Categories
Security Internet Defense

Review – Cybersecurity and Cyberwar

National Security Agency headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland
National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Photo: National Security Agency/Wikimedia Commons.

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know
By: P. W. Singer and Allan Friedman
New York: Oxford University Press, 2014

The year 2013 saw a number of headline news stories featuring a variety of different actors and sectors, but all with their roots in the same place: the cyber world. Edward Snowden disclosed a series of classified NSA documents detailing the United States’ global surveillance apparatus, including Internet surveillance programs like PRISM. The US federal government launched the website healthcare.gov to facilitate enrollment in health care exchanges, and an acting assistant secretary of Homeland Security testified before congress in November that the site experienced a series of attempted hacks. Conspirators who hacked into the systems of Nasdaq, Visa, and J.C. Penney and other major companies were subsequently charged in relation to a $45 million bank heist that involved stolen account information. A group supporting Syria’s Assad regime hacked the Associated Press’ Twitter account, tweeting (falsely) that President Obama had been injured in White House explosions. And a report released by the US government reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army had carried out cyber attacks on US corporations.

Categories
Foreign policy Human Rights

Will Iran’s New Support of Human Rights Go Deeper Than Rhetoric?

Weekly vigil in Trafalgar Square against human rights violations and political executions in Iran.
Weekly vigil in Trafalgar Square against human rights violations and political executions in Iran. Photo: helen.2006/flickr.

It is no secret that Iran has an image problem in the international arena. As part of a comprehensive campaign to regain credibility and improve its reputation on the world stage, the country is adopting a new approach to diplomacy that seems to extend well beyond the nuclear dossier. But President Rouhani’s attempts to remake the country’s foreign policy since his election last June have met with much suspicion, as many outside Iran fear that this leopard can’t change its spots.

Delegates in the UN General Assembly have been noticing a turnaround in the way that the country’s representatives engage with social, humanitarian, and human rights issues. In October, observers were taken aback by the palpable softening of Iran’s tone1 in the delegate’s reaction to the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. In its statement, the Iranian representative to the Third Committee sounded conciliatory as she declared that “Iran emphasizes the need to use the momentum engendered by this election [of President Rouhani] to adopt a new and constructive approach by all relevant parties towards cooperation and dialogue for the promotion and protection of all human rights” adding that the “government does not claim that the situation of human rights within the country is perfect.”

Categories
International Relations Conflict

Interview – James Fearon

Azaz, Syria during the Syrian Civil War
Azaz, Syria during the Syrian Civil War. Photo: Voice of America News: Scott Bob/Wikimedia Commons.

James D. Fearon is Geballe Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow in Stanford’s Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a program member of the Institutions, Organizations, and Growth group of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  Fearon’s research has focused on the causes and correlates of interstate war, civil war, and ethnic conflict.  He has also published on positive theories of democracy, the problem of intervention in “failed” states, and on how states signal intentions in militarized interstate disputes.

In this interview, Professor Fearon discusses responses to the civil war in Syria and offers his thoughts on the passing of Ken Waltz and the academic study of civil wars.

Kenneth Waltz sadly passed away recently. What impact did Prof. Waltz’s writings and teaching have on your intellectual development?

I hadn’t majored in Political Science as an undergraduate, and was pretty clueless about the field when I started as a grad student at Berkeley.  There were a couple of things I read in my first year that essentially decided my path of study, and Waltz’s Theory of International Politics was one of them.  I found his writing and style of thinking really compelling.

Categories
Elections Conflict CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: The Local Elections in Kosovo

Kosovo flag
Flag of Kosovo. Source: Cradel/Wikimedia Commons.

The local elections that took place in Kosovo towards the end of 2013 were celebrated by the international community as a historic event and a turning point in the conflict over the status of the former Yugoslav province. They were also hailed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a milestone for the normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo and a clear sign that the Serb-dominated north of the disputed territory was finally prepared to become part of the Kosovar political system. Alongside the encouragement of ethnic Serbs to participate in the elections, Belgrade also committed to abolish its parallel political institutions. In return, Serb majority municipalities were granted the right to create a community with autonomy in areas such as economic development, health, education, urban and rural planning. Such initiatives helped to allay fears that the Serb minority would be dominated by an overwhelming Albanian majority.

Less than perfect conditions

However, the elections were far from being smooth, especially in the northern part of Kosovo. Voter turnout in Serb dominated municipalities was low and hovered between 15% and 20% of the electorate. The first round of elections had to be repeated in three polling stations after they were stormed by masked men. In the second round, ballots were transported to Kosovo Polje for no obvious reason instead of being counted at the polling station. In all rounds, employees of Serbian state-run enterprises were practically “ordered” to the polls. Whereas these circumstances would have warranted a critical assessment elsewhere, there seemed to be no appetite to engage in a prolonged discussion about the legitimacy of the elections – as long as they produced a result that everybody could live with.

Categories
Government Terrorism

Banks, Authorities, and CTF: A Missed Opportunity and Security Weakness

Wallet and Credit Cards
Photo: United States Navy/Wikimedia Commons.

A recent ISN blog by Owen Frazer highlighted the implications of the post-9/11 ‘Financial War on Terror’ for civil society groups as they grapple with the vulnerability global authorities believe they represent in the struggle against terrorism. But there is a third, critical party in this field that is not often contemplated from a security perspective, namely the Financial Services Industry (‘FSI’).

Following 9/11, the first step of the Bush administration’s ‘War on Terror’ was to sign Executive Order 13224, which aimed to launch ‘a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network’ in order to ‘starve the terrorists of funding.’ This assault was led by the Financial Action Task Force (‘FATF’), a body originally set up in 1989 to co-ordinate a global response to the laundering of drug money through the banking system. Adding counter-terrorist financing (CTF) to the mandate of the FATF seemed logical at the time, and the Task Force expanded its original 40 Recommendations to include 9 Special Recommendations focused on CTF.  These additional recommendations were recently revised and amalgamated to create a new set of 40 Special Recommendations. In effect, this regime has led global authorities to delegate the frontline implementation of CTF policies to the FSI.