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  • 21 Mar 2016 8:49 AM | Anonymous

    Written By: CENSA Editorial Board


    During his recent State of the Union Address President Obama outlined five specific themes not just for his last year in office but for setting the nation on a course to achieve success and prosperity over the next five to ten years. In short, these areas are: 1) building a better cyber defense force; 2) expanding healthcare for all; 3) reforming immigration laws and policies; 4) enacting gun control, and 5) ensuring workers right’s and benefits. He went on to say that, “priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.”[1] With respect to cyber, the fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request submitted to Congress includes several new initiatives, just as 25 million American citizens view cybersecurity as a primary concern and contemplate the vulnerability of their personal data in the wake of a recent cyber-attack at the Office of Personnel Management. With respect to attacking terrorist networks, the priorities of the budget also appear promising, if somewhat uncoordinated and unclear.

    The FY 2017 budget request contains more than $19 billion for specific cybersecurity initiatives, representing a 35% increase from FY 2016 in overall Federal resources for cybersecurity. The proposed increase includes $3.1 billion for an Information Technology Modernization Fund and $62 million for the education and training of an expanded national cybersecurity workforce. The President, moreover, has called for the establishment of a CyberCorps Reserve, the creation of a Cybersecurity Core Curriculum, and for strengthening the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program. According to the official White House fact sheet, the “CyberCorps Reserve program [will] offer scholarships for Americans who wish to obtain cybersecurity education and serve their country” and “the Cybersecurity Core Curriculum [will] ensure [that] cybersecurity graduates who wish to join the Federal Government have the requisite knowledge and skills”; the additional emphasis on the National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity called for by the President is aimed at increasing the overall number of academic institutions and students involved in cybersecurity studies.[2] 

    It is clear the Administration is both concerned with and serious about keeping the United States at the forefront of cyber operations, a mindset that is necessary (even if it has been slow to evolve) given global trends. According to reports, Beijing has already established China’s Cyber force and created a State-run university focused on educating and developing cyber officers for an “informitized” defense capability [i.e., Beijing’s effort to broadly push technologically-driven modernization]. Moscow also appears to enjoy a leveraged position with its aggressive and already well-established amount of cyber activities and the development of “armies of trolls”. Therefore, members of American industry, academia, and the federal workforce (especially those in the Department of Defense) would be foolish not to capitalize on the new programs proposed by the Administration and to be implemented over the next year. Properly utilized, these initiatives could have great impact and, hopefully, lead to the allocation of a greater amount of wisely-targeted resources during the next administration – in an area certain to require an ever-increasing amount of attention for the foreseeable future.

    Despite the promise of these cyber initiatives, the FY 2017 budget request still contains many unanswered questions that point to a possible disconnect between strategy and resource allocation, including but not limited to cyber-related matters.

    Designed to address a wide range of challenges facing the U.S. national security community the FY 2017 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD) is $582.7 billion, which is $2.4 billion (about 0.4 percent) more than the FY 2016 enacted level of $580.3 billion[3]. According to DoD Comptroller Mike McCord, these challenges include:

    • Balancing capability, capacity, and readiness;
    • Terrorism, instability across the Middle East and North Africa;
    • Rising pressure from Russia and China;
    • Globalization of advanced technology;
    • Rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region;
    • Cyber defense, attribution and response;
    • Short-term budget deals, constrained resources, and fiscal uncertainty.” [4]

    For the United States – a global power with vast and far-reaching interests – the diverse nature and range of these challenges presents yet another even more complex hurdle. For strategists, the range of diversity undermines efforts to target and channel finite (and perhaps diminishing!) resources; and their range and diversity suggests a need for “strategic pluralism,” implying a requirement for a high number of investments across several geographical and functional areas (a dispersion of effort that may ultimately prove to be unachievable and unrealistic). To be sure, at least one analyst has alluded to the complexity facing policymakers and the consideration of the FY 2017 request: “[it] reorients the military to deter Russia and China. Down in the trenches, though, it’s a long, slow slog to rebuild the force for high-intensity conflict after 14 years of irregular warfare, mostly in the Middle East—which isn’t actually ending—and three years of Budget Control Act caps.”[5] Thus, as Capitol Hill prepares for yet another battle on government spending, many Administration officials and inspired congressional leaders will no doubt (and must) push for an agreement to provide some sense of stability to national security funding.[6]

    Budgeting uncertainty and the year-after-year habit of using Continuing Resolutions (CRs) to appropriate funds have combined to produce “a perfect storm” of bureaucratic conflict and inefficiency, and wreaked havoc on national security planning – especially on attempts to innovate. CRs fund ongoing operations and “legacy” programs and yet restrict new start initiatives – precisely the portion of the budget promising the most fertile ground for cyber-related innovations. Breaking this CR-based paradigm and establishing a new precedent (a return to normal order, actually) is of paramount importance if our nation is to counter cyber-based threats and position itself to lead.

    Above and beyond cyber, the President’s FY 2017 budget submission also includes nearly $16 billion to promote a number of broad, far-reaching, and important national security and foreign policy objectives. These goals include: the destruction of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); the development of innovative community-based approaches to discourage violent extremism around the world (although “innovative” is not defined or described); support for the transition in Afghanistan from an aggressive war-fighting footing to a more sustainable, training- and support-based posture (with investments in civil projects and infrastructure); funding for the European Reassurance Initiative and related efforts designed to improve NATO capabilities against Russian aggression (an initiative which alone has $4.3 billion earmarked); support for the Central America regional strategy; enhancements for the strategic rebalance towards Asia and the Pacific; support for the President’s “Democracy Agenda”; and assistance for continuing to grow strategic partnerships in Africa (based on promises made at the 2014 Africa Summit in Washington, DC).[7]

    But the supporting material announcing these goals and broad themes does not include specifics or suggest the existence of (or include calls for) the guidance necessary for leveraging a coordinated information campaign – one that could be enabled by a capable and empowered cyber security workforce. These questions are left unanswered in the budget roll-out; and this silence suggests that policy makers and practitioners are at a loss on how to proceed. Regrettably, too, this vagueness suggests that the Obama Administration will continue to underperform when it comes to fully coordinating cyber-related activities with national security goals and objectives – despite many high-level claims to the contrary and persistent calls over the years for improvement from voices in government, industry, and academia.

    Against this backdrop of additional cybersecurity activity and threats, the more conventional “who, what, when, and where?” questions about national security and geopolitical rivalry appear to be even more relevant than in recent years, especially with respect to existing and aspiring nuclear powers. China and Russia continue to provide near-peer competition to the United States by means of both conventional and nuclear arms and each have adopted a more aggressive “power projection” posture within their respective regions; North Korea represents a real – and potentially dangerous – nuisance of sorts with its impulsive (reckless?) display of periodic rocket launches, low-yield nuclear tests, vocal saber-rattling and rhetorical threats aimed at both Seoul and Washington; and Iran, even though it has pledged to adhere to the recent nuclear-inspections deal, maintains a powerful conventional military capacity and has not signaled an end to its support of clandestine acts of a subversive sort throughout the greater Middle Eastern region. 

    And while conventional State-on-State conflict might deserve greater force planning attention in the future (especially for the western Pacific), unconventional, irregular, or “hybrid” skirmishes continue to flare in places named Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. The persistence of this type of armed conflict – indeed the “how” – fuels the intellectual cause célèbre of several prominent defense thinkers (John Nagle, Frank Hoffman, Dave Maxwell, Dave Kilcullen, and Seb Gorka, for example). For Gorka, irregular has in fact been the norm or the regular form of armed conflict around the globe ever since the American Revolution and is thus misnamed; and for Gorka, irregular warfare, or IW, is likely to be the way of the future just as it has been in the past.[8] Given its persistence throughout history, therefore, IW should be addressed and accommodated when risk assessment decisions are made and upcoming authorization and appropriations’ bills are crafted and finalized.

    The robust nature of U.S. counter-terrorism (CT) operations overseas remains strong and suggests a significant level of commitment for meeting the objectives of the Administration’s highest stated priority (i.e., going after terrorist networks). Funded primarily through the overseas contingency operations account, U.S.-led operations in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere, have experienced significant gains of late: the recent capture of a senior ISIL operative in northern Iraq; the killing of nearly 100 fighters and an increase in the coalition’s capacity in eastern Syria; and the recent killing of more than two hundred militants in Somalia and Libya.[9] But CT-focused operations alone are not enough. The return of legitimate governance to these areas is required; only the establishment of the rule of law and robust local security and stability measures will conclusively defeat ISIL and other terrorist networks around the globe. 

    For those concerned about U.S. national security and the prioritization of capabilities against new and evolving threats, President Obama’s most recent budget submission presents considerable reason for optimism. Its stated goal of attacking terrorist networks, its emphasis on cyber as a real viable threat area, and its inclusion of and funding for several new cyber-based solutions is a step in the right direction, even as some areas are in need of greater guidance and detail. If not resolved, the lack of fidelity in these areas will certainly lead to an underutilization of cyber-related assets and perhaps undermine Washington’s efforts to achieve effective strategic gains in the fight against terrorists. And still, the greatest concern about the budget may be its lack of strategic focus for racking and stacking priorities in a tangible manner. Strategic pluralism run amok can be both inefficient and ineffective – and potentially costly in terms of dollars and lives.

    [1] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-%E2%80%93-prepared-delivery-state-union-address

    [2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/09/fact-sheet-cybersecurity-national-action-plan

    [3] http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/Documents/defbudget/fy2017/FY2017_Budget_Request_Overview_Book.pdf

    [4] http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/632078/dod-comptroller-budget-deal-offers-relief-uncertainty

    [5] http://breakingdefense.com/2016/02/2017-budget-the-long-slow-slog/

    [6] http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2095

    [7] https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget

    [8] http://www.correlatesofwar.org/ AND various public speaking engagements by Dr. Sebastian Gorka - http://thegorkabriefing.com/

    [9] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-islamic-state-is-degraded-but-far-from-being-destroyed/2016/03/08/bc0590fe-e56e-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html

  • 08 Feb 2016 2:47 AM | Anonymous

    Written By: CENSA Editorial Board


    On January 16, 2016 and as outlined within the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran were lifted, releasing and returning to the Iranian economy as much as $100 billion in frozen financial assets and resources, including nearly $1.7 billion in funds originally earmarked for U.S. pre-1979 military equipment (principal and interest). The JCPOA was developed, agreed to, and advanced in July 2015 by leading nations from the European Union, the United States and Iran, endorsed from the United Nations Security Council (resolution 2231), with requirements for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).[1]  More specifically, January 16th – also known as Implementation Day – marks the date when the IAEA confirmed Iran had completed various actions regarding the down-sizing and transparency requirements pertaining to their nuclear program, as required by the JCPOA; this confirmation was presented to the UN Security Council, EU members, the United States and the greater international community.  Details of the various sanctions and related program adjustments are outlined in the US Announcement here, the European Union announcement here, the United Nations Security Council here, and the IAEA here.   In sum, Iran is back in the international game and, as an example, is already hosting state visits to facilitate greater international cooperation and business ties (note President Xi Jinping’s recent visit).[2]

    Also, perhaps coincidentally but more than likely not, on December 18, 2015, the United States Congress agreed to and passed notable language as part of H.R. 2029, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act” for Fiscal Year 2016.[3][4]  This legislation contains language from Section 404 of the Compensation for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act and creates a fairly creative and certainly interesting legal precedent, making possible the payment of compensatory judgment claims for those individuals or families of individuals harmed by acts of state-sponsored terrorism.  For example, this legislation will allow funds seized from organizations, states, or individuals known to be conducting international commerce afoul of in-place sanctions, to be awarded to individuals, classes or families of outstanding final judgments against Iran, Syria, or Sudan.[5]  Such seizures will be placed into a newly formed account, one utilized to pay families for compensatory claims and a myriad of other fees, such as expenses and requirements resulting from extremely lengthy legal proceedings.  Preliminary discussions about this new law have already suggested a new approach for compensating the families of fallen U.S. Marines killed at the Beirut barracks in 1983.[6]

    Shortly after passage of this legislative provision and perhaps because it was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, several articles decried the new method of compensatory payment, most arguing in one form or another – “that US taxpayers were footing the bill for outstanding payments that [Iran] owed”.[7][8]  While this assertion is understandable, especially when juxtaposed with the details of Implementation Day and Washington’s $1.7 billion direct payment to Tehran, the legal precedent created by H.R. 2029 may usher in a new era of innovation for addressing and resolving compensatory judgments, and perhaps will create a new form of deterrence against future acts of violence by the named offenders. Further, the facts are that the “fund” outlined in this legislation will not be capitalized by U.S. taxpayers, but will first be seeded with funds from BNP Paribas, one of the largest banks in France and Europe.  In 2014, BNP Paribus paid a record $9 billion in fines for violating U.S. foreign sanction laws.”[9]

    The details of the lifting of these sanctions are outlined in a US Treasury Department release entitled, “Guidance relating to the lifting of certain US Sanctions pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Implementation Day” – a release that includes a description of various restrictions being lifted to allow the flow of currency in and out of the Iranian economy.  With the recent diplomatic focus on and momentum from the “nuclear deal,” it was somewhat of a surprise to see that “the U.S. Treasury department impose new sanctions – over Iran’s ballistic, not nuclear, weapons”[10] literally within hours of the Implementation Day announcements.  These actions by Treasury were consistent with the talking points that the White House emphasized during the larger nuclear deal announcements; specifically, that all sanctions weren’t being lifted and other violations of international norms would induce penalties. 

    Our relationship with Iran is indeed interesting, and there are U.S. companies doing business with and within Iran (summarized here); but we should not expect prominent businesses to flock to Iran just yet, as many layers of complexity remain to consider and assess about the opportunity and risk calculus of what could be an extremely influential market.[11]  But the business climate remains both opportunistic and volatile: sanctions remain in place for companies and individuals violating international norms on ballistic missile proliferation, human rights, and terrorism-related activities; several large currency movements have recently been executed to and from Iranian financial institutions; and billions of dollars’ worth of potential compensatory judgments to U.S. persons and families hang in the balance.  With sanctions’ enforcement being more likely than ever before, present conditions just might be optimum (or perfect!) not only for the formalization of potentially-lucrative business arrangements but for erecting arrangements that could be nullified in short order and replaced with yet a new sanction to address a specific transgression or to allow for the pursuit of justice in more innovative ways (see the following link to consider a possible analogy: “North Korean ship pursued for seizure in case.”)  Further, the fine print of H.R. 2029 allows for a 10 percent award fee to those persons or entities providing information to the U.S. Government leading to forfeiture (as the BNP Paribas case). 

    Could a more open Iranian economy operating within and around existing sanctions – and those likely to be put in place (given historical precedence) – lead to both a windfall for American businesses and to compensatory payments for long-patient families and individuals harmed over the years?  The potential for such a scenario has been set. And while it may be too soon to predict with great certainty, present conditions offer a meaningful promise. 

    [1] Information Note on EU sanctions to be lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), 23 January 2016, Brussels. http://eeas.europa.eu/top_stories/pdf/iran_implementation/information_note_eu_sanctions_jcpoa_en.pdf

    [2] Iran, China discuss $600B economic deals as Xi Jinping visits, 23 January 2016  http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-china-vow-tighter-ties-as-president-xi-jinping-visits/

    [3] Omnibus for FY 2016 - https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/Appropriations+for+Fiscal+Year+2016

    [4] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114hr2029enr/pdf/BILLS-114hr2029enr.pdf

    [5] U.S. Freezes $2 Billion in Iran Case - http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB126057864707988237

    [6] Iran Bank Gets Tough Hearing on Terror Award at High Court

    [7] Americans Held Hostage in Iran Win Compensation 36 Years Later http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/25/us/politics/americans-held-hostage-in-iran-win-compensation-36-years-later.html?

    [8] Taxpayers pony up what Iran won’t under Terror Victim Law - http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/dec/31/golden-hammer-taxpayers-pony-up-what-iran-wont-und/?page=all

    [9] Justice for US Terrorism Victims – Paid for by a Major French Bank, January 5, 2016, Huffington Post, Frank Vogl - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-vogl/justice-for-us-terrorism_b_8896402.html

    [10] U.S. Imposes New Ballistic Sanctions on Iran, Day After Many Penalties Lifted, January 17, 2016, NPR, Camila Domonoske - http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/17/463377946/u-s-imposes-new-ballistic-sanctions-on-iran-day-after-many-penalties-lifted

    [11] Why U.S. businesses could lose big in Iran - http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/11/investing/iran-sanctions/

  • 06 Jan 2016 3:04 PM | Anonymous

    Written By: CENSA Editorial Board


    A recent Treasury Department study entitled “The National Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment”[1] briefly discussed emerging methods in the world of terrorist and criminal financing that may soon become “threats.” The use of digital, or alternative, currencies was included on the list of new and emerging capabilities. And although the report remained inconclusive on whether or not terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) have begun using such methods, one should look no further than the findings being reported in the aftermath of the Paris attacks that this is likely the case.[2] Since early 2013 the risk is great and should be given more attention.

    Alternative currency and alternative payment systems are in fact electronic cryptocurrencies used to purchase both virtual and actual goods and services. Sometimes called “virtual currency,” these transactional methods are not secured with or backed by physical assets or protected by any legal currency laws—by any nation state or global entity—and nor are they in fact controlled or even regulated by any central governing authority outside of the communities themselves. Since the establishment of Bitcoin in 2009, literally hundreds of cryptocurrencies[3] have become available for facilitating trade and other transactions in online markets. And over the past several years these alternative currencies have grown in popularity and are traded in their own right and in their own markets, much like stock (as shown below in Figure 1).[4] Given the rise in the number of online options, anyone with a connection to the Internet can buy, sell, and trade in virtual commodities.

    Figure 1 - Example of Cryptocurrency Markets

    More recently, indeed over the past few months, independent anti-terrorism hacker collectives, contributors to “deep web” forums, and other digital media sources, have been working to identify and track the illicit use of alternative currencies. Interest in the origins of IS’s financial strength has increased given the rise in violence directly tied to or inspired by the group. Ghost Security Group (GhostSec) has attempted to identify and publicly call-out IS’s use of alternative currencies and has specifically focused on Bitcoin.[5] While both GhostSec and the Treasury Department[6] largely believes that the majority of IS funding derives from black market oil sales and various acts of extortion, some evidence suggests that a portion of IS financial strength is now stored and traded in digital currencies. As for IS funding originating in alternative currency via cryptocurrency mining, however, the current amount is likely small.

    For both terrorists and criminals, a degree of anonymity is one of the main attractions of alternative currencies for the illicit marketplaces of the ether. The widespread use of the SHA-256 protocol, a cryptographic hash function, and the use of a digital wallet system, like the bitcoin block chain ledger (described fully here), together provide an effective level of managed-attribution for a user. The IS, with its self-proclaimed global mission and worldwide base of support, has a vested interest in the use of such online options as a means for coordinating and maintaining its current level of operations. IS is therefore likely using alternative currencies the following ways:

    • As a Call to the Cause: Funding, Recruitment, Propaganda. These are the activities that allow IS to operate and grow and must be maintained through a global support network capable of timely engagement with recruits from afar. One tactic that has been effectively employed is the simultaneous use of digital wallets for donation purposes in conjunction with targeted propaganda techniques aimed at convincing others it is their duty to support the group, if not physically then monetarily, with however small a donation. Earlier this year a teenager based in Manassas, Virginia, was sentenced to 136 months in prison after pleading guilty to providing both resources and material support and for offering online advice about how to use Bitcoin to fund the IS.[7]
    • For the purchase, sale, and trade of illicit goods in “Dark Markets”: The dark web hosts online markets with everything from drugs to small heavy weapons to stolen credit cards. All such trade is performed with alternative currencies, usually Bitcoin, and offers a fertile ground for the Islamic State to not only conceal its purchases of needed goods but could also facilitate the sale of war spoils.
    • For the payments and services: In a blog that has since been removed from the Internet[8], IS posted notices about the use of alternative currencies for avoiding detection and then highlighted the consequential benefits of enabling tax evasion. Furthermore, the blog promoted alternative currencies as allowing distant supporters to receive stipends and other payments.

    And yet at some point in the alternative currency process a level of vulnerability is present because some amount of attribution must always exist and can be exploited by analysts. While Bitcoin remains digital, for example, it has limited use, impact, and value in the marketplace until it is traded for and converted into a tangible currency, or transactional service or good. This point of conversion is a vulnerability; and with a finite amount of hard currency in IS-controlled areas available for “cashing out,” IS will need to rely on the global network in places throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. At a minimum, the monitoring of such conversions can be utilized for gathering information about the group’s overall activity.

    Ultimately, the digital ubiquity that is constant within the modern battlefield, combined with the growing technological challenges for security (encryption and inexpensive protocols) will demand that our national security professionals, in some sense, resort back to the days of good old detective work – but in the digital domain – to discover these points of vulnerability. An effective defense therefore will demand a passive, yet aggressive, offense. We need to get on with it.

    [1] https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/terrorist-illicit-finance/Documents/National%20Terrorist%20Financing%20Risk%20Assessment%20%E2%80%93%2006-12-2015.pdf

    [2] http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/paris-attacks-eu-crack-down-bitcoin-transfers-attempt-strangle-isis-funding-1529693, http://anonhq.com/anonymous-reveals-isis-militants-linked-to-paris-attack-had-bitcoin-funding/

    [3] http://www.cryptocoincharts.info/coins/info, http://coinmarketcap.com/

    [4] http://www.cryptocoincharts.info/markets/info

    [5] http://www.networkworld.com/article/3005308/security/hacktivists-claim-isis-terrorists-linked-to-paris-attacks-had-bitcoin-funding.html

    [6] https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl9755.aspx

    [7] http://insidebitcoins.com/news/american-teen-sentenced-to-11-years-for-helping-isis-with-bitcoin/34576

    [8] https://alkhilafaharidat.wordpress.com/ [Please use caution when opening this link]

  • 01 Dec 2015 12:25 PM | Anonymous

    Written By: CENSA Editorial Board


    Why does the Islamic State use social media and other factions of the Internet so broadly? Is the Islamic State’s use of social media effective?

    A current hot topic of conversation involves the use of the Internet and social media by the Islamic State (IS) for spreading information, facilitating communications, and for coordinating attacks—with the recent attacks in Paris, France, serving as a prime example.

    The use of Internet-based activities is not something that is new to terrorists, or to Islamic Terrorist Organizations for that matter; indeed, it can be persuasively argued that these tactics have been in use by Al Qaeda (AQ) and its affiliates for nearly two decades. Some even argue that when the Islamic State first began in Iraq as the ISI, or Islamic State of Iraq, under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s leadership, its use of Internet-based activities was a vital part in establishing its presence as a significant and violent force within the region.

    Since approximately 2011, however, the world has seen a more advanced and pronounced amount of online activity from the Islamic State, with its Internet-based activities and propaganda efforts occurring with more frequency and growing more common. What once may have been a time-consuming and resource-depleting project to upload a single beheading video is now certainly more routine; to be sure, a major campaign has evolved across multiple online platforms, one involving or engaging strategic messaging, information warfare, recruiting, and important command and control efforts.

    As this evolution has taken place, the tactics and techniques used by IS—especially compared to those of AQ—have also evolved. Al Qaeda’s style: initiate information propagation in a closed forum where only vetted members enjoy exclusive access. Then, rely on this group to promote the information into the mainstream media. From there, users on social media pick up the important points and promote it further before the cycle repeats. AQ thus establishes a specific goal and purposely uses the Internet to advance this goal in a deliberate, controlled fashion.

    In contrast, IS messaging is disseminated in a much more diverse manner, reaching mainstream news outlets and closed forums after IS engages and releases such information through social media channels. It is an effective model: the organization’s message is propagated immediately and widely; encrypted mobile applications and “dark web” engagements enable and augment the integrity of closed forums; and, ultimately, fundraising efforts, high-level command and control communications, and the sale of illicit goods are facilitated. What once required access to fast super-computers and stable Internet connections is now accomplished through the use of smart phones and social media—enabling the sharing of information in real time with tens of thousands of jihadists and potential recruits and an even broader network of support. The notable shift has been recognized by the Threat Knowledge Group:

    “ISIS, or the Islamic State (IS) as it now calls itself, is a far deadlier enemy than Al Qaeda, especially in its understanding and use of Information Warfare and Psychological Operations (PSYOP). A fully fledged insurgency which has recruited tens of thousands of fighters and controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, IS is especially skilled in the exploitation of global social media networks to radicalize, indoctrinate and recruit.” [1]

    For example, Twitter has become an important new online tool for jihadists because of its ease of use and ability to provide real time updates to an unlimited number of viewers. Furthermore, Twitter provides the user community the choice of remaining somewhat anonymous, with its alias and muse status options. Indeed, IS’s use of Twitter and its members’ presence there can now be a good indication of their larger social media use.

    Consequentially, IS’s use of Twitter has been countered with online tactics, and effectively so, with Twitter’s mass shut down of IS-associated accounts and “take-overs” by the cyber-vigilante group Anonymous serving as prime examples. But such tactics have caused IS to adapt as well. Twitter still remains a popular platform for the extended IS community and Twitter as a medium can be a great starting place for researchers and analysts to gain significant insight into IS’s use of social media. Common hashtags, memes, pictures, links to videos and other sites can be monitored and utilized to follow IS activity and perhaps even operations.

    Especially recently, IS online activity has expanded and has grown to include many other platforms and mobile applications for the promotion of its agenda. Over a year ago, for example, SITE Intelligence Group reported on the shift from Twitter to Friendica, an announcement that was made – oddly enough – on Twitter: “In an unexpected move, media outlets of the Islamic State (IS) have announced that they will be suspending Twitter posts for an unspecified amount of time as the group has moved to a different social media outlet. The Twitter account of al-Battar Media, an Arabic-language group dedicated to promoting IS propaganda, declared in a July 12, 2014, tweet that select IS groups should redirect activity to a European server of the social network Friendica:

    Important: Al-‘Itisaam Media Foundation and the al-Hayat Center decided to stop publishing on Twitter temporarily and we ask you to disseminate the following links to the official pages on Friendica…

    In a follow-up tweet, al-Battar Media provided links to three other IS-linked media accounts on Friendica, labeled as al-'Itisaam, al-Hayat Center, and Ajnad. The tweet ended with a hashtag translating to “#Support_Accounts_of_the_Islamic_State.” [2]

    During that time, and since, a shift to several more online platforms has occurred, all with varying purposes:

    • The frequent use of vK, a Russian-based Facebook-like platform, is likely used both to avoid the shutdown of inappropriate accounts and to hide messages within the “noise” of social media. vK, and especially geo-enabled vK, appears to be used by Russian web-brigades, or “Troll Armies,” to create a deafening level of noise throughout social media. The methodology employs large numbers of geo-location accounts that appear online as either bots or trolls, thus creating a significant distraction and difficult challenge for analysts to comb through and sort out messages in a timely manner;
    • The increased use of temporary paste bins, such as justpaste.it, to post relevant operational information, recruiting and travel information, links to official publications and documents like Dabiq magazine, and to serve as a place for IS members in different countries to communicate (through formal Q&A sessions);
    • The spread of video propaganda across YouTube and LiveLeak as well as in Archive.org, to mass produce media, attract global attention, and stimulate and exploit emotions across a vast audience;
    • The move to encrypted, mobile, peer-to-peer communication apps such as Snapchat and kik. The use of these platforms is largely seen to be in connection with Twitter and other platforms where a user will display a username for specific mobile accounts and instruct others to take certain conversations out of social media and redirect to these applications.

    And yet another online trend has recently emerged with the rise and use of a tool called Telegram. According to its official website, Telegram is “a messaging app with a focus on speed and security, it’s super-fast, simple and free. You can use Telegram on all your devices at the same time — your messages sync seamlessly across any number of your phones, tablets or computers.” [3] The company assures users that the application is secure and “private” with the use of unique end-to-end encryption techniques that allow the deletion of information that may be seen as illegal. Although primarily a mobile application, Telegram also hosts downloadable desktop applications for multiple operating systems, thereby expanding the number of options available to users. These attributes have thus attracted greater IS activity. IS now holds conversations and hosts forums and chat rooms within Telegram, even as it initiates conversations and posts links to Telegram sessions vis-a-vis Twitter feeds.   After the Paris attacks, strong cultural and social pressures have even caused Telegram to intervene in IS use of their platform. 

    All this leaves us asking; where will IS go next? Is there a next? Is technology advanced enough at this point for its communications’ agenda to migrate elsewhere? With rapid technology advances, adept users, and evolving needs, the IS almost certainly will be engaged in a constant search for the next “big thing” on social media. Meanwhile, regardless of the nature and availability of applications or platforms, the following will hold true for IS and its larger community: its agenda to establish a global Islamic Caliphate will remain; its pressing and constant need for public attention will continue; and its propensity to pursue and advance its goals through social media and a variety of Internet activities will not waiver. As a result, our nation would be well served if it began to strategically engage this adversary, as opposed to merely believing that online tracking and encryption technologies alone will address and confront these challenges.


    [1] http://thegorkabriefing.com/report-the-islamic-state-and-information-warfare-defeating-isis-and-the-broader-global-jihadist-movement/

    [2] http://news.siteintelgroup.com/blog/index.php/categories/jihad/entry/210-is-from-twitter-com-to-friendica-eu

    [3] https://telegram.org/faq#q-what-is-telegram-what-do-i-do-here

  • 04 Nov 2015 12:30 PM | Anonymous

    Written By: CENSA Editorial Board

    What does Cybersecurity mean?  Senate passes CISA of 2015.

    The United States Senate approved S.754, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA), on October 27, 2015.  This bill, along with House passage of H.R. 1560, the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) in April of this year, soon will be reconciled and perhaps sent to the White House for enactment within months (if not weeks).  Considering that both bills were approved by wide margins (74-21 and  307-116, respectively) and given the strength of White House support for such legislation despite wide-ranging and noticeable public opposition, now is a great time to look at the legislative history of these respective proposals, and the details contained within. 

                The CISA and PCNA bills are current versions of a legislative movement that began in 2011 with the introduction of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).  The impact of strong popular opinion and consumer-driven conversations related to privacy and civil liberties’ concerns can be seen in the evolution of the title of this legislation.  The change from "Intelligence" to "Information" and the removal of the word "Protection" should lead one to believe that the strong lobbying efforts of many organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) were effective to some degree.  EFF and similarly-minded groups are concerned that proposals to increase governance of information-sharing within the cyber domain represents just more of the big-government, heavy-handed pressures on the private sector to share personally identifiable information.  Despite the change in the title, opposition to CISA and PCNA has remained strong.  Perhaps this is because each originated in the respective intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives?

                Assuming the enacted version of the legislation closely aligns with the fundamentals of the originals reported out of the House and Senate, here are few focal points of interest from each of the respective bills: 

    S.754 – "(Sec. 4) Permits private entities to monitor, and operate defensive measures to detect, prevent, or mitigate cybersecurity threats or security vulnerabilities on (1) their own information systems; and (2) with authorization and written consent, the information systems of other private or government entities."

    • S.754 – "Directs DHS to ensure that there is public notice of, and access to, the DHS sharing procedures."
    • S. 754 – "(Sec. 8) Prohibits this Act from being construed to permit the federal government to require an entity to provide information to the federal government."
    • H.R. 1560 – "Prohibits defensive measures from being used to destroy, render unusable or inaccessible, or substantially harm an information system that is not owned by: (1) the operator of the defensive measure, or (2) an entity that authorizes the operation of defensive measures on its systems."
    • H.R. 1560 – "Prohibits this title from being construed to: (1) authorize the federal government to conduct surveillance of a person or allow the intelligence community to target a person for surveillance…(3) permit the federal government to require a non-federal entity to provide information to the federal government."

    As of this writing, some large very well-known US-based companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and Cisco reportedly support passage of the legislation while othersApple, Twitter and Reddit – do not.  This alignment appears to reflect a macro-trend of support throughout the community of large IT hardware and infrastructure providers, with opposition existing and growing among more consumer-driven and public-opinion conscious entities.  In the post-Snowden environment, it is not unreasonable or illogical for public opinion to be skeptical of any cyber data-sharing proposals calling for increased sharing, in the name of security, with the same government organizations that have demonstrated weak security postures themselves. It is also not unreasonable to expect consumer-driven entities to be significantly influenced by public sentiment.

                We live in a very dynamic, complex, and technologically driven world where cyber threats are real, relatively inexpensive, and increasingly present in our daily lives.  Over the last several years the number and density of cyber-attacks have increased and resulted in corresponding losses of data, reputation, and intellectual property, causing significant embarrassment to those involved – with an ease to suggest that attackers might believe they are engaged in a video game.  To remain complacent and conduct business as usual between the private sector and government will continue to produce the same results, but CISA – with all of its issues – can encourage a healthy public-private-partnership (PPP) in a domain that ultimately is in need of effective defense and mitigation measures.  Even with such recognition, we shouldn’t expect private sector companies on either side of the CISA debate to be loud about their participation in sharing information about intrusions, exploits, or vulnerabilities – as such disclosure might affect consumer confidence in their product and then adversely affect their bottom line profits.  CISA, and PCNA for that matter, includes language stating that the government can’t require private firms to share this information.

    Cybersecurity is a popularly-used term for a myriad of reasons, applications, and intentions but in the case of CISA/PCNA, the term is being utilized as both a means and a method for describing the federal government’s potential collaborative approach for preventing the loss of data from prominent US companies and governmental agencies.   Going forward, and as the final version of the legislation gets refined and put into law, it will be important for those administering and monitoring implementation of the programs that are newly required to think about the following: 

    • Is there enough talent in the public and private sectors to make risk-informed decisions about defending, via implementation of operational measures, information networks that these bills outline, especially where international incidents might be caused by cyber-related mishaps and perhaps when the attribution of an attacker or malware may be mis-leading or even unknown?
    • During the implementation phase of CISA/PCNA, is the PPP proposal really based on an opt-in philosophy for private sector companies, or is it instead a heavy-handed oversight program destined to fail in the court of public opinion?
    • Is it really necessary to publish all of the internal government sharing procedures dictated by CISA, some of them automated for outside entities to likely exploit?

    Can both the public and private participants of this partnership enjoy equal value out of a long-term relationship, with the private sector driven by security and bottom-line profits, and the government driven by safety and public opinion?

  • 28 Apr 2014 11:22 PM | Anonymous

    Written by  Keith Mines and Sebastian Gorka

    The inspiration for this blog goes back some 12 years to Eliot Cohen’s Calling Mr. X article in January 1998 (National Review), which sought a new George Kennan to define the post Cold War world and save America from its “brain-dead two-war strategy.” It was by then a compelling petition, seeming not unreasonable nine years after the fall of the Berlin Wall to demand a new doctrine to replace Containment Policy.

    Soon after CENSA was founded, an organization which we saw as an exciting new venue to link and engage mid-level professionals and young scholars in the search for better policies. The next four years found us working together in Budapest, Sebastian running the Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security and Keith as the Political Military Affairs officer for the U.S. Embassy. They were challenging years. We watched the towers fall. Keith did brief tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. As one of the few experts on terrorism in the region, Sebastian attempted to explain the events of 9/11, and their ramifications, to the general public and local policy elites. We both argued and wrote about the assumptions we saw unraveling and the new untested assumptions taking their place. We tried to draw out the reality of the post-Westphalian world, developed the concept of “SuperPurple” (the next level of “jointness”), and struggled with the question of narrative in combating terrorism. Still we kept coming back to the Mr. X question. We were young enough, and idealistic enough, to believe that it was possible to get policies right, and that the world was not too complex to come up with that one compelling idea, like Containment, that could guide our response to global challenges for the next generation and provide meaning to all the players in the national security arena.

    Others were, of course, also looking for the new framework, for a new George Kennan. Richard Haass asked in November 2005, Is there a Doctrine in the House?, and Fareed Zakaria declared Wanted: A New Grand Strategy in December 2008. Throughout there were offers on the table of a potential new doctrine, with some individuals actively running for the Mr. X title and others more humbly offering what was clearly an X-type doctrine, but without initiating the necessary campaign to make it a reality. One original and promising effort by the Wilson School even engaged 400 policymakers and academics to write a “collective X article.” Then there was the new National Security Strategy of 2002 and the Second Inaugural Address of 2005 that, while not intended as declarations of doctrine, certainly had all the apparent trappings of a new doctrine.

    Then CENSA threw its hat into the ring, using a technique that had been pioneered by policy analyst and author Bing West some years earlier as a way to sharpen debate and force clarity of opinion in a room of smart people, although this time the technique was applied virtually. We had conducted previous projects on Global Threats, North Korea, and Moving Forward in Iraq. Under Keith’s leadership, we developed a list of the 20-plus contenders for the new Mr./Ms. X and sent a snapshot of their “doctrine” to all CENSA members and friends, asking that they answer a series of questions and select their top candidate. The full results of the survey from December 2007 can be found at: http://www.censa.net/Mr%20X%20Final%20Report%20for%20Print.pdf, with a full list of the candidates examined found as the Appendix.

    The results were anything but conclusive, and sparked almost as many questions as answers. The winner of the survey, Francis Fukuyama, came in with only 16% of the vote, while the first runner up, Parag Khanna, received only 9%.

    There was disagreement on whether grand strategy flows from doctrine or doctrine from grand strategy, and the threat picture was not entirely clear. There was also disagreement on whether we would be better off centering doctrine around new global architecture (e.g. equilibrium), or around a mission (e.g. neo-containment).

    A deeper analysis, however, did reveal some interesting judgments and now give us something to work with going forward at a time when a new administration has just issued its own new National Security Strategy.

    First, there was an almost wholesale rejection of the two semi-official doctrines of the preceding eight years, a statement of sorts on doctrines that were ideologically driven and closed in their development. Second, there was a heady support for state building as perhaps the key to global stability in the coming age, effectively doctrines that urged squeezing out ungoverned territory and strengthening the Westphalian system.


    -- Bush Doctrines I & II 1.5% (Pre-eminence/Preemption, Global Freedom)
    -- Anti-Doctrine 4.5% (Murdoch)
    -- American Primacy/Focus 12% (Peters, Mandelbaum, Lieber, Hart)
    -- Neo-Containment 17% (Meade, Fallows, Shapiro, Kilcullen)
    -- New Global Architecture 29% (Haass, Princeton Project, Khanna, Lieven/Hulsman)
    -- State Building 36% (Barnett, Ignatieff, Fukuyama, Zakaria)



    Thirdly, a majority of the participants believed a new doctrine would need to be embraced by the U.S. President but have significant international support and buy-in to be effective.

    Significantly, the majority of participants believed the world does need a doctrine to replace containment, something we also strongly believe.

    In the coming months we will highlight some of the results of the project, bring it up to date with new candidates and trends, and seek to continue the debate where we left off in early 2008. If, over time we decide the world is simply too complex to afford a single galvanizing doctrine, we may concede defeat. But let it be because of that complexity, not political divisiveness, or worse yet intellectual slothfulness.

    Both of us spent our formative years growing up under the shadow of the Cold War, and perhaps this influences our faith in the ability of smart people to comprehend a complex threat environment and respond to it with innovative frames of comprehension that inform both policy and operations. Keith has served the national cause both in and out of uniform and made a specialty of understanding failed or failing states. Sebastian grew up in Europe, the son of refugees from a Communist dictatorship, then served in the government of a transition state attempting to re-establish rule of law and its place in the community of Western nations.

    Despite the obvious overlap we do not agree on all things. Perhaps not a realist versus idealist divide, this blog will in the future describe at times a pro versus contra arch in its evolution. We are, however, both convinced that while the Westphalian nation-state may not be dead, its monopoly on violence and its unique position as the actor on the international stage has been challenged robustly since the end of the Cold War. How exactly this is happening and what should be done about it in order to secure our people and our way of life, will be the meat of our new blog.

    For the time being we will continue the search for Mr. X, and invite you to join us.

    The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any department or agency of the US government.

    Keith Mines is the Director of the Narcotics Affairs Section in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, where he manages the Merida Initiative, a new partnership between the U.S. and Mexico in counternarcotics and law enforcement. Mr. Mines’ primary areas of interest are post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization and the search for national security doctrine after containment.

    Dr. Sebastian Gorka was born in the U.K. to parents who escaped Communism during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. He is an internationally recognized authority on issues of national security, terrorism and democratization, having worked in government and the private and NGO sectors in Europe and the U.S.

  • 25 Apr 2014 11:42 PM | Anonymous

    Written by Amy Zalman

    “Getting the Information Albatross of our Back:
    Notes toward an Information-Savvy National Security Community”

    Download PDF

    Water, water, everywhere,
    Nor any drop to drink

    – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

    The Information Instrument of Power

    It is a paradox of the United States’ strategic situation that while the effects of the information revolution on national security deepen, the American ability to act powerfully in these new circumstances remains shallow.

    Many people concerned about national security recognize this paradox. We are virtually drowning in information—the words, images, and sounds through which humans communicate meaning to each other via various technologies, from the human voice to remote sensors. Yet, the United States wields “the information instrument of national power”—as national security parlance would have it—poorly.1

    The effects of the information revolution on national security, lest we doubt them, are visible everywhere. Political leaders are challenged daily to chart a clear course through the information, misinformation and disinformation flooding global social media. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s efforts in March 2014 to control the information environment by shutting down Twitter and YouTube testify to both the importance of information in the current technology environment, and the helplessness of political leaders to control it. In a slightly different light, consider the communications challenges faced by the Malaysian government in its attempt to restrain sensitive information during the search for Flight MH370.

    Information technologies benefit violent transnational criminal networks. NGOs and private firms use communications to impact international development and foreign aid, the former preserve of governments. IT advances have led to “networked warfare” and remotely operated weapons, such as drones and IEDs. These weapons not only demolish lives and property, but also live on as information in another form, as stories of destruction, trauma, and blame that reverberate in local and global media to impact unfolding conflicts.

    All over the world, people demand access to the Internet as a civil right and call on governments to use IT and information transparently and responsibly. Diplomatic challenges abound in creating global norms regarding proper behavior, in peace and war, in cyberspace.

    Not least, civic life the world over is in flux as a result of the information revolution. Just as “industry” in the Industrial Age organized all aspects of society, so too does “information” in the Information Age organize not only global economic production, but geopolitics, dominant intellectual and cultural forms, and not least, social relations at every strata of our existence, from our societal institutions to our personal worlds of work, family, and love. These changes are so profound as to have chipped away at the bedrock of the international system, the sovereign state. Once considered inviolable, the autonomous boundaries of states are now transgressed daily by people, news, and ideas set in motion by new technologies.

    Yet no such revolution has occurred concerning the United States’ priorities when it comes to using informational power. Both in normative documents, such as the National Security Strategy, and in actual practice, the United States appears to think little of informational power as a strategic instrument. For example, a leading textbook used to teach strategy to senior staff of the Armed Services, the State Department, the Intelligence Community, and other civilian agencies, relegates informational activities to three disciplines: public diplomacy, military information operations, and psychological operations.2

    All three are marginalized, poorly funded activities at best. The position of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs has become notorious for its low incumbency rate.3 Military information operations, or “IO,” and psychological operations4 (an array of capabilities that combine psychological and communications practices with technology to influence others) are as marginal. Many government officials consider IO an esoteric, and slightly creepy, military art compared to the straightforward and manifest force of kinetic warfare.

    Congress finds it easy to withhold support from informational activities in part because practitioners have not been able to generate persuasive metrics of success to generate program support. This is not because information isn’t powerful—it is. It is rather because the national security community has fallen prey to a cognitive error in which the worth of an activity is gauged in terms of what is easiest to measure. Because it is difficult to quantify the damage (or benefit) of information in comparable terms, policymakers appear frequently to assume that it is not powerful at all. Conversely, it is possible to quantify the destructive damage of kinetic activities, such as bombs and armed drones, and this makes it easier to think such activities are powerful. To add insult to injury, the communicative effects of precisely those activities often surprise the policymaking mainstream because they failed to acknowledge the power of information. The feelings of rage and trauma that drones have caused in Waziristan is partly due to their concrete effects, but also to what they mean, what they communicate to people in the region about American intentions and their own sovereign rights.

    While public diplomats and IO practitioners deplore this situation, the mildness of their entreaties makes it all too easy for policymakers to ignore them. At a recent State Department forum, speakers called on public diplomats to listen better to foreign populations and remarked on the overly bureaucratic processes that make their jobs especially difficult. These aren’t trivial issues, but they are so far from the profound overhaul required that they may as well be.5

    A Dramatic, Systemic Change of Mindset is Needed!

    Incremental reforms, no matter how worthy, won’t resolve the more basic problem: the US organizes information activities on the basis of an outdated worldview set in the Cold War, ideologically, and the Industrial Age, technologically.

    During the Cold War, it made good sense to think of the informational “instrument” of power as the capacity to inject American values into populations whose governments and/or technological advancement limited their access to outside ideas.

    Public diplomacy, in that era, could count radio stations such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe as great successes: they projected the American voice into spaces where it would otherwise not be heard. So too, with student exchanges and concert tours, which used American musical forms like jazz to communicate American ingenuity and its liberated sensibility. Dizzie Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, the Dave Brubeck Quartet were a very few of these wildly successful tours.

    Military psychological operations shared the goal of exposing people—in this case adversaries engaged in armed conflict—to alternative information that would influence their behavior. In the conflicts in Vietnam, Korea and the Persian Gulf, the US Army waged campaigns specifically to encourage enemy desertions, for example.

    We are no longer in the Cold War, nor the Industrial Age. Soon, almost everyone in the world will be able to receive as well as disseminate informational content. There are few populations that are unknowingly isolated from others’ media. The ideological landscape is variegated and complex, not bipolar. Ongoing competitive relationships, rather than clearly divided periods of war and peace, characterize international relations.

    Moreover, national security challenges include transnational, multi-stakeholder risks such as climate change, resource scarcity, transborder crime, disease, and poverty. Solving these requires informational power, but not in a Cold War manifestation: not through efforts to project American values into populations perceived as blank slates or hostile listeners, but through collaborative work and aligned interests.

    The failure of the Cold War/Industrial Age model should be clear from the informational debacles of the ‘global war on terror.’ In the decade following the 9/11 attacks, just as in the Cold War, the United States sought to “tell its story” to Muslim publics that we imagined not only as isolated from information about the United States, but as geographically secluded in Muslim majority countries.

    The effort backfired among not only satellite TV-saturated cosmopolitans in Arab and Western capitals, but also provincial Afghans who in some areas had not heard of the 9/11 attacks. In both cases, the mistake was the same: the United States failed to note that people everywhere already have their own narratives, their own histories, and their own ways of articulating even the values we universally share.

    In Cold War fashion, the United States cast armed activities in Afghanistan, North Africa, and elsewhere as an ideological duel between two opposing poles: militant Islam and liberal democracy. This black-and-white staging set up the United States for later failures to understand reality’s complex grays: figures such as Algerian Mokhtar bel Moktar, whose violent attacks represented a complicated tangle of national, regional, criminal and ideological designs. When the United States went looking for the binary model in Syria, it found a thorny mix of diversely motivated militants in ever-changing formations rather than a neat division of good, secular rebels, and bad, violent Islamists.

    Achieving Information Power

    It should be clear: lobbing American values at the people of other lands, hoping they will recognize the superiority of our ideological preferences, is a pretty lousy route to power in today’s environment.

    We need a new conceptual framework that outlines informational power, and a new set of activities to mobilize that power.

    First, we must retire the Cold War/Industrial Age information power model.

    It is typical in national security circles to talk about the informational “instrument” of power. The metaphor of “instrument” is problematic, as it suggests a tool or implement within our control to manipulate. This is simply not an accurate description of reality. Information, once released into the environment, disperses, recombines, and shifts shapes in ways that no issuer can control. For the same reason, we must retire the premise that informational power can be had by send- ing “messages” to “target audiences.” This model too implies an unachievable level of control over information and its reception by others.

    Yet, mainstream policy discourse reflects a widespread conviction that the United States has a singular level of control over the global information environment. Consider the commentary of a former US official in The New York Times this spring, in the wake of Russian President Putin’s Crimea annexation. The official writes:

    Recent Kremlin moves to cut off citizens from independent information are disturbing, but the communications revolution ensures that Russians today will not be as isolated as their grandparents. Greater exposure to the world gives Russians a comparative analysis to judge their situation at home. This is a powerful tool, which needs to be nurtured through educational exchanges, peer-to-peer dialogues and increased connectivity between the real Russian private sector and its international partners.6

    As the author points out, Russians are not isolated from the global flow of information. But this fact is emphatically not a tool in the hands of the United States. It is a description of the global information environment and the reality that Russians have access to different sources of information from different places. Yet, in blatantly Cold War/Industrial Age terms, the author insinuates that the United States is in a unique position to “nurture” Russians’ worldview in a way that will best serve the United States.

    Moreover, although the author uses the language of “exchanges” and “dialogues” between Russians and Americans, mutual influence is not what he is proposing. In the proposed scenario, American ideas will influence Russians, but not the other way around. Yes, many Russians appear clearly to want a more transparent, permissive, democratic government. No, this doesn’t mean they want the model the United States offers.

    Second, we must instill a new framework of information power.

    To be powerful in the Information Age takes different skills than in the Cold War. Using information power- fully today requires the ability to:

    • Act in accordance with the fact that actions, as well as intended communications, relay meaning to others.
    • Use different kinds of communicative media to distribute and collect information.
    • Develop and sustain networks required to tackle multi-disciplinary issues.
    • Engage other stakeholders by aligning goals and interests on an issue-by-issue basis.
    • Navigate the symbolic territory of adversaries, friends, and key stakeholders. By ‘symbolic territory,’ I mean that landscape of historical memory, stories, images, figures of speech, and metaphors through which people understand and relate their experiences.

    The recently established J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative, named for the American ambassador to Libya who was killed in September 2012, offers a positive example of this new way of approaching informational power. The initiative, which is funded by multiple government and private donors, is grounded in evidence that sustained, virtual educational exchanges have statistically significant positive effects on participants’ attitudes toward each other. The program will guide students in different countries through joint long-term projects; students will meet virtually, using new communications technologies. Los Angeles high school students might, for example, work with students in a Cairo classroom to study how to reduce urban traffic congestion. Each group would gather evidence in their own city, then work together to generate the best possible solutions.

    This concept takes advantage of the opportunities afforded by new communications technologies. The exchanges are truly two-way: all participants’ input is valuable, and through their interactions, participants will gain insight into their counterparts’ worldviews; the programs do not model an America seeking an implausible ideological conversion, but rather align goals and interests to solve real problems.7

    Third, the education of professional senior leaders should reflect and promote a new framework of thinking.

    Influential educational institutions such as the National Defense University and the various service schools recognize the power of information. The Defense Analysis Department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, for example, offers a sophisticated curriculum on how social networks—governments, communities, bad actors, and other—use information as a form of power. The National Defense University’s iCollege (previously known as the Information Resources Management College) provides robust instruction in cyberpower.

    Yet, in a world in which roaming content can trigger riots, senior leaders need to understand the mechanics of influence: how does information impact people and institutions in powerful ways, if not through sending “messages”?

    At the National War College, where I teach, the introduction of cognitive psychology (via behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman) is a good start. Kahneman and other psychologists have developed strong models to explain how humans make information meaningful to themselves.

    There are other fields from which future leaders could gain further insight. They include cultural studies, theories about artistic reception, semiotics, communication and media studies, public relations and marketing, complexity science, and network theory. Used in an applied context, these disciplines could help strategic leaders understand how technologies, institutions (such as the professional media), and individuals generate and consume meaning.

    Policy think tanks and civilian universities can join in taking a proactive educational role, especially if the government extends a helping hand, to develop the study of these fields as they apply to national security and foreign policy.

    Fourth, the US Government should organize informational activities to generate informational power.

    During the Cold War/Industrial Age, it served the United States to have a government agency (the United States Information Agency) dedicated to projecting the American story into isolated areas. Today, we need a new model that reflects the fact that all government actions and activities are potentially communicative, and that this situation poses both risks and opportunities. Every agency should house an office of informational power to develop proactive communications risk strategies, to exploit opportunities for mutual engagement—whether military exercises or agricultural exchanges—and to coordinate with other USG agencies.8

    Let’s not be the Ancient Mariner of the Information Age, forced to recirculate our sad story perpetually. Let’s start over and start right to cultivate the next generation of the world’s most info-savvy strategists.


    1. In his 2008 “The Trouble with Strategic Communication,” (Center for Strategic Leadership Issue Paper, Carlisle, PA: Army War College Center for Strategic Leadership, January 2008), Dennis Murphy observes the military community’s sense of the “urgency of integrating effective strategic communication into military operations while recognizing that we don’t quite understand how to do it … or even what it is.” Three years later, in a 2011 Memorandum on the subject of “Strategic Communication and Information Operations in the DoD,” then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates acknowledged that “across the U.S. Government, all departments and agencies are struggling to adapt anachronistic programs and policies to acclimate to the evolving environment” produced by globalization and the information revolution (January 25, 2011). Moreover, as Christopher Paul wrote in a 2009 RAND Corporation report, “Whither Strategic Communication: A Survey of Current Proposals and Recommendations,” “Countless studies, articles, and opinion pieces have announced that U.S. strategic communication and public diplomacy are in crisis and are inadequate to meet current demand” (1).

    2. Terry Deibel, Foreign Affairs Strategy: Logic for American Statecraft (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2007).

    3. Domani Spiro, “Obama Nominates Richard Stengel to the State Department Public Diplomacy Bureau,” Diplopundit Blog, September 18, 2013. http://diplopundit.net/2013/09/18/obama-nominates-richard-stengel-to-the-state-departments-public-diplomacy-bureau.

    4. Psychological Operations are today known as Military Information Support Operations, or MISO, in American doctrine.

    5. Katherine Brown, “2013 Forum: The Future of Public Diplomacy,” Public Diplomacy Council blog, February 13, 2014. http://www. publicdiplomacycouncil.org/commentaries/02-13-14/2013-forum-future-public-diplomacy.

    6. Michael McFaul, “Confronting Putin’s Russia,” The New York Times, March 24, 2014, p A21. http://www.nytimes. com/2014/03/24/opinion/confronting-putins-russia.html.

    7. See Ahmed Charai, “The Right Way to Remember Chris Stevens,” The National Interest, January 24, 2014. http://nationalinterest. org/commentary/the-right-way-remember-chris-stevens-9763, and Sheldon Himmelfarb, “The Real eHarmony: How Young People Meeting on the Internet might Help Build Peace in Some of the World’s Most Volatile Regions,” Foreign Policy.com, February 1, 2014. Many thanks to Jennifer Butte-Dahl for bringing the program and these articles to my attention.

    8. “It is critical to realize, as several studies have pointed out in recent years, that the Department of State is not the only important actor in public diplomacy or strategic information in the U.S. Government…” William Kiehl, “Seduced and Abandoned: Strategic Information and the National Security Council Process,” Affairs of State December (2008): 364.

    Dr. Amy Zalman is the Department of Defense Information Integration Chair at the National War College in Washington DC. Previously, from 2007–2012, Amy worked at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC, now Leidos), a Washington DC based science and technology firm, where she developed new market strategies and basic research projects in the government strategic communications sector. She frequently briefs foreign policy stakeholders and general audiences on innovative approaches to national security challenges in the digital age, and she is regularly cited on these topics in national and international publications.

  • 30 Jun 2011 11:39 PM | Anonymous

    Written by  Sebastian Gorka


    Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities

    JUNE 22nd 2011

    Prepared Testimony by Dr. Sebastian L. v. Gorka


    (Video can be found below or at http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/hearings?ContentRecord_id=be90895b-4da5-467d-861d-6c8d82b4fdf1 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfmN86SlpKY)


    Thank you Chairman Thornberry, ranking-member Langevin and the members of the Subcommittee for honoring me with the opportunity to testify before you on the vital issue of the Evolution of the Terrorist Threat to the United States.

    First, I need to make the standard disclaimer that this testimony reflects my views and not necessarily those of the National Defense University, or the Department of Defense, or any other organization I am affiliated with.

    Within a matter of months, America will witness the 10th anniversary of the horrendous terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.

    Al Qaeda’ s religiously-motivated murder of almost 3,000 people on that sunny Tuesday morning led directly to military operations in Afghanistan and then Iraq which together mark the longest ever military engagement by America since its founding 1776.

    We are still fighting in a war that has already outlasted our combat in Korea, WWII and even Vietnam.

    Whilst the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks is dead, thanks to the courage and audacity of the US military and intelligence community, the war is not over, the enemy not vanquished.

    There are two core messages I would wish to leave you, Mr. Chairman, and the Subcommittee members with today, and I will provide them up-front.


    • The first is that today, a decade after September 11th, America still does not fully understand the nature of the enemy that most threatens its citizens.
    • The second, related point, is that stunning tactical successes in no way necessarily lead to strategic victory.



    If I may address the second issue first: the special forces raid against Osama bin Laden in Abottabad will clearly become the textbook example of how to perfectly execute high-risk military operations in the post-9/11 world. In locating and killing Osama bin Laden on foreign soil America has again demonstrated its peerless capacity at the tactical and operational level. Nevertheless, as the supreme military thinker Sun Tsu taught, “tactics without strategy is simply the noise before defeat,” and it is my firm conviction that the last ten years of this conflict have lacked the strategic guidance that a threat of the magnitude of transnational terrorism demands.

    Allow me to illustrate this with one simple observation. Since the escalation of the Iraqi insurgency in 2004, the subsequent rewriting and rapid application of the US Army/USMC Field Manual 3-24 on Counterinsurgency, and the release of General Stanley McChrystal’s report on operations in Afghanistan, Washington has persisted in calling our approach to the threat in theater a “Counterinsurgency Strategy.” (In fact, a basic internet search on the term “Counterinsurgency Strategy” yields over 300,000 results). This is despite the fact that counterinsurgency always has been, and always will be, a doctrinal approach to irregular warfare, never a strategic solution to any kind of threat.

    Strategy explains how one matches resources and methods to ultimate objectives. Strategy explains the why of war, never the operational “how to” of war. The fact that even official bodies can repeatedly make this mistake so many years into this fight indicates that we are breaking cardinal rules of how to realize America’s national security interests.

    To the first point, allow me to share a personal experience with the members of the Subcommittee. Several years after September 11th, I was invited to address a senior group of Special Operations officers on the last day of a three-day event analyzing progress in the conflict. As I rose to speak on the final day, I told the assembled officers – all of whom had just returned from the theater of operations or who were about to deploy there – that I would have to discard my prepared comments. The reason was that for 2½ days I had witnessed brave men who were risking their lives debate with each other and us, the invited guests, who the enemy was that they were fighting. Whether al Qaeda is an organization, whether is it a movement, a network or an ideology. This, I said, would be akin to US officers debating each other in 1944 over the question of what the Third Reich was, or what Nazism actually represented. Unfortunately, since that event, I have not seen greater clarity among similar audiences be it within the military, the law enforcement organizations I brief, or especially the members of the intelligence community I have spoken to.

    Mr. Chairman, the plain fact of the matter is that we have institutionally failed to meet our duty to become well-informed on the Threat Doctrine of our enemy. And without a clear understanding of the Enemy Threat Doctrine, victory is likely impossible.

    The reasons for our paucity in this area are many but they stem from two serious and connected obstacles. The first is a misguided belief that the religious character of the enemy’s ideology should not be discussed, and that we need not address it, but should instead use the phrase “Violent Extremism” to describe our foe and thus avoid any unnecessary unpleasantness. The second is that even if we could demonstrate clear-headedness on the issue and recognize the religious ideology of al Qaeda and its associate movements for what it is: a form of hybrid totalitarianism, we still drastically lack the institutional ability to analyze and comprehend the worldview of the enemy and therefore its strategic mindset and ultimate objectives..

    Here it is enlightening to look to the past to understand just how great a challenge is posed by the need for our national security establishment to understand its new enemy. It is now well recognized that it was only in 1946, with the authoring of George Kennan’s classified ‘Long Telegram’ (later republished pseudonymously as The Sources of Soviet Conduct) that America began to understand the nature of the Soviet Union, why it acted the way it did, how the Kremlin thought, and why the USSR was an existential threat to America.1 Consider now the fact that this document was written three decades after the Russian Revolution, and that despite all the scholarship and analysis available in the United States, it took more than a generation to penetrate the mind of the enemy and come to a point where a counter-strategy could be formulated. Now add to this the fact that today our enemy is not a European secular nation-state, as was the USSR, but a non-European, religiously-informed non-state terrorist group, and we see the magnitude of the challenge.

    Whilst initiatives such as Fort Leavenworth’s Human Terrain System (HTS) and the teams they provide to theater commanders are well meant efforts in the right direction of trying to understand the context of the enemy, they still miss the mark on more than one level.

    To begin with, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to provide the contextual knowledge we need to understand and defeat our enemy if we rely solely upon anthropologists and social scientists, as the HTS does. Today our multi-disciplinary analysis of the enemy and his doctrine just as much requires – if not more so – the expertise of the regional historian and the theologian, the specialist who knows when and how Sunni Islam split from Shia Islam and what the difference is between the Meccan and Medinan verses of the Koran. We should ask ourselves honestly, how many national security practitioners know the answers to these questions, or at least have somewhere to turn to within government to provide them such essential expertise.

    Secondly, we must, after seven years, take the counsel of the 9/11 congressional commission seriously in recognizing that the threat environment itself has radically changed beyond the capacity of our legacy national security structures to deal with it.

    In the case of how two of the 9/11 hijackers (Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Midhar) were flagged as threats and then still permitted to enter the United States legally, we see proof of how our national security structures do not live up to the threat our new enemies represent. This problem is not unique to the United States, but a product of what the academic world calls the Westphalian system of nation-states and how we are structured to protect ourselves.

    For the 350 years since the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the religious wars of Europe, Western nations developed and perfected national security architectures that were predicated on an institutional division of labor and discrete categorization of threats. Internally we had to maintain constitutionality and law and order. Externally we had to deal with the threat of aggression by another state. As a result all our countries divided the national security task-set into separate conceptual and functional baskets: internal versus external, military versus non-military. And this system worked very well for three and half centuries during which time states fought other nation-states, the age of so-called ‘conventional warfare.’ However, as Philip Bobbitt has so masterfully described in his book The Shield of Achilles, that age is behind us. Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, or even the Muslim Brotherhood cannot be forced into analytic boxes which are military or non-military, or into internal or external threat categories.2 We must recognize the hard truth that the threat environment is no longer primarily defined by the state-actor.

    Take, for example, the case of the most successful al Qaeda attack on US soil since 9/11, the Fort Hood massacre. A serving Major in the US Army decided that his loyalty lay with his Muslim co-religionists and not his nation, or his branch of service. He was recruited, encouraged and finally blessed in his actions by Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen who is a Muslim cleric hiding out in Yemen. When MAJ Hasan was about to be deployed into theater in the service of our country, he instead chose the path of Holy War against the infidel and slew 13 and wounded 31 of his fellow servicemen and their family members and colleagues on the largest US Army base in the United States.

    How Westphalian was this deadly attack by al Qaeda? What does it have to do with conventional warfare? Was this threat external or internal in nature? Was it a military attack or a non-military one? As you see, the conceptual frameworks and capabilities that served us so well through the last century fail us today in the 21st. As a result we must develop new methodologies to analyze the threats to our nation and new ways to bridge the conventional gaps between government and agency departments and their respective mindsets, gaps which are so deftly exploited by groups such al Qaeda.3

    The paradox of al Qaeda is that whilst we have in the last 10 years been incredibly successful in militarily degrading its operational capacity to directly do us harm, al Qaeda has become even more powerful in the domain of ideological warfare and other indirect forms of attack. Whilst bin Laden may be dead, the narrative of religiously-motivated global revolution that he embodied is very much alive and growing in popularity.4 Whilst we have crippled al Qaeda’s capacity to execute mass casualty attacks with its own assets on the mainland of the United States, we see that its message has and holds traction with individuals prepared to take the fight to us individually, be it Major Hasan, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square attacker, or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas-Day bomber.

    Although we have proven our capacity in the last 10 years to kinetically engage our enemy at the operational and tactical level with unsurpassed effectiveness, we have not even begun to take the war to al Qaeda at the strategic-level of counter-ideology. Again, there are several reasons for this, some connected to the obstacles that have prevented us from adequately analyzing the threat doctrine of our adversary mentioned above. But there are additional problems. The fact is that we have forgotten most of the lessons of the last ideological war we fought – the Cold War – and have also forgotten certain of the cardinal rules of effective information and psychological operations.

    To paraphrase Dr. James Kiras of the Air University, and whose views I highly respect, we have denied al Qaeda the capability to conduct complex devastating attacks on the scale of 9/11, but we now need to transition away from concentrating on dismantling and disrupting al Qaeda’s network, to undermining its core strategy of ideological attack. We need to employ much more the indirect approach made famous by our community of Special Forces operators of working “by, with and through” local allies and move beyond attacking the enemy directly at the operational and tactical level to attacking it indirectly at the strategic level.

    We need to bankrupt transnational Jihadist terrorism at it most powerful point: its narrative of global religious war. For the majority of the last ten years the narrative of the conflict has been controlled by our enemy.5 Just as in the Cold War, the United States must take active measures to arrive at a position where it shapes the agenda and the story of the conflict, where we force our enemy onto the back foot to such an extent that Jihadism eventually loses all credibility and implodes as an ideology. For this to happen we must re-think from the ground up the way in which strategic communications and information operations are run across the US government. Additionally, Congress itself will have work to do to remove out-dated limitations on our national ability to fight the war of ideas, such as the Smith-Mundt Act, which were born of a by-gone age before the world of modern communications and especially the internet.

    Our ability to fight al Qaeda and similar transnational terrorist actors will depend upon our capacity to communicate to our own citizens and to the world what it is we are fighting for and what it is that the ideology of Jihad threatens in terms of the universal values we hold so dear. To quote Sun Tsu again, in war it is not enough to know the enemy in order to win. One must first know oneself. During the Cold War this happened naturally. Given the nature of the Soviet Union and the nuclear threat it clearly posed to the West, from the first successful Soviet atom-bomb test to the collapse of the USSR in 1991, every day for four decades Americans knew what was at stake and why Communism could not be allowed to spread its totalitarian grip beyond the Iron Curtain.

    However, with the end of the Cold War and the decade of peace dividends that was the 1990s, America and the West understandably lost clarity with regard to what it was about its way of life that was precious and worth fighting since the specter of WWIII had been vanquished and the (Cold) war had been won.

    The shock of the September 11th attacks did not, however, automatically return us to a point of clarity. The reasons for this flow from several of the observations I have already made, but also from the fact that now our enemy is a religiously-colored one unlike the secular foe we faced during the Cold War.

    Due in part to a misinterpretation of what the Founding Fathers actually meant by “separation of church and state,” today we have hobbled our capacity to understand and counter this enemy at the strategic level. Based upon my experience with military operators and also US law enforcement officers fighting terrorism at home, many in senior management positions in government have misconstrued the matter to such an extent that religion has become a taboo issue within national threat analysis. This is despite that fact that all those who have brought death to our shores as al Qaeda operatives have done so not out of purely political conviction but clearly as a result of the fact that they feel transcendentally justified, that they see their violent deeds as sanctioned by God. If we wish to combat the ideology that drives these murderers, we ignore the role of religion at our peril.

    The official decision in recent years to use the term “Violent Extremism” to describe the threat is misleading and deleterious to our ability to understand the enemy and defeat it. America is not at war with all forms of violent extremism. The attacks of September 11th were the work not of a group of terrorists motivated by a generic form of extremism. We are not at war with communists, fascists or nationalists but religiously inspired mass-murderers who consistently cite the Koran to justify their actions. Denying this fact simply out of a misguided sensitivity will delay our ability to understand the nature of this conflict and to delegitimize our foe. By analogy, imagine if in the fight against the Ku Klux Klan federal law enforcement had been forbidden from describing the group they were trying to neutralize as white supremacists or racists, or if during WWII, for political reasons, we forbad our forces from understanding the enemy as a Nazi regime fueled and guided by a fascist ideology of racial hatred, but forced them to call them “violent extremists” instead. We did not do it then and we must not do it now. The safety of America’s citizens and our chances of eventual victory depend upon our being able to call the enemy by its proper name: Global Jihadism.6

    To conclude, the last ten years since September 11th 2001 can be summarized as a vast collection of tactical and operational successes but a vacuum in terms of strategic understanding and strategic response. To paraphrase a former US Marine who knows the enemy very well and whom I greatly respect, we have failed to understand the enemy at any more than an operational level and have instead, by default, addressed the enemy solely on the operational plane of engagement. Operationally we have become most proficient at responding to the localized threats caused by al Qaeda, but those localized threats are simply tactical manifestations of what is happening at the strategic level and driven by the ideology of Global Jihad. As a result, by not responding to what al Qaeda has become at the strategic level, we continue to attempt to engage it on the wrong battlefield.

    The tenth anniversary of the attacks here in Washington, in New York and in Pennsylvania, afford those of us in the US government who have sworn to uphold and defend the national interests of this greatest of nations a clear opportunity to recognize what we have accomplished and what needs to be reassessed. My wish would be that this hearing mark the beginning of that process, whereby we draw a line under our past efforts and begin anew to recommit ourselves to attacking this deadliest of enemies at the level which is deserves to be – and must be – which is, of course, the strategic.

    Osama bin Laden may be dead, but his ideology of global supremacy through religious war is far more vibrant and sympathetic to audiences around the world than it was on the day before the attacks ten years ago. If I were in the position of the members who carry the heavy burden of overseeing our nation’s response to the emerging threat that is transnational terrorism, I would begin that reassessment by encouraging an atmosphere within our government and the armed forces which is devoid of politically motivated sensitivities that obstruct our capacity to identify the enemy accurately. Then I would guarantee the conditions by which the executive branch would be able finally to produce a comprehensive understanding of the enemy threat doctrine that is Global Jihadism, a document akin to Kennan’s foundational analysis that eventually led to the Truman Doctrine and its exquisite operationalization in Paul Nitze’s plan for containment, NSC-68.7

    In this way Congress will have made it possible once more for America to think and act strategically and to vouchsafe the blessed experiment in democracy and liberty that is the United States of America.

    1 The declassified text of Kennan’s original cable can be found at http://www.ntanet.net/KENNAN.html. The pseudonymous article he later wrote for a broader audience in Foreign Affairs is at http://www.historyguide.org/europe/kennan.html (both accessed 15 JUN 2011).

    2 Philip Bobbitt: The Shield of Achilles – War, Peace and the Course of History, Random House, New York, N.Y., 2002. In “The Age of Irregular Warfare – So What?,” in Joint Forces Quarterly, Issue 58, 3rd Quarter, 2010, (p 32-38) I take the discussion further and discuss just how different this post-Westphalian threat environment is and how we need to reappraise key Clausewitzian aspects of the analysis of war.

    3 For a discussion of how to institutionally and conceptually bridge these gaps and so be able to defeat the new types of threat we face see the concept “Super-Purple” described in my chapter “International Cooperation as a Tool in Counterterrorism: Super-Purple as a Weapon to Defeat the Nonrational Terrorist,” in Toward a Grand Strategy Against Terrorism, Eds. Christopher C. Harmon, Andrew N. Pratt and Sebastian Gorka, McGraw Hill, New York, N.Y., 2011, 71-83.

    4 For the rise of Jihadi ideology and what should be done in response, see Sebastian L. v. Gorka: “The Surge that Could Defeat Al Qaeda,” ForeignPolicy.Com, 10 AUG 2009, at http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/08/10/the_one_surge_that_could_defeat_al_qaeda (accessed 15 JUN 2011)

    5 For further details on the enemy narrative, our flawed response, and what needs to be done, see Sebastian L. v. Gorka and David Kilcullen: “Who’s Winning the Battle for Narrative: Al-Qaida versus the United States and its Allies,” in Influence Warfare - How Terrorists and Governments Fight to Shape Perceptions in a War of Ideas, Ed. James J. F. Forest, Praeger Security International, Westport, CT, 2009, pp. 229-240.

    6 For the best work on understanding the enemy we now face see Patrick Sookhdeo’s Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of militant Islam, Isaac Publishing, McLean, VA, 2007 and the analytic work of Stephen Ulph, including: Towards a Curriculum for Teaching Jihadist Ideology, The Jamestown Foundation, available at http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=36999 (accessed 15 JUN 2011). For an overview of the key thinkers and strategists of Global Jihadi ideology see Sebastian L. v. Gorka: Jihadist ideology: The Core Texts, lecture to the Westminster institute. Audio and transcript available at http://www.westminster-institute.org/articles/jihadist-ideology-the-core-texts-3/#more-385 (accessed 15 JUN 2011).

    7 The declassified NSC-68 which operationalized George Kennan’s enemy threat doctrine analysis of the USSR is available at: http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Documents/2004/December%202004/1204keeperfull.pdf (Accessed 15 JUN 2011).

    Dr. Sebastian Gorka is Military Affairs Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy and a member of the Strategic Advisers Group of the Atlantic Council of the United States.

  • 15 Sep 2010 11:37 PM | Anonymous

    Written by  John W. McArthur

    President Obama’s recent national security strategy places a significant emphasis on development in the poorest countries. This is partly anchored in an ambition to promote American values, and partly in an ambition to address pragmatic concerns that human suffering in any corner of the world can ultimately threaten the wellbeing of Americans. The risks of violent conflict are much higher at the lowest levels of economic development, and there is significantly higher risk in African countries exposed to major climate stress.

    The focus on development is consistent with the President’s stated objective of backing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a vision to eradicate extreme poverty in a generation. The MDGs are the internationally agreed targets that were established in 2000 to tackle key challenges in hunger, education, health, access to safe drinking water, and income poverty, with a general aim of cutting each problem by half by 2015, compared to a baseline of 1990. The Goals draw attention to 1.4 billion people still living on less than a dollar a day, and to the simple and low-cost interventions that can make a dramatic difference in their lives. A $10 modern anti-malaria bednet can protect two children for five years. A $50 bag of fertilizer can help a poor farmer double her crop and start to earn an income. A locally produced school meal can entice a child to attend classes and have the energy to focus and learn while there.

    Five years remain until the Goals’ 2015 deadline, and this September the UN will convene its last major checkpoint summit to map out a course for the home stretch. More than 150 world leaders are said already to have confirmed their attendance, so the breadth and caliber of participation should be high. Expectations were set last September, when President Obama used his first speech to the General Assembly to assert that he would approach the 2010 MDG Summit with a “global plan to make [the Goals] a reality.”

    The US Government’s commitment to a successful MDG summit outcome unlocked a cascade of ambitions throughout the international community, driven by a desire for the US to take a proactive global leadership role for sustainable development, rather than what had previously been perceived as a reluctant if key role on specific issues of interest, in particular global health. Nonetheless, the recent MDG movement in Washington has been sympathetic but gradual as foreign policy players have navigated a thicket of policy urgencies plus an internal review of strategies and institutional arrangements. As a result, a little over two months away from the summit, the world is still waiting to learn the US’s suggestions for an action plan.

    The previous official international hurrah around the MDGs took place five years ago, at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 Summit in the United Kingdom and then the UN World Summit in New York. At Gleneagles, leaders of the wealthiest countries made extremely high profile and solemn commitments to double their collective investments in African development by 2010 and to increase their global development support by $50 billion over the same time period.

    Since Gleneagles, the UK has been the one country that made major promises and also held steady to its word. Canada and the U.S. made modest commitments and generally met them too. But in the end the G8 has fallen roughly $20 billion short of its collective pledge, due mainly to shortfalls from France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, thereby defaulting on its joint commitment. Even worse, at last month’s G8 Summit in Canada, leaders declined even to mention their Gleneagles commitments in their public communiqué, as if erasing a reference at the deadline would somehow erase the commitment itself.

    It is remarkable that even the richest and most powerful countries cannot coordinate to hold their word for dollar values that amount to near rounding error when compared to national security budgets and economic stimulus packages. Twenty billion dollars would easily fill the global budget gaps for bednets or fertilizer, while the Wall Street bonuses in New York state alone were more than $20 billion in 2008, the same year the financial sector melted. Such explicit shortcomings of G8 collective responsibility undermine the legitimacy of any of their future promises, and indeed undermine anyone’s desire even to hear more promises. This, in turn, forms an indirect threat to global security and stability, since intergovernmental agreements are anchored in trust, compliance, and an understanding of shared responsibility.

    A loss of faith in global commitments creates diplomatic costs well outside of the development community. For the well-governed but poverty-stricken countries, development priorities like farm productivity and disease control are first order political priorities wherein donor shortfalls cause direct local repercussions, fueling resentment to be aired on other international issues. For the less well-governed developing countries, a lack of accountability among the rich countries creates opportunities for “spoilers” to foster sympathy coalitions other issues, fueling a cycle of mistrust in international negotiations.

    All of this points to the imperative for US leadership on the Millennium Development Goals, and for a strong action-focused outcome at the UN this September. There is a global leadership gap at the intergovernmental level, and the world is hungry for the U.S. to be out in front on the Goals. Developed and developing countries alike will respond very positively to suggested global policy and planning recommendations for agriculture, education, child survival, maternal health, infrastructure, and basic environmental management.

    This summit is therefore not just an opportunity for the MDGs. It is a moment to build system trust – and thus a significant opportunity for advancing national security, even if not typically appreciated as such. Where development budgets might not be immediately available amidst fiscal pressures, great gains can still be made if the appropriate mechanisms are launched, like a global education fund that can sow the seeds of development for a generation. The world will need to continue well beyond 2010, and ongoing success will hinge on contributions from all parts of foreign policy community, including government, business and non-profit organizations. This blog looks forward to exploring these themes in more detail over the weeks ahead.

    John W. McArthur is the Chief Executive Officer of Millennium Promise, the leading international non-profit organization solely committed to supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to halve extreme poverty by 2015. In this capacity he oversees the Millennium Villages project, which supports integrated social and business development services for more than 400,000 people in rural communities across 10 countries in Africa. Dr. McArthur is also a Research Associate at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he previously served as Policy Director, and teaches at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.

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