National Intelligence Bulletin for 25 May 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… (3,650 words)

  • National security advisor removes cybersecurity coordinator from NSC
  • Man shoots, kills gunman in OKC after he wounds mother and daughter
  • IED bombing in Canadian restaurant severely wounds three
  • Another school shooting thrusts the gun debate front and center again
  • ACLU chapters suing Trump administration over enforcement of immigration laws
  • Rhode Island state police arrest 50 motorcycle gang members
  • Senators want National Guard units to be prepared for call-up for cyberattacks
  • U.S. ‘prepping culture’ dictated by events, not end-of-world scenarios
  • DHS vows to prosecute all illegal border crossings
  • 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?

National security advisor removes cybersecurity coordinator from NSC

In an effort to “streamline” the national security council, national security advisor John Bolton recently eliminated the cybsecurity coordination position on the NSC. Earlier this year, the Director of National Intelligence reported that cyber attacks were the nation’s top threat, telling Congress that: “We face a complex, volatile and challenging threat environment. The risk of interstate conflict is higher than any time since the end of the Cold War… Our adversaries, as well as the other malign actors, are using cyber and other instruments of power to shape societies and markets, international rules and institutions, and international hotspots to their advantage.” [source] SC: The federal cybersecurity effort is a mess. Despite decades of not just expecting but also watching real-time increases in cyber conflict, the federal government cyber security plan still suffers from setbacks and poor implementation. For instance, there is no single command and control element for cyber response because DHS, FBI, NSA, and U.S. Cyber Command (a military component) all play a role. As we cover week in and out, federal agencies are still having problems with implementing cybersecurity measures as well. I’m somewhat more optimistic due to the prioritization of cybersecurity by the Trump administration, but my outlook is that we’re still very vulnerable. And Bolton may see this cybersecurity coordinator position on the NSC as a duplication of effort, but decreasing the amount of coordination on these efforts at the highest levels is not comforting.

IED bombing in Canadian restaurant severely wounds three

Canadian authorities are searching for two suspects who planted and then detonated an IED in a restaurant in Mississauga on Thursday evening, critically wounding three people. The men were videoed entering the restaurant but have yet to be identified because they were wearing hoodies and covering their faces. Police described the suspects as around 5’10” in height with light or fair skin. One was described as having a “stocky” build and in his mid-20s. The other suspect was described as having a thin build. Police have not yet announced a motive. [source] Analyst comment: Granted, this is Canada, but terrorism experts have long been concerned that these kinds of events could eventually become more common in the U.S. There have already been attempts to set off large bombs involving, among other things, small propane gas tanks. NYC Police found one that failed to detonate in Times Square in 2010, for instance. 


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

Another school shooting thrusts the gun debate front and center again

Late last week there was another shooting at another high school — this one in Santa Fe, Texas, in which 10 people were killed and 10 more were wounded. As before, the incident sparked another round of debate about “gun control,” though there were distinct differences regarding this particular shooting, as well as some similarities. First, the similarities. The suspect, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, may have been bullied at school and even ridiculed by teaching staff. Also, he had been jilted by a young female student at the school. Now the differences. Unlike Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland, Fla., shooter, Pagourtzis was described by fellow students as “nice,” and while not particularly an “outsider,” he wasn’t the most popular, either. Also, no one expected him to become a shooter, though several students recalled thinking Cruz was capable of being one (even before his social media posts declaring his intent). Pagourtzis also attacked with a shotgun and a handgun — not an AR-15 or “assault” rifle — and both weapons were illegally obtained from his father (he stole them, in other words). There were also explosive devices found around the high school campus — pressure cookers and pipe bombs. [source] Analyst comment: Media outlets are citing that there have been 22 school shootings so far this year, but that number is disingenuous and incorrect. There have been five events at high schools that could accurately be described as “school shootings”, most of which caused mass casualties. Other “school shootings” include targeted murder of one individual (not indiscriminate fire, and includes gang violence), incidents of negligent discharges, a dispute in a parking lot, a pellet gun fired at a school bus, several events that happened on college campuses, a hospital shooting on a college campus, and other events. Still, these incidents are becoming one of the most divisive, contentious issues in America today, and they are getting more contentious after each incident. Part of what’s happening is the media circus that makes the school shooters infamous, which leads to ‘copycat’ shootings.

ACLU chapters suing Trump administration over enforcement of immigration laws

Northern New England chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a Left-wing legal organization, are suing the Trump administration over its enforcement of immigration laws. The lawsuits aim to bring more transparency to the efforts, as some are claiming that federal immigration authorities may be violating the civil rights of persons in the U.S. illegally. The ACLU chapters say they have documented an unprecedented and harsh pattern of federal immigration detentions since Trump took office. The chapters are looking for records detailing circumstances surrounding specific detention and deportation events as allegedly improper. [source] Analyst comment: Seasoned political observers never seriously believed that there wouldn’t be an all-out legal effort to stop Trump from keeping several campaign promises related to illegal immigration, and this is one of the latest. But as we’ve noted in earlier National Intelligence Bulletins, this too is one of the most divisive issues of our times. A large portion of the country sees immigration as the preeminent civil rights movement of our day, and may even be willing to commit more than just civil disobedience in order to prevent the Trump administration from being successful. Political violence over this issue could become a major source of regional instability.

North Carolina county sheriff’s candidate will stop participating in immigrant detention program

As stated above, the issue of immigration — illegal and otherwise — is getting increasingly contentious, as evidenced in a campaign pledge made by a Democratic candidate for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Garry McFadden, an African-American and former police detective, won his party’s primary last week and is expected to go on to become the county’s next sheriff. He campaigned on ending the county’s participation in the federal 287(g) program, which the current sheriff supports. The program targets illegal immigrants among criminal suspects the county arrests on unrelated charges. Added to federal immigration statutes in 1996, 287(g) allows local police agencies to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, via signed agreement, to take on some federal immigration law enforcement duties under ICE supervision. The agency says the program is intended to focus on criminal aliens, “particularly those who pose the greatest risk to public safety.” But increasingly, the program is being seen as ‘controversial’ by immigration activist organizations and Left-leaning political leaders and more jurisdictions are opting out. [source] Analyst comment: Outside pro-immigrant organizations and the ACLU spent lavishly to get McFadden past his primary. Again, they are framing this as a ‘civil rights’ issue, but it’s a law enforcement issue and a public safety issue. One group benefiting from the Left-leaning effort to keep more illegal immigrants are the estimated 10,000 MS-13 gang members, and their many chapters operating in the U.S. as distribution and enforcement for the Mexican drug cartels.

Trump demands Justice Department investigation Obama-era infiltration of his 2016 campaign

President Trump has ordered the Justice Department to launch a full investigation into reports that the FBI and Justice Department under President Obama infiltrated his 2016 presidential campaign under the guise of conducting a counterintelligence investigation. The probe was reportedly tied to a belief among federal law enforcement that the Trump campaign or members thereof were actively working with Russia to subvert the U.S. election and, hence, the U.S. government. While information regarding interactions between the Trump’s campaign and the Obama-era federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies has been trickling out for a while, Trump’s demand that the DoJ launch a formal investigation represents a serious escalation in the war of words. The president controls the Executive Branch, and the DoJ and FBI are both Executive Branch agencies, so a demand from the White House is the same as an order from the nation’s chief executive. [source] Analyst comment: Multiple reports last week confirmed that indeed, the FBI and DoJ had cultivated at least two and perhaps as many as three sources inside the Trump campaign as part of a counterintelligence operation. But earlier reports, as well as statements from elected officials, claim that there has never been any real evidence to justify the launch of the counterintelligence operation in the first place, as there must be according to federal statutes. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said directly that his panel has found no such evidence, that the investigation was a “political operation”. If that’s true, then Obama essentially sanctioned a spy operation against his chosen successor’s presidential campaign, which harkens back to the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. We’ll be watching this closely.

Mexican state of Tamaulipas considering allowing citizens to carry guns due to cartel violence

Officials in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, part of which stretches up from Brownsville, Texas to Laredo, are discussing a proposal to allow citizens to carry guns, either concealed or openly, to protect themselves from rising drug cartel activities which includes extortion and kidnapping. Current law allows Mexican citizens to keep a firearm in their home up to .38 caliber, but this new initiative would allow citizens residing in the state to take a gun wherever they go. Opinion is divided. The proposal being discussed would require citizens to get state permission in some manner before actually being allowed to carry a gun outside the home. [source]

Rhode Island state police arrest 50 motorcycle gang members

Following a year-long investigation state police officers in Rhode Island arrested 50 people and seized 53 illegal guns as well as large quantities of drugs in what was believed to be the largest takedown in the history of the force. Arrests were made during a “coordinated series of pre-dawn raids” that were conducted by state police with assistance from more than 150 state, federal, and local law enforcement personnel, the state police said in a statement. The year-long investigation was code-named “Operation Patched Out,” and it focused on motorcycle gangs operating in the northwestern part of the state. Commander Col. Ann Assumpico said some take-down teams used explosive devices to breach buildings that were heavily fortified. Teams also utilized an armored vehicle and a battering ram to break doors down, as well as dozens of heavily-armed SWAT teams. The investigation began in May 2017 after state police detectives were tipped off about how some of the country’s most violent biker gangs were establishing local chapters in northwestern Rhode Island. “These gang members are not recreational bikers organizing local charities. These are violent criminals who belong to some of the most sinister motorcycle games in this country,” Assumpico said. Police said the investigation focused primarily on two gangs — The Pagans and Kryptmen. Police said both had an extensive criminal history including robbery, kidnapping, murder, extortion and large-scale drug trafficking. Several rival gangs also began competing for turf, which resulted “in increasingly violent confrontations — including three shootings that were never reported to law enforcement,” said the press release. [source] Analyst comment: Interestingly, some local residents of several neighborhoods where raids took place were keenly aware of gang-related activities in the area, showing that some folks, at least, were paying attention and likely gathering intelligence of their own. 

U.S. ‘prepping culture’ dictated by events, not end-of-world scenarios

So-called “preppers” have a reputation for hoarding food, water, ammunition, and weapons due to an apocalyptic view of the world, but new research has found that most people “prep” for disasters based on current or expected events “just in case.” In addition, most preppers think they will only have to ride out a disaster or social chaos for a short-to-medium period of time because society will soon recover. Dr. Michael Mills from the University of Kent in England interviewed American preppers in 18 states to gauge their motivation for stockpiling necessities as the urge to do so has grown significantly across the U.S. in the last 10 years. He found that those who prepare are concerned with a diverse array of risks — cyberattack, economic collapse, terrorism, pandemics and natural disasters. He also found that most don’t believe such events are necessarily imminent, but that they are making plans “just in case.” Mills found a growing culture of fear in the U.S. which he says has been fed, in part, by the federal government, with agencies like the Dept. of Homeland Security and FEMA urging citizens to be prepared to survive events for two weeks at least. [source] Analyst comment: While there may be a ‘climate of fear’ that is rising in across the country, it’s not occurring in a vacuum. A growing number of Americans sense our widening political chasm as they witness daily hyper-political partisanship in Washington and in state capitals around the country, combined with coarse rhetoric and perpetual rage. Add to this real political violence such as attempts to kill U.S. congressmen on a baseball field in 2017 and a suspect shooting up a Trump hotel and you can begin to see why people are understandably nervous about the future.

Man shoots, kills gunman in OKC after he wounds mother and daughter

A gunman who walked into a restaurant in Oklahoma City Thursday and opened fire was himself killed by a citizen armed with a handgun. Before he was killed the shooter wounded a mother and daughter who were patrons at the eatery. “Lake Hefner shooting update: A man walked into Louie’s restaurant and opened fire with a gun. Two people were shot. One person has been taken to a hospital with serious injuries. A bystander with a pistol confronted the shooter outside the restaurant and fatally shot him,” the OKC Police Department tweet. The department later tweeted that the shooter’s identity and motivations were as yet unknown. [source] Analyst comment: We don’t hear enough of these stories but this appears to be one of the many times annually where a good person with a gun used it defensively to save lives.


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

Senators want National Guard units to be prepared for call-up for cyberattacks

Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., believe that the National Guard should have a bigger role in helping the nation defend against inevitable cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure. They believe specially trained Guard units would be a cyber-force multiplier for existing federal agencies and intelligence community assets already tasked with protecting dams, power grids, aviation, the financial sector, water treatment, transportation and other critical sectors. They have introduced legislation that would create Guard “cyber civil support teams in every state and territory to bridge the gap between federal and non-federal cybersecurity efforts,” said a release from both. The bill contains $50 million in funding to begin the process of developing cyber support teams, which would be tasked with preventing and mitigating the impact of cyber incidents, training critical infrastructure operators, and relaying classified threat information from U.S. Cyber Command to the states and private companies. The bill calls for Guard teams to be operational by the end of FY 2022. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House. [source] Analyst comment: Top military cybersecurity officers have recently testified that the Guard can fill needed gaps in coverage between what the Pentagon and the private sector are already providing.

DHS vows to prosecute all illegal border crossings

In a departure from past administrations, the Department of Homeland Security has vowed to prosecute each and every person caught crossing illegally into the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen officially enacted the policy last week, DHS officials said, as a means of implementing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against every referral for an illegal border crossing. One major side effect: Many adults who are caught are very likely going to be separated from their children, a reality that has really upset open borders organizations. But the administration sees the policy as a deterrent to illegally crossing into the U.S., which is rising once again for the first time since Trump took office. Federal law and court rulings require that children be let out of immigration detention quickly; in the past, administrations have simply let entire families go. Trump is changing that. [source] Analyst comment: It remains to be seen whether this policy will indeed be the deterrent it is hoped to be, but frankly — devoid of additional resources for the border and the border wall — the administration will have to get creative in its deterrent approach.

Hawaii deploys Guard troops as lava approaches geothermal power plant

Hawaii’s Big Island is continuing to deal with lava from the Kilauea Volcano, which first began erupting earlier this month. At one point the flow earlier this week threatened a geothermal power plant, which led to the deployment of National Guard troops by order of Gov. David Ing as emergency responders worked to close the plant and seal it up to prevent lava from destroy production wells holding chemicals that, when super-heated, would release clouds of deadly, poisonous hydrogen sulfate. This, in conjunction with other health risks associated with the lava flow, such as noxious acid-laced clouds of steam and fine glass-like particles created when flows hit cool Pacific waters. The power plant provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power. Authorities have ordered the evacuation of about 2,000 people from Leilani Estates and surrounding neighborhoods since the volcano erupted on 3 May. [source] [source]

Florida Gov. orders faster acquisition of federal funds to protect elections

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has ordered state officials to speed up the acquisition of $19 million in federal funds earmarked for protecting the state’s electronic balloting systems from cyber-tampering ahead of the midterm elections in November. The order came a day after the state’s top elections official said the funding would not arrive until after the fall balloting. The funds are part of a $380 million pool of money for state and local governments to use to protect the integrity of balloting President Trump approved in March. Red tape is preventing funds from being dispersed in a timely manner, however, and Scott wants his staff to cut through it as quickly as possible. “The integrity of our elections is paramount, and we’ll keep fighting to ensure that every Floridian continues to have confidence in our elections process,” Scott said in a statement. [source] Analyst comment: The integrity of the vote is an especially sensitive thing in Florida, given that the 2000 election was decided in the state when the U.S. Supreme Court halted ongoing recount efforts into ‘hanging’ chads and other hand-marked ballots. The halt gave George W. Bush a microscopic vote tally advantage over Vice President Al Gore.


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

Goldman Sachs issues unexpected warning: ‘Something not quite right’

The financial giant is issuing a cautious warning that “trading fragility” is a creeping threat to how shares are traded as smarter and smarter machines are replacing people on Wall Street. As that has been occurring below the radar, speed is replacing capital, meaning the ability of the market’s liquidity providers to process complex information could lead to exceedingly large drops in liquidity when the next crisis hits, as it inevitably will. “Future flash crashes may not end well,” the financial institution warns, as High-Frequency Traders, or HFTs, take over most trading operations. These trading instruments “know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” Goldman warns. They supply liquidity without ever taking into account fundamental information such as market trends and other nuances that are important in maintaining stability. The long and short of it is this: These instruments trade so quickly, and often without an accurate understanding of current market conditions, that we could be well into a collapse before anyone knows what hit them. [source]

Are U.S. Treasury yields are starting to tank?

On Friday U.S. Treasury bond yields continued their recent downward plunge, in a signal that the record short-speculative position in the market is beginning to unravel. Ten-year yields are well below the 3 percent “Maginot Line,” while 30-year yields are at six-week lows. Some analysts believe that yields are down mostly due to geopolitical events such as President Trump calling off a planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that was set for June. But that doesn’t completely jibe because by Friday (today) Trump and the North Koreans signaled that the meeting may be back on, and yet yields were still on the decline. Treasury bonds are used to service the massive U.S. debt which continues to spiral upward despite record tax collections in recent years. If they tank completely, it’s likely that U.S. debt would quickly overwhelm the government’s ability to pay it — which has gotten steadily more difficult since Trump was elected because the Fed has raised interest rates four times (the Fed only raised it once — by a quarter-percent — during President Obama’s two terms, and it didn’t occur until 2015). [source] Analyst comment: European markets are also tumultuous. [source]

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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