The introduction of armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) permanently altered the modern battlefield. New technological advances in drone technology could do it again: from advanced materials that allow drones to fly, roll, run or swim in less forgiving environments, to thinking software than makes them more independent, to stealth technology ...

The U.S. and its Gulf allies have clawed back Yemeni territory from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has exploited the Yemeni conflict to expand, Gulf military officials tell The Cipher Brief. Troops from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have paired with U.S. advisors and Yemeni forces to ...

In one month, the authorities provided under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) are due to expire unless reauthorized by Congress. Lawmakers are expected to renew FISA, but may put another expiration deadline on the bill, and also may add limitations on how the government is ...

The car ramming attack that occurred in New York City on Oct. 31 killed eight people and reignited debate over what constitutes domestic and international terrorism. Terrorism has remained at the forefront of American national security concerns ever since the September 11 attacks. And as globalization continues to extend its ...

ISIS has lost approximately 95 percent of the territory it once controlled across Syria and Iraq. The group may now set its sights on establishing safe havens across the Sahel, a threat that has drawn considerable attention from the U.S. government. The U.S. has been historically inconsistent in its involvement ...

One of the longest serving senior American counterterrorism officials is stepping down, with the departure of Nicholas Rasmussen as head of the National Counterterrorism Center, the Director of National Intelligence announced Wednesday. A veteran of the Bush and Obama White Houses, Rasmussen has served as the NCTC chief for the ...

In the wake of this week’s deadly terrorist attack in New York City, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday defended the Trump administration’s so-called “extreme vetting” measures and rebuked technology companies for failing to quickly provide law enforcement with encrypted information to assist terrorism investigations. He also defended the U.S. ...

After the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, which killed 58 people, and the murder of an anti-fascist protester in Charlottesville this August, many people are asking what exactly qualifies as terrorism, and where the real difference lies between domestic and international acts of terror. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge ...

When determining if a violent act fits the criteria of a terrorist attack, identifying the perpetrator’s motivate is a key element. Individuals inspired by violent ideologies to commit heinous acts are also billed as terrorists even if that person never had direct contact with a member from a designated terrorist ...

Over the last decade and a half, U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities have remained vigilant in their efforts to defend the homeland against terrorist adversaries. However, the evolution of terrorist group’s use of the internet and other technological means to disseminate their propaganda has presented a new type of ...

When Stephen Paddock indiscriminately rained bullets down on a crowd of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel on the evening of October 1, using rifles modified to fire as if fully automatic weapons, killing over 58 people and injuring 489 others, was he engaging in terrorism? ...

The United States has been at war against terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS for over 15 years now, with every violent attack that takes place on the streets of the West prompting fears of a renewed terrorist threat. But not all heinous acts of violence are considered ...

The attacks of Sept. 11th seared the chaos and violence of terrorism into Americans’ consciousness, rendering the term terrorism synonymous with the international jihadist movement. But it’s also frequently applied to acts of mass-casualty violence, like the recent lone gunman assault in Las Vegas, which misses the point that terrorism ...

The recent terror attacks in Barcelona and Finland stand as a stark reminder of the dangers of not just terrorism, but also the radicalization underpinning it. Shortly after the attacks, ISIS came forward to claim responsibility – for good reason. These latest attacks, like others before them, seems to reinforce ...

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said in a news conference on Tuesday he wants to wait for the results of the full investigation into the ambush earlier this month in Niger that killed four U.S. servicemembers before commenting on what may or may not have ...

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, thousands of young Muslims have embraced extremist ideology, providing terrorist groups with a steady stream of recruits.  Puzzling on its face, this phenomenon actually reflects a curious disparity between the attention extremists pay to youth online and that paid by governments. Most governments have ...

The longest war in U.S. history enters its 17th year on Saturday, with approximately 11,000  American forces still stationed in Afghanistan.  The campaign began on October 7, 2001 in response to the devastating September 11 terrorist attacks . On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, the ...

Now into its fourth month, fighting between Philippine forces and pro-ISIS militants in the Philippine island of Mindanao has nearly subsided, with only a handful of terrorists continuing to hold pockets in the city of Marawi. But despite this apparent victory, questions linger over the broader extremist threat facing the ...

Terrorist groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS have strategically disseminated propaganda that appeals to a wide variety of individuals. Although al Qaeda was the first terrorist organization to launch a media wing, ISIS has developed far more expansive media capabilities as it uses various platforms to attract new recruits ...

Since the U.S. declared its War on Terror 16 years ago, it has achieved a number of battlefield successes against its main terrorist adversaries, al Qaeda and more recently ISIS. U.S. operations in South and Central Asia have crippled core al Qaeda’s capabilities, while a U.S.-led international coalition has thwarted ...

Over the past two decades, jihadi groups, including al Qaeda and ISIS, have fully grasped the opportunities provided by the internet. They have developed their own media bodies to promote their work, first via password-protected jihadi websites, forums, and discussion groups, and today via social media platforms open to all. The ...

Is targeting the leadership of terrorist organizations an effective counterterrorism strategy? States can employ a number of different tactics in order to weaken and defeat militant organizations – they can use brute force, repression, regime change, negotiations, undermining support, ideological change, cutting off finances, and leadership targeting. While states have ...

The problem of Islamist radicalization presents a grim challenge to France, and the forces that drive young people to join violent extremist groups remain poorly understood. Far more than the United States, the circumstances that drive average people to become violent affect a far larger proportion of the population. Often, ...

This morning’s detonation of an improvised explosive device onboard the London Tube has once again pushed the issue of online terrorist recruitment to the forefront of public debate. With manuals on how to build homemade explosives and radicalization sermons and videos readily available online, preventing individuals from gaining access to ...

In an incident the British government has called a terrorist attack, a bomb detonated at Parsons Green tube station Friday morning. 29 people were injured; ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group’s Amaq news agency released a statement saying “the bombing of the IED in the London ...

A bomb exploded on a London subway train Friday morning injuring at least 29 people, most of them suffering flash burns from the blast, none life-threatening. London authorities are calling the bombing at Parson Green Tube station a terrorist attack, the latest in a wave to hit the United Kingdom ...

Earlier today, an improvised explosive device was detonated on the London underground railway, known as the Tube, injuring more than 20 people in what British authorities have deemed a terrorist attack. If confirmed, this incident would mark the fifth terrorist attack in the UK this year alone, as British authorities ...

Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has used leadership decapitation – the targeting and killing of terrorist leaders – as a pillar of its counterterrorism strategy. Through combat operations, special operations forces raids, and drone strikes, the U.S. has successfully removed al Qaeda and ISIS commanders from battlefields across ...

An old boss of mine at the CIA used to talk to young officers who were deploying to Afghanistan or Pakistan, and in his preamble to discussing the myriad of challenges and interests in the region, he would remark that if the officer were a thoroughbred, an assignment to the ...

Since 9/11, eliminating terrorist leaders through a strategy known as leadership decapitation has emerged as key pillar of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. Although the U.S. has successfully removed numerous terrorists from the battlefield, leadership decapitation does not necessarily equate to the destruction of a terrorist organization, especially groups with ...

The removal of top terrorist leaders from the battlefield continues to be a critical element of the United States’ counterterrorism strategy. In the years since 9/11, the U.S has managed to keep pressure on several key terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and ISIS, by targeting their senior leadership and ...

Top intelligence officials called this week for Congress to reauthorize a provision that allows the Intelligence Community to target communications of non-U.S. persons overseas that can also incidentally — and controversially — sweep up information related to U.S. citizens. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which sunsets ...

Despite its role as a critical partner for the U.S. in the global fight against terror, Egypt has struggled to quash an extremist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, which has had devastating effects on the country’s security apparatus and economic health. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi has pledged to continue ...

As a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, Egypt has played an integral role in helping to combat the region’s terrorist threat, particularly since Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi came to power in June 2014. However, Egypt is facing a daunting terrorist challenge of its own, primarily in the ...

President Donald Trump laid out his new strategy for war torn Afghanistan Monday night, promising a winning formula that will include all instruments of U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic power, as well as pressuring our allies for more assistance in the fight.  But there were few specifics for how he ...

Speaking to the nation in his first prime time speech, President Donald Trump laid out his administration’s new strategy for the United States’ war in Afghanistan. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition,” he said, “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking ...

President Donald Trump vowed in his first prime time speech that “we will fight to win” in Afghanistan, saying “from now on, victory will have a clear definition.” What that means, he said, is “attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and ...

In the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona, Spain, Spanish authorities and partner nations’ intelligence services will be working to uncover as many details as possible about the plot and the perpetrators. How do intelligence agencies and police forces cooperate in a fast developing situation such as Thursday’s ...

Another deadly terrorist attack hit the streets of Europe Thursday, leaving at least 13 people dead and dozens injured. A van drove through a pedestrian mall in the Las Ramblas district of Barcelona, Spain, a popular area frequented by tourists. Though ISIS has claimed this attack publicly, questions remain: why ...

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department issued a memorandum stating that foreign countries are required to provide increased information and data about their citizens who are seeking to travel to the U.S. The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Rob Richer, former Associate Deputy Director for Operations at ...

When a suicide bomber in Manchester, England detonated a backpack full of explosives in May, killing 22 people at a concert venue, the National Counterterrorism Center took more than a passing interest. Officials from NCTC, as it’s more often referred to, immediately began reaching out to their British counterparts via ...

Nearly three years ago, the Islamic State (ISIS) catapulted to the top of the news worldwide after the group seized vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, used Mosul’s revered Great Mosque of al-Nuri to announce the creation of an Islamic caliphate, executed tens of thousands of civilians, and committed genocide ...

There are two schools of thought about the nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Some experts say the group is nearly vanquished as it struggles to hold on to Mosul, Iraq, and prepares for the inevitable fight for its capital in Raqqa, ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Michael W.S. Ryan, Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, to discuss ISIS’ recent battlefield losses, the group’s current level of influence, and what to expect from ISIS in coming months. The Cipher Brief: Today, ISIS controls significantly less territory than it did ...

Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News recently reported that the Trump Administration sought to lift economic sanctions on Russia immediately after entering office, leading to an under-the-radar battle within the government. Needless to say, the Trump Administration has never been shy about their desire to build better relations with Russia. To ...

As the United Kingdom faces its fourth terrorist attack in the last three months, the country is grappling with its counterterrorism strategy as authorities face questions over how they can try to stop the violence and protect citizens. A 47-year old man suspected of driving the van that struck a ...

As the investigation into Monday night’s bombing in Manchester continues to unfold and details continue to emerge about the suspect, The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Mitch Silber, former Director of Intelligence Analysis at the NYPD, about the terrorist threat facing the UK as well as how to more ...

As details emerge about an explosion in Manchester, England that left at least 22 people dead and dozens injured, British Prime Minister Theresa May said the incident was being treated as a terrorist attack. The Associated Press reported the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, put out a statement ...

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives in Saudi Arabia Saturday with a packed agenda. He will conclude a $109.7 billion arms agreement with Riyadh, discuss opportunities for enhanced U.S.-Saudi economic cooperation, and address the leaders of over 50 Muslim-majority countries at the Arab-American-Islamic summit, which Riyadh hosts Sunday. While many leaders ...

The metro bombing in St. Petersburg Monday and White House comments that the U.S. will do what it can to help Russia get to the bottom of the incident raise the question of future Russia-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a senior fellow at ...