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The Center produces two electronic morning news services – The Soufan Group Morning Brief and the Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief – that increasingly reach a critical mass of the national security establishment and the public. Our daily newsletter, The Soufan Group Morning Brief, covers the most important national security, terrorism, and foreign policy stories of the day. The Stroz Friedberg Cyber Brief, our weekly roundup of cyber news, highlights developments in cybersecurity law and policy. The curated briefs encourage a user-generated experience, where readers can process information quickly through CNS summaries or delve more deeply into topics of interest through linked news sources. 



Friday, August 2, 2019 

U.S. Formally Withdraws from Nuclear Pact with Russia

The U.S. formally withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) today after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty and had no plans to come into compliance with it. The treaty bans both countries from stationing short and intermediate-range land-based missiles in Europe. Washington signaled its intention to pull out of the agreement six months ago if Russia made no move to adhere to it. “Russia’s noncompliance under the treaty jeopardizes U.S. supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. Reuters, New York Times 
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is set to test a new non-nuclear mobile-launched cruise missile developed specifically to challenge Russia in Europe, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The official said that the Pentagon has been working on the mobile launch system's very initial phases, which will lead to the first test in the coming weeks. The official emphasized that there is no formal program yet to develop the missile because the INF Treaty has until now been in effect. The expected test could eventually lead to a formal program, but securing funding has reportedly been difficult due to Democratic opposition in Congress. CNN 
Wall Street Journal: Lapse of Nuclear Treaty Throws Doubt on Future of Arms Control
Council on Foreign Relations: What the INF Treaty’s Collapse Means for Nuclear Proliferation


A nuclear treaty is about to vanish. Its demise should teach a lesson: “On Friday, a pillar of global security will expire. Perhaps no one will notice when the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 slips into oblivion; the threat of nuclear attack in just minutes that seemed so unnerving during the late 20th century has now faded into a distant memory, lost to complacency at the Cold War’s end,” writes the Washington Post in an editorial. “But the demise of the INF Treaty should teach a lesson. Arms control, creating verifiable treaties to limit and reduce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, had its mystique: obtuse concepts, exotic hardware and mind-bending negotiations. But at its core, arms control was about political willpower.”
Like terrorist father, like terrorist son: “Rumors circulated on Wednesday that Hamza bin Laden, the son of al-Qaeda founder and architect of the 9/11 attacks Osama bin Laden, is dead,” writes Colin P. Clark in Foreign Policy.  “If true, this is more than just a symbolic loss for al-Qaeda. Indeed, the death of the group’s heir apparent will be a devastating blow to the organization’s brand, and thus its ability to compete with the Islamic State for recruits and notoriety. It will also sap morale just as al Qaeda’s leadership was seeking to use the collapse of the caliphate to raise its profile and reclaim the leadership of the global jihadi universe.”
Is putting weapons in space a good idea?: “If the U.S. does deploy weapons in space, it would be the first country to do so. It’s long been a controversial idea and not popular among arms control proponents because the deployment of interceptors in space would likely be a disaster for strategic stability,” writes John Fairlamb in The Hill. “Make no mistake, deploying weapons in space would cross a threshold that cannot be walked back. Given the implications for strategic stability and the likelihood that such a decision would encourage an expensive arms race in space in which any advantage gained would likely be temporary, such a decision should be weighed with the utmost caution.” 

Editor's Picks


Justice Department won't prosecute Comey: Despite a referral made by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, the DOJ has declined to prosecute former FBI Director James Comey over the leaking of some of his personal memos to the media. The memos, which Comey asked a friend to leak to the New York Times after President Trump fired him, detailed conversations Comey had with the President Trump related to the FBI’s probe of the president and Russian election interference. The Justice Department’s inspector general has been probing the classification status of information in Comey's memos. One of the leaked memos said that Trump had asked him to shut down an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, raising questions about potential obstruction of justice by the president. NBC News 
Pentagon puts $10B cloud contract on hold: The Pentagon is pausing its efforts to award a $10 billion cloud computing contract after President Trump suggested that the Defense Department might have rigged the contest in favor of Amazon. Defense Secretary Mark Esper is reviewing accusations of unfairness in the competitive bid process, the Pentagon announced Thursday. The review is expected to delay the award of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract, which the Pentagon had originally hoped to award in August. JEDI would give the Pentagon a single secure cloud computing system for data, instead of the more than 500 clouds used by different parts of the military today. Politico 
U.S. repatriates another alleged American ISIS fighter: The U.S. has reportedly repatriated another American citizen alleged to have been a member of ISIS from Syria in order to face trial. Officials said the individual, a dual U.S.-Turkish national, had been previously held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF are currently holding over 2,000 foreign ISIS fighters from over 50 countries. Details on the suspect’s identity were not made immediately available. CNN
Admiral tells SEALs to restore discipline: The leader of the Navy’s special forces, Rear Adm. Collin P. Green, has told his command in a strongly worded letter that “we have a problem” with breakdowns in discipline among Navy SEALs “that must be addressed immediately.” The letter appears to be prompted by a series of recent reports of serious misconduct involving SEALs. Accounts of drug use among senior enlisted SEALs emerged during the trial of Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who has since been demoted. In July, an entire SEAL platoon was abruptly pulled out of a deployment in Iraq over reports of an alcohol-fueled party and an allegation that a senior enlisted member had raped a female service member attached to the platoon. The admiral instructed his officers to report back by next Wednesday with plans to address the problem.  New York Times 
FBI warns of 'conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists': FBI agents in Phoenix have issued an assessment detailing what they say are the risks posed by people who believe in fringe conspiracies that have been cited as the impetus for a series of violent incidents over the last three years, including Qanon and “Pizzagate.” The intelligence bulletin covers how “fringe political conspiracy theories very likely motivate some domestic extremists to commit criminal, sometimes violent activity.” The bulletin said the assessments were “made with high confidence” based on information from other law enforcement agencies, court documents, FBI investigations, and other sources. NBC News 
2nd rocket launcher recovered at BWI: Officials say a returning Air Force sergeant tried to bring home a rocket launcher tube through BWI airport, the same airport where another service member tried to return with a similar weapon earlier this week. The State Fire Marshal’s Office in Maryland issued a statement saying that the device, designed to be aircraft-mounted, was recovered Thursday.  The device held no explosives, but it might have contained pressurized gas and could not go on a commercial flight. Associated Press 
Senate passes two-year budget and debt ceiling bill: The Senate passed a two-year budget deal on Thursday that boosts spending and eliminates the threat of a debt default until after the 2020 election. The deal increases military and domestic spending by $320 billion over two years. It also increases overall discretionary spending from $1.32 trillion in fiscal 2019 to $1.37 trillion in 2020 and $1.375 trillion in 2021. President Trump is expected to sign the deal despite concerns that it will increase the nation’s debt. Washington Post 


Ratcliffe misleads on immigration crackdown involvement: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), President Trump’s choice to for the next Director of National Intelligence, cites a massive roundup of immigrant workers at poultry plants in 2008 on his website as a highlight of his career. Ratcliffe claims that as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Texas, he was the leader of the immigration crackdown. “As a U.S. Attorney, I arrested over 300 illegal immigrants on a single day,” Rat­cliffe says. However, court records show that Ratcliffe played a supporting role in the 2008 sweep, which involved U.S. attorneys’ offices in five states and was led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a Justice Department news release. Only 45 workers were charged by prosecutors in Ratcliffe’s office. Six of those cases were dismissed, two of them because the suspects were American citizens. The effort targeted workers at poultry processor Pilgrim’s Pride who were suspected of using stolen Social Security numbers. Washington Post 
Doctors call for investigation after migrant children die of flu: Doctors associated with Harvard and Johns Hopkins called for an investigation into the quality of health care at border facilities in a letter to Congress on Thursday. The letter comes in response to the deaths of six migrant children either in government custody or soon after their release. At least three of the children died from the flu. The doctors wrote that flu deaths “are fairly rare events for children living in the United States.” Domestically, the U.S. experiences a rate of about one flu death per 600,000 children, according to the doctors. Among migrants children in custody, they wrote, the numbers are far higher. CBS News 
House members demand better treatment of transgender asylum seekers: Nearly three dozen members of Congress sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday morning expressing concern over the agency’s treatment of transgender detainees and demanding that the agency take transgender migrants’ asylum claims more seriously. The letter comes after the deaths of two transgender women who were held in detention. In their message, the lawmakers urged ICE “to seriously consider the asylum claims of transgender migrants who demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution based on their ‘membership in a particular social group’ and adhere to its own policies regulating the treatment of transgender detainees.” NBC News 
El Salvador man dies in U.S. custody: A 32-year-old man from El Salvador died Thursday morning in U.S. custody hours after being apprehended by Border Patrol agents. The man, who was not named, was taken into custody by agents from the El Paso Station late Wednesday evening and was being processed at the Lordsburg Border Patrol Station, more than two hours away in New Mexico, “when he fell into medical distress,” CBP said in a statement. Attempts to revive the man were unsuccessful. CNN 


U.S. preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan: The Trump administration is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in exchange for concessions from the Taliban, including a ceasefire and a renunciation of al-Qaeda, as part of an initial deal to end the nearly 18-year-old war. The agreement, which would require the Taliban to begin negotiating a larger peace deal directly with the Afghan government, could cut the number of American troops in the country from roughly 14,000 to between 8,000 and 9,000. Washington Post 
Al-Qaeda kills 20 at Yemeni military camp: Al-Qaeda militants reportedly targeted a military camp belonging to members of a Yemeni force trained by the United Arab Emirates in Yemen’s southern Abyan province on Friday, killing at least 20 troops and setting off clashes that lasted into early morning. The attack began around midnight, with militants firing rocket-propelled grenades at the camp. The militants reportedly overran the camp, seizing and confiscating equipment and weapons, before setting it on fire. There was no immediate claim of responsibility by al-Qaeda, but local officials said that the attack bore the hallmarks of the group. Associated Press 
Bloomberg: Al-Qaeda Is as Strong as Ever After Rebuilding Itself, U.S. Says
Zawahiri reportedly in poor health: Recent intelligence reports indicate that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has a “heart complaint,” according to a senior official involved in international counterterrorism efforts. The official said that the information suggests Zawahiri has a potentially serious medical condition. The possibility that Zawahiri is seriously ill, coupled with the reported death of Hamza bin Laden, increases the uncertainty over al-Qaeda's long-term leadership succession plans. Zawahiri has continued to frequently appear in al-Qaeda videos and was last heard from last month, and there were no obvious signs that he has a serious health condition in these videos. CNN 
Mogadishu mayor dies after al-Shabaab attack: Mogadishu mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman died on Thursday after a suicide bomber managed to enter the mayor's office on July 24, killing six people and wounding Osman. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, which is suspected of targeting the new United Nations envoy to Somalia in the attack. UN envoy James Swan had left Osman's office shortly before the detonation. Deutsche Welle
UN to investigate targeting of Syrian hospitals: The UN has ordered an investigation into a surge of Russian and Syrian airstrikes against hospitals and clinics in northwestern Syria amid growing concerns that Russia is using UN-supplied data to deliberately target medical facilities. UN Secretary-General António Guterres authorized the inquiry on Thursday after pressure from UN Security Council members and human rights organizations to do more to determine why health facilities and other civilian infrastructure such as schools and rescue services are being hit so frequently in the recent fighting. Washington Post 
Ceasefire reportedly agreed to in Idlib: Syrian state media reported on Thursday that a ceasefire had been agreed upon in Idlib. State media, citing a military source, said that the ceasefire would take place beginning Thursday night as long as rebel fighters implement the terms of a de-escalation agreement brokered last year by Russia and Turkey. There was no immediate rebel comment in response to the announcement. The wave of violence in northwest Syria since late April has killed more than 400 civilians and forced more than 440,000 to flee toward the Turkish border. Reuters 
Four killed in renewed Sudan protests: At least four protesters were reportedly killed and many more injured by gunfire in Omdurman on Thursday, as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to increase pressure on the country’s military rulers. Organizers had called for a million-person march in cities across Sudan in response to the killing of young protesters in El-Obeid earlier this week. Reuters 


Putin hails Trump's bid to warm relations: In a phone call on Wednesday, President Trump on offered Russian President Vladimir Putin assistance in fighting vast wildfires in Siberia, a gesture that the Kremlin viewed as a step towards warmer relations between the two countries. “The president of Russia praised this move by the President of the United States as a guarantee that in the future it will be possible to restore full-fledged relations between the two countries,” the Kremlin said. The phone conversation took place on the “initiative of the American side,” the Kremlin added. The call came after Putin ordered Russia's defense ministry to assist in extinguishing the fires. CNN 
North Korea launches another projectile: North Korea has fired two more projectiles into the Sea of Japan, a U.S. official confirmed. The official said that the projectiles are similar to the two launched by North Korea earlier this week which were assessed to be short-range ballistic missiles. The South Korean Joint Chiefs also later confirmed the launch of unknown short-range projectiles at 2:59 a.m. and 3:23 a.m. local time on Friday from South Hamgyong Province into the East Sea. This is the third launch by North Korea in the last two weeks. ABC News 
U.S. details plan to rebuild Venezuela: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross laid out a credit and investment plan to help rebuild Venezuela’s economy under democratic rule as Washington continues to push for new leadership. Ross said 14 U.S. government agencies have a blueprint to address Venezuela's economic calamities upon the removal of President Nicolás Maduro and his replacement with opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Wall Street Journal 
Reuters: Trump Says U.S. Blockade or Quarantine of Venezuela Under Consideration
Europeans decline to join escorts in Persian Gulf: American requests for help in escorting ships through the Persian Gulf amid increasing tensions with Iran have been met with silence or rejection by European countries, including a blunt “no” on Wednesday from Germany. Separately, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden have yet to respond favorably to Britain’s suggestion of a European escort force after Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the gulf. The silence comes as many European leaders have worked to keep their distance from President Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran. New York Times 
Saudi Arabia temporarily releases American citizen: Walid Fitaihi, a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen who has been jailed in Saudi Arabia for nearly two years without trial, has been temporarily released from custody but is still facing criminal charges in the kingdom. Fitaihi, a U.S.-educated doctor and founder of a prominent Saudi hospital, was released Wednesday and spent the night at home with his family in Jeddah. Fitaihi was detained in November 2017 as Saudi authorities arrested hundreds of business executives, government officials, and royal family members and imprisoned them at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. He later told a family member that he was tortured in custody. Washington Post 
Saudi Arabia ends restrictions on women’s travel: Saudi Arabia published new laws on Friday that loosen restrictions on women by allowing any citizen to apply for a passport and travel freely, ending a long-standing guardianship policy that gave men control over women’s travel. Other changes issued in Friday’s decrees allow women to register for a marriage, divorce, or child's birth and to be issued official family documents. The new laws also stipulate that a father or mother can be legal guardians of children. NBC News 


Fate of Puerto Rico governorship uncertain: Less than 24 hours before Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to leave office, Puerto Ricans have no indication of who will replace him as political chaos threatens to paralyze the island with a constitutional crisis. Rosselló promised to step down at 5 p.m. today in response to huge street protests by Puerto Ricans outraged at corruption, mismanagement, and an obscenity-laced chat that was leaked in which the governor and 11 male allies made fun of women, LGBTQ persons, and victims of Hurricane Maria. Rosselló put forward veteran politician and lawyer Pedro Pierluisi to fill the vacant Secretary of State post, which would make him next in line for the governorship under the U.S. territory’s constitution. 
The Puerto Rican House of Representatives is expected to vote on Pierluisi’s confirmation Friday afternoon. However Thomas Rivera Schatz, the President of Puerto Rico’s Senate, who is seeking to take up the post of Governor, declared that Pierluisi did not have the votes in the Senate to win confirmation as Secretary of State. Rivera Schatz unexpectedly offered to hold a confirmation hearing for Pierluisi in the Senate - though not until Monday, three days after the House is set to confirm him. If he is rejected, Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez will automatically become Governor, who has said that she would accept the job, albeit it unwillingly. Associated Press, New York Times 
Washington Post: Trump Administration to Place New Restrictions on Billions in Aid for Puerto Rico Amid Island’s Political Crisis
Deadline passes for parties to register in Israel: The deadline passed for parties to register for Israel’s Sept. 17 legislative election on Thursday. Polls show that the Likud and Blue and White parties are neck and neck, raising the potential of another unclear outcome two months after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form governing coalition after April’s election, thereby triggering the September election. Analysts suggest that the usual right-wing-religious and center-left blocs may not be able to muster a 61-seat majority in Parliament on their own, suggesting that they may have to resort to new political coalitions to form a government. New York Times 
17 million Americans removed from voter rolls: According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, U.S. election jurisdictions with histories of voter discrimination have been purging voter rolls at a rate 40% above the national average. While the rate of voter purges elsewhere around the country has declined slowly, jurisdictions released from federal oversight by the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, which released counties with histories of voter discrimination from federal oversight imposed by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, had purge rates “significantly higher” than jurisdictions not previously subjected to oversight. Overall, at least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018. The Guardian 
Johnson’s parliamentary majority almost gone: Britain’s pro-European Union Liberal Democrats won a parliamentary seat from the governing Conservative Party on Thursday, bringing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s working majority to just one as he tries to steer the country through Brexit. The Liberal Democrats, who are calling for a second referendum on EU membership, won the Welsh seat of Brecon and Radnorshire in a special election with a majority of 1,425 votes. Reuters 


For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.
Editor-in-Chief, Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School

Center on National Security
Fordham University School of Law
150 W. 62nd St. 7th Floor
New York, NY 10023 US
Copyright © 2019 Center on National Security, All rights reserved.

  FEATURED STORY            

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2019


The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it’s examining whether and how “market-leading online platforms” have acquired power and are engaged in anti-competitive behavior that have harmed American consumers. Although it did not name specific companies, the department said “search, social media, and some retail services online” had sparked widespread concerns, suggesting that Google, Facebook, and Amazon would be under the gun.


Analysts say that at this point the review is broadly focused, looking to see if there are in fact problems that need to be addressed. But it could eventually lead to narrower investigations of specific company conduct.

In recent weeks, antitrust and tech policy experts have reportedly been visiting the Justice Department frequently as the government seeks to understand the industry’s competitive dynamics. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission, which shares antitrust enforcement authority with DOJ, created its own task force to monitor competition in the tech sector. The agency has already punished Facebook for digital privacy violations, hitting the company with a record $5 billion fine earlier this month. (WSJ, NYT, Reuters)


ProtonMail: Hackers attempted to compromise the Swiss-based email service provider--which bills itself as the world’s most secure--targeting users who are investigating Russia’s military intelligence directorate, the GRU. The unit, known also by the nicknames Fancy Bear and APT28, was responsible for the hack against the Hillary Clinton campaign in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (FT)


Schools: Researchers say that schools have become a top target for hackers because they hold vast amounts of private data, and they generally don’t have the resources to protect it. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency last week after a virus disabled computers at three school districts. (NYT, CNN)

Winnti Malware: A group reportedly working for the Chinese government used malware called Winnti to hack into a collection of multinational companies, including BASF, Siemens, Roche, Marriott, and Sumitomo. (Reuters)

  ON THE HILL                                    

Mueller: The former special counsel testified for nearly seven hours before two congressional committees about his investigation into Russia’s election interference in the 2016 presidential race. Analysts say that he was most animated when speaking about Russia’s sabotage methods, warning his audience that similar efforts are underway ahead of the 2020 election. (NYT)

  PRIVATE SECTOR                             

Huawei: The Chinese telecom is said to have helped North Korea build and maintain its commercial wireless network over the past several years, potentially violating international sanctions intended to pressure the Kim regime to give up nuclear weapons. (WaPo, Reuters)


Softbank: The Japanese group is launching a second tech-focused megafund that it expects to attract more than $100 billion in international capital. More than a dozen investors, including Apple, have reportedly signed memorandums of understanding. At more than $98 billion, Softbank’s first Vision Fund was already much larger than any other single investment fund in history. (WSJ)


Apple: The iPhone maker has agreed to buy the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem chip business for $1 billion. Analysts say the deal is intended to jumpstart Apple’s in-house technology for 5G devices. About 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple as part of the agreement. (Reuters)

Cofense: BlackRock is in advanced talks to take over the Virginia-based cybersecurity firm after the U.S. government reportedly asked the buyout firm, Pamplona Capital Management, to sell its 47 percent stake. It’s unclear why the government did this but a major investor in Pamplona’s private equity funds is Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman, who was included in an “oligarchs’ watchlist” by the U.S. Treasury Department. (Reuters)

  THE WORLD                                     

EU: European lawmakers are drawing up legislation expected to give the bloc sweeping legal powers to regulate hate speech, other illegal content, and political advertising. The bill will reportedly be the first of its kind globally to oversee content on digital platforms at scale. (FT)

Australia: The government’s consumer watchdog agency made nearly two dozen recommendations for modernizing the country’s media and privacy laws, including the creation of an office that would scrutinize the algorithms used by Google and Facebook to rank news and advertising. (WSJ)


How Ransomware Attacks Are Targeting Cities: “Ransomware is a form of cybercrime that involves locking up files and demanding bitcoin payments for the electronic keys. Ryuk, which first appeared last year, is on the leading edge of more targeted ransomware hacks that are calibrated to force big payments from overwhelmed victims...Ryuk has fast become the most common form of ransomware, accounting for about 24% of attacks,” write Jon Kamp and Scott Calvert in the Wall Street Journal


How China Sparked a Tech Cold War: “[Roger] Faligot’s subject is the Chinese Communist party and its efforts to develop what he describes as the largest intelligence service in the world. He places particular emphasis on the state security ministry, known as the Guoanbu, the biggest of the non-military spying agencies. ‘The word ‘Guoanbu’ will probably become as familiar in the twenty-first century,’ he concludes, ‘as the acronyms MI6, CIA and KGB were in the twentieth.’ A French journalist and longtime China watcher, Faligot has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of China’s spy agencies,” writes Geoff Dyer in this book review of Chinese Spies for the Financial Times.

Trump’s Cyber Czar Is Back: “After a year largely out of public view, [Tom] Bossert today revealed his role as cofounder of a startup called Trinity, along with CEO Steve Ryan, a former deputy director of the NSA's Threat Operations Center, and Marie ‘Neill’ Sciarrone, a former BAE exec who served as a cybersecurity advisor to George W. Bush. Backed by $23 million in investment led by Intel Capital, Trinity offers what Bossert describes as a ‘third way’ between traditional cyberdefense and private sectors ‘hacking back’ to play offense,” writes Andy Greenberg in Wired.




Center on National Security
Fordham University School of Law
150 W. 62nd St. 7th Floor
New York, NY 10023 US
Copyright © 2019 Center on National Security, All rights reserved.