13 May 2019

U.S. and Afghan Forces Killed More Civilians Than Taliban Did, Report Finds

By David Zucchino

KABUL, Afghanistan — For the first time since the United Nations began documenting civilian casualties in Afghanistan a decade ago, more civilians are being killed by Afghan government and American forces than by the Taliban and other insurgents, according to a report on Wednesday.

Civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces rose in the first quarter of this year even as overall civilian casualties dropped to their lowest level in that period since 2013.

The United Nations said in its quarterly report that pro-government forces were responsible for 53 percent of civilian deaths. But insurgents were responsible for the majority — 54 percent — of all civilian casualties, which include deaths and injuries, even though the number of suicide bombings decreased compared with the same period in 2018, the report said.

Pentagon Doesn’t Want To Report On Its Failed War In Afghanistan – OpEd

By Ryan McMaken*

“Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America’s longest war…

“The move fits a trend of less information being released about the war in recent years…”

“A government watchdog agency that monitors the U.S. war effort, now in its 18th year, said in a report to Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. military command in Kabul is no longer producing “district control data,” which shows the number of Afghan districts — and the percentage of their population — controlled by the government compared to the Taliban.

“The last time the command released this information, in January, it showed that Afghan government control was stagnant or slipping.”

In other words, the US’s 2-trillion-dollar effort there is going nowhere. So they’re going to stop telling you about it.

Sri Lanka's Easter Attacks: Dismantling Myths to Prevent the Next Attack

by Jonah Blank

On Easter Sunday, a nation that had already seen far too much violence was subjected to even more. Almost simultaneously, suicide bombers hit three churches and three hotels across Sri Lanka, killing more than 250 people and wounding another 500. Before this tragedy slides into the pile of events too far away from America to generate continued attention, it is worth dismantling a few myths that might prevent better preparation for similar attacks in the future.

The first misconception is that the attacks are a continuation of Sri Lanka's civil war. Yes, the bombings took place in this small, tortured island. Yes, the victims and the likely perpetrators were mostly local. But the audience for, and ambitions of, this assault were almost certainly global.

Even before responsibility was claimed by ISIS, this violence had no obvious connection to the quarter-century of insurgency, war crimes, and terrorism that afflicted the nation between 1983 and 2009.

U.S.-China: A Tariff Threat Ups the Ante as Trade Talks Inch Toward the Finish

Source Link

An escalating trade war between China and the United States, including exchanges of tariffs and threats of more, has contributed to a global economic cooling over the past year. As the two powers have worked toward a mutual understanding over the final form of a trade deal between them, they have engaged in a lengthy set of negotiations, which appear to be entering their final phase. But some sticky points of contention — and room for escalation — remain.

What Happened

In a May 5 tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump renewed a threat to raise tariffs on Chinese imports, specifically mentioning increasing the levy on $200 billion in Chinese goods to 25 percent at the end of the week. The president followed that with a suggestion that the United States could subject remaining Chinese goods exports (worth some $300 billion to $350 billion) to annual tariffs, a move subject to public comment that could take up to three months to implement.

Trump vs. Putin and Xi

by Frank Li

President Trump has obviously been attempting to play Russia against China, without seemingly to know the profound truth: Putin hates America and admires China. In this post, I will show the silliness behind this attempt by comparing Trump with Putin and Xi, from speeches to everything else …

Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side, for social media buttons.

1. Xi's speech at BRF (Belt and Road Forum)

2. Putin's speech at BRF

3. President Trump on April 26, 2019

The U.S.-China Trade Talks Have Already Changed the World


Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, is no one’s idea of an optimist. He and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been leading trade talks with China for the past several months, and Lighthizer has been careful to point out there’s no guarantee of success. “If there’s a great deal to be gotten, we’ll get it —if not, we’ll find another plan,” Lighthizer told NPR recently. That’s a lot of ifs for the most important economic relationship in the world. 

Pessimism won the day on Monday, when Lighthizer and Mnuchin announced that the U.S. would execute President Donald Trump’s recent threat to raise tariffs on China once again. The punitive action in the midst of a negotiation was a departure from Trump’s generally optimistic tone about the talks, but it was a return to form for Lighthizer, an experienced negotiator with a reputation for brinkmanship. China, he believes, poses a grave danger to Americans’ way of life. Talks with China have been something of a moon shot for Lighthizer; an agreement that closes off vectors of illegitimate influence is difficult but, if a deal is reached, extremely valuable. And so despite the additional tariffs, the U.S. is not walking away from the talks yet, the negotiators said Monday. Chinese negotiators will arrive Thursday for more talks. But if the negotiations do fall through, Washington has already taken steps to ensure that China doesn’t get the upper hand. 

China’s gargantuan money market fund is a sign of strength—and deep imbalances

by John Detrixhe & Gwynn Guilford 

When Ant Financial added a money market fund to its payment app, few people expected it to become the biggest in the world a couple of years later. Its runaway success is a sign of China’s financial potential, as well as a deep and worrisome imbalance within its $13 trillion economy.

First, the good news. Just six years after it was launched, some 588 million Chinese—more than one-third of the country—access the fund through Alipay, the ubiquitous payment app that is part of Ant Financial, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba. Even after shrinking to its lowest level since 2016, it’s still the biggest money market fund in the world, overseeing the equivalent of about $148 billion in assets, as of March 31.

Huawei Clash Erupts At Highest Levels Of UK Politics – Analysis

By Duncan Bartlett

There was amazement in London when the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was suddenly summoned to Number Ten Downing Street and asked to resign by Prime Minister Theresa May. The shock increased when he refused to quit and she decided to fire him – even though he has been her strong political supporter in the House of Commons.
The China factor

The issue that split them was China. The Prime Minister was angered by a leak which appeared in a newspaper, suggesting that the government will choose the Chinese firm Huawei to build the UK’s telecoms infrastructure and develop the 5G network, which will increase the connectivity of the so-called Internet of Things.

In China itself, use of the internet is tightly controlled by the Communist Party although Huawei maintains it is an independent company and claims there is no risk of spying or sabotage.

Huawei Clash Erupts At Highest Levels Of UK Politics – Analysis

By Duncan Bartlett

There was amazement in London when the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was suddenly summoned to Number Ten Downing Street and asked to resign by Prime Minister Theresa May. The shock increased when he refused to quit and she decided to fire him – even though he has been her strong political supporter in the House of Commons.
The China factor

The issue that split them was China. The Prime Minister was angered by a leak which appeared in a newspaper, suggesting that the government will choose the Chinese firm Huawei to build the UK’s telecoms infrastructure and develop the 5G network, which will increase the connectivity of the so-called Internet of Things.

In China itself, use of the internet is tightly controlled by the Communist Party although Huawei maintains it is an independent company and claims there is no risk of spying or sabotage.


Dr. Mark Schneider

Introduction—The Chinese Quest for Hegemony

The most serious long-term national security threat to the U.S. comes from The People’s Republic of China. Its military forces are being built for information driven high intensity conflict against its neighbors and possibly the United States.[1] China does not assume or plan for a “peaceful rise,” as its actions in the South China Sea demonstrate.[2] At a minimum, China seeks hegemony in the Far East and claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and shifting the balance of nuclear power is an important element of China’s drive to regional hegemony.[3]

Nuclear Weapons and the Chinese Quest for Hegemony

To establish hegemony in Asia, China is building an expanding nuclear force. China appears to see nuclear weapons as a critical tool in its quest for hegemony. The political role of China’s nuclear doctrine is to force its neighbors to acquiesce to China’s hegemony because they fear China’s military power and are uncertain about the U.S. extended nuclear deterrent.

In the event of a conventional war is Asia, China expects its strategic and theater nuclear capabilities to deter a U.S. effort to defend Taiwan, Japan and its other Pacific allies from a Chinese attack. In short, China is attempting to exploit the U.S. and allied fear of nuclear war to support its goal of hegemony.

Islamists Teach And Influence Young American Muslims

by Samantha Rose Mandeles and Sean MacCormac

In an age of a growing American Muslim population, the United States has seen an increase in the number of American Muslim private schools. Lobbying over public school curricula is also an increasingly important area of focus for American Muslim organizations. By themselves, these phenomena are not problematic, especially with the focus on civil rights so commonly advanced by Muslim educators. But a problem arises when powerful American Islamist organizations use the language of social justice activism as a cover for their efforts to impose their own illiberal values on Muslim communities.

One such organization is the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which, among other pursuits, organizes annual "Education Forums" all over the country. Now in their 20th year and drawing hundreds of American Muslim educators with each occurrence, this ISNA educational conference claims to integrate Islamic teachings with social justice activism, working with Muslim educators who teach the next generation of American Muslims.

Iran Sends a Threat, and Europe Scrambles


A year after the Trump administration walked away from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed punishing economic sanctions, Tehran’s patience and willingness to keep up its end of the bargain may be finally running out. Iran said Wednesday that it would stop complying with a pair of key provisions of the nuclear accord, setting up a showdown with Washington and the European countries that so far have been willing to toss Tehran a lifeline.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would stop shipping to other countries the enriched uranium and heavy water—two building blocks of a nuclear weapons program—that it still produced, breaking with a pair of promises it made in the 2015 accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Some analysts suggested Tehran’s implicit message was at once a plea and a threat to the European and Chinese parties to the nuclear deal: Help us, or we’ll go rogue. “Iran is shifting from strategic patience to strategic action,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, a scholar at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Echoes of Iraq in Trump’s Confrontation with Iran


In the year since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear pact, his administration has dramatically raised tensions by reimposing sanctions, choking off all of Iran’s oil exports, labeling the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group, and, most recently, sending an aircraft carrier strike group to the Middle East. In response, Iran said Wednesday it would begin a partial withdrawal from the nuclear deal (which until now Tehran and other major nations have continued to observe)—a move that Trump critics fear the president could use to justify an attack.

Most telling of all, perhaps, is that Trump’s Iran policy appears to have fallen into the hands of National Security Advisor John Bolton, the unremitting hawk who has repeatedly called for regime change in Tehran and was a key figure pushing for war with Iraq nearly two decades ago.

Iran nuclear deal: Tehran to lift cap on uranium enrichment

Iran will resume high-level enrichment of uranium if world powers do not keep their promises under a 2015 nuclear agreement, President Hassan Rouhani said.

In a speech broadcast on national television on Wednesday, Rouhani said the remaining signatories - the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia - had 60 days to implement their promises to protect Iran's oil and banking sectors from US sanctions.

Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged the situation was dire.

"We felt that the nuclear deal needs a surgery and the painkiller pills of the last year have been ineffective," Rouhani said. "This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it."

The move comes a year after United States President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the landmark nuclear accord.

Since then, the US has restored crippling economic sanctions on Iran, even as Tehran continued to abide by the deal, according to United Nations inspectors.

ISIS’s Church Attacks Break Mohammed’s Own Pledges


The attacks by an Islamic State-affiliated group against Christians on Easter morning in Sri Lanka last month fall into a long-established pattern. Back when the Islamic State was expanding in northern Iraq in 2014 and 2015, the region’s 1 million Christians were some of its main targets, as well as Yazidis, Shiite Muslims, and other religious minorities. Churches were razed and Christians issued with an ultimatum: exile, conversion, or death.

The end result has been a brutal and depressingly thorough religious and ethnic cleansing. For the Islamic State, destroying churches and killing Christians came second only to its top priority of killing other so-called apostate Muslims—Shiite and Sufi Muslims in particular. But although the Islamic State claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, its actions were not only horrific but also clearly and universally recognized as blasphemy.

All the world’s leading Muslim scholars have pronounced that attacks on Christians and other terrorist tactics are antithetical to Islam, strictly against sharia as jurisprudence based on the Quran and hadith, and a hideous blasphemy against the message of the Prophet Mohammed. For example, the Pakistani-born cleric Tahi-rul-Qadri, who is recognized as one of the world’s leading Islamic scholars, issued a fatwa to this effect back in 2010.

What the Baghdadi Video Means

by Colin P. Clarke

For the first time in five years, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the reclusive leader of the Islamic State, appeared on video, addressing a range of topics. Why did Baghdadi suddenly feel the need to appear on camera and speak to his followers in a nearly 20-minute video? The answer concerns how some recent events intersect with the long-term needs of his organization.

In terms of timing, the appearance could be intended to coincide with the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period that has typically seen a spike in attacks by the Islamic State and its followers worldwide. From a tactical perspective, this message could be a means of rallying supporters and edging Islamic State militants toward action, encouraging them to carry out attacks, particularly lone-wolf terrorists who may have been contemplating an attack in the group's name. Baghdadi has remained off the grid for so long that his sudden appearance will very likely serve both as a morale boost for Islamic State supporters and remaining militants and as a catalyst for individuals or small groups to act. On a more fundamental level, he could simply be attempting to prove to his followers that he is alive, despite numerous claims by the Russians to have killed him at various points in the conflict.

Terrorist Use of Cryptocurrencies

by Cynthia Dion-Schwarz

Are terrorist groups currently using cryptocurrencies to support their activities? If not, why? What properties of new and potential future cryptocurrencies would make them more viable for terrorist use?

Given the key role of funding in supporting terrorist operations, counterterrorism finance (CTF) efforts often focus on tracking money and preventing financial transactions that might be used to support attacks and other terrorist activities. However, the success of these strategies in reducing terrorist access to official currencies has raised concerns that terrorist organizations might increase their use of such digital cryptocurrencies as Bitcoin to support their activities.

Current cryptocurrencies are not well matched with the totality of features that would be needed and desirable to terrorist groups but might be employed for selected financial activities. The authors' research shows that, should a single cryptocurrency emerge that provides widespread adoption, better anonymity, improved security, and that is subject to lax or inconsistent regulation, then the potential utility of this cryptocurrency, as well as the potential for its use by terrorist organizations, would increase. Regulation and oversight of cryptocurrencies, along with international cooperation between law enforcement and the intelligence community, would be important steps to prevent terrorist organizations from using cryptocurrencies to support their activities.

If Nobody Knows Your Iran Policy, Does It Even Exist?

Stephen M. Walt

The Trump administration's top foreign-policy priority is the Islamic Republic—but it's unclear to what end.

What is the Trump administration's objective with Iran? We've all been watching its efforts for months now—including National Security Advisor John Bolton's announcement on Sunday that the United States had sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in response to "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Tehran—and I still can't figure out what it is trying to achieve. That's partly because President Donald Trump prizes being unpredictable, and his chaotically run administration is either unable or unwilling to provide clear and coherent justifications for many of its policy decisions. If you never tell anyone exactly what you’re trying to do, it's harder for outsiders to hold you accountable later.

Saudi Arabia’s Moment in the Sun

Juergen Braunstein

As part of a high profile tour of China in February, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has overseen a range of multi-billion dollar pledges and MOUs with Beijing. This partly reflects Riyadh’s desire to diversify sources for investments and technology following the mass withdrawal of major Western business leaders from the Future Investment Initiative in October 2018, after the murder of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul. Yet cooperation with China on renewable energy, if successful, would realize a significant first step towards Saudi Arabia’s lofty ambitions for solar and wind power.

These MOUs follow Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih’s confirmation in January that the kingdom aims to develop 60 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity over the next decade—plans that would multiply the Gulf Council Cooperation’s solar capacity tenfold. However, global trade dynamics and the inherent volatility of the solar market may complicate Saudi Arabia’s goals.

As ISIS Regroups, the U.S. Is Forgetting the Lessons of Counterinsurgency—Again

Judah Grunstein 

The surprise reappearance of the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a recently recorded video seems like a throwback to the mid-2000s. The most visible difference from the video recordings Osama bin Laden used then to remind al-Qaida followers he was still alive—and persuade them he was still relevant—is that al-Baghdadi, who was last seen in 2014, is seated on the floor of what seems like a furnished living room, rather than a cave.

In other ways, too, the defeat of the Islamic State as a self-declared caliphate and its return as a transnational terrorist network would seem to put us back to where we found ourselves in 2001, after the expulsion of al-Qaida from Afghanistan.

But that would be to ignore how much has changed since then.

Even before the death of bin Laden in 2011, but especially after, the West had been lulled into a sense of complacency in the fight against Islamist extremists, for several reasons. Against the backdrop of the Arab uprisings, the logic of bin Laden’s anti-Western jihad seemed to lose its resonance, as the U.S. and Europe stood by as sclerotic regimes fell to internal forces of change. Then, as the hope of 2011 began to fade, transnational Islamist terrorism went increasingly local, pursuing territorial gains in Libya, the Sahel and, most prominently, in Iraq and Syria under al-Baghdadi’s direction.

Overextending and Unbalancing Russia

by James Dobbins

This brief summarizes a report that comprehensively examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress—overextend and unbalance—Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime's political standing at home and abroad. Some of the options examined are clearly more promising than others, but any would need to be evaluated in terms of the overall U.S. strategy for dealing with Russia, which neither the report nor this brief has attempted to do.

The maxim that “Russia is never so strong nor so weak as it appears” remains as true in the current century as it was in the 19th and 20th.Share on Twitter

Today’s Russia suffers from many vulnerabilities—oil and gas prices well below peak that have caused a drop in living standards, economic sanctions that have furthered that decline, an aging and soon-to-be-declining population, and increasing authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin’s now-continued rule. Such vulnerabilities are coupled with deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Western-inspired regime change, loss of great power status, and even military attack.

America's Strategy-Resource Mismatch

by Timothy M. Bonds

What gaps exist between U.S. security policy and U.S. military capabilities and capacity?

How should resources be allocated to address these gaps?

What near-term investments in military capabilities, technical innovations, and new geopolitical initiatives and concepts could be made to reduce an adversary's opportunities?

Significant gaps exist in the ability of the United States and its allies to deter or defeat aggression that could threaten national interests. For example, NATO members Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania remain vulnerable to Russian invasion. South Korea is vulnerable to North Korea's artillery. China's neighbors — especially Taiwan — are vulnerable to coercion and aggression. Violent extremists continue to pose a threat in the Middle East. Solutions to these problems will take both money and time. In this report, RAND researchers analyze the specific technological, doctrinal, and budgetary gaps between the stated strategic and defense policies of the United States and the resources and capabilities that would be required to implement those policies successfully.

Where Should the U.S. Withdrawal From the Middle East Stop?

By Robert Satloff, Ian S. Lustick, Mara Karlin, and Tamara Cofman Wittes

Mara Karlin and Tamara Cofman Wittes (“America’s Middle East Purgatory,” January/February 2019) argue that because the Middle East matters less to the United States than it did 20 years ago, the region should receive less attention and fewer resources. “Heavy U.S. involvement in the Middle East over the past two decades has been painful and ugly,” they conclude. “But it is the devil we know,” they continue, “and so U.S. policymakers have grown accustomed to the costs associated with it. Pulling back, however, is the devil we don’t know, and so everyone instinctively resists this position.”

In fact, pulling back is a devil we know all too well. As Karlin and Wittes acknowledge, U.S. President Donald Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, “seem to share the view that the United States is too involved in the region and should devote fewer resources and less time to it.”

Russians Will Soon Lose Uncensored Access to the Internet


A new law allows the Kremlin to spy on, filter, and control the country’s online activity, alarming human-rights watchdogs.

The Russian government is one step away from essentially cutting its population off from the global internet. The controversial “sovereign internet law” passed last week by the legislature’s upper house needs only President Vladimir Putin’s signature to require online traffic to pass through servers run by the government’s internet regulation agency by 2021, allowing the Kremlin to much better observe and control what Russian citizens are doing. Putin has long talked up the idea of a firewalled Russian internet, claiming that his government needs a better defense against cyber attacks from the West.

“But it’s more likely motivated by the Kremlin’s desire to control the flow of information online,” said Justin Sherman, Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America.

The move is not popular among Russians concerned about freedom of expression, notes Irina Borogan, deputy editor of Agentura.Ru, an independent Russian news site.

How the U.S. Miscounted the Dead in Syria


The United States dramatically underestimated the number of civilians killed in the U.S.-led coalition’s assault on the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State two years ago, according to the research of two leading human rights groups.

During the four-month campaign to oust the Islamic State from the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2017, some 1,600 civilians died as a result of coalition airstrikes and bombing, Amnesty International and Airwars wrote in a new report.

The United States put the civilian death toll in Raqqa at 318, according to a spokesman for the U.S. campaign to defeat the Islamic State.

The report, drawing on nearly two years of research, also concluded that the U.S.-led coalition was responsible for a significantly higher number of civilian casualties throughout its four-year campaign to destroy the Islamic State caliphate in Syria and Iraq than it had reported.

Policing Terror Finance in an Era of Great Competition

Michael B. Greenwald

America’s sanctions strategy is increasingly burdened by the involvement of systemically important financial institutions and sovereign investors in global financial statecraft. In the post-9/11 world, Washington’s strategy was highly effective in pursuing non-state actors like al-Qaeda or ISIS, as well as small, rogue nations like Iran. Yet in addressing larger sovereigns like the Kremlin, US strategy has struggled to maintain the same effectiveness given the cross-border financial connections linking these entities to Western markets. As an era of great power competition among Washington, Moscow, and Beijing sets in, these foes will crowd out smaller, non-state actors, thus demanding an adequate response from the Treasury.

Even in the West, the fraying of the transatlantic sanctions relationship is likely to produce greater uncertainty among banks. In 2014, Washington fined BNP Paribas nearly $9B for providing correspondent services to Sudanese and Iranian clients. In the moment, the enforcement action was seen as a strong deterrent toward European private actors cooperating with sanctioned entities, but the money laundering scandals of 2018 prove that the gaping holes in the European system are still unplugged more than four years on. 

In an era of great power competition, it is increasingly important that relevant authorities recognize the holes in the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework as not merely law enforcement impediments, but as critical national security threats. During the War on Terror, a push for tighter AML recognized the role illicit financing channels play in nourishing and supporting the growth of international terrorist bodies. Policy at this time sought to limit terrorist actors’ access to funds through the legitimate and illegitimate financial sectors alike. Washington used financial intelligence to gain vital information on the operation of terrorist bodies.

Perspectives on Terrorism, April 2019, v. 13, no. 2

o A “Lunatic Fringe”? The Persistence of Right Wing Extremism in Australia

o Mapping Transnational Extremist Networks: An Exploratory Study of the Soldiers of Odin’s Facebook Network, Using Integrated Social Network Analysis

o The Hand that Feeds the Salafist: an Exploration of the Financial Independence of 131 Dutch Jihadi Travellers

o The Terrorism Recidivism Study (TRS): Examining Recidivism Rates for Post 9/11 Offenders

o The mid-February 2019 Pulwama attack in Kashmir: an Indian Perspective

o The mid-February 2019 Pulwama attack in Kashmir: a Pakistani Perspective

o Seeing Political Violence through Different Lenses

o Bibliography: Terrorism and the Media (including the Internet) (Part 4)

o Counterterrorism Bookshelf: 40 Books on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism-Related Subjects

o Recent Online Resources for the Analysis of Terrorism and Related Subject


The title above comes from Andy Greenberg’s May 7, 2019 article in the cyber security and technology publication, WIRED.com. Mr. Greenberg begins by explaining that “the notion of a zero-day vulnerability in software is supposed to mean, by definition, that it’s secret.The term refers to a hackable flaw in code that the software maker doesn’t know about, but, a hacker does — in some cases offering that hacker a powerful, stealthy, skeleton key into the hearts of millions of computers. But according to new findings from the cyber security and technology firm, Symantec, one extraordinarily powerful flaw in Microsoft software, at one point remained “Secret,” to Microsoft, while at least three active hacker groups knew about it,” Mr. Greenberg notes. “And, both before and after that secret became public in early 2017, it took a long, strange trip through the hands of intelligence agencies around the world, enabling years of espionage, and eventually, mayhem.”

On Monday, Symantec “revealed that it had traced how a hacker group it calls Buckeye — also known as APT3, or Gothic Panda, and widely believed to be a contractor of the Chinese Ministry of Security Services — used NSA hacking tools, apparently intercepted from the networks of NSA targets and repurposed those tools to use against other victims, including U.S. allies,” Mr. Greenberg wrote. “Most notably, Symantec said, the Chinese groups’ hacking had implanted an NSA backdoor on the network of its victims,’ using a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) software, also seemingly learned by studying [reverse engineering] NSA’s hacking tools.”

Crossing a Cyber Rubicon? Overreactions to the IDF’s Strike on the Hamas Cyber Facility

By Robert Chesney

Amid a massive exchange of rocket fire and airstrikes between Israel and both Hamas and Islamic Jihad this weekend, Hamas attempted a cyber operation against an unspecified civilian target in Israel. The operation failed, and in its aftermath the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out an airstrike that destroyed the building housing Hamas’s cyber capability. Some observers are citing the incident as an important—and perhaps dangerous—precedent. Others are questioning the legality of the strike itself. Both these views are misplaced.


Details remain sketchy, but we know this much: Heavy fighting broke out last Friday in Gaza and Israel, with Islamic Jihad and Hamas launching more than 690 rockets and mortars indiscriminately into Israel, and Israel countering with some 320 targeted airstrikes. During these kinetic attacks, according to the commander of IDF cyber division, Hamas attempted to carry out some sort of cyber operation targeting Israeli civilian infrastructure in an unspecified fashion. The operation failed, apparently thwarted by the combined efforts of Unit 8200 and Shin Bet. And then the IDF conducted an airstrike on the building housing the Hamas cyber capability, destroying it and whatever equipment was within (and most likely killing at least some people as well, though I’ve not yet seen any reporting on that specific point).

It Is Time to End the Longest War in U.S. History

by Sam Long

Negotiations resumed between the Taliban and the United States last week, as both sides edge closer to a ceasefire. Reports of substantial progress emerged over the weekend, as the parties work towards a timetable for the departure of American troops from Afghanistan—an issue that has stalled previous negotiations. American officials also continue to press for a Taliban pledge that the group will not allow the country to be used by terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, to harm the United States.

Agreement on these two issues should pave the way for an end to the longest war in our history. The largest obstacle to peace, however, might be Washington’s foreign policy establishment.

On Afghanistan, this crowd is split into two camps. First is the “remain” group. Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, belongs here. In December, he advised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the best way forward might be to “just muddle along.” McChrystal is not the only one light on ideas. A month later, Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations—the foreign policy establishment’s high church—published what he described as, “not a strategy for winning, but rather one for not losing.”