16 May 2015

For The Record: Asia’s voice will be stronger if India and China speak in one voice, says Narendra Modi

Edited excerpts from Modi’s speech at the Tsinghua University, Beijing, delivered on May 15.

It is not surprising that China’s economic growth and its new leadership in research, science and technology have taken place together. I particularly like the old Chinese saying, “If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of 10 years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” In India, too, the ancient saying is “Vyaye krate vardhate eva nityam, vidhya dhanam sarva dhan pradhanam (the wealth that increases by giving, that wealth is knowledge and is supreme of all possessions)”. This is one example of how our two nations are united in their timeless wisdom.

There is much more, though, that links our two ancient civilisations. I began my journey in China in Xian. In doing so, I retraced the footsteps of the Chinese monk Xuanzang. He travelled to India from Xian in the 7th century in search of knowledge and returned to Xian as a friend and chronicler of India. The world’s first largescale educational exchange programme took place between India and China during the Tang dynasty. Records talk of about 80 Indian monks coming to China and nearly 150 Chinese monks returning after their education in India. And yes, this was in the 10th and 11th centuries. Mumbai’s rise as a port and shipbuilding centre is because of cotton trade with China. So, the centuries-old story of our relations has been of spiritualism, learning, art and trade. It is a picture of respect for each other’s civilisation and of shared prosperity. It is reflected in the human values of Dr Dwarkanath Kotnis, who treated soldiers in China…

The greedy state

what if Pakistan is a purely greedy state? If so, then any policy of appeasement may in fact aggravate the problems that Pakistan poses to regional and international security.

C. Christine Fair’s book Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way to War (2014) will put off most Pakistanis. But let it be said that Pakistan has not trashed it after publication last year by OUP, Pakistan, forgivably replacing the more attractive original cover illustration with a staid photograph of the Pakistan army’s insignia. Fair writes with authority, quoting reliable Pakistani sources. It’s a pity that her final verdict had to be so negative: Pakistan is a “greedy state” that will not self-correct.

She leans on General (retired) Kamal Matinuddin’s 1994 book, Tragedy of Errors: East Pakistan Crisis, 1968-1971, Abdurrahman Siddiqi’s The Military in Pakistan: Image and Reality (1996), and the classic study of the Pakistan army by Shuja Nawaz, Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within (2008), to formulate her well-argued thesis on how the state has been pushed into unbending irredentism and how the army has punished attempted course-corrections by civilian rulers, only to effect marginal trimmings under its own rule to appease an offended world community. The mainstay is her scrutiny of the army’s in-house publications where officers are allowed regurgitations of their ill-digested manuals. Pakistan should be used to this, as its own scholar, Aqil Shah, in his The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan (2014) too has unveiled some of these amateurish outpourings from the officers most likely to rule Pakistan.

*** Why Shiite Expansion Will Be Short-Lived

MAY 12, 2015

That a bloc of Shiite states has coalesced in the Middle East is a significant geopolitical development; that it is led by Iran means it could be short lived.

In fact, the bloc's formation and expansion, such as they are, were possible only through the division and weakness of Sunni Arab states.

Several factors, most notably the Syrian civil war and ethnic and religious constraints, will prevent Iran from projecting Shiite influence farther than it already has.

The sectarian conflict in the Middle East can neatly be divided into two sides: Sunnis and Shiites. Or so it would seem. The reality, it turns out, is more complicated. Sunni unity is a myth – the countries that constitute the Sunni camp are divided over a variety of issues. And the Shiites, whose power has grown since the early 1990s, nonetheless suffer from the inescapable constraints of being a minority population.
A Demographic Challenge

Modi’s China Visit: Engagement with Purpose

By Vinay Kaura
May 15, 2015

For the third time in a year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is traveling to China to meet President Xi Jinping. Modi is visiting Chinua at a time when the latter’s diplomatic and military influence is increasingly being felt throughout the region, commensurate with its growing economic clout.

China’s impressive resurgence as a great power constitutes a deepsea change in the politics of India-China relations. As neighbors, as trading partners, and as regional powers with conflicting geopolitical priorities, the China-India relationship is becoming increasingly complex. Viewed as two rivals competing for regional leadership, the trends seem increasingly to favor China.

Both Modi and Xi have the task of avoiding confrontation, and indeed both leaders seem to be investing their personal reputations in a process of reconciliation. This was evident in Xi’s decision last year to first land in Modi’s hometown of Ahmadabad before heading to New Delhi, and Modi’s decision now to first land in Xi’s home province of Shaanxi before going on to Beijing and Shanghai. These gestures have prompted considerable optimism among observers about the prospects of a dramatic turnaround in the bilateral relationship. But the business of reconciliation is not easy, particularly when misperceptions and mistrust remain unaddressed.

India to Launch First Homegrown Aircraft Carrier

Zachary Keck
May 14, 2015

India is set to launch its first indigenous aircraft carrier later this month, according to local media reports.

On Thursday The Hindu reported that India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier,INS Vikrant, will be launched from Cochin Shipyard on May 28.

“All major equipment has gone into the vessel, which has now acquired the shape of an aircraft carrier, with a finished hull. Barring a bit of ongoing work on the superstructure, structural work is all over and the internal compartments have all been welded in,” an official at shipyard was quoted as saying.

The INS Vikrant will displace 40,000 tons and feature a short-take off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) system, rather than the catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system used by current U.S. aircraft carriers. The ski-slope launch system will limit the INS Vikrant’s ability to launch heavy aircraft from its deck. However, the carrier will reportedly hold some 36 combat jets, which can launch at intervals between 2-3 minutes. The ship is expected to carry the Russian-made Mikoyan MiG 29 K fighter.

India’s Military Cannot Fight Wars Lasting Longer than 20 Days

May 14, 2015

A recent report by the Indian government points to an ‘ammunition crisis’ in the India Army. 

Last week, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India published a report outlining a massive ammunition shortage facing the Indian military. Currently, India has only enough supplies for 20 days of intense fighting.

“Stocking of ammunition even at ‘minimum acceptable risk level’ was not ensured,” the report said, according to the Hindustan Times. The report found that, as of March 2013, India’s stockpiles were below “minimum acceptable risk level” for “125 out of a total of 170 types of ammunition.”

The across-the-board requirement for the Indian Army is to have enough reserves for at least 40 days of high-intensity combat. However, the auditors found that the supplies for around 50 percent of ammunition types would barely last for even ten days of war.

This report will not come as a surprise to military analysts. The Indian Army has been confronted by a critical ammunition shortage for at least 16 years. For example, during the 70-day long Kargil War in 1999, India had to purchase much needed artillery shells from Israel at exorbitant prices.

Modi's First Stop in China: Why Xi'an?

Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi is in China for his first visit since assuming office (though he was a frequent visitor to China during his time as Gujarat’s chief minister). As Ankit noted in his preview of the trip, Modi’s itinerary is somewhat unusual. Rather than traveling directly to Beijing, Modi’s first stop is Xi’an, in central China’s Shaanxi Province. Even more unusual was the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Xi’an to welcome Modi to China — the first time he’s done so for a foreign leader.

Everything on the itinerary of a state visit is crafted with a political purpose. As Xinhua put it, Xi’an “was a carefully orchestrated choice” for the Modi-Xi meeting. So what makes Xi’an so special?

First of all, Xi’an is Xi’s hometown. In that regard, having Modi stop in Xi’an first purposefully echoes Xi’s visit to India last September, when he visited Modi’s home province of Gujarat before heading to New Delhi. In both cases, the idea is to emphasize (or at least provide the illusion of) personal connections between the two leaders before moving on to the formalities that accompany any state visit. Chinese media emphasized the rarity of Xi meeting a foreign leader outside of Beijing and Xi himself said he had never before welcomed a foreign leader in Xi’an.

WHAT IF.... What If India Had Won The 1962 War Against China?

Tibet would have been liberated; the loss of face would have made China retreat into its shell instead of becoming an aggressive imperialist....and of course India's Marxists would have been defanged.

Indians have been conditioned to believe that we had not a ghost of a chance against China in 1962; but that's simply not true. If the Indian government had not been so blasé; if the military leadership had not been so ineffectual; if the Indian Air Force had not been grounded, ill-advisedly; well, all historic ifs, but the outcome would have been very different. China's army is a lot less than invincible, as the battle-hardened Vietnamese proved by thrashing it in 1979.Even the timing was propitious for India, yet we fumbled.

In 1962, China was weak militarily. If defeated, Tibet would have been free, future water wars avoided, Chinese self-esteem hurt. 

In 1962, China had just experienced four years of decreasing foodgrain production and a major famine. Chinese supply lines to the Indo-Tibet border were stretched thin, and could have been disrupted from the air. If only the Indian political and military leadership had not been criminally negligent—which is why the Henderson-Brooks Report on the war has been suppressed, for it would implicate too many in high places—India could have won.The end results would have been dramatic: Tibet would have been liberated; Indians would not have been starry-eyed about China; the loss of face would have made China retreat into its shell instead of becoming an aggressive imperialist.

America's Pakistan Policy Is Sheer Madness

C. Christine Fair
May 15, 2015

This week, the Congressional Research Service published a list of all major U.S. arms sales and grants to Pakistan. Washington claims that these transfers enable Pakistan to be better a partner in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The evidence belies these claims. In fact, Pakistan undercuts key U.S. interests in the region and it perdures as a source of Islamist terrorism at home and abroad. The items that Washington has conveyed to Pakistan have little utility in fighting insurgents and terrorists; rather, they enable Pakistan to better fight India, a democratic American partner that has long endured Pakistani predations. A new American policy towards Pakistan, rooted in sober realism, is long overdue.

Since 9/11, the United States has lavished Pakistan with nearly $8 billion in security assistance, $11 billion in economic assistance, and $13 billion in the lucrative program known as Coalition Support Funds (CSF). Since then, Pakistan has availed of significant U.S. weapons systems and armaments, including: a used Perry-class missile frigate; 18 new and 14 used nuclear-capable F-16s; an array of munitions (i.e. 500 air-to-air missiles, 1,450 2,000-pound bombs); 1,600 kits that allow Pakistan to convert gravity bombs into laser-guided smarter bombs, 2,007 anti-armor missiles, 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 500 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, seven naval guns, 374 armored personnel carriers, and much more. A transfer of 15 reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles is also under way. This list suggests that Pakistan’s insurgents have developed air, naval and ground-force capabilities.

Former CIA Officials Deny That Pakistani Intelligence Defector Led Them to Osama Bin Laden

Jonathan S. Landay

WASHINGTON — A former CIA deputy director and the White House on Wednesday disputed a key claim made in newly published reports on the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden, denying that a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer had defected to the CIA and disclosed the location of the al Qaida leader’s hideout.

“Completely false. No walk-in ever provided any information that was significant in the hunt for Osama bin Laden,” Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, said in a telephone interview, using the term for people who offer information to the agency in return for money.

White House spokesman Josh Ernest issued a similar statement, noting that neither a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s torture program nor the agency’s rebuttal to the panel’s review mention such a defector.

“Neither of those extensive accounts features the role of a Pakistani intelligence walk-in revealing Osama bin Laden’s location to the United States,” Ernest said.

The raid still commands considerable interest because many U.S. officials and experts find it hard to believe that Pakistani officials weren’t aware of bin Laden’s hideout in a compound in Abbottabad, a garrison town that’s home to the country’s top military academy.

The Unknown American Al-Qaeda Operative

Arif Rafiq
May 15, 2015

Since 2009, “Ustad” Ahmed Farooq had been the public face of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, serving as the terror group’s chief Urdu-language propagandist, later being discussed as a potential nominee to the Shura Council of Al Qaeda central, and, most recently, serving as deputy leader of the group’s South Asia affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

But it was only this April, after his death in a January 2015 drone attack was acknowledged by Al Qaeda and U.S. officials, that his real name, dual U.S. nationality, and even his face (which was blurred in previous videos) were publicly revealed. It may have been to obscure the fact that Ahmed Farooq was really Raja Mohammad Salman, the graduate of an elite Pakistani military prep school whose father was a well-known Pakistani international relations professor and whose mother was a former parliamentarian nominated by a major Islamist party.

Migrants From Myanmar, Shunned by Malaysia, Are Spotted Adrift in Andaman Sea

MAY 14, 2015 

IN THE ANDAMAN SEA OFF THAILAND — A wooden fishing boat carrying several hundred desperate migrants from Myanmar was spotted adrift in the Andaman Sea between Thailandand Malaysia on Thursday, part of an exodus in which thousands of people have taken to the sea in recent weeks but no country has been willing to take them in.

Cries of “Please help us! I have no water!” rose from the boat as a vessel carrying journalists approached. “Please give me water!”

The green and red fishing boat, packed with men, women and children squatting on the deck with only plastic tarps to protect them from the sun, had been turned away by the Malaysian authorities on Wednesday, passengers said.

They said that they had been on the boat for three months, and that the boat’s captain and crew had abandoned them six days ago. Ten passengers died during the voyage and their bodies were thrown overboard, the passengers said.

When China Rules the World

15 May , 2015

India’s strategic partnership with middle powers like Japan, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam will get greater domestic acceptance than an Asian strategy that relies solely on US commitment to maintain balance of power in the region. This will also counter China’s claims that regional security cooperation is merely a part of US and Indian efforts to contain China. Building multiple power coalitions as a complement to engaging China and deepening the strategic partnership with the US will strengthen India’s independent role in the security of Asia.

China’s experiment with industrialisation and poverty alleviation is unique and nothing short of a miracle. Bringing over 30 million above the poverty line into the middle class in a period of 20 years, is unique in history. In fact, the age old adage that “Democracy is the worst type of government but the best devised so far” seems to have been left behind. If we look at the world scene closely, we observe that great economic progress and development has been made by totalitarian regimes slowly introducing civic rights and liberties. Countries in South East Asia notably Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, all point towards better economic development than those where democracy is being hoisted in the name of better political-cum-economic development and religious freedom.

China's Dangerous $5 Trillion Dollar Bet: A South China Sea ADIZ?

Elliot Brennan
May 14, 2015

This week the annual report to the U.S. Congress on China's Military Power was released. It noted Beijing's use of “low-intensity coercion” across the South China Sea and East China Sea. Its assessment stated that:

“China often uses a progression of small, incremental steps to increase its effective control over disputed territories and avoid escalation to military conflict.”

Recently those “incremental steps” have been getting bigger. Southeast Asian states have reacted in turn. 

Beijing's well-reported land reclamation at seven sites in the South China Sea has quickened in pace. According to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, China has “intensified the militarization" of these islands and reefs. This has included the construction of a military-sized airstrip and at least one other non-military airstrip.

Explained: Why China's Cyberwar Strategy is Extremely Dangerous

Julian Snelder
May 14, 2015

There's an “Uber for X,” goes the little ditty, celebrating the ubiquitous infiltration of the online 'sharing economy.' It seems Uber's business model can be turned to virtually all our needs, and a global ecosystem of app buttons has popped up on our smartphones.

As in so many things, however, this ecosystem ends abruptly just north of Hong Kong's Lok Mau Chau border crossing. From there, an entirely different online realm offers a parallel menu of online businesses and brands that adapt – and often improve upon – sharing apps, with Chinese characteristics of course.

And now, proving real life can be sharper than parody, comes the story of Uber's own run-in with Guangzhou legal inspectors, who closed the service down and then promptly started their own officially-approved network. “The new taxi booking system, called Ru Yue, will be led by the local transport authority of Guangzhou – the very same government agency that sent its officials to raid the Guangzhou office of Uber.” There is, quite literally, a China for Uber.

Can Modi Craft A New Equation With China?


The Modi-Xi rendezvous last September evoked several images but the one that stands out is the public courting of a Chinese leader by Modi. By spending several hours showing Xi Jinping around under the live gaze of the Indian media, Modi was perhaps hoping to endear the Chinese leader to the Indian people. Modi recognises that the China equation cannot be transformed by stealth, and, without public support it would be difficult for him to re-craft a new relationship. In this case it is even more important because the China factor remains historically trapped in contested images.

It could be argued that Modi is diffusing his worldview on a far more conservative elite that is still mostly comfortable with the West. Let's be clear, while Modi is not anti-West, he is not enamored by the Atlantic world either. For Modi, Eurasia and East Asia is where he has been most exposed, and, this is the part of the world that is poised to become an even more important centre of gravity in the coming decades. The question is whether this worldview is shared by civil society, the strategic community, media and by extension — the Indian people.

China, India Balance Rivalry with Cooperation

May 14, 2015

BEIJING (AP) — India's prime minister is visiting China this week to build friendship between the two Asian giants despite a long history of disputes and rivalries, along with some areas of cooperation, especially in the economic sphere.

India and China have disagreed for decades over which country controls two chunks of Himalayan territory. China says the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is part of China, while India insists China is illegally occupying Aksai Chin, a rocky and largely empty region far to the northwest. The two sides fought a brief war in 1962 over the latter territory. But the disputes have been low key for years now, with both countries much more concerned about boosting cross-border trade and investment. Diplomats from the two countries now regularly discuss the territorial dispute in scheduled talks, but even if little progress is ever made, neither country seems to care very much.

Is the U.S. Economy Actually Leaving China Behind?

May 13, 2015

Chinese public debt is not easy to evaluate, beyond the fact that it has grown very rapidly. In 2000, most debt took the form of bank loans, but non-bank finance, known as shadow lending, has since expanded. State-owned enterprises and local governments receive disproportionate credit, though obviously not all. Less important until recently was the central government's fiscal debt.

The Chinese government owns all rural and some urban land, though the value of the land is far lower than its equivalent in the United States, due to land quality and resource depletion. The Chinese state also owns trillions in assets through state-owned enterprises. Combined, gross assets were reportedly worth more than $14 trillion in 2011, and also had been growing. Assets net of debt exceeded $6 trillion in 2013.

Using official data on debt and a very round estimate for public assets in 2000, China's total wealth measured above $7 trillion in 2000, $19 trillion in 2007, and near $28 trillion in mid-2014.

China's Naval Plans for Djibouti: A Road, a Belt, or a String of Pearls?

By Rob Edens
May 14, 2015

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 461 prepares to land at Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, April 20, 2012. HMH-461 was training its pilots on landing and takeoff procedures while assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

As China looks to Djibouti, it may be apparent that Beijing’s “peaceful rise” is showing its claws. 

Last autumn, a Namibian newspaper leaked a story that sent ripples across the world. In a November article, the Namibian Times presented an unofficial Chinese report outlining steps for the building of 18 military naval bases (including one in Namibia, at Walvis Bay). In addition, Chinese ambitions extended to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in the northern Indian Ocean; Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique in the western Indian Ocean; and Seychelles and Madagascar in the central South Indian Ocean. These bases together would frame China’s three strategic lines for “maintaining the safety of international maritime routes” and, ultimately “world stability.”


Lauren Katzenberg
May 15, 2015

Here’s your weekend reading list. Now don’t all fight over it at once.

Could China and Russia unite into one massive evil superpower? Doubtful. “History never repeats itself, but it rhymes. The United States obviously fit the Monroe Doctrine template best, isolated and locally supreme as it was. But what if it had bordered another such great power with similar pretensions? What if Canada, Mexico, or both were peers? That’s the rhyme in Asia: multiple powers are rising that entertain ambitions to regional primacy yet share borders and histories of animosity and war. Whose Monroe Doctrine prevails under such circumstances? The logic of the Monroe Doctrine could set India against China. It could also set China against Russia. Or some complicated and shifting geometry — a.k.a. “a mess” — could take hold.” — James R. Holmes debates the potential of a future China-Russia alliance at Real Clear Defense.

It’s Not Diplomacy, It’s an Arms Fair

MAY 14, 2015

U.S. defense contractors are popping corks as Obama “reassures” his Middle East allies with billions of dollars of weapons.

The summit between President Barack Obama and representatives from the Persian Gulf countries that kicked off today at Camp David is meant to reassure Washington’s Arab allies. “Don’t worry about the nuclear deal with Iran,” Obama will say. “We’ve got your back.”

And what’s the best way to show your friends that you’ve got their back? Sell them billions of dollars worth of advanced weapons. In fact, it seems like arms sales are the Obama administration’s tool of choice these days for dealing with everything from counterterrorism to a lagging economy. And the consequences, unsurprisingly, are bloody.

In its first five years in office, the Obama administration entered into formal agreements to transfer over $64 billion in arms and defense services to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, with about three-quarters of that total going to Saudi Arabia. And new offers worth nearly $15 billion have been made to Riyadh in 2014 and 2015. Items on offer to GCC states have included fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, radar planes, refueling aircraft, air-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, artillery, small arms and ammunition, cluster bombs, and missile defense systems.

Saudi Arabia Hints It May Begin Its Own Nuclear Weapons Program to Match Iran

May 14, 2015
David E. Sanger

WASHINGTON — When President Obama began making the case for a deal withIran that would delay its ability to assemble an atomic weapon, his first argument was that a nuclear-armed Iran would set off a “free-for-all” of proliferation in the Arab world. “It is almost certain that other players in the region would feel it necessary to get their own nuclear weapons,” he said in 2012.

Now, as he gathered Arab leaders over dinner at the White House on Wednesday and prepared to meet with them at Camp David on Thursday, he faced a perverse consequence: Saudi Arabia and many of the smaller Arab states are now vowing to match whatever nuclear enrichment capability Iran is permitted to retain.

“We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research,” one of the Arab leaders preparing to meet Mr. Obama said on Monday, declining to be named until he made his case directly to the president. Prince Turki bin Faisal, the 70-year-old former Saudi intelligence chief, has been touring the world with the same message.

“Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” he said at a recent conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia: Why the Saudi King Snubbed President Obama

Robert W. Jordan
May 13, 2015

Robert W. Jordan is Diplomat in Residence and Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001 to 2003. His memoir, Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11, will be published by Potomac Books in July 2015. 

There have been too many recent policy disagreements about the Middle East 

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has declined an invitation to participate in President Barack Obama’s Gulf summit meeting in Camp David this week. Both the United States and Saudi Arabia are working to minimize the fallout from this decision, but from the Saudi standpoint, this summit does not hold much attraction. Only two other heads of the Gulf states are attending. Two are in poor health, but the other non-attendees may be following Riyadh’s lead. Some of this reticence may derive from a festering series of policy disagreements that contribute to seriously frayed relations with the Gulf monarchies. 

How the Islamic State Is Disrupting Online Jihad

MAY 13, 2015

The Islamic State group’s use of social media for messaging has drawn plenty of attention. But their use of the web to mount terrorist attacks is just as revolutionary.

Since the May 4 attack by two gunmen in Garland, Texas, the top US spymasters have been taking turns to ring the alarm bells about ISIL’s growing internet threat. FBI director James Comey has warned that the terrorist organization has “thousands” of online followers in the US. Homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson has raised the specter of lone-wolf jihadists who can “strike at any moment.” And Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, has noted that the group’sability to recruit online is “clearly increasing.”

We’ve heard all this before: The intelligence community has been talking up the threat of online jihad for years. And indeed, ever since the Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki began to upload hate-spewing videos a decade ago, the internet has been a useful recruiting and propaganda tool for terrorist groups.

Awlaki was the leading propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula until he was killed by a USdrone strike in 2011. He is believed to have recruited—or at least tried to enlist—many wannabe terrorists in the US. His email exchange with Nidal Hasan helped persuade the Fort Hood shooter to open fire on his fellow soldiers, killing 13.

America's Next Big Challenge: Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Leakout

Gregory D. Koblentz
May 15, 2015

Forget "sneakout" and "breakout." If Iran's nuclear technology falls into the wrong hands, it could mean a global disaster.

The April 2 framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran fails to address an important risk posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Through a combination of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities and facilities and more intrusive verification mechanisms, the framework adequately addresses two major risks posed by Iran’s nuclear program—breakout and sneakout. The framework, however, completely ignores the risk of leakout: the proliferation of nuclear technology and expertise from Iran to other countries. Iran, once the recipient of foreign nuclear assistance, is now poised to provide that assistance, either deliberately or through unauthorized acts by scientists or companies, to other countries.

How do you govern a disrupted world?

ByRichard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel

Seismic economic shifts are placing new demands on governments globally. In this excerpt from the new book No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, its authors explain how policy makers can respond.

The collision of four fundamental economic forces—urbanization, technology, demographics, and globalization—is producing monumental change. Global competition and technological change have sped up creative destruction and outpaced the ability of labor markets to adapt. Job creation is a critical challenge for most policy makers even as businesses complain about critical skill gaps. Graying populations are starting to fray social safety nets, and for debt-ridden societies in advanced economies, the challenge can only get more pressing as the cost of capital starts to rise. Much-needed productivity growth continues to elude the public sector. Income inequality is rising and causing a backlash, in some cases targeted at the very interconnections of trade, finance, and people that have fueled the growth of the past three decades.

Just as many businesses are being forced to reassess their strategy and reimagine their assumptions, government must do the same. The political-leadership challenge triggered by these trend breaks is made even more urgent by the growing number of outlets for public expression and participation. Citizens around the world demand that governments deliver public services in shorter time frames, of consistent quality, and often at lower cost. In times of tightening budgets, short election cycles, and instant feedback loops, the room for error by public-sector leaders is small. From Brazil to Egypt to Hong Kong to Ukraine, it is common to see large groups of citizens taking to the streets, impatient for change.

The Cyber Day After: Will the Advent of Cyber Warfare Destroy the Global Internet?

Today, understanding national security means understanding the ‘cyber’ dimension of warfare. For the last twenty years we have lived in a world where every day more people gain access to the global online commons and benefit financially, politically and educationally from that access. The concept of cyber warfare, taken to its logical extreme, will threaten the very nature of the global commons and force policy makers to improvise strategies to defend it.

The tools, tactics and strategies of cyber warfare are rapidly evolving in complex ways – a process that will be greatly accelerated in the event of conflict between two or more nation-states with mature cyber capabilities. While it is impossible to predict exactly how cyber warfare will shape the future battlespace, a sustained cyber conflict will likely pose an existential threat to the global, lightly regulated internet most liberal democracies know today. The Chinese model of the internet (a tightly regulated national network with few connections to the global system) will likely seem increasingly attractive to policymakers under intense political pressure to stop the constant barrage of foreign cyber-attacks. The global consequences of a shift to such a system would be devastating to the current paradigm of free-flowing information upon which much of the global economy is based.

FACE VALUE Could recognition software be the next frontier in RUSSIAN SNOOPING?


JUST OVER A YEAR AGO, Edward Snowden appeared in a pre-recorded clip during a nationally televised public forum to ask President Vladimir Putin whether Russia spies on its citizens by monitoring their communications. The president declared in response, “We don’t have a mass system for such interception, and according to our law it cannot exist.” Conveniently, Putin didn’t provide robust details on the System for Operative Investigative Activities, under which the state can amass data from Russian communication systems; phone calls, emails, and Internet searches are all fair game. Collecting information requires a court order, but legal decisions are made largely in secret. In 2012 alone, according to Russia’s Supreme Court, security services were authorized to intercept phone and web traffic more than 500,000 times. This is to say nothing of the illegal surveillance many Russia hands suspect the Kremlin of conducting. 

Yet the new epoch of snooping in Russia involves more than metadata. Much like British authorities, who use closed-circuit TV devices throughout London, Moscow deploys cameras to keep a watchful eye on its populace. And it is the next generation of such video surveillance that has inspired the work of British-based photographers Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin: What would the consequences be if cameras didn’t simply document, but could actively recognize faces, allowing security forces to monitor specific individuals’ whereabouts? 

APT 17 Chinese Hacking Organization Using Microsoft’s Technet Website to Launch Attacks

Jeremy Kirk
May 14, 2015

Microsoft has taken steps to stop a China-based hacking group from using its TechNet website as part of its attack infrastructure, according to security vendor FireEye.

The group, which FireEye calls APT (advanced persistent threat) 17, is well-known for attacks against defense contractors, law firms, U.S. government agencies and technology and mining companies.

TechNet is highly trafficked website that has technical documentation for Microsoft products. It also has a large forum, where users can leave comments and ask questions.

APT17—nicknamed DeputyDog—created accounts on TechNet and then left comments on certain pages. Those comments contained the name of an encoded domain, which computers infected by the group’s malware were instructed to contact.

The encoded domain then referred the victim’s computer to a command-and-control server that was part of APT17’s infrastructure, said Bryce Boland, FireEye’s chief technology officer for Asia-Pacific.

Overhyping Iran’s Cyberwar Capabilities

Shane Harris
May 14, 2015

A report on Iran’s possible plans to launch devastating cyber attacks in the United States raised eyebrows last month, both for its alarming claims and its unusual combination of authors: a Silicon Valley cybersecuirty company and a famously influential neoconservative Washington think tank that’s has been a prominent opponent to a nuclear deal with Iran. The report warned that if the U.S. lifted sanctions on Iran, the country would pour new money into its burgeoning cyber warfare program.

But before the report—co-authored with the American Enterprise Institute—was ever made public, the security company shared a set of preliminary findings on Iran’s cyber warfare operations with officials in the U.S. military and the intelligence community. There, according to current and former officials, the information was greeted by some with a mixture of puzzlement and outright hostility. Government and outside experts have wondered whether the preliminary findings, as well as the subsequent public report with AEI, was relying on dubious intelligence to stir up fears about pending Iranian cyber attacks, just as U.S. officials were trying to iron out the nuclear deal.

The Daily Beast reviewed a copy of the preliminary report, which was written by the cyber security company Norse in January of this year and shared with officials at the National Security Agency and in the military. Described as a “cyber intelligence bulletin” on “malicious cyber activity originating from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” it states that Norse has data on “more than 500,000 attacks on Industrial Control systems over the last 24 months,” referring to the computers that help to run power grids, hydroelectric facilities, and other so-called critical infrastructure in the U.S.

If It Never Stopped a Terrorist Attack, How Valuable Was Bulk SIGINT Collection Really to NSA?

Patrick Tucker 

The future of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program is in serious doubt, which raises the questions: how useful is it to the intelligence community, and what will they do if it goes away? Less than two years after the first Snowden revelations, President Obama this week endorsed a bill to end the government’s practice of sucking up and storing one kind of electronic data — information about Americans’ telephone calls. The bill, called the Freedom Act, passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 338 to 88. Meanwhile senators from both parties threatened to filibuster the renewal of the Patriot Act, the law that makes it legal. And one federal court has ruled the practice unlawful.

What would ending bulk collection mean for intelligence collection? Last year, the National Academy of Sciences, or NAS, began looking at what would happen if U.S. spies no longer had easy access to phone records. In January, they issued their findings as Bulk Collection of Signals Intelligence: Technical Options. The 80-page report draws open a curtain on the probable future of electronic spying. 

The most important conclusion comes early on: a huge database of the phone records of millions of people is quite valuable to signals intelligence, or SIGINT. “There is no software technique that will fully substitute for bulk collection where it is relied on to answer queries about the past after new targets become known,” the NAS report says. 

Study of BND Use of NSA Selectors for Spying on Europe

Peter Koop

Over the last couple of weeks, the German foreign intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) was accused of helping the NSA by carelessly or even deliberately entering selectors used for spying on foreign targets in the German satellite interception system at Bad Aibling.

Here, recent outcomes of the German parliamentary inquiry will be combined with information from the various press reportings, in order to provide a more integrated picture of what happened over the past years.

It becomes clear that BND did everything that seemed reasonable to prevent that German data were passed on to the Americans, but that they didn’t really care about whether NSA collected communications from other European countries.

It remains unclear to what extent BND is able to prevent German communications being collected from internet traffic.

This latest affair started on April 23, when the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that NSA apparently spied upon European and German targets for years, with the knowledge of the German foreign intelligence agency BND.


May 14, 2015 

Zack Whittaker, writing on the May 13, 2015 website, ZDNet, notes that “a security research firm is warning that a new [cyber] bug could allow a hacker to take over vast portions of a data center — from within. The zero-day vulnerability lies in a legacy component in widely used virtualization software — allowing a hacker to infiltrate potentially every machine across a data center’s network.” Dan Goodin, writing on the ArsTechnica website, said this recently-patched vulnerability “is an ideal exploitation target for state-sponsored spies, and criminals alike, fishing for passwords, cryptography keys, or Bitcoins.”

“Most data centers nowadays, condense customers,” Mr. Whittaker writes, “including major technology companies and smaller firms – into virtualized machines — or, multiple operating systems on one single server. Those virtualized systems are designed to share resources; but, remain as separate entities in the host hypervisor — which powers the virtual machines. A hacker can exploit this newly discovered bug, known as ‘Venom,’ — an acronym for “Virtualized Environment Neglected Operations Manipulation,” to gain access to the entire hypervisor, as well as every network-connected device in that data center.”

“The cause,” Mr. Whittaker writes, “is a widely-ignored, legacy virtual floppy disk controller that, if sent specially crafted code — can crash the entire hypervisor. That can allow a hacker to break out of their own virtual machine…[and] to gain access to other machines — including those owned by other people, or companies.”

The State Department’s Weary Soldier in America’s Cyber War

MAY 13, 2015 

From Ukraine to Sony, cyber attacks are spooking governments and private companies -- and leaving officials like Christopher Painter scrambling to help devise rules of the road for how to respond. 

A new age of cyberwarfare is dawning, and a little-known State Department official named Christopher Painter — a self-described computer geek who made his name prosecuting hackers — is racing to digital battlegrounds around the world to help stave off potential future threats.

One of his stops was in South America, where he visited Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, to hear about what those countries were doing to protect computer networks. One was in Costa Rica, to tout the U.S. vision for the Internet, including security. Another was in The Hague, to, among other things, promote international cooperation in cyberspace.

“It’s been a hectic couple of weeks,” he said

Romania turns hacking crisis into advantage, helping Ukraine fight Russian cyber espionage


BUCHAREST, Romania - Ukraine is turning to an unlikely partner in its struggle to defend itself against Russian cyber warfare: Romania.

The eastern European country known more for economic disarray than technological prowess has become one of the leading nations in Europe in the fight against hacking. The reason: the country's own battle against Internet renegades and a legacy of computing excellence stemming from Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime.

Both historic twists have ironically turned Romanian cyber sleuths into some of Europe's best. So much so that NATO tapped Bucharest to defend Ukraine from Russian digital espionage by sending experts to monitor Kyiv government institutes and train Ukrainian IT specialists.

What the End of Bulk Metadata Collection Would Mean for Intelligence Collection

MAY 13, 2015

Less than two years after the first Snowden revelations, President Obama this week endorsed a bill to end the government’s practice of sucking up and storing one kind of electronic data — information about Americans’ telephone calls. The bill, called the Freedom Act, passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 338 to 88. Meanwhile senators from both partiesthreatened to filibuster the renewal of the Patriot Act, the law that makes it legal. And one federal court has ruledthe practice unlawful.

What would ending bulk collection mean for intelligence collection? Last year, the National Academy of Sciences, or NAS, began looking at what would happen if U.S. spies no longer had easy access to phone records. In January, they issued their findings as Bulk Collection of Signals Intelligence: Technical Options. The 80-page report draws open a curtain on the probable future of electronic spying.

The most important conclusion comes early on: a huge database of the phone records of millions of people is quite valuable to signals intelligence, or SIGINT. “There is no software technique that will fully substitute for bulk collection where it is relied on to answer queries about the past after new targets become known,” the NAS report says.