Editor's Note: For this year’s Memorial Day feature, The Cipher Brief revisits its coverage examining the future of U.S. aircraft carriers.  As I write, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is steaming toward the Korean Peninsula—finally.  It does so at a time—as happens about once or twice per ...

President Donald Trump's first overseas visit was "Trumpist" in its ambitions, ambiance, and expanse: the three monotheistic religions, NATO, EU, and G-7 gatherings; a whirlwind of cultural experiences; and "finally Make America Great Again" with commercial and arms sales, investments, and gestures. But the core of the visit was reassurance ...

On May 9, Moon Jae-in was elected as the new President of South Korea after six months of political turmoil and a power vacuum caused by Park Geun-hye’s impeachment scandal. This is a return of nationalistic and progressive leadership after the past two conservative administrations, and Moon’s landslide victory indicates ...

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after last year’s U.S. election, was quick to meet with President Donald Trump to seek reassurance on the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance and find areas of economic cooperation after Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – seen as necessary for Japan’s economic revitalization. Tokyo ...

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington last week to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. Despite budding tensions over the Trump administration’s decision to arm the Kurdish YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units) militia in Syria, which Erdogan considers to be a terrorist organization, the meeting largely went off without a ...

Former CIA Director John Brennan for the first time publicly said he is concerned about possible ties between Russia and members of the Trump campaign. “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign ...

When it comes to Russia, is President Trump following his own guideline, America First, and if not, why? The infamous May 10 Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak provided another example of the odd way Trump avoids being critical of Moscow. I am ...

The situation between the US and North Korea remains tenuous and characterized by uncertainty. North Korea’s cancellation of the upcoming summit with South Korea over the recent US/South Korean joint military exercises underscores the fragile nature of the proposed talks between the two countries. While the United States Department of ...

Scrutiny over President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia heightened this week as former FBI Director Robert Mueller was selected as special counsel to lead the inquiry into Russian influence on last year’s presidential election. It comes as the FBI and Congress continue their separate investigations into Russia’s meddling in the ...

On the night of March 10, 2004, Deputy Attorney General James Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller sped to George Washington University Hospital and stopped two of President George W. Bush’s aides from getting the signature of Attorney General John Ashcroft, gravely ill, on a legally dubious National Security Agency ...

The Trump Administration plans to cut the U.S. contribution to United Nations peacekeeping by $1 billion, from its current level of $2.2 billion, as part of a broader effort by the White House to make other nations contribute their fair share in supporting what it considers bloated international institutions. The ...

The effectiveness of UN peacekeeping is inherently difficult to measure. With the Trump Administration proposing cuts to foreign aid that would impact UN peacekeeping missions, The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign and Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at the United ...

UN peacekeeping is rarely headline news, but when the Trump Administration announced in March that it was seeking to make cuts of $1 billion in funding for UN peacekeeping, the announcement attracted wide attention. The United States has agreed to contribute $2.2 billion toward the cost of UN peacekeeping activities ...

President Donald Trump is defending his "absolute right" to share information for "humanitarian reasons" with Russia following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak last week. In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Trump said he had shared "facts pertaining to ...

North Korea’s successful launch of the road-mobile intermediate range Hwasong-12 missile on Sunday yet again demonstrated the Kim Jong-un regime’s perseverance and improving technical acumen in developing ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. The missile had a 30-minute flight time and reached an altitude of more than 1300 miles. ...

For decades, North Korea’s continued advancements in ballistic missile technology has sustained U.S. interest in missile defense that can protect the U.S. homeland from nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is the Pentagon’s solution for targeting and destroying long-range missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Though ...

President Trump’s first trip overseas beginning Friday will test his ability to stay on script, limit impulsive, off-hand, public remarks, and stop controversial tweeting, all of which have caused him trouble here at home and abroad. The schedule will take him first to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet ...

Imagine the middle of nowhere Alaska. Got that in your head? Great. Now drive 2½  hours further into nowhere and you have arrived at Fort Greeley. I visited in the fall of 2015. It was cold out there—a wet, bitter cold.  It’s also slightly eerie. The absolutely enormous ravens all ...

When it comes to the world’s most fragile states, two of the wealthiest and most-developed countries, the United States and the United Kingdom, would not normally top the list. But by certain key metrics, they do: both significantly worsened in the category of “group grievance” – the indicator that measures feelings ...

President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey coincides with the ramping up of multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump campaign associates. On Tuesday, Senate investigators on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ...

Late Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump fired the Director of the FBI, Jim Comey, citing his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server – an investigation concluded in 2016, and one for which Trump praised Comey during the presidential campaign. The suddenness of the ...

As the White House sent shockwaves through Washington Tuesday, with the announcement that President Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey, James Clapper –  former Director of National Intelligence and The Cipher Brief network expert— said it was “a huge loss for the nation, the FBI, and the Intelligence ...

As FBI Director, James Comey was not only a pivotal member of the Intelligence Community (IC), but the head of an organization investigating whether Russia interfered in last year’s U.S. elections. To get an IC perspective on Comey’s dismissal by the Trump Administration, The Cipher Brief’s Leone Lakhani talked with ...

FBI Director James Comey’s firing is likely to have massive implications for the image of the United States around the world – particularly if, as former National Counterterrorism Center Director Mike Leiter suggests, a special prosecutor is appointed to oversee the investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election. The ...

Despite former President Barack Obama’s efforts to cut U.S. military commitments in the Middle East, events quickly drew his Administration back into the region. Civil war in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and, particularly, ISIS’s 2014 expansion into Iraq combined to keep Washington militarily involved the region. However, the nature of this ...

U.S. special operations forces are widely considered to be some of the most highly trained and effective military units in the world and, as a result, they have played a critical role in America’s wars. Nowhere is that truer than in the Middle East and North Africa, where the U.S. ...

The role of U.S. special operations forces (SOF) in the Middle East has expanded steadily since the inception of the counter-ISIS campaign in 2014. In part, this expansion is due to the metastasis of ISIS into Libya, Yemen, and other countries beyond its major land-holding presence in Iraq and Syria. But ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the State Department staff last week that our policy must ensure American security and economic interests first but also reflect American values. He said our relationships needed rebalancing and then toured the globe to describe how we should be active everywhere. He’s also going to ...

The administration of President Donald Trump has thrown key tenets of U.S foreign policy into question. After campaigning on a platform that skewered global free trade deals, called for economically nationalist policies, and questioned the U.S. alliance system, President Trump has so far done little to assuage international fears that ...

As North Korea’s provocations increase, questions have been raised about whether the Trump Administration’s responses have made matters worse and if there really is a strategy to deal with Pyongyang’s expanding nuclear and missile programs. President Donald Trump has used harsh rhetoric toward North Korea, saying “all options are on ...

When Yitzhak Rabin met with President Gerald Ford on his first visit to Washington as Israel’s Prime Minister in 1974, he sought to cash in on Ford’s earlier promise to him that he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem if he ever became president. Ford remembered the ...

The apparent shift by the Trump Administration towards more traditional foreign policy has been welcomed by many inside, and more outside, of the U.S., as the global security system depends on a strong American role. Nevertheless, even a more ‘normal’ Trump foreign policy harbors risks, known and unknown. The known ...

It might be a “ridiculous standard,” as President Donald Trump put it, but presidents are measured by their first 100 days in office. In fact, even Trump has bought into it. On the 90th day of his administration, he proclaimed, “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.” ...

As we approach President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in the White House, it remains difficult to discern U.S. policy toward Russia.  The Administration has yet to articulate a clear policy, and its actions and words send mixed messages regarding American intentions toward Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  There ...

As the Trump Administration marks 100 days in office, there have been shuffles in the National Security Council, a strike in Syria, tough talk on North Korea, and plans for a controversial travel ban. What did the Trump team get right? And what was off the mark? The Cipher Brief ...

When President Barack Obama nominated Michele Flournoy to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, she became the highest-ranking woman in the Pentagon’s history.  She was rumored to be Hillary Clinton’s pick for Secretary of Defense.  And after President Donald Trump’s election, General James Mattis asked her to be his ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel spoke with Michael Leiter, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, about U.S. government efforts to counter violent extremism. Leiter says that instead of debating the name of the program, officials should focus on creating a single department charged with leading initiatives to counter violent ...

U.S. counterterrorism efforts have achieved their fair share of successes – killing terrorist leaders with drone strikes and commando raids, keeping terrorist cells on the run so they can’t plot future attacks, and destroying militants’ underground bases and infrastructure. But one glaring weakness in the U.S. counterterrorism strategy is the ...

In February, reports emerged that the administration of President Donald Trump was considering rebranding the Obama-era Countering Violent Extremism program to “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.” This idea quickly sparked a public backlash from rights groups and Democratic congressional representatives who argue that the re-designation would both discriminate against Muslim communities ...

The process of radicalization, by which disaffected members of society are convinced to embrace violent means to pursue the goals of a terrorist ideology, has been intensely studied since the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Since then, the threat of international terrorism has become one of the ...

The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel sat down with Charlie Allen, former Under Secretary for Security and Analysis at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to discuss the continued threat that individuals who become radicalized pose to U.S. security. According to Allen, several factors drive people toward jihadist ideology including a ...

It is probably not a bad thing that U.S. President Donald Trump recently dispatched Jared Kusher, his son-in-law and his Administration’s jack-of-all-issues, to Iraq. As one of the few White House advisers implicitly trusted by the president, Kushner may be the person to quickly get the President’s ear about what ...

Now that President Donald Trump has demonstrated his willingness to get tough with a regional bad actor by using a cruise missile attack to punish the Assad regime and try to deter it from any future uses of chemical weapons, similar deterrent actions against challenging Iranian behavior seem more likely. ...

The United States has been the standard-bearer for free trade, multilateralism, and globalization since the end of World War II. However, as the Trump administration seems to back away from that historic role, new powers like China are rushing – at least rhetorically – to take advantage of the strategic ...

Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has backed up the protectionist – and even isolationist – rhetoric of his campaign with concrete action. In a flurry of activity, the president has confirmed his intent not to pursue ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty, signed two executive ...

The presidency of Donald Trump has had a rocky start, punctuated by embarrassing personnel shakeups, sloppy messaging, and major policy changes. However, the administration has remained relatively consistent on one central economic theme, first introduced in the campaign and vigorously pursued after President Trump’s inauguration, that of “America First.” From ...

Donald Trump entered the presidency committed to improving U.S. ties with Russia, but less than three months into his term, the President says the relationship is at “an all-time low.” Trump’s comments come in the wake of last week's U.S. missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base in response to ...

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that “North Korea is looking for trouble” following Pyongyang’s threat to use nuclear force against the United States.  North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said, “Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow for meetings with Russian officials at a time when U.S. rhetoric toward Russia has intensified in the wake of a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria. The U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week in response to ...

In his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his counterpart a Chinese calligraphy scroll with the aphorism “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Despite the lofty stakes involved in one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships, the achievements ...