Oil prices spiked Monday after a drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend.  The attacks impacted more than half of Saudi Arabia’s daily exports, which is equivalent to about 5% of global crude oil production.  Experts believe it could take weeks for the kingdom to restore full ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 Sophia Barkoff, a student at the University of Chicago studying Political Science and Russian & East European Studies. This summer she interned at ...

The Cipher Brief is running a special series on disinformation over the next several months.  We’ll introduce you to experts in the field who will share ways to identify disinformation efforts, help you critically think your way through what you see and share tips on what to do when you ...

OPINION -- The Trump administration’s year-old plan to vastly increase future production of plutonium pits, the triggers of thermonuclear weapons, caught my attention just days ago when its high cost was mentioned in a section of the August 23, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the Senate-passed version of the ...

China’s communist leadership is struggling over how to respond to Hong Kong’s swelling protests. Giving in to protesters’ demands for democracy or allowing unrest to spread is out of the question.  Yet armed intervention will have its price. On April 15, 1989, students marched from Beijing University to Tiananmen Square, ...

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 ...

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. ...

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) ...

As the Group of Seven (G7) leaders meet in the French coastal town of Biarritz this weekend, the issue of recent Russian behavior will most certainly be discussed.  A series of global leaders rebuffed a statement earlier this week from President Trump, who said that it would be “appropriate” for ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 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 ...

Protestors in Hong Kong are sticking by their demands which include a formal withdrawal of an extradition bill that launched protestors onto the streets earlier this summer; the release of protestors arrested by police and some reassurance of a move toward a more democratic society. In a high-profile move, Cathay Pacific’s ...

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 ...

The U.S. has been fighting a global network of violent Islamic extremist organizations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda for close to 20 years, but as the U.S. continues to experience mass shootings at home - 17 so far in 2019 - the question of how to address the threat has become ...

Former CIA and FBI official Phil Mudd knows a lot of details you probably don't about CIA black sites.  He knows, because he was associated with the enhanced interrogation program that took place post 9/11.  Now, Mudd has written a new book, Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World that ...

OPINION -- The alleged Privacy Act violation by Trump administration officials in publicly disclosing former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok’s personal text messages without his permission as described in his lawsuit filed last Tuesday in U.S. Federal District Court in the District of Columbia could present a major new problem ...

The resignation of both Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and his deputy Susan Gordon, both taking effect on August 15th, mean big changes are underway at the top of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Sources tell us that Gordon increasingly found herself between a rock and a hard place since ...

One of the country’s leading Intelligence professionals made her way quietly to the White House late Thursday afternoon to deliver her letter of resignation to the Oval office. The message, on a simple, hand-written note, ended weeks of speculation about the fate of Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Susan ...

Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) finds himself in an interesting situation these days with his influence waning throughout the Middle East, and still feeling the blowback from the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  Here’s a quick look at where his influence is waning the ...

OPINION -- The U.S. has a triad of strategic nuclear weapons, air-launched from bombers, sea-launched from submarines, and land-based intercontinental missiles launched from underground silos. There is a reason. The triad’s purpose is to deter a foreign nuclear power from attempting a first strike to wipe out this country’s nuclear ...

This weekend’s back to back shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio highlight, in the deadliest way, growing concerns that the U.S. is fighting its own extremism problem. As authorities look into the motives in both attacks, we must act promptly to thwart future attacks.  Here’s how we can ...

When the President said this week that U.S. intelligence agencies have ‘run amok’, he was offering the statement in part to explain why he was nominating John Ratcliffe as the next Director of National Intelligence.  The President told reporters “I think we need somebody like that in there.  We need ...

The Cyber Initiatives Group is a group of public - private and academic thought leaders who share their unique expertise with the greater cyber community through a series of CIG webcasts and in-person events throughout the year. This is a preview webcast exclusively for The Cipher Brief, where readers were briefed ...

a-mok (adverb) – to behave uncontrollable and disruptively. Synonym: go berserk In the midst of debate over whether President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Dan Coats as the next Director of National Intelligence is qualified for the job, the President made comments on Tuesday that may explain his thinking.  Talking ...

Alex Finley worked for CIA’s Directorate of Operations for about six years in the early 2000s.  Her roles took her to places like West Africa and Europe and also allowed for some time at Headquarters in Langley. Her work as a reports officer - which serves as a bridge between ...

NSA Director General Paul Nakasone announced last week that he is creating a new cybersecurity directorate that will focus on – among other things – aligning the agency’s resources on both offense and defensive cyber operations. “What I’m trying to get to in a space like cybersecurity is speed, agility ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Throughout Libya’s civil war, widespread allegations have surfaced that strongman Khalifa Haftar operates as a modern-day warlord, using his power to further numerous criminal enterprises. To fund the LNA’s activities, Haftar’s network allegedly has turned to a range of criminal activities and illicit financial flows. ...

  Bottom Line Up Front By purchasing Russian S-400 missiles, Turkey has complicated an already strained relationship with NATO and the West. The U.S. has ejected Turkey from the F-35 program, while insisting that Turkey remains a trusted NATO partner. The past several years have seen Ankara move further away ...

Gary Grappo is a former U.S. ambassador who held senior positions including Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; U.S. Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman; and Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The various ...

  Bottom Line Up Front There has been a significant rise in violence in Germany against those who speak out against anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and racist rhetoric. German pro-immigrant politician Walter Luebcke was fatally shot last month by a man known to authorities for ties to neo-Nazi groups. German authorities have ...

  Bottom Line Up Front:  The success of Russia’s meddling in 2016 U.S. election ensures that Moscow will employ similar disinformation efforts as 2020 approaches. Indicating the severity of the threat, DNI Dan Coats recently announced the creation of the federal government's first 'election threats executive.' Both governments and private ...

India believes it won the hostilities which followed the Pulwama attack in February 2019. According to New Delhi the attack on Balakot not only punished Pakistan for hosting terrorists on its soil but it set a new baseline for how to deal with future such events. Pakistan (which feels it ...

The fiscal 2020 Intelligence Authorization Bill, that recently passed the House by an overwhelming 397-to-31 vote, contains provisions that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said would call for “new notification requirements regarding covert or overt efforts by foreign governments to undermine trusted institutions or to interfere in ...

BOOK REVIEW: Rules of Engagement: A Novel      By David Bruns and J.R. Olson Reviewed by Robert Richer, Former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, CIA Editor’s note: Last week, The Cipher Brief published a review written by CIA veteran Rob Richer of Dan Silva’s novel “The New Girl.”  Richer praised ...

New audio of the seizure of a British-flagged tanker indicates the vessel was too far away from help to avoid being forced to change course by Iranian Paramilitary forces last week.  In audio released on Sunday by a maritime security firm, a British officer unsuccessfully demanded freedom to sail through ...

BOOK REVIEW: THE NEW GIRL     By Daniel Silva Reviewed by Robert Richer, Former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, CIA Richer retired from the CIA in November 2005. Prior to his assignment as the ADDO in 2004, Richer was the Chief of the Near East and South Asia Division, responsible ...

Cybersecurity firm Finite State issued a recent report concluding that telecommunications equipment made by Chinese firm Huawei present a higher percentage of security vulnerabilities than equipment produced by other firms. A story in The Wall Street Journal citied numerous sources inside the Administration who pointed to the report as further ...

Tensions remain high between Iran and several EU countries, even after some of the primary signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement vowed their continued support this week, offering Iran an opportunity to reverse its recent, deliberate violations of the JCPOA.  In play right now: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ...