14 July 2017

*** In China, a Strategy Born of Weakness

By George Friedman

China’s actions so far in the ongoing North Korean affair have been ambiguous. In order to try to understand China’s strategy toward North Korea, it is necessary to understand China’s strategy in general. To do that, it is important to recognize the imperatives and constraints that drive the country.

First, we need to outline China’s basic geographical parts. The country has four buffer regions that are under its control. Tibet in the southwest has seen some instability and is vulnerable to outside influences. Xinjiang in the northwest is predominantly Muslim, with a significant insurgency but not one that threatens Chinese control. Inner Mongolia in the north is stable. Manchuria in the northeast is also stable and of all four buffers is the most integrated with the Chinese core. These last two regions are now dominated by the Han Chinese, China’s main ethnic group, but they are still distinct. When you look at a map of China, you will see that a good part of what we think of China is not ethnically Chinese.

** China Builds Maritime Muscle

By Stratfor

China recently reached a new milestone on its path toward military modernization. On June 28, the country launched the first Type 055 warship from the Jiangnan Shipyard on Shanghai's Changxing Island. The vessel is China's first heavy destroyer, and it is the largest surface combatant warship built by an Asian power since the end of World War II. With the Type 055, China shows how far it has come in its efforts to expand its maritime capabilities.

The Type 055 warship is a large and heavy vessel, with a full displacement — or weight — of more than 12,000 tons, a length of about 180 meters (590 feet) and a beam of roughly 20 meters. In fact, the U.S. military classifies the Type 055 as a cruiser, a class of warship larger than a destroyer. And despite its size, the new ship is sleek and modern in its design. For instance, it incorporates numerous features that reduce its visibility on radar, such as a fully enclosed foredeck and an integrated mast.

Compared with the previous Chinese destroyer class, the Type 052D, the Type 055 does not vastly improve on actual weaponry. The new warship largely carries the same type of missiles as the Type 052D and is equipped with a similar suite of close-in weapons systems. But the Type 055's larger size allows it to carry between 112 and 128 Vertical Launch System cells, compared with the 64 cells carried by the Type 052D. This expanded capability gives the new destroyer many more offensive and defensive options, as well as greater flexibility and staying power.

** China Officially Sets Up Its First Overseas Base in Djibouti

By Charlotte Gao

China sends military personnel to its new base, designed to support Chinese missions in Africa and the Middle East. 

On July 11, China officially dispatched military personnel to set up its first-ever overseas base in Djibouti, the small country in East Africa.

While foreign media call the new facility a “military” base, China instead calls it a “support base,” which “will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” according to Xinhua, China’s news agency.

In the early morning of July 11, China held an official ceremony in the port of Zhanjiang, south China’s Guangdong province. The commander of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Shen Jinlong, “read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti, and conferred military flag on the fleets.” Then Shen ordered, “Set off!” and the ships carrying Chinese military personnel departed the port, reported Xinhua.

In addition to its basic supporting role, the Djibouti base will also perform other functions including “military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways,” said Xinhua.

Changing spirit - Events in West Bengal show that stereotypes are inadequate

Swapan Dasgupta 

Stereotypes are broad brush generalizations that, while based on facets of reality, often conceal complexities and loose ends. The prevailing stereotype of West Bengal is that it blends high culture and radical instincts with a disdain for hard work and money. This shorthand of the Bengali character is coupled with the generalization that the high-minded people of the state are neither prone to caste politics nor sectarian antagonisms.

As is evident, stereotypes are never unchanging. That Bengalis couple a love for high culture with an excitable temperament is a perception that dates back to the raj when united Bengal was troublesome to the imperial masters. It was this image that was probably the main factor behind the shift of the national capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911 - a move that was resolutely opposed by British business interests. After Independence, the image of volatility persisted -Jawaharlal Nehru's fulmination about Calcutta being a "city of processions"- but after the mid-1960s it was compensated, at least among the country's liberal intelligentsia, by the belief that West Bengal was an oasis of inter-community tranquillity and harmony in a country torn apart by caste and communal conflict.

Telescope: A yatra, a blind alley

by Shailaja Bajpai

“There are two Indias,” said the anchor on Tuesday evening — one that stands in “solidarity” against terrorism; the other which spreads “fear” and “mistrust” (Republic). Which India do you choose?

On the one hand, there was the India represented by a composed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who, on Tuesday, lauded Kashmiris for condemning the terrorist attack on a bus of Amarnath yatris with a “salute” and said he believed in “Kashmiriyat”. On the other hand, there was Major General G. D. Bakshi, red-faced and swollen with anger and outrage over alleged inaction: “Kaam keejiye… (those responsible for the attack) should be hunted down in two or three days”.

On the one hand, leaders across the political spectrum, on TV news, denounced the terrorist attack and offered condolences to the families of the bereaved — Rajnath Singh, other Union ministers, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, NC leader Omar Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Lalu Prasad (RJD), etc. In the headlines, condemnations and sympathy from President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee

The attack that restored Kashmiriyat

by Waheed Ur Rehman Para

It was just another ordinary Srinagar summer evening until I received a frantic phone call from my friend breaking the horrifying news of Amarnath Yatra pilgrims coming under attack. It left me cold and shell-shocked. But there was no time to lose, so I immediately left for Anantnag to join Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in her rescue efforts. The thunderstorm and incessant rain darkened the gloom of the ill-fated evening as our car sped past high alert checkpoints all the way to Anantnag.

Panic was reigning supreme when I reached the spot. The entire hospital was in turmoil. Heart-wrenching sounds of shrieks and wails filled the corridors as doctors outdid themselves serving the injured and calming their families. The devastation this barbaric attack against humanity had left behind in its wake was unprecedented and it was difficult, if not impossible, to face the victims of this naked atrocity. But the Chief Minister stood strong in this hour of emergency and led from the front, reaching out individually to each victim in their hour of anguish and spent the entire night in Anantnag ensuring that all possible assistance – medical, logistical and moral – be extended to them.

I've Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe's Afghan Crime Wave Is Mind-Boggling.

Cheryl Benard

Afghans stand out among the refugees committing crimes in Austria and elsewhere. Why?

In 2014, when waves of refugees began flooding into western Europe, citizens and officials alike responded with generosity and openness. Exhausted refugees spilled out of trains and buses to be met by crowds bearing gifts of clothing and food, and holding up placards that read “Welcome Refugees.”

This was a honeymoon that could not last. Some of the upcoming difficulties had been anticipated: that the newcomers did not speak the local languages, might be traumatized, would probably take a long time to find their footing, and had brought their ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts with them, causing them to get into battles with each other. All of these things happened but—as Angela Merkel promised—were manageable. “Wir schaffen das.”

But there was one development that had not been expected, and was not tolerable: the large and growing incidence of sexual assaults committed by refugees against local women. These were not of the cultural-misunderstanding-date-rape sort, but were vicious, no-preamble attacks on random girls and women, often committed by gangs or packs of young men. At first, the incidents were downplayed or hushed up—no one wanted to provide the right wing with fodder for nationalist agitation, and the hope was that these were isolated instances caused by a small problem group of outliers. As the incidents increased, and because many of them took place in public or because the public became involved either in stopping the attack or in aiding the victim afterwards, and because the courts began issuing sentences as the cases came to trial, the matter could no longer be swept under the carpet of political correctness. And with the official acknowledgment and public reporting, a weird and puzzling footnote emerged. Most of the assaults were being committed by refugees of one particular nationality: by Afghans.

Many organizations banned in Pakistan thrive online


The Associated Press This Friday, July 7, 2017 photo, shows a Facebook site that features one of India’s most wanted, Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned organization and a U.S. declared terrorist group, in Islamabad, Pakistan. A senior Pakistani government official says more than 40 of 65 organizations banned in Pakistan operate flourishing social media sites, communicating on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram to recruit, raise money and demand a rigid Islamic system. Meanwhile Pakistan is waging a cyber war against activists and journalists who use social media to criticize the government and its agencies. 

It's dusk. The shadows of three men brandishing assault rifles welcome the reader to the Facebook page of Lashkar-e-Islam, one of 65 organizations that are banned in Pakistan, either because of terrorist links or as purveyors of sectarian hate.

Still more than 40 of these groups operate and flourish on social media sites, communicating on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Telegram, according to a senior official with Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, or FIA, who is tasked with shutting down the sites. They use them to recruit, raise money and demand a rigid Islamic system. It is also where they incite the Sunni faithful against the country's minority Shiites and extoll jihad, or holy war, in India-ruled Kashmir and in Afghanistan.

The Need for a Broader U.S. Strategy to Stabilize Afghanistan

Ahmad Murid Partaw

If America does not take necessary action in Afghanistan, the country may once again descend into chaos, which will ultimately harm U.S. national-security interests.

The Trump administration is considering to sending more troops as a sign of recommitment to the sixteen-year-old war in Afghanistan. The decision—which has been delegated to the Department of Defense—is taking place amid the country’s deteriorating security and political situation. The Afghan Taliban and its offshoot, the Haqqani Network, have stepped up their destructive operations across the nation. As a result, the recent uptick in violence has led to the countless deaths of innocent civilians and security personnel, and it has undermined the National Unity Government.

Despite the worsening security situation, Kabul also suffers from a deepening political gridlock, with weak government performance and dysfunctional institutions. Thus, a mini-surge by the United States is required to prevent Afghanistan from turning into a failed state becomes inevitable. Moreover, troop surge would be significant in order to alter the condition and reverse the Taliban gains which has been made by the group in recent years.

This troop increase should come as part of a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and help its government achieve more stability and defeating the insurgents on the battlefields. In other words, the new approach should be part of a well-defined regional strategy that can allow the United States to bring more military, diplomatic and intelligence support to the fight. More importantly, it should give the U.S. commanders more authority on the ground and allow them to embed with local forces to boost their morale in the fight against the Taliban.

Islamic State Comes to Balochistan

By Ayaz Ahmed

The terrorist group is increasingly present in Pakistan’s southern province. 

Pakistan’s southern province of Balochistan is widely projected to become a regional trade hub on account of the Chinese-funded China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). If this grand connectivity corridor materializes as planned, this will undoubtedly make developing Pakistan into a major economic and naval power in South Asia.

However, the growing presence of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Balochistan is highly likely to further complicate the insurgency landscape of the resource-rich province, thus posing major security impediments to the economic projects under CPEC.

ISIS has recently ramped up its furtive efforts to establish a permanent foothold in restive parts of Balochistan. The militant outfit claimed that its fighters killed two Chinese language teachers who were kidnapped on May 24 in Quetta, the terror-stricken provincial capital of Balochistan. Indisputably, this is a threatening development that could well bring ISIS quite close to assorted Baloch insurgent groups that are also bent upon targeting Chinese nationals in the province with the intent to block CPEC.

Pakistani Man Sentenced For Laundering Millions In Telecom Hacking Scheme

A massive international hacking and telecommunications fraud scheme served as a backdrop for an FBI investigation that led to the capture of a Pakistani citizen who played a major role in scamming U.S. companies out of millions of dollars in fees, according to the FBI.

Muhammad Sohail Qasmani was sentenced on June 28, 2017 after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is now serving a 48-month prison term for his involvement in the scheme.

The FBI said that from November 2008 to December 2012, Qasmani laundered more than $19.6 million in proceeds from a conspiracy that transformed the telephone networks of American corporations into literal cash cows.

Allegedly led by another Pakistani national, Noor Aziz Uddin—who is currently a fugitive wanted by the FBI—the fraud scheme involved an international group of highly skilled hackers who focused on penetrating telephone networks of businesses and organizations in the United States. Once the hackers gained access to the computer-operated telephone networks, commonly known as PBX systems, they reprogrammed unused extensions to make unlimited long distance calls, the FBI said.

The only way to deal with the Chinese is directly, says Shivshankar Menon

Suhasini Haidar

As the Doklam spat between Beijing and New Delhi flares, the former NSA and old China hand says the neighbours need a new strategic dialogue to recalibrate their relationship

As the stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Bhutanese territory of the Doklam plateau enters its second month, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who is an old China hand, says Beijing is changing the status quo with its actions in the area, and it is time for a new “modus vivendi” between the two countries.
Excerpts from the interview:

You have been Ambassador to China, Foreign Secretary, National Security Adviser and the Special Representative on border talks. How serious is the situation in Doklam?

I think it is different from previous such occasions. The last most serious one was Depsang in 2013 and we had Chumar after that (2014). But basically you could say that since the 1980s we have had a modus vivendi with the Chinese. It was formalised during Rajiv Gandhi’s visit in 1988 and then during the border peace and tranquility treaty of 1993, which contained both sides to maintaining the status quo and where they had doubts about a part of the boundary, they would actually sit down and talk their way through the problem. And that has helped keep this more or less peaceful for many, many years.

The Chinese encirclement: within and without

The recent border dispute has again raised the spectre of Chinese encirclement. It comes close on the heels of India’s boycott of the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in China. What is unfortunate, though, is that the dreaded encirclement may have already occurred and, if anything, the recent dispute highlights the fraught and schizophrenic nature of the India-China relationship.

The fresh skirmish at the tri-junction of India, Bhutan and China is part of on-going border tensions. The stand-off continues with both sides raising the temperature gradually, much like the dial on a thermostat; apart from incendiary statements, China recently increased its fleet presence in the Indian Ocean Region. In the past, many similar border misunderstandings were resolved quietly. The latest one burst into the headlines with impeccable timing during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US.

India ignored the BRI summit because it objects to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pakistan-occupied disputed territory. India’s contention is that CPEC is a unilateral validation of Pakistan’s claim on disputed territory. There are other reasons for India’s nervousness. China’s BRI is viewed as a strategic encirclement of India: Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, CPEC traversing west China via Gilgit-Baltistan all the way to Gwadar port in Balochistan, a road from Yunan province cutting through Myanmar to end at a deep-sea port in Kyaukpyu.

China sends troops to open first overseas military base in Djibouti

BEIJING (Reuters) - Ships carrying Chinese military personnel for Beijing’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, have left China to begin setting up the facility as China’s rapidly modernizing military hones its global reach.

Djibouti’s position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean has fueled worries in India that it would become another of China’s “string of pearls” of military alliances and assets ringing India, including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

China began construction of a logistics base in strategically located Djibouti last year that will resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.

This will be China’s first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.

State news agency Xinhua said in a short report late on Tuesday the ships had departed from Zhanjiang in southern China “to set up a support base in Djibouti”.

Navy commander Shen Jinlong “read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti” but the report did not say when the base might formally begin operations.

China’s Leadership Is Regional, Not Global

By Enea Gjoza

China’s steady ascent on the world stage over the past four decades has drawn considerable questions about its ambitions and motives. In the last few years, the United States has seen China’s growing influence as an opportunity. Washington has sought China’s cooperation on regional security challenges such as North Korea and on broader diplomatic initiatives like the battle against climate change. Hopes of a greater Chinese role in addressing global challenges are likely to lead to disappointment, however. China is consumed by domestic priorities and economic development concerns, and Beijing is neither prepared nor willing to bear the burden of an activist foreign policy.

In a trip to China last month as part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s U.S.-China Study Group, I traveled to Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai, meeting with ministry officials, provincial representatives, and think tanks. The conversations suggested that China still views itself as a regional power with a long way to go to catch up to the West, and that Beijing therefore does not want to pay the cost of providing global public goods, whether in the humanitarian, climate, or security arenas.

North Korea: The Case for War

By Crispin Rovere

This analysis recommends war. It is shocking to put to print. However, with North Korea’s inexorable advance towards developing a nuclear-tipped ICBM, we enter the realm of bad choices. On balance, war on the peninsula is the least bad alternative. There are some months left for a brilliant diplomatic breakthrough that turns North Korea from the brink – these avenues must be energetically and exhaustively pursued. This analysis is presented on the fair assumption that such initiatives will fail.

This strategic assessment assumes one of two possibilities. First, that the U.S. accepts North Korea developing nuclear-tipped ICBMs capable of reaching the continental homeland, thereby allowing Pyongyang to achieve a stable deterrence relationship. Second, the U.S. seeks to disarm North Korea with a major military strike. Related possibilities such as a limited strike are ignored, as this overcomplicates matters and escalation should be assumed in any case.

In each scenario, I provide a range of consequences. Not all futures will come to pass, but some combination of these are a certainty and have a direct cause-and-effect relationship with the chosen course of action.
Option One

Yandex: Tool of Russian Disinformation and Cyber Operations in Ukraine

By: Sergey Sukhankin

The recent decision by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to ban popular Russian social networks VKontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki, on May 15 (see EDM, June 7), provoked serious debate both inside Ukraine and abroad. Now that the initial anxiety over that ban has somewhat subsided, it is worth analyzing other, less commented-on but no less important, elements of the decree.

Aside from social networks, Poroshenko’s May 15 decree bans Russian Internet search engine giant Yandex, some information technology (IT) programs, as well as anti-virus software (including Kaspersky and Doctor Web) that have allegedly been undermining Ukrainian information and cyber security. According to Colonel Oleksandr Tkachuk, from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), approximately 300 of the largest Ukrainian companies and corporations use Russian IT programs “directly controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service [FSB]” (Espreso.tv, April 27). Moreover, the Ukrainian side has suffered huge financial losses as a direct result of using Russian products. In his interview, the head of the information security division of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Valentin Petrov, noted that Ukraine annually spends approximately one billion hryvnas (roughly $39 million) on Russian IT and software products (Ukrinform.ua, May 17).

Info Ops Officer Offers Artificial Intelligence Roadmap


Artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomy are central to the future of American war. In particular, the Pentagon wants to develop software that can absorb more information from more sources than a human can, analyze it and either advise the human how to respond or — in high-speed situations like cyber warfare and missile defense — act on its own with careful limits. Call it the War Algorithm, the holy grail of a single mathematical equation designed to give the US military near-perfect understanding of what is happening on the battlefield and help its human designers to react more quickly than our adversaries and thus win our wars. Our coverage of this issue attracted the attention of Capt. Chris Telley, an Army information operations officer studying at the Naval Postgraduate School. In this op-ed, he offers something of a roadmap for the Pentagon to follow as it pursues this highly complex and challenging goal. Read on! The Editor.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein

Artificial intelligence is to be the crown jewel of the Defense Department’s much-discussed Third Offset, the US military’s effort to prepare for the next 20 years. Unfortunately, “joint collaborative human-machine battle networks” are off to a slow, even stumbling, start. Recognizing that today’s AI is different from the robots that have come before, the Pentagon must seize what may be just a fleeting opportunity to get ahead on the adoption curve. Adapting the military to the coming radical change requires some simultaneous baby steps to learn first and buy second while growing leaders who can wield the tools of the fourth industrial revolution.

Making waves

by Arun Prakash 

The current week has seen the waters of the Bay of Bengal roiled by frothy wakes of warships and submarines of three navies as their jets streak across the skies. The 21st edition of exercise “Malabar” has two aircraft-carriers, a helicopter-carrier, nuclear and diesel submarines, cruisers, destroyers and maritime patrol aircraft belonging to the Indian, Japanese and US navies participating. For a week, these units, divided into “Red” and “Blue” forces will be pitted against each other in mock-combat, involving, surface, under-water and aerial warfare. Naval exercises don’t get more complex or sophisticated than Malabar-2017.

For the Indian Navy (IN) it has been a long journey from professional isolation of the non-aligned era, to being the belle of the Malabar ball. Soviet patronage and naval hardware had commenced flowing in the 1960s, but since they never undertook professional interaction or exercises at sea, the IN found itself clinging to outdated NATO doctrines. The disintegration of the USSR saw India losing not only its steadfast political ally and sole purveyor of arms, but also the inhibitions that went with non-alignment. The US, perhaps waiting for this moment, lost no time in despatching Pacific Army Commander, General Claude M. Kicklighter, with proposals for military-to-military cooperation in 1991.

Smoother sailing for top brass

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain ; Lt Gen Gautam Moorthy

The genesis and extent of the problem that the Indian Army faced in its quest to find the best man for the best job, at its higher ranks needs to be understood. The Indian Army is a command- oriented Army with the necessity of all officers to perform in command or deemed command appointments in order to be eligible for promotion at every stage.

The Army & MoD need to reassess the promotion policy for senior officers. The command orientation has to make way for a system where an equally challenging staff tenure are given the same importance & weightage.

It is rare to find an analysis of the Army’s promotion policy related to senior ranks although the policy on junior select ranks has been flogged enough in the last two years as a consequence of a legal case. A recent opinion piece in The Tribune tempted us to offer a little contextual updated explanation to the background superbly explained by Lt Gen OP Kaushik (retd).

Hypersonic Weapons Death Match: Will Russia, China or America Develop Mach 5 Missiles?

David Axe

Spurred by developments in Russia and China, the U.S. Air Force is taking steps toward acquiring a hypersonic surface-to-air missile capable of traveling faster than Mach 5.

For more than 20 years the Air Force — not to mention other U.S. government agencies and private industry — have been experimenting with hypersonic technology. But as of mid-2017 that experimentation hasn’t translated into a working weapon.

That might change soon. On June 29, 2017, Air Force Material Command published a “sources sought” notice asking interested contractors to describe their design and manufacturing capabilities related to hypersonic munitions.

“Qualified vendors must be skilled in design, qualification, component/subsystem testing of the critical elements of the hypersonic missile in representative operational conditions,” the notice explains.

Vendors must be capable in fields of hypersonic aerodynamics, aero-thermal protection systems, solid rocket motors, warhead-and-missile integration, advanced hypersonic guidance, navigation and control and aircraft integration, according to the Air Force.

A hypersonic munition speeding along at least five times the speed of sound offers huge advantages over existing — and much slower — weapons. High speed makes a hypersonic missile difficult to intercept or dodge. The kinetic energy of a Mach-5 munition lends it tremendous destructive power.

It's Time for Secular Chaplains in the Army

By Lindsay Gabow

“The mission of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps is to provide religious support to America's Army. Chaplains advise commanders to ensure the 'free exercise' rights for all Soldiers are upheld - including those who hold no faith.” - Mr. Jonathan C Miele (U.S. Army Chaplain Corps)

The “free exercise” of religion, including that of many atheist, agnostic, and non-religiously affiliated soldiers, not only upholds the secular nature of the country’s founding, but also ensures the care and welfare of all soldiers. However, in some cases, religion is often advocated at the expense of those not affiliated with the same religion or any religion.

About five years ago, an acquaintance tried to convert me to Christianity. Even after I politely declined her offer, several months later, she attempted to give me a copy of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, presumably as a Hanukkah gift, which I also turned down (although I did compliment her persistence).

I recognize that this incident was probably an anomaly. I am not under the impression that soldiers are regularly evangelizing their battle buddies. However, this experience and various observations that followed made me profoundly aware that there are forces in the Army, likely from both above and below, injecting religion where it does not belong.

The DoD Will Finally Encrypt Service Member Emails. Here’s What That Means For You


In a letter to a watchdog lawmaker last week, the Department of Defense confirmed that it will finally, in 2018, join the 21st century and use a popular basic encryption tool to help make emails to and from .mil addresses more secure. What does that mean for your badass joe.schmuckatelli@centcom.mil account? Let’s break it down.

What’s happening?

The Defense Information Systems Agency confirmed to Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Senate intelligence committee member, that by next year, the Pentagon’s .mil email will implement STARTTLS for enhanced email encryption — a longstanding application that Wyden has called “a basic, widely used, easily-enabled cybersecurity technology.”

The move came after years of poking around by the reporters at Vice and some tough talk from Wyden questioning how the military’s 4.5 million-user cloud-based email service had never implemented STARTTLS before.

“I can’t think of a single technical reason why they wouldn’t use it,” one former U.S. Special Operations Command IT whiz told Vice. A hacker and former Marine similarly told the outlet: “The military should not be sending any email that isn’t encrypted, period. Everything should get encrypted, absolutely everything. There’s no excuse.”


Somewhere in the Middle East, a marine from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, a unit known as the “Ripper,” stares anxiously across the six hundred meters of no man’s land towards the far berm. A friendly convoy of white Toyota pickups speeds toward his position. Suddenly, a shockwave reverberates in his head. Behind the vehicles, a fireball rises from the civilian camp on the other side of the berm. As the black smoke billows, the marine grabs the tablet he keeps in the guard tower and texts the quick reaction force. The Special Forces team in the Toyota convoy is returning to their isolated outpost guarded by marines, but they are not alone.

As the quick reaction force exits the forward operating base in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicles to block the Islamic element in pursuit, a swarm of eight quadcopters comes over the berm behind the friendly convoy. Too small and moving too fast to engage with small arms, the marine zooms in on his tablet and snaps a few pictures of the swarm. Quickly, he forwards them across SEVENet, a communications network, to the Special Forces convoy. They have seen these models before. The quadcopters are carrying 40-millimeter grenades, but are susceptible to electronic attack. Luckily, a portable jamming device carried by the marines stops the quadcopters from electronically detonating as they fly past the camp.

Beijing’s Views on Norms in Cyberspace and Cyber Warfare Strategy Pt. 2

By LCDR Jake Bebber USN

The following is a two-part series looking at PRC use of cyberspace operations in pursuit of its national strategies and the establishment of the Strategic Support Force. Part 1 considered the centrality of information operations and information war to the PRC’s approach toward its current struggle against the U.S. Part 2 looks at the PRC’s use of international norms and institutions in cyberspace, and possible U.S. responses.

Cyber-Enabled Public Opinion and Political Warfare

Many American planners are carefully considering scenarios such as China making a play to force the integration of Taiwan, seize the Senkaku Islands from Japan, or seize and project power from any and all claimed reefs and islands in the South China Sea. Under these scenarios we can expect preemptive strikes in the space and network domains in an attempt to “blind” or confuse American and allied understanding and establish a fait accompli. This will, in Chinese thinking, force the National Command Authority to consider a long and difficult campaign in order to eject Chinese forces, and the CCP is placing a bet that American decision makers will choose to reach a political accommodation that recognizes the new “facts on the ground” rather than risk a wider military and economic confrontation.

On Information Sharing: Once More, With Feeling

I hope this post is the last thing I ever write about information sharing. But let’s face it, we have been talking about information sharing for at least twenty years and we will probably be talking about it for twenty more.

That is because information sharing is actually as important as all the fuss about it would suggest. In cyberspace, it is commonly accepted that the attacker has the advantage. In a simple phishing example, an attacker can use the same attack infrastructure (same email address, same message, same payload, same hosting infrastructure) against multiple targets.

Many targets may ignore the email. Others may recognize that it is malicious. But some will inevitably click on it. When they do, one of two things is likely to happen: either a) their network gets owned; or b) the attack is detected by their security team and stopped. For the attacker, option a) is great but option b) is typically no big deal. After all, the attacker still has many other targets who did not recognize and stop the attack.

Here is where information sharing comes in. If one of the companies that detected and stopped the attack shares information that other companies can use to detect and stop the attack, the attacker’s advantage is all but erased. Gone is the possibility of re-using attack infrastructure against many targets. Now, the attacker needs to craft every campaign to be unique so that no part of it can be uncovered through a shared indicator.

The Rise of the Commercial Threat: Countering the Small Unmanned Aircraft System

By Anthony Tingle, David Tyree for National Defense University Press

The Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) is a disruptive commercial technology that poses a unique and currently undefined threat to U.S. national security. Although, as with any new technology, the parameters of the capabilities regarding military use have yet to be fully discovered, recent events highlight the potential danger. In September 2013, an unarmed sUAS hovered near the face of German Chancellor Angela Merkel while she delivered a campaign speech.1 In January of 2015, an sUAS defied restricted airspace and landed, initially undetected, on the White House lawn.2 And more recently, in August of 2016, at least five sUASs disrupted wildfire fighting efforts near Los Angeles, grounding helicopters for fear of mid-air collisions.3 Likewise, sUAS altercations with law enforcement are increasing, as the Federal Aviation Administration now receives over 100 adverse UAS reports per month.4 These examples emphasize the intrusive, undetectable, and potentially lethal nature of this emerging technology.

The sUAS epitomizes the difficulties with rapidly advancing commercial technology.5 The sUAS is as prolific as it is disruptive, and it will challenge our joint air-defense procedures and doctrine and redefine our perspective on the military uses of commercial technology. In this article, we examine the characteristics and capabilities of the sUAS, report on current counter-UAS initiatives within the Department of Defense (DOD), and present policy ideas to mitigate the future threat from militarized commercial technology.

Moving Forward on Cyber Norms, Domestically

By Ashley Deeks

Several analysts, including Mike Schmitt and Liis Vihul at Just Security and Arun Sukumar at Lawfare, have highlighted (here and here) the collapse of the 2017 Group of Government Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (GGE). The GGE was unable to reach consensus on a report that would have advanced the conversation about the ways in which international law applies to cyber activities. In the wake of this failure, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert indicated that the U.S. government plans to work with smaller groups of like-minded partners to develop and shape cyber norms. This seems like a reasonable approach, but there are steps the United States can pursue unilaterally as well. In particular, the Department of Justice and the FBI should continue to assertively investigate and indict individuals—including state actors—who engage in cyber activities that the U.S. Government ultimately would like to see the international community characterize as wrongful.

Many cyber experts agree that international law does not yet draw crisp lines between permissible and impermissible activities in cyberspace. Indeed, a key mandate for the 2017 GGE was to articulate with greater specificity the cyber rules of the road under international law. The GGE breakdown further illustrates that we are a long way from any kind of international agreement that would define prohibited activity or at least clarify the way that existing jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and state responsibility norms apply in cyberspace. 

Cybersecurity: The cold war online

Members of the US Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command monitor unauthorized network activity.

The Internet is under attack, and not just by hackers, thieves and spies. As Alexander Klimburg reports in The Darkening Web, governments that insist on their own primacy are increasingly assaulting the idea of this digitized landscape as a transnational commons. Cyberspace is becoming a war zone in a new era of ideological combat.

Klimburg — director of cyber policy at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies in the Netherlands — sees the combatants as belonging to two groups. The forces of the 'free Internet' favour the unconstrained flow of information, independent of national borders or cultural barriers. The 'cybersovereignty' camp, led by Russia and China, demands greater government control of the Internet and of information. To sustain its massive censorship operation, China's 'Great Firewall' employs more people than serve in the country's armed forces.

The stakes are enormously high, writes Klimburg. Will the Internet be permitted to realize its potential to support a global civilization? Or will it be turned on itself to reinforce historical divisions between nations — another chapter in an interrupted cold war? Aggression and suppression online are commonplace. A diplomatic crisis in the Middle East and Africa this year may have been triggered by Russian hackers planting a false story in the Qatari state news agency. The Turkish government cut off access to Wikipedia in April after critical commentary appeared in the online encyclopaedia. Yet cooperative efforts to improve cyberdefences — such as an agreement between Vietnam and Japan in April, and between Singapore and Australia in June — are also on the rise.

Foreign hackers probe European critical infrastructure networks: sources

Cyber attackers are regularly trying to attack data networks connected to critical national infrastructure systems around Europe, according to current and former European government sources with knowledge of the issue.

The sources acknowledged that European infrastructure data networks face regular attacks similar to those which the Washington Post newspaper said on Sunday had been launched by Russian government hackers against business systems of U.S. nuclear power and other companies involved in energy production.

One former senior British security official said it was an “article of faith” that Russian government hackers were seeking to penetrate UK critical infrastructure though the official said he could not cite public case studies.

A European security source acknowledged that UK authorities were aware of the latest reports about infrastructure hacking attempts and that British authorities were in regular contact with other governments over the attacks.

UK authorities declined to comment on the extent of any such attempted or successful attacks in Britain or elsewhere in Europe or to discuss what possible security measures governments and infrastructure operators might be taking.