• Could Secret Cables Have Saved Ethel Rosenberg From the Electric Chair?

    At 8:11 on the evening of June 19, 1953, Ethel Rosenberg was strapped into the electric chair at the New York State prison known as Sing Sing. Even as Ethel Rosenberg was strapped into the electric chair for spying for Moscow, decrypted cables might have spared her. But they were released only decades later.

  • How Fake News Could Lead to Real War

    Who really bombed the oil tankers in the Persian Gulf two weeks ago? Was it Iran, as the Trump administration assured us? Or was it Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Israel—or some combination of the three? Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon write in Politico that they believe in the official U.S. position, that Iran was behind the attacks, trying to prod other countries to pressure the U.S. to relax its sanctions makes sense. But the whole unsettling episode opened our eyes to a deeply troubling reality: The current fake news epidemic isn’t just shaking up U.S. politics; it might end up causing a war, or just as consequentially, impeding a national response to a genuine threat. Thus far, public discussion of deep fakes—and fake news more broadly—has focused on domestic politics and particularly elections. That was inevitable after the Russian interference on President Donald Trump’s behalf in 2016—the dimensions of which were laid out in the unprecedented joint assessment of the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation in February 2017 and the Mueller Report.
    But fake news’ implications for foreign and security policy may be as far-reaching—and even more dangerous. Misinformation in geopolitics could lead not only to the continued weakening of our institutions but also to combat deaths. Sure, fake news has been a feature of international relations for a long time, but it’s different now: “Advancing technology that can fabricate convincing images and videos combined with the chronic, exuberant dishonesty of the commander-in-chief and his minions has meant that no one can feel confident in assessing life or death choices in foreign policy crisis. For a democracy—one with global interests—this is a disaster,” Benjamin and Simon write.

  • Pentagon Report: Russian Leaders Believe They Are Already at War with the United States—in the Gray Zone

    A group of governmental, military, and outside experts published a white paper urging the US government to jump fully into the so-called gray zone—the conceptual space in which countries take action that lies somewhere on the continuum between warfare and peaceable relations.  Russia, they say, is exploiting it effectively. It’s in the gray zone that Russia meddles with elections, launches online disinformation campaigns, and uses a host of other means to gain greater leverage in places ranging from the former Soviet states to Latin America. Matt Field, writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, notes that Russia’s already doing well in this sub-military conflict space. He quotes Nicole Peterson, who writes in the report’s executive summary: “Overall, Russia’s influence abroad is growing, and the Kremlin has mastered the use of ‘hybrid warfare’ in driving Russia’s foreign policy… Russia utilizes a variety of gray zone tactics   around the globe. These include the use of paramilitary forces and other proxies, interference in political processes, economic and energy exploitation (particularly in Africa), espionage, and media and propaganda manipulation.”

  • Europe Built a System to Fight Russian Meddling. It’s Struggling.

    The European Union launched an ambitious effort earlier this year to combat election interference: an early-warning system that would sound alarms about Russian propaganda. Despite high expectations, however, records show that the system has become a repository for a mishmash of information, produced no alerts and is already at risk of becoming defunct. Matt Apuzzo writes in the New York Times that Europe’s early struggles offer lessons for other nations, including the United States, where intelligence officials expect Russia to try to interfere in next year’s presidential election. In many ways, the European Union has been more aggressive than Washington in demanding changes from social media companies and seeking novel ways to fight disinformation. Efforts to identify and counter disinformation have proven not only deeply complicated, but also politically charged.

  • Could Secret Cables Have Saved Ethel Rosenberg From the Electric Chair?

    At 8:11 on the evening of June 19, 1953, Ethel Rosenberg was strapped into the electric chair at the New York State prison known as Sing Sing. She was 37 years old and the mother of two young sons. The chair, made of oak and iron, had killed hundreds of convicted criminals over the years, including her husband, Julius Rosenberg, a few minutes before. But the chair was not always reliable, which was one reason inmates gave it the cynical name “Old Sparky.” Christopher Dickey writes in the Daily Beast that two years earlier, when both Rosenbergs were convicted of spying for Moscow, Federal Judge Irving R. Kaufman had handed down their death sentences. The Rosenbergs’ crime, he said, was “worse than murder.” But in fact the penalty was not about justice. It was about vengeance for a loss the American public felt was so enormous that someone must be made to pay a horrible price. It was “as if a society turned its magnifying lens on these people until they caught fire and were burned alive,” said novelist E. L. Doctorow, whose The Book of Daniel was a fictional account of the case.  “Even as Ethel Rosenberg was strapped into the electric chair for spying for Moscow in 1953, decrypted cables might have spared her. But they were released only decades later,” Dickey writers.

  • Huawei CVs Show Close Links with Military, Study Says

    A study of the employment information of thousands of Huawei staff has revealed deeper links with the Chinese military and intelligence apparatus than those previously acknowledged by China’s biggest telecom equipment maker. The findings are likely to add fuel to the debate among governments around the world over whether to block Huawei’s gear from the rollout of 5G telecoms networks for security reasons. Kathrin Hille writes in the Financial Times that The findings are likely to add fuel to the debate among governments around the world over whether to block Huawei’s gear from the rollout of 5G telecoms networks for security reasons. “Huawei has gone to great lengths saying they have no links with the Chinese military and security institutions,” said Prof. Balding. “The narrative they spin is false — military connections quite clearly run deep.” Analysts said the systemically close ties documented in the study reflected a pattern far beyond Huawei. One expert said such sharing or co-ordination of personnel across defense and commercial research activities was consistent with China’s national strategy for military-civil fusion.

  • No, Russian Twitter Trolls Did Not Demonstrably Push Trump’s Poll Numbers Higher

    We should note at the outset that it’s clear that Russia’s interference in the election had a tangible effect. The information stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman that was later released by WikiLeaks was a staple of media coverage around the conventions in July 2016 and during the last month of the campaign. While measuring the effect of that leaked information is tricky, it’s clear that it had influence. The Russian social media push, though? Philip Bump writes in the Washington Post: “[A]s I’ve written before, there’s very little evidence that Russia effectively targeted American voters with messages that powered Trump’s victory.: He adds: “We certainly can’t definitively say that no votes were changed as a result of Russian disinformation on Twitter or that no one’s political views were influenced by it. We can say, though, that [a recent University of Tennessee] study is worth a great deal of skepticism — especially among those who are looking for evidence that Russia’s trolling handed the election to Trump.”

  • Lawmakers fume as Trump allows select U.S. firms to supply Huawei

    National security hawks who normally side with U.S. President Donald Trump on foreign policy issues are up in arms over his announcement on Saturday that he would indefinitely delay the imposition of tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods and relax restrictions on U.S. firms doing business with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

  • Defending democracy from cyberwarfare

    Foreign meddling in democratic elections, the proliferation of fake news and threats to national security through the “weaponization of social media” will be tackled by a new research Center being launched last week at Australia’s Flinders University.

  • Russian Twitter propaganda predicted 2016 U.S. election polls

    There is one irrefutable, unequivocal conclusion which both the U.S. intelligence community and the thorough investigation by Robert Mueller share: Russia unleashed an extensive campaign of fake news and disinformation on social media with the aim of distorting U.S. public opinion, sowing discord, and swinging the election in favor of the Republican candidate Donald Trump. But was the Kremlin successful in its effort to put Trump in the White House? Statistical analysis of the Kremlin’s social media trolls on Twitter in the run-up to the 2016 election social suggests that the answer is “yes.”

  • U.S. House passes election security bill after Russian hacking

    The U.S. House of Representatives, mostly along partisan lines, has passed legislation designed to enhance election security following outrage over Russian cyberinterference in the 2016 presidential election.The Democratic-sponsored bill would mandate paper ballot voting and postelection audit as well as replace outdated and vulnerable voting equipment. The House bill faces strong opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

  • Monitoring Russia’s and China’s disinformation campaigns in Latin America and the Caribbean

    Propaganda has taken on a different form. Social media and multiple sources of information have obviated the traditional heavy-handed tactics of misinformation. Today, governments and state media exploit multiple platforms to shade the truth or report untruths that exploit pre-existing divisions and prejudices to advance their political and geo-strategic agendas. Global Americans monitors four state news sources that have quickly gained influence in the region—Russia Today and Sputnik from Russia, and Xinhua and People’s Daily from China— to understand how they portray events for readers in Latin America and the Caribbean. Global Americans says it will feature articles that clearly intend to advance a partial view, agenda, or an out-and-out mistruth, labeling them either False or Misleading, explaining why the Global Americans team has determined them so, including a reference, if relevant, that disproves the article’s content.

  • Deepfakes: Forensic techniques to identify tampered videos

    Computer scientists have developed a method that performs with 96 percent accuracy in identifying deepfakes when evaluated on large scale deepfake dataset.

  • The confused U.S. messaging campaign on Huawei

    For the past several months, American policymakers have sought to convince allies, partners and potential partners to ban Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from supplying the entirety of, or components for, 5G communications networks around the world. This messaging campaign has centered primarily around concerns that Huawei could assist the Chinese government in spying on other countries or even shutting down or manipulating their 5G networks in a warlike scenario. Justin Sherman and Robert Morgus write in Lawfare that the United States’s international messaging on this issue—to allies, partners and potential partners alike—blurs the line between economic and national security risks, and it threatens to undermine U.S. efforts to message these risks in the process.

  • Top takes: Suspected Russian intelligence operation

    A Russian-based information operation used fake accounts, forged documents, and dozens of online platforms to spread stories that attacked Western interests and unity. Its size and complexity indicated that it was conducted by a persistent, sophisticated, and well-resourced actor, possibly an intelligence operation. Operators worked across platforms to spread lies and impersonate political figures, and the operation shows online platforms’ ongoing vulnerability to disinformation campaigns.