17 FEB 17 – Executive Intelligence Summary – Forward Observer Shop

17 FEB 17 – Executive Intelligence Summary


[wcm_nonmember]In this EXSUM… (2742 words)

  • US losing cybersecurity fight
  • Iran expected to ‘double down’ on hacking US targets
  • Russia & China SITREPs
  • Defense in Brief
  • Leftists see opportunity to take the offensive
  • Political violence roll-up
  • And more…


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ADMIN NOTE:  There was a question as to why I sporadically publish the URL for a webpage instead of a link, and I want to clear that up.  With website analytics, it’s very easy to see referring websites (like FO).  Because I’m pointing to relatively small websites on the bleeding edge of fringe political movements, I’d rather not let them know that FO is publishing their links.  Copy and paste the URL I provide if you’d like to read the source document, and I can point you to articles without creating a backlink to FO.


Bottom Line Up Front: The past month has been a political mess on all three sides of the aisle (the White House, the establishment/deep state, and the Left).  For starters, I’ve been disappointed with the chaotic nature of the Trump administration’s first 25 days.  That’s been a mainstream media talking point all week, but it’s true.  And I was truly disappointed to see that retired Vice Admiral Bob Harward had declined to accept the job of national security advisor.  Harward was my task force commanding officer at CJTF 435 on my first tour in Afghanistan.  I hold a great amount of respect for him, however, due to some disagreements with staffing, Harward didn’t take the job.  I think that’s a loss for the Trump administration.

In politics, as in war, it’s crucial to not make unnecessary enemies, yet President Trump seems to feed off conflict and remained undeterred by words and actions that make his job more difficult.  His press conferences are combative (which I love), and White House officials have been very open about how they feel about the media.  Just this week, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon walked by a group of reporters waiting at the White House, and pointed to them and said, “The opposition party, all lined up.”  And for their part, I’ve seen an astounding number of significant retractions over the past couple weeks as reporters attempt to break a story before anyone else, even at the risk of their scoop being untrue.  That’s a media frenzy that really is “out of control” as President Trump accused them of this week.

This week we also saw Mike Flynn’s forced resignation as national security advisor.  Since the election, I’ve written about the Trump administration’s plans to reform the intelligence community and greatly decrease the power they wield.  Well, Flynn is blowback.  In December, before President Trump was inaugurated, Mike Flynn held several phone conversations with the Russian Ambassador, which technically violated the Logan Act as Flynn was not yet authorized to hold official talks with foreign officials.  Flynn jumped the gun, likely at the behest of a higher authority; possibly even Trump himself.  Meanwhile, Flynn’s conversations with the ambassador were recorded by US intelligence officials, not because they were targeting Flynn but because they were targeting the ambassador’s communications, which is extremely routine.  The problem is that someone with access to these phone calls leaked Flynn’s involvement along with the conversations.  Flynn also misled Vice President Pence about the nature of the phone calls, which is why Flynn had to go.  The FBI reported that there was nothing illegal about the nature of the phone calls and that Flynn would not be the subject of an investigation.  Still, the conflict between the ‘deep state’ — the high level career officials whose jobs don’t come and go with each administration — and the Trump White House continues.  Some believe that they will target Steve Bannon next.  If Bannon goes, the brain of this administration is neutered.  I highly respect Steve Bannon and have a forthcoming article that will help you understand what the future of the Trump administration is going to look like.

As for the Leftist side of this conflict, they are organizing a resistance.  The Left has always stressed solidarity and the importance of getting organized, but I do think this is a new level.  For starters, Obama’s political action committee, Organizing for Action, has 250 offices nationwide and an army of 30,000 volunteers.  That’s certainly for nonviolent, political resistance; and some have even blamed Obama holdovers in government for sabotaging the Trump administration.  I believe it.  There are a number of other nonviolent political resistance organizations and I’ll have to cover those in a future EXSUM.

The more violent and revolutionary strains of Leftist resistance are organizing as well.  Drawing from revolutionary anarchist literature starting back in the 1990s and into the Bush administration/anti-war protests in the early 2000s, many members of these Leftist groups want to move forward with direct action and violent resistance.  We’ve seen some instances of that — the Inauguration, Berkeley (the Milo speech), New York University (the Gavin McInnes speech), and now protests and blockades against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vehicles.  Direct action against ICE seems to be a good starting point for these violent Leftist groups, and I think we should expect to see similar protests against the construction of the border wall, as evidenced in PIR 3.


Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the current indicators of systems disruption or instability that could lead to civil unrest or violence?

PIR2: What are the current indicators of an outbreak of global conflict?

PIR3: What are the current indicators of organized political violence?

PIR4: What are the current indicators of economic, financial, or monetary instability?

PIR1: What are the current indicators of systems disruption or instability that could lead to civil unrest or violence?

US losing cybersecurity fight

At this week’s RSA Conference, the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security painted a bleak picture of the US cybersecurity posture.  Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) said, “To be brutally honest we are in a fight of our digital lives and we are not winning.”  McCaul continued, “Today, in some cases, the United States government is fighting 21st century threats with 20th century technology in a 19th century bureaucracy.”  (SOURCE)


Iran expected to ‘double down’ on hacking US targets

Speaking at RSA this week, the vice president at cyber intelligence firm Crowdstrike warned that Iran was increasing its cyber targeting of Saudi Araba and said that the US could also experience an increase.  “What’s new is the level of activity we’ve seen, with dozens of targets in Saudi Arabia over the past two months,” Adam Meyers said.  “One of the things we’re tracking is if things escalate between the US and Iran, then we expect attacks will be likely in the [US] financial sector.”  (SOURCE)

PIR2: What are the current indicators of an outbreak of global conflict?

The prospects of global conflict continue to revolve around the usual players: Russia, China, and the Middle East. The ways in which global conflict could cause or contribute to a SHTF scenario in America are myriad and they largely depend on which conflict is initiated. We’re certainly at risk of cyber attack in the event of conflict in any of the three regions. Systems disruption, like the price and availability of fuel, is also a top concern that could cause a SHTF event.


This week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Talks centered around security cooperation.  Tillerson stated, “The US will consider working with Russia when we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people.”  Despite one significant event this week — the Russian spy ship off the coast of Virginia — the US/NATO and Russia do not look likely to engage in a conflict any time soon.

Read File:

Mattis: US ‘Not in a Position to Collaborate’ with Russia Military

Russian Spy Ship Spotted Off Virginia Coast

Navy Ship Buzzed by Russian Aircraft

Putin Pledges to Strengthen FSB

Putin Accuses NATO of Embroil Russia in Confrontation

NATO Not Planning to ‘Match Russia Soldier for Soldier, Tank for Tank’



The potential for a South China Sea conflict is still shaping up.  There’s a good chance that there will be conflict in the South China Sea, but how or when is largely dictated by how China responds to an increased US presence there.  The Trump administration has courted India, Japan, South Korea, and other nations as partners in countering China’s dominance in the region, and each of those countries has a vested interest in remaining as competitive as possible.

Read File:

IT: China Plans to Build Floating Nuclear Power Plants in South China Sea

US, Chinese Aircraft Have ‘Unsafe’ Encounter in South China Sea

Expect a Heavier US Presence in South China Sea


Defense in Brief:

The Army plans to add another heavy armored brigade combat team this year.  Army officials have acknowledged a “shortage” in armored units, which would be deployed to Europe in a NATO-Russia conflict.  We can look at these developments as the Army playing catch up, but it’s not an indicator that war is imminent.

The Army also plans to boost its short-range air defense capability in Europe.  That’s long been cited as a capability gap for US Army Europe.  This development is a continuation of the ongoing trend of increasing a reliable and credible military presence in Europe.  An increase in military presence in Europe is intended to deter further escalation of Russian military activity.  Despite improving relations with Russia, this growing and permanent military presence leads me to believe that a conflict is still very possible.

PIR3: What are the current indicators of organized political violence?

For Antifa, Not All Speech Should Be Free

Marc Bray, an historian from Dartmouth College, recently appeared on WNYC’s On the Media radio show, which is syndicated on National Public Radio stations across the country.  In this sympathetic interview, Bray says that Antifa’s goal is to apply social and physical pressure so that in 20 years, Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 are afraid to share that in public.  Bray says that raising the “social cost” of supporting President Trump and other conservative policies is the only way to cure bigotry in the US.  Both the host and Bray defend the idea that maybe all speech shouldn’t be free; an idea which has gained popularity among Leftists.  We’ll continue to see efforts by the Left to shut down what they consider “hate speech,” which carries with it very broad interpretations.


SWP Disavows Political Violence (For Now)

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) this week published an editorial warning that anarchist, Antifa, and black block violence towards the government and right-wing figures endangers the communist and socialist movements in the US.  Critical of anarchists, The Militant editorial criticized the belief that “a minority of adventurers can substitute themselves for mass actions and change society.”  The end result, says the editorial, is that it gives the government an opportunity to crack down on Leftist ideology.  The SWP prefers mass mobilization over small group direction action, with the aim of achieving critical mass in a revolutionary political party.  The editorial also warns that, “Attempting through violent attacks to silence those you disagree with from expressing their views is a method that can and will be used against the workers’ movement.”   (Source: http://www.themilitant.com/2017/8107/810750.html)


Crimethinc: Take the Offensive: Moving from Protest to Resistance

This week, leftist/anarchist revolutionary website Crimethinc published an opinion piece that called for a move from protest to active resistance.  “Should we fight a thousand defensive battles—or a single offensive one?” it asked.  After rattling off a litany of missteps by the Trump administration, the piece claims that “it seems possible that the administration will overstep its authority and bring about a constitutional crisis at some point over the next four years, if not sooner.”

The piece goes on to outline a strategy to move into resistance movement.  “[G]athering at times and places where our presence impacts the day-to-day operations of essential infrastructure can accomplish a great deal,” the author writes.  “For the moment, it may be enough to simply start picking targets to shut down, sending out calls over Twitter, seeing how many people show up, and taking it from there.”

The author also calls for anarchists to begin making contact — “Resistance to the Trump regime will succeed or fail depending on how effective we are at finding each other and making the most of our various strengths.”  This presents an opportunity to not only observe social media accounts attempting to make new contacts, but also make contact ourselves (via social media accounts) and learn more about local activities.

(One counterintelligence practice I’ve noticed is the distrust of new accounts with few followers and no real history of political activity.  While buying or selling a Twitter account is technically against Twitter’s terms of use, there are several account brokers online that specialize in Twitter accounts and it may be a good option for those who are more tech savvy.)

Finally, this opinion piece outlines three potential scenarios going forward.  The author states very clearly that if the Trump administration suffers a loss of legitimacy, then the resistance movement should “rise to a boil” to make the deep state choose between the Trump administration and the social stability of the nation.  The article is worth the read.  (Source:  https://crimethinc.com/2017/02/15/take-the-offensive-moving-from-protest-to-resistance)


Antifa sites encourage wheatpasting propaganda

Several websites associated with Antifa have promoted the idea of ‘wheatpasting’, which uses flour and water to post propaganda flyers to walls, street signs, telephone poles, and other structures.  Below is an example of one such propaganda flyer, which not only encourages actors to “materially disrupt the infrastructure” of the border wall and law enforcement facilities, but also uses violent rhetoric.


Atlanta Antifascists uses hotline to target ‘fascists’

The Atlanta Antifa Twitter account posted a before and after picture of replaced Alt-Right propaganda at Georgia State University.  In its place, the group left a “Wanted” poster encouraging passers-by to provide tips on white power and ‘fascist’ groups organizing in the area.  This follows additional reporting from last week where Atlanta Antifascists were posting propaganda in the city.


Leftists Promote Plans to Disrupt ICE and Deportations

Another article published this week by Crimethinc promotes direct action against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, although they fell short of promoting any particular strategy.  Here’s one the did float:

But what might that pressure point be? There are several possibilities. ICE maintains offices all around the United States. It is similarly easy to find the detention facilities they utilize. If word got out that protesters were massing around these and interfering with their operations, a great number of people around the country would likely follow suit. If this spread far enough, it could create a political crisis within the state.

Because we have seen smaller protests directed at blocking ICE vans, and because there’s a clear intent to disrupt ICE deportations, this scenario should be taken seriously.  (SOURCE:  https://crimethinc.com/2017/02/17/what-would-it-take-to-stop-the-raids-responding-effectively-to-the-ice-attacks)


Political Violence Roll-Up:

FL: UCF Socialist Club Urges Students to Kill Donald Trump

NY: ‘Neo-Nazis’ Beat Up Antifa supporters

UT: Chaffetz Townhall Crowd Tries ‘Bullying and Intimidation’

Opinion: Trump Administration Might Justify Political Violence

Mass Protests to Greet President Trump in UK

IGD: Wanted Posters for Dakota Access Pipeline Leaders


Antifa Roll-Up:

Inside the Black Bloc Militant Protest Movement

PA: Anarchist Posters & Graffiti Across Philadelphia

CA: Black Bloc Groups Leads Militant Protest in Bay Area

IA: Grinnel College Debates Antifa Calls for Violence


Black Lives Matter Roll-Up:

Toronto:  #BLM Co-Founder Calls White People ‘Recessive GeneticDefects’

NM: #BLM Rally Draws Crowd


Black Panthers/Black Separatists:

CA: Museum Celebrates 50 Years of Black Panthers

WI: Revolutionary Black Panthers Threaten $400MM Lawsuit Against Milwaukee PD

CT: Yale to Host ‘Black Panther Party’ for Black History Month

PIR4: What are the current indicators of economic, financial, or monetary instability that lead to worsening economic conditions or civil unrest?

Economists and investors seem to agree that the economy is on a solid footing to grow under the Trump administration, even if the market is in uncharted and over-bought territory.  There are no new indicators pointing to a financial or economic crisis in the near term, however, black swan events  — cyber attack on financial infrastructure, war with China (trade or otherwise), terror attack, etc. — are the only caveat.  Long term threats to the US financial system and economy remain.


Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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