In November, I had the opportunity to attend the World Affairs Councils of America’s (WACA) 2013 National Conference. Each year the national body hosts this conference in order to discuss the critical national security issues facing the country during the coming year. There were nearly 40 engaging speakers, and even visits to the embassies of Canada, Portugal, and the United Arab Emirates.
WACA offered 25 scholarships for college students from within the national World Affairs Council network to attend the conference. I was lucky enough to receive one of them. In addition to assigning the group a liaison for the week, WACA prepared a few events exclusively for us. These included a “meet and greet” reception where we had a chance to get to know one another, and an evening with Josh Rogin, senior correspondent for The Daily Beast. Rogin shared some of his experiences and fielded our questions about journalism and the current political environment at the White House. He spoke quite frankly and openly, something that I appreciated greatly.
Each year, the National Conference sparks a conversation on six critical issue areas selected by network leadership to help set the programming agenda for WACA in the coming year. The Six Top Issues for 2014 discussed at this year’s conference included: Cybersecurity, Global Economic Realignment, the Middle East, Global Environmental Issues, K-12 Education, and U.S. Energy Independence.
I was really interested in the topic of Cybersecurity. It was the first to be discussed at the conference, and was introduced with a keynote by the Hon. Michael Chertoff. He mentioned that the Internet requires active protection, and outlined the four basic types of cyber crime: ordinary criminality, corporate espionage, hacktivism, and physical attacks. He was most concerned about the latter, noting that we now have a number of physical systems and critical infrastructure that depend on a network, making them incredibly vulnerable to attack.
Following Chertoff’s remarks, a panel of mostly military officers continued the discussion on protecting our national cyber interests. They maintained that because the initiative remains with the attacker, “cyber-active-defense” maintains a top priority. In order to achieve this, they engage in red-teaming, which means sending “good” hackers (called White Hats) to assail their systems in the ways that a malicious attacker would, thus testing the military’s defenses.
This topic interested me because it represents a paradigm shift in the way we as citizens and military think about security, as there are vulnerabilities on both the national and personal level. It’s a complex issue that affects foreign policy and the dialogues between nations, and most likely will require the construction of an international framework or set of guidelines for conduct in cyberspace.
Taking into account all of the exciting things happening at the conference, overall the ability to talk with students from other Councils (many of whom were also interns) about their experiences in a similar situation was my favorite part. Geographically, we came from very different places – including Maine, Florida, Texas, Oregon, and Alaska – but we had the Councils as a bridge.
By: Nina, former World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern, and student at the University of Pittsburgh
Faisal Shazhad, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi: the names of these terrorist actors against the United States roll off the lips of native Pittsburgher General Michael Hayden as easily as the Steelers’ front four.
On November 18, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh hosted the former Director of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) at a Duquesne Club policy discussion and luncheon entitled The John T. Ryan Memorial Lecture: Security, Privacy, Surveillance… and You, which focused on the delicate balance between the essential homeland function of espionage and its effect on the personal privacy of every American.
Prior to the lecture, Gen. Hayden was gracious enough to answer a few personal questions about his background during a pre-lecture reception. Hayden’s resume paints a portrait of a man born to serve. Commissioned as an Air Force officer straight out of college, Hayden quickly entered the world of intelligence. In 1984, during the Cold War, Hayden served as an air attaché for the US embassy in Bulgaria where he operated as a classic “spy”, collecting information through surveillance and eavesdropping—trained to speak the obscure language by the military, his job was to “observe and report” on Bulgarian citizens. He described this position as the “second best job I’ve ever had” and surpassed only by Director of the CIA.
Rising through the ranks, Hayden was eventually tapped to become the Director of the NSA during the Clinton administration, and later, the Director of the CIA under George W. Bush—the first person to hold both positions. Hayden remains modest. “Life demands, and then you have to respond,” he said, explaining he never pursued either job.
Sometimes, however, the definition of “necessity” changes and intelligence officers are left out in the cold. In his subsequent policy speech, the general explained the intelligence community is now challenged with three major paradigm shifts. “Our threat is changing, our technology is changing, and our political culture is changing,” he said.
Hayden nostalgically described when international conflict was between nation states (specifically, the Soviets and Americans) and involved classic military and intelligence strategies. It was a time when, Hayden said with amusement, “I didn’t lose any sleep over a fanatic living in a cave in the Hindu Kush.” However, recent technological and social advances have caused a sea-change, empowering the public and providing non-state terrorist and criminal groups greater ability to attack because they possess comparable influence to their host government. “Most of the things threatening you are the by-product of state weakness,” Hayden said, listing flashpoint locations in the War on Terror fitting the bill. The common thread, he claimed, is the lack of “effective government.” American difficulties in these regions exist because the entire national security apparatus is designed to take on other states instead of individuals, and has become bent-out-of-shape accommodating these new threats. Fighting enemy combatants face-to-face, he said, as in classical war, has turned into drone strike campaigns in Pakistan well outside the official theater of combat.
Hayden again turned to history, explaining how advances in technology are affecting intelligence practices. During the Cold War, intelligence officers in the NSA commonly intercepted communications between Moscow and Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases scouring for orders to fire on the US. This surveillance, Hayden said, never met a shred of protest from civil libertarians—and neither should today’s. He draws this comparison: “Today’s equivalent is Al-Qaeda email traffic on the same plane as yours and mine.” The only way to monitor the threat is to watch the medium used, just like the NSA did during the Cold War. The difference today, he reasoned, is that some private information is inadvertently gathered in the process. Why should Americans have a problem with the NSA using the same intelligence strategy used against Soviet aggression and threat of nuclear war? The public should be better educated to understand the type of personal data gathered is mostly irrelevant to actual individual privacy.
To the growing number of Americans that disagree and believe activists such as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are heroes rather than traitors, the General’s explanation doesn’t suffice. This cultural shift, Hayden says, is the most important emerging paradigm in modern intelligence gathering. Society is demanding an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability from homeland security agencies, prompting Hayden to ask, “Will America be able to conduct espionage, which requires secrecy for success in the future?”
The difficulty is in the nature of the complaint. Hayden frankly proclaimed that today’s surveillance measures are categorically legal and exhibit Madisonian fulfillment: approval by all three branches of government. The problem is one of propriety—whether it is acceptable, even moral, to trade privacy for safety. Can national security bear reforms that essentially require intelligence agencies to ask suspects for permission to spy on them? Hayden submits, “I personally don’t know how you get to that conversation without destroying espionage.”
Hayden concluded by calling the room to action, asking the public to give intelligence a chance. “You’ve got to be involved with this,” he said, referencing political choice. “We’ll live with whatever you decide, but you’ve got to play.” A thinly-veiled football reference? Hayden confirmed during a lengthy question-and-answer session that his visit was timed to coincide with the previous day’s Steelers’ game. “I’ll be back for the play-offs,” he promised.
By Wesley, a student at North Allegheny Senior High School
This is the first in a series of student reporting blog posts. If you are a high school student interested in becoming a student reporter, please contact Emily Markham 412-281-7027, or by emailing Emily@worldpittsburgh.org.
Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 is off to a snowy start here in Pittsburgh, and this seems like a perfect time to review what has happened over the past 360-some odd days.
As always, the global stage was full of tumult and change: 2011 saw the deaths of influential world figures (Warren Christopher, Muammar Gaddafi, Vaclav Havel, Steve Jobs, Kim Jong-Il, and Osama bin Laden, for example); uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa; the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq; devastating natural disasters (earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, typhoon in the Philippines, floods in south-east Asia, and famine in the Horn of Africa); and economic crisis in Europe.
We’ve scoured the web to find some of the best of the “2011 in Review” resources, and compiled them below. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.
2011 Year in Review (Reuters): Photos and descriptions of the most important news stories of the year, including a dramatic 60-second multimedia video presentation of the key stories, and some of the top images from 2011.
Best Articles of 2011 (Foreign Policy Magazine): Although not necessarily highlighting the most important news stories of the year, here are the most-read articles from foreignpolicy.com in 2011.
Best International Relations Books of 2011 (Foreign Affairs): In every issue of Foreign Affairs, scholars review recent academic and nonfiction books. At the end of 2011, the reviewers were asked to select the best ones. Here you will find the best books in a number of categories, including: Western Europe; the Middle East; the Western Hemisphere; Eastern Europe; Economic, Social, and Environmental Subjects; Asia; Africa; the United States; Military, Scientific, and Technological Subjects; and Political and Legal Subjects.
Personal Favorites from 2011 (A Realist in an Ideological Age): Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and writes a blog, A Realist in an Ideological Age, for Foreign Policy. In this post, he shares his favorite blog posts from the past year, all of which are worth a read.
Shots Seen ‘Round the World (Foreign Policy Magazine): Fifty of the best/most important photographs from 2011, as selected by Foreign Policy.
Top 5 Foreign Policy Books in 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best books about foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.
Top 5 International Documentaries of 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best international documentaries on issues related to U.S. foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.
Twitter’s 2011 Year in Review (Twitter): It is no secret that social media is playing an increasing role in current events. Here is a look at some of the key stories, hot topics, and important moments of 2011 — as seen on Twitter.
Your Top 10 Stories of 2011 (The Guardian): Links to the top ten news stories of the year, as selected by readers.
The Year in Foreign Policy (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA looks at several key foreign policy events that promise to shape the coming year, including the 2012 election.
Year in Review (Foreign Policy Blogs Network): The FPA’s blog network has a number of great, topic-specific “Year in Review” posts, all of which can be found here. Read about 2011 in Russia or Israel, or the year in Global Food Security or War Crimes (to name just a few).
This new development has many asking about al-Awlaki: who he was, what his death means, and whether the action was even legal. Here are a few articles and blog posts to help you better understand the situation.
Drone strike kills U.S.-born al Qaeda cleric al-Awlaki, U.S. officials say (CNN): The main news article from today.
The Myth of Anwar al-Awlaki (Foreign Policy): A fairly in-depth article from August, 2011 about Awlaki.
Anwar al-Awlaki: Gone But Not Forgotten (Foreign Policy): An opinion piece looking at Awlaki’s role and the future of al-Qaeda in Yemen after his death.
Anwar al-Awlaki: al Qaeda’s rock star no more (CNN): A different perspective on Yemen and al-Qaeda, post-Awlaki.
Al Qaeda’s Not Dead Yet (Brookings): Another opinion on the future al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemeni Cleric’s Killing: Praise and Unease (Council on Foreign Relations): An overview of the issues surrounding Awlaki’s (targeted) killing.
Was Killing American al Qaeda Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki Legal? (Time): A look at some of the legal issues and debate involved with the drone strike that killed al-Awlaki, and implications for future cases.
Was Anwar al-Awlaki still a U.S. Citizen? (Foreign Policy): A brief blog post asserting that al-Awlaki was in fact, still a U.S. citizen when he was killed.
Is Obama’s Use of State Secrets Privilege the New Normal? (The Nation): An article from (almost exactly) one year ago discussing civil liberties, state secrets, and Anwar al-Awlaki. Food for thought.