Archive for April, 2015

Still Aiming at Reaching Zero

The committee formed by the WHO assessed developments since their last congregation on 20 January 2015, to discuss the update on epidemiological situation. The Committee referenced that there have been further improvements in ebola prevention and control of activities throughout West Africa, including in the area of contact tracing, the overall risk of international spread appears to have further reduced since January with a decline in case incidence. These three countries have provided news and assessment of the ebola epidemic, in terms of the epidemiological situation and the present status and utility for exit screening as well as contact tracing.

The Committee pointed out the progress that had been accomplished by the work of the three core countries. The primary goal remaining the interruption of transmission as rapidly as possible. The Committee reinforced the importance of community engagement in “getting to zero”. The Committee expressed its continued concern about the recent infection of health care workers and reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the rigourous application of appropriate infection prevention and control measures.


Christian H

France Blocks Websites Accused of Condoning Terrorism

Following new government powers that came into effect February, the French government has recently passed a ban order on five websites accused of condoning terrorism. The five sites–including al-Hayat Media Center– were accused of having links to the Islamic State. This has become a growing concern for France, as 1,400 French citizens have either joined or attempted to join the jihadist Islamic State cause.

According to French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve: “I make a distinction between freedom of expression and the spread of messages that serve to glorify terrorism. These hate messages are a crime.”

To me, this enhanced government power seem like a less broad and extensive version of the USA PATRIOT Act that was passed after 9/11. The PATRIOT Act allowed the U.S. government to enhance surveillance and intelligence measures by engaging in controversial measures such as wire-tapping U.S. citizens’ phones. Critics point to civil rights abuses, while proponents state that U.S. counterterrorism is benefiting from these measures.

Its hard to say if France banning five websites will do much at all, but if this becomes a growing trend, it could prevent citizens from being exposed to radical material online. However, it will come hand in hand with outraged citizens complaining about their free speech and civil rights being stripped from them for the sake of counterterrorism.


PLO officials: Hamas negotiating with Israel on Palestinian state in Gaza

Over the weekend, Palestinian officials claimed that Hamas was seeking to establish a separate Palestinian entity in the Gaza Strip.  According to officials, this plan would turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity.  However, Mahmoud Habbash, the chief Palestinian Authority religious judge said that Hamas “plan” to create a separate entity in the Gaza Strip was a “dangerous Israeli conspiracy.”  Hamas has dismissed the allegations as “false polemics.”  Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip emphasized that Hamas does not conduct any negotiations with Israel.  Radwan’s statement, “We negotiation with the occupation only through the rifle,” demonstrates this emphasis.

It is difficult to understand why the author does not elaborate if this is an Israeli scheme and if it was an Israeli scheme, what would its goal be.  Hama is not known for negotiating with Israel so it is doubtful that these allegations are true.  It is unfortunate that Hamas does not pursue more diplomatic negotiations since Israel usually points to Hamas terrorist activity whenever Palestinian statehood is discussed internationally.


Saudi Arabia & Other Nations Increase Spending

The article that I read this week headlines the increase of military and other defense spending that rose significantly (by 17%) in Saudi Arabia this past year. The article also goes on to mention the increase of defense spending in the region of the Middle East, because of the increase in diversity of worldwide threats. However, on a global scale, defense spending is continued to decline over the past three years. This begs the question of what kinds of countries are increasing their defense armories and if this should lead the way for the  United States to do the same and other global powers. I found it especially interesting that countries with less international involvement were increasing the scope and size of their militaries, but countries with significant participation overseas (NATO members) were continuing to decrease.


Saudi’s and Turkish Alliance?

There are high level talks between the Saudi and Turkish government about forming a military to oust President Assad. This alliance, if it goes through would have the Turks providing ground troops and the Saudi’s providing air strike support. If this alliance goes through and there is military intervention by the Turks and Saudi’s it could have huge implications for the United States next move in the region. Both countries are not natural allies but are seemingly willing to put away their differences to combat the threat of Assad’s regime. It seems as if the regional powers are noticing the United States hesitance to get involved in the Middle East again and this type of allegiance would be a relief for the US who are reluctant to lead another attack in the region. “If the only way to get the U.S. to go along with us is to show our teeth, we will show our teeth,” said one Gulf source. “And Sunni teeth are wild.”


“Great Cannon” Fires

Joining the toolbox of Chinese cyber weapons is the “Great Cannon,” an offensive accompaniment to its preexisting “Great Firewall.” A new study from the University of Toronto has reported that a new weapon that can be used to perform Distributed Denial of Service Attacks (DDOS) has been used to strike a facility at a University Technology Center, and servers within the United States. The weapon has been called “public” but I can see nothing – online, at least – that demonstrates the Chinese government is owing this publicly. There certainly has been little attempt to cover their footsteps.

Perhaps this foreshadows a coming strategic paradigm within the Cyber realm. Given the increased uncertainty associated with tracing the trails of cyber attackers, maybe a “new openness” about state  created cyber attacks is possible – perhaps even required for any meaningful deterrence effect to be gained from advanced cyber weaponry.

The old methods of signalling – large-scale weapons tests, or military parades chock full of missiles and tanks – are not effective within the cyber realm.  If you show off cyber weapons – which typically exploit small holes in an opponents otherwise secure defenses – you effectively reveal not only the nature of your potential attack, but the very location of it in cyberspace as well.

A new deterrence must perhaps not be based upon demonstrations of weapons, but on demonstrations of damage. Ultimately, this may be useful for the United States especially. No other country in the world has a true equivalent to Silicon Valley, giving the U.S. the deepest national programming “bench” – if you will forgive the inappropriate sports metaphor. By shifting the focus of cyber deterrence away from devastating weapons and towards devastating operations, not only can we save money by only building cyber weapons “to order,” so to speak, we can perhaps encourage a paradigm which could more accurately map the cyber capabilities of posturing actors by denying them a stage.


– Alex

UN Vies for Political End to the Syrian Conflict

UN general security council member Ban Ki-Moon is urging for a political end to the Syrian conflict. He is hoping to establish a transitional government that can begin to freeze conflict in certain parts of Syria in order to establish humanitarian aid and establish some stability in the battle torn country. These political ends would have to see President Assad relinquish power which does not seem to be happening any time soon. Even if peace talks were to be opened up and President Assad were to relinquish his power tomorrow it does not seem that a political end will be feasible. There are too many tribes and actors vying for power. Additionally, ISIL’s presence just complicates any progress that is made. The UN, along with other external actors are hard pressed for a solution to the Syrian debacle.


If Libya Falls to Terrorists, Terrorism Will Spread to Europe

As terrorism and terrorist groups in North Africa and surrounding territories has increased recently (most notably the recent attack in Tunisia), scholars have become more worried about the potential spillover to mainland Europe. Some of my previous blog posts have proved that ISIS and other jihadist organizations have influential internet campaigns that can radicalize and ‘groom’ both men and women to join the cause. Libyan journalist Daffaires Wafa Bugaighis took this into account while also showing worry about the increase of terror in Libya in her article for the Libya Herald. Libya were to fall to terrorism, for example if a group like Boko Haram extended its reach to Northern Africa, the spillover to Europe could be worrisome. This complements my blog post from last week, in which a former jihadist currently living in Canada discussed the security risks brought by terrorism vis-a-vis Libya’s geographic proximity to Europe. It is thus important not only to maintain intelligence and surveillance efforts and behavioral profiling, as I’ve iterated before, but also to increase surveillance of Northern Africa- as countries like Libya are only separated from Europe by the Mediterranean Sea.


New Very High Readiness Joint Task Force Begins Training

This new 5,000 man unit is on track to be available for use by 2016.  Its premise for existence is that a fast and capable force is necessary in the modern world to deal with security problems.  A small force of highly trained men with good intelligence and high logistical support is just the force needed to counteract, say an Russian ethnic uprising in one of the three Baltic NATO member states.  The concept makes sense given the above scenario as speed, precision, and intelligence are key to the modern battlefield.  Its small size will also provide NATO with a limited commitment option which may reduce the chances of a Russian escalation to full out War.  A small force that is not threatening to Russia itself but capable to put down a civil uprising is exactly what the Ukraine crisis needed and will help prevent further Russian incursions. Edward

New Executive Order on Cyber Security

On April 1st, president Obama issued an executive order that saying that “malicious cyber threats constitute national threats” and established sanctions against those who provide the materials for such breaches. However, the language used is overly broad, it gives the Secretary of the Treasury to  “in consultation with” the Attorney General and Secretary of State, to make a determination that an person or entity has “materially … provided … technological support for, or goods or services in support of any of these attacks”. The problem with this wording is that it may result in the discouragement of research into software to prevent further attacks. Most analysts use software  that is designed to compromise other software to find flaws and report them.

This wording could result in individuals refusing to conduct this research in fear of sanctions or legal action. If analysts can not find these weaknesses then they could be exploited by malicious hackers.

Lucas Duty

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