A failure to shut down North Korea’s nuclear program would not only pose a threat to U.S. territory, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told a congressional panel. It would encourage other countries to develop their own atomic arsenals, perpetuating a dangerous spread of the world’s deadliest weapons. “If North ...

Bottom Line: Multiple rounds of peace talks aimed at ending Syria’s seven-year civil war have failed to yield results or relieve a catastrophic humanitarian crisis throughout the country. While the Trump administration throws its support behind a United Nations-led process that aims to deliver a roadmap for peace, Russia has ...

CIA Director Mike Pompeo revealed Tuesday that North Korea is still “months” away from being able to fire nuclear weapons reliably at the United States, in remarks to the American Enterprise Institute. Earlier this week, the told CBS News North Korea is a “handful of months" away, and last fall ...

Former CIA director and retired Adm. Stansfield Turner passed away last week at 94. Former CIA Acting Director John McLaughlin offered this remembrance. Stansfield Turner arrived at CIA in March 1977 at a tumultuous time -- the nation was still shaking off Watergate and the Nixon resignation, and it had an ...

The recent discussion of whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un or President Donald Trump has the bigger “nuclear button” raises the question again of procedures, policies and circumstances surrounding the use of nuclear weapons. U.S. military officers who would be in a position to receive an order for a ...

Bottom Line: Terrorist group Boko Haram has lost most of the territory it claimed as a “caliphate” within Nigeria back in 2015. But the group still strikes government officials, troops and civilians from its few remaining safe havens in the northeast of the country, and could be positioning itself to take ...

At it again. This week’s government shutdown is an all-too-familiar refrain for those of us with lengthy government service. Shutdowns – and the impact of the supposedly temporary sequestration deal of 2013 – are annoying, diverting of precious time and attention from the national security missions of the United States, ...

Bottom Line: Although the U.S. and Turkey engage in robust cooperation on the political, military, and economic fronts, Ankara has experienced significant changes under the leadership of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which threaten the foundations of this relationship. Ties between the U.S. and Turkey have become increasingly strained in ...

Robert Eatinger, former senior deputy general counsel at the CIA, says the legislation that Congress just passed extending controversial surveillance authorities, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, still provides certain protections against misuse. With the U.S. Senate’s passage of the bill, the legislation heads to the ...

Bottom Line: As part of its ambitious strategy to evolve into a leading global power by 2050, China has spent considerable resources upgrading its naval capabilities. Through such undertakings, China has significantly enhanced its force projection in East Asia, where it has staked claim to disputed islands and waters as ...

Two recent events illustrate the futility of the Palestinian leadership’s current course in its decades-long quest for a genuinely independent Palestinian state, and highlight the urgent need for dramatic action if they are ever to achieve it. The first is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current six-day visit to India ...

Cipher Brief expert and former DHS official Todd Rosenblum says the Trump administration used incomplete and cherry-picked statistics in a new report that says three out of four individuals convicted of international terrorism-related charges since the 9/11 attacks were “foreign-born,” as opposed to born U.S. citizens. The report from the ...

The framers of the U.S. Constitution decided 230 years ago to divide the nation’s war powers between the president and the Congress, making the president the commander in chief of the armed forces and giving the lawmakers the exclusive power to declare war. Yet, as 2018 gets underway, the executive ...

The United States owes its existence as an independent nation partly to objections over excessive searches by British colonial authorities. Yet today, it is possible for an individual to go to prison as a result of evidence the U.S. government has deliberately kept hidden and that it may have gathered ...

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend security assistance to the Pakistani military pending “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network represents an attempt to hold Pakistan accountable. While leaders in Islamabad are highly unlikely to shift their national security strategy to align with U.S. interests, the administration ...

With the winding down of the war against ISIS in Syria, many Caribbean governments worry about the possible impact that returning fighters could have on domestic and regional security. It’s been on the mind of President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, for some time. He was a Marine ...

North Korea made clear its aim to divide the U.S. from its South Korean ally when the North and South negotiators met this week: “All our weapons, including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missile are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia,” said ...

Bottom Line: On paper, Iraq’s democratic electoral system promises rare, fair representation in a region where politics is dominated by monarchies and authoritarian regimes. But in reality, the country’s political system has been hamstrung by inefficiencies and gridlocks that have often segregated, rather than united, the Iraqi populace. As Iraqis ...

Bottom Line: North and South Korean Olympians may be marching together come February after Tuesday’s breakthrough talks – the first between the two sides in two years – but North Korea’s staunch refusal to discuss its nuclear weapons program means a likely return to nuclear impasse after the Olympic games ...

Donald Trump’s ascendency to the presidency has led to a flurry of interest in not only his mental health, but more generally, in the mental health of world leaders. This past week’s commentary regarding Trump’s state of mind highlights the perils and challenges – both ethical and methodological – of ...

Bottom Line: Cyber vigilantes and “hacktivists” increasingly fill the void left by governments in combating terrorist activity online. While such politically motivated non-state hackers are relatively effective at removing the presence of terrorist content, their continued operations could damage overall counterterrorism efforts by undermining intelligence operations –  say by taking ...

North and Sound Korea have held their first high-level meeting in two years – agreeing to send North Korean athletes to the upcoming Olympics in the South Korean resort of Pyeonchang -- and to reopen a military hotline. It’s a welcome warming to the nuclear chill on the Korean Peninsula, ...

National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers has told his staff that he will be stepping down from his post this spring, as reported by The Dead Drop on Friday. Nakasone won’t keep the dual-hatted role long term — just until the Trump administration decides to formalize the split, which sources ...

Bottom Line: With the original ISIS core nearly expelled from its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq, other ISIS branches are growing in influence and lethality. Skilled fighters and funding are flowing to ISIS Khorasan Province in Afghanistan where the group has taken advantage of the country’s weak central government ...

The Trump administration is watching the Iranian protests closely – in order to name, shame and eventually sanction those cracking down on protesters and limiting access to social media, senior administration officials told a small group of reporters Wednesday. They wouldn’t say if President Donald Trump might pull out of ...

Cipher Brief expert Gordon Chang says the U.S. has leverage over China that it isn’t using to defuse the challenge from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Cipher Brief’s Brian Garrett-Glaser interviewed Chang as Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump trade threats of pressing a nuclear “button,” even amid ...

Bottom Line: U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan to force Islamabad to take a harder line on terrorism. But in the past decade, economic leverage over Pakistan has yielded only short-term results. The Trump administration also runs the risk of incurring consequential backlash from ...

Cipher Brief expert Norman Roule – a former CIA Mideast hand and DNI Iran Mission Manager – calls the demonstrations in Iran possibly the most significant since the 1979 revolution. He offers a look at how the protests are playing out and what might be ahead, in an interview with Executive ...

Autonomous vehicles such as those being tested by Google or Tesla will be one of the most important and disruptive technologies for the future of how people move, work and live. But terrorist groups are tracking these developments closely too. Finnish security firm F-Secure reports “concrete evidence” that ISIS is considering ...

Bottom Line: U.S. cyber defenders know how to take down botnets – networks of computers that have been hacked to act as one – but not how to keep them from coming back, nor necessarily how to determine who is behind them and hold them accountable. These networks under the ...

The Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has exacerbated existing tensions between Turkey and Israel, only 18 months after the two countries reconciled. Bucking years of precedent by the international community, President Donald Trump’s announcement provoked wide criticism and prompted an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders in Istanbul. Turkish ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look ahead at key national security issues. NSA veteran Rick Ledgett offers some cybersecurity lessons learned, and a warning of what's to come. On Iranian and North Korean cyber activity: Those two actors are very different in their motivations and ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with former DNI Iran Mission Manager and Cipher Brief expert Norman Roule about the worst demonstrations in Iran since 2009. The interview is adapted for print below. This time, the rising prices and allegations of corruption seem to be driving the chaos. With little warning, crowds ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look ahead at key national security issues. CIA veteran and Africa hand Frank Archibald offers some thoughts on where the continent is headed. Changes in 2017: It really is a year of big men moving on. In Angola, President ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look ahead at key national security issues. Intelligence veteran and Iran hand Norman Roule sketches out where we are now in the Mideast and Gulf region, and what he sees ahead for Tehran. On the state of the Middle ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Asia hand Amb. Joseph DeTrani spoke about what Beijing could do to check the rising threat from North Korea, including implementing U.N. sanctions that Pyongyang has called an ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. Cipher Brief expert, CIA veteran and Russia hand Steve Hall looks ahead to U.S. relations with Moscow, as Russia gears up for ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Middle East hand Rob Richer offered his take. On the fate of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, now that the ...

The United States Navy has achieved unmatched supremacy on the world’s seas, but Russia and China are diligently growing their naval capabilities, trying to close the gap. Should U.S. naval enterprises fail to match their rivals’ pace, then Moscow and Beijing’s maritime advancements could challenge U.S. geostrategic interests, including its ...

TAIPEI, Taiwan – The recent public threat by a senior Chinese diplomat to invade Taiwan, should U.S. naval vessels dock on the island, illustrates the increasingly precarious position of one of the region’s few democracies. Mixed signals from President Donald Trump, his administration and the U.S. Congress have only escalated ...

China’s burgeoning economic and political interests in the developing world – particularly in the Middle East and Africa – will compel Beijing to undertake a more activist approach to foreign policy. This new reality contrasts with China’s longstanding position of non-interference and will inevitably force China to become more engaged ...

Signs are increasing that jihadist groups are looking to capitalize on the rising value of bitcoin, as massive price increases for the cryptocurrency in recent months garner growing public attention. Cold, hard, untraceable cash remains their preferred medium for transmitting funds, but new online activity shows that some jihadist groups ...

A missile fired by Yemen’s Iranian-supported Houthi rebels and targeting the Saudi capital Riyadh for the second time in seven weeks suggests such an attack won’t be a one-off. While the Saudis again say they were able to intercept the rocket, this might mark the beginnings of a pattern that ...

A crisscrossing patchwork of African joint security forces have marshalled in North Africa to stamp out terrorism on the continent, with particular focus on the long and remote borders of the Sahel. But their small size, lack of funds, unclear authorities and competing lines of leadership are more likely to ...

The military withdrawal from Syria that President Vladimir Putin touts is less than it seems. The stakes are high because leaders in Moscow see the intervention as crucial to their nation’s status as a global power. Moscow faces a dilemma, but there is a way out, if it will only see ...

Leaving the courtroom after a long day of closing arguments in the recent trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, I felt something all too rare these days—immense pride in our government. The accused ringleader of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks against the U.S. mission and the CIA annex in Benghazi ...

President Donald Trump’s new national security strategy foreshadows a more muscular projection of U.S. interests abroad and defense of its people, businesses and borders at home, through a strengthened U.S. military and more aggressive trade negotiations, diplomatic outreach and military maneuvering. Its hawkish approach signals a switch to “gray zone” ...

Tehran poses an increasing cyber threat to the U.S., in light of the Trump administration’s allegations that Iran is violating United Nations Security Council resolutions tied to the nuclear agreement. Iran-sponsored hackers—dismissively referred to as “kittens” for their original lack of sophistication—are bolstering their cyber warfare capabilities as part of ...

The failure of the recent Gulf Cooperation Council 2017 summit to resolve the six-month long crisis that pits Qatar against Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain obscured a little-known outcome of the meeting—that the council at least agreed on several mechanisms to move forward. In the end, the ...

This Sunday marks seven years since a wave of protests erupted across the Middle East and North Africa in what came to be known as the Arab Spring. Tunisia, the country where the uprisings began, has been saluted as the revolution’s success story for managing a relatively peaceful transition from ...