The CSS Blog Network

NORAD’s Evolving Role in North American Homeland Defense

NORAD Command Center at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. Image: U.S Air Force/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 13 February, 2015.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has long been a function of the North American security environment.  Initially established during the Cold War, NORAD was intended to fulfill a homeland defense role by looking outwardly to identify and interdict threats approaching Canada and the United States. In the post-9/11 period, NORAD’s focus has evolved and the institution has shifted from looking outwardly to include participation in homeland security operations taking place within the United States and Canada.  NORAD’s participation in North American homeland security operations has resulted in the redefinition of the institution’s role in defense and security operations.  In recent years, NORAD has provided airborne security at major sporting events, government conventions, and other large public gatherings.  This homeland security support role has been buttressed by the institution’s appropriation of popular cultural icons, such as Santa Claus and Superman.  These examples are symbolic of a broader shift away from strategic defense, towards a public relations’ role.  In the post-9/11 period, NORAD’s primary function has been to affirm U.S. dominance over North American skies, and to convey to the public audience that the potential for future terrorist attacks remains a threat to domestic security. » More

Signing Up for Peer Review Will Test Both Obiang and the AU

17th Ordinary AU Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Photo: Embassy of Equatorial Guinea/flickr.

When Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo stepped up to the podium at the African Union (AU) this week to sign up to the AU’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), it was not clear whether this was a high point or a low point for the initiative.

Was it a great triumph for the 11-year-long effort by the APRM to reform the political, economic and social governance of Africa that it had managed to entice one of the continent’s most notorious autocrats into its democratic embrace? After all, when the APRM was launched in 2003, it was strongly criticised for being a voluntary mechanism that would leave the least democratic African leaders untouched. And yet, here was one of them joining.

Or was Obiang’s signing onto APRM a Groucho Marx moment instead: as one journalist quipped, a case of ‘who would want to join any organisation that would have Obiang as a member?’ » More

Myanmar: Monitoring the Elections Through Facebook

Election campaign by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Image by Demo Waiyan/Facebook.

Myanmar has been implementing a lot of reforms in the past years which included the release from prison of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the suspension of a controversial dam project and the unprecedented release of hundreds of political prisoners. And now, it’s time for by-elections.

Two major parties, namely National League for Democracy (NLD), which is led by Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) dominated by former military generals are competing for all 45 places in parliament while some other parties such as The Democratic Party, New National Democracy Party (NDP), National Unity Party (NUP) and so on are competing for fewer places.

Myanmar Facebook users are overwhelmed with different news regarding the election which is coincidentally on April Fools’ Day. » More

Liveblogging the ISF

Kris Wheaton is an assistant professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania and is attending the 8th International Security Forum going on now in Geneva.

Mr Wheaton is also a prolific writer, posting his thoughts and tips on intelligence and international security at his blog, Sources and Methods. He has kindly allowed us to crosspost his liveblog entries from the ISF.


Kris Wheaton / photo: Sources and Methods

Kris Wheaton / photo: Sources and Methods

All this week I am in Geneva, Switzerland attending the International Security Forum (ISF). The ISF is a biennial conference designed to discuss “ways to increase communication and cooperation between institutions engaged in research related to international security worldwide.

The conference this year has a strong (for me, at least) intel orientation. The theme is “Coping With Global Change” and the whole first day will be dedicated to the question: which new challenges are looming over the horizon? (Uhhh…that’s our job, isn’t it?)

The conference has a really interesting line-up of speakers and panels. For example, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martti Ahtisaari, and Deputy Director for Energy and Environmental Security in the Office of Intelligence and Counterintel at the Department of Energy, Carol Dumaine, will make two of the keynote speeches.

I am here as a guest of the wonderful people at The International Relations and Security Network (ISN) and The Center For Security Studies CSS, two of the many sponsors of the forum. My own modest contribution to the event is a short presentation on “Open Sources And The Death Of The Intelligence Cycle” (Yes, you read that right — death. And if it is not dead yet, by the end of my presentation, people are going to want to kill it…).

I am going to lug my computer around with me and see if I can do a bit of live-blogging. I will probably not be able to cover most of the panels as Chatham House Rules are in effect but, as with all good European conferences, there are lengthy coffee and lunch breaks and I may be able to corner a few people and capture their insights for you.

As always when I cover these type events, if you look at the schedule and see something or someone interesting, drop me a note or post a comment and I will try to sit in on the presentation or get a few words with the speaker, at least.