06/04/2021 News & Commentary – National Security

News & commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and published by Daniel Riggs

1. FDD Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: Late May

2. The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins

3. White House warns companies to step up cybersecurity

4. Terrorists will move to where they can’t be moderated

5.  The Taiwan Temptation: Why Beijing Might Resort to Force

6. A.I. Drone May Have Acted On Its Own in Attacking Fighters, U.N. Says

7. Drone Dilemma: The Risks of Washington’s Favorite Counterterrorism Tool Often Outweigh the Rewards

8. The Origin of COVID-19 and Preventing the Next Pandemic

9. Exclusive: U.S. to give ransomware hacks similar priority as terrorism

10. China Rips Off U.S. Multi-Domain Warfare Tactics

11. White House Warns Companies to Act Now on Ransomware Defenses

12. Censoring Hong Kong’s Exiles

13. Biden administration expands Trump-era order by banning U.S. investment in Chinese companies linked to the military or surveillance technology

14. Tiananmen: Hong Kong vigil organiser arrested on 32nd anniversary

15. Opinion | To compete with China, Washington must fix its own dysfunction

16.  Southeast Asian countries edging closer to the US

17. At Least 11 Junta Troops Killed as Ethnic Alliance Attacks in Northern Shan

18. Welcome To The Jungle: Myanmar Rebels Teach Coup Protesters To Make War

19. ‘I thought I was going to lose my life’: Capitol Police officers share their harrowing January 6 stories for the first time

20. The pitfalls of modern battleship diplomacy

21. Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA

22. Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s search for ‘woke military’ complaints draws ridicule — and war movie quotes

23. Special forces and their role in the history of warfare

 

1. FDD Biden Administration Foreign Policy Tracker: Late May

FDD · June 3, 2021

Access the tracker at the link.

 

2. The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins

Vanity Fair · by Katherine Eban

Excerpts: “Will we ever know the truth? Dr. David Relman of Stanford University School of Medicine has been advocating for an investigation like the 9/11 Commission to examine COVID-19’s origins. But 9/11 took place in one day, he said, whereas “this has so many different manifestations, consequences, responses across nations. All of that makes it a hundred-dimensional problem.”

The bigger problem is that so much time has gone by. “With every passing day and week, the kinds of information that might prove helpful will have a tendency to dissipate and disappear,” he said. “The world ages and things get moved, and biological signals degrade.”

China obviously bears responsibility for stonewalling investigators. Whether it did so out of sheer authoritarian habit or because it had a lab leak to hide is, and may always be, unknown.

The United States deserves a healthy share of blame as well. Thanks to their unprecedented track record of mendacity and race-baiting, Trump and his allies had less than zero credibility. And the practice of funding risky research via cutouts like EcoHealth Alliance enmeshed leading virologists in conflicts of interest at the exact moment their expertise was most desperately needed.

Now, at least, there appears to be the prospect of a level inquiry—the kind Gilles Demaneuf and Jamie Metzl had wanted from the start. “We needed to create a space where all of the hypotheses could be considered,” Metzl said.

If the lab-leak explanation proves accurate, history may credit Demaneuf and his fellow doubters for breaking the dam—not that they have any intention of stopping. They are now knee-deep in examining the WIV’s construction orders, sewage output, and cell phone traffic. The thought driving Paris Group cofounder Virginie Courtier forward is simple: “There are unanswered questions,” she says, “and a few human beings know the answers.”

 

3. White House warns companies to step up cybersecurity

Reuters · by Doina Chiacu

 

4.  Terrorists will move to where they can’t be moderated

Wired · by Adam Hadley

Excerpts: “These problems will pose awkward regulatory questions, which doesn’t bode well for governments resigned to fixing the internet with the bluntest of instruments, or not at all. Why is it that designated terrorist organisations are currently able to register their own domain names? Why are so few far-right extremist groups recognised as terrorists? Why does law enforcement have such limited funding and resources to investigate online hate speech and incitement to violence?

It’s easy to ask the tech sector to “do more”, but in practice, this is an admission of government dereliction of duty. Governments are all too prepared to blame the internet for society’s ills without putting in the groundwork to improve online governance. If individuals commit crimes online by inciting violence then they should be investigated, prosecuted and, if found guilty, sentenced: short-circuiting this judicial process will not make society safer.

Decentralised social media and file storage will likely become the norm within the next ten years. The question will become: how do we devise a decentralised content moderation mechanism that is based on consensus and prevents criminal use?

 

5. The Taiwan Temptation: Why Beijing Might Resort to Force

Foreign Affairs · by Oriana Skylar Mastro · June 3, 2021

Excerpts: “Unless the United States or Taiwan moves first to alter the status quo, Xi will likely consider initiating armed unification only if he is confident that his military can successfully gain control of the island. Can it?

The answer is a matter of debate, and it depends on what it would take to compel Taiwan’s capitulation. Beijing is preparing for four main campaigns that its military planners believe could be necessary to take control of the island. The first consists of joint PLA missile and airstrikes to disarm Taiwanese targets—initially military and government, then civilian—and thereby force Taipei’s submission to Chinese demands. The second is a blockade operation in which China would attempt to cut the island off from the outside world with everything from naval raids to cyberattacks. The third involves missile and airstrikes against U.S. forces deployed nearby, with the aim of making it difficult for the United States to come to Taiwan’s aid in the initial stages of the conflict. The fourth and final campaign is an island landing effort in which China would launch an amphibious assault on Taiwan—perhaps taking its offshore islands first as part of a phased invasion or carpet bombing them as the navy, the army, and the air force focused on Taiwan proper.

The most effective way to deter Chinese leaders from attacking Taiwan is also the most difficult: to convince them that armed unification would cost China its rejuvenation. And the United States cannot do this alone. Washington would need to persuade a large coalition of allies to commit to a coordinated economic, political, and military response to any Chinese aggression. And that, unfortunately, remains a remote possibility, since many countries are unwilling to risk their economic prospects, let alone a major-power war, in order to defend a small democratic island.

Ultimately, then, there is no quick and easy fix to the escalating tensions across the strait. The only way the United States can ensure Taiwan’s security is to make an invasion impossible for Beijing or to convince Chinese leaders that using force will cause them to be pariahs. For the last 25 years, however, Beijing has sought to prevent Washington from doing either. Unfortunately for Taiwan, only now is the United States waking up to the new reality.

 

6.  A.I. Drone May Have Acted On Its Own in Attacking Fighters, U.N. Says

The New York Times · by Maria Cramer · June 3, 2021

Hmmmm.. See bad guy. Kill bad guy.  

 

7. Drone Dilemma: The Risks of Washington’s Favorite Counterterrorism Tool Often Outweigh the Rewards

Foreign Affairs · by Anouk S. Rigterink · June 3, 2021

Conclusion: Any review of U.S. drone policy must grapple with this complex record. Drones have been touted as a low-cost, low-risk tool of counterterrorism. The evidence suggests that image is at best incomplete and at worst fundamentally wrong.

 

8.  The Origin of COVID-19 and Preventing the Next Pandemic

warontherocks.com · by Amanda Moodie · June 4, 2021

Excerpts:While it’s important to discover the origins of the pandemic, there’s a danger in taking these efforts too far. Some have argued that conclusively demonstrating the pandemic’s origins in a lab release might help nations seeking to encourage China to pay financial reparations for the global economic cost of the virus to make their case. This could be a problematic approach. Not only is there no legal precedent under international law to hold a country liable for a pandemic, but in the long run this might be an unwise road for the United States, given its own history of laboratory accidents and safety lapses. Insisting that China bears responsibility for the pandemic and should be expected to pay compensation to other countries or the families of coronavirus victims could backfire in the future if the United States finds itself attempting to mitigate the consequences from a laboratory accident. Furthermore, legal efforts to blame China could fuel additional xenophobia against Asian-Americans, or even undermine U.S. foreign policy interests.

Meanwhile, the focus on where the virus came from should not divert attention from what’s even more important — preparing for the next pandemic. Political finger-pointing might make it far more difficult for researchers to collaborate internationally on pandemic preparedness efforts. Experts are already noting the possible implications for the National Institutes of Health and other research institutions of the growing tension between the United States and China, exacerbated by the allegations and skepticism around the virus’s origins. This pandemic is far from over, despite the rollout of vaccines in the United States, and new potential pandemic diseases are already testing global health efforts elsewhere in the world. American experts therefore need to keep a laser-like focus on the real enemy: the causative agents of disease.

There will be far more blame to share if the international community becomes so fixated on the circumstances surrounding this unique case that it’s unable to see the big picture and predict or prepare for the next pandemic. There’s work we can do in that respect while maintaining agnosticism about the origins of COVID-19. Regardless of the source, we need to be better prepared to respond to the next virus.

 

9. Exclusive: U.S. to give ransomware hacks similar priority as terrorism

Reuters · by Christopher Bing

Excerpts: “Internal guidance sent on Thursday to U.S. attorney’s offices across the country said information about ransomware investigations in the field should be centrally coordinated with a recently created task force in Washington.

“It’s a specialized process to ensure we track all ransomware cases regardless of where it may be referred in this country, so you can make the connections between actors and work your way up to disrupt the whole chain,” said John Carlin, principle associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department.

 

10. China Rips Off U.S. Multi-Domain Warfare Tactics

warriormaven.com · by Kris Osborn

Chinese R&D: Steal to leap ahead. I recall a Chinese delegation coming to NDU when I was on the faculty there in 2010-2011. Their most pressing “concern” was to learn if we have abandon “jointness” in the US military because we had eliminated the Joint Forces Command. They thought that by eliminating it that we no longer considered jointness a priority. This was because they were working so hard to implement jointness in the Chinese military,

 

11. White House Warns Companies to Act Now on Ransomware Defenses

The New York Times · by David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth · June 3, 2021

Excerpts: “In the White House memo, titled “What We Urge You to Do Now,” Ms. Neuberger asked businesses to focus on the basics. One step is multifactor authentication, a process that forces employees to enter a second, one-time password from their phone, or a security token, when they log in from an unrecognized device.

 

It encouraged them to regularly back up data, and segregate those backup systems from the rest of their networks so that cybercriminals cannot easily find them. It urged companies to hire firms to conduct “penetration testing,’’ essentially dry runs in which an attack on a company’s systems is simulated, to find vulnerabilities. And Ms. Neuberger asked them to think ahead about how they would react should their networks and held hostage with ransomware.

 

Recorded Future, a security firm that tracks ransomware attacks, estimated that there were 65,000 successful ransomware attacks last year, or one every eight minutes. But as businesses automate their core operations, the risk of more consequential ransomware attacks only grows.

 

On Thursday, just as the White House was releasing its memo, new ransomware attacks surfaced, this time on Cox Media Group, which owns 57 radio and television stations across 20 American markets. Late Wednesday, the government of Mobile County, Ala., said its systems had been held hostage with ransomware.

 

“Ransomware attacks are only going to get worse and more pervasive into people’s lives, and they’re not disappearing anytime soon,” said Allan Liska, an intelligence analyst at Recorded Future. “There’s a line of cybercriminals waiting to conduct these ransomware attacks. Anytime one goes down, you just see another group pop up.”

 

12. Censoring Hong Kong’s Exiles

WSJ · by The Editorial Board

One aspect of the nature of the Chinese Communist Party exposed.

Excerpts:The incident is part of a broader trend. Last year, after a request from Chinese authorities, Zoom temporarily suspended two U.S.-based accounts of activists attempting to discuss the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Wix episode is a reminder that Beijing intends to censor speech worldwide if it can get away with it. The U.S. and its allies will have to push back against these threats rather than let China dictate what free people around the world can say about Communist Party rule.

 

13. Biden administration expands Trump-era order by banning U.S. investment in Chinese companies linked to the military or surveillance technology

The Washington Post · by Jeanne Whalen and Ellen Nakashima · June 3, 2021

Excerpts: “The Biden administration officials said they expect to place additional companies on the list.

One former U.S. official said “wresting authority” from the Pentagon and moving it to Treasury amounts to a “sidelining of the Pentagon” and will undermine the effort to curb Chinese abuses.

“The Treasury Department, which has been under enormous pressure by Wall Street on the issue, at the end of the day is focused on the liquidity and depth of the capital markets and is much less inclined to sanction Chinese companies,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

 

14. Tiananmen: Hong Kong vigil organiser arrested on 32nd anniversary

BBC

A gutsy woman. I hope she makes it through this.

 

15. Opinion | To compete with China, Washington must fix its own dysfunction

The Washington Post · by Josh Rogin · June 3, 2021

Excerpts: “In a statement, Meeks defended his bill and said he remains hopeful he can strike an agreement with Republicans. “From the outset of this process, I’ve made clear that I want to address China in a bipartisan manner,” he said. “With negotiations still ongoing, that door remains wide open.”

Even if they do find a compromise, the path forward is unclear. When will the House take up the legislation? Will there be a conference negotiation between the two chambers? Nobody knows. The Biden White House is somewhat involved but not spending its own political capital to take a public leadership role. If the Democratic leadership in Congress has a legislative strategy that extends beyond next week, they are hiding it amazingly well.

There’s growing fear around Capitol Hill that this entire project could go belly up. It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which each chamber ends up passing separate bills that never become law, each patting itself on the back and blaming the other for the overall failure. That would be a clear sign that Washington is too broken to come together, even when there’s broad consensus on an urgent national security and economic issue.

The good news is that it’s not too late for our leaders to get their act together and do what everyone agrees is necessary: Put our country in a position to win the strategic competition with China. But the clock is ticking.

 

16. Southeast Asian countries edging closer to the US

asiatimes.com · by Richard Javad Heydarian · June 3, 2021

Lots of indicators of blowback against China. And is China’s wolf diplomacy committing “own goals” or self inflicted wounds? Can we exploit Chinese mistakes?

 

17. At Least 11 Junta Troops Killed as Ethnic Alliance Attacks in Northern Shan

irrawaddy.com · by The Irrawaddy · May 31, 2021

 

18. Welcome To The Jungle: Myanmar Rebels Teach Coup Protesters To Make War

Barron’s · by AFP – Agence France Presse

I wonder how many private American citizens are directly or indirectly supporting this effort. We know there are many of our friends working in various capacities in Burma support the tribes and humanitarian and other efforts.

 

19. ‘I thought I was going to lose my life’: Capitol Police officers share their harrowing January 6 stories for the first time

CNN · by Whitney Wild and Jeremy Herb

This is so sad and troubling. And even more so that there are those who deny this.

 

20. The pitfalls of modern battleship diplomacy

Financial Times · by the editorial board · June 1, 2021

Excerpts: “The risk is that Beijing may conclude the real lesson to be drawn from such carefully calibrated deployments is that the UK and other European powers would actually stand aside — if China were ever to attempt a blockade of Taiwan.

In reality, neither Washington, Beijing, Taipei or London could be sure how such an unprecedented international crisis would unfold. It would be wise if all parties ensure that we never find out.

 

21. Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA

thecipherbrief.com · by Marc Polymeropoulos

Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA

 

22. Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s search for ‘woke military’ complaints draws ridicule — and war movie quotes

The Washington Post · by Alex Horton · June 3, 2021

Sigh…

 

23. Special forces and their role in the history of warfare

special-ops.org · by Eric Sof

Ugh. How could an article like this not even mention the OSS?

 

————-

 

“Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.”

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 

“To live is to war with trolls.”

– Henrik Ibsen

 

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”

– Max Lucade

DanielRiggs
Fri, 06/04/2021 – 9:50am

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