Bottom Line Up Front On October 19, Saudi Arabia once again changed its official response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi from a denial to an implausible cover story. The manner in which other countries react to the official version of events from Riyadh is extremely important; Saudi citizens ...

Turkey’s President says he will announce details of his government’s investigation into the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday.  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he will “go into detail” in a speech to Turkey’s ruling party, according to the AP. Cipher Brief Expert and former member of CIA’s ...

As Turkish officials continue to release details that draw a gruesome picture of the apparent murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the level of information they say they have collected suggests a robust espionage capability against the Saudis in Turkey. While the rightful diplomatic question of how the United ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 18, the Taliban assassinated General Abdul Raziq, the extremely powerful and controversial police chief of Kandahar Province. The Governor of Kandahar, Zalmai Wesa, was injured in the attack, while the province’s intelligence chief, Gen. Abdul Momin, was killed. The head of U.S. military ...

Twitter is releasing a trove of known accounts and posts that it says were used to meddle in U.S. elections dating back to 2016.  According to the company, the data includes more than 4,600 accounts and more than 10 million tweets, photos, GIFs and broadcasts linked to Russia and Iran.  ...

Bottom Line Up Front As the details continue to emerge, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi appears to be a political assassination, potentially orchestrated by the Saudi government. There are reports, given credence by President Trump, that the royal family will seek to blame ‘rogue elements’ for Khashoggi’s murder, however implausible ...

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly sat down with Cipher Brief Expert and retired four-star General Stanley McChrystal at the NYSE in New York this week to talk about his new book, Leaders: Myth and Reality.  The Cipher Brief will release that full, fascinating interview next week, but we ...

Bottom Line Up Front Although it receives less attention than the so-called Islamic State or IS franchise groups in places like Libya and Afghanistan, the IS affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula poses a major threat to regional stability. Despite boasting the Arab world’s largest conventional ground force, the Egyptian military ...

‘The Homeland’ is bringing you a series of candid, intimate interviews with former Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security throughout the month of October.  DHS was born out of 9/11, when 23 different agencies were pulled into one department in an effort to provide greater organization and communication in ...

As details about the disappearance of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi are revealed, its worth looking back at the deeper roots of the U.S. - Saudi relationship.   First printed in The Cipher Brief back in March, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, a retired Commodore of the Royal Saudi Navy who now writes as a political ...

Bottom Line Up Front The disappearance and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is the latest episode in an on-again, off-again struggle between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long been pushing to move his country back into position as the ...

Bill Evanina is the Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) - a part of the U.S. Intelligence Community that leads and supports the government’s counterintelligence and security efforts.    The NCSC tackles that mission in a number of ways, but a large part of their task is ...

A gifted intelligence officer with whom I worked was fond of pronouncing, “A storm is announced by a single breeze”.  That supposed Chinese saying was invariably invoked when we thought we had divined the first hint of our adversary’s intent. The Chinese intelligence storm bearing down on the U.S. has ...

Bottom Line: In the past decade, Iran’s cyber capabilities have evolved from a tool used to lash out against domestic opponents of the Islamic Republic to a central pillar of its national strategy of holding adversaries at risk and gleaning crucial foreign intelligence. Despite a fall in disruptive Iranian cyberattacks ...

As most of the President’s men and women in senior roles re-iterated and even provided more detail about the Russian threat to U.S. national security in the days following the Helsinki summit, the President tasked his national security advisor to extend an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit ...

OPINION: The eyes of an intelligence officer are trained to look for what a person’s behavior uncovers about his or her motivations and aspirations, which can then help predict future behavior. Watching the president’s recent actions regarding North Korea—his desperation to meet in person with Kim Jong Un, his fulsome ...

Shortly after he was sworn in as Director CIA in January of 2017, now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made some bold moves that put renewed focus on the North Korea threat. First, he oversaw the establishment of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, meant to better bring together the resources available ...

Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell is debuting season two of his popular podcast ‘Intelligence Matters’ in partnership with CBS News this week.  The Cipher Brief was proud to be a partner for the launch of the podcast last season and Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly took some ...

Russian influence operations were thrust into the public limelight in the West in 2017 with the findings of the U.S. Intelligence Community that Russia did in fact, interfere with U.S. Elections. The resulting attention did not deter the Kremlin; on the contrary – it takes pride in it. From the ...

We talk a lot these days about smart power and hard power and soft power even the sharp power of manipulating information. In the end, power and influence have always been exercised in multiple dimensions – military, economic, political, ideological. Some states are strong in all dimensions, like the United ...

One day last May, employees of Britain’s health service logged on to their computers to find a startling discovery: their data had been encrypted, rendering it inaccessible until and unless they paid a ransom to have their data unscrambled and their access to it, returned. They were the first known ...

The U.S., EU and other Western allies announced Monday that they would expel a total of more than 100 Russian diplomats they claim are spies, in retaliation for the nerve agent attack on former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain. The U.S., UK and many other ...

Presidents and generals depend upon timely intelligence to shape their decisions in a world of ambiguity, hostile actors and disinformation. The savviest leaders in the private sector do the same. Governments have broad intelligence authorities and powerful tools unavailable to the private sector, but they do not have a monopoly ...

Bottom Line: A spy’s tradecraft must constantly evolve because of the rapid changes of the digital age – especially the tools and skills required to maintain a legend, or cover identity. Virtual recordkeeping, modern surveillance technology and the vast amounts of a person’s background accessible on open-source platforms such as ...

Notwithstanding the comity on display at the recent Senate intelligence committee Annual Threat Hearing, reports that Republican Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Nunes ordered a physical wall be built in the shared office space between Republican and Democratic Professional Staff Members are distressing but not ...

Bottom Line: While President Donald Trump’s tweets at times unnerve America’s closest allies, especially those that attack U.S. intelligence and law enforcement, the “Five Eyes” network of the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand continues to share intelligence almost as one nation. The intelligence relationship arguably provides stability and ...

Technological advancements in the past 30 years have in many ways democratized access to information and disrupted countless industries – from journalism to national security. Increasingly, intelligence-rich assessments are being made by non-intelligence professionals. Consider the 20-year-old Australian student who revealed the pattern of life on U.S. military bases, simply ...

Wartime has been a force multiplier for espionage ever since the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington was the founding father of the art of intelligence. In World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) advanced the practice, albeit tragically, with its Cassia Ring espionage network. These particular “glorious ...

The U.S. arguably is facing more complex and serious threats to our national security than at any time in our history. Intelligence is critical to understanding these threats and presenting policymakers with options for dealing with challenges: Iran; nuclear proliferation; cyber security; Russia; China; North Korea; transnational terrorism; and climate ...

The U.S. intelligence community has long considered its mission as the gatherer of secrets. But sometimes insights are hiding in plain sight among tweets, blog posts, online videos, newspaper articles, academic journals and public records. Leveraging such open source information can greatly enhance our understanding of the world and critical ...

For this year’s Thanksgiving Day column, The Cipher Brief revisits a unique column by Michael Morell, the former acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He agreed to The Cipher Brief’s request to play the role of a senior Chinese intelligence analyst responsible for making assessments about ...

There has been growing discussion about the importance of open source information – both in terms of the power and potential of creating and disseminating news and narratives worldwide, whether genuine or fake, and for the pressing need to evolve the open source intelligence (OSINT) discipline. “Devaluing OSINT has become a ...

The Cipher Brief Cyber Advisory Board’s Bob Gourley commented on the Trump administration’s new process for disclosing software vulnerabilities it has detected – the first time a U.S. administration has revealed its internal rules, aka the Vulnerability Equities Process. This is a significant improvement and clarification of the existing process ...

In the internet age, the digital breadcrumbs humans leave in their wake can be harnessed – the geotag on a tweeted photo, or the time stamps on a YouTube video upload. This open source, publicly available material, once scorned by the secret-stealers of the intelligence community, is rising in value ...

The National Security Act of 1947 established the Central Intelligence Agency and the position of Director of Central Intelligence. In addition to setting the Director’s salary ($14,000 per annum) and giving him/her the power to fire CIA employees, the Act specified the various duties of the new CIA relating to ...

It was 1999, and the Russian Prosecutor General, Yury Skuratov, who was investigating former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s administration for corruption, found himself in the bull’s eye of a blackmail operation designed to smear his reputation and force him to resign. The operation used blackmail – known as kompromat, or ...

While Russia has become increasingly aggressive on the international stage, it has done so tactically, commonly engaging in plausibly deniable clandestine operations such as the 2014 annexation of Crimea. To keep policymakers in the West guessing at what Russia’s true intentions are, Moscow has employed an adapted version of the ...

“Hey Thorne. Don’t get caught, my wife likes it here.”  That was the Deputy Chief of Station’s regular advice to all case officers prior to their agent meetings. The message was clear: identify threats to the operation, mitigate those risks, and fully understand the consequences for failure - arrest, detention, ...

In mid-March, The Cipher Brief spoke with former CIA Acting and Deputy Director Michael Morell about the issue of “unmasking” – the common practice of executive branch officials requesting/receiving the identities of U.S. persons that were incidentally collected in the Intelligence Community’s pursuit of foreign intelligence.  At that time, House Intelligence ...

Former National Security Agency Deputy Director Rick Ledgett weighed in on the veracity of the Intelligence Community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election as well as his experience in the aftermath of NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s reveals during a wide-ranging conversation at The Cipher Brief’s Georgetown Salon Series ...

Geospatial intelligence, or the collection and analysis of the physical features of the Earth, has long been an integral aspect of both strategic national security efforts as well as tactical combat. The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has been at the forefront of confronting national security challenges, from terror groups ...

On May 2, 2011 the agonizing, decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden finally ended. The raid by U.S. Navy seals on the walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was the culmination of years of intelligence gathering. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA stepped up efforts begun years earlier to ...

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 ...

Amid continuing tension with North Korea- underscored by the firing on August 29 of a ballistic missile that flew over Japan before plunging into the Pacific Ocean- public understanding and discussion of this complex and increasingly dangerous situation is hampered by a one-dimensional narrative that has shaped much of the ...

Talk of espionage today has focused on Russian spies and the hacking of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But recent reports of painful and unexplained hearing loss by U.S. diplomats in Cuba have raised questions about both the spy craft that may have caused it as well as the possible ...

President Donald Trump is not the first American public figure to go to war with the press, nor is he the most extreme in his views.  Even without benefit of Twitter, the antipathy of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman for the Civil War-era Fourth Estate manifested itself in a memorably ...

  Son Sen was the Khmer Rouge’s Heinrich Himmler, in charge of carrying out Cambodia’s own holocaust that killed up to two million in the 1970s. As U.S. representative at UN-led negotiations, I observed Son Sen closely over a year’s time across a negotiating table during deliberations of the Supreme ...

A lot of people ask me if the spy game is as exciting as it is in the movies. While it is far tamer and less sexy than most of the fictional portrayals, it is nonetheless an engaging and fulfilling career.  A life in the clandestine service involves living overseas, learning foreign ...

Robert Hanssen. Aldrich Ames. Those are just two of the faces peering out from a mock-up “Wall of Shame” of double agents and leakers that leads down a hallway to the United States government's senior counterintelligence official’s office. The pictures in the nondescript office building just outside Washington, D.C. serve ...

President Trump’s second, private meeting with Russian President Putin at the recent G20 meeting has been the subject of considerable scrutiny. While perhaps politically unwise or even possibly nefarious, an accidental outcome of the meeting may be to make it harder for the Russians to retaliate for the December 2016 ...