Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump and his national security team are struggling to develop an Afghanistan strategy. His defense secretary, Jim Mattis, presented a proposal last month, which included an increase in the U.S.  military presence in Afghanistan by 4,000 troops, but the president rejected it, ordering his ...

Americans are suffering from an undiagnosed condition. Overwhelmed and outmatched by the allure, complexity, and insecurity of networked technologies, we’ve been left confused and compromised across multiple fault lines. The public’s poor aptitude for digital life has now moved beyond the realm of just personal risk and actually poses a ...

As the Trump Administration struggles to develop a strategy in Afghanistan, Russia has surreptitiously inserted itself into the mix. In late July, reports once again surfaced that Russia has been providing material support to Taliban militants battling U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces. In some respects, this seems as though a ...

Over the last few months, Taliban orchestrated attacks have wreaked havoc across Afghanistan on a near-daily basis, leading to mounting deaths tolls for Afghan and U.S. forces as well as for Afghan citizens. To make matters worse, earlier this year, reports began to circulate in the U.S. that Russia is ...

Nearly everyone now accepts that Russia attempted to interfere with the U.S. electoral process with the aim of harming Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Even President Donald Trump has grudgingly admitted that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. But for a long, long time – far too ...

Robert Hanssen. Aldrich Ames. Those are just two of the faces peering out from a mock-up “Wall of Shame” of double agents and leakers that leads down a hallway to the United States government's senior counterintelligence official’s office. The pictures in the nondescript office building just outside Washington, D.C. serve ...

In retaliation for the wave of new sanctions the United States Congress passed, Moscow has ordered the U.S. cut 755 diplomatic staff by September. The demand will likely end up hitting local Russian staff particularly hard, given they vastly outnumber the American embassy and consulate personnel in Russia. President Donald ...

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has demanded a cut in the number of United States diplomats in the country and said it will seize two U.S. diplomatic properties in Russia. These actions come as a response to the U.S. Congress passing a wave of new sanctions against Moscow Thursday afternoon. Both chambers ...

The United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation on Tuesday to impose tough new sanctions and codify existing sanctions against Russia into law, placing limits on any possible efforts by the president to try to lift sanctions against Moscow. The vote was 419-3. The sanctions package also targets Iran ...

President Trump’s second, private meeting with Russian President Putin at the recent G20 meeting has been the subject of considerable scrutiny. While perhaps politically unwise or even possibly nefarious, an accidental outcome of the meeting may be to make it harder for the Russians to retaliate for the December 2016 ...

President Trump has decided to end the CIA-sponsored program to arm Syrian anti-Assad rebels, according to a Washington Post report on Wednesday.  The newspaper quotes U.S. officials as saying the decision to wind down the Obama-era program was made almost one month ago after a meeting in the Oval Office ...

President Trump has decided to end the CIA-sponsored program to arm Syrian anti-Assad rebels, according to a Washington Post report on Wednesday. The newspaper quotes U.S. officials as saying the decision to wind down the Obama-era program was made almost one month ago after a meeting in the Oval Office ...

President Donald Trump has nominated Jon Huntsman for U.S. ambassador to Russia as his administration comes under ever-increasing scrutiny over its ties to Russia. If confirmed, Huntsman will face a difficult landscape trying to balance the president’s desire to improve relations with the Kremlin’s machinations in Ukraine, Syria, elections in ...

The Trump Administration is ending the covert program to support Syrian rebels fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Washington Post. This CIA program, in place since 2013, armed and trained the moderate rebels in the war-torn country, a dynamic disliked by Assad’s main backer – ...

Gone are the times when the Italian Communist Party preserved its political and strategic autonomy when competing in domestic politics, while supporting the Soviet Union in international politics. Firmly in the Western camp, all Italian governments over the past few decades were happy enough to be members of the two ...

Russia has increased its meddling in European countries outside the former Soviet bloc recently. Moscow’s support for populist parties – including France’s National Front, Italy’s Five Star Movement, and Britain’s UK Independence Party – has shown tangible results. During the French presidential election this year, for example, centrist candidate – ...

Russia interfered in France’s recent presidential elections, supporting far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and is likely to meddle in Germany’s upcoming federal elections in September. Beyond these countries, there is speculation that Russia has close ties with the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) and also maintains ties with some of ...

Reports late last week revealed that the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya also included a Russian-American lobbyist named Rinat Akhmetshin, a former member of the Soviet military who may have ties to Russian counterintelligence. The Cipher Brief asked Steve Hall, a former member of the ...

Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer and a Russian-American Lobbyist – among others - begs the question, was this a Russian intelligence operation? If so, is this typical Russian tradecraft, or something out of the ordinary? And what should we expect in the coming years? The ...

“Mr. Sessions, are you familiar with what spies call tradecraft?” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June. “A little bit,” replied Sessions. “Do you like spy fiction: John le Carre, Daniel Silva, Jason Matthews?” Cotton continued, finally asking, “have you ever, in any of these fantastical ...

Donald Trump Jr. eagerly accepted help connected with what he was explicitly told was the Russian government’s effort to boost his father’s campaign, a move that former top Intelligence Community officials said comes straight out of the Russian playbook on tradecraft and raises alarming new questions about Russian interference in ...

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that the two had discussed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. After Putin denied any Russian involvement, Tillerson said Trump “is ...

In his readout of the two hour and 15 minute meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump repeatedly brought up Russian meddling in the U.S. election during the meeting. In his words, the two leaders had “a very ...

After weeks of anticipation, U.S. President Donald Trump finally met face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. The relationship between the two leaders has been characterized by lofty praise and suggestions of cooperation on the fight against ISIS. The relationship between ...

President Donald Trump immediately brought up the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election during his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, according to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey ...

It was good to see President Donald Trump acknowledge on Twitter recently that the Russians did indeed conduct cyber attacks and influence operations against the United States during last year’s presidential elections.  In his inimitable style, Trump unsurprisingly made the acknowledgement while criticizing the Obama administration for knowing of the ...

Russians are fond of their aphorism, v chuzhoi monastir so svoim ustavom, ne khodyat – “No-one goes to another monastery with their own charter," the Russian equivalent to “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Soviet leaders and their Russian successors have sought to exploit Russians' appreciation for their special historical ...

As the dust settles on last Tuesday’s NotPetya malware outbreak, it is increasingly evident that this was not a ransomware, money-making attack at all; rather it was a targeted, destructive cyberattack against Ukraine. It utilized deception in which it was designed to look like ransomware but wasn’t. It targeted obscure ...

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first meeting later this week comes against the backdrop of a cyberattack thought to be linked to Russia that largely wreaked havoc in Ukraine. This latest cyberattack, which spread globally, offers yet another potent example of the way the Kremlin has treated ...

Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News recently reported that the Trump Administration sought to lift economic sanctions on Russia immediately after entering office, leading to an under-the-radar battle within the government. Needless to say, the Trump Administration has never been shy about their desire to build better relations with Russia. To ...

On Friday, The Washington Post published a detailed account of the challenge the Obama administration faced in the run up to the 2016 presidential election as the U.S. intelligence community repeatedly raised concerns of Russian hacking. The story is striking in the regret expressed by former Obama officials and the ...

Last Sunday, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E fighter jet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 bomber in the U.S. military’s first air-to-air kill involving manned aircraft since the 1999 Kosovo campaign. In response, the Russian Ministry of Defense has condemned the incident as “a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the ...

After a U.S. Navy F/A-18E shot down a Syrian SU-22 bomber on Sunday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly condemned the action, announced that a military hotline between U.S.-led coalition and Russian forces had been shut down, and declared that any U.S. jets flying west of the Euphrates river ...

On June 18, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 fighter bomber near the town of al-Tabqa in eastern Syria.  According to coalition sources, the Syrian aircraft had bombed anti-Assad militias fighting Islamic State forces in the region and was shot down as part ...

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko dropped in to briefly meet President Donald Trump on Tuesday, a low-key visit that comes weeks before the U.S. leader’s expected sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin and as fighting flares in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian armed forces. Experts told The Cipher Brief ...

Showtime claimed its four-part documentary of Oliver Stone interviews with Vladimir Putin provided “unparalleled access” to the Russian ruler and “intimate insight into his personal and professional lives.” The timing of the show was certainly appealing, considering the intense media focus on Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Unfortunately, ...

Moscow ratcheted up its war of words against the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, after the Pentagon said it downed a Syrian military plane for the first time. That came as Tehran took an unprecedented step of firing ballistic missiles into eastern Syria, against what it called ISIS targets, over the ...

There is no adjective to which I have a greater aversion than “unprecedented.” Such language is most often intended to describe challenges more daunting than anyone has previously faced or circumstances not akin to anything seen in the past.  In truth, there are very few challenges that cannot benefit from ...

Russia’s Defense Ministry released a statement Friday that it is investigating whether it had killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, along with several other senior ISIS officials, in a May 28 airstrike that targeted a senior ISIS leadership meeting in a suburb of the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, ...

The dueling Republican and Democratic talking points on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election were on full display during the recent testimony of former CIA Director John Brennan to the House Intelligence Committee. Democratic members and surrogates concentrated their attention on potential abuse of power and obstruction of justice, ...

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday denied any improper contacts with Russian officials as he also testified to senators that he has not received any briefing on Russian active measures during the 2016 election. During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asked Sessions if he believed ...

Early last month, Russia put forward a “de-escalation” plan for Syria under which major opposition-held territories in western parts of the country, including northwestern Idlib province, northern Homs countryside, the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus, and parts of southern Syria, would become safe zones and fall under ceasefires to be ...

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is in Washington today meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.  Romania, a member of NATO, is a key strategic partner of the U.S., hosting a U.S. missile defense site.  But the eastern European nation also sits in a precarious location along the Black Sea, where the ...

Former FBI Director James Comey says President Donald Trump fired him last month because he did not like the way Comey was handling the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination by the Trump campaign. “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia ...

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), as Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is his party’s top figure investigating what he considers a critical Russian threat to the United States that has cost Moscow “peanuts.” “We are here,” he said in a statement prepared for Thursday’s hearing with former FBI Director ...

Former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify before Congress on Thursday about his discussions with President Donald Trump related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In his opening statement, released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey details his contacts with Trump — ...

In 1990, as a young assistant U.S. attorney, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) slipped into the national security world when he nailed the first FBI agent ever to be accused of espionage – for Moscow. Now he is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee – a subject he calls ...

Allegations that involve Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner persist, following U.S. media reports over the weekend. According to the Washington Post and New York Times, Kushner and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak discussed setting up  backchannel communications between Washington and Moscow, during the transition period in December.. The ...

The White House is again defending itself against allegations made in news reports, this time concerning the Washington Post’s story on Friday that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner – who currently serves as the President’s senior adviser – met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in December to discuss establishing back channel communications ...

On the heels of President Donald Trump’s Middle East tour and the terror attack in Manchester outside of an Ariana Grande concert this week, Trump and his fellow European heads of state are gathering in Brussels for a NATO summit. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked former NATO Supreme Allied ...