The Taliban is mounting an increasingly deadly insurgency across Afghanistan, including a breakthrough into Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province, earlier this week.  Regional experts and military officials assert that combatting the Haqqani network, one of the largest factions of the Afghan Taliban, is critical to thwarting ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Bruce Riedel, Director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution to discuss the current threat posed by the Haqqani network. According to Riedel, the Haqqani network “is the most deadly and effective part of the forces opposing American and allied troops in Afghanistan” ...

The Haqqani network’s continued presence in Pakistan, as well as recent Taliban advances in Afghanistan, have resulted in a “steady deterioration in U.S.-Pakistan relations over the past year,” explains Daniel Markey, Senior research professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), in an interview with The Cipher ...

The increasing rate of international and domestic terror threats to and in the homeland highlights the importance to our security of the nation’s least understood community: the homeland intelligence enterprise.  Although the homeland intelligence enterprise contains a large and diverse collection of assets from across the Department of Homeland Security ...

Fifteen years to the date after the U.S. launched its invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda still remains a force to be reckoned with. And with international attention focused on decimating the Islamic State’s (ISIS) capabilities and ISIS continually losing both ground in its self-declared caliphate and strongholds around the globe, ...

When contemplating some of the challenges of Vietnam many years ago, then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger commented that in a guerrilla war, the guerrilla army wins if it does not lose, while the conventional army loses if it does not win.  This is the sort of situation we find ...

How the Terrorist Watchlist Works In the wake of recent domestic terrorist incidents, the spotlight has once again fallen on the terrorist watchlist. What is it, how does the system actually work — and could the watchlist have been a means to prevent the attacks? The gunman in the Orlando ...

On 27 December 2015, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the country’s first counterterrorism legislation. The law carried sweeping provisions, enabling not only China’s various counter-terrorism organs, such as the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and People’s Armed Police (PAP), to identify and suppress individuals or groups deemed to be ...

On August 14, Director of International Cooperation at China’s Central Military Commission, Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, reached a deal to provide humanitarian aid, military training, and intelligence sharing with the Syrian government. Two weeks later on August 30, there was a suicide bomb attack on the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan.  ...

The United States and its allies need a three-dimensional strategy for beating back the Islamic State and its allies, one that looks beyond the immediate fight to eliminating the grievances that draw people to jihadist movements. That’s the idea laid out by retired U.S. Marine General John Allen in an ...

The U.S. government continues to face a “trust deficit” with the technology community and must emphasize building relationships with the private sector in order to deal with next generation threats, top current and former intelligence officials said on Wednesday. FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Admiral Michael Rogers, head ...

How safe is America today? How safe is the world? As we mark the passage of 15 years since September 11, 2001, many surveys indicate that we humans feel pretty darn unsafe. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs recently found that 42 percent of Americans feel less safe today than ...

Fifteen years ago, 19 hijackers and four planes shattered American illusions of security. An outside attack seemed remote to most Americans, and there appeared to be no immediate threat to their daily lives.  September 11th quickly dispelled that sense of safety, and as the dust settled and the death toll ...

As we mark another 9/11 anniversary, the Cipher Brief asked me to assess the impact of the past 15 years on the American intelligence community. Let me begin by making one thing clear.  The American intelligence community is actually pretty good at what it does.  In fact, if we were ...

In the aftermath of 9/11, the American intelligence community (IC) went through one of the most transformative periods in its history. From the creation of the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence (ODNI) to the creation of new agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. national ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Matthew Olsen, Former Head of the National Counterterrorism Center to discuss the progress that the U.S. has made over the last 15 years in the War on Terror. According to Olsen, “While we’ve been successful in preventing large-scale attacks,” the U.S. must continue to ...

Sunday marks the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, the date that altered the trajectory of America’s national security apparatus. The country’s focus turned from defending against hostile nation-states to undertaking significant counterterrorism measures and bureaucratic reforms in the wake of an unprecedented terrorist threat. The concentrated effort to combat terrorism became ...

Reflecting on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas said that there have been both successes and room for improvement as the U.S. campaign against terrorism continues. The efforts of the U.S. intelligence community “should be credited for why there has not been another foreign-planned terrorist attack ...

In 2012, after returning from an overseas tour of duty, I was assigned as the senior National Clandestine Service representative to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Congressional Affairs (OCA).  As a career operations officer much more interested in clandestine collection and intelligence production than in Washington politics, I did ...

In the middle of the night on May 17th, 2015, United States military forces entered Syria to capture Abu Sayyaf, a key Islamic State leader involved in the group's financial and hostage-taking operations. As noted by named and unnamed U.S. government officials, the raid, which resulted in the death of ...

As government efforts to challenge terrorist propaganda online are often met with distrust by the very people they are trying to reach, the private sector has moved in to help navigate and confront the fraught social media landscape where extremist groups look for individuals to radicalize. Countering violent extremism (CVE) ...

The latest terrorist attack in Nice, France on Thursday, reminded us of the long struggle in the global war on terrorism since 9/11.  The West has been buffeted by one attack after another lately, and despite our aggressive efforts worldwide, the enemy is resilient and the fight has changed since ...

The leader of one of the deadliest factions within the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), Omar Mansoor, was killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan on Wednesday, U.S. officials and the Pakistani military announced. Mansoor was one of Pakistan’s most wanted and brutal militants and was the mastermind behind the 2014 attack on ...

At 11:00 AM, five years ago Monday, sailors on the USS Carl Vinson watched the shrouded body of Osama bin Laden slide into the North Arabian Sea. Thus concluded a ten-year manhunt which, from the fall of the Twin Towers to the secret drama of a midnight raid in the ...

Five years ago, U.S. special operations forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Although al Qaeda had been dispersed from its bases in Afghanistan and its support networks had been largely dismantled, nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks al Qaeda was ...

The Pentagon announced Friday that U.S. forces have killed Abu Sayed, the leader of ISIS-Khorasan – ISIS’ affiliate in Afghanistan – in a drone strike conducted in Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar Province. In a statement released after the announcement of Sayed’s death, General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in ...

An emerging nexus between terror and crime in Europe needs to be addressed with an even stronger nexus between law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the financial industry. The crime-terror nexus is not a new phenomenon. Forgery, weapons procurement, and cross-border smuggling are but a few examples of criminal activities ...

In 2012, the European Parliament commissioned and published a study entitled: “Europe’s Crime-Terror Nexus: Links between terrorist and organised crime groups in the European Union.” The report comprehensively argued that variations of the crime-terror nexus are evident in Europe, with trends strongly suggesting the presence of a “marriage of convenience” ...

Terrorism and crime have always been closely linked and the dividing line between them blurred.     For terrorist groups, criminality can be an end in itself. If the aim is the overthrow of the capitalist system, robbing banks and extorting money from the business community serves the purpose of inflicting damage ...

Michael Morell, the former Deputy Director and twice Acting Director of CIA, spoke with The Cipher Brief about battling ISIS and how the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week could impact U.S. and European strategies moving forward.  The Cipher Brief:  A week has passed since the attacks in Brussels.  Can ...

In the aftermath of a terrorist attack like the one in Brussels this week, we naturally focus on the loss of life and the people seriously injured. But the damage is far more pervasive. Everyone in those communities—and beyond—are affected.  Fear and uncertainty become the norm, at least in the ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis?  What is the threat to the U.S.? Matt Olsen: The threat in Europe from ISIS is greater than ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis? Mitch Silber: We need to make a distinction when we talk about ISIS networks. There are ISIS wannabe ...

The tragic events in Brussels on Tuesday once again brought to the forefront the seemingly never ending battle to fight the scourge of terrorism.   As has been the case, time and time again, suicide attackers set their sights on so-called soft targets, detonating their bombs at an airport and in ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, now Brussels. How widespread are ISIS networks in Europe and North America, and can we expect these kinds of attacks on a regular basis?   Michael Hayden:  This attack was not surprising.  It was somewhere between expected and inevitable.  It’s right in ...

The Cipher Brief: First Paris, then San Bernardino, then Brussels.  How widespread are Islamic State networks in Europe, and can we expect these kind of attacks to continue? Quite clearly the recent history of attacks, certainly those in Paris and Brussels, shows a very substantial increase in threats linked more ...

It is an horrific attack and the death toll is still mounting.  As always with terrorist attacks, the damage is not just the terrible loss of human life and people seriously injured but also the disruption of air and train transport, of business and diplomacy—the EU in Brussels had to ...

The New York Police Department arguably has the most advanced intelligence and counterterrorism operations of any other U.S. municipality. As the Former Director of Intelligence Analysis at the NYPD, Mitch Silber played a key role in all terrorism related investigations.  Silber told The Cipher Brief that homegrown terrorists will continue ...

The shift in the radicalization landscape in 2015, especially the ever-changing profile of the “homegrown terrorist,” has become one of the greatest concerns of those who protect our homeland.    Notwithstanding the horrific attacks in other parts of the world during the past year, the devastating events in San Bernardino, California ...

Some have argued that since the jihadist attack in Paris on November 13th, killing 130, and the December 2nd attack in San Bernardino, California, which killed 14, the United States has stepped up its domestic counter-terrorism efforts.  But with only five interdictions of ISIS supporters in the six weeks since ...

As the calendar turns to 2016, homegrown terrorists seeking to carry out violent jihadi attacks continue to headline the most critical threats to U.S. security. To date, more than 150 American citizens have traveled abroad with U.S. passports in hand to join the ranks of terrorist groups, such as ISIS. ...

Intelligence failure: those are two words we often hear following a devastating terrorist attack such as what we saw this weekend in Paris.  Almost by definition, if the intelligence community didn’t know about it, then it failed in its core mission: keeping citizens safe.  But when a small group of ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Rob Richer, CIA's former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Richer spoke about the importance of cooperation between US intelligence agencies and their foreign counterparts. He also discussed how legal restrictions have hurt the Intelligence Community’s ability to collect. The ...

The Paris attacks last Friday demonstrated ISIS ability to strike in the heart of Western Europe. Kevin Hulbert, a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, tells The Cipher Brief that these attacks signify a paradigm shift in ISIS’ tactics. The Cipher Brief: Do you think the ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with General Keith Alexander, former Director of the National Security Agency. Alexander discussed the Paris attacks, the impact of the Snowden leaks on intelligence collection, and the trade off between privacy and security. TCB: You were the longest-serving NSA director.  During your tenure, you saw ...

Over the course of the last 18 months, since ISIS burst on to the scene with its dramatic regional tactical advances, capturing Mosul in Iraq and significant territory in Syria, it has maintained that its primary focus was on expanding its Islamic State, or Caliphate, in the Middle East and ...

ISIS is part of the multi-generational struggle against radical Islam which will likely dominate the first half of the 21st century similar to the fight against communism which dominated the second half of the 20th century. ISIS is the most successful terrorist organization in modern history. It is driven by ...

Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was preparing for his new post-NYPD role as Vice Chair at K2 Intelligence in New York when news of the Paris attacks started rolling in last week.  He knew from initial reports that the news would be bad, but he wasn’t at ...

Conventional wisdom among Western officials indicated ISIS was primarily interested in gaining territory for its caliphate or Islamic state.   Big bold attacks against Western targets were the hallmark of al Qaeda.  But the coordinated, multiple attacks by at least eight terrorists in Paris this weekend, as well as the suicide ...

Al-Qa’ida’s number two, Nasir Wahishi, is believed to have died in a drone strike in southern Yemen last month. He ran one of the most technologically sophisticated terror organizations in history – Al-Qai’da in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). His operatives plotted attacks using bombs hidden in printer cartridges, a man’s ...