Under the Radar from the Week of the Red Hen

Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, the World Cup and the Red Hen consumed most of the past week’s news cycle, and the rest was spent on LeBron James, Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ surprise primary win. In other words, it wasn’t a real fun week for the foreign intrigue or national security minded among us. So, in the spirit of self-indulgence, I came up with the most oxygen-deprived stories of the past week or so.

I firmly believe most of the nefarious activity in the world can be traced back to Russia, China and Iran (there are good arguments about including Saudi Arabia and North Korea too, but I’ll put those aside for now). I am not trying to convince anyone about this, but it’s hard to track this stuff each week and not see the linkages. For example, the Chinese use organized crime to mess with Taiwan and Hong Kong. But then the Chinese also manipulate American small businesses to gain leverage inside our borders. Remember when the Chinese hacked the Office of Personnel Management a few years back (in what may be the most casually reported act of espionage of all time)? Now the victims are losing their identities

Continue reading at Havok Journal

Can Only Sean Connery Only Live Twice?

“M: Sit down, 007.
James: Thank you, sir.
M: No ill effects?
James: None at all, sir.
M: Well now that you’re dead, perhaps some of your old friends will pay a little less attention to you for a while. Give you more elbow room. You’ll need it, too.” – You Only Live Twice (1967)”

Journalist Arkady Babchenko had pissed off the Russians many times.  Being a former Russian soldier himself doubtless kept him very much in Putin’s gaze. But, according to the Ukranian Security Service (Sluzhba Bespeky Ukrayiny, or SBU), Putin’s Sauron-like eye narrowed on him considerably in early 2018. The SBU informed Babchenko of a credible, Russian-backed threat against his life, at which point Babchenko had three options: take the chance that Russians with the motives, means, opportunity and stated desire to kill him weren’t serious; devise his own plot to foil any attempt on his life; or cooperate with the SBU to stage his death as a means to expose the network behind his potential assassination. We know now that Babchenko chose Door Three. And many bien pensants are in a tizzy. Per Al-Jazeera, a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) spokeswomen stated that “CPJ takes quite a dim view of law enforcement impersonating journalists. Now, with Arkady Babchenko basically acting as a police asset, one clear damage is to public trust for the media and for journalists.” Former NSA spook John Schindler writes, “playing the Western media for fools and taking advantage of their newfound interest in Russian terrorism abroad was terribly short-sighted….Putin’s regime lies nonstop anyway, and this gives Russia’s rancid lies a smidge of credibility.”

Continue reading at Havok Journal

Under the Radar…June 14

 

Folks,

You could fill a library with the tales of Chinese influence in the US and, for that matter, in the UN. And if you do, you’ll want to reserve a place for a book or two on Ng Lap Seng. In the meantime, it’s a rare, clear-cut (and long overdue) positive that Trump appears to be targeting Chinese IP theft. That said, it might be too little, too late. One example? China’s lithium production. Just another reminder that while the West wrings its hands over non-binary genders or identity politics and intersectionalism, China is ruthlessly marching toward control of global natural resources. And it is a multi-front march; we continue to suffer from Chinese penetration of US intelligence (and military intelligence).

If Jon Stewart is right and the American Left sees Russia news more as a blunt instrument to wield against Trump than an actual threat in its own right, they are missing things both dangerous and fascinating. What other country produces quality hitmen and crusading anti-sex trade MMA fighters? What other country gives Steven Seagal  the most work he’s had since 1993? What other country manipulates both Interpol and Guatemala to pursue its enemies? For every promising development, Russia’s SIGINT is working overtime on POTUS, proving you don’t necessarily need Manafort to keep tabs on Trump.

Mainstream American journalism has suffered a lot of self-inflicted wounds, but perhaps none more so than the loss of foreign bureaus and the lack of reporters with experience and/or interest in foreign affairs. When twenty-something reporters and pundits view the world only through the two-dimensional lens of binary, zero-sum Beltway politics, a lot of nuance and intrigue is going to fall outside of the aperture. But even so, it remains, at the very least, disappointing that continued revelations of the Obama administration’s duplicity in the Iran deal continues to evade widespread scrutiny. I know, at this point, all outrage over the Iran deal feels dated. Almost as much as a new revelation about Carter Page or Paul Manafort would. But, dated or not, the importance of the issue shouldn’t be subject to an ADD news cycle. I mean, even if the Iran deal hadn’t been an underhanded play, it has been rapidly failing even by its own standards.

On the positive side, there is encouraging news from Germany, where the domestic intelligence agency of Baden-Wurttemberg declared the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement anti-Semitic and a security threat. You’ve heard of BDS. BDS has garnered pop culture support from both aspiring geniuses such as Russell Brand and actual geniuses who have drifted far outside their lanes (Stephen Hawking, Roger Waters). While BDS should have been suspect to anyone with either an ounce of experience or an ounce of pop media skepticism, it is heartening to see even the uber-PC Germans grow hip to the nefarious propaganda of the radicalized pro-Palestine crowd. Iran comes under some degree of scrutiny as well. German neo-Nazi group and BDS advocate The Third Way has significant  ties to both Iran-funded Hezbollah and Iran’s Syrian puppet Bashar al-Assad. Food for thought for those who think Western neo-Nazis are only a domestic issue.

While we’re talking about Russian and Iranian interests when will the NY Times release the “ISIS files“?

Are you bored with hearing about Russia, China or Iran? How about a little Pink Panther-like diversion?

Columbine is the one that started it all. If you still have the stomach to read about school shootings, here are some of the debunked myths about the attack.

Lastly, I know Emma Watson is all fired up about the lack of women in STEM jobs globally and all. But maybe she should focus on women’s lack basic civil liberties in her own country first? Who would have thought that a goon like Tommy Robinson is fighting against the forcible rapes of British women more than the whole #metoo movement?

Talk at you next week…

Under the Radar

Amigos,

Welcome back to what will hopefully continue to be a weekly round-up of stories that might have flown under your radar. But to start, I’ll try to summarize the month of March.

Are you tracking the disturbing events in Telford? If you have opinions on immigration, the UK, or the Muslim influence there, you probably should.

The most dynamic area on the globe for bad actors and nefarious influence may be Central/Eastern Africa. If you want a granular look at the problems of South Sudan, this is worth checking out. There’s also this for a look at foreign influence in South Sudan.

Western Africa, in the meantime, especially the former French colonies, continue to be plagued by Islamic extremism. Which means Western Africa is doing about as well as mainland France when it comes to Islamofacism.

From Italy to Hungary, Russian influence continues to play an outsized role. That is not new. What is new is that it is getting exposed.

Oh, and the US DoD continues to wrestle with cyber issues.

Islamofacism on the rise in Southeast Asia. Consequences already apparent.

Until next week…

Is Trump Fascist? Does It Matter?

I’d like to write about the German election, Turkish passive-aggressiveness or Chinese incursions into Africa, but, like a mailman tossing a sausage to a dog en route to the mailbox, I’ve got to address Donald Trump.

I consider myself and immigration hardliner.  I hate political correctness.  I loathe the wannabe victims of the protestor class.

But Donald Trump scares the hell out of me.

From his aggressive ignorance on foreign policy to his whiplash-inducing domestic policy 180’s, Trump, in an amazing and historically unprecedented way, manages to embrace the most ugly and extreme views of both the left and the right.  Bush lied us into Iraq?  Check.  High tariffs and restrictionist policies will scare the Chinese and bring back jobs?  Check.  Let’s deport 11 million illegal immigrants?  Done.  Then, let’s bring almost all of them back?  Done and done.  Fix Obamacare?  Sure.  Rename it Trumpcare.  That should do it.

Conservative?  Republican?  The words are simply nomenclature that is increasingly irrelevant and outdated.  Who needs Constitutional government when you’ve got Trump?  Who needs a Bill of Rights when you have a blathering volcano of superlatives?

Carl Bernstein is now on record saying what everyone was thinking – that Trump has initiated a new, American fascism.  It’s not an overstatement.  Trump’s candidacy is singularly based on his, well, dictatorial personality – which is always a good way to begin down the road to fascism.  Add in the preening disregard for other branches of government and what was only a “dictatorial personality” starts to actually resemble a dictator.  Now factor in Trump’s implicit and explicit calls for violence.  It is no wonder why a mainstream Democrat like Bernstein who, for years, sees Nazis in his soup, now has real reason to see blackshirts in the streets.

But is Trump fascist?  Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism, at least it’s an ethos.  Mussolini and Hitler were a lot of things, but they weren’t con men.  They had deeply held convictions and did everything they could to turn those convictions into reality.  Trump, on the other hand, has more in common with the Big Lebowski’s nihilists – an ignorant bully with no guiding principle or ideology to anchor him.

The question is…is nominating an unprincipled con man with totalitarian sympathies and a wildly capricious ideology going to work out better us than Mussolini did for Italy?

It looks like we’re getting much closer to finding out.  And it may not matter whether Trump has historical precedent.  It may not matter whether he continues the modern fascist tradition pioneered by Mussolini or simply redefines it.  At the end of the day, fascist states labor under the dictates of one man.  And if, in America’s case, it is Donald Trump, quibbling over semantics while he continues to redefine modern American politics, will be the least of our worries.

 

Vladimir Putin: A Lion In Winter

Historically, the countries of the EU have been allies of the US. That’s not to say they didn’t get a little passive-aggressive at times. France, Spain, Germany and Greece could even, at one point or another in the past fifteen years, been classified as a frenemy.

Vladimir Putin, however, would like to make the whole EU our enemy. And he’s doing everything he can to soften the psychological terrain for the EU — whether country-by-country or as a whole — to accept Russia as its single indispensable benefactor and ally. There are disturbing signs that Putin’s efforts are paying off.

Continue reading at Havok Journal…

Is Vladimir Putin Really Dr. Moriarty?

We know ISIS is bad because it killed people in San Bernardino and Paris. We know Iran is bad because it’s still developing nuclear weapons. We know Russia is bad…because…well, didn’t Charlie Rose once say something about that? Or was it Seth MacFarlane? Either way, as Americans, we know there is a threat from Putin’s Russia, but many of us (including, of course, Donald Trump) aren’t quite sure why.

putin creepyDon’t feel bad for sleeping on Russia. Thanks to a hybrid of information operations, psychological warfare and espionage, Russia has evaded the scrutiny afforded ISIS, Iran and even North Korea. But while we had little excuse for our blindness to Russia’s actions in 2012, when Barack Obama laughed at Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia was a preeminent geopolitical threat, we have absolutely no excuse now.

Continue reading at Havok Journal…

Can We Trust Turkey?

[Note: This article was originally written on 1 NOV 2015.  The author is finally getting around to publishing it, hoping that he’ll look really smart if it all comes true.]

_____

“Can we really trust Turkey?”

After you’ve bored friends and family with your talk about ISIS, Iran, Russia, China, North Korea and Al-Qaeda, why would you even venture a question about Turkey? (As my wife asks me.) It’s a good question which has, unfortunately, a good answer.

Right now, Turkey is the most feasible trigger for us to go to war.

Turkey is an ally. It’s a member of NATO, it has agreed to support the US effort against ISIS and it has taken in more than 2 million Syrian refugees, which is far more than any other country. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has modernized its economy, bolstered the rights of minorities and even advanced reconciliation with the Kurds.

That’s the good news.

But there is some bad news.

Continue reading at Havok Journal…

This Week in Links: Russia, Spooks and Trouble

It’s not your imagination, It’s been almost two weeks since my “weekly” list of links.  Which means I’m still more serious about doing a weekly email than the Russians are about doing a cease-fire.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the Russians aren’t serious about a lot of other things.  Like flying spy planes over the USError! Hyperlink reference not valid. and helping our SF teams, or so John Kerry would have us believe. As Putin’s proxies in the Russian Orthodox Church co-opt the Pope, we are entering Cold War 2.0 with a vengeance. It’s not the worst time to read a first-hand account about the KGB background of Vladimir Putin.

Of course, Russia isn’t our only problem.  It turns out that ISIS had roots even under Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., so it’s not surprising it’s using his same tactics.  ISIS is using mustard gas, and, no biggie, but radioactive material has gone missing in Iraq.  At least we can take them out quickly by air — oh, wait, ISIS has air defense now.  Leaving Iraq aside, at least we’re doing great in Yemen.  (Hint: we’re not doing great in Yemen.)  So here’s the $64,000 question: how many of these problems could be solved with Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.? (You can click the link, it’s totally not-NSFW.)

In what may be the least shocking news of the past two weeks, South Korean spies are really scared about what the Norks are doing, and another ex-Gitmo detainee has shown up in an Al-Qaeda video.

In less sarcasm-inducing news, there’s a great interview with former NSA CI agent John Schindler, a famous playwright talks about tradecraft he learned from his CIA ops officer dad…and how much did you know about George Washington and spies?  Oh, and there’s a secret army still fighting the Vietnam war.  Which shows that success is 10% inspiration and 90% determination.

Closer to home, we’ve had another case of domestic terrorism which most media outlets have been quick to shrug off. Between that and the ongoing and shifting threats to our critical infrastructure, it’s probably not a bad time to restock your bug-out bag.