Bottom Line Up Front On October 19, Saudi Arabia once again changed its official response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi from a denial to an implausible cover story. The manner in which other countries react to the official version of events from Riyadh is extremely important; Saudi citizens ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On October 18, the Taliban assassinated General Abdul Raziq, the extremely powerful and controversial police chief of Kandahar Province. The Governor of Kandahar, Zalmai Wesa, was injured in the attack, while the province’s intelligence chief, Gen. Abdul Momin, was killed. The head of U.S. military ...

Bottom Line Up Front As the details continue to emerge, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi appears to be a political assassination, potentially orchestrated by the Saudi government. There are reports, given credence by President Trump, that the royal family will seek to blame ‘rogue elements’ for Khashoggi’s murder, however implausible ...

Bottom Line Up Front Iran’s Shi’a militia allies in Iraq enable the mullahs to exert substantial influence over Baghdad, and will continue to do so no matter the composition of the new Iraqi government. Key Iraqi Shi’a militia commanders are emerging as prominent politicians in their own right, capable of ...

Bottom Line Up Front Russia continues to attack the data and computer networks of Western countries and organizations. Moscow will target any organization that seeks to report the truth on the Kremlin’s criminal activities, from the downing of flight MH-17 to more banal Russian actions like sports doping. On October ...

Bottom Line Up Front: On October 01, Iran fired several ballistic missiles at Islamic State targets in Syria. Tehran claimed that the missiles were launched in response to the September 22 terrorist attack on a military parade in Ahvaz, Iran, that killed at least 24 people. The U.S. remains concerned ...

Pakistan sits at a critical crossroads of U.S. Counterterrorism efforts, and geo-political strategy with China. Pakistan has elected a former cricket player, Imran Khan, as it’s newest Prime Minister.  Pakistan’s new Leader could prove to be a spoiler in US/Afghanistan relations, as he’s previously expressed support for the Taliban, criticized ...

For decades, former secretary of state and White House chief of staff James Baker has touted his version of a salty military catchphrase as a good-government mantra: “Prior preparation prevents poor performance.” That doesn’t necessarily apply to intelligence; even exquisite inputs from the CIA and other spy agencies cannot guarantee that ...

Update: June 18, 2018 - Despite an incredibly rare ceasefire between the Afghan Government and the Taliban in observance of Eid al-Fitr, two deadly suicide bombings rocked Jalalabad over the weekend.   Officials said the latest attack in eastern Nangarhar Province killed at least 18 people and wounded as many as ...

The June 12th summit with North Korea will be an important beginning of a process that eventually results in the Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons facilities. This is the goal, but there’s justified skepticism that this objective can be achieved, especially ...

It has now been 18 months since the November 2016 presidential election, during which the U.S. intelligence community believes Russia acted not only to interfere with U.S. elections, but with clear preference for one of the candidates. However, Washington and many of America’s leaders are still not on the same ...

Six years ago this month, almost to the day, Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly accompanied then- Border Chief Michael J. Fisher to the U.S. Border with Mexico, seeking a better understanding of the complex geography and tactics required to patrol each section of the often treacherous divide.  Back ...

There is one truth in terrorism that intelligence officials and national security experts have seen proven over the past few years: terrorist tactics are continuously evolving.  The Washington Post reported last month that the TSA is now adjusting its own tactics as terrorists turn toward more lone wolf attacks. On ...

As they strolled on the beach at Dalian earlier this week, Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un had a lot to discuss. China’s idea of the perfect Korean settlement is simple: North Korea should denuclearise completely in return for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the peninsula. In one stroke, ...

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Washington featured both the first state dinner of the Trump presidency as well as an address to Congress. Macron arrived with a clearly stated mission: to convince President Donald Trump of the importance of the Iran nuclear deal and U.S. multilateral engagement in the ...

During the leadup to the 2016 presidential elections, Russia bots, trolls and media outlets such as RT and Sputnik were actively messaging about the political contest that eventually resulted in the election of President Donald Trump. Cyberattacks on servers used by the two major American political parties were traced by ...

President Donald Trump is considering launching air strikes on Syria, if his own tweets are to be believed – an action that could show the value of switching from U.S. ground troops to a mostly air-focused campaign that would check the already decimated ISIS but avoid the risks and costs ...

In response to the “barbaric” chemical attack by the “animal” Assad on Douma, a suburb of Damascus, over the weekend, President Donald Trump has promised that Assad and his patrons Russia and Iran would pay a “big price.” Short of regime change, an American strike will be viewed as a ...

Editor's Note: The Cipher Brief reached out to former CIA Director John Brennan for a response to the published op-ed, but he declined to comment. - Russian President Vladimir Putin has directed most of Russia’s military and intelligence resources against Russia’s “Main Enemy,” the United States, since he became prime ...

The commander-in-chief and his national security team are sending mixed signals on U.S. policy in Syria. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said: “The primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We’ve almost completed that mission, and we’ll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others ...

The United States is in the midst of the most resounding policy shift on cyber conflict, one with profound implications for national security and the future of the internet. The just-released U.S. Cyber Command “vision” accurately diagnoses the current state of cyber conflict and outlines an appropriate new operational model ...

History suggests that applying the wrong operational framework to an emerging strategic environment is a recipe for failure. During the World War I, both sides failed to realize that large scale artillery barrages followed by massed infantry assaults were hopeless on a battlefield that strongly favored well-entrenched defense supported by ...

The West’s coordinated expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal is a sign, perhaps, of a reinvigorated transatlantic relationship – a relationship that pro-Kremlin social media accounts have actively sought to undermine. Until recently, however, most of the attention on ...

The Trump administration is hinting it will soon follow through with threats to curtail foreign aid to countries that don’t vote with Washington at the United Nations. The irony is, more and more countries are voting with the U.S., at record rates, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping the ...

Cipher Brief network expert Michel Flournoy, former senior Obama administration defense official, offered advice to her former European counterparts at the German Marshall Forum in Brussels this month on how to manage their anxiety in the age of President Donald Trump – advice made all the more timely, given Thursday’s ...

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has won over the American president. He now has a simple message for the American people: we’re the modern Gulf ally you’ve been looking for, to offset the threat of Iran, keep you safe from al Qaeda in Yemen and invest our oil wealth ...

Monday marks 15 years since President George W. Bush announced the start of the Iraq war, followed by a 'decapitation' air strike on Baghdad meant to target Saddam Hussein. After a 48-hour deadline for Saddam to leave Iraq expired, ground troops from the U.S., UK, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq ...

The key to understanding the remarkable developments over North Korea in recent weeks is that the two Koreas have been working jointly to manage the perceived risks from the United States and China. This cooperation has been managed on intelligence channels often employing relationships forged during the Sunshine Policy over ...

BRUSSELS – European officials are still going through the stages of grief, more than a year after President Donald Trump was elected, stuck somewhere between anger and denial. They took out their frustrations over the latest Trump tariff moves on the few administration officials who braved the German Marshall Fund’s ...

In Washington, there may be division and confusion about how to deal with Russian cyber-based interference. But 25 miles north, at Fort Meade, home of U.S. Cyber Command, they are angry and ready. Cyber Command’s new strategy demands that, “We must not cede cyberspace superiority.” The goal is “superiority” through ...

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closed on Sunday, but the games may have opened the door for dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Following a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean representatives, the South Korean government announced that North Korea was willing to have talks ...

Bottom Line: While the Trump administration has recently pressured South Korea on trade practices, the two nations remain united on pushing North Korea toward denuclearization, despite Pyongyang’s attempts to drive a wedge between the two. It is unlikely that their financial disagreements will disrupt that united front, but the money ...

If the United States is to hold a military parade, as President Donald Trump witnessed last year in Paris, it should be the right kind of parade. Our true power is not, and has not been for a long time, just fearsome weapons and trained and experienced warriors. Secretary of ...

Bottom line: After the mass shooting at the Parkland, Fla., school this week, the Trump administration’s focus on tackling mental health issues may produce legislation that empowers law enforcement to identify troubled would-be attackers. But such action may fail to stem the tide of gun-related mass shootings if not coupled ...

The U.S. coalition says in defending its own troops, it killed an estimated 100 pro-Assad regime fighters on Wednesday. This clash, which took place in Khusham near the Euphrates River, is the largest reported to date between U.S.-backed forces and pro-regime forces in Syria. Here’s what happened, according to public ...

Is the U.S. drawing down its military presence in Iraq, following a declaration of victory over ISIS? Messages from Iraqi and U.S. spokesmen are muddled: An Iraqi government spokesman said Monday the U.S. has begun to reduce the number of its troops in-country. An unnamed senior official close to Iraq’s ...

Cipher Brief experts found President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union speech light on detail and substance. Trump promised to defeat ISIS, keep pressure on North Korea, and keep Guantanamo Bay open, among a grab bag of briefly mentioned national security issues – ideas which most of our experts ...

“Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster. No vision. No purpose. No direction. No strategy.” Then-presidential-candidate Donald Trump said that in his first foreign policy speech in April 2016, when he was attacking President Barack Obama’s track record. Candidate Trump distorted the situation then, but his words certainly ...

President Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to visit the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, since President Bill Clinton in 2000. His message: America’s new tax measures are good for business, as long as it serves the “America First” agenda of his administration. Cipher Brief expert and former ...

A failure to shut down North Korea’s nuclear program would not only pose a threat to U.S. territory, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told a congressional panel. It would encourage other countries to develop their own atomic arsenals, perpetuating a dangerous spread of the world’s deadliest weapons. “If North ...

At it again. This week’s government shutdown is an all-too-familiar refrain for those of us with lengthy government service. Shutdowns – and the impact of the supposedly temporary sequestration deal of 2013 – are annoying, diverting of precious time and attention from the national security missions of the United States, ...

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 ...

“Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii . . . this is not a drill.” Now that we know what it feels like for Hawaii to be under ballistic missile attack, perhaps it’s a good time to ask how well the island is actually defended from such an attack. It’s a ...

“We have to deal with North Korea as it is, not as we wish it to be.” Does President Trump understand those words? They were spoken less than two months ago by former Defense Secretary William Perry, who twice conducted negotiations with the North Koreans nearly 20 years ago. A new ...

Bottom Line: Since 2016, the North Korean regime has shown its hand as a state sponsor of cybercrime by targeting international financial institutions, engaging in broad ransomware campaigns, and illegally accruing and laundering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. This pattern of behavior supports Pyongyang’s objective of self-financing the ruling Korean Worker’s ...

The United States owes its existence as an independent nation partly to objections over excessive searches by British colonial authorities. Yet today, it is possible for an individual to go to prison as a result of evidence the U.S. government has deliberately kept hidden and that it may have gathered ...

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend security assistance to the Pakistani military pending “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network represents an attempt to hold Pakistan accountable. While leaders in Islamabad are highly unlikely to shift their national security strategy to align with U.S. interests, the administration ...

Donald Trump’s ascendency to the presidency has led to a flurry of interest in not only his mental health, but more generally, in the mental health of world leaders. This past week’s commentary regarding Trump’s state of mind highlights the perils and challenges – both ethical and methodological – of ...

Don’t be diverted by gossip and bizarre tweets. The most important record of events shows that President Donald Trump and his allies are taking the U.S. federal government down a road toward authoritarianism, starting with their early attempts to destroy the integrity of the Justice Department, FBI and the intelligence ...

During my career as an operations officer in the CIA’s Clandestine Service, I was fortunate to have served in a number of out-of-the-way places. Where I lived and worked—the Balkans, Latin America and Eurasia—the term “developing world” did not just refer to economics. It also accurately described the political circumstances ...