Tag: Cybersecurity

Peace picks, February 5-11

  1. Stabilizing Raqqa: Connecting Current Operations to U.S. Policy Objectives | Monday, February 5 | 9:30am – 11:00am | CSIS | Register here |

CSIS invites you to join a panel discussion on local Syrian and Coalition stabilization efforts in Raqqa. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Coalition forces drove ISIS from its self-proclaimed caliphate capital in Raqqa in 2017. Enduring security in ISIS-cleared areas now depends on local governance and restoration of services. Following a recent visit to Raqqa, Syria by Ambassador Mark Green, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and General Joseph Votel, Commander of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), panel speakers will discuss the importance of stabilization efforts in Raqqa and the challenges of connecting current operations with U.S. policy objectives. Featuring Karen Decker (U.S. Department of State), Maria Longi (USAID), Mark Swayne (U.S. Department of Defense), Robert Jenkins (USAID), Melissa Dalton (CSIS), and Erol Yayboke (CSIS).


  1. Taking Stock of Mexico’s Security Landscape | Monday, February 5 | 8:30am – 1:00pm | Wilson Center | Register here |

The Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute invites you to attend its fifth annual Mexican security review. The forum will provide a careful examination of security challenges in Mexico. Of particular interest will be a review of 2017 and a discussion of trends in 2018, including establishing new bonds in U.S.-Mexico military-to-military relations and strengthening the rule of law in Mexico. We will also be launching a new book The Missing Reform: Strengthening the Rule of Law in Mexico, which analyzes the concrete obstacles that Mexico faces to implement the rule of law. Featuring presentations from leading policy analysts, including Iñigo Guevara Moyano (Director at Jane’s Aerospace, Defense and Security), David Shirk (University of San Diego), Viridiana Rios (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University), Matthew Ingram (University of Albany, SUNY), and others.


  1. Russia’s Influence in the Balkans: Methods and Results | Tuesday, February 6 | 12:30pm – 2:00pm | Johns Hopkins University SAIS | Register here |

Moscow is increasingly active politically, militarily and economically in the Balkans. What are its goals and methods? What has it achieved thus far? What will it do in the future? The Center for Transatlantic Relations and the Conflict Management Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will convene a panel of experts to examine these key questions, featuring Reuf Bajrovic (Former Minister of Energy of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Metodija A. Koloski (President, United Macedonian Diaspora), Jelena Milic (Director and Chair of the Board, Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, Belgrade), Steve Rukavina (President, National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation), Sinisa Vukovic (Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University SAIS). SAIS Director of Conflict Management Daniel Serwer will moderate the conversation.


  1. UNRWA’s Role in Promoting Israeli-Palestinian Stability | Wednesday, February 7 | 2:00pm – 3:15pm | Middle East Institute | Register here |

In the wake of his announcement to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, President Trump has also vowed to cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by 83 percent, in a stated effort to bring the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table. International governments and NGOs swiftly condemned these funding cuts by the United States, citing the critical role UNRWA plays in promoting security and stability in the region through health, education, and assistance programs for Palestinian refugees. The Middle East Institute (MEI) is pleased to host UNRWA’s West Bank Director, U.S. Army Maj. (ret.) Scott Anderson, and the director of UNRWA’s Representative Office in Washington, Elizabeth Campbell, who will discuss the regional impact of this decision and UNRWA’s global funding push to support its critical work. MEI’s Director for Gulf Studies and Government Relations, Amb. (ret.) Gerald Feierstein, will moderate the discussion.


  1. Threats to Democracy in the Trump Era | Wednesday, February 7 | 10:00am – 11:30am | Brookings Institution | Register here |

From Russia to South Africa, from Turkey to the Philippines, from Venezuela to Hungary, authoritarian leaders have smashed restraints on their power. The freedom of the media and the judiciary have eroded. The right to vote may remain, but the right to have one’s vote counted does not. Until the U.S. presidential election of 2016, the global decline of democracy seemed a concern for other peoples in other lands. However, some see the political rise of Donald Trump as the end to that optimism here at home. In his new book, “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic,” David Frum outlines how Trump could push America toward illiberalism, what the consequences could be for America and the world, and what we can do to prevent it. On Wednesday, February 7, Frum will join a panel of experts at Brookings to discuss the burgeoning threats to democratic institutions in the Trump era.


  1. How to Interpret Nuclear Crises: From Kargil to North Korea | Wednesday, February 7 | 12:15pm – 2:00pm | Stimson Center | Register here |

With tensions mounting between the United States and North Korea, what has been clear is the wide disagreement among scholars about what constitutes a nuclear crisis, how dangerous it is, and what dynamics dictate how it plays out. The Stimson Center is pleased to host Mark Bell, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, to discuss his co-authored paper on the subject in which he and Julia MacDonald, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver, argue that nuclear crisis dynamics depend on incentives to use nuclear weapons first and the extent to which escalation can be controlled by leaders involved. Rebecca Hersman, Director of the Project on Nuclear Issues at CSIS, and Austin Long, senior political scientist at RAND, will offer comments. Sameer Lalwani, Co-Director of Stimson’s South Asia Program, will moderate the discussion.


  1. Cyber Mercenaries: States and Hackers | Thursday, February 8 | 4:30pm – 5:30pm | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | Register here |

As cyberspace has emerged as a new frontier for geopolitics, states have become entrepreneurial in their sponsorship, deployment, and exploitation of hackers as proxies to project power. Such modern-day mercenaries and privateers can impose significant harm undermining global security, stability, and human rights. In a new book, Cyber Mercenaries: The State, Hackers, and Power, Tim Maurer examines these state-hacker relationships and the important questions they raise about the control, authority, and use of offensive cyber capabilities. Drawing on case studies in the United States, Iran, Syria, Russia, and China, the book establishes a framework to better understand and manage the impact and risks of cyber proxies on global politics. Maurer will be joined in conversation by Eric Rosenbach (Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School), and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) will moderate.


  1. War Powers and Military Force | Thursday, February 8 | 4:00pm – 5:15pm | Atlantic Council | Register here |

In an age of unprecedented disruption and escalating inter- and intrastate conflict, we have seen a surge in the need for nations to resort to military force. As one of the most consequential decisions for a nation to undertake—with enormous consequences to a country’s security, prosperity, and global standing—the gravity of such decisions cannot be understated. Please join Nuchhi Currier (former President of Woman’s National Democratic Club), Bruce Fein (former Associate Deputy Attorney General), and John Yoo (University of California, Berkeley), three of the world’s most renowned experts on the issue of war powers, as they dissect this topic of immense geopolitical importance.


  1. Securing a Place for Taiwan in International Organizations | Thursday, February 8 | 10:00am– 11:00am | Heritage Foundation | Register here |

Taiwan increasingly finds its efforts to obtain meaningful participation in international bodies such as the WHO, INTERPOL, and ICAO checked by external forces. Setting aside political issues, there are valid reasons of health, safety, and livelihood for Taiwan to be included, even if only as an observer, in these organizations. Join us as our panel of experts discusses how to increase Taiwan’s role in international organizations and expand its international operating space, while addressing the swift and strong reaction from China that invariably results from such efforts. Featuring Jacques deLisle (Professor of Law & Political Science, Director, Center for East Asian Studies, UPENN), Valérie Niquet (Director, Asia Program, Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (FRS), Paris), and Theodore R. Bromund (Senior Research Fellow in Anglo-American Relations), hosted by Walter Lohman (Director, Asian Studies Center, Heritage Foundation).

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Peace picks April 12-17

  1. Iraq Under Abadi: Bridging Sectarian Divides in the Face of ISIS | Monday, April 13th | 9:00- 10:15 AM | American Enterprise Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | At the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, US warplanes began airstrikes against ISIS positions in Tikrit on March 25. But ISIS isn’t the only challenge standing in the way of a stable, unified, democratic Iraq. How should the United States approach Iranian influence in Iraq? Can Iraq ever achieve a true power-sharing democracy in spite of the sectarian divides between Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi’ites? A day before Abadi meets with President Obama in Washington, join a panel discussion on the future of America’s strategic partnership in Iraq. Speakers include: Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress, Denise Natali, National Defense University and Douglas Ollivant, New America Foundation and Mantid International.
  2. The Iran Nuclear Deal | Monday, April 13th 2015 | 11:00-1:30 PM | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND| What are the short and long-term obstacles to finalizing and sustaining a nuclear deal with Iran, and how would a U.S.-Iran nuclear detente impact ongoing conflicts and long-standing alliances in the Middle East? The two panels will focus on the future of the deal, and the regional implications of the deal. Speakers include: Jessica Tuchman Mathews, George Perkovich, Karim Sadjadpour, Yezid Sayigh, Frederic Wehrey, Ali Vaez, and David Sanger
  3. ISIS: The State of Terror| Tuesday, April 14th| 12:00-1:15 PM| New America | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In 2014, ISIS shocked the world with their brutality and the speed with which they took a large swath of Iraqi and Syrian territory. One year later, most countries, including the United States, are still trying to figure out what is driving this group and how best they can be defeated. J.M. Berger, an investigative journalist and non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, brings a uniquely qualified perspective to the analysis of the challenges posed by ISIS’s rise. In ISIS: State of Terror, Berger and Jessica Stern, a lecturer on terrorism at Harvard University, draw upon intelligence sources, law enforcement officials, and their own groundbreaking research to explain the genesis, evolution, and implications of the Islamic State—and how we can fight it. The authors analyze the tools ISIS fighters use both to frighten innocent citizens and lure new soldiers—including the “ghoulish pornography” of their pro-jihadi videos, the seductive appeal of “jihadic chic,” and its startlingly effective social media expertise.
  4. Setting the Stage for Peace in Syria | Tuesday, April 14th | 12:00-1:30 PM | The Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | After four years of conflict, the prospect of a stable Syria continues to be bleak, with a diplomatic solution nowhere in sight and military steps lacking in international support. In their report titled, Setting the Stage for Peace in Syria: The Case for a Syrian National Stabilization Force, authors Hof, Kodmani, and White present a new way forward – one that takes President Obama’s train and equip program to the next level forging a Syrian ground force which could constitute the core of the future Syrian Army.. How can this force change the dynamics of the conflict on the ground and how can the international community help build it? What other elements need to be in place to make this force an effective part of a broader resolution of the conflict? Speakers include: Ambassador Frederic C. Hof Senior Fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council, Bassma Kodmani Executive Director The Arab Reform Initiative, and Jeffrey White Defense Fellow The Washington Institute
  5. The Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Critical Issues | Thursday, April 16 | 12:00-1:00 PM |The Heritage Foundation | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5 plus 1 have entered a crucial phase ahead of the March 30 deadline for a framework agreement. examine some of the key issues involved in the negotiations and assess some of the pitfalls that must be avoided if an acceptable agreement is to be reached by the June 30th deadline for a final agreement. Speakers include, Fred Fleitz Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs, Center for Security Policy, Greg Jones Senior Researcher, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and Henry Sokolski. Executive Director, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.
  6. Geopolitics of Energy Security in the Eastern Mediterranean | Wednesday, April 15 | 12:00-5:oo PM| American Security Project | REGISTER TO ATTEND| A half day conference examining the energy security challenges faced in the Eastern Mediterranean. Over the course of three panel discussions, the event will first examine the geopolitical importance of the region, focusing on the recent discovery of major natural gas fields in Israel.The next panel will look at the challenges of promoting energy cooperation throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, and will attempt to offer prescriptions for increasing energy security. The final panel will discuss the potential role that the US can play in the region in terms of investment opportunities and regional cooperation.
  7. Assessing U.S. Sanctions: Impact, Effectiveness, Consequences | Thursday, April 16 | 8:45- 3:30 PM |Woodrow Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The unfolding crisis in Ukraine has the United States and its European allies struggling to find a way to respond to Russia’s actions and continuing violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. To date, that response is centered on calibrated but escalating sanctions against Russia. Once again, American reliance on sanctions as an essential foreign policy tool is on display. Past and current examples of sanctions, including Iran, South Africa, Cuba and others will provide important context for understanding the role that sanctions play in American statecraft.
  8. Honeypots and Sticky Fingers: The Electronic Trap to Reveal Iran’s Illicit Cyber Network | Friday, April 17 | 2:00-5:00 PM | American Enterprise Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The West has severely underestimated Iran’s cyberwarfare capabilities. Despite sanctions, the Islamic Republic has managed to build a sophisticated information technology (IT) infrastructure, and new intelligence indicates that the Iranian regime may be maintaining front companies in the West to obtain cyber technology. How can the United States and its allies enhance their security and combat Iran in cyberspace?. General Keith Alexander, former commander of US Cyber Command and former director of the National Security Agency, will deliver a keynote address.
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Cyberbullying is working, for now

This is the lousy Kim Jong Un death scene from The Interview that apparently caused Sony to cancel release of the film. A second film release, Team America: World Police, has also been cancelled. Kim Jong Un is now deciding which movies Americans can see.

The North Koreans have not been shy about making and distributing their own movies showing destruction in the US, including a nuclear attack:

These are folks who can dish it out but can’t take it. I know what we called them in grade school. The bullying is working for now.

But it is likely to draw some fire. President Obama is said to be looking for a “proportional” response. I suppose the leaking of the death scene may even be part of that, though it need not be. It is inevitable that the entire film, bad though it is rumored to be, will appear online in due course. Cybercommand need do nothing to ensure that.

This seemingly silly incident nevertheless has serious implications:

  • Cybertheft of the sort that enabled the North Koreans to embarrass Sony has a very low entry price. A few good hackers and computers plus a decent internet connection suffice.
  • It is fairly easy to hide your identity and geographic location when stealing from others’ computers, though the North Koreans seem not to have done a thorough job doing that.
  • Threats to attack movie theaters or other public venues are easy to make and hard to disprove or defend against. A single smoke bomb in a theater showing the movie would likely make most of us stay home, never mind a deadly attack.
  • The North Koreans are likely to conclude from this incident that cybertheft and intimidation work well against their much more powerful antagonists in the US.
  • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as well as other cyber-capable enemies will likely conclude the same thing.

Our economy is heavily dependent on the internet. On rare occasions I have been separated from both computer and cell phone (neither is allowed in some of the places where I teach). Those days my productivity is cut sharply–it takes me several additional days to catch up. Surely Sony employees are suffering something similar at the moment, as the company tries to figure out how to stop the continuing theft of its emails. The day this happens to the Federal government, the Federal Reserve, the New York Stock Exchange or other more vital institutions our GNP is going to sink like a stone. The same is true for most countries in the world today.

North Korea, Cuba and other countries that have kept the internet at bay are not vulnerable in the same way.  Cyber warfare between advanced economies would be very destructive, but there is also inherent deterrence: knowing our own vulnerabilities, we would have to think twice before launching a cyberattack on Russia, for example. Cyber is likely to be more useful to “assymetric” adversaries who don’t use the internet as much as we do.

I’m sure there are better ways to defend against cyberbullies than what we are doing today. But for now, they have the advantage.

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NATO on the spot

NATO presidents and prime ministers meet next Thursday and Friday in Cardiff, Wales for their biannual summit. It was supposed to focus on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is already well-advanced. But that will be overshadowed now by the Russian invasion of southeastern Ukraine.

Some are still calling it a “stealth” invasion. Hardly. Russian personnel, tanks, artillery and other equipment are crossing the border and have taken the southeastern town of Novoazovsk. The fact that the troops don’t wear insignia makes them no less Russian.  They could drive north from there to reinforce the rebel-held towns of Donestk and Luhansk or west to the important Ukrainian port of Mariulpol, which appears to be what they are doing.

NATO is under no obligation to defend Ukraine. It did little military to react during the Cold War to Soviet interventions in its then satellites Hungary and Czechoslovakia. But that is nothing to be proud of, even if it all worked out in the end. Both countries took advantage of the fall of the Berlin Wall to move as rapidly as they could into NATO and the European Union (EU).  Those who take the long view may want to suggest that Putin’s incursion into Ukraine is nothing but folly. It will surely drive Ukraine into the arms of NATO and the EU.

It may also do harm to Putin’s standing at home. The Crimea annexation is proving difficult and expensive. Russians are beginning to notice the funerals of Russians killed in the Ukraine fighting. There are likely to be more. Moscow will discourage the media from reporting on these and encourage a drumbeat of alleged abuses against the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine, but sooner or later the truth is likely to come out.

How NATO reacts will be important. Both its European and North American members have strengthened sanctions in reaction to Russian behavior in Ukraine. The rebel downing of Malaysia Air 17 with a Russian-supplied missile over Ukraine caused the latest turning of the screws. Moscow appears to be responding with cyber attacks on US and maybe other banks.

NATO has to decide whether to up the ante. Ideas on what to do are few and far between:  start supplying lethal equipment to Kiev and deploy more NATO forces to allies who have borders with Russia. That’s thin gruel. The equipment won’t have any immediate effect on Ukrainian military capabilities and Putin will laugh off NATO deployments in the Baltics and Poland. He doesn’t plan to attack them.

Another turn of the sanctions screw, this time against Russian banks and other financial institutions, is another serious possibility. President Obama has to worry about whether that or othe moves will cause the Russians to fall off the P5+1 wagon (permanent five UN Security Council members plus Germany) that is trying to negotiate an end to Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions. But the Russians have good reasons of their own not to want Iran to get nuclear weapons. It would be a big strategic mistake for them to undermine the current negotiating effort.

The NATO summit would do well in any event to denounce the invasion of Ukraine in explicit and stentorian tones, making it clear that Russian annexation of territory taken by force, including Crimea, will never be recognized by the Alliance.  It would be a serious mistake to let Crimea go unmentioned, as that would only suggest to Putin that he can get away with more territorial conquest. The United States took a principled position of this sort on the Baltic states during the Cold War, when there seemed little to no likelihood they would ever be anything but Soviet prisoners. That worked out well when the Soviet Union fell apart.

There are other things to consider that aren’t discussed in polite company in public. The US will want to help Ukraine with intelligence. It may also want to consider stirring trouble inside Russia, though that particular type of covert action has a very mixed record, at best. If Moscow has in fact conducted cyber attacks against Western banks, response in kind will need to be considered. Another possibility is to reply to the Russian invasion of Ukraine with vigorous military action not only against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) inside Syria but also against Bashar al Asad’s regime, which Russia supports.

NATO is on the spot. It hasn’t got a lot of good options. But it needs to react if it wants to stop Putin from going further.

PS: Vox.com provides video evidence:

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Peace picks June 9-13

1. Shaping the Future? The Role of Regional Powers in Afghanistan and Pakistan Monday, June 9 | 9:00 am – 10:00 am Woodrow Wilson Center, Fifth Floor; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan and the presidential election there are taking place in a context of growing internal political and economic instability. Roberto Toscano, former Public Policy Scholar of the Wilson Center and former Ambassador to Iran and India, as well as Emma Hooper and Eduard Soler i Lecha, Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, will discuss the reasons why the regional perspective on Afghanistan and Pakistan is relevant, and particularly so at this point in time.   

2. Youth and Violence: Engaging the Lost Generation Monday, June 9 | 9:00 am – 11:00 am US Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND This talk explores the factors that are pushing young people towards participation in various forms of violence, including participation in extremism or political violence. It will challenge pre-existing assumptions about youth peace building work and discuss policy changes necessary for new interventions that steer youth away from violence. SPEAKERS Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Department of State, Maryanne Yerkes, Senior Civil Society and Youth Advisor, US Agency for International Development, Rebecca Wolfe, Director, Conflict Management & Peacebuilding Program, Mercy Corps, Marc Sommers, Consultant & Visiting Researcher, African Studies Center, Boston University, and Steven Heydemann, Vice President, Applied Research on Conflict, USIP.

3. Re-Thinking Democracy Promotion Amid Rising Authoritarianism Monday, June 9 | 9:30 am – 5:00 Kenney Auditorium, Paul H. Nitze Building; 1740 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The crisis caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the threat to freedom posed by kleptocratic autocracies. The world is watching how the democratic community of nations responds to Putin’s brazen attack not only against Ukraine, but against the very concept of freedom and the ability of people to choose their own political destiny. Much is at stake, for authoritarian regimes pose a danger not only to their own populations through suppression of human rights but to others as well. This requires a re-examination of democracy promotion, the threats it faces, and how best to advance it. SPEAKERS Charles Davidson, Francis Fukuyama, Walter Russell Mead, Elliott Abrams, Michael Mandelbaum, Richard Haass, and more.

4. Nuclear Flashpoints: US-Iran Tensions Over Terms and Timetables Tuesday, June 10 | 9:30 am – 11:00 am Woodrow Wilson Center; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND This event will explore key conflicts and possible trade-offs with Iran as the third round discussion hosted by a coalition of eight Washington think tanks and organizations. It will assess how many years an agreement could last, the breakout time, and when and how the U.S. will act. SPEAKERS Stephen J. Hadley, Chairman of the Board, USIP, Jon Wolfsthal, Deputy Director, Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Daryl Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association, and Robert S. Litwak, Vice President for Scholars and Academic relations, Director for International Security Studies.

5. Rhythms at the Intersection of Peace and Conflict: The Music of Nonviolent Action Tuesday, June 10 | 9:30 am – 1:00 pm United States Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND This event brings together three individuals whose work meets at the nexus of music and nonviolent action: Arash Sobhani, an underground musician from Iran, Timothy O’Keefe, a music producer and co-founder of Freedom Beat Recordings, and Dr. Maria Stephan, one of the world’s leading scholars on strategic nonviolent action and Senior Policy Fellow at USIP.  These three individuals will guide us through an exploration of nonviolent action, both past and present, through a musical lens.

6. WWI and the Lessons for Today Tuesday, June 10 | 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Allison Auditorium, Heritage Foundation; 214 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Victor Davis Hanson, Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence at Stanford University, will explore the lessons that the U.S. has learned since World War I and how the lead-up to the Great War has affected our government’s policies over the past 100 years. This event will be hosted by James Jay Carafano, Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and E. W. Richardson Fellow.

7. Researching the Middle East Tuesday, June 10 | 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Woodrow Wilson Center; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND This panel will discuss the challenges of researching and writing on recent international Middle East history and U.S. policy in the region. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, Consulting Archivist, David Palkki, Council on Foreign Relations, Gregory D. Koblentz, Associate Professor at George Mason University, Michael Eisenstadt, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Kevin M. Woods, Institute for Defense Analyses, will all discuss their own experiences and substantive findings studying conflicts such as the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan.

8. After Snowden: The Road Ahead for Cybersecurity Thursday, June 12 | 8:45 am – 1:15 pm American Enterprise Institute, Twelfth Floor; 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The Internet has been a remarkable force for freedom and prosperity, but it has faced challenges from individuals and governments intent on abusing its openness and interconnectivity. This conference will kick-start a national debate on America’s role in protecting and promoting free enterprise, personal security, and individual liberty in cyberspace.  Jeffrey Eisenach, AEI, Michael Hayden, Chertoff Group, and Mike Rogers, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, will share their insights into the future of cybersecurity policy, and will be moderated by Mike Daniels.

9. The Many Faces of Tyranny: Why Democracy Isn’t Always Possible Thursday, June 12 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Heritage Foundation, Lehrman Auditorium; 214 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, D.C.  History has not ended. Across the world today, we are witnessing both a heroic struggle for democracy and reform and the disturbing strength of tyrannical regimes and movements. Whether it be the Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war, the aggressiveness of Putin’s Russia or the increasing bellicosity of China, the forces of democracy and the forces of tyranny are in a dead heat. Waller R. Newell, Carleton University, examines how the West should respond and how we should make the difficult choice between better and worse kinds of non-democratic authority when overthrowing today’s dictatorship may only bring about a much worse totalitarian alternative tomorrow.

10. Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy Thursday, June 12 | 12:00 pm Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute; 1000 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND In his new book, Barry R. Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science and Director of Security Studies Program at MIT, explains why the dominant view among the nation’s foreign policy elites, what he calls “liberal hegemony,” has proved unnecessary, counterproductive, costly, and wasteful. His alternative – restraint – would resist the impulse to use U.S. military power, and focus the military’s and the nation’s attention on the most urgent challenges to national security.  This discussion features comments by Justin Logan, Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute, Blake Hounshell, Deputy Editor of POLITICO Magazine, and is moderated by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

11. Center for a New American Security Debate: War with Iran? Friday, June 13 | 9:00 am – 12:00 pm Willard Intercontinental Hotel; 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The Center for a New American Security and the Civis Institute invite you to attend a public debate featuring two of the country’s top collegiate debate programs – Georgetown University and the University of Michigan. The teams will discuss whether or not the United States should use military force against Iran if nuclear diplomacy fails. The debate will be followed by comments from Dr. Colin Kahl, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at CNAS, and a moderated Q&A with the debate teams.

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Freedom of the press in 2014

Today is World Press Freedom Day. So here is an appropriate post:

Freedom of the Press 2014
Freedom of the Press 2014

Thursday morning Freedom House released Freedom of the Press 2014, its annual report assessing media freedom around the world. The event featured a panel discussion with Karin Karlekar (Freedom of the Press project director), Scott Shane (New York Times national security reporter), and Sue Turton (Al Jazeera correspondent). Jim Sciutto, CNN chief national security correspondent, moderated.

Jim Sciutto asked panelists why they thought global press freedom has fallen in the past year. Karin Karlekar said that technology can be a source for good that enables a large audience to publish and access information. However in many countries, particularly ones with authoritarian governments, governments are increasingly cracking down. In some cases governments have used new tactics. In others, their methods are just an extension of the traditional media censorship methods they have used in the past. Governments are using tools that are supposed to empower people to track and follow them instead.

In China, some of the search engines and social media outlets employ more people to censor them than they do to produce them. They have a large, widespread mechanism for controlling online content. But even governments that don’t have that technological capability have found ways to clamp down online. They pursue people after the material has been produced. That has been the case in some countries like Ethiopia, where they just imprisoned 6 bloggers.

Sciutto asked Scott Shane to put into context leaks and prosecutions. How much of that is a threat to freedom of exchange in the US and how the White House is covered?

Scott commended Freedom House for being objective on the issue of press freedom. It saddened him to see the US downgraded from 21 points last year to 18 points in this year’s report. This has to do with the fact that in all of American history until 2009, there were three government officials prosecuted for leaking classified information to the press. We are now up to eight with Obama. This affects the willingness of government officials to talk even on unclassified but sensitive issues.  It affects the reporting that national security journalists do. The US is now ranked lower in press freedom than Estonia and the Czech Republic.

Sciutto: Has it reached a point where our leaders are not under the same level of oversight we expect them to be or that they were ten or twenty years ago?

Shane: In 1971 the New York Times Washington bureau chief Max Frankel wrote a memorandum about the Pentagon Papers arguing that covering secret, classified information is critical to informing the public. Some people take the attitude that it is secret; therefore, it should not be talked about. But that would make the White House and diplomacy impossible to write about.

As an example Shane mentioned how in 2011 the US deliberately hunted down and killed an American citizen in Yemen, the Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al Awlaki. There was a long legal opinion justifying the unilateral killing of an American citizen. That was classified opinion, so Shane made a Freedom of Information Act request for that document in 2010. Four years later, after filing a lawsuit, an appeals court ordered the government to release it. If he is lucky, Shane says he might receive a redacted form of this legal opinion 5 years later. When the president has the right to order the killing of an American citizen is a fairly fundamental question. Americans, Shane argues, have the right to know the legal basis.

Torton explained that she is being tried in absentia for aiding and abetting the Muslim Brotherhood. She left Cairo on November 6, which was a month and a half before the Muslim Brotherhood was accused of terrorism. Her Al Jazeera colleagues were arrested three days after the Muslim Brotherhood was proscribed a terrorist organization. They have been in jail for 126 days. Originally, she believed that the three judges were independent of the state and that they would see the situation for what it is. It is a politically motivated trial and she hoped they would throw the case out. As the sessions go on, however, and the judges refuse bail, she is frightened of the outcome.

Sciutto: Did the Arab Spring fail on the issue of freedom of information?

Turton: Each country has its own situation and different outcomes. Broadly speaking, the Arab Spring did not deliver what Western governments were probably hoping it was going to, which was perfectly packaged democracy. Access to information and the media is freer in some countries. Tunisia has had a sophisticated reaction to the Arab Spring. Libya is still a mess. At the beginning, optimism was enormous and the situation improved, but since then Libya has backtracked. But Egypt has failed. Talking to people on the ground, you get a sense that conditions are worse than under Mubarak.

Sciutto: How much of its moral high ground in terms of pushing for internet freedom has the US lost with the existence of the NSA and other interference on the internet?

Karlekar: I think it is affecting our moral high ground. Many governments use surveillance and other repressive tactics. The US used to be able to say that they should not be doing that. Now it is becoming much more difficult to say that. It is particularly ironic because the US government is trying to sell itself as an open, transparent government, but it is not.

Sciutto asked, are your Al Jazeera colleagues more scared now when they work?

Turton:  We have had to change how we operate. This is not just Al Jazeera; it is the media in general. In Egypt it is not just journalists being thrown in jail, but anyone with opposing views.

Sciutto: When you get into issues like coverage of leaks and you worry about your sources and your own legal situation, does that affect the overall quality of reporting?

Shane: I think it has chilled reporting on national security. What is interesting is the crackdown under Obama. There seems to be a random quality to it. All of the cases have involved electronic trails; emails or Internet chat logs. In the past the FBI would say that they would like to investigate this leak, but there are 1,000 people with security clearance. They had no good way of finding out who was responsible. Now, they can go into the government email system and find out exactly who has been talking to the reporter whose byline is on that story.

In fairness, technology is driving leakers as well. Two of the cases, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, are unique in American history. The volume of classified information out there is unprecedented. If our government is tracking leaks to the press in the US, it is obviously happening on an exponentially greater scale in countries like China or Russia.

Karlekar: The fear is that these issues will lead to self-censorship. What stories are not getting covered out of fear?

The entire Freedom House report can be viewed here.

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