This week, Russia test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new nuclear submarine, as Facebook says Moscow is stepping up its efforts to spread disinformation in Africa.  That’s just this week.  Going back a few more days, U.S. and British officials say Russian hackers piggy-backed on an Iranian spy operation ...

OPINION -- President Trump’s sending U.S. military troops to control the oil fields in northern Syria can only be interpreted as introducing financial deal-making into his running of U.S. foreign and national security policies. Trump made clear in his Sunday press conference that he sees control of the Syrian oil ...

The demise of Osama bin Laden in 2011 did not end al-Qaeda. Nor will the apparent demise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi end the terror of the Islamic State. Al-Baghdadi’s death is a major psychological blow to the so-called Islamic State (the terror group also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL, or ...

BOOK REVIEW: Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World by Philip Mudd, former Deputy Director of the CIA Counterterrorist Center and FBI National Security Branch Reviewed by Christopher Messina The subject of Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World is one many Americans will have strong opinions about. ...

More details are emerging about  just how U.S. commandos located and cornered ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend as well as questions about how much intelligence was gathered from Baghdadi's compound. Reuters reports that  Iraqi intelligence teams gathered details about Baghdadi's movements from a former top aide in February ...

Cipher Brief Expert 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 ...

Bruce Hoffman is a professor at Georgetown University and Visiting Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security at the Council on Foreign Relations.  He has served as a commissioner on the Independent Commission to Review the FBI’s Post-9/11 Response to Terrorism and Radicalization, a Scholar-in-Residence for Counterterrorism at the CIA, and ...

MOVIE REVIEW: The Spy Behind Homeplate (a documentary) by James Periard James Periard served over 25 years in the Central Intelligence Agency as a Case Officer for Middle East and counter terrorism operations, including as a Chief of Station and Chief of Base in several expeditionary locations.  He now serves ...

This Academic Incubator column is part of an academic partnership with the Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, presenting regular expert commentary on global security-related issues by faculty, fellows, and students. It is no longer hard to see that the rising power and the mounting ...

President Trump announced this week that the U.S. had brokered a permanent ceasefire in northeast Syria as he also announced that he would be lifting sanctions that were imposed after Turkey launched a military offensive into Syria in early October. A day earlier, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia ...

China and South Korea quietly agreed this week to engage in a joint effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.  The announcement came on the sidelines of the Xiangshan Forum, a conference focused on Asia-Pacific security.  The two countries have resumed bilateral defense talks that were suspended in 2014, signaling a ...

SPONSORED CONTENT -- As I’ve talked to many Department of Defense leaders over the years, I’ve often heard them ask, “how much would a pound of cybersecurity for a weapon system cost me?” Truthfully, up until this point, we had a difficult time responding. That is, until now – more ...

This first stage of the House impeachment inquiry, being held behind closed doors under the chairmanship of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), is setting a firm, fact-finding, foundation for what is to follow. These depositions, as described in a “Dear Colleague” letter sent Wednesday to all members of the House, portray ...

Marc Polymeropoulos retired in June 2019 from the Senior Intelligence Service ranks at the CIA after a 26 year career in operational headquarters and field assignments covering the Middle East, Europe, Russia and counter terrorism.  OPINION -- Several friends have recently asked me how the myriad of international scandals that ...

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has long relied on a range of technological tools to provide geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) like commercial imaging, remote sensing and human geography to help warfighters, first responders, policymakers and spies navigate the world. Due to its unique mission and vantage point, NGA serves both as an ...

Gary Grappo is a former U.S. ambassador who served as 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. As a career member ...

OPINION – Why is there no Whistleblower in the case of President Trump’s October 6, phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?  Who was on the line with Trump? Anonymous Pentagon sources last Tuesday said Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Milley were on the line, ...

BOOK REVIEW: Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character By Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) Reviewed by John Nixon John Nixon was a senior leadership analyst with the CIA from 1998 to 2011. He did several tours in Iraq and was recognized by a number of federal agencies ...

OPINION -- President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the small contingent of United States troops remaining in Syria is a disaster on multiple levels. It illustrates not only his reckless instincts on foreign policy but also the near-total absence of a process for making momentous decisions in his administration. For process, Trump’s style ...

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is defending President Trump’s decision to withdraw support for Kurdish troops in Northeast Syria, saying Turkey has a “legitimate security concern’.  Meanwhile, other countries, along with both Republican and Democrat members of Congress in the U.S., are condemning the move calling it a betrayal ...

As the impeachment investigation continues, The Cipher Brief spoke with former CIA Director and retired Four-Star General David Petraeus about why Ukraine is such an important strategic partner for the U.S. The Cipher Brief:  You and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst called in recent months for U.S. support ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Killing in the Consulate: Investigating the Life and Death of Jamal Khashoggi By Jonathan Rugman Reviewed by Nick Fishwick 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 ...

The Cipher Brief is bringing you a range of expert perspectives on Syria this week.  General Jack Keane (Ret.), the chairman of the Institute for the Study of War, spelled out The Limits of U.S. Influence in Syria on Monday with a solid assessment of U.S., Iranian and Russian influence in ...

OPINION -- White House officials initially learned of the first Whistleblower’s complaint about President Trump’s July 25, telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky weeks before it became public.  What did those officials do about it and was President Trump involved? Answering that question should be part of the impeachment investigation ...

OPINION -- As we digest the Trump administration’s unorthodox style of governing in the foreign affairs arena, it is worth focusing on a key aspect of our bilateral relationships that does not get much press, the effect of President Trump on our foreign intelligence service liaison partners.  How they approach ...

OPINION -- Could there be a Hugh Scott in 2019? I refer to Sen. Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania, in office from 1958 to 1976, who came to mind because as a young Pennsylvanian during the Watergate crisis, he left an impression on me. An old-fashioned centrist Republican, Scott was one ...

The U.S. has issued new economic sanctions against seven individuals linked to a Russian internet troll factory.  The sanctions were announced Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling them a warning to foreigners seeking to interfere in U.S. elections. The U.S. Government is bolstering its efforts to defend voting ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Emigres, and Agents Abroad By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan Reviewed by Joseph W. Augustyn Joseph W. Augustyn is a 28 year-year veteran of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and once served as the Director of the Defector Resettlement ...

OPINION -- Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson deserves praise along with the Whistleblower for pushing within the law to get President Trump’s highly protected phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before the Congress and the public. Atkinson’s two week “preliminary review” helped build credibility for the Whistleblower’s August ...

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman is warning that military conflict with Iran would collapse the global economy.  He made the statement during an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes and said that he prefers a political solution over a military option. "The region represents about 30 percent of the ...

OPINION – It’s still unclear just how President Trump may further respond to the recent coordinated drone attack on a Saudi oil facility that has been blamed on Iran by the U.S., France, the U.K., Germany and Saudi Arabia. Within days of the attack, the President announced that he was ...

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies provides great potential to businesses that are able to harness the opportunities it presents, but AI also poses great risks to national security.  Within the pages of the 2019 Worldwide Threat Report, presented in January of this year by former Director of National ...

Cipher Brief Expert Ambassador Joseph DeTrani offers his seasoned perspective on negotiating with North Korea.  This piece was first published by our friends at 38 North, a project of the Henry L. Stimson Center. COMMENTARY - The thirteen years (2003-2016) I invested in negotiations with North Korea in different capacities—Special ...

BOOK REVIEW: Guardian: Life in the Crosshairs of the CIA’s War on Terror By Thomas Pecora Reviewed by Mike Howard Mike Howard is the former Chief Security Officer for Microsoft, where he worked for 16 years.  He is also a former CIA Security and Operations Officer, a role which he held ...

“My personal view is, the first shots of the future fight will be either in the cyber domain or -- maybe it's an ‘and’ -- and the space domain.  And so we've got to make sure we have sufficient capability there because that's critical to our capabilities to fight and ...

The Cipher Brief is running a special series on disinformation – in all of its forms – ahead of the 2020 U.S. Election.  This week, The Cipher Brief spoke with former CIA analyst and Intelligence Briefer Cindy Otis, about how foreign intelligence services use conspiracy theories to sow distrust and ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

When a series of drones were used to attack a key Saudi oil facility over the weekend, the impact on oil production was noted by global markets.  Oil prices spiked as the attack was believed to impact more than half of Saudi Arabia’s daily exports. Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, ...

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 ...