30 SEP 16 – Executive Intelligence Summary – Forward Observer Shop

30 SEP 16 – Executive Intelligence Summary


[wcm_nonmember]In this EXSUM (2423 words)…

  • Election hacking more about data integrity than changing votes
  • Soft Targets: DHS continues to worry about terrorism
  • NATO-Russia conflict maintains status-quo for now
  • UN Group Pushes for Reparations for Descendants of Slaves
  • Senior citizen explosion spells large challenges
  • Marc Faber’s Long/Short Positions
  • And more…


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Priority Intelligence Requirements:

PIR1: What are the current indicators of systems disruption that could lead to a SHTF event?

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

PIR3: What are the current indicators of military, government, political, or social-related instability or violence that leads to widespread domestic conflict?

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

PIR1: What are the current indicators of systems disruption that could lead to a SHTF event?

Election hacking more about data integrity than vote-changing

This week, Montana Senator Joe Tester (D) was quoted, in reference to election cybersecurity, as saying:  “What we are seeing are efforts to get into voter registration rolls, the identity of registered voters, things of that nature, not to change a ballot count.”  Now, I have zero inside information, however, I think this is a threat with serious consequences that we must take seriously: imagine if thousands or hundreds of thousands of registered voters show up to vote on election day and learn that they’re no longer registered.  This is not a prediction that this scenario will happen, but I’ll point out that if an adversary wants to cause a great amount of domestic turmoil, then this is an option on the table.  That said, for the past couple months I’ve iterated my concern about the growing likelihood of an SHTF event taking place between now and January, and perhaps indefinitely into the future.  This election may blow over and we have no other problems outside of the expected voter fraud that occurs during every election, however, November seems like a black swan waiting to land.

I remember a student who had signed up for one of the SHTF Intelligence courses, but decided not to attend because it was over 100 miles away.  And that was several years ago.  I don’t think we should be afraid and allow this looming specter of calamity, which may not even materialize, to change our plans, however, we should remain aware of the possibilities and plan accordingly.  I will admit that my last scheduled class this year is in late October, and I’m going to wait until after the election to see how things pan out before I get back out on the road.


Continuing concerns over military’s cyber defense

“Are we organized correctly to defend our weapon systems from the cyber threats of the future?  The answer is, ‘No, we’re not.’” – General Hyten, US Air Force Space Command

These kinds of problems that plague the military also extend to the government.  This is another indicator that the US is being lapped by foreign adversaries in the cyber domain, both on the ground and in space.  Longer term implications: given that space is the future battleground for warfare, the nation who conquers space warfare first has a significant strategic advantage over the globe.  That advantage isn’t just in offensive weaponry, but over satellite communications and imagery; two major force multipliers on which the US military relies.  When our economy is wholly dependent on timely communications, whether it’s via satellite or servers, the large surface area of attack becomes a target.  And that’s problematic because China remains a stanch competitor in the cyber and space arena.

In last week’s debate, Clinton urged caution over cybersecurity and warned that the US still has the greatest cyber capacity in the world.  I would agree, however, we also have one of the largest surface areas vulnerable to attack, and we have much more to lose in a cyber conflict.  We lose in the cyber world every day, because the world’s a big place, the areas we have to defend are big places, and we have finite resources with which to defend them.  I still have concerns over our ability to defend against a large scale cyber attack aimed at causing widespread systems disruption.  We know that nations like Russia and China have the capability, and at some point they could have enough intent to carry out an attack.  Our early warning indicator remains the issue of national sovereignty: when the US threatens the national sovereignty of Russia or China, then I believe a window opens.  Until that happens, I don’t expect a large scale cyber attack aimed at disrupting the homeland to happen out of the blue.


Seismologists predict increased likelihood of San Andreas fault earthquake

Due to several tremors off the coast of California this week, seismologists are predicting an increased likelihood (albeit low) of another Californian earthquake.  Scientists estimate that the last time the San Andreas fault line erupted was 1680.  Because, historically, movement in the San Andreas fault results in a large earthquake every 150-200 years, scientists are predicting that California is overdue.  Although relatively small — only as high as 1 in 100 chance of a large earthquake in the near-term — one seismologist said this is getting close to the “worry zone”.  If you live in an area that would be directly or indirectly affected by a devastating earthquake, then be sure to get with your friends, family, or prepper group and identify how it might affect you, and then make some plans to mitigate your risks.

This summer, 20,000 federal, state, and local officials and individual citizens participated in ‘Cascadia Rising’, the emergency response exercise held in Washington State that theoretically tested the government’s ability to respond to a large earthquake in the Seattle area.  If you live on the West Coast or could be affected by either earthquake scenario, then be sure to read through the Cascadia Rising Exercise Scenario (linked below).  It contains important information that could help you identify expectations for your area if an earthquake did occur.  DOWNLOAD


Report: Terrorists will target festivals, concerts, sporting events

A leaked Homeland Security report described by the Washington Times claims that Islamic terrorists are fixated on attacking music festivals, concerts, sporting events, and other outdoor venues.  Attack methods are likely to include “edged weapons, small arms, vehicle assaults and possibly [improvised explosive devices].”

From the report:  “We face an increased challenge in detecting in-progress plots by individuals or small groups acting quickly and independently or with only tenuous ties to foreign handlers… Preoperational indicators are likely to be difficult to detect; therefore, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners play a critical role in identifying and reporting suspicious activities and raising the awareness of federal counterterrorism officials.”


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.


NATO-Russia conflict maintains status-quo for now

This week, Russia accused the US and NATO of “aggressive” and threatening policy,  as the US responded with the back and forth accusations typical of the last several months.  Russia continues to modernize their military, carry out readiness and wargaming exercises, and deploy military units in preparation for a war with NATO.

The upside for Russia this week was that the OPEC announcement of cutting oil production (by about two percent) after the US election is likely going to bring oil prices up.  Low oil prices have hampered the Russian economy, however, it’s had little impact to Russian military spending.  Increased oil prices alone are not likely to be enough to bail Russia’s finances out of hot water, but it will give Putin a little bit of breathing room.  When Russia updated their national military doctrine in 2015, they named terrorism and a conflict with NATO as their top two national threats.  Their entire military doctrine is predicated on Russia’s ability to win small regional wars along its border (à la Ukraine), which is why we should expect Russia to continue its military buildup in the region, especially along its western border with Europe.

With the exception of deploying units to the western military district, including air defense missiles like the S-400 that just went to Russia’s border with Finland, there have been no significant developments that would lead me to believe that war is any more likely today than in previous EXSUMs.  One important development outside of war is that Putin recently announced a merger between the FSB, Russia’s domestic security service, and the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.  The new organization will be called the Ministry of State Security, which will mirror the KGB.  That’s a sure sign that Putin is undeterred in his vision to re-build the Russian Empire in the mold of the Soviet Union.  Putin is intent on taking away global superiority from the US, and that’s an early warning that conflict will grow more likely, especially if Hillary Clinton intends on fighting a war to maintain that supremacy.  That’s exactly why we’ve seen Russian political manipulation in Europe and the US, to elect leaders who have a softer approach towards Russia’s goals in the region.  If Trump is elected, then Putin avoids a war and likely achieves his goals.  The same can’t be said with Clinton.


SECDEF calls for increased patrolling in South Pacific

As the president of the Philippines called for an end to joint US-Filipino patrolling in the South Pacific, US Secretary of Defense has plans for increased patrolling, especially around China’s disputed islands.  US foreign policy remains committed to ensuring the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.  Rhetoric has not changed significantly since previous EXSUMs, as both nations telegraph their willingness to pursue the status quo as national security priorities, although the Japanese recently joined SECDEF in calls for joint patrols.  In response, China accused Japan of “playing with fire”.  Continued Chinese excursions around the Japanese border recently resulted in a record high number of scrambled Japanese fighters to deter Chinese movement in the area.

Chinese nationalist groups have a long history of carrying out cyber attacks against adversaries, and we expect that practice to continue unabated as China tries to bully its way to achieving its regional goals.  We judge the risk of conflict as moderate in the near-term, as we don’t believe the Chinese navy is capable of defeating a determined US response to ensure freedom of navigation through the area.  The downside of losing a small, blue water conflict with the US is just as critical as the upside. Still, that unfortunately means that the US is at heightened risk of systems disruption, especially with regard to cyber attacks.  If history is any metric, an “unexplained’ disruption to the US might make policy makers think twice about interfering in China’s regional aspirations.


PIR3: What are the current indicators of military, government, political, or social-related instability or violence that leads to widespread domestic conflict?

UN Group Pushes for Reparations for Descendants of Slaves

The United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent announced this week that reparations are a reasonable and prudent step in the right direction towards solving the “human rights crisis” for African Americans living under a brutal dictatorship in the US.  The panel suggested that reparations could include “a formal apology, health initiatives, educational opportunities … psychological rehabilitation, technology transfer and financial support, and debt cancellation.”

Over the summer, the Movement for Black Lives rolled out its political platform, a key plank of which was also reparations.  Overall, these recommendations aren’t likely to make a big splash in US political debate, however, it extends the idea that blacks in the US are owed something at the expense of others who had nothing to do with the injustices of slavery or the Jim Crow era.  It’s another indicator that gives legitimacy to black identity politics.  That should be worrisome because it could incite additional violence and lead to growing civil unrest.

A New York Times poll from this summer found that sixty-nine percent of Americans say that race relations are “generally bad”, which represents a high water mark under the Obama administration.  My greatest concern regarding civil unrest going forward is the likelihood for an explosion of violence should Trump be elected, especially considering all the money and exploitation already associated with racial identity politics.  It’s going to be a sad election for conservatives because there are no winners among us this year.


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

Senior citizen explosion spells large challenges

By now it should be no secret that the underlying reason why the Obama administration went after healthcare was not to actually provide quality, affordable care, but to expand control and political power over the nation’s largest age demographic.  According to US Census Data statistics, Americans are living longer lives, which puts a crunch on pensions and retirement savings, as well.  Today, there around 75,000 Americans older than 100, yet that number is expected to exponentially increase in the decades ahead.


It’s a problem that’s not easily solved, especially considering that the US will face a shortage of 90,000 doctors by the year 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.  Should there be no overnight SHTF event, this nation still faces steep challenges.  Ultimately, an aging population means a greater need, which means greater government control.  The future of Liberty in America is looking dimmer and dimmer by the day.


Faber: Long/Short Positions

Famed investor and author of the Gloom, Boom, and Doom Report, Marc Faber this week talked about his future global economic and financial outlook.  He predicted that by the year 2020, there’s a 100% chance of the US entering a recession, and an 80% chance that the European Union will break up.  He predicts an 80% chance that World War III erupts by 2025 under a Clinton Administration.  He also said if he had to bet, he would short the S&P 500 and the US Dollar over the next one to two years, and take long positions on social unrest, gold, and oil.


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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