Monthly Archives: April 2015

Baltimore: Who is to blame?

Once again, before all the facts were known, an American community was rocked by intense civil disorder in response to an incident, and government reacted in a despicable fashion

One or more police officers may or may not have acted improperly, and if they are found to have violated the law, punishment will and should follow. But what punishment awaits the collection of elected officials and public figures who acted irresponsibly, and the numerous agitators and rioters who attacked the city of Baltimore?

Perhaps the most outrageous example was the supremely incompetent mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who stated that the protesters should be given leave to destroy, and ordered the police to stand down because the harm was only to property, according to a Fox News   report.

Other published news stories  indicate that the Nation of Islam, a racist organization, reportedly brokered a truce between rival crime gangs to put aside their differences and work together to assault police officers in the beleaguered city.

Here are the facts the inane and malicious individuals, including elected officials, so-called community leaders and other public figures, failed to mention in their comments excusing the inexcusable violence of those, including both local individuals as well as professional agitators, who tore Baltimore apart:

The mayor is black. The police chief is black. The president of the city council is black. 48% of the police force is black. If wrong doing was committed, it was the act of individuals, not an act of official racism.  There was no justification for the ensuing rioting, looting, and destruction.

Some leading black figures reacted responsibly and nobly. Dr. Alveda King, niece of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, abhorred the violence. Some members of the Baltimore City Council condemned the riots.

Allen West, a black Republican rumored to be considering a presidential run, has a different take on why Baltimore and cities like it are tinderboxes:

“…I was watching the news reports from Baltimore and hearing all the condemnations from some about being kept down and the lack of jobs, opportunity, good schools — then why do these blacks keep voting for the same people? And this isn’t a phenomenon isolated to Baltimore. Every single major urban center in America is run by Democrats — more specifically, liberal progressives, black or white. The morass that became Detroit. The killing fields of Chicago. The depravity of Washington DC. The shame of South Dallas. And yes, even the place that was once my home, Atlanta — even with all the successful black entertainers…

“Yes, the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit is that Baltimore, and so many other urban areas and inner city communities in America are a reflection of the abject failure of liberal progressive socialist policies as advanced by the Democrat party. The preeminent question is whether or not those in Baltimore and other places will recognize who is truly responsible for their plight. Or will they continue to be manipulated and propagandized by the liberal progressive media and the poverty pimps like the one supposedly heading down from New York City.”

Moscow again intrudes in European waters

In a pattern that remains underreported in the American press, Russian air and sea incursions into European territory continue to mount.

The BBC reports that “Finland’s navy has dropped depth charges in waters near Helsinki as a warning to a suspected submarine. The incident comes amid growing concern in the region over Russia’s military exercises. In October, Sweden launched a hunt for a foreign submarine suspected to have entered waters near Stockholm. Navy operations chief Commodore Olavi Jantunen told Helsingin Sanomat newspaper that the depth charges, dropped at 03:00 on Tuesday (midnight GMT), were meant only as a warning. Finland has become increasingly worried about the military exercises of neighbouring Russia. The two countries share a 1,300km (800 mile) border.”

The incident comes fairly close in time to a similar incident in which a Russian submarine was believed to patrolling near Sweden.

In a recent statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during his visit to Helsinki  that, although Finland is not a NATO member, the alliance “is determined to strengthen its partnership with Finland to better address security challenges to the east and south.”

A NATO release concerning a March visit to Finland stressed noted that “Secretary General and Finland’s Prime Minister Stubb expressed their concern about the situation in Ukraine, caused by Russia’s aggressive actions. Mr. Stoltenberg said: ‘we now see a different Russia.’ He stressed that NATO strived for a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia for many years, and continues to do so, but ‘Russia has to respect its neighbours and the borders of its neighbours.’

“The Secretary General called for full implementation of the Minsk agreement, including a withdrawal of heavy weaponry, full access for OSCE monitors, and a halt to Russian support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.  He warned that any attempt to expand separatist-held territory would be ‘unacceptable to the international community.’

“The Secretary General also discussed strenghtening NATO’s partnership with Finland in discussion with Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, Defence Minister Carl Haglund, Speaker of the Parliament Eero Heinäluoma and other leading members of Parliament.”

In March, Russia staged military maneuvers involving 80,000 troops and 200 aircraft, an exercise some believe to be a response to the delivery of U.S. equipment to the Baltic states in response to Moscow’s threatening actions.

Inexplicably, President Obama withdrew all American tanks from Europe in 2014.  Requests for an explanation sent to the White House by the New York Analysis of Policy & Government have yielded no information.  Some were moved back in response to Moscow’s threatening actions.

Giving victory a chance in the War on Terror

Think about this alternative history idea for a few moments: following years of war, President Roosevelt surveys the dramatically high casualty count of the D-Day invasion on the Normandy beaches in France and decides to focus on repairing U.S. relations with the Germany. He apologizes for any insults America may have made to the German people. He expresses willingness, however, to work with allies on ongoing military efforts, but declines to have the U.S. take a leadership role. He subsequently slashes the U.S. defense budget.

The Obama Administration’s premature withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, its announcement of a departure date from Afghanistan, its failure to respond to the Benghazi assault, its lack of effective action against ISIS, the release of key personnel from Guantanamo Bay, and its support of Muslim Brotherhood movements throughout the Middle East has reinvigorated and strengthened the terrorist movement. It has combined those actions with significant tactical errors, such as deposing the Gaddafi regime in Libya which provided al Qaeda with a significant advantage in that nation.

The central concept behind the White House strategy is that victory in this conflict is unattainable, or too costly.  There may also be a perception that the idea of winning is offensive to the larger Islamic population.  In a speech at the National Defense University in 2013, President Obama stated that “Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror.”

Mr. Obama has subsequently issued delusional statements.  In his 2015 State of the Union address, while ISIS was rampaging through Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram was advancing in Africa, the Taliban was gaining strength in Afghanistan, and extremist rebels were attacking the government of Yemen, he alleged that “the shadow of the crisis of terrorism has passed.”  There were and are no facts whatsoever to support his comment.

Clearly, the public has grown far less confident about America’s strategy. In a Rasmussen poll conducted earlier this month http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/mood_of_america/war_on_terror_update

“The number of voters who believe terrorists are winning the fight against the United States and its allies continues to grow, while views of Muslims in general and U.S. relations with the Islamic world have worsened. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 29% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That’s down from the 33% measured in March, but still above findings for most of last year. But now 39% think the terrorists are winning the war, up from 33% in the previous survey and the highest level of pessimism since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The Center for Security Policy https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/ recently assembled a team of military, diplomatic, and national security experts to analyze the challenges imposed by terrorism.  According to their report, the fight can be successful if multi-faceted tactics similar to those employed by the Reagan Administration against the Soviet Union are employed.  The strategies include:

  1. Strengthening the U.S. military. The diminished state of America’s armed forces has  emboldened both terrorists and adversarial states, including Iran, to engage in hostile behavior.
  2. Counter-ideological warfare. The concept of freedom was a powerful weapon in toppling the USSR’s leadership.  The U.S. must again use the concept to convince Muslims that the radical leaders who seek to subject both fellow believers and others into submission to their extremist views is an unhealthy path.
  3. Extensive use of intelligence operations, cyber warfare, psychological endeavors, and clandestine and special operations should be employed against terrorists.
  4. Economic warfighting. The use of a central/financial component to stigmatize Shariah adherents.
  5. Confronting pre-violent jihadist. Muslim Brotherhood operations that seek to legitimize extremist views must be countered.

The concept of actually winning the war against terrorism seems strange to  a certain wing  of political leaders, just as the idea that the Soviet Union could actually be toppled seemed odd to, generally, the same ideological group. Without a sense that victory is attainable, however, the chances of ending the threat may not come about.

Unlawful voting by illegal immigrants poses threats to U.S. electoral integrity

State officials are raising an alarm about the potential for noncitizen, unlawful voting to substantially affect upcoming elections.  This is a major issue when considering the significant numbers of illegals entering and remaining in the United States, particularly during the tenure of the Obama Administration

An example is Ohio’s Secretary of State, Jon Husted.  In a letter  to the White House, Husted noted:

“   I write regarding the consequences the recent Immigration Accountability Executive Actions may have on the administration of federal and state elections. Consistent with federal and state law, states are responsible for ensuring the integrity of our elections. As a swing state with access to voting that is already expansive, Ohio takes this responsibility very seriously. In spite of our diligence maintaining accurate voter registration rolls, however, the recent executive actions could jeopardize their integrity by making it much easier for people who are not U.S. citizens to illegally register and cast ballots. As the chief elections official for the state of Ohio, I simply cannot allow this expanding loophole to go unaddressed.

“The source of the problem is that the recent executive actions enable millions of non-U.S. citizens to obtain valid Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses. Under federal law, any person with a valid Social Security number or driver’s license can register to vote, so long as they attest to their eligibility to do so.1 As a result, the recent executive actions dramatically expand the opportunities for illegal voter registrations in Ohio and other states by non-citizen voters who have valid forms of identification and who willingly or negligently affirm their eligibility to vote. This problem is especially serious in the context of third-party voter registration drives, which are prevalent in Ohio and other states. Such drives occur outside of the presence of election officials who could explain that citizenship—not mere lawful presence—is a fundamental requirement for registering to vote and who can caution non-citizens against erroneous attestations.

“In short, by enabling millions of non-citizens to access valid forms of the types of identification required to register to vote, the recent executive actions have increased the risk that non-citizens may illegally register to vote and vote in our elections…

“Voter confidence is paramount in all states, but magnified in swing states where our democratic system is put under the national and world microscope. If the recent executive actions remain in force, it is imperative that state elections officials be given real-time access to accurate, searchable, electronic databases of non-citizens who have valid Social Security numbers in order to distinguish between citizens and lawfully-present non-citizens…”

The Federal government under President Obama has not responded to states concerns about unlawful voting, particularly in relation to unlawful aliens. In a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Kris Kobach, Kansas’s Secretary of States, challenges the U.S. Election Assistance Commission refusal to deferto the states’ determination that provision of documentary evidence of citizenship is necessary to enforce the states’ voter qualifications.

The True the Vote organization has filed an amicus brief in the case.  According to the brief:

“In 2004, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, which addresses the serious problem of noncitizen registration and voting by requiring applicants to provide documentary evidence of citizenship in order to register and vote in federal and state elections. A.R.S. § 16-166(F). Similarly, in 2011, the Kansas Legislature passed the ‘Secure and Fair Elections Act,’ which, inter alia, provides that an applicant must provide satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship in order to register to vote. At the suggestion of this Court in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council of Ariz., Inc., 133 S.Ct. 2247 (2013) (‘ITCA’), Arizona and Kansas (hereinafter, ‘the States’) requested that the Election Assistance Commission (‘EAC’) modify the state-specific instructions on the Federal voter registration form (hereinafter, ‘the Federal Form’).

“Proceeding under dubious authority in the absence of any commissioner, the Acting Executive Director of the Election Assistance EAC made the determination that the additional instructions were not ‘necessary’ to the States’ assessment of voter eligibility. Appendix to Petitioners’ Petition for Writ of Certiorari … In so doing, the Acting Executive Director found that the States’ evidence of over 200 specific cases of noncitizen voter registration ‘fail[ed] to establish that the registration of noncitizens is a significant problem in either state.”

“Amicus files this brief in support of Petitioners’ petition for writ of certiorari (‘Petition’) for two reasons: (1) the EAC’s determination, reinstated by the Tenth Circuit, constitutes a usurpation of a power guaranteed to the States by the Constitution of the United States and (2) to present clear evidence that the Federal Form has failed to prevent noncitizen registration.

“Amicus files this brief in support of Petitioners’ petition for writ of certiorari (‘Petition’) for two reasons: (1) the EAC’s determination, reinstated by the Tenth Circuit, constitutes a usurpation of a power guaranteed to the States by the Constitution of the United States and (2) to present clear evidence that the Federal Form has failed to prevent noncitizen registration…”

A 2004 study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform  noted:

“There is evidence that noncitizens are being registered and casting votes, but due to the laxity in checking the eligibility of registrants and voters the full extent of the problem is not known. One of the most extensively documented cases of illegal voting was in California in 1996. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat, defeated Republican incumbent Robert Dornan by 984 votes. Dornan called for an investigation of alleged illegal voting by noncitizens. According to Congressional Quarterly…’Task force Chairman [U.S. Representative] Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., said investigators had found concrete evidence of 748 illegal votes by noncitizens…’

“A lack of attention to the phenomenon of noncitizen voting and a failure to impose penalties against those who cast votes fraudulently has rendered laws against such activity meaningless. It is a federal crime to vote illegally. However, in all cases that have been documented of illegal voting in recent years there apparently has never been a prosecution and, therefore, no penalty has been assessed. Some of the cases involved the discovery of illegal voting by aliens during investigation of applicants for U.S. citizenship. Even though illegal voting could have made the alien ineligible for U.S. citizenship, the disqualification was waived. Therefore, the penalty in the law against illegal voting could be likened to a paper tiger.”

Rating the candidates

America faces extraordinary challenges in the coming years. As the presidential campaign season begins, it is essential that the candidates are rated on the issues and their abilities, not on campaign slogans, personality, or party affiliation. The latest NEW YORK ANALYSIS OF POLICY & GOVERNMENT report (below) outlines the issues each candidate should clearly and thoroughly describe their views on.

The Issues Each Presidential Candidate Must Address

The presidential campaign season has begun at a time when America faces extraordinary crises at home and abroad.  Although it is a consistent cliché that the “next election is the most important in a lifetime,” the reality is that this time, it happens to be true.

Due to the gravity of the economic, diplomatic, national security, societal, constitutional and other challenges facing the United States, it is vital that candidates be judged on their comprehension of the problems affecting the nation, proposed solutions, ability to achieve their goals, and the honesty with which they outline all the above. Personal integrity should be examined. At this crucial juncture, voter decisions based on any other criteria, including party loyalty, special interests, personal appearance, personality, race, ethnicity, gender, or campaign slogans are clearly counterproductive.

There will, of course, be debates in both the primary and general elections. Sadly, these affairs have failed to provide genuine opportunities to rate those seeking the nation’s highest office. Inadequate formats, the lack of a sufficient number of direct questions on the issues, and the toleration of evasive answers has sharply limited their usefulness.  Several instances of biased and ill-informed moderators have also resulted in disappointing outcomes.

These are the direct questions each candidate should be able to respond to with thoroughness and accuracy, both in debates and through campaign literature:

 THE ECONOMY

 The U.S. labor participation rate is the lowest in several decades. Long term unemployment remains extremely high. The few jobs that have been created in the past several years have largely been minimum wage positions without substantial benefits. Inner city unemployment rates for minority youth are at Great Depression levels. What will you do to address this?

For many years, the number of business failures has exceeded the number of start-ups. What will you do to reverse this?

American jobs and American companies continue to flee overseas.  What will you do to stop this?

American companies remain at a competitive disadvantage due to international competitors that pay lower corporate tax rates and face a less substantial regulatory regime. What will you do to address this?

American manufacturing has plummeted since the start of the 21st century. What steps will you take to reinvigorate it?

 THE FEDERAL BUDGET

The federal government has taken in record amounts of revenue recently, but continues to run high deficits. What will you do to balance the budget?

The national debt has nearly doubled during the current administration, with nothing substantial to show for all that spending. What will you do differently? What areas will you cut or protect?

What will you do to address the tremendous increase in public assistance programs over the past several years?

What will you do to insure that Social Security remains solvent?

There is widespread dissatisfaction with the Internal Revenue Code. Should the income tax system be changed? If so, in what manner? Are taxes too high?

 INTERNATIONAL ISSUES & NATIONAL SECURITY

Since 2009, the Russian government has invaded a neighbor, committed vast resources to a dramatic conventional and nuclear arms buildup, re-established cold war bases, threatened Europe both militarily and economically, sold nuclear technology and conventional weaponry to Iran, militarized the Arctic, resumed nuclear patrols along American coastlines, and violated arms accords. What will your administration do in response?

China continues its own dramatic arms buildup at a rate greater than that of either the USSR or the USA at the height of the cold war. It has threatened and bullied its neighbors, stolen assets from several of them, and committed significant cyberattacks on American and other civilian, military and corporate targets. It has provided inappropriate assistance to Iran. It continues to engage in human rights violations, and its environmental record is troubling. It continues to engage in intellectual property theft on a massive scale. How will you amend Sino-U.S. relations?

Terrorist forces are more powerful and widespread than ever, controlling more territory and financial resources than at any other point in history. ISIS continues to commit atrocities on a massive scale. Al Qaeda is resurgent and expanding its worldwide influence. What can be done to counter this?

North Korea has developed a powerful nuclear weapons capability and Iran is heading in that direction as well.  How will you deal with this?

America’s national security is at its weakest point since the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  International adversaries have extensively increased their armed forces, and for the first time in history, the U.S. is in an inferior position in nuclear deterrence. The Army is at its lowest strength since before World War 2, the Navy, since World War 1. The Air Force has reached an historic low point. These armed forces face adversaries who are technologically equal or, in some areas, superior to America, and with greater numbers. The U.S. defense industrial base is weakened, and many essential components are purchased overseas. What will you do to keep America safe?

How will you repair damaged relations with allies such as the United Kingdom, Israel, and Poland?

What will you do in response to the growing presence of Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and terrorist military interests in Latin America?

 CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES

Describe your views on the appropriate use of executive authority.

Do you agree with the concept enunciated in the Declaration of Independence that there are “unalienable rights” that the government may not infringe upon? Define your version of those rights.

Regulations enacted not by the legislative process but by bureaucracies play an increasingly large role in the lives of Americans. Do you believe that is appropriate? If not, what will you do to change that?

The 9th & 10th Amendments to the Bill of Rights proclaim that rights and powers not expressly given to the federal government are reserved for the people or the states. Do you believe the federal government has ignored those provisions?

What are your views on the Second Amendment right to bear arms?

Do you believe that the U.S. Constitution can be infringed upon by United Nations treaties, agreements, or other actions?

There have been accusations that various portions of the Executive Branch have been used for partisan purposes. Significant examples include the IRS targeting of the Tea Party, and the refusal of the Justice Department to act on complaints of fraudulent or inaccurate voter registration, as while as balloting improprieties. Charges have been made that the State Department covered up evidence of what actually occurred in Benghazi. What are your views on these issues, and what guarantees of governmental transparency are you willing to make?

THE ENVIRONMENT, ENERGY POLICY, SCIENCE, & EDUCATION

What are your views on the theory of man-made global climate change? Are you willing to listen to both sides of the issue?

Do you believe that the use of coal, nuclear power, or hydrofracking should be curtailed? If so, what energy sources can fully and affordably replace them?

Should federal lands be made available for energy exploitation?

The U.S. has not been capable of putting a human in space since 2011, and NASA’s plans to do so will not remedy this for many years. What will you do to restore America’s manned space capability?

What steps must be taken to insure American preeminence in science?

What are your views on Common Core?

U.S. schools continue to underperform in relation to other industrialized nations, despite spending more per student. What can be done to address this? Is this a federal or state responsibility?

SOCIETAL ISSUES

How will you stem the tide of illegal immigration? How should those illegals, both those here for many years and those recently arrived, be treated?

What can be done to improve race relations within the nation?

Increased prices, lower Social Security cost of living increases, and increased difficulty keeping or finding employment have particularly affected older Americans.  What will you do to address this?

What are your views on the Affordable Health Care Act? Should it be retained as is, amended, or repealed? What alternatives or changes would you seek to implement?

Elected official opts his children out of Common Core

A prominent local elected official has very publicly refused to allow his children to be taught the Common Core curriculum.

Robert Astorino, the county executive of New York State’s Westchester County, based his decision on a number of objections.  In a widely distributed statement, he noted:

“Our kids deserve better than Common Core, an experiment conceived in secrecy with no public hearings or testing. There are no consequences for opting out. The scores will not affect student records. We support higher standards for our kids, but that’s not Common Core, despite what we’ve often been told.

“The standards are of ‘poor quality.’  Those aren’t my words; those are the words of the Math and English Language Arts content experts on the validation committee. But their concerns were expunged from the final record.

Also ignored are experts’ concerns that:

The standards are developmentally inappropriate in the early grades

  • No K-12 teachers were involved in writing the standards
  • High-stakes testing as the sole assessment for both student and teacher performance is both unfair and wrong.”

Previously, A New York Analysis of Policy & Government review report noted:

Concerns over inadequate educational accomplishments led to the bipartisan creation of the Common Core educational program. But the fears of parents and others that Common Core serves as an excuse for Washington to politicize the American public school system have been heightened by recent disclosures that related textual material introduced partisan statements into English lessons.

Further objections have been raised about what some believe are bizarre common core assignments, including one report from Arkansas that sixth-graders were tasked to revise the Bill of Rights by removing two Amendments and adding two new ones. Education Secretary Arne Duncan added fuel to the fire when he described those expressing their dismay as “White suburban mothers.”

A joint study  by the Pioneer Institute, the American Principles Project, the Pacific Research Institute, and Civitas warns:

“By signing on to national standards and the assessments that will accompany them, participating states have ceded their autonomy to design and oversee the implementation of their own standards and tests. The implications of ceding this autonomy are varied. Not only do some states risk sacrificing high quality standards for national standards that may be less rigorous, all states are sacrificing their ability to inform what students learn. Moreover, the act of adopting national standards has and will continue to disrupt legal and other processes upon which states rely to ensure the adequate and equitable delivery of educational materials and resources. Finally and, perhaps, most distressing, the predicted cost to states of implementing the Common Core is in the billions of dollars, a number that only stands to grow if implementation ramps up.”

China hacks into governments, corporations, and journalists

China’s aggressive military actions against its neighbors have been the subject of discussion. Less publicized has been its extensive and hostile cyberespionage actions against those same nations and others. A report  just released by Fireeye, Inc.  analyzes the issue:

“When our Singapore-based Fireeye labs team examined malware aimed predominantly at entities in Southeast Asia and India, we suspected that we were peering into a regionally focused cyber espionage operation. The malware revealed a decade-long operation focused on targets—government and commercial—who hold key political, economic, and military information about the region.

“This group, who we call APT30, stands out not only for their sustained activity and regional focus, but also for their continued success despite maintaining relatively consistent tools, tactics, and infrastructure since at least 2005. In essence, our analysis of APT30 illuminates how a group can persistently compromise entities across an entire region and subcontinent, unabated, with little to no need to significantly change their modus operandi.

“Based on our malware research, we are able to assess how the team behind APT30 works: they prioritize their targets, most likely work in shifts in a collaborative environment, and build malware from a coherent development plan. Their missions focus on acquiring sensitive data from a variety of targets, which possibly include classified government networks and other networks inaccessible from a standard Internet connection. While APT30 is certainly not the only group to build functionality to infect air-gapped networks into their operations, they appear to have made this a consideration at the very beginning of their development efforts in 2005, significantly earlier than many other advanced groups we track. Such a sustained, planned development effort, coupled with the group’s regional targets and mission, lead us to believe that this activity is state sponsored—most likely by the Chinese government.

“APT30 predominantly targets entities that may satisfy governmental intelligence collection requirements. The vast majority of APT30’s victims are in Southeast Asia. Much of their social engineering efforts suggest the group is particularly interested in regional political, military, and economic issues, disputed territories, and media organizations and journalists who report on topics pertaining to China and the government’s legitimacy…

“APT30’s operations epitomize a focused, persistent, and well-resourced threat group. They appear to consider both the timing of their operations and prioritize their targets. Some of the their tools’ capabilities, most notably the ability to infect air gapped networks, suggest both a level of planning and interest in particularly sensitive data, such as that housed on government networks. The group’s method for selecting and tracking victims suggests a high level of coordination and organization among the group’s operators. With activity spanning more than ten years, APT30 is one of the longest operating threat groups that we have encountered and one of the few with a distinct regional targeting preference. Our research into APT30 demonstrates what many already suspected: threat actors rely on cyber capabilities to gather information about their immediate neighborhood, as well as on a larger, global scale. APT30 appears to focus not on stealing businesses’ valuable intellectual property or cutting-edge technologies, but on acquiring sensitive data about the immediate Southeast Asia region, where they pursue targets that pose a potential threat to the influence and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. In exposing APT30, we hope to increase organizations’ awareness of threats and ability to defend themselves. APT30’s targeting interests underscore the need for organizations across the region to defend the information assets valuable to determined threat actors.”

Nations targeted include the United States, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Saudi Aabia, Nepal, Bhutan, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Japan.

It’s not just governments and corporations that are the targets.

“In addition to APT30’s Southeast Asia and India focus, we’ve observed APT30 target journalists reporting on issues traditionally considered to be focal points for the Chinese Communist Party’s sense of legitimacy, such as corruption, the economy, and human rights. In China, the Communist Party has the ultimate authority over the government. China-based threat groups have targeted journalists before; we believe they often do so to get a better understanding on developing stories to anticipate unfavorable coverage and better position themselves to shape public messaging.

“APT30’s attempts to compromise journalists and media outlets could also be used to punish outlets that do not provide favorable coverage – for example, both the New York Times and Bloomberg have had trouble securing visas for journalists in wake of unfavorable corruption reporting. 28 Beyond targeting, we also saw summaries of media events or reporting in decoy documents, particularly around press releases related to government or military updates. It appears that APT30 could plausibly be targeting press attachés in order to obtain access to their contacts, which would presumably include the contact information of other public affairs personnel or other journalists of interest to target. Targeting press attachés would enable APT30 to target journalists from a trusted source, which would be an excellent resource for spear phishing.”

 

Is NATO prepared for near-future threats?

We conclude our two part summary of NATO’s “2014 Annual Report of the Secretary General” by examining NATO’s plans for the near future.

CHAPTER 2 – Investing in defence

At the NATO Summit in Wales, Allies agreed the Readiness Action Plan to strengthen NATO’s collective defence and a defence investment pledge to strengthen Allies’ ability to fund sustained defence efforts. They also approved a defence planning package and set priorities related to training, equipment and technology to ensure that NATO forces are properly prepared and equipped for whatever challenge may come.

Defence investment pledge

In Wales, NATO leaders pledged to stop the cuts to defence budgets, to increase investment as economies recover, to make the most effective use of available funds, and to strive for a more balanced sharing of the costs and responsibilities of their common defence. This is the first time NATO Heads of State and Government have made this kind of commitment.

In 2006, Allies agreed voluntary targets for defence spending: 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should be allocated to defence expenditures, while 20% of those expenditures should be dedicated to research, development and acquisition of major defence equipment. In the defence investment pledge, Allies affirmed that those countries already meeting these targets would continue to do so and that those below would halt any decline, aim to increase defence expenditure in real terms as GDP grows, and aim to move towards the 2% and 20% targets within a decade.The pledge was needed because the amount of resources dedicated by Allies to defence has been on a steady decline since the end of the Cold War. In 1990, the 14 European Allies spent USD 314 billion on defence in real terms. By 2010, defence spending in NATO Europe had dropped to USD 275 billion, despite 12 additional European countries having joined the Alliance. In 2014, it is estimated that European members of NATO spent USD 250 billion on defence. The cuts to defence expenditures…diminish the options available to the Alliance and reduce the extent to which Allies equitably share responsibilities…

Developing the right capabilities

…In Wales, Allies agreed on priorities that include enhancing and reinforcing training and exercises, improving command and control structures, Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, ballistic missile defence, and cyber defence. They emphasised the importance of multinational cooperation, which allows for significant operational and cost benefits. They also affirmed the importance of inclusive, sustainable, innovative and globally competitive defence industries on both sides of the Atlantic.

NATO Forces 2020

… NATO Forces 2020 establishes the goal of developing modern, tightly connected forces that are equipped, trained, exercised and commanded to operate together and with partners in any environment…

NATO Air Command and Control System

NATO’s systems for air command and control, along with national systems within NATO European territory, track all civilian and military aircraft in NATO airspace over continental Europe, providing 24-hour surveillance of the skies. NATO is upgrading a variety of NATO and national systems with the NATO Air Command and Control System (ACCS)…

Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance

…In May, the Alliance held the largest JISR trial in its history… The trial, which took place in Norway, tested NATO’s ability to gather information and synthesise intelligence from multiple sources at different stages of a crisis. With satellites, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, naval vessels, ground sensors and human intelligence from 18 Allies, the trial demonstrated significant progress and provided important feedback that will bring NATO closer to achieving its target of initial operational capability at the end of 2016…

Ballistic missile defence

As part of NATO’s commitment to collective defence, Allies agreed in 2010 to extend NATO’s ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability to provide coverage and protection of all NATO European populations, territory and forces. Since then, work has been underway to acquire and develop the equipment and infrastructure needed to make this capacity fully operational. In 2014, NATO’s BMD was made more robust through additional national voluntary contributions as well as further refined command and control arrangements and procedures. During 2014, two US BMD-capable Aegis vessels arrived at their new home port in Rota, Spain, and two more vessels will arrive in 2015. These ships have advanced sensor capabilities and interceptor missiles that can detect and shoot down ballistic missiles. Deployment of the land-based version of these capabilities, Aegis Ashore, in Deveselu, Romania is on track for completion in 2015. A second Aegis Ashore site will be established in Poland in 2018.

Cyber security

As the Alliance looks to the future, cyber threats and attacks will continue to become more common, sophisticated and potentially damaging. Responding to the evolving challenges in the cyber domain, NATO leaders endorsed an Enhanced NATO Policy on Cyber Defence and a Cyber Defence Action Plan at the Summit in Wales in September. Building on the accomplishments of previous NATO cyber defence policies, the 2014 policy reflects the evolution of the threat landscape, technological environment, and broader international approach to the issue. The policy establishes that cyber defence is part of the Alliance’s core task of collective defence, confirms that international law applies in cyberspace, and intensifies NATO’s cooperation with industry. In 2014, NATO systems registered over 3,000 cyber security events. The top priority of NATO cyber defence is the protection of the communications systems owned and operated by NATO. To this end, NATO has invested in its NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC). In May 2014, NCIRC reached full operational capability, expanding the protection of NATO networks to 52 locations.

Countering terrorism

NATO’s efforts to counter terrorism include…New standards were introduced for armoured vehicle protection and the testing of jammers against radio-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Through a voluntary national contribution fund, NATO members supported activities related to future detection technologies, a prototype database to support countermeasure development against radio-controlled IEDs, and training for counter-IED operators. NATO also adopted a new doctrine of route clearance, incorporating lessons learned by NATO countries in different theatres, including Afghanistan, and adapting surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to new technologies. Other aspects of technological advancement to counter terrorism include work to better protect large aircraft through infra-red counter-measures, as well as a planning tool to support harbour protection called “Safe Port”.

Defence and Related Security Capacity Building

NATO is bolstering its existing partnership tools with the creation of the Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative [which] seeks to reinforce cooperation in two broad areas of activity. The first area involves advice on defence reform and institution building, including national security architecture, policy and defence planning. The second involves defence capabilities and the development of local forces, usually focused on education and training over an extended period of time. This initiative differs from other partnership tools because it focuses primarily on short-term stability efforts. NATO has extended invitations to Georgia, Jordan and the Republic of Moldova and is ready to consider requests from other interested countries – partner or non-partner – and organisations. In December, Iraq requested consideration as part of this new initiative. And when conditions permit, NATO is also ready to provide defence and related security capacity advisory support for Libya.

Supporting Ukraine

Throughout the recent crisis in the East, NATO has shown strong political support for Ukraine and its freedom to decide its own future. At the Wales Summit in September, NATO Heads of State and Government met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, sending a strong political message of NATO’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and for the rules-based Euro-Atlantic security order. Allies are also reinforcing their advisory presence at the NATO offices in Kyiv and will continue to promote the development of greater interoperability between Ukrainian and NATO forces.

Within the framework of the Distinctive Partnership with Ukraine that was agreed in 1997, NATO has increased its practical support to the country as the crisis developed. Measures include a number of immediate and short-term actions to help Ukraine cope with the current crisis, as well as longer-term measures geared towards capacity building, capability development, and reform of the armed forces and the security sector.

In this context, Allies launched five new trust funds to support command, control, communications and computers (C4), logistics and standardization, cyber defence, military career transition and the rehabilitation of injured military personnel. These trust funds add to NATO’s support for existing programmes on defence education, professional development, security sector governance and security-related scientific cooperation. In 2014, Ukraine was the number one beneficiary of the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, with 15 new projects and an estimated Euro 10 million budget for the 2014- 2017 period.

Open door

Four partner countries aspire to NATO membership: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

At the Summit in Wales, NATO leaders agreed to launch a period of “intensified and focused talks” with Montenegro to address the remaining issues with regard to the country’s membership aspirations. Montenegro’s progress will be assessed no later than the end of 2015 with a view to deciding whether to invite the country to join the Alliance.

NATO leaders also agreed to develop a substantial package of measures with Georgia to help the country prepare for future NATO membership. The measures aim to strengthen the country’s capabilities through defence capacity building, training, exercises and enhanced interoperability opportunities.

An invitation to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be extended after a mutually acceptable solution to the issue over the country’s name is reached within the framework of the United Nations.

NATO will continue working with Bosnia and Herzegovina to pursue the reforms needed to meet NATO standards. This principally involves registering immovable defence properties as state property in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A wide network of partnerships around the globe

NATO’s cooperation with partners spans the globe, with countries volunteering expertise and know-how from different continents in a joint effort to resolve common security concerns.

In the Asia-Pacific in 2014, Japan became the fifth partner in the region to sign an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP) after Mongolia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Australia. The IPCP, which was signed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in May 2014, focuses on areas including disaster relief, cyber defence, counter-piracy, and interoperability. Australia, Mongolia and New Zealand were recognised as contributors to the Resolute Support Mission, through which NATO will provide training, advice and assistance in Afghanistan.

NATO pursued outreach with other countries in the region, such as China, to discuss issues of common interest including Afghanistan and counter-piracy. The Alliance also remained engaged in informal regional meetings on security including the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Jakarta Defence Dialogue and the Seoul Defence Dialogue.

NATO established a partnership with Iraq in 2012 to help the country build more effective security forces. The partnership includes cooperation in the areas of political dialogue, education and training, response to terrorism, defence institution building and border security, among others. With the Iraqi government’s request at the end of 2014, the Alliance is considering additional cooperation and support within the framework of the new Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative.