15 March 2017

*** Can The Islamic State And Al Qaeda Find Common Ground?

by Scott Stewart

Three years after the Islamic State defected from al Qaeda in an acrimonious and highly public split, many are still concerned that the two could someday reunite. Warnings about such a scenario from figures like Georgetown University's Bruce Hoffman have been given new life over the past few months as the Islamic State has continued to take heavy losses on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria.

Above graphic: An image from an Al Qaeda-inspired magazine shows Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi engulfed in the flames of hell. The ideological differences between the two jihadist groups run deep. (Al-Haqiqa)

The idea of the global jihadist movement's two major poles joining forces is certainly a troubling one. The combined capabilities of the Islamic State and al Qaeda could pose a significant threat to the rest of the world, making them a much more dangerous enemy together than divided. But even with the Islamic State's recent setbacks, an alliance between it and al Qaeda would be far more difficult to accomplish than one might expect.
A History of Animosity

** Russian Realpolitik at Work in the Middle East

Visits to Moscow on successive days by two Middle Eastern leaders highlight how Russia's importance in the region has grown over the past couple of years. Russian President Vladimir Putin played host to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today for discussions that will be followed Friday by talks between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Russian leader will hear their thoughts on trade, energy and investment topics, but security will be a prominent item on the agendas for both meetings, namely concerns that surround the conflict in Syria.

Since it deployed troops to Syria in 2015, Russia's profile in the Middle East has risen visibly. Beyond the Syrian battlefield, Moscow has effectively inserted itself into a number of disputes in the region as part of a push to boost its global prominence and bolster its clout in negotiations more critical to Russian interests. In its foray into Palestinian relations and Libyan quarrels, Russia has shoehorned its way into negotiations that are often stalemated, not with the hope of fostering a solution, but with the intention of boosting its influence with regional leaders. In other corners of the Middle East, Russia already had a welcome presence. Russian investment and tourism money is sought after in Egypt. Russian military equipment is prized in Iran. And of course, Russia has become a key backer of the Syrian government, working in coordination with Iran. If Russia had not intervened, the Syrian battlefield would look dramatically different today, and Damascus would no doubt be struggling to hold territory claimed from the opposition.

** Coming Soon: China's Demographic Doomsday

Gordon G. Chang

While India will soon enjoy something akin to "ideal demographics." How did this happen? 

By 2022—and probably sooner—India will overtake China to become the world’s most populous state, a status the latter has held for at least three centuries and perhaps for all recorded history.

And once the Chinese nation loses its demographic crown, it will fall fast. The country’s population will peak in 2028 according to the UN’s “World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision,” released at the end of July. China in its peak year will have 1.42 billion people. By the end of the century, the country will be just a smidgen over a billion—and very, very gray.

India, on the other hand, has a bright demographic future. No country will contribute more to global population growth between now and 2050. And the Indian state will continue to grow well into the second half of the century. India, according to the UN, will peak in 2068, when it will be home to 1.75 billion souls. That year, China is projected to have 541 million fewer people.

China will also be behind where it counts, workers. India’s workforce—people aged 15 to 59—will overtake China’s within a decade. By mid-century, there will be 1.05 billion Indians of working age, 375 million more than the Chinese in the same age group.

** What the CIA thinks of your anti-virus program

PARIS — Peppering the 8,000 pages of purported Central Intelligence Agency hacking data released Tuesday by WikiLeaks are reviews of some of the world’s most popular anti-virus products.

The hackers are quoted taking potshots at anti-virus firms, suggesting the American intelligence agencies are keenly aware of flaws in the products meant to be keeping us all safe online.

The data published by WikiLeaks isn’t systematic enough to draw firm conclusions about the reliability of one product or another and the uncertain dating means the CIA’s critiques provide more of a snapshot than an overview.

Still, the posts show America’s top cyberspies aren’t always flattering about commonly used security software.


The CIA appears to give mixed praise to the anti-virus solution by Comodo, the self-described “global leader in cyber security solutions.”

* Why the absurd one-China policy must be upheld

FEW diplomatic sophisms are as skilfully worded as America’s “one-China policy”. Mere repetition by American officials that their country sticks to it has helped more than anything else to keep the peace between two nuclear-armed powers. Were America to reject the policy, mainland China would be enraged. Anti-American riots would erupt. The government in Beijing might even respond by launching a military attack on Taiwan, or American forces in the region. The global economy would shudder. Millions of lives would be threatened.

Small wonder, then, that pulses quickened on both sides of the Pacific when Donald Trump, as president-elect, questioned the policy. (“I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” he said.) Last month he changed his mind and reassured China’s president, Xi Jinping, that he would, in fact, uphold it. Yet the one-China policy is in a fragile state. Far from casting doubt on it, Mr Trump needs to make America’s support for the status quo clearer than ever.

Why is China trying to shift goalposts?

Abhijit Bhattacharyya

The writer is an advocate practising in the Supreme Court. The views expressed here are personal.

There is no doubt that the Sino-Indian border has become more problematic than what it was 100 years ago.

There is no doubt that the Sino-Indian border has become more problematic than what it was 100 years ago. And the bad news is that both sides have to answer first to their domestic audience before addressing the bilateral issue.

A media report “China ready to cede land for part of Arunachal?” made an interesting point, but without substance, as several unanswered questions instantaneously crossed one’s mind. Thoughts went back and forth to several media stories of the late 1950s and the news of that fateful day of the Chinese attack on the Kameng sector of Arunachal Pradesh, then the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), in India, Bhutan and Tibet trijunction, early in the morning on October 20, 1962, in which the rag-tag, ill-equipped, starving, ammunitionless, shorn of woollens and obsolete, 303 “bolt” rifles (with 10-round capacity) grasping Indian soldiers of four crack units of 1 Sikh, 2 Rajput, 9 Punjab and 1/9 Gurkhas were wiped out followed by the forlorn brigadier, of 7th Brigade of 4 Infantry Division of IV Corps, being taken prisoner of war by the PLA.

Fifty-five years later, the Chinese have now (reportedly) come up with a “new formula to settle the dispute”. What is this new formula? And what was the old one? In what way is the new formula an improvement over the old one? One has to first try and analyse the “new” formula, and then compare both.

India’s Asian integration strategy

Dhiraj Nayyar

The Indian economy is experiencing rapid growth of between 7 and 8 per cent a year. To sustain that growth rate and for India to achieve its development potential, it must open up its economy and have a strong export sector. It may not be easy, but given the global trade slowdown and the paralysis of multilateral trade negotiations, India’s best bet is to seize those opportunities for integration closest to home. 

Thanks to its strength in the service sector, India’s trade to GDP ratio is around 25 per cent, close to that of China or Indonesia. But in terms of merchandise trade, India simply does not match up to the region’s other big players, accounting for just 1.7 per cent of global merchandise exports. In comparison, the United States accounts for 9 per cent, the European Union for 13.5 per cent and China for 14 per cent. 

Unlike its East Asian neighbours, India is in a region characterised by remarkably little intraregional trade. Just 5 per cent of South Asian trade takes place within the region, compared to 25 per cent for ASEAN or 55 per cent for Asia as a whole. 

The Swarm of War: Is India Ready?


Summary: There is a new arms race taking shape, centered around three interconnected technologies: autonomous weapons, swarms, and cyberwarfare.

The United States Navy recently demonstrated what future warfare could look like. It test launched 103 micro drones from three fighter jets as a live demonstration of the capabilities of swarm technology.

A drones swarm is essentially a group of very large number of micro or mini drones that are controlled collectively by a human operator, but act autonomously within themselves. It is like a hive of bees, with all the bees geared towards a single, larger objective, but each individual unit acting or capable of acting on its own and in relation to other bees to meet that objective. Due to the significant number of drones that can form a part of any swarm, there is a considerable degree of autonomy that the swarm as a whole and individual drones can exercise in finding and engaging targets. Indeed the development of swarm technology is tied to the much larger issue of development of autonomous weapon systems. It would be impossible to develop practical and effective swarms without the development of at least a certain level of machine autonomy.

What Does India Think of Trump’s Afghanistan Policy?


Summary: Donald Trump’s presidency presents an unexpected opportunity for India in its continued efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Donald Trump’s presidency presents an unexpected opportunity for India in its continued efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. As Western forces reduce their presence on Afghan soil and the formidable Haqqani-Taliban combination consolidates control over increasingly larger areas, the Afghan government’s position continues to diminish. The Trump administration brings with it the opportunity to make a concrete shift in policy to deal with the challenges that threaten to undo the progress made in Afghanistan over the last decade and a half. Given President Donald Trump, Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis, and National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s statements on Afghanistan, the incoming administration may push for increased troop levels in Afghanistan and confront Pakistan over its role as the major destabilizing force in South Asia.

An increase in the number of troops and a clear stance on Pakistan would find widespread support in India. Since 2002, India has offered over $2 billion to Afghanistan and views the stability provided by a foreign military presence as indispensable to the developmental projects New Delhi remains committed to pursuing in the country.

Cross-LoC Trade: A boon or bane

by Brig Anil Gupta (Retd)

Trade across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir began in 2008 during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s first tenure as Chief Minister. Hailed as the biggest Confidence Building Measure (CBM) to bring peace in the region, it began three years after the commencement of cross-LoC travel meant to unite the divided families across the LoC.

While the Government of India was sincere in its intent and approach, our adversary Pakistan had a hidden agenda while agreeing to allow such cross-LoC interactions. The Indian side wanted to heal the wounds of the divided families, encourage cross-LoC tourism and promote “peace through trade”, but the adversary saw it as another means to promote terrorism in the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir.

Our intelligence agencies had always been suspicious of the intent of the Pakistani deep state and kept a close vigil on the cross-LoC trade. In order to apprehend the modus-operandi of the hostile agencies, it is essential to understand the nuances of the cross-LoC trade. Readers need to understand that cross-LoC trade is different from international trade and is governed by a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

The cross-o trade is based on the barter system of trade against the usual currency-based trade due to non-availability of banking system and communication facilities. No excise duty or taxes are levied as in the case of regular international trade. A total of 21 tradeable items have been identified. Only items produced or manufactured on either side of the LoC are permitted to be traded. The list of items includes eatables, fruits, vegetables, dry fruits, medicinal herbs, saffron, garments and handicrafts. The list is not specific but general in nature leading to intentional/unintentional misinterpretation at times.

Raja Mandala: Fruits of Patience


Summary: Delhi’s current realism on China is a welcome departure from the past, when India used hide problems in the grandiose rhetoric on global solidarity. Under the new approach, there is no fudging of differences.

Strategic patience is a virtue in statecraft. But it is not about passive and endless waiting. It demands persistent pursuit of one’s goals and seizing the moment when the circumstances turn more favourable. It has certainly come to define India’s recent engagement with China. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s conversations in Beijing last week with senior Chinese officials offer the first glimmer of hope that India’s patience might begin to pay off. The downturn in bilateral relations over the last year was marked by China’s decision to block India’s campaign for the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and putting Pakistan’s Masood Azhar (of the Jaish-e-Mohammed) on the terror list of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Delhi was certainly surprised by the intensity and inflexibility of Beijing’s approach to the two issues.

Although Beijing presented its objections in procedural terms, Delhi knew Beijing’s opposition was political. China’s sense of its own rise and a growing political clout in the multilateral arena seemed to convince Beijing that it was under no obligation to make nice with Delhi. After all, the current power differential between the two nations had become too glaring. China’s GDP is now nearly five times larger than that of India and its defence spending is three times bigger. That Delhi and Beijing are peers has long been an unstated assumption of India’s China policy. But Delhi now had to adapt to the political consequences of growing strategic asymmetry.

Why everyone is miffed at a golf course in South Korea

Hamsini Hariharan

Why everyone is miffed at a golf course in South Korea

The acquisition of land for THAAD deployments in South Korea could polarise the whole of East Asia

The acquisition of a golf course for an anti-mssile system in South Korea is the beginning of nuclear tensions in East Asia. 

It used to be a golf course. Now it will be a missile base. The South Korean group LOTTE agreed to turn their land over to Korean defence to station US’ terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), an anti-missile system. The purpose? South Korea agreed to allow the US to deploy THAAD as a deterrent against North Korea’s fifth (and most powerful till date) nuclear test in in 2016.

This is significant because South Korea is an ally of the US and has fallen under the US nuclear umbrella since the 1950s. However, in 1991, the US removed its tactical nuclear weapons from the country. Deploying anti-missile system signifies a resurgence of tensions in Asia. After the land swap agreement, countries around the world sunk the news in as US and South Korea conducted their annual military drills. North Korea, predictably did not take the news well:

Chinese Chop Hooey

Nitin Pai

Dai Bingguo, a Chinese former high-level diplomat, has made vague statements to the effect that China would concede in the Western sector if India were to do so in the Eastern sector, and thus resolve the boundary dispute.

This is being interpreted, in the Indian media, to mean that China would trade Aksai Chin (that it controls) for Arunachal Pradesh in general or the Tawang region in particular that we deem a part of India. The problem, according to Mr Dai, is that successive Indian governments are unwilling to engage in such a reasonable compromise.

The generality and vagueness of Mr Dai’s statements are perhaps intended to make the hinted offer appear more attractive than whatever the Special Representatives of the two countries have negotiated over the years. China appears to be willing to give up vastly greater real estate in exchange for what it is asking for. Yet it would take one to be especially credulous to believe that Beijing would ever make such an offer seriously. The Western sector — Aksai Chin and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir — is of strategic importance to Beijing. It’s not for nothing that China is pouring money into infrastructure in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, over disputed territory. So forget about what Indian democracy thinks of the idea of giving up territory in Arunachal Pradesh — few seriously believe China can concede anything meaningful in Aksai Chin and Kashmir.



“The blob” — an unflattering nickname for the U.S. foreign policy establishment coined by a senior Obama official — gets a bad rap these days. From Obama to Trump, Washington’s foreign policy elite are blamed for being too hawkish, relying on tired conventional wisdom, and generally weakening America’s foreign policy position. In this episode, two members of the blob (along with a mystery guest) push back…over drinks, of course. Listen to Jim Steinberg, a former Deputy Secretary of the State Dept, and Frank Gavin, the director of the Kissinger Center at SAIS, defend the blob. Their argument? You don’t know how good you have it.

As a bonus, we also nerd out on George Kennan a bit.

America must defend itself against the real national security menace

By Fareed Zakaria

This week, we have watched the perfect example of a country fighting the last war. The Trump administration has devoted weeks of energy and political capital to rolling out its temporary travel ban against citizens of six Muslim-majority countries, none of whom, according to the libertarian Cato Institute, have committed a single deadly terrorist attack in the United States over the past four decades. Meanwhile, the White House’s response to a devastating barrage of WikiLeaks disclosures that will compromise U.S. security for years was a general vow to prosecute leakers. 

The WikiLeaks revelations are designed to uncover and cripple U.S. intelligence operations of any kind, against any foe — including Russia, China, the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. WikiLeaks claims to be devoted to exposing and undermining centralized power, yet it has never revealedanything about the intelligence — or domestic policing — operations of the Russian or Chinese governments, both highly centralized dictatorships with extensive and advanced cyber-intelligence units. Indeed, WikiLeaks has chosen as its obsessive target the United States, which probably has more democratic oversight of its intelligence agencies than any other major power does. 

Military—Jihadi Complex S16E2: Gun to the head

Pranay Kotasthane
The rent-seeking prowess of the Pakistani Military—Jihadi Complex (MJC) is well documented. A line in Stephen Cohen’s The Idea of Pakistan summarises this ability best:

Pakistan now negotiates with its allies and friends by pointing a gun to its own head. [The Idea of Pakistan, page 270]

These powers of renting itself out to powerful states are being summoned up once again due to two reasons. One, the Trump administration has shown no inclination (yet) towards prioritising US involvement in Afghanistan. And this delay is resulting in a reduction of MJC’s rent-seeking vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Two, the policy of conducting war through sub-conventional means is now incurring a significant cost to the MJC itself, decreasing its confidence in deploying such assets in the future.

But given that the MJC controls the putative state of Pakistan, a reduction in the set of available options is unlikely to dismantle the complex itself.

The question then is: what are the options available to the MJC going ahead?

Tilak Devasher’s new book Pakistan: Courting the Abyss lists the following options that might be pulled out by the MJC in order to sustain its role as a useful actor for the US.

There are several options: to project the arrival of the Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan or of the AQIS as a real threat to peace; midwifing the Afghan peace talks; accelerating the tactical nuclear weapons programme; and if all else fails, the old strategy of creating another Indo-Pak crisis [..].

Want to Win Wars? Fund Soft Power, Trump’s Generals SaY

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Defense One

The president’s proposal to boost military spending at the expense of diplomacy and foreign aid won't lead to victory.

“We never win, and we don’t fight to win,” President Trump said this week, unveiling a budget that would boost defense spending by double-digits while cutting the State Department by 37 percent.

But those leading America’s military effort have never been more vocal about the need for development dollars and the indispensability of diplomatic efforts working in tandem with kinetic ones.

Take the new plan to to bring the fight to ISIS, delivered to the president this week. “This plan is a political-military plan; it is not a military plan,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “In the development of the plan, we have been completely engaged at every level with the State Department…Not only will it be a whole-of-government approach,” Dunford said, it’s “about a trans-regional threat.”

“Winning” cannot be simply about the military campaign. It is also about the “and then what?” It is about a solid answer to the question of to whom the military should hand off its stability responsibilities once the fight ends. Right now, the military’s leaders seem to be alone in asking the crucial question of what comes next…

WWII made George Patton a hero, but the ‘Great War’ made him a commander

By Michael E. Ruane

The diary and 1918 scrapbook of General George S. Patton are part of an exhibit at the Library of Congress to mark the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I on April 6, 1917. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post) 

Army officer George S. Patton Jr. was pinned down by German machine gun fire. His tanks were scattered, and many of his men had been hit. Armed only with his revolver, he was afraid to go forward, but knew he couldn’t go back. 

Trembling, and fighting the urge to run, he looked up and seemed to see his warrior ancestors watching from the clouds. Suddenly calm, he realized he was about to give his life, like his Patton kin in the Civil War. 

He rose, made for the enemy lines and was felled by a machine gun bullet. 

It was Sept. 26, 1918. And the future World War II hero was then a 32-year-old lieutenant colonel, his fame and notoriety years ahead. Yet it was that fall, near the end of World War I, in northeastern France, that scholars say the combat legend of George Patton was born. 

Next month, the Library of Congress will open a major exhibit on World War I that touches on the role the war played in the life of Patton, who is best known as a brilliant but controversial general in the Second World War. 

“It is surprising,” said Sahr Conway-Lanz, a manuscript historian at the library. “Most people think of George Patton as a figure of World War II and don’t remember that (he) also fought in World War I.” 

“This is where he gets his first experience . . . commanding tanks, which is what he’s known for in World War II,” he said. 

Still Fighting, and Dying, in the Forever War


In November 2016, Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton became the first member of the United States military to die in the continuing conflict in Syria. Chief Dayton was killed by an improvised bomb in the northern part of the country, during a raid against the Islamic State. He was an explosive ordnance disposal technician, a member of the elite bomb squad, as was I, and everyone called him Scotty. He left behind a wife and two children. He was 42 years old.

Forty-two. Scotty served 24 years, most of them at war, and he did it by choice. In the days after his death, I spoke to a number of his friends and fellow E.O.D. technicians to ask why he made that choice, to go back after already completing at least five tours in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. They all gave basically the same answer, and if you are as war-weary as I am, you may be surprised to hear it: Scotty wanted to go to Syria, they told me, to finish the long fight, to do his part until the job was done.

The longest conflict in American history — from Afghanistan to Iraq, to high-value target missions throughout Africa and the Middle East — has resulted in the nation’s first sustained use of the all-volunteer military, wounding and killing more and more service members who resemble Scotty: parents, spouses, career men and women. When compared with casualties of the Vietnam War, the average age of our dead in this conflict, and the proportion who are married, have both risen 20 percent. And that trend is accelerating as the burden of the fight shifts more and more to older, highly trained counterterrorism forces. As The Times reported recently, of the 18 service members lost in combat since 2016, 12 were Special Operations troops like Scotty.

What If Intelligence Agencies Can’t Secure Their Own Hacking Tools?


The Wikileaks dump makes it harder to argue that concealing vulnerabilities keeps us safer. 

It’s a cliche of political scandals that “the coverup is worse than the crime”: Attempts to conceal misconduct, because they’re easier to prove and provide otherwise elusive evidence of a guilty mind, often end up being more politically damaging than the underlying misconduct would have been. In the case of the latest Wikileaks document dump, the first in a planned series from a cache the site has dubbed “Vault 7,” we have an apparent reversal of the formula: The un-coverup—the fact of the leak itself—is probably more significant than the substance of what has thus far been revealed.

There are, of course, some points of real interest in the archive of documents, mostly concerning an array of hacking tools and software exploits developed or used by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Engineering Development Group—and it’s likely more will emerge as reporters and analysts churn through more than 8,000 files and documents. We’ve confirmed that the CIA has hung onto and exploited at least a handful of undisclosed “zero day” vulnerabilities in widely-used software platforms, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the operating systems on which nearly all modern smartphones run.


By Joseph Marks

WikiLeaks’ massive release of CIA cyber exploits this week produced more questions than answers about the government’s shadowy procedure for hoarding damaging digital vulnerabilities that remain unknown even to a system's manufacturer.

These bugs—called zero days because industry has had zero days to create and promulgate a software patch—can be goldmines for U.S. intelligence agencies looking to sneak undetected into the computers, phones and other electronic devices of terrorists and officials of adversary nation-states.

These glitches can be extremely dangerous, however, if those same terrorists or other nations’ intelligence agencies discover them independently and use them to spy on Americans. If discovered by cyber criminals, they might also be used to steal money or information from American citizens or U.S. companies.

How Many Zero Days Does the Government Have?

Data-theft entrepreneurs, a new breed of cybercriminals

Puru Naidu

Information leaks during the 2016 US elections increased the market value of stolen information, giving rise to data-theft entrepreneurs. Is our national security capabilities up to par?

The year 2016 saw major information leaks that drastically influenced the world and our information security outlook.

I bet you just flashed back to Clinton’s email leaks and Trump’s “grabbing by the…” remark.

Justifiably so, the US elections were scandalous in that both sides were leaking dirt about the other along with Russian interference, but those weren’t the only ones. Yahoo, LinkedIn, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Oracle, and Verizon also experienced major information leaks last year.

For instance, a hacker supposedly working for a nation-state stole information on 500 million Yahoo accounts. In another instance, a hacker attempted to sell 167 million LinkedIn accounts’ information on the dark web.

These breaches and leaks have colossal implications towards the security industry and political systems. Information breaches have mostly been for financial gain, and some for public shaming of corporations by hacktivists.

Government report warns China and Russia dangerously ahead of U.S. in cyberwar capabilities

Martin Anderson

The recently published final report from the United States’ government Defense Science Board Task Force on Cyber Deterrence paints a grim picture that is very much in line with casual perceptions from news over the last 18 months – that Russia and China have obtained, and are maintaining, a significant lead in capabilities for critical cyber attacks against the west.

The report states that foreign cyberweapons capabilities ‘far exceed’ the United States’ ability to defend its own critical civil and military infrastructure.

‘[Major] powers (e.g., Russia and China) have a significant and growing ability to hold U.S. critical infrastructure at risk via cyber attack, and an increasing potential to also use cyber to thwart U.S. military responses to any such attacks. This emerging situation threatens to place the United States in an untenable strategic position. Although progress is being made to reduce the pervasive cyber vulnerabilities of U.S. critical infrastructure, the unfortunate reality is that, for at least the next decade, the offensive cyber capabilities of our most capable adversaries are likely to far exceed the United States’ ability to defend key critical infrastructures.’

Next WikiLeaks worry: the release of the code

Elizabeth Weise and Jon Sw

SAN FRANCISCO — The computer security world is bracing for the next bombshell from the massive Wikileaks document leak: disclosure of the actual computer code for the CIA's alleged cyberweapons.

On Tuesday, the website WikiLeaks published more than 8,000 of what it said were official documents detailing CIA tools for hacking into the software and systems of popular consumer technology, from Windows to iPhones to Android devices. The cyberweapons, the documents suggested, could even turn Samsung smart TVs into eavesdropping spies.

But the crusading site didn't release the code, saying it was postponing release “until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the C.I.A.’s program" and how the cyberweapons could be disarmed.

Simply the existence of such tools, while not surprising to many in the security field, was enough to raise privacy hackles. Enticed by convenience, consumers are increasingly keeping Internet-connected super computers in their pockets, on their dressers and in their cars. These not only know their users' plans, tastes and locations, but also frequently are "listening" for a prompt.

WikiLeaks disclosure exposes rapid growth of CIA digital operations — and agency vulnerabilities

By Greg MillerEllen Nakashima and Julie Tate

On his workplace bio, he describes himself as a “malt beverage enthusiast,” a fitness buff fond of carrying a backpack full of bricks, and a “recovering World of Warcraft-aholic.” 

He is also a cyberwarrior for the CIA, an experienced hacker whose résumé lists assignments at clandestine branches devoted to finding vulnerabilities in smartphones and penetrating the computer defenses of the Russian government. At the moment, according to his file, he is working for the Center for Cyber Intelligence Europe, a major hacking hub engaged in electronic espionage across that continent and others. 

The hacker — whose background appears in the thousands of CIA documents posted online Tuesday by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks — is part of a digital operation that has grown so rapidly in size and influence in recent years that it ranks alongside spying and analysis divisions that were created at the same time as the CIA decades ago. 

One from the Vault 7: Wikileaks and the CIA’s Hacking Arsenal

By Julian Sanchez

It’s a cliche of political scandals that “the coverup is worse than the crime”: Attempts to conceal misconduct, because they’re easier to prove and provide otherwise elusive evidence of a guilty mind, often end up being more politically damaging than the underlying misconduct would have been. In the case of the latest Wikileaks document dump, the first in a planned series from a cache the site has dubbed “Vault 7,” we have an apparent reversal of the formula: The un-coverup—the fact of the leak itself—is probably more significant than the substance of what has thus far been revealed.

There are, of course, some points of real interest in the archive of documents, mostly concerning an array of hacking tools and software exploits developed or used by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Engineering Development Group—and it’s likely more will emerge as reporters and analysts churn through more than 8,000 files and documents. We’ve confirmed that the CIA has hung onto and exploited at least a handful of undisclosed “zero day” vulnerabilities in widely-used software platforms, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, the operating systems on which nearly all modern smartphones run.