Recent Events

In an age of increasing connectivity and data-collection technologies, policymakers must grapple with the central tension between the public’s desire for privacy and the need for security.

“We’re going to have to make this fundamental trade between how much do we value national security and protection, versus how much do we want to behave in a free society,” said Robert Schukai, global head of design and digital identity solutions at Thomson Reuters. “Technology can solve a lot of problems,” said Schukai, “but if we can’t figure out the rules of the road… it’s an asymmetric battle.”

Leslie Ireland, who served as assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the US Department of the Treasury in the Obama administration, said “there needs to a broader conversation in our country about what needs to be done for protection and what that cost can be to your privacy.”

“I wonder if there’s going to have to be such a [large-scale] privacy breach for individual people to say it’s worth it,” she added.
Donald J. Trump and Mohammed bin Salman have a similar outlook when it comes to Iran. Both see the Islamic Republic as a threat that needs to be contained. What then does the elevation of Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, to the role of crown prince of Saudi Arabia mean for the Sunni kingdom’s relationship with Shi’ite Iran?

“Nothing good,” said F. Gregory Gause III, head of the international affairs department at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.

“I do see the likelihood of an American-Iranian confrontation, whether it is in Syria, whether it is on the water in the Gulf, whether it is in Iraq after the campaign in Mosul is concluded,” said Gause. The US administration, including President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis, “came into office with a view that Iran was the major issue in the region,” he noted.

Using fake social media accounts to attract real users

Social media “bots” have repeatedly made headlines over the past year, accused of driving traffic and distorting debate on social media platforms, especially Twitter, in the US, French, and UK elections. But what are bots, and how do they work?

In social media terms, a bot is an automated account set up to make posts without human intervention. Such bots can play a range of roles, including sharing poetry, spreading news or attempting satire; many accounts make explicit that they are bots.

One sort of bot is created to have a political effect. Political bots typically do not acknowledge that they are automated. Instead, they masquerade as human users, often with a made-up screen name and stolen photo. They artificially amplify political messages, for example by automatically retweeting posts from a set of accounts, liking any tweet which includes certain words, or following a specific set of users.

The effect is to make a user, message, or policy appear more popular and influential than it actually is.
In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Edward Luce makes a larger statement about the weakening of Western hegemony and the crisis of liberal democracy—of which Donald Trump and his European counterparts are not the cause, but a deeply alarming symptom. Luce argues that the erosion of middle-class incomes has eaten away at liberal democratic consensus, resulting in today’s crisis. Unless the West can rekindle an economy that produces gains for the majority of its people, its political liberties may be doomed. 
The Trump administration is said to be drafting a new arms package for Taiwan that could include advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles. The package is expected to be significantly larger than one that was shelved at the end of the Obama administration, US officials told Reuters on the eve of a visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson two months ago. The United States has long committed itself to providing Taiwan with the means to defend itself and have engaged in unofficial diplomatic relations since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. American presidents have engaged in robust arms sales to Taiwan since the Carter administration and have sold Taiwan more than $30 billion in weapons since then. Current cross-strait relations are strained, and Beijing is likely to react to any arms sale to Taiwan. How will this arms sale affect Taiwan’s defense and security, how will Beijing respond, and how will the arms sales package fit into the Trump administration’s broader strategy in the Asia-Pacific?

On June 9, the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security’s Asia Security Initiative hosted a Cross-Straits Series event on the next US-Taiwan arms sale. The discussion brings together Mr. Abraham Denmark, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia of the US Department of Defense; Mr. Ian Easton, Research Fellow of Project 2049 Institute; and Ms. Susan Lawrence, Specialist, Asian Affairs of the Congressional Research Service. The discussion was moderated by Ms. Shannon Tiezzi, Editor at The Diplomat.
The Washington Post reported on May 15 that US President Donald J. Trump disclosed highly classified information to two Russian officials—Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak—in their White House meeting on May 10.

“The information the president relayed had been provided by a US partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the US government,” the Post reported, citing unidentified current and former US officials.
A cyberattack that has crippled 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries could have been prevented had the victims conducted a simple security update.

“One of the lessons learned here is that people just do not patch their systems,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a nonresident senior fellow in the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

“The reality is: the vulnerability that was exploited was not a zero-day vulnerability,” he said.
South Korean leftist opposition candidate Moon Jae-in’s impressive presidential electoral victory is reverberating not only across the Korean Peninsula, but throughout Northeast Asia and the United States as well. In a crowded field of fifteen candidates, Moon won 41 percent of the vote, soundly defeating his conservative rival, Hong Joon-pyo, who won 24 percent.

While Moon’s victory almost certainly portends that South Korea will be less in sync with the United States and will pursue more accommodating policies toward North Korea, this election was primarily about Korean domestic issues. “Reform and unity” were the goals Moon articulated.
Later in May, US President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to attend his first NATO summit. The summit will take place at a time when most NATO and European Union (EU) leaders are breathing a sigh of relief with centrist Emmanuel Macron’s defeat of the far-right Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election on May 7. Both Le Pen and Trump—with the overt and covert support of Russian President Vladimir Putin—have been disdainful of NATO and the EU. The Le Pen bullet has been dodged, but the Trump challenge, and the conditions that have given rise to illiberal politics on both sides of the Atlantic, remain.  
In March of 2003, I commanded an EC-130 Compass Call, an aircraft configured to perform tactical command, control, and communications countermeasures, over the skies of Iraq. My crew’s mission was to jam enemy communications and help allied forces preserve Iraq’s oil infrastructure. During these missions, we positioned ourselves some distance from the intended target, while an electronic warfare officer controlled jamming functions using a keyboard located in the back of the aircraft.

While this mission demonstrates how developments in cyber technology can be used to further US security interests, a little more than a decade later a young man named Junaid “TriCk” Hussain aligned himself with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and undertook his own form of electronic warfare. Sitting comfortably away from his targets, like my orbiting EC-130, he used a keyboard to launch attacks through cyberspace. Specifically, Hussain built “kill lists” of US military personnel and published them online. He leveraged the increasing power and reach of social media to call for terror attacks against Western interests. These brash moves quickly attracted the attention of the US government. Ultimately, an airstrike from an unmanned aircraft killed TriCk in 2015.


    

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