National Intelligence Bulletin for 09 February 2018 – Forward Observer Shop

National Intelligence Bulletin for 09 February 2018

The National Intelligence Bulletin is a weekly look at national security, domestic systems disruption, the risk of failing critical infrastructure, and threats to social, political, economic, and financial stability in the United States. This report is available each week for National Intelligence subscribers.

In this National Intelligence Bulletin… (1,904 words)

  • Immigration enforcement contributing to culture war
  • Presidential round table on MS-13
  • GAO finds some U.S. electricity producers addressing geomagnetic risks
  • President creates National Vetting Center
  • A note about this week’s volatility
  • And more…

In Focus: Immigration enforcement is becoming a central plank and contributor in the culture war. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is aggressively going after illegal immigrants since the beginning of last year. According to Pew Research, the Miami, Dallas, and Minneapolis areas have experienced the greatest increase in arrests. [source]

Each week — for weeks now — I see several stories about a father or husband who’s been arrested by ICE. Buried towards the end of the article we often find that he was wanted previously for a crime, or made a deliberately false statement during his immigration process, or had overstayed his visa by a year or 30. Events and stories like these are having an impact in the culture war. Here’s a quick roundup of recent culturally-related immigration enforcement events:

  • A legal assistant quit his job after having to process subpoenas that would aid ICE officers track down illegal immigrants.
  • NYPD ignored 1,500 federal requests to detain immigrants in 2017.
  • The Dallas Independent School District is making plans to help children who’s parents are arrest for being in the U.S. illegally.
  • A Kansas community tries to save teacher from deportation.
  • An ICE contract sparks license plate reader backlash from cities. (We reported on this contract last week.)
  • Trump is going after immigration activists like me. Will you be next? (A real gem from USA TODAY)
  • Public defenders walk out in protest of ICE court arrests.

Last year, we saw large scale pro-immigration rallies at airports and some instances of civil disobedience where protestors were arrested. Numerous cities and police departments have ended relationships with ICE over immigration enforcement, and more cities are expected to protest. I’m seeing extremely sympathetic stories published in major news outlets and, as a result, anger is a completely rational feeling for many in the comments sections. Now some officials are floating the idea of ICE joining the U.S. Intelligence Community, which is fomenting more fear about living in a fascist or police state. This is having a large impact on society across the nation, and we’re likely to see a spring and summer with more protests and civil disobedience — and possibly violence — as activists fight back.

Priority Intelligence Requirements

PIR1: What are new the indicators of systems disruption and threats to critical infrastructure?
PIR2: What are the new indicators of potentially disruptive social, cultural or political conditions or events?
PIR3: How are state and federal agencies preparing for domestic conflict and/or instability?
PIR4: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to the economic or financial industry?

PIR1: What are new the indicators of systems disruption and threats to critical infrastructure?

Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems continue to pose the greatest risk to critical infrastructure. Cyber attacks, whether by criminal or nation-state actors, are unpredictable. While cyber attacks are more uncommon than cases of cyber exploitation, these events do pose a significant risk to critical infrastructure and national security.

Outside of black swan events, the greatest risk to systems disruption continues to be found in the stock market. As is often said, the stock market is not the economy, but the market has a great effect on the psychology of the nation.


PIR2: What are the new indicators of potentially disruptive social, cultural or political conditions or events?

Presidential round table on MS-13

During a round table discussion on Monday, a number of officials discussed a transnational criminal organization known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13. Here are some highlights:

– DHS Secretary Nielsen expressed her interest in working with Congress to pass a law that would allow law enforcement to identify and remove non-citizens affiliated with MS-13. She said: “I cannot keep [MS-13 members] out by virtue of them being in a gang. Once we catch them and detain them, I cannot remove them by virtue of them being in a gang,” implying that U.S. law enforcement has to wait until a crime has been committed in order to arrest and begin prosecution and eventual deportation.

– The Acting Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Criminal Division says there are 10,000 MS-13 gang members in the United States, “composed of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador”, who reside in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Many of them entered the U.S. illegally. The most concentrated areas of MS-13 members are in the D.C. Metro area (an estimated 3,000 members); Los Angeles (2,000); Long Island (2,000); Boston (1,000); and Dallas and Houston (800-1,200). MS-13’s motto is “Mata, Viola, Controla,” or “Kill, Rape, Control”.

“MS-13 members engage in indiscriminate violence. They commit rape, extortion, murder, often just for the sake of it. They recruit children to be their murderers. They gang-rape young girls, they sell them for sex. They attack their victims with chains, bats, machetes, firearms.”

In 2017, the Department of Justice secured convictions of 1,200 gang members, and “brought the most amount of cases against violent criminals in at least a quarter of a century,” in addition to aiding Northern Triangle countries — El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala — “so they can combat MS-13 themselves.” Internationally, some 4,000 suspected MS-13 gang members were arrested and charged.

– The Special Agent in Charge of New York City ICE characterized the fight against MS-13 as “war,” especially in the Northern Triangle against MS-13 command and control. The special agent wanted increased collaboration and intelligence sharing because MS-13 members who are smuggled into the U.S. “utilize other organizations” who are experts in smuggling. Last year, his office prosecuted a professional smuggler who had smuggled in special interest aliens from Pakistan, via Brazil, Central America, and the from Mexico. MS-13 uses these same pathways to gain illegal entry into the United States. He says that in 2017 alone, 40,810 unaccompanied children were resettled in the U.S.; 21,881 of which were from Northern Triangle countries and of recruitment age. Meanwhile, MS-13 is “looking at these 21,000 unaccompanied alien children that came into those states as potential recruits to continue to fill in their ranks.” Around 30 percent of arrested MS-13 gang members arrived here as unaccompanied children.

One last point of interest: Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA) mentioned investing in biometric identification of MS-13 members, so that they can be quickly identified when encountered by police. There’s quite a bit more that goes into biometrics and I’d be happy to cover how that works during a webinar. As for the rest of this conversation, f you live in New York, the D.C. Metro area and northern Virginia, you’ll want to read it. [source]



PIR3: How are state and federal agencies preparing for domestic conflict and/or instability?

GAO finds some U.S. electricity producers addressing geomagnetic risks

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finds that U.S. and Canadian electricity plants have studied “the potential effects of a severe geomagnetic disturbance (GMD),” but still need more information about the effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

11 of the 13 selected suppliers tell GAO they’ve assessed their vulnerabilities, and six say that their risks of GMDs are relatively small. Of the 11 suppliers who responded to GAO about the risk of EMPs, three had studied the effects of an EMP and two “had integrated, or plan to integrate,” EMP-resistant features. GAO writes, “The only extreme GMD event that has resulted in significant loss of power to the North America grid occurred in 1989”. The Department of Energy reports that while they need more information to fully understand specific vulnerabilities to EMPs, there are three ongoing projects to study the effects and risks of these events. [source] (Analyst Comment:. The good news is that progress is being made by electric companies to prepare for the potential effects of GMDs/EMP. Many companies are studying what’s currently available and requesting further information about their risks and vulnerabilities. They do complain, however, that much of the necessary information they need to make decisions remains classified. A second thing to keep in mind is that many of these companies would likely rather phase in EMP-resistant equipment during routine maintenance and repair, rather than replace an entire network of components. Another thing to consider is that the number of planetary GMDs are at historic lows, compared to every solar cycle on record since 1933.)

President creates National Vetting Center

President Trump this week announced the creation of a National Vetting Center that will “to coordinate the efforts of departments and agencies to better identify individuals seeking to enter the country who present a threat to national security, border security, homeland security, or public safety.” Operating under DHS, the center’s goal is to improve intelligence sharing to ensure that potential immigrants are better identified and vetted. [source] (Analyst Comment: Name-based vetting has significant limitations. Biometrics are increasingly being implemented, like the Biometric Entry/Exit System for tracking visa holders, however, biometric vetting can only work if the immigrant’s country of origin keeps a biometric database. An individual can use many names and if the country of origin doesn’t keep records, then proving identity can be difficult, especially if fraudulent documents are involved.)

PIR4: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to the economic or financial industry?

This week’s volatility:

It’s been up and down this week — mostly down — in the U.S. markets. Some watchers have written off the daily plunges as part of a healthy correction after a pretty monumental 2017 — a correction that was to be expected, eventually. Other economists and investors see the volatility as the result of the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Tightening and fears of rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve is going to simultaneously raise interest rates while removing liquidity from the economy.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. was last in a recession in June 2009 — nearly nine years ago. We know that on average a recession hits every six to eight years, and we’re about 14 months of continued economic growth away from the longest growth streak in recorded U.S. history. Given the feeling of economic strength right now — tax cuts, full employment, corporations giving bonuses to workers, repatriation of corporate cash and bringing jobs to America — I would not be surprised if President Trump presided over this significant achievement.

But let’s put all this in perspective. The president has loved to brag about high stock prices, but that’s not always necessarily a great thing. The chart below is the Shiller price-to-earnings ratio, showing that U.S. stock prices are growing higher as compared to corporate earnings. Everyone’s happy when stock prices are high, however, prices compared to earnings, as measured by this ratio, are signalling that stocks could be overvalued. And why are stock prices so high? A large reason why is the Federal Reserve cash that infused the U.S. economy and markets with something like four trillion dollars starting in 2008. Now that the Federal Reserve is starting to ‘tighten’ that liquidity and simultaneously raise interest rates, what could we expect to happen to stock prices? While the Shiller PE ratio is signalling that stocks are overvalued, this is not to say prices can’t go up from here, nor that they can’t go down from here, either. Keep in mind, though, that in 1999 the Shiller PE ratio reached 44-times-earnings, signalling a leading indicator for a significant event we call the Dot Com bubble burst.

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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