22 September 2019

Honey traps, deepfakes, AI: Why India’s RAW needs to prepare for threats beyond terrorism

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The devastating 9/11 attack put the global intelligence community in overdrive and forced agencies to reform and retool in order to fight international terrorism. The US Congress, for instance, spent billions of dollars to support the transformation of the CIA and other components of US intelligence. Following the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, India’s security architecture too underwent changes and has since been able to unravel numerous terror plots.

But the world today is confronted with security threats that go beyond terrorism.

In 2018, it was reported that a senior IAF officer was sharing sensitive information with two women he had befriended on Facebook. It was later discovered that he had been honey-trapped by a spy agency that was using fake social media profiles. Certainly, the officer knew that he was acting against the Official Secrets Act. But the incident itself is a testament to how technology can be and is being used for espionage. Since then, many such cases have been reported. It is near impossible to identify the different ways in which technology can pose a threat to intelligence agencies. 

While the top brass can issue orders to be mindful of sharing sensitive information with strangers on the internet, it should be the mandate of the RAW, as India’s primary external intelligence agency to train its workforce to identify such threats and employ strategies to mitigate them. Simultaneously, the RAW should also see how it can best use emerging technologies to achieve its goals.

In Pakistan-Held Kashmir, Growing Calls for Independence

By Maria Abi-Habib, Jalaluddin Mughal and Salman Masood

MUZAFFARABAD, Kashmir — In Pakistan-controlled Azad Jammu and Kashmir, the simple fact of the region’s name — with azad meaning free — is a declaration that Kashmiris here enjoy a liberty denied to their kin across the border, in the Indian-held portion of the disputed territory.

But even in Pakistan-held Kashmir, the message has been clear, residents say: No talk of independence will be allowed.

As an Indian crackdown on the other side of Kashmir has led to massive civil unrest and new calls for a Kashmir free from either India or Pakistan, local activists and officials say a parallel security operation is being pushed inside Pakistan.

Pakistan has long prided itself on being a champion for Kashmiris, who are predominantly Muslim. And the government has chastised India for suppressing calls for freedom in the portion of Kashmir that New Delhi controls.

But New York Times journalists who were granted rare access to Azad Jammu and Kashmir in recent days found a toughening Pakistani security response to a growing independence movement here.

Residents say the upwelling is rooted in fears that their ability to reunify has been slowly slipping away ever since India increased its control of the divided territory and Pakistan did little to stop it other than to offer negotiations that India refused.

Governor: Suicide bomb in southern Afghanistan kills 20


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A powerful suicide truck bomb devastated a hospital in southern Afghanistan early Thursday morning, killing 20 people and wounding 97 others, according to the province’s governor, while a deadly drone strike in the country’s east was blamed on U.S. forces.

The Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, have carried out nearly daily attacks since peace talks with the United States collapsed earlier this month.

Thursday’s massive explosion destroyed part of the hospital in Qalat, the capital of southern Zabul province, and left a fleet of ambulances broken and battered.

Local residents, many of whom had come to see their sick family members, used shawls and blankets to carry the wounded inside the destroyed building, while authorities scrambled to take the worst of the wounded to hospitals in nearby Kandahar.

Hours earlier, a drone attack in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province blamed on U.S. forces killed at least 16 and wounded tens of others, most of them civilians, said Jawaid Zaman, presidential adviser on tribal affairs.

The U.S. forces in Afghanistan said they carried out a strike in eastern Nangarhar targeting Islamic State positions in the area.

Persistent Engagement with Chinese Characteristics

By Alex Campbell

In 2018, U.S. cyber strategy shifted from a reactive, deterrence-based approach to the forward-postured, proactive policy of persistent engagement. Persistent engagement broadly entails more active defense against cyberattacks and a more constant pace of operations. The strategy rests on theoretical conceptions of the cyber domain recently advanced by scholars, but also on the argument that America’s competitors have long been practicing the same. For example, U.S. government officials routinely cite Chinese cyber-enabled economic and political espionage as a type of persistent engagement—that is, of constant cyber operations that don’t rise to the level of armed conflict yet yield strategic advantage. 

But while Chinese analysts of cyber conflict see the domain in terms similar to persistent engagement, their reaction to the new U.S. strategy seems relatively subdued or confused. Though scholars in both countries recognize the utility and even necessity of persistent engagement-like strategies, those in China seem not to have understood that the United States has now adopted one. This discrepancy reveals potential shortcomings in the ability of persistent engagement to effectively communicate expectations between states, and it merits further attention in order to avoid misperception in a uniquely opaque domain.

China’s Quest for Gas Supply Security: The Global ImplicationsEtudes de l'Ifri, September 2019

The major transformations that are occurring on the Chinese gas market have profound repercussions on the global gas and LNG markets, especially on trade, investment and prices. In just two years, China has become the world’s first gas importer and is on track to become the largest importer of Liquefied natural gas (LNG).

China alone explained 63% of the net global LNG demand growth in 2018 and now accounts for 17% of global LNG imports. The pace and scale of China’s LNG imports have reshaped the global LNG market. Over the past two years, fears of an LNG supply glut have largely been replaced by warnings that the lack of investments in new LNG capacity would lead to a supply shortage in the mid-2020s unless more LNG production project commitments are made soon. There is now a bullish outlook for future global LNG demand which has encouraged companies to sanction additional LNG projects, based on the anticipated supply shortage. China’s gas imports can be expected to continue to grow strongly, from 120 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2018 to up to 300 bcm by 2030.

The United States (US)-China trade war has not prevented US developers from investing in new liquefaction trains so far but without China’s equity or contracts: out of the seven LNG export projects sanctioned between October 2018 and August 2019, three are in the US. However, since the imposition by China of a 10% tariff on US LNG in retaliation to US tariffs on Chinese goods, Chinese imports of US LNG have collapsed.

Who Is Winning the AI Race: China, the EU or the United States?

by Daniel Castro, Michael McLaughlin and Eline Chivot 

Many nations are racing to achieve a global innovation advantage in artificial intelligence (AI) because they understand that AI is a foundational technology that can boost competitiveness, increase productivity, protect national security, and help solve societal challenges. This report compares China, the European Union, and the United States in terms of their relative standing in the AI economy by examining six categories of metrics—talent, research, development, adoption, data, and hardware. It finds that despite China’s bold AI initiative, the United States still leads in absolute terms. China comes in second, and the European Union lags further behind. This order could change in coming years as China appears to be making more rapid progress than either the United States or the European Union. Nonetheless, when controlling for the size of the labor force in the three regions, the current U.S. lead becomes even larger, while China drops to third place, behind the European Union. This report also offers a range of policy recommendations to help each nation or region improve its AI capabilities.

China's Non-state Universities: What It Takes to Succeed

By Olivia A. Halsall

What happens when a local Chinese tycoon establishes a non-state university with private funds?

Educational philanthropy encompasses many traditional Chinese values. Confucius said, “by three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” State appropriation and Chinese nationalism, however, are not to be confused with Confucianism.

While Xi Jinping’s efforts at national rejuvenation use the Confucian emphasis of “modesty, the arts of peace, and the vision of oneself as a set of relationships” as its framework, anything that falls out of line with these values has no place in Xi’s China. More and more communist-red banners are popping up all over cities – particularly outside schools and universities. 

So, what happens when a local Chinese tycoon establishes a non-state university with private funds? And how can a privately established university offering vocational courses continue to charge high fees when they fall short of students’ expectations? Both in China’s southern Guangdong province, Shantou University and Baiyun University are non-state higher education institutions. The difference in nature, thought, specialization (and quality) between them has resulted in the pending failure of one, and budding support of the other. 

Abu Dhabi dispatch: The great Sino-US decoupling

The most knowing delegates at this year’s World Energy Congress continued to worry about the US-Chinese trade war.

It has slowed growth and placed the biggest drag on oil prices.

At the same time, however, they were shifting focus to the more momentous and generational event of the decoupling of the world’s two weightiest economies.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – If one strains hard enough to listen in the humid heat of this oil-rich kingdom, one can hear the rumblings of the most profound event for global energy markets and the world economy, not only for this year but perhaps for this era:

It is the decoupling of the world’s two weightiest economies, that of China and the United States. The process seems as inescapable as its extent and global impact remains incalculable.

This week’s news that President Trump was delaying by two weeks a tariff increase on $250 billion of Chinese goods planned for October 1, the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, is unlikely to slow this trend, and neither will China’s responding exemption of pork and soybeans from new tariffs. 

Saudi oil attacks: Who's using drones in the Middle East?

By Jonathan Marcus

The attacks on Saudi oil installations have led to speculation that armed drones were involved.

Both the United States and the Saudi authorities say this may well have been the case.

The offensive use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has grown significantly in recent years, and nowhere more so than in the Middle East.

So who has them and who has used them in combat?

A new weapon

The first combat use of an armed drone came in October 2001, on the first night of the Afghan War against a Taliban convoy.

Armed UAVs were initially the preserve of a few technologically advanced nations, with Israel and the United States very much in the lead.

Soon a new provider came onto the scene - China, eager to sell its weaponry around the world.

The Chinese have boosted the spread of military drones in the Middle East, selling weaponry to at least half a dozen governments.

Saudis couldn’t stop attack on oil facilities, even with top US defenses

By: Robert Burns

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia spent billions to protect a kingdom built on oil but could not stop the suspected Iranian drone and missile attack, exposing gaps that even America’s most advanced weaponry failed to fill.

In addition to deciding whether that firepower should be turned on Iran in retaliation, the Saudis and their American allies must now figure out how to prevent a repeat of last weekend’s attack — or worse, such as an assault on the Saudis’ export facilities in the Persian Gulf or any of the desalination plants that supply drinking water.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked Wednesday on his way to Saudi Arabia how it was possible that the kingdom could have dropped its guard, failing to stop any of the low-flying cruise missiles or armed drones that struck the Abqaiq oil processing center — the largest of its kind in the world — and the Khurais oil field.

Trump administration weighing retaliatory action against Iran after Saudi oil attack

The Trump administration is weighing a range of options for a retaliatory action against Iran
In a national security meeting on Monday, U.S. military leaders provided President Donald Trump with a menu of possible actions against Iran. Actions could include a cyberattack or physical strike on Iranian oil facilities or Revolutionary Guard assets.

President Donald Trump welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 20, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The Trump administration is weighing a range of options for a retaliatory action against Iran, including a cyberattack or physical strike on Iranian oil facilities or Revolutionary Guard assets, U.S. officials and others briefed on the deliberations told NBC News.

In a national security meeting on Monday, U.S. military leaders provided President Donald Trump with a menu of possible actions against Iran. But the president, seeking a narrowly focused response that wouldn’t draw the U.S. into broader military conflict with Iran, asked for more options, people briefed on the meeting said.

Around the halls: Brookings experts react to the attack on Saudi oil facilities

Samantha Gross, Suzanne Maloney, Bruce Riedel, and Daniel L. Byman
Samantha Gross (@samanthaenergy), Fellow in the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate: The attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia over the weekend was a direct attack on the heart of the Saudi economy and the global oil system. The damaged facilities are central to Saudi ability to export crude oil and removed 6% of global crude supply from the market. However, the facilities have significant excess capacity and were not destroyed, so the Saudis may be able to restore exports relatively quickly. Time will tell.

From an energy security perspective, the Trump administration has been telling us that the United States is now “energy dominant” and that we no longer need Middle East oil. This incident shows how important the region still is to global oil markets, and in turn the United States. The United States is now the world’s largest oil producer, but we still import significant quantities of oil. Oil is also priced on a global market — U.S. consumers don’t get a special deal just because oil is produced here. Saudi Arabia is still the indispensable country in oil markets, owing to its large exports and ability to use spare capacity to move prices.

Suzanne Maloney (@MaloneySuzanne), Senior Fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy: The latest crisis in the Persian Gulf is still very much unfolding, and many questions remain unanswered at this time. Given the Trump administration’s well-established pattern of prevarication, and the legacy of intelligence manipulation to justify the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, skepticism about the quick claims by U.S. officials of Iranian complicity is warranted. Clear, credible evidence will be needed to persuade the international community, as well as an American public weary of costly, protracted U.S. military engagement in the Middle East.

Danger in the Gulf: What the Attack on Saudi Arabian Oil Means for America

by Alireza Ahmadi

For hawks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, American power, as the Bolshevik adage goes, cannot fail, it can only be failed. For many of his ilk, the superiority of American power means the willingness to project it is the only thing needed to earn the capitulation of foes and the only way America loses is if it chooses to relent. Donald Trump, however, watched George W. Bush’s presidency burn in the Iraq war and is unlikely to embrace the chaos of war heading into an election year. President Trump would be wise to heed the lessons of the most recent volatile security episode in the Persian Gulf region, especially as it pertains to his administration’s campaign against Tehran.

After the strike on the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Pompeo charged that the strike was not conducted by Houthi drones but rather by cruise missiles fired directly by the Iranian military from inside Iran or Iraq. The Houthis have claimed the attack and Iran has vociferously denied Pompeo’s claim. The material evidence, in the form of satellite pictures the U.S. government claimed would establish Iran as the direct culprit, as the New York Times put it, “did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested.” Much of the rest of what is provided is in the form of claims from unnamed U.S. officials, even as the Pentagon seems disinterested in supporting Pompeo’s claim despite this being a military matter. Rather than focusing on the web of charges and retorts, it may be better to look at the strategic impacts of these scenarios.

Why Iran is risking war with Saudi Arabia and America

By Simon Waldman

Although the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for last week’s attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant, the audacious operation looks like the handiwork of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is even emerging that the drones or cruise missiles were fired directly from Iranian soil.

Stirrings of war are on the horizon. President Donald Trump warned that a US response is “locked and loaded” and the Saudi King and Crown Prince are not best pleased.

For years, Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have engaged in a proxy conflict. Currently, the regional rivals support different sides in the civil wars in Syria and Yemen. But why would Iran instigate a direct attack against Saudi Arabia and risk conflict not only with Riyadh, but possibly the United States as well? The attack seems especially irrational considering the timing. Just days earlier there was credible talk about a potential meeting between Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations. Meanwhile, Trump fired his hawkish national security advisor John Bolton, indicating a willingness to ease some sanctions.

Perhaps Iran wanted revenge against Riyadh’s involvement in Yemen, a civil war that has claimed 90,000 lives, including tens of thousands of civilians, and caused widespread misery, poverty and disease? However, if Iran figured that disrupting Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues would push the Kingdom to retreat from Yemen, it was a serious miscalculation.

Attack on Saudi Oil Infrastructure: We May Have Dodged a Bullet, at Least for Now . . .

This weekend’s attack on Saudi oil facilities in Khurais and Abqaiq represents the single largest daily oil supply disruption in history—larger than the maximum daily output loss resulting from the Iranian Revolution, the invasion of Iraq, the Venezuelan oil strike of 2002-2003, or any of the Gulf coast hurricanes and almost twice as large as the combined outages produced by U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. The attacks targeted two critical Saudi facilities: one of the nation’s largest producing fields, Khurais, and the crown jewel of the Saudi oil system, the massive stabilization and processing facility at Abqaiq. The total supply loss from taking these facilities offline amounted to some 5.7 million barrels per day (b/d) in oil output—more than half of Saudi Arabia’s recent output and about 6 percent of global supply—as well as 2 billion cubic feet per day of associated gas.

A rude awakening to be sure given that last week’s oil market discussions focused on increasing Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries-plus (OPEC+) compliance and overarching concerns relative to trade wars and a global demand meltdown. For an oil market mired in the doldrums of $55-$60 oil, the attacks unsurprisingly produced a pronounced market reaction on Monday morning, with Brent opening at $67/barrel and continuing to increase throughout the day awaiting Saudi Aramco’s release of an updated damage report and restoration schedule. Undoubtedly, speculative positioning (which had been waiting for a bullish signal) coupled with the uncertainty surrounding further attacks or reprisals bolstered trading activity. However, the size and duration of the outage coupled with the availability and timing of other supply options, including the release of strategic stocks, and demand growth considerations will ultimately dictate future price movements.

Iran Might Be America’s Enemy, but Saudi Arabia Is No Friend

By Andrew J. Bacevich

After last week’s refinery attack, Trump should be careful about throwing America’s weight behind an unreliable “ally.”

In 1987, an Iraqi warplane attacked an American Navy frigate, the Stark, on patrol in the Persian Gulf. Accepting Saddam Hussein’s explanation that the attack, which killed 37 sailors, had been an accident, American officials promptly used the episode, which came at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, to ratchet up pressure on Tehran. The incident provided the impetus for what became a brief, and all but forgotten, maritime war between the United States and Iran.

Last week, someone — precisely who remains to be determined — attacked two oil refineries in Saudi Arabia. American authorities have been quick to blame Iran, and the possibility of a violent confrontation between the two countries is once again growing. Before making a decision on whether to pull the trigger, President Trump would do well to reflect on that 1987 episode and its legacy.

Back then, the United States had become involved in the very bloody and seemingly interminable Iran-Iraq war, which Hussein had instigated in 1980 by invading Iran. As that war turned into a brutal stalemate, President Ronald Reagan and his advisers persuaded themselves that it was in America’s interests to come to Iraq’s aid. Iran was the “enemy,” so Iraq became America’s “friend.”

Sept 18, 1931: Japan Invaded China!

Frank Li

Eighty-eight years ago today (i.e. 9/18/1931), Japan invaded China (Japanese invasion of Manchuria)! It's a huge event in Chinese history, especially as a big part of China's Century of humiliation. So, let's better understand it, shall we?

1. What happened on 9/18/1931?

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria began on 18 September 1931, when the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria immediately following the Mukden Incident. After the war, the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo. Their occupation lasted until the Soviet Union and Mongolia launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation in 1945.

Is Trump Suddenly Looking for a Diplomatic Breakthrough With Venezuela?

Frida Ghitis

The day after he fired John Bolton, President Donald Trump was explaining to reporters at the White House why he had ousted his third national security adviser. Among other reasons, Trump said he “disagreed with John Bolton on his attitudes on Venezuela—I thought he was way out of line.”

It was a surprising remark because, while Bolton is a well-known hawk, when it comes to Venezuela, Trump has been openly proposing the use of U.S. military force against President Nicolas Maduro’s regime since early in his presidency. So the comment must have been welcome news in Caracas, since it appeared to suggest that Trump has turned decisively against that hawkish approach to Venezuela. ...

Just How Strong Is Erdogan’s Hold on Turkey?

With his sweeping overhaul of Turkey’s political system in 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to cement his near-total control over the country. Though Erdogan just suffered the worst electoral setback of his political career in the Istanbul mayoral election, which was rerun June 23, his disregard for the outcome of the initial vote there was the clearest signal that he may be prepared to completely destabilize Turkey’s democracy to maintain that grip on power.

After the opposition won a narrow March vote, the Supreme Election Council sided with Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and overturned the results. The Supreme Election Council’s decision underscores how severe the erosion of democratic institutions has been under the AKP. Though opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, won the rerun, Erdogan’s interference with the initial outcome points to a future in which the regime may no longer even look for institutional cover when it decides to subvert democratic norms.

Brussels and Washington both publicly criticized the decision at the time, but their options are limited when it comes to exerting pressure on Erdogan. Turkish cooperation is critical to the European Union’s goal of blocking Syrian immigrants and refugees from reaching Europe, and Erdogan is very much aware of the trump card he holds. That effort has not been enough, though, to successfully jumpstart Turkey’s accession talks with the EU, though it is no longer clear how significant a goal that is for Erdogan.

Trump Sanctions Iran Again, Inching Toward Economic Blockade

By Keith Johnson

Just days after declaring the United States was “locked and loaded” in response to a suspected Iranian attack on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he directed the Treasury Department to “substantially increase” sanctions on Iran.

That raises several questions: What is left to sanction? How much more could it hurt Iran than losing almost all of its oil exports? And would those new sanctions be a prelude to U.S. military action against Iran or its proxies—or a substitute?

For the Trump administration, to an even greater degree than prior administrations, using the full force of U.S. economic statecraft has been the preferred way to apply so-called maximum pressure on Tehran since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018. U.S. sanctions have cut off Iran from the international financial system, all but zeroed out Iranian oil exports, and scared off international banks and suppliers even in sectors—like food and medicine—that aren’t technically subject to sanctions.

Trump and his officials appear to believe the economic chokehold is working. Iran’s inflation is officially north of 40 percent (and many economists suspect it is much higher), its economy is projected to shrink by 3 to 6 percent this year, and, most importantly, the regime’s main source of revenue to fund destabilizing activities in the region has been severely curtailed. Oil exports have cratered from about 2.5 million barrels a day before Trump left the nuclear deal to less than 200,000 barrels a day now—and most of those are shipped out to repay debt, not to earn hard currency.

In Argentina, an Economic Crisis Portends Political Chaos

Argentina's worsening financial crisis has increased the chances that a protectionist opposition government will successfully unseat President Mauricio Macri's pro-business administration in the country's Oct. 27 presidential election. 

To prevent capital flight amid the peso's slide, the Argentine government may tighten currency controls in the weeks leading up to the election, a measure that would likely remain in place after the vote. 

If opposition leader Alberto Fernandez wins the presidency, he will try to renegotiate the austerity measures tied to Argentina's rescue program with the International Monetary Fund. 

A return to protectionist policies under a Fernandez-led government would put the future of the Mercosur-EU free trade deal at risk, as well as strain Brazilian-Argentine trade ties. 

The WTO at a Crossroad

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is at a crossroad. Each of WTO’s three main functions—monitoring and transparency, negotiation, and dispute settlement—is under stress. There is no single source for that stress. Some pressure flows from individual members, and other pressure flows from members’ inability to reach consensus on long-standing irritants. Pressure has also come from the rise of China and its state-driven economy, the rapid pace of technological change and its impact on the global economy, persistent economic inequality, and a recent tilt towards nationalism in the recent decade in countries that have otherwise consistently advocated for free trade. How will this essential institution navigate these challenges? In its latest report, the CSIS Scholl Chair in International Business provides a roadmap of three possible future scenarios for the WTO—continuation of status quo gridlock, U.S. withdrawal from the WTO, and successful reform—and examines what happens to the global trading order in each.

In addition to the report, the Scholl Chair has assembled two resources to chart the future of the WTO: a database to track WTO reform proposals and a series of flowcharts that map future scenarios for the WTO

This report is made possible by the generous support of HP Inc.

Tweeting through the Great Firewall

Tom Uren , Elise Thomas 

Tweeting through the Great Firewall

Preliminary Analysis of PRC-linked Information Operations on the Hong Kong Protests


On August 19th 2019, Twitter released data on a network of accounts which it has identified as being involved in an information operation directed against the protests in Hong Kong. After a tip-off from Twitter, Facebook also dismantled a smaller information network operating on its platform. This network has been identified as being linked to the Chinese government. 

Researchers from the International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute have conducted a preliminary analysis of the dataset. Our research indicates that the information operation targeted at the protests appears to have been a relatively small and hastily assembled operation rather than a sophisticated information campaign planned well in advance.

However, our research has also found that the accounts included in the information operation identified by Twitter were active in earlier information operations targeting political opponents of the Chinese government, including an exiled billionaire, a human rights lawyer, a bookseller and protestors in mainland China. The earliest of these operations date back to April 2017.

This is significant because—if the attribution to state-backed actors made by Twitter is correct—it indicates that actors linked to the Chinese government may have been running covert information operations on Western social media platforms for at least two years. 

AI Startups and the Fight Against Online Disinformation

Anya Schiffrin

On both sides of the Atlantic, governments, foundations, and companies are looking at how to solve the problem of online dis/misinformation. Some emphasize the demand side of the problem, believing it important to focus on consumer behavior and the use of media literacy and fact-checking. Some focus on legal remedies such as platform-liability and hate-speech laws as well as privacy protections. Meanwhile, others try to raise the quality of journalism and support local news in the hope that creating more reliable content will be a counterweight to the dis/misinformation found online.

In short, there are myriad solutions aimed at addressing the problem of online dis/misinformation. This study looks at one kind of fix: the small companies in the information ecosystem that use natural language processing as well as human intelligence to identify and, in some cases, block false or inflammatory content online. There are impediments to the success of this entrepreneurial approach, including the fact that disinformation detection by algorithms is complicated, it is hard to scale, and that it is unclear whether the platforms have an incentive to adopt such technology. It is very likely that platforms such as Facebook or Twitter—which already screen, block, and remove fake accounts and content—will copy the technology or will buy out the small firms for the skills of their staff and for their products in order to gain access to the AI needed for further screening.

Shaping Inclusive Governance in Cyberspace

Bruno Lété

The United Nations remains the best platform to shape global norms on state behavior in cyberspace. But, despite its achievements, the UN’s intergovernmental process struggles to make progress, not least because of deep divisions within the international community about which rules should apply in cyberspace. There is a need to reevaluate cyber governance efforts and to think of new practices that adopt a multi-stakeholder model, instead of relying solely on the current rigid intergovernmental approach. There may be renewed energy for such discussion now that the UN’s First Committee has endorsed two parallel processes on cyber norms—the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) and a sixth round of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE).

Other international organizations have already successfully institutionalized multi-stakeholder models involving NGOs or business in their policymaking processes. Their best practices and lessons learned for stakeholder input could be adapted and used at the UN level. This paper looks at the experience of several intergovernmental organizations active in various non-cyber domains, including the Arctic Council, the European Union, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the World Health Organization. They vary widely in form and function, and they are not comparable to the UN. Nonetheless, studying them identifies the following types of multi-stakeholder inclusion:

Hostile Social Manipulation

by Michael J. Mazarr

The role of information warfare in global strategic competition has become much more apparent in recent years. Today's practitioners of what this report's authors term hostile social manipulation employ targeted social media campaigns, sophisticated forgeries, cyberbullying and harassment of individuals, distribution of rumors and conspiracy theories, and other tools and approaches to cause damage to the target state. These emerging tools and techniques represent a potentially significant threat to U.S. and allied national interests. This report represents an effort to better define and understand the challenge by focusing on the activities of the two leading authors of such techniques — Russia and China. The authors conduct a detailed assessment of available evidence of Russian and Chinese social manipulation efforts, the doctrines and strategies behind such efforts, and evidence of their potential effectiveness. RAND analysts reviewed English-, Russian-, and Chinese-language sources; examined national security strategies and policies and military doctrines; surveyed existing public-source evidence of Russian and Chinese activities; and assessed multiple categories of evidence of effectiveness of Russian activities in Europe, including public opinion data, evidence on the trends in support of political parties and movements sympathetic to Russia, and data from national defense policies. The authors find a growing commitment to tools of social manipulation by leading U.S. competitors. The findings in this report are sufficient to suggest that the U.S. government should take several immediate steps, including developing a more formal and concrete framework for understanding the issue and funding additional research to understand the scope of the challenge.

Former 5th Fleet Commander: Iran Attacks on Saudi Oil a ‘Significant Escalation’

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Consensus is building in Washington that a devastating attack on Saudi oil infrastructure over the weekend came via Iran, whether through its Houthi rebel proxies in Yemen or directly from launch sites in Iran. And early Monday, reports emerged that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized another vessel in the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. President Donald Trump raised the possibility of direct U.S. military action against Iran in a Sunday tweet, writing that the United States is “locked and loaded” to respond. But U.S. officials are now waiting on Saudi Arabia for guidance on what comes next.

Foreign Policy spoke with retired Vice Adm. John Miller, who from 2012 to 2015 commanded the U.S. 5th Fleet, the main U.S. military force around the Persian Gulf. 

Foreign Policy: The Houthis initially took responsibility for the attack, but the Trump administration has been quick to blame Tehran. What do you make of the finger-pointing?

UK Chief of Defence Intelligence looks to OSINT

Publicly available data will be the backbone of the UK military's situational awareness in future conflicts and crises, according to the country's Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), Lieutenant-General James Hockenhull. Speaking at a briefing at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) event in London on 11 September 2019, Hockenhull - who was commissioned into the British Army's Intelligence Corps in 1986 - described the potential for open-source intelligence (OSINT) to transform how his organisation operates.

"Publicly available data is the future backbone of situational awareness," said Hockenhull, describing data as crucial to understanding what is happening in an increasingly confused and fast-moving world. He said that the world was "transparent" and pointed to how commercial satellite data had transformed Defence Intelligence's understanding of world events.

Defence Intelligence is the UK Ministry of Defence's in-house intelligence organisation, sitting inside Joint Forces Command (JFC). Hockenhull said, "We need significant change in the way we do business," describing how existing methods of operating from the Cold War and counter-terrorism operations were no longer fit for modern challenges. "I am the first career intelligence officer to be CDI," he declared. "We are professionalising what we do - this is no longer a sport for gifted amateurs."

Major War Game To Jolt 4 Services, Force Decisions


WASHINGTON: The Pentagon is kicking off a new series of joint war games and exercises this fall designed to figure out how to confront peer adversaries like China and Russia, as military leaders rush to come up with new ideas for how to fight through what one Army general describes as a “hyperactive” battlefield. 

The “globally integrated exercises” will include all four armed services, some of the 10 combatant commanders, and several government agencies, who together will try to mesh their various ideas for how to counter threats ranging from information warfare and cyber attacks right up to ballistic missile salvos and potential clashes of fifth generation aircraft. 

The idea is that exercise will act as a jolt to the Pentagon’s nerve system, and become “a forcing function where you bring your service concept to the table and see how it operates, and then make compromises from there,” Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, of the Army’s Futures Command told reporters at a Defense News conference today. 

“We think we need a solid description of how the joint force sees that [potential future fight] going, and I think that is the next significant effort the services should get after,” he added.

Each branch of the armed services has its own ideas and capabilities for meeting peer competitors, but “what we don’t have is a joint concept that accurately and with rigor describes how the services will fight against a peer adversary,” Wesley said. “That hasn’t been completed yet.”

The Future of U.S. Military Doctrine Will Be Decided by Technology

Bob Scales

Doctrine is an Army’s game plan. Doctrine not only tells an Army how to fight but also communicates intent to the fighting forces from those in the institutional Army who are the gatekeepers of ideas. The progression that leads to doctrine stretches across a temporal “reverse highway” that begins well into the future with a vision of how future wars will be fought. At some point along the highway visioning solidifies into warfighting concepts. All too often the concept phase of this journey is where dead ends and misleading road signs appear. Visioning is cheap and ephemeral. Concepts, on the other hand, ossify ideas and turn them into opinions. Opinions, even false ones, are defended by those whose influences are at stake. Opinions lead to investments that launch programs. Eventually, the highway ends at the doctrinal present, as organizations and weapons emerge to provide the tools and formations to fight our wars.

The length of the temporal highway depends on how quickly technological variables affect battlefield dynamics. During the agricultural age, the pace of change was measured in generations. The musket and field gun of Gustavus Adolphus’s seventeenth-century army was little changed from the weapons used by European armies in the mid-nineteenth century. The pace of societal innovation in the late nineteenth century accelerated technological change by an order of magnitude. A veteran of the late Civil War battles would have recognized the horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front in World War I. But he would have been mystified by the technologies that caused the slaughter: the machine gun, small bore rifle, quick firing, long-range artillery and aircraft.