• PERSPECTIVE: Catastrophes50,000 Benghazis, 109 Katrinas: U.S. COVID-19 Death in Perspective

    The United States now counts over 200,000 dead in direct connection with the novel coronavirus. Elizabeth Hunt Brockway writes that to grasp the enormity of this figure, we need to see how this massive number stacks up to Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other iconic events of mass death, suffering, and pain seared into the American collective conscience.

  • TerrorismGroup Portrait of America's Jihadists

    A new report by RAND’s Brian Michael Jenkins answers the following questions:1) What is the collective profile of Americans traveling or attempting to travel abroad to join jihadist groups? 2) Among Americans associated with terrorism or terrorist organizations, are there significant differences in the demographics or backgrounds that propelled some to go abroad and some to instead join the jihadist movement at home? 3) What can the collective profile of America’s jihadists reveal about the dimensions and nature of the terrorist threat, the statistical profile of those who respond to jihadist recruiting appeals, the effectiveness of the U.S. response to the threat, and the results of that response?

  • Civil unrestDOJ: 3 Cities Could Lose Federal Funding for Allowing Violence

    The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday that three U.S. cities have “permitted violence and destruction of property” to persist and threatened to cut federal funding if they don’t take measures to restore law and order. According to a news release, New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, risk the loss of funding. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan responded to the DOJ statement. “This is thoroughly political and unconstitutional. The president is playing cheap political games with the congressionally directed funds,” the three said in a joint statement.

  • 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.”

  • Hemispheric securityPandemic Crushes Guyana’s Dreams of Big Oil Profits as “Resource Curse” Looms over Oil-Producing Nations

    By Amy Myers Jaffe

    This year was supposed to bring great things for Guyana. ExxonMobil discovered massive oil deposits off the South American country’s Caribbean coast in 2015, and Guyana sold its first cargo of crude oil this February. But Guyana’s dreams of fabulous wealth this year have been dashed by COVID-19, which has delayed production and slashed oil demand. Compounding its coronavirus troubles, Guyana shows warning signs of the so-called “resource curse,” in which a country’s new oil wealth crowds out other productive economic sectors, breeds corruption and triggers political conflict. Very few petrostates have adequately diversified their economies. Exceptions include Malaysia and Dubai, which have both used oil wealth successfully to build a broader economic foundation and have avoided the dreaded “resource curse.” Those countries should be models for Guyana.

  • WildfiresWildfire in Northern California's Coastal Ranges on the Rise Since 1984

    High-severity wildfires in northern coastal California have been increasing by about 10 percent per decade since 1984, according to a new study. From Berryessa to Klamath Mountains, High-Severity Burns Quadrupled During Warm Drought.

  • 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.

  • China syndromeU.S.-China Fight over Fishing Is Really about World Domination

    By Blake Earle

    China’s aggressive, sometimes illegal fishing practices are the latest source of conflict with the United States.

    China has the world’s largest fishing fleet. Beijing claims to send around 2,600 vessels out to fish across the globe, but some maritime experts say this distant-water fishing fleet may number nearly 17,000. The United States has fewer than 300 distant-water ships. Governments often use the fishing industry to advance their diplomatic agenda, as my work as a historian of fishing and American foreign relations shows. The United States used fishing, directly and indirectly, to build its international empire from its founding through the 20th century. Now China’s doing it, too.

  • 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.”

  • WildfiresDoes Experiencing Wildfires Create Political Consensus on Resilience Measures?

    By Bruce E. Cain

    As of last weekend [12-13 September], 97 large fires have burned 4.7 million acres across the American West, causing widespread evacuations in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Utah.  The smoke from these summer wildfires has spread very widely over the region, curtailing outdoor activity and sending many to the hospitals with respiratory ailments, heat attacks and strokes.  Will this move us any closer to achieving a consensus on the topic of dealing with climate change?

  • WildfiresInsurance Markets Face Challenges in Higher Fire-Risk Areas

    Wildfires in California destroy thousands of structures each year, and in 2017 that number jumped to 10,800. In 2018, wildfires wrought even greater destruction, with more than 22,000 structures destroyed. Those conflagrations can devastate homeowners and bring heavy costs for the insurance industry. In a new study, RAND researchers found that while the insurance market in lower-fire-risk areas was working relatively well as of 2017, higher-fire-risk areas faced challenges.

  • 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.