National Security

Opinion/Analysis: In Syria, Trump needs a strategy to keep Russia, Assad and Iran off-balance – and US involvement to a minimum

President Trump has sent a message that his “red line” will not be crossed. It was important to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons capability and that’s what we did. In addition, President Trump’s actions were not lost on Kim Jong Un and I believe this also weighed into the president’s calculus. The North Korea nuclear threat is the greatest threat facing the United States today. American strength and leadership has brought Kim Jong Un to the table to discuss denuclearization. Kim Jong Un was watching how we would respond to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s latest chemical attack on his own people, and he saw that with this president, “red lines” will not be crossed. Another complicating factor was Iran. Iran has been a “great enabler” of the North Korean nuclear threat, but they are also in Syria. This also had to weigh in on the president’s decision making process. The big question now is “What is the next step?” It is important that the United States execute a “3 Pronged Strategy” simultaneously designed to drive a wedge between Russia, Assad, and Iran. Let’s keep them busy and off balance, focusing on their own problems, so they have less time for mischief and we can focus on our greatest national security challenge—North Korea. Here’s a framework of how it could look: Assad—Support an international campaign to go after him as a war criminal. Yes, I understand the problem of having the UN Security Council (because of a Russian veto) referring this to the International Criminal Court at The Hague. However, look at what’s going on in Sweden and Germany. Swedish and German prosecutors have been in the forefront of prosecuting Syria war crimes. And the Swiss have begun legal proceedings against Rifaat al-Assad, former Syrian Vice President and Bashar al-Assad’s uncle. Further, Carla del Ponte, a former member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, has said the evidence is there to convict Bashar al-Assad of war crimes. Let’s build on all of this. Russia—Here, let’s focus on the 2013 UN Security Council Agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons program. Why has Russia been AWOL for the past five years and what happened to the inspections and required monthly reports? And why did Russia veto the continuation of the Joint Investigative Mechanism which was investigating chemical weapons use in Syria? Iran—Tension has been growing with a number of Arab states who have had it with Iran. In the fall of 2016, some 11 Arab nations complained to the United Nations that Iran was a state sponsor of terrorism. This was followed up in late 2017 with several Arab nations saying they would bring specifics to the UN Security Council. Let’s encourage these Arab nations to have a sustained plan to keep Iran busy having to deal with its own problems. Anyone who looks at the history of Syria realizes that the phrase “constant turmoil” best describes it. It is a quagmire and the U.S. needs to take steps now so that our involvement there doesn’t escalate and the situation doesn’t get out of control. President Trump’s action in degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capability was the right one and it showed both Assad and Kim Jong Un that with him, “red lines” won’t be crossed. Implementing a “3 Pronged Strategy” designed to drive a wedge between Russia, Assad and Iran and force them each to focus on their own problems will help ensure that American involvement in Syria doesn’t escalate and we can focus on the greatest national security threat to America today—North Korea.

An interesting op/ed by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army, Van Hipp.  If only it were that simple…

China engaged in massive theft of US technology, analysts reveal

China is engaged in large-scale theft of American research and technology from universities, using spies, students, and researchers as collectors, experts told Congress on Wednesday. Compounding the technology theft, the administration of President Barack Obama weakened U.S. counterintelligence efforts against foreign spies by curbing national-level counterspy efforts, a former counterintelligence official disclosed during a House hearing. Michelle Van Cleave, former national counterintelligence executive, said shortly after the creation of the office of the director of national intelligence in 2004, a national counterspy program against foreign spies was restricted during the administration of President George W. Bush. “Unfortunately, the backsliding continued under President Obama,” Van Cleave told two subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Van Cleave said a directive issued by then-DNI James Clapper in 2013 and still in force reduced the national counterintelligence program authority by directing all counterspy programs to be run by individual departments or agencies. “The national head of counterintelligence was rebranded director of a security and CI center, his duties further dissipated by the fixation on leaks and insider threats driven by the grievous harm done by Snowden, Manning, et al,” Van Cleave said, referring to intelligence leakers Edward Snowden, an NSA contractor, and Army Sgt. Bradley Manning. “Gone was any dedicated strategic [counterintelligence] program, while elite pockets of proactive capabilities died of neglect,” she said. “Read between the lines of existing CI guidance and you will not find a whiff of a national-level effort left, other than caretaker duties such as taking inventory and writing reports.” Several intelligence and security experts testified during the hearing that China poses the most significant threat of technology theft from an estimated $510 billion spent annually on U.S. research and development. “China has a government-directed, multi-faceted secret program whose primary task is technology acquisition, as well as a highly refined strategy to develop and exploit access to advantageous information through the global telecommunications infrastructure,” Van Cleave said. Along with Russian intelligence agents, Chinese technology spies have developed specific lists of technology for theft. Beijing uses clandestine agents, front companies, and joint research ventures in the theft program. “Indeed, the United States is a spy’s paradise,” Van Cleave said. “Our free and open society is tailor-made for clandestine operations.”

Indeed..  To read more of this outstanding, yet shocking, analysis by best-selling author Bill Gertz, click on the text above.  Bill knows his stuff..

Extreme vetting: State Dept. to demand tourists’ social media history

The State Department will publish new rules this week that would require most visitors and immigrants to the U.S. to turn over their recent social media histories, carrying out one of President Trump’s key security enhancements from his extreme vetting executive order. Travelers would also be asked to list previous phone numbers, email addresses and international travel during the previous five years, and to detail any immigration problems they’ve had, whether with the U.S. or elsewhere. They’ll also be asked about potential family connections to terrorism. And in a striking human rights move, would-be immigrants from countries where female genital mutilation is prevalent would be directed to a website ensuring they’re aware the practice — common in some African countries — is illegal in the U.S. The proposals are laid out in two new documents slated to be published Friday, kicking off a comment period before the government finalizes the policies. “This upgrade to visa vetting is long overdue, and it’s appropriate to apply it to everyone seeking entry, because terrorism is a worldwide problem. The aim is to try to weed out people with radical or dangerous views,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies. She also called the effort to discourage female genital mutilation “innovative.” “The message needs to be sent that ‘we don’t do that here,’ ” she said. Security experts have demanded the government collect more information from visitors and immigrants for years, but civil liberties groups have been wary of the move. Homeland Security had floated plans to track social media of immigrant applicants, but the State Department’s new proposal would apply to tourists and others coming on temporary visas. Some 14 million people would be affected by the request for information, the department’s documents say. Don Crocetti, a former senior fraud investigator for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said it makes sense to collect the information — but said officers need to stay within privacy rules, too. He said in the immigration context, looking at social media can help an adjudicator assess whether the story the applicant is telling for applying for a benefit rings true — such as in the case of a marriage petition. But Mr. Crocetti said someone’s refusal to turn over the passwords or other non-public social media information can’t be used on its own to deny approval. “The use of social media is a wrench in their tool box. It’s not that you use that same wrench for everything you do, but it’s a wrench, it’s a different sized tool, and you have use that selectively,” he said. The State Department said it already collects limited information about travel history and family relations. The new information will go beyond that to include prior passport numbers, information about family members, and a longer history of past travel, employment and contact information. “Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity,” the department said. Ms. Vaughan said she wished the State Department had also requested information on the visitor application asking whether female travelers are intending to enter the U.S. for the purpose of having a child. She said that could cut down on what’s known as “birth tourism,” where women in the late stages of pregnancy visit the U.S. in order to give birth on American soil, which secures citizenship for the child.

US can’t stop hypersonic weapons, Air Force General says

Missiles that spit out warheads traveling up to 20 times the speed of sound and with the ability to perform elusive acrobatics may be too much for U.S. defenses to block. That’s according to the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday (March 20). When asked by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., what kind of defenses the U.S. has against hypersonic weapons, Hyten replied: “We have a very difficult — well, our defense is our deterrent capability. We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us, so our response would be our deterrent force, which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat,” Military.com reported. Hyten is referring to the triad of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, which are bomber aircraft designed to fly into enemy territory and destroy strategic targets. Ballistic missiles, both hidden underground and in secret submarines, can travel huge distances at whirring speeds. But weapons that can travel well above the speed of sound seem to be a real threat, as both Russia and China are “aggressively pursuing” such hypersonic weapons, Hyten also said, as reported by CNBC. On March 1, during an annual address, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a new class of weapon delivery systems designed to evade NATO’s ballistic missile defenses. Speaking on Russian television, Putin indicated the country was building a new hypersonic missile and a cruise missile with “unlimited range” that could avoid adversaries’ detection technologies. This nuclear-powered cruise missile could travel unlimited distances, and, unlike ballistic missiles, it could cruise low to the ground where it would be obscured by other objects — meaning it would evade radar detection, Live Science previously reported. “In theory, a cruise missile carrying a nuclear bomb could slip under American defenses and detection systems, and detonate before Americans could mobilize a response,” Live Science reported. Modern technology available today wouldn’t be able to stop such an attack, nor could it defend against missile-deploying warheads at hypersonic speeds, Philip Coyle, a nuclear weapons expert, previously told Live Science’s Rafi Letzter. Even so, Gen. Hyten assured the Senate Committee that U.S. defenses are prepared for such a battle. “The first, most important message I want to deliver today is that the forces under my command are fully ready to deter our adversaries and respond decisively, should deterrence ever fail. We are ready for all threats,” Hyten said in his opening remarks, according to a Department of Defense statement. Other generals have suggested supplementing the U.S. defense arsenal with low-yield nukes, or those that pack less power. In addition, space-based detection systems could theoretically detect and track hypersonic missile threats, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said on March 6, according to Military.com. “To maintain military superiority in this multipolar, all-domain world, we must out-think, out-maneuver, out-partner and out-innovate our adversaries,” Hyten said. “Deterrence in the 21st century requires the integration of all our capabilities, across all domains, enabling us to respond to adversary aggression anytime, anywhere.” Just this week, President Donald Trump said the U.S. needs a “space force,” Live Science’s sister site Space.com reported.

Expert: U.S. Military ‘Over a Decade’ Behind China, Russia on Space Defense

U.S. military satellites used to warn of a missile strike or to deploy nuclear weapons are vulnerable to attacks by the Chinese and Russian armed forces, which have eclipsed their American counterparts in developing some significant space warfighting capabilities, experts cautioned lawmakers. Specifically, the United States is “over a decade” behind in developing a system to counteract the advancements made by China and Russia in the anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons domain, Douglas Loverro, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, warned a House panel. Echoing the U.S. intelligence community in written testimony prepared for a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, the former Pentagon official noted: While China and Russia are driving through generations of ASAT systems every three to five years, it is taking us over a decade to even begin to field a system responsive to their first-generation threat. Stated more clearly, when it comes to strategic missile warning and nuclear command and control, the evolved US response to the ASAT threat we see being deployed today will be ready near the end of the next decade; meanwhile, the threat will have [leaped] forward two more generations, and likely made our response moot. The U.S. armed forces consider “maintaining space superiority” one of its primary goals, top American military officials have recently stressed, noting that “space is now a warfighting domain.” William Carter from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) warned lawmakers in January that China is “rapidly closing the gap” with America in developing “cyber capabilities, anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare tools, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies.” Carter pointed out that China has deemed satellites to be the U.S. military’s “Achilles heel.” While testifying before the House panel on Wednesday, Todd Harrison, another CSIS expert, reiterated that the American armed forces’ “dependence on space across the full spectrum of conflict” renders the U.S. vulnerable to its top ASAT domain rivals, Russia and China. “Adversaries can use forms of attack against our space systems that are difficult to detect, attribute, and deter. … Much remains to be done to improve the readiness of our national security space forces for the wide range of threats,” Harrison noted in his written testimony. Two of the three witnesses flat out told House lawmakers on Wednesday that the American military is not ready to take on adversaries like Russia and China in space. Retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who served as the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM)—charged with overseeing America’s space warfighting capabilities—testified: “The United States is perilously close to losing the significant advantages that come from being the world’s leading spacefaring nation, and time is not on our side…”

Indeed..  Space WILL be the next high ground in our next major military conflict.  And, our politicians need to support funding for our military space programs accordingly.  For more, click on the text above.

U.S. commanders forecast 10,000 American casualties in war with North Korea

As many as 10,000 U.S. service members would end up wounded or dead in the opening days of a potential war with North Korea, with civilian casualties possibly reaching into the hundreds of thousands, says a recent U.S. military assessment of a future conflict on the peninsula. The casualty assessment was one of several generated during a large-scale vitrual wargame, known as a tabletop exercise in Pentagon parlance, conducted by several service and combatant commanders including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Tony Thomas, The New York Times reported Thursday. The wargame, held at U.S. Pacific Command’s headquarters in Hawaii, put on stark display the devastating cost of engaging in all-out war with the North Korean regime. “The brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” Gen. Milley reportedly said after seeing the results of the exercise, according to The Times. Results of the recent wargame come as the White House continues raising tensions in the region, touting the fact that all options — including military action — remain on the table in an effort to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Officials within the Trump administration have also suggested a series of non-nuclear, preemptive strikes dubbed the “bloody nose”option to force the North to ratchet down their actions. Goodwill generated between Pyongyang, Seoul and the U.S. as a result of the recent Olympic games prompted Mr. Trump to suggest his administration would be open to some form of talks with the North Korean regime. That said, Washington remains intent on moving forward with this year’s Foal Eagle exercises, in spite of claims by Pyongyang that such a move could have a chilling effect on those seemingly warming relations. U.S. and South Korean commanders are in the process of zeroing in on a start date for the exercise, known as Foal Eagle, after being forced to postpone the drill due to the Olympics, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters Monday. He declined to comment on what dates both countries were considering for the exercise, one of the largest military drills in the world, but noted “it will be an alliance decision when that [exercise] will occur,” Col. Manning told reporters at the Pentagon. Officials in Pyongyang warned that any military drills set to take place after the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, “seriously threatened, and hard-won atmosphere for reconciliation and cooperation between the north and the south were spoilt in a moment,” according to a statement issued on state-run media outlet Korean Central News Agency last week.

North Korea willing to hold talks with US, ex-spy chief says

North Korea has “enough” willingness to hold talks with the U.S., a former intelligence chief from the rogue country believed to be the mastermind behind a deadly attack on South Korea told the country’s president on Sunday. The Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, reported Sunday the news of the meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Yong Chol, a senior official of the North’s ruling Worker’s Party, during the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, according to Yonhap News Agency. “President Moon pointed out that U.S.-North Korea dialogue must be held at an early date even for an improvement in the South-North Korea relationship and the fundamental resolution of Korean Peninsula issues,” spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said of the meeting. The two met for an hour in Pyeongchang, the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics, according to Yonhap. “The North Korean delegation too agreed that North Korea-U.S. relations must develop along with the South-North Korea relationship while noting [the North] has enough intention to hold North Korea-U.S. dialogue,” the spokesman added. The United States and North Korea, which have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war after an armistice in 1953, have been at odds for decades. In recent months the war of words between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump has escalated as the North tests nuclear missiles and Washington pushes the Hermit Kingdom to disarm. The White House said in a statement on Sunday that “denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea.” “We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end,” the statement read.

For more of this story, click on the text above.