• What Data Hackers Can Get about You from Hospitals

    When hospitals are hacked, the public hears about the number of victims – but not what information the cybercriminals stole. New research uncovers the specific data leaked through hospital breaches, sounding alarm bells for nearly 170 million people.

  • 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.”

  • Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?

    On 18 August 2008—after almost seven years, nearly 10,000 interviews, and millions of dollars spent developing a whole new form of microbial forensics—some of the FBI announced that it had concluded that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins was the person responsible for the fall 2001 anthrax letter attacks. “It’s been 10 years since the deadliest biological terror attack in U.S. history launched a manhunt that ruined one scientist’s reputation and saw a second driven to suicide, yet nagging problems remain,” Noah Shachtman writes. “Problems that add up to an unsettling reality: Despite the FBI’s assurances, it’s not at all certain that the government could have ever convicted Ivins of a crime.”

  • Innocent Users Have the Most to Lose in the Rush to Address Extremist Speech Online

    Big online platforms tend to brag about their ability to filter out violent and extremist content at scale, but those same platforms refuse to provide even basic information about the substance of those removals. How do these platforms define terrorist content? What safeguards do they put in place to ensure that they don’t over-censor innocent people in the process? Again and again, social media companies are unable or unwilling to answer the questions. Facebook Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert claimed that more than 99 percent of terrorist content posted on Facebook is deleted by the platform’s automated tools, but the company has consistently failed to say how it determines what constitutes a terrorist⁠—or what types of speech constitute terrorist speech.

  • 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.”

  • Information and Democracy—A Perilous Relationship

    In the 1997 James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies,” the villain is Elliot Carver, head of a media conglomerate who has come to believe that information is a more powerful weapon than military force. He blackmails senior British leaders and ultimately tries to spark a war between China and Britain to bring his ally to power in Beijing. At one point in the film, Carver stands underneath massive television screens in the headquarters of his media empire, addressing Bond: “We’re both men of action,” he tells Bond, “but your era…is passing. Words are the new weapons, satellites the new artillery…Caesar had his legions, Napoleon had his armies. I have my divisions—TV, news, magazines.” Fast-forward twenty years, and this scenario appears to be becoming reality. Using techniques far more advanced than those available to Bond villains in the 1990s, today’s practitioners of what a new RAND report terms “hostile social manipulation” employ targeted social media campaigns, sophisticated forgeries, cyberbullying and harassment of individuals, distribution of rumors and conspiracy theories, and other tools and approaches to cause damage to the target state.

  • DHS: Domestic Terrorism, Particularly White-Supremacist Violence, As Big a Threat as ISIS, al-Qaeda

    Domestic terrorism and mass attacks are as great a threat to the United States today as foreign terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security said in a new strategy report unveiled Friday. The strategy recognizes that foreign terrorist groups continue to plot against the United States but notes there has been a disturbing rise in attacks motivated by domestic terrorist ideologies — and that white supremacy is one of the most potent drivers. “In our modern age, the continuation of racially based violent extremism, particularly violent white supremacy, is an abhorrent affront to the nation,” acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan said in a speech Friday in Washington, saying the trend “has no place in the United States of America, and it never will.”

  • Does Norway Have a Far-Right Problem?

    A recent article in the Guardian by Sindre Bangstad, a Norwegian social anthropologist describes Norway as being in the grip of pervasive, far-right nationalism, with violence simmering just below the surface. “Norway is in denial about the threat of far-right violence,” reads the bombastic headline. Kathrine Jebsen Moore, a fellow Norwegian, writes that Bangstad misrepresents and misleads: she motes that the Norwegian Police Security Service still regards Islamist terror threats as the most serious threat to Norway, even if it has upgraded the threat of far-right extremism from “unlikely” to “possible” after an attempted mosque attack in August. But “to see in the upgrading of the terrorist threat posed by far-right groups a general mood of irrational hatred for immigrants and Muslims, and portray Norway as a hotbed for racism, is just wrong,” Moore writes, adding: “Norway, like other European countries, is faced with a new set of challenges as it changes from a homogenous nation to a country with a growing immigrant population” – and that “Norway is coping with this influx a lot better than Sweden. So, is Norway in denial about its far-right problem? Don’t believe it.”

  • Blast from the Past

    Shortly before sunrise on 22 September 1979, a U.S. surveillance satellite known as Vela 6911 recorded an unusual double flash as it orbited the earth above the South Atlantic. At Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, where it was still nighttime on 21 September, the staff in charge of monitoring the satellite’s transmissions saw the unmistakable pattern produced by a nuclear explosion—something U.S. satellites had detected on dozens of previous occasions in the wake of nuclear tests. The possibility that Israel or South Africa, which had deep clandestine defense ties at the time, had tested a nuclear weapon threatened to tarnish what President Jimmy Carter regarded as his administration foreign policy achievements ahead of the 1980 election. And the fact that South Africa’s own nuclear weapons program, which the Carter administration was seeking to stop, was not yet sufficiently advanced to test such a weapon left just one prime suspect: Israel. Leading figures within the administration were therefore keen to bury the story and put forward alternative explanations. On the 40th anniversary of the Vela event, Foreign Policy has assembled a team of experts to revisit the 22 September 1979 mysterious event.

  • The CAR Murders: A Critical Cold Case in the New Cold War Points to “Putin’s Chef”

    You may remember that about a year ago three Russian journalists and filmmakers were mysteriously murdered in the Central African Republic (CAR). The victims — Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko — had traveled to the CAR to make a documentary about the “Wagner Group,” a secretive private military contractor affiliated to Yevgeny Prigozhin, nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contacts. The Russian official investigation blamed Islamic militants for the killing, and a news agency backed by Prigozhin blamed a French mercenary. An independent investigation has now found that Prigozhin’s own hit men killed the journalists. “Americans concerned about the ruthlessness of Moscow’s operations to subvert or dominate other countries should take note as evidence mounts that some of the central figures in the cyberattacks on the U.S. presidential election in 2016 may also be implicated in the Africa homicides,” Anna Nemtsova and Christopher Dickey write.

  • MI6 Fears Russia Can Link Prince Andrew to Jeffrey Epstein Abuse

    British intelligence chiefs are concerned that Russia may have obtained kompromat, compromising material, on Prince Andrew over the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. MI6 is understood to be concerned about the activities of a former Florida police officer who had access to the investigation into the billionaire pedophile and then moved to Russia. John Mark Dougan, a former deputy in the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office, left the United States in 2009 and has been living in Moscow since then. Since the Epstein case was reopened in July 2019, Dougan started to make Facebook posts relating to the case. His intervention alarmed British and American intelligence officials, who appear to have been tracking his activities since he was photographed with Pavel Borodin in 2013. A Western intelligence source told The Times that Dougan exhibited a number of “classic traits” that made him suitable for recruitment by a “hostile intelligence service.” Borodin, a senior Russian government official, is referred to as a mentor to President Vladimir Putin.

  • Inside a Deadly American Summer

    They were octogenarians shopping at a Texas Walmart. They were family members watching TV in California. They were late-night revelers standing on a crowded Ohio sidewalk. They were casualties of a violent summer. Mitch Smith writes in the New York Times that during the unofficial summer season, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, America endured 26 mass shootings in 18 states. One massacre followed the next, sometimes on the very same day. In sudden bursts of misery, they played out in big cities, along rural roads, inside trim suburbs. They left behind shaken neighborhoods, tearful memorials and calls for change, but little concrete action. “And the summer ended much as it had begun, with a new round of panicky 911 calls, another set of wrenching vigils, a new wave of pleas for change,” Mitch Smith writes.

  • Pesticides May Have Caused Cuban “Sonic Weapon” Symptoms

    A strange illness affecting the brains of Canadian and U.S. diplomats in their countries’ embassies in Havana may have been caused by exposure to pesticides, a new study says. From late 2016 to late 2017, some 40 U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana suffered brain damage, and exhibited a range of unusual symptoms, including hearing and vision complications, dizziness, fatigue, disorientation, and headaches. The U.S. government claimed that the diplomats had been attacked by some sort of secret sonic weapon, but a new Canadian study says that the cause was likely an exposure to low-dose exposure to neurotoxins, such as those used in commercial pesticides. From late 2016 to late 2017, Cuban health authorities engaged in an intensive fumigation campaign to block the spread of the Zika virus.

  • How Social Media Should Prepare for Disinformation Campaigns in the 2020 Election

    A new report assesses some of the forms and sources of disinformation likely to play a role on social media during the 2020 presidential election campaign in the U.S. The report explores these risks and analyzes what the major social media companies—Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (owned by Google)—have done to harden their defenses against disinformation. The report also offers nine recommendations of additional steps social media companies should take to prepare for 2020.

  • Women’s March Votes Out Board Member for Anti-Semitic Tweets

    Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was dismissed from the board of directors of the Women’s March on Wednesday, only two days after she was appointed to the board on Monday. “We found some of her public statements incompatible with the values and mission of the organization,” the board said. Billoo has called herself a “proud anti-Zionist” and said that she does not believe Israel has a right to exist. She also has accused Israel of committing war crimes “as a hobby,” and wrote: “the Israeli Defense Forces, or the IDF, are no better than ISIS. They are both genocidal terrorist organizations,” and that “racist Zionists who support Apartheid Israel” scares her more than “the mentally ill young people the #FBI recruits to join ISIS.”