Our Take

ICYMI, last week we hosted a discussion with Jessica Brandt, Eric Edelman, Samantha Power, and Kori Schake on steps the United States can take to regain the initiative in the emerging competition with autocracies. One big takeaway: Strengthening democracy domestically can help us manage the competition with authoritarians. Read the summary here and watch the recording here.

NATO’s Head of Policy Planning Dr. Benedetta Berti joins Fellow and Program Manager Nad’a Kovalčíková for a wide-ranging discussion on NATO 2030, digital transformation and the coronavirus, the rising security challenges of Russia and China, and her vision for the next decade on GMF’s “Out of Order.”

To counter the threats posed by China, the Baltic States, Poland, and NATO as a whole will need to develop more significant partnerships with Pacific democracies who have experience with China’s malign actions in their region, Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina writes in the Latvian Institute of International Affairs’ book Towards #NATO2030: The Regional Perspective of the Baltic States and Poland.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Continuing a pattern seen in recent weeks, Russian state media covered various issues and concerns related to Western coronavirus vaccines, while lamenting the alleged anti-Russia bias in Western media coverage of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Russian state media also continued to elevate some election fraud claims, heavily criticize social media platforms’ election-related policies, and portray the United States as deeply divided.

Chinese state media and diplomats shifted their attention back to the United States with a series of heavily engaged-with tweets targeting President Trump and members of his administration. Notably, the Chinese embassy in the United States’ Twitter account claimed to be hacked after retweeting a message from President Trump that accused Democrats of cheating in the election. China’s messengers also renewed their defense of the CCP’s actions in Hong Kong after the arrest of pro-democracy press mogul Jimmy Lai was met with a chorus of international criticism.

Iranian officials condemned talk of including missile limitations in a new version of the Iran nuclear deal and demanded that European countries meet their commitments under the current agreement before discussing renegotiation. Finally, Iranian media continued to highlight U.S. struggles to contain the coronavirus, casting the U.S. government as both corrupt and incompetent.

Continue reading here.

News and Commentary

Russia hacked multiple U.S. agencies, officials suspect: The FBI is investigating a months-long hacking campaign linked to Russia’s foreign intelligence service that breached the networks of a range of U.S. government agencies, including the National Institute of Health and the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security. The hacks, which exploited vulnerabilities in a widely used network management system developed by the firm SolarWinds, prompted an emergency meeting of the National Security Council and the release of an emergency directive by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency ordering all government agencies to scan their networks for vulnerabilities. SolarWinds products are used by over 300,000 organizations around the world, including all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, Justice Department, NASA, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the White House. The hackers accessed victims’ email accounts and likely stole classified information on internal government deliberations. Last week, the NSA issued a warning that “Russian state-sponsored actors” were targeting flaws in a system used broadly by the U.S. government. A top cybersecurity firm FireEye also reported that a “highly sophisticated state-sponsored actor” had stolen cutting-edge hacking tools as part of a global campaign targeting governments and the private sector. ASD Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts noted that the hacks would give Russia wide-ranging insight into U.S. policymaking and alliance management.

China’s Huawei tested AI to target oppressed members of Uighur population: Chinese tech giant Huawei partnered with one of the country’s largest facial recognition providers to develop software that sends automated “Uighur alarms” to Chinese authorities when its camera system identifies a member of the oppressed minority group, according to an internal Huawei report discovered last week by the research organization IPVM. The companies worked in 2018 to test the artificial-intelligence camera system as ethnic Uighurs were detained en masse as part of a cultural genocide carried out by the Chinese Communist Party. Also last week, a leaked prisoner list from a Chinese internment camp shows how authorities have used a vast “predictive policing” network to detain Uighurs who had spoken with or were related to individuals deemed “suspicious.” Reasons for detention also included being “generally untrustworthy” and being “born after the 1980s.” A recent ASD task force report argued that the United States needs to work with allies and partners to develop international standards around surveillance technologies and data privacy.

In Case You Missed It

  • The Federal Communications Commission began revoking the authorization for China Telecom to operate in the United States.
  • China appears to have conducted mass surveillance on Americans’ phones by exploiting vulnerabilities in Caribbean mobile phone networks.
  • Congress passed a measure to ban anonymous shell companies as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.
  • A Russian intelligence team specializing in nerve agents and toxins followed Russian opposition leader Alexey Nalvalny for three years prior to his poisoning in August 2020, according to reporting by CNN and Bellingcat.
  • The European Commission rolled out a set of draft policies that would give regulators sweeping new powers over tech companies.
  • A Dutch Intelligence agency announced that it had identified two Russian spies that were targeting the Netherlands’ science and technology sector.
  • An assistant editor at Bloomberg News was arrested by China for “endangering national security.”
  • YouTube will begin removing content that contains false allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 U.S. elections.
  • Norwegian authorities said that hackers from Russia’s military intelligence unit used a technique called “brute force” in cyberattacks against the Norwegian parliament.

ASD in the News

Why more, earlier voting means greater election security—not less, MIT Technology Review. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

The Cybersecurity 202: Security advocates see a possible silver lining in Trump’s election assaults, The Washington Post. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine 

Dangers Of Doxing: Internet Users Release Addresses, Phone Numbers Of Election Officials, WLVT. Comments from Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman

Trump supporters plan DC rally to “demand transparency” before Electoral College vote, USA Today. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

Social media has become a new battlefield for China’s wolf warrior diplomacy, VOA Chinese. Comments from China Analyst Bryce Barros

Highlights from the U.S. 2020 Reporting Tour, Liberian Daily Observer. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

Iran Is in Syria to Stay, Foreign Affairs. Written by Middle East Fellow Ariane Tabatabai and Elizabeth Dent

Quote of the Week

“The best way for the United States to compete with China is to be the best version of ourselves. Good governance, transparency, rule of law, and strengthening democracy domestically is our most important tool in managing the competition with China.”

  • Dr. Kori Schake, the Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said at an ASD event on December 10.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.