The secretive battle for Sochi
February 5th, 2014
08:13 AM ET

The secretive battle for Sochi

By Brian Michael Jenkins, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Brian Michael Jenkins is senior adviser to the RAND president and the author of Al Qaeda in Its Third Decade: Irreversible Decline or Imminent Victory? The views expressed are his own.

The investment Russia has made in security to protect athletes and spectators at the Winter Olympics in Sochi is unprecedented – but so is the threat.

Doku Umarov, the leader of a shadowy group responsible for a number of recent terrorist bombings in Russia, has vowed to attack the Olympics – no holds barred. He has described the games as a “satanic dance on the bones of our ancestors.” Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is staking a vast amount of political capital on a successful Olympics, has vowed to surround Sochi with a protective “ring of steel.”

Behind the public terrorist threats and visible security measures, though, lies a secretive contest that pits Russian counterterrorism strategists against a determined terrorist foe. The world can only guess at what capabilities or plans the terrorists may already have in place. Equally invisible are the dark strategizing and intelligence efforts of Russian counterterrorism authorities, who already may have penetrated terrorist plots.

With just days until the lighting of the Olympic flame, Russian authorities have vowed to make the Sochi Games the most secure ever. They have established a wide perimeter around the city and the venues, manned by an overwhelming force of tens of thousands of police and military. Vehicles from outside Sochi are banned. Police are going door to door searching for terrorist suspects. For the first time in Olympic history, spectators are being vetted and credentialed. Equally important, though less visible, is the intelligence gathering and analysis, the plots uncovered and arrests made. This is where Sochi security will rise or fall.

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Topics: Russia • Security • Sports • Terrorism
Why we should keep out of Somalia’s affairs
August 2nd, 2013
11:46 AM ET

Why we should keep out of Somalia’s affairs

By Michael Shank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Shank is director of foreign Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an advocacy group based in Washington, DC. The views expressed are his own.

Last weekend, in response to a deadly attack on the Turkish embassy in Somalia that killed three and wounded nine, the U.S. government responded by saying that, “this cowardly act will not shake our commitment to continue working for the brighter, more democratic and prosperous future the people of Somalia deserve.”

The statement followed not one bombing in Somalia, but two. This past Saturday’s bombing was the second in under a week; a few days prior, a bomb blew up in a lawmaker’s car, killing one.

But while such a positive American response is assuredly better than The Economist’s this summer, which described Somalia as “a byword for conflict, poverty and ungovernability,” it is still riddled with problems. Indeed, ironically, it is exactly this kind of U.S. government-issued statement that fuels the sort of resentment that ultimately leads to more bombings. The U.S. State Department, and the Defense Department for that matter, have never been in the business of working effectively for a brighter, more democratic and prosperous future for the people of Somalia. Their legacy heralds quite the opposite, in fact.

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Topics: Africa • Security • Somalia • United States
July 15th, 2013
10:18 AM ET

How the NSA scandal hurts the economy

By Arvind Ganesan, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Arvind Ganesan is director of business and human rights at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are his own.

The National Security Agency surveillance scandal has been devastating to the U.S. government’s credibility as an advocate for Internet freedom. But the impact on U.S. technology companies and a fragile American economy may be even greater.

Every new revelation suggests far more surveillance than imagined and more involvement by telephone and Internet companies, with much still unknown. One of the most troubling aspects of this spying is that foreign nationals abroad have no privacy rights under U.S. law. Foreigners using the services of global companies are fair game. (There is also a certain irony to the revelations, considering that some European governments such as Germany and the Netherlands are strong U.S. allies on Internet freedom but may simultaneously be targets of U.S. surveillance online.)

A July 1 report by Der Spiegel on the NSA spying on European officials infuriated governments a week before negotiations started on a massive U.S.-European Union trade agreement that could be worth almost $272 billion for their economies and 2 million new jobs. Officials throughout Europe, most notably French President Francois Hollande, said that NSA spying threatens trade talks.

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Topics: Economy • Europe • Security • United States
Why we should be watching the Gulf of Guinea
March 5th, 2013
10:00 AM ET

Why we should be watching the Gulf of Guinea

By Dawit Giorgis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Dawit Giorgis is a visiting fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

As Washington has assessed the implications of Iranian threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most critical energy chokepoint, a crisis has loomed in another critical maritime energy corridor: the Gulf of Guinea.

The strategic importance of West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea – the stretch of coastline spanning from Gabon to Liberia that includes 15 states which have huge economic importance to the United States and the West – is hard to overstate. For one, the U.S. is expected to import a quarter of its oil from the Gulf of Guinea nations by 2015. Indeed, 70 percent of Africa’s oil production comes from the Gulf of Guinea. And with the recent discovery of offshore hydrocarbon deposits, these numbers are only going to rise.

And yet this crucial naval passage has witnessed an alarming spike in piracy and maritime crime in recent years that rivals the Horn of Africa. Last year, the International Maritime Bureau attributed only 75 attacks to pirates operating in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, down from 237 in 2011. In the Gulf of Guinea, in contrast, piracy is on the rise, with 58 incidents recorded in 2012. The IMB has raised the alarm that the Gulf will overtake the Horn of Africa as the world’s top piracy hotspot.

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Topics: Africa • Security
Changing Middle East looks depressingly like what it replaces
November 21st, 2012
12:49 PM ET

Changing Middle East looks depressingly like what it replaces

By Danielle Pletka, Special to CNN

Danielle Pletka is the vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are her own.

This small war between Hamas and Israel will pass. The just announced ceasefire may be sustained. Or Israel may move from aerial bombardment to a ground incursion, which will deter Hamas from relighting the fuse for some time. But not forever, because Hamas exists only to fight with Israel. It has no other purpose. Those who counter that Hamas governs need only look at Gaza to understand that governance is far from Hamas’ aims or abilities. Will this late 2012 battle end differently for the Palestinians? Advance a two state solution? Heal the ills of the Palestinians? Allow Israel to live in peace and security? No.

Another question:  Will the realignment of the Middle East to an order more congenial to Hamas matter? Clearly, Hamas believed that with its Muslim Brotherhood brethren at the helm in Egypt and the new spiritual leader of the region’s Sunni Islamists at the helm in Turkey, this adventure would end differently. Of course, Hamas’ hope was not to destroy the state of Israel. Rather, it was to gain the upper hand in its endless and fruitless battle against Fatah for the Palestinian political mantle, ideally with the wind of the Arab world’s Islamist revolutions at its back. That won’t happen either. Egypt’s Mohamed Morsy and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan are willing to lend rhetorical support and a few visits to Gaza, but they’re never going to do anything substantial for Palestinians because they neither care enough about actual Palestinian people nor wish to queer their pitch with Europe and the United States.

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Is Obama leak 'scandal' overblown?
President Obama at the G-20 summit in Mexico on Tuesday.
June 20th, 2012
10:40 AM ET

Is Obama leak 'scandal' overblown?

Editor's note: Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is a director at the New America Foundation and the author of the new book, "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden - From 9/11 to Abbottabad."

By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst

On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate a series of recent leaks that critics charge are designed to bolster the national security credentials of the Obama administration. ...

The recent leaks involve stories in The New York Times, Newsweek and the Associated Press that range from the hitherto undisclosed role of the United States in cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear facilities to details about the president's decision-making surrounding the selection of the targets of the CIA drone program in Pakistan and Yemen and the penetration by a spy of al Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate.

Have those leaks, as Romney claimed on Monday, "put American interests and our people in jeopardy"?

Read more from Peter Bergen

Topics: President Obama • Security
February 28th, 2012
02:54 PM ET

Is Iran a "rational actor"? Dempsey explains

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey testified today before the Senate appropriations subcommittee, which is looking into the State Department's current budget request.  Dempsey faced a number of questions related to his interview last week with Fareed Zakaria.

Here's an excerpt of an article about his testimony from CNN's excellent  Security Clearance blog:

....Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to clarify a comment he made about Iran's nuclear ambitions during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee.

In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria earlier this month, Dempsey said the United States should view Iran as a "rational actor" despite Iran's belligerent actions and rhetoric surrounding their nuclear program and ambitions. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, told Dempsey she thought such a remark sends Iran the "wrong signal." FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Military • Security
Should the U.S. sell Turkey weapons to use against the PKK?
An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) takes off from Combat Outpost Ouellette, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Marines )
October 29th, 2011
08:39 PM ET

Should the U.S. sell Turkey weapons to use against the PKK?

CNN’s Security Clearance blog reported yesterday that according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Obama administration may transfer combat helicopters from existing Marine inventory to Turkey.

“The DSCA has formally notified Congress of a possible sale of AH-1W Super Cobra Attack helicopters to Turkey. The notification was required under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. Turkey's ongoing fight against the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, is one of the reasons for the proposed sale a State Department official told CNN.”

This arms sale has led some to ask: Could this come back to haunt the United States, leading the PKK to carry out terrorist attacks against American targets? FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Military • Security • Syria • Turkey • United States
Why a cybersecurity treaty is a pipe dream
October 27th, 2011
02:01 PM ET

Why a cybersecurity treaty is a pipe dream

Editor's Note: Adam Segal is the Ira A. Lipman Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Matthew Waxman, also a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is Associate Professor at Columbia Law School and member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law.

By Adam Segal and Matthew Waxman - Special to CNN

With companies and governments seemingly incapable of defending themselves from sophisticated cyber attacks and infiltration, there is almost universal belief that any durable cybersecurity solution must be transnational. The hacker – a government, a lone individual, a non-state group – stealing valuable intellectual property or exploring infrastructure control systems could be sitting in Romania, China, or Nigeria, and the assault could transit networks across several continents. Calls are therefore growing for a global treaty to help protect against cyber threats.

As a step in that direction, the British government is convening next week the London Conference on Cyberspace to promote new norms of cybersecurity and the free flow of information via digital networks. International diplomacy like this among states and private stakeholders is important and will bring needed attention to these issues. But the London summit is also likely to expose major fault lines, not consensus, on the hardest and most significant problems. The idea of ultimately negotiating a worldwide, comprehensive cybersecurity treaty is a pipe dream. FULL POST

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Topics: Internet • Security
Canada-U.S. border deal sparks worry in north
(Getty Images)
October 13th, 2011
06:03 PM ET

Canada-U.S. border deal sparks worry in north

Editor's Note: The following text is from GlobalPost, which provides excellent coverage of world news – importantmoving and just odd.

By , GlobalPost

The Canadian government will spend $28 million to remind Canadians that their national identity was forged in a largely forgotten war against the United States.

“Without the War of 1812, Canada as we know it would not exist,” Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said Tuesday, while announcing a three-year-long commemoration of the conflict.

“Not enough Canadians know about the importance of the War of 1812. It was the fight for Canada,” Moore told reporters. FULL POST

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Topics: Culture • Security
Imperial overkill
Roads in midtown were closed for President Barack Obama`s motorcade in New York City.
September 21st, 2011
12:00 PM ET

Imperial overkill

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

For anybody who lives in New York, the United Nations General Assembly is a nightmare. It means lots of traffic, snarl-ups, blockades, and policemen stopping people every time the foreign minister of some small country decides he wants to go to some diner for breakfast. But nothing compares with when the President of the United States decides to leave his hotel - or even, for that matter, to stay in his hotel.

I was trying to get to a restaurant two blocks away from where President Obama was staying. I ended up being half an hour late for my meeting because the President was going from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel straight up Park Avenue to a fundraiser. You would think this would be a pretty easy logistical challenge. But, instead, it seemed like half the New York police force had come out. Something like 30 blocks were sealed off. There were at least 100 vehicles involved in the motorcade blockading side streets - all so he could travel 40 blocks uptown. FULL POST

Zakaria: Reflections on 9/11 and its aftermath
September 9th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Zakaria: Reflections on 9/11 and its aftermath

Editor's Note: Tune in this Sunday in the U.S. at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. for a special edition of GPS: "9/11 and the World".  (If you're watching internationally, tune in Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET and Monday 7 a.m. ET.) Fareed will have a one-on-one with former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and an expert panel on how the world has changed - and not - since September 11, 2001.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Those of us who live in New York have our own special memories of 9/11/2001. I was driving down the Long Island Expressway, about to begin a month-long leave from my job at Newsweek to work on a book. Around 9 a.m., I switched from the CD player to the radio to listen to the news. The reports were chaotic but the outlines of what had happened were clear. I turned around and headed back to New York to get to my wife and 1-year-old boy. As I approached the Triborough Bridge I saw huge barricades and dozens of police cars. All bridges and tunnels were closed. Manhattan had been sealed off. Cell phones were useless that morning because 8 million people were trying to use them simultaneously and the result was cellular gridlock.

I turned around and headed to my destination in Long Island, the home of friends where I had been planning to work on the book.  As soon as I got there, I turned on CNN and watched with horror and anger. Finally, I was able to talk to my wife and knew that she and my son were fine. But soon I got a call from one of my dearest friends, my roommate from college. His brother, Chris, worked on one the high floors of the Towers. No one had heard from him. I began calling friends and contacts at the New York Police Department, the FBI, the CIA - anyone who might have any ideas about what I might do to help. I remember looking at the hospital emergency rooms, with beds set up on the streets, waiting for patients to come streaming in. But, of course, they were all empty. No one ever came. Chris was never heard from again. FULL POST

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