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Scholarship Winner Essay: Michelle Shevin-Coetzee

580px-Writing_star.svgIn the spirit of the Lint Center’s aim to progress the next generation of National Security with support for well-rounded individuals, we are proud to present the Mid-Year 2012 Scholarship Winner essays to Lint Center affiliates.

Party Politics in a Changing Landscape

In recent years, political agendas have begun to trump the best interests of the nation.  The United States Congress is in a constant state of gridlock and seems unable to put party politics aside to invest in a strategic vision to protect and advance U.S. interests.  In order to strengthen U.S. national security, Congress must be a fully functioning and cohesive entity.  In the current state of U.S. politics, however, Congress is abdicating its responsibility to play this vital role.  Reforming Congress should be a priority in the coming years, spearheaded by an intensive review conducted by its members.  Without internal reform, Congressional paralysis will continue to directly threaten U.S. national security.

The divisions between Democrats and Republicans are felt throughout Congress.  In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Ranking Member John McCain criticized the newly released Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Guidance Review, contending that “unfortunately, this defense budget continues the Administration’s habit of putting short-term political considerations over our long-term national security interests.”  Referring to the $487 billion of mandatory defense cuts over the next ten years, Senator McCain further insisted the review decisions were “budget driven” and not achieved through strategic observation and analysis.

In fact, however, it is the Obama administration that is appropriately positioning the United States to consider the strategic long-term interests of the country.  The U.S. economy is the central pillar of all Government activities.  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other senior Pentagon officials have repeatedly stated that the proposed defense cuts are manageable.  Reforming and removing much of the bloat from the Department to invest funds for critical long-term programs is a smart investment.  The United States is at a “strategic inflection point” after nearly a decade of war in Iraq and a gradual drawdown from Afghanistan.  This is precisely the time to bring all of the stakeholders in DoD together to strategize about the future, survey the global landscape, identify the challenges and opportunities, and then implement policies to reflect that calculus.  This is exactly what the Strategic Guidance Review did so effectively, despite what Senator McCain might argue.  It is this strategic structure that should be applied to reviews of Congress.

Congressional paralysis could not come at a worse time.  Sequestration will be triggered at the end of this year if Congress cannot avoid looming across-the board-defense cuts.  The “meat-axe”, a term invoked by Secretary Panetta to illustrate the severity of sequestration, would hollow out the force, slowly degrade the military, and weaken U.S. national security.  Even if sequestration is avoided due to last minute compromise, the can is simply being kicked down the road.  This same situation will reoccur unless Congress takes action now to focus on the long-term.

If Congress is to play a constructive role in protecting national security, it must reform its practices, and should look to the defense sector as an instructive example.  DoD strategies look over the horizon to focus on future military needs and possible conflicts.  Congress needs to adopt this same strategic thinking and apply it to its own posture.  Instead of a review conducted by an outside agency, members of Congress should produce a self-assessment of both houses.  The month-long annual “review board” should be comprised of fifteen members, five from the Senate and ten from the House who serve on a rotating basis.  Members should first look at successes and failures in meetings, sessions, and committees.  They should recommend new ways to increase cooperation between members, promote better time management, and condense large reports.  Secondly, members must strategize about the roles Congress will play in the future: how it should serve the community and interact with other Government branches.  At this phase, Congress can assess new developments, such as domestic crises or international conflicts, and respond accordingly.  Finally, members should formulate a plan to address the new strategy.  This last step would require intense cooperation by Democrats and Republicans alike.  In a more intimate setting, it will be easier to debate each element of the review, reach compromises through close collaboration, and ultimately, produce a cohesive long-term strategy.  With clear objectives and a plan to achieve them, Congress can operate more effectively and efficiently.

coetzeelIn a dynamic and rapidly changing era, the United States must map out its own interests amidst the global landscape.  The U.S. national security sector, especially, cannot afford to be distracted and derailed by Congressional party politics.  If Congress continually fails to collaborate and strategize, the military and intelligence communities will weaken, and eventually leave the U.S., its people, and its interests abroad vulnerable.  It is time to put political agendas aside for the greater good of the nation.

To read about Michelle Shevin-Coetzee, the Lint Center’s Mid-Year 2012 Jim and Anna Hyonjoo Lint Scholarship, visit our Scholarship Winners page.

Petty Crime Or Solid Tradecraft?

800px-Panneau_Paris_Gare_du_NordThieves Bolt with Defense Secrets on British and French Military Drone

Executives at France’s Dassault Aviation, a military, regional, and business jet manufacturer, were apparently duped into leaving a briefcase with sensitive, “Defence – Confidential,” papers unattended at Gare du Nord station in Paris, France.

According to reports from the Telegraph, an “unnamed man briefly left his case unattended after his female colleague was ‘hassled’ by a stranger.”[i] Upon his return, the executive realized that his briefcase had been plucked while he had been distracted by the dustup.

People are generally on guard in places of mass transportation like train stations and airports, and commuters especially, are on high alert due to their knowledge of the potential of such crimes. So, was this a run-of-the-mill theft?

According to a source quoted in the Economic Times, it was a premeditated and well-executed lift. The paper reports, “His attention had been purposefully diverted. It was not a random theft.”[ii]

What was in this coveted briefcase? The Telegraph asserts that the contents of the briefcase included top-secret information on a “joint Franco-British drone,”[iii] though local police and an official spokesperson for Dassault downplay the incident, maintaining that the executives were merely targets of opportunity, victims of “petty theft.”[iv]

Inevitably the question becomes, why were executives from a major military contractor so careless and cavalier with sensitive documents? Did the executives adhere to company-directed security protocols? Lastly, why were the executives traveling on mass transportation with hardcopies of the sensitive documents in the first place? If this was not a breach of security protocol, this at the least, was a gaping breach in common sense.

As Chas Maloney, director at Ricoh UK, a document and IT solutions provider, observes in Info Security Magazine“the threats posed by paper-based documentation have been exposed, in this case [via] top secret military files on the UK’s multimillion pound deal to develop drones with France.”[v] Maloney further observed, “This is the latest in a series of high profile incidents of document security breaches that could have been prevented via digitized documentation.”[vi]

Even so, hardcopy documents are not exclusive to going missing. In January of 2011, a Major in the US Army admitted to losing a USB drive with classified information on it in South Korea.[vii] This incident came on the heels of the Pentagon’s outright ban on USB drives for use on classified networks back in December of 2010.[viii]

More details about this incident are sure to be forthcoming. Whether this was a simple crime of opportunity, a well-executed act of espionage, or something more, the issue of safeguarding secrets remains a consequential issue. There are inherent weaknesses in securing both paper-documented and electronic secrets, yet some organizations and businesses are better at it than others. It comes down to not only developing a working, best-practice protocol, but also in implementing that protocol and ensuring that employees practice it with vigor. However, this may never be enough, as those who wish to acquire sensitive information have evolving tradecraft, requiring, in turn, ever-evolving security practices.

Our two cents is to remember – Threat based security is not a spectator sport!

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the Lint Center Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. or any employee thereof. The Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Lint Center Bloggers.


About the Authors:

Tim Coleman received his BA from Georgetown, MBA from Barry University, and Master of Public and International Affairs, Security and Intelligence Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and serves as the Center’s Director of Communications.

Brittany Minder received her BA in International Relations from Stanford University and she serves as the Lint Center’s Public & External Affairs Associate.


References:

1. Allen, Peter “British drone secrets stolen from Paris train station”, The Telegraph, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/9099410/British-drone-secrets-stolen-from-Paris-train-station.html

2. Biddle, Sam “Thieves Snatch Briefcase Full of Secret Drone Documents in France”, Gizmodo, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012 http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2012/02/thieves-snatch-briefcase-full-of-secret-drone-documents-in-france/

3. Staff, “Secret file on UK-France drone deal stolen: Report”, The Economic Times, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/secret-file-on-uk-france-drone-deal-stolen-report/articleshow/12004256.cms

4. Staff, “Top-secret Anglo-French drone plans stolen”, Info Security Magazine, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/24096/topsecret-anglofrench-drone-plans-stolen/

5. Staff, “USB Device Containing Military Secrets Goes Missing,” InfoSec Island, January 5, 2011, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/10724-USB-Device-Containing-Military-Secrets-Missing.html

6. Levine, Barry “Pentagon Bans Removable Drives on Classified Network”, Newsfactor.com, December 11, 2010, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=76453&full_skip=1

7. Photo Credit: Wikicommons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Panneau_Paris_Gare_du_Nord.jpg


End Notes:

[i]Allen, Peter “British drone secrets stolen from Paris train station”, The Telegraph, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/9099410/British-drone-secrets-stolen-from-Paris-train-station.html

[ii]Staff, “Secret file on UK-France drone deal stolen: Report”, The Economic Times, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/secret-file-on-uk-france-drone-deal-stolen-report/articleshow/12004256.cms

[iii]Allen, Peter “British drone secrets stolen from Paris train station”, The Telegraph, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/9099410/British-drone-secrets-stolen-from-Paris-train-station.html

[iv]Staff, “Secret file on UK-France drone deal stolen: Report”, The Economic Times, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/secret-file-on-uk-france-drone-deal-stolen-report/articleshow/12004256.cms

[v]Staff, “Top-secret Anglo-French drone plans stolen”, Info Security Magazine, February 23, 2012, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/24096/topsecret-anglofrench-drone-plans-stolen/

[vi]ibid

[vii]Staff, “USB Device Containing Military Secrets Goes Missing,” InfoSec Island, January 5, 2011, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/10724-USB-Device-Containing-Military-Secrets-Missing.html

[viii]Levine, Barry “Pentagon Bans Removable Drives on Classified Network”, Newsfactor.com, December 11, 2010, Retrieved on February 23, 2012, http://www.newsfactor.com/story.xhtml?story_id=76453&full_skip=1