National Intelligence Bulletin for 13 July 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 Intelligence subscribers.

In this National Intelligence Bulletin… (3,597 words)

  • Market for protecting critical infrastructure set to explode soon
  • ISIS hackers targeting Western government infrastructure
  • Two federal officers injured during ICE protest in Oregon
  • Barely one-third of Americans have a lot of confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, less in many other institutions
  • Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America grew dramatically after primary win by DSA member in NYC
  • IRS could revoke passports of American Expats who owe taxes \
  • Massive hurricanes due to changing weather patterns could be on the horizon
  • Younger Americans are warming up to socialism
  • And more…

ADMIN NOTE: All reporting and analysis is the product of Jon Dougherty, unless otherwise marked “S.C.” for Samuel Culper.

 

InFocus: There was a rather disturbing story this week in USA Today regarding the escalating murder rate in Baltimore, one of the most dangerous large cities in the U.S. According to an analysis of police arrest and response statistics, along with interviews from current and former Baltimore PD officials and officers, it became clear that the 2015 Freddie Gray incident, in which Gray, 25, was arrested and suffered a fatal neck injury while in police custody, changed the behavior of the Baltimore Police Department.

Since 2015, shortly after the Gray-related rioting, Baltimore police officers stopped being so aggressive when it came to intervention in potentially criminal activity. They have continued to respond when called, and they respond in a timely fashion, the USA Today analysis noted. But what is now different is that Baltimore police appear to be ‘seeing less criminal activity.’ One former detective observed that officers were now doing their jobs with blinders on.

What’s occurring in Baltimore appears to be occurring in communities and cities all over the country. Police, fearful of reprisals from politically conscious superiors, liberal prosecutors, and lawsuits, are increasingly backing off from their duties, which is putting the public at greater risk. I have several law enforcement friends who work in different capacities – small cities, large urban areas, mid-sized counties – and they are all saying the same things: Politics, and in particular Left-leaning politics, is driving police policies along with decisions not to prosecute suspects who are threats to their communities.

What’s happening is definitely taking a toll on officer morale and recruitment. My police friends all say their departments are short of officers (so is Baltimore, by the way, and there has been an exodus from the Seattle Police Department this year, according to earlier reports) and that it is getting tougher to recruit replacements. “No one wants to be a cop today,” one of them told me.

There’s much more, so welcome to this week’s National Intelligence Bulletin. Thank you for subscribing. — JD


Priority Intelligence Requirements

PIR1: What are the new 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, emergencies, or other instability?

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


 

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

Market for protecting critical infrastructure set to explode soon

As cybercrime and threats of cyberattack rise, the cyber protection industry is set to explode as the need arises to protect critical infrastructure. A new study and report from the Grand View Research firm says the global critical protection market will reach $135.8 billion by 2025 amid increasingly sophisticated cyber threats to all critical infrastructure including power grids, air traffic control, water treatment, dams, and transportation. Cybercrime is also driving growth in the cyber defense sector as reliance on the Internet is only expected to grow. Governments – including the U.S. government – have put cyber defense plans in place that focus on critical infrastructure protection. In the U.S., government works largely with the private sector to enhance its cyber defenses. [source] Analyst comment: Past reporting has noted that a majority of cybersecurity experts believe two things: (1) Our critical infrastructure will be directly targeted in the future; and (2) Companies and governments are currently not doing enough to prepare for it. The fact that this report sees dramatic growth in the cyber defense industry suggests that governments and the private sector are recognizing the need to do better.

America needs a more qualified water workforce

One of our most vital natural resources is water, and it is also a key component of our critical infrastructure. The water industry employed 1.7 million workers in 2016, according to the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. But while Brookings said that water occupations very often pay above-average wages, jurisdictions around the country are having trouble finding qualified workers to help protect and manage water infrastructure. According to the Water Research Foundation, over the next decade one-third of all current and wastewater workers will retire. In some big cities like Chicago and Atlanta, that figure will hit 50 percent. Congress understands the problem and has included a grant program in pending legislation, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018,” which is currently in the Senate as S. 2800. The objective is to allow for the training and hiring of qualified water professionals to ensure that the nation’s critical water infrastructure is maintained. [source] Analyst comment: Every year there are some 230,000 water main breaks in the U.S., spilling untold millions of gallons of fresh water (at a time when parts of the country are suffering water shortages due to drought and other conditions). In Washington, D.C., where many water pipes date to the Civil War-era, there is an average of one break per day. In 2013 in San Francisco, there were 100. In cities all across the country, water infrastructure that dates back to the turn of the 20thcentury is failing in increasing numbers.

Rising number of wildfires posing more risk to water supplies

In addition to burning off natural resources, endangering people, and imposing huge costs, wildfires also contaminate water supplies. A recent report by researchers at the University of Colorado’s Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering found that as wildfires increase in numbers and intensity, the availability of fresh water for many parts of the country is diminishing. Many facilities that produce potable water get their supply from forested watersheds; wildfires very often cause those to become contaminated, researchers have discovered. [source] Analyst comment: The problem isn’t limited to rural Colorado and other parts of the West. The U.S. Geological Survey notes that roughly two-thirds of the nation’s watersheds are forested watersheds, and many large cities currently get their water from them. As dry, summer conditions arrive across the country, wildfires are likely to increase the risk of water contamination for large numbers of people.


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

Two federal officers injured during ICE protest in Oregon

Two protesters were arrested and two federal officers were injured in a clash over recent demonstrations at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Portland, Ore. Federal police said a third protester was arrested before the clash occurred. The multi-day protest was largely peaceful but demonstrators had forced the facility to close because they blocked access to the building. The protest grew violent after demonstrators pulled down tape separating them from the ICE building. The officers received minor injuries after being surrounded by demonstrators during their attempt to clear a path to the ICE building. [source] Analyst comment: The demonstration was a response to calls from some Democrats and Left-leaning immigration activists to disband ICE and end President Trump’s immigration enforcement actions, which included, for a time, separating children from accompanying adults when caught crossing illegally into the U.S., as well as internal immigration enforcement actions aimed primarily at finding and deporting known illegal alien criminals. Protests in and of themselves are not problematic per se, but ICE is being demonized by activists, politicians and the media to the point where it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we could see additional violence – even deadly violence – directed at agents in the near future.

Barely one-third of Americans have a lot of confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, less in many other institutions

A recent Gallup survey found that just 37 percent of Americans have a “great deal” of faith in the nation’s highest court. The largest share of Americans, 42 percent, said they have “some” confidence in SCOTUS, while 18 percent expressed “very little” or “no” confidence in the high court. Gallup noted that the number of Americans expressing the highest confidence was “relatively low,” but holding “steady.” There is a political component to the survey results as well. Over the past year, since President Trump appointed Neil Gorsuch to the high court, Democratic high confidence has fallen 10 percent to 33 percent, while Republican high confidence over the past two years has climbed 15 percent to 44 percent. The survey results were taken before the Supreme Court’s most recent term ended in June and decisions were handed down. [source] Analyst comment: These results were part of an annual survey Gallup conducts on American institutions. Those results are here. The U.S. military, small businesses and police departments are at the top of the 15-institution list; the Supreme Court is more towards the upper- middle of the pack while the criminal justice system (22 percent), TV news (20 percent) and Congress (11 percent) – in that order – are at the bottom. Banks (30 percent) and public schools (29 percent) don’t even garner high marks from one-third of Americans. Newspapers (23 percent) are just above the bottom three.

(S.C.: One of my early warning indicators for social and political instability leading to mass civil unrest, and potentially a domestic conflict, is a loss of faith in government institutions. I’ve clipped out the average confidence level of U.S. institutions graph provided by Gallup. We see up years and down years, but a downward trajectory is very apparent. If this data is correct, and our key assumption is that falling confidence in public and private institutions causes unrest, then it’s fair to expect a rocky sociopolitical and cultural future in America that could absolutely lead to some kind of domestic conflict.)

Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America grew dramatically after primary win by DSA member in NYC

Earlier this month Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old self-avowed socialist and member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), defeated 10-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, a leader in his party who was expected by some to a candidate to replace House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at some point in the near future. According to the head of the DSA, Maria Svart, writing in the New York Daily News earlier this month, the DSA movement was “growing” – 1,200 people joined the DSA within 24 hours of Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. They join more than 43,000 other members organized into 220 chapters in all 50 states. She claimed that the election victory of Ocasio-Cortez built upon a groundswell of support for socialist policies advocated by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. [source] Analyst comment: In her column, Svart criticized corporations, the Trump administration’s border enforcement policies, lamented that 30 million Americans don’t have health insurance and workers are getting a bad deal from the companies that employ them. She also sounded a similar Leftist refrain – that the top one percent of earners are reaping 85 percent of all new income, a figure that actually has some basis in fact. As the DSA movement grows, two things are likely: More establishment Democrats will be knocked off by far-Left DSA candidates (leading to the election of more DSA candidates to Congress); and the ideological divide between two factions – Socialists and traditional free-market capitalist small “r” republicans – will grow even more pronounced, making violence more likely in the coming months and years. (S.C.: I was just reading this afternoon that there will be another effort to draft Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for the 2020 general election.)

IRS could revoke passports of American Expats who owe taxes

Americans who owe taxes and live abroad could have their passports revoked soon if they don’t pay what they owe. The problem lies with the IRS, which has trouble sending mail to foreign addresses, so American Expats may not even know they owe the Treasury money. According to the most recent data, some 362,000 Americans are at risk of having passport renewals denied if they don’t settle their tax debt under a new policy adopted by the IRS. The tax agency has begun sending names of indebted Americans to the State Department, which has noted that some passport renewals have already been denied. More than that, however, the State Department also has the authority to actually revoke the passports of tax debtors living abroad, but for the time being, the department is only focused on denying renewals. According to a 2015 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, “IRS data systems are not designed to accommodate the different styles of international addresses, which can cause notices to be undeliverable. Other factors complicate the delivery of international mail, making its delivery less certain than domestic correspondence.” The same report said that the IRS sent out 855,000 tax delinquency notices and letters to American taxpayers living abroad in 2014 but yet “does not know if international taxpayers receive the tax correspondence sent to them.” [source]

Massive hurricanes due to changing weather patterns could be on the horizon

The most severe hurricane classification is a Category 5, but in the near future, it’s possible there could be even larger hurricanes – Category 6, which have never before seen. For what it’s worth, weather and climate experts say hurricanes are becoming slower and wetter, meaning they are more likely to linger for longer periods over areas of the country and drop even more precipitation. There is still debate over whether hurricanes will be more numerous, but most researchers do believe they will at least be stronger. “There’s almost unanimous agreement that hurricanes will produce more rain in a warmer climate,” said Adam Sobel, professor of applied physics at Columbia University, where he is director of the Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate. “There’s agreement there will be increased coastal flood risk, at a minimum because of sea-level rise. Most people believe that hurricanes will get, on average, stronger. There’s more debate about whether we can detect that already.” Timothy Hall, senior scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies said it’s possible that by the end of the 21stcentury, monster hurricanes featuring 230-plus mile-per-hour winds are possible. Of note: Hurricane Patricia, which hit in October 2015, featured winds that reached 215 miles per hour. [source] Analyst comment: Predicting the weather 10, 20, 50 years from now is a very inexact science, so all researchers really have to go on is current data on storms and storm systems that have already occurred. Like intelligence analysts, they look for trends and once found, those can lead to accurate conclusions. Some trends already noted include higher winds, slower moving storms, and more rain per storm – all of which means more damage, more flooding, and greater costs to communities and the private sector, not to mention deleterious effects on infrastructure and commerce.


PIR3: How are state and federal agencies preparing for domestic conflict, emergencies, or other instability?

U.S. Cyber Command issues formal proposal for new cyber weapon system

The Air Force has now formally issued a proposal for Unified Platform, a long-awaited Defense Department cyber weapon system. The Unified Platform is one of Cyber Command’s most pressing and critical acquisition programs thus far. Officials have said the platform is necessary for cyber operations and is crucial to national security. Pentagon officials have noted that Unified Platform will contain both offensive and defensive tools and allow for command/control, situational awareness and planning. Cyber industry officials have referred to the Unified Platform as a “cyber carrier” – like an aircraft carrier for the Navy – that will be used to launch cyber operations and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. [source] Analyst comment: What makes this relevant for the purposes of national intelligence is that the Defense Department – and not private corporations – will be tasked with responding to cyber attacks that target critical infrastructure operated by the private sector. This suite of cyber tools is likely to become the foundation for the Pentagon’s retaliatory capability in the cyberspace. The Air Force’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 is nearly $30 million but drops significantly in FY 2020 and FY 2021, which gives us an indication of when the service expects to have Unified Platform operational.

Key federal agencies seeking new emergency powers following cyber attacks

In order to allow for a faster, easier response following a cyberattack or natural disaster, key federal agencies including the Defense Department could soon be permitted to award “micro-purchase” contracts of up to $20,000, in order to speed recovery efforts, according to new proposed rule. If implemented, the federal agencies affected would be able to quickly turn to the private sector for assistance and would speed up the agencies’ approval processes. “This is emergency procurement authority and not a substitute for normal procurement,” said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, a trade group advocating on behalf of government contractors. The rule change would amend the 2017 Defense Authorization Act. Besides the Pentagon, the rule change would also apply to the General Services Administration and NASA. It was already approved in the 2017 legislation; it is expected to be implemented following the required public input period. [source] Analyst comment: It’s not clear if this rule change is part of the Trump administration’s overall effort to streamline government acquisition processes and/or response to attacks on critical infrastructure. Speed will be of the essence in any major cyber incident or other natural disaster.

Trump to nominate Energy Dept. vet with cyber background to lead DHS research wing

President Trump will nominate William Bryan to become the Department of Homeland Security’s undersecretary for science and technology; the top technology advisor to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He will head up the department’s Science and Technology Directorate, which is a research wing that makes investments in emerging cybersecurity technologies. Bryan has been acting undersecretary of the division for a year and is said to have a very strong cybersecurity background. His primary focus at DoE’s Office of International Affairs was Ukraine, where he assisted the country in mitigating effects of cyber attacks. [source] Analyst comment: As cyberattacks become more of a threat and U.S. systems remain vulnerable, President Trump is nominating someone imminently qualified – on paper, anyway – to help find innovative ways to better defend our critical infrastructure, which is constantly under assault and probed for vulnerabilities regularly, past reporting has noted. Adding Bryan to R&D, basically, puts an exclamation point on how important the Trump administration considers cyber defense.

Utah places air quality sensors on public transit as pollution levels exceed govt. standards

Due to rising levels of air pollution which repeatedly exceed federal standards throughout the year in various locations around the state, University of Utah researchers have placed air quality sensors on public transportation to get a better indicator of where levels rise the most and during what times of the year. Sensors were recently placed atop a train car belonging to the Utah Transportation Authority’s TRAX light rail system while it traveled a 45-mile route in Salt Lake City. Measurements are taken once per second, measuring the amount of hazardous particulate matter in the air. A cellular modem transmits air quality data every five minutes to researchers at the university. The mobile concept alleviates the need for fixed-location monitors, which may not be as accurate and can’t recreate pollution density maps as well. [source] Analyst comment: Pollution levels in Salt Lake City exceed the U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for 40 days each year.


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

Younger Americans are warming up to socialism

As massive corporations continue to dominate the American business industry, entrepreneurialism is fading. That phenomenon is contributing to a rise in preference for socialism over capitalism among young people, according to a new YouGov survey. Capitalism only beats out Socialism in the 18-29-year-old group by three points – 39 percent to 36 percent. Meanwhile, the gap is much wider among older Americans. In the 30-44 age group, 50 percent back Capitalism vs. 26 percent for Socialism; in the 45-64 age group, the gap is wider, 59-24 percent. While it’s not completely clear why younger people are more supportive of Socialism – it could be a generational thing or an unfamiliarity about the world of business – some believe it could also be due to rising inequality and the decline of small businesses. [source] Analyst comment: Socialism as an economic model has been a historic failure, while capitalism in its truest form has been a success. Much of what is viewed as ‘capitalism’ today is really “crony capitalism,” which is defined as “an economy that is nominally free-market, but allows for preferential regulation and other favorable government intervention based on personal relationships.” In other words, it’s like government using the power of regulation to pick winners and losers, which is why, perhaps, so many young people are lured to Socialism by the false promise of “equality.”

U.S. lifts ban on Chinese telecom ZTE, allowing it to reopen

The Trump administration lifted its ban on American firms selling parts to Chinese telecom ZTE after the company agreed earlier to a settlement with the Commerce Department that included a $1 billion fine and the deposit of $400 million in an escrow account. The company announced Friday that it expected to post a record net loss over the first half of 2018 due mostly to the fine. The company also announced it would resume operations after a multi-year ban on doing business with U.S. suppliers imposed by the Obama administration after the firm violated U.S. sanctions by selling to Iran and North Korea. [source] Analyst comment: The Trump administration had become concerned that the state-supported company was using its devices to spy on users; ZTE phones and other products were also being sold on U.S. military bases, for example. It’s unclear whether ZTE will continue to pose a risk, but as part of the settlement, the company had to agree to install U.S. compliance officers and change board members.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *