Cipher Brief Expert Tim Willasey-Wilsey served for over 27 years in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office where his focus was on South Asia and North East Asia as well as on the issues of terrorism, organised crime, insurgency and conflict resolution. He is a Visiting Professor of War Studies ...

As Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies rise to record levels ahead of the direct offering of crypto exchange Coinbase, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell is pushing back against conventional wisdom that says Bitcoin is ripe for illicit activity.  In a report sponsored by the Crypto Council for Innovation (a lobbying ...

EXPERT ANALYSIS -- At a time when western officials are focusing their attention toward national security threats posed by China, the war in Yemen is entering its seventh devastating year. Billions have been poured into the country in efforts to stem a humanitarian crisis that shows no signs of stabilizing. ...

Nick Fishwick,Former Senior Member, British Foreign Office Nick Fishwick CMG retired in 2012 after nearly thirty years in the British Foreign Service which included postings in Lagos, Istanbul and Kabul. He served in London as director of security and, after returning from Afghanistan in 2007, as director for counterterrorism. His ...

Tim Willasey-Wilsey, Cipher Brief Expert Tim Willasey-Wilsey is a Cipher Brief Expert on Afghanistan and a visiting Professor of War Studies at King’s College, London and a former senior British diplomat. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not represent those of any institution. EXPERT PERSPECTIVE -- ...

President Joe Biden’s administration is aiming its Middle East agenda on adhering to campaign promises, examining current policies and undoing some that were enacted under the Trump administration. The U.S. has announced that it will no longer support Saudi offensive operations in Yemen and has appointed special representatives to help ...

The new COVID-19 national security world is one shaped by a host of national and global security issues that were impacted – both good and bad – by the global pandemic. That, in turn, has fundamentally changed the way governments and private sector companies need to think about the old ...

CLIMATE -- One of President Biden’s first areas of focus after taking office on Wednesday was on the climate, reinstating a commitment that the US will rejoin the Paris climate accord. The Biden Administration is also pledging a review of more than 100 other climate or environment-related regulations and the ...

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, better known as INR, is charged with providing intelligence products in support of U.S. diplomatic efforts around the world. Established in 1947 by then-Secretary of State George Marshall, the bureau came out of the Office of Strategic Services Research Department that was ...

(Photo caption:  Full-size dummy LCTs, codenamed BIGBOB, moored in South East England before the Normandy invasion (British Imperial War Museums, photograph H 42527, public domain).  This article was adapted from a nonfiction postscript in Christopher Turner’s Lieutenant Barnaby’s Inflatable Air Force. Christopher Turner had a 25-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate ...

ENERGY -- 2020 has taken a toll on the world’s energy market, but just how bad is it?  Experts say COVID-19, economic shutdowns and a disastrous oil price war this Spring have left the industry in a position to survive but warn that it will be different. The Cipher Brief ...

Understanding expert perspective on where the US stands in the world with regards to national security is a key component of how The Cipher Brief keeps the security community connected.  Michael Morell and Cipher Brief Expert Mike Vickers  recently sat down to talk with each other about the challenges facing ...

(The Cipher Brief 2020 Threat Conference will host an interactive session on this topic during The Cipher Brief Threat Conference September 13-15. Find details in the conference agenda.) Western governments have accused the Russian Federation of attempting, abetting, and orchestrating the assassinations of political enemies since the mid-1990s, the most ...

Eric Shiraev, Political Psychologist, George Mason University Dr. Eric Shiraev is a political psychologist from George Mason University, USA, where he heads a lab on reputational politics. He is author of more than twenty books including International Relations (Oxford), Russian Government and Politics (Macmillan), and Character Assassination Throughout the Ages. Dr. Holger ...

The discovery of large gas deposits has refueled decades-old territorial disputes in the Mediterranean.  In late July, Turkey announced it was dispatching a survey ship near a contested area around the Greek island of Kastellorizo, known as Meis in Turkey.  The announcement caused an international stir when both NATO allies ...

Last week, the Justice Department brought an indictment against two individuals accused of working with China’s Ministry of State Security to conduct a decade-long cyber intrusion campaign. The Justice Department says the two individuals were targeting the private sector some of which included research institutions working on coronavirus treatments.  But ...

Earlier this Spring, an oil tanker from Iran arrived in Venezuela with a much-needed delivery, despite the fact that both nations are under US sanctions.  It was a signal of a strengthening relationship between two authoritarian regimes.  A spokeswoman for the US State Department criticized the move but stopped short ...

An attempted cyberattack on Israel’s water system in late April, just months after the global pandemic hit, prompted fears that cyber adversaries are getting even more bold in their efforts to cause harm. Israel’s national cyber chief, Yigal Unna, officially acknowledged the plot, calling it a ‘synchronized and organized attack’ ...

OPINION -- “Black swans” are events that arrive as unwelcome surprises and have significant effects on nations and societies.  They can upend the status quo in politics, economics, or national security. Black swans are even more dangerous when superimposed on other black swans. It’s always worth trying to anticipate potential ...

China is on a multi-year mission to reduce its reliance on foreign technology and as a result, Beijing is investing heavily in its own technological developments. Premier Li Keqiang announced the Made in China 2025 (MIC 2025) initiative in 2015 as a bid to significantly advance the country’s economy and ...

(Editor’s Note:  Understanding the life of a spy is often difficult, especially understanding the experiences of those who spend much of their careers working undercover. In this rare commencement address delivered to the Valley Forge graduating class of 2020, Former CIA Deputy Director for Counterintelligence Mark Kelton shares fascinating insight ...

Global markets responded on Monday to fears of a second-wave of coronavirus infections and one of the industries feeling the pressure is the gas and oil market.  This comes as Reuters cites multiple sources saying that Saudi Aramco is cutting July crude supplies to at least five buyers in Asia. ...

CIPHER BRIEF EXPERT VIEW -- Mark Kelton is a retired senior Central Intelligence Agency executive who retired in 2015 with 34 years of experience in intelligence operations. Before retiring, he served as CIA's Deputy Director for Counterintelligence.  He is the Senior Vice President for National Security Solution at DynCorp International; and ...

The Cipher Brief is proud to launch ‘The Question’, designed to make us think forward, consider broader scenarios and challenge each other in constructive ways on the plausibility of future geopolitical events.  In our first edition, Cipher Brief Expert Tim Willasey-Wilsey poses the question: Why would China not invade Taiwan ...

A whirlwind of actions and statements regarding Hong Kong over the past week has increased tensions between the US and China.  Even before Beijing passed legislation last week to move in the direction of imposing new national security restrictions on Hong Kong, the US was contemplating a bold response.   It's ...

As the world focuses on the immediate threat of the coronavirus pandemic, China is exercising its muscle over territorial claims.  As The New York Times reports, “In recent weeks, the Chinese have sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea; swarmed a Malaysian offshore oil rig; menaced Taiwan; ...

We know that corporate boards can no longer afford to leave cyber to the IT team. In the future, (which is now) they need to be actively engaged in cybersecurity and they need to know how to do it from a strategic level. Particularly in a time when many companies ...

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has added a significant layer of uncertainty to an already complicated situation in the Middle East.  The Cipher Brief turned recently to our expert Norm Roule to put this in perspective for us. Roule served for 34 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, managing ...

The Cipher Brief’s Open Source Trend Line Report utilizes open source data  to track trends around the world that impact national and global security.  We break the world down by region and provide you with a recent timeline to help understand the pace at which events were developing and provide expert insight on ...

The Cipher Brief’s Open Source Trend Line Report utilizes open source data on a quarterly basis to track trends around the world that impact national and global security.  We break the world down by region and provide you with a recent timeline to help understand the pace at which events were developing and ...

The Cipher Brief’s Open Source Trend Line Report utilizes open source data on a quarterly basis to track trends around the world that impact national and global security.  We break the world down by region and provide you with a recent timeline to help understand the pace at which events were developing and ...

Things weren't great between the US and China even before COVID-19. Bloomberg is now citing three anonymous US officials as saying that the US Intelligence Community has come to the classified conclusion that China intentionally concealed the full extent of the coronavirus outbreak by under-reporting the total number of cases ...

Tim Willasey-Wilsey is a former senior British diplomat and now a Senior Visiting Fellow at King’s College London’s Department of War Studies. The probability is that United States and British troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan irrespective of Taliban non-compliance with the terms of the Doha agreement of 29th. February ...

The Cipher Brief’s Open Source Trendline Report utilizes open source data to track trends around the world that impact national and global security.  We break the world down by region and provide you with a recent timeline to help understand the pace at which events are developing and provide expert ...

CONVERSATION STARTER -- Few would argue that the January 3 drone strike that killed Iranian General and Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani was a bold move.  The overt nature by which the strike was carried out seemed to offer a clear sign that the US is ready to openly ...

As the U.S. continues to announce new sanctions aimed at Iran, there are some signs that indicate the U.S. policy of applying maximum pressure on Iran is working.  Or is it?    Tehran released Princeton University scholar Xiyue Wang this month after holding him for more than three years as ...

The Gray Zone is that place between war and peace where actors use a range of elements at their disposal to effect outcome.  We see it in everyday operations like disinformation and election interference or in using economic means to coerce an outcome.  China and Russia have been big fans ...

Nine American women and children were killed by suspected drug cartel members in an attack in northern Mexico earlier this month, refocusing attention on the country’s long-standing drug and corruption issues. While hundreds of Mexicans die each year as the result of drug violence, this particular attack gained enormous attention ...

The Cipher Brief’s NEW Open Source Collection Report (OSINT) uses open source data to track trends around the world that impact national and global security. We break the world down by region and provide you with a recent timeline to help understand the pace at which events are developing and ...

It was a busy weekend of activity for Iran, much of it rooted in its desire to seek ways around U.S. sanctions that are targeting its ability to sell oil around the world.  Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was the Biarritz surprise over the weekend as Group of Seven (G7) ...

India believes it won the hostilities which followed the Pulwama attack in February 2019. According to New Delhi the attack on Balakot not only punished Pakistan for hosting terrorists on its soil but it set a new baseline for how to deal with future such events. Pakistan (which feels it ...

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 ...

The number of monthly apprehensions based on illegal border crossings hovers north of 90,000 people.   According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more than 53,000 of the people who crossed in March were what part of ‘family units’, which represents an all-time high according to CBP.  The Cipher ...

(Ed note: Follow co-author Dr. Catherine Lotrionte's sessions at RSA this week: Nation States Behaving Badly: The Evolving Rules of the Game in Cyberspace March 6, 8:00am and Engaging Internationally in Support of Cybersecurity for Critical Functions, March 6, 9:20am.) One of the fundamental issues for geopolitical leaders is to ...

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 ...

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 ...

2018 was a year dominated by a new range of worries for national security experts in Britain.  Brexit and a series of untraditional statements from U.S. President Donald Trump, kept things interesting, to say the least.  This, in addition to the traditional security issues that keep the British up at ...

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 ...