National Intelligence Bulletin for 15 June 2018 – Forward Observer Shop

National Intelligence Bulletin for 15 June 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… (3626 words)

  • DHS detected signs of cell phone spying in Washington, D.C. 
  • Radical progressive narrowly wins Georgia election, vows ‘economic and racial justice’ 
  • More than 40 groups demand DHS release unredacted ‘race paper’ used to justify spying 
  • Nearly half of Americans believe our moral values are ‘poor’ 
  • Murder of Mexican political candidates spiraling out of control 
  • Almost half of Baltimore police worked OT in May
  • And more…

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?

U.S. dams coming under increasing threat

According to a report from the Inspector General at the Department of the Interior, industrial control systems at two major dams are “at high risk from insider threats.” The IG’s investigation found that the dams had more administrator accounts than were necessary to run the dams. At one dam, 10 out of 30 administrator accounts shared the same password. Additionally, the Bureau of Reclamation, a part of the Department of the Interior, refused to implement some of the IG’s recommendations. While the report does not name the two dams, the Bureau of Reclamation oversees more than 600 of 100,000 dams in America. You can read the IG report here. SC: The risk of a successful cyber or insider attack against a dam is low, however, an attack that utilizes insider threats to enable foreign cyber exploitation has a much greater chance of success and a much greater chance of causing significant damage. The most obvious risk of a dam failure is to the people who live below the dam, but a successful attack could also cause prolonged power outages for those who live beyond the flood areas.

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

Radical progressive narrowly wins Georgia election, vows ‘economic and racial justice’

Mariah Parker, a 26-year-old radical “progressive” candidate for Athens-Clark County Commission who won a 13-vote victory, was sworn in last week. Eschewing a Bible, Parker placed her left hand on a copy of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” while raising her right hand in a fist reminiscent of the “black power” symbol as she repeated the oath. The University of Georgia doctoral candidate and hip-hop artist told local media prior to her election that, “My platform centers around economic and racial justice.” Moreover, “The policies of this town have been structured, deliberately, to ensure that a certain class of people will continue to thrive and a certain class of people will continue to not. She added, “The racists have all the money, still, so it’s economically advantageous to cater to them,” as she said she would push for a policy that earmarked 30 percent of Athens’ contracts for black- and Latino-owned businesses. [source] Analyst comment: Most bigger U.S. cities have long been run by Democrats, but a growing faction of the party enthused by the Leftwing populism of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential candidacy has moved to the extreme Left, where many are being cultivated by progressive organizations for local elections. One such organization is “Run For Something,” which encourages young progressives to run for a local office on a “social justice” platform. This effort is parallel to a much wider push by wealthy Leftists, including George Soros, to elect progressive district attorneys whose stated objective is ‘justice system reform’ but which is aimed at prosecuting fewer minorities. Earmarking contracts to favored business owners will lead to inflated bids and less efficient use of taxpayer funds while keeping criminals on the street will further erode police effectiveness and morale, while putting the general public in greater danger.

More than 40 groups demand DHS release unredacted ‘race paper’ used to justify spying

More than 40 racial justice and civil liberties organizations have demanded the Department of Homeland Security release an unredacted version of what is called a “Race Paper” — an internal memo the department has used to justify surveillance of racial justice activists. “We are concerned that biases and inaccuracies reflected in the ‘Race Paper’ could result in unconstitutional law enforcement activities throughout the country that disproportionately impact activists, protesters, and communities of color,” wrote the groups, which included Free Press, the Brennan Center for Justice, Color of Change, and the NAACP. According to the groups, the memo—officially titled Growing Frequency of Race-Related Domestic Terrorist Violence—”may improperly suggest that constitutionally-protected Black political speech should be considered an indicator of criminal conduct or a national security threat.” “There is zero evidence that Black activist movements fighting for racial justice and against police brutality have been co-opted by violent terrorists,” said Sandra Fulton, government relations director for Free Press. The groups’ letter compares DHS’s current efforts to surveil black activists to the government’s targeting of civil rights advocates in the 1960s under COINTELPRO. [source] Analyst comment: Without referencing the racial aspect of these complaints, it is important to note that concern — and even some surveillance, most likely — of Left-leaning groups began under the Obama administration. DHS and the FBI were growing concerned about rising levels of violence at political events by members of the loosely-aligned “Antifa” group, which still exists and whose members are still showing up at local political demonstrations sponsored by conservative organizations to start trouble. The real problem here, as I see it, is not government surveillance of groups who may be subversive regardless of race (most Antifa members appear to be white); it’s the harm political violence is causing to our supposed right of free expression and speech.

Nearly half of Americans believe our moral values are ‘poor’

Forty-nine percent of Americans say the state of moral values in the U.S. is “poor” — the highest percentage on this measure since its inception in 2002. Meanwhile, 37 percent of U.S. adults say moral values are “only fair,” and 14 percent say they are “excellent” or “good.” Americans have always viewed the state of U.S. morals more negatively than positively. But the latest figures are the worst to date, with a record-high 49% rating values as poor and a record-tying-low 14% rating them as excellent or good. What’s more, 77 percent surveyed said they believe our values are actually getting worse; just 18 percent believe they are getting better. The last time this many Americans believed the country’s values were this poor was in the 2006-2008 timeframe, the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. [source] Analyst comment: Much of this has to do with the current occupant in the White House and which party is running Congress, meaning the overall takeaway is that our people are becoming more and more polarized, intractable, and unwilling/unable to compromise, which makes internal conflict more likely, not less.

Refugee admission numbers up slightly in May

In September President Trump set the limit for refugee admissions for all of 2018 at 45,000, but thus far we are well below that figure. Nevertheless, refugee admissions rose slightly in May to 2,132, up from the monthly average of 1,741 for the year thus far. If estimates hold, the U.S. will only see about 23,000 refugee admissions for all of 2018, well below the target figure. The top 10 ‘welcoming’ states, in descending order, are: Texas, Ohio, New York, California, Washington, Arizona, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Kentucky. [sourceAnalyst comment: Thus far the Trump administration appears to be keeping the president’s pledge to reduce the numbers of refugees allowed in the country, in line with his intent to enforce all immigration laws, end sanctuary cities, and — eventually — built his border wall. This issue will continue to be politically popular among a majority of Americans who backed Trump’s 2016 candidacy on this issue.

Loss of social status said to be driving white backlash to welfare programs

Fear of losing their socioeconomic standing in the face of demographic change may be driving white Americans’ opposition to welfare programs, according to new research. While social scientists have long posited that racial resentment fuels opposition to such anti-poverty programs as food stamps, Medicaid, and Temporary Aid to Needy Families, this is the first study to show the correlation experimentally, demonstrating a causal relationship between attitudes to welfare and threatened racial status. “With policymakers proposing cuts to the social safety net, it’s important to understand the dynamics that drive the welfare backlash,” said lead author Rachel Wetts, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. “This research suggests that when whites fear their status is on the decline, they increase opposition to programs intended to benefit poorer members of all racial groups.” [source] Analyst comment: Whites comprise 43 percent of Medicaid recipients, 36 percent of food stamp recipients, and 27 percent of Temporary Aid to Needy Families recipients. Since whites are still around 60 percent of the country, they are underrepresented on a per capita basis for dependency on social welfare. On a larger point, however, these findings appear to reinforce other data suggesting our racial divide is growing wider.

The police drone surveillance state is now a real thing

As affordable consumer drone technology has become more affordable, commoditized artificial intelligence software has made surveillance via drone automatic. The two trends merged this week after drone maker DJI partnered with Axon, the company that makes Taser weapons and police body cameras. The objective is to sell AI-capable surveillance drones to local police departments. Now, not only will police agencies have access to drones but video feeds will be analyzed in real time, automatically, by AI systems to which the public does not have access. Footage will be uploaded or streamed to Axon’s digital cloud for police cameras, like the body cameras it currently sells, where it can be analyzed by Axon’s AI and used for anything from crowd monitoring to search and rescue. If that sounds rather vague, recently-published research from India and Britain show how AI mated with a drone system can be used to detect “violent individuals” in real time. In order to train the AI, researchers flew a drone to take 2,000 images of people who were pretending to harm each other. But since those were staged events and no real incidents of violence, there’s no guaranteeing that the AI system will work well in real life. Big social media corporations Google and Facebook have also been working to solve the same problem — tracking how people move and what movements indicate they are doing. [source] Analyst comment: Aside from the obvious concern about identifying movement and human behavior correctly, civil liberties organizations likely see huge problems here with potential not just for misidentification but for out-and-out abuse. This kind of public surveillance has all kinds of constitutional implications — privacy violations, wrongly accusing someone and warrantless searches to name the most significant.

Murder of Mexican political candidates spiraling out of control

 Violence surrounding Mexico’s upcoming elections is only worsening the closer we get to election day. As of this writing 113 political candidates have been murdered — most by the various rival drug and human trafficking cartels. In one of the most recent incidents, Fernando Purón, who had just completed a debate with rival congressional candidates in the Mexican border city of Piedras Negras, was shot in the head and killed as he posed for a selfie with a supporter. Officials are bracing for even more bloodshed ahead of the 1 July elections, which will likely see Mexico’s version of Bernie Sanders, Manuel Lopez Obrador, end up victorious. The violence thus far against candidates for elected office is unprecedented, and it comes following a year (2017) in which Mexico saw a record number of murders — the third record year in a row. Political candidates from all parties are being targeted. [source] Analyst comment: For all the country’s natural resources and sources of income and wealth, today’s Mexico is nothing more than a gargantuan narco-state. At nearly every level of government and in almost every state within the country, it is rife with drug cartel influence, activity and violence. Any politician seen as a threat to their operations is eliminated, publicly and brazenly. Very few assassins are ever caught, which in and of itself encourages more violence. About a decade ago Mexican leaders ‘declared war’ on the cartels and called in the military; it hasn’t helped and in fact, violence has only increased. Add to the mix a future president who wants to transform Mexico’s existing economy into something more akin to the failed brand of socialism in Venezuela and it’ s easy to see how our illegal immigration problem is going to grow dramatically worse in the next few years. Out-of-control violence and heavy job losses created by state-imposed regulations aimed at ‘spreading the wealth’ to the masses will make today’s high numbers of aliens trying to cross into the U.S. seem like a pittance. Walls don’t stop all illicit activity along borders but they certainly help.

Almost half of Baltimore police worked OT in May

Nearly half of all police officers in Baltimore worked mandatory overtime in the month of May because the department is chronically short of personnel. On some days, as many as 40 percent of officers on duty were working OT shifts, according to records. The Patrol Division is the backbone of the department’s daily presence. Officers assigned to Patrol respond to emergencies and other calls for help and assistance. The city and police union officials say that 1,200 Patrol officers are needed daily to keep the public safe. During the last week of May, however, just 792 were assigned to the division. The chronic shortage of officers not only costs the city and taxpayers millions of dollars more in OT than in regular pay, it also wears down officers, making them less effective. “I don’t think the majority of the public understand how short we are and how dangerous it is,” Lt. Gene Ryan, the president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 said. “When you see the paperwork and the numbers, it’s mind-boggling.” [source] Analyst comment: If you recall, Baltimore was the site of riots in April 2015 after suspect Freddie Gray, who was black, died in police custody. As a result, Marilyn J. Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, claimed early on that his death was unjustified and that six officers involved in handling his arrest and transporting him were guilty of manslaughter. Multiple juries disagreed; none of the six officers were found guilty. But the damage was done: The impression left by the ordeal on the bulk of the force was that neither the city nor ranking police officials had their backs. Now, the city struggles not only with staffing but with recruitment. The Left’s “war on police” that was begun under the last administration has produced the predictable result of reducing interest in policing as a career, thus making it increasingly difficult for departments to not only adequately staff shifts but to recruit new officers as well. This will end badly when low staffing results in the deaths of citizens in a growing number of cities around the country; those deaths will trigger expensive lawsuits that departments will lose, which will only compound the problem of getting enough officers to fill the ranks. Meantime, the ‘locals’ will pick up on two facts: 1) Police are less willing to engage the public and put themselves at risk; and 2) a chronic shortage of officers means they will become more emboldened to commit crimes and acts of violence. 

Honduran man who planned to set off bomb at Miami mall sentenced for attempting to provide support for ISIS

Vicente Adolfo Solano, 53, a citizen of Honduras residing in Miami, was sentenced to 210 months in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, after planning to detonate an explosive device at a Miami mall.  Solano pleaded guilty on March 14. Solano planned to place and detonate an explosive device in a crowded area of a popular Miami mall.  Solano discussed his plot with the confidential human source (CHS) and two undercover FBI employees.  According to the complaint, Solano provided three videos to the CHS, in which Solano makes pro-ISIS statements and expresses anti-U.S. sentiments.  Just prior to his arrest, Solano took possession of what he believed was an explosive device, took steps to arm it, and walked toward a mall entrance in order to carry out his attack. [source]

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

Local alternative sources of power being sought

Alternate sources of power are being examined and evaluated for key local infrastructure in Dare, Currituck and Hyde counties in North Carolina. North Carolina Emergency Management is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to evaluate possible alternative power sources. “Keeping critical infrastructure in service during a disaster increases public safety and speeds response and recovery,” notes Mike Sprayberry, state emergency management director. “Experts will review these facilities to find ways to make them even more reliable when a storm comes.” The counties each selected one high–priority piece of critical infrastructure to be included, according to a news release Monday from the state Department of Public Safety. What officials chose: A major water treatment plant; a government center, which houses critical administrative offices for the county including the emergency operations center that coordinates disaster response for the county; and a radio tower, which holds some of the most critical pieces of the county’s public safety radio system and is the only county tower that supports the statewide VIPER radio system. [source] 

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

The 2020s could be the worst decade, economically, in U.S. history

A possible collapse of high-yield junk bonds in the coming years, as some analysts have predicted, could spread to stocks and bonds, causing a chain reaction that will lead to defaults and banks reducing their lending exposure. If that happens, capital will dry up as will investment and the economy as a whole will suffer a “Great Reset.” One analyst noted that if the U.S. economy takes this kind of hit the ripples will be felt the world over, given that the American economy is the largest in the world and access to our markets the most lucrative. What will result is a global recession of historic proportions on the level of what happened in 2008 but worse. As always, a U.S. recession will spark higher federal spending and reduce tax revenue. Expect the on-budget deficit to quickly reach $2 trillion or more. Within four years of the recession’s onset, total government debt will be at least $30 trillion, which will further constrain the private capital markets and likely raise tax burdens for everyone—not just the rich. At the same time more businesses, factories, and corporations will automate, throwing tens of millions out of work. And off this could make the 2020s the worst decade in memory. [source]

Goldman Sachs warning clients U.S. fiscal outlook ‘not good’

Financial giant Goldman Sachs is warning its clients that the long-term fiscal outlook for the United States is “not good” because of high levels of deficit spending due to the recent Republican tax cuts and the omnibus spending bill. This spending could hurt the country’s ability to recover from recession and even threaten the fiscal security of the country. “An expanding deficit and debt level is likely to put upward pressure on interest rates, expanding the deficit further,” wrote Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs’s chief economist, on Sunday. “While we do not believe that the U.S. faces a risk to its ability to borrow or repay, the rising debt level could nevertheless have three consequences long before debt sustainability becomes a major obstacle.” By 2028, the CBO estimates that American debt held by the public will rise from 78 percent of GDP to 96 percent of GDP, the highest percentage since 1946 and double the average over the past 50 years. Because of tax cuts, revenue will eventually struggle to cover only the cost of mandatory spending programs, like Medicare and Social Security, and the interest owed on its debt. There will be very little remaining for spending on other programs, like the military, education, infrastructure and emergency funding in response to natural disasters. [source] Analyst comment: The economy is currently booming, but some still see signs of an impending recession. Were that to occur, the economic carnage could be historic, experts are warning. 

Chinese exports fall overall but rise to the U.S.

China’s massive trade surplus with the world declined in May but not with the U.S., despite the Trump administration’s focus on shrinking it. The deficit rose to $24.6 billion — accounting for nearly all of China’s overall surplus of $24.9 billion. Between January and May of this year, China’s trade surplus with the U.S. was $104.8 billion; last year it was a record $375.2 billion. Both countries have leveled tariffs on about $100 billion worth of goods combined and there have been three rounds of trade talks but little progress thus far. [source] Analyst comment: China has become the world’s second-biggest economy largely on its swollen trade deficits with the United States, and the Trump economic team is well aware of this. For Trump, however, the issue is strategic as well: There is a growing consensus within his national security team that China represents America’s biggest long-range strategic threat; with such a massive trade deficit it’s like Americans are enriching a potential enemy. That’s what makes this different from the 1970s and 1980s when Japan ran large trade deficits with the U.S. — Tokyo was never viewed as a strategic threat. Ending all trade with China isn’t going to happen, of course, but Trump will continue to work to at least make it more beneficial to the United States. In the end, we believe he’ll be successful because as the May trade deficit figures show, China needs our markets in order to thrive.  

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.

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