22 June 2019

The Myth of Indian Strategic Restraint

by Sumit Ganguly S. Paul Kapur

Indian security policy is guided more by pragmatism than by moralism.

INDIA HAS emerged as a central partner in U.S. efforts to balance rising Chinese power. To this end, the United States has invested heavily in India, brokering an agreement to afford it access to nuclear materials and technology; enabling Indian acquisition of cutting-edge military and dual-use systems; and declaring India to be a “major defense partner” and “lynchpin” of its strategy in Asia. These efforts to build capacity in India leave an essential question unanswered, however: even if the United States significantly augments India’s strategic capacity, will India prove willing to contribute to U.S. balancing efforts in the region?

Conventional wisdom suggests that India is likely to disappoint the United States in the long run. Scholars and analysts have traditionally cast India as a weak strategic actor, possessing a large landmass and population and abundant natural resources, but lacking the will to effectively pursue its security interests. This view grew out of India’s history of suffering serial conquests at the hands of much smaller opponents. Great Britain had been able to colonize India with armies only a small fraction the size of the opposing Indian forces. The British attributed their success to the Indians’ supposed inferiority of character, which made them unable to resist invasion and subjugation. Pakistani leaders believed that the history of Islam in South Asia, which was characterized by small Muslim armies defeating larger indigenous forces, showed that Indians were inherently lacking in martial qualities. Mohandas K. Gandhi’s campaign to free India of the British sought to convince Indians that, despite their colonial history, they were not by nature passive subjects, but rather powerful social and political actors deserving of self-rule.

India to overtake China as the world's most populous country: UN

(CNN)India is set to overtake China as the world's most populous country in less than a decade, according to a new United Nations report.

China and India currently account for about 37% of the entire global population of roughly 7.7 billion, with China currently home to about 1.4 billion people and India to 1.3 billion.

But by 2027, India will have more people than China, according to the UN's 2019 World Population Prospects report released Monday, and by 2050 the gap is expected to have widened even further.

"Between 2019 and 2050, 55 countries or areas are expected to see their populations decrease by at least 1%," the report said, mostly due to low-levels of fertility and in some cases, high numbers of emigration.

"In the largest of these, China, the population is projected to shrink by 31.4 million, or 2.2 per cent."

Exclusive: U.S. tells India it is mulling caps on H-1B visas to deter data rules - sources

Neha Dasgupta, Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The United States has told India it is considering caps on H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, widening the two countries’ row over tariffs and trade.

The plan to restrict the popular H-1B visa program, under which skilled foreign workers are brought to the United States each year, comes days ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to New Delhi.

India, which has upset companies such as Mastercard and irked the U.S. government with stringent new rules on data storage, is the largest recipient of these temporary visas, most of them to workers at big Indian technology firms.

The warning comes as trade tensions between the United States and India have resulted in tit-for-tat tariff actions in recent weeks. From Sunday, India imposed higher tariffs on some U.S. goods, days after Washington withdrew a key trade privilege for New Delhi.

Assessing the Trump team’s Afghanistan peace plan

Michael Rubin

The Trump administration’s Afghanistan strategy repeats mistakes made by the Clinton and Obama administrations.

The Taliban repeatedly fail to keep diplomatic commitments.

Treating the Taliban as independent from Pakistani command-and-control will undercut the utility of any peace deal struck with the Taliban.

Diplomatic outreach and Taliban empowerment are directly proportional.

The Afghan perception of Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is colored heavily by a personal history about which many in Washington, DC are unaware.

Zalmay Khalilzad, President Trump’s special envoy for Afghanistan, continues to pursue a diplomatic settlement with the Taliban framed mostly around the idea that the United States will withdraw from Afghanistan and, in exchange, the Taliban will foreswear terrorism.

Khalilzad: U.S. Seeking 'Peace Agreement' With Taliban, Not 'Withdrawal' Deal

KABUL -- The U.S. envoy seeking a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban has said Washington is seeking a “comprehensive peace agreement, not a withdrawal agreement” in its talks with the Taliban.

Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted the comments late on June 18 after a spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, wrote in a tweet that the United States had agreed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan.

Khalilzad has held six rounds of talks with the militant group in Qatar to end the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The sides have made progress, but the Taliban has so far rejected direct negotiations with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

“As we prepare for the next round of talks with the Taliban, important to remember we seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement,” Khalilzad tweeted.

US: Seeking Peace Not Troop Withdrawal Agreement With Taliban

By Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD - The United States explicitly stated Tuesday it is seeking a comprehensive peace agreement with the Taliban that would cover counterterrorism assurances, withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, intra-Afghan talks to find a political settlement to the war and a permanent cease-fire.

“This is a framework which the Taliban accepts,” tweeted chief American peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad hours after the insurgent group announced Washington has agreed during negotiations to withdraw its troops and not to interfere in Afghanistan in future.

“As we prepare for the next round of talks with the Taliban, important to remember we seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement,” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad, the Afghan-born reconciliation envoy, stressed that the comprehensive peace deal he is seeking with the insurgent group is made up of the four inter-connected parts and “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

The fate of Japan, and everyone else


WASHINGTON - If you want a peek at the future, try looking at Japan. It’s a sobering exercise. Here’s how economist Timothy Taylor, managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, describes the country’s outlook:

“[Japan] is facing a situation of a declining population and workforce, and the share of the population that is elderly is on the rise. [This is] driving up government spending on pensions and health care, and together with attempts to stimulate its economy through government spending (much of it on infrastructure), Japan has run up an enormous government debt.”

To put it bluntly (as I have argued before): Japan is slowly going out of business; its population is shrinking and it resists immigration. This cannot continue indefinitely.

What is significant about Japan’s situation is that it’s shared, to a greater or lesser extent, by most of the world’s advanced countries. Birth rates are depressed; economies are expanding slowly, if at all; and debt burdens are high and often growing.

Orban and Aung San Suu Kyi Gave in to Hate the Same Way

By Azeem Ibrahim

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her pro-democracy activism and her resilience in advocating for the cause of democracy in the face of terrible repression by the socialist military junta of Myanmar.

Around the same time, a young Viktor Orban was feted as one of Europe’s future democratic leaders after playing an instrumental role in Hungary’s post-communist transition to democracy. Had the field been less crowded in Europe, Orban could well have been nominated for the same honor as Aung San Suu Kyi, and for the same reasons.

Back then, you would have expected the fellow University of Oxford graduates to have a lot in common. Alas, the two also have much in common today—just all the wrong things. A summit between the two on June 5 epitomized the painful truth: On opposite sides of the earth, the two leaders have converged toward the same rejection of everything they once stood for.

Orban is reviled by many at the moment as the spiritual father of European right-wing populist illiberal democracy. He is a highly successful domestic politician who casts a long shadow over European politics and the West’s long-standing efforts for a peaceful and cohesive Europe under a liberal political and economic consensus.


HUAWEI MAY BE feeling the sting of US efforts to rein in the Chinese telecom giant.

In April, Huawei reported a 39 percent increase in first-quarter revenue, despite US efforts to dissuade allies from doing business with the firm. But the company now expects its revenue to decline to $100 billion this year from $107 billion last year, founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei said during an event Monday.

Ren blamed the US decision to add Huawei to a list of companies that are essentially banned from buying US-made technology, including the software and microchips the company uses to build its smartphones and infrastructure gear. The bans will cost Huawei around $30 billion in revenue this year and next, Ren said through a translator at a livestreamed discussion that also featured US investor and writer George Gilder and MIT Media Lab founder and early WIRED investor Nicholas Negroponte. He also confirmed a Bloomberg report that Huawei’s phone sales overseas fell 40 percent over the past month.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Backs Down, but the Protests Continue

By Jiayang Fan

On Saturday, Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, announced the indefinite suspension of an extradition bill that, during the past week, had brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets—where they faced water cannons, pepper spray, and, for the first time in decades, rubber bullets—in perhaps the territory’s largest demonstrations since the former British colony was returned to China, in 1997. But a suspension wasn’t enough, and, on Sunday, by some estimates as many as two million people staged another march, demanding a withdrawal of the bill and Lam’s resignation.

The push for the bill, which would enable China to extradite criminal suspects to the mainland (with rare exceptions, law-enforcement officials from the mainland are not allowed to operate in Hong Kong), came after the murder, in February of 2018, of a young woman from Hong Kong who was on vacation with her boyfriend in Taiwan. The man, a Hong Kong resident, confessed to the crime, but he can only be tried for it in Taiwan, with which Hong Kong has no extradition agreement. Instead, he was sentenced to prison on lesser charges of money laundering.

Tracing the global rise of China's tech giants

Andrew Berkley

Tracing the Global Rise of China’s Tech Giants

Huawei and other Chinese technology giants have pervaded the global economy, creating a complicated latticework of international trade and investment that could make meddling with them for geopolitical reasons a risky endeavour.

For some perspective on the rapid rise of China’s biggest tech firms – the largest of which have become fodder for a brewing US-China trade war – the World Economic Forum has published a visualization that traces their expanding global footprint in the years preceding the dust-up between the world’s top two economies.

In addition to Huawei – the Chinese tech giant with the most global name recognition – 11 other firms, including Hikvision, Baidu, and Tencent, are represented in the graphic. According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, whose data provided the basis for the visualization, these Chinese companies are increasingly able to exert their influence over industries and governments around the world, as they build smart city systems, set up research and development labs, bankroll undersea cables and more. Their expanding reach has, in some cases, prompted defensive actions from governments and commercial competitors.

China rare earth prices soar on their potential role in trade war

Chinese rare earth prices are set to climb further beyond multi-year highs hit following a flurry of state media reports that Beijing could weaponize its supply-dominance of the prized minerals in its trade war with Washington.

Rare earths, a group of 17 elements that appear in low concentrations in the ground, are used in a wide-range of products stretching from lasers and military equipment to magnets found in consumer electronics.

China supplied 80% of the rare earths imported by the United States from 2014 to 2017, with Chinese state newspapers last month reporting Beijing could use that as leverage in the ongoing trade dispute between the two.

“(Magnet-related rare earths) are the ideal materials to weaponize ... because they are so critical to high-demand, highly-competitive, price-sensitive industries,” said Ryan Castilloux, managing director of Adamas Intelligence, a consultancy that tracks rare earths markets.

“(Such rare earths) are collectively responsible for over 90% of the demand market’s value each year ... (so they) will yield the most juice for the squeeze,” Castilloux said by email from Toronto, adding that prices were set to keep rising.

How Europe Is Handing Off Its ISIS Militants to Iraq

By Pesha Magid

BAGHDAD—Standing in his prisoner’s yellow jumpsuit, Mustapha Merzoughi remained quiet at first. He shook slightly and brushed at his eyes, before assuming a neutral expression. His Arabic appeared to be limited, and when the judge first began to question him, he stayed silent, eventually saying in French:

“There is no point that I speak. Whatever I say, you will convict me to death.” About an hour later, he was.

Merzoughi was one of 11 French defendants that an Iraqi court sentenced to hang over the course of trials from May 26 to June 3. He was captured, however, not in Iraq but in neighboring Syria, by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) during the last battles against the Islamic State. Merzoughi and his fellow ISIS defendants were the first official cases of foreigners transferred from Syria to Iraq for trial—juridical guinea pigs in an experimental solution to the problem facing many European countries whose citizens left home to fight for the Islamic State. The Europeans do not want them to return, but the SDF does not have the sovereign power to sentence them, leaving their citizens in limbo.

Saudis Called Khashoggi ‘Sacrificial Animal’ as They Waited to Kill Him

By David D. Kirkpatrick and Nick Cumming-Bruce

Key takeaways from the United Nations report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi:

• Saudi officials carried out an extensive cover-up of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing in a Saudi consulate in October, scrubbing down rooms, blocking investigators and possibly burning evidence.

• The destruction of evidence and the active role of the Saudi consul general in organizing the operation in coordination with officials in Riyadh suggest that the killing and cover-up were authorized at the highest levels of the Saudi royal court.

• The report presents a new challenge to President Trump, who has embraced the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, as a pivotal ally and sought to avoid blaming him for directing the killing.

As the killers waited for the victim, the Saudi autopsy specialist reassured them that dismembering the body would “be easy.”

A ‘tanker war’ with Iran would be more complicated than the 1980s version


The president was named Reagan, and Iran and Iraq were locked in a horrific war with each other over control of land and the Persian Gulf.

The United States and other nations entered the fringes of the conflict when the warring neighbors launched attacks on international oil tankers transiting the strategic waterway — at that time, the route for most crude reaching the rest of the world.

The U.S. Navy was among several forces that began to escort the vessels, clear mines floating in the sea and patrol the shores in search of missile batteries, launching what became known as the “tanker war” of the 1980s. More than 200 boats were attacked and dozens of sailors killed, including 37 Americans.

Today, as the Trump administration and Iran trade accusations and insults, tensions have soared once again in the volatile region, with the U.S. blaming several tanker explosions on Iran and stoking fears of a broader conflict and a new, more dangerous tanker war.

PLA sails past Russia in naval buildup: report


PLA has over 300 vessels, with one carrier and another coming soon, while Russia has 233 warships

The People’s Liberation Army has honed its maritime capabilities through a flurry of drills and war-games held in China’s littoral waters and on the high seas over the past five years. The naval build-up is best characterized by the retrofitting of the Liaoning, a Soviet-built aircraft carrier, as well as the upcoming launch of the nation’s first homemade carrier.

A recent report published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs claims that the PLA “has overtaken Russia” as a maritime great power, after examining 10 joint exercises carried out in the two countries’ territorial waters and in the Sea of Japan and the Baltic Sea since 2012, the year Xi Jinping came into power.

The report, titled “Partnership on the High Seas”, say the PLA has sailed past Russia to project its heft further offshore, as the former will soon have two carriers with a third one under construction.

Kremlin Warns of Cyberwar After Report of U.S. Hacking Into Russian Power Grid

By Ivan Nechepurenko

MOSCOW — The Kremlin warned on Monday that reported American hacking into Russia’s electric power grid could escalate into a cyberwar with the United States, but insisted that it was confident in the system’s ability to repel electronic attacks.

Dmitri S. Peskov, President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman, also raised concerns that President Trump was reportedly not informed about the effort, which was the subject of a New York Times reporton Saturday that detailed an elaborate system of cybertools deployed by the United States inside Russia’s energy system and other targets.

The program, as described by current and former unidentified American officials, would enable an attack on the Russian power grid in the event of a major conflict between Moscow and Washington.

It was deployed, the Times reported, after years of public warnings from American security agencies about similar aggressive actions conducted by Russia. “This information means that there is a hypothetical possibility” of cyberwarfare against Russia, Mr. Peskov said.

Could the United States Leave the Middle East by 2031? - A Reply to Anand Toprani on U.S. Strategy in the Persian Gulf

Mike Sweeney

Before the Iraq War, there were those who hoped toppling Saddam Hussein could lead to the United States exiting the Middle East. That statement now, will – at best – elicit bitter laughter. But, at the time, some supporters of the war argued that by removing the threat posed by the Iraqi strongman, the U.S. requirement to garrison the Persian Gulf – and Saudi Arabia in particular – would be obviated. To be clear, that argument was not universally held, nor was it ever put forward officially by the administration of George W. Bush, at least not beforehand. However, it was one of the seemingly noble ideas discussed in foreign policy circles in the lead up to the war. Even opponents of the war picked up on the prospect for a greatly reduced U.S. presence in the Gulf immediately after the initial success in Iraq.

In the end, almost all U.S. forces did leave Saudi Arabia. The withdrawal began in April 2003, after Riyadh, ironically, denied use of its facilities to support the invasion of Iraq. But among the many other failed hopes of the Iraq War, the United States simply relocated to other countries and sites, actually expanding and deepening its network of military bases in the Middle East during the next sixteen years. Today, America maintains major military facilities in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while still actively fielding combat forces in Iraq and Syria. With the exception of those in Bahrain and Turkey, none of these bases or deployments existed before the first Gulf War in 1991.

A Memo for the President: The Path 2000 to 2060

Jim Davitch

The following essay is a fictional memo set in the year 2060 written by a future U.S. national security advisor to a future president that recounts the preceding four decades of U.S. military involvement.

This memo follows the post-mortem assessment used by LTC Matt Cavanaugh here, itself an homage to retired Major General Dunlap’s essay here. Unlike those pieces, however, this essay presents a more optimistic view based on a defense & intelligence community that made hard decisions and difficult investments in the 2020s which allowed the U.S. armed forces to prevail in contested conflicts throughout the rest of the century.


FROM: Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

DATE: 4 July 2060

SUBJECT: Reflection on Military Innovation

Mr. President,

As you requested, my staff has assembled the retrospective analysis you ordered and this document will serve as my official response and recommendation for the future. We have labored against the natural pull of hindsight bias to understand, as you put it, “where we came from” and what led to the geopolitical and military situation facing us today in 2060.

Assessment of the Role of Small Wars within the Evolving Paradigm of Great Power Competition in a Multipolar World

James P. Micciche

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which ran from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019. More information about the writing contest can be found here.

The U.S. is scaling down the Global War on Terrorism and focusing on threats posed by a revisionist China and Russia and rogue nations such as Iran. In this context, limited military operations (small wars) will be useful in transforming counterterrorism methods, which previously dominated U.S. foreign policy, into being only one facet of a synchronized whole of government response in pursuit of U.S. policy objectives in contested spaces.

Over the past decade, the global balance of power has shifted to a multipolar construct in which revisionist actors such as China and Russia attempt to expand their spheres of influence at the expense of the U.S.-led liberal order. The ongoing rebalance has been gradual and often conducted through a myriad of activities beyond kinetic operations as Russia, China, and regional actors such as Iran have shown a capability to capitalize on and create domestic instability as a means to expand influence, gain access to key terrain and resources, and reduce western influence. The capacity to utilize limited military operations (small wars) as part of a focused, tailored, and comprehensive whole of government approach to deter threats and expansion from revisionist powers is paramount in promoting U.S. and Western interests within the modern paradigm. Despite the prominent role engaging in limited operations at or more importantly below the level of conflict fulfills within the context of great power competition, it is far from a proverbial silver bullet as the rebalancing of power brings new parameters and risks that U.S. policy makers must understand before engaging in any small war. 

Are We Ready For a Rare Earths Trade War?

Jeffrey Wilson

Rare earth minerals have emerged as the latest front in the escalating US-China trade war. Nearly a decade after the Chinese government controversially suspended rare earth exports to Japan during the 2010 Senkaku dispute, similar threats are now being made if the bilateral trade dispute with the US deepens.

How prepared is the global economy for another deployment of the so-called “rare earths weapon”?

Rare earths are an ideal instrument for economic coercion. They are an essential input into a wide range of high-technology products, across the electronics, petrochemical, renewable energy and defence sectors. As there are few economically-feasible substitutes for their use, any suspension to rare earth value chains would have a disastrous impact on an economy’s technological ecosystem.

China also possesses an extraordinary degree of market power. While not strictly a “monopolist”, in 2017 it produced an estimated 79% of the world’s rare earth oxides. By comparison, OPEC – a longstanding and sometimes-feared energy cartel – accounts for only 41% of global oil output. Outsized market power gives the Chinese government considerable scope to use rare earths as leverage in diplomatic disputes.

A Dangerous Game of Nuclear Brinkmanship

By Keith Johnson, Colum Lynch

By pledging to stockpile uranium and violate key parts of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is hoping to force Europe to take drastic action to keep the beleaguered accord alive—but instead risks driving its few remaining defenders to exasperation.

On Monday, Iran reaffirmed previous threats to stop complying with some crucial provisions in the nuclear deal. Iranian atomic agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said the country would surpass, within 10 days, the amounts of low-enriched uranium it was allowed to stockpile under the agreement, and he raised the possibility of further enriching uranium closer to the level needed to make weapons.

The announcement, confirming threats made by President Hassan Rouhani last month, is seen as a way to prod European countries that have supported the deal into delivering on their promises to offer some economic relief for Iran and to help mediate a broader reconciliation with Washington.

New and Critical Materials

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Bolton: China Continuing Cyberattacks on Government, Private Networks

BY: Bill Gertz

China is continuing cyberattacks against government and private sector networks aimed at obtaining intellectual property to support China's military buildup and economic modernization, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton says.

Bolton said that as a result, the United States is going on the attack against Chinese and other foreign hackers using new authorities outlined in a recently signed presidential memorandum.

Asked if China has lessened intellectual property theft through cyberattacks, Bolton said: "No. I think this is one of the reasons why one of our priorities here was to replace PPD-20 with what we call NSPM-13, National Security Presidential Memorandum-13, which dramatically changed the oversight and approval process for offensive cyber operations."

The Obama administration directive, Presidential Policy Directive-20, was signed in October 2012 and made public by renegade National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The Future of Cybercrime

ICIT CERTIFIED: In this essay, ICIT Contributor Luther Martin from Micro Focus Government Solutions (an ICIT Fellow Program Member) discusses how governments that do not enforce cybercrime laws may in effect be decriminalizing cybercrime; and offers a possible solution to incentivize governments to enforce cybercrime laws. It has been reviewed by ICIT researchers and is certified as an educational document. ICIT encourages stakeholders to read this paper and distribute it widely to share its contents.

The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act (ACDC Act), was introduced by US Representative Tom Graves in 2017. This Act proposed to “provide a defense to prosecution for fraud and related activity in connection with computers for persons defending against unauthorized intrusions into their computers, and for other purposes.” In other words, it would legalize retaliatory hacking by businesses that were the targets of cyber criminals. This bill was widely derided as being a very bad idea. But is there a reasonable alternative to it?

Global spending on information security technologies is approaching $200 billion. That’s a lot of money that could be better spent on more productive things. It could be invested in hiring more workers, building more factories, etc. Or it could be spent on addressing some of the big problems facing the world today.

How the future of computing can make or break the AI revolution

Ghida Ibrahim

When it comes to technology trends, AI has been undeniably leading the way in recent years and is expected to continue to do so for decades to come.

From self-driving cars to predictive medicine and personalized learning, AI is increasingly shaping both practical and intimate aspects of our everyday lives, including matching us to our better halves. When talking about AI, we often are interested in the application use cases: what is AI going to enable next? In the race towards building powerful AI systems and applications, the public, including tech-domain experts, often dismisses the close interconnection between AI and computing. However, the AI revolution that we are witnessing could not have happened without the evolution of the computing hardware and of the computing ecosystem.

3 more steps before Cyber Command can split from NSA

By: Mark Pomerleau

The Pentagon would have to meet a series of new requirements before U.S. Cyber Command could split from the National Security Agency, according to a proposal from a Senate defense committee.

In what is known as the dual-hat arrangement, the two organizations are co-located at Fort Meade in Maryland and share a leader in Gen. Paul Nakasone. The arrangement came about 10 years ago with the creation of Cyber Command to help get the organization off the ground and leverage the expertise and infrastructure of NSA.

But when rumors of a split surfaced a few years ago, some members of Congress felt the decision was premature and that Cyber Command was not yet ready to stand on its own. As a result, Congress outlined in 2016 a series of metrics Pentagon leaders had to meet. These included ensuring both organizations had the infrastructure they needed and that the missions of each organization would not be hurt by a split.

Fight Deepfakes with Cyberweapons and Sanctions, Experts Tell Congress


Social media companies and the federal government must help fight hyper-realistic misinformation, witnesses told the House Intelligence Committee.

Fighting the spread of malicious deepfakes will require a two-pronged attack by both the government and tech industry, and could potentially involve the use of offensive cyberweapons, tech and national security experts told Congress.

Deepfakes—shockingly realistic but forged images, audio and videos generated by artificial intelligence—make it possible to depict someone doing things they never did or saying things they never said. While the tech can generate some entertaining content, it’s also becoming the latest tactic employed by foreign adversaries to spread misinformation around the globe.

If left unchecked, experts worry deepfakes could ultimately lead people to doubt what’s real and what’s not, which would have significant consequences for the political process, social discourse and national security. And as more manipulated media spreads across the internet, lawmakers are trying to figure out how to help the public separate fact from fiction.

Twitterbots: Anatomy of a Propaganda Campaign

Gillian Cleary

Internet Research Agency archive reveals a vast, coordinated campaign that was incredibly successful at pushing out and amplifying its messages.

Key Findings

The operation was carefully planned, with accounts often registered months before they were used – and well in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The average time between account creation and first tweet was 177 days.

A core group of main accounts was used to push out new content. These were often ”fake news” outlets masquerading as regional news outlets or pretended to be political organizations.

A much larger pool of auxiliary accounts was used to amplify messages pushed out by the main accounts. These usually pretended to be individuals.

The campaign directed propaganda at both sides of the liberal/conservative political divide in the U.S., in particular the more disaffected elements of both camps.

Most accounts were primarily automated, but they would frequently show signs of manual intervention, such as posting original content or slightly changing the wording of reposted contented, presumably in an attempt to make them appear more authentic and reduce the risk of their deletion. Fake news accounts were set up to monitor blog activity and automatically push new blog posts to Twitter. Auxiliary accounts were configured to retweet content pushed out by the main accounts.

Marking Key Military Positions in a Potential U.S.-Iran Conflict

Tehran can hardly be expected to be cavalier about a potential military conflict with Washington, especially given the disproportionate advantage of the United States and the devastation that such a conflict could inflict on Iran's economy, its populace and, potentially, its government. But caution aside, a broader conflict is not beyond the realm of possibility, what with the countries' mutual hostility and mistrust, lack of communication channels to quickly resolve a conflict, and the organizational structure of Iran's forces — units of which have a major incentive to strike while the iron is hot.

Fully cognizant of the U.S. military's vastly superior conventional military capabilities, Iran has invested for decades in asymmetric capabilities such as proxy forces, ballistic missiles, naval mines and fast-attack craft to better strike U.S. assets, critical energy infrastructure around the Persian Gulf and other key strategic targets. These forces and tactics, however, hardly compensate for Iran's overall relative weakness; indeed, Tehran is fully aware that many of these assets are particularly vulnerable to a U.S. strike while they remain tied up in port, garrisons or bases.