• Election securityForeign Actors Will Likely Spread Disinformation about 2020 Election Results: FBI, CISA

    In a testimony before Congress last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned lawmakers that Russia is not letting up in its efforts to sway the outcome of the November presidential election. He said that what worried him the most was “the steady drumbeat of misinformation and amplification” of false claims about the integrity on the American voting system and the spreading of lies about mail-in voting. The purpose is to sow doubt and confusion about the election results, thus readying the ground for a challenge to, or even a rejection of, the results. On Tuesday, the FBI and CISA issued a public service announcement about foreign actors and cybercriminals spreading disinformation about election results.

  • China syndromeNYPD Officer Charged with Spying for China

    The officer, a naturalized U.S. citizen, looked for intelligence sources within the Tibetan community while working for the Chinese Consulate. He also asked a Chinese official to attend an NYPD event to raise China’s “soft power,” prosecutors say. Tibet has been occupied by China since 1950. China has engaged in a systematic destruction of Buddhist temples and other symbols of Tibetan culture and history, and has suppressed the teaching of Tibetan history and culture in schools. China has also subsidized the settlement of millions of Chinese in Tibet in order to dilute the Tibetan character of the region. 

  • ARGUMENT: Putin’s long armSecret CIA Assessment: Putin “Probably Directing” Influence Operation to Denigrate Biden

    Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former vice president Joe Biden, a top-secret CIA assessment concluded. The Kremlin’s effort to undermine the Biden campaign involves Andriy Derkach, a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker who has been identified by the U.S. intelligence community as an agent of Russian intelligence, and who is a colleague of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. On 10 September the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach, alleging that he “has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.”

  • Money launderingTrillions of Dollars Laundered Through U.S., European Banks after Russian Sanctions

    Documents leaked to BuzzFeed News show that in almost two decades, between 1999 to 2017, major European and U.S. financial entities processed more than $2 trillion worth of suspicious transactions. Kremlin insiders and friends were the beneficiaries. Three names stand out: Arkady Rotenberg, a childhood friend of Vladimir Putin who has gone from an obscure businessman in the 1990s to a billionaire during Putin’s 20 years in power, and who was sanctioned, along with his brother and son, after the Russian annexation of Crimea; Semion Mogilevich, a Russian organized crime boss who is named on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list; and Paul Manafort, a political strategist who led Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign from early June until mid-August 2016.

  • Argument: Chemical weaponsHow Putin Borrowed a Page from Assad’s Chemical Weapon Playbook

    Russia use of Novichock to poison opposition leader Alexei Navalny highlights a problem against which Western countries have not yet been able to devise an effective policy: the use of chemical weapons by authoritarian regimes against domestic regime critics. Preventing Russia, or any other autocratic ruler, from using poisons against domestic opponents is a tall order, Gregory D. Koblentz writes, but “Understanding the motivations of authoritarian leaders, and the intensity of their concerns about regime security, however, is the first step towards devising an effective strategy for deterring their use of chemical, and possibly someday biological, weapons against their own people.”

  • PERSPECTIVE: Intelligence mattersSupport for U.S. Intelligence Continues, Despite Presidential Attacks and Concerns Over Transparency

    Here is good news: The American public supports; has confidence in; and appreciates the contribution to homeland security of the U.S. intelligence community. Steve Slick and Joshua Busby write that these high levels of support and confidence are striking against the background of the relentless, and unprecedented, attacks by President Trump on the intelligence community and his denigration of intelligence professionals. “Indeed, even among survey respondents of the President’s party who are presumably sympathetic to his views, support for the IC increased from 59% to 74% over the three-year period of this project,” Slick and Busby note.

  • Election securityThwarting the Biggest Cybersecurity Threat to Voting in the 2020 Election

    While the controversy over the integrity of mail-in votes continues, in-person voting this time around faces potential security risks that could alter the outcome. As was the case in the 2016, Russia’s social media campaign to help its preferred candidate is already underway. For November 2020, however, Russia is planning to add another, more insidious and more threatening layer of election interference, which raises this question: Who protects the voting machines that most Americans use to submit their ballots on election day? According to Tulane University’s William “Bill” Rials, local governments, which oversee the protection of these machines and their respective databases, should be acting now to prevent cybersecurity attacks that can disrupt electronic voting.

  • Election securityFBI Director Warns of “Drumbeat” of Russian Disinformation

    By Jeff Seldin

    FBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday warned lawmakers that Russia is not letting up in its efforts to sway the outcome of the November presidential election by trying to hurt the campaign of Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. Wray, testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, described the Kremlin’s influence operations as “very, very active” on social media, on its own state-run media and through various proxies. “What concerns me the most is the steady drumbeat of misinformation and amplification of smaller cyber intrusions,” Wray said. “I worry they will contribute over time to a lack of confidence of (among) American voters.” “That would be a perception, not reality. I think Americans can and should have confidence in our election system and certainly in our democracy,” he added.

  • Navalny poisoningNavalny's Team: Water Bottle with Novichok Traces Found in His Hotel Room in Tomsk

    Associates of Aleksei Navalny say traces of the nerve agent used to poison the Russian opposition politician were found on a water bottle in the hotel room he was staying in in the Russian city of Tomsk. When Navalny was flown to Germany for treatment, the bottle was sent along, and German scientists found tracers of Novichock in the bottle. Traces of the toxic Novichock, a favorite poison of the Russian intelligence services against critics of the Putin regime, were also found in samples taken from Navalny’s body.

  • China syndromeTikTok and WeChat: Curating and Controlling Global Information Flows

    By Fergus Ryan, Audrey Fritz, and Daria Impiombato

    “The Chinese state has demonstrated a propensity for controlling and shaping the information environment of the Chinese diaspora—including via WeChat,” three researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in a new report. “The meteoric growth of TikTok has now put the CCP in a position from which it can shape the information environment on a largely non-Chinese-speaking platform—with the help of the highest valued start-up in the world and its opaque advanced AI-powered algorithm”: Excerpts from the report.

  • PERSPECTIVE: Russia’s U.S. helpersRussia Is Back, Wilier Than Ever — and It’s Not Alone

    Moscow’s hacking and disinformation tactics have evolved since 2016, while Americans help spread doubts about the November election. Russian operatives are using a sneakier, more sophisticated version of their 2016 playbook to undermine the November election — and this time, Mark Scott writes, groups inside and outside the U.S. are furthering their goal of sowing chaos.

  • Election securityDefending the 2020 Election against Hacking: 5 Questions Answered

    By Douglas W. Jones

    Journalist Bob Woodward reports in his new book, Rage, that the NSA and CIA have classified evidence that the Russian intelligence services placed malware in the election registration systems of at least two Florida counties in 2016, and that the malware was sophisticated and could erase voters. This appears to confirm earlier reports. Meanwhile, Russian intelligence agents and other foreign players are already at work interfering in the 2020 presidential election. Douglas W. Jones, a computer science professor and author of Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?, writes that the list of things keeping him awake at night about the November election is long – violence; refusal to accept results if the in-person and mail-in votes differ; machine malfunction; human error, and more – but when you “add in the possibility of hacked central tabulating software in key counties, and there’s plenty to lose sleep over.”

  • Navalny poisoningGermany: Two Independent Foreign Labs Confirm Navalny Poisoned with Novichok

    Germany says independent reviews by laboratories in France and Sweden have confirmed evidence that Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group. German experts say the 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner and Russian opposition leader was poisoned with a Soviet-style military nerve agent from the Novichok group, prompting international calls on Russia to swiftly investigate the case.

  • PERSPECTIVE: PoisoningHistory of Nerve Agent Assassinations

    Poisoning political opponents or enemies is not new. Reviews of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) usage through the 20th century similarly list successful and attempted assassinations with mineral poisons or animal and plant toxins in and outside of war. Modern chemical weapons (CW) – typically human-made toxic compounds standardized for use on battlefields – have rarely been selected to target individuals – but a spate of recent political poisonings indicate that this may be changing.

  • China syndromeU.S. Revokes Visas of 1,000 Chinese Students Considered “High Risk”

    The U.S. says it has revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese citizens considered “high risk” to U.S. security because of alleged ties with the Chinese military. The Trump administration has charged that Chinese students have come to the United States to steal intellectual property to advance China’s economic and military sectors.