13 September 2017

*** Remembering Vivekananda’s Chicago Address: A Speech That Transformed Western View Of India

Sudarshan Ramabadran

What was most astounding about Swami Vivekananda was that he was proud to be a Hindu, yet at the same time, he had a universal appeal that transcended religions, rituals and ceremonies.

“Vivekananda was a great favourite at the Parliament. If he merely crosses the platform, he is applauded,” exclaimed an editorial of the Boston Evening Transcriptright after the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, on 11 September 1893, a century and a quarter ago.

The most remarkable aspect of the celebrated speech was that it was delivered extempore by Swami Vivekananda. It is through this speech that he brought out the core values of India. “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance,” he said. This speech marked the advent of Western interest in Indian principles and ethos.

It is important to understand the circumstances in which Swami Vivekananda reached Chicago. Money earned literally through appealing door to door, and donations from three South Indian kings (including Raja Muthuramalinga Sethupathy of Ramnad), enabled the great teacher to reach Chicago in July 1893. On arrival, he learnt, to his dismay, that no delegate would be admitted to Parliament without proper credentials from a bonafide organisation. Swami Vivekananda was a lone monk representing no organisation, and even if he had been, the last date for registration had passed. But ultimately, whatever is to be, will be.

*** How Facebook Changed the Spy Game

September 08, 2017 

I fought foreign propaganda for the FBI. But the tools we had won’t work anymore. 

Any doubt that Russia has been running a strategically targeted disinformation campaign in the United States was erased on Wednesday, when Facebook revealed that it had deleted 470 “inauthentic” accounts that were based in Russia and had paid $100,000 to promote divisive ads during the 2016 presidential election.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia called Facebook’s report the “tip of the iceberg,” and he’s right. As a former FBI counterintelligence agent who investigated foreign propaganda cases, I’ve seen firsthand how foreign intelligence services leverage American freedoms—and the constitutional limitations on the FBI’s investigative power—to their advantage. The rise of social media platforms makes the pervasiveness and impact of these operations today exponentially greater. And it leaves the FBI without the legal tools to stop it.

The vast majority of counterintelligence cases I worked in the FBI involved a foreign intelligence service (FIS) conducting what we called “perception management campaigns.” Perception management, broadly defined, includes any activity that is designed to shape American opinion and policy in ways favorable to the FIS home country. Some perception management operations can involve aggressive tactics like infiltrating and spying on dissident groups (and even intimidating them), or trying to directly influence U.S. policy by targeting politicians under the guise of a legitimate lobbying group. But perception management operations also include more passive tactics like using media to spread government propaganda—and these are the most difficult for the FBI to investigate.

My experience investigating foreign propaganda operations predated the proliferation of social media platforms. But understanding how investigations worked before the information explosion is critical to understanding the magnitude of the Russian threat today. In the “old days” (i.e., 10-15 years ago), a disinformation operation typically involved an FIS tasking one of its agents to recruit a journalist and become his or her source. In this way, the FIS could essentially make the journalist an unwitting mouthpiece for foreign government interests.

** Militant groups have drones. Now what?


Militant groups have a new way to wage war: drone attacks from above. As recent news reports and online videos suggest, organizations like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have used commercially-available uninhabited aerial vehicles—better known as UAVs or drones—to drop explosives onto their adversaries in the battle for territory.

That ISIS would weaponize drones shouldn’t be surprising. Militant groups often use the latest consumer technology to make up for capability gaps and level the fight against regular military forces. ISIS broadcasts propaganda through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and plans attacks using encrypted communication platforms like Telegram. This embrace of innovation extends to the way militant groups use military force. Over the last year or so, they have begun to use modified commercial drones for offensive strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine. These new tools of war provide a way to conduct terror attacks against civilians, and can also pose a threat to ground forces. Stopping drone proliferation is not an option because of the ubiquity of the technology. That means government forces will have to learn to counter drones operated by militant groups, just as they are now training to counter drones used by national militaries.

Already a “daunting” threat. The threat posed by militant groups flying drones is as much about where the threat is coming from—the sky—as it is about the munitions being launched. Militaries fighting militant groups have enjoyed air superiority for decades. US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, have rarely, if ever, feared attacks from the air. Civilians and humanitarian groups in Syria worry about air strikes from Assad’s regime, but not from militant groups like ISIS. The adoption of drones by militant groups is therefore generating a novel challenge. Speaking at a conference in May, Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of the US Special Operations Command, called commercial drones the “most daunting problem” his troops had faced over the previous year. At one point, he said, the anti-ISIS campaign “nearly came to a screeching halt, where literally over 24 hours there were 70 drones in the air.”

India Successfully Tests Anti-Tank Guided Missile

By Franz-Stefan Gady

India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) successfully conducted a flight test of the third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) Nag, the Indian Ministry of Defense (M0D), announced in a September 9 press statement.

“India’s indigenously developed 3rd generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), Nag has been successfully flight tested twice by DRDO on 8-9-2017 against two different targets in the ranges of Rajasthan,” the press release reads. “The ATGM Nag missile has successfully hit both the targets under different ranges and conditions with very high accuracy as desired by the Armed Forces.”

According to the Indian MoD: “With these two successful flight trials, and the flight test conducted earlier in June in the peak of summer, the complete functionality of Nag ATGM along with launcher system NAMICA has been established and marked the successful completion of development trials of Nag Missile.”

Nag is a fire-and-forget ATGM with an estimated range of 4 kilometers. The Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA) is an Indian license-produced variant of the Soviet-era BMP-II armored infantry fighting vehicle. NAMICA can launch Nag missiles from a retractable armored launcher that contains four launch tubes (the armored vehicle can carry up to 12 missiles in total) and the guidance package including a thermal imager for target acquisition. The missile’s targeting system is based on visual identification prior to its launch (‘lock-on-before-launch system’).

Secular, socialist: Recalling Swami Vivekananda’s message of tolerance

Dr Nitish Sengupta 

Swami Vivekananda’s message to India and the world at the 1893 Chicago Parliament of Religions is even more relevant in the present context, wrote Dr Nitish Sengupta in Hindustan Times on February 14, 1993. We republish the column, which portrays Vivekananda’s secular and socialist ideals, on the 125th anniversary of his speech.

The centenary year of the 1893 Chicago Parliament of Religions is an appropriate occasion to recall Swami Vivekananda’s message to India and the world, and to be amazed at how relevant it is even after a century. Vivekananda was just not a religious saint, but a Vedantic teacher propounding the concept of a universal religion; India’s first socialist, a firebrand nationalist and yet a true internationalist who was ahead of his time, a social reform activist, an educationist and, above all, a humanist who believed in the innate greatness of human beings. In his clarion call at the Chicago Parliament, he emphasised the fundamental unity of all religions deprecating the prevailing tendency to emphasise the greatness of one’s own religion and decry other religions. He urged followers of various religions to be true to their fundamental tenets, and not to emphasise “secondary details”.

One cannot but recall his stirring words, “The Christian has not to become Hindu or Buddhist, nor a Hindu or Buddhist to become Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the other, and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth. Every religion has produced men and women of most exalted character. If in the face of this evidence, anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and destruction of the others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart.”

This Vedantic concept of eternal universal religion could not be the exclusive property of the Hindus. Believing in the unity of all mankind and the same God manifesting himself through all beings, he felt that Islam as a religion had gone the farthest in achieving this Vedantic concept of equality of mankind. “How I would long to see my India as an Islamic body with a Vedantic head (letter to a friend, Sarfaraz Khan).” Again, “If you are born a Christian, be a good Christian. If you are born a Hindu, be a good Hindu. If you are born a Muslim, be a good Muslim.”

New strategy, old game: on Trump and Afghanistan

Varghese K. George
“The core goal of the U.S. must be to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan… And after years of mixed results, we will not, and cannot, provide a blank check (to Pakistan)… As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future,” said the President of the United States, announcing a “regional strategy” for Afghanistan after the worst year of the conflict. The President was Barack Obama and the year was 2009.

On August 21, when President Donald Trump unveiled his new “regional strategy” for Afghanistan, it was in large part a reiteration of the above speech in terms of strategic objectives. By now 2016 has become the worst year of the conflict. Mr. Trump’s speech was high on rhetoric and low on detail. Three weeks later, do we know better? Interactions with people close to the subject, including Ahmad Daud Noorzai, head of the office of President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, and Joshua White, who was Director for South Asian Affairs at Barack Obama’s National Security Council, provide some clues.

“The U.S has leverage with Pakistan, but not without risks”

Varghese K. George

Joshua T. White is Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. As Senior Advisor & Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council in Barack Obama White House, he was involved with the full range of South Asia policy issues pertaining to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan. He played a key role in advancing the U.S.-India relationship and was instrumental in shaping Mr. Obama’s policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. He shares his views on President Donald Trump’s new South Asia policy and is implications for India, in an interview.

How is President Trump’s regional strategy for South Asia different from President Obama’s?

In sustaining the U.S troops, he did the right and sensible thing. Obama White House examined the risk of drawdown and the outcomes looked ugly. Withdrawal would have been unwise. Significant scaling up would also have been unwise. That is the lesson from the surge (in the number of U.S troops earlier). We could not have fundamentally changed the balance of power without a large number of forces there for ever. No timeline is a wise strategy. Increased pressure is likely to push Pakistan into a corner, unlikely to deliver results in terms of cooperation on critical security issues, and it will make Pakistan feel vulnerable and cornered. I don’t have high hopes, though I give them credit for the rhetorical clarity. I am also not sure that if Pakistan did most or all what we want them to do, in terms of dismantling safe havens of the Haqqani network, facilitating talks with the Taliban, that it would make a meaningful change in the balance in Afghanistan. The insurgence in Afghanistan is organic, largely organically funded. The safe havens help the Taliban, but I don’t think, they are vital to the Taliban. So even if, unexpectedly the pressure on Pakistan produces results, I don’t think its impact on the situation in Afghanistan will be significant.

Afghanistan: The Kentucky Derby of Spying

Kevin Hulbert
September 11, 2017

An old boss of mine at the CIA used to talk to young officers who were deploying to Afghanistan or Pakistan, and in his preamble to discussing the myriad of challenges and interests in the region, he would remark that if the officer were a thoroughbred, an assignment to the area was going to be like running in the Kentucky Derby every damn day—and so it was.

The story comes to mind in that today we see a sort of Kentucky Derby in Afghanistan, where there are a lot of horses running, everyone is out for themselves, no one is working together for the common good, and certainly no one is rooting for one of the other horses to win. Between FSB, ISI, CIA, RAW, and the IRGC, the field is thick with competition and a lot of “horses” jockeying for position among the various intelligence services.

When asked last month by a reporter about the possibility that Russia was supplying arms to the Taliban and other rebel groups, General John Nicholson, the Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, confirmed that yes, this was happening, and then in a classic case of diplomatic understatement, he deadpanned that “arming belligerents… is not the best way forward to a peaceful reconciliation…” But does General Nicholson or anyone else actually think the Russians would like to see the U.S. achieve any modicum of success in Afghanistan?

Russia today, or at least the Russia under the leadership of former KBG careerist turned politician, Vladimir Putin, sees the world as a stark zero-sum game where anything good for the U.S. must be bad for Russia, and anything bad for the U.S. must be good for Russia. In that simple construct, when you ask if Russia is meddling in Afghanistan and working counter to U.S. objective’s in the region, the answer is, of course they are. Remember also that when the Russians invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, the U.S. joined forces with Ahmed Shah Massoud and other mujahideen and conducted a brutal covert action campaign against the Russians that killed thousands of Russian soldiers, leading to a stinging defeat of the once great Soviet Army that was forced to leave Afghanistan ten years later, in 1989. So, no, the Russians do not wish us well in Afghanistan.

Myanmar and its Rohingya Muslim Insurgency

September 7, 2017 

Early on the morning of August 25, armed militants from a Rohingya insurgent group in Myanmar mounted coordinated attacks on 30 government targets, including police outposts and an army base, in the northern part of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Equipped with small arms, machetes, and hand-held explosives, the insurgents killed 10 police officers, a soldier, and an immigration official. Seventy-seven insurgents were killed, with one insurgent captured in the attacks. In response, the Myanmar military has begun conducting “clearance operations” across Rakhine state. Over the past week, this crackdown has forced many Rohingya from their homes, some fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. 

Q1: Who are the players in this conflagration? 

A1: There are approximately 925,939 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, living predominantly in Rakhine State. While not technically part of the official population count, Rohingyas constitute 1.7 percent of Myanmar’s total population of 55,123,814. Buddhists make up the religious majority of Myanmar, accounting for 87.9 percent of the total population. In Rakhine State, however, the religious and ethnic lines are drawn much more tightly. The 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census reported that 52.2 percent of Rakhine State are Buddhist and 42.7 percent Islamic, making religious tensions in Rakhine State much higher than in the rest of the country. 

Earlier in August, Myanmar was reported to have sent hundreds of troops to Rakhine Stateto strengthen security and defuse tensions after Rohingya insurgents carried out a series of violent attacks on Buddhists in the region. These insurgents have been identified as members of the Harakah al-Yaqin (or Faith Movement), a Rohingya insurgent group now going by the name of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). According to a report by the International Crisis Group, ARSA members have trained abroad and are led by Rohingya emigres living in Saudi Arabia. While the group denies any direct links to jihadist or transnational terror groups, the larger issues of marginalization of Muslims in Myanmar has attracted the interest of transnational terror groups including Islamic State, Tehreek-e-Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba

Q2: What is the background to this violence? 

Myanmar’s Military Holds Key to Further Reform

By William C Dickey and Nay Yan Oo

What does Myanmar need to push through a successful democratic transition? It must build strong institutions, transform the economy, and end decades of conflict between ethnic armed groups and government forces, among numerous other challenges. Yet, these enormous tasks seem trivial when compared to what is probably the biggest obstacle to further democratic reform: the role of Myanmar’s armed forces, or Tatmadaw.

No other institution is more powerful than the Tatmadaw in Myanmar. Over five decades of military rule, the armed forces became entrenched in politics and business. Not only does it occupy 25 percent of total seats in Parliament, granting it an effective veto over constitutional change, but it also controls three key ministries: Defense, Home Affairs, and Border Affairs. The president is not the commander-in-chief, and hence, has no official control of the Tatmadaw. Moreover, the constitution grants the military power to take charge of the country in times of emergency.

Building a professional military — a military under civilian control that stays out of politics and respects international norms — is crucial for Myanmar’s democratization. Improvement along these lines would also be invaluable for the peace process and ultimately for reform of the military-drafted constitution. For this mission, the Myanmar government — particularly its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi — should ask the United States to assist with the professionalization of the Myanmar military.

Who Benefits From China’s Belt and Road in the Arctic?

By Marc Lanteigne

Since becoming a formal observer on the Arctic Council four years ago, China has wasted little time widening and deepening its regional credentials and diplomacy. Just before attaining observer status within the Council, government papers and studies began to habitually refer to China as a ‘near-Arctic state’, (jin beiji guojia 近北极国家), even though that state had no territory in the circumpolar north. The phrase caused some consternation among Arctic governments and other actors out of concern Beijing was seeking to ‘gate-crash’ its way into the region to benefit from the growing economic possibilities in the Arctic in the form of fossil fuels, resources and potential new shipping routes. Cognizant of this, Beijing sought to emphasize scientific diplomacy as the main driver of its polar policies, including cooperation with Arctic states as well as other non-Arctic actors in developing research projects related to local climate change and related areas.

More recently, the Chinese government became more open about expressing its interest in participating in joint economic development in the Arctic as more of the region becomes accessible due to record-breaking levels of ice erosion. With its growing economic and political power, China is in an ideal position to participate in the economic opening of the Far North, and with the ongoing development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under President Xi Jinping, debate soon appeared to what roles the Arctic might play in the emerging trade routes. However, until the middle of this year, there had been no official connection made between the BRI and China’s Arctic economic interests, with the general view being that the opening of the Arctic to trade would be a separate, and more long-term, endeavor in comparison with the sea routes comprising China’s ‘Maritime Silk Road.’

The Rise Of China’s ‘Blue Water’ Navy: Will The Pacific Turn Red?

September 5, 2017

The rise of China as a maritime power was further enhanced by the news that China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier will be transferred from the dry dock of the Dalian shipyard, and will soon undergo trials and be fitted with systems to make her fully operational.

Article by Oliver B. Steward, a Doctoral Candidate in International Security at the University of East Anglia. This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal.

The test of a nation’s strength is its ability to project its power across the oceans, and to become truly a ‘blue water navy’. A definition of a blue water navy is one which can operate globally, in deep waters over open oceans. The term was used by the United Kingdom (a maritime global power) of a ‘blue water navy’ is one possessing maritime expeditionary capabilities globally. This would include moving ships, marines and aircraft to potential hotspots globally if needed.

The undertaking of building a huge aircraft carrier such as China’s Type 001A is a massive undertaking. Requiring expertise in ship design, naval architecture, weapons systems, and naval airpower technology and systems for landing on such a large structure. This is a significant technological step forward for the emerging superpower. But this is also a statement – that the People’s Republic of China wants to achieve global reach and can be a contender for naval dominance.

While the United States still possess at least 10 aircraft carriers, while 19 ships could be technically considered aircraft carriers including amphibious assault ships, President Trump wants to increase the number of ships the US Navy has. It is by no coincidence that President Trump wants to increase the number of surface vessels in light of China’s maritime development. In total, the US Navy objective is to achieve Trump’s target of 355 ships.

Indonesia, Long on Sidelines, Starts to Confront China’s Territorial Claims


Security ship crew members of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries prepare for a patrol along Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone in the Natuna Islands. CreditUlet Ifansasti/Getty Images

JAKARTA, Indonesia — When Indonesia recently — and quite publicly — renamed the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea despite China’s claims to the area, Beijing quickly dismissed the move as “meaningless.”

It is proving to be anything but.

Indonesia’s increasingly aggressive posture in the region — including a military buildup in its nearby Natuna Islands and the planned deployment of naval warships — comes as other nations are being more accommodating to China’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The two countries had three maritime skirmishes in 2016 involving warning shots, including one in which Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

Indonesia is challenging China, one of its biggest investors and trading partners, as it seeks to assert control over a waterway that has abundant resources, particularly oil and natural gas reserves and fish stocks.

The pushback from Indonesia takes direct aim at Beijing’s claims within the so-called “nine-dash line,” which on Chinese maps delineates the vast area that China claims in the South China Sea. It also adds a new player to the volatile situation, in which the United States Navy has been challenging China’s claims with naval maneuvers through waters claimed by Beijing.

Time for maximum pressure on North Korea, even without China’s permission

By Josh Rogin 

The time has come for the United States to acknowledge that its policy of trying to induce North Korea’s friends to rein in Pyongyang has failed. The best option for stopping the mounting nuclear threat from Kim Jong Un’s regime is to muster maximum pressure without waiting for approval or cooperation from Beijing and Moscow.

As early as Monday, the U.N. Security Council could consider a new resolution put forth by the Trump administration that proposes cutting off North Korea’s energy imports, textile exports and ability to deploy workers abroad, according to a leaked draft. If put to a vote, that resolution will likely fail in the face of Russian and Chinese resistance.

Should that happen, there will be no more excuse for the United States not to move forward with allies Japan and South Korea with crippling sanctions aimed at the regime, its institutions and its elite supporters. Until now, the administration has held back as it sought to persuade and prod Beijing to use its considerable leverage to bring Kim to heel.

Once the Trump administration acknowledges that China and Russia have done all they intend to, the United States can go much further unilaterally, or with allies, to finally test whether drastic sanctions, combined with tough diplomacy, can move Kim from his defiant position.

Steve Bannon compares China to 1930s Germany and says US must confront Beijing

11 September 2017 

Former senior aide to Donald Trump prepares to visit Hong Kong and warns that China is at ‘economic war’ with America

Steve Bannon has said that China’s younger generation is ‘so patriotic, almost ultranationalistic’. 

Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former consigliere, has compared China to 1930s Germany, warning the country could go down the same dark path if the US fails to challenge its rise.

“A hundred years from now, this is what they’ll remember — what we did to confront China on its rise to world domination,” Bannon told the New York Times.

“China right now is Germany in 1930,” he said. “It’s on the cusp. It could go one way or the other. The younger generation is so patriotic, almost ultranationalistic.”

Donald Trump’s former senior White House aide is preparing to kick off a global anti-China crusade and the former White House chief strategist has called himself a “street fighter”, setting his sights on his next opponent: China. Bannon is convinced the US and China are destined for open conflict and has lambasted the country on everything from trade to intellectual property to North Korea ahead of speech in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

“China’s model for the past 25 years, it’s based on investment and exports,” he said. “Who financed that? The American working class and middle class. You can’t understand Brexit or the 2016 events unless you understand that China exported their deflation, they exported their excess capacity.”

Taking the Bull by the Horns: A Case for Pro Active Defense to Counter Potential Chinese Aggression

By Brig Deepak Sinha

It isn’t as if a bitter or prolonged conflict with China in the immediate or near future is our inevitable fate. In fact, one hopes that cooperation and convergence, leading to mutual prosperity and progress, rather than confrontation and conflict, will be the mantra of the future. Yet, the manner in which our interactions are progressing points to an increasingly difficult and dangerous path of confrontation and divergence in the future. Not only does China illegitimately occupy Indian territory and vehemently lay claims on Arunachal Pradesh, but has also taken to supporting Pakistan’s use of terrorists in its proxy war against India by refusing to acknowledge or allow Masood Azhar to be declared a terrorist by the United Nations. Moreover, it has de-facto attempted to question Indian sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir with its $ 46Billion investment in the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).In retaliation India too seems to have shed its inhibitions and is taking steps to counter Chinese actions such as increasing official cooperation with the Dalai Lama and strengthening its ballistic missile capability.1 For our military, preparations to face the unexpected and the unwanted in defence of national sovereignty and integrity remains its primary task, for as is well known, there’s no place for the runner’s up in war. Thus, we would do well to remember the homily, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”, attributed to President Abraham Lincoln.

A Botched Black Bag Job Reveals the Long Arm of Chinese Intelligence

By Scott Stewart

Medrobotics CEO Samuel Straface was leaving the office at about 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 28 when he noticed a man sitting in a conference room in the company's secure area, working on what appeared to be three laptop computers (one was later determined to be an iPad). Not recognizing the man as an employee or contractor, Straface, who did not identify himself, asked him what he was doing. The man replied that he had come for a meeting with the company's European sales director. The CEO said the sales director had been out of the country for three weeks. The man then stammered that he was supposed to be meeting with the company's head of intellectual property. Straface countered that he knew the department head didn't have a meeting scheduled for that time. Finally, the man claimed that he was there to meet CEO Samuel Straface. At that point, Straface confronted him.

The man said his name was Dong Liu and that he was a lawyer doing patent work for a Chinese law firm. He showed Straface a LinkedIn profile that listed him as a senior partner and patent attorney at the law firm of Boss & Young. Straface called the police, who arrested Liu for trespassing and referred the case to the FBI. On Aug. 30, the bureau filed a criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts charging Liu with one count of attempted theft of trade secrets and one count of attempted access to a computer without authorization. After his initial court appearance on Aug. 31, Liu was ordered held pending trial.

Status Report on the State of ISIS

September 11, 2017

ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has lost most of its territory in Syria. Most ISIL personnel are trying to reach ISIL controlled portions of the Euphrates River Valley. This are goes from the city of Raqqa (which ISIL has 70 percent of since April) to the Iraq border and into Iraq (the town of Rawa). ISIL has apparently ordered all ISIL members that can to head for the Euphrates River valley for a last stand. Iraqi forces are concentrating on Rawa and other ISIL held parts of the Euphrates River valley in Iraq. With that done ISIL will be left with only scattered remnants of personnel operating as terrorists and trying to rebuild with new recruits and financial supporters. ISIL apparently still has over $100 million in cash hidden in banks (including informal ones like the halwa networks). ISIL was successful because it was able to hide a lot of cash in banks. Since 2010 most Islamic terrorists have preferred to use couriers for moveing cash because using the international banking system had gotten too dangerous. So has the unofficial (and often illegal) traditional halwa (informal letters of credit) system. For the last year ISILs financial system has been under heavy attack and how successful that effort is may end up being more important than anything else ISIL is currently up to.

Since 2014 ISIL has concentrated on dominating the Euphrates River Valley, which stretches from the Persian Gulf to Turkey. Along the way this river valley passes next to or through Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi and Raqqa. While Iraqi forces moved up the valley from the south the offensive from the north, towards Raqqa has been mainly the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) rebels. This organization is composed of Syrian Kurds and their Arab Moslem and Christian allies. Most of the SDF forces advancing on Raqqa are Arab, the rest are from various Kurd factions (including the YPG). At the moment the only ones concentrating on Raqqa are the SDF, with support by Western and Arab air power and some commandos. Most importantly SDF has American support on the ground as well as from the air.

The success of this campaign (ISIL holds less than 30 percent of Raqqa now) and the recent loss of Mosul and Tal Afar in Iraq have most everyone (including the United States) openly acknowledging that the “Islamic State” ISIL created in 2014 was out of business and would soon control no territory at all and be just another Islamic terror group hiding where it can and attacking when able. Many ISIL members are fleeing rather than fight to the death. Some are trying to switch sides, which is possible for those who belong via tribal militias persuaded (often coerced) to side with ISIL.

To understand Britain, read its spy novels

FEW countries have dominated any industry as Britain has dominated the industry of producing fictional spies. Britain invented the spy novel with Rudyard Kipling’s dissection of the Great Game in “Kim” and John Buchan’s adventure stories. It consolidated its lead with Somerset Maugham’s Ashenden stories and Graham Greene’s invention of “Greeneland”. It then produced the world’s two most famous spooks: James Bond, the dashing womaniser, and George Smiley, the cerebral cuckold, who reappears this week in a new book (see page 75).

What accounts for this success? One reason is the revolving door between the secret establishment and the literary establishment. Some of the lions of British literature worked as spies. Maugham was sent to Switzerland to spy for Britain under cover of pursuing his career as a writer. Greene worked for the intelligence services. Both Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, and John le Carré, the creator of Smiley, earned their living as spies. Dame Stella Rimington, head of MI5 in 1992-96, has taken to writing spy novels in retirement. It is as if the secret services are not so much arms of the state as creative-writing schools.

Another reason is that British reality has often been stranger than fiction. The story of the “Cambridge spies”—Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess and the rest—is as far-fetched as it gets. One Soviet mole at the top of MI6 (Philby, who also worked for The Economist in Beirut); another even looking after the queen’s pictures (Blunt); a cover-up; a dash to the safety of the Soviet Union; larger-than-life characters such as the compulsively promiscuous and permanently sozzled Burgess.

The Secret Invasion: The Kremlin’s Attack on the 2016 US National Election Was More Extensive Than Previously Believed

It is commonly believed that Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign consisted mainly of the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails and unfavorable stories circulated abroad about Hillary Clinton. But as a startling investigation by Scott Shane of The New York Times, and new research by the cybersecurity firm FireEye, now reveal, the Kremlin’s stealth intrusion into the election was far broader and more complex, involving a cyberarmy of bloggers posing as Americans and spreading propaganda and disinformation to an American electorate on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

Whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians is, of course, the question at the heart of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Donald Trump Jr. told Senate investigators this week that he met with Russians claiming to have dirt on Mrs. Clinton because it could concern her “fitness, character or qualifications.” But Russia’s guile in using hackers and counterfeit Facebook and Twitter accounts to undermine her campaign represents a new dimension in disinformation that must not go unchallenged by Mr. Trump, however much he may have benefited from it and however close his relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The attack, according to the Times report, involved hundreds or even thousands of fake accounts on Facebook and Twitter that regularly posted anti-Clinton messages.

The False Prophecy of Hyperconnection How to Survive the Networked Age

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the world is connected as never before. Once upon a time, it was believed that there were six degrees of separation between each individual and any other person on the planet (including Kevin Bacon). For Facebook users today, the average degree of separation is 3.57. But perhaps that is not entirely a good thing. As Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, told The New York Times in May 2017, “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that.”

Speaking at Harvard’s commencement that same month, Facebook’s chair and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, looked back on his undergraduate ambition to “connect the whole world.” “This idea was so clear to us,” he recalled, “that all people want to connect. . . . My hope was never to build a company, but to make an impact.” Zuckerberg has certainly done that, but it is doubtful that it was the impact he dreamed of in his dorm room. In his address, Zuckerberg identified a series of challenges facing his generation, among them: “tens of millions of jobs [being] replaced by automation,” inequality (“there is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in ten years while millions of students can’t afford to pay off their loans”), and “the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism, and nationalism,” which oppose “the flow of knowledge, trade, and immigration.” What he omitted to mention was the substantial contributions that his company and its peers in Silicon Valley have made to all three of these problems.

Sixteen years after 9/11, are we any better at fighting terrorism?

Stephen Tankel
September 11, 2017

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks — 16 years ago on Monday — President George W. Bush declared a war on terrorism that he pledged would not end until every terrorist group of global reach was defeated. Bush drew a line in the sand, telling every nation, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” The Bush administration was more flexible than this rhetoric suggested, but it still evinced a strong willingness to act unilaterally.

President Barack Obama sought to make U.S. counterterrorism efforts more sustainable, and thereby enable the United States to focus more on other challenges. To do this he not only pursued a more focused counterterrorism campaign than the Bush administration had, but also put an even greater emphasis on working with partners. This was intended to share the costs of counterterrorism and make gains more sustainable by giving partners ownership of the fight.

Where does the war on terrorism stand under President Trump? Although Trump has gone out of his way to reverse many of Obama’s policies, he has largely embraced the burden-sharing aspect of his predecessor’s “indirect” approach. Yet, instead of pursuing enduring partnerships, Trump has treated engagements with partners as transactional exchanges.

Counterterrorism requires international cooperation

Despite their differences, all three presidents confronted two fundamental facts about counterterrorism. First, even a superpower cannot combat every terrorist threat alone. As the 9/11 Commission observed, “Practically every aspect of U.S. counterterrorism strategy relies on international cooperation.” Second, many partner nations help and hinder U.S. counterterrorism efforts. To understand why, it is critical to recognize that counterterrorism is much broader than commonly recognized.

Negotiating a Path to Dialogue With North Korea

The path toward dialogue with North Korea looks fainter by the day. Washington is calling for increased isolation of the North Korean government, announcing expanded arms sales to South Korea and Japan, and promising to deploy additional strategic assets in and around the Korean Peninsula. Even the South Korean government has said that dialogue may have to wait, since North Korea's latest nuclear test and rapid-fire missile launches threaten to destabilize the security balance in East Asia.

Beijing, meanwhile, has kept up its calls for talks, though it also has advocated stronger sanctions on Pyongyang. The most important thing, China insists, is that the United States and North Korea sit down to talk — whether in a multilateral, trilateral, bilateral or whatever possible format. From Beijing's perspective, dialogue is the only way to ease the heightened tensions in Korea, while excessive sanctions or coercive tactics are largely ineffective, if not counterproductive. It's becoming increasingly obvious, however, that Washington and Beijing differ in their thinking about talks with North Korea. Having just returned from two weeks spent engaged in unofficial dialogues and exchanges in the region, I can attest that the gulf separating China from the United States is as wide as the media makes it out to be. But the reasons behind the divergence are different from the ones so often described in the news.
The Value of Talk

Washington sees talks as a means to an end — in this case, the denuclearization of North Korea. Negotiations are worth the effort only if they will roll back Pyongyang's weapons programs. In two and a half decades of talks though, each agreement struck to that end has broken down, and all the while, North Korea has slowly but steadily improved its nuclear and missile capabilities. Politicians in the United States consequently have come to view dialogue as appeasement or even capitulation. By negotiating with Pyongyang, Washington has "allowed" North Korea to become a nuclear state and to use that status against it.

NIST’s lead cryptographer talks encryption’s paradigm shifts

By: Brad D. Williams   

The Cryptographic Technology Group in the Computer Security Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, led by Dr. Lily Chen, researches and develops new cryptographic applications, as well as publishing standards for the federal government.

Cryptography has long attracted research into novel applications for secret messages between parties. For nearly 4,000 years, cryptographic methods have slowly advanced, with notable contributions from many ancient civilizations and modern nations.

Since the advent of the internet age, cryptographic applications have rapidly expanded. The ongoing evolution has continued this year, with recent breakthroughs that some experts say could fundamentally transform one of the oldest subfields of contemporary cybersecurity.

Since February, when Fifth Domain published the two-part series, The State of Encryption, scientists have successfully performed notable experiments in quantum communications.

While many recent applications of traditional cryptography have improved encryption methods, quantum cryptography potentially represents a paradigm shift in a field historically steeped in complex mathematics to encrypt information. That’s because quantum encryption moves away from strictly mathematics-derived systems and instead uses quantum physical properties.

Traditional cryptography remains alive and well. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reported earlier this year that half of all traffic on the World Wide Web is now encrypted. Investment in research and development is yielding an array of new solutions available in the marketplace. Over the past four months, however, the series of distinct scientific breakthroughs have raised many questions about the future of cryptography.

Army logistics integrating new AI, cloud capabilities

By: Adam Stone 

MIT has announced the formation of the new MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. IBM's Watson computing system is shown here at a news conference on January 13, 2011.

A $135 million contract signed this week extends IBM’s support of cloud services and software for the Army’s Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA).

The deal also gives LOGSA access to IBM’s artificial intelligence product Watson. This follows on the heels of a successful proof of concept in which LOGSA used Watson to deliver maintenance information on a portion of the Army’s Stryker vehicle fleet.

“It proved that in a very short period of time, Watson could consume an incredible amount of unstructured data, something like a billion bytes of data, and be able to identify what’s important in that raw data, and then use that to figure out ways to go forward,” said Kevin Aven, partner and co-account lead, Army and Marine Corps, IBM Global Business Services.

Going forward under the new contract will likely mean expanding the use of AI beyond the Stryker fleet, as a means to streamline and modernize other aspects of logistics.

One example comes in a just-launched Air Clearance Authority pilot project. IBM officials say Watson will help the Army to better analyze the tens of millions of dollars it spends to transport spare parts, leveraging AI to determine whether air or land is the more rational mode for a given shipment.

“The Army would like to see if Watson could look at all of those transportation decisions and be able to optimize that to reduce cost,” said Greg Souchack, partner, managed services and cloud solutions, IBM Global Business Services.

Russian Hybrid Warfare: A Study of Disinformation

Flemming Splidsboel Hansen argues that modern information technology now serves as a force multiplier on a scale never seen before. So, what should Western nations think of his account of 1) Russia´s strategic use of disinformation 2) the Russian state´s close relationship with the nation´s media; 3) how Russian media strategy can exploit the vulnerabilities of liberal democratic media culture, and more? Hansen believes that one response should be for Western societies to build up greater ‘cognitive resilience’ within their societies.


In February 2013 General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the Russian General Staff, published a short piece on ‘the value of science in forecasting’, in which he outlined the contours of future warfare. According to Gerasimov some of the key features of this latter will be:

That it will be undeclared.

That it will see a broad use of kinetic and non-kinetic tools in close co-ordination.

That the distinction between the military and civilian domains will become still more blurred.

That battles will take place in the information space as well as in physical arenas.1

Predictions such as these illustrate the so-called hybrid warfare, which has become a household term in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in February 2014 and the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in the spring of 2014.

Netanyahu’s No-State Solution

Roger Cohen 

The leader is worried. He grows tetchy. Investigations are closing in on him. Former aides, even a family member, are suspected of corrupt dealings with a foreign company. He gets irritable, lashes out at “the left” and the “fake news media.” He claims there is a “witch hunt,” and raves about “a coup.” His tolerance for dissent is zero.

He takes to social media to lash out at detractors and exalt his brilliance. That gives him a rush. Then nagging doubt takes hold again. What has he achieved? Nothing really. He’s kept up the volume to disguise his ineptness but that will hardly secure his place in history. The leader has exploited fear, cultivated friends in the media prepared to genuflect, smeared with vulgarity an office once occupied by giants. He has shown a great love of walls.

Of course, he evades the truth. This is important because the truth is ugly. Nothing is going to change, least of all for those most oppressed. The point is the insidious corruption of society from above. Accuse the media of brainwashing while doing the brainwashing yourself. Power is showmanship. It’s about winning, nothing more. He’s kept his wife in the style to which she’s accustomed, and that does not come cheap. Losing is for losers.

More Top Intel Officials Call to Keep Surveillance Power


Top intelligence officials called this week for Congress to reauthorize a provision that allows the Intelligence Community to target communications of non-U.S. persons overseas that can also incidentally — and controversially — sweep up information related to U.S. citizens.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which sunsets this December, removed the requirement that a judge find probable cause to believe a target is a terrorist or spy. It permits the government to widely collect what is described as foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. The collection itself takes place within the United States – either on American communication platforms or as foreign communications that are routed through American servers.

It would not be in the “nation’s best interest” to “withdraw the legal authority currently granted to us under Section 702,” National Security Agency (NSA) Director Adm. Michael Rogers said Thursday during a panel discussion at the Intelligence & National Security Summit.

Congress must decide this year whether to renew the program as is or implement changes and determine if there will be a new sunset to the legislation. The program has been criticized for sweeping up the electronic data of Americans and what that means for privacy and constitutional rights. Advocates contend it is one of the most important legal authorities on the books to combat terrorism and is a valuable foreign intelligence collection tool.

How the Internet Enables ‘Terror 3.0’


The West has been hit by a barrage of deadly terrorist attacks over the past two years with little indication there is any definitive way to stop the onslaught.

Why this is happening and what can be done about it was the topic of conversation between national security and counterterrorism leaders from the U.S., Canada, Germany, and the UK, as they convened in Washington on Thursday for an intelligence and security conference.

The sheer number of attacks is staggering. Terrorists ploughed a van through crowds in Barcelona last month, killing 14 people and injuring more than a hundred. In June, eight people in London were killed in a van and knife attack on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market. There was also the Manchester terror attack in May that killed at least 22 people and injured 59 others, and an attack on Westminster Bridge in March. Germany has seen its fair share of attacks as well – with five separate lone wolf attacks all taking place in one month, July 2016. And of course there were the Brussels bombings, the Nice terror attack, and the Paris shootings.

To Prevent Another Equifax Breach, Treat Data Leaks Like Oil Spills

by Robert K. Knake

The Equifax data breach is a giant mess. Similar events are bound to happen if boardrooms lack a financial incentive to prioritize data security.

Another day, another data breach. At this point, we all know how this will unfold. The markets have taken their five percent chunk out of Equifax. Everyone will get another year of credit monitoring. People will be fired. New people will be hired. Equifax's security budget will double. Lawsuits will be settled. Equifax isn’t going out of business, though maybe it should.

The decades-long belief that disclosure alone will get the markets to fix the problem clearly hasn’t worked. A stronger, tougher, national breach notification requirement like the one in Europewon’t make the market value security. Significant and certain financial costs could get the markets to take data breaches seriously. Raising the financial costs of losing personal records from the current average of $158 per year to a fixed fine (paid to the individual victim) of say $1,000 would be a good start.

Let’s dispense with the class action lawsuits (anyone who has checked with Equifax to see if there data was lost may have already waived their right to sue). Setting a high dollar figure per record and making that payment a certainty will make companies think twice before asking for this data (do you really need my Social Security Number to provide me with cable service?) and twice more before storing it.