Tuesday, 22 September 2020
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intelligence
As the civil servants and senior military officials of Britain’s policy community contemplate the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), Nick Watts Deputy Director General of the UK Defence Forum spoke to Liam Fox who was the Secretary of State at the MOD at the time of the 2010 SDSR. Fox reflected that when he approached the last defence review he established a template against which the review was carried out. “We looked at costings, operational capability, the cost of regeneration, but particularly the ‘real world’ risk.” He says that for every decision relating to equipment, either in terms of purchase or deletion, the MOD was able to take a number of calculated risks.
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When ministers revisit the decision this time, they will find that the level of these risks will be increased.
• Failing states: This risk has increased most notably Pakistan and Yemen.
• Belligerent states: This risk too has increased notably Russia and North Korea.
• Trans National Terrorism: This is an increased risk with the rise of Al Shabab and Daesh/ISIL among others.
• The risk to global financial stability: Fox believes that this is greater even than a year ago.
• Commodity competition: Has also increased.
• The cyber threat: Is massively increased.
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Transcript of today's speech by Sir John Sawer - Chief of MI6 - to the Society of Editors, London

The Times published a reader's letter earlier this year. It read: "Sir – is it not bizarre that MI5 and MI6, otherwise known as the secret services, currently stand accused of being – er – secretive?"

I may be biased. But I think that reader was on to something rather important and most government work these days is done by conventional and transparent processes. But not all.

Britain's foreign intelligence effort was first organised in 1909, when the Secret Intelligence Service was formed.

We have just published an official history of our first 40 years. I'm sure you will all have read all 800 pages of it.

The first chief, Mansfield Cumming, used to pay the salaries of SIS officials out of his private income, dispensed in cash from a desk drawer. I'm glad to say that, even after the chancellor's statement last week, I'm not in the same position.

SIS's existence was admitted only in 1994. We British move slowly on such things.

And this, I believe, is the first public speech given by a serving chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service.

"Why now?" might you ask. Well, intelligence features prominently in the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review, published last week.

We often appear in the news. Our popular name – MI6 – is an irresistible draw. We have a website, and we've got versions in Arabic and Russian. We recruit our staff openly, with adverts in the national press.

But debate on SIS's role is not well informed, in part because we have been so determined to protect our secrets.

In today's open society, no government institution is given the benefit of the doubt all the time. There are new expectations of public – and legal – accountability that have developed. In short, in 2010 the context for the UK's secret intelligence work is very different from 1994.I am not going to use today to tantalise you with hints of sensitive operations or intelligence successes.

Instead, I want to answer two important questions: what value do we get from a secret overseas intelligence effort in the modern era? How can the public have confidence that work done in secret is lawful, ethical, and in their interests?

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Reviewed by Adam Dempsey, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Between 1986 and 1998 STRATFOR'S Fred Burton was at the forefront of the United States' counterterrorism efforts. As part of the relatively low-profile Diplomatic Security Service's (DSS) Counterterrorism Branch, Burton gained first experience of religious terrorism and extremism. 'Ghost' is his attempt to take the reader into his – and the West's – struggle against terrorist atrocities. This is a journey into what Burton calls the 'Dark World' and as such throws light on the response to terrorism that is seen by all but a few.

Ghost is divided into three sections, each reflecting stages of Burton's career with the DSS and also developments within the international system. Part 1 details Burton's transition from a beat cop into a counterterrorism professional. It also covers the Beirut hostage crisis and the beginnings of Libya's support for Middle East terrorism. From the outset it is absolutely staggering just how inadequately prepared the United States was for international terrorism. Initially, the Counterterrorism Branch was comprised of just three federal officers. There were no set guidelines or standard procedures and you get the sense that Burton and the team truly made it up as they went along.

To begin, Burton applies a beat cop mentality to the task at hand. At times part 1 reads a little bit like a counterterrorism manual. It is full of anecdotes about lessons learned, advice to take out into the field and 'do's and don'ts'. Part 1 also provides the reader with the side of intelligence and counterterrorism that is regularly played out in Hollywood movies. Burton introduces us to the FOGHORN messenger facilities, the standard uniform and accessories of a federal agent and the near constant stream of intelligence that needs to be sifted and made sense of quickly. There is also a sense that because the Counterterrorism Branch was so small and compartmentalised they were a breed apart from Washington's other federal agencies. Yet all this is forgotten when it is discovered that they have lost one of their own.

As hostages are gradually released in Lebanon it becomes clear that William Buckley, the former CIA Bureau Chief in Beirut, died in captivity. Burton's memoirs capture the overall despair that all federal agencies felt in not saving the life of a colleague. Indeed the death of Buckley is one of many acts of extremism that Burton and his own take very personally. In doing so the Counterterrorism Branch shifts from being a regular place of work to almost the cornerstone of Burton's very existence. Holidays are lost, family commitments are overlooked and weekends merge into the working week.

A further demonstration of how all consuming counterterrorism became to Burton is his 'hit-list' of terrorists. For twelve years, Burton did not rest in his attempts to bring each and every name on that list to justice. Indeed many names were added to the list throughout his career. The bombing of the TWA Flight over Greece, the Lockerbie disaster and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre all bring the same heartfelt response from Burton. They also take him to the safe-houses and the back streets of the world in his attempts to capture those responsible. When Burton slips off the scene almost entirely, the reader joins him on a journey into the murkiest parts of the 'Dark World'.

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By Oliver Jones

Much has been made over recent years of the emerging threat of "cyber-attacks" on Western targets. Governments have become increasingly vocal on these threats, publishing a range of materials and proposing a number of policies. In the United States the government has taken steps which include the establishment of the US "Cyber-Command", alongside the US senate debating a so called "kill switch bill", which proposes to grant the president emergency powers over the internet. In the UK the cyber threat is also a growing concern. The recent Strategic Defence and Security Review and the UK National Security Strategy have both identified the sphere of "cyber Security" as a "Tier 1" threat or risk . Outside of government circles the issue is also becoming increasingly debated. Recently the popular periodicals "Foreign Affairs" and "The New Yorker" have both released articles detailing and debating the issue.

What however is the threat from this new "cyber domain", does it represent a new paradigm in warfare? Popular perceptions stemming from fictitious sources, such as the 2007 blockbuster Die Hard 4.0 in which the US comes under assault from "cyber-Terrorists" who target key infrastructure to cause a "fire sale" attack with potentially devastating consequences, suggest that cyber-warfare represents a devastating new strategic weapon capable of the kind of destruction only previously threatened by "WMD's". What's more the threat of cyber-attack is also characterised as being an emerging "asymmetric" threat. This idea of cyber-war is also lent credence from sources such as "Unrestricted Warfare," a proposal for Chinese military strategy, written by two Peoples Liberation Army colonels, whereby China seeks to beat a technologically and military superior opponent through the use of imaginative strategies which utilise measures that avoid direct military confrontation and instead attack their adversary through other avenues. Also adding to this perception of the cyber threat are the events like those in Estonia in 2007, where the Government and other sectors came under sustained denial of service attacks during a diplomatic spat with Russia over the relocation of "the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn". This and similar ideas certainly suggest that cyber-war does represent a threat in this way and this idea has been championed by American authorities on cyber-war. Richard A. Clarke, a former White House official with responsibility for the field, this year published "Cyberwar" a proposal for US strategy which prophesizes a particularly apocalyptic vision of a Chinese cyber-attack with mass casualties.

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By Scott Stewart

The recent case involving the arrest and deportation of the Russian intelligence network in the United States has once again raised the subject of document fraud in general and passport fraud in particular. The FBI's investigation into the group of Russian operatives discovered that several of the suspects had assumed fraudulent identities and had obtained genuine passports (and other identity documents) in their assumed names. One of the suspects assumed the identity of a Canadian by the name of Christopher Robert Mestos, who died in childhood. The suspect was arrested in Cyprus but fled after posting bail; his true identity remains unknown. Three other members of the group also assumed Canadian identities, with Andrey Bezrukov posing as Donald Heathfield, Elena Vavilova as Tracey Foley and Natalia Pereverzeva as Patricia Mills.

Passport fraud is a topic that surfaces with some frequency in relation to espionage cases. (The Israelis used passport fraud during the January 2010 operation to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas militant commander.) Passport fraud is also frequently committed by individuals involved in crimes such as narcotics smuggling and arms trafficking, as well as by militants involved in terrorist plots. Because of the frequency with which passport fraud is used in these types of activities — and due to the importance that curtailing passport fraud can have in combating espionage, terrorism and crime — we thought it a topic worth discussing this week in greater detail.

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By George Friedman

The United States has captured a group of Russian spies and exchanged them for four individuals held by the Russians on espionage charges. The way the media has reported on the issue falls into three groups:

That the Cold War is back, That, given that the Cold War is over, the point of such outmoded intelligence operations is questionable, And that the Russian spy ring was spending its time aimlessly nosing around in think tanks and open meetings in an archaic and incompetent effort.

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By Fred Burton and Ben West

The U.S. Department of Justice announced June 28 that an FBI counterintelligence investigation had resulted in the arrest on June 27 of 10 individuals suspected of acting as undeclared agents of a foreign country, in this case, Russia. Eight of the individuals were also accused of money laundering. On June 28, five of the defendants appeared before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Manhattan while three others went before a federal magistrate in Alexandria, Va., and two more went before a U.S. magistrate in Boston. An 11th person named in the criminal complaint was arrested in Cyprus on June 29, posted bail and is currently at large.

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By Scott Stewart

On July 22, special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI arrested Walter Bond in Denver and charged him with conducting the April 30 arson that destroyed a Glendale, Colo., business, the Sheepskin Factory, which sold a variety of sheepskin products. According to an affidavit completed by a special agent assigned to the Denver ATF field office, Bond used the nom de guerre, "ALF Lone Wolf" and boasted to a confidential informant that he not only torched the Sheepskin Factory but also was responsible for a June 5 fire at a leather factory in Salt Lake City and a July 3 fire at a restaurant in Sandy, Utah.

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By Petr Labrentsev

International migration, polyethnicity, and transnationalism are major trends intrinsic to modern globalization. They have increasingly affected the societies of major immigrant-receiving countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Do they affect these countries' national security? For instance, is ethnic espionage a rising major threat? This essay attempts to answer these questions. It does not intend to present solutions. Rather, by examining and correlating socio-cultural, security, and globalization dimensions, it intends to point out to the forthcoming security challenges modern liberal-democratic countries might potentially face.

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