Behind the Headlines brings you expert perspectives on today's headlines by telling you more than what happened, but also what it means.  You can also listen to The Cipher Brief’s Daily Open-Source Collection Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. Jack Devine, Former Acting Director, National Clandestine Service, CIA Cipher Brief ...

Robert Dannenberg, Fmr. Sr. CIA Officer, Former Chief of Security, Goldman Sachs Cipher Brief Expert Rob Dannenberg is the former Managing Director and Head of the Office of Global Security for Goldman Sachs.  He is also the former director of International Security Affairs for BP.  Dannenberg is a 24-year veteran ...

Walter Pincus is a contributing senior national security columnist for The Cipher Brief. He spent forty years at The Washington Post, writing on topics from nuclear weapons to politics.   OPINION -- “How do we establish deterrence in the cyber space?” “How do we raise costs on our adversaries so that these ...

Ties between Russia and China go far beyond mutual lessons-learned and policy coordination.  They have entered into cooperative arrangements that pose clear dangers for the US and its allies.  The most apparent of these are in the military realm. Mark Kelton, Former Deputy Director for Counterintelligence, CIA Mark Kelton is ...

In 1937, Winston Churchill contrasted the “two rival religions” of Nazism and Communism then afflicting the world.  Those fascist and communist “infernal twins”, he wrote, “imagine themselves as exact opposites” but are, in fact “similar in all essentials”, breeding in reaction to each other.  Today’s ‘infernal twins’ – China and ...

Next month’s planned meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to include conversations on Ukraine, COVID-19 and the recent diversion of a flight by officials in Belarus, but as tensions between the two countries remain tense, there are bigger issues at play, like the ...

Paul Kolbe, Director, Intelligence Project, Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Paul Kolbe is Director of The Intelligence Project at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He previously served 25 years as an operations officer in the CIA and was a member of the ...

John McLaughlin served as Acting Director of Central Intelligence and as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. He is the Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). OPINION -- The Biden administration slapped economic sanctions last week on a number of Russian officials in ...

Temperatures in Russia are increasing at more than double the global average, according to scientists, proving that climate change and extreme weather doesn’t just affect U.S. national security as outlined in Cipher Brief Expert Admiral Jim Stavridis’ overview here.  It also affects U.S. allies and adversaries, creating new areas of ...

The new COVID-19 national security world is one shaped by a host of national and global security issues that were impacted – both good and bad – by the global pandemic. That, in turn, has fundamentally changed the way governments and private sector companies need to think about the old ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia and the Political Warfare 1945-2020  by Tim Weiner / Henry Holt & Co. Reviewed by Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley (Ret.) Cipher Brief Expert Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr. (Ret.) is a career Army intelligence officer having served over thirty-six years ...

Cipher Brief Expert John McLaughlin is former Acting Director of the CIA, former Deputy CIA Director and is the Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) OPINION -- President-elect Joe Biden faces a longer and more complex set of foreign policy challenges than ...

Weeks after a massive cyber breach of U.S. government agencies and private sector companies was publicly announced, there is still not a clear response from the administration on who is responsible and what will be done about it.  While the government has yet to officially name the nation-state that is ...

As Washington continues to investigate the true depth of what experts are describing as one of the most damaging cyberattacks in U.S. history, both government and private sector leaders are considering not only the aftermath, but the shifting dynamics of global espionage. The Cipher Brief is bringing you multiple expert ...

Even though national security did not play a significant role during the U.S. presidential campaign, President-elect Joe Biden is set to inherent a world in crisis when he takes the oath of office in January. Among the national security challenges facing the U.S. in 2021 are those posed by a ...

Cipher Brief Expert Ambassador Joseph R. DeTrani was the former Special Envoy for Negotiations with North Korea and Director of the National Counterproliferation Center.  He is also former director of East Asia Operations for CIA and served as the Associate Director of National Intelligence and Mission Manager for North Korea ...

OPINION – President-elect Joe Biden’s national security transition team should be developing plans for extending the New START strategic nuclear arms treaty with Russia, but also preparing to undertake its own, wide-ranging, Nuclear Posture Review that rethinks the Trump administration’s aggressive nuclear weapons building program. First up must be the ...

The Cipher Brief is a non-political media outlet focused on publishing expert perspectives on national security issues. We are committed to presenting multiple opinions to help produce a more informed understanding of the issues.  John McLaughlin is the Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International ...

BOOK REVIEW: Agent Sonya: Moscow’s Most Daring Wartime Spy by Ben Macintyre / Crown Reviewed by Dan Hoffman Cipher Brief Expert Dan Hoffman is a former CIA Chief of Station with 30 years of government service including high-level positions with the U.S. military, Department of State, and Department of Commerce. Hoffman’s ...

OPINION – The United Nations’ decade-long embargo on the sale of arms to Iran expired on Sunday based on a provision in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that was aimed at halting Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. So, what happens now? Tehran says it has no plans to ...

Dr. Kenneth Dekleva served as a Regional Medical Officer/Psychiatrist (including 5 years at the U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russian Federation) with the U.S. Dept. of State during 2002-2016, and is currently Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Psychiatry-Medicine Integration, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.  OPINION -- In Russia, bad things ...

The Cipher Brief continues it's coverage on Russia this week in light of the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.  We tapped Cipher Brief Expert Michael Sulick who served as director of CIA’s National Clandestine Service, for his thoughts on Putin's Playbook for the West.  While at CIA, Sulick also served ...

OPINION -- Taken together, the protests underway in Belarus and the poisoning of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny — by what German doctors now say was the nerve agent Novichok — tap into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to avoid more serious challenges to his control and his regime. It is ...

(The Cipher Brief 2020 Threat Conference will host an interactive session on this topic during The Cipher Brief Threat Conference September 13-15. Find details in the conference agenda.) Western governments have accused the Russian Federation of attempting, abetting, and orchestrating the assassinations of political enemies since the mid-1990s, the most ...

OPINION -- President Trump and elements of his administration are publicly assessing that China poses a greater national security threat to the US election than Russia. Attorney General Bill Barr started it off last Wednesday on CNN when he was asked which country was most aggressive and he answered, “I ...

Eric Shiraev, Political Psychologist, George Mason University Dr. Eric Shiraev is a political psychologist from George Mason University, USA, where he heads a lab on reputational politics. He is author of more than twenty books including International Relations (Oxford), Russian Government and Politics (Macmillan), and Character Assassination Throughout the Ages. Dr. Holger ...

As part of The Cipher Brief’s look at known Russian spies, we spoke with Cipher Brief Expert Rolf Mowatt-Larssen about the spy game and a potential difference in focus when it comes to human espionage carried out on behalf of both the US and Russia.    Mowatt-Larssen is a senior ...

Last week, a former Army Green Beret captain was indicted, accused of providing national defense information to Russia in what appeared to be a spying operation that began in 1996.  Prosecutors say Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins was recruited by members of Russia’s military intelligence agency (GRU).  Debbins went on to ...

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in a coma after doctors at the German hospital where he is being treated say he was poisoned.  Last week, a former Army Green Beret captain was accused of spying for Russia in a relationship that allegedly began decades ago.  The Cipher Brief tapped ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West by Catherine Belton Reviewed by Jacob Stebbing Jacob Stebbing is a graduating senior at Brigham Young University majoring in Russian with a minor in Middle East studies. From 2018 to 2019, he was the ...

Cipher Brief Expert Ambassador Joseph DeTrani is former Director of the National Counterproliferation Center.  The views are the authors and not any government agency or department. OPINION -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, who just received popular support to remain in power until 2036, is on a crusade to ensure that ...

Dr. Leo Blanken is an Associate Professor of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School. He is the author of Rational Empires: Institutional Incentives and Imperial Expansion and co-editor of Assessing War: The Challenge of Measuring Success and Failure.  The COVID19 crisis comes at a time when the existing structure ...

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is focusing on reported intelligence that Russia placed bounties on the lives of US troops in Afghanistan. The committee is expected to hold a hearing on Thursday titled, “Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops: Why Hasn’t the Administration Responded?”  On Friday, the committee will address the ...

Bottom Line: Russia is accused of funding Taliban contract killings of US troops in Afghanistan. US military officials made limited accusations of Russian arms support for the Taliban in 2018, a turnaround from the heyday of US-Russian cooperation in Afghanistan 2009-2014. Recent reporting by The New York Times that intelligence ...

OPINION -- On 27 June, The New York Times reported Russia was offering bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers. The paper cited anonymous sources placing blame on Russia’s GRU, which has a long history of subversion, sabotage and assassination.  As expected, there was significant outcry in Washington.  House ...

BOOK REVIEW:  Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West by Catherine Belton Reviewed by John Sipher Reviewer and Cipher Brief Expert John Sipher retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, which included serving in Moscow and running the ...

Global markets responded on Monday to fears of a second-wave of coronavirus infections and one of the industries feeling the pressure is the gas and oil market.  This comes as Reuters cites multiple sources saying that Saudi Aramco is cutting July crude supplies to at least five buyers in Asia. ...

  Bottom Line up Front Iran’s apparent drawdown of its military presence in Syria likely reflects Tehran’s calculation that the regime of President Bashar Al Assad is secure. Both Russia and the Assad regime maintain a dedicated interest in limiting Iran’s influence in post-conflict Syria. Israeli defense officials believe that ...

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for ...

  Bottom Line Up Front In both Syria and Libya, Russia has relied on a combination of mercenaries, weapons sales to proxies and clients, and an aggressive disinformation campaign to grow its influence. While Russia remains frustrated with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, few expect Moscow to abandon Damascus anytime soon, ...

OPINION -- This past March and April, US Naval Forces attached to Central Command carried out live fire exercises in the North Persian Gulf’s international waters near Iran, using Army Apache helicopters and AC-130 gunships to practice defense against threats from swarming Iranian speedboats. Such a US exercise was underway ...

The Cipher Brief Threat Conference has been re-scheduled for September 13-15, 2020.  This special series of national security briefings has been launched to keep our public-private threat conference community together and engaged on the issues that matter until we can safely gather again. Conference speaker Christopher Costa is a former ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The United States is looking to consolidate and expand its presence in the eastern provinces of Deir al-Zour and al-Hasakah, yet reconstituting a more robust military posture in Syria will not be without its challenges. In an effort to try to get back into Deir ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Created in 2014, the Wagner Group is a Russian private military company that maintains close ties to the Kremlin and which has reportedly been active in a number of conflict zones, from Ukraine to Libya and beyond. The Wagner Group has diversified its funding streams ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The April agreement among major oil producers to reduce global oil production has failed to stabilize world oil prices. Market stability will depend heavily on the abatement of the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. oil production is falling primarily due to high costs and high debt loads ...

  On April 6, 2020, the U.S. State Department announced the designation of the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and three of its senior leaders pursuant to Executive Order 13224. RIM’s designation, a precedential action taken by the U.S. Department of State, represents the first white supremacist group to be placed ...

  Bottom Line Up Front A Saudi effort to regain dominance over world oil production is weakening regional economic powers at a time of crisis over the COVID-19 pandemic. The dramatic drop in oil prices might render the Persian Gulf countries less able to provide funds to poorer regional governments ...

  Bottom Line Up Front The spread of coronavirus is compounding the well-known problems faced by Middle East governments and societies. The coronavirus crisis could become particularly acute in conflict-ravaged countries where governance is already weak or absent. The decision by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to try to ...

  Bottom Line Up Front It was only a matter of time before Russia looked to spread disinformation surrounding the coronavirus, a global pandemic that is crippling nations’ health care systems and economies. Russia has been presented with new fault lines to target as a result of the pandemic including ...

Long-time BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera recently published a new book, Russians Among Us: Sleeper Cells, Ghost Stories and the Hunt for Putin’s Spies.    The book explores the explosive story of Russia’s espionage efforts against the United States and the West and provides riveting details about ten Russian sleeper ...