12 December 2021


Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Microsoft released its second annual Digital Defense Report, covering July 2020 to June 2021. This year s 134 pages report is quite detailed, with sections on cybercrime, nationstate threats, supply-chain attacks and Internet of Things attacks. The report includes security suggestions for organizations with remote workforces. It has a section describing the use of social media to spread disinformation. The report is a compilation of integrated data and actionable insights from across 

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

SPECIAL REPORT: India Manages Diverse Arms Sources for Military Modernization

Meredith Roaten

India is tapping into a wide array of suppliers in the global arms market, as well as its own indigenous capabilities, as it modernizes its armed forces and squares off with China. The nation’s geography and lack of a formal alliance with the United States allows India the freedom to diversify its sources, but it comes at the cost of creating tension in the burgeoning partnership between Washington and New Delhi, according to defense manufacturers and analysts.

India — the only member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue group of nations to share a land border with China — has long been raising the alarm about Beijing’s efforts to project power in the Indo-Pacific, said Richard Rossow, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. India was early to call out what many observers now see as Beijing’s ulterior motives with its Belt and Road Initiative — a plan to develop new trade routes between China and the rest of the world — and dealings with vulnerable island nations in the Indo-Pacific such as the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Rossow said.

Now, India is teaming up with nations with similar strategic interests, such as the other members of the Quad group including the United States, Australia and Japan. China has condemned the partnership through state-run media and official statements, he noted.

Interpreting India at the Summit for Democracy

Constantino Xavier

As the world’s largest democracy, with 1.4 billion people, India is an indispensable actor for democratic cooperation, especially beyond the West. For the Indian government, the future of democracy is being played out in Asia and Africa, where states are experimenting with competing governance models amidst China’s growing autocratic influence. More than a moral issue, India sees democracy as a factor that can facilitate convergence with fellow democracies towards a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will likely use his participation at the Summit for Democracy to present India as a vibrant democracy that, despite many flaws, remains an exceptional success in the non-Western world. He may also see the summit as an opportunity to showcase India’s values-driven foreign policy and democracy assistance, especially to developing countries.

By striking a contrast with China, Modi may also seek to highlight India as a preferred economic and strategic partner based on shared principles such as the rule of law to attract investments or revive multilateralism. Finally, Modi may use the summit to further articulate a non-Western, native definition of Indian democracy, which dilutes the idea of universal democratic standards and resonates with his nationalist support base.

Modi’s Delicate Balancing Act Modi’s twin diplomatic meetings this week underscore how Russia remains a source of discord between the United States and India.

Charu Sudan Kasturi

As dusk fell on Monday in a chilly New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin embraced each other and shook hands, posing with wide smiles for photographers. Two hours later, India’s foreign secretary confirmed that the country expects to receive the first of a set of Russian S-400 missile defense systems this month. The defense deal has come to represent new warmth in an old relationship that has frayed in recent years as India drifts toward the United States and Russia drifts toward China.

Yet that symbol of bonhomie is sparking concerns and reviving gnawing questions in Washington over just how much it can trust New Delhi, with which it is cementing a rapidly growing strategic partnership. Consider the optics: Three days after Modi hosted Putin at a sprawling, butterfly-shaped, colonial-era estate in the heart of the Indian capital, the prime minister will join U.S. President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy with more than 100 other world leaders.

That virtual conclave is part of Biden’s attempt to craft a global democratic consensus as the antidote to authoritarianism, with China and Russia—both of which have reacted angrily at not being invited—as the unstated targets of the initiative. But while India and the United States view each other as vital partners in combating China’s rise, Modi’s twin diplomatic meetings this week underscore how Russia remains a source of discord between the world’s two largest democracies.

Why the Taliban Still Love Suicide Bombing

Atal Ahmadzai

Soon after they seized control of Kabul in mid-August, the Taliban paraded their Istish-haadi (“seeking martyrdom”) or suicide bomber squadron on national television. The disturbing display exhibited an arsenal of suicide vests, suicide car bombs, and yellow plastic jerry cans—used to make the group’s signature improvised explosive devices (IEDs)—while a ballad glorifying the bombs and associated bombers played over the visuals.

On a separate occasion, the Taliban memorialized suicide bombers at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. This time, the regime’s interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani—head of the notorious Haqqani network—addressed hundreds of men representing the family members of suicide bombers. Haqqani congratulated the men for their loved ones’ divine sacrifice and gifted them with clothes, cash, and the promised allocation of land plots. And in October, amid increasing tensions with Tajikistan, the group announced the deployment of 3,000 suicide bombers to the border between the two countries.

Clearly, the Taliban’s passion for suicide bombing did not end with their military victory. If anything, their love of suicide bombing seems to be taking a new turn, with Taliban officials publicly venerating the tactic and its agents in an apparent attempt to normalize it on a larger, societal scale.

The Realistic Path to Deterring China


China’s accelerating military modernization has spurred a growing fatalism among some defense experts, maintaining that Taiwan is undefendable and the United States should save face by competing elsewhere with Beijing. Strategists on the other side argue that the deteriorating cross-strait military balance demands a near-wartime mobilization to prevent an invasion of Taiwan and subsequent collapse of U.S.-led alliances. Unfortunately, both approaches are likely to fail due to the changing character of military confrontations, and focusing on them will divert resources away from a realistic path to deter China that stokes uncertainty and nullifies the benefits of aggression.

The autocracy that enables the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to prioritize security spending and fuse civil and military action also makes the regime brittle. Unfortunately, the main approaches to deterrence taken in recent U.S. defense strategies — punishment and denial — do not exploit this vulnerability.

Threats of punishment ring hollow when they would entail new disruptions and casualties, as evidenced by the lack of response following Russia’s annexation of Crimea or China’s provocations and island-building in the South China Sea. But completely denying Chinese aggression against Taiwan will require permanent increases in military posture by the U.S. and its Indo-Pacific allies that are likely unsustainable due to industrial-base constraints, inflation, and demands for forces in other regions. Even if the U.S. and allied forces did sustain a “ring of steel” around Taiwan, China could pressure Taipei with gray-zone or hybrid tactics and economic warfare.

FOCAC 2021: China’s retrenchment from Africa?

Yun Sun

The eighth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) ministerial meeting that took place in Dakar, Senegal, concluded just last week. Like previous FOCAC meetings, China presented its vision for China-Africa relations for the next three years, this time under the theme “Deepen China-Africa Partnership and Promote Sustainable Development to Build a China-Africa Community with a Shared Future in the New Era.” A review of the content, however, illustrates significant shifts in China’s priorities, emphasis, and approaches from its earlier patterns. In fact, the Financial Times has lamented the quantitative reduction of China’s financial commitments from $60 billion in 2018 to $40 billion this year. However, it is the qualitative changes that raise bigger questions as to whether China is leaving Africa after two decades of robust and ever-growing engagement. Some of the shifts could be temporary and tactical. However, the impact of the others could be far-reaching and long-term.


Unlike the past two FOCAC meetings—Johannesburg in 2015 and Beijing in 2018—that, respectively, garnered 13 and over 50 African heads of state or government, the Dakar FOCAC meeting this year was a ministerial-level meeting. Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech virtually, which did boost the seniority level of the meeting, but such a change in attendance raises the question as to whether FOCAC has been downgraded.

China’s Regulatory Crackdown Begins to Sweep Up Foreign Firms

Rachel Cheung

Nearly a year since Chinese authorities brought the Ant Group’s initial public offering, or IPO, to a halt, the domestic tech industry is still reeling from a relentless crackdown that has since broadened to include other sectors of the economy. In its latest reshuffling, the Alibaba Group replaced its chief financial officer and reorganized its sales team. The decision is part of the tech giant’s continuing restructuring efforts to make the company “more agile” by devolving power to the leaders of each business line.

Elsewhere, ride-hailing giant Didi announced its plan to back out of the New York Stock Exchange and aim for a listing in Hong Kong instead. The stunning reversal came less than six months after its IPO placed the company in the crosshairs of Chinese regulators. How the listing will be transferred to Hong Kong is as of yet unknown, as Didi still has to iron out legal issues with shareholders and meet Hong Kong’s strict regulations on initial public offerings—the very reason the company had opted to go public in New York in the first place. Its exit from the NYSE now marks the end of an era in which Chinese companies could freely raise foreign capital in stock markets overseas. ..

Washington Seeks to Counter China’s Quantum Computing Drive

Dr. Georgianna Shea

The U.S. Department of Commerce last month sanctioned eight Chinese companies for supporting the efforts of the People’s Republic of China to develop quantum computing technology for military applications. While the computer and security industry initially regarded quantum technology, which conducts calculations at an exponentially faster speed than traditional computers, as a threat 10 to 15 years in the future, the U.S. government’s actions reflect a recognition that the timeline is shrinking.

The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security added the eight Chinese firms to its Entity List, thereby barring them from importing U.S.-origin technologies and equipment that would advance the People’s Liberation Army’s capabilities and threaten the United States. The department noted that China is exploring quantum-enabled “counter-stealth and counter-submarine applications.”

While quantum computing has many peaceful applications, it could also give China a decisive edge in cryptography. An October 2021 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center warns that development of quantum capabilities by U.S. adversaries puts “at risk the infrastructure protecting today’s economic and national security communications. In short, whoever wins the race for quantum computing supremacy could potentially compromise the communications of others.” Technology research company Gartner likewise identifies quantum computing as an emerging technology that will provide a competitive advantage over the next 10 years.

Xi Jinping Won’t Let His Communist Cadres Forget Soviet Humiliation

Christopher Vassallo

When Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2012, he feared the party he led was neglecting history. The situation was so dire that it could spell the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ruin.

Within the first months of Xi’s tenure, he was warning in public speeches of the dangers of “historical nihilism”—party-speak for the neglect of history. “Historical nihilism” was a primary cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union, a fellow communist party-state. “There was a complete denial of Soviet history, denial of Lenin, denial of Stalin, pursuit of historical nihilism,” he explained in a leaked speech to Party officials. “The great Soviet socialist nation fell to pieces.”

This fear explains Xi’s efforts this past year to elevate party history to a pride of place it has only been granted twice before in the hundred-year history of the CCP. The first “Historical Resolution” came under Mao Zedong in 1945; the second under Deng Xiaoping in 1981. This third resolution marks a third revolution.

What China Learned From the Collapse of the USSR

Kunal Sharma

The geopolitical discourse of our times is dominated by a growing multipolarity, unlike 30 years back, when the world was dominated by two superpowers: The United States and the erstwhile USSR. In fact, the world has witnessed a massive geopolitical metamorphosis in the first half of the 20th century, as once-great kingdoms, such as the Russian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, British, and French empires have transformed into modern democracies, socialist republics, and communist dictatorships. This metamorphosis is ongoing, and is particularly evident and noteworthy in the case of China.

The rather unexpected emergence of People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a near-superpower in the past decade-and-a-half was met by denial by the U.S. foreign policy apparatus until relatively recently. Whatever their party, successive U.S. administrations downplayed China’s growing strategic and military strength until the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

Glass Half-Full Or Half-Empty? Contradictory US Human Rights Policies Towards Saudi Arabia And Iran – Analysis

James M. Dorsey
Source Link

A cursory look at Saudi Arabia and Iran suggests that emphasizing human rights in US foreign policy may complicate relations but has little impact on regional stability or the willingness of protagonists to reduce tension and manage conflicts when it is in their interest.

A post 9/11 US emphasis on human rights was not what inspired homegrown popular Arab revolts over the past decade that initially toppled leaders in eight Arab countries but were largely rolled back or stymied by counter-revolutionary US allies.

The UAE and Saudi counter-revolutionary efforts put the two Gulf states on the autocratic frontline of President Joe Biden’s democracy versus autocracy dichotomy. They were motivated by a rejection of democracy as an existential challenge to the absolute power of their ruling families.

Experts Suggest Open Source Intelligence Has Important Role to Play in National Security

Patience Wait

The U.S. intelligence community, or IC, was born in the early days of the Cold War when the Central Intelligence Agency was created in 1947. The year before, Winston Churchill had said, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.”

The CIA was created to pierce that curtain.

“You are shaped by the necessity of collection. You have to steal access, insight, and understanding of the adversary,” said Robert Cardillo, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), another organization created to further that mission. “I think this country and our allies should be quite proud of what we did.”

Cardillo was one of the panelists for a Dec. 3 webcast by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the need for the IC to recognize and embrace the importance of gathering open source intelligence, or OSINT–all the publicly available information on the internet. The webcast was aired in advance of the release of a CSIS report on ways to incorporate OSINT.

Democracy Renewal Begins With Accountability at Home

David Miliband

There is an unmistakable irony in the United States hosting a summit for democracy less than a month after an international think tank formally categorized the country as a “backsliding democracy” for the first time and just a few months after the collapse of Washington’s 20-year democracy-building project in Afghanistan. But the current state of U.S. democracy offers critical lessons about the importance of government accountability to prevent abuses of power in domestic institutions and abroad.

The virtual gathering this week of more than 100 countries is a welcome first step in the fight against authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide. But U.S. President Joe Biden’s summit faces the same perils that plagued the pro-democracy efforts of previous U.S. administrations, including the unrealistic grandiosity of George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda and the narrow technocracy of Barack Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board. Neither offered a coherent, practical, or long-term strategy of democratic renewal.

In order to truly fight back against this era of “democratic recession,” as U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has called it, Washington needs a new approach. At the heart of this strategy must be accountability: the checks and balances on power that guard against the adage that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If the Biden administration is serious about using the summit to help democratic countries build back better, it should start by strengthening institutions of accountability at home—especially as they pertain to warfare—and uniting democracies in a coalition against impunity abroad.

Poison in the Well Securing the Shared Resources of Machine Learning

Andrew Lohn

Executive Summary

Progress in machine learning depends on trust. Researchers often place their advances in a public well of shared resources, and developers draw on those to save enormous amounts of time and money. Coders use the code of others, harnessing common tools rather than reinventing the wheel. Engineers use systems developed by others as a basis for their own creations. Data scientists draw on large public datasets to train machines to carry out routine tasks, such as image recognition, autonomous driving, and text analysis. Machine learning has accelerated so quickly and proliferated so widely largely because of this shared well of tools and data.

But the trust that so many place in these common resources is a security weakness. Poison in this well can spread, affecting the products that draw from it. Right now, it is hard to verify that the well of machine learning is free from malicious interference. In fact, there are good reasons to be worried. Attackers can poison the well’s three main resources—machine learning tools, pretrained machine learning models, and datasets for training—in ways that are extremely difficult to detect.

Ahead of Biden’s Democracy Summit, China Says: We’re Also a Democracy

Keith Bradsher and Steven Lee Myers

BEIJING — As President Biden prepares to host a “summit for democracy” this week, China has counterattacked with an improbable claim: It’s a democracy, too.

No matter that the Communist Party of China rules the country’s 1.4 billion people with no tolerance for opposition parties; that its leader, Xi Jinping, rose to power through an opaque political process without popular elections; that publicly calling for democracy in China is punished harshly, often with long prison sentences.

“There is no fixed model of democracy; it manifests itself in many forms,” the State Council, China’s top governing body, argued in a position paper it released over the weekend titled “China: Democracy That Works.”

It is unlikely that any democratic country will be persuaded by China’s model. By any measure except its own, China is one of the least democratic countries in the world, sitting near the bottom of lists ranking political and personal freedoms.

Even so, the government is banking on its message finding an audience in some countries disillusioned by liberal democracy or by American-led criticism — whether in Latin America, Africa or Asia, including in China itself.

Keeping the Wrong Secrets How Washington Misses the Real Security Threat

Oona A. Hathaway

The United States keeps a lot of secrets. In 2017, the last year for which there are complete data, roughly four million Americans with security clearances classified around 50 million documents at a cost to U.S. taxpayers of around $18 billion.

For a short time, I was one of those four million. From 2014 to 2015, I worked for the general counsel of the Department of Defense, a position for which I received a security clearance at the “top secret” level. I came into the job thinking that all the classified documents I would see would include important national security secrets accessible only to those who had gone through an extensive background check and been placed in a position of trust. I was shocked to discover that much of what I read was in fact not all that different from what was available on the Internet. There were exceptions: events I learned about a few hours or even days before the rest of the world, for instance, and information that could be traced to intelligence sources. But the vast bulk of the classified material I saw was remarkable only for how unremarkable it was.

SPECIAL REPORT: U.S., Japan Set to Enhance Cooperation on Military R&D

Jon Harper

The United States and Japan are already close military allies, but those ties could become even tighter in coming years as the two nations explore more opportunities to cooperate on defense research and development.

Both countries, along with Australia and India, are part of the group of nations known as the Quad, which are moving to enhance technology collaboration.

The United States has long been the top international weapons seller to Japan, providing a whopping 97 percent of the island nation’s defense equipment imports from 2016-2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s latest annual report on trends in international arms transfers.

“Japan’s arms imports will probably continue to rise based on new orders for arms from the USA,” the report said.
Additionally, U.S. and Japanese military forces hold frequent joint exercises, and Uncle Sam has more than 50,000 troops stationed in the land of the rising sun.

Ukraine Commanders Say a Russian Invasion Would Overwhelm Them

Michael Schwirtz

KYIV, Ukraine — On the 30th anniversary of the founding of Ukraine’s armed forces, President Volodymyr Zelensky donned a helmet and flak jacket to tour the trenches this week and announced with great fanfare the delivery of new tanks, armored vehicles and ships to frontline units engaged in fighting Russian forces and Kremlin-backed separatists.

The weapons systems may help to maintain parity in the slow-moving war of attrition that has prevailed for years. But neither they nor anything else the Ukrainian military can now muster would be sufficient to repel a full-on Russian assault that Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow might be preparing.

With nearly 100,000 troops now massed across Ukraine’s eastern, northern and southern borders and more on the way, even the Ukrainian officials responsible for their country’s defense acknowledge that without a significant influx of resources, their forces do not stand much of a chance.

Putin's Last Gasp?


WASHINGTON, DC – Today’s Russia poses a clear and present danger to world peace. In July, President Vladimir Putin published a long article, “About the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” effectively denying the legitimacy of Ukraine’s existence as an independent nation-state. He also has pursued a policy of military mobilization around Ukraine’s border, first in April and even more intensively in recent weeks. Senior Ukrainian and US officials, including President Joe Biden, are warning that Russia may launch a major ground war against Ukraine in early 2022.

Various causes of Russia’s aggressiveness have been suggested, but the most important one focuses on Russian decline, and whether this has made the country more dangerous. Is Putin genuinely intent on attacking Ukraine? If so, what should Ukraine and the West do about it?

The decline is obvious. Russia’s economy has been completely stagnant since 2014 (and mostly stagnant since 2009), and Putin has made clear that he has no interest in delivering economic growth or improved living standards. In US dollar terms, Russia’s GDP fell from $2.3 trillion in 2013 to $1.5 trillion in 2020. Since Putin first invaded Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, Russian households’ real (inflation-adjusted) disposable income has fallen by 10%.

Russia and China are testing Biden — and so far, he’s failing

Mark Montgomery

Russia has massed nearly 90,000 troops near its border with Ukraine, while China is reportedly establishing a military base in Equatorial Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean. America’s adversaries are wasting no time in taking advantage of the Biden administration’s disorganized and unfocused national security strategy.

Russia has relentlessly attacked Ukrainian sovereignty since Moscow’s initial invasion in 2014. After illegally annexing Crimea, Russian gray-zone operatives have consistently supported breakaway regimes in eastern Ukraine and conducted disinformation campaigns against the elected government in Kiev.

Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated the current crisis with his decision not to withdraw Russian forces and equipment back to their home bases following “Zapad 21,” a large annual military exercise. These forces now threaten Ukrainian sovereignty and challenge Western assurances to support and defend democracies being targeted by authoritarian states.

Global Agreement Defines The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence – OpEd

Caroline Mwanga

A historic agreement defines the common values and principles needed to ensure the healthy development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). All the member states of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have signed the agreement.

The importance of the agreement signed on November 23 is underlined by the fact that AI is pervasive and enables many of our daily routines—booking flights, steering driverless cars, and personalising our morning news feeds. AI also supports the decision-making of governments and the private sector.

Artificial intelligence is present in everyday life, from booking flights and applying for loans to steering driverless cars. It is also used in specialized fields such as cancer screening or to help create inclusive environments for the disabled.

According to UNESCO, AI is also supporting the decision-making of governments and the private sector, as well as helping combat global problems such as climate change and world hunger.

Europe’s Global Gateway: Complementing or Competing With BRI?

Frederick Kliem

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, did not mention China when she launched the Global Gateway (GG), essentially an umbrella strategy to synchronize already existing EU and member states global infrastructure investment programs. But because of the way the self-styled “geopolitical Commission” presented it, observers and officials were quick to frame the GG as a European challenge to China’s BRI — itself launched in 2013 to fund infrastructure development projects mostly in developing and middle-income countries in Asia and around the globe.

Global Gateway aims to mobilize 300 billion euros (around $337 billion) over a five-year period to invest in digital and transport infrastructure, energy generation and transmission, and health projects. In addition to smaller EU grants, Global Gateway taps into national and EU resources from financial institutions and development banks, in the hope that institutional spending will unlock significant private capital, too.

We can’t let robots control nuclear arsenals

William Hague

When brilliant individuals nearing their 100th birthdays write a book, it is a good idea to read it. Two years ago, the scientist James Lovelock celebrated his centenary with Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, in which he hailed a future dominated by artificial intelligence, while cautioning against its military uses. Now Henry Kissinger, at a stripling 98, has co-authored The Age of AI, bringing a brain steeped in great power strategy to the same topic.

Kissinger’s central insight is that the introduction of AI into weapons will fundamentally change our ideas of national security, undermining deterrence and disrupting balances of power. This is partly because we will be less certain what another country might be able to do to us.

AI and the Future of Disinformation Campaigns Part 1: The RICHDATA Framework

Katerina Sedova, Christine McNeill, Aurora Johnsonand  ana Aditi Joshi

Executive Summary

The age of information has brought with it the age of disinformation. Powered by the speed and data volume of the internet, disinformation has emerged as an insidious instrument of geopolitical power competition and domestic political warfare. It is used by both state and non-state actors to shape global public opinion, sow chaos, and chip away at trust. Artificial intelligence (AI), specifically machine learning (ML), is poised to amplify disinformation campaigns—influence operations that involve covert efforts to intentionally spread false or misleading information.

In this series, we examine how these technologies could be used to spread disinformation. Part 1 considers disinformation campaigns and the set of stages or building blocks used by human operators. In many ways they resemble a digital marketing campaign, one with malicious intent to disrupt and deceive. We offer a framework, RICHDATA, to describe the stages of disinformation campaigns and commonly used techniques. Part 2 of the series examines how AI/ML technologies may shape future disinformation campaigns.

IntelBrief: Traditional Espionage Challenged by Ubiquity of Emerging Technologies

The need for human intelligence (HUMINT) never wanes, but the risks are evolving as new surveillance technologies proliferate.

HUMINT in the age of ubiquitous cameras and biometrics is a challenge for all intelligence agencies, operatives, and sources.

From alias travel through airports with biometrics to constant tracking by phone, there are few, if any, areas that can ever be considered “clean.”

It is becoming difficult to detect surveillance in a constant surveillance environment where there is no need to follow individuals physically.

One of the cardinal rules of human intelligence (HUMINT) tradecraft is to always know your “status,” meaning whether an intelligence officer is under surveillance or not. Intelligence officers and the agents they handle must know that their meetings or activities are free from surveillance. Information obtained from a compromised relationship is itself compromised, with cascading effects if undetected. To that end, surveillance detection is a cornerstone of intelligence work. How that is accomplished in an age of surveillance across the board is a primary challenge for all intelligence agencies. The basics of an asset meeting are well known from Hollywood movies—the officer determines if they are free from surveillance by a carefully planned route and well-chosen locations. This and other tactics would reveal if someone (e.g. host country police or intelligence service, third-country rival intelligence service, terrorist or criminal entities, etc.) were following the officer. The task is risky and never ending, but it has been manageable. The issue now, one that has grown more important in recent years, is how do you detect if you’re being “followed” if no one is actually following you but you are still very much under surveillance?

Detect and Understand: Modernizing Intelligence for the Gray Zone

Jake Harrington

The Issue

In the gray zone—the contested space between routine statecraft and conventional warfare—uncertainty permeates decisionmaking. Seeking to avoid escalation, aggressors design gray zone activities to evade detection or to frustrate intelligence efforts to attribute blame, quantify risk, and inform decisive responses. In this security environment, intelligence success will require seamless and simultaneous feedback between efforts to identify malign gray zone activities and to contextualize them within a broader analysis of an actor’s intentions and strategy. This brief’s recommended intelligence reforms—focused on a series of technological, organizational, and cultural advancements—are ultimately intended to accelerate efforts to integrate and synchronize a real-time interaction between detection and understanding of gray zone threats.


Discerning knowable truths amid obfuscation, misdirection, and outright lies is a fundamental mission of intelligence. Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Allen Dulles held this notion so deeply that he insisted that a biblical exhortation to pursue the truth be carved in stone in the CIA’s lobby. Unfortunately, the challenge—as Pascal mused 300 years prior to the construction of the CIA’s Original Headquarters Building—is that global politics are conducted in a world riven with multiple “truths.”2 This was a constant of the Cold War, when competing narratives informed an era of great power competition. And the same is true today, when interstate competition once again defines a security landscape muddled by ambiguity, confusion, and deception.

A Leadership Shakeup in Mozambique Signals a New Approach to Security

Emilia Columbo

Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi created a stir in early November, when he dismissed Defense Minister Jaime Neto and then Interior Minister Amade Miquidade within 24 hours of each other. This shake-up in the country’s security leadership, coming less than two years after both had taken up their posts, likely signals the start of a broader effort at managing Mozambique’s image abroad as it seeks to reassure would-be investors that the government has a handle on internal security.

The tenures of both Neto and Miquidade coincided with a period of rapid expansion of the Islamic State affiliate Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama, or ASWJ, insurgency in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique. During the past two years, the group evolved from staging attacks against isolated villages and individuals, to mounting audacious, coordinated operations against major towns. The assault in March on Palma, a coastal town that served as a hub for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, exploration, was the first to directly affect the expatriate community working on the major energy projects there, increasing international attention to the trajectory of this conflict and its humanitarian implications.

Truth, Lies, and Automation How Language Models Could Change Disinformation

Ben Buchanan, Andrew Lohn, Micah Musser and Katerina Sedova

Growing popular and industry interest in high-performing natural language generation models has led to concerns that such models could be used to generate automated disinformation at scale. This report examines the capabilities of GPT-3--a cutting-edge AI system that writes text--to analyze its potential misuse for disinformation. A model like GPT-3 may be able to help disinformation actors substantially reduce the work necessary to write disinformation while expanding its reach and potentially also its effectiveness.

For millennia, disinformation campaigns have been fundamentally human endeavors. Their perpetrators mix truth and lies in potent combinations that aim to sow discord, create doubt, and provoke destructive action. The most famous disinformation campaign of the twenty-first century—the Russian effort to interfere in the U.S. presidential election—relied on hundreds of people working together to widen preexisting fissures in American society.

Since its inception, writing has also been a fundamentally human endeavor. No more. In 2020, the company OpenAI unveiled GPT-3, a powerful artificial intelligence system that generates text based on a prompt from human operators. The system, which uses a vast neural network, a powerful machine learning algorithm, and upwards of a trillion words of human writing for guidance, is remarkable. Among other achievements, it has drafted an op-ed that was commissioned by The Guardian, written news stories that a majority of readers thought were written by humans, and devised new internet memes.