• ARGUMENT: Cyberspace spooksCovert Action, Espionage, and the Intelligence Contest in Cyberspace

    In recent months, the world learned that China carried out an indiscriminate hack against Microsoft Exchange, while Russia hacked U.S. information technology firm SolarWinds and used cyber capabilities in an attempt to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Michael Poznansky writes that the attacks raise important questions about how best to characterize these and other kinds of disruptive cyber events. Cyber-enabled espionage and covert cyber operations both qualify as intelligence activities, but they are also distinct in key ways from one another. “Failing to appreciate these differences impedes our ability to understand the richness of cyber operations, underlying motivations, the prospect for signaling, and metrics of success,” he writes.

  • ExtremismGermany’s Spy Chiefs Urge Court to Agree on Monitoring of Far-Right AfD

    By Jamie Dettmer

    Germany’s domestic intelligence agency says there’s sufficient evidence to warrant labeling the country’s main opposition party, the populist far-right Alternative for Germany, AfD, as “anti-constitutional” and an organization hostile to democracy.

  • ExtremismGermany’s AfD Party Placed under Surveillance as “Extremism Suspect”

    Germany’s interior intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has classified the entire Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party as an “extremism suspected case.” The two largest parties in Germany, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party are members of the governing coalition, making the populist, far-right AfD the leader of the opposition in the Bundestag. The designation allows the BfV to use additional surveillance powers given to it by the Bundestag last year, including monitoring email communications and recruiting party members as informants.

  • SurveillanceDeployment of Emotion-Recognition Technologies in China Threatens Human Rights

    Emotion recognition is a biometric technology which purports to be able to analyze a person’s inner emotional state. These biometric applications are used by law enforcement authorities to identify suspicious individuals, and by schools to monitor how well a student is paying attention in class. China is deploying the technology to allow the authorities to better monitor forbidden anti-regime thoughts among citizens who are subject to police interrogation or investigation.

  • SurveillanceEFF Urges Federal Appeals Court to Rehear Case Involving Unconstitutional Baltimore Aerial Surveillance Program

    By Nathaniel Sobel

    In May, the Baltimore Police Department launched its Aerial Investigation Research (AIR) Pilot Program. For six months, three surveillance aircrafts operated by a private company called Persistent Surveillance Systems flew over Baltimore—covering about 90 percent of the city—for 12 hours every day. The planes produced images that even at a resolution of “one pixel per person” allowed the police to track individual’s movements over multi-day periods, especially when combined with the police’s networks of more than 800 ground-based surveillance cameras and automated license plate readers.

  • SurveillanceEU Uses Chinese Technology Linked to Muslim Internment Camps in Xinjiang

    By James Franey

    In the fight against coronavirus, the EU is using thermal cameras produced by Chinese tech giant Hikvision. The firm has been linked to the oppression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang province.

  • Politicizing intelligenceDHS Intelligence Official Says He Was Pressured to Stop Providing Assessments of Russia’s Threat to U.S. Election

    Brian Murphy, the former head of DHS’s intelligence and analysis unit, said in a whistle-blower complaint  made public on Wednesday that he was pressured by acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf to stop providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the upcoming U.S. election. In his complaint, Murphy also says that acting DHS secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli directed agency analysts to downplay threats from violent white supremacy to make the threat “appear less severe,” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups and antifa. Murphy says that Wolf and Cuccinelli — both Trump appointees not yet confirmed by the Senate — appeared to want to shape DHS’s public announcements so they accord with the president’s language and political interests, even if modifying the department’s public announcements in this way contradicted the department’s own intelligence analysis.

  • SurveillanceNSA’s Post-9/11 Mass Surveillance Program, Exposed by Snowden, Illegal: Court

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence’s surveillance program exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden was unlawful, and possibly unconstitutional. Critics of the program say that in addition to violating privacy rights, the program’s was ineffective: Billions of phone calls and email messages were collected and scanned over the years, but only a handful of terrorism suspects were seized, and even fewer were convicted.

  • School surveillanceSchools’ Facial Recognition Technology Problematic, Should Be Banned: Experts

    Facial recognition technology should be banned for use in schools, according to a new study. The research reveals inaccuracy, racial inequity, and increased surveillance are the touchstones of a flawed technology.

  • AIArtificial Intelligence Is a Totalitarian’s Dream – Here’s How to Take Power Back

    By Simon McCarthy-Jones

    Individualistic Western societies are built on the idea that no one knows our thoughts, desires or joys better than we do. And so we put ourselves, rather than the government, in charge of our lives. We tend to agree with the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s claim that no one has the right to force their idea of the good life on us. Artificial intelligence (AI) will change this.

  • PrivacyConsumers Consider Third-Party Use of Personal Location Data as Privacy Violations

    The National Security Agency issued a warning to its employees 4 August that cellphone location data could pose a national security risk. But how do consumers feel about their location data being tracked and sold? New research yielded surprising results.

  • ARGUMENT: Disturbing overreachI Ran the DHS Intelligence Unit. Its Reports on Journalists are Concerning.

    The intelligence arm of the Department of Homeland Security, known as the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A), has been the subject of extensive criticism recently, first for questionable intelligence support to law enforcement in Portland, Oregon, and then for its deeply problematic intelligence reports naming U.S. journalists reporting on I&A’s own actions. Gen. Francis X. Taylor (USAF, retd), who served as under-secretary of intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security from 2014 to January 2017, writes that the investigation of the mistakes DHS I&A made in Portland and in reporting on journalists “should focus not only on personnel on the ground, but—more importantly—on those who demanded that the intelligence agency depart from its guidelines,” and he adds that “it is important to distinguish between the danger of I&A acting beyond its authority and the value that the office can provide when it works well.”

  • ARGUMENT: Sidelining DHS watchdogsHow the DHS Intelligence Unit Sidelined the Watchdogs

    Several months ago, the leadership of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis asked DHS’s second-in-command, Ken Cuccinelli, to limit a department watchdog from regularly reviewing the intelligence products it produces and distributes. Cuccinelli signed off on the move, according to two sources familiar with the situation, which constrained the role of the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in approving the intelligence office’s work. Benjamin Wittes writes that “It is no wonder, under these circumstances, that there has been a rash of cases in which the office [DHS I&A] seems to have collected and disseminated “intelligence” on absurd subjects (including but not limited to me).”

  • ARGUMENT: Malevolence & incompetenceWhat if J. Edgar Hoover Had Been a Moron?

    Benjamin Wittes, founder and co-editor of Lawfare, writes that it was on the ninth day of the Trump presidency, when writing in response to the new president’s new travel ban executive order, that he coined the phrase “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” But he never imagined in doing so that the phrase might aptly describe the Trump administration’s behavior toward him personally. In his detailed article, Wittes looks at both the incompetence, “which is simple and easy to understand and genuinely amusing,” and then the malevolence beneath it—”which is more complicated and is not amusing at all.”

  • ARGUMENT: Domestic surveillanceDHS Authorizes Domestic Surveillance to Protect Statues and Monuments

    You might not imagine that the U.S. intelligence community would have much stake in local protests over monuments and statues, Steve Vladeck and Benjamin Wittes write, but you’d be wrong. An unclassified DHS memo, provided to Lawfare, makes clear that the authorized intelligence activity by DHS personnel covers significantly more than protecting federal personnel or facilities. It appears to also include planned vandalism of Confederate (and other historical) monuments and statues, whether federally owned or not. “[W]e do not accept that graffiti and vandalism are remotely comparable threats to the homeland [as attacks on federal buildings] — or that they justify this kind of federal response even if, in the right circumstances, such activity would technically constitute a federal crime,” Vladeck and Wittes conclude.