• The Russian “Dark State” and the Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election

    How do we understand Russia’s multi-layered interference in the 2016 elections? Elizabeth Wood, an MIT Russia expert and professor of history, analyzes Russia’s motives, noting that in his televised speech on May 29, Robert Mueller left no room for doubt about Russian interference in the 2016 election, when he said: “I will close by reiterating the central allegation of our indictments, that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.” Wood says: “These tactics have been researched by excellent scholars, and they are worth considering in the larger context of Russian statecraft. After all, what I would call the Russian ‘dark state’ — i.e., that part of the state that operates abroad for nefarious purposes, including most recently interference in Ukraine, in Western European elections, and in the poisonings and beatings of both Russians and foreign nationals around the world — has been around for a long time; it is not an invention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, though he has certainly expanded its reach.”

  • Germany Chooses China Over the West

    Over U.S. and European Union objections, the German government is poised to put in place newly drafted security requirements that do not set clear limits on the Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE supplying technology for German fifth-generation cellular networks. Berlin’s refusal to shut Huawei out of its 5G networks weakens Europe’s prospects of standing up to Beijing.

  • Clinton’s Email Practices Were Risky but Not Malicious, State Department Finds

    A multi-year State Department investigation into the private email server that haunted Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign is complete. During the 2016 election, Donald Trump called Clinton’s use of the server “one of the great crimes” of our time, repeating this wild accusation as late as last month, during a press conference at the UN. But after reviewing 33,000 emails sent to or from Clinton, investigators found that the former secretary of state’s practice of using a private email server for official work presented a security risk, but said there was no “systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information” by Clinton or her associates, according to a State Department report presented to Congress last week. This is the second time a federal agency has come to this conclusion: The FBI began an investigation into Clinton’s email use in 2015. It found Clinton and her staff didn’t intend to mishandle classified information and declined to bring charges.

  • Will Canada Weaken Encryption with Backdoors?

    Imagine you wake up one morning and discover that the federal government is requiring everyone to keep their back doors unlocked. First responders need access your house in an emergency, they say, and locked doors are a significant barrier to urgent care. For the good of the nation, public health concerns outweigh the risk to your privacy and security. Sounds crazy, right? Byron Holland writes that, unfortunately, a number of governments are considering a policy just like this for the internet, and there’s growing concern that the Canadian government could soon follow suit.

  • China’s Global Reach: Surveillance and Censorship Beyond the Great Firewall

    Those outside the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are accustomed to thinking of the Internet censorship practices of the Chinese state as primarily domestic, enacted through the so-called “Great Firewall”—a system of surveillance and blocking technology that prevents Chinese citizens from viewing websites outside the country. But the ongoing Hong Kong protests, and mainland China’s pervasive attempts to disrupt and discredit the movement globally, have highlighted that China is not above trying to extend its reach beyond the Great Firewall, and beyond its own borders. In attempting to silence protests that lie outside the Firewall, in full view of the rest of the world, China is showing its hand, and revealing the tools it can use to silence dissent or criticism worldwide.

  • China’s Worldwide Investment Project Is a Push for More Economic and Political Power

    Inspired by the ancient Silk Road, China is investing in a massive set of international development projects that are raising concerns about how the country is expanding its power around the world. Initially announced in 2013 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the so-called “Belt and Road Initiative” has China planning to invest in economic development and transportation in more than 130 countries and 30 international organizations. Projects range across Asia, but also include places in Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and South America.

  • EU to Take Action against Fake News and Foreign Electoral Interference

    Russian government-backed cyber aggression against democratic societies is heightening concerns in the West following a series of high-profile incidents. Russia’s electoral interference seriously threatens European democratic societies by promoting anti-EU, populist, far-right, ethnonationalist, xenophobic, and anti-American extremist forces.

  • Can American Values Survive in a Chinese World?

    The People’s Republic of China bounds from strength to strength. Every year sees increases in its wealth and power relative to the world. But what do its leaders hope to achieve with their newfound clout? Jonathan D. T. Ward’s book China’s Vision of Victory traces the Chinese desire to shape the future of all mankind (not just the East Asian part of it) to a national myth taught to schoolchildren across China. According to this narrative, China was once the center of the world; China was the mother of invention, the seat of global wealth, and the beacon of civilization. This is China’s natural role in the world order—a role disrupted by the “century of humiliation” between the Opium Wars and World War II, when China suffered at the hands of foreign powers. But now that age of suffering is over. China’s destiny, according to its leaders, is to reclaim its natural perch as the leading force of human civilization. Tanner Greer writes that these global ambitions raises serious questions for the United States – questions which go beyond whether Americans will be willing to live in a world where China is the supreme economic and military power. The “hardest question may be whether we are willing to live in a world where dominant economic and military power is wielded by an insecure regime whose leaders believe that the same authoritarian techniques used to control enemies within their society must be used to surveil, coerce, and corrupt those enemies outside it.”

  • A Healthy Fear of China

    “I have seen the future, and it works,” the left-wing journalist Lincoln Steffens famously declared, after observing Bolshevik Russia in its infancy. What was intended as a utopian boast soon read as a dystopian prediction — but then eventually, as Stalinist ambition gave way to Brezhnevian decay, it curdled into a sour sort of joke. Today, though, there is a palpable fear in the liberal West that Beijing is succeeding where Moscow failed, and that the peculiar blend of Maoist dogmatics, nationalist fervor, one-party meritocracy and surveillance-state capitalism practiced in the People’s Republic of China really is a working alternative to liberal democracy — with cruelty sustained by efficiency, and a resilience that might outstrip our own.

  • Campaign Finance Enforcement Is an Essential Component of National Security

    Russia is at it again, so this week’s campaign finance enforcement action – in which two Russian-born associates of Rudy Giuliani have been indicted and arrested for violating campaign finance laws, including allegedly funneling Russian money into the main pro-Trump political action committee (PAC) — could not have come at a more important time for defending American democracy from foreign interference. The 2016 presidential election was subject to “sweeping and systematic” interference, and the next presidential election is just a year away with the FBI warning that “the Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.”

  • Western Security Officials Believe Secret Russian Unit Responsible for Attacks in Europe: NYT

    Western security officials have identified a secret Russian intelligence unit that has tried to carry out assassinations and destabilization operations in foreign countries, according to a detailed New York Times report. Senior intelligence officials told the newspaper that the secret unit has only been identified in recent months, but that it has operated covertly for at least a decade. The unit, No. 29155, is based in Moscow and is part of the Defense Ministry’s military intelligence agency, known as the GRU. The GRU orchestrated the Kremlin’s successful campaign to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

  • Senate Intel Committee: Russia Is Already Trying to Influence the 2020 Election

    In recent months, President Donald Trump has intensified his efforts to advance the lies spread by the Kremlin and undermine the U.S. intelligence community consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. On July 25, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to help push a Russian and far-right conspiracy theory that the U.S. cybersecurity company Crowdstrike worked with Ukranians and Democrats to frame Russia for election meddling. Patrick Tucker writes in Defense One that one important contribution of the second report on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, issued by the Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, is that the committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), is decisively refuting Trump and his conspiracy theory.

  • Senate Intel Committee: Russia Used Social Media to support Donald Trump “at the direction of the Kremlin”

    On Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a new report, titled Russia’s Use of Social Media. It is the second volume released in the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election. The new report examines Russia’s efforts to use social media to sow societal discord and influence the outcome of the 2016 election, led by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA). The Committee found that the IRA sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.  The Committee found that IRA social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump to the detriment of Secretary Clinton’s campaign. 

  • Top Secret Russian Unit Seeks to Destabilize Europe, Security Officials Say

    First came a destabilization campaign in Moldova, followed by the poisoning of an arms dealer in Bulgaria and then a thwarted coup in Montenegro. Last year, there was an attempt to assassinate a former Russian spy in Britain using a nerve agent. Though the operations bore the fingerprints of Russia’s intelligence services, the authorities initially saw them as isolated, unconnected attacks. Western security officials have now concluded that these operations, and potentially many others, are part of a coordinated and ongoing campaign to destabilize Europe, executed by an elite unit inside the Russian intelligence system skilled in subversion, sabotage and assassination.

  • Iranian Government Hackers Target U.S. Presidential Campaign: Microsoft

    Microsoft announced on Friday that a hacking group linked to the Iranian government has carried out a campaign against a U.S. presidential candidate. The group, which the tech giant named Phosphorous, made more than 2,700 attempts during a 30-day period between August and September to identify customer e-mail accounts. The hackers managed to hack into 241 of them. On Thursday, DHS and the FBI circulated a memo to state election officials warning that Russia will likely seek to interfere in the 2020 elections by discouraging voters or utilizing voter suppression tactics.