In the version of Aesop’s fable, “The Farmer and the Viper,” as recounted by Roman fabulist Gaius Julius Phaedrus, a farmer finds a viper freezing in the snow. Taking pity, he picks up the snake and puts it inside his coat to warm it up. True to its nature, the ...

President Donald Trump, concerned that investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections cast doubt over his legitimacy, has consistently dismissed and denigrated such probes. The decision by Dianne Feinstein, as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, to unilaterally release the transcript of closed testimony by Fusion GPS co-founder ...

Bottom Line: Russia and Iran have forged a strategic symbiotic relationship anchored in economic, defense and energy cooperation. And as the Trump administration ramps up both rhetoric and sanctions on key figures and entities linked to the Iranian regime, and threatens to impose more – Washington could end up pushing ...

Much has been written about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – the theft and selective leaking of information, the attempt to tamper with state voting systems, and the weaponization of social media. Every day brings further revelations about Moscow’s still-ongoing information operations in the U.S. Yet little of this ...

Bottom Line: The U.S. and its NATO allies have warned that an uptick in Russian submarine activity near undersea fiber optic cables means Moscow may be plotting to disrupt or intercept sensitive or other critical internet communications in the event of a confrontation with the West. Their warning serves as ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. Cipher Brief expert, CIA veteran and Russia hand Steve Hall looks ahead to U.S. relations with Moscow, as Russia gears up for ...

The United States Navy has achieved unmatched supremacy on the world’s seas, but Russia and China are diligently growing their naval capabilities, trying to close the gap. Should U.S. naval enterprises fail to match their rivals’ pace, then Moscow and Beijing’s maritime advancements could challenge U.S. geostrategic interests, including its ...

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Funny, that. The Soviet and Russian intelligence services have been doing exactly the same thing against us for decades, but this time it finally worked. Why? As most Americans are aware ...

The military withdrawal from Syria that President Vladimir Putin touts is less than it seems. The stakes are high because leaders in Moscow see the intervention as crucial to their nation’s status as a global power. Moscow faces a dilemma, but there is a way out, if it will only see ...

A coordinated operation is underway between the White House and Republican members of Congress to undermine Special Counsel Robert A. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, just as the inquiry begins to zero in on President Trump and his closest advisers. Their joint campaign is ...

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, intervention in eastern Ukraine, and meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have escalated distrust and rancor between the U.S. and Russia to levels unprecedented since the Cold War. For two decades, President Vladimir Putin has driven a resurgent Russia to assert its interests globally, often ...

New FBI Director Christopher A. Wray is signaling that he takes the possibility of future Russian meddling in U.S. elections seriously, and he plans to run a bureau of  “integrity and professionalism” to tackle such threats –despite President Donald Trump’s continuing effort to slap the label of “FAKE NEWS” on covert ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to exploit open and free U.S. cyberspace, which serves as a force multiplier for commerce and freedom of expression, with hacking and discoverable influence operations. Conducting all-source forensics following these Russian attacks on our democratic process, U.S. social media networking sites are in the ...

The blowback over forcing Russian news outlets “Russia Today” (RT) and “Sputnik” to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has raised questions about whether the law does enough to track foreign influence in the modern media age – or whether it’s the wrong tool to use in the ...

It’s always the cover-up. That was the starting point for unraveling Nixon’s Watergate and Reagan’s Iran-contra affair. I covered both scandals and believe special counsel Robert Mueller III is going down the same path taken years ago by special prosecutors Archibald Cox (Watergate) and Lawrence Walsh (Iran-contra). The pattern is ...

The Trump administration wants you to know that Syrian strongman Bashar Assad isn’t doing as well as he, or his Russian and Iranian allies want you to think, and that’s why they’re going to have to agree to some concessions at U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva, rather than retaking the country ...

The Cipher Brief asked former CIA Russia hand John Sipher to react to the news that Trump administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI, making him the first Trump White House official to face criminal charges in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The ...

Moscow may increasingly look toward private military companies (PMCs), known in Russia as Chastnye Voennie Companiy (ChVK), to exert plausibly deniable and economically and politically sustainable military influence abroad, according to experts speaking to The Cipher Brief. Unlike relying on proxies such as ragtag local militias or organized criminal groups ...

For this year’s Thanksgiving Day feature, The Cipher Brief revisits its coverage of the Kremlin’s strategic use of blackmail to silence dissent at home and undermine opposition abroad. Known in Russian intelligence lexicon as kompromat, or compromising material, blackmail has long played the role of leveraging personal information for political ...

The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign is just the latest in a long catalog of leaks and discoveries about previously hidden contacts between surrogates of both the Trump campaign and Russia. A media frenzy naturally follows each new disclosure, ...

Speaking to the Russian Federal Assembly in March 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his country’s annexation of Crimea and forcefully presented his national security strategy to gain the upper hand in Russia’s rivalry with the United States. He blamed the U.S. for seeking regime change through “color revolutions” and the ...

Concealment, imitation and disinformation - tactics known as maskirovka – were part of a Soviet doctrine used by their military and intelligence services – namely the KGB and GRU. The principal military purpose of maskirovka is to mislead an enemy regarding the disposition, composition and intentions of its forces. Under ...

Bosnia and Herzegovina has been held together under two separate entities ever since the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995 ended the civil war and created the present-day country: The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, made up of Bosniaks and Croats, and Republika Srpska, home to the country’s Serbs. But the ...

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday announced their commitment to defeating the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria and agreed “there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria,” they said in a joint statement. "The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, ...

The U.S. and Russia could soon come to an agreement on next steps in Syria, as the Islamic State, or ISIS, nears defeat in the country. The agreement would focus on “deconfliction” between the U.S. and Russian militaries, reducing violence in the Syrian civil war and reinvigorating UN-led peace talks, ...

There is little doubt that Putin’s foreign policy centers on reviving Russia as a major international power, which seeks to undermine the global American alliance that has underwritten international security since the end of the Cold War. Stretching across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, this alliance has continually thwarted ...

NATO allies have agreed to sweeping restructuring to speed response to any danger – with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and continued expansionism in mind. “We have seen a much more assertive Russia,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference on Wednesday, following a morning meeting ...

While all militaries seek to lead enemies astray, Russia’s military doctrine of deception – known as maskirovka, Russian for “masking” or “camouflage” – is a foundational component of the Russian military and intelligence mindset. With maskirovka, the fog of war is not merely the natural byproduct of combat, but a ...

It was 1999, and the Russian Prosecutor General, Yury Skuratov, who was investigating former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s administration for corruption, found himself in the bull’s eye of a blackmail operation designed to smear his reputation and force him to resign. The operation used blackmail – known as kompromat, or ...

While Russia has become increasingly aggressive on the international stage, it has done so tactically, commonly engaging in plausibly deniable clandestine operations such as the 2014 annexation of Crimea. To keep policymakers in the West guessing at what Russia’s true intentions are, Moscow has employed an adapted version of the ...

Rivalry between Moscow and Washington is nothing new. A hundred years ago today, the October Revolution in St. Petersburg dismantled Russia’s tsarist autocracy and led to the rise of the Soviet Union – the entity that became America’s number one foe during the Cold War. The Soviet Union collapsed in ...

The 2016 presidential campaign was just a test run for Russia’s continuing use of disinformation on social media aimed at manipulating public thinking in the United States. Appearances last week by senior executives of Facebook, Twitter and Google before Senate Judiciary and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees provided a mass ...

In an otherwise forgettable February 2017 interview, Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly asked Donald Trump how he could respect Russian President Vladimir Putin, who O’Reilly labeled as a “killer.” Trump shockingly defended Putin by commenting, “There are a lot of killers. We have killers. Well, you think our country is so ...

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, my old Committee, will hold a critical, open hearing today with the three largest social media content providers in the U.S. market—Facebook, Twitter and Google. The big three are, belatedly, acknowledging that Russia used their platforms in the 2016 election cycle to harm American ...

Top social media companies revealed more details about how Russian operatives made extensive use of their platforms to wage a disinformation and influence campaign targeting the 2016 presidential election as senators on Tuesday called the threat a critical national security issue and questioned the ability of tech companies to combat ...

In recent years, Russia has waged a new cold war on the United States through its actions, though we have only recently come to grips with this reality. As in any war, the Kremlin’s objectives are political. The principal weapon in this conflict is information, and the evidence of Russia’s ...

Has the Trump administration put together a coordinated plan to deal with what the intelligence community has warned will be Moscow-directed cyberattacks during the upcoming 2018 midterm elections? “So far, we've seen no indication that the administration is taking action to prepare for this next inevitability against the constant aggression ...

The key question as representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google testify Tuesday and Wednesday before Congress is not how Russia used social media to interfere in last year’s presidential election, but rather what role U.S. voters, the federal government and social media companies should play in building resiliency against such ...

The Kremlin is likely celebrating the indictment of President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and the guilty plea by another campaign adviser, according to former intelligence officials. That’s because the news out of Washington on Monday plays directly into Moscow’s desire to sow chaos and distrust in the United States ...

Members of Congress have expressed deep concern over the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign in the 2016 election. They have even taken some action, most notably voting in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 to dramatically broaden the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) mandate to include countering propaganda ...

As the Kremlin wages an unyielding disinformation campaign against the United States and its European allies, Washington is still reeling from Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election and only just beginning efforts aimed at tackling this major national security threat. Almost a year after election day, there are some signs ...

There is no “quick and easy fix” for the United States to deal with Russian disinformation and influence operations. Steve Hall, a former senior CIA officer who retired in 2015 and spent much of his career overseeing intelligence operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union and the former ...

A bipartisan group of influential lawmakers is expected to introduce the Honest Ads Act this week, legislation that would seek to increase transparency in American elections—and foreign election tampering—through stricter disclosure requirements. The proposed bill, sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ), would create ...

Today, Friday the 13th, the Organization of American States puts its stamp of approval on Venezuela's embattled political opposition when it swears in Venezuelan Supreme Court judges, allowing them to operate here in Washington, D.C, rather than Caracas. Far from symbolic, it is the beginning of the establishment of a parallel government-in-exile and sets ...

Since its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has waged a robust disinformation and influence campaign in the Balkans. Over the past few years, the Russians have steadily ramped up their activity in southeast Europe, analysts told The Cipher Brief. The West does not have “coherent ...

U.S. companies got a disturbing preview of just how Russia might be able to steal their secrets, with news that Kaspersky Lab anti-virus software was allegedly used to hack an unsuspecting NSA contractor. Russian state-sponsored hackers reportedly stole critical details on how the U.S. conducts cyber espionage and defends against ...

Russian state-sponsored hackers were able to steal National Security Agency material on methods they use to conduct cyber espionage as well as how they help defend critical U.S. government networks, according to The Wall Street Journal. An NSA contractor placed the material on his or her private computer – a ...

Following a U.S. government-wide ban last month and recent news reports alleging that Kaspersky Lab enabled Russian intelligence to swipe highly classified NSA material from an employee’s private computer, questions have begun to swirl regarding the Moscow-based company’s relationship with the Kremlin. The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with Chris ...

After reports that highly classified intelligence material was taken from a NSA contractor’s private computer through the individual’s use of Kaspersky Lab’s antivirus software, all eyes turned to the Moscow-based company’s relationship with Russian intelligence and the Kremlin. As private companies using the antivirus software scramble to assess their exposure, ...

Russian state-sponsored hackers reportedly stole details in 2015 on how the U.S. spies on foreign intelligence targets through cyber espionage, as well as how it defends against cyber operations directed at its classified networks. According to the Wall Street Journal, the material was taken from a NSA contractor’s private computer ...