Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners


Quotes of the Day:

“You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of
the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”
- Václav Havel

“Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on the back of a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets to the universe.”
- Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in Superman (1978)



"To succeed, we must update, balance, and integrate all of the tools of American power and work with our allies and partners to do the same. . ..However, work remains to foster coordination across departments and agencies. Key steps include more effectively ensuring alignment of resources with our national security strategy, adapting the training and education of national security professionals to equip them to meet modern challenges, reviewing authorities and mechanisms to implement and coordinate assistance programs, and other policies and programs that strengthen coordination."
- U.S. National Security Strategy, May 2010 


1. Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon
2. Response from NSO Group to the Pegasus Project
3. Military-grade spyware found on journalists and activists' phones: report
4. Special Operations News Update - Monday, July 19, 2021 | SOF News
5. Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
6. Retired U.S. general: Afghanistan is disintegrating
7. What happened to Pat Tillman’s jersey? Here’s how the last Americans at Bagram Airfield rushed to secure mementos.
8. Former Green Beret, son, get Japan prison terms for Ghosn escape
9. China: Xi Jinping Is About To Make Most Important Strategic Decision Of Our Era – Analysis
10. Not just the money: Ransomware a growing political threat to U.S. interests
11. The Reassuring Data on the Delta Variant
12. Afghanistan withdraws diplomats from Pakistan following alleged kidnapping of ambassador's daughter
13. Pentagon drones ‘8 to 14 times’ costlier than banned Chinese craft
14. Microsoft Exchange email hack was caused by China, US says
15. Takeaways from the Pegasus Project
16. The Information Technology Counter-Revolution: Cheap, Disposable, and Decentralized
17. Despite the hype, iPhone security no match for NSO spyware
18. Biden-Xi summit coming into view
19. A Straightforward Primer On Critical Race Theory (and Why It Matters)
20. FDD | How Iranian Intelligence Hunts Down Dissidents While Protecting Al-Qaeda
21. FDD | Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey is a chance for my home country to heal
22. 19 Military Athletes to Represent U.S. at Tokyo Olympics
23. U.S. Will Formally Accuse China of Hacking Microsoft
24. Open letter to Senators on Operation Protect Democracy principles




1. Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon
This is an ideological war - open societies versus close societies - authoritarian regime versus the community of democracies. And China is leading the authoritarian charge: China seeks to export its authoritarian political system around the world in order to dominate regions, co-opt or coerce international organizations, create economic conditions favorable to China alone, and displace democratic institutions. Note; however, my "thesis" is not 100% correct as there are some democracies listed in the article and China is not specifically mentioned.


Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon
Spyware sold to authoritarian regimes used to target activists, politicians and journalists, data suggests
The Guardian · by Stephanie Kirchgaessner · July 18, 2021
Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak.
The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.
Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones.
The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016.
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit media organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to the leaked list and shared access with media partners as part of the Pegasus project, a reporting consortium.
The presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. However, the consortium believes the data is indicative of the potential targets NSO’s government clients identified in advance of possible surveillance attempts.
Quick Guide
What is in the Pegasus project data?
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Forensics analysis of a small number of phones whose numbers appeared on the leaked list also showed more than half had traces of the Pegasus spyware.
The Guardian and its media partners will be revealing the identities of people whose number appeared on the list in the coming days. They include hundreds of business executives, religious figures, academics, NGO employees, union officials and government officials, including cabinet ministers, presidents and prime ministers.
The list also contains the numbers of close family members of one country’s ruler, suggesting the ruler may have instructed their intelligence agencies to explore the possibility of monitoring their own relatives.
The disclosures begin on Sunday, with the revelation that the numbers of more than 180 journalists are listed in the data, including reporters, editors and executives at the Financial Times, CNN, the New York Times, France 24, the Economist, Associated Press and Reuters.
The phone number of a freelance Mexican reporter, Cecilio Pineda Birto, was found in the list, apparently of interest to a Mexican client in the weeks leading up to his murder, when his killers were able to locate him at a carwash. His phone has never been found so no forensic analysis has been possible to establish whether it was infected.
NSO said that even if Pineda’s phone had been targeted, it did not mean data collected from his phone contributed in any way to his death, stressing governments could have discovered his location by other means. He was among at least 25 Mexican journalists apparently selected as candidates for surveillance over a two-year period.
Without forensic examination of mobile devices, it is impossible to say whether phones were subjected to an attempted or successful hack using Pegasus.
NSO has always maintained it “does not operate the systems that it sells to vetted government customers, and does not have access to the data of its customers’ targets”.
In statements issued through its lawyers, NSO denied “false claims” made about the activities of its clients, but said it would “continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action”. It said the list could not be a list of numbers “targeted by governments using Pegasus”, and described the 50,000 figure as “exaggerated”.
The company sells only to military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies in 40 unnamed countries, and says it rigorously vets its customers’ human rights records before allowing them to use its spy tools.
The Israeli minister of defence closely regulates NSO, granting individual export licences before its surveillance technology can be sold to a new country.
Last month, NSO released a transparency report in which it claimed to have an industry-leading approach to human rights and published excerpts from contracts with customers stipulating they must only use its products for criminal and national security investigations.
There is nothing to suggest NSO’s customers did not also use Pegasus in terrorism and crime investigations, and the consortium also found numbers in the data belonging to suspected criminals.
However, the broad array of numbers in the list belonging to people who seemingly have no connection to criminality suggests some NSO clients are breaching their contracts with the company, spying on pro-democracy activists and journalists investigating corruption, as well as political opponents and government critics.
That thesis is supported by forensic analysis on the phones of a small sample of journalists, human rights activists and lawyers whose numbers appeared on the leaked list. The research, conducted by Amnesty’s Security Lab, a technical partner on the Pegasus project, found traces of Pegasus activity on 37 out of the 67 phones examined.
Q&A
What is the Pegasus project?
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The analysis also uncovered some sequential correlations between the time and date a number was entered into the list and the onset of Pegasus activity on the device, which in some cases occurred just a few seconds later.
Amnesty shared its forensic work on four iPhones with Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto that specialises in studying Pegasus, which confirmed they showed signs of Pegasus infection. Citizen Lab also conducted a peer-review of Amnesty’s forensic methods, and found them to be sound.
The consortium’s analysis of the leaked data identified at least 10 governments believed to be NSO customers who were entering numbers into a system: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Analysis of the data suggests the NSO client country that selected the most numbers – more than 15,000 – was Mexico, where multiple different government agencies are known to have bought Pegasus. Both Morocco and the UAE selected more than 10,000 numbers, the analysis suggested.
The phone numbers that were selected, possibly ahead of a surveillance attack, spanned more than 45 countries across four continents. There were more than 1,000 numbers in European countries that, the analysis indicated, were selected by NSO clients.
The presence of a number in the data does not mean there was an attempt to infect the phone. NSO says there were other possible purposes for numbers being recorded on the list.
Rwanda, Morocco, India and Hungary denied having used Pegasus to hack the phones of the individuals named in the list. The governments of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the UAE and Dubai did not respond to invitations to comment.
The Pegasus project is likely to spur debates over government surveillance in several countries suspected of using the technology. The investigation suggests the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán appears to have deployed NSO’s technology as part of his so-called war on the media, targeting investigative journalists in the country as well as the close circle of one of Hungary’s few independent media executives.
The leaked data and forensic analyses also suggest NSO’s spy tool was used by Saudi Arabia and its close ally, the UAE, to target the phones of close associates of the murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the months after his death. The Turkish prosecutor investigating his death was also a candidate for targeting, the data leak suggests.
Claudio Guarnieri, who runs Amnesty International’s Security Lab, said once a phone was infected with Pegasus, a client of NSO could in effect take control of a phone, enabling them to extract a person’s messages, calls, photos and emails, secretly activate cameras or microphones, and read the contents of encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
By accessing GPS and hardware sensors in the phone, he added, NSO’s clients could also secure a log of a person’s past movements and track their location in real time with pinpoint accuracy, for example by establishing the direction and speed a car was travelling in.
The latest advances in NSO’s technology enable it to penetrate phones with “zero-click” attacks, meaning a user does not even need to click on a malicious link for their phone to be infected.
Guarnieri has identified evidence NSO has been exploiting vulnerabilities associated with iMessage, which comes installed on all iPhones, and has been able to penetrate even the most up-to-date iPhone running the latest version of iOS. His team’s forensic analysis discovered successful and attempted Pegasus infections of phones as recently as this month.
Apple said: “Security researchers agree iPhone is the safest, most secure consumer mobile device on the market.”
NSO declined to give specific details about its customers and the people they target.
However, a source familiar with the matter said the average number of annual targets per customer was 112. The source said the company had 45 customers for its Pegasus spyware.
Additional reporting: Dan Sabbagh in London, Shaun Walker in Budapest, Angelique Chrisafis in Paris and Martin Hodgson in New York.
Show your support for the Guardian’s fearless investigative journalism today so we can keep chasing the truth
The Guardian · by Stephanie Kirchgaessner · July 18, 2021


2. Response from NSO Group to the Pegasus Project
Excerpts:
Furthermore, as NSO has previously stated, our technology was not associated in any way with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This includes listening, monitoring, tracking, or collecting information. We previously investigated this claim, immediately after the heinous murder, which again, is being made without validation. We also stand by our previous statements that our products, sold to vetted foreign governments, cannot be used to conduct cybersurveillance within the United States, and no customer has ever been granted technology that would enable them to access phones with U.S. numbers. It is technologically impossible and reaffirms the fact your sources claims have no merit.
Notwithstanding the above, NSO Group will continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action based on the results of these investigations. This includes shutting down of a customers’ system, something NSO has proven it’s ability and willingness to do, due to confirmed misuse, done it multiple times in the past, and will not hesitate to do again if a situation warrants. This process is documented in NSO Group’s ‘Transparency and Responsibility Report,’ which was released last month. The fact is, NSO Group’s technologies have helped prevent terror attacks, gun violence, car explosions and suicide bombings. The technologies are also being used every day to break up pedophilia-, sex-, and drug-trafficking rings, locate missing and kidnapped children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings, and protect airspace against disruptive penetration by dangerous drones. Simply put, NSO Group is on a life-saving mission, and the company will faithfully execute this mission undeterred, despite any and all continued attempts to discredit it on false grounds.
Response from NSO Group to the Pegasus Project
By Washington Post Staff
July 18, 2021|Updated yesterday at 12:47 p.m. EDT

The Washington Post · by Washington Post StaffJuly 18, 2021|Updated today at 12:47 p.m. EDT · July 18, 2021
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and Amnesty International had access to a list of phone numbers concentrated in countries known to surveil their citizens and also known to have been clients of NSO Group, an Israeli firm that is a leader in the field of spyware. The two nonprofits shared the information with The Post and 15 other news organizations worldwide that have worked collaboratively to conduct further analysis and reporting over several months. Forbidden Stories oversaw the Pegasus Project, and Amnesty International provided forensic analysis but had no editorial input.
The reporters of the Pegasus Project found that NSO’s Pegasus spyware, meant be to licensed to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals, was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and the two women closest to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Below are the responses from the company.
First response
NSO Group firmly denies false claims made in your report which many of them are uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability of your sources, as well as the basis of your story. Your sources have supplied you with information that has no factual basis, as evidenced by the lack of supporting documentation for many of the claims.
For example, you wrongly assert that NSO has operated the systems that it sells to vetted government customers, as well as to having access to the data of its customers’ targets. Additionally, you falsely claim that the Israeli Government monitors the use of our customers’ systems, which is the type of conspiracy theory that our critics peddle. When making such incendiary claims, readers would naturally expect you to provide some modicum of proof. Instead, it appears you are simply furthering the salacious narrative about NSO Group that has been strategically concocted by several closely aligned special interest groups.
Furthermore, as NSO has previously stated, our technology was not associated in any way with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This includes listening, monitoring, tracking, or collecting information. We previously investigated this claim, immediately after the heinous murder, which again, is being made without validation. We also stand by our previous statements that our products, sold to vetted foreign governments, cannot be used to conduct cybersurveillance within the United States, and no customer has ever been granted technology that would enable them to access phones with U.S. numbers. It is technologically impossible and reaffirms the fact your sources claims have no merit.
Notwithstanding the above, NSO Group will continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action based on the results of these investigations. This includes shutting down of a customers’ system, something NSO has proven it’s ability and willingness to do, due to confirmed misuse, done it multiple times in the past, and will not hesitate to do again if a situation warrants. This process is documented in NSO Group’s ‘Transparency and Responsibility Report,’ which was released last month. The fact is, NSO Group’s technologies have helped prevent terror attacks, gun violence, car explosions and suicide bombings. The technologies are also being used every day to break up pedophilia-, sex-, and drug-trafficking rings, locate missing and kidnapped children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings, and protect airspace against disruptive penetration by dangerous drones. Simply put, NSO Group is on a life-saving mission, and the company will faithfully execute this mission undeterred, despite any and all continued attempts to discredit it on false grounds.
Second response
NSO Group reiterates its response sent to Forbidden Stories on July 14, including our statements as to the wrong assumptions and to the uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability of your sources.
It seems like your unidentified sources have supplied you with information that has no factual basis, as evidenced by some of your questions, which are far from reality.
As evident by your questions, NSO Group has good reason to believe that claims that you have been provided with, are based on misleading interpretation of leaked data from accessible and overt basic information, such as HLR Lookup services, which have no bearing on the list of the customers targets of Pegasus or any other NSO products. Such services are openly available to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, and are commonly used by governmental agencies for numerous purposes, as well as by private companies worldwide.
The alleged amount of “leaked data of more than 50,000 phone numbers”, cannot be a list of numbers targeted by governments using Pegasus, based on this exaggerated number.
These kinds of platforms were never used by or for NSO, are not a basis of “target lists” of Pegasus or any other product of the company and we are glad to see that you have retracted the allegation originally made by Forbidden Stories that the “research is based on thousands of numbers that were selected as targets by NSO’s Group clients”, yet we still do not see any correlation of these lists to anything related to use of NSO Group technologies.
As to your request to confirm the “existence of such data”, obviously we cannot do so, since even if they were customers data, we have no visibility nor access to them.
Additionally, we understand that there are allegations that target numbers were obtained from NSO’s servers. This is a ridiculous allegation since such data was never existing on our servers.
As we stated in the past, due to contractual and national security considerations, NSO cannot confirm or deny the identity of our government customers, as well as identity of customers of which we have shut down systems. In any case we suggest you to rely only on informed sources and not any unsubstantiated source. As such, we cannot respond to some of your direct questions related to these matters.
As to your other questions, NSO does not operate the systems that it sells to vetted government customers, and does not have access to the data of its customers’ targets.
NSO does not operate its technology, does not collect, nor poses nor have any access to any kind of data of its customers.
We vehemently deny the suggestions that the Israeli Government monitors the use of our customers’ systems, which is the type of conspiracy theory that our critics peddle.
Such claims are part of the salacious narrative about NSO Group that has been strategically concocted by several closely aligned special interest groups, among them your “anonymous officials” who say they ‘assume’ something is taking place.
As NSO has previously stated, our technology was not associated in any way with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi. We can confirm that our technology was not used to listen, monitor, track, or collect information regarding him or his family members mentioned in your inquiry. We previously investigated this claim, which again, is being made without validation.
We also stand by our previous statements that our products, sold to vetted foreign governments, cannot be used to conduct cybersurveillance within the United States, and no foreign customer has ever been granted technology that would enable them to access phones with U.S. numbers. It is technologically impossible and reaffirms the fact that your sources claim have no merit.
Westbridge is part of the NSO group.
Regarding King & Spalding, as you stated correctly, they are our lead counsel in the Facebook litigation. NSO Group retains other top US counsels for various issues, mostly relating to NSO’s novel human rights and compliance programs. Additional information can be seen in our first Transparency and Responsibility Report.
Notwithstanding the above, NSO Group will continue to investigate all credible claims of misuse and take appropriate action based on the results of these investigations. This includes shutting down of a customers’ system, something NSO has proven its ability and willingness to do, due to confirmed misuse, has done multiple times in the past, and will not hesitate to do again if a situation warrants.
This process is documented in NSO Group’s ‘Transparency and Responsibility Report,’ which was released last month.
The fact is, NSO Group’s technologies have helped prevent terror attacks, gun violence, car explosions and suicide bombings. The technologies are also being used every day to break up pedophilia-, sex-, and drug-trafficking rings, locate missing and kidnapped children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings, and protect airspace against disruptive penetration by dangerous drones. Simply put, NSO Group is on a life-saving mission, and the company will faithfully execute this mission undeterred, despite any and all continued attempts to discredit it on false grounds.
Regarding export licenses, NSO is subject to various export control regimes including the Israeli MOD, as similar to existing regulations in other democratic countries.
NSO is a subsidiary of Q Cyber Technologies.
Mr. Hulio referred to future strategic financial possibilities of the company including a possibility for an IPO, with possible organizational restructuring in every option. Mr Hulio clarified that in order to take this kind of strategic financial step, the company should hire a CEO with financial skills that will lead it to the next step. In any case, Mr. Hulio will remain involved in the company and will hold a senior position within it.
The Washington Post · by Washington Post StaffJuly 18, 2021|Updated today at 12:47 p.m. EDT · July 18, 2021


3. Military-grade spyware found on journalists and activists' phones: report


Military-grade spyware found on journalists and activists' phones: report
The Hill · by Mychael Schnell · July 18, 2021

Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm was used in attempts to hack into smartphones belonging to journalists and activists, according to a new investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners.
The Post reported on Sunday that the spyware, licensed from the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals, was used in attempts to hack into 37 phones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, businesses executives and two women who were close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Some of the hacking attempts were successful.
The phones were included on a list of more than 50,000 numbers, many of which were based in countries that are known to surveille their citizens and are recognized clients of NSO Group, according to the investigation. It is not known how many of the phone numbers on the list were ultimately targeted or surveilled.
Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit organization, both had access to the list and shared it with the news outlets, which conducted additional research and analysis as part of an investigation.
The investigation, dubbed the Pegasus Project, did, however, say that forensic analysis of the phones, conducted by Amnesty’s Security Lab, revealed that many of them have a “tight correlation between time stamps associated with a number on the list and the initiation of surveillance, in some cases as brief as a few seconds.”
The lab scrutinized 67 phones where attacks were thought to have occurred, according to the investigation, 23 of which were found to be successfully infected and 14 showed evidence of attempted infiltration.
The remaining 30 tests were inconclusive, several of which were because the phones were replaced.
While the numbers on the list were “unattributed,” The Post said that reporters were able to track down and identify upwards of 1,000 people throughout more than 50 countries through research and interviews on four continents.
The numbers identified were traced to several Arab royal family members, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists and more than 600 politicians and government officials.
Heads of state and prime ministers were also reportedly on the list.
The journalists on the list included reporters working overseas for CNN, The Associated Press, Voice of America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Le Monde in France, the Financial Times in London and Al Jazeera in Qatar.
NSO Group rejected the findings of the investigation, calling them exaggerated and baseless, according to The Post. It also claimed that it does not operate the spyware that is used by clients, and “has no insight” on their own intelligence efforts.
The company said its customers are 60 intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies across 40 countries, according to The Post. It would not, however, reveal specifics on any of them because of client confidentiality obligations.
The Hill · by Mychael Schnell · July 18, 2021

4. Special Operations News Update - Monday, July 19, 2021 | SOF News


Special Operations News Update - Monday, July 19, 2021 | SOF News
sof.news · by SOF News · July 19, 2021

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include SOCOM and AI, awards for Battle of Mogadishu, SEALs and their SDVs, Belgian SOF, MACV-SOG, Afghanistan, COIN, SFABs, IO, GPC, and more.
SOF News
SOCOM and AI. The United States Special Operations Command has been a pioneer in the application of Artificial Intelligence to find ways to make its special operators more combat effective. Advanced computing technologies that are introduced into the tactical domain will give SOF personnel an advantage – especially important in the context of great power competition. SOCOM is partnering with private industry and academia to improve its Artificial Intelligence capabilities. Read more in “How US Special Operators Use Artificial Intelligence to Get an Edge Over China”, by Stavros Atlamazoglou, SANDBOXX, July 15, 2021.
Former JSOC CSM and the Battle of Mogadishu. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris, a Delta Force veteran, is one of 60 individuals who will be receiving an awards upgrade for their participation in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. He will receive the Silver Star. “JSOC’s former top enlisted soldier is one of 60 ‘Black Hawk’ award upgrades”, Army Times, July 13, 2021.
GB Awarded Soldier’s Medal. Staff Sgt. Tyrrel, a Special Forces Medical Sergeant, was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for saving the life of a severely injured drowning woman. The 5th Special Forces Group medic was presented the award by Major General John Brennan, Commanding General, 1st Special Forces Command at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on July 14, 2021. “Green Beret Awarded Soldier’s Medal for Heroism”, DVIDS, July 14, 2021.
1-10th SFG(A) Hosts Pistol Competition. A shooting competition took place at the Panzer range complex in Stuttgart, Germany – hosted by the SF unit based in Germany. The three-day event was part of a formal program run by the Army Marksmanship Unit. “1-10th Special Forces Group host inaugural pistol competition”, Army.mil, July 16, 2021.
Navy SEAL ‘Personality’ to Host SOF Podcast. Remi Adeleke will be hosting a podcast with the name of ‘Down Range’. The former SEAL will be telling the story of men and women who defend the United States by service in the military. (Deadline, Jul 15, 2021).
Beer, SEALs, and Marketing to Veterans. A recent video advertisement featured former Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill (OBL raid in Pakistan) endorsing a new IPA called “Special Hops” by Seawolf Brewery. How the beer tastes, who actually makes the beer, and the marketing behind it is discussed at length in “The Navy SEAL who shot Bin Laden is hyping a new brewing company. We tried their beer so you don’t have to”, Task and Purpose, July 15, 2021. If you are interested in a micro-brewery that definitely is veteran-owned (SF dude) and that actually makes its own beer then check out the Longtab Brewing Company.

And Coffee, as well. While we are on the topic of marketing to vets . . . a firm owned by a former SF NCO has been doing well with its patriotic, pro-veteran message. It has, although, seen that even coffee is a product that is not exempt from becoming ‘political’ – as it has been attacked by MAGA veterans and ‘woke vets’ alike. An article in the New York Times Magazine, “Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right?” published on July 14, 2021 stirred up some controversary. Read more in “Behind Black Rifle coffee, the ‘anti-hipster’ answer to Starbucks’ latte liberals says sales are surging”, Markets Insider, July 17, 2021. See also “The Black Rifle Coffee NYT Interview is a Courageous Journey Up the Arch of the Moral Universe”, Unprecedented Mediocrity, July 17, 2021.
Navy SEALs and Their SDVs. SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams operate a fleet of mini-submarines that can strike or carry special operators clandestinely behind enemy lines. The SEAL teams that utilize SDVs have three primary missions: underwater insertion and extraction, underwater special operations, and underwater special reconnaissance. Read more in “SDV: The Secret Weapon of the Navy SEAL Teams”, SANDBOXX, July 9, 2021.
Green Beret Jailed for Two Years in Japan. Michael Taylor was sentenced to serve time in jail for helping an automotive executive escape Japan while he was awaiting trial. Taylor’s son, also involved in the plot, has also received a jail sentence. “US Army Special Forces veteran and son jailed for helping former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan”, ABC News, July 19, 2021.
AFSOC’s WEPTAC 2021. Air Force Special Operations Command held a weapons and tactics conference at Hurlburt Field, Florida in early July 2021. The gathering of personnel from SOF and other representatives met to identify and improve tactics, techniques, and procedures for AFSOC. “WEPTAC 2021: Staying relevant for future fights”, AFSOC, July 15, 2021.

International SOF
Paper – BELSOF: Quo Vadi? Colonel Tom Bilo, the Commander of the Belgian Special Operations Regiment, traces the evolution of BELSOF from their origin to current times. He goes on to describe its current transformation and potential for further development in light of the multiple security challenges ahead. Published by The Kingston Consortium on International Security, Canada, June 30, 2021, PDF, 6 pages.
UK SOF’s New Role. The Special Air Service and Special Boat Service will be engaging more higher risk counterstate tasks in this era of great power competition. “Military chief reveals secret new role for special forces against China and Russia”, The Times, July 17, 2021.
UK’s Ranger Regiment Deployment to Africa. British officials visiting Fort Bragg, NC have indicated that the Ranger Regiment’s first deployment is likely to be in east Africa with the intent of supporting the fight against Islamist extremism. The Ranger Regiment is a new entity as of 2021 and is currently being formed up. “Ranger Regiment: UK and US Plot New Army Unit’s Future”, Forces.net, July 16, 2021.

SOF History
JFK Special Warfare Museum. The regimental museum of Civil Affairs, Special Forces, and Psychological Operations has reopened their doors after having been closed for over a year. It is located on Ardennes Street, Fort Bragg, NC and is open Monday through Friday 1100-1600.
Video – MACV-SOG: The Paul Christensen Story. One of the heroes of the Vietnam conflict is profiled in this video. The “History of MACV-SOG”, July 16, 2021, 19 minutes.
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COVID-19 and the Military
COVID in the U.S. The Delta variant of COVID-19 is raising concern among medical professionals. Delta is a more transmissible variant of COVID. Missouri is one state where the emergency rooms and intensive care units are maxed out with COVID patients. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that COVID-19 is “becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
COVID and the Military. It won’t be long before the U.S. military makes it mandatory to get the COVID vaccination. Most military personnel are at least partially vaccinated (70%) but there are a lot who are not. Current DoD policy permits fully-vaccinated troops to go without a face mask on military installations. However, unvaccinated personnel need to wear masks. The Department of Defense issued new guidance on the use of masks (June 23, 2021) and announced that “. . . unmasked, fully vaccinated Service members should be prepared to show proof of vaccination . . .” if asked by a supervisor.

Afghanistan
Security Update. The north of Afghanistan has seen a significant uptick in fighting with the Taliban gaining control of several major border crossings where the taxing of commercial activity will pad their financial coffers. Kabul is now cut off from these key northern trade routes. This will restrict the goods arriving from other countries as well as limit income from the taxation of commercial trade crossing the borders. The southern border crossing at Spin Boldac has also been the scene of heavy fighting.
Profile of General Miller. The last commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan was given a warm welcome by SECDEF Austin upon his return to the United States. General Scott Miller, a former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, had a number of previous tours in Afghanistan so he was an excellent choice to lead American and NATO troops these past three years. James Kitfield provides a lenghty narrative about Miller’s career and his tenure as RSM commander in “The Last Commander”, Politico, July 16, 2021.
Afghanistan – Still Important to the U.S. Even though the United States is pulling out its troops it must still consider that a primary theater for violent extremist organizations and strategic competitors (Iran, Russia, and China) will be Afghanistan. Tom Hammerle, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, provides his perspective in “Afghanistan’s Continuing Role in U.S. Strategic Competition in the Absence of U.S. Troops“, Small Wars Journal, July 15, 2021.
Taliban Governance. There are some new rules to observe in the districts recently taken by the Taliban. Gender segregation, restrictions on women, banning of music, and requirement to grow beards are among them. Taliban control of districts has increased significantly over the past few months since the departure of the last few thousand U.S. and NATO military personnel began on May 1st of this year.
Afghan Interpreters. The Biden administration has finally stepped up to the plate to assist Afghan interpreters and others who assisted U.S. military units in the long Afghan war. They are in danger of being targeted by the Taliban. In a new program called Operation Allies Refuge the U.S. will begin relocation flights for eligible Afghan nationals and their families who are currently within the Special Immigrant Visa program. The U.S. Department of State – long responsible for processing SIVs – has not exactly covered itself in glory over the past few years in helping Afghan interpreters and translators. There are approximately 20,000 Afghan principle applicants at some stage of the SIV process.

Commentary
Paper – Operational Cyberpsychology: Adapting a Special Operations Model for Cyber Operations. Operational cyberpsychology can be a force multiplier that can improve the effectiveness of cyber operations in support of activities such as PSYOP, online intelligence operations, assessment and selection of personnel, and hostage negotiations. By Jason Spitaletta, PhD, John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, June 2021, 22 pages, posted by NSI, Inc.
Paper – Strategic Influence: Applying the Principles of Unconventional Warfare in Peace. COL (Ret.) Robert Jones, a senior strategist at USSOCOM, offers a new approach to how we advance our foreign policies abroad with a modern adaptation of winning the “hearts and minds”. Posted online by NSI, Inc., June 2021, PDF, 19 pages.

National Security
Navy’s P-8s – Doing Secret Stuff. The P-8 Poseidon is the Navy’s long-range maritime patrol aerial platform that conducts anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, ISR, and other missions. David Axe provides the details on some specially configured P-8 Poseidon aircraft. “These Subtle P-8s Are teh U.S. Navy’s Most Secretive Spy Planes”, Forbes.com, July 14, 2021.
COIN and U.S. Misadventures. The United States spent two decades in Iraq and Afghanistan waging a counterinsurgency battle against terrorists and insurgents. The results have been mixed. Read more in “The Hearts-and-Minds Myth: How American Gets Counterinsurgency Wrong”, Foreign Affairs, July 15, 2012 (subscription needed).
SFAB’s – an Endurring Legacy of General Milley? The current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff served as the commander of the ISAF Joint Command (IJC) – the three-star billet under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This was during the time that the U.S. was transitioning combat operations to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and was in the middle of the ‘security force assistance‘ advisory phase of the conflict. He saw first hand the ‘ad hoc’ nature of the Security Force Assistance Advisory Teams (SFAATs) to include the pros and cons (as in selection and training of advisors, etc.). Once General Milley became the Chief of Staff of the Army one of his major goals was to establish a professional advising corps that would augment the train and advisory efforts of U.S. Army Special Forces. The end result was the Security Force Assistance Brigades. There are now six SFABs – each with its regional orientation. The likelihood is that they will remain a permanent part of the U.S. Army. Read a recent ‘fact sheet’ on the these advisory teams entitled “The Value of the SFAB“, by SGM Thomas I. Thornhill Jr, Infantry, Spring 2021, PDF, 2 pages.

Information Operations and Narrative Warfare
GAO and IO. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has published a 20-page report (PDF) on how DOD operations need enhanced leadership and integration of capabilities for the information environment. April 30, 2021, GAO.
Afghanistan – Taliban Victories or Good Propaganda. The media is full of accounts that state Afghan security forces are on the defensive while the Taliban is rapidly taking district after district and threatening provincial capitals. The Afghan government responds saying that much of that media noise is false – that the security situation is not as dire as it has been portrayed. Afghan government officials also are complaining that a ‘false narrative’ is detrimental to the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces. Read more in “The battle for narrative in Afghanistan”, by Tanya Goudsouzian, Le Monde Diplomatique, July 13, 2021.
Russian Info Ops. Patrick Tucker provides an analysis of the Russian governments new security strategy and the call for an improvement in its influence-warfare capabilities. The new strategy sees information and cyber threats as a challenge to Russia’s long-term survival. “Information Warfare Looms Larger in Russia’s New Security Strategy”, Defense One, July 13, 2021.
Social Media and Political Systems. Guy Schleffer and Benjamin Miller write about how American social media platforms can affect the political systems of different states in varying ways. There are a number of possible approaches that U.S. policy makers can take to decrease the negative effects of social media platforms. Read more in “The Political Effects of Social Media Platforms on Different Regime Types”, Texas National Security Review, Summer 2021.

Great Power Competition
Strengths and Weaknesses of Russia. Rebecca Campbell, a South African journalist, takes a close look at Russia’s military in this detailed article. While Russia doesn’t have the power and resources of the Soviet Union it still can field a competent and large military. “How Strong is Russia?”, UK Defence Journal, July 18, 2021.
Keeping an Eye on China. One can learn only so much about a society that restricts the freedom of expression. But technology and the internet has changed things up. For those keeping tabs on China open source information is valuable . . . if analyzed and disseminated to the right audience. “The bottom line is that a huge part of the latest and greatest in Chinese military and technology news lies in the public domain. One simply has to collect it, make sense of it, and share it.” One media source for this sort of information is being established – The China Intelligence. Read more in “Introducing ‘The China Intelligence”, Defense One, May 25, 2021.
Do We Need a Larger Navy? China is ramping up its military presence in the Indo-Pacific – should the U.S. respond by building up its Navy? The next Secretary of the Navy is in favor of such a move, saying that a larger fleet is needed as part of a larger strategic reorientation away from the Middle East and towards the Pacific. “Biden’s Navy Secretary Pick has His Eyes Laser-Focused on China”, by Mark Episkopos, The National Interest, July 15, 2021.
Asia
Scheme to Ship U.S. Commando Craft to Red China. U.S officials have successfully prosecuted individuals involved in a plot to illegally export inflatable military boats that are used by U.S. special operations forces to China. The perpetrators were going to reverse-engineer the boats. The craft were capable of being launched from submerged submarines or dropped into the ocean from aircraft. One of the defendants is awaiting trial – he is a China-born Navy officer who holds a top-secret clearance and was assigned to the Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Weapons School in Jacksonville, Florida. “Chinese national gets 3 1/2 years in jail for scheme to buy U.S. commando craft”, The Washington Times, July 16, 2021.
India and the Maoist Insurgency. What was once considered the biggest internal security challenge for India has now been in a steady decline over the last decade. Incidents, security force casualties, and civilian deaths have declined significantly. However the Maoists are still active and continue to mount violent attacks against security forces. Read more about the history of this protracted conflict in “Indian Counter-Insurgency Operations and COVID-19 Limit Maoist Insurgency”, Terrorism Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, July 16, 2021.
Central Asian States Brace for Afghan Crisis. Taliban fighters have made steady progress in gaining territory in the northern provinces of Afghanistan and in taking over major border crossings with countries on Afghanistan’s northern border. The countries of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have a close eye on their southern border. “Then and Now: Concerns About a Taliban-Led Afghan Spillover Into Central Asia”, Radio Free Europe, July 12, 2021.
US Bases in Central Asia? Russia Says Nyet! One of the ways that the U.S. could position a counter terrorism force near Afghanistan to strike terrorist targets in that country is to set up a base in a country to the north of Afghanistan. This, of course, would be a country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union and one which the Russian’s view as in their sphere of influence. “Russia warns US against deploying troops in Central Asia near Afghanistan”, Military Times, July 13, 2021.

South of the Border
Border Crisis. The surge of border crossers has not subsided; June was the highest number in a single month in over 21 years – with almost 200,000 migrants crossed the southern border. More than 1 million migrants have been taken into custody by the United States – many of them attempting to cross the border multiple times. Thus far, the current administrations ‘catch and release’ policy does not seem to be stemming the tide of illegal border crossers.
Haiti. The security situation in this Caribbean country is troubling since the assassination of the president. Members of the Haitian government are calling on the U.S. and international community to provide troops to secure the countries infrastructure and governmental centers. The U.S. is sending in the Marines . . . but only to guard the U.S. embassy. The Congressional Research Service has published a 4-page fact sheet discussing the political unrest now ensuing since the presidential assassination. CRS, July 8, 2021, PDF, 4 pages.
Colombia’s Mercenaries. The news of the involvement of former Colombian special forces military personnel who were trained by the U.S. military in the recent assassination of Haiti’s president has some observers in the national security arena in a state of angst. But they have failed to recognize that this is not an usual circumstance as the U.S. military, especially its special operations forces, have been advising and training the Colombians for decades. “What Makes Colombian Army Veterans So Popular Mercenaries?”, SOFREP, July 16, 2021.
Cuba. Protesters in the thousands are demanding more rights, democracy, better health care, and more action by the government in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Middle East
Fixing Yemen. While campaigning for president Joe Biden promised to end the conflict in Yemen. He believed that negotiation was the answer along with pressuring Saudi Arabia to end its active military engagement inside of Yemen. Well . . . that doesn’t seem to be working so far. Some believe he has recognized the need for a revised approach after seeing that – due to Biden’s initiatives – the Houthis seem to be more emboldened about the prospects of a military victory. “How Biden Can Help Yemen”, War on the Rocks, July 15, 2021.
Video – Iranian Proxy Groups in Iraq, Syria, & Yemen. Three scholars discuss their recent (2020) publication about Iranian proxy groups. Tehran uses these proxy groups to advance their strategic interests in the Middle East. July 16, 2012, Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), 1 hr 30 mins.

Africa
CT Success in Tunisia. Some notable progress has been made by the Tunisian military in revising its doctrine and improving its operational readiness and combat competency. This has gone a long way in aiding Tunisia in detecting and preventing terrorist attacks. The United States and selected European countries have played an important role to upgrade the professionalism and readiness of the Tunisian military. Anouar Boukhars, a professor of counterterrorism and countering violent extremism, provides a detailed look at “Tunisia’s Evolving Counterterrorism Strategy”, Spotlight, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, July 16, 2021.
“Crisis in Mali”. The Congressional Research Service has published an updated fact sheet on the current instability of this northwest African country. Mali has become the epicenter of regional conflict over the past decade. Foreign troops are assisting the country in fighting insurgents and armed gangs rule a significant part of Mali. CRS, July 14, 2021, PDF, 3 pages.
ISIS and Lake Chad. There appears to be a reconfiguration of jihadist groups taking place in West Africa. Read more in “Islamic State fortifies its position in the Lake Chad Basin”, by Malik Smauel, Institute for Security Studies, July 13, 2021.
Upcoming Events
July 29, 2021. Washington, D.C. (Can be viewed online)
National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2022
August 5-6, 2021. Eglin AFB, Florida
Green Beret Foundation
August 20-21, 2021. Perdido Key, Florida
Combat Diver Foundation
August 30, 2021. Lincoln, Maine
MSG Gary Gordon MOH Memorial Unveiling

Books, Pubs, and Reports
Research Topics – JSOU. The Joint Special Operations University has published its Special Operations Research Topics 2022 pub – PDF, 54 pages. The document highlights a wide range of topics that are intended to guide research projects for JSOU faculty and students and others who are writing about special operations over the next year. There are six priority topics:
  • Special Operations Forces (SOF) Ethics
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Assisted Decision Making
  • Utility of SOF in Strategic Competition
  • Civil Resistance in the Future Operating Environment
  • Influence Operations
  • Fixing SOF Command and Control (C2)
Book Review – The Spymaster of Baghdad. Barnaby Crowcroft reviews a non-fiction book by Margaret Coker that describes an intelligence unit called the Falcons that provided valued intelligence about ISIS. His review can be read in “The Iraqi Spies Who Helped Defeat ISIS”, National Review, July 17, 2021.

Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – Ending Afghanistan for US Army Special Forces. Jessica Donati, war correspondent and book author, joins Colonel Brad Moses, a Special Forces officer with extensive Afghanistan experience, in a podcast about Special Forces engagement in Afghanistan since 2015. “They will argue that Army Special Forces, also known as Green Berets, have been instrumental to preserving stability in Afghanistan since 2015, and their departure will leave a concerning void in the security and functionality of the country.” Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, July 16, 2021, 36 minutes.
Video – The State of Special Operations Forces: A Conversation with Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Dr. Seth Jones and Representative Murphy discuss the state of special operations forces in light of the shift in focus from CT / COIN to great power competition. Murphy is the Vice Chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. Posted online by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), July 14, 2021, 48 minutes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgpPUoRyWrs. Or, if you don’t have time to watch the video then read some of her key comments in this article.
**********
Photo: An AC-47 from Topeka, Kansas, and an AC-130J Ghostrider from the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., fly in formation around Topeka June 25 in preparation for a gunship legacy flight that will be flown at EAA AirVenture July 30 and 31. Air Force Special Operations Command Airmen and aircraft will be among the highlighted programs at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021. The AC-47 belongs to the American Flight Museum in Topeka and is restored as John Levitow’s Medal of Honor aircraft. The AC-130J Ghostrider’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo by MSgt Christopher Boitz)
sof.news · by SOF News · July 19, 2021


5. Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan


Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
sandboxx.us · by Tory Rich · July 16, 2021
“No one left behind” is a phrase inextricably linked with our military culture. The concept is a pillar that supports the platform of what it means to serve, analogous to “defending those who can’t defend themselves” and “protecting our freedom.” Like all military axioms, no one left behind means many different things, depending on the service member or veteran you ask.
The most prominent examples of this are in the Medal of Honor citations of U.S. troops braving enemy fire to bring a wounded comrade to safety without regard for their own well-being. Not as thoroughly illustrated in Hollywood, however, are veterans who are determined to bring home the remains of U.S. troops lost in foreign wars, or those working to help other veterans with challenges in employment, physical disabilities, and mental health. All of it can be traced back to “no one left behind.”
The time has come for the U.S. to embody this core principle yet again.
Close to 18,000 Afghans (and their 53,000 family members) who provided assistance to the U.S. as interpreters, security guards, contractors and more, now face a future that is uncertain at best. These people who fought alongside our men and women in uniform are running out of time, as the U.S. Department of Defense now estimates its withdrawal from Afghanistan is 95% complete as of July 12th.
Make sure to watch “60 Minutes” this Sunday at 7 p.m. (6 Central) to see a feature about No One Left Behind and learn more about their efforts to keep America’s promise to interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Photo courtesy of DVIDS
One man with a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject is General Joseph Votel (Retired). The former commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM) was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11, conducting a rare combat jump with his fellow Rangers on Objective Rhino, near Kandahar.
“I was in the first wave of troops, October of 2001,” General Votel told Sandboxx News. “And I think between 2001 and 2019 — when I actually left service — I’d been to Afghanistan for some part of every year, sometimes just a few days and sometimes for a whole year.”
General Votel’s extensive time spent in theater, dating back to the very beginning of U.S. operations there, makes him as qualified as any expert one could find on the war-torn country and its looming humanitarian crisis.
Then- deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-82, Gen. Votel cuts a ribbon at the groundbreaking of a new public works building in Panjsher Province March 27, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Dinneen)
These thousands of Afghans who aided or sympathized with U.S.-led forces in the 20-year war against the Taliban have been imperiled as the American presence dwindles. The slow trickle of departing troops turned to a hasty exit at the beginning of May, and the U.S. has assumed a much more defensive posture. As a result, the Taliban has seized territory at an alarming rate and now control over half of the districts in the country. There was already plenty of support for their strict interpretation (and enforcement) of Sharia in more conservative, rural areas, but they are now are closing in on major cities that have been more secular and progressive in terms of things like women’s rights.
“I’ve invested a lot of time in this like many have, and I feel like I got to know the Afghan people. I certainly got to know their story quite well. I feel sad that we are not leaving them in a better position,” General Votel said.
The Taliban are determined to improve their image with the U.S. government and avoid any entanglements that would prolong the withdrawal. Multiple Taliban spokesmen have been dismissive of human rights abuses in territories they’ve re-captured, and recently stated that Afghans who worked with the U.S. will not be harmed if they “show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”
Taliban religious police beating an Afghan woman for removing her burka in public, in August of 2001, shortly before the Taliban was removed from power (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan/ Wikimedia Commons)
Many Afghans put little stock in the statement from Taliban leadership, and have no intention to stay and find out if they keep their word. There are countless stories of retaliation against these Afghans that the Taliban has past referred to as “traitors” and “slaves.” Whether all of the more recent violence has been sanctioned by the Taliban or not, those who fear further reprisals without the U.S. presence do so justifiably.
“These interpreters and others that helped us, they did this at their own personal risk. We recognized this and we set up programs. The Special Immigrant Visa program, SIV program… is specifically designed to give those who’ve spent time with us a leg up in the immigration process — to come to the United States and have an opportunity to become a citizen, because we knew that their jobs — what they were doing for us –would put them in danger down the line.”
This graphic, daunting enough, illustrates what is probably best-case scenario for SIV applicants in light of the backlog (Government Accountability Office/ State Department)
The sheer volume of SIV applications coupled with staffing issues and lack of a central database has created an enormous backlog at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that could take several years to sort through. An outbreak of COVID-19 killed one and infected 114 staffers at the embassy last month, grinding operations to a halt. Further complicating the issue, many SIV applicants do not live in Kabul. Transportation and communication would already be an issue, particularly in rural areas, even without Taliban militants’ ever-increasing presence.
“It’s really important, I think, for us to follow up on that, follow through on our promises, and do the right thing for these people. It’s literally a life and death situation for many of them,” General Votel explained.
Operation Allies Refuge, announced earlier this week, will begin the massive task of evacuating all SIV applicants out of Afghanistan by the end of the month. When asked at Wednesday’s briefing, DOD Press Secretary John Kirby was non-committal about potential locations for the soon-to-be displaced Afghans while their pending immigration is processed. There is precedent, and therefore hope, for such a large undertaking. CONUS installations have not been ruled out, such as in 1999 when the U.S. airlifted 20,000 Kosovo refugees to Fort Dix, NJ. International U.S. assets like Guam seem more likely, as that is where 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to in 1975.
Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, General Votel has a personal connection to that operation as well. Many Vietnamese Hmong ended up immigrating to that area, and the connection to the present-day crisis is not lost on him:
“They have integrated so well and they have become a very integrated, important and contributing part of our community right here. And whenever you see Hmong, and the different influence they have in here, it makes you think of America doing the right thing, even in the wake of a disaster like Vietnam was,” he said.
“We did the right thing. We stood by people that stood by us, that were going to be persecuted because of their association and support to us. And we brought them to our country and then made them part of our society.”
While the U.S. government has acknowledged the problem and is putting things in motion to get these Afghans to safety, General Votel said that the American people can also help. No One Left Behind is a non-profit at the forefront of the issue, one that Votel supports himself. They have already raised over $1 million dollars for their cause of evacuating our Afghan allies from Kabul, and now the General is helping to spread the word far and wide.
60 Minutes” will air a feature about No One Left Behind, this Sunday, at 7 p.m. (6 Central) where you can learn more.
While Americans can certainly offer their financial support to No One Left Behind, General Votel was just as quick to mention the importance of people using their “time and talent” to help. He says one of the best ways Americans can help right now is to be aware of the problem, make others aware of it, and especially, put pressure on Congress and keep the plight of the Afghans in the public eye and a high-priority for President Biden’s administration.

General Votel’s own experience with interpreters, in particular, speaks to why ensuring the safety of these Afghans is not only a question of American morality and doing the right thing, but also crucial to the safety of U.S. troops and the security of the American people. What interpreters provide troops on the ground is invaluable, and is not just translation of the language (though it is certainly that, as well).
“What I deeply valued was the cultural aspects that I really picked up from them… They understand the country. They understand things that are just so difficult for us as Americans to appreciate that they can share that with us, and they give us an understanding of the society and how things there work.”
More than just assets, interpreters are comrades to our troops on the ground. Mohammad Nadir (center) was an interpreter for three years, obtained his Special Immigrant Visa, and still enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as an 0311 in 2017 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Quezada)
The estimated cost of approximately $699 million to execute Operation Allies Refuge is a relatively small price to pay for a mission that will enhance security and save American lives in the future. However, General Votel emphasized to Sandboxx News more than once that there’s also the moral obligation that the United States has to the Afghan people who helped us.
“They become comrades. They, they begin to appreciate our values, as well, and are really good representatives for our country. So they’re just so much more than somebody that translates words from one language into another.”
  • To learn more about No One Left Behind, visit nooneleft.org.
  • To donate, click here.
  • To Tweet your U.S. Senators, click here.
  • To e-mail your U.S. Senators, click here.
  • Remember, No One Left Behind will be featured on “60 Minutes” this Sunday, 7 p.m.
Read more from Sandboxx News:
Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Franklin Moore
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sandboxx.us · by Tory Rich · July 16, 2021

6. Retired U.S. general: Afghanistan is disintegrating

Excerpts:
The retired general sympathized with that perspective but said withdrawing American troops was not going to end the fighting there.
"No one wants to see endless wars ended more than those who have actually served in them, but we are not ending this war, we are ending U.S. Involvement in it," he said.
Petraeus also told Zakaria: "What I see now, sadly, is the onset of what is going to be quite a brutal civil war."
Retired U.S. general: Afghanistan is disintegrating
"I fear we will look back and regret the decision to withdraw," David Petraeus said.

Retired Gen. David Petraeus speaks during a discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference in 2018. | Jae C. Hong/AP Photo
07/18/2021 11:55 AM EDT
One of America's former military commanders in Afghanistan said Sunday that the situation there is falling apart even before the United States completes its withdrawal from the embattled Asian nation.
Speaking on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Gen. David Petraeus said, "The situation on the ground has become increasingly dire with each passing week."
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced that U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan, and he recently moved up the date of the final departure. Biden's efforts to end the longest U.S. war in history — something that former President Donald Trump advocated but was unable to complete — have drawn a range of responses, from praise to tired resignation to dismay, particularly from those who fought and led the war.
"I fear we will look back and regret the decision to withdraw," Petraeus said. "Sadly, we may regret that sooner than I had originally thought when I said that right after the decision was announced."
Petraeus, who retired from the Army to become director of the CIA in 2011, added: "Beyond that, I think we will also look back and regret the hasty way in which we seem to be doing this."
American, British and other international forces invaded Afghanistan late in 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks and rapidly ousted the Taliban regime that had supported Osama bin Laden and provided him refuge. Bin Laden fled to neighboring Pakistan and was assassinated there by U.S. forces in 2011. The Taliban, however, never fully went away, and the war lingered on.
Zakaria suggested that the Afghan forces had been content to let the U.S. do much of the fighting against the Taliban. Petraeus pushed back on that notion.
"The Afghan National Security Forces had been fighting and dying in very large numbers. And they still are. The problem now is they're not sure if someone is coming to the rescue, and that injects a very considerable amount of uncertainty into the battlefield," he said.
Zakaria also noted reasons for American frustration with the war in Afghanistan, including the inability to get at Taliban bases in Pakistan.
The retired general sympathized with that perspective but said withdrawing American troops was not going to end the fighting there.
"No one wants to see endless wars ended more than those who have actually served in them, but we are not ending this war, we are ending U.S. Involvement in it," he said.
Petraeus also told Zakaria: "What I see now, sadly, is the onset of what is going to be quite a brutal civil war."




7. What happened to Pat Tillman’s jersey? Here’s how the last Americans at Bagram Airfield rushed to secure mementos.

A lot to parse from this article: How soldiers from many countries memorialize their fallen during wartime and what happens to those memorials when the troops leave. And then just how the troops will "decorate" their camps and leave a legacy of all the units that served in various locations (and then the removal of all those unit stickers and patches when the troops depart. And then there is the trash we leave behind.


What happened to Pat Tillman’s jersey? Here’s how the last Americans at Bagram Airfield rushed to secure mementos.
Stars and Stripes · by J.P. Lawrence · July 19, 2021
The USO Pat Tillman center at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, is empty July 7, 2021 after a transfer of the base from the U.S. to Afghan forces the previous week. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The murals that once celebrated U.S. military units have been painted over and the settings that memorialized the fallen are now empty spaces.
Most of Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan for much of the past 20 years, is a ghost town.
But in the days before coalition troops left on July 2, some of the last to leave scrambled to safeguard war mementos or make sure that what stayed behind wouldn’t be left to whatever comes next in a country still at war.
Pizza Hut is scrawled in dust at a former location of the restaurant at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 7, 2021. U.S. troops left the base July 2. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
Vehicles at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on July 7, 2021, days after U.S. troops left. The vehicles had been left for Afghan forces who took over the base. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
A theater where soldiers once watched movies sits empty and dark at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 7, 2021. U.S. troops left the base July 2. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
A box lies in the street at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 7, 2021, after U.S. troops transferred control of the base to Afghan security forces. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
Many of the cavernous, empty structures the U.S. vacated were left open, but one in particular remained locked during a recent visit: a squat wooden lodge near the base’s airport terminal, once known as the USO Pat Tillman center.
It’s where Rebecca Medeiros, former USO country director in Afghanistan, spent the last year cataloguing mementos.
“It’s important those things came back to the U.S., instead of being left behind in Bagram, where we don’t know the future of that location,” Medeiros said. “We don’t know if those items would be taken care of, or their meaning would be understood.”
The USO center, named after the former NFL player and Army Ranger who died in Afghanistan, hosted some 2 million troops, contractors and civilians waiting for flights over 16 years, allowing them to watch movies, play video games and connect to Wi-Fi.
The USO kept employees at Bagram as long as possible, in part to ensure that the mementos soldiers left there could be brought home, said Alan Reyes, the organization’s chief operating officer.
“We do our best to preserve artifacts of historical or symbolic significance to us,” Reyes said.
The centerpiece was a framed Tillman jersey, “which means a lot to people,” Medeiros said.
Airmen pose with the jersey of Pat Tillman, a former NFL player who joined the Army Rangers, after a memorial run April 23, 2021 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Kimberley Culverhouse-Steadman)
Elsewhere around the sprawling base, troops saved a memorial to five soldiers and contractors killed in a 2016 suicide bombing. It’s in transit to Fort Hood, Texas, where it will be re-dedicated, said Michael Garrett, spokesman for the 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade.
A plaque for troops from the Czech Republic has been taken to Prague, where it will become part of the Military History Institute’s collection, said spokeswoman Lt. Col. Vlastimila Cyprisová.
A steel beam from the World Trade Center, donated to Bagram as a memorial, became a concern after no one could initially remember where it went. They eventually learned it had been relocated in 2015 to Fort Drum, N.Y.
Much of the work done by several people during the final stretch was “sanitizing” Bagram.
“We pulled off stickers, signs went down,” said Kimberly Culverhouse-Steadman, who came to Bagram in February to close the USO and bring back its mementos. “They just didn’t want anything reminiscent of American presence.”
Troops, civilians and contractors pulled off stickers and any other images related to military units or America prior to the transfer of the base to Afghan security forces July 2, 2021. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
This effort was to “ensure consistency in appearance,” said Col. Jennifer Spahn, spokeswoman for U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, in a statement Friday.
Some objected to painting over the murals at Bagram, including James Von Holland, a contractor at Bagram who has photographed hundreds of murals during his time at U.S. bases in the Middle East.
“I didn’t like it at all,” Von Holland said. “It’s like going into the Louvre and destroying the Mona Lisa.”
Murals on blast walls at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, were blank July 7, 2021, after being painted over prior to U.S. troops transferring the base to Afghan security forces. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
A T-wall mural at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan honors Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman on Aug. 27, 2018. Chapman posthumously received the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan in 2002. The mural was painted over prior to U.S. troops transferring the base to Afghan security forces. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
A memorial to Georgian troops killed in Afghanistan stands in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in an undated photo. Troops, civilians and contractors attempted to bring home mementos and memorials prior to the transfer of the base to Afghan security forces. (James von Holland)
A memorial to Georgian troops killed in Afghanistan stood empty on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan July 7, 2021. Troops, civilians and contractors attempted to bring home mementos and memorials prior to the transfer of the base to Afghan security forces. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
A memorial to coalition troops killed in Afghanistan stands on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in an undated photo. Troops, civilians and contractors attempted to bring home mementos and memorials prior to the transfer of the base to Afghan security forces. (James von Holland)
A memorial to coalition troops killed in Afghanistan stood empty on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan July 7, 2021. Troops, civilians and contractors attempted to bring home mementos and memorials prior to the transfer of the base to Afghan security forces. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
A memorial to a South Korean soldier killed in Afghanistan stood empty on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan July 7, 2021. Troops, civilians and contractors attempted to bring home mementos and memorials prior to the transfer of the base to Afghan security forces. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
A memorial to a Korean soldier killed in Afghanistan stands on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan in an undated photo. Troops, civilians and contractors attempted to bring home mementos and memorials prior to the transfer of the base to Afghan security forces. (James von Holland)
Von Holland and some contractors at the base said they were frustrated due to the pace of the drawdown and what seemed like endless, sometimes contradictory orders. Several contractors and civilians said they went on vacation and were surprised to find they weren’t allowed to return.
All U.S. troops, contractors and civilians were supposed to leave Afghanistan by May 1, the deadline that the Trump administration agreed to with the Taliban last year. But the Biden administration moved that deadline back to Sept. 11.
As May 1 neared, those on Bagram were “on edge,” fearing the Taliban would retaliate against U.S. troops staying past the original deadline, Culverhouse-Steadman said.
She recalled the days when Bagram was bustling with thousands of troops, contractors and civilians.
Upon arriving in late February this year, she was struck by the emptiness. The base’s large main post exchange had been reduced to one row of goods, she said.
The main post exchange at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, which once bustled with shoppers, stands empty July 7, 2021, after U.S. troops left the base. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
Afghan soldiers sorted through trash left at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 7, 2021. U.S. troops, contractors and civilians destroyed much of the goods left behind before transferring the base, which rankled the Afghan soldiers. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
Afghan soldiers sampled goods left by U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 7, 2021. U.S. troops, contractors and civilians destroyed much of the goods left behind before transferring the base, which rankled the Afghan soldiers. (J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes)
At one point during the drawdown, a building housing U.S. Special Forces in Kandahar burned down, leaving 25 troops without shelter. The USO sent bedding, pillows and blankets, she said.
Cafeterias at Bagram began closing in mid-June, leaving many of the last Americans there stuck with Meals, Ready to Eat.
Cookies, beef jerky and 700 pounds of instant ramen noodles were sent to the remaining troops who secured the base, the medical staff, Air Force investigators, and the personnel who handled the shipping yard and customs.
Culverhouse-Steadman flew out May 25 with two black suitcases – one with her personal effects, and the other with the Tillman jersey and other keepsakes.
Right before boarding the packed government-chartered flight, she was told she’d have to choose between the bags in order to board.
She chose to leave her personal effects behind. Fortunately, a friend from the post office agreed to mail her that suitcase.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.
J.P. Lawrence
J.p. Lawrence reports on the U.S. military in Afghanistan and the Middle East. He served in the U.S. Army from 2008 to 2017. He graduated from Columbia Journalism School and Bard College and is a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines.
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Stars and Stripes · by J.P. Lawrence · July 19, 2021

8. Former Green Beret, son, get Japan prison terms for Ghosn escape
Japan has one of, if not the highest, the highest conviction rates in the world. Probably the only one higher would be north Korea with 100%. Japan does not bring you to trial until you have "confessed" your guilt so the prosceutors can be sure of a conviction.

Excerpts:
Another man, George-Antoine Zayek, is accused in the escape, but has not been arrested.
Separately, Greg Kelly, a former top Nissan executive, is on trial in Tokyo on charges of falsifying securities reports on Ghosn’s compensation. Kelly, arrested at the same time as Ghosn, also says he is innocent.
A verdict in Kelly’s trial, which began in September last year, is not expected until next year. More than 99% of Japanese criminal trials result in convictions. Upon conviction, the charges Kelly faces carry the maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Former Green Beret, son, get Japan prison terms for Ghosn escape
armytimes.com · by Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press · July 19, 2021
TOKYO (AP) — A Tokyo court handed down prison terms for the former Green Beret and his son accused of helping Nissan’s former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, escape to Lebanon while awaiting trial in Japan.
Michael Taylor was sentenced Monday to two years in prison, while his son Peter was sentenced to one year and eight months.
They were charged with helping a criminal in the December 2019 escape of Ghosn, who hid in a big box that was flown on a private jet via Turkey to Lebanon. Lebanon has no extradition treaty with Japan.
In handing down the sentencing, Chief Judge Hideo Nirei said they had committed a serious violation of the law, as now there is next to no chance of putting Ghosn on trial.
“This case enabled Ghosn, a defendant of a serious crime, to escape overseas,” he said.
Although the defense argued the two had been merely used by Ghosn, they clearly were involved, regardless of who was making the decisions, he said.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on charges of underreporting his compensation and of breach of trust in using Nissan Motor Co. money for personal gain. He says he is innocent, and he left because he could not expect a fair trial in Japan.
The Taylors were arrested in Massachusetts in May 2020 and extradited to Japan in March. During their trial they apologized, saying they had been misled by Ghosn about Japan’s criminal justice system. Michael Taylor sobbed and said he was “broke,” denying they had benefited monetarily because the $1.3 million prosecutors said Ghosn paid them just covered expenses.
But Nirei, the judge, said the court found that the motive was money. The Taylors can appeal within two weeks, he said.
The father and son, both wearing dark suits and flanked by guards, stood before the court in silence.
The Taylors’ defense lawyer Keiji Isaji sought a speedy trial. Many Japanese trials last for months, if not years.
The maximum penalty in Japan for helping a criminal is three years in prison. Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of of two years and 10 months for Michael Taylor and two years and six months for his son.
The Taylors’ defense had argued for suspended sentences for the two, who spent 10 months in custody in the U.S. before their extradition.
But Nirei said the time they were held before and during trial would not count as time served, saying they were not directly related and should be treated differently. “There is a limit to how much we can consider,” he said.
In December 2019, Ghosn left his home in Tokyo and took a bullet train to Osaka. At a hotel there, he hid in a big box supposedly containing audio equipment, that had air holes punched in it so he could breathe, according to prosecutors.
Another man, George-Antoine Zayek, is accused in the escape, but has not been arrested.
Separately, Greg Kelly, a former top Nissan executive, is on trial in Tokyo on charges of falsifying securities reports on Ghosn’s compensation. Kelly, arrested at the same time as Ghosn, also says he is innocent.
A verdict in Kelly’s trial, which began in September last year, is not expected until next year. More than 99% of Japanese criminal trials result in convictions. Upon conviction, the charges Kelly faces carry the maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

armytimes.com · by Yuri Kageyama, The Associated Press · July 19, 2021


9. China: Xi Jinping Is About To Make Most Important Strategic Decision Of Our Era – Analysis

E​xcertps:

​Conclusion: The locus of the Sino-American Cold War
If Taiwan is now ground zero in the new Sino-American Cold War, recent events make it increasingly likely that the conflict will not be settled peacefully. The harsh Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong makes an obvious lie out of China’s pious offer of ‘One Country, Two systems,’ to Taipei in return for its acquiescence in reunification. Indeed, a 2020 Taiwan National Security Survey poll found that only a miniscule one percent of Taiwanese support immediate reunification with China. If reunification is to come, it will be at the barrel of a gun.
In the next few years, look for Beijing to hope their general ‘salami slicing’ tactics work over Taiwan, in an effort to both get what they want and to avoid the cataclysm of a general conflict with the US. Increasing overflights, naval incursions, cyberattacks, and diplomatic pressure will all be ratcheted up. As President Kennedy found to be true in the US-Soviet Cold War over Berlin, America’s enemy will look for signs of its half-heartedness, in an effort to divide the US from its allies.
If, in the next five to six years, this schism fails to happen, we will have reached the moment of truth — either Beijing will accept its strategic imprisonment within the first island chain, and radically alter its geo-strategy in becoming a more status quo power, or Xi will continue on his present course and battle will be joined.
Of course, this makes for the most sober reading. However, seeing China’s options from Xi’s point of view leads us to no other conclusion. We must prepare as best we can for what it to come. The imperative of Ethical Realism is to see the world as it is, warts and all, and then strive to make it better. With regards to America, its best course is to build up its defences in the Indo-Pacific, and particularly its alliance structure, as the deterrent effect that a dominant American-led alliance can bring about in terms of Chinese strategic decision-making is the last, best thing the US can do to maintain the present world order, and peace in the world we live in.
China: Xi Jinping Is About To Make Most Important Strategic Decision Of Our Era – Analysis
eurasiareview.com · by Observer Research Foundation · July 19, 2021
By John C. Hulsman
There was no longer any way to put it off; in July 1940, the army-dominated government of Imperial Japan had come to a strategic fork in the road. Angered by its ongoing aggression in China, the western powers (the US, UK, and the Netherlands) had enacted a full oil embargo to stop Tokyo’s militarism in its tracks. Despite its stockpiles, the Japanese high command knew this was a potentially game-changing economic blow as, together, the three countries supplied Tokyo with an overwhelming 90 percent of its energy needs. Unless Japan engaged in the most humiliating about face, ending its adventurism in China (on which its government had staked everything), Tokyo’s economy would soon literally grind to a halt. A decisive strategic choice had to be made, and quickly.
For a militaristic Tokyo, existentially endangered by the looming US oil embargo, the choices were: To double down on fighting in China, seizing the whole of the country (and controlling its resources); strike the resource-rich (and thinly defended) Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia); or obliterate the powerful American fleet in Pearl Harbour, destroying American influence in the Pacific as a whole. As the world knows, the Japanese disastrously opted for Option 3, leading directly to their own ruin.
Much as was true for Imperial Japan in the early 1940s, the China of today has reached a similar strategic fork in the road. Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party finds itself under pressure, though its predicament is caused by nothing so much as the immovable forces of geography.
For it is geography that is hemming in Beijing’s efforts to dominate the Indo-Pacific. China is stymied by being bottled up by ‘the first island chain’ that rings it. Running from Taiwan through Japan and the Philippines before ending at the Strait of Malacca in the south (around Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia), China finds its commercial and strategic prospects under perpetual peril to blockade from the US and Japan to the north at the Strait of Taiwan, and from the US, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and India to the south.
Breaking out of its naval and commercial geostrategic imprisonment at the hands of an organically growing US-led anti-Chinese coalition comprising the key states of the first island chain is the key strategic battleground of the incipient Sino-American Cold War. It is simply impossible for Beijing to become master of East Asia, let along the Indo-Pacific and then emerge as the world’s dominant superpower, without it doing so.

As was true for Imperial Japan, Xi’s China has three broad strategic options: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) overland route; the southern route (Strait of Malacca); the northern route (Strait of Taiwan). Xi’s coming strategic choice is as momentous as it has been understudied. Here are how the three strategic gambits look from his eyes.
The BRI overland route
The formidable (at least on paper) BRI is the geo-economic cornerstone of Xi’s tenure in office. Putting its vast surplus capital and newfound macro-economic power to geo-economic use, the BRI amounts to a vast Chinese-funded network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and ports.
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An overwhelming 139 countries have endorsed the BRI in one fashion or another (including western, pro-American countries like Italy, Portugal, and New Zealand). Making a great success of the Silk Road Overland Route would enable Xi to side-step war with the US and its allies (unlike the other two strategic options) by geo-economically linking the dominant Eurasia landmass together under Chinese tutelage. By its overland geographic nature, the BRI option would make the first island chain (and the still pre-eminent US navy) irrelevant.
Over decades, a successful, embedded BRI could create an extensive spider web of economic dependence on China in much of Asia, the Middle East, and even Europe. As many of the Eurasian partners of BRI are desperately in need of updated infrastructure, Beijing is dangling an enticing and necessary carrot before their eyes.
The problem with this option is that BRI has amounted to far less than these impressive headlines. First, there have been predictable problems with corruption involving BRI projects; for example, in Malaysia over US $7.5 billion in government money for BRI projects simply disappeared.
Second, the BRI has become synonymous with ‘debt trap diplomacy,’ as a failure of the recipient states to pay back their infrastructure loans have led to China confiscating their property, put up as collateral. The most egregious case of this was the handing over by an impoverished Sri Lanka of its main Hambantota port to Beijing for 99 years, in lieu of making good on its loan payments.
Third, rather than stimulating local economies along the BRI route, all too often, Chinese workers are called in to facilitate the infrastructure projects, sidestepping local unions and labour laws and embittering local populations in general. As such, the BRI is increasingly seen as a programme to keep Chinese workers employed, rather than helping local communities along the route.
Fourth, the political risk for China in dealing with many differing governments across thousands of miles is huge. This gigantic political risk also holds true for developed countries such as Italy, which—with a change of government from the pro-China Five Star Movement to the more traditional, pro-Atlanticist government of Mario Draghi—has gone from keen to skeptical about the BRI.
All these factors have taken some of the shine off of Xi’s flagship geo-economic policy venture. Chinese overseas investments through the BRI amounted to US $47 billion in 2020, a steep fall of 54 percent from the year before. The BRI strategic option will remain viable for Xi — especially if China relatively booms in the post-pandemic world as the west fades — but, given these many and obvious problems, it will remain a backup plan.
The southern route (Strait of Malacca)
Only 2.7 kilometres wide at it most narrow, the Strait of Malacca is a natural bottleneck, ideal for shutting off the Pacific (via the South China Sea) from the Indian Ocean (via the Andaman Sea). The Strait is directly controlled by Singapore, which is a longstanding US ally; the predominant American Seventh Fleet can easily be mobilised to shut off the bottleneck at present.
While China has been militarising islands in the South China Sea over the past decade, the Strait and its Indian Ocean side remains firmly under US/Indian control, with the Indian Nicobar Island chain being a key to this geo-strategic advantage. The Chinese have given some thought to trying to bypass the Strait, through the construction of the Kra Canal in Thailand, but this US ally’s wariness (and the fact that anti-Chinese naval forces could be redeployed to bottle up the canal entrance) makes this a non-starter.
While Beijing would dearly love to break out of the Malaccan stranglehold, and theoretically it is possible, in reality the southern route amounts to the least likely of the three options for Xi. Malacca is simply too far away from China’s strategic locus of power, logistically making this option fraught with peril. In addition, it would involve Beijing possibly having to militarily take on a host of pro-American allies beyond the feared Seventh Fleet, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, as well as great power India. Both too far away and too difficult, the southern route amounts to a non-starter of a strategic option for China.
The northern route (Strait of Taiwan)
All this leaves the northern route, geo-strategically opening the corked bottle via the Strait of Taiwan. Only 160 kilometres wide at its narrowest point, the Strait separates China proper from the island democracy of Taiwan; as such, the logistical problems bedeviling the southern route are simply not applicable here.
Also, in its strategic favour from China’s point of view, there are far fewer allies likely to rush to America’s defence in militarily supporting the over-matched Taiwanese. While Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso has just made it clear that Tokyo would regard an attack on Taiwan by China as ‘an existential crisis,’ and come to America’s aid, in practice while this would amount to important refueling and logistics support, there would be far less Japanese support in terms of joining America in the actual desperate fighting.
Beyond doing away with the geo-strategic imprisonment of China by the first island chain, allowing the Chinese navy to at last break out into the open seas, the northern route also offers Beijing a number of other highly significant strategic enticements. As the world’s leader in the production of semiconductor chips, China conquering Taiwan would allow Beijing to corner the market regarding this vital economic input.
Perhaps, most of all, the demonstration effect of America losing a pitched battle with China (or even, worse, scurrying away from its commitments to Taiwan by choosing to leave the island to its fate) would have an absolutely momentous psychological effect across the Indo-Pacific. A legion of American allies in Asia would all be asking the same telling question: If the US is unwilling to come to the defence of a longstanding democratic ally like Taiwan, what is to stop it from failing to do so again?
In such a case, it is not too much to say that with American credibility in tatters, the US’ carefully constructed Indo-Pacific alliance structure would itself come entirely unglued, as India, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, and the other ASEAN countries would draw the obvious conclusions and try to make terms with a newly-dominant China.
For all these reasons — far easier logistics due to geographical proximity, fewer American allies to contend with, China’s domestic nationalist touchstone, Taiwan’s vital semiconductor industry and the pivotal demonstration effect — the northern route is the logical strategic choice from Xi Jinping’s point of view as to how to break out of his first island chain imprisonment.
Conclusion: The locus of the Sino-American Cold War
If Taiwan is now ground zero in the new Sino-American Cold War, recent events make it increasingly likely that the conflict will not be settled peacefully. The harsh Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong makes an obvious lie out of China’s pious offer of ‘One Country, Two systems,’ to Taipei in return for its acquiescence in reunification. Indeed, a 2020 Taiwan National Security Survey poll found that only a miniscule one percent of Taiwanese support immediate reunification with China. If reunification is to come, it will be at the barrel of a gun.
In the next few years, look for Beijing to hope their general ‘salami slicing’ tactics work over Taiwan, in an effort to both get what they want and to avoid the cataclysm of a general conflict with the US. Increasing overflights, naval incursions, cyberattacks, and diplomatic pressure will all be ratcheted up. As President Kennedy found to be true in the US-Soviet Cold War over Berlin, America’s enemy will look for signs of its half-heartedness, in an effort to divide the US from its allies.
If, in the next five to six years, this schism fails to happen, we will have reached the moment of truth — either Beijing will accept its strategic imprisonment within the first island chain, and radically alter its geo-strategy in becoming a more status quo power, or Xi will continue on his present course and battle will be joined.
Of course, this makes for the most sober reading. However, seeing China’s options from Xi’s point of view leads us to no other conclusion. We must prepare as best we can for what it to come. The imperative of Ethical Realism is to see the world as it is, warts and all, and then strive to make it better. With regards to America, its best course is to build up its defences in the Indo-Pacific, and particularly its alliance structure, as the deterrent effect that a dominant American-led alliance can bring about in terms of Chinese strategic decision-making is the last, best thing the US can do to maintain the present world order, and peace in the world we live in.
eurasiareview.com · by Observer Research Foundation · July 19, 2021

10. Not just the money: Ransomware a growing political threat to U.S. interests

My comments below.

Not just the money: Ransomware a growing political threat to U.S. interests
Adversaries seen turning to hack attacks to advance geopolitical goals
washingtontimes.com · by Guy Taylor

The rising frequency of ransomware attacks against private companies involved in everything from banking to gasoline supply and beef production may feel like an over-hyped national security threat, but a growing number of experts are warning that the attacks represent a new cyberwar trend that America’s adversaries are poised to exploit not for money but for serious geopolitical gain.
Analysts predict that as the scope and sophistication of the incidents grows over the coming months and years, states such as RussiaChina, Iran, North Korea and others are all likely to accelerate the use of the tactic to exact foreign policy concessions either directly from Washington, or from U.S. allies around the world.
“I think it’s a matter of time before key adversaries like Iran and North Korea are leveraging ransomware for political gain,” said Jenny Jun, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.
It is important to understand the basic mechanics of a typical ransomware attack: A group of hackers bore into a company’s computer system, find sensitive data such as client bank account numbers, then lock that data up with an encryption key — or password — that makes it impossible for the company to access the data. The hackers then demand that the company pay a fee in exchange for the encryption key to unlock the data.
Ms. Jun maintains that the same processes present hostile forces — both state and non-state actors — with a new and affordable way to wreak havoc, particularly if the companies being targeted are involved in major critical infrastructure or other politically sensitive industries such as defense production and high-level banking.
While recent months have seen hacking groups like “DarkSide” and “REvil” use ransomware to get U.S. companies to pay tens of millions of dollars for encryption keys to free up the companies’ data, Ms. Jun predicts foreign governments with influence over such hacking groups will soon be demanding something other than money.
Foreign adversaries could instead seek things like sanctions relief, prisoner releases and subtle policy shifts by U.S. allies designed to undermine American interests on the global stage, Ms. Jun said in an interview with The Washington Times.
“It could be a demand that a country concede its control over a particular piece of territory,” she said, adding that a foreign adversary could also use ransomware against an international bank to demand that the bank — or the country where it is located — stop cooperating with U.S. sanctions.
Iran already has a track record of engaging in such tactics outside the cyber realm, she said, noting how Tehran succeeded in pressuring South Korea to release nearly $7 billion in frozen Iranian assets early this year by seizing control of a South Korean-flagged oil tanker.
Ms. Jun called it a “no-brainer” that Iran — which has billions of dollars in funds frozen in overseas banks because of U.S. and Western economic sanctions — will eventually turn to ransomware attacks to achieve similar ends. “You can imagine a country having their facilities taken hostage through ransomware and then the Iranians saying, ‘We’ll release the encryption key if you release our money,’” she said. “It doesn’t have to be against the U.S., it could target U.S. partners.”
Preparing the battlefield’
The future of cyberwarfare is coming quickly.
“In the coming years, the cyber domain may be the most important ‘battlefield,’” said David Maxwell, a former U.S. Special Forces officer who focuses on North Korea at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “For North Korea, it is just too tempting of an environment in which to operate. The benefits are high and so far the costs are extremely low.”
While North Korea is not yet known to have engaged in state-sponsored ransomware attacks, Mr. Maxwell says Pyongyang appears to be engaging in a range of hacking activities that are designed to conduct “reconnaissance” on South Korean, U.S. and other networks for potential future action that could be aimed at achieving specific geopolitical gains.
“They could be ‘preparing the battlefield,’ so to speak,” he told The Times. “Someday we could see major attacks on infrastructure that might be able to do an extremely high amount of damage,” damage that could, in turn benefit the regime’s “blackmail diplomacy.”
Stewart Baker, a former National Security Agency general counsel and Homeland Security Department policy chief now practicing technology law at the private firm Steptoe & Johnson, said in an interview that “it is not implausible” that foreign adversaries will seek a subtle way to launch ransomware attacks for political ends.
“You’re not necessarily going to get geopolitical influence by locking up a piece of data and publicly demanding a policy change,” Mr. Baker said. “But could you do it quietly? Perhaps.”
And is it possible to imagine scenarios in which a private-sector ransomware incident could turn into a public policy football? “Yes,” Mr. Baker said, pointing to the Colonial Pipeline attack by Russia-based hackers that briefly halted the flow of gasoline across the southeastern United States in May.
The attack could have taken on a major geopolitical twist, Mr. Baker said, if it had been much more sophisticated and succeeded in tying up Colonial’s industrial control systems for weeks on end, taking over the computer system that actually makes the pipeline open and close. Colonial officials acknowledged paying off the ransomware thieves in order to restore supplies after about a week.
Had the larger, longer shutdown occurred, Mr. Baker said, Russian President Vladimir Putin could well have come forward and told U.S. officials that Moscow had the capability to track and capture the Russian-based hackers and would do so on the l condition that, say, Washington agree to prevent American social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook from giving Russian dissidents a forum to criticize Kremlin policies.
Inside cyber geopolitics
U.S. cyber officials have thus far focused on the prospect that geopolitical developments, such as U.S. airstrikes or sanctions against a particular country, will trigger increases in cyber incidents against the United States — not that cyber or ransomware attacks themselves could preemptively become geopolitical weapons in the hands of foreign adversaries.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) circulated an “insights” document in January 2020 warning that “increased geopolitical tensions and threats of aggression may result in cyber and physical attacks against the homeland and also destructive hybrid attacks by proxies against U.S. targets and interests abroad.”
The document homed in specifically on the prospect of “disruptive and destructive cyber operations against strategic targets, including finance, energy and telecommunications organizations, and an increased interest in industrial control systems and operational technology” by foreign hackers.
It also warned of the ongoing threat of “cyber-enabled espionage and intellectual property theft targeting a variety of industries.”
Mr. Baker told The Times that China has long-engaged in such cyber-enabled espionage targeting American companies that contract with the Pentagon to work on U.S. defense and weapons development.
“This has been less about leverage than about giving China geopolitical advantages they didn’t otherwise have,” Mr. Baker said. Cyber-espionage has effectively “allowed the Chinese to modernize their military probably 15 years ahead of time by stealing stuff — by hacking into defense contractors.”
“It’s not that they go in and they call up [whomever they’ve hacked] to say, ‘Hey, woohoo, we have your data,’” Mr. Baker said. “No, instead, they’ve taken that data and handed it off to someone else and said, ‘Here you go, build this [weapon] for us now.’”
“So there’s a geopolitical impact in that,” Mr. Baker said.
For its own part, the United States has reportedly also pursued geopolitical goals through covert cyber actions over the past decade. The New York Times has reported that both the Obama and Trump administrations ordered the Pentagon to carry out offensive cyber strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging Pyongyang’s missile test launches in their opening seconds.
Analysts generally agree that it would be a geopolitical coup for Washington if such cyber attacks reliably neutralized the threat from nuclear-tipped North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, the effectiveness of the Pentagon campaign targeting Pyongyang’s launches remains a subject of debate in Washington.

washingtontimes.com · by Guy Taylor

11. The Reassuring Data on the Delta Variant

This seems like some positive data.

Get vaccinated. I am glad we did as soon as the US military medical system started vaccinating retirees. We recevied the Pfizer vaccine at Fort Belvoir.


The Reassuring Data on the Delta Variant
There’s no sign of a surge in hospitalization or severe illness, and the vaccines remain extremely effective.
WSJ · by Leslie Bienen and Monica Gandhi
One of the most important questions is whether vaccines are still working well. The best way to answer that is to look at the number of vaccinated people getting serious Covid-19 symptoms or being hospitalized. A new study from the U.K. found that vaccines are still incredibly effective at preventing serious illness with the Delta variant circulating. The Pfizer vaccine was 96% effective after two doses at preventing hospitalization, meaning the average unvaccinated person in the study was more than 25 times as likely to be hospitalized with Covid as the average vaccinated one. (This almost certainly understates the protectiveness of the vaccine, as the vaccinated cohort was older and had a higher incidence of pre-existing conditions than the unvaccinated one.) The Johnson & Johnson vaccine produces strong neutralizing antibodies and cellular responses against the Delta variant, still present eight months after administration.

Studies from Canada and the U.K. show 79% to 87% effectiveness against symptomatic infection with the Delta variant. On July 8 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration asserted their confidence in the vaccines. They jointly announced that no boosters are necessary at this time.
This is all excellent news, as is the finding that 99% of hospitalizations for Covid-19 are among unvaccinated people. The vaccines are as good as first heralded, even against new variants. That unvaccinated people are still being hospitalized underscores the continuing need to get as many people vaccinated as possible. That will also protect children under 12, who aren’t eligible for vaccines. Cases in kids have fallen in places with high vaccination rates among adults and adolescents.

The human immune system truly is more clever and flexible than most people realize. Vaccines generate memory B cells that allow them to produce adapted antibodies toward a range of variants should they ever encounter them. Data from the La Jolla Immunology Institute and the University of California, San Francisco show that T-cell responses provoked by the vaccines are strong against known variants. If you choose a two-shot regimen such as Pfizer or Moderna, getting both shots is still important, as the booster may be necessary to recognize a range of variants.
A second question is whether a particular variant is making infected people sicker. This question is answered fairly easily by looking at publicly available data from the CDC and comparing hospitalizations per case, particularly in regions where a new variant is more common. We analyzed these CDC data and found that the hospitalization data support none of the alarming headlines suggesting Delta is more dangerous than earlier strains.
Hospitalization data are a key to understanding the overall risk for two reasons. They tell us whether healthcare systems are overwhelmed, and they predict deaths with high reliability. Positivity data are less reliable, especially the relationship between infection and hospitalizations becomes weaker in highly vaccinated countries like the U.S. We conducted similar analyses in April, when headlines were raging that the U.K. variant, now called Alpha, was driving surges in kids. We found that it wasn’t, and that juvenile hospitalizations weren’t rising in places with a high prevalence of the Alpha variant.
In the U.S. overall, hospitalizations fell consistently from their daily peak in early January of 133,214 to an average of about 12,000 in late June and early July. In the past few weeks, however, hospitalizations bottomed out and are rising in places with low rates of vaccination and low levels of natural immunity. Hospitalizations in children have been consistently low since the first domestic Covid-19 case was found in February 2020, and they haven’t increased since Delta emerged.
U.S. hospitalization data also show not only that higher Delta prevalence doesn’t go hand in hand with higher hospitalization rates; these numbers appear inversely correlated—that is, places that had higher percentages of the Delta variant had lower ratios of hospitalized people to Covid cases. Whatever else we know or don’t know about Delta, its prevalence clearly isn’t driving hospitalizations. When we look at current hospitalization data across the country, the most striking predictive pattern is that a high vaccination rate in a region accurately predicts a lower hospitalization rate.
The hardest question to answer is transmissibility, because it isn’t possible to conduct controlled trials comparing how many people get infected with a particular variant. Using data about prevalence of a given variant as a proxy for transmissibility is an unsound approach, because evolutionarily fitter versions of Covid-19 will swamp other versions and outreplicate them. They may well be more infectious or they may only be better at reproducing themselves in an infected person’s body—we have no reliable way of knowing. The effect is the same: Delta is well on its way to becoming the dominant strain in the U.S.
So far, as we march through the variant alphabet, none of the predicted doomsday scenarios in virulence or vaccine resistance have come to pass. If that changes with a future variant, we will know quickly, because data on hospitalizations are readily available. Anyone can go to the CDC website or the state health department and see whether hospitalizations are rising.
“In baseball you don’t know nothing,” Yogi Berra observed. But we need to stop acting as if we know nothing about Covid-19. Every variant that has come along has produced unwarranted panic. We have to work harder to get people vaccinated, given that almost every American death from Covid-19 is tragically preventable, that world-wide vaccination is paramount to tamp down transmission and stop future variants, and that saving lives everywhere is the right thing to do.
Dr. Bienen is a public-health researcher at Oregon Health and Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health. Dr. Gandhi is an infectious-disease physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Eric Happel contributed to this article.
WSJ · by Leslie Bienen and Monica Gandhi

12. Afghanistan withdraws diplomats from Pakistan following alleged kidnapping of ambassador's daughter

How bad are things going to get throughout the region? What does this bode for the future or was this a "one-off."
Afghanistan withdraws diplomats from Pakistan following alleged kidnapping of ambassador's daughter
CNN · by Sophia Saifi and Ehsan Popalzai, CNN
Islamabad (CNN)Afghanistan is withdrawing its diplomats from Pakistan following the alleged abduction of the ambassador's daughter in the capital Islamabad, according to the Afghan foreign ministry.
Silsila Alikhil, the daughter of Najib Alikhil, Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan, was "abducted for several hours and severely tortured by unknown individuals on her way home" on Friday, according to a statement from the ministry.
She was later released and is now receiving medical care in the hospital, the statement said, adding that the investigation into the incident is still ongoing.
Pakistan's foreign ministry had appeared to confirm the incident in a statement on Saturday, saying that Silsila had been "assaulted while riding a rented vehicle" and that it was trying to apprehend suspects.
But in an about-turn on Sunday night, Pakistan's interior minister denied the incident and expressed skepticism toward Silsila's account of what happened.
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Earlier on Sunday, Afghanistan had announced it would withdraw Alikhil and all other senior diplomats based in Pakistan "until all threats are addressed," according to the foreign ministry statement.
The ministry also summoned Pakistan's ambassador to Kabul, Mansoor Ahmad Khan, to "convey the strong protest and deep concerns of the Government of Afghanistan to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Pakistan about this grave incident."
In the statement, Afghanistan called on the Pakistan government to "take immediate action" to identify and punish the perpetrators, and to protect the safety of Afghan diplomats "in accordance with international conventions."

Pakistan's foreign ministry called the withdrawal of diplomats unfortunate and regrettable in a news release on Sunday, adding that it hoped Afghanistan would reconsider its decision.
The ministry added that the abduction and assault "is being investigated and followed-up at the highest level on the instructions of the Prime Minister," and that security had been "beefed up" for the ambassador, his family, and other Afghan embassy personnel. On Sunday, Pakistan's foreign secretary met with Alikhil to reassure him of Pakistan's "full cooperation" on the matter, the statement added.
However, by the end of Sunday, Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid told a local news channel in Afghanistan that it was "not an abduction at all," but rather "an international conspiracy" fueled by Indian intelligence, without providing more details on the allegation.
He also stated at a press conference that an initial investigation had found discrepancies in the statement Silsila gave.
The alleged incident comes as Pakistan prepares to host an Afghan peace conference next week, amid concerns over the aftermath of the withdrawal of the United States military from Afghanistan.
The peace conference had originally been scheduled for this weekend, between Saturday and Monday, but has been delayed until after Eid Al-Adha, said Pakistan's foreign ministry on Friday. The new dates have not yet been announced, but the Islamic holiday ends on July 23.
About three dozen attendees are expected to arrive in Islamabad for the conference, including heads of Afghan political parties. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan is also expected to attend the conference.
"As the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is nearing completion, we remain concerned at the evolving security situation in Afghanistan," said a spokesperson for Pakistan's foreign ministry in a statement on Thursday, adding that Pakistan "remains committed" to helping facilitate the Afghan peace process.
CNN's Jessie Yeung and journalist Zahid Gishkori contributed to this report.
CNN · by Sophia Saifi and Ehsan Popalzai, CNN



13. Pentagon drones ‘8 to 14 times’ costlier than banned Chinese craft


Pentagon drones ‘8 to 14 times’ costlier than banned Chinese craft
Financial Times · by Kiran Stacey · July 18, 2021
Camera drones developed by the Pentagon are more expensive and less capable than the Chinese-made models they were designed to replace, according to an internal US government memo seen by the Financial Times.
The memo from officials at the interior department, which runs the US government’s largest fleet of civilian unmanned craft, warned the “Blue drones” were not good enough to carry out vital conservation work.
The Pentagon spent more than $13m developing drones that government agencies could use instead of those made or assembled in China. But the complaint about the devices’ cost and effectiveness illustrates the difficulties the US has faced trying to wean itself off Chinese technology without obvious domestic alternatives.
The memo, written in January for the incoming Biden administration, said: “By only having the ‘Blue UAS [unmanned aerial systems]’ approved, it reduces DoI sensor capabilities by 95 per cent . . . The aircraft are designed for a very specific DoD [Department of Defense] mission set and will only meet around 20 per cent of DoI mission requirements.”
It warned that with an average price of $2,100, the drones cost between eight and 14 times more than the aircraft the department was previously able to purchase.
In 2019, the Trump administration grounded every one of the department’s 810 drones because they contained Chinese parts.
The move was part of a broader push to limit US exposure to sensitive technology, including 5G equipment made by the Chinese company Huawei, for fear that Beijing could use such hardware for spying.
Since the 2019 order, departmental officials have been able to resume drone flights to carry out controlled burning to prevent wildfires, but have not been able to buy any aircraft or launch flights for other tasks, such as tracking wildlife.
Members of Congress are debating measures that would bar federal money from being used to purchase drones made or assembled in China.
The Pentagon has spent several years and millions of dollars working with private companies to develop five drones it said could be safely used by government agencies.
But according to a Department of Defense report last year, at least four of the models contained a significant number of Chinese parts, including circuit boards.
One government official said the Biden administration was carrying out a review of its entire civilian drone fleet to work out which aircraft were safe to fly, but it has not rescinded the Trump-era grounding order.
The interior department declined to comment.
Andrew Musto, deputy director at the Defense Innovation Unit, the arm of the Pentagon that helped develop the drones, said: “These systems . . . have inherited some DoD-focused capabilities that have associated cost implications. DIU recognises that these five systems are only a first step towards rapid adoption of commercial UAS technology into the government.”
He added that the defence department was trying to reduce costs and improve the capabilities of the drones it had helped develop to meet the needs of other departments.
While officials debate the safety of flying the government’s existing drones, the interior department’s internal memo warned that legally mandated conservation work was not being carried out.
“The current situation makes it nearly impossible for the department to comply with legislation such as the John D Dingell Jr Conservation, Management and Recreation Act,” it said. Among other tasks, the law mandates mapping and conservation of large tracts of public land.
Financial Times · by Kiran Stacey · July 18, 2021


14. Microsoft Exchange email hack was caused by China, US says

Anyone surprised by this?

Microsoft Exchange email hack was caused by China, US says
AP · by ERIC TUCKER · July 19, 2021
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Monday blamed China for a hack of Microsoft Exchange email server software that compromised tens of thousands of computers around the world earlier this year.
The administration and allied nations also disclosed a broad range of other cyberthreats from Beijing, including ransomware attacks from government-affiliated hackers that have targeted companies with demands for millions of dollars. China’s Ministry of State Security has been using criminal contract hackers, who have engaged in cyber extortion schemes and theft for their own profit, according to a senior administration official. That official briefed reporters about the investigation on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department on Monday announced charges against four Chinese nationals who prosecutors said were working with the Ministry of State Security in a hacking campaign that targeted dozens of computer systems, including companies, universities and government entities.
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The announcements highlighted the ongoing cyberthreat posed by Chinese government hackers even as the administration has been consumed with trying to curb ransomware attacks from Russia-based syndicates that have targeted critical infrastructure, including a massive fuel pipeline. Even though the finger-pointing was not accompanied by any sanctions of Beijing, a senior administration official who disclosed the actions to reporters said that the U.S. has confronted senior Chinese officials and that the White House regards the multination public shaming as sending an importance message.
That hackers affiliated with the Ministry of State Security carried out a ransomware attack was surprising and concerning to the U.S. government, the senior administration official said. But the attack, in which an unidentified American company received a high-dollar ransom demand, also gave U.S. officials new insight into what the official said was “the kind of aggressive behavior that we’re seeing coming out of China.”
The European Union also blamed China for what it said were malicious cyber activities with “significant effects” that targeted government institutions and political organizations in the EU and its 27 member states, as well as key European industries.
In a statement, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the hacking was “conducted from the territory of China for the purpose of intellectual property theft and espionage.”
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The majority of the most damaging and high-profile recent ransomware attacks have involved Russian criminal gangs. Though the U.S. has sometimes seen connections between Russian intelligence agencies and individual hackers, the use of criminal contract hackers by the Chinese government “to conduct unsanctioned cyber operations globally is distinct,” the official said.
The Microsoft Exchange hack was first identified in January and was rapidly attributed to Chinese cyber spies by private sector groups. An administration official said the government’s attribution to hackers affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security took until now in part because of the discovery of the ransomware and for-profit hacking operations and because the administration wanted to pair the announcement with guidance for businesses about tactics that the Chinese have been using.
An advisory Monday from the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency laid out specific techniques and ways that government agencies and businesses can protect themselves.
The White House also wanted to line up an international coalition of allies to call out China, according to the official, who said it was the first time NATO had condemned Beijing’s hacking operations.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, asked about the Microsoft Exchange hack, has previously said that China “firmly opposes and combats cyber attacks and cyber theft in all forms” and cautioned that attribution of cyberattacks should be based on evidence and not “groundless accusations.”
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Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.
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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP.
AP · by ERIC TUCKER · July 19, 2021

15. Takeaways from the Pegasus Project

Takeaways from the Pegasus Project
By Washington Post Staff
July 19, 2021|Updated today at 7:26 a.m. EDT

The Washington Post · July 18, 2021
Military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and the two women closest to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories.
Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, a human rights group, had access to a list of more than 50,000 numbers and shared it with the news organizations, which did further research and analysis. Amnesty’s Security Lab did forensic examination of the phones.
Here are key takeaways from the investigation:
  1. Phones identified from a sprawling list: Thirty-seven targeted smartphones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of NSO Group, a worldwide leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, the investigation found. The list does not identify who put the numbers on it, or why, and it is unknown how many of the phones were targeted or surveilled. But forensic analysis of the 37 phones shows that many display a tight correlation between time stamps associated with a number on the list and the initiation of surveillance attempts, in some cases as brief as a few seconds.
  2. Politicians, journalists, activists found on list: The numbers on the list are unattributed, but reporters were able to identify more than 1,000 people spanning more than 50 countries through research and interviews on four continents: several Arab royal family members, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, and more than 600 politicians and government officials — including cabinet ministers, diplomats and military and security officers, as well as several heads of state and prime ministers. The purpose of the list could not be conclusively determined.
  3. Company says it polices its clients for abuses: The targeting of the 37 smartphones would appear to conflict with the stated purpose of NSO’s licensing of the Pegasus spyware, which the company says is intended only for use in surveilling terrorists and major criminals. The evidence extracted from these smartphones, revealed here for the first time, calls into question pledges by the Israeli company to police its clients for human rights abuses. NSO Chief Executive Shalev Hulio said Sunday that he was “very concerned” by The Post’s reports. “We are checking every allegation, and if some of the allegations are true, we will take stern action, and we will terminate contracts like we did in the past.” He added, “If anybody did any kind of surveillance on journalists, even if it’s not by Pegasus, it’s disturbing.”
  4. Apple iPhone shown to be vulnerable: The discovery on a list of phone numbers of 37 smartphones that had been either penetrated or attacked with Pegasus spyware fuels the debate over whether Apple has done enough to ensure the security of its devices, popular the world over for their reputation for resisting hacking attempts. Thirty-four of the 37 were iPhones.
  5. New details of hacking carry worldwide implications: Among the 37 phones confirmed to have been targeted, 10 were in India and another five in Hungary, most linked to journalists, activists or businesspeople. The finding will add to concerns about extralegal government surveillance conducted with private spyware in both countries. Hundreds more numbers from India and Hungary appear on the broader global list. Each country says it acts legally in carrying out any surveillance activity.
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Reporting from The Washington Post
Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide
NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, licensed to governments around the globe, can infect phones without a click. Beyond the personal intrusions made possible by smartphone surveillance, the widespread use of spyware has emerged as a leading threat to democracies worldwide, critics say. Read the full story.
Letter from the editor
Why The Washington Post joined news organizations across the globe to bring you this investigation. Read the full story.
Jamal Khashoggi’s wife targeted with spyware before his death
NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used to secretly target the smartphones of the two women closest to murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to digital forensic analysis. Read the full story.
FAQ: A guide to ‘spyware’
How Pegasus works, who is most vulnerable and why it’s hard to protect yourself from hacks. Read the full story.
Invisible surveillance
Video: How spyware is secretly hacking smartphones. Watch the video.
Despite the hype, iPhone security no match for NSO spyware
An international investigation found 23 Apple devices that were successfully hacked. “Zero-click” attacks can work on even the newest generations of iPhones, even after years of effort in which Apple attempted to close the door against unauthorized surveillance. Read the full story.
The spyware is sold to governments to fight terrorism. In India, it was used to hack journalists and others.
The confirmed infections of seven phones represent a tiny fraction of what may be a vast surveillance net in Modi’s India. Read the full story.
In Orban’s Hungary, spyware was used to monitor journalists and others who might challenge the government
The deployment of the tool, confirmed with forensics, shows a willingness to use tactics previously deemed out-of-bounds. Read the full story.
About this project
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and Amnesty International had access to a list of phone numbers concentrated in countries known to surveil their citizens and also known to have been clients of NSO Group. The two nonprofits shared the information with The Washington Post and 15 other news organizations worldwide that have worked collaboratively to conduct further analysis and reporting over several months. Forbidden Stories oversaw the Pegasus Project, and Amnesty International provided forensic analysis but had no editorial input.
More than 80 journalists from Forbidden Stories, The Washington Post, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit, the Guardian, Daraj, Direkt36, Le Soir, Knack, Radio France, the Wire, Proceso, Aristegui Noticias, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Haaretz and PBS Frontline joined the effort.
Reporting by Reed Albergotti, Michael Birnbaum, Shane Harris, Drew Harwell, Niha Masih, Souad Mekhennet, Dana Priest, Mary Beth Sheridan, Joanna Slater, Julie Tate and Craig Timberg.
Design and development by Junne Alcantara, Betty Chavarria, Garland Potts and Irfan Uraizee. Video by Jon Gerberg. Video graphics by Brian Monroe. Photo research and editing by Chloe Coleman and Olivier Laurent. Graphics by Hannah Dormido, Courtney Kan, Tim Meko and Danielle Rindler. “Post Reports” production by Maggie Penman and Emma Talkoff.
Editing by Jennifer Amur, Marisa Bellack, Matthew Brown, Andrew deGrandpre, David Bruns, Peter Finn, Courtney Kan, Jeff Leen, Mark Seibel, Gregory Manifold, Liz McGehee, Jorge Ribas and Stu Werner.
Additional production by Courtney Beesch, Steven Bohner, Amy Cavenaile, Sarah Dunton, Tom Johnson, Travis Lyles, Kenisha Malcolm, Angel Mendoza, Tessa Muggeridge, Lucy Naland, Coleen O’Lear, T.J. Ortenzi, Mark W. Smith and Emily Tsao.
The Washington Post · July 18, 2021


16. The Information Technology Counter-Revolution: Cheap, Disposable, and Decentralized

Conclusion:
Victory in the post IT-RMA world is about resiliency and trust. The ability to persist over time, not simply to dominate in a moment, is what will ultimately deter adversaries from launching first strikes. IT-RMA theories of victory envisioned quick and overwhelming campaigns of long-range strikes. But such campaigns are rare. Moreover, the IT-RMA said little about what comes after the first volleys of a conflict. In a hypothetical conflict with a country like China, the United States is most likely to succeed if it can bear the economic and political costs over time.
Military revolutions were never just about chasing the next technology. They were always about experimentation and response. It’s time for the United States to adapt to the counter revolution, not simply update to the newest version of an already antiquated system.

The Information Technology Counter-Revolution: Cheap, Disposable, and Decentralized - War on the Rocks
JACQUELYN SCHNEIDER AND JULIA MACDONALD
warontherocks.com · by Jacquelyn Schneider · July 19, 2021
Almost three decades ago, a coterie of defense wonks proclaimed that the information revolution would transform military power. They were right. But three decades later, it is time for the American military to prepare for what’s next, not try to dominate a 90s-era information battlefield.
In 1996, Eliot Cohen wrote that the information technology revolution in military affairs (or IT-RMA) would create an “astounding and unprecedented ability to amass and evaluate enormous quantities of information about any given battle arena … and make near-instantaneous use of it.” For the IT-RMA visionaries, systems of sensors, data processing centers, and digital communication would provide America with the speed and decision advantage necessary for victory.
But the U.S. military never fully realized the IT-RMA, and now the revolution-reaction cycle has moved on. The very capabilities that propelled the IT-RMA have become troubling vulnerabilities, leaving Washington with the worst of both worlds — campaigns that are digitally dependent enough to be vulnerable to new information threats but not advanced enough to leverage the newest data technologies.
It would be a mistake for the United States to simply redouble its efforts to fully implement the IT-RMA. Instead, if the United States wants to regain its military edge in the post-IT-RMA world, it will need a new theory of victory. The goal is no longer speed and decision advantage but instead persistence and resilience. With this in mind, the military should focus on building decentralized networks, investing in tactics that decrease the economic cost of war, and developing weapons systems and tactics that gracefully degrade by gradually losing effectiveness instead of failing catastrophically.
The Information Technology Counter-Revolution
That the United States has struggled with implementing the IT-RMA has been well documented in congressional testimony and public discussions. Unfortunately, the solution that many have presented so far is to simply double up to catch up on the old IT-RMA by employing technologies like AI and centralized networks to maximize speed and information. A better approach begins with the realization that the United States has already missed its IT-RMA window.
Simply put, the counter-IT threat adapted faster to the IT revolution than the U.S. military. Many of the innovations envisioned by early IT-RMA advocates are now vulnerable to network failuredenial, and data manipulation. Offensive cyber capabilities, digitally enabled electromagnetic jamming, cable-cutting, and anti-satellite kinetic and non-kinetic measures all threaten the digital infrastructure central to the IT-RMA. Large hubs that store and process data are tempting first strike targets, while military data and its users are valuable targets for espionage and disinformation. U.S. operations and tactics — built for campaigns of decision advantage and information dominance — are not currently built to withstand the deliberate introduction of uncertainty via disinformation campaigns, the poisoning of data sources, or even attacks on the algorithms that undergird big data analysis.
Further, the move towards digital dependencies has created a capability/vulnerability paradox. The United States is both vulnerable to first strikes against its information infrastructure and also highly incentivized to use its IT-RMA capabilities to launch first strikes of its own. This dangerous, offense-dominant spiral is particularly of concern for U.S.-Chinese competition. China’s proximity to Taiwan or contested islands in the East or South China Sea means that a quick war disadvantages the United States, which would have to activate complicated logistical chains and deployments to counter a Chinese attack. Even in more asymmetric relationships, such as with Iran or North Korea, digital dependence leaves America’s conventional superiority vulnerable to opportunistic attacks on key network hubs. In an escalating crisis, a cornered adversary would have a dangerous incentive to target infrastructure like intelligence-processing centers or communications satellites with strategic implications for U.S. campaigns.
And perhaps this is where Washington never learned the real lesson from past military revolutions. Historians and political scientists have always argued that military innovation didn’t jump from one revolution to the next — instead the transition to new revolutions was a process of threat and counter-threat adaptation. This period of contestation is more the norm than the brief windows of punctuated equilibrium that showcase one military revolution’s dominance. Further, when revolutionary shifts in the military balance of power occur, they often come as a surprise to the existing hegemon, which is still caught up in the previous revolution it dominated.
Moving Beyond IT-RMA
What the U.S. military needs now is a new theory of victory for a world in which information, and the networks through which it flows, are threatened. For the IT-RMA advocates, victory is created through information technology by increasing situational awareness so that states can strike from further, respond to threats faster, and have more precise engagements. Consequently, investments in technology privilege efficiency and speed over security and resilience. And because information creates precision, this approach prioritizes the acquisition of a small number of expensive and elaborate weapons systems. According to this theory, networks that are centralized and optimized for efficiency, along with weapons systems that are not just data-enabled but data-dependent, can create campaigns that are short and decisive.
Alas, this version of network warfare is already antiquated and in need of an upgrade. The United States should invest instead in campaigns of resilience that slow down conflict and change the cost equation for its adversaries. In order to do this, the United States will have to privilege quantity over quality and decentralization over speed. What does this look like?
Decentralized Networks
America’s response to the counter-IT RMA should start with a better understanding of how networks survive under threat. The networks envisioned in the golden years of the IT-RMA were centralized and streamlined, allowing panoply of users and platforms to access a few dense hubs in order to share and retrieve information. These networks relied on hubs to collect, store, and parse information from disparate sources, consolidating it with limited gateways between users. This kind of highly centralized network was optimized for efficiency, allowing for amalgamations of data to enable machine learning and AI, while decreasing redundancies and minimizing access points that could create cyber vulnerabilities.
However, despite the efficiencies created by highly centralized networks, studies of network robustness find that these types of networks may be less resilient — especially when large but scarce nodes are threatened. In contrast, networks with high density, small nodes, and multiple pathways are inherently resilient. Dense and small-node networks are therefore the least vulnerable to attack and least likely to create cascading effects when compromised. Unfortunately, they are also the most complex, meaning that they cost more to build and can be less efficient.
For the Department of Defense, what this means in practice is that networks should include more nodes and data transmission linkages, but should also have the ability to decompose into smaller, semi-autonomous networks with their own organic data collection and processing capabilities. When links to central nodes are attacked, these semi-autonomous networks should be able to function on their own while cheap, unmanned communications relays and back-up data processing centers patch broken links — all in the name of resilience and perseverance.
Cheap and Disposable
In order to build these dense and resilient networks, Washington will have to change the way in which it approaches the cost of warfare. Financial cost was largely absent from the discussions surrounding the original IT-RMA, which focused instead on the need to avoid casualties that would sap American public support for wars. IT-RMA solved the political will problem by using technology as a means of force protection. As a former Air Force general in charge of acquisitions declared in the early days of remotely piloted aircraft, “There may be such a thing as a cheap airplane, but there’s no such thing as a cheap American pilot.”
During the last two decades, America accepted these costs to keep its soldiers safe. But ignoring economic cost would quickly become a strategic vulnerability in any protracted conflict with a peer competitor. Campaigns built around the survival of scarce and expensive platforms, like today’s aircraft carriers or F-35s, become about defending these central nodes rather than achieving other more strategic objectives like recapturing territory. Even tactical-level weapons, like the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, cost over a million dollars apiece. This is a remarkable price tag when combatting an air force like China’s with over 3,000 aircraft in its inventory. Indeed, the recent onslaught of cheap and numerous Hamas rockets against the expensive Israeli counter-rocket Iron Dome system demonstrates the power of cheap and numerous weapons against high-technology, high-cost systems.
In general, the United States needs to evaluate whether the utility of the technology that it is investing in outweighs the cost. There has been a tendency over the last decade to chase emerging technology, often by invoking the power of military revolutions, without evaluating how this new technology will change operational or strategic outcomes. This leads to high-expense technology that may provide tactical advantage, but that also creates extreme asymmetries of cost, thereby undermining strategic advantage. In campaigns of survival and persistence, the United States should invest in cheap and disposable technology in order to create mass and resiliency. This does not mean replacing expensive systems like aircraft carriers with swarms of cheap, off-the-shelf unmanned systems. Instead, it means complementing the inventory of exquisite and scarce systems with cheaper autonomous sensors, communications relays, munitions, and even missile-soaking platforms — all designed to create friction, slow down the adversary, and attack the certainty that underpins the first generation of network warfare.
Building Trust and Graceful Degradation
Finally, the IT-RMA is built upon the assumption that more information always leads to better outcomes. However, what we’ve seen over the last few years is that information can be weaponized and the proliferation of data sources combined with the manipulation of data can poison the reliability of the information that is so central to the IT-RMA. Effectively using information in warfare now requires not just the creation of large datasets, but the ability to interrogate them and make decisions in the face of uncertainty. This requires investments in both technical capabilities and human talent.
The Department of Defense cannot just invest in “hardened” systems designed to decrease access points. It should also invest in systems that can gracefully degrade in the face of information threats. Sometimes this will require systems that can switch between levels of autonomy. At other times, it will require investments in analog or paper processes that act as redundant back-ups so that operations can continue, albeit at lower effectiveness, when information networks are attacked.
The Department of Defense will also need to build human talent that can understand the assumptions built into AI and big data machines. Post-IT-RMA warfare will require soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardians to “get under the hood” of the data that their weapons rely on. They will need to troubleshoot data pipelines while in the fight and revert to low-tech options with the same confidence and capability as their pre-digital forefathers. In information security, practitioners often talk about “zero trust” — the idea that no user, hardware, or software is ever completely invulnerable to cyber intrusions. The Department of Defense is already moving to adopt zero-trust practices, but it should go further to also build trust between humans and their digitally enabled machines.
Credible Resiliency
Victory in the post IT-RMA world is about resiliency and trust. The ability to persist over time, not simply to dominate in a moment, is what will ultimately deter adversaries from launching first strikes. IT-RMA theories of victory envisioned quick and overwhelming campaigns of long-range strikes. But such campaigns are rare. Moreover, the IT-RMA said little about what comes after the first volleys of a conflict. In a hypothetical conflict with a country like China, the United States is most likely to succeed if it can bear the economic and political costs over time.
Military revolutions were never just about chasing the next technology. They were always about experimentation and response. It’s time for the United States to adapt to the counter revolution, not simply update to the newest version of an already antiquated system.
Jacquelyn Schneider, Ph.D., is a Hoover Fellow at Stanford University, an affiliate at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, and a non-resident fellow at the Naval War College’s Cyber and Innovation Policy Institute. Follow her on twitter @jackiegschneid.
Julia Macdonald, Ph.D., is a research professor at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. Follow her on twitter @jumacdo.
warontherocks.com · by Jacquelyn Schneider · July 19, 2021


17. Despite the hype, iPhone security no match for NSO spyware

Despite the hype, iPhone security no match for NSO spyware
International investigation finds 23 Apple devices that were successfully hacked

By
Craig Timberg, Reed Albergotti and Elodie Guéguen
July 19, 2021|Updated today at 7:17 a.m. EDT
The Washington Post · July 19, 2021
The text delivered last month to the iPhone 11 of Claude Mangin, the French wife of a political activist jailed in Morocco, made no sound. It produced no image. It offered no warning of any kind as an iMessage from somebody she didn’t know delivered malware directly onto her phone — and past Apple’s security systems.
Once inside, the spyware, produced by Israel’s NSO Group and licensed to one of its government clients, went to work, according to a forensic examination of her device by Amnesty International’s Security Lab. It found that between October and June, her phone was hacked multiple times with Pegasus, NSO’s signature surveillance tool, during a time when she was in France.
The examination was unable to reveal what was collected. But the potential was vast: Pegasus can collect emails, call records, social media posts, user passwords, contact lists, pictures, videos, sound recordings and browsing histories, according to security researchers and NSO marketing materials. The spyware can activate cameras or microphones to capture fresh images and recordings. It can listen to calls and voice mails. It can collect location logs of where a user has been and also determine where that user is now, along with data indicating whether the person is stationary or, if moving, in which direction.
And all of this can happen without a user even touching her phone or knowing she has received a mysterious message from an unfamiliar person — in Mangin’s case, a Gmail user going by the name “linakeller2203.”
These kinds of “zero-click” attacks, as they are called within the surveillance industry, can work on even the newest generations of iPhones, after years of effort in which Apple attempted to close the door against unauthorized surveillance — and built marketing campaigns on assertions that it offers better privacy and security than rivals.
Mangin’s number was on a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers from more than 50 countries that The Post and 16 other organizations reviewed. Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based journalism nonprofit, and the human rights group Amnesty International had access to the numbers and shared them with The Post and its partners, in an effort to identify who the numbers belonged to and persuade them to allow the data from their phones to be examined forensically.
For years, Mangin has been waging an international campaign to win freedom for her husband, activist Naama Asfari, a member of the Sahrawi ethnic group and advocate of independence for the Western Sahara who was jailed in 2010 and allegedly tortured by Moroccan police, drawing an international outcry and condemnation from the United Nations.
“When I was in Morocco, I knew policemen were following me everywhere,” Mangin said in a video interview conducted in early July from her home in suburban Paris. “I never imagined this could be possible in France.”
Especially not through the Apple products that she believed would make her safe from spying, she said. The same week she sat for an interview about the hacking of her iPhone 11, a second smartphone she had borrowed — an iPhone 6s — also was infected with Pegasus, a later examination showed.
Researchers have documented iPhone infections with Pegasus dozens of times in recent years, challenging Apple’s reputation for superior security when compared with its leading rivals, which run Android operating systems by Google.
The months-long investigation by The Post and its partners found more evidence to fuel that debate. Amnesty’s Security Lab examined 67 smartphones whose numbers were on the Forbidden Stories list and found forensic evidence of Pegasus infections or attempts at infections in 37. Of those, 34 were iPhones — 23 that showed signs of a successful Pegasus infection and 11 that showed signs of attempted infection.
Only three of the 15 Android phones examined showed evidence of a hacking attempt, but that was probably because Android’s logs are not comprehensive enough to store the information needed for conclusive results, Amnesty’s investigators said.
Still, the number of times Pegasus was successfully implanted on an iPhone underscores the vulnerability of even its latest models. The hacked phones included an iPhone 12 with the latest of Apple’s software updates.
In a separate assessment published Sunday, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab endorsed Amnesty’s methodology. Citizen Lab also noted that its previous research had found Pegasus infections on an iPhone 12 Pro Max and two iPhone SE2s, all running 14.0 or more recent versions of the iOS operating system, first released last year.
How Pegasus works
Target: Someone sends what’s known as a trap link to a smartphone that persuades the victim to tap and activate — or activates itself without any input, as in the most sophisticated “zero-click” hacks.
Infect: The spyware captures and copies the phone’s most basic functions, NSO marketing materials show, recording from the cameras and microphone and collecting location data, call logs and contacts.
Track: The implant secretly reports that information to an operative who can use it to map out sensitive details of the victim’s life.

Ivan Krstić, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture, defended his company’s security efforts.
“Apple unequivocally condemns cyberattacks against journalists, human rights activists, and others seeking to make the world a better place. For over a decade, Apple has led the industry in security innovation and, as a result, security researchers agree iPhone is the safest, most secure consumer mobile device on the market,” he said in a statement. “Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals. While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.”
Apple burnished its reputation for guarding user privacy during its high-profile legal fight with the FBI in 2016 over whether the company could be forced to unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers in a San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting the previous year. The FBI ultimately withdrew from the legal clash when it found an Australian cybersecurity firm, Azimuth Security, that could unlock the iPhone 5c without any help from Apple.
Outside researchers praise Apple for its stand — and for continuing to improve its technology with each new generation of iPhones. The company last year quietly introduced BlastDoor, a feature that seeks to block iMessages from delivering malware, to make Pegasus-style attacks more difficult.
The investigation’s conclusions also are likely to fuel a debate about whether tech companies have done enough to shield their customers from unwanted intrusions. The vulnerability of smartphones, and their widespread adoption by journalists, diplomats, human rights activists and businesspeople around the world — as well as criminals and terrorists — has given rise to a robust industry offering commercially available hacking tools to those willing to pay.
NSO, for example, reported $240 million in revenue last year, and there are many other companies that offer similar spyware.
On Sunday, NSO’s chief executive, Shalev Hulio, told The Post that he was upset by the investigation’s reports that phones belonging to journalists, human rights activists and public officials had been targeted with his company’s software, even though he disputed other allegations reported by The Post and it partner news organizations. He promised an investigation. “Every allegation about misuse of the system is concerning to me,” Hulio said. “It violates the trust we are giving the customer.”
Apple is not alone in dealing with potential intrusions. The other major target of Pegasus is Google’s Android operating system, which powers smartphones by Samsung, LG and other manufacturers.
Google spokeswoman Kaylin Trychon said that Google has a threat analysis team that tracks NSO Group and other threat actors and that the company sent more than 4,000 warnings to users each month of attempted infiltrations by attackers, including government-backed ones.
She said the lack of logs that help researchers determine whether an Android device has been attacked was also a security decision.
“While we understand that persistent logs would be more helpful for forensic uses such as the ones described by Amnesty International’s researchers, they also would be helpful to attackers. We continually balance these different needs,” she said.
Advocates say the inability to prevent the hacking of smartphones threatens democracy in scores of nations by undermining newsgathering, political activity and campaigns against human rights abuses. Most nations have little or no effective regulation of the spyware industry or how its tools are used.
“If we’re not protecting them and not providing them with tools to do this dangerous work, then our societies are not going to get better,” said Adrian Shahbaz, director of technology and democracy for Freedom House, a Washington-based pro-democracy think tank. “If everyone is afraid of taking on the powerful because they fear the consequences of it, then that would be disastrous to the state of democracy.”
Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of slain Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, said she used an iPhone because she thought it would offer robust protection against hackers.
“Why did they say the iPhone is more safe?” Cengiz said in a June interview in Turkey, where she lives. Her iPhone was among the 23 found to have forensic evidence of successful Pegasus intrusion. The infiltration happened in the days after Khashoggi was killed in October 2018, the examination of her phone found.
NSO said in a statement that it had found no evidence that Cengiz’s phone had been targeted by Pegasus. “Our technology was not associated in any way with the heinous murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” the company said.
A head-to-head comparison of the security of Apple’s and Google’s operating systems and the devices that run them is not possible, but reports of hacks to iPhones have grown in recent years as security researchers have discovered evidence that attackers had found vulnerabilities in such widely used iPhone apps as iMessage, Apple Music, Apple Photos, FaceTime and the Safari browser.
The investigation found that iMessage — the built-in messaging app that allows seamless chatting among iPhone users — played a role in 13 of the 23 successful infiltrations of iPhones. IMessage was also the mode of attack in six of the 11 failed attempts Amnesty’s Security Lab identified through its forensic examinations.
One reason that iMessage has become a vector for attack, security researchers say, is that the app has gradually added features, which inevitably creates more potential vulnerabilities.
“They can’t make iMessage safe,” said Matthew Green, a security and cryptology professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I’m not saying it can’t be fixed, but it’s pretty bad.”
One key issue: IMessage lets strangers send iPhone users messages without any warning to or approval from the recipient, a feature that makes it easier for hackers to take the first steps toward infection without detection. Security researchers have warned about this weakness for years.
“Your iPhone, and a billion other Apple devices out-of-the-box, automatically run famously insecure software to preview iMessages, whether you trust the sender or not,” said security researcher Bill Marczak, a fellow at Citizen Lab, a research institute based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. “Any Computer Security 101 student could spot the flaw here.”
Google’s Project Zero, which searches for exploitable bugs across a range of technology offerings and publishes its findings publicly, reported in a series of blog posts last year on vulnerabilities to iMessage.
The encrypted chat app Signal adopted new protections last year requiring user approval when an unfamiliar user attempts to initiate a call or text — a protection Apple has not implemented with iMessage. Users of iPhones can choose to filter unfamiliar users by activating a feature in their devices’ settings, though research for many years has shown that ordinary users of devices or apps rarely take advantage of such granular controls.
In a 2,800-word email responding to questions from The Post that Apple said could not be quoted directly, the company said that iPhones severely restrict the code that an iMessage can run on a device and that it has protections against malware arriving in this way. It said BlastDoor examines Web previews and photos for suspicious content before users can view them but did not elaborate on that process. It did not respond to a question about whether it would consider restricting messages from senders not in a person’s address book.
The Amnesty technical analysis also found evidence that NSO’s clients use commercial Internet service companies, including Amazon Web Services, to deliver Pegasus malware to targeted phones. (Amazon’s executive chairman, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post.)
Kristin Brown, a spokeswoman for Amazon Web Services, said, “When we learned of this activity, we acted quickly to shut down the relevant infrastructure and accounts.”
Hard lessons
The infiltration of Mangin’s iPhones underscores hard lessons about privacy in the age of smartphones: Nothing held on any device is entirely safe. Spending more for a premium smartphone does not change that fact, especially if some nation’s intelligence or law enforcement agencies want to break in. NSO reported last month that it has 60 government customers in 40 countries, meaning some nations have more than one agency with a contract.
New security measures often exert costs to consumers in terms of ease of use, speed of apps and battery life, prompting internal struggles in many technology companies over whether such performance trade-offs are worth the improved resistance to hacking that such measures provide.
One former Apple employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Apple requires its employees to sign agreements prohibiting them from commenting on nearly all aspects of the company, even after they leave, said it was difficult to communicate with security researchers who reported bugs in Apple products because the company’s marketing department got in the way.
“Marketing could veto everything,” the person said. “We had a whole bunch of canned replies we would use over and over again. It was incredibly annoying and slowed everything down.”
Apple also restricts the access outside researchers have to iOS, the mobile operating system used by iPhones and iPads, in a way that makes investigation of the code more difficult and limits the ability of consumers to discover when they’ve been hacked, researchers say.
In its email response to questions from The Post, Apple said its product marketing team has a say only in some interactions between Apple employees and outside security researchers and only to ensure the company’s messaging about new products is consistent. It said it is committed to giving tools to outside security researchers and touted its Security Research Device Program, in which the company sells iPhones with special software that researchers can use to analyze iOS.
Critics — both inside and outside the company — say Apple also should be more focused on tracking the work of its most sophisticated adversaries, including NSO, to better understand the cutting-edge exploits attackers are developing. These critics say the company’s security team tends to focus more on overall security, by deploying features that thwart most attacks but may fail to stop attacks on people subject to government surveillance — a group that often includes journalists, politicians and human rights activists such as Mangin.
“It’s a situation where you’re always working with an information deficit. You don’t know a whole lot about what’s out there,” said a former Apple engineer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Apple does not permit former employees to speak publicly without company permission. “When you have a well-resourced adversary, different things are on the table.”
In its email to The Post, Apple said that in recent years it has significantly expanded its security team focused on tracking sophisticated adversaries. Apple said in the email that it is different from its competitors in that it elects not to discuss these efforts publicly, instead focusing on building new protections for its software. Overall, its security team has grown fourfold over the past five years, Apple said.
Apple’s business model relies on the annual release of new iPhones, its flagship product that generates half of its revenue. Each new device, which typically arrives with an updated operating system available to users of older devices, includes many new features — along with what security researchers call new “attack surfaces.”
Current and former Apple employees and people who work with the company say the product release schedule is harrowing, and, because there is little time to vet new products for security flaws, it leads to a proliferation of new bugs that offensive security researchers at companies like NSO Group can use to break into even the newest devices.
In its email to The Post, Apple said it uses automated tools and in-house researchers to catch the vast majority of bugs before they’re released and that it is the best in the industry.
Apple also was a relative latecomer to “bug bounties,” where companies pay independent researchers for finding and disclosing software flaws that could be used by hackers in attacks.
Krstić, Apple’s top security official, pushed for a bug bounty program that was added in 2016, but some independent researchers say they have stopped submitting bugs through the program because Apple tends to pay small rewards and the process can take months or years.
Last week, Nicolas Brunner, an iOS engineer for Swiss Federal Railways, detailed in a blog post how he submitted a bug to Apple that allowed someone to permanently track an iPhone user’s location without their knowledge. He said Apple was uncommunicative, slow to fix the bug and ultimately did not pay him.
Asked about the blog post, an Apple spokesman referred to Apple’s email in which it said its bug bounty program is the best in the industry and that it pays higher rewards than any other company. In 2021 alone, it has paid out millions of dollars to security researchers, the email said.
People familiar with Apple’s security operations say Krstić has improved the situation, but Apple’s security team remains known for keeping a low public profile, declining to make presentations at conferences such as the heavily attended Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas each summer, where other tech companies have become fixtures.
Once a bug is reported to Apple, it’s given a color code, said former employees familiar with the process. Red means the bug is being actively exploited by attackers. Orange, the next level down, means the bug is serious but that there is no evidence it has been exploited yet. Orange bugs can take months to fix, and the engineering team, not security, decides when that happens.
Former Apple employees recounted several instances in which bugs that were not believed to be serious were exploited against customers between the time they were reported to Apple and when they were patched.
Apple said in its email that no system is perfect but that it rapidly fixes serious security vulnerabilities and continues to invest in improving its system for assessing the seriousness of bugs.
But outside security researchers say they cannot be sure how many iOS users are exploited because Apple makes it difficult for researchers to analyze the information that would point to exploits.
“I think we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg at the moment,” said Costin Raiu, director of the global research and analysis team at cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab. “If you open it up and give people the tools and ability to inspect phones, you have to be ready for the news cycle which will be mostly negative. It takes courage.”
Dana Priest contributed to this report.
The Pegasus Project is a collaborative investigation that involves more than 80 journalists from 17 news organizations coordinated by Forbidden Stories with the technical support of Amnesty International’s Security Lab. Read more about this project.
The Washington Post · July 19, 2021
18. Biden-Xi summit coming into view
Excerpts:
One passage from Campbell’s presentation is reproduced below if only to give a flavor of what is afoot. In response to a pointed Churchillian query from the president of the Asia Society, Kevin Rudd, a well-known expert on China and a former diplomat and Australian prime minister, as to whether a cold war with China can be prevented at all, Campbell said:
“I don’t like the framing of the cold war very much. I’ve appreciated the work you’ve done on this. I am fearful that that framing obscures more than it illuminates. And I think it hardens us to fall back on patterns and thinking that is in no way helpful really, fundamentally to meet some of the challenges presented by China.…
“I believe the defining characteristic of the period ahead will be around competition and also at the same time finding areas where the United States can – it’s not necessarily cooperation, it can be just alignment of policies. The challenge ahead will be to present China with some opportunities.…”
The quote above should give a hint of a highly nuanced China policy being finessed in the White House. Rudd at one point began speculating whether it might not be a good idea for Australia to press the “pause” button on anti-China rhetoric for some time so that an opportunity becomes available for the relationship to be mended.
Equally, on Taiwan, Campbell flatly ruled out any hollowing out of the “one-China policy.” He said forcefully that while the US supports “a strong unofficial relationship” with Taiwan, there is no question of encouraging Taiwan’s independence. He admitted that it can be a delicate dangerous balance but felt it must be maintained.
Clearly, just as hints of a thaw in US-Russia relations might have appeared lately, a transitional period seems to lie ahead in the Biden administration’s policy toward China as well. Campbell confirmed the likelihood of a meeting between Biden and Xi “in the not too distant future.”

Biden-Xi summit coming into view
German Chancellor's White House visit charts a possible future with more US alignment and less confrontation with China
asiatimes.com · by MK Bhadrakumar · July 18, 2021
The “official working visit” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House last Thursday has been most conspicuous for its subdued tone regarding the most fateful topic of her discussion with President Joe Biden: China.
Merkel’s guarded remarks about China at their joint press conference came as no surprise, but what took the breath away was that Biden trod softly on that topic.
Merkel is a highly experienced stateswoman with a superb mastery of the use of parentheses in her articulation of policies and strategies.
She agreed with Biden that the relationship with China is among the many priorities in foreign policy today; that “wherever human rights are not guaranteed, we will make our voices heard and make clear that we don’t agree with this,” but Germany is “also for territorial integrity of all countries of the world.”
Merkel disclosed that they “talked about the many facets of cooperation and also of competition with China, be it in the economic area, be it on climate protection, be it in the military sector and on security” – making it clear that China cannot be branded in one-dimensional terms as an adversary.

Merkel said “there is a lot of common understanding [between Germany and the US] that China, in many areas, is our competitor,” and that trade with China “needs to rest on the assumption that we have a level playing field.” But then she pointed out that “the driving force” behind the EU-China Agreement on trade that was negotiated last December, much to the displeasure of the Biden administration, was about fair trade practices.
In fact, Merkel flagged that the December agreement with China also commits Beijing to “abide by the core labor norms” of the International Labor Organization (ILO) – an indirect reference to US pressure to boycott China for alleged forced-labor practices in Xinjiang.
Merkel is “convinced of our need to be technological leaders … in many, many areas” but then, “Obviously, it’s legitimate for China wishing to do this as well, but, for example, we will cooperate in many technological state-of-the-art technologies – for example, chips.” Merkel added:
“And then there are interests, obviously – sometimes divergent interests, but sometimes common interests. But we also have, obviously, areas where American companies compete with European companies, and we have to accept that. But I think, basically, the rules as to how we deal with China ought to rest on our shared values.”
The heart of the matter is that Biden may be coming closer to Merkel’s thinking on China. More likely, Biden himself is in a reflective mood after the extended interaction last month, in formal and informal settings, in Europe with Western leaders, including Merkel, where China was most of the time the proverbial elephant in the room.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joe Biden take the stage for a joint news conference in the White House on July 15. Photo: AFP / Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
As a matter of fact, in the on-the-record press call on June 17 from the White House by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, there was ample hinting of new stirrings in the United States’ China policies. Sullivan let it be known that Biden “will look for opportunities to engage with President Xi [Jinping] going forward.”
Sullivan added that “soon enough, we will sit down to work out the right modality for the two presidents to engage.” As he put it, Biden is very much committed “to ensure that we have that kind of direct communication that we found valuable with President Putin yesterday.… It’s now just a question of when and how.”
Evidently, Sullivan has been on the ball since then. We now hear that US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to meet with Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Xie Feng in the Chinese port city of Tianjin this week.
Reporting this, the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta commented, “Although the White House has branded China a key potential adversary, Biden believes that face-to-face contact will clarify on which issues the sides would find common ground and where it would not.”
Again, on July 6, there were some definitive signals that the US approach to China might have begun shifting. This was discernible in an hour-long presentation by Kurt Campbell, the White House coordinator for the India-Pacific and deputy assistant to the president – better known as Biden’s “Asia czar.”

Campbell was addressing the Asia Society, the influential New York-headquartered organization that has historically illuminated the Sino-American pathways and enhanced mutual understanding.
Campbell has a reputation for hawkish views and, therefore, his mellowed tone regarding the future trajectory of the US policy merit attention. Evidently, six months into the Biden presidency, after a lot of congratulations internally as well as with America’s allies, Campbell was speaking in the backdrop of discussions underway for a meeting between Biden and Xi.
Biden’s ‘Asia czar’ Kurt Campbell in a file photo. Image: AFP
One passage from Campbell’s presentation is reproduced below if only to give a flavor of what is afoot. In response to a pointed Churchillian query from the president of the Asia Society, Kevin Rudd, a well-known expert on China and a former diplomat and Australian prime minister, as to whether a cold war with China can be prevented at all, Campbell said:
“I don’t like the framing of the cold war very much. I’ve appreciated the work you’ve done on this. I am fearful that that framing obscures more than it illuminates. And I think it hardens us to fall back on patterns and thinking that is in no way helpful really, fundamentally to meet some of the challenges presented by China.…
“I believe the defining characteristic of the period ahead will be around competition and also at the same time finding areas where the United States can – it’s not necessarily cooperation, it can be just alignment of policies. The challenge ahead will be to present China with some opportunities.…”

The quote above should give a hint of a highly nuanced China policy being finessed in the White House. Rudd at one point began speculating whether it might not be a good idea for Australia to press the “pause” button on anti-China rhetoric for some time so that an opportunity becomes available for the relationship to be mended.
Equally, on Taiwan, Campbell flatly ruled out any hollowing out of the “one-China policy.” He said forcefully that while the US supports “a strong unofficial relationship” with Taiwan, there is no question of encouraging Taiwan’s independence. He admitted that it can be a delicate dangerous balance but felt it must be maintained.
Clearly, just as hints of a thaw in US-Russia relations might have appeared lately, a transitional period seems to lie ahead in the Biden administration’s policy toward China as well. Campbell confirmed the likelihood of a meeting between Biden and Xi “in the not too distant future.”
This article was produced in partnership by Indian Punchline and Globetrotter, which provided it to Asia Times.
M K Bhadrakumar is a former Indian diplomat.
asiatimes.com · by MK Bhadrakumar · July 18, 2021


19. A Straightforward Primer On Critical Race Theory (and Why It Matters)

I recommend reading this objectively. I would also say that a theory is not a fact and not necessarily the truth it is simply one way to try to explain something. Theory: "a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained."

Excerpts:
So what’s the path forward? Here are a few suggestions:
To conservatives: Stop trying to enact legislative bans on CRT. Such bans are censorious, probably unconstitutional, and, simply put, will do nothing to solve the underlying problem.
To progressives: Stop talking about CRT and, more importantly, its related ideas as though objections to it and concerns about it are all driven by a denial of systemic racism or an unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of slavery. As I’ve pointed out here, this is to grossly miss the point. The importance of this point stands even if the loudest critics are not raising the concerns I’ve outlined here.
To the mainstream media: See advice for progressives, above.
To schools and workplaces: Critical Race Theory is a social science theory—a tool to understand the world around us. As a theory, its related ideas about race, identity, power, and fairness constitute one possible way to see the world. As with any social science theory, but particularly one this controversial, its ideas should be placed in context. Placing the ideas in context requires presenting contrasting viewpoints—for instance, perspectives that do not automatically assert that racialized explanations and solutions should be the primary lens for viewing the world. Importantly, these contrasting viewpoints are to be presented on moral footing that’s equal to CRT’s.
The upshot is this: The problem is that CRT and its related ideas form a closed system. It’s a perspective that leaves no space for anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, to see the world differently. When presented as the singular valid worldview, it isn’t a productive way to engage with students, groups, or with one another.

A Straightforward Primer On Critical Race Theory (and Why It Matters)
Forbes · by Ilana Redstone · July 18, 2021
Racism - social issues and concepts word cloud illustration. Word collage concept.
getty
Debates over how to talk and think about race, racism, and identity are happening in schools, in the workplace, and in our broader discourse. Much of the current discussion is linked to ideas around critical race theory (CRT), a once obscure social science perspective that burst through to the mainstream in ways that have been surprising to many. In recent weeks, both The Washington Post and The New York Times have devoted considerable space to the topic (see here and here for examples). However, most of what’s been written in these outlets has failed to paint a full picture.
CRT’s critics are often portrayed as wanting to “whitewash” history and deny the reality of slavery. If the problem were that simple, the criticisms would indeed be worthy of the dismissal they often receive. Yet, there are serious concerns about CRT that are rarely aired and that have nothing to do with these points. As a result, confusion and misinformation abound and tension continues to mount.
Before making a few clarifying points, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of teachers and DEI trainers are not sitting down with students or groups announcing a lesson on CRT. More often than not, the name “CRT” never comes up at all. However, a CRT-based perspective is quietly shaping the conversation anyway. Its impact can be seen in conversations about race, power, identity, intent, privilege, and in an insistence on seeing the world through its lens.
So what is it?
CRT is a theoretical perspective that asserts that race is always about inequality and domination. CRT has a few main tenets, some of which can be (over)simplified as follows:
1. Colorblind racism—Deemphasizing the role of race and racism, including to focus on concepts of merit, is itself a manifestation of racism.
2. Interest convergence—Members of the dominant group will only support equality when it’s in their best interest to do so.
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3. Race and racism are always tied together. Race is a construct meant to preserve white dominance over people of color, while making it seem like life is about meritocracy.
4. Inattention to systemic racism—An unwillingness to recognize the full force of systemic racism as determining disparities between groups is a denial of the reality of racism today (and evidence of ignorance at best and racism at worst).
These tenets have far-reaching implications. I’ll provide two short examples of what it means to see the world through this lens.
First, interactions that go sideways between members of two different racial or ethnic groups are assumed to do so because of racism (either overt or internalized). Second, a given individual’s lack of support for a policy whose goal is to actively reduce racial disparities is understood to be the result of the same racial animus. The suggestion that neither the interaction nor the opposition to the policy is tied to racial animus of any kind is dismissed as either the result of ignorance or of more internalized racism. So, while rightly shining a light on racism as a problem, CRT leaves no space for the principled concerns some may have about seeing every aspect of society through its lens of race and power.
One of the biggest challenges in engaging on these topics is that—returning to our two examples for the moment—when it comes to understanding difficult interactions between people of different races or the adoption of certain positions or opinions, racism *is* often one possible explanation. The question then becomes: What do we do when we can’t know for sure what someone’s motivation is? The answer to that key question is determined by yet another one: What kind of society do we want to build? Welcoming a diversity of perspectives, fostering open communication, broadening discourse, and even democracy itself, are all incompatible with having a default assumption of racism or ignorance when it comes to some of our most difficult social problems.
So what’s the path forward? Here are a few suggestions:
To conservatives: Stop trying to enact legislative bans on CRT. Such bans are censorious, probably unconstitutional, and, simply put, will do nothing to solve the underlying problem.
To progressives: Stop talking about CRT and, more importantly, its related ideas as though objections to it and concerns about it are all driven by a denial of systemic racism or an unwillingness to acknowledge the reality of slavery. As I’ve pointed out here, this is to grossly miss the point. The importance of this point stands even if the loudest critics are not raising the concerns I’ve outlined here.
To the mainstream media: See advice for progressives, above.
To schools and workplaces: Critical Race Theory is a social science theory—a tool to understand the world around us. As a theory, its related ideas about race, identity, power, and fairness constitute one possible way to see the world. As with any social science theory, but particularly one this controversial, its ideas should be placed in context. Placing the ideas in context requires presenting contrasting viewpoints—for instance, perspectives that do not automatically assert that racialized explanations and solutions should be the primary lens for viewing the world. Importantly, these contrasting viewpoints are to be presented on moral footing that’s equal to CRT’s.
The upshot is this: The problem is that CRT and its related ideas form a closed system. It’s a perspective that leaves no space for anyone, no matter how well-intentioned, to see the world differently. When presented as the singular valid worldview, it isn’t a productive way to engage with students, groups, or with one another.
Here’s the good news: There’s a better way. There are ways to integrate multiple ideological perspectives into classrooms and the workplace. But they will require a willingness to relax the assumptions that underpin CRT.
Forbes · by Ilana Redstone · July 18, 2021

20.  FDD | How Iranian Intelligence Hunts Down Dissidents While Protecting Al-Qaeda

Conclusion: It’s no wonder Alinejad was targeted by Iranian intelligence. She’s on the side of freedom, while the Iranian regime sponsors terrorists.

FDD | How Iranian Intelligence Hunts Down Dissidents While Protecting Al-Qaeda
Court documents show that the regime has long been trying to kidnap an Iranian journalist living in Brooklyn.
fdd.org · by Thomas Joscelyn Senior Fellow and Senior Editor of FDD's Long War Journal · July 16, 2021
The Department of Justice made a stunning announcement this week. Four Iranian nationals have been charged with plotting “to kidnap a Brooklyn journalist, author and human rights activist.” A fifth individual is facing related charges.
The indictment doesn’t name the intended victim. But Masih Alinejad, a well-known human rights campaigner, quickly made it known that she was the target. Alinejad’s revelation was hardly surprising. She’s dedicated her life to exposing the horrors of the Iranian regime, refusing to bow to pressure even as Iranian authorities locked up and harassed her family members.
According to court documents, the Iranian regime has been trying to net Alinejad for years. In 2018, Iranian operatives tried to persuade her family to lure her to an unspecified location outside of the U.S. At that point, the Iranians planned to detain and extradite her back to Iran, where she would have been imprisoned and likely killed.
The Iranians are well-practiced in such operations. They’ve hunted down dissidents around the globe. But Alinejad’s family refused to entrap her, so this early plot was evidently abandoned.
At some point in 2020, Tehran’s tyrants moved onto another idea—a more elaborate plot to kidnap Alinejad from her Brooklyn home and then abscond with her either to Venezuela (which maintains friendly relations with the Iranians) or elsewhere.
In devising the kidnapping scheme, Iranian intelligence allegedly relied on a 50-year-old named Alireza Shahvaroghi Farahani. According to the indictment, Farahani “manages a network of sources for Iranian intelligence.” He is accused of serving as the ringleader for the plot against Alinejad. Farahani’s network includes three others charged by the U.S. government: Mahmoud Khazein, Omid Noori, and Kiya Safeghi. A fifth suspect, Niloufar (“Nellie”) Bahadorifar, who resides in California, is also charged with helping to finance the operation.
More details about this terrifying plan will undoubtedly be revealed in the months to come. But at least four observations immediately come to mind.
First, it’s telling that the Iranians did not cease their plotting on American soil after President Biden was inaugurated in January. Everyone knows that the Biden team seeks a less confrontational path forward with Tehran and is willing to grant concessions, including the removal of various American sanctions, in exchange for a return to the nuclear accord negotiated in 2015. Tehran’s kidnapping operation began in 2020, during President Trump’s last year in office, but it did not end there. The Biden administration’s diplomatic approach did not lead the Iranians to abort what would have been an especially provocative act.
One can imagine the spectacle that would have occurred had Alinejad gone missing from her Brooklyn home in the middle of the night. It says much about how the Iranian regime views the U.S. that it did not really fear any reprisals, or even a modest disruption in the nuclear negotiations.
Second, the court filings make clear that the kidnapping plot was overseen by the Iranian state—not some rogue actors. U.S. officials have fingered Iran’s main intelligence arm, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), as the hidden hand behind the operation against Alinejad. Dissident hunting is only one of the MOIS’s specialties.
In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the MOIS for committing countless human rights abuses in Iran and Syria, as well as for supporting terrorism. MOIS “agents are responsible for the beatings, sexual abuse, prolonged interrogations, and coerced confessions of prisoners, particularly political prisoners, which occurred in Ward 209 of Evin Prison,” Treasury explained at the time. The notorious Evin Prison is used to house leading anti-regime activists, including those who protested the June 2009 elections inside Iran. Its prisoners are subjected to horrific treatment. As Treasury reported, the “MOIS is known to have used abhorrent methods of interrogation such as mock executions and forms of sexual violence.”
It’s chilling to think of the fate that awaited Alinejad had Iranian intelligence succeeded in kidnapping her.
The criminal indictment references an “electronic device” that was apparently recovered from Farahani. It contains “a graphic showing a photograph” of Alinejad alongside “Iranian nationals Ruhollah Zam and Jamsid Sharmahd,” both of whom were vocal critics of the Iranian regime. Zam was “lured by Iranian intelligence services” to leave his residence in France in October 2019, captured, and executed inside Iran in late 2020. Sharmahd, “a lawful resident of the United States,” was similarly tricked into leaving the U.S. in July 2020. Sharmahd remains imprisoned inside Iran.
The graphic of all three of them contains a caption that reads: “Gradually the gathering gets bigger … Are you coming, or should we come for you?” Eventually, the MOIS decided to come for Alinejad in Brooklyn.
The MOIS has boasted of its prowess in kidnapping dissidents. On August 1, 2020, Mahmoud Alavi, the Iranian minister of intelligence and MOIS chief, appeared on Iranian television. Alavi crowed that the capture of Sharmahd was just one in a series of “complex operations in striking dissidents.”
Indeed, according to the indictment, Farahani’s network not only surveilled Alinejad’s home in Brooklyn, but also potential victims in Canada, the U.K., and the UAE. Farahani and his men allegedly hired private investigators to investigate Iranian dissidents “under false pretenses,” claiming that they are delinquent debtors or wayward employees.
Third, al-Qaeda operatives living and working inside Iran often receive far better treatment than Iranian dissidents. Although al-Qaeda has complained about Iranian mistreatment at times, the jihadists are typically afforded a much better lifestyle. And along with other arms of the Iranian regime—namely, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)—the MOIS is directly responsible for housing and harboring al-Qaeda’s men.
The DOJ’s indictment specifically cites the same 2012 U.S. Treasury Department designation of the MOIS discussed above. In that designation, Treasury reported that in addition to assisting Hamas and Hezbollah, the MOIS “has facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards, and passports.” The MOIS has “also provided money and weapons to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)…and negotiated prisoner releases of AQI operatives.”
Again, this is telling with respect to the Iranian regime’s behavior. While Iranian dissidents are lured to their death, al-Qaeda’s men receive passports from the MOIS to go about their international terrorist business.
Fourth, it is likely that this won’t be the last Iranian plot on American soil. In 2011, the DOJ announced that two individuals had been charged with planning to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. And in 2017, the DOJ revealed that two Hezbollah operatives had been arrested after it was discovered that they were laying the groundwork for possible terrorist attacks on key New York City landmarks and other locations.
It’s no wonder Alinejad was targeted by Iranian intelligence. She’s on the side of freedom, while the Iranian regime sponsors terrorists.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal. Follow Tom on Twitter @thomasjoscelyn. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.
fdd.org · by Thomas Joscelyn Senior Fellow and Senior Editor of FDD's Long War Journal · July 16, 2021


21. FDD | Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey is a chance for my home country to heal
Excerpts:
Flake’s profile as a conservative who took a principled stand even though it likely cost him the prospect of reelection also sends a powerful signal to Turkey, where many local conservatives have been deserting, often at great personal risk, Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian Justice and Development Party (AKP) and lending their support to the opposition. Through Flake, Biden will be able to send a subtle message to the Turkish public that reversing Turkey’s democratic backsliding requires healing partisan divides deepened by harsh rhetoric and polarizing policies. The fact that both Biden and Flake can offer this message based on personal experience will add to their credibility in the eyes of the Turkish public.
Earlier this year, in an op-ed he penned for the Deseret News, Flake praised the “healing art of persuasion” and recommended turning down the volume of partisan politics. If he gets confirmed, Flake will head to Ankara, increasingly dominated by deafening vitriol and hostility. But Turkey is also a nation in need and desire of healing, both at home and in its relations with the United States and other NATO allies. As ambassador, Flake would have a powerful opportunity to demonstrate the importance of values-based leadership and speaking truth to power in his restrained and respectful manner — a form of personal conservatism that contributes to civility for all.
FDD | Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey is a chance for my home country to heal
fdd.org · by Aykan Erdemir Turkey Program Senior Director · July 16, 2021
To begin with, Biden’s move to appoint a religious individual — Flake is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — sends an important message about religious freedom, the rule of law and pluralism. Religious minorities in Turkey, including members of Flake’s own faith, were targets of unwarranted accusations in March 2018, when Turkish prosecutors repeatedly mentioned them in conjunction with charges brought against an unrelated North Carolina Pastor Andrew Brunson — a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Latter-day Saint volunteers eventually left Turkey, and, after a two year ordeal in Turkish prisons, Turkish authorities — prompted by U.S. sanctions — allowed Pastor Brunson to return to the United States.
Flake’s appointment to Ankara is an opportunity to make amends and once again foster cordial relations with minority faiths of all stripes.
Flake’s ambassadorship also sends a strong message about the virtues of nonpartisan engagement and values-based dialogue to Turkey, a nation torn apart by polarization at home and drifting away from its NATO allies by belligerent posturing abroad. Flake, of course, is a Republican who broke with his party to support Biden last year, thus earning this appointment. Whatever one thinks of Flake’s decision, it does show that partisanship need not consume us. In announcing his nomination on Medium, Flake said, “U.S. foreign policy can and should be bipartisan.”
Flaked added, “I understand and appreciate the role Congress plays in U.S. foreign policy, and I look forward to that partnership.” This comment demonstrates an awareness of the unique juncture at this moment in U.S.-Turkish relations, as an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both chambers of Congress pushes for a firm response to various transgressions of Turkey’s Islamist-ultranationalist ruling bloc headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The next U.S. ambassador to Ankara will have to walk a tightrope balancing cues from the pragmatic White House and State Department with the values-oriented focus of a proactive Congress.
Flake’s profile as a conservative who took a principled stand even though it likely cost him the prospect of reelection also sends a powerful signal to Turkey, where many local conservatives have been deserting, often at great personal risk, Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian Justice and Development Party (AKP) and lending their support to the opposition. Through Flake, Biden will be able to send a subtle message to the Turkish public that reversing Turkey’s democratic backsliding requires healing partisan divides deepened by harsh rhetoric and polarizing policies. The fact that both Biden and Flake can offer this message based on personal experience will add to their credibility in the eyes of the Turkish public.
Earlier this year, in an op-ed he penned for the Deseret News, Flake praised the “healing art of persuasion” and recommended turning down the volume of partisan politics. If he gets confirmed, Flake will head to Ankara, increasingly dominated by deafening vitriol and hostility. But Turkey is also a nation in need and desire of healing, both at home and in its relations with the United States and other NATO allies. As ambassador, Flake would have a powerful opportunity to demonstrate the importance of values-based leadership and speaking truth to power in his restrained and respectful manner — a form of personal conservatism that contributes to civility for all.
Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish parliament and senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @aykan_erdemir. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.
fdd.org · by Aykan Erdemir Turkey Program Senior Director · July 16, 2021


22.19 Military Athletes to Represent U.S. at Tokyo Olympics


Seventeen soldiers, one Marine and one Coast Guardsman have earned spots in the delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The games, which were postponed last year due to COVID-19, will be held from July 23 to August 8.
19 Military Athletes to Represent U.S. at Tokyo Olympics
JULY 12, 2021 | BY DAVID VERGUN, DOD NEWS

Earlier this year, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz defeated the country's top rated 87-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestler to earn a spot in this year's games.

"Being able to represent the USA on an international level while being in the Marine Corps is the highest honor that I have ever felt. It is something that is almost indescribable. I have finally accomplished this mission that has had an insurmountable amount of adversity, that has required years and decades of perseverance," he said.
"This could not be possible without the support I have had from my team and coach," Stefanowicz said. "The struggles that we have had to overcome as a team have made us all stronger, and in particular, coach Jason Loukides has helped transform me into the person and Marine that I am today."
Coast Guard Lt. Nikole "Nikki" Barnes will compete in the Women's 470-class sailboat category.

"I fell in love with the Coast Guard. I am always on the water and the allure of creating a safer environment for fellow boaters was a big intrigue for me. As I have been in the Coast Guard, I have seen even more how this is a tremendous organization of people working hard to make a safer maritime environment," she said.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks will compete in Paralympic swimming's 50-meter freestyle, 50-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter backstroke. 
In 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she won a gold medal in the Paralympic Games in the 100-meter breaststroke and a bronze in the 100 meter medley.

Marks enlisted in the Army in 2008 as a combat medic. She was injured while serving in Iraq and was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas for recovery. It was there, she said, that she fell in love with swimming, which was used as a form of therapy.
Like most of the soldier-athletes going to the Olympics, Marks is a member of the Army's World Class Athlete Program, a program which enables soldiers with athletic potential to receive professional coaching, while keeping current with Army military occupational specialty and training requirements.
Although Marks said she trained hard to compete and to win, "none of it would have been possible without my brothers and sisters in the military believing in me and pushing me to do so."
Athletes Headed for Tokyo
Army
1st Lt. Amber English – women's skeet
Staff Sgt. Naomi Graham – women's boxing, 75 kilogram category

Staff Sgt. Nickolaus Mowrer – 10m air pistol, men; 10m air pistol, mixed team; and 50m rifle, 3 positions.
Staff Sgt. Sandra Uptagrafft – 10m air pistol, women; 10m air pistol, mixed team; and 25m sport pistol. 
Sgt. Samantha Schultz – modern pentathlon
Sgt. Amro Elgeziry – modern pentathlon
Sgt. Ildar Hafizov – Greco-Roman wrestling, 60 kg category
Spc. Alejandro Sancho – Greco-Roman wrestling, 67 kg category
Spc. Benard Keter – 3,000-meter steeplechase, track and field
Sgt. Patrick Sunderman – men's smallbore rifle
Spc. Sagen Maddalena – women's smallbore rifle
Spc. Alison Weisz – women's air rifle
Sgt. Philip Jungman – men's skeet
1st Lt. Sam Kendricks - pole vaulting
Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Marks – Paralympic swimming in 50-meter freestyle, 50-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter backstroke
Staff Sgt. John Joss – Paralympic shooting, 50m rifle
Staff Sgt. Kevin Nguyen – Paralympic shooting, 50m rifle
Marine Corps
Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz – Greco-Roman wrestling, 87 kg category
Coast Guard
Lt. Nikole Barnes – 470-class sailboat category

Brief History of Olympics
The ancient Olympic Games were held every four years in Olympia, Greece, beginning in 776 BC. The games featured running, a pentathlon, boxing, wrestling, pankration and equestrian events. The Olympic Games ended sometime between 393 AD and 426 AD, when the Romans gained power and influence in Greece.
The first modern Olympic Game, under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, took place in Athens, Greece in 1896.
There were 280 athletes from 13 nations, including the United States, competing in 43 events. The United States took the most gold medals (11), followed by Greece (10) and Germany (6).
Although U.S. military members did not compete in the 1896 games, several who won gold medals later joined the military. Among those were:
  • John Paine, sport shooter, joined the Army and served during the Spanish-American War.
  • James Brendan Connolly, triple jump, joined the Army Corps of Engineers and served during the Spanish-American War.
  • Thomas Burke, 100-meter sprint and 400-meter sprint, served in the Army during World War I.
  • Thomas Curtis, 110 meter hurdles, served in the Massachusetts National Guard during World War I.
In 1924, the Winter Olympic Games were added. The Paralympics were added in 1948.
Since the 1896 Olympics, many members of the U.S. military have participated in the summer and winter games as well as the Paralympics and many have medaled.




23.  U.S. Will Formally Accuse China of Hacking Microsoft


U.S. Will Formally Accuse China of Hacking Microsoft

By Zolan Kanno-Youngs and David E. Sanger
July 19, 2021, 7:00 a.m. ET
The New York Times · by David E. Sanger · July 19, 2021
The Biden administration is also expected to organize a broad group of allies to condemn Beijing for cyberattacks around the world, but stop short of taking concrete punitive steps.

Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, is leading the Biden administration’s response to the Microsoft hacking.Credit...Pete Marovich for The New York Times

July 19, 2021, 7:00 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday is expected to formally accuse the Chinese government of breaching Microsoft email systems used by many of the world’s largest companies, governments and military contractors, according to a senior administration official. The United States is also set to organize a broad group of allies, including all NATO members, to condemn Beijing for cyberattacks around the world.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added that the United States was expected to accuse China for the first time of paying criminal groups to conduct large-scale hackings, including ransomware attacks to extort companies for millions of dollars. Microsoft had pointed to hackers linked to the Chinese Ministry of State Security for exploiting holes in the company’s email systems in March; the U.S. announcement will offer details about the methods that were used, and it is the first suggestion that the Chinese government hired criminal groups to work on its behalf.
Condemnation from NATO and the European Union is unusual, because most of their member countries have been deeply reluctant to publicly criticize China, a major trading partner. But even Germany, whose companies were hit hard by the hacking of Microsoft Exchange — email systems that companies maintain on their own, rather than putting them in the cloud — cited the Chinese government for its work.
Despite the broadside, the announcement will lack concrete punitive steps against the Chinese government such as sanctions similar to ones that the White House imposed on Russia in April, when it blamed the country for the extensive SolarWinds attack that affected U.S. government agencies and more than 100 companies.
By imposing sanctions on Russia and organizing allies to condemn China, the Biden administration has delved deeper into a digital Cold War with its two main geopolitical adversaries than at any time in modern history.

While there is nothing new about digital espionage from Russia and China — and efforts by Washington to block it — the Biden administration has been surprisingly aggressive in calling out both countries and organizing a coordinated response.
But so far, it has not yet found the right mix of defensive and offensive actions to create effective deterrence, most outside experts say. And the Russians and the Chinese have grown bolder. The SolarWinds attack, one of the most sophisticated ever detected in the United States, was an effort by Russia’s lead intelligence service to alter code in widely used network-management software to gain access to more than 18,000 businesses, federal agencies and think tanks.
China’s effort was not as sophisticated, but it took advantage of a vulnerability that Microsoft had not discovered and used it to conduct espionage and undercut confidence in the security of systems that companies use for their primary communications. It took the Biden administration months to develop what officials say is “high confidence” that the hacking of the Microsoft email system was done at the behest of the Ministry of State Security, the senior administration official said, and abetted by private actors who had been hired by Chinese intelligence.
The hacking affected tens of thousands of systems, including military contractors.
The last time China was caught in such broad-scale surveillance was in 2014, when it stole more than 22 million security-clearance files from the Office of Personnel Management, allowing a deep understanding of the lives of Americans who are cleared to keep the nation’s secrets.
President Biden has promised to fortify the government, making cybersecurity a focus of his summit meeting in Geneva with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia last month. But his administration has faced questions about how it will also address the growing threat from China, particularly after the public exposure of the Microsoft hacking.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, the senior administration official acknowledged that the public condemnation of China would only do so much to prevent future attacks.
“No one action can change China’s behavior in cyberspace,” the official said. “And neither could just one country acting on its own.”
But the decision not to impose sanctions on China was also telling: It was a step many allies would not agree to take.
Instead, the Biden administration settled on corralling enough allies to join the public denunciation of China to maximize pressure on Beijing to curtail the cyberattacks, the official said.
The joint statement criticizing China, to be issued by the United States, Australia, Britain Canada, the European Union, Japan and New Zealand, is unusually broad. It is also the first such statement from NATO publicly targeting Beijing for cybercrimes.
The National Security Agency and the F.B.I. are expected to reveal more details on Monday about Chinese “tactics, techniques and procedures” in cyberspace, such as how Beijing contracts criminal groups to conduct attacks for the financial gain of its government, the official said.
The F.B.I. took an unusual step in the Microsoft hacking: In addition to investigating the attacks, the agency obtained a court order that allowed it to go into unpatched corporate systems and remove elements of code left by the Chinese hackers that could allow follow-up attacks. It was the first time that the F.B.I. acted to remediate an attack as well as investigate its perpetrators.
The New York Times · by David E. Sanger · July 19, 2021


24. Open letter to Senators on Operation Protect Democracy principles

Open letter to Senators on Operation Protect Democracy principles
militarytimes.com · by Count Every Hero · July 17, 2021
Dear veterans and current Senators of the United States Congress:
Senator Tom Cotton, US Army (R-AR)
Senator Tammy Duckworth, US Army (D-IL)
Senator Joni Ernst, US Army (R-IA)
Senator Jim Inhofe, US Army (R-OK)
Senator Roger Marshall, US Army (R-KA)
Senator Mitch McConnell, US Army (R-KY)
Senator Ed Markey, US Army (D-MA)
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Senator Jack Reed, US Army (D-RI)
Senator Richard Blumenthal, US Marine Corps (D-CT)
Senator Dan Sullivan, US Marine Corps (R-AK)
Senator Todd Young, US Marine Corps (R-IN)
Senator Tom Carper, US Navy (D-DE)
Senator Mark Kelly, US Navy (D-AZ)
Senator Gary Peters, US Navy (D-MI)
Senator Rick Scott, US Navy (R-FL)
Senator Lindsey Graham, US Air Force (R-SC)
Senator Roger Wicker, US Air Force (R-MS)
We are sending this letter to all of the current U.S. Senators who have served in uniform because we believe the 17 of you are uniquely qualified to address the issue of electoral reform — and positioned to do something about it.
As former national security and defense leaders who have served under Democratic and Republican administrations, we write to express our growing concern about threats — both internal and external — to our democracy and urge you to make the protection of our electoral process your top priority.
We are the co-chairs of Count Every Hero, a cross-partisan coalition of military veterans and citizens who are committed to ensuring every service member’s right to vote is protected and their votes tallied. For the 2020 election, we reached more than 5.2 million people with the support of more than 70 retired generals and admirals. We are continuing our mission as engaged citizens with Operation Protect Democracy, a new Count Every Hero campaign focused on reforming our electoral system.
We believe that legislation on electoral reform should embody these six Operation Protect Democracy Principles:
1. Elections free of foreign interference
2. Equal access to the polls for all eligible voters
3. Accountability of elected officials
4. All American voters directing our country’s future, not only an elite few
5. Transparency and effective oversight of the electoral system
6. Civic literacy to build an informed, engaged, and expanded electorate
We strongly agree with Senator Manchin that this issue requires bipartisan debate and resolution. Among the many worthy electoral reform issues being discussed, we know from experience that absentee voting is a great tool in helping Americans exercise their right to vote - especially service members deployed and stationed around the world, and those with mobility issues like our elderly and combat wounded veterans. Expanding and standardizing this military-proven voting model would benefit all American citizens. As national security leaders, we are also concerned about the security of future elections.
The most recent Office of the Director of National Intelligence Report of January 7, 2021 detailed key foreign actors’ intentions, namely Russia, China, and Iran’s efforts to influence or interfere with the 2020 US federal elections and to undermine confidence in our electoral process. Legislation that protects our electoral process from foreign interference must be a top priority, regardless of party label. Our national security depends on it.
We encourage you to consider our principles when determining your position on electoral reform legislation. As veterans, we urge you to take the lead in advancing the debate and ensuring electoral reform is passed this Congress. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Our bonds transcend politics. Together, we can find the higher ground and protect the voting rights of all Americans.
The Honorable Sean O’Keefe, 69th Secretary of the Navy
The Honorable Louis Caldera, 17th Secretary of the Army
The Honorable Deborah Lee James, 23rd Secretary of the Air Force
General George Casey, USA (ret.), 36th Chief of Staff of the Army
General John Jumper, USAF (ret.), 17th Chief of Staff of the Air Force
Admiral Steve Abbot, USN (ret.), former Deputy Commander in Chief U.S. European Command
Admiral James Loy, USCG (ret.), former acting Secretary of Homeland Security
General Anthony Zinni, USMC (ret.), former Commander, U.S. Central Command Chair, Count Every Hero
Count Every Hero is a cross-partisan initiative that originally formed as a response to misinformation campaigns during the 2020 elections that threatened service-members’ freedom to vote and have their votes counted.
Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times senior managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.

militarytimes.com · by Count Every Hero · July 17, 2021



V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

Company Name | Website
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