• Democrats Must Act Now to Deter Foreign Interference in the 2020 Election

    Parts of the U.S. government, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, as well as state authorities, are working to prevent foreign interference in American elections, “but even with a Herculean effort, the country’s defenses against political warfare, especially in the cyber domain, are weak and porous. Such attacks are easy to execute, but difficult and expensive to thwart. The threat is evolving and will be different than it was in 2016. There are many targets,” Thomas Wright writes. “When defense is difficult, deterrence becomes important. One way to deal with election interference is to convince foreign adversaries that the cost might outweigh the gains, thus persuading them not to attack. This is where Trump’s position is so damaging, seeking to punish interference against him, but openly welcoming interference on his behalf.”

  • U.S. Officials Taking Putin Election Comments Seriously

    U.S. security officials are not laughing at the latest comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Kremlin’s attempts to interfere in U.S. elections. Putin, speaking at an economic forum in Moscow Wednesday, dismissed U.S. allegations that Russia meddled in both the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the 2018 mid-term election as “ridiculous.” Despite Putin’s comments, U.S. security and intelligence officials have said, consistently, that they have seen indications Russia will try to interfere with the upcoming 2020 presidential elections.

  • A Bipartisan Step Toward Securing Our Election Infrastructure

    Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $250 million in funds to support state and local government efforts to strengthen election security ahead of the 2020 elections. The Committee’s action is an acknowledgment that securing elections from foreign interference is a bipartisan priority that requires more funding and continuous vigilance.

  • What’s at Stake in Trump’s War on Huawei: Control of the Global Computer-Chip Industry

    Silicon Valley may now be more popularly associated with software companies such as Google and Facebook but it takes its name from the material most used to make semiconductors. Semiconductors – or computer chips – power everything from mobile phones to military systems. The semiconductor industry sits at the center of the modern world. This point is key to appreciating what’s going on in the US government’s battle with Chinese technology giant Huawei.

  • A Wildly Irresponsible Cover-Blowing Article on a Whistleblower, Brought to You by the New York Times

    “The New York Times did itself, free speech, and the country no favors by running an article entitled, ‘Whistleblower is a CIA Officer Who Was Detailed to the White House,’” Aki Pertiz writes. “It basically outs a member of CIA in all but name as the whistleblower responsible for impeachment hearings that might bring down a president.” Peritz, a former CIA counterterrorism analyst, adds: “This is terrible for the intelligence community, the media, and the country. But it is not terrible for the president of the United States. Remember, this is a man who mused that the U.S. government should ‘handle’ employees who talked to the whistleblower ‘like in the old days.’” Perhaps it’s just the standard bluff and bluster, but “The whistleblower is already living under federal protection because he fears for his safety. I hope he told his whole extended family to lock down all their social media immediately, because the trolls are coming. Lord help him if he is an ethnic or religious minority. Lord help us all if someone eventually shows up at his door. It’s not hard to imagine there are other Cesar Sayocs out there.”

  • Researchers Trying to Prevent a Repeat of 2016's Election Misinformation in 2020 Are Struggling Thanks to a Lack of Data from Facebook

    Facebook’s promises of sharing detailed amounts of data with researchers and academics to enable them to study and flag disinformation on the site ahead of the 2020 campaign seem to have fallen short, according to a new report from The New York Times. In October 2017, Facebook admitted that 126 million Americans had likely seen Russian misinformation over a two-year period up till August 2017. “Disinformation is still rife on the platform and is continuing to grow,” Mary Hanbury writes. “Last week, research from the University of Oxford showed Facebook was the number one global platform of choice for political parties and governments to spread fake news.”

  • Trump Told Russian Officials in 2017 He Wasn’t Concerned About Moscow’s Interference in U.S. Election

    President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 10 May 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter. “White House officials were particularly distressed by Trump’s election remarks because it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help elect him, the three former officials said. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections, they said,” the Washington Post reports, quoting a former Trump administration official to say: “’What was difficult to understand was how they got a free pass on a lot of things — election security and so forth,’ this former official said. ‘He was just very accommodating to them.’”

  • A New National Security Framework for Foreign Interference

    A series of recent signals from Trump administration officials, including the President, are normalizing an idea that is detrimental to our national security – that soliciting foreign interference in a U.S. election won’t be prosecuted. Jessica Brandt and Joshua Rudolph write in Just Security that with foreign rivals from Beijing to Moscow and elsewhere watching closely, it will become open season on our democracy unless we quickly shift our legal framework for such behavior from a campaign-finance perspective to a national security approach. It is now stunningly evident that when it comes to protecting our democracy from foreign interference, our current legal framework is not up to the task,” Brandt and Rudolph write. “That is in part because what we are dealing with are national security threats, not a technical campaign finance violations.”

  • The Strange Career of “National Security”

    National security—it’s an unusual phrase. Americans use it to frame war, terror, and everything else. Refugees fleeing violence and destitution are considered a “national-security threat.” So too are imported automobiles, as the Trump administration declared last year. Chinese ownership of the dating app Grindr “constitutes a national-security risk.” And Greenland, Senator Tom Cotton asserts, is “vital to our national security.” One might think the country has always been obsessed with national security. This is not the case, Dexter Fergie writes: “Americans didn’t begin using the phrase with any frequency until the 1940s. In fact, the Cambridge historian Andrew Preston has counted a mere four mentions of national security by U.S. presidents from 1918 to 1931. That is an average of one utterance for each of the presidents who served during that period. It’s also fewer than the number of times I wrote national security in the opening paragraph of this essay.”

  • The FISA Oversight Hearing Confirmed That Things Need to Change

    Section 215, the controversial law at the heart of the NSA’s massive telephone records surveillance program, is set to expire in December. Last week the House Committee on the Judiciary held an oversight hearing to investigate how the NSA, FBI, and the rest of the intelligence community are using and interpreting 215 and other expiring national security authorities. If last week’s hearing made anything clear, it’s this: there is no good reason for Congress to renew the CDR authority,” McKinney writes, adding: “Despite repeated requests from the members of the panel to describe some way of measuring how effective these surveillance laws are, none of the witnesses could provide a framework. Congress must be able to determine whether any of the programs have real value and if the agencies are respecting the foundational rights to privacy and civil liberties that protect Americans from government overreach.”

  • Spies and the White House Have a History of Running Wild Without Congressional Oversight

    For decades now, the evolving role of congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence has involved major clashes and scandals, from the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s to the intelligence abuses that led to the 2003 war in Iraq. Central to all of these clashes are attempts by intelligence agencies, the president and the executive branch to withhold damning information from Congress. Another common element is the use of civilians to carry out presidential or intelligence agency agendas.

  • China’s Access to Foreign AI Technology

    Within the pages of the 2019 Worldwide Threat Report, presented in January of this year by former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, is a section titled ‘Emerging and Disruptive Technologies and Threats to Economic Competitiveness’.  The assessment summarizes the Intelligence Community’s concerns about AI and Autonomy. In an example of just what the U.S. Government is worried about, the Justice Department recently filed a criminal complaint against a Chinese government official and associates accusing them of trying to get U.S. universities to sponsor visas for people they described as Chinese research scholars, when in fact, says DOJ, the people had been sent to recruit American scientists. 

  • Russia’s Fingerprints Are All Over Trump’s Ukraine Whistleblower Scandal

    “Elements of the bombshell whistleblower report outlining various aims pursued by the Trump administration with respect to Ukraine keep connecting back to Russia,” Julia Davis writes. “Several of the reported objectives of President Trump, his administration officials, and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani would benefit the Kremlin, and not the United States or its national security. Namely, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was urged to make a deal with Putin, pressured ‘to play ball’ with respect to providing or manufacturing compromising materials about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, and essentially tasked with concocting ‘the evidence’ to disprove the well-established fact that the Democratic National Committee server was hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016.”

  • Russia “Adding Violent Energy” to White Supremacy Around the Globe, U.S. Experts Claim

    White supremacist terrorism around the globe is being manipulated by Russia for political ends, senior U.S. national security officials have warned. Such white supremacist groups are “emulating” jihadists like Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant by forging a “transnational” community of followers, using social media and encrypted communications platforms, the experts said. Joshua Geltzer, former U.S. senior director of counter terrorism, said: “The Russian government adds violent energy to the emerging transnational network of white supremacists, spreading its cause in part through disinformation aggressively disseminated online.” Ali Soufan, a former FBI supervisory special agent, told lawmakers that the “emerging epicenter” of white supremacist extremism is Russia and Ukraine. “There are extensive ties between the Russian government and far-right groups in Europe.”

  • Science Fiction Has Become Dystopian Fact

    So which dystopia are we living in? Most educated people have read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. So influential have these books been that we are inclined to view all disconcerting new phenomena as either “Orwellian” or “Huxleyan”. If you suspect we shall lose our freedom to a brutally repressive state, grinding its boot into our faces, you think of George. If you think we shall lose it to a hedonistic consumer culture, complete with test-tube designer babies, you quote Aldous. “My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power,” Huxley wrote in a letter to Orwell in 1949. Niall Ferguson agrees: “As I reflect on the world in 2019, I am struck by the wisdom of [Huxley’s] words. In Xi Jinping’s China, we see Totalitarianism 2.0. The boot on the face remains a possibility, of course, but it is needed less and less as the system of social credit expands, aggregating and analyzing all the digital data that Chinese citizens generate.”