The Cipher Brief is running a special series on disinformation – in all of its forms – ahead of the 2020 U.S. Election.  This week, The Cipher Brief spoke with former CIA analyst and Intelligence Briefer Cindy Otis, about how foreign intelligence services use conspiracy theories to sow distrust and ...

When news broke recently that the U.S. had extracted a high-level Russian official in 2017 who had close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was noteworthy to say the least. The New York Times described the Russian asset’s role as important in helping U.S. officials trace the source of ...

When a series of drones were used to attack a key Saudi oil facility over the weekend, the impact on oil production was noted by global markets.  Oil prices spiked as the attack was believed to impact more than half of Saudi Arabia’s daily exports. Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, ...

EDITORIAL/COMMENTARY -- The house had been watched for quite some time.  The home in Abbottabad was just about a mile from the Pakistani Military Academy and was significantly bigger than others in the area, surrounded by barbed wire fence and equipped with security gates. U.S. officials believed that the world’s ...

The Cipher Brief is running a special series on disinformation over the next several months.  We’ll introduce you to experts in the field who will share ways to identify disinformation efforts, help you critically think your way through what you see and share tips on what to do when you ...

With ongoing and often frustrating nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea and heightened tensions between nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan over Kashmir, having a clear picture of a nation's nuclear capabilities and how often they are testing them provides critical national security information. A fundamental building block of national ...

The resignation of both Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his deputy Susan Gordon, both taking effect on August 15th, mean big changes are underway at the top of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Sources tell us that Gordon increasingly found herself between a rock and a hard place since ...

NSA Director General Paul Nakasone announced last week that he is creating a new cybersecurity directorate that will focus on – among other things – aligning the agency’s resources on both offense and defensive cyber operations. “What I’m trying to get to in a space like cybersecurity is speed, agility ...

New audio of the seizure of a British-flagged tanker indicates the vessel was too far away from help to avoid being forced to change course by Iranian Paramilitary forces last week.  In audio released on Sunday by a maritime security firm, a British officer unsuccessfully demanded freedom to sail through ...

Few today would argue that the threat surface in cyberspace has expanded significantly in the past decade.  Just ask your fridge.  From the new risks we’ve brought into our own kitchens, to the increased capabilities of nation states to disrupt everything from electricity to elections, there is an even greater ...

In part two of 'The Coming Chinese Storm', former Deputy Director for Counterintelligence at the CIA's National Clandestine Service, Mark Kelton, lays out the Chinese threat to both the public and private sectors in the U.S. "As General Michael Hayden has rightly said: “This is stealing American wealth.  It’s stealing ...

The Cipher Brief is engaging with dozens of Cipher Brief experts, government speakers and private industry executives this week on the national security challenges that are impacting the public and private sectors.  We will have special coverage of the 2019 Threat Conference and will be re-posting some of our most ...

When DHS was established shortly after 9/11, terrorism was the focus. But in the 16 years since the Agency’s creation, the threat landscape has changed dramatically and cyber now plays a leading role in overall threats. Four months ago, President Trump signed the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency Act, ...

Last week, The Cipher Brief told you how and why the U.S. has been working to convince its allies to ban Chinese vendors from contributing to the development of 5G networks as well as offering some basics about what 5G actually is, and what we should be most focused on as ...

Fresh off the heels of the Munich security conference, a rift remains between the U.S. and its allies over their approach to 5G networks and managing the potential national security risks of allowing Chinese vendors to participate in the development of the technology.   The U.S. has been working to ...

Cipher Brief Expert Emile Nakhleh is a retired CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer and founding director of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program Office. Iran celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution during the first 10 “Days of Dawn” in February, beginning with February 1, the day Ayatollah ...

Innovation in Government isn’t generally a phrase that rolls off the tongue, but in a relatively unconstrained threat environment, innovation has become synonymous with survival. A few years ago, the world’s most secretive signals intelligence agency underwent a significant reorganization effort that combined elements of the Agency’s offensive and defensive ...

A recent poll conducted by a Russian polling group, suggests that domestic trust in Vladimir Putin is at its lowest level in more than a decade. Still, it’s important to remember that those numbers might not matter so much to Putin himself, since winning a landslide election last year - ...

French philosopher Voltaire claimed that "if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” The Kremlin, whenever it wishes to free a convicted Russian spy, twists this concept a bit: “If there's no espionage case, it's necessary to invent one”.  The recent arrest of U.S. citizen Paul ...

OPINION -- On December 31, The New York Times published a piece that claimed Afghan forces “trained and equipped by CIA agents or contractors” were conducting “torture and killings with near impunity.” The piece opens with the description of one such raid where an alleged CIA-trained strike force burst into ...

Bottom Line Up Front:  The Trump Administration is confronting China on issues that have been developing for years and have percolated to the top of a list of concerns that are affecting bilateral relations.  The current 10% tariff on $250 billion of goods could escalate to 25% or higher if ...

Bottom Line Up Front: Six months after the historic June 11, 2018 Summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jung Un, the American public is losing patience with a North Korea that continues to make nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.  Many now doubt that North Korea will ever ...

At a recent private D.C. dinner, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gathered with academics and cyber experts from the private sector to talk candidly about urgent cyber threats and actions that DHS is taking to address them. It was an intimate event, hosted by Atlantic Council President Fred Kempe and ...

Former President George H.W. Bush, who died last Friday, held among his most cherished roles in U.S. Government, the role of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Bush served as Director for just one year, from January 1976 to January 1977.  He came into the Agency during a time of ...

According to a recent report by the National Defense Strategy Commission (NDS), the U.S. Department of Defense and the White House "have not yet articulated clear operational concepts for achieving U.S. security objectives in the face of ongoing competition and potential military confrontation with China and Russia." The NDS is ...

Bottom line: Terrorists are turning to the dark web’s crypto-bazaars, social media channels and e-commerce sites to buy more coveted military equipment than the usual rocket launchers and AK-47s in the traditional black market. These digital black markets are also allowing terrorist organizations from Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, as ...

This brief is part of The Cipher Brief’s 2018 Annual Threat Report.   Bottom Line: There are three prominent technological security concerns for the United States with a growing Chinese strategic competitor to the east: Beijing’s push toward cyber and electronic warfare, its development of counter-space capabilities that threaten U.S. space ...

China's state news agency Xinhua, has shown the world just how far China has come in the artificial intelligence race with the introduction of a digital news anchor. The digital anchor not only read the news at China's World Internet Conference last week, but it also demonstrated the capabilities of ...

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan recently returned from China without the concrete funding assurances that he was seeking in order to keep his country from having to request a second bailout from the International Monetary Fund. Pakistan has repeatedly turned to China and Saudi Arabia for financial assistance, while the ...

As tensions heat up between Russia and the West, cold-war skills are back in play.   Norway and Iceland are hosting more than 50,000 troops from 29 NATO countries involved in an intense training scenario across Northern Europe, dubbed Exercise Trident Juncture, with the first phase wrapping up mid-week. The military ...

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).  The meeting follows a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump over the weekend, saying that the U.S. would pull out ...

Twitter is releasing a trove of known accounts and posts that it says were used to meddle in U.S. elections dating back to 2016.  According to the company, the data includes more than 4,600 accounts and more than 10 million tweets, photos, GIFs and broadcasts linked to Russia and Iran.  ...

As details about the disappearance of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi are revealed, its worth looking back at the deeper roots of the U.S. - Saudi relationship.   First printed in The Cipher Brief back in March, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, a retired Commodore of the Royal Saudi Navy who now writes as a political ...

As the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Susan M. Gordon serves as DNI Dan Coats’ number two, helping to manage an Intelligence Community (IC) that includes 17 different agencies and organizations, if you include the ODNI itself. The IC’s central mission is to provide the President with the most ...

Bottom Line: In the past decade, Iran’s cyber capabilities have evolved from a tool used to lash out against domestic opponents of the Islamic Republic to a central pillar of its national strategy of holding adversaries at risk and gleaning crucial foreign intelligence. Despite a fall in disruptive Iranian cyberattacks ...

For decades, former secretary of state and White House chief of staff James Baker has touted his version of a salty military catchphrase as a good-government mantra: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” That doesn’t necessarily apply to intelligence; even exquisite inputs from the CIA and other spy agencies cannot guarantee that ...

As details are released about the upcoming summit between the U.S. and Russia, Intelligence Officers are expected to ramp up collection efforts in order to prep the field ahead of talks. “Whenever you’ve got a summit coming up, your intelligence community, and your opponent’s kicks into high gear,” says Cipher ...

As the world focuses on the Singapore summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the President’s Treasury Secretary announced sanctions against five Russian entities and three individuals for their ties to Russian cyber activities, prompting some to question the Administration’s mixed signals on Russia over ...