Saturday, February 9, 2008

DCIA Hayden's Comments On The National Threat Assessment (US Fed News via OSINFO)

Following the DNI's presentation of the latest Threat Assessment (see here for the full text, here for my summarized version), DCIA Mike Hayden made some prepared follow-on remarks that talk about what the CIA is doing and how they are doing it. Of most interest to intel studies students is probably this passage:

  • "We're able to hire from among the best and brightest - our Recruitment Center received 125,000 resumes in Fiscal Year 2007, and we hired a near-record number of new officers, more than a quarter of whom belonged to racial or ethnic minorities. While many of these new officers are recent college graduates, many others have years of experience in the private sector, the military, or other government agencies. Almost 40 percent have advanced degrees."
  • "We're a young work force - half of our officers have entered on duty since 9/11, and many are under 30. Training, developing, and retaining these new officers is a top priority, particularly because 20 percent of our work force will become eligible to retire during the next five years. We're intensifying our leadership training and have revamped our Strategic Language Plan to address our needs in Arabic and other mission-critical languages."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Madrasa Reform In Pakistan, Building Free Societies And Listening To Opposing Views (

Madrasa Reform in Pakistan
Douglas Johnston, Founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, discusses his efforts to reform Madrasas in Pakistan.
Program and discussion:
(Comment: Short 5 minute background on the Madrasa, its role in Pakistani society and successful efforts to reform it. Very encouraging, actually)

The Struggle to Build Free Societies
Democracy expert and former advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Larry Diamond, will speak on his new book, The Spirit of Democracy: The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World - Truman National Security Project
Program and discussion:

Listening to Opposing Views
Jacob Needleman, author and professor of philosophy at San Francisco State University, argues that the act of listening is a critical step in the development of a personal morality.
Program and discussion:
(Comment: Comes across at first as a bit too touchy-feely for me but it is definitely worth the listen. The technique Needleman describes would be awesome for an in-class exercise).

Resource Round-Up (Link List)

Here are a couple of interesting or useful sites I have run across over the past week...

Finding Information On The Internet: A Tutorial.
UCal Berkeley librarians, I love you! This tutorial is fantastic! It is a great resource for OSINTers and intel studies students.

Priority Planning Model And Worksheet. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those that use priority-planning-model-worksheets and those that don't. If you are of the first persuasion, you probably already have your own system. If you are of the second, you will read this post, commit to getting yourself organized, download the template, half-way fill it out and then lose it on the way to somewhere. Which means the main reason to click on this link is for all the other tips that Ian's Messy Desk has to offer including brief tips on 9 Key Steps For Preparing A Speech or How To Build Your Self-Confidence...

Email Based File Conversion.
Converting documents from one format to another can be a pain, particularly when you are on the road. Digital Inspiration lists a number of services that will take your document or audio file, convert it and then send it back to you in another format. I have not tried these services out yet so if any of you have any experience with them (good or bad) please post it to the comments.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Podcast: The Potential Partnership Of India And China (Harvard Business School)

I have recently discovered the papers and other products put out by the Harvard Business School through their "Working Knowledge" series. All good stuff but I thought that this brief podcast by Prof. Tarun Khanna was particularly interesting given the recent discussion of China and India in the DNI's recent threat assessment. HBS doesn't give me an embed option for their podcast so you have to go here to listen to it or you can click here to download it.

Engineers Of Jihad (Oxford)

Beware engineers bearing heavy weapons or so Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog would have us believe. Apparently, according to their recent research paper, "Engineers of Jihad" (download full text here), engineers are massively over-represented in violent Islamic movements. In what is a fascinating and comprehensive (90 pages with multiple charts and graphs) look at the involvement of engineers in violent Islamic movements, they come to the conclusion that it is a combination of an "engineering mindset" coupled with the social conditions engineers must endure in Islamic countries that draws so many engineers to radical Islamic movements.

Highlights from the full text include (Note: In addition to only providing excerpts from the full text, I have also edited lightly (such as removing endnotes and using ellipses to denote contractions). As always, the boldface is mine):

  • "Many Islamic radicals are not economically dispossessed, are often better educated than their peers, and quite a few went to university. Even more surprising, many of them are engineers – a profession that we would not naturally associate with a religiously inspired movement."
  • 'Several scholars have mentioned in passing the link between radical Islam and science and engineering ... Almost nothing is known, however, about the link between different types of education and radicalization generally. Yet, there are solid theoretical grounds, and some evidence that we discuss below, to expect that certain political and ideological orientations could be either promoted or selected by the discipline one chooses to study."
  • "We were able to find the subject of study for 178 of the 196 cases who were engaged in higher education at some point (Figure 2). Unsurprisingly, we found that the second most numerous group was composed of 34 individuals who pursued Islamic studies. Yet, the group that comes first by far are indeed the engineers: 78 out of 178 individuals had studied this subject."
  • "Among the 42 of the 78 cases for whom we could find out the precise discipline, three types of engineering predominate: electrical and civil engineering, and computer-related studies."
  • "We estimate that the average share of engineers among the total male working population in the countries of our sample, weighted by the number of cases per country, is about 3.5 per cent. If we leave out Singapore, a country with an extraordinarily high number of engineers, the share is 2.1 per cent. By contrast, even if we include all missing values in the denominator, engineers are still about 19 per cent of our total sample (78/404).This means that the share of radical Islamic engineers is no less than nine times greater than the share we could expect if the proneness of engineers to radicalize was the same as that of the male adult population."
  • "The average share of engineers among total male students of twelve relevant countries, weighted by the number of cases with higher education per nationality in our sample, is 18.0 per cent, while the ratio of engineers over those with known higher education in our sample is 43.8 per cent, that is over two and a half times greater (significant at p<.001)."
  • "We can thus conclude that among violent Islamic radicals engineers are two to four times more likely to be found than the null hypothesis would predict."
  • "We managed to collect data on a variety of non-violent movements in eight of the Islamic countries in our sample. They show a striking difference from our samples of violent groups: in non-violent Islamic activism engineers, although strongly present, appear to be far less dominant."
  • "Finally, to establish the extent to which this phenomenon is unique to the Islamic world, we need to find out to what extent engineers are present among other kind of extremists. If engineers are prone to extremism we should find them overrepresented in other extremists groups too ... We failed to find engineers among left-wing extremists: with the exception of a handful among anarchists, there is hardly any trace of them ... By contrast, among right-wing extremists, engineers if not over-represented seem at least present."
  • "The vast majority of engineers in Islamic countries did not join violent movements, and our account does not aim to explain why certain engineers rather than others became radicalized. The experiential trajectories of the individuals as well as their links with the ‘right’ networks must intervene to single out the tiny subset of individuals who ended up in violent movements. Our goal is more modest: in what follows we will try to explain only why engineers became more radicalized than people with other degrees."
  • "We will first argue that two hypotheses – random appearance of engineers as first movers followed by diffusion through their network and the selection of engineers because of their technical skills – while plausible in theory do not survive close scrutiny."
  • "We could thus hypothesise that personal dispositions and style of thinking among engineers differ from those of students in other subjects in ways that could make them more prone to become involved in violent forms of radicalisation, not just as willing recruits but as prime movers ... The mindset hypothesis predicts that we should find engineers to have (i) more extreme ideological tendencies than people in other disciplines, and (ii) a greater predilection towards joining radical political groups in general ...The results are startling (Table 15). The proportion of engineers who declare themselves to be on the right of the political spectrum is greater than in any other disciplinary group: 57.6 per cent of them are either conservative or strongly conservative, as compared to 51.1 of economists, 42.5 of doctors and 33.5 per cent of scientists, 21.4 per cent of those in the humanities, and 18.6 per cent of the social scientists, the least right-wing of all disciplinary groups.
    • "Their mindset may explain why we find engineers among right-wing extremists and virtually none among left-wing ones, but why should it help us to explain their attraction to Islamism? A plausible answer is that the Islamists’ Weltanschauung shares several features with the worldviews found in the extreme right. One such feature is a corporatist and mechanistic view of the ideal society. Reinhard Schulze has detected a “cybernetic view of society” in modern Islamism (1990: 22), which aims at preserving integrity in the social order. Extremist Islamist literature rejects Western pluralism and argues for a unified, ordered society ruled by a strong Islamic leader, in which an authoritative division of labour is created between men and women, Muslims and non- Muslims, political leaders and their flock. The fear of social chaos is a leitmotif of Islamist thought (Hoffman 1995: 218f.)."
    • "Furthermore, the characteristics which Lipset and Raab (1971) consider as defining of right-wing extremism map out near-perfectly on those of Islamic extremism."
    • "Whether American, Canadian or Islamic, and whether due to selection or field socialisation, a disproportionate share of engineers seems to have a mindset that inclines them to entertain the quintessential right-wing features of “monism” – ‘why argue when there is one best solution’ – and of “simplism” – ‘if only people were rational, remedies would be simple’."
  • "The Carnegie survey reveals an even more surprising fact, hitherto unnoticed, that strengthens the suspicion that the engineers’ mindset plays a part in their proneness not only to radicalise to the right of the political spectrum but do so with a religious slant: engineers turn out to be by far the most religious group of all academics – 66.5 per cent, followed again by 61.7 in economics, 49.9 in sciences, 48.8 per cent of social scientists, 46.3 of doctors and 44.1 per cent of lawyers, the most sceptical of the lot."
  • "Friedrich von Hayek, in 1952, made a strong case for the peculiarity of the engineering mentality, which in his view is the result of an education which does not train them to understand individuals and their world as the outcome of a social process in which spontaneous behaviours and interactions play a significant part."
  • "Two of our empirical findings indicate that even if it could be proven beyond dispute the mindset hypothesis cannot be the whole story. First, while the overrepresentation of engineers occurs in all areas of the world regardless of social conditions, the presence of graduates of all types among radicals varies: while in MENA countries we have over 50 per cent of them, in both the Western-based and some of the South East Asian groups their presence is much smaller ... Next, consider the strong presence of engineers among left-wing extremists in 1970s Turkey and Iran, and their moderate presence in the Palestinian Fatah, contrary to their glaring absence everywhere else in this type of groups. This again suggests that conditions in some Islamic countries must have mattered quite strongly to push some engineers, even against their putative right wing inclinations, to radicalise in what was at the time the main form of anti-establishment opposition."
    • "Researching MENA educational systems we encountered time and again a prominent feature of engineering: together with medicine and natural sciences, it is the most prestigious subject and has high entry requirements."
    • "Individuals with above-average skills selected on merit are, one would expect, particularly exposed to the frustration and the sense of injustice that comes from finding their professional future hampered by lack of opportunities. This happened on a large scale as a result of economic development failures. MENA countries have largely failed to develop advanced industries or technological capacities."
    • "The effect of the lack of opportunities was intensified by the corrupt, state-driven job allocation. Without personal connections, it became almost impossible to find employment commensurate with one’s education."
    • "It appears that engineers and OEDs found themselves perfectly and painfully placed at a high-voltage point of intersection in which high ambitions and high frustration collided. They felt fooled by the development rhetoric of their regimes and felt they deserved more than they could get. They were not just frustrated on a self-interested level, but felt unable to discharge a collective responsibility in modernizing Islamic countries, to live up professionally to their role as “vanguards” of society in which regimes had cast them."
  • "If frustration with dismal professional opportunities indeed contributed to their radicalization, we should find less radical engineers where conditions were more favourable. This is exactly what the exception of Saudi Arabia seems to demonstrate."
  • "Next, those who studied in the West, itself a sign of an even greater ambition and willingness to sacrifice than studying in Islamic countries, had reasons to feel even more deprived: there are at least 25 engineers in our sample who studied abroad, a ratio that strongly suggests that they are vastly over-represented among radical engineers."
  • "Consider the effects on the odds of being religious and conservative relative to the odds of being anything else: with respect to the base category of an academically successful non-engineer just being non-successful makes these odds 1.3 times greater. Being a successful engineer makes the same odds 4.8 times greater, but being an unsuccessful engineer makes them a staggering 7.7 times greater."
  • "We cannot be certain that this finding identifies a casual effect, but a plausible interpretation is that engineers are more troubled by professional frustrations than individuals in other subjects, and, as a result, more likely to react to times of crisis by embracing extreme conservative-religious views."
  • "We now have the elements of a potentially explosive concoction. However, this would have remained inert had two conditions not lit the fuse. One was the harsh repression on the part of the authoritarian Islamic governments, which by all accounts played a crucial part in inducing radicalisation generally regardless of the engineering phenomenon...Secondly, the Islamist opposition, the only credible anti-establishment political movements in MENA countries since the 1980s, was able to frame the discontent."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"MASINT Association" Now "Advanced Technical Intelligence Association "

For those of you keeping score at home, the MASINT Association has changed its name to the Advanced Technical Intelligence Association though the website remains the same for now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Annual Threat Assessment Of The Director Of National Intelligence (Senate Testimony)

DNI Michael McConnell testified in front of the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence on 5 FEB 08. The full transcript of the report can be downloaded here. The full text is worth the read but in case you don't have time, I have excerpted some of the highlights here (Three notes of interest: The full text is 47 pages long so I left out a ton of good stuff (plus some of the stuff that everyone already knows like al-Qaeda still wants to attack the US) from the summary below. Second, the level of agreement and disagreement on a number of issues in this document with the Davos "NIE" (discussed here) makes for a fascinating comparative analysis exercise. Third, the boldface, comment and hyperlinks are mine):

On Al-Qaeda and Terrorism:

  • "Increased security measures at home and abroad have caused al-Qa’ida to view the West, especially the US, as a harder target, we have seen an influx of new Western recruits into the tribal areas [of Pakistan] since mid-2006."
  • "We assess that al-Qa’ida’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population."
  • "I will discuss the success we are having against al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) as part of the larger discussion of the Intelligence Community’s analysis of the Iraq situation, but here I would like to highlight that AQI remains al-Qa’ida’s most visible and capable affiliate. I am increasingly concerned that as we inflict significant damage on al-Qa’ida in Iraq, it may shift resources to mounting more attacks outside of Iraq."
  • "It probably will continue to devote some effort towards honoring Bin Ladin’s request in 2005 that AQI attempt to strike the United States, affirmed publicly by current AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri in a November 2006 threat against the White House."
  • "AQI tactics, tradecraft, and techniques are transmitted on the Internet, but AQI documents captured in Iraq suggest that fewer than 100 AQI terrorists have moved from Iraq to establish cells in other countries."
  • "We judge al-Qa’ida will continue to attempt attacks in the Arabian Peninsula, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain."
  • "The Intelligence Community (IC) assesses al-Qa’ida associated groups and networks in Lebanon pose a growing threat to Western interests in the Levant. In East Africa, the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia disrupted al-Qa’ida in East Africa (AQEA) operations and activities, but senior AQEA operatives responsible for the 1998 US Embassy bombings and the 2002 attacks in Mombassa, Kenya, remain at large. The IC assesses Jemaah Islamiya (JI) in Indonesia and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines—which have historic links to al-Qa’ida and have killed over 400 people—are the two terrorist groups posing the greatest threat to US interests in Southeast Asia. The IC assesses that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LT) and other Kashmir-focused groups will continue attack planning and execution in India."
  • "The brutal attacks against Muslim civilians unleashed by AQI and AQIM and the conflicting demands of the various extremist agendas are tarnishing al-Qa’ida’s self-styled image as the extremist vanguard."
  • "The spread of radical Salafi Internet sites that provide religious justification for attacks, increasingly aggressive and violent anti-Western rhetoric and actions by local groups, and the growing number of radical, self-generating cells in Western countries that identify with violent Salafi objectives, all suggest growth of a radical and violent segment among the West’s Muslim populations. Our European allies regularly tell us that they are uncovering new extremist networks in their countries."
  • "While the threat from such homegrown extremists is greater in Europe, the US is not immune. The threat here is likely to be fueled in part by propaganda and mischaracterizations of US foreign policy as harmful to Muslims, rather than by any formal assistance from al-Qa’ida or other recognized groups."
  • "A small, but growing portion of al-Qa’ida propaganda, is in English and is distributed to an American audience—either in translated form or directly by English-speaking al-Qa’ida members like Adam Gadahn, the American member of al-Qa’ida who, in early-January, publicly urged Muslims to use violence to protest the President’s Middle East trip."
  • "To date, cells detected in the United States have lacked the level of sophistication, experience, and access to resources of terrorist cells overseas. Their efforts, when disrupted, largely have been in the nascent phase, and authorities often were able to take advantage of poor operational tradecraft."
On Iran's Nuclear Ambitions:

The section on Iran was largely about Iran's nuclear program and the words used to describe it were identical to the Iran National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). It is interesting to note the type of language that was used by McConnell to deliver the testimony. It followed essentially the same rules as pre-Iran NIEs with the exception of this section on Iran's nuclear ambitions. Assessments of analytic confidence were notably lacking from all the other sections of the testimony except for this section. It gave me the sense that many of the assessments in the testimony had been essentially cut and pasted from NIEs that have not been made public. For more on the way in which the Iran NIE was constructed and how that differs from previous NIEs, see this series of blog posts)

On North Korea:
  • "Pyongyang probably views its [nuclear] capabilities as being more for deterrence and coercive diplomacy than for warfighting and would consider using nuclear weapons only under certain narrow circumstances."
  • "The regime appears stable, but persistent economic privation and natural disasters—such as the severe floods last August—and uncertainty about succession arrangements create the potential for domestic unrest with unpredictable consequences."
On Pakistan and India:
  • "Although both New Delhi and Islamabad are fielding a more mature strategic nuclear capability, they do not appear to be engaged in a Cold War-style arms race for numerical superiority."
On the Safety Of Pakistan's Nukes:
  • "We judge the ongoing political uncertainty in Pakistan has not seriously threatened the military’s control of the nuclear arsenal, but vulnerabilities exist."
On US Cyber Security:
  • "The US information infrastructure—including telecommunications and computer networks and systems, and the data that reside on them—is critical to virtually every aspect of modern life. Therefore, threats to our IT infrastructure are an important focus of the Intelligence Community."
  • "Over the past year, cyber exploitation activity has grown more sophisticated, more targeted, and more serious. The Intelligence Community expects these trends to continue in the coming year."
  • "We assess that nations, including Russia and China, have the technical capabilities to target and disrupt elements of the US information infrastructure and for intelligence collection. Nation states and criminals target our government and private sector information networks to gain competitive advantage in the commercial sector. Terrorist groups—including al-Qa’ida, HAMAS, and Hizballah—have expressed the desire to use cyber means to target the United States. Criminal elements continue to show growing sophistication in technical capability and targeting, and today operate a pervasive, mature on-line service economy in illicit cyber capabilities and services available to anyone willing to pay."
On Afghanistan:
  • "Although international forces and the Afghan National Army continue to score tactical victories over the Taliban, the security situation has deteriorated in some areas in the south, and Taliban forces have expanded their operations into previously peaceful areas of the west and around Kabul."
  • "The death or capture of three top Taliban leaders last year—their first high level losses—does not yet appear to have significantly disrupted insurgent operation."
  • "Despite improved eradication and investigative efforts, poppy cultivation increased again last year. Opium poppy cultivation remains at or near 2004 record levels with over 200,000 hectares of land under cultivation in 2007."
  • "Drug money is an important source of income, especially at the local level where some Taliban commanders accrue their own operational funding."
On Iraq:
  • "The security situation in Iraq continues to show signs of improvement."
  • "We judge these security gains are the result of a combination of factors, including the success of tribal efforts in combating AQI, expanded Coalition operations, and the growing capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)."
  • "Security in southern Iraq probably will remain fragile in the coming months as rival Shia groups continue to compete violently for political power and economic resources."
  • "Iran––primarily through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force––continues to provide weapons, funding, and training support to certain Iraqi Shia militants despite reported commitments by senior Iranian officials to stop such support. "
  • "Approximately 90 percent of all suicide attacks in Iraq are conducted by foreign terrorists with 50 to 80 foreign terrorists entering Iraq each month, although that number appeared to decline in the last part of 2007. Seventy to eighty percent of the foreign terrorists gain final entry into Iraq through Syria, many through the Damascus international airport."
On Iran:
  • "During the next year Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iran’s various conservative factions, despite some differences and infighting, are expected to maintain control over a politically stable if economically troubled Iranian state."
  • "Iranian leadership perceptions of a favorable environment are driving its foreign policy to expand Tehran’s influence and leadership in the region and the Islamic world and to undermine US influence, which it perceives as inimical to Iran’s clerical regime. To achieve its regional aims and mitigate threats, Iran seeks to develop a sphere of influence based on diplomatic and economic relations, religious affinities, and shared anti-US sentiments."
  • "In Afghanistan, Iran likely will continue to focus on political activities, reaching out to alternative power centers, and challenging the US-led Coalition. Iranian officials probably will increase contact with various militias, political oppositionists, and religious leaders in Afghanistan and continue to provide lethal aid to groups and individuals who might be able to influence events in Iran’s favor should the Karzai government falter or turn against Iran. We assess Iran has provided weapons to some Taliban commanders."
On Prospects For Peace in Palestine:
  • "Despite progress toward initiating formal peace talks made in Annapolis last November, concern persists over the Palestinian Authority’s ability to deliver the security demanded by Israel and to win popular support for its positions."
In Saudi Arabia:
  • "In Saudi Arabia, the long-term challenge from Islamic extremism has been checked for now, and the government benefits from steady, oil price-driven economic growth."
In Russia:
  • "We judge the Russian economy will continue to expand under a new leadership, although at a slower rate than over the last eight years, given capacity constraints, the slow pace of institutional change, the impact of real ruble appreciation, and developments in the international economy."
  • "Other elements of Russian national power—from trade and energy, to diplomatic instruments and military and intelligence capabilities—are on a path to grow over the next four years."
In Kosovo and Bosnia:
  • "Inter-ethnic violence that brings about intervention by NATO-led forces, is possible once Kosovo declares its independence, and any violence could spill over to neighboring states."
  • "We judge the probability of inter ethnic violence is low absent a move by Bosnia’s Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, toward secession. Any violence would put pressure on US and NATO forces in the region to assist."
In China:
  • "As a result, China’s global engagement is not driven by Communist ideology or military expansionism, but instead by a need for access to markets, resources, technology and expertise, and a desire to assert its role in the international community."
  • "Indeed, Chinese officials consistently emphasize the need to seek cooperative relations with Washington, because conflict with the United States would risk derailing China’s economic development. They also seek to alleviate international concerns about China’s strategic intentions. As China’s influence grows, however, Beijing probably will increasingly expect its interests to be respected by other countries."
  • "Notwithstanding China’s external goals, the leadership is focused on threats to domestic stability."
  • "China’s impressive economic growth—it is the world’s second largest economy—masks significant distortions and risks, including a rigidly controlled currency that contributes to excess liquidity, wasteful investment; government policies that favor exports over domestic consumption; and a state-run banking system slowly recovering from a series of credit problems. China’s demographic problem of an aging population, high incidence of chronic and infectious disease, environmental degradation, and an increasing energy crunch are likely to slow economic growth over the long term. A sudden and sharp slowdown in China could exacerbate vulnerabilities in the global economy; hardest hit would be its neighbors who sell about 50 percent of their goods to China and commodity producers who have enjoyed high prices and expanding export volumes because of China’s rising demand for raw material, metals, and food." (Comment: My students have done a number of analytic projects on China. They have looked at short and long term implications, regional and national issues and even at very focused industry level studies. In every case, they wind up highlighting these exact same issues and in many of these analyses, they indicate that the period after the 2008 Olympics is the watershed. Obviously neither I nor my students are Chinese experts but it occurs to me that we ought to be giving a bit more attention not to the coming domination of the world by China but to forecasting and mitigating its possible collapse.)
In Latin America:
  • "Inspired and supported by Venezuela and Cuba, leaders in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and—more tentatively—in Ecuador are pursuing agendas that undercut checks and balances on presidential power, seek lengthy presidential terms, weaken media and civil liberties, and emphasize economic nationalism at the expense of market-based approaches. Moreover, each of these governments, to varying degrees, has engaged in sharply anti-US rhetoric, aligned with Venezuela and Cuba—and increasingly Iran—on international issues, and advocated measures that directly clash with US initiatives."
In Venezuela:
  • "We judge Chavez miscalculated public opposition to such moves as seeking indefinite re-election and greater discretionary authority over expropriating private property."
In Cuba:
  • "We judge Raul’s most likely approach will be cautious, incremental steps to make the agricultural sector more productive, to allow some private sector expansion through the creation of more small-scale enterprises, and to attract new foreign investment. If Raul moves forward, he probably will take pains to ensure elite consensus. Senior Cuban officials have made clear that there are no plans to permit competitive elections or otherwise alter the Communist Party’s monopoly of power. Indeed, the determination of the Cuban leadership to ignore outside pressure to carry out significant economic and political reform continues to be reinforced by the more than $1 billion net annual subsidy that Venezuela provides to sustain Cuba."
In Mexico:
  • "The overall picture in Mexico is positive. President Felipe Calderon’s strong start in his first year in office featured an aggressive counternarcotics offensive, forging a working relationship with elements of the opposition, securing a limited revamping of the government pension system, and pushing through Congress a high-priority fiscal reform package. The public has supported most of Calderon’s policies, and sustaining this momentum will be an important task as the midterm election season approaches in 2009."
In Nigeria And Africa:
  • "Persistent insecurity in Nigeria’s oil producing region, the Niger Delta, poses a direct threat to US strategic interests in sub-Saharan Africa. Ongoing instability and conflict in other parts of Africa pose less direct though still significant threats to US interests because of their high humanitarian and peacekeeping costs, drag on democratic and economic development, and potential to get worse."
In Kenya:
  • "Kibaki probably will do everything he can to hold on to power. Kenya is likely to enter a period of increased social tension and instability, which could affect its willingness and ability to cooperate with the US on regional diplomatic and counterterrorist matters."
In Mali and Niger:
  • "Fledgling insurgencies among nomads in Mali and Niger are likely to remain confined to the remote and sparsely populated Sahara desert but nonetheless are a strain on the security forces of these two impoverished democracies."
In Zimbabwe:
  • "Serious threats to Zimbabwean President Mugabe have yet to materialize despite hyperinflation, economic decline, and political uncertainty."
On Oil Prices:
  • "Despite a slowdown in the global economy, robust demand from major developing country consumers has not eased and other dynamics feeding high prices appear likely to endure."
On Global Food Prices:
  • "Global food prices also have been rising steadily over the past two years driven by higher energy prices—which push up input costs—weak harvests, historically low stocks, and robust demand. Wheat prices were up over 60 percent in 2007, and are at a 20-year high. Other foodstuffs such as vegetable oils also are near records. There is little near term relief in sight because production increases in several countries, including Australia, are hampered by water shortages and land constraints."
On Bioterror And Pandemics:
  • "While we do not currently see this level of technical sophistication in terrorist groups—isolating a virulent strain is difficult—the possibility cannot be ruled out; therefore, we will continue to use our intelligence resources to try to help detect any such preparations to use a virus as a terrorist weapon."

The Rise Of al-Qaeda And The Long Road To 9/11 (

Interesting hour long background brief on al-Qaeda. From the website:

"In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright explains the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence breakdowns that culminated in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Wright re-creates the transformation of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri from incompetent and idealistic soldiers in Afghanistan to leaders of one of the most successful terrorist groups in modern history. He also follows FBI Counterterrorism Chief John O'Neill as he uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles to track this new threat. Based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States..."

Famine Early Warning System (USAID)

USAID has done an excellent job putting together its interface for the Famine Early Warning System. The data here is well-organized and, for the countries listed (largely in Africa), very complete. It seems to be well integrated with the UN's ReliefWeb as well (ReliefWeb, for those of you not familiar with it, is one of the outstanding resources provided by the UN. Covering virtually every country where there is a humanitarian crisis, the site hosts some of the most up to date information and some of the very best maps you can find on the web).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Secret ROE Reportedly Leaked (WikiLeaks)

WikiLeaks (a source I discussed earlier here) is reporting that they have acquired a copy of a SECRET REL to USA, IRQ Annex to an OPORD containing Rules Of Engagement (ROE). The WikiLeaks page discussing the leak (and providing the Table Of Contents) is here and you can download what WikiLeaks alleges is a PDF of the full document here. WikiLeaks claims that they have verified the document. Of particular interest is the information in the page discussing the leak concerning the source, "Peryton", and this individual's history of leaks and motivation for leaking.