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The Maskirovka Slips VIII: My Real Fear (Updated)

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(Updated below)

I wasn’t going to do my next Maskirovka post until Sunday night, dealing with the NY Times article about Russian cyber operatives placing evidence of child pornography on their targets computers as part of kompromat operations. But the news that broke earlier this evening, as well as the previous posts and comments, have made me decide to put one up. Specifically my real fear of the true scope of the Russian cyber influence operations. I cannot prove what I’m going to write, it is simply speculation, but it is informed speculation.

My real fear of the Russian cyber kompromat and influence operations is not just that they hacked the DNC, the DSCC, the DCCC and John Podesta’s emails. Nor is it that they then, as Malcolm Nance has stated, modified some of those emails before using Wikileaks to distribute them in pursuit of compromising the Clinton campaign to both sow chaos and make American democracy look chaotic and unappealing and, as has now been reported, install Donald Trump as the President. Rather it is that the Russians used their cyber operatives to hack both the Democratic and Republican parties, including the RNC, Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican Congressional Committee, and various elite and notable GOP members. Both David Corn and Kurt Eichenwald have reported evidence that the President-elect himself was the subject of a kompromat operation, though it is unclear if it was successful.

While it is now well documented that the Russians publicly compromised the Democrats, my real fear is that they’ve privately compromised the Republicans. By doing so they not only make America look bad, and the idea of liberal democracy, both of which are among Putin’s strategic objectives. But they also have leverage and influence over the GOP – the party that now controls both chambers of Congress, the Presidency, and a majority of state legislatures and state houses. Russia has believed that it is in a new Cold War with the US for well over a year. What better way to get an advantage by publicly compromising one political party in the US and privately compromising the other? And this is my biggest fear over the Russian cyber based influence operations in the 2016 Presidential election.

Based on what the Washington Post reported this evening, we are in a cyber war, if not an outright one. And while there has been much discussion as to what war in cyberspace looks like, we had better get in gear and get real serious about moving from concept to doctrine to reality very quickly. All that remains to be seen now is what, if anything, is done in response.

Update at 12:40 AM EST

The New York Times has now reported that Russia did indeed hack the GOP, they just did not release the information. So we do appear to have a public Russian kompromat of the Democrats and a private Russian kompromat of the Republicans. The only question that remains to be seen is what the Russians are leveraging their private kompromat of the Republicans for.

WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.

They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

 



The 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor: The Day That Will Live in Infamy

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For the US it was perceived as an unprovoked attack, which broke the domestic political logjam and brought the US into WW II. From the Japanese perspective it was a response to the economic warfare that the US had been waging on Japan since 1939. This included the US embargo on oil going to Japan.

From 1939 through 1941 the US and Japan were locked into a security dilemma (insecurity spiral) as the result of strategic miscommunication – the miscommunication of policy choices and strategic decisions on both sides. As the Japanese attempted to increase their influence throughout Asia, through the use of both economic and military power, the US sought to check them through the use of economic power. A significant portion of the Roosevelt Administration’s response, which was the result of the preferences of President Roosevelt and Secretaries Stimson, Morgenthau, and Ickes, was to adopt the Open Door Policy for China and impose economic sanctions and actions to limit Japan’s activities in Asia. The US policy was to bankrupt the Japanese and therefore stop their expansionism within Asia. The Japanese response was to utilize military power to get out from under the US’s actions – the attack at Pearl Harbor.

So while we take a moment and consider the events of that day, and those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, there is an important lesson to be relearned as 2016 gives way to 2017. Strategic preferences for policy decisions and the actions taken on them have consequences. For every problem solved or resolved as the result of a successful policy and strategy, new problems arise and are created. And context matters. How one’s allies, partners, and competitors understand what you are doing is as important as how you understand it. Failure to account for this is the difference between policy success and strategic failure.

Here is the link for a full roll call of the casualties and fallen at Pearl Harbor.

And here is the link to eyewitness accounts of the attack.

Here is the sole (surviving?) news report of the attack on Pearl Harbor:

Here is President Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech to the Nation where he declares war on Japan:

And finally, here is the live feed of today’s 75th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony.

Rest well Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

 



As Veterans Day Comes to an End

As Veterans Day comes to an end, here is the Old Guard with a 21 Gun Salute and Taps.

Updated at 12:25 AM EST

Per Omnes in comments the Dropkick Murphy’s The Green Fields of France:

And to Terry (my ASO) and Gregg and Mike and Nichole and Paula – rest well.



The Maskirovka Slips V: The Counter-Threat

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NBC News is reporting out that the US Government has taken steps to prepare to counter-strike a Russian cyber attack on election day next week.

U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia’s electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin’s command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News.

American officials have long said publicly that Russia, China and other nations have probed and left hidden malware on parts of U.S critical infrastructure, “preparing the battlefield,” in military parlance, for cyber attacks that could turn out the lights or turn off the internet across major cities.

It’s been widely assumed that the U.S. has done the same thing to its adversaries. The documents reviewed by NBC News — along with remarks by a senior U.S. intelligence official — confirm that, in the case of Russia.

U.S. officials continue to express concern that Russia will use its cyber capabilities to try to disrupt next week’s presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials do not expect Russia to attack critical infrastructure — which many believe would be an act of war — but they do anticipate so-called cyber mischief, including the possible release of fake documents and the proliferation of bogus social media accounts designed to spread misinformation.

And

Brown and others have noted that the Obama administration has been extremely reluctant to take action in cyberspace, even in the face of what it says is a series of Russian hacks and leaks designed to manipulate the U.S. presidential election.

Administration officials did, however, deliver a back channel warning to Russian against any attempt to influence next week’s vote, officials told NBC News.

The senior U.S. intelligence official said that, if Russia initiated a significant cyber attack against critical infrastructure, the U.S. could take action to shut down some Russian systems — a sort of active defense.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, who served as NATO commander of Europe, told NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. is well equipped to respond to any cyber attack.

“I think there’s three things we should do if we see a significant cyber-attack,” he said. “The first obviously is defending against it. The second is reveal: We should be publicizing what has happened so that any of this kind of cyber trickery can be unmasked. And thirdly, we should respond. Our response should be proportional.”

Finally,

One problem, officials say, is that the doctrine around cyber conflict — what is espionage, what is theft, what is war — is not well developed.

“Cyber war is undefined,” Brown said. “There are norms of behavior that we try to encourage, but people violate those.”

For further reading if anyone is interested, here’s the link to Joint Publication (JP) 3-12(R)/Cyberspace Operations. JP 3-12 covers all the Joint Force doctrines and concepts for cyberspace operations. Here’s the link to the US Army Cyber Center of Excellence (COE)* doctrine and concepts brief for those that like death by powerpoint. Finally, here’s the link to a very interesting monograph on cyberspace operations published by the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute (full disclosure: I know the author, he was on the faculty of USAWC during the first two years of my assignment there).

* The Army uses Center of Excellence for the overarching Branch commands at their Professional Military Education (PME) schools. These are not traditional, civilian academic Title VI Centers of Excellence.

 



The Syrian Civil War and No Fly Zones

Secretary Clinton has stated several times that she would consider, if elected President, a no fly zone (NFZ) over Syria and has implied this would be part of a humanitarian assistance strategy to bring relief to the citizens of Aleppo. At the last two debates she specifically referenced Omar Daqneesh, the shell shocked 5 year old Syrian boy filmed sitting in the back in an ambulance in August as a reason to not allow the status quo of Russian and Syrian air strikes on civilian population areas to go on. This has not always been Clinton’s position, in 2013 she expressed concern that a no fly zone would kill a lot of Syrians. Secretary Clinton’s change in position, or at least a stated willingness to change her position, has not been met with universal acclaim. Many Democrats, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others have expressed concerns that a no fly zone would not save lives. Others have argued that it could start World War III featuring the US vs Russia.

Since this has now been put forward as a possible change in US policy and strategy it is important to take a few minutes and consider exactly what a no fly zone really is, how such a choice fits within the US’s strategy formulation framework, and whether it is feasible, acceptable, and suitable.

In terms of US military concepts and doctrine the phrase “no fly zone” is not a doctrinal term. The closest doctrinal term is no fly area (NOFLY) and is defined in Joint Publication (JP) 3-52/Joint Airspace Control as:

Airspace of specific dimensions set aside for a specific purpose in which no aircraft operations are permitted, except as authorized by the appropriate commander and controlling agency.

Mueller defines no fly zones in Denying Flight as:

…a no-fly zone can be defined as a policy under which an outside actor overtly prohibits some or all aircraft flight over a specified territory and undertakes to intercept aircraft violating the prohibition or otherwise punish those responsible for violations.3 Several features of this definition are worth noting. First, an NFZ thus defined does not include defending the sovereignty of one’s own airspace or that of an allied state with the ally’s consent. In a sense, it can be said that virtually every country has an NFZ of some sort over its own territory, often prohibiting all flights in particularly sensitive airspace, but these are not of interest here. Second, an NFZ is a declaratory policy under which one expects violators to be aware of the line they are crossing. Third, imposing an NFZ worthy of the name entails enforcing it, not merely complaining about those who violate it; normally, this means intercepting aircraft that defy the ban, though an NFZ could also employ an enforcement mechanism that relies on other, less-direct forms of sanction.4

He posits that no fly zones are often attractive policy options because:

Since the end of the Cold War, “no-fly zones” (NFZs)1 have begun to appear on menus of policy options for dealing with troublesome states. Prohibiting a miscreant government from using airpower for warfare or transportation within its own country may appeal to policymakers, primarily because it is perhaps the most limited way that military force can be used as a punitive tool. Compared to other forms of armed intervention, NFZs typically entail relatively little risk to the powers imposing them, as least when directed against militarily weak targets. Yet, because they are an active use of military power, NFZs tend to seem more assertive than policy instruments such as economic sanctions.

Due to their limited nature, no-fly zones may also be relatively easy policy initiatives for international coalitions to agree on when they are keen to act against a target regime but wary of taking large risks or committing themselves to major military action. This was very much the case in early 2011, following uprisings against Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan government’s subsequent crackdown against its internal opponents. With a rising sense that the international community needed to do something to help the rebels, first the Gulf Cooperation Council, then the Arab League, and finally the United Nations voted to support the imposition of a NFZ over Libya, from which grew the 2011 air campaign against Qaddafi that enabled the Libyan opposition to defeat his regime and remove him from power (Operation Odyssey Dawn [OOD] and Operation Unified Protector [OUP]).

While this doctrinal and definitional discussion is interesting, the seeming reason behind Secretary Clinton’s willingness to revisit adjusting US policy to include a no fly zone is the result of humanitarian concerns. One of the reasons for this seems to be the failure of the recent cease-fire, which even when it was in effect, failed to allow for humanitarian assistance to reach the people of Aleppo. Its failure also seems to have taken the wind out of the sails (if I may mix my Service metaphors) of the announced US-Russian Joint Deconfliction Office to coordinate strikes and deconflict operations against ISIL and the Nusra Front in Syria. Part of the consideration, viewed solely through public statements and the news reporting on her changed position, is that diplomacy, including MIL to MIL (military to military) diplomacy has failed to end air strikes on non combatant civilian populations in Syria, specifically Aleppo, and as a result a greater humanitarian disaster has ensued. As a result the most effective way to break the impasse, prevent air strikes on civilian population centers, and get much needed humanitarian assistance to those civilian populations is to have the US led coalition deny flight to the Russians and the Syrians.

Read more



The Battle to Liberate Mosul Has Begun. Updated: And Dabiq Has Been Liberated Too!

Here’s the link to the strike press releases by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

There will be more to come on this in the coming days. In the meantime here’s a link to the CJTF Spokesman doing a briefing – he’s one of my former students and an excellent Public Affairs Officer. Three other former students of mine are also with him at CJTF OIR.

Updated at 11:05 PM EDT

I missed it, but Secretary of Defense Carter issued another, very important press release today as well:

Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on the Liberation of Dabiq‎

Release No: 16-110 Oct. 16, 2016

Release No: NR-369-16
Oct. 16, 2016

I welcome today’s news that Syrian opposition forces liberated the Syrian town of Dabiq from ISIL control, aided by strong support from our ally Turkey and our international coalition. This is more than just the latest military result against this barbaric group. Dabiq held symbolic importance to ISIL. The group carried out unspeakable atrocities in Dabiq, named its English-language magazine after the town and claimed it would be the site of a final victory for the so-called caliphate. Instead its liberation gives the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat new momentum in Syria. Again I want to congratulate the Syrians who fought to free Dabiq and thank our ally Turkey for the close coordination during this operation.

 This is a very, very important bit of news. The town of Dabiq, Syria is central to ISIL’s apocalyptic theology. As I wrote about back in FEB 2015, ISIL believes that the defining battle of their version of Islam’s armageddon will be fought between the Muwaheedun (adherents to the radical unity of the Deity) and the infidel. By denying Dabiq/access to Dabiq to ISIL a blow has been struck directly to the heart of the raison d’être of ISIL’s theology and doctrine! The Information Operations and PSYOPS significance of this achievement is very, very important in the Syrian side of the fight against ISIL.


The Maskirovka Slips

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(Maskirovka Principles)

Newsweek‘s Kurt Eichenwald has just broken a story pertaining to Russian Intelligence’s hacking, forging, and/or altering documents to influence the US election in collusion with Wikileaks.

Of course, this might be seen as just an opportunity to laugh at the incompetence of the Russian hackers and government press—once they realized their error, Sputniktook the article down. But this is not funny at all. The Russians have been obtaining American emails and now are presenting complete misrepresentations of them—falsifying them—in hopes of setting off a cascade of events that might change the outcome of the presidential election. The big question, of course, is why are the Russians working so hard to damage Clinton and, in the process, aid Donald Trump. That is a topic for another time.

For now, though, Americans should be outraged. This totalitarian regime, engaged in what are arguably war crimes in Syria to protect their government puppet, is working to upend a democracy to the benefit of an American candidate who uttered positive comments just Sunday about the Kremlin’s campaign on behalf of Bashar al-Assad. Trump’s arguments were an incomprehensible explication of the complex Syrian situation, which put him right on the side of the Iranians and Syrians who are fighting to preserve the government that is the primary conduit of weapons used against Israel.

So no, Mr. Putin, I’m not Sidney Blumenthal. And now that you have been exposed once again, get the hell out of our election.

As I wrote back in July, we are in a cyber war, which is part of the new cold war that we find ourselves in.

I’ll have more on some of the current US-Russia impasse (hopefully) in regard to Aleppo tomorrow.