What Did Trump’s FBI Nominee Know of US Torture Post-9/11?

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Hill | July 12, 2017) [On July 12, 2017] Washington’s attention turns to the confirmation hearing of Christopher Wray, nominated by President Trump as FBI Director following the firing of James Comey in that position.

“But perhaps the most disturbing recent official effort to sweep our torturous past under the rug is the Administration’s surrender of most copies of the 6,770-page study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices to the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

In the inevitable focus on the Russia investigation and Comey firing fallout, Senate Judiciary Committee members would be remiss not to use the opportunity to probe the issue of Wray’s previous role as Assistant Attorney General in President George W. Bush’s Justice Department. What are his past and current views on the use of torture in interrogations?

In the years following 9/11, our government unleashed a program of illegal torture and rendition of suspected enemies.

Recent efforts to bury the most comprehensive account to date of the U.S. torture program, coupled with Administration appointments of those who played a key role in it, raise sharp concerns about human rights, government transparency and accountability.

Wray served in  a Justice Department which sought to justify the use of torture by since-repudiated legal gymnastics. Glimpses from highly redacted government documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU indicate that, at the very least, Wray knew about detainee abuse and was involved in discussions about harsh interrogation techniques.

His stance in those conversations remains a mystery, but members of Congress and the American public have a right to a full picture of what happened. Nothing less will prevent a repeat of these mistakes.

Wray is not an outlier among recent appointees who played a role in this dark chapter of American history.

Steven Bradbury, a key enabler of the torture program, was nominated as General Counsel of the Transportation Department. Bradbury has suffered no consequences for his 2007 memo that helped authorize the since-discredited program.

These two nominations follow the February appointment of Gina Haspel as Deputy Director of the CIA; who, according to multiple reports, personally oversaw the use of torture at a black site in Thailand.

But perhaps the most disturbing recent official effort to sweep our torturous past under the rug is the Administration’s surrender of most copies of the 6,770-page study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which produced the report.

This recall was requested by the Chair of that Committee Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The declassified summary of the report contains a damning assessment of the CIA’s tactics as both ineffective and damaging to America’s reputation and influence.

It raises the distinct possibility that some of these actions violated both international and domestic law …

To read the full article, click here.


Remarks on President Donald J. Trump’s Visit to Poland

By Kamil Szubart

The second overseas visit of President Donald J. Trump to Europe began in Warsaw, Poland, on July 5 and 6, 2017. President Trump’s visit to Poland lasted less than 24 hours. However, he held bilateral talks under four eyes with Polish President Andrzej Duda and met with the leaders of 12 countries from Central and Eastern Europe taking part in the Three Seas Initiative (TSI) Summit in the Polish capital city.

“President Trump’s visit to Poland was an apparent success of Polish diplomacy.”

The last part of the visit was the public speech delivered by the US President in Krasinski Square, in front of the monument commemorating the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis costing 200,000 lives, mostly innocent civilians.

During the visit, Trump was accompanied by family members (First Lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law Jared Kushner) and officials from his Administration (Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and National Security Advisor Herbert R. McMaster). Unexpectedly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not appear in Poland due to the growth of tensions in the Korean Peninsula; he joined the US delegation at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Military & Economic Issues Surrounding the Visit

The agenda of the visit was consumed with issues related to the US military presence on NATO’s Eastern Flank, emphasized by the Polish authorities, and economic cooperation—especially liquid natural gas (LNG) shipments—between the United States and Poland and other countries from Central and Eastern Europe.

A bilateral meeting with President Duda, which lasted only 25 minutes, focused on the US presence on NATO’s Eastern flank within the framework of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence initiative, according to the 2016 NATO Summit’s decisions. Moreover, Trump and Duda discussed the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and its potential consequences for the region, as well as economic aspects of the US-Polish relations.

Ahead of the meeting, the Polish Ministry of Defense signed a memorandum with the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) represented by US VADM Joseph W. Rixey, DSCA Director. The US government has agreed to sell Patriot missile defense systems (PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement) to Poland. The memorandum between the both governments opens the road to the second phase of negotiations between the Polish Ministry of Defense and Raytheon. Negotiations should finish with the signing of a Letter of Agreement at the end of 2018. 

During the bilateral talks, the Polish president insisted on strengthening the US military presence in Poland, turning the current rotation presence into the permanent presence of the US Armed Forces on Polish soil. Polish authorities attach vital importance to the US military presence in Poland. Currently, the US leads as a “framework state” one of the four NATO Battalion Battle Groups in Orzysz. Additionally, the Armored Brigade Combat Team formed by the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colorado, is deployed to Zagan. Eventually, the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System (AAMDS) will have been built in Redzikowo in northern Poland.

Although Trump declared nothing new, he assured Poland and other European allies of the United States’ commitment to NATO and Article 5 of Washington Treaty. Moreover, he mentioned again the necessity of increasing military expenditures among European allies. The president underlined that Poland is one of an exclusive group of only five NATO member states (the United States, the UK, Greece, Estonia, and Poland) whose military spending meets the criteria of at least 2% of GDP with at least 20% of the annual military budget invested in modernization.

At the end of the meeting, both presidents touched on the Ukrainian crisis and on migration into the European Union. However, President Trump did not make particular declarations, only urging Russia to cease its destabilizing activity in Ukraine and elsewhere (e.g., in Syria).

The Chaos of the Joint Press Conference

Following the bilateral meeting, a joint press conference devolved into more discussions about President Trump’s campaign against what he terms “fake news” and the failures he sees that were made by President Barack Obama and his Administration. President Trump also unexpectedly called on the West to “defend our civilization.”

However, the press conference soon veered away from matters to do with Poland. Trump spent much of his press conference time responding to questions about the anti-CNN wrestling video footage he broadcast via Twitter and allegations on Russian interferences into the 2016 elections by saying that “nobody knows” who meddled in the elections. Trump went even further into this subject area and asked his counterpart, President Duda, about the situation in Poland and whether he is also a target of “fake news” spread by Polish mass media. The question caught the Polish leader by surprise.

Another off-topic subject that arose at the joint press conference was the latest North Korean test of the intercontinental ballistic missile, marking a significant step forward in its WMD program and an escalation of the nuclear standoff with the United States and the rest of the world.

The TSI Summit and Its Economic Background

The discussions at the Three Seas Initiative (TSI) Summit were focused on economic aspects of the further cooperation between the United States and the 12 countries of Central and Eastern Europe. President Trump said that the region has a particular importance to him, emphasizing the Slovenian roots of the First Lady, and he added that the United States stands with the TSI nations and looks forward to the opportunity to expand an economic partnership.

The energy-related issues referenced long-term LNG shipment contracts and further transit of natural gas to Poland and other countries in the region. Trump assured those present that he would be encouraging US energy companies to establish long-term cooperation with their Polish partners, by building or developing LNG hubs in Poland, Lithuania, and on Krk Island on the Croatian shore.

Trump’s Public Speech to the Polish People

In front of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising Monument, President Trump referred to some landmark points in the Polish history and assured that the United States is determined to defend its European allies according to the NATO obligations. Speaking of NATO, Trump indicated that “our defense is not just a commitment of money, but it’s a commitment of will.” These words appeared to be directed at Western Europe—notably Germany and France—and what the United States sees as their insufficient military expenditures, laid out in the last two NATO summits in Wales and Poland.

Trump also made multiple references to generals Kazimierz Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciusko, the Poles who fought for American independence during the American Revolutionary War, and to the 1920 Miracle of the Vistula when the Polish army countered the Bolshevist invasion of Poland and Western Europe.

A Success for Polish Diplomacy

President Trump’s visit to Poland was an apparent success of Polish diplomacy, which took steps to invite and then, alongside its American counterpart, to organize the visit. It will also have an impact of the Polish foreign policy conducted by the current Polish government and by President Duda. First, Poland seems now to have a chance to enhance its bilateral cooperation with the United States in the realms of energy, defense, and transportation. This future cooperation should also be extended to other countries of the TSI, although among them, Poland holds a dominant position due to its political, military, and demographic factors.

Secondly, Poland is one of the real exceptions among NATO member states that fulfills its commitment to spending 2% of GDP on military purposes. This makes Poland a credible partner to the Trump Administration. The decision to sign a bilateral memorandum between the Polish Ministry of Defense and the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency also allows for the opening of negotiations between the Polish authorities and Raytheon on purchasing Patriot missile defense systems, something that won’t be the US arms industry as a whole, which is interested in selling further US weaponry to Poland.

The visit to Warsaw inevitably brought benefits for President Trump. Firstly, it was a clear signal to the American people that a shift in US foreign policy toward European allies can be effective. Secondly, it was apparent in Poland that there are still European governments and societies that are not keen to criticize Trump’s controversial positions or mob orations. On the contrary, Trump was cheered by crowds in a country that, since the end of Soviet domination in the region, has remained one of the most pro-American countries and anti-Russian countries in Europe. The visit to Warsaw, then, was also a signal to Moscow.

Thirdly, Trump’s stated assurances about the US commitment to NATO and its obligations should calm down European allies throughout the Old Continent, while assuring a US commitment to the European security architecture should also quiet allegations about a pro-Russian foreign policy in the Trump Administration. Lastly, steps taken to strengthen the energy cooperation between Eastern and Central Europe and the US is a further blow to Russia, which would like to be the leading gas supplier to the countries of the region.

INSCT Research and Practice Associate Kamil Szubart is a 2017 visiting fellow at INSCT, via the Kosciuszko Foundation. He works as an analyst for the Institute for Western Affairs in Poznan, Poland, where he is responsible for German foreign and security policy, transatlantic relations, Islamic threats in German-native-speaking countries and topics related to NATO, CSDP, OSCE, and the UN. Currently, he is working on a doctoral dissertation examining US-German relations in the field of international security since 9/11.

“Armed Conflict and Compliance in Muslim States” with Corri Zoli Now Online

Although many empirical studies have explored state conflict behavior by a range of factors, relatively few studies have examined the conflict behavior of Muslim-majority states. Even less research systematically examined the role of state compliance with international humanitarian law as a variable in such conflict behavior.

This work builds a new dataset based on an international humanitarian law definition of war, and provides an overview of modern armed conflict behavior and compliance with international law governing armed conflict for Muslim states from 1947-2014.

PARCC Conversations in Conflict Studies 2017.

Great Expectations: Looking Ahead to President Trump’s Visit to Poland

By Kamil Szubart

President Donald J. Trump will visit Poland on July 5 and 6, 2017, ahead of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. The visit primarily will focus on political and security-related issues, as well as economic cooperation between the United States, Poland, and the other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

From the Three Seas to the Silk Road

During his visit to Eastern Europe, President Trump first will hold bilateral talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda and then meet with political leaders attending Three Seas Initiative (TSI) Summit in Warsaw.

TSI was launched in 2016 thanks to Poland’s inspiration and consists of 12 countries from Central and Eastern Europe: Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia (the Visegrad Group or V4 Group); Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia (the Baltic States); and Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Austria. The primary purpose of TSI is to enhance multilateral cooperation among the participating countries and to formulate a joint position within the European Union (EU).

The meeting of Trump and the TSI leaders seems like a clear signal by the Trump Administration that it wants these countries to enhance political, military, and economic cooperation among themselves and the United States. The United States seems to be alarmed by the growth of interest in Central and Eastern Europe by China, which has proffered the “16+1” initiative to these countries.

The “16+1” concept is China’s mechanism for bringing together European countries either from the EU or aspiring to join the EU—including countries such as Serbia and Belarus—and strengthening their economic cooperation with China. Beijing is offering these countries a strategic partnership within the framework of the Silk Road Initiative which will allow China and its economy access to overseas consumer markets, especially the EU.

A Frosty Forecast for the G20

President Trump should expect a frosty greeting from Western Europe’s leaders at the G20 Summit in Germany due to his recent announcement of the US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, his scolding about military expenditures by NATO countries, and his failure to emphasize the United States’ commitment to NATO’s Article 5 during a meeting of NATO Leaders in Brussels in May 2017.

On the other hand, Trump wants to highlight the importance to his Administration of countries from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as US leadership on NATO’s Eastern Flank, where the United States leads one of the four Battalion Battle Groups, established within the framework of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Poland and the Baltic States at the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw.  

Support from Poland and the other countries from the eastern region should, therefore, be a desirous for the United States during robust future talks with Western European allies at NATO.

Furthermore, the Trump Administration looks forward to achieving economic goals regarding the dynamic GDP growth of TSI countries. For instance, Poland’s GDP is expected to grow by approx. 3.5% in 2017, and Warsaw continues its efforts to modernize the Polish Armed Forces, mostly based on equipment purchased from the United States. Raytheon—with its Patriot missile defense system—is currently vying for the highest arms industry contract in the history of the Polish Armed Forces ($10 billion). Additionally, the UH-60 Black Hawk—manufactured by Sikorsky—is being considered as a new main helicopter for the Polish Land Forces. The US arms industry can also look forward to announcing other government defense tenders, such as purchasing attack helicopters to replace the mothballed Soviet-era Mi-24 “Hind” gunship.

Protecting the Eastern Flank by Looking West

For Poland and Polish authorities, the visit of President Trump will build international prestige, and the visit is an undisputable success for long-term efforts taken by Polish diplomacy. It will also confirm US engagement in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence along NATO’s Eastern Flank and the role of Poland as a strong NATO member country that politically and militarily has been supported the United States in every conflict since 9/11.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and political changes in Central and Eastern Europe, Poland, along with other countries in the region, has established treaties with the EU and NATO, as well as a strong US commitment to Europe, as crucial cornerstones of its foreign and security policies. Since the 1999 NATO enlargement, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have pursued strategic partnerships with the United States, and this trend has mainly been seen in Poland that holds the strongest military, political, economic, and demographic capabilities among all countries in the region.

Poland’s pro-American orientation intensified after the 2015 parliamentary and presidential elections and the victory of the Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) and presidential candidate Duda respectively.

Poland, therefore, welcomed the United States’ Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal, especially the amount of $64.6 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget that provides resources in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Operation Inherent Resolve against Islamic State, and US presence in Central Eastern Europe through the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI).

Particular attention is being paid to the ERI, announced by President Barack Obama during his visit in Poland and Estonia in June 2014. It is considered by Poland and other US allies in the region as a guarantee of further US commitment to maintaining its defense capabilities and to defending European allies. Warsaw might also expect an increase of the US military presence in Poland, which could more efficiently deterrence Russia against aggression in the Baltic States.

Strengthening Domestic Policy Through Foreign Policy

A strategic shift of Poland towards NATO and the United States has also been fueled by the long-time weakness of the EU in the field of defense and security capabilities, ever since the Treaty of Lisbon (signed in 2007, in force since 2009), under the name of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP).

Poland also counts on efficient cooperation with the United States in the United Nations Security Council. On June 2, 2017, Poland was elected for the sixth time as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, gathering 190 votes out of 192 voting UN member states, with two abstentions.

Poland—along with Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, and Peru—will start its two-year term on Jan. 1, 2018. Sitting on the UN Security Council will allow Poland to play a leading role in the discussion on global security issues and in seeking peaceful solutions to ongoing conflicts worldwide. Moreover, by being a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Poland will have a chance to increase its international prestige, to forcefully articulate the goals linked to Poland’s foreign and security policy, and become more actively engaged in strengthening and shaping global order.

Finally, Poland—along with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia—await President Trump’s support to their resistance to the EU’s 2015 migrant resettlement program that seeks to resettle 160,000 refugees across EU countries, a program that is causing a major rift inside the EU.

The defiance is supported by a majority of citizens and is focused very strongly against immigration, particularly from Islamic countries. The official position of V4 countries is that a quota system to redistribute refugees within the EU will not work because many countries are not those in which refugees would like to stay, preferring to leave for Germany. Moreover, the quota system as a permanent mechanism that would allow the European Commission to distribute refugees according to individual economic indicators would be the breach of national sovereignty, according to V4 Group.

In addition to political and military-related aspects of the bilateral and multilateral relations with the United States, Poland looks forward to tighter cooperation in transport, energy, and the IT sector, which will make the region more competitive and therefore more attractive for American business. A first definite effect of the deepening cooperation between the United States and Poland was the first ever liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipment from the United Stated (specifically, Louisiana) that arrived in Poland on June 7, 2017. For Poland, and other countries in the region, LNG is the fruit of a new energy policy that is allowing it to reduce near-total dependence on Russian imports. New Polish infrastructure follows closely behind Lithuania’s move to open a floating LNG terminal.

A Two-Speed Europe? Potential Consequences for Poland and the TSI Nations

President Trump’s visit to Poland will arguably not significantly change the place of Central and Eastern Europe within the priorities of US foreign policy. However, the Trump Administration may use Poland and other countries in the region as a foothold on which to rest its European policy and to accompany it through tough talks with Germany, France, and Italy, the nations seemingly most skeptical of Trump and his vision of transatlantic relations.

President Trump’s support for the TSI might help build its credibility with American business, which has access to both the financial and technological means necessary to implement particular projects. However, tightening of bi- and multilateral relations between the United States and TSI countries might have implications for their position within the EU and might subsequently split them off from the core of the union, especially if they decided to embrace their ties with the United States and continue to resist EU migration policy.

What could evolve is a “two-speed” Europe that would allow a core group of EU countries to press ahead with closer cooperation and integration on finance (e.g., tightening the Eurozone), tax policy, and national security, leaving the TSI countries on the periphery of union.

 INSCT Research and Practice Associate Kamil Szubart is a 2017 visiting fellow at INSCT, via the Kosciuszko Foundation. He works as an analyst for the Institute for Western Affairs in Poznan, Poland, where he is responsible for German foreign and security policy, transatlantic relations, Islamic threats in German-native-speaking countries and topics related to NATO, CSDP, OSCE, and the UN. Currently, he is working on a doctoral dissertation examining US-German relations in the field of international security since 9/11.



“From the Farm to the Schoolhouse” with Catherine Bertini

INSCT Faculty Member Catherine Bertini was recently interviewed for the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Nourishing Millions podcast series.

In the episode, “From the Farm to the Schoolhouse,” Bertini explains how education is central to creating opportunities for girls and women as key players in the effort to end hunger and malnutrition …

… we talk with Catherine Bertini, professor at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and 2003 World Food Prize Laureate, about the many challenges that face women living in low- and middle-income countries today.

Professor Bertini details the role of women as the cooks and caregivers of the household, and laborers within agriculture, dual roles that make them critical to ending hunger and malnutrition. She proposes that girls’ and women’s education is the foremost step to creating not only opportunities for women, but also increasing the agricultural productivity and economic opportunities within their countries.

The episode relates some innovative solutions to ensuring that families keep their daughters in school, and Professor Bertini’s vision of a world in which all women can lead fulfilling lives.

“Proliferating Attacks”: Corri Zoli Discusses Paris & London Terrorism with CNYCentral

Counterterrorism expert talks violent streak abroad

(CNYCentral | June 20, 2017) A day after terror tore through the heart of London yet again, terrorism experts here at home say it’s a reminder that this fight is far from over.
Corri Zoli, a counterterrorism expert at Syracuse University says while the U.S. remains a target, it’s more frequent overseas.

“We’ve had attacks, of course, Orlando for instance, San Bernadino, others. But we haven’t had the kind of proliferating attacks that Europe and Britain have had,” Zoli explained.

Zoli says there are a few reasons why we don’t have them as frequently here in the U.S.

Police here have a better handle on terror threats compared to Europe and the U.K.

“Law enforcement has been on it’s back foot instead of really leaning in to this issue,” said Zoli, “I think it has to do with the present government and the last government reducing the size of law enforcement significantly, which is a huge mistake in the current climate.”

It’s also a matter of geography.

“We have an ocean on either side of protecting us so we have a kind of luck of geography that helps with our security that other European nations do not have,” explained Zoli …

To read the full story, click here.


It’s Time to Address the Real Motive in Westminster, Manchester, and Now London: Sectarian Hatred in Our Own Back Yards

By Corri Zoli

(Re-published from The Huffington Post | June 9, 2017) Within 12 hours of the London Bridge attacks on June 3, 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May finally said “enough is enough” and called for an explicit, unapologetic focus on Islamist extremism, which is being incubated in far too many British enclaves—in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and elsewhere.

Admitting what British-based security critics have long known—that “there is far too much tolerance of extremism in our country”—May even asserted “the superiority” of pluralistic British civic values. Better late than never, perhaps, but it is still worrisome that it took the UK government three attacks in under three months, with 30 dead, 10 of whom were under 20 years old, to remember that this (and most) nation’s civic values are better than the jihadists’.

Our prevailing logic—exemplified in the The New York Times—has been exactly backwards. After terrorist attacks, victims of terrorism need not exercise “maximum vigilance” lest we all fall prey to “divisive ethnic, racist and religious hatreds.” It’s extremists who promote and use violence and who are beset by hatred. Salman Abedi killed British teenagers because he views them through a prism of prejudicial hate—their “Western” ethnicity, British nationality, assumed religious beliefs, and secular lifestyles (young girls enjoying music in public). ISIS made this case in Dabiq, “Why We Hate You & Why We Kill You,” just as London Bridge attackers fanned out from their low-tech terrorist van, as per ISIS instructions, to murder pedestrians on the open street. Such bigotry is thus operationalized not only to spread hatred but to kill.

It is time to name the sectarian hatred—against Western culture, minority religions, ethnic groups, gender and sexual identities, and others—that motivates much global terrorism and defines thousands of Islamist organizations. Policymakers who tell us “we will not be divided” are like Alice in Wonderland’s white rabbit—too late. Each attack brings officials who have tumbled down the rabbit hole of confused logic and policy, imploring the public that the best response to murderous hate is unity—something victims never contested. Suspects are scooped up by law enforcement in a brief frenzy, while weaponized systems of sectarian hatred in neighborhoods and networks are left to fester.

Ordinary people are plotted against as “soft targets,” neighbors and family desperately report radicals to authorities that demur, and victims are lectured to by helpless politicians who defend failed policies as the new normal (it’s not). Meanwhile, pub and concert goers, tourists, and school teachers pay the price for authorities’ failed understanding, as they fight off strategic killers in public places with chairs and bottles, while forced to play battlefield medics, using shirts as tourniquets for mortally wounded compatriots.

Thankfully, this empty narrative and emptier policy response is eroding, largely due to public pressure …

To read the whole article, click here.


A Darkened Age—The Rule of Law in Protecting Morality and Humanity

By David M. Crane

There is a growling of a discontent, an unrest, just below the surface, festering ready to erupt into a boil of frustration. The salve of the rule of law diluted or unavailable. The world today shifts to the right or spins helpless, struggling to find an anchor, a safe harbor in which to balance itself.

“The world wobbling, citizens looked to new political leaders who promised to restore greatness, an elusive idea that cannot be attained alone in this new century.”

There is no light towards which we can step towards, hopeful that mankind is moving in a direction that is right and proper. Our kaleidoscopic future looms, where tried and true customs and norms shrink from this new thinking of looking inward and away from a global village that was beginning to change the world stage.

In another context we have been here before. For 50 years we saw a stasis that saw the rise of the dictator. The Cold War was a desperate time trying to maintain a balance that would avoid Armageddon. Death and destruction by heads of state against their own citizens was rampant, with little checks against internal struggles. Mankind simply looked the other way as long as loyalty towards one side or the other was maintained. Tens of millions perished, disappearing into the sands of time forgotten as if they never existed.

As the Cold War ended there was a sense of optimism that we had changed for the better, the rule of law began to take hold, the UN taking its intended position of guiding the international community [PDF] towards a real peace and security never attained before. Tyranny shrank before this blinding light and dictators faced accountability. The new millennium held promise, more so than any other millennial event.

It all came crashing down with the towers on September 11, 2001. A fundamental shift took place, at the time seemingly correct, wrapped in a ragged cloth of righteous fury. But the pain of that day stripped away our innocence, our hope, our desire to build a global village where all mankind would benefit. America turned into itself, seemingly trying to lead, to fight against a new and elusive adversary, yet chasing its tail against itself. American civil liberties were challenged. The world watched and stepped away, subtly looking for other leadership and other ways to survive in a world of struggle with a weakened America, the loss of a land that was a bright and shining light that dimmed, barely visible in the storm of extremism that blew across the world.

To survive nation-states began to look for their own solutions seeking new directions. Major international institutions such as the UN, the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) shrank in influence against the onslaught of that extremism. There seemed to be no solutions that were viable. The world wobbling, citizens looked to new political leaders who promised to restore greatness, an elusive idea that cannot be attained alone in this new century. The rise of the nationalistic right a desperate attempt to grasp hold of the fog of this new kaleidoscopic world …

To read the whole article, click here.

Ransomware: Beware the Users, & Other Things As Well

By Christopher Folk (LAW ’17)

Various media outlets have reported a dramatic rise in ransomware attacks, and The New York Times reported that the most recent attacks impacted more than 200,000 machines running the Windows operating systems (OS) across 150 countries.  The Times article posits that hospitals, academic institutions, and technology companies were targeted during this cyberattack. The article goes on to state that it is likely that exercising caution while online may have prevented the malware from infiltrating and infecting the networks from the outset. 

“One would think that the concept of security updates and remaining current with patches would be a no-brainer—clearly that is not the case.”

While the malware has been identified as a “WannaCry” variant, it seems a security update was made available by Microsoft nearly two months ago, according to the article.  Thus, here we see a double-whammy: 1) administrators were not timely in rolling out updates; and 2) users clicked on or opened e-mails which facilitated the spread (this second point is contentious because some security vendors dispute whether or not the payload was delivered using a typical phishing scheme).

What Now?

Ultimately these ransomware attacks typically seem to come down to user behavior.  While IT professionals can implement policies and procedures to ensure that patches and security updates are applied regularly, it is the user who can make or break nearly any policy or procedure. Until artificial intelligence takes over and heuristics rule the day, we will continue to see successful (and yet rudimentary) attacks. AI and heuristics may help in the future, but they won’t help in the here and now. However, the following might: there are procedures that companies and individuals can implement to limit the damage that ransomware can inflict and hopefully avoid paying a ransom for the return of their un-encrypted data.

One would think that the concept of security updates and remaining current with patches would be a no-brainer—clearly that is not the case.  Therefore, “step zero” is to stay on top of this and ensure that all of your computing devices are using the latest supported versions with the latest patches and security updates applied. A standard user then should then practice good “cyber hygiene”: do not click on or open emails from unknown senders and do not click links in e-mails unless they are from a trusted source or do not exhibit any of the tell-tale signs of questionable emails: misspellings, poor grammar usage, a odd-looking link that points to an unknown domain, etc. 

It is equally important that users maintain backups of data that are in traditional backup format and ideally streamed to the backup device so that the backups themselves stay beyond the reach of ransomware. However, as I found in my previous career, a backup is only as good as the restore, and all too often restores are not fully (if at all) tested—and this creates a terrible scenario.  Ideally, a user would have a full-scale disaster recovery (DR) plan; however, these are largely beyond the expertise of the typical user and even some businesses. Without a DR plan both created and tested, companies will continue to find themselves victims of ransomware. To mitigate risk, they will often decide to pay rather than test their restore capabilities for the very first time.

The Takeaways

  • Know thy sender: if you aren’t certain an email is from a trusted source, delete it rather than opening. 
  • The same goes for any links you are sent: type the address to the domain yourself rather than clicking a link you aren’t sure of.
  • Updates and patches: turn on automatic updates, download and install the latest security updates, and check manually on a regular basis to ensure those “automatic” features are working.
  • Backup: if it is worth saving, it is worth backing up.  Don’t forget that with the technological advances of handheld devices, you should ensure that those are backed up as well.
  • Restore: test your restores, make sure you can restore a file, a folder, and an entire device.  Sometimes a “bare-metal restore” is the only option to make sure you can bring your data back online with an entirely new device.


Christopher Folk earned his J.D. from Syracuse Law and his CAS in National Security and Counterterrorism Law from INSCT in 2017.