More Chinese Migrants Are Crossing the Southern Border | Why TikTok is a National Security Threat | Al-Qaeda: A Defeated Threat? Think Again, and more

Why TikTok is a National Security Threat  (Jacob Helberg, National Interest)
As the war rages between Israel and Hamas, TikTok’s proliferation of anti-Israel content has reignited the debate about whether the platform should be legal in the United States. While Congress stopped short of enacting legislation last spring, it’s time lawmakers recognized the existential risk TikTok poses to U.S. security interests and take action accordingly. At no point in U.S. history has a foreign entity owned such an unprecedented platform for the mass dissemination of potent personalized propaganda and the mass collection of private American user data. TikTok has all the hallmarks of the most extensive intelligence operation a foreign power has ever conducted against the United States.
The Chinese government can distort the information users see on TikTok in two ways. First, it can leverage its influence over the company to ensure the ranking algorithm promotes the Party line, amplifying certain sources, viewpoints, or topics while burying others. “We’ve seen that TikTok tends to feed these terrible impulses with an algorithm that amplifies fringe and extremist positions,” said Senate Intel Chief Mark Warner. 
Just in the last few days, Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” went viral and surfaced videos with over 14.2 million views. At a time when the United States seeks to support its ally Israel, an analysis of the two most commonly used hashtags related to the war shows that 96.5 percent of the Israel content that TikTok displays to users is #FreePalestine content compared to 3.5 percent for #StandWithIsrael, according to TikTok’s own data. As Hollywood celebrity Sasha Baron Cohen recently decried: “What is happening at TikTok is it is creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis.”
No matter the topic, TikTok is invariably skewed against American security interests, consistently mirroring CCP talking points while promoting self-destructive behaviors among America’s youth. Other reports have found TikTok censoring and suppressing content about Xinjiang, Tibet, Tiananmen Square, and other topics deemed sensitive by the CCP. While at the same time, TikTok promotes “chroming” (sniffing glue) and the “blackout challenge” in America, the Chinese version of the app, Chairman Gallagher notes, “shows kids science experiments and other educational content.” This should not come as a surprise: TikTok is ultimately answerable to its parent company’s chief editor, Zhang Fuping, who is also the boss of that company’s internal Communist Party committee.

As Groundwater Dwindles, Powerful Players Block Change  (Christopher Flavelle and Mira Rojanasakul, New York Times)
In a country where the value of land often depends on access to water, powerful interests in agriculture, heavy industry and real estate draw vast amounts of water out of the ground. For generations, that water has been treated as an unlimited resource in much of the United States, freely available to anyone who owns a piece of land and can drill a well. Entire local economies have been built around the assumption that the water will never run out.
Now it is starting to run out, not only in Kansas but across much of the country. From Maryland to Hawaii groundwater levels are falling, often the result of overpumping and underregulation, made worse by climate change. As the planet warms, demand for water is increasing. At the same time, increased evaporation, as well as decreased precipitation in some places, means that less water is refilling the aquifers, accelerating their decline.

A Misleading Metaphor: The Nuclear “Arms Race”  (Matthew Costlow, Robert Peters, and Kyle Balzer, War on the Rocks)
There is an emerging threat to the United States that will “endanger everyone,” one that can cause “escalation and misunderstandings” and even increase “the risk of a crisis or conflict that might turn nuclear.” No, these descriptors are not about Russia’s latest doomsday nuclear weapon or China’s provocative military behavior toward its neighbors. Instead, these are the purported consequences of a three-way nuclear “arms race” that some analysts believe the United States is about to ignite. 
The Joseph R. Biden administration is currently considering whether and how to adapt the U.S. nuclear posture to China’s rapid nuclear buildup and Russia’s steady increase in its regional nonstrategic nuclear weapons. There is an emerging bipartisan consensus among longtime U.S. nuclear policy officials that the United States will need to adjust and potentially increase its nuclear forces in response to growing threats. Critics believe that such recommendations will increase nuclear dangers, and they frequently employ a metaphor to illustrate how: an “arms race.”
 This “arms race” metaphor, however, does far more harm than good in explaining a poorly understood dynamic. It is a simplistic disfigurement of a complicated reality. If policymakers are led to believe that the United States is creating an endless action-reaction loop between itself and China and Russia, not only will members of Congress be unable to see the threat environment as it actually is, but they also may be afraid to make any necessary adjustments to U.S. forces to reinforce deterrence. 

Al-Qaeda: A Defeated Threat? Think Again  (Sara Harmouch, War on the Rocks)
U.S. President Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan marked the closure of America’s longest war against the very adversary that started it. “Remember what I said about Afghanistan? I said al-Qaeda would not be there. I said it wouldn’t be there,” declared Biden, resonating with a nation eager to turn a new page. However, reality clashed with this confidence on Aug. 15 when a 17-year-old tied to al-Qaeda was arrested in Philadelphia on charges related to weapons of mass destruction. Americans must now confront a question many thought the nation had left behind: Is al-Qaeda really defeated or has the threat merely evolved? 
President Biden may have announced the end of the Afghan war, but al-Qaeda has not. As of June 2023, U.N. reports indicate that the group’s activities are intensifying not just in Afghanistan, but globally as well. The group’s sustained ties with the Taliban and their leaders’ strategic return to Afghanistan are an advancement — not a decline. While top al-Qaeda figures are also calling for renewed jihad in Sudan, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is simultaneously targeting nations like Morocco with new propaganda campaigns. Additionally, al-Qaeda’s threats against Sweden and Denmark aren’t mere talk. In the wake of Quran burnings, the group has declared, “[w]e’re still here and open for business.” The escalating Israel-Hamas conflict further fuels al-Qaeda’s resurgence, leveraging the Palestinian cause to rally support, reinvigorating its base, and staging a comeback. These developments not only reaffirm al-Qaeda’s adaptability and determination but clearly underscore that any claims of al-Qaeda’s defeat are, at this point, premature.

Escalating Violence in Gaza Increasing Chatter of Possible Terror Attack in New York, Intelligence Report Says (Marcia Kramer, CBS News)
CBS News learned Monday of increased threats of a possible terror attack in New York City as a direct result of the escalating violence in the Middle East. Gov. Kathy Hochul is already taking action to beef up security and increase staffing of the Joint Terrorism Task Force following a new threat assessment by the New York State Intelligence Center that violence in Gaza is driving chatter about targets in New York.  “I am working hard at the state level with the control I have. I’ll be talking about this tomorrow, about exactly what we’re doing, and how many online threats we’ve uncovered, how many have been investigated, what the outcome is,” said Hochul.  The governor spoke about new steps she’ll be taking to deal with online threats and radicalization, even as CBS News obtained a new threat assessment which points to “an increasing terror threat to NYS.”  The intelligence center warned that the spread of antisemitic and anti-Palestinian rhetoric on social media is fueling an increase in hate crimes targeting Jews, Muslims and Arabs.  “The expansion of Israeli operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and increase in civilian casualties raises the likelihood that violent extremist threat actors will seek to conduct attacks against targets in the West, with New York State being a focus. Terrorist messaging has placed focus on attacking ‘soft targets’ such as protests, group gatherings, and other public events,” the report said.