Why Would the US Spy on its Allies? Because Everyone Does

People in Berlin protesting the NSA surveillance program. Image: Digitale Gesellschaft/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 24 June, 2015.

The spotlight must be an uncomfortable position for intelligence organisations that would far prefer to remain in the shadows. But since Edward Snowden fled the United States in the summer of 2013, there has been an almost constant drip-feed of stories concerning the operations of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Yet the most recent scoop – originating from Wikileaks – has shown that we would do well to consider these kinds of “revelations” with a little greater care.

At its heart, the claim that the NSA spied on French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Holland, effectively boils down to: “country A spied on country B”. As a piece of news, this surely sits alongside the Pope’s status as a Catholic. What else would we expect a national intelligence gathering agency to do? The fundamental purpose of such organisations is to seek out national advantage, in whatever field – whether it is political, economic, military, or otherwise. » More

Cuba: Not a Terrorist Threat

Revolutionary propaganda of Camilo Cienfuegos. Image: 819043/Pixabay

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 11 March 2015.

This blog is the first in several leading up to the World Policy Institute Board trip to Cuba in May. The trip seeks to re-open a once highly effective dialogue with Cuban leaders. WPI plans to examine the achievements of 55 years of revolutionary society and explore ways to highlight what the U.S. and Cuba can learn from each other.

As the Obama administration and Cuban negotiators examine the 54-year-old unilateral embargo (or “blockade” as the Cubans refer to it), one obstacle—particularly painful for Cubans and extremely important to American interests—must be addressed: Cuba’s continued presence on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

President Obama directed the State Department to review this designation in December 2014, since Cuba’s removal from that list is entirely justified and long overdue. As a result, when the State Department issues its annual Country Reports on Terrorism on April 30, it is likely to be the first time in 33 years that Cuba is not designated a sponsor. » More

Brazil Doubles Down on Cyber Security

Brazilian flag. Image: bea_marques/Pixabay.

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 20 November, 2014.

Brazil has embraced the digital age with more gusto than most countries. It is one of the top users of social media and recently signed-off on a bill of rights for the Internet, the marco civil. The country is also a leader in the development of online banking with more than 43% of web users engaging such services, and can be proud of a thriving software industry, including some world beating companies.

But as computer users around the world are beginning to grasp, the spread of the digital world has its downsides. Alongside all the great things the Internet offers, not least new forms of political and economic empowerment, it brings some very serious threats. » More

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Handling Cyber Incidents & Cyber Crises: Terminology, Perspective and Attribution

The NASA Supercomputer “Discover”. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight/Flickr

Cyber incidents are a bit like a bar brawl – you might have a pretty good idea who started it, but you will never be absolutely sure”.

When it comes to managing contemporary cyber incidents and crises, the above statement couldn’t be more accurate. National cybersecurity strategies and international regimes are not only becoming increasingly common, they’re also proving difficult to implement and enforce. In this respect, some of the most pressing concerns are associated with key cybersecurity aspects like ‘terminology’, ‘perspective’ and ‘attribution’. » More

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‘Cybersecurity’ and Why Definitions Are Risky

Computer screen. Image: hackNY.org/Flickr

On November 7, the Swiss Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held a conference in Vienna  on confidence-building measures for cybersecurity. The event built on several positive international developments last year, including a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Russia and the member states of the OSCE to adopt “an initial set of OSCE Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to Reduce the Risks of Conflict Stemming from the Use of Information and Communication Technologies.” Last week’s conference sought to promote the implementation of the latter and further negotiations. This includes a recent study commissioned by the Swiss Government, and available at the Global Cyber Definitions Database, which offers a compilation of existing cybersecurity-related terms in order to shed light on these differences. » More

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