Cyber Strategy – Different From A Shooting War

Big hack of pretty much everything in Ukraine this morning: internet, power plants, government. I wrote this post before that happened, but it applies.

The Obama administration was in an extremely difficult position after learning about Russian hacking of last year’s election. Several factors came into play: the difficulty of dealing with international cyber attacks, intransigent Republican partisanship, and the decaying relationship with Russia. I’m going to break down those factors into at least two posts.

Cyber attacks present a national security problem different from any encountered before. Lumping them into a designation of “cyberwar” projects assumptions of conventional war onto them and distorts the difficulties and possibilities. I haven’t seen much analysis of these differences and how they affect strategy. Please point me to them, if they exist. Most punditry assumes that cyber attacks can be equated to war, and numerous opinion articles have referred to the Russian hacks as a form of war. In this post, I will consider only that part of last fall’s situation. A later post will consider the political ramifications. Read more

Late Night Open Thread: Ambassador Kislyak — So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye…

Not exactly unexpected — his cover’s been irrevocably blown — but one more tick on the timeline:

Ending one the most turbulent tenures of a Washington-based ambassador in recent memory, the Kremlin has decided to recall its ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak, three individuals familiar with the decision tell BuzzFeed News.

The decision to bring Kislyak back to Russia rather than appoint him to a senior position at the United Nations in New York, as several outlets previously reported, comes amid investigations by the FBI and Congress into the 66-year-old diplomat’s contacts with President Donald Trump’s top aides during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“He could use some time away,” said a US-based diplomat.

Though Kislyak’s departure has long been expected, Moscow would not confirm his departure date. The US-Russia Business Council, however, is hosting a going away party for the ambassador on July 11 at the St. Regis Hotel

Kislyak was reportedly under consideration to lead a new UN counterterrorism office based in New York. However, that position has since been offered to veteran Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov, a UN official announced last week…

In Kislyak’s place, the Kremlin is expected to send Russian deputy foreign minister, Anatoly Antonov, according to Russian media reports. Antonov, a tough negotiator who is on the EU’s sanctions list, will need final approval by Russia’s parliament.

Waiting with interest to see how this story develops.

Late Night Open Thread: Challenge

Or is it?….

Here’s to a quiet weekend, for once, irregardless…

Late Night Russiagate Open Thread: In Like Flynn

As Miss Manners would’ve told Pompeo, sometimes the rules are there to protect you from your friends. It’s certainly possible to imagine (if you squint hard enough) that a guy from one’s personal circle, well-known for his range of interests, might choose to sit in on the briefings in all innocence. Surely a man with such a storied military career would know what could not be safely repeated outside the room, immune from minor peccadilloes of money or fame…

Senior officials across the government became convinced in January that the incoming national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, had become vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

At the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — agencies responsible for keeping American secrets safe from foreign spies — career officials agreed that Mr. Flynn represented an urgent problem.

Yet nearly every day for three weeks, the new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, sat in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation’s most sensitive intelligence — with Mr. Flynn listening. Mr. Pompeo has not said whether C.I.A. officials left him in the dark about their views of Mr. Flynn, but one administration official said Mr. Pompeo did not share any concerns about Mr. Flynn with the president.

The episode highlights a remarkable aspect of Mr. Flynn’s tumultuous, 25-day tenure in the White House: He sat atop a national security apparatus that churned ahead despite its own conclusion that he was at risk of being compromised by a hostile foreign power…

The concerns about Mr. Flynn’s vulnerabilities, born from misleading statements he made to White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, are at the heart of a legal and political storm that has engulfed the Trump administration. Many of Mr. Trump’s political problems, including the appointment of a special counsel and the controversy over the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, can ultimately be traced to Mr. Flynn’s stormy tenure.

Time and again, the Trump administration looked the other way in the face of warning signs about Mr. Flynn…

Concerns across the government about Mr. Flynn were so great after Mr. Trump took office that six days after the inauguration, on Jan. 26, the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, warned the White House that Mr. Flynn had been “compromised.”…

White House officials have said they moved deliberately both out of respect for Mr. Flynn and because they were not sure how seriously they should take the concerns. They also said the president believed that Ms. Yates, an Obama administration holdover, had a political agenda. She was fired days later over her refusal to defend in court Mr. Trump’s ban on travel for people from several predominantly Muslim countries.

A warning from Mr. Pompeo might have persuaded the White House to take Ms. Yates’s concerns more seriously. Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman, is a Republican stalwart whom Mr. Trump has described as “brilliant and unrelenting.”…

Speaking of protection from one’s “friends”, is is fair to assume that one reason Pompeo chose not to speak up about Flynn’s presence was that he hoped to avoid a fate like that meddlesome talebearer Sally Yates?

Open Thread: Some Happy News, for Non-Revanchists

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III made his career using the full weight of “Law & Order” to abuse unruly people of color, uppity women, young people and poor people with ever-more-restrictive drug laws, capricious enforcement of petty regulations, and statutes restricting the lives and freedom of ex-felons. He was an earlier rider on the ‘Trump train’ because he saw, in a Trump administration, a cushy future where he would be able to enforce his eighteenth-century prejudices on even more people over a wider range.

Were he to end up bankrupted and emotionally broken due to the application of those expansive “Law & Order” codes… well, it wouldn’t improve my estimate of the Trickster God’s script-writing abilities, but I would enjoy the final act.

Michael Flynn Has IDEAs!


Michael Flynn is known for thinking outside the box, and we need ideas outside the box to solve some of the world’s problems. It’s also great when an action can address more than one problem. But it also helps to know what you’re doing.

Here’s an IDEA: The United States and Russia work together to supply Middle Eastern countries with civilian nuclear power. Several of those countries have been seeking nuclear power. The United States and Russia have companies that can build the plants. That’s the deal Flynn was seeking in October 2015.

The contracts would presumably specify that spent fuel go back to the supplier country, so that it wouldn’t be available for extracting plutonium for Middle Eastern nuclear weapons. The motivations for uranium enrichment and reprocessing, the technologies that could be used for making weapons, are undercut. The very wealthy Saudis would finance the program and thus have skin in the nonproliferation game. It would also help to bolster the US nuclear industry, which is suffering, among other things, from plant closures due to the currently low price of natural gas. Read more

Early Morning Open Thread: Ron Ziegler, to the White Courtesy Phone, Please…

This is not the behavior of an administration that feels everything’s going well. Even their own team is irked, per the Washington Post:

By early June, House and Senate Democratic aides had compiled lists of more than 400 written requests that they said had been ignored by the White House or federal agencies.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) described “an overall pattern of fear of any level of transparency.”

“If they can’t control the message or have it come directly from the president via his Twitter account, I think they’re very fearful of any level of sharing basic facts and how they come to their conclusions and decisions what policy should be,” Heinrich said…

…Lawmakers from both parties have been angered by a Justice Department opinion issued in May that instructed agencies not to comply with requests for information from most members of Congress, including Democrats. The May 1 opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel said that individual lawmakers could not make requests of the executive branch unless they are committee chairmen or participating in a request by a full committee or subcommittee.

“This is nonsense,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote in seven-page letter excoriating the opinion. He said that the OLC demonstrated a “shocking lack of professionalism and objectivity.”…