domingo, 12 de febrero de 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Today's Insight

Desginating the Muslim Brotherhood As Terrorists Is Complicated | Bennett Seftel, The Cipher Brief
The Trump Administration is considering whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood – a movement that espouses a doctrine of political Islam and has millions of supporters across the Middle East – as a terrorist organization. But experts caution about the potential for unintended consequences, backlash, and legal challenges to such a move.

Expert Commentary

The Potential to Increase the Terrorist Threat |
 Michele Dunne, Director and Senior Fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"Since the Sisi-led coup, the Brotherhood (now in prison, exile, or underground) has been riven by a debate over strategy. While the imprisoned leadership and exiled leaders in London have continued to insist on nonviolent resistance, young members in Egypt have ridiculed that stance and pressed for permission to use violence against the Sisi government."

The U.S. Should Be Wary About Overplaying its Hand | 
Eric Trager, Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Ultimately, most Brotherhood chapters in their present forms are more akin to hate groups than terrorist organizations: they promote bigotry and embrace attacks against a wide range of targets ideologically, but in most cases, there isn’t sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they organized those attacks.

Today's Column: Agenda Setter

Questions Remain Until Trump Makes Russia Intentions Clear | John Sipher, Former Member, CIA's Senior Intelligence Service
"The more benign explanation is that he naively sees Russia as a European partner who should be able to help us deal with trouble spots in the Middle East and Asia.  The second option is more troubling because it suggests criminality and could potentially damage or destroy the Trump Presidency."


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15 Minutes
This week, The Cipher Brief's Executive Producer and Reporter Leone Lakhani speaks to Haras Rafiq, CEO of Quilliam, a UK-based organization whose mission is to counter extremism, in every form. Much of its work surrounds counter-messaging Islamism by creating alternatives and empowering moderate Islamic voices. Leone spoke to Haras about how Quilliam conveys its message.
Listen to 15 Minutes with Quilliam's Haras Rafiq on Countering Extremism

Don't Miss On The Cipher Brief

New Threat Landscape in Southeast Asia |
Rohan Gunaratna, Professor and Head, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Nanyang Technological University
Southeast Asia is emerging as an ISIS battlefield, and security threats in the region will accelerate and grow with the group’s global expansion – with an ISIS-centric threat landscape supplanting an al Qaeda-centric one.

America First Equals America Last |
Ambassador Richard Boucher, Former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia
China seems to be the main beneficiary of “America First.” Indeed, one Chinese scholar told me last summer, “We like Trump because he’ll vacate space for us to move into.” However, China is not always the instigator: The Philippine, Indian, and Kazakh examples should show us that others are looking to take care of themselves.

Insider Threat Special Report: Snowden's Impact on Business, Government |
Steven Bay, Former Contractor, National Security Agency
"In my opinion, the Snowden revelations impacted businesses’ willingness to work with the government and the trust foreign countries have in the products and services these companies offer."

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The Cipher Take

Turkey and U.S. Discuss Joint Action against ISIS
According to Reuters, sources close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed to pursue “joint action” against ISIS in the cities of Al Bab and Raqqa. Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told Turkish television broadcaster NTV that “operational details were not discussed on this call.” However, Reuters’ sources said that the two presidents discussed a wide range of issues, including U.S. support for the PYD – a militant Syrian Kurdish group – and the creation of “safe zones” for Syrian refugees. They also claim that Trump’s new CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, will visit Turkey on Thursday to discuss these issues in depth. The White House acknowledged the phone call but gave few details.

The Cipher Take:
It is difficult to tell what plans the new administration has for Turkey, especially concerning its role in the Syrian conflict. However, two things are clear. First, that the Trump administration’s primary focus in Syria will be to oust ISIS from its capital in Raqqa and, second, that few options are off the table in pursuit of this goal. For Erdogan, this offers a new opportunity to revisit areas of dispute with the Obama administration, namely U.S. support for the Kurdish PYD and the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen – whom Erdogan blames for the failed coup attempt last July – from Pennsylvania. The question of support for the PYD, whose militia wing forms the backbone of the U.S.-backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), is most likely to catch Trump’s interest. Up until now, the SDF has been the only realistic local force capable of capturing Raqqa but enthusiastic military support from Turkey and allied Syrian rebels might change that equation. At the same time, the issue of Gulen’s extradition to Turkey gives Trump a powerful bargaining chip with Ankara. The question is, what will he bargain for?

Six Afghan Red Cross Workers Killed by ISIS
Six Afghans working for the Red Cross (ICRC) have been killed and two others kidnapped by suspected Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Afghanistan’s northern Jowzjan Province. The ICRC subsequently announced that it was putting its work in Afghanistan on temporary hold;  Afghanistan is the ICRC's fourth largest humanitarian program worldwide. The Taliban announced that they were not involved in the attack and stated their intentions to help locate the perpetrators.

The Cipher Take:
In addition to Taliban orchestrated violence throughout Afghanistan, ISIS has also conducted several attacks, primarily against the country’s Shia population. There has also been regular infighting between the two groups since ISIS burst onto the scene in Afghanistan in late 2014. ISIS has established a base in the eastern Afghan state of Nangarhar on the border with Pakistan, but has also gradually expanded in recent months and are thought to be very active in Afghanistan’s northern Jowzjan Province.

Japan's Abe to Visit Trump, Discuss Jobs, Defense, Trade; Play Golf
Today, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives in Washington for a state visit with President Donald Trump. In their first meeting, Abe is expected to bring up Japanese investments that could generate as many as 700,000 jobs in America, increasing military cooperation, and, in return, ask for a bilateral trade agreement between the U.S. and Japan. After their meeting, the two are scheduled to go to Trump’s resort in Florida and play golf.

The Cipher Take:
Abe has made no secret that he intends to build a close relationship with Trump; Abe was the first head of state to meet Trump in person after his election win. Many in the Japanese government feel that a strong relationship with the U.S. is key to supporting Japanese economic and security interests, and Abe is betting that building a personal relationship is the best way for his plans to succeed. Trump remembers the days of “Japan, Inc.” when many U.S. brands and properties were bought up by Japanese investors, and Abe is betting that facetime with the President will help convince him that these initiatives are in both countries’ interests. The stakes for Abe are high. Japan’s economy is struggling to grow, and with high public debt, more military spending would be very unpopular. The Japanese will expect Abe to cut a good deal, though this may be difficult to pull off when Trump, America’s Deal Maker-in-Chief, has much less on the line.

China Sends Coast Guard Ships Close to Disputed East China Sea Islands
On Monday, China announced it had sailed three coast guard ships through the territorial waters claimed by Japan that surround the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands; islands China also claims as its sovereign territory. The move follows the visit of U.S. Secretary James Mattis to Tokyo where he reiterated that the U.S. recognizes the Senkaku Islands as covered by Article 5, the clause of the alliance stating the U.S. will defend Japanese territory.

The Cipher Take:
This is the fourth such transit by Chinese coast guard vessels this year, which puts it on pace with last year’s total of 36 transits through the disputed waters. Like its South China Sea claims, China believes these islands are part of its historic territory, and that the foreign powers who created the modern international system have deprived it of its sovereign rights. As such, China is unlikely to abandon the claim anytime soon. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with his Japanese counterpart and reiterated Mattis’ statements. For a disputed territory, U.S. commitment doesn’t get much stronger than that. Expect the impasse between Japan and China, and therefore regional tensions, to continue.

May Rejects Rumors of Scottish Independence
On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May struck back at reports that the devolved Scottish government might be planning to hold another referendum on Scottish independence, saying “we don’t believe there should be a second referendum. There has been a referendum [held in 2014]. It was clear, decisive, and legal.” This statement comes on the heels of a symbolic vote held on Tuesday, where members of the devolved Scottish parliament overwhelmingly voted down the “Brexit” legislation, which May plans to present to parliament. London does not need the consent of Scotland’s devolved government, based in Edinburgh, to trigger Article 50 and exit the EU. However, Scots overwhelmingly voted against leaving the EU in the Brexit referendum held last June, and Edinburgh is demanding that May hear their opposition to her plans to pursue a “hard Brexit” from the Union.

The Cipher Take:
According to the Dundee-based Courier newspaper, Nicola Sturgeon and her Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) are preparing to demand a new independence referendum within two weeks. That may be premature, but Sturgeon has long warned that another referendum could follow Scots being “torn out of the EU against our will.” The real question is whether public opinion supports that threat. A poll published over the weekend found that only 43 percent of Scots support independence from the UK. However, a new poll published on Wednesday found 49 percent in favor of independence. That number could easily rise when London does trigger Article 50 – planned for March – and exit negotiations begin. For her part, May has thus far dismissed Edinburgh’s demands for consultation and the threat of Scottish independence. If she is wrong, the UK could find itself entering Brexit negotiations a little bit smaller.

ISIS-Linked Hackers Target UK's National Health Service
Three weeks ago, ISIS-linked hackers based in North Africa targeted six of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) websites in the southwest of England. Graphic images of violence from Syria’s ongoing civil war were displayed on the sites along with a declaration that the sabotage operation was in retaliation for the West’s foreign policies in the Middle East. The group, calling itself the Tunisian Fallaga Team, breached NHS websites concerning issues ranging from childcare to funding. Though it appears that patient data was vulnerable to exfiltration during the attacks, seemingly none have been compromised.

The Cipher Take:
While this is the first instance of a concerted ISIS effort to target the NHS, it is a logical target for the terrorist group—and many criminals and nation-states—as every British citizen comes into contact with it on a regular basis and it holds large quantities of very sensitive data. The Tunisian Fallaga Team is one of multiple ISIS-affiliated hacker groups—which also include Global Islamic Caliphate and Team System DZ—who have coordinated attacks that have targeted airlines, media, U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and Youtube accounts, and published personal details of retired U.S. military personnel. The group became particularly active following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, targeting organizations that condemned the violence. While the cyber operations undertaken by ISIS-affiliated groups remain limited to unsophisticated website defacement campaigns, they could quickly evolve into more disruptive attacks, particularly if they decide to outsource their cyber operations to more capable criminal entities.

Surveillance Malware Found on Diplomatic Sites
Security firm Forcepoint revealed that it found potentially Russian-linked surveillance malware imitating web analytics script on diplomatic, scientific, media, and recreational sites. The hackers inject code that looks similar to common web analytics tools such as Google Analytics - a tactic commonly used by the Russian-linked Turla hacker group, which is known to target diplomats. So far, the malware has been found on a variety of websites, including those belonging to the foreign affairs ministries of Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Uzbekistan, several embassies in Washington, DC, a political party in Austria, an unspecified international organization based in France, an African Union site, and a Somalian news organization.

The Cipher Take:
It appears this surveillance campaign dates back to December 2015, though the malware was regularly updated with new malicious command servers throughout 2016. While there are no definitive connections, the methods resemble those used by the Turla group, a Russian-speaking group thought to be sponsored by the Russian government, that is known for hiding their command and control servers by hijacking satellite data streams and using the infrastructure of legitimate users—mainly through providers in the Middle East and Africa—to make attribution through forensic analysis difficult. The group has been conducting advanced cyber espionage operations since 2007, targeting government agencies, embassies, and military agencies in over 40 countries, with particular emphasis on former Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe.

Upcoming Cipher Brief Events

National Interests vs. International Provocations: China Pushes the Line in East Asia | Tuesday, February 28
Our February Georgetown Salon Series event will focus on the global implications of China's island-building campaign in the South China Sea. Leading the discussion with be Admiral Jon Greenert, former Chief of Naval Operations for the U.S. Navy; Timothy Heath, Senior International Defense Research Analyst at RAND Corporation; and Greg Poling, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at CSIS. The discussion will be moderated by The Cipher Brief's CEO & Publisher, Suzanne Kelly.

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