In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, U.S. defense officials announced a rare military strike on a senior Islamic State group (ISG) leader in Libya. Wall-to-wall press coverage of events in Europe made the strike on the Iraqi commander Wissam al-Zubaydi (aka Abu Nabil al Anbari) seem relatively trivial, but ...

Osama bin Laden would be a happy man were he still alive. His hopes and dreams have seemingly come to fruition. And, the master plan that one of his closest disciples devised for him a decade ago to reverse al Qaeda’s then waning fortunes and launch it on a trajectory ...

Intelligence failure: those are two words we often hear following a devastating terrorist attack such as what we saw this weekend in Paris.  Almost by definition, if the intelligence community didn’t know about it, then it failed in its core mission: keeping citizens safe.  But when a small group of ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Rob Richer, CIA's former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Richer spoke about the importance of cooperation between US intelligence agencies and their foreign counterparts. He also discussed how legal restrictions have hurt the Intelligence Community’s ability to collect. The ...

The Paris attacks last Friday demonstrated ISIS ability to strike in the heart of Western Europe. Kevin Hulbert, a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, tells The Cipher Brief that these attacks signify a paradigm shift in ISIS’ tactics. The Cipher Brief: Do you think the ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with General Keith Alexander, former Director of the National Security Agency. Alexander discussed the Paris attacks, the impact of the Snowden leaks on intelligence collection, and the trade off between privacy and security. TCB: You were the longest-serving NSA director.  During your tenure, you saw ...

Over the course of the last 18 months, since ISIS burst on to the scene with its dramatic regional tactical advances, capturing Mosul in Iraq and significant territory in Syria, it has maintained that its primary focus was on expanding its Islamic State, or Caliphate, in the Middle East and ...

ISIS is part of the multi-generational struggle against radical Islam which will likely dominate the first half of the 21st century similar to the fight against communism which dominated the second half of the 20th century. ISIS is the most successful terrorist organization in modern history. It is driven by ...

Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was preparing for his new post-NYPD role as Vice Chair at K2 Intelligence in New York when news of the Paris attacks started rolling in last week.  He knew from initial reports that the news would be bad, but he wasn’t at ...

Conventional wisdom among Western officials indicated ISIS was primarily interested in gaining territory for its caliphate or Islamic state.   Big bold attacks against Western targets were the hallmark of al Qaeda.  But the coordinated, multiple attacks by at least eight terrorists in Paris this weekend, as well as the suicide ...

As the military campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS continues to dominate U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, there is also an effort to disrupt and eliminate the terrorist group’s financial capacity. Terrorist financing networks are complex and intricate. Groups pull together funds from a variety of sources ...

For decades, belligerent groups have financed their operations by tapping into a variety of locally available economies, including illegal ones. The Shining Path in Peru was among the first groups to tax drug cultivation and smuggling. The Khmer Rouge in Cambodia prolonged its life by being heavily involved in logging. ...

In mid-October, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea published its latest report confirming that despite years of effort and the recent territorial gains that AMISOM (the African Union’s mission in Somalia) and the Somali government have made against al-Shabaab, the group continues to garner the finances it needs ...

The Somalia based terror group al-Shabaab has “diversified its economy” to ensure a constant income, from kidnapping for ransom and confiscating food and aid sent to rural populations, to forcing households to have expatriate family members send remittances from abroad to al-Shabaab’s coffers.  Some of the group’s most notable financial ...

Long before ISIS, transnational terrorist groups had discovered the use of the Internet and social networks. Terrorists went online for recruiting, fund-raising, mission-planning, intelligence gathering, and propagandizing about their cause.  Yet, the efforts of ISIS have garnered unusual attention. In part, that is because their activities are both vigorous and ...

On Sept. 28 in New York City, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) co-hosted with the U.S. State Department the first Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism, an initiative that grew from February’s White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism.  The Global Youth Summit highlighted the fantastic ongoing work of 75 ...

Since before 9/11, Al-Qaeda and other jihadi groups have been quietly investing in cyber jihad, which is now disseminated and promoted by a new, Internet-savvy generation. Jihadis have advanced from primitive password-protected websites to freely available social media platforms. Al-Qaeda, and now the Islamic State (ISIS), have infested YouTube, Twitter, ...

CIPHER SNAPSHOT: At a time when the Middle East is ablaze, the arrival of the Hajj presents a complex security challenge. September 22 marks the start of the Hajj, an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Participation in the Hajj is a religious obligation for both Sunni and Shiite ...

The security of U.S. borders has become one of the key issues in the U.S. Presidential race.  Some of the Republican candidates support building a fence along the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and possibly even terrorists from entering the country. General John Kelly worries that ...

In 1915, the British poet Thomas Hardy wrote a short masterpiece about the sinking of Titanic, which had occurred several years earlier. He describes the long string of separate events by which both the ship and the iceberg are formed – one in a shipyard and the other in the ...

The convergence of ruthless terrorist networks and greedy criminal underworld operatives can pose unique and dangerous challenges. It offers terrorists access to human resources and skillsets that can enhance their operational capabilities, while it offers criminals new sources of profit and political rationalization. But convergence also entails risks for both terrorist ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with the DEA's former Chief of International Operations, Mike Vigil to discuss the threat of convergence. The Cipher Brief: Convergence is the idea that unrelated adversaries —for example, drug dealers and terrorists — could find common cause and cooperate and share resources. Do you think convergence ...

The call came on June 23. Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the spokesman for the Islamic State, in June urged ISIS followers to go on a month-long killing spree. “Muslims, embark and hasten toward jihad,” said al-Adnani in an audio statement released last month. “O mujahedeen everywhere, rush and go to make ...

Al-Qa’ida’s number two, Nasir Wahishi, is believed to have died in a drone strike in southern Yemen last month. He ran one of the most technologically sophisticated terror organizations in history – Al-Qai’da in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). His operatives plotted attacks using bombs hidden in printer cartridges, a man’s ...

Seemingly a typical teen living in the Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital, Ali Shukri Amin, 17, led a different life online as curator of a pro-ISIS twitter account. Last week, Amin pled guilty in federal court to providing material support to ISIS. This case, and others like the shootout in Dallas or the ...