There was never any question that America’s relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would become one of its most important in the region and indeed in the world. It is the birthplace of one of the world’s largest monotheistic faiths and serves as the Muslim world’s “custodian of its ...

Fresh off the heels of the Munich security conference, a rift remains between the U.S. and its allies over their approach to 5G networks and managing the potential national security risks of allowing Chinese vendors to participate in the development of the technology.   The U.S. has been working to ...

The Cipher Brief asked expert and retired four-star General David Petraeus for his big takeaways after attending last weekend's Munich Security Conference. First, the wedge between the U.S. Administration and Europe is a good bit bigger than last year, and Russia, Iran, and China are working to highlight and exploit the ...

BOOK REVIEW: Putin's World By Angela Stent Reviewed by Cipher Brief expert, Michael Sulick Vladimir Putin, enormously popular in Russia yet reviled in the West, avidly courting, and courted, by other nations, has become one of the most studied – and most militant –leaders on the world stage today. Just ...

Steven Hall spent more than 30 years in the CIA, the bulk of them running and managing intelligence operations in Eurasia and Latin America.  He has experience both in counterintelligence and counterterrorism and has overseen intelligence operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union.  When he retired from the ...

Bottom Line: In the digital age, determining the origins of cyberattacks is already difficult, but cyber actors can further muddy attribution by diverting blame for attacks to others. The intention is not necessarily to trick intelligence services – who are able to access information beyond technical forensics of the hack ...

It’s been a busy national security week in DC.  Congressional lawmakers and the President managed to reach a deal that would fund the government but leaves the issue of border security open for further action.  On Thursday, President Trump announced he would sign the deal, but that he would also ...

OPINION -- Two senior U.S. military commanders in the Indo-Pacific area this week questioned whether North Korea would ever denuclearize, just 12 days before the next scheduled summit in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un. While Trump has repeatedly said that "things are going very well ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On February 10, U.S.-backed forces surrounded the Syrian town of Baghouz Al-Fawqani, the ‘last’ remaining stronghold of the so-called Islamic State. President Donald Trump expects to make a formal announcement declaring the ‘official defeat’ of the Islamic State, which could come as early as this ...

The Cipher Brief’s new Friday column, ‘Cipher Select’ talks with retired Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Rob Lively, who spent 28 years in the U.S. Army, where he was part of a special operations unit based at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. In Lively's first interview post-retirement, Cipher Select Executive Editor Brad ...

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. Iran celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution during the first 10 “Days of Dawn” in February, beginning with February 1, the day Ayatollah ...

A hundred years from now historians will write that one of America’s greatest contributions to the world was the Internet. Though other countries and foreign citizens contributed to the effort, U.S. government funding and American academics and technologists created the Internet. As U.S. dependence on the Internet for our economic ...

Cyber has quickly become the global threat that knows no borders, nor does it distinguish between the public and private sectors.  Executives from the world’s largest tech companies gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month to talk about the problem and try to find solutions that could ...

Innovation in Government isn’t generally a phrase that rolls off the tongue, but in a relatively unconstrained threat environment, innovation has become synonymous with survival. A few years ago, the world’s most secretive signals intelligence agency underwent a significant reorganization effort that combined elements of the Agency’s offensive and defensive ...

Strategic Warning Intelligence: History, Challenges, and Prospects by John A. Gentry and Joseph S. Gordon (Georgetown University Press) Reviewed by Jason U. Manosevitz The importance of strategic warning analysis is something all can agree upon. If you believe, as I do, that this kind of analysis is vital for sound ...

OPINION -- The “tremendous progress” with North Korea that President Trump has repeatedly claimed does not approach the success that Kim Jong Un has achieved, based on the status of negotiations as described by Trump’s own Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun. Biegun said his meeting this week with ...

It’s difficult to feel anything other than disappointment after reading Reuter’s investigation of activities by a U.S. contractor in the UAE.  The allegations that former NSA analysts working for a private U.S. contractor may have aided in the surveillance of U.S. citizens raises troubling issues about the activities of private contractors ...

Last month, the U.S. Department of State marked the 35th anniversary of the U.S. designation of Iran as a state-sponsor of terrorism. Tehran is part of an exclusive club—partners in crime with other designees North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. Indeed, since at least 1996, in one country report on Terrorism after another, ...

This week’s release of the Intelligence Community’s unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment made clear which groups the IC believes pose the greatest terrorist threats to the U.S. in 2019. The list of terrorist organizations includes: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Homegrown Violent Extremists (‘likely to present the most acute Sunni terrorist threat to ...

As part of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment this week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that “Global jihadists in dozens of groups and countries threaten local and regional U.S. interests, despite having experienced some significant setbacks in recent years, and ...

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats released the Worldwide Threat Assessment on Tuesday, with Intelligence Community leaders briefing Senators on the biggest threats facing the U.S. While The Cipher Brief will cover all aspects of the broader threat matrix that includes China, Russia and North Korea, this week we are ...

New York State has convicted a white supremacist as a ‘terrorist’ for the first time in its history.  James Harris Jackson was convicted for the murder of Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old African American man, in what has been classified as a hate crime.  Jackson pled guilty Tuesday to the charge ...

By Larry Loftis Reviewed by: Carol Rollie Flynn, Cipher Brief Expert and Former Assoc. Deputy Director, National Counterterrorism Center, CIA.  Currently CEO & Managing Director, Singa Consulting Code Name: LISE: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Decorated Spy,  Gallery Books, January 15, 2019 Early in Larry Loftis' ...

U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed to a framework for a possible deal that could see a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by terrorist organizations or individuals in the future in exchange for, among other things, a full U.S. troop withdrawal.  In an announcement on Monday, U.S. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On January 26, a Venezuelan military attache defected to the U.S. and along with other military officers, recognized Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has kept favor with the military following tensions over his election, although this has recently begun to change. ...

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack at a cathedral in the Philippines that left at least 21 people dead and scores injured. Earlier this month, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack in Syria that targeted and killed four Americans, one of them a Green Beret.  Al-Shabab, the terrorist group ...

As this month’s terror attacks in Syria and Nairobi make clear, organizations like ISIS and al-Shabab remain focused on launching attacks as a show of strength and resolve.  ISIS claimed responsibility for the Syria attack that killed four Americans and al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the Nairobi attack that killed at ...

The Government remains shut down after President Donald Trump offered a plan over the weekend to provide temporary protection to some groups of immigrants if Democrats agree to fund the border wall.   Democrats refused the offer and are calling on the President to re-open the government while  they address issues ...

It’s not exactly his first conspiracy, but thriller writer Brad Meltzer’s new book, First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, is the author’s first non-fiction foray. Co-written with documentary producer Josh Mensch, The First Conspiracy pieces together the previously untold story about a secret plot to kill George ...

General Michael Hayden, the co-host of The Cipher Brief’s Annual Threat Conference for the past two years, has famously said that the world has been more dangerous in the past, but it has never been more complicated.  He has also said that if the U.S. doesn’t get China right, nothing ...

United States Special Operations Forces are attracting attention for the wrong reasons after a spate of incidents overseas that involved the murder of Americans, allegedly carried out by SOF Forces. A former Green Beret, who was working as a contractor for Lockheed Martin died on January 4, after being injured ...

Catherine Lotrionte has been the power broker behind Washington D.C.’s International Conference on Cyber Engagement for seven years now and she’s getting ready to host it again this April with The Atlantic Council.  Formerly serving as Counsel to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and former Assistant General Counsel at ...

The Trump Administration is defunding the nation’s primary anti-domestic terror program at the Department of Homeland Security and DHS’ Office of Terrorism Prevention has removed any reference to future funding from its website.  This decision does not reduce the threat but does give opportunity to re-examine the fundamentals of strategies ...

OPINION -- On December 31, The New York Times published a piece that claimed Afghan forces “trained and equipped by CIA agents or contractors” were conducting “torture and killings with near impunity.” The piece opens with the description of one such raid where an alleged CIA-trained strike force burst into ...

President Donald Trump now says U.S. troops will "slowly" be withdrawn from Syria after his controversial announcement in December, saying that troops would be pulled out within 30 days, led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis and the accelerated resignation of Special Envoy to Syria, Brett McGurk. The ...

The Administration will start the new year with a new acting Secretary of Defense after President Donald Trump accepted James Mattis’s resignation letter and moved up the date of his planned departure by two months.  President Trump named Patrick Shanahan to take on the acting Secretary of Defense role while ...

The 19 December announcement by President Trump to withdraw ground troops from Syria was surprising to everyone but should have come as a shock to no one. Here's why: First, ISIS may not be destroyed, but one is hard pressed to suggest that it remains an existential threat to the ...

2018 was a year dominated by a new range of worries for national security experts in Britain.  Brexit and a series of untraditional statements from U.S. President Donald Trump, kept things interesting, to say the least.  This, in addition to the traditional security issues that keep the British up at ...

Despite years of forecasts predicting implosion, partition, revolution, Iranian absorption and other apocalyptic scenarios, there were generally more good events in 2018 than bad in Iraq, still Iraq's challenges in 2019 are significant. The good events were only “mostly” good. A new government formed (mostly). ISIS was defeated (mostly). Security ...

Bottom Line Up Front: Six months after the historic June 11, 2018 Summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jung Un, the American public is losing patience with a North Korea that continues to make nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.  Many now doubt that North Korea will ever ...

OPINION -- The Middle East, like the rest of the world, is a “very dangerous place!” according to President Trump. The Saudis, with America’s tacit help, made it so. President Trump’s bizarre and strange recent statement giving Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) a pass on his involvement in ...

The U.S. is calling for more rigorous enforcement of sanctions against Russia after Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats on Sunday, claiming the ships had ‘illegally’ entered its waters.  Russia has been using Ukraine as a provocation point for some time, so will the tougher enforcement of ...

According to a recent report by the National Defense Strategy Commission (NDS), the U.S. Department of Defense and the White House "have not yet articulated clear operational concepts for achieving U.S. security objectives in the face of ongoing competition and potential military confrontation with China and Russia." The NDS is ...

Cipher Brief readers are wishing General Michael V. Hayden, a speedy recovery after the former CIA and NSA director suffered a stroke last week. Hayden, who is a member of The Cipher Brief's board of directors, suffered the stroke at home just before Thanksgiving.  According to a statement from the Michael ...

BOOK REVIEW: Dawn of The Code War: Americas Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat By: John P. Carlin with Garrett M. Graff, Public Affairs, New York, 2018 Reviewed by Peter M. Tran In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and ...

President Donald Trump is expected to receive a full report on the killing of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Tuesday.  The President called a leaked CIA conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the Khashoggi's killing "very premature" in comments over the weekend, though he ...

Bottom line: Terrorists are turning to the dark web’s crypto-bazaars, social media channels and e-commerce sites to buy more coveted military equipment than the usual rocket launchers and AK-47s in the traditional black market. These digital black markets are also allowing terrorist organizations from Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, as ...

This brief is part of The Cipher Brief’s 2018 Annual Threat Report.   Bottom Line: There are three prominent technological security concerns for the United States with a growing Chinese strategic competitor to the east: Beijing’s push toward cyber and electronic warfare, its development of counter-space capabilities that threaten U.S. space ...

OPINION -- Democrats controlling the House next January should see an Armed Services Committee that supports some reduced defense spending in fiscal 2020, and an Intelligence Committee that protects, rather-than-attacks, the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Both committees will open aggressive inquiries into Trump activities in ...

China's state news agency Xinhua, has shown the world just how far China has come in the artificial intelligence race with the introduction of a digital news anchor. The digital anchor not only read the news at China's World Internet Conference last week, but it also demonstrated the capabilities of ...