During this time of social distancing, The Cipher Brief is bringing our experts to your laptop in a new series of web-based briefings on critical national security issues.  Members can sign up via email invitations and can ask questions of the experts that you aren’t getting answers to from traditional ...

 Sean Roche is former Associate Deputy Director of CIA for Digital Innovation. The Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI) was created to accelerate the integration of advanced digital capability across all of CIA’s mission areas and is responsible for a wide range of espionage missions including cyber intelligence, open source collection, secure global communications, ...

Dr. Kenneth Dekleva served as a Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist (including 5 years at the U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russian Federation) with the U.S. Dept. of State and is currently Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Psychiatry-Medicine Integration, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.  The views expressed are entirely his own and ...

  Bottom Line Up Front White supremacist groups are touting accelerationist, siege, and Great Replacement theories during the COVID-19 pandemic. White supremacists have taken to mainstream social media platforms and encrypted applications to spread disinformation and conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19. Federal law enforcement agencies have alerted state and local police ...

Ambassador Joseph DeTrani is former Special envoy for Six Party Talks with North Korea and the U.S. Representative to the Korea Energy Development Organization (KEDO), as well as former CIA director of East Asia Operations. He later served as the Associate Director of National Intelligence and Mission Manager for North ...

  Bottom Line Up Front It was only a matter of time before Russia looked to spread disinformation surrounding the coronavirus, a global pandemic that is crippling nations’ health care systems and economies. Russia has been presented with new fault lines to target as a result of the pandemic including ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The spread of the coronavirus will pose significant challenges to voting and elections in the United States in the lead up to November 2020. A greater reliance on ‘e-voting’ will likely result in an increased risk of foreign interference, election manipulation, and cybercrime. To distract ...

Cipher Brief Expert John McLaughlin is a distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  He served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000-2004 and Acting Director of the CIA in 2004. The new coronavirus brings us smack up against the modern ...

‘Quantum computing’ is a phrase used more frequently in national security conversations these days. What does it mean?  In its simplest definition, quantum computing involves the behavior of sub-atomic particles in computing, which translates into a fundamentally different way computers can solve problems.  Quantum computing is part of an emerging ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Lethal attacks on U.S. troops by Iran-backed Iraqi militias in March 2020 demonstrate that Iran continues to retaliate for the January U.S. killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. The continued attacks suggest that Iran, contrary to Trump administration claims, is not deterred by the ...

OPINION -- If intelligence officers wanted one person to model themselves after, from the perspective of the Intelligence Community’s commitment to objectivity, they could find no one better than Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. A leading principle, if not “the” leading ...

OPINION -- “Offensive operations, often times, is (sic) the surest, if not the only (in some cases) means of defence,” a retired George Washington, living at Mount Vernon, wrote to a former military aide in a letter back in June 25, 1799. Unsuccessfully, attempts over decades to build a defense ...

Tom Bossert is the Chief Strategy Officer at Trinity Cyber, and a national security analyst for ABC News.  He served as homeland security advisor to two U.S. Presidents, serving as the Nation’s chief risk officer and senior most advisor on cybersecurity, homeland security, counterterrorism, and global health security policy.  Follow him ...

Long-time BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera recently published a new book, Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories and the Hunt for Putin’s Spies.    The book explores the explosive story of Russia’s espionage efforts against the United States and the West and provides riveting details about ten Russian sleeper ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Protests in Colombia, South America’s oldest democracy, have been relatively under reported upon in the international media. The protesters are motivated by a desire to achieve economic and social justice for segments of Colombian society that have long been ignored. There is some evidence that ...

Cipher Brief Expert Sean Roche served as the Associate Deputy Director of CIA for Digital Innovation serving as the second-in-command of CIA’s first new directorate in more than 50 years. OPINION -- An Analogy:  We've all been there, during an uneventful flight there is suddenly a jolt of significant turbulence.  Our ...

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 ...

Cipher Brief Expert John McLaughlin is a distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  He served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000-2004 and Acting Director of the CIA in 2004. Eight years of war in Syria have come down ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran is the Middle East’s epicenter for the spread of the COVID-19 infection. The failure of Iran’s leaders to contain the virus add to the other ongoing challenges of the regime, including domestic unrest and U.S. economic and military pressure. Iran has become even more ...

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. He is currently a Research Professor and Director of the Global and National Security Policy Institute at the University of New Mexico. Recent headlines from ...

  Bottom Line Up Front There are still questions surrounding the recent U.S.-Taliban agreement, including how Washington can pressure the Taliban to fulfill the key tenets of the deal, as well as what the U.S. strategy is for supporting the Afghan government. External actors, including the UAE and elements in ...

OPINION -- On February 20, during his visit to Strategic Command (STRATCOM) headquarters near Omaha, Nebraska, Defense Secretary Mark Esper took part in a mini-war-game exercise which led to a simulated Russian firing of a low-yield nuclear weapon and the U.S. launching one back. The next day, February 21, Defense ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Spy Sites of New York City: A Guide to the Region’s Secret History by H. Keith Melton and Robert Wallace Reviewed by Mitchell D. Silber Cipher Brief Expert Mitchell D. Silber is the former director of intelligence analysis at the NYPD Intelligence Division and currently serves as the ...

The Listening Post is a new Cipher Brief column specifically highlighting the experiences of women in the national security space, in both the public and private sectors. This new weekly column is a collection of stories, interviews, and profiles of women who have pioneered change and have inspired others along ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following intensified fighting in Syria between Turkey and the Assad regime, thousands of refugees are fleeing the country in an effort to reach Europe. Erdogan threatened, and then followed through on his threat, to open Turkey’s borders to refugees and to provide them with a ...

Norman T. Roule served for 34-years in the Central Intelligence Agency, managing numerous programs relating to Iran and the Middle East.   He served as the National Intelligence Manager for Iran (NIM-I) at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from November 2008 until September 2017.  As NIM-I, he was ...

OPINION -- On 19 December 2018, President Donald Trump announced a withdrawal of American Troops from Syria, setting off fierce criticism that led to the resignation of Special Envoy Brett McGurk and Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis. This criticism paled in comparison to the 6 October 2019 statement from the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Countries are struggling to counter the spread of the coronavirus respiratory disease, while also trying to figure out how to navigate a range of political, economic, and logistical challenges. High levels of distrust that populations in authoritarian countries have toward their governments will, at least ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s intervention in Syria’s civil war has provided Tehran with the ability to support its closest regional allies while simultaneously threatening Israel. Iran’s success in buttressing the Assad regime exemplifies the effectiveness of its regional strategy. Iran’s support for Assad threatens to bring Iranian forces ...

OPINION -- When Edward Gabriel passed away unexpectedly this January, I lost one of my closest friends, but America—in the throes of coronavirus panic—lost a leader who would have helped us deal with the crisis with precision, speed, and compassion. Ed was the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response ...

  Bottom Line Up Front China has long engaged in a spying campaign against the United States—from cyber espionage and stealing intellectual property to subtle attempts to infiltrate research laboratories at American universities. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Beijing is quietly at work gaining access to the ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories and the Hunt for Putin’s Spies by Gordon Corera Reviewed by Joseph Augustyn Joseph Augustyn is a 28-year veteran of the CIA’s Clandestine Service and once headed the CIA’s Defector Resettlement Program For five years, from 2013-2018, the American television viewing ...

OPINION -- Last Friday, the Associated Press and Reuters both reported that an un-named senior administration official said that the U.S. told Moscow that President Trump now favors a summit meeting of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to set up a three-way U.S., China, Russia ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Over the weekend, the United States and the Afghan Taliban, also referred to as the Quetta Shura Taliban, reached an agreement to move toward ending the nearly two-decade long conflict. One of the key tenets of the agreement is that the Taliban will prevent Al ...

Cipher Brief Expert John McLaughlin is a distinguished practitioner in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.  He served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2000-2004 and Acting Director of the CIA in 2004. OPINION -- I recently returned from the annual Munich ...

The United States signed a peace agreement with Taliban leaders on Saturday that is intended to end the US’ 18-year involvement in Afghanistan. The deal agreed to in Doha, included the involvement of U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban Co-Founder and leader of the Taliban Political ...

  Bottom Line Up Front With the world’s attention focused on India for U.S. President Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed visit, clashes between Hindus and Muslims broke out in New Delhi and elsewhere, leaving at least 20 people dead. In addition to roving mobs armed with clubs, bats, and other weapons, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq remain active despite the assassination of their Iranian mentor and the leading Iraqi militia commander. New Iraqi figures are emerging to fill the vacuum left by Kata’ib Hezbollah commander Abdul Mahdi Al Muhandis. The Iraqi militias and their political leaders ...

BOOK REVIEW: Secrets and Spies:  UK Intelligence Accountability After Iraq and Snowden By Jamie Gaskarth Reviewed by Nick Fishwick Cipher Brief Expert Nick Fishwick CMG retired in 2012 after nearly thirty years in the British Foreign Service. He did postings in Lagos, Istanbul and Kabul. His responsibilities in London included director ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The terrorist attack in Hanau, Germany last week underscores a broader trend of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other extremists operating with increasing impunity both in the United States and in Europe. The far-right continues to mobilize in Europe, with organized marches planned in Budapest, Hungary ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Late Wednesday in Hanau, Germany a lone individual went on a terrorist rampage, shooting patrons at two hookah bars and murdering nine people. The terrorist has been described as motivated by a mix of anti-immigrant beliefs, eugenics, conspiracy theories, and extreme misogyny. German authorities have ...

Several Cipher Brief experts attended this year’s Munich Security Conference, which concluded last weekend. The annual event is an opportunity for Atlantic allies to share their views on national security related issues. We wanted a sense of the conversations happening off the stage this year, in the hallways and beer ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Facing growing criticism for its handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19), China is now working to engineer perhaps the largest quarantine in history. Chinese President Xi Jinping, one of China’s most powerful leaders in recent history, is experiencing limited but notable criticism from China’s domestic population ...

On the sidelines of last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down to talk.  Lavrov left the meeting saying he felt “a more constructive approach” regarding US-Russia dialogue that was said to focus on strategic dialogue and arms control. ...

Ambassador Joseph DeTrani is former Special envoy for Six Party Talks with North Korea, as well as former CIA director of East Asia Operations. He served as the Associate Director of National Intelligence and Mission Manager for North Korea and the Director of the National Counter Proliferation Center, and also ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s hardliners are likely to prevail in February 21, 2020 parliamentary elections. Regime hardliners have used their available levers of power to exclude critics and moderate elements from running. The turnout will be a barometer of the regime’s efforts to shape the election to its ...

OPINION -- President Trump is actively trying to excise the criminal fallout from investigations into Moscow’s 2016 covert support for his presidential election and have his attorney general, Bill Barr, control any similar investigations into Russian activities that might involve the 2020 presidential election. Trump’s suppression efforts come at the ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe By George Beebe Reviewed by Michael Sulick Cipher Brief Expert Michael Sulick served as director of CIA’s National Clandestine Service and is currently a consultant on counterintelligence and global risk assessment. While at CIA, Sulick also ...

Cipher Brief Expert and former CIA Deputy Director for Counterintelligence, Mark Kelton wrote for The Cipher Brief back in 2017 that, The Man in the Kremlin Must be Smiling, saying that “Vladimir Putin is smiling because he thrives on chaos, particularly in the camp of the “Main Enemy,” a term the ...

A Letter to Our Readers -- The Cipher Brief is incredibly proud to present its first-ever Lifetime National Security Award to veteran intelligence professional, Mr. Charles E. Allen. As we approach our fifth year of publishing expert national security insights, perspectives and analysis, we wanted to find a way to honor ...