Announcements

Thank you for being a subscriber and friend to ASD. We hope you will consider supporting our bipartisan work during this season of giving. Your contribution will advance cutting-edge research and support tools such as the Hamilton 2.0 dashboard and the Authoritarian Interference Tracker. Donate here.

Congratulations to Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines, who co-chaired the bipartisan task force we convened earlier this year, and National Security Advisor nominee Jake Sullivan, who participated in the task force and has served on ASD’s Advisory Council. Their expertise was essential to crafting a national security strategy for the United States to compete with autocracies. Read the report here.

Our Take

Middle East Fellow Ariane Tabatabai interviews Ambassador Wendy Sherman about the connection between foreign and domestic policy, the most pressing challenges awaiting President-elect Biden’s inbox, and what is next for U.S.-Iran policy and how that will affect the transatlantic relationship on GMF’s “Out of Order.”

Russian, Iranian, and Chinese state media have amplified domestic disinformation around the legitimacy and security of the U.S. election to sow distrust in the democratic system and damage the United States’ international image, Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer writes in a Hamilton analysis blog post.

The Biden administration will have to reshape the United States’ approach to Asia to both adapt to Asia’s new realities and learn lessons from the previous approach, Co-Director Zack Cooper writes for the Lowy Institute.

Chinese technology company Huawei’s messaging around the U.S. election emphasized its commitment to Europe as it attempted to promote a friendly narrative of its brand across the continent, China Analyst Bryce Barros writes in an ASD blog post.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian state media’s post-U.S. election coverage last week focused on two major topics: pro-Trump demonstrations in D.C. and unsubstantiated fraud allegations surrounding the election. Russian state media and government officials also continued to push narratives of progress and global interest in Russia’s coronavirus vaccine development, along with content critical of U.S. vaccines—a theme covered in a recent Politico article. Post-election protests in the United States also drew significant coverage in Chinese state media outlets, with the two most-viewed Chinese state media YouTube videos last week covering particularly sensational aspects of the protests. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was the dominant topic discussed by Iran-linked accounts last week, with the #JCPOA hashtag used in 109 tweets. Tweets from hardline politicians like Saeed Jalili and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf threw cold water on talk of better relations with the United States under President Biden, casting the Trump administration as merely a continuation of Obama’s anti-Iran posture. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif offered a more open outlook to rapprochement, at least regarding the JCPOA, as did most pro-regime press outlets.

Continue reading here.

News and Commentary

Top official overseeing election cybersecurity removed from post: On November 17, President Trump dismissed Christopher Krebs from his position as the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which leads the national effort to defend critical infrastructure, including election systems, from physical and cyber threats. President Trump’s announcement of Krebs’ removal followed a joint statement distributed by CISA on behalf of a coalition of federal, state, and local election officials that claimed the 2020 election was the “most secure in American history.” CISA’s “rumor control” website had also previously debunked unsubstantiated claims made by President Trump that there were widespread voting irregularities that impacted the election’s outcome. CISA’s Assistant Director Bryan Ware and Deputy Director Matthew Travis also resigned. The agency and Krebs’ leadership have been widely credited with helping states improve their defenses against foreign interference. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and election officials expressed concern and criticism following the firing, warning that the removals made the nation more vulnerable to foreign interference at a critical time. ASD Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt warned that the politicization of the election’s legitimacy increases opportunities for foreign adversaries to undermine public confidence in U.S. democracy. (The New York Times, CISA, The Hill, Twitter)

The United Kingdom unveils offensive cyber-operations unit: On November 19, the United Kingdom revealed the formation of a National Cyber Force (NCF) to target communication systems being used by nations and non-state actors to threaten the U.K.’s national security. The NCF will be run by the Government Communications Headquarters, the Ministry of Defense, the Secret Intelligence Service, and the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory. The unit has been operating since April, but it was made public in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s defense spending settlement. In recent months, the United Kingdom has been running cyber operations to counter Russian disinformation about coronavirus vaccines, according to reports. NCF’s roll out coincides with efforts by U.K. allies, including the United States and Australia, to counter adversaries in cyberspace. A recent ASD Task Force report argues that democracies need to develop and carefully deploy offensive cyber capabilities to challenge authoritarian regimes seeking to weaponize cyberspace. (Government Communications Headquarters, Financial Times, CyberScoop, The Times, ASD)

In case you missed it

● Canada’s top cybersecurity agency identified China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as the “greatest strategic threats” to the country’s critical infrastructure.

● A bill that would require shell companies to reveal their owners to the Treasury Department has been including in the National Defense Authorization Act.

● The House of Representatives unanimously approved separate pieces of cybersecurity legislation, which would help improve the security of internet-connected devices purchased by the federal government and appropriate $750 million toward developing 5G network technology.

● The State Department released a policy paper outlining ten recommendations to help the United States meet challenges posed by China.

● An Airbnb executive resigned from his post over a request by China for access to more of the company’s data, according to the Wall Street Journal.

● Poland charged a former Polish secret service agent and a Chinese citizen who worked for the telecommunications firm Huawei with spying on behalf of China.

ASD in the News

Information, Disinformation, and Distortion, “City Forum Podcast.” Interview with Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

Be Your Own Fact-Checker: Watching Out for Misinformation in Tumultuous Election Aftermath, WBIR. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

In Race for Coronavirus Vaccine, Russia Turns to Disinformation, Politico EU. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

Trump Fires Cybersecurity Official Who Worked To Secure the US Election, “The World.” Comments from Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt

Trump Just Fired the US’s Top Cybersecurity Official, Who Spent Weeks Striking Down the President’s Conspiracy Theories About Election Fraud, Business Insider. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

How Will A Biden Presidency Impact NATO and Brexit?, Al Jazeera. Comments from Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina

How The U.S. Fended Off Serious Foreign Election Day Cyberattacks, NPR. Comments from Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman

Parler CEO: “Not Against the Law” to Express “Crazy” Opinions, The Hill. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

China’s Major Indo-Pacific Trade Deal a “Wake-Up Call” for US and Europe, Washington Examiner. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

Biden Faces Potential Congressional Backlash on China Policy, Washington Free Beacon. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

TikTok Challenges Trump Order Ahead of US Divestment Deadline, Financial Times. Comments from Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman

Parler Downloads Surge As Conservatives Jump To “Free Speech” App, Newsy. Interview with Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

Chinese-Controlled Outlet Pays US Media Big Money To Run Pro-Beijing Content, Sinclair Broadcast Group. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

Avviso ai naviganti europei. 5G cinese come il gas russo. Ecco perché, Formiche. Highlights Senior Fellow Kristine Berzia’s report 5G Security: The New Energy Security

Japan and Australia Agree to “Pivotal” Military Access Pact in Deal Sure to Ruffle China’s Feathers, Washington Examiner. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

Military and Security Experts Fear Raft of Trump Loyalists at DOD Could Lead to “Mistakes,” Washington Examiner. Comments from Co-Director Zack Cooper

Quote of the Week

“Congress must recognize that disinformation is not a partisan issue or risk further neglecting its duty to protect democratic norms and practices.”

– Nina Jankowicz, disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, wrote in Foreign Affairs.

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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.