3 October 2015

Ankit Fadia’s biggest hack: Getting Modi government to make him a brand ambassador

Some technology experts allege that the young man has exaggerated his record.

The highlight of Narendra Modi’s recent trip to the United States was his visit to Silicon Valley, where he played the role of the representative of a digital superpower to perfection. In fact, even in his politics, Modi is seen to be an expert in using technology, using social media and holograms to power his popularity.

How then did Modi’s government make the controversial decision to appoint self-proclaimed ethical hacker Ankit Fadia as the brand ambassador of its flagship e-governance programme, Digital India?

Confusion galore

The process was confused from the start. On Monday, Ankit Fadia posted on Facebook that he had been appointed a “brand Ambassadors to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India initiative”. Given his reputation, the claim immediately raised doubts.

Was it possible to capture Pak Occupied Kashmir in 1949

By Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal
01 Oct , 2015

It is often argued that India should not have accepted the UN sponsored ceasefire on 09th January 1949 since it was only a matter of few months before Indian forces captured Pak occupied Kashmir including Northern Areas and Kashmir would not have become a running sore. Undoubtedly there was a marked improvement in the military situation in India’s favour. Lifting of seize of Poonch in Nov. 49 was a great Setback for Pakistan. Much heavier loss to Pakistan was loss of Zoji La and link up with Leh in Nov. 1949. The successful action against Razakars in Hyderabad in Sept. 1948 had released sizeable Indian forces for redeployment in J&K. Death of Jinnah in Sept 1948 also introduced an element of political uncertainty in Pakistan. Also Pakistan’s limited financial resources could not have coped with a protracted was.

For decisive victory, it was necessary to bring Pakistan to battle across the international border as was done in 1965.

Commissioning INS Kochi: The second ship of the indigenously designed and constructed Project 15A guided missile Destroyers

By IDR News Network
30 Sep , 2015

The Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said the Government is fully committed to develop a real Blue Water Navy, a Navy which can dominate the Indian Ocean Region, but will be considered friendly by the neighbouring countries.

Commissioning INS Kochi, the second ship of the indigenously designed and constructed Project 15A (Kolkata-class) guided missile Destroyers, Manohar Parrikar gave two examples to illustrate his point- that of transporting drinking water to Maldives when the latter’s water treatment plant was damaged last year, and the rescue and evacuation of nationals of over 20 countries from war-torn Yemen by the Indian Navy, without any damage to our platforms and personnel.

INS Kochi has been built by the Mazagon Dock Ltd., Mumbai.

Manohar Parrikar said there has been a renewed enthusiasm among DPSUs and the Private Sector in the development and production of platforms and systems for the Defence Forces and the government has been consistently trying to indigenise and speed-up timely deliveries. He hoped that the next Destroyer in the series will be put into water by the end of the current financial year.

Space: The New Battle Zone

By Sqn Ldr Vijainder K Thakur
01 Oct , 2015

The most potent threat to Indian military and dual use satellites in Low Earth Orbit (RISAT, CARTOSAT, TES) comes from Chinese hit-to-kill ASAT interceptors. However, the debris resulting from large scale kinetic attacks on Indian satellites could potentially damage scores of satellites belonging to other countries over a period of time leading to global disruption of services. Such debris could make access to large tracts of orbital space hazardous. It is unlikely that China would consider using kinetic ASAT weapons against India unless faced with ignominious defeat. The threat to Indian space assets will mostly come from jamming, spoofing and perhaps DEWs. China has demonstrated its ability to attack satellites and is likely far ahead of the defensive measures that Indian satellites currently incorporate.

It is possible that outer space could, one day, become a battle zone reminiscent of scenes in films such as Star Wars and Star Trek, with agile space fighters deftly emerging from the cavernous insides of humongous carrier ships through loud clanging airlocks, to engage swarming hostiles launched by ominous death star alien motherships. Trust us, it may never happen!

Taliban Tighten Grip on Afghan City

Sept. 30, 2015 

The Afghan government knew about the threat the Taliban posed to the northern city of Kunduz but its forces were stretched too thin to act before the militants took it over this week, a top official said.

A pre-emptive attack “was planned for quite some time, but it didn’t happen in time,”Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s chief executive officer, told The Wall Street Journal.

The Taliban, who seized control of Kunduz on Monday, tightened their grip Wednesday, leaving only the local airport firmly in government hands, even as the U.S. military deployed troops and carried out airstrikes in support of its allies.

Mr. Abdullah said an Afghan force of roughly 1,000 soldiers and police was being mobilized to retake the city from a Taliban force that numbers approximately 3,000 across Kunduz province, including militant groups from Central Asia.

“The Kunduz operation has started,” he said, adding that the government hoped to take back the city over the next two days. “We can’t afford to contain them there,” he said of the Taliban.
Aides acknowledged, however, that reinforcements were having trouble reaching Kunduz, and a decision about how to proceed was pending. The Taliban set up checkpoints around the provincial capital and controlled all major roads leading to it, Afghan officials and the Taliban said.

If Pakistan splinters...

By Bharat Verma
01 Oct , 2015

If Pakistan splinters, it will hit the biggest stakeholder and benefactor China. In order to safeguard its strategic interests, Beijing therefore will make every endeavor to prevent the breakup of Pakistan, even to the extent of military intervention in support of the Pakistan Army.
…the migrant Muslims in West Asia (Middle East) while introducing themselves take pains to assert that they are Muslims from India and not Pakistan.

The Chinese will suffer major setback, if dysfunctional Pakistan splinters in the near future.

Many Malaysian Muslims will hasten to tell you that their country should not be compared to Pakistan. Or the migrant Muslims in West Asia (Middle East) while introducing themselves take pains to assert that they are Muslims from India and not Pakistan.

The Union of India’s consolidation and integration as a nation will get a new fillip, as the distraction created by Pakistan in the name of religion is eliminated.

U.S. Has Pulled Intelligence Officers Out of China Following OPM Data Breach

Ellen Nakashima and Adam Goldman
September 30, 20154

CIA pulled officers from Beijing after breach of federal personnel records

The CIA pulled a number of officers from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as a precautionary measure in the wake of the massive cybertheft of the personal data of federal employees, current and former U.S. officials said.

The move is a concrete impact of the breach, one of two major hacks into Office of Personnel Management computers that were disclosed earlier this year. Officials have privately attributed the hacks to the Chinese government.

The theft of documents has been characterized by senior U.S. officials as political espionage intended to identify spies and people who might be recruited as spies or blackmailed to provide useful information.

Because the OPM records contained the background checks of State Department employees, officials privately said the Chinese could have compared those records with the list of embassy personnel. Anybody not on that list could be a CIA officer.

DNI Clapper ‘Not Optimistic’ That US-China Deal Will Prevent Further Chinese Economic Spying

September 30, 2015

US intel official not optimistic about cyber deal with China 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s top intelligence official said Tuesday that he’s not optimistic that an agreement the U.S. recently struck with China will effectively deter state-sponsored cyberattacks on business emanating from the communist nation.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met last week and agreed not to conduct or knowingly support cyber theft of trade secrets or competitive business information. The White House said the agreement covers cyber theft where the intent is to provide a competitive advantage to a country’s companies or commercial sectors.

At a Senate hearing, Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if he was optimistic that the agreement would result in the elimination of such attacks from China.

Clapper replied: “No.”

The agreement was not supposed to eliminate all cyberattacks, only state-sponsored ones that target businesses. Obama also said he told Xi that cyber threats from China have to stop.

A New Dawn in Japan: How China Is Empowering Its Greatest Rival

October 1, 2015

For the past seven decades, Japan hasn’t fired a single bullet for offensive military purposes, nor has it established a standing army with the mandate to engage in war. The northeast Asian powerhouse has been bound by a legendary pacifist constitution, Article 9 of which compels Japan to "forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." Today’s Japan, unlike its imperial predecessor in the early twentieth century, is a curious case of a “rich country, no army” nation that has no parallel in modern history. But this is bound to change, as Japan reorients its foreign policy towards what it calls “proactive pacifism.”

One of the most significant implications of China’s territorial assertiveness, which has often translated into outright aggression and threat of use of force, is the empowerment of hawks in Tokyo, who have called for a more independent, capable and self-reliant Japan. Beijing’s unabashed quest for maritime dominance in the Western Pacific, with some of its top officials brazenly declaring that the South China Sea “belongs to China,” has raised alarm bells in Tokyo, which is grappling with Chinese maritime adventurism in both the East and South China Seas. For Tokyo, Beijing isn’t only aggressively staking claim to a group of largely uninhabited islets (Senkaku/Diaoyu) that Japan considers its sacred territory, but it is also undermining freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most important Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs).

U.S. Bombs Somehow Keep Falling in the Places Where Obama “Ended Two Wars”

Sep. 30 2015

“We’ve ended two wars.” — Barack Obama, July 21, 2015, at a DSCC fundraiser held at a “private residence”

“Now that we have ended two wars responsibly, and brought home hundreds of American troops, we salute this new generation of veterans.” — National Security Adviser Susan Rice, May 20, 2015

“His presidency makes a potentially great story: the first African-American in the White House, who helped the country recover from recession and ended two wars.” — Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 15, 2015, “America Will Miss Obama When He’s Gone”

Report from Airwars, August 2, 2015, detailing civilian deaths from continuous U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria:

Senate Committee Begins Investigation Into U.S. Intelligence Assessments of ISIS in Iraq and Syria

September 30, 2015

Republican-led Senate panel opens review of Syria intelligence

A U.S. Senate committee said on Wednesday it has begun a review of Obama administration intelligence assessments related to the fight against Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, citing news reports that those assessments were skewed to be too optimistic.

Republican Senators Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joni Ernst, a committee member, sent letters to James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, and Jon Rymer, the Department of Defense Inspector General, expressing concerns about the assessments.

A U.S.-led coalition is conducting air strikes in Syria and Iraq targeting the Islamic State. The United States first started attacking the Islamist militant group inside Syria about a year ago, but has been unable to wrest its control from major cities there or in Iraq.

Russia launched air strikes against targets in Syria on Wednesday.

The Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation to address the allegations. The head of the Pentagon’s Central Command told a separate Senate committee earlier this month he never asked for intelligence reports to be skewed.

“The possibility that the administration is pressuring intelligence analysts to conform those assessments to the president’s narrative, that we are winning the war against ISIS, when we are not, is unacceptable,” Johnson said in a statement.

President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats are deeply skeptical about repeated investigations by Republican-led Senate and House of Representatives committees into the administration, such as the House Select Committee formed to probe events surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012.

Backgrounder on Who’s Who Amongst the Combatants in Syria’s Civil War

September 30, 2015

The forces fighting Syria’s war

Sparked by anti-government protests in March 2011, Syria’s conflict has evolved into a bloody and complex war increasingly dominated by jihadists.

A number of fighting groups, Syrian and foreign, have carved out zones of influence across the country.

- Regime and its allies -

- The Syrian army’s 300,000-strong pre-war force has been halved by deaths, defections, and frequent draft-dodging. It now controls about a third of Syrian territory, with the rest divided among Islamic State jihadists, Al-Qaeda-linked groups, mainstream rebels and Kurdish forces.

But the regime remains in control of areas where 50 percent of Syria’s remaining population live as well as the strategic provinces of Damascus, Latakia and Tartus along the Mediterranean coast, and parts of central Hama and Homs provinces, and Aleppo in the north.

ISIS Has Become Sprawling Global Terror and Finance Network

September 30, 2015

New US sanctions illustrate sprawling Islamic State network 

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. government announced sanctions Tuesday against 25 people and five groups connected to the Islamic State, disclosing intelligence that depicts a sprawling international organization with tentacles across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The moves by the Treasury and State departments are aimed at disrupting the activities of Islamic State financial, logistical and recruiting operatives who may not be suitable targets of American bombs or drone strikes. Many of them reside outside the theaters of war in Iraq and Syria.

The sanctions, the largest such effort against the Islamic State, also serve to demonstrate how far and wide the group’s ideology has spread.

The State Department designated as foreign terrorist organizations Islamic State regional spin-offs in Russia’s Caucasus region, Algeria, Indonesia and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Among the individuals designated as terrorists was Sally Jones, a British native and the widow of an operative killed recently in an American drone strike.

Moscow's War in the Air: Russia Sends a Message in Syria

October 1, 2015

The start of Russian airstrikes in Syria—two days after Vladimir Putin listened to Barack Obama's UN General Assembly speech, which warned against Russian action in defense of the Bashar al-Assad regime (and then had such warnings reinforced in their one-on-one meeting)—is the Kremlin's answer to the questions that have been posed about Moscow's true intentions and interests.

First, the choice of targets in the first wave—with reports that the strikes hit non-ISIS Syrian opposition groups, including some affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and those who have been deemed credible to receive Western aid—is a message to the region as a whole that while Russia is prepared to use deadly force to defend its interests and to defend its clients, those who have accepted Western patronage will not enjoy such support. The fact that some Russian outlets have also begun to take the line that there is no such thing as a "moderate opposition"—only groups that have varying degrees of support for and affinity to the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS)—suggests the promulgation of a narrative that the conflict in Syria is now binary and one is either with Assad or "with the terrorists" and groups that continue to fight against Assad are de facto allied to ISIS. (On a separate note, it will be quite interesting to watch how the Russians deal with the Syrian Kurds, who have fought ISIS, but have often reached an apparent modus vivendi with the Assad regime to be left alone to enjoy a de facto autonomy).

5 ISIS Weapons of War Russia Should Fear in Syria

October 1, 2015

Reports out of Syria indicate that Russian fighter-bombers have begun airstrikes on rebel positions. However, the extent of Russian commitment remains unclear. At the very least, we can expect that the troops and aircraft will forcefully protect Russian installations in the region. At the maximum, Russia may fight to preserve the Assad regime, and restore its control over parts of Syria.

Either way, Moscow will see pushback. While ISIS hasn’t focused its rhetoric on Moscow, we can expect that the presence of Russian troops in Syria will concentrate the group’s attention. Here are five weapons that ISIS can use against Russia:


In September 2012, a group of insurgents penetrated Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, and destroyed eight Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers. The attack gave the U.S. Marine Corps a huge black eye, and represented the greatest operational loss of U.S. aircraft since the Vietnam War. Ironically, if the F-35B had been close to on schedule, the attack could have cost over a billion dollars.

Why Iran’s Bellicose Foreign Policy Is Unlikely to Change

October 1, 2015

As the deadline for Congressional action against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran has passed on September 17, the agreement is finally about to be implemented. Some supporters of the deal have argued that in the absence of a stalemate over Tehran’s nuclear activities, the West can now engage Iran to stabilize the Middle East, most notably with regards to rolling back the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). John Kerry fueled these hopes when he said that Iranian foreign minister Zarif had told him that thanks to the deal he would be “empowered to work with and talk to you about regional issues.” Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, even voiced hope that time might be ripe for an entirely new “regional framework […] based on cooperation rather than confrontation.”

This optimism, however, underestimates the anti-American agenda and the influence of Iran’s self-declared guardians of the revolution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the key figure in the Iranian political system, is a case in point. While President Hassan Rouhani has been very committed to concluding the nuclear deal, Khamenei was the one who has always expressed reservations about engaging the United States. He once compared his attitude to the negotiations to the behavior of a wrestler who sometimes “shows flexibility [for] technical reasons,” but “should not forget who his opponent and enemy is.” From his perspective, the compromise on the nuclear issue was a tacit concession to get much-needed sanctions relief and by no means a blueprint for reconciliation. After Rouhani cautiously expressed his interest in expanding Iran’s cooperation with “various countries,” the Supreme Leader immediately pushed back and told his fellow citizens to “prepare for the continuation of the fight against America.”

Realists, Beware of Russians Making Deals

SEPTEMBER 29, 2015 

Congratulations are due to Vladimir Putin for his shrewd speech at the United Nations General Assembly. The Russian president deftly positioned his country as a key arbiter in the Syrian civil war, doubling down on support for the “legitimate government” of President Bashar al-Assad. (Never mind that neither Assad nor his father ever had to face a real election, so I’m not sure what constitutes “legitimacy” here.) And he did his best to depict Moscow as a loyal adherent to United Nations principles while castigating Washington as a mischief-maker always sowing chaos by dodging the rules of the international community.

We could spend a lot of time unpacking Putin’s presentation. One could easily forget that the Putin who took to the stage in New York is the very same man who personally oversaw last year’s annexation of Crimea — the first time since the end of World War II that a European power has seized land from a neighbor by military force. So much for those hallowed U.N. principles of peaceful conflict resolution and respect for territorial integrity. And the image of the sober statesman at the General Assembly doesn’t square with the less savory picture of a leader who doses dissenters with radioactive poison and raises thugs like Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to key government positions.

President Obama Will Veto Defense Policy Bill

Staff Report
September 30, 2015

WASHINGTON — In a dispute with Republicans over how defense would be funded, President Obama plans to veto the 2016 defense policy bill due for a vote in the House on Thursday, a White House spokesman told reporters Wednesday.

All but one conference committee Democrat refused to sign the conference report, which reflects a compromise months in the making between House and Senate armed services committees conferees over differences between their two versions of the bill.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, with the ranking Democrats of each committee — Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. — announced the report was finalized at a cordial Capitol Hill press conference late Tuesday afternoon. Reed and Smith collaborated with Republicans on the measure, but said they could not support it.

Washington Should Reconsider Russian Satellite Navigation

September 30, 2015

Few Americans are aware of the brewing battle between Russia and the United States over global navigational satellite systems–and Washington would like to keep it that way. When Russia’s Global Navigational Satellite System (GLONASS) became operational in 2011, the Obama administration and several congressional members characterized it as a threat to national security. This assessment is both short-sighted and misleading, at a time when heightened tensions with Russia underscore the need for pragmatic, reason-based solutions and not the politically motivated stalemating of a new Cold War. Instead, the Obama administration’s current stance presumes, unrealistically, that ignoring Russian satellites will somehow prevent them from gathering U.S. geospatial data, and it also prevents U.S. consumers from unlocking greater navigational efficiency by supplementing existing data with GLONASS systems. 

Obama's Strong Signal to Putin

September 30, 2015

A day after US President Barack Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States announced that it will ship long-range counter-battery radars to Ukraine. Obama authorized $20 million to provide the country with radars, bringing US security assistance to Ukraine up to $265 million. Obama's message is clear: the United States will not sacrifice Ukraine in exchange for Russian cooperation against Islamic State in Syria.

The announcement also shows that the United States views the current ceasefire in eastern Ukraine—in place since September 1—as an opportunity to help Ukraine upgrade its deterrent military capability. While Ukraine's request for 1,240 Javelin anti-tank missiles has gone unmet, Washington's willingness to move forward with radars sends a clear signal that the US may consider sending lethal weapons should the Minsk II process fail.

In short, the Obama administration now accepts that deterrence is the best way to maintain the stalemate in eastern Ukraine. A year ago, the United States was reluctant to use military transports to ship medical and humanitarian equipment to the then-embattled country. At a Joint Meeting of Congress on September 18, 2014, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko annoyed the White House by pleading directly for defensive aid. But over time, a rising chorus of voices within the US foreign policy establishment urged the administration to arm Ukraine. Many voices within the administration have supported sending weapons to Ukraine, and Obama is belatedly moving in their direction.

Why a new Cold War with Russia is inevitable

Andrej Krickovic and Yuval Weber 
September 30, 2015 

This is a critical moment in U.S-Russia relations. Thecivil war in Ukraine is settling into a mutually hurtful stalemate; a workable nuclear deal with Iran has been concluded; and Russia is ramping up its presence in Syria, which increases the danger of confrontation with the United States but also opens up the potential for cooperation against the Islamic State (or ISIS). Before a more hawkish U.S. administration comes to power—and before anti-Americanism becomes further entrenched in Russia as evidenced by the latest Levada Center public polling data—perhaps there is an opportunity for Washington and Moscow to overcome their current impasse.

This is our hope. But theory and evidence point to a sobering conclusion: Neither side can make the concessions necessary to resolve their current differences and prevent relations from deteriorating even further.
Commitment anxiety

The chief concern of those calling for negotiation between the United States and Russia is that while the current relationship is beset by a number of serious differences, the downside of an openly hostile relationship is even worse. These voices argue that without an updated European security framework to resolve some of the worst tensions (and implicitly to update the post-Cold War settlement), a new Cold War between the two camps will emerge

The Russian Navy Is Back

September 30, 2015

Considering that he earned his spurs in the culture of the KGB, Russian President Vladimir Putin has demonstrated surprisingly strong navalist tendencies over the past eighteen months. Adding irony to this new focus on the sea, his presidency began with allegations that he mishandled the disaster of the sinking of the “Kursk” submarine in 2000, just three months after he was inaugurated as Russian president. However, last week’s deployment of Russian military forces to Syria confirmed that maintaining naval access has become a centerpiece of President Putin’s foreign policy and may shed light on future Russian foreign policy goals. Two other recent developments confirm this trend of restoring Russian naval power: the annexation of Crimea in March of 2014 and the release of the Maritime Doctrine of Russian Federation 2020 in July of 2015.

The Russian annexation of Crimea restored firm Russian control over the port city of Sevastopol, which is the home of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet and Sevastopol Shipyard. Sevastopol Shipyard played a key role in modernizing the Russian Navy over the past decade—even though it was located on sovereign Ukrainian territory but leased back to Russia under the Black Sea Fleet Agreement of 1997.

Russia's Air War in Syria Begins: Can 32 Planes Really Make a Difference?

September 30, 2015

The Russian air force has started its air campaign in war-torn Syria against rebel forces around the city of Homs. But the scope and duration of the Russian air campaign is an open question. The Russian force of 32 fixed-wing combat aircraft at its airfield in Latakia is not large enough to sustain a prolonged air war.

“It's a token force, but they do seem problematic for our anti-Assad stance,” one Air Force told me. “Putin is clearly a pro-Assad guy. So it will be interesting to see whether the Russians attack U.S.-backed anti-Assad groups.”

The Target:

The initial Russian airstrikes do seem to have been directed against Syrian rebels seeking to topple the Assad regime rather than ISIS forces. But it is not clear if those were U.S.-trained rebels or not. Nonetheless, the strikes do suggest that Russian president Vladimir Putin is seeking to shore up the beleagueredAssad regime against both the rebels and ISIS.

The Master Plan to Crush America in a War: Attack the Supply Chain?

September 30, 2015

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter would like to stop buying and launching navigation satellites—at least as a military project. Sure, Lockheed is testing GPS III, and a team at the University of Texas is working on centimetric accuracy without differential. Through the MEOSAR project, the Canadian military will even use the new satellites to update the Cospas-SARSat system for geolocating search-and-rescue beacons. But GPS is looking more vulnerable to spoofing than we previously figured. So during a podcast hosted by venture firm Andreesen Horowitz in April, Carter argued that future forces would want their navigation on micro-electromechanical chips with inertials and precision clocks. Even just by reducing the need for constant updates from above, that sort of technology could improve the systemic defensibility of satellite navigation. 

At the same time, Carter pretty much wants to wrap electronics around everything, proliferating precision and combat-networking down to every Iron Man suit in the force. But does that make navigation and communication and everything else more or less secure? Note the contrast with the US Office of Personnel Management—after losing all the data, new management decided that all new security clearance work would be done with pens-on-paper. I can guarantee that the Chinese can’t hack my slide rule or my notebook, and to follow Patrick Tucker's recent advice, anything more “could get you killed”. So which is it?

Keeping Russia's Missiles Away from Europe

October 1, 2015

In recent months, NATO-Russian tensions in Europe have escalated beyond a war of words to reciprocal and provocative movements of military forces including troops, armored forces, missiles, aircraft and warships. An example of this dangerous activity occurred in mid-September, 2015. According to media reports, the analysis of intercepted transmissions by the Royal Air Force confirmed that Russian Tupolev Tu-160 bombers, known by NATO as "Blackjacks" had entered British airspace and began the sequence to arm nuclear weapons as part of their provocative training exercise. Such cycles of hostile rhetoric and increased tempo of military operations carry a great risk of misperception and miscalculation that can spark unintended war with horrific consequences for both sides.

Bottom Line: America Needs a Smarter Russia Strategy

September 30, 2015

For all of the understandable focus on the future of U.S.-China relations, no bilateral relationship is more important to the United States in 2015 than the relationship with Russia.

Moscow’s foreign policies exacerbate—and, in some instance, are the very causes of—several vexing issues currently facing U.S. decision-makers, fromMoscow’s 18-month old intervention in Ukraine to its harboring of EdwardSnowden to its military support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Yet if the Obama administration has a coherent strategy for dealing with Russia then it is certainly well hidden from public view.

When Obama came to office, relations between the U.S. and Russia were perhaps the poorest they had been since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Relations were plagued by Russian opposition to a missile defense system in Eastern Europe; Kosovo’s recent declaration of independence from Russia’s historic ally Serbia; and lingering uncertainty over whether NATO would continue to expand eastward, a question brought to the fore by the Russo-Georgian War of August 2008.


OCTOBER 1, 2015

The U.S. Navy cannot remain a globally relevant force unless significant changes are made to the size and makeup of the force. It is time for the Navy to make some hard choices and hard arguments about the future of the fleet.

Hans Christian Andersen crafted the parable of the emperor’s new clothes to teach children how pomposity and collective denial can produce stupidity and how childlike honesty can cut through it all. The tale centers on a credulous emperor and a circle of courtiers and subjects who were willing to play along with the delusion – a situation now mirrored not only in the Pentagon, but also in the White House and Congress. And the U.S. Navy is caught in in this web of pomposity and collective denial on two fronts. The first involves the Navy’s Fleet Response Program (FRP) and the second is the inconsistency between the Unified Command Plan (UCP) and the Navy’s operating environment – the world’s oceans. These issues might not sound sexy, but they are crucial to understand. Both are related and the net result is an over-extended Navy, bereft of a command-and-control apparatus congruent with its operating environment.

New Techniques Making It Easier to Track Source of Remote Access Trojan Horse (RAT) Cyber Attacks

Sara Peters
September 30, 2015

New Tactic Finds RAT Operators Fast

Low tolerance for latency makes RAT operators less likely to use proxies, easier to track back home.

By proactively using large-scale Internet enumeration, law enforcement and security teams may be able to stop operators of remote access Trojans (RATs) like DarkComet, Poison Ivy, Havex, and AlienSpy before they even launch their attack campaigns, according to a new report by Recorded Future.

The kind of data RATs often deal with require a lot of bandwidth – photos, audio recordings, video from Webcams, etc. – and therefore, RAT controllers are generally less tolerant of latency, according to Levi Gundert, author of Recorded Future’s report. Since they’re less tolerant of latency, they’re less likely to operate through proxies, so compared to other kinds of malware, there are a disproportionate number of RATs that are run from residential ISP subnets. 

As Gundert explains, starting from a data point like this makes attribution quicker and easier. It may make it possible for law enforcement to cut off RAT attacks before operators use the information they’ve collected for further nefarious aims, like blackmail or silencing political dissidents, he says. 

The Continuing Legacy of America’s First Intelligence Service, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

Douglas Waller
September 3, 2015


Wild Bill Donovan’s admirers and critics still argue over his legacy, but on one point they agree: His World War II Office of Strategic Service (OSS) became the Petri dish for the spies who later ran the CIA as well as the special operators who conduct some of the most daring raids the world has ever seen.

Four CIA directors — Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby and William Casey — learned the craft of clandestine warfare as operatives for Donovan’s OSS. Indeed, the daring, the risk-taking, the unconventional thinking, and the élan and esprit de corps of the OSS permeated the new agency.

So would the OSS’s failings: the delusions that covert operations, like magic bullets, could produce spectacular results, or that legal or ethical corners could be cut for a higher cause. Dulles launched the calamitous operation to land CIA-trained, anti-Castro guerrillas at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. Helms was convicted of lying to Congress about the CIA’s effort to oust President Salvador Allende in Chile. Colby would become a pariah among the agency’s old hands for releasing to Congress what became known as the “Family Jewels” report on CIA misdeeds during the 1950s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s. Casey would nearly bring down the CIA — and Ronald Reagan’s presidency — from the scheme to secretly supply Nicaragua’s Contras with money raked off from the sale of arms to Iran in exchange for American hostages in Beirut.

UK Plans to Continue to Fly SENTINEL Surveillance Aircraft in Iraq and Syria Through 2016

Beth Stevenson
September 30, 2015

Sentinel to continue anti-IS ops until 2016

The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the Royal Air Force’s Raytheon Sentinel R1 surveillance aircraft will continue to be operated in Iraq and Syria until 2016, despite uncertainty surrounding the fleet’s lifespan.

Sentinel has been operating in support of Operation Shader – the UK’s contribution to the fight against Islamic State insurgents that began in September 2014 – but rumours had surfaced the type would be withdrawn from operations in the near future.

However, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on 26 September that Sentinel would remain in its surveillance role in support of the mission until 2016, in turn confirming the UK will continue to operate Operation Shader until at least that date.

By the government’s own admission, the five-strong Sentinel fleet provides the UK’s only long-range, wide-area battlefield reconnaissance capability, with the aircraft currently flying three missions per week.

“The fight against ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] is our top operational priority and Britain is playing a vital role,” Fallon says.

The War over UCLASS (And Future of Naval Power Projection) Continues

September 30, 2015

The U.S. Congress’ National Defense Authorization Act conference report for Fiscal Year 2016 has come out strongly in favor of developing a long-range penetrating unmanned carrier-based aircraft. However, even if the bill is pushed through the Hill, Congressional sources expect that President Barack Obama will almost certainly veto it.

“As access-denied environments proliferate, the carrier air wing of the future must contain a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft capable of striking in contested airspace,” said Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, in an emailed statement. “Integrating an unmanned aircraft fully into the air wing must be a priority in the years ahead."

The House-Senate conference report adds $350 million to the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System (UCLASS) program, the requirements for which has been mired in controversy for years. While the top echelons of the U.S. Navy and many in Congress support the development of a deep penetrating strike aircraft that is able to attack an enemy that is using anti-access/area-denial techniques, there are other elements that want a more basic air vehicle.

The Right Way to Sanction Cyber Threats

October 1, 2015

As cybersecurity was a major topic for President Obama’s summit with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, the Obama Administration has a clear opportunity to use U.S. economic sanctions to strike back against the hackers who undermine U.S. business and threaten our key civilian computer networks. Deployed correctly, a targeted, tough economic sanctions program can inflict costs on hackers and others who threaten us online and begin to establish a powerful deterrent tool to use against foreign companies that seek to exploit stolen American information. Deployed poorly, however cyber sanctions risk simply irritating China and other foreign governments without having a meaningful impact—and could invite retaliation against U.S. tech companies around the world. The U.S. needs to get cyber sanctions right.


OCTOBER 1, 2015

There is a famous story attributed to Albert Wohlstetter and Andrew Marshall about a medieval knight. The knight finds a modern assault rifle with a bayonet on the battlefield. Clearly, the weapon offers greater range and lethality than anything the knight has. Yet, what does the knight do with it? Does he use it to bludgeon his adversaries as he would a sword or does he experiment, firing the rifle at targets over a hundred years away, and realize the potential for new forms of warfare? Without experimentation and a vibrant intellectual discourse on the future of land warfare, the United States risks becoming the bludgeoning knight. This experimentation should include, but must not be limited to the pursuit of new technologies.

NATO reaches fork in road

After 14 years of fighting against Al Qaida, the Taliban and now ISIL, while increasingly focusing on Asia Pacific, the United States is waking up to the reality that Europe, once considered an island of peace and stability, is in trouble.

Europe is buffeted by three powerful gales: the deteriorating security situation along NATO’s southern and northeastern flanks; the continued economic fallout from the euro crisis and the institutional failure to deal with the waves of migrantsarriving on Europe’s shores from the Middle East and Northern Africa.

At the same time, traditional assumptions about NATO’s ability to bridge internal differences are being put to the test, with Turkey’s policies toward the Kurds and Europe’s East-West divisions on how to handle Russia now cleaving the alliance. Far from being a stately “zone of peace,” as received wisdom in Washington once had it, Europe is spiraling into a crisis that is likely to deepen in the coming years.