The U.S. has decided to send additional troops to Saudi Arabia after an attack on an oil facility that seriously impacted the country's oil production capabilities.  This comes as U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called the recent attack evidence of a "dramatic escalation of Iranian aggression". President Trump announced ...

The Cipher Brief’s new Academic Incubator program publishes the work of undergraduate and graduate students, writing short briefs on national security issues.  This week’s briefer is Anthony D'Ambola, an M.A. candidate in Security Policy Studies at George Washington University.  D’Ambola focuses on transnational security issues and geopolitics in the Middle East and ...

  Bottom Line Up Front S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, labeling the recent attack on Saudi oil infrastructure as an 'act of war.' Though Saudi leaders have suggested Iranian involvement, they have stopped short of more definitive statements, leaving many in the region ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Over the past decade, there has been a proliferation of terrorist propaganda on the Internet aimed at attracting potential recruits while striking fear in terrorists’ adversaries. The aftermath of the Christchurch attack demonstrates how democracies have struggled with the implications—legal, moral, social—of removing and banning ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Empty Hearts By Juli Zeh Reviewed by Carol Rollie Flynn Carol Rollie Flynn is CEO/Managing Principal at Singa Consulting and a 30-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency where she served as Executive Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and Chief of Station in major posts in Southeast ...

During 2018 and part of 2019, the DPRK’s Chairman Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, and U.S. President Donald Trump collectively made diplomatic history in a series of summits, which gave profound hope to the notion that the Korean Peninsula might finally – after 70 years of war – ...

“This idea may be formulated as follows. The situation is better now than it was ten years ago; therefore ten years from now it will be better still. I will attempt to show here why I disagree with this notion.”          Andre Amalryk In 1968, Andrei Amalrik wrote “Will the ...

When someone decides to spy on their own country for the U.S., they know they’re taking a risk.  But when news broke recently that the U.S. had extracted a high-level Russian official in 2017 with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it highlighted not only the value of human ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The September 14 strike on Saudi critical energy infrastructure by Iran or one of its allies directly challenges U.S. regional and global interests. The attack demonstrates Iran’s ability to cause severe damage through precision strikes. The incident illustrates that U.S. sanctions are not succeeding in ...

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford retires later this month, but in his own quiet way he is leaving behind his recommendation for the current problem of when to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. It’s clear that President Trump still wants to cut American forces as contemplated in the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Drones have become a trusted tool in the arsenal of non-state actors seeking to engage in asymmetric attacks against a more powerful adversary. Besides Hezbollah, a range of terrorist groups deploy drones in their operations, including the so-called Islamic State, Palestinian Hamas, Boko Haram in ...

When news broke recently that the U.S. had extracted a high-level Russian official in 2017 who had close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was noteworthy to say the least. The New York Times described the Russian asset’s role as important in helping U.S. officials trace the source of ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Over the weekend, Houthi rebels launched a drone attack against Saudi Arabia, targeting the Saudi Aramco crude stabilization facility in Abqaiq and an oil field at Hijra Khurais with ten drones. Despite Saudi Arabia spending untold sums on missile defense, Houthi-operated drones have been able ...

The Cipher Brief’s new Academic Incubator program publishes the work of undergraduate and graduate students, writing short briefs on current national security issues. This week’s briefer is Jessica ‘Zhanna’ Malekos Smith, the Reuben Everett Cyber Scholar at Duke Law School.  Smith served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Conflict is no longer relegated strictly to the physical battlefield but extends through cyberspace, often manifesting in social media disinformation campaigns. There is a social media battle currently in Sudan over the fate of the country’s transition from strongman rule to a power-sharing arrangement between ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The Trump administration is using all available tools to try to prevent Iran from exporting oil. The administration is leveraging terrorism-related laws and programs against Iran, even though such tools were not designed to apply to foreign governments and their economies. The basis of the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Eighteen years after the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the group has evolved and looks much different today than it did nearly two decades ago. The influence of al-Qaeda core and its senior leadership hiding in Pakistan has been reduced, while franchise groups ...

EDITORIAL/COMMENTARY -- The house had been watched for quite some time.  The home in Abbottabad was just about a mile from the Pakistani Military Academy and was significantly bigger than others in the area, surrounded by barbed wire fence and equipped with security gates. U.S. officials believed that the world’s ...

As the U.S. administration is contemplating the next steps in our march toward departure from Afghanistan (what some consider a much needed disengagement from an 18 year conflict, while others see more as a Vietnam-like total surrender ceding our gains to an unrepentant Taliban) one aspect that must be considered ...

In the 1979 film Mad Max, Mel Gibson played a police officer who navigated an apocalyptic world plagued by a scarcity of resources. Sixteen years later, in the movie Waterworld, Kevin Costner portrayed a man who had to find a way to survive after the polar ice cap had completely ...

  Bottom Line Up Front One of the most significant challenges facing countries seeking to prosecute foreign fighters is the difficulty of obtaining evidence of crimes committed on the battlefield. By creating a common database for all 28 members to work with, the EU has taken a meaningful step to ...

OPINION -- Don’t be too surprised if former-Defense Secretary James Mattis breaks his silence about President Trump’s performance as commander-in-chief before next year’s election. “There will come a time when I speak out on strategic issues, policy issues. That, I do not have a question about. But I need to ...

  Bottom Line Up Front To date, despite years of reported war crimes by nearly all sides involved in the Yemen conflict, there has been a complete lack of accountability and no consequences for collateral damage or rampant human rights violations. The Saudi-led coalition is unraveling, and for the past ...

Even though the Trump administration has yet to settle precisely on the speed, timing or terms of withdrawal from Afghanistan, there is no doubt that this is the ultimate objective. The administration is negotiating the details with the Afghan Taliban, the group that controlled the country and harbored al-Qaida before ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On the heels of its suspension from the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, Turkey is now reportedly considering joint development of its own fighter jet with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the suspension as an opportunity for Russia to capitalize on Turkey’s rift with ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Upcoming Russian-Iranian naval drills put Moscow clearly on the side of Tehran in the crisis unfolding between the United States and Iran. The Trump administration’s policy of 'maximum pressure’ will continue to drive Iran closer to U.S. adversaries and critics, particularly Russia. The emerging Iranian-Russian ...

  Bottom Line Up Front America’s longest war - soon approaching its 18th year in Afghanistan - is not over although it may be entering a new phase. The potential U.S.-Taliban deal comes at a time of maximum leverage for the Taliban, which controls more territory in 2019 than at ...

  Bottom Line Up Front After Israel launched attacks in three different countries across the Middle East last week, Hezbollah responded by firing missiles at several Israeli military targets. Netanyahu is attempting to strike a difficult balance—appearing steadfast and resolute while avoiding a new round of fighting against Hezbollah. Perhaps ...

  Bottom Line Up Front UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s August 28 request to suspend Parliament has spurred political anxiety as the UK’s scheduled October 31 exit from the European Union approaches. Johnson’s request, approved by the Queen, limits the British Parliament’s time to debate and potentially block a deal ...

As protesters filled the streets of Hong Kong calling for democratic rights, agents of influence were operating behind the scenes to affect the way the protests are perceived by different audiences. In Hong Kong, the images reflect a demonstration movement, but in China, the images are tailored to a narrative ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Israel claimed responsibility for a recent airstrike in Syria last weekend, signaling that the long-simmering shadow war between Israel and Iran could escalate further. Iran has used the war in Syria to grow its proxy forces, which now include a Shia foreign fighter army that ...

This Cyber Viewpoint comes from James Van de Velde, Associate Professor at the National Intelligence University as well as Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy position of the U.S. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to the G-7 meeting on Sunday signals European resistance to the Trump administration’s Iran policy. Despite provocative Iranian actions, G-7 European countries continue to seek ways to preserve the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear agreement. President Donald Trump’s refusal ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Early this week, the G7 countries concluded several days of meetings in Biarritz, France. U.S. President Donald Trump has been clear about his desire that Russia be readmitted into the group, although European leaders have taken a harder line. Europe has continued to demonstrate crucial ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s scheduled trip to Poland this coming weekend to participate in that country’s Sept. 1, 80th anniversary of the start of World War II will showcase his administration’s growing diplomatic and military relationship with Warsaw’s increasingly rightist regime. On the political side, it also fits in with Trump’s ...

There has been much concern and consternation in the media— some perhaps understandable after two plus years of tweets and “off the cuff” statements by the President — that the national security apparatus that has helped keep this country safe for more than half a century has come unglued under ...

BOOK REVIEW: Madame Fourcade’s Secret War:  The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler By Lynne Olson Reviewed by Nada Bakos Nada Bakos is a former CIA Analyst and author of the book, The Targeter: My Life in the CIA Hunting Terrorists and Challenging the White ...

It was a busy weekend of activity for Iran, much of it rooted in its desire to seek ways around U.S. sanctions that are targeting its ability to sell oil around the world.  Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was the Biarritz surprise over the weekend as Group of Seven (G7) ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Increasing sectarian violence has destabilized once peaceful Burkina Faso, transforming the country into a hotbedof militant jihadist activity. Fighters linked to AQIM and the so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara have been fighting for supremacy throughout West Africa. Jihadists have long viewed West Africa ...

By Josh Rudolph and Adam Kline, Alliance for Security Democracy This weekend may be the first time in the history of the G7 that the group meets without agreeing on a joint statement. That’s partly because the host, French President Emmanuel Macron, wants to avoid last year’s fiasco of President Donald Trump retracting his endorsement of the communique ten ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s Defense Ministry claims that earlier this week, a Turkish convoy was bombed in Idlib province in northwest Syria. There have been ongoing clashes between Assad’s regime and fighters from the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, is a ...

The national security threat posed by an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is not the kind of thing you hear talked about often in Washington’s national security circles.  But it is a real threat according to experts, and one that the U.S. is woefully ill-prepared to tackle. EMPs can render electronics over ...

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served on the Congressional EMP Commission as chief of staff, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of  Blackout Wars: State Initiatives to Achieve ...

  Bottom Line Up Front China has taken a page from Russia’s playbook as Beijing systematically wages an online disinformation campaign aimed at inflating support for Hong Kong's ruling authorities. Beijing has deployed a relentless disinformation campaign on Twitter and Facebook powered by unknown numbers of bots, trolls, and so-called ...

With ongoing and often frustrating nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea and heightened tensions between nuclear neighbors India and Pakistan over Kashmir, having a clear picture of a nation's nuclear capabilities and how often they are testing them provides critical national security information. A fundamental building block of national ...

OPINION -- The U.S. Army is working on major changes in doctrine, organization and training “to develop a force that can effectively engage great-power competitors, such as Russia and China, across multiple domains, and expects this process to continue through the 2020s,” according to a Government Accountability Office report released ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Following months of negotiations between U.S. officials and Taliban leaders, an agreement on bringing the war in Afghanistan to a formally recognized end now seems imminent. The most important elements of the negotiations are the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban’s relationship with transnational ...

  Bottom Line Up Front In Hong Kong and Moscow, long-simmering undercurrents of political opposition have pitted protesters against unrepresentative authoritarian governments. In Moscow, police have used extreme force to crack down on the tens of thousands of protesters in a series of demonstrations. The Hong Kong protests are larger ...

(Editor's note - Thursday, August 15 is the last day of work for Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his Principal Deputy Director Susan Gordon.  Coats turned in his resignation in late July and Gordon delivered hers last week amid rumors that she was being pushed from her job.  ...

The Cipher Brief is bringing you a range of perspectives this week on the threat of domestic terrorism and what a range of experts say should be done about it. Cipher Brief expert Emile Nakhleh is a retired CIA Senior Intelligence Service Officer and founding director of the CIA’s Political Islam ...