks, 277 pp., $32.00 
Olympics in Athens, 1896: The Invention of the Modern Olympic Games 

by Michael Llewellyn Smith 

Profile Books, 290 pp., £16.99 

by Stephen G. Miller 

Yale University Press, 288 pp., $35.00 

In Athens it is all over. The Olympic flame is extinguished for another two years. The tumult and the shouting dies; the trainers and the fans depart. Questions still linger about the Olympic Games. They “returned,” we were ecstatically told, to Greece. What does that mean? What were those ancient Games, why were they important then, and why are they still alive now? 

NATO, Stop Expanding Eastward

AUGUST 8, 2016

The alliance’s growth is doing more harm than good, and other principles of a proposed Détente 2.0. 

On July 20, Donald Trump shocked the Western politico-military establishment when he told The New York Times that the United States would protect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the three formerly Soviet Baltic countries that joined NATO in 2004, from a Russian attack only if they have “fulfilled their obligations to us.” In one fell stroke, Trump proposed to jettison the alliance’s foundational Article 5, which guarantees collective defense, in favor of some impromptu financial calculus. Then, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention two days later, he declared NATO “obsolete” for failing to “properly cover terror,” adding that “many member countries [are] not paying their fair share [into the alliance]. As usual, the United States has been picking up the cost.”

Trump’s various offenses aside, on his latter point, there can be no doubt: of NATO’s 28 member states, only five spend the recommended 2 percent or more of their GDP per year on defense; Estonia is the sole Baltic country to meet the 2-percent benchmark. The United States, meanwhile, covers 72.2 percent of NATO’s budget. Though even President Barack Obama has complained about NATO’s European “free riders”—given that the EU’s GDP may exceed that of the United States, the critique seems reasonable—Trump, by suggesting that a future U.S. president may, amid a hypothetical crisis of unprecedented magnitude, evaluate treaty obligations by consulting the alliance’s balance sheet alone is unprecedented. Add to that Trump’s apparent personal affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusations from Democrats (even if they turn out to be groundless) that his business interests might predispose him to act in Russia’s interests, and his invitation (possibly proffered sarcastically) that Russia intervene in the U.S.presidential campaign by ferreting out Hillary Clinton’s illegally deleted emails, and you end up with a media maelstrom of his own making.

Remote Control Project: Remote-Control Warfare Monthly Briefing | #17

2 August 2016

The seventeenth in our monthly remote-control briefing series from Open Briefing has been published. The briefings cover developments in five key areas of remote warfare: special forces, private military and security companies, unmanned vehicles and autonomous weapon systems, cyber warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

This month’s stories include:

Special operations forces: Iraqi special forces play critical role retaking Fallujah from Islamic State.

Private military and security companies: Deaths of Nepalese security guards in Afghanistan highlights use of Asian contractors in conflict zones by private military and security companies.

Unmanned vehicles and autonomous weapons systems: Newly-released official estimates of casualties from US drone strikes step in right direction but too limited.

Cyber conflict: NATO designates cyberspace as an operational domain and includes cyber attacks in Article 5.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance: Proposal for greater communications surveillance powers for FBI voted down in US Senate, but Congress considering similar legislation.

Spear Phishing in Tehran

AUGUST 9, 2016

Iranian hackers are increasingly using the tools of cyber-espionage against exiles and dissidents.

The email arrived on the afternoon of March 9, 2016, and it appeared to bring news from an exile’s most feared bureaucracy: the U.S. immigration service.

“You received this email because you do not have a Permanent Residence, your Permanent Residence Status needs to be adjusted or you need to renew/replace your Permanent Residence Card,” the email read. Sent from a dhs.gov mailing address, containing links to the relevant forms, and ending with a cheerful sign-off — “With Best Regards” — the email had the look of a legitimate piece of correspondence from the U.S. government.
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It wasn’t: The email had actually been sent from a hacker likely working on behalf of the Iranian government. The links to the requested forms contained malware designed to spy on its recipients — a human rights activist and likely others in the Iranian diaspora — on behalf of Tehran.

The email wasn’t an isolated attack against a potential dissident. Tehran is increasingly turning the tools of computer espionage against both exiles abroad and potential dissidents at home. Western researchers have found evidence that Iranian hackers have targeted the regime’s perceived opponents by hacking into their computers to install spy software, mapped out the millions of Iranian users of the encrypted messaging service Telegram, and targeted journalists for espionage.

Artificial Intelligence Drone Defeats Fighter Pilot: The Future?

August 08, 2016 

Two X-47B drones

In an intriguing paper certain to catch the eye of senior Pentagon officials, a company claims that an artificial intelligence program it designed allowed drones to repeatedly and convincingly “defeat” a human pilot in simulations in a test done with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL).

A highly experienced former Air Force battle manager, Gene Lee, tried repeatedly and failed to score a kill and “he was shot out of the air by the reds every time after protracted engagements.” All of the missile battles were executed beyond Beyond Visual Range.

“It seemed to be aware of my intentions and reacting instantly to my changes in flight and my missile deployment. It knew how to defeat the shot I was taking. It moved instantly between defensive and offensive actions as needed,” Lee, who oversaw the F-35A, F-22 and Global Hawk systems for Air Combat Command until 2011, said in an article published by University of Cincinnati Magazine.

That speed of action to be the key to the success of ALPHA, software developed by a tiny company called PSIBERNETIX. They seem to have overcome one of the main obstacles to artificial intelligence getting inside a human’s decision cycle: its ability to accept enormous amounts of data from a variety of sensors, process it and make decisions rapidly. A special application of “fuzzy logic” designed by Nicholas Ernest, PSIBERNETIX’s CEO, appears to surmount that problem. Ernest designed the system while a fellow at AFRL.

Artificial Intelligence Just Changed the Future of Information Security

AUGUST 8, 2016

At DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge, bots showed off their ability to help a world wallowing in vulnerable code. 

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Mayhem ruled the day when seven AIs clashed here last week — a bot named Mayhem that, along with its competitors, proved that machines can now quickly find many types of security vulnerabilities hiding in vast amounts of code.

Sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the first-of-its-kind contest sought to explore how artificial intelligence and automation might help find security and design flaws that bad actors use to penetrate computer networks and steal data.

Mayhem, built by the For All Secure team out of Carnegie Mellon University, so outclassed its competition that it won even though it was inoperable for about half of the contest’s 96 270-second rounds. Mayhem pivoted between two autonomous methods of finding bugs and developing ways to exploit them.

Under one method, dubbed symbolic execution, Mayhem tries to figure out how a target program works by systematically replacing sample inputs with classes of inputs. As James King writes in this seminal 1976 paper on the idea: “Each symbolic execution result may be equivalent to a large number of normal test cases. These results can be checked against the programmer’s expectations for correctness either formally or informally.”

Chinese Hypersonic Spaceplane

This screenshot from state television broadcast on the hypersonic spaceplane shows an aerodynamically optimized aircraft beginning to accelerate to hypersonic speeds. Operating such a spaceplane by 2030 would place China ahead of the space race, and other races.

While SpaceX is making news with its recoverable rockets, China announced that it is working on the next big thing in spaceflight: a hypersonic spaceplane.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is beginning advanced research on a high tech, more efficient successor to the retired Space Shuttle, with hybrid combined cycle engines that can takeoff from an airport's landing strip and fly straight into orbit. The hybrid space plane's combined cycle engines would use turbofan or turbojet engines to takeoff horizontally from a landing strip. Once airborne, the engine then shifts to ramjet propulsion and, as speed increases, adjusts into a scramjet engine with supersonic airflow. At the scramjet stage, the hybrid spaceplane would enter hypersonic flight in 'near space', the part of the atmosphere between 20km to 100km above sea level. Finally, the hybrid spaceplane would use its rocket motors to push out of near space and into orbit.

Broadcasts by both state television broadcaster CCTV, and its English service, note that the CASTC spaceplane's easy reusability would exponentially bring down space launch costs.

U.S. cyber arsenal is smaller than imagined — on purpose

By Joe Uchill 

The United States government may be stockpiling far fewer digital arms than anyone expected, according to new research. 

The study centers around “zero day” exploits, which are soft spots in product security that companies are not aware of or have not patched. Depending on the severity of a vulnerability, zero days sell on the slightly-more-legal-than-black market known as a gray market for tens of thousands to more than a million dollars a piece. 

Governments are the primary buyers of zero days and spend vast resources researching them. Since the U.S. is not short on capital and invests heavily into its offensive cyber warfare positions, even people in the zero day business assumed it held a few hundreds of these vulnerabilities. 

“Today, the best, surest 0-days acquirer is the [National Security Agency], in truth a really insatiable one,” David Vincenzetti, founder and CEO of the military spyware contractor Hacking Team, wrote in one his company’s emails leaked last year. 

“Today, the largest 0-days producers are U.S. companies, possibly large U.S. defense contractors, selling their stuff directly and possibly exclusively to the NSA.”

But new research shows that might not be the case. 

Is US Cyber Command preparing to become the 6th branch of the military?

August 8, 2016

The Obama administration is considering elevating the status of US Cyber Command and separating it from the NSA, as cyberattacks and defense become a more integral part of modern warfare. 

A new front has emerged in modern warfare, and it is not on the battlefield. Cyberwar and the digital arms race continue to advance as a threat faced by countries around the world. In June, NATO officially recognized cyberspace as an "operational domain" where conflict could occur.

To face this growing risk, world leaders are evaluating and updating their approaches to cyberwarfare—preparing to do battle online as well as on the ground. To better posture the US against cyberattacks, the Obama administration is considering elevating the status of the Pentagon's Cyber Command and separating it from the National Security Agency (NSA), which would give the Cyber Command more authority regarding cyber initiatives.

According to a report, originally published by Reuters, elevating the status of Cyber Command would give it more power to develop cyber weapons to deter attacks and punish cybercriminals who attack the US, such as the Islamic State. John Pironti, president of IP Architects, LLC, said that a move to elevate Cyber Command and separate it from the NSA would send a strong message to the world that the US views cyber as a strategic initiative within the military.