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Commentary –Biometrics–I’ve Got Your Number

For as long as I can remember I had an uncanny ability to remember faces but was incapable of recalling names, even those of my relatives. I employed an alphabet method going from A to Z in the hope that when a particular letter came up, it would trigger the person’s name. My next line of attack was the woman who became my wife, who would invariably supply the missing name. The biggest problem was when “this person”– walking down the street, right at me with a big smile and arms outstretched—who were they. Now if I had an app on my I Phone that could read that persons face and give me a name — what a relief.

But Bernie Sanders would say— you’re entitled to a free state run college education but you’re not entitled to know my name. And he’d be right with a” But”. Privacy insures are not an all- in or an all-out conundrum. By making all facial recognition ability too great a privacy violation, we lose a marvelous potential tool for law enforcement. And as I write that you in turn will sing the words to the slippery slope song. I am sure it was sung to Columbus, as he headed out into the unknown and the edge of the world: “Chris—can you really depend on those maps– they may be flawed?” Let us not forget there are multiple methods of recognition systems that are in play currently. They are already a fabric of our daily lives.

I venture to guess that most people in the United States have heard something of facial recognition ability, but they are unsure if “it’s good or bad”. The usual complaints are it is an unreliable tool, biased and a threat to our basic civil rights and safety. Put simply it is alleged that it invades our privacy which contains a whole bundle of different protect rights.

The conversation starts not with facial recognition but with Biometrics. Biometrics data collecting is a means or method of collecting and verifying an individual’s personal identity. Said another way, it is a measurement and an analysis of an individuals’ unique physical attributes. For example: your DNA, your fingerprints, voice patterns along with possible behavioral characteristics. In other words –what makes you—Zazu Pitts– different from everybody else in the world. Your identity, yours only (your biometrics) is totally different from mine and everyone else. We have, until this moment lived with biometrics for a long time and probably not realized it. When we access our locked I phone with the ‘reading’ of one of our fingers, that is biometrics recognition. So has voice and iris recognition been part of our life for a long while. I don’t know how many times that instead of waiting on a long passport line arriving home at an airport, I put my face toward a common looking machine and it scans my iris and allows my entrance back into the United States. (President Trump wants to take away this right because I live in New York.) In the UK you can unlock your car with voice recognition. Some blood banks rely on biometrics to identify past donors and their blood type. But someone behind me just snarled: “Big Brother”. But that has not changed the penchant for greater and greater invasion of our privacy. Banks have been quietly rolling out biometrics to identify its customers: verifying them by their fingerprint, voice or eye scan. The bottom line is that companies are collecting massive amounts of our most intimate information. I was not shocked to learn that one company was not only collecting data on how we hold our cellphone but how I type on this computer.

London’s Metropolitan Police has announced what has been described as controversial plans to use live facial recognition technology to improve officers’ ability to identify suspects in the British capital. The London Police said that the technology will be deployed to places where the data recognizes people responsible for serious and violent crimes, such as gun and knife attacks and child sexual exploitation. They announced that the cameras, clearly identifiable, will be trained on small, targeted areas to scan people’s faces as they walk by. The Met police say the technology has been tried and tested. Others take issue with this conclusion. There are other studies that have flagged evidence that the technology discriminates against women and people of color — an issue that’s been documented by Federal researchers in the United States, where several cities have banned use of the technology. In one state, Maryland, in 2013 defied federal guidelines when it created a driver’s license program for undocumented immigrants, has been accused of a “betrayal of trust” when it was discovered that in recent years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have had direct access to those records. The access, which does not require the approval of any Maryland state official or court, is far greater than other states permit. The state legislature will begin hearings on a law restricting such searches.

India is trying to build the world’s biggest facial recognition system. But it is claimed by Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner that the system is “Moving too quickly to deploy technologies that can be overly invasive in people’s lawful daily lives risks damaging trust not only in the technology but in the fundamental model of policing by consent.” On the other hand India has used the technology to find missing children and wants to build the world’s largest facial recognition system.

In the United States, some California cities including San Francisco and Oakland as well as Somerville, Massachusetts, have decided the risks of facial recognition technology outweigh the benefits and banned its use .

What really started the intense discussion by the pubic into the issue of facial profiling or recognition was the outing of a New York startup corporation called Clearview, generally unknown to the average person whose actives were exposed. The paper revealed how Clearview was “scraping” social media networks for people’s photos thereby creating one of the biggest facial recognition databases in the world and selling access to its “faceprints”, or facial recognition software, to law enforcement agencies across the US. The startup claimed it could identify a person based on a single photo, revealing their real name, general location, and other identifiers. Clearview has convinced some cities such as Chicago, who are paying almost $50,000 for a two-year Clearview “pilot”.

Some cities and states have come to the conclusion that the risks of facial recognition technology outweigh the benefits and banned its use. In a recent face recognition study by the National Institute of Science and Technology it was determined that false positives disproportionately affect people of East and West African and East Asian descent, the elderly and children. India, as I previously noted relies heavily on the technology to find children missing and wants to build the world’s largest facial recognition system.

Does this remind you of NYC’s stop and frisk debacle? A well-considered idea, but ended being horribly and dangerously executed. Another policing concept that is under increased fire and I find it hard to not to shake my head in disbelief, is those seeking to ban the use of red light cameras and speeding detectors. I am referring to those cameras on street corners that catch you when you pass a red light or you are caught speeding. South Dakota and sixteen other states will stamp out the use of red light cameras and speed cameras by statute. Other states, including Missouri, Ohio and Florida, are considering similar prohibitions.

It boggles the mind when lawmakers succumb to the concept that everything, without any nuanced thinking, that will make our lives safer and more secure is immediately lumped under the same outcry that one’s privacy has been invaded. If you are run down by a careless driver while crossing the street, is it better to have no red light cameras that might slow a reckless driver in fear of getting a traffic ticket? Am I safer on the parkway when someone decides to see how fast they can get from point A to B and drive 30 miles over the speed limit with no inhibitions that might give them pause and stop them?

I can fully appreciate the concerns with facial recognition technology use until its use it is totally reliable. But let’s not place it in the trash bin because it is not yet 100 percent accurate. Put it to the tests we have for all other law enforcement tools, and as it progress in its reliability, be able to accept its value and not the knee jerk reaction in the use of the term “privacy”. I am more concerned that Macys’ might have my biometrics than the police if I am diagnosed with a cognitive disability, and I am roaming the streets. I am reminded of two events. The first was when my son was stabbed and the police had archaic mug shots that were useless. Second, I am reminded of the time when London experienced five simultaneous bombings. The terrorists were apprehended within hours, if not a few days, because London has cameras that blanket the City and the terrorists were identified. You can’t expect privacy when you walk the streets. You can’t expect privacy when you use a dangerous instrumentality namely, a car. And I expect all law enforcement to use all the technology possible to protect me and to apprehend those who might harm me or my family. Period.

Richard Allan,




Commentary—Sobering: It was hidden on page one



My morning ritual is fairly consistent. Coffee first, then the headlines on my iPad followed by reading the NYTimes and WJS. The particular morning I have in mind: I had to share my international concerns that Prince Harry and his wife were in crisis talks with Prince Charles and want to strike out on their own, and that the President of the United States has revealed that we are developing supersonic weapons. First and foremost: don’t you need some sort of skill or training to “strike out on your own”. I think that’s in Prince Charles’ mind in their crisis talks. And second, didn’t Putin announce at least three weeks ago that the Russians already had supersonic weapons? I have all but conceded (to myself) that there is no way I can convey to the Prince (any of them) the realities of life on one’s own, and with regard to the President, I admit I can neither walk on water nor quicksand.

In mid-December, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia’s arsenal of new weapons had no foreign equivalents and that his country had a clear fighting edge for years and years to come. The new Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missile and their Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle are enormous additions to Moscow’s fighting capacity and power. “No one has hypersonic weapons yet, but we have it,” he publically boasted. The U.S. Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the Russian military additions have the speed, altitude and maneuverability to simply make them too difficult to stop.

The GAO report states: “There are no existing countermeasures.” That is daunting and disheartening news especially in light of the President’s telling us how invincible we are under his administration.

If that information is not sobering enough, and as the U.S. and Iran compete for the best PR positioning, the Trump administration is about to unveil its 2021 Pentagon budget that is not only flat but also leaves our armed forces with little, if any room to not only design but to build and test critical modernization projects that require hypersonic and artificial intelligence technology.  The Pentagon says it needs more funding to be in a position to at least inch ahead of both China and Russia. It is important to remember, in structuring our defense and offensive capabilities that China and Russia do not have the financial burden of two decades of unsuccessful and expensive wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. When you build a war machine, I have learned, there is a difference between “a force structure, readiness, and modernization”, each component with their own timetable, urgency in their need and the obvious—cost.

What we have learned is that there is an enormous gap between –for example—what the Navy needs and what the current administration says is available to spend. To this untrained eye the Navy is being asked to sail blind beyond two oceans. The Navy, it is reported, told the White House it would buy one dozen fewer ships, slash its shipbuilding budget, and possibly decommission 12 more hulls over the next four years. The White House did not like that scenario –it would be a PR disaster, and directed the Navy to become magicians and count unmanned vessels as ships, allowing it to continue to “grow in size” as “the president has directed”. The Navy has taken its case to the front pages of major newspapers in demanding more money than the Army or Air Force. The Air Force is not in much better shape and will in all probability suggest phasing out a large portion of its older fleet to be able to accommodate the purchase of more F-35s and B-21 bombers. And don’t forget the newly introduced Space Force –not withstanding its weird uniforms, the need to staff it and give them something “to fly”. Speaking at the White House about the Iranian missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing U.S. and NATO forces and the injuries to 11 Americans, President Trump announced: “the American military has been completely rebuilt under my administration at the cost of $2.5 trillion dollars. The U.S. armed forces are stronger than ever before.” I have no idea what cheat-sheet he is utilizing to learn this information but obviously he is deluded.

If you believe that there will be an end to hostilities since both the U.S. and Iran have publically announced a stand-down, you are betting on the wrong horse. Putting aside for a moment the jumbled, incoherent attempt to justify the assassination of an Iranian general, Iran is being pressed economically by Trump’s additional sanctions. It is recklessness to think that for one moment they will sit idly by without some counter measures. In addition, they have unintentionally created another problem with their own citizens in the downing of the Ukrainian Airline and demands of accountability.

The Irian Government’s need to divert their citizen’s attention has increased. And that scenario will not play out with bombs or rockets, inviting a reciprocal response, but the deadly, accurate use of cyber-attacks on the U.S. and our interests. The risk is real and high enough that both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a joint warning that the U.S. government and the private sector must accept that their sites “will go down and be prepared to hit restart”. CNN has also reported on the FBI and DHS “joint intelligence bulletin” that predicted attacks first on overseas facilities — such as the Iranian missile attacks at two U.S. air bases in Iraq —to be followed in the “medium-term” by attacks on the U.S. homeland and our interests abroad. “I’m going to tell you a painful truth. When you have actors like this that are well trained — in the thousands — by a nation-state, if they are targeting something, they will probably succeed,” says Diana Volere ( a risk and intelligence expert with Saviynet, a risk, security and intelligence group). Their coordinate attack on the Saudi oil fields is a prime example of their excellent and precise capability.

In 2012, Iran formally established a special high-level command for cyber war, led by the Revolutionary Guards and directly overseen by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They have had 8 years to build and prefect their capacity to create havoc far from Tehran: hacking the electrical grid on our West Coast (that would cause chaos and panic) or sending drones crashing into soft military installations. The message from various private and government sources is that the potential for attack will not only be aimed at U.S. government installations and military facilities, but as Texas Governor Greg Abbott reported, citing information from the Texas Department of Information Resources, as many as 10,000 attempted attacks per minute from Iran had been detected over the past 48 hours on state and local agency networks. And he made that announcement on January 7 of this year.

The type of attacks, targets chosen and methods of operation are restricted only by the imagination of the attacker. On January 14th, the New York Times front page headline claimed that Iran’s financial condition would not permit it to wage a war. I don’t question the wisdom of that claim, but its economic struggles have not and will not prevent its clandestine, under-the-radar cyber-attacks that do not require an army or fighter planes in the sky. They proved that with their coordinate well planned and timely executed attack on the Saudi oil fields. Israeli intelligence predicts that Iran will likely field nuclear ICBM in two years. Parenthetically, Iranian lawmaker Ahman Hamzeh has reportedly offered a $3 million reward for the assassination of President Trump, according to Reuters, and called for the country to produce long-range missiles.

Gen. Paul Nakasone (head of CYBERCOM –which is responsible for defending the Department of Defense information networks worldwide)) noted in an interview with Joint Force Quarterly, discussing cyber-attacks: “Persistent engagement is the concept that we are in constant contact with our adversaries in cyberspace, and success is determined by how we enable and act. ….Acting is the concept of operating outside our borders, being outside our networks, to ensure that we understand what our adversaries are doing. If we find ourselves defending inside our own networks, we have lost the initiative and the advantage.” Sobering.

Richard Allan

The Editor


Commentary–The Spy We Can’t Ignore

A year and a half ago we moved into an apartment with a terrace that was 25 floors above ground level. The first summer of our residence, I would venture out onto the terrace, hugging the terrace door, with a slight shaking in my legs; I would ultimately sink into my chair overlooking an incredible view. I have since overcome my hyperventilating and noticed that there were birds that flew high in the sky. They flew alone and seemed to glide endlessly with no movement of their wings. I have since learned that they are a species of hawks and wondered what they were searching for in a high-rise city. Having an obsession with drones, as I watched the hawks, I would look for what looked like drones—the ones you might buy on Amazon. I didn’t know I was looking for the wrong thing.

As reported in the South China Morning Post, China has been using high-tech drones that look like and behave like birds as a method to spy on their own citizens. What is equally amazing (to me) is that there are more than 30 governments and military groups around the world that employ what look like birds as spying drones. It was reported in the South China Morning Post that these bird-like drones are so convincing that real birds often fly beside them. These spies in the sky are GPS equipped and have the ability to transfer their findings to their base in real time. Their movements apper so real that they are hard to spot and identify from the ground. Some hours after reading the China press report, I remembered a spy series on television that had used robot birds to spy on an ISIS bombing attempt. Fantasy colliding with reality.

In the early 1930s Secretary of State Henry L Stimson wrote in his memoirs “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail”. How life has changed. While the Chinese birds might remain in China, the Chinese government is actively spying on the United States and the rest of the world. There is nothing new in that report, as we spy on everyone else — both our allies and enemies. On a closer examination we have learned of the enormous extent of China’s aggressive spying, along with their hostile military forays into the South China Sea. These security issues have become more than merely worrisome. The complexity of Trump’s trade war with China is the tip of the iceberg; it is not a “sleeping giant”, and we should be more concerned and more proactive in denying them the space for their adventure. A small example is the U.S. Interior Department grounding its entire fleet of aerial drones, one of the largest in the federal government, citing increasing concerns about the national security risk from Chinese manufacturers.

According to the WSJ, the Interior Department has more than 800 drones, all of which are either made in China or have Chinese parts. Officials are quoted that the I.D. worries that U.S. reliance on Chinese drones might be putting critical U.S. infrastructure at risk. The concern, voiced by some, is that these drones may be (in all probability) sending information back to the Chinese government or hackers elsewhere to use in cyberattacks against the United States and its interests.

The heart of the matter is the extent to which China is aggressively combating the United States. We all (I am assuming) know the name Huawei (as I did) but have no true understanding of why and when the name of this massive international corporation raises a collective groan. From its name one can calculate that it is a Chinese multinational technology company that manufactures and provides telecommunication equipment, smartphones and consumer electronics, with its headquarters deep into China. It employs close to 200 hundred thousand persons with a little less than one half engaged in research and development (R &D), stationed around the world with an annual investment of close to 14 billion dollars in R& D alone. So why the present concern? It started with their dramatic overtake of the telecom operators, telecommunications-equipment manufacturers, overtook Apple and its smart phones, Samsung Electronics, and ranks somewhere in the low 70 of the Fortune Global 500 list. This international sweep all within the grasp and influence of the omniscient hand of the Chinese government. Cleary, the company is a state backed corporation, and maybe as some have claimed, a high-tech Trojan horse. Along with the development of 5G wireless networks, which China vigorously promotes, the United States government has raised the storm warning flags of potential cybersecurity attacks of immense proportions. Contention flowed back and forth, and in December ’19, it was announced that the Company’s center was moving from the United States to Canada, but not before it moved in the U.S. Federal courts in its continuing legal and PR battle against the U.S. government. A legal challenge to a Federal Communications Commission order was filed labelling the Chinese telecom as a “national security” risk and blocking rural phone and Internet providers from buying its gear.

Almost unseen in the background of this turbulence, a CIA former case officer, whose last name indicated Asian ancestry and who had served in multiple agency offices overseas, including China, was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison for conspiring to provide American intelligence secrets to the Chinese government. Some current and former officials say his spying caused a devastating blow to U.S. intelligence operations. It is alleged that he had knowledge of some of the most sensitive secrets, including the names of undercover sources in China. His work with Chinese intelligence coincided with the demolition of the C.I.A.’s network of informants in China. And he isn’t the only Chinese citizen arrested with some secretly deported for spying. On the last day of the year, a front page article in the WSJ detailed “one of the largest-ever corporate espionage efforts, cyberattackers alleged to be the work of the Chinese intelligence service…and its actions have not ceased.”

Over the last few years what we have written and learned from a number of journals and reporting — one article in particular by Bonnie Bley—is the enormous stature China has achieved across the board in the international diplomatic arena . My impression of China changed drastically after I saw photographs taken by my grandson (#2) during his extended stay in that country. We may think rickshaws and endless rice paddies and shiny boot lines of a military parade thru Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but many of the photographs (he took) were of large, very impressive modern steel and glass cities.

As we closed out 2019, China has surpassed the United States in an underappreciated but essential measure of global influence: the size of its diplomatic forces and network. Additionally, one of the most visible signs of its relationship with the United States ( aside from the tariff war which will not end with the newest protocol) is the collapse of Chinese direct financial investment in the United States, as Chinese firms once eager to expand into foreign markets now avoid the political risk. President Trump’s trade war only exacerbated the divide. For decades, Washington had the largest diplomatic network in the world. Now China prevails boasting 276 diplomatic posts—including embassies, consulates, and permanent missions to international organizations. The United States’ network, meanwhile, stands at 273, down one post since 2017.

In global diplomatic primacy, the playing field is now leveling. For a number of reasons, I believe it is tilting in China’s direction. The 2019 index puts China in first place ahead of 60 other major diplomatic networks.

Add to this, the Trump administration’s desire to cut the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budgets by up to 23 percent. It came as no surprise that U.S. diplomacy looks increasingly clueless to other foreign governments. There is another important item in this revelation. Diplomatic postings and facilities also operate as facilities for spying while appearing more mundane. If there is a diplomatic post of any description you can be assured that one member of the delegation is a spy.

Most every week I read in the back pages of our national newspaper that another Chinese civilian or official is wandering into or on military restrictive areas taking pictures. Chinese Embassy officials trespassed onto a Virginia base that is home to Special Operations forces. Our government secretly expelled two Chinese Embassy officials this past fall after they drove onto a sensitive military base in Virginia. At least one of the Chinese officials was an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover. Their expulsions only add to tensions between Washington and Beijing. As the year closed, a Chinese national penetrated a Florida military naval air station in Key West. It has been reported more than once that American intelligence officials say China poses a greater espionage threat to our national security than any other country. In recent months, Chinese officials with diplomatic passports have become bolder about showing up unannounced at research or government facilities.

On top of the Huawei situation, the United States Army has banned soldiers from using the Chinese-owned video app TikTok, calling it a security concern. “A Cyber Awareness Message sent out on 16 December identifies TikTok as having potential security risks associated with its use,” The move comes after the Navy barred the use of the app earlier, telling its sailors that anyone who hadn’t removed the app from their government-issued phone would be banned from the Navy intranet. Many in the C.I.A. feared China had a mole in one or more federal agencies.

To make matters more intense, a meeting seeking to increase South Korea’s financial contribution for our military defense of that nation broke down. Seoul rejected Trump’s demands for a fivefold increase in South Korea’s payment to the U.S. for the cost of stationing American troops there. Trump is seeking to earn a “financial return” from the presence of American forces. While Trump’s negotiating team walked out of the meeting with our closest military ally in that region, the South Koreans turned around and signed a “defense” understanding with China—boosting “cooperation” between the parties. The curtain rising during the first week of 2020 finds the United States juggling two military crises — one with North Korea, and on the other side of the globe –Iran. We cannot afford war or hostilities with either of those two countries. I had written the last sentence of this blog before word of the assassination of the head of the Iranian Revolutionary elite squad or Quds Forces on the direct orders of the President of the United States. The fall-out from that has yet to arrive at our doorstep, as it most surely will. The Iraqi Parliament has voted to oust us out of that Country at the same moment that Iran announced it will suspend all commitments to the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Because of the President’s unsettling relationship with the dictator of the former Soviet Union, we have all but ignored a major facet of our national security focus. Yes, the Russians meddled and are attempting to meddle in our elections for the benefit of the President, and yes, Putin needs to speak with a megaphone for the world to hear the Russian bear roar, but it is the silent giant China who should be keeping us awake at night. China’s economic and militarily aggressiveness fuels its expansion far beyond its immediate and immense geographic and population resources. Diplomatically, economically and military through the use of direct pressure and the evolving and aggressive development of its sophisticated spying technique, its tentacles are fast eclipsing the reach and power of the United States.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary—Who “Owns” The United States

My grandmother was my love, my protector and one of the reasons I was tubby. She was also a master of negotiations with the innate skill of protecting ones’ turf and a keen sense of when to strike when her feelings of what was right were violated. She also knew when she had blundered by immediately saying: “I didn’t said it “which foreclosed any further discussion of her mistake. No one owned her, not even the cancer that killed her.

My feelings today, as I peek under the veneer that distorts reality, is that we as a nation are owned , manipulated , and at times being told to bug off by nations that take our billions in aid. The first to come to mind is Turkey who with a slight-of-hand movement pokes a finger in our eye. The U.S. is investigating whether Turkey violated agreements with Washington about the use of U.S.-provided weapons and equipment, including whether Ankara knowingly and improperly transferred those weapons to its proxies in Syria, groups that U.S. officials say may have committed war crimes and ethnic cleaning .Why won’t I be surprised by its findings. And while Congress moves to sanction Turkey, the President nevertheless invites its leader to the White House as Turkey announces it will not remove its troops from Syria, threatens to further inflame tensions between the two nations by indicating its purchasing of Russian military fighter jets, and once again attacks the Kurds. Former national security adviser John Bolton suggested during a private speech in Miami last week that the president’s approach to U.S. policy on Turkey is motivated by his personal and financial interests in that country.

When we talk about our national debt (which keeps rising under Trump, notwithstanding his promise to reduce it) we must frame what may seem like a strange question — who owns America – who owns our U.S. released treasury bills, notes and bonds? The answer is startling — China owns 27% of our world’s value. They have a big key to our pantry.

Under Putin, the Russian economy is based solely upon how much gas, oil and minerals it can extract from the ground. In all senses, the former Soviet Union has little if any resemblance to the economic diversity necessary for a strong national economy. Putin, thus strong arms weaker and smaller nations to bend to his needs to shore up Russia’s economic deficiency, while his paranoia has encouraged the successor to the KGB, the FSB (a strong arm group he wholly supports) to be “enforcers” so that so-called “vital” scientific material and knowledge (as determined by him) may not be sold abroad without proper (his) authorization. In other words keep everything at home in the hope of developing a monopoly to benefit his cronies. His latest method is to have major Russian scientific institutions raided and scientists (some recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize) detained for long periods of questing. People’s lives have been put on indefinite hold. None of this has upset the leader of the United States to help him achieve his goal to make Russia great again (MRGA). Putin, not only the master of a vast nation seeking to drain the will and resources of those who dare cross his line in the sand, has mastered the mechanics of a mystical cloak that has just produced what bombs and thugs could not. He winked twice with his right eye and “The “ President of the United States handed over control of the Syrian “crisis” and its complex fault lines throughout that area to the Russians. Trump pulled out our troops (with no consultation with those with any understanding of consequences), the Kurds were swept into a dust bin and the Israelis were further surrounded by their emboldened enemies. The rocket launching toward Israel started once again this week after a long interval of quiet.

Muhammad Hussein Al-Momani, on the board of directors of Jordan’s Al-Ghad daily and Jordan’s former government spokesman and state minister for media affairs, “slammed the U.S. for its decision to withdraw its forces from northeastern Syria”.

Al-Momani warned that this “hasty, miscalculated and uncoordinated” step would harm America’s interests in Syria as well as the interests of its allies. Russia becomes the clear winner in the area since the withdrawal only reinforces its standing as the major decision-maker in Syria and Iran. That position will be the launching pad for it to be able to expand its regional influence with little or no resistance. All to our detriment.

“The mutual hostilities in northern Syria go far beyond Turkey, the U.S. and Russia. The events there have placed all the countries in the region in a state of doubt and uncertainty, causing complete chaos and granting Russia and Iran an opportunity to fill the strategic vacuum created by America’s hasty, uncalculated and uncoordinated unilateral withdrawal.”

President Trump has created a dangerous strategic quagmire by the withdrawal, ignoring the interests of our supporting allies and clearly upsetting what regional stability there is. What happens to our interests in combating terror and preventing the reemergence of ISIS, at the same moment curbing Iran’s influence in Syria? His precipitous withdrawal has threatened not merely the region’s stability but our own interests in the area. We have, by throwing the Kurds to the wolves, not only diminished their ability and will to fight ISIS in northern Syria but created the obvious strategic vacuum that will be filled by Iran. Our growing aggressive nuclear enemy!

As noted, Mr. Putin and Russia will benefit most from these developments. They will have greater credibility, undermining whatever standing we may have had in the region and opens the way for Iran to expand and increase it influence politically. Boldly, Iran announced this week that it is increasing its nuclear capabilities and advancing it timetable for nuclear development.

But the unsettling story doesn’t end there, on the other side of the world– Trump has caved to China giving them a major trade victory. In an article by Brian Klaas,: “Early in his presidency, President Trump scrapped the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade bloc that would have put the United States at the center of a trade zone that represented about a third of the global economy. Now, 2½ years later, China is putting itself at the center of an alternative trade zone that represents about a third of the global economy.” Trump’s animosity toward China is governed by his personal, unwieldy political desires instead of our national interests. His rational is blindsiding our involvement in a $49 trillion dollar trade bloc that might embrace half the world’s population. As Mr. Klass noted: “And China couldn’t be happier.”

And it doesn’t end there! lost in the back pages of any decent newspaper is the story that in mid-January, Kevin Moley, the senior State Department official responsible for overseeing U.S. relations with the United Nations and other international organizations, “issued a stern command to a gathering of visiting U.S. diplomats in Washington: China was on the rise, and America’s diplomatic corps needed to do everything in its power to thwart Beijing’s ambitions. It doesn’t seem like much of an important event, but the news illustrates China’s bid to place itself ahead of the U.S. on all fronts.” As I have written in the past China’s aggressiveness started last year with it militarization of uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea into military installations.

China’s move to place one of its own top officials at the head of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which helps direct agricultural and food security policies worldwide, is a perfect example of China’s international efforts in achieving world dominance. Defeating China would become a key U.S. foreign-policy goal. Five months later, the race ended in a harsh rout for the United States. Beijing’s candidate, the vice minister of agriculture and rural affairs won. U.S. diplomats initially anticipated their favored candidate, a former Georgian agriculture minister, receiving at least 60 votes. He ended up getting 12.

While the nation is focused on impeachment, and the President is attempting to change the subject of the daily news by lashing out in all directions we, as nation, are fast losing our international importance, status and moral compass—our leadership. In other words –our international clout. And even if Trump is defeated in 2020, his failures, his lack of self-discipline and the damage he has inflicted on this nation to enhance and defend his purse and unhealthy ego will last far beyond the end of his presidency. It will take years to right the wrongs he has created.

Richard Allan,  Editor







Commentary –The Increased Threat Of The Domestic Terrorist

In the very early 80s, as a professor on sabbatical leave from my law school, I wrote my first major security piece to be published in a White Paper series. Part of the article dealt with moles. Moles– as in persons who come to this country and burry themselves in our social structure, waiting to be told to do something drastic to our wellbeing.

The then dean of the “security world “a commentator was a renowned professor, who pontificated from a university office across the Atlantic Ocean in Scotland.

My article was sent to him for peer review prior to publication, and his short, tart comment was I should stick to writing things I knew about— period. That “period” was a bullet between my eyes. It remained there as I sulked in the corner until one day, to my astonishment; he plagiarized entire paragraphs from my work in a Time Magazine article. My White Paper was then promptly published.

Today, the person terrorizing — as in terrorist— the American public is not a mole. He or she is not slipping in the dark from some rusting freighter just docking in New Orleans. To the contrary he or she is in plain sight in some American town or city and, in some instances, wearing a sign or posting openly on the internet. And they have been deadly. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, 19 of them children and over 600 injured. In less than 9 years, domestic terrorists have killed 465 persons with hundreds more injured.

I have just finished reading a lengthy report by Home Land Security, and their comments are not meant for bedtime reflection. Having just published two commentaries for publication, one on our total radar/intelligence gap in the drone and missile attacks on the Saudi oil refineries, and the second, on the use of drones as a means of a terrorist attack on a major city —now to be confronted that my latest fear shoud be from those people on “any” American Avenue who walk around in tee shirts with swastika tattooed on their bulging muscles. My home grown terrorist in my old home town: the domestic terrorist.

In an article written by Ellen Nakashima, she notes that domestic terrorism attacks are as great a threat to the United States today as foreign terrorism, citing to the Department of Homeland Security’s new strategy report. What has changed since 9/11, according to the Department of Homeland security report, is the increasingly complex and evolving threat of terrorism and targeted violence. The diversity of terrorist threats is a broad span from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and now the ethnically motivated and anti-authority violent extremism—the domestic individual terrorist. All aided by more-sophisticated and easily available weapons such as drones (as I have written in a recent posting).

As was the case sixteen years ago, the Department of Homeland Security report found that foreign terrorist organizations remain intent on striking the “Homeland”. Doing so whether through directed attacks or by inspiring disaffected, susceptible individuals in the United States. At this moment, we are faced with an equally growing threat from domestic actors who are as dangerous as the foreign terrorist. All coming together and motivated in an age of online radicalization and violent extremism. Unlike ISIS and other international terrorist organizations, the domestic terrorist – the lone wolf is more target oriented than ideologically driven — aiming at the individual or group. The lone wolf who is more difficult to identify is obsessed with whom his target represents in his life –the attack on a school or church.

Online extremist communities glorify the attackers, encouraging others to follow their footsteps. The copy-cat. The individual terrorist who upon arrest said: I completed my mission. The internet has made attackers more operationally competent and knowledgeable, as they use the Web to learn, and then perfect, technical information for their attacks. Domestic threat individuals often plan and carry out their acts of violence alone and with little apparent warning, in ways that impede the effectiveness of law enforcement success in investigation and, more important, its interdiction.

We must require more effective means of surveillance and counterintelligence which will, I assume, automatically generate the claims that will lead to the cry that our privacy is being invaded and the eroding of our civil rights; the slippery slope argument. There are trade-offs in life and as the world shrinks, becomes more diversified and individuals become technically savvy. And there are practical and workable methods of checks and balances at our disposal, so that we feel safe and are safe as we respect the individual rights of all persons.

Richard Allan

The Editor






Commentary—Did You Know — The Shadow War is Real

I was born in 1931. Then, a family radio was generally housed in a substantial piece of “furniture”. Ours was no different. It had doors, sat on legs and perched proudly in the living room. A Stromberg Carlson. For some reason we also had a smaller one that sat in our large dinette next to the kitchen.

I was eight and a half years old in September 1, 1939, and I heard that Hitler invaded Poland, but it made no great impression on me. Japan and China had long been at war, we saw that on the News Reels. That conflict was almost totally off my radar screen but for the group of Americans who flew fighter planes on behalf of the Chinese and were called the Flying Tigers. The nose sections of their planes were painted to resemble the teeth of shark. That hooked me.

From September 1939, the entire world rushed into what became a nearly 6 year war, and you had to be catatonic to be unaware that something was amiss even for an eight year old. Early on my world was not affected but for the refugee kids that I found myself having lunch with, under the watchful eye of my grandmother, in our kitchen during the school week.

The world was slow — much too slow — in responding to Hitler in Europe. And that was a flaw that would ultimately bring about the death of seven million people. Then I began to hear, as I headed off to sleep, the spirited conversations that seemed to always crop up over the weekend, when droves of my parent’s friends and relatives would descend into our living room to talk of the “phony war”. At the time the word and its meaning made no sense to me. The world in Europe was at war –there were thunderous declarations of war—but there were no overt hostilities. The French called this period the Drôle de guerre; and the Germans name was Sitzkrieg. . It was an eight-month period from the time war was declared by the UK and France against Germany on September 3rd 1939 to when Germany launched its invasion France and the Low Countries on May 10th 1940. During the phony war The Allies had created elaborate plans for numerous large-scale operations designed to end the German advancements, but it was too little and much too late. Thus, the phony war.

To me, none of this became frightening until the age of ten and half on December 7th and Pearl Harbor, and the induction into the army of an uncle I adored. The talk of a “phony war”, ceased and I never heard that expression again. There was talk of collaboration with Germany that involved not only the Baltic States, Poland, Hungry, Russia and, unthinkable to me, France. It wasn’t until last week that I had read of a “shadow war” for the first time and I was stumped again. This time, 79 years later, I had the internet and instant access to information but have come up with no hard definition. An example is the best method to describe this event.

On September 13th 2019, twenty some odd drones carrying deadly missals carried out a sophisticated, simultaneous attack on Saudi oil refineries and created an international disaster. (Please, see my previous blog and the use of drones in simultaneous attacks within New York City.) Almost immediately, the President of the United States announced that this nation (although not attacked) was “locked and loaded” and presumably ready to attack Iran. And on Monday, September 16th, the President said that the U.S. is prepared to respond to the attacks in Saudi Arabia. Have we become a surrogate for Saudis in an attack not aimed at the U.S? This sent me scurrying to one of my copies of our Constitution.

Article I, sometimes referred to as the War Power clause– vest in the Congress, not the President, the power to declare war. Toward the late afternoon of the 16th of September, although not attacked and with no consultation or consent of the Congress, this nation was aiming our military resources to trounce another nation who didn’t attack us. A commentator sarcastically wondered if the Saudis were anointed with the power conferred by Article I and not our own Congress. According to a report by MEMRI, the attack on the Saudi oil facilities “was an implementation of Iran’s explicit threats in recent months to target Saudi Arabia and the U.S. global economy”. It is also claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, sponsored by Iran, that they are the actors who launched the drone attack against the oil refineries in Saudi Arabia, while the WSJ, on the 17th,  headlined that the “Saudi Oil Attack Originated In Iran, U.S. Says”. This is a perfect example of a—“shadow war”. Where one nation stands in– a surrogate for another — to further their common goals.

In the bitter conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the “shadow” combatants would be the United States on one side (armed and attacking on behalf of the Saudis) and the Houthi rebels in Yemen (armed and supported by Iran) attacking the Saudis on behalf of Iran.

It’s obvious that Iran has missiles, it has a nuclear program on the front pages of the world’s headlines, it has tanks with which it threatens the world, and it has exported terrorist militias. Iran has spent $500 billion on its missile and nuclear armament programs. It has spent $350 billion on the regional wars in the Middle East–almost one trillion dollars, “but its economy is collapsing and withering. Its economy is stagnant, yet it continues to threaten the world.” It has Russia at its back. What is also so very disturbing is that the successful Iranian attack represented an “American technological failure”, as not a single cruise missile or drone was stopped or destroyed.

Although until now there are no signs that Russia would decisively side in the favor of Tehran, if Iran’s confrontation with Saudi Arabia would intensifies — meaning something more that economic support. And this weekend that conflict did intensify with the potential of a “shadow war” with the U.S. stepping in for Saudis. Our Secretary of State said that Iran’s attack at Saudi Arabia was an attack of war. Against whom? Will Russia find it necessary to step in for Iran?

I will be sitting by my Stromberg Carlson

P.S.   As I was about to type my name and post this blog, another thought came to mind. I had no clear recollection of my geography and of the borders separating Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran, so I went to the maps of the area. If the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities came from the Houthi militia in Yemen, the failure to intercept the missiles and drones, notwithstanding the millions spent by Saudi’s in defense, would be very upsetting. If, on the other hand, the attacks originated in Iran that would verge on a shattering statement of the U.S. capabilities in the Arabian Sea. Let me explain: 1. Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen is probably over 500 miles from where the attack on the oil refineries took place. Depending upon the size of the drone, that might well be beyond their range of operation. 2. If on the other hand they were launched from Iran and flew directly across the Arabian Sea, they would have had to fly, as some point, literally through the spread of the radar network of U.S. Navy. If that were true it would be calamitous for our operational ability to not only defend our own naval ships in case of an attack but to fulfill its overall operational mission. There is a third possibility. According to the NYT, the Saudis have recovered pristine circuit boards from one of the cruise missiles (picture of the missile published on the 19th September) that fell short of its target. The analysis now runs that the missiles were launched from Iran and programmed to fly around the northern Persian Gulf through Iraqi air space instead of directly across the Gulf, thus avoiding the U.S. Naval radar. In any of these scenarios, the question now for President Trump, in what has truly become his growing political separation from potential allies growing, will he, like President George W Bush heading into Iraq 16 years ago, find he is largely alone in any retaliating strike or serious sanctions. Or will his hesitation to act embolden Tehran?

Richard Allan,

The Editor




I had just posted my latest blog about the lethal use of drones when a very dear friend, whom I have known since grade school, asked me why I couldn’t write something uplifting. He said I have done so much international traveling why not write about that. Stop providing us with the unsettling side of national security. Stop telling us that we may have to move back to the cave.

For the past 60 plus years I have seen a good part of the world, seen different cultures and tried to leave my comfort space to be able to be embraced by new or different ways to live.

I have walked a beach where the vast majority of the bathers were people recuperating from sex change operations. I have, on two very separate occasions, walked the streets of abject, unimaginable poverty and deformity. I have been a guest in the home of a person whose sole aim was to buy all the land surrounding his home so he could not see an alien chimney or driveway. I have seen and eaten food that cannot be described with my vocabulary.

Obviously, my friend doesn’t want me to write about most of this. He wants me to describe and take him happily with my words to those places of magical dreams— swimming off Bora Bora, sitting in a palatial apartment overlooking the Seine or the Louvre, drinking high tea at the Dorchester, pumping ice cold water from a well high on a mountain overlooking Lake George.

Last week, during a moment of “what I’d like to do at 88 years of age “other than think about getting up on the right side of the grass — is to fly a helicopter —be an analyst at the CIA, have a late night radio program in a small town in New England, be a piano player in a small pub anywhere. If given enough time, the list would go on. But as my father would say— “take the needle out of your arm“or my wife always with the wakeup words: “reality” and “responsibility”.

We’ve often talked that we worry not about our adult children but about the world of our “four boys” –our grandsons, who are growing older and taller and wiser.

I’ve known that my blog/ commentary ranks in the 70s of the 101 Intelligence sites, but I have no idea who really reads my comments other than the few friends and relatives who may comment weeks after publication. My hope is that — in my response to my old friend — there might be someone who reads the commentary who can change things, who can make a difference, who might be moved, however slightly, by my rantings and would be willing and able to take the next important step—so we no longer have to “worry “about the world of our grandchildren.

Richard Allan

The Editor


Commentary–The Drone Overhead

Commentary—The Drone Overhead

When my son was very young, I bought him a model plane with a small kerosene motor. The plane was attached to a very long lanyard to control and manage the plane’s flight. One Sunday morning we traveled into Brooklyn to an empty schoolyard started the engine that was loud enough to wake the dead and flew the plane for no more than three minutes. We were scared to death we might lose control of this non deadly “thing”. Today we have drones and they are lethal.

If you’re so inclined you can buy one of the sophisticated toys drones on Amazon. The cheapest is $29.99, or if you’re really hooked, there is one for over $10,000. It’s the non-toys that concern me and should you. The United States’ drone (the “Reaper MQ9) shot down by Iran cost the taxpayers between 123 to 139 million dollars. A second U.S. drone was shot down since June by the Iranian allied Houthis. These are very expensive losses. A smaller one from Iran was destroyed by a specially trained group of our navy in the straits of Hormuz.

We all know that drones are not flown with a pilot in a cockpit (thus called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), but from, in many cases, thousands of miles away. They range in shape and size, some with enormous wing spans and can cost in excess of 4 million dollars for just one! They can carry multiple sets of bombs and “Hellfire” missiles (whose cost depending upon the model is in excess of 99,600 dollars for each one). They have multi-mission capability, multi-target precision-strike ability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. Some drones also have the capability to loiter overhead for 14 hours when reaching their target. I attempted to count the number the different types of military drones and stopped at ten. All American. What country doesn’t have a military drone? “There are at least 150 different military drone systems being used by 48 countries.” Drones range in size from a hummingbird size “Black Hornet to the massive 15,000-pound RQ-4 “Global Hawk. “There are at least 28 countries with armed drones in their military, and we know at least nine (the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan) have actually used them in operations. Six of those countries used an armed drone in just the last two years.” By consensus, the cutting-edge current UAV’s are flown by U.S., Israel and China. Most information regarding their operational capacity and components fall under the heading of “military secrets” and, thus, unknown.

To bring down an enemy drone, one of two procedures are generally followed: Jamming and Spoofing. Jamming is utilizing a transmission blocking signal to disrupt communications between a drone and the pilot and to take over control of the drone’s activity.  Spoofing a drone refers to a third party taking over the drone remotely by impersonating the remote control. It involves emitting a signal that is supposed to confuse the drone, so that it thinks the spoofing signal is legitimate (when in fact it isn’t).

What is clear is that our security (I am not referring to our privacy having a drone monitoring our backyard activity) is in jeopardy at any moment. I am not paranoid. A little less than one year ago, Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, said the risk of drone attack against the United States is “steadily increasing” due to their wide spread availability and ease of use”.
For 1500 dollars you can rig your civilian drone with a flame thrower. What I just learned, to my naive thinking, is that flame throwers are legal in a good part of this country and have the ability of throwing a 25 foot flame. Why would anyone want one other than to do damage.

The EU Security Commissioner noted that drones are” becoming more and more powerful and smarter,”  and warned within the last weeks, “which makes them more and more attractive for legitimate use, but also for hostile acts.”

This is not new news—and I have warned about that threat especially in crowded areas such as New York.  “And the real fear from a drone attack is that a chemical or biological payload could be delivered into the midst of a crowded space with relative ease.” According to Germany’s de Welt, France’s Anti-Terrorism Unit (UCLAT) issued a “secret report” for the country’s Special Committee on Terrorism. The report warned of “a possible terrorist attack on a football stadium by means of an unmanned drone that could be equipped with biological warfare agents.”

I have reported, before, on terrorist use of drones in the Middle East to mount attacks—countless Islamic State (ISIS) raids on the Iraqi frontline, recent attacks on Saudi targets and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad sharing video online of an attempted drone attack on Israeli tanks on the Gaza border. I said at the time, that security agencies focus on the possibility that a dangerous payload would target the West. Terrorist-drone threat has now become the topic of interest for those who try to anticipate the future methods of a terrorist attack. “Last year, at a closed meeting with one of the U.K.’s leading soccer clubs, the stadium’s security director told the room ‘there are two things that terrify us: a large vehicle driven at speed at thousands of fans as they head home after a match, and, of course, drones.’” The meeting room overlooked a stadium where “it is estimated that 50,000 plus people gather 25 plus times a year”. I remember, many years ago, reading a novel whose center theme was a dirigible attack on a football stadium during the Super Bowl.

FBI Director, Christopher Wray, told a Senate Homeland Security Committee last year that the terrorist threat from drones is escalating—such devices “will be used to facilitate an attack in the U.S. against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering”. A year earlier Wray had told senators that “we do know that terrorist organizations have an interest in using drones. We’ve seen that overseas already…the expectation is that it’s coming here. They are relatively easy to acquire, relatively easy to operate, and quite difficult to disrupt and to monitor.”

Islamic State propaganda posters have already depicted a drone attack on the Eiffel Tower in Paris and New York City. Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, has warned that the threat from drones “is outpacing our ability to respond…terrorist groups such as the Islamic State aspire to use armed drones against our homeland and U.S. interests overseas.”

Remember, ISIS operatives have extensive drone experience from the Middle East. A U.K. police counter-terror spokesperson commenting on drones: they “have been used on the battlefield and what’s used on the battlefield will eventually be adapted to be used on domestic soil.”

The relative ease — availability and execution — to support a drone attack alarms security agencies worldwide. What is clear is that the amount of explosives or missiles that can be carried by obtainable drones are not unlimited. But there is one explosive (as I will discuss further in this Commentary) that weights little in comparison to size and weight of conventional missiles, and has immense destructive power upon impact.

Less than five months after the alleged military defeat of ISIS in Syria, a report from the UN stated that the leaders of that terrorist group could launch international terrorist attacks. It was claimed that ISIS has reconnaissance potential targets and has positioned explosives. And, in today’s NYT (8.20.19) front page headline: “After ‘Defeat’ ISIS Rekindles In Middle East”—“Killing and Recruiting as U.S, Draws Down.” All this notwithstanding President Trump’s claim that the group has all but been eliminated as Al Qaeda sits quietly and safely in Afghanistan protecting the Talban leadership, and we are planning to begin to remove our troops on a public announced timetable that he derided many years ago. But they are not the only ones we should fear. Domestic attacks are on the rise and more deadly. Presently, domestic terrorists are not treated under a terrorism statute but under the general criminal law statutes.

New York has been called a lot of different names. Some of them pejorative, some anti-Semitic, some racist. New York was a different symbol for those who decided to strike us on 9/11.

If you want to hurt us you can. And if there are enough of you, you can want to destroy us. And you, in this world of information gathering at your fingertips, and with not too much of a stretch of one’s imagination, your actions can be devastating.

Pick a stretch of industrial land in Queens were one can find an ample number of empty factory warehouses. Move the equipment you will need into your empty building after the workers in the nearby occupied factories have left for the evening but before it gets too dark. Don’t attract attention. Assemble the drones you have purchased legally on Amazon, and attach the maximum weight of an explosive that each drone can carry. You might want to use Semtex, also known as “plastic”, and then wait. I have seen Semtex at work and was overwhelmed at the amount of damage a small amount can accomplish.

You want a clear day with the week following rainless and bright. Then at eleven o’clock in the morning when all the inborn traffic to Manhattan had peaked — Drone A and B will be flown the short distance into the base of the air control tower of JFK and LaGuardia airports. Drone C and D will be flown into the western tower of the Manhattan Bridge spanning the width of the bridge and anchoring its suspension cables. The Bridge carries 450,000 people each day. About 80,000 by automobile and the balance by four of the City’s subway lines from and to Brooklyn and Manhattan. Last, Drone D will be flown into the massive complex of the new, crowd gathering, Hudson Yards. Drone C and D will arrive at the bridge 10 minutes after Drone A and B struck JFK and LaGuardia airports. And Drone E will arrive 20 minutes later at Hudson Yards. Each attack 10 minutes apart.

The massive JFK and LaGuardia airports will be closed and disrupt domestic and international air traffic. The destruction and loss of a major element of the City’s subway and vehicular transportation venues systems would cause havoc, and the debris from the collapsed portion of the bridge would end what economic use there is of the East River. Hudson Yards would remind us of 9/11.

Aside from the lives lost— not nearly the number murdered in the 9/11 attack, and faced with major transportation systems incapacitated or crippled, the fear and panic created, spread and percolated would overwhelm and might eventually destroy the heartbeat of the City.

Some drones are toys; some in the future will deliver your Walmart package to your front porch and some……

Richard Allan

The Editor







Commentary: We’ve taken our eye off the prime enemy.

President Trump happens to be the loudest person on the planet earth and sucks the oxygen out all the others who are attempting to speak. Sound does not travel in a vacuum. And we have provided him a platform. We instinctively follow the noise and a loud trombone. We turn our heads to the sound of the drum. Tonight, I hear about yet another shooting and, not quite buried in the news, the gas lighting by a public official who has not been playing it straight with the American public— think of the attorney general. I decided I need to take a quiet break. A very dear boyhood friend asked me this afternoon: “can’t you write something funny”? And we agreed that we no longer worry about our children but fear what we are creating for our grandchildren. A dangerous, hostile environment that starts in the street and rises to the highest offices of government. And not just in the United States. America has always been “the” leader in the world, and the rest of the world is now following our steps in hate and domestic violence. “Beat them up and I’ll pay your legal fees”. Not some mob boss, but the president of the United States. The President is using trade wars and tariffs as a wrecking ball. The American farmer is living on life support with your tax dollars. The cost to you is 16 billions of dollars on top of 12 billion last year. And, however you might want to spin the facts, there is no such thing as clean coal. And you can watch each day as the stock market flirts with going lower and lower, as 40 percent of all Americans would struggle to meet a $400 emergence expense. That’s untenable, unacceptable and the list goes on. And as the facts get lost in the loud noise, our national security has been placed in jeopardy by our failure to appropriately focus our military ingenuity and resources. China built that Great Wall to keep out the invaders; presently it is building an even greater “wall” to embrace however far it can reach outward. China’s naval fleet is growing faster than any other fleet in the world, and after decades upon decades they are in the throes of controlling all the coastal water far from their shores. We presently sail thru the South China Sea at our peril. But that is only the tip of the rolling wave. Decade after decade we have been in one war after another with one eye on the large red star in Moscow and the other unfocused, failing to see the Chinese as a potential military threat much greater than the Russian dictator. They have changed the balance of power in the Pacific in two decades and are in the process of making our all but invincible aircraft carrier fleet obsolete and impotent. To compound our lack of focus, the Trump Administration has pulled money from ballistic missile surveillance programs to fund the Great Trump Wall on a desert stretch of barren land. While our navy is directed to conduct “freedoms of navigation” operations, in claimed territorial water, for the purposes of challenging what is clearly Chinese excessive maritime claims of control and dominion. The U.S. Department of Defense released an annual assessment of Chinese military power. That report revealed in stark terms that the Beijing’s artificially constructed islands (I have written about this in the past) were subject to considerable militarization throughout 2018. Beijing placed “anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on outposts in the Spratly Islands, violating a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping that ‘China does not intend to pursue militarization’ of the Spratly Islands . The area is already militarized and part of the total Chinese aggressive military movement. The traffic and trade war with China however controlling they are of our nation’s headlines and in turn our pocket books, the economic volatility will get worse and might end in all probability to erase all predicted financial gains this year. And we can look forward to decades of toe to toe world competition, with China our most powerful economic competitor. There will be a long term economic war of attrition and conflict between the two nations. Before I focus on the enlarging security challenges by the Chinese, it is obvious that most eyes are on Iran, underlined by the president’s constant references to an armed conflict with that nation. To put that in perspective: Although it is true that Iran has an elite naval force, it is of no consequence to the American navel capacity in that area of the world—the Straits of Hormus– a naval choke point between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The Straits are a vital shipping line that Iran alleges it controls. If one would compare that to the dangers of conflict with China, Iran is mosquito that will disintegrate before American’s naval and air power. I don’t say that in a flippant manner, and I do not mean to minimize its importance, but it is imperative to understand the enormous difference in problems present and future that each of these nations present. With regard to China: the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet has sailed thru the South China Sea to challenge China’s excessive maritime claims. China promptly responded that this aggressive act was provocative and an infringement on Chinese sovereignty and dangerous to international peace. This naval exercise followed a recent transit by two other warships through international waters in the Taiwan Straits. With outstanding reporting and analysis by Reuters excellent investigation team and Benjamin Kang Lim, we have been well schooled on how powerful China has become and its military ability to forcefully confront the U.S. military dominance. China’s biggest state-owned missile maker, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Ltd, screened missiles that are specifically designed to attack aircraft carriers which have been, since the demise of the massive battleship, the mainstay of our military dominance. If you have a moment look at the size and shape of the latest aircraft carrier, you can only marvel on not only its size but its capacity to bring enormous destruction to the enemy far from its decks. “Across almost all categories (of missiles manufactured by the Chinese) of these weapons, based on land, loaded on strike aircraft or deployed on warships and submarines, China’s missiles rival or outperform their counterparts in the armories of the United States …” Beijing, has always been unrestrained by the INF Treaty (which the U.S. just cancelled unilaterally with Russia), in its deploying them in massive numbers. And their range of operation is very impressive: between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). This includes the so-called carrier killer missiles like the DF-21D, which can target aircraft carriers and other warships underway at sea at a range of up to 1,500 kilometers, according to Chinese and Western military analysts. If these missiles are as effective as described, and it would be wrong to discount this information, they would give China a destructive capability no other military can boast. China’s advantage in this class of missiles is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in February to withdraw from the treaty in six months.” China is also making rapid strides in developing so-called hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver sharply and travel at five times the speed of sound. Presently, the United States has no defenses against a missile like this, according to Pentagon officials, and this positions China as having the most advanced defensive ballistic missile system in the world. Without sabre rattling, America is at a sever disadvantage to the power in the East. But it is important to note I have used the word “defensive” in terms of China’s power. The United States has 11 aircraft carriers, China just two. China is not looking to proactively engage the U.S. in a naval battle, but they are more than prepared to defeat the U.S. if it is the aggressor threating its claimed territorial waters. In addition, China has the capacity to push back its military as it looks to expand its influence over vast areas of the South China Sea, by quietly ramping up its naval and air incursions around Taiwan and pushing its operations into territory it disputes with Japan and others in the vast East China Sea. Two challengers have been posed to me: The first is China’s weapons have yet to face the reality of battle. China, I am reminded, has not fought a war since invading Vietnam in 1979. We, the U.S., have done nothing but test our hardware in war after war over the past two decades. What makes me so sure that China is our number one capable military adversary? And second, “if China were so very far advance in the military spectrum of international military jostling and has no fear of U.S. intervention wouldn’t they ‘just liberate’ Taiwan”. If in fact the description of China’s extraordinary missile ability is only 90 percent accurate, any aggressive moves by a multi U.S. Carrier fleet into or near the South China Sea in a real or perceived aggressive stance will invite the possibility of massive destruction. Are we willing to test China’s ability or resolve in this reckless way? Taiwan is and will never be a threat to China. It is an ongoing annoyance, a political embarrassment but nothing more. To “liberate” Taiwan would require a military operation and become a quagmire and an internationally diplomatic nightmare for China. We tend to think of China not as a nation, as we view England, France or Russia but as individuals who we have seen through the decades in our movies, televisions and characters in sitcoms. How many in the U.S. see the individual Chinese person. May I say on the one hand our responses boarder on racism while marveling at their mathematical genius? China is looking to replace the United States as the world leader and we do an immense disservice to our grandchildren if we ignore facts, rely upon stereo type, and market our aggressive military posture. Richard Allan The Editor

Commentary–National Security Where Is the Line Drawn?

America has been at war for a very long time. From the end of WWI to the “great” depression, when I was born, Europe and the U.S. celebrated. The 1929 depression was deep, and the reveling ended. My family was hit, and it hurt for a very long time.

It is hard to ignore that WWII and the effort to defeat Hitler was a significant event that brought jobs back to this country. It was also a time that we, in Brooklyn, had air raid wardens who wore helmets, and we participated in periodic air raid drills.  One very dark night, the air raid sirens went off when an unidentified plane flew over the City. This seemed like the real thing, so we took cover in our back hallway as my mother sat with my bed-bound grandmother.

We opened the widows to prevent shattering in the event a bomb landed near us. And to support our National Security, we bought war bonds as savings and gave them as gifts. There were war bond rallies headlined by celebrities to support the war effort –our national security.

When the hostilities ended, another war began. The Cold War.  And sitting here tonight, I don’t remember a time that “national security” was not an issue: from the evil of Joe McCarthy to the misguided Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the invasions in the mid-East or this country after 9/11.

I am not alone in tossing about the term “nation security”. It’s tossed as one might toss a handful of confetti. In 1979-1980 there were a very small handful of us writing about terrorism and national security. Today, it is a thriving cottage industry. Today, everyone is a national security expert. That claim has been parsed into small fragments for “in-depth” analysis by television appearances, in print and with a large focus by the federal government.

The cold war ended with the war in Korea. Korea is a country that most of us know little if anything about, and yet, it is, today, one of the centers of our muddled national security history. I know your first response to what I have written is that I have mischaracterized the name of that country. Prior to WWII and since the mid-1800s Korea was “owned” by the imperial kingdom of Japan. At the end of the war the uneasy allies, U.S. and Russia, had to decide the fate of the Japanese empire, including Korea. The fact that Russia came very late to the war in the Pacific, in order to have its finger in the political pie in that part of the world, a semiliterate state department genius decided the fate of Korea by cutting it in half. The northern portion went to Russian domination and the southern half, demarcated by the infamous 38th parallel, was ceded to the U.S. domination.   All this, notwithstanding before the end of WWII both the United States and the UK thought of Russia and Communism as a world threat and an attack on Western national security.

On June 25, 1950, the cold war ended and hostilities began with the Korean War. Some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel. One month later America entered the war on behalf of the pro-Western Republic of Korea (South Korea).  The motivating force behind our entering hostiles on the side of South Korea was the concern that this was a war against the military and political forces of international communism—thus our national security. Three of my closest friends served in the army. One of them described the horrific retreat his battle group suffered.  Meanwhile, American officials began to be concerned about the possibility of a widening conflict, and three years after hostilities began, the U.S. anxiously attempted to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. In the end, nothing was accomplished. The boundary between North and South Korea remained the 38 parallel.  In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. Forty thousand U.S. troops died and the same number were injured. We gained nothing. The Korean peninsula is still divided today at the same 38th Parallel. Our real national security issues with regard to Korea did not start with the end of WWII, but began in the 1980s with their  investment in nuclear weapons and their delivery. We did nothing, and so, today, we are behind the curve.

During the 1st century AD, the Chinese attempted to integrate the people of Vietnam.  Ultimately, the Chinese interference was unacceptable to the French colonists. In 1946, the First Indochina War began, as France sought to impose, once again, its colonial rule. The French fared badly and in 1954 suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Ho Chi Minh at Dien Bien Phu.

Similar to the attempts to settle political issues in Korea, Vietnam was subsequently divided at the 17 parallel with the promise of elections in the South. North Vietnam, with its capital Hanoi, was ruled by a Communist regime under Ho Chi Minh. South Vietnam, with its capital Saigon, was ruled by a pro-Western strongman and corrupt leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1955, Diem refused to hold the promised elections and, backed by Hanoi in the north, Viet Minh forces began armed attacks in the south. In 1964, the Americans had an advisory position helping the South. After a contrived incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, LBJ used the event to start the Second Indochina War – known to the Vietnamese as the American War, which would ravage the country for almost 20 years.

In a misconceived attempt to contain Communism, the United States first sent advisers to assist the southern regime in 1960. By 1965, the air force had started regular bombing of the north, and U.S. combat troops had landed at Danang . By 1968, US troop strength had risen to more than half-a-million men, but that year’s offensive by the Viet Cong sapped Washington’s will to fight. In 1973 the last US combat troops were withdrawn. Within two years, in April 1975, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had captured Saigon, and Vietnam was once again unified.

We were looking, once again, to contain the threat of world domination by communism. What was accomplished by our involvement to “allegedly “protect our national security? Nothing. It ravaged our nation in a long, costly war that did nothing for our national security. Viet Nam is a communist nation that does not represent a threat to the well-being of this nation. In fact, a massive factory in Hanoi that once produced uniforms for the Vietnamese Army now produces uniforms for our Olympic teams.

Dick Cheney, (Bush’s vice president) who some have called an evil person, wanted a war, and he found one after 9/11.  We have been embroiled in the mid-east since. Why? The claim of national security then extended to our national security “interests” and, still further, to a “national emergency.”

What is the definition of national security? There is none. Initially, it referred to our military defenses. It now encompasses all that is in the imagination of a presiding government, including the President’s blatant attempt to bypass Congress and create a “national emergency” to send arms to Saudi Arabia. And just as I was about to put the final period to this commentary, after my copy editor corrected my punctuation and spelling, an article hit the front page of the Sunday New York Times and then the Wall Street Journal, describing the new Cold War. The enemy is now China, whose investments in the U.S. have dropped 90% since the onset of the Trump administration and the trade war. But that is not the issue.  “Fear of China has spread across the government from the White House to Congress to federal agencies…where Beijing’s rise is unquestioningly viewed as an economic and national security threat and the defining challenge of the 21stcentury.”  Trump’s hawk-in-chief Bannon commenting on China’s building a war machine and aggressive economic stance said: “one side is going to win, and one side is going to lose.” “These are two systems that are incompatible.” Then one day later, in the WSJ, it was revealed that China has signed a secret deal with Cambodia (which Cambodia called “fake news”) permitting its armed forces to use a Cambodian navy base, as China looks to boast it military power. Remember, not only do we have bases all over the world, imbedded to protect our national security and extend our national interests, but, just revealed the U.S. has 150 H-bombs in Europe and Turkey. They are deployed at bases in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey.

A rational definition of national security is as close as one can get: it is a nation’s ability to meet multiple threats to the well-being of its people and to survive as a nation-state at any given time. This definition does not factor in Clinton’s involvement in Bosnia, which clearly was not in any sense a challenge to our national security, nor Trump’ bombing Syria after its dictator’s use of lethal gas. “National security”,” interest”, “emergency” have become catch phrases that are frightening. Their indiscriminate use by an unscrupulous politician is untenable. We have created an undisciplined prescription for disastrous consequences — to the present and the future well-being of the nation.

Richard Allan

    The Editor